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Quo Vadis A Narrative of the Time of Nero
by Henryk Sienkiewicz


Translated from the Polish by Jeremiah Curtin [1835-1906]


TO AUGUSTE COMTE,
Of San Francisco, Cal.,
MY DEAR FRIEND AND CLASSMATE, I BEG TO DEDICATE THIS VOLUME.
JEREMIAH CURTIN




INTRODUCTORY

IN the trilogy "With Fire and Sword," "The Deluge," and "Pan Michael,"
Sienkiewicz has given pictures of a great and decisive epoch in modern
history. The results of the struggle begun under Bogdan Hmelnitski have
been felt for more than two centuries, and they are growing daily in
importance. The Russia which rose out of that struggle has become a
power not only of European but of world-wide significance, and, to all
human seeming, she is yet in an early stage of her career.

In "Quo Vadis" the author gives us pictures of opening scenes in the
conflict of moral ideas with the Roman Empire,--a conflict from which
Christianity issued as the leading force in history.

The Slays are not so well known to Western Europe or to us as they are
sure to be in the near future; hence the trilogy, with all its
popularity and merit, is not appreciated yet as it will be.

The conflict described in "Quo Vadis" is of supreme interest to a vast
number of persons reading English; and this book will rouse, I think,
more attention at first than anything written by Sienkiewicz hitherto.

JEREMIAH CURTIN
ILOM, NORTHERN GUATEMALA,
June, 1896




PETRONIUS woke only about midday, and as usual greatly wearied.  The
evening before he had been at one of Nero's feasts, which was prolonged
till late at night.  For some time his health had been failing.  He said
himself that he woke up benumbed, as it were, and without power of
collecting his thoughts.  But the morning bath and careful kneading of
the body by trained slaves hastened gradually the course of his slothful
blood, roused him, quickened him, restored his strength, so that he
issued from the elæothesium, that is, the last division of the bath, as
if he had risen from the dead, with eyes gleaming from wit and gladness,
rejuvenated, filled with life, exquisite, so unapproachable that Otho
himself could not compare with him, and was really that which he had
been called,--arbiter elegantiarum.

He visited the public baths rarely, only when some rhetor happened there
who roused admiration and who was spoken of in the city, or when in the
ephebias there were combats of exceptional interest.  Moreover, he had
in his own "insula" private baths which Celer, the famous contemporary
of Severus, had extended for him, reconstructed and arranged with such
uncommon taste that Nero himself acknowledged their excellence over
those of the Emperor, though the imperial baths were more extensive and
finished with incomparably greater luxury.

After that feast, at which he was bored by the jesting of Vatinius with
Nero, Lucan, and Seneca, he took part in a diatribe as to whether woman
has a soul.  Rising late, he used, as was his custom, the baths.  Two
enormous balneatores laid him on a cypress table covered with snow-white
Egyptian byssus, and with hands dipped in perfumed olive oil began to
rub his shapely body; and he waited with closed eyes till the heat of
the laconicum and the heat of their hands passed through him and
expelled weariness.

But after a certain time he spoke, and opened his eyes; he inquired
about the weather, and then about gems which the jeweller Idomeneus had
promised to send him for examination that day.  It appeared that the
weather was beautiful, with a light breeze from the Alban hills, and
that the gems had not been brought.  Petronius closed his eyes again,
and had given command to bear him to the tepidarium, when from behind
the curtain the nomenclator looked in, announcing that young Marcus
Vinicius, recently returned from Asia Minor, had come to visit him.

Petronius ordered to admit the guest to the tepidarium, to which he was
borne himself.  Vinicius was the son of his oldest sister, who years
before had married Marcus Vinicius, a man of consular dignity from the
time of Tiberius.  The young man was serving then under Corbulo against
the Parthians, and at the close of the war had returned to the city.
Petronius had for him a certain weakness bordering on attachment, for
Marcus was beautiful and athletic, a young man who knew how to preserve
a certain aesthetic measure in his profligacy; this, Petronius prized
above everything.

"A greeting to Petronius," said the young man, entering the tepidarium
with a springy step.  "May all the gods grant thee success, but
especially Asklepios and Kypris, for under their double protection
nothing evil can meet one."

"I greet thee in Rome, and may thy rest be sweet after war," replied
Petronius, extending his hand from between the folds of soft karbas
stuff in which he was wrapped.  "What's to be heard in Armenia; or since
thou wert in Asia, didst thou not stumble into Bithynia?"

Petronius on a time had been proconsul in Bithynia, and, what is more,
he had governed with energy and justice.  This was a marvellous contrast
in the character of a man noted for effeminacy and love of luxury; hence
he was fond of mentioning those times, as they were a proof of what he
had been, and of what he might have become had it pleased him.

"I happened to visit Heraklea," answered Vinicius.  "Corbulo sent me
there with an order to assemble reinforcements."

"Ah, Heraklea!  I knew at Heraklea a certain maiden from Colchis, for
whom I would have given all the divorced women of this city, not
excluding Poppæa.  But these are old stories.  Tell me now, rather, what
is to be heard from the Parthian boundary.  It is true that they weary
me every Vologeses of them, and Tiridates and Tigranes,--those
barbarians who, as young Arulenus insists, walk on all fours at home,
and pretend to be human only when in our presence.  But now people in
Rome speak much of them, if only for the reason that it is dangerous to
speak of aught else."

"The war is going badly, and but for Corbulo might be turned to defeat."

"Corbulo! by Bacchus! a real god of war, a genuine Mars, a great leader,
at the same time quick-tempered, honest, and dull.  I love him, even for
this,--that Nero is afraid of him."

"Corbulo is not a dull man."

"Perhaps thou art right, but for that matter it is all one.  Dulness, as
Pyrrho says, is in no way worse than wisdom, and differs from it in
nothing."

Vinicius began to talk of the war; but when Petronius closed his eyes
again, the young man, seeing his uncle's tired and somewhat emaciated
face, changed the conversation, and inquired with a certain interest
about his health.

Petronius opened his eyes again.

Health!--No. He did not feel well.  He had not gone so far yet, it is
true, as young Sissena, who had lost sensation to such a degree that
when he was brought to the bath in the morning he inquired, "Am I
sitting?"  But he was not well.  Vinicius had just committed him to the
care of Asklepios and Kypris.  But he, Petronius, did not believe in
Asklepios.  It was not known even whose son that Asklepios was, the son
of Arsinoe or Koronis; and if the mother was doubtful, what was to be
said of the father?  Who, in that time, could be sure who his own father
was?

Hereupon Petronius began to laugh; then he continued,--"Two years ago,
it is true, I sent to Epidaurus three dozen live blackbirds and a goblet
of gold; but dost thou know why?  I said to myself, 'Whether this helps
or not, it will do me no harm.' Though people make offerings to the gods
yet, I believe that all think as I do,--all, with the exception,
perhaps, of mule-drivers hired at the Porta Capena by travellers.
Besides Asklepios, I have had dealings with sons of Asklepios.  When I
was troubled a little last year in the bladder, they performed an
incubation for me.  I saw that they were tricksters, but I said to
myself: 'What harm!  The world stands on deceit, and life is an
illusion. The soul is an illusion too. But one must have reason enough
to distinguish pleasant from painful illusions.' I shall give command to
burn in my hypocaustum, cedar-wood sprinkled with ambergris, for during
life I prefer perfumes to stenches.  As to Kypris, to whom thou hast
also confided me, I have known her guardianship to the extent that I
have twinges in my right foot.  But as to the rest she is a good
goddess!  I suppose that thou wilt bear sooner or later white doves to
her altar."

"True," answered Vinicius.  "The arrows of the Parthians have not
reached my body, but a dart of Amor has struck me--unexpectedly, a few
stadia from a gate of this city."

"By the white knees of the Graces! thou wilt tell me of this at a
leisure hour."

"I have come purposely to get thy advice," answered Marcus.

But at that moment the epilatores came, and occupied themselves with
Petronius.  Marcus, throwing aside his tunic, entered a bath of tepid
water, for Petronius invited him to a plunge bath.

"Ah, I have not even asked whether thy feeling is reciprocated," said
Petronius, looking at the youthful body of Marcus, which was as if cut
out of marble.  "Had Lysippos seen thee, thou wouldst be ornamenting now
the gate leading to the Palatine, as a statue of Hercules in youth."

The young man smiled with satisfaction, and began to sink in the bath,
splashing warm water abundantly on the mosaic which represented Hera at
the moment when she was imploring Sleep to lull Zeus to rest. Petronius
looked at him with the satisfied eye of an artist.

When Vinicius had finished and yielded himself in turn to the
epilatores, a lector came in with a bronze tube at his breast and rolls
of paper in the tube.

"Dost wish to listen?" asked Petronius.

"If it is thy creation, gladly!" answered the young tribune; "if not, I
prefer conversation.  Poets seize people at present on every street
corner."

"Of course they do.  Thou wilt not pass any basilica, bath, library, or
book-shop without seeing a poet gesticulating like a monkey. Agrippa, on
coming here from the East, mistook them for madmen.  And it is just such
a time now.  Cæsar writes verses; hence all follow in his steps.  Only
it is not permitted to write better verses than Cæsar, and for that
reason I fear a little for Lucan.  But I write prose, with which,
however, I do not honor myself or others.  What the lector has to read
are codicilli of that poor Fabricius Veiento."

"Why 'poor'?"

"Because it has been communicated to him that he must dwell in Odyssa
and not return to his domestic hearth till he receives a new command.
That Odyssey will be easier for him than for Ulysses, since his wife is
no Penelope.  I need not tell thee, for that matter, that he acted
stupidly.  But here no one takes things otherwise than superficially.
His is rather a wretched and dull little book, which people have begun
to read passionately only when the author is banished.  Now one hears on
every side, 'Scandala! scandala!' and it may be that Veiento invented
some things; but I, who know the city, know our patres and our women,
assure thee that it is all paler than reality.  Meanwhile every man is
searching in the book,--for himself with alarm, for his acquaintances
with delight.  At the book-shop of Avirnus a hundred copyists are
writing at dictation, and its success is assured."

"Are not thy affairs in it?"

"They are; but the author is mistaken, for I am at once worse and less
flat than he represents me.  Seest thou we have lost long since the
feeling of what is worthy or unworthy,--and to me even it seems that in
real truth there is no difference between them, though Seneca, Musonius,
and Trasca pretend that they see it.  To me it is all one!  By Hercules,
I say what I think!  I have preserved loftiness, however, because I know
what is deformed and what is beautiful; but our poet, Bronzebeard, for
example, the charioteer, the singer, the actor, does not understand
this."

"I am sorry, however, for Fabricius!  He is a good companion."

"Vanity ruined the man.  Every one suspected him, no one knew certainly;
but he could not contain himself, and told the secret on all sides in
confidence.  Hast heard the history of Rufinus?"

"No."

"Then come to the frigidarium to cool; there I will tell thee."

They passed to the frigidarium, in the middle of which played a fountain
of bright rose-color, emitting the odor of violets.  There they sat in
niches which were covered with velvet, and began to cool themselves.
Silence reigned for a time.  Vinicius looked awhile thoughtfully at a
bronze faun which, bending over the arm of a nymph, was seeking her lips
eagerly with his lips.

"He is right," said the young man.  "That is what is best in life."

"More or less!  But besides this thou lovest war, for which I have no
liking, since under tents one's finger-nails break and cease to be rosy.
For that matter, every man has his preferences.  Bronzebeard loves song,
especially his own; and old Scaurus his Corinthian vase, which stands
near his bed at night, and which he kisses when he cannot sleep.  He has
kissed the edge off already.  Tell me, dost thou not write verses?"

"No; I have never composed a single hexameter."

"And dost thou not play on the lute and sing?"

"No."

"And dost thou drive a chariot?"

"I tried once in Antioch, but unsuccessfully."

"Then I am at rest concerning thee.  And to what party in the hippodrome
dost thou belong?"

"To the Greens."

"Now I am perfectly at rest, especially since thou hast a large property
indeed, though thou art not so rich as Pallas or Seneca. For seest thou,
with us at present it is well to write verses, to sing to a lute, to
declaim, and to compete in the Circus; but better, and especially safer,
not to write verses, not to play, not to sing, and not to compete in the
Circus.  Best of all, is it to know how to admire when Bronzebeard
admires.  Thou art a comely young man; hence Poppæa may fall in love
with thee.  This is thy only peril.  But no, she is too experienced; she
cares for something else.  She has had enough of love with her two
husbands; with the third she has other views.  Dost thou know that that
stupid Otho loves her yet to distraction?  He walks on the cliffs of
Spain, and sighs; he has so lost his former habits, and so ceased to
care for his person, that three hours each day suffice him to dress his
hair.  Who could have expected this of Otho?"

"I understand him," answered Vinicius; "but in his place I should have
done something else."

"What, namely?"

"I should have enrolled faithful legions of mountaineers of that
country.  They are good soldiers,--those Iberians."

"Vinicius!  Vinicius!  I almost wish to tell thee that thou wouldst not
have been capable of that.  And knowest why?  Such things are done, but
they are not mentioned even conditionally.  As to me, in his place, I
should have laughed at Poppæa, laughed at Bronzebeard, and formed for
myself legions, not of Iberian men, however, but Iberian women.  And
what is more, I should have written epigrams which I should not have
read to any one,--not like that poor Rufinus."

"Thou wert to tell me his history."

"I will tell it in the unctorium."

But in the unctorium the attention of Vinicius was turned to other
objects; namely, to wonderful slave women who were waiting for the
bathers.  Two of them, Africans, resembling noble statues of ebony,
began to anoint their bodies with delicate perfumes from Arabia; others,
Phrygians, skilled in hairdressing, held in their hands, which were
bending and flexible as serpents, combs and mirrors of polished steel;
two Grecian maidens from Kos, who were simply like deities, waited as
vestiplicæ, till the moment should come to put statuesque folds in the
togas of the lords.

"By the cloud-scattering Zeus!" said Marcus Vinicius, "what a choice
thou hast!"

"I prefer choice to numbers," answered Petronius.  "My whole 'familia'
[household servants] in Rome does not exceed four hundred, and I judge
that for personal attendance only upstarts need a greater number of
people."

"More beautiful bodies even Bronzebeard does not possess," said
Vinicius, distending his nostrils.

"Thou art my relative," answered Petronius, with a certain friendly
indifference, "and I am neither so misanthropic as Barsus nor such a
pedant as Aulus Plautius."

When Vinicius heard this last name, he forgot the maidens from Kos for a
moment, and, raising his head vivaciously, inquired,--"Whence did Aulus
Plautius come to thy mind?  Dost thou know that after I had disjointed
my arm outside the city, I passed a number of days in his house?  It
happened that Plautius came up at the moment when the accident happened,
and, seeing that I was suffering greatly, he took me to his house; there
a slave of his, the physician Merion, restored me to health.  I wished
to speak with thee touching this very matter."

"Why?  Is it because thou hast fallen in love with Pomponia perchance?
In that case I pity thee; she is not young, and she is virtuous!  I
cannot imagine a worse combination.  Brr!"

"Not with Pomponia--eheu!" answered Vinicius.

"With whom, then?"

"If I knew myself with whom?  But I do not know to a certainty her name
even,--Lygia or Callina?  They call her Lygia in the house, for she
comes of the Lygian nation; but she has her own barbarian name, Callina.
It is a wonderful house,--that of those Plautiuses. There are many
people in it; but it is quiet there as in the groves of Subiacum.  For a
number of days I did not know that a divinity dwelt in the house.  Once
about daybreak I saw her bathing in the garden fountain; and I swear to
thee by that foam from which Aphrodite rose, that the rays of the dawn
passed right through her body.  I thought that when the sun rose she
would vanish before me in the light, as the twilight of morning does.
Since then, I have seen her twice; and since then, too, I know not what
rest is, I know not what other desires are, I have no wish to know what
the city can give me.  I want neither women, nor gold, nor Corinthian
bronze, nor amber, nor pearls, nor wine, nor feasts; I want only Lygia.
I am yearning for her, in sincerity I tell thee, Petronius, as that
Dream who is imaged on the Mosaic of thy tepidarium yearned for
Paisythea,--whole days and night do I yearn."

"If she is a slave, then purchase her."

"She is not a slave."

"What is she?  A freed woman of Plautius?"

"Never having been a slave, she could not be a freed woman."

"Who is she?"

"I know not,--a king's daughter, or something of that sort."

"Thou dost rouse my curiosity, Vinicius."

"But if thou wish to listen, I will satisfy thy curiosity straightway.
Her story is not a long one.  Thou art acquainted, perhaps personally,
with Vannius, king of the Suevi, who, expelled from his country, spent a
long time here in Rome, and became even famous for his skilful play with
dice, and his good driving of chariots.  Drusus put him on the throne
again.  Vannius, who was really a strong man, ruled well at first, and
warred with success; afterward, however, he began to skin not only his
neighbors, but his own Suevi, too much.  Thereupon Vangio and Sido, two
sister's sons of his, and the sons of Vibilius, king of the Hermunduri,
determined to force him to Rome again--to try his luck there at dice."

"I remember; that is of recent Claudian times."

"Yes!  War broke out.  Vannius summoned to his aid the Yazygi; his dear
nephews called in the Lygians, who, hearing of the riches of Vannius,
and enticed by the hope of booty, came in such numbers that Cæsar
himself, Claudius, began to fear for the safety of the boundary.
Claudius did not wish to interfere in a war among barbarians, but he
wrote to Atelius Hister, who commanded the legions of the Danube, to
turn a watchful eye on the course of the war, and not permit them to
disturb our peace.  Hister required, then, of the Lygians a promise not
to cross the boundary; to this they not only agreed, but gave hostages,
among whom were the wife and daughter of their leader.  It is known to
thee that barbarians take their wives and children to war with them.  My
Lygia is the daughter of that leader."

"Whence dost thou know all this?"

"Aulus Plautius told it himself.  The Lygians did not cross the
boundary, indeed; but barbarians come and go like a tempest.  So did the
Lygians vanish with their wild-ox horns on their heads. They killed
Vannius's Suevi and Yazygi; but their own king fell. They disappeared
with their booty then, and the hostages remained in Hister's hands.  The
mother died soon after, and Hister, not knowing what to do with the
daughter, sent her to Pomponius, the governor of all Germany.  He, at
the close of the war with the Catti, returned to Rome, where Claudius,
as is known to thee, permitted him to have a triumph.  The maiden on
that occasion walked after the car of the conqueror; but, at the end of
the solemnity,--since hostages cannot be considered captives, and since
Pomponius did not know what to do with her definitely--he gave her to
his sister Pomponia Græcina, the wife of Plautius.  In that house where
all--beginning with the masters and ending with the poultry in the
hen-house--are virtuous, that maiden grew up as virtuous, alas! as Græcina
herself, and so beautiful that even Poppæa, if near her, would seem like
an autumn fig near an apple of the Hesperides."

"And what?"

"And I repeat to thee that from the moment when I saw how the sun-rays
at that fountain passed through her body, I fell in love to
distraction."

"She is as transparent as a lamprey eel, then, or a youthful sardine?"

"Jest not, Petronius; but if the freedom with which I speak of my desire
misleads thee, know this,--that bright garments frequently cover deep
wounds.  I must tell thee, too, that, while returning from Asia, I slept
one night in the temple of Mopsus to have a prophetic dream.  Well,
Mopsus appeared in a dream to me, and declared that, through love, a
great change in my life would take place."

"Pliny declares, as I hear, that he does not believe in the gods, but he
believes in dreams; and perhaps he is right.  My jests do not prevent me
from thinking at times that in truth there is only one deity, eternal,
creative, all-powerful, Venus Genetrix.  She brings souls together; she
unites bodies and things.  Eros called the world out of chaos.  Whether
he did well is another question; but, since he did so, we should
recognize his might, though we are free not to bless it."

"Alas!  Petronius, it is easier to find philosophy in the world than
wise counsel."

"Tell me, what is thy wish specially?"

"I wish to have Lygia.  I wish that these arms of mine, which now
embrace only air, might embrace Lygia and press her to my bosom. I wish
to breathe with her breath.  Were she a slave, I would give Aulus for
her one hundred maidens with feet whitened with lime as a sign that they
were exhibited on sale for the first time.  I wish to have her in my
house till my head is as white as the top of Soracte in winter."

"She is not a slave, but she belongs to the 'family' of Plautius; and
since she is a deserted maiden, she may be considered an 'alumna.'
Plautius might yield her to thee if he wished."

"Then it seems that thou knowest not Pomponia Græcina.  Both have become
as much attached to her as if she were their own daughter."

"Pomponia I know,--a real cypress.  If she were not the wife of Aulus,
she might be engaged as a mourner.  Since the death of Julius she has
not thrown aside dark robes; and in general she looks as if, while still
alive, she were walking on the asphodel meadow.  She is, moreover, a
'one-man woman'; hence, among our ladies of four and five divorces, she
is straighrway a phoenix.  But! hast thou heard that in Upper Egypt the
phoenix has just been hatched out, as 'tis said?--an event which happens
not oftener than once in five centuries."

"Petronius!  Petronius!  Let us talk of the phoenix some other time."

"What shall I tell thee, my Marcus?  I know Aulus Plautius, who, though
he blames my mode of life, has for me a certain weakness, and even
respects me, perhaps, more than others, for he knows that I have never
been an informer like Domitius Afer, Tigellinus, and a whole rabble of
Ahenobarbus's intimates [Nero's name was originally L. Domitius
Ahenobarbus].  Without pretending to be a stoic, I have been offended
more than once at acts of Nero, which Seneca and Burrus looked at
through their fingers.  If it isthy thought that I might do something
for thee with Aulus, I am at thy command."

"I judge that thou hast the power.  Thou hast influence over him; and,
besides, thy mind possesses inexhaustible resources.  If thou wert to
survey the position and speak with Plautius."

"Thou hast too great an idea of my influence and wit; but if that is the
only question, I will talk with Plautius as soon as they return to the
city."

"They returned two days since."

"In that case let us go to the triclinium, where a meal is now ready,
and when we have refreshed ourselves, let us give command to bear us to
Plautius."

"Thou hast ever been kind to me," answered Vinicius, with vivacity; "but
now I shall give command to rear thy statue among my lares,--just such a
beauty as this one,--and I will place offerings before it."

Then he turned toward the statues which ornamented one entire wall of
the perfumed chamber, and pointing to the one which represented
Petronius as Hermes with a staff in his hand, he added,--"By the light
of Helios! if the 'godlike' Alexander resembled thee, I do not wonder at
Helen."

And in that exclamation there was as much sincerity as flattery; for
Petronius, though older and less athletic, was more beautiful than even
Vinicius.  The women of Rome admired not only his pliant mind and his
taste, which gained for him the title Arbiter elegantiæ, but also his
body.  This admiration was evident even on the faces of those maidens
from Kos who were arranging the folds of his toga; and one of whom,
whose name was Eunice, loving him in secret, looked him in the eyes with
submission and rapture.  But he did not even notice this; and, smiling
at Vinicius, he quoted in answer an expression of Seneca about woman,--
Animal impudens, etc. And then, placing an arm on the shoulders of his
nephew, he conducted him to the triclinium.

In the unctorium the two Grecian maidens, the Phrygians, and the two
Ethiopians began to put away the vessels with perfumes.  But at that
moment, and beyond the curtain of the frigidarium, appeared the heads of
the balneatores, and a low "Psst!" was heard. At that call one of the
Grecians, the Phrygians, and the Ethiopians sprang up quickly, and
vanished in a twinkle behind the curtain.  In the baths began a moment
of license which the inspector did not prevent, for he took frequent
part in such frolics himself.  Petronius suspected that they took place;
but, as a prudent man, and one who did not like to punish, he looked at
them through his fingers.

In the unctorium only Eunice remained.  She listened for a short time to
the voices and laughter which retreated in the direction of the
laconicum.  At last she took the stool inlaid with amber and ivory, on
which Petronius had been sitting a short time before, and put it
carefully at his statue.  The unctorium was full of sunlight and the
hues which came from the many-colored marbles with which the wall was
faced.  Eunice stood on the stool, and, finding herself at the level of
the statue, cast her arms suddenly around its neck; then, throwing back
her golden hair, and pressing her rosy body to the white marble, she
pressed her lips with ecstasy to the cold lips of Petronius.




Chapter II


After a refreshment, which was called the morning meal and to which the
two friends sat down at an hour when common mortals were abeady long
past their midday prandium, Petronius proposed a light doze.  According
to him, it was too early for visits yet. "There are, it is true," said
he, "people who begin to visit their acquaintances about sunrise,
thinking that custom an old Roman one, but I look on this as barbarous.
The afternoon hours are most proper,--not earlier, however, than that
one when the sun passes to the side of Jove's temple on the Capitol and
begins to look slantwise on the Forum.  In autumn it is still hot, and
people are glad to sleep after eating.  At the same time it is pleasant
to hear the noise of the fountain in the atrium, and, after the
obligatory thousand steps, to doze in the red light which filters in
through the purple half-drawn velarium."

Vinicius recognized the justice of these words; and the two men began to
walk, speaking in a careless manner of what was to be heard on the
Palatine and in the city, and philosophizing a little upon life.
Petronius withdrew then to the cubiculum, but did not sleep long.  In
half an hour he came out, and, having given command to bring verbena, he
inhaled the perfume and rubbed his hands and temples with it.

"Thou wilt not believe," said he, "how it enlivens and freshens one. Now
I am ready."

The litter was waiting long since; hence they took their places, and
Petronius gave command to bear them to the Vicus Patricius, to the house
of Aulus.  Petronius's "insula" lay on the southern slope of the
Palatine, near the so-called Carinæ; their nearest way, therefore, was
below the Forum; but since Petronius wished to step in on the way to see
the jeweller Idomeneus, he gave the direction to carry them along the
Vicus Apollinis and the Forum in the direction of the Vicus Sceleratus,
on the corner of which were many tabernæ of every kind.

Gigantic Africans bore the litter and moved on, preceded by slaves
called pedisequii.  Petronius, after some time, raised to his nostrils
in silence his palm odorous with verbena, and seemed to be meditating on
something.

"It occurs to me," said he after a while, "that if thy forest goddess is
not a slave she might leave the house of Plautius, and transfer herself
to thine.  Thou wouldst surround her with love and cover her with
wealth, as I do my adored Chrysothemis, of whom, speaking between us, I
have quite as nearly enough as she has of me."

Marcus shook his head.

"No?" inquired Petronius.  "In the worst event, the case would be left
with Cæsar, and thou mayst be certain that, thanks even to my influence,
our Bronzebeard would be on thy side."

"Thou knowest not Lygia," replied Vinicius.

"Then permit me to ask if thou know her otherwise than by sight? Hast
spoken with her? hast confessed thy love to her?"

"I saw her first at the fountain; since then I have met her twice.
Remember that during my stay in the house of Aulus, I dwelt in a
separate villa, intended for guests, and, having a disjointed arm, I
could not sit at the common table.  Only on the eve of the day for which
I announced my departure did I meet Lygia at supper, but I could not say
a word to her.  I had to listen to Aulus and his account of victories
gained by him in Britain, and then of the fall of small states in Italy,
which Licinius Stolo strove to prevent.  In general I do not know
whether Aulus will be able to speak of aught else, and do not think that
we shall escape this history unless it be thy wish to hear about the
effeminacy of these days.  They have pheasants in their preserves, but
they do not eat them, setting out from the principle that every pheasant
eaten brings nearer the end of Roman power.  I met her a second time at
the garden cistern, with a freshly plucked reed in her hand, the top of
which she dipped in the water and sprinkled the irises growing around.
Look at my knees.  By the shield of Hercules, I tell thee that they did
not tremble when clouds of Parthians advanced on our maniples with
howls, but they trembled before the cistern.  And, confused as a youth
who still wears a bulla on his neck, I merely begged pity with my eyes,
not being able to utter a word for a long time."

Petronius looked at him, as if with a certain envy.  "Happy man," said
he, "though the world and life were the worst possible, one thing in
them will remain eternally good,--youth!"

After a while he inquired: "And hast thou not spoken to her?"

"When I had recovered somewhat, I told her that I was returning from
Asia, that I had disjointed my arm near the city, and had suffered
severely, but at the moment of leaving that hospitable house I saw that
suffering in it was more to be wished for than delight in another place,
that sickness there was better than health somewhere else.  Confused too
on her part, she listened to my words with bent head while drawing
something with the reed on the saffron-colored sand.  Afterward she
raised her eyes, then looked down at the marks drawn already; once more
she looked at me, as if to ask about something, and then fled on a
sudden like a hamadryad before a dull faun."

"She must have beautiful eyes."

"As the sea--and I was drowned in them, as in the sea.  Believe me that
the archipelago is less blue.  After a while a little son of Plautius
ran up with a question.  But I did not understand what he wanted."

"O Athene!" exclaimed Petronius, "remove from the eyes of this youth the
bandage with which Eros has bound them; if not, he will break his head
against the columns of Venus's temple.

"O thou spring bud on the tree of life," said he, turning to Vinicius,
"thou first green shoot of the vine!  Instead of taking thee to the
Plautiuses, I ought to give command to bear thee to the house of
Gelocius, where there is a school for youths unacquainted with life."

"What dost thou wish in particular?"

"But what did she write on the sand?  Was it not the name of Amor, or a
heart pierced with his dart, or something of such sort, that one might
know from it that the satyrs had whispered to the ear of that nymph
various secrets of life?  How couldst thou help looking on those marks?"

"It is longer since I have put on the toga than seems to thee," said
Vinicius, "and before little Aulus ran up, I looked carefully at those
marks, for I know that frequently maidens in Greece and in Rome draw on
the sand a confession which their lips will not utter. But guess what
she drew!"

"If it is other than I supposed, I shall not guess."

"A fish."

"What dost thou say?"

"I say, a fish.  What did that mean,--that cold blood is flowing in her
veins?  So far I do not know; but thou, who hast called me a spring bud
on the tree of life, wilt be able to understand the sign certainly."

"Carissime! ask such a thing of Pliny.  He knows fish.  If old Apicius
were alive, he could tell thee something, for in the course of his life
he ate more fish than could find place at one time in the bay of
Naples."

Further conversation was interrupted, since they were borne into crowded
streets where the noise of people hindered them.

From the Vicus Apollinis they turned to the Boarium, and then entered
the Forum Romanum, where on clear days, before sunset, crowds of idle
people assembled to stroll among the columns, to tell and hear news, to
see noted people borne past in litters, and finally to look in at the
jewellery-shops, the book-shops, the arches where coin was changed,
shops for silk, bronze, and all other articles with which the buildings
covering that part of the market placed opposite the Capitol were
filled.

One-half of the Forum, immediately under the rock of the Capitol, was
buried already in shade; but the columns of the temples, placed higher,
seemed golden in the sunshine and the blue.  Those lying lower cast
lengthened shadows on marble slabs.  The place was so filled with
columns everywhere that the eye was lost in them as in a forest.

Those buildings and columns seemed huddled together.  They towered some
above others, they stretched toward the right and the left, they climbed
toward the height, and they clung to the wall of the Capitol, or some of
them clung to others, like greater and smaller, thicker and thinner,
white or gold colored tree-trunks, now blooming under architraves,
flowers of the acanthus, now surrounded with Ionic corners, now finished
with a simple Doric quadrangle.  Above that forest gleamed colored
triglyphs; from tympans stood forth the sculptured forms of gods; from
the summits winged golden quadrigæ seemed ready to fly away through
space into the blue dome, fixed serenely above that crowded place of
temples.  Through the middle of the market and along the edges of it
flowed a river of people; crowds passed under the arches of the basilica
of Julius Cæsar; crowds were sitting on the steps of Castor and Pollux,
or walking around the temple of Vesta, resembling on that great marble
background many-colored swarms of butterflies or beetles.  Down immense
steps, from the side of the temple on the Capitol dedicated to Jupiter
Optimus Maximus, came new waves; at the rostra people listened to chance
orators; in one place and another rose the shouts of hawkers selling
fruit, wine, or water mixed with fig-juice; of tricksters; of venders of
marvellous medicines; of soothsayers; of discoverers of hidden
treasures; of interpreters of dreams.  Here and there, in the tumult of
conversations and cries, were mingled sounds of the Egyptian sistra, of
the sambuké, or of Grecian flutes.  Here and there the sick, the pious,
or the afflicted were bearing offerings to the temples.  In the midst of
the people, on the stone flags, gathered flocks of doves, eager for the
grain given them, and like movable many-colored and dark spots, now
rising for a moment with a loud sound of wings, now dropping down again
to places left vacant by people.  From time to time the crowds opened
before litters in which were visible the affected faces of women, or the
heads of senators and knights, with features, as it were, rigid and
exhausted from living.  The many-tongued population repeated aloud their
names, with the addition of some term of praise or ridicule. Among the
unordered groups pushed from time to time, advancing with measured
tread, parties of soldiers, or watchers, preserving order on the
streets.  Around about, the Greek language was heard as often as Latin.

Vinicius, who had not been in the city for a long time, looked with a
certain curiosity on that swarm of people and on that Forum Romanum,
which both dominated the sea of the world and was flooded by it, so that
Petronius, who divined the thoughts of his companion, called it "the
nest of the Quirites--without the Quirites."  In truth, the local
element was well-nigh lost in that crowd, composed of all races and
nations.  There appeared Ethiopians, gigantic light-haired people from
the distant north, Britons, Gauls, Germans, sloping-eyed dwellers of
Lericum; people from the Euphrates and from the Indus, with beards dyed
brick color; Syrians from the banks of the Orontes, with black and mild
eyes; dwellers in the deserts of Arabia, dried up as a bone; Jews, with
their flat breasts; Egyptians, with the eternal, indifferent smile on
their faces; Numidians and Africans; Greeks from Hellas, who equally
with the Romans commanded the city, but commanded through science, art,
wisdom, and deceit; Greeks from the islands, from Asia Minor, from
Egypt, from Italy, from Narbonic Gaul.  In the throng of slaves, with
pierced ears, were not lacking also freemen,--an idle population, which
Cæsar amused, supported, even clothed,--and free visitors, whom the ease
of life and the prospects of fortune enticed to the gigantic city; there
was no lack of venal persons.  There were priests of Serapis, with palm
branches in their hands; priests of Isis, to whose altar more offerings
were brought than to the temple of the Capitoline Jove; priests of
Cybele, bearing in their hands golden ears of rice; and priests of nomad
divinities; and dancers of the East with bright head-dresses, and
dealers in amulets, and snake-tamers, and Chaldean seers; and, finally,
people without any occupation whatever, who applied for grain every week
at the storehouses on the Tiber, who fought for lottery-tickets to the
Circus, who spent their nights in rickety houses of districts beyond the
Tiber, and sunny and warm days under covered porticos, and in foul
eating-houses of the Subura, on the Milvian bridge, or before the
"insulæ" of the great, where from time to time remnants from the tables
of slaves were thrown out to them.

Petronius was well known to those crowds.  Vinicius's ears were struck
continually by "Hic est!" (Here he is). They loved him for his
munificence; and his peculiar popularity increased from the time when
they learned that he had spoken before Cæsar in opposition to the
sentence of death issued against the whole "familia," that is, against
all the slaves of the prefect Pedanius Secundus, without distinction of
sex or age, because one of them had killed that monster in a moment of
despair.  Petronius repeated in public, it is true, that it was all one
to him, and that he had spoken to Cæsar only privately, as the arbiter
elegantiarum whose æsthetic taste was offended by a barbarous slaughter
befitting Scythians and not Romans.  Nevertheless, people who were
indignant because of the slaughter loved Petronius from that moment
forth.  But he did not care for their love.  He remembered that that
crowd of people had loved also Britannicus, poisoned by Nero; and
Agrippina, killed at his command; and Octavia, smothered in hot steam at
the Pandataria, after her veins had been opened previously; and Rubelius
Plautus, who had been banished; and Thrasea, to whom any morning might
bring a death sentence. The love of the mob might be considered rather
of ill omen; and the sceptical Petronius was superstitious also.  He had
a twofold contempt for the multitude,--as an aristocrat and an æsthetic
person.  Men with the odor of roast beans, which they carried in their
bosoms, and who besides were eternally hoarse and sweating from playing
mora on the street-corners and peristyles, did not in his eyes deserve
the term "human."  Hence he gave no answer whatever to the applause, or
the kisses sent from lips here and there to him.  He was relating to
Marcus the case of Pedanius, reviling meanwhile the fickleness of that
rabble which, next morning after the terrible butchery, applauded Nero
on his way to the temple of Jupiter Stator.  But he gave command to halt
before the book-shop of Avirnus, and, descending from the litter,
purchased an ornamented manuscript, which he gave to Vinicius.

"Here is a gift for thee," said he.

"Thanks!" answered Vinicius.  Then, looking at the title, he inquired,
"'Satyricon'? Is this something new?  Whose is it?"

"Mine.  But I do not wish to go in the road of Rufinus, whose history I
was to tell thee, nor of Fabricius Veiento; hence no one knows of this,
and do thou mention it to no man."

"Thou hast said that thou art no writer of verses," said Vinicius,
looking at the middle of tile manuscript; "but here I see prose thickly
interwoven with them."

"When thou art reading, turn attention to Trimalchion's feast.  As to
verses, they have disgusted me, since Nero is writing an epic. Vitelius,
when he wishes to relieve himself, uses ivory fingers to thrust down his
throat; others serve themselves with flamingo feathers steeped in olive
oil or in a decoction of wild thyme.  I read Nero's poetry, and the
result is immediate.  Straightway I am able to praise it, if not with a
clear conscience, at least with a clear stomach."

When he had said this, he stopped the litter again before the shop of
Idomeneus the goldsmith, and, having settled the affair of the gems,
gave command to bear the litter directly to Aulus's mansion.

"On the road I will tell thee the story of Rufinus," said he, "as proof
of what vanity in an author may be."

But before he had begun, they turned in to the Vicus Patricius, and soon
found themselves before the dwelling of Aulus.  A young and sturdy
"janitor" opened the door leading to the ostium, over which a magpie
confined in a cage greeted them noisily with the word, "Salve!"

On the way from the second antechamber, called the ostium, to the atrium
itself, Vinicius said,--"Hast noticed that thee doorkeepers are without
chains?"  "This is a wonderful house," answered Petronius, in an
undertone.  "Of course it is known to thee that Pomponia Græcina is
suspected of entertaining that Eastern superstition which consists in
honoring a certain Chrestos.  It seems that Crispinilla rendered her
this service,--she who cannot forgive Pomponia because one husband has
sufficed her for a lifetime.  A one-man Woman!  To-day, in Rome, it is
easier to get a half-plate of fresh mushrooms from Noricum than to find
such.  They tried her before a domestic court--"

"To thy judgment this is a wonderful house.  Later on I will tell thee
what I heard and saw in it."

Meanwhile they had entered the atrium.  The slave appointed to it,
called atriensis, sent a nomenclator to announce the guests; and
Petronius, who, imagining that eternal sadness reigned in this severe
house, had never been in it, looked around with astonishment, and as it
were with a feeling of disappointment, for the atrium produced rather an
impression of cheerfulness.  A sheaf of bright light falling from above
through a large opening broke into a thousand sparks on a fountain in a
quadrangular little basin, called the impluvium, which was in the middle
to receive rain falling through the opening during bad weather; this was
surrounded by anemones and lilies.  In that house a special love for
lilies was evident, for there were whole clumps of them, both white and
red; and, finally, sapphire irises, whose delicate leaves were as if
silvered from the spray of the fountain.  Among the moist mosses, in
which lily-pots were hidden, and among the bunches of lilies were little
bronze statues representing children and water-birds.  In one corner a
bronze fawn, as if wishing to drink, was inclining its greenish head,
grizzled, too, by dampness. The floor of the atrium was of mosaic; the
walls, faced partly with red marble and partly with wood, on which were
painted fish, birds, and griffins, attracted the eye by the play of
colors.  From the door to the side chamber they were ornamented with
tortoise-shell or even ivory; at the walls between the doors were
statues of Aulus's ancestors.  Everywhere calm plenty was evident,
remote from excess, but noble and self-trusting.

Petronius, who lived with incomparably greater show and elegance, could
find nothing which offended his taste; and had just turned to Vinicius
with that remark, when a slave, the velarius, pushed aside the curtain
separating the atrium from the tablinum, and in the depth of the
building appeared Aulus Plautius approaching hurriedly.

He was a man nearing the evening of life, with a head whitened by hoar
frost, but fresh, with an energetic face, a trifle too short, but still
somewhat eagle-like.  This time there was expressed on it a certain
astonishment, and even alarm, because of the unexpected arrival of
Nero's friend, companion, and suggester.

Petronius was too much a man of the world and too quick not to notice
this; hence, after the first greetings, he announced with all the
eloquence and ease at his command that he had come to give thanks for
the care which his sister's son had found in that house, and that
gratitude alone was the cause of the visit, to which, moreover, he was
emboldened by his old acquaintance with Aulus.

Aulus assured him that he was a welcome guest; and as to gratitude, he
declared that he had that feeling himself, though surely Petronius did
not divine the cause of it.

In fact, Petronius did not divine it.  In vain did he raise his hazel
eyes, endeavoring to remember the least service rendered to Aulus or to
any one.  He recalled none, unless it might be that which he intended to
show Vinicius.  Some such thing, it is true, might have happened
involuntarily, but only involuntarily.

"I have great love and esteem for Vespasian, whose life thou didst
save," said Aulus, "when he had the misfortune to doze while listening
to Nero's verses."

"He was fortunate," replied Petronius, "for he did not hear them; but I
will not deny that the matter might have ended with misfortune.
Bronzebeard wished absolutely to send a centurion to him with the
friendly advice to open his veins."

"But thou, Petronius, laughed him out of it."

"That is true, or rather it is not true.  I told Nero that if Orpheus
put wild beasts to sleep with song, his triumph was equal, since he had
put Vespasian to sleep.  Ahenobarbus may be blamed on condition that to
a small criticism a great flattery be added.  Our gracious Augusta,
Poppæa, understands this to perfection."

"Alas! such are the times," answered Aulus.  "I lack two front teeth,
knocked out by a stone from the hand of a Briton, I speak with a hiss;
still my happiest days were passed in Britain."

"Because they were days of victory," added Vinicius.

But Petronius, alarmed lest the old general might begin a narrative of
his former wars, changed the conversation.

"See," said he, "in the neighborhood of Præneste country people found a
dead wolf whelp with two heads; and during a storm about that time
lightning struck off an angle of the temple of Luna,--a thing
unparalleled, because of the late autumn.  A certain Cotta, too, who had
told this, added, while telling it, that the priests of that temple
prophesied the fall of the city or, at least, the ruin of a great
house,--ruin to be averted only by uncommon sacrifices."

Aulus, when he had heard the narrative, expressed the opinion that such
signs should not be neglected; that the gods might be angered by an
over-measure of wickedness.  In this there was nothing wonderful; and in
such an event expiatory sacrifices were perfectly in order.

"Thy house, Plautius, is not too large," answered Petronius, "though a
great man lives in it.  Mine is indeed too large for such a wretched
owner, though equally small.  But if it is a question of the ruin of
something as great, for example, as the domus transitoria, would it be
worth while for us to bring offerings to avert that ruin?"

Plautius did not answer that question,--a carefulness which touched even
Petronius somewhat, for, with all his inability to feel the difference
between good and evil, he had never been an informer; and it was
possible to talk with him in perfect safety.  He changed the
conversation again, therefore, and began to praise Plautius's dwelling
and the good taste which reigned in the house.

"It is an ancient seat," said Plautius, "in which nothing has been
changed since I inherited it."

After the curtain was pushed aside which divided the atrium from the
tablinum, the house was open from end to end, so that through the
tablinum and the following peristyle and the hall lying beyond it which
was called the œcus, the glance extended to the garden, which seemed
from a distance like a bright image set in a dark frame.  Joyous,
childlike laughter came from it to the atrium.

"Oh, general!" said Petronius, "permit us to listen from near by to that
glad laughter which is of a kind heard so rarely in these days."

"Willingly," answered Plautius, rising; "that is my little Aulus and
Lygia, playing ball.  But as to laughter, I think, Petronius, that our
whole life is spent in it."

"Life deserves laughter, hence people laugh at it," answered Petronius,
"but laughter here has another sound."

"Petronius does not laugh for days in succession," said Vinicius; "but
then he laughs entire nights."

Thus conversing, they passed through the length of the house and reached
the garden, where Lygia and little Aulus were playing with balls, which
slaves, appointed to that game exclusively and called spheristæ, picked
up and placed in their hands.  Petronius cast a quick passing glance at
Lygia; little Aulus, seeing Vinicius, ran to greet him; but the young
tribune, going forward, bent his head before the beautiful maiden, who
stood with a ball in her hand, her hair blown apart a little.  She was
somewhat out of breath, and flushed.

In the garden triclinium, shaded by ivy, grapes, and woodbine, sat
Pomponia Græcina; hence they went to salute her.  She was known to
Petronius, though he did not visit Plautius, for he had seen her at the
house of Antistia, the daughter of Rubelius Plautus, and besides at the
house of Seneca and Polion.  He could not resist a certain admiration
with which he was filled by her face, pensive but mild, by the dignity
of her bearing, by her movements, by her words.  Pomponia disturbed his
understanding of women to such a degree that that man, corrupted to the
marrow of his bones, and self-confident as no one in Rome, not only felt
for her a kind of esteem, but even lost his previous self-confidence.
And now, thanking her for her care of Vinicius, he thrust in, as it were
involuntarily, "domina," which never occurred to him when speaking, for
example, to Calvia Crispinilla, Scribonia, Veleria, Solina, and other
women of high society.  After he had greeted her and returned thanks, he
began to complain that he saw her so rarely, that it was not possible to
meet her either in the Circus or the Amphitheatre; to which she answered
calmly, laying her hand on the hand of her husband:

"We are growing old, and love our domestic quiet more and more, both of
us."

Petronius wished to oppose; but Aulus Plautius added in his hissing
voice,--"And we feel stranger and stranger among people who give Greek
names to our Roman divinities."

"The gods have become for some time mere figures of rhetoric," replied
Petronius, carelessly.  "But since Greek rhetoricians taught us, it is
easier for me even to say Hera than Juno."

He turned his eyes then to Pomponia, as if to signify that in presence
of her no other divinity could come to his mind: and then he began to
contradict what she had said touching old age.

"People grow old quickly, it is true; but there are some who live
another life entirely, and there are faces moreover which Saturn seems
to forget."

Petronius said this with a certain sincerity even, for Pomponia Græcina,
though descending from the midday of life, had preserved an uncommon
freshness of face; and since she had a small head and delicate features,
she produced at times, despite her dark robes, despite her solemnity and
sadness, the impression of a woman quite young.

Meanwhile little Aulus, who had become uncommonly friendly with Vinicius
during his former stay in the house, approached the young man and
entreated him to play ball.  Lygia herself entered the triclinium after
the little boy.  Under the climbing ivy, with the light quivering on her
face, she seemed to Petronius more beautiful than at the first glance,
and really like some nymph.  As he had not spoken to her thus far, he
rose, inclined his head, and, instead of the usual expressions of
greeting, quoted the words with which Ulysses greeted Nausikaa,--

"I supplicate thee, O queen, whether thou art some goddess or a mortal!
If thou art one of the daughters of men who dwell on earth, thrice
blessed are thy father and thy lady mother, and thrice blessed thy
brethren."

The exquisite politeness of this man of the world pleased even Pomponia.
As to Lygia, she listened, confused and flushed, without boldness to
raise her eyes.  But a wayward smile began to quiver at the corners of
her lips, and on her face a struggle was evident between the timidity of
a maiden and the wish to answer; but clearly the wish was victorious,
for, looking quickly at Petronius, she answered him all at once with the
words of that same Nausikaa, quoting them at one breath, and a little
like a lesson learned,--

"Stranger, thou seemest no evil man nor foolish."

Then she turned and ran out as a frightened bird runs.

This time the turn for astonishment came to Petronius, for he had not
expected to hear verses of Homer from the lips of a maiden of whose
barbarian extraction he had heard previously from Vinicius. Hence he
looked with an inquiring glance at Pomponia; but she could not give him
an answer, for she was looking at that moment, with a smile, at the
pride reflected on the face of her husband.

He was not able to conceal that pride.  First, he had become attached to
Lygia as to his own daughter; and second, in spite of his old Roman
prejudices, which commanded him to thunder against Greek and the spread
of the language, he considered it as the summit of social polish.  He
himself had never been able to learn it well; over this he suffered in
secret.  He was glad, therefore, that an answer was given in the
language and poetry of Homer to this exquisite man both of fashion and
letters, who was ready to consider Plautius's house as barbarian.

"We have in the house a pedagogue, a Greek," said he, turning to
Petronius, "who teaches our boy, and the maiden overhears the lessons.
She is a wagtail yet, but a dear one, to which we have both grown
attached."

Petronius looked through the branches of woodbine into the garden, and
at the three persons who were playing there.  Vinicius had thrown aside
his toga, and, wearing only his tunic, was striking the ball, which
Lygia, standing opposite, with raised arms was trying to catch.  The
maiden did not make a great impression on Petronius at the first glance;
she seemed to him too slender.  But from the moment when he saw her more
nearly in the triclinium he thought to himself that Aurora might look
like her; and as a judge he understood that in her there was something
uncommon.  He considered everything and estimated everything; hence her
face, rosy and clear, her fresh lips, as if set for a kiss, her eyes
blue as the azure of the sea, the alabaster whiteness of her forehead,
the wealth of her dark hair, with the reflection of amber or Corinthian
bronze gleaming in its folds, her slender neck, the divine slope of her
shoulders, the whole posture, flexible, slender, young with the youth of
May and of freshly opened flowers.  The artist was roused in him, and
the worshipper of beauty, who felt that beneath a statue of that maiden
one might write "Spring."  All at once he remembered Chrysothemis, and
pure laughter seized him. Chrysothemis seemed to him, with golden powder
on her hair and darkened brows, to be fabulously faded,--something in
the nature of a yellowed rose-tree shedding its leaves.  But still Rome
envied him that Chrysothemis.  Then he recalled Poppæa; and that most
famous Poppæa also seemed to him soulless, a waxen mask.  In that maiden
with Tanagrian outlines there was not only spring, but a radiant soul,
which shone through her rosy body as a flame through a lamp.

"Vinicius is right," thought he, "and my Chrysothemis is old, old!--as
Troy!"

Then he turned to Pomponia Græcina, and, pointing to the garden, said,--
"I understand now, domina, why thou and thy husband prefer this house to
the Circus and to feasts on the Palatine."

"Yes," answered she, turning her eyes in the direction of little Aulus
and Lygia.

But the old general began to relate the history of the maiden, and what
he had heard years before from Atelius Hister about the Lygian people
who lived in the gloom of the North.

The three outside had finished playing ball, and for some time had been
walking along the sand of the garden, appearing against the dark
background of myrtles and cypresses like three white statues. Lygia held
little Aulus by the hand.  After they had walked a while they sat on a
bench near the fish-pond, which occupied the middle of the garden.  After
a time Aulus sprang up to frighten the fish in the transparent water,
but Vinicius continued the conversation begun during the walk.

"Yes," said he, in a low, quivering voice, scarcely audible; "barely had
I cast aside the pretexta, when I was sent to the legions in Asia.  I
had not become acquainted with the city, nor with life, nor with love.
I know a small bit of Anacreon by heart, and Horace; but I cannot like
Petronius quote verses, when reason is dumb from admiration and unable
to find its own words.  While a youth I went to school to Musonius, who
told me that happiness consists in wishing what the gods wish, and
therefore depends on our will.  I think, however, that it is something
else,--something greater and more precious, which depends not on the
will, for love only can give it.  The gods themselves seek that
happiness; hence I too, O Lygia, who have not known love thus far,
follow in their footsteps. I also seek her who would give me happiness--"

He was silent--and for a time there was nothing to be heard save the
light plash of the water into which little Aulus was throwing pebbles to
frighten the fish; but after a while Vinicius began again in a voice
still softer and lower,--"But thou knowest of Vespasian's son Titus?
They say that he had scarcely ceased to be a youth when he so loved
Berenice that grief almost drew the life out of him.  So could I too
love, O Lygia!  Riches, glory, power are mere smoke, vanity!  The rich
man will find a richer than himself; the greater glory of another will
eclipse a man who is famous; a strong man will be conquered by a
stronger.  But can Cæsar himself, can any god even, experience greater
delight or be happier than a simple mortal at the moment when at his
breast there is breathing another dear breast, or when he kisses beloved
lips? Hence love makes us equal to the gods, O Lygia."

And she listened with alarm, with astonishment, and at the same time as
if she were listening to the sound of a Grecian flute or a cithara.  It
seemed to her at moments that Vinicius was singing a kind of wonderful
song, which was instilling itself into her ears, moving the blood in
her, and penetrating her heart with a faintness, a fear, and a kind of
uncomprehended delight.  It seemed to her also that he was telling
something which was in her before, but of which she could not give
account to herself.  She felt that he was rousing in her something which
had been sleeping hitherto, and that in that moment a hazy dream was
changing into a form more and more definite, more pleasing, more
beautiful.

Meanwhile the sun had passed the Tiber long since, and had sunk low over
the Janiculum.  On the motionless cypresses ruddy light was falling, and
the whole atmosphere was filled with it.  Lygia raised on Vinicius her
blue eyes as if roused from sleep; and he, bending over her with a
prayer quivering in his eyes, seemed on a sudden, in the reflections of
evening, more beautiful than all men, than all Greek and Roman gods
whose statues she had seen on the façades of temples.  And with his
fingers he clasped her arm lightly just above the wrist and asked,--
"Dost thou not divine what I say to thee, Lygia?"

"No," whispered she as answer, in a voice so low that Vinicius barely
heard it.

But he did not believe her, and, drawing her hand toward him more
vigorously, he would have drawn it to his heart, which, under the
influence of desire roused by the marvellous maiden, was beating like a
hammer, and would have addressed burning words to her directly had not
old Aulus appeared on a path set in a frame of myrtles, who said, while
approaching them,--"The sun is setting; so beware of the evening
coolness, and do not trifle with Libitina."

"No," answered Vinicius; "I have not put on my toga yet, and I do not
feel the cold."

"But see, barely half the sun's shield is looking from behind the hill.
That is a sweet climate of Sicily, where people gather on the square
before sunset and take farewell of disappearing Phœbus with a choral
song."

And, forgetting that a moment earlier he had warned them against
Libitina, he began to tell about Sicily, where he had estates and large
cultivated fields which he loved.  He stated also that it had come to
his mind more than once to remove to Sicily, and live out his life there
in quietness.  "He whose head winters have whitened has bad enough of
hoar frost.  Leaves are not falling from the trees yet, and the sky
smiles on the city lovingly; but when the grapevines grow yellow-leaved,
when snow falls on the Alban hills, and the gods visit the Campania with
piercing wind, who knows but I may remove with my entire household to my
quiet country-seat?"

"Wouldst thou leave Rome?" inquired Vinicius, with sudden alarm.

"I have wished to do so this long time, for it is quieter in Sicily and
safer."

And again he fell to praising his gardens, his herds, his house hidden
in green, and the hills grown over with thyme and savory, among which
were swarms of buzzing bees.  But Vinicius paid no heed to that bucolic
note; and from thinking only of this, that he might lose Lygia, he
looked toward Petronius as if expecting salvation from him alone.

Meanwhile Petronius, sitting near Pomponia, was admiring the view of the
setting sun, the garden, and the people standing near the fish-pond.
Their white garments on the dark background of the myrtles gleamed like
gold from the evening rays.  On the sky the evening light had begun to
assume purple and violet hues, and to change like an opal.  A strip of
the sky became lily-colored.  The dark silhouettes of the cypresses grew
still more pronounced than during bright daylight.  In the people, in
the trees, in the whole garden there reigned an evening calm.

That calm struck Petronius, and it struck him especially in the people.
In the faces of Pomponia, old Aulus, their son, and Lygia there was
something such as he did not see in the faces which surrounded him every
day, or rather every night.  There was a certain light, a certain
repose, a certain serenity, flowing directly from the life which all
lived there.  And with a species of astonishment he thought that a
beauty and sweetness might exist which he, who chased after beauty and
sweetness continually, had not known.  He could not hide the thought in
himself, and said, turning to Pomponia,--"I am considering in my soul
how different this world of yours is from the world which our Nero
rules."

She raised her delicate face toward the evening light, and said with
simplicity,--"Not Nero, but God, rules the world."

A moment of silence followed.  Near the triclinium were heard in the
alley, the steps of the old general, Vinicius, Lygia, and little Aulus;
but before they arrived, Petronius had put another question--"But
believest thou in the gods, then, Pomponia?"

"I believe in God, who is one, just, and all-powerful," answered the
wife of Aulus Plautius.




Chapter III


"SHE believes in God who is one, all-powerful, and just," said
Petronius, when he found himself again in the litter with Vinicius. "If
her God is all-powerful, He controls life and death; and if He is just,
He sends death justly.  Why, then, does Pomponia wear mourning for
Julius?  In mourning for Julius she blames her God.  I must repeat this
reasoning to our Bronzebeard, the monkey, since I consider that in
dialectics I am the equal of Socrates.  As to women, I agree that each
has three or four souls, but none of them a reasoning one.  Let Pomponia
meditate with Seneca or Cornutus over the question of what their great
Logos is.  Let them summon at once the shades of Xenophanes, Parmenides,
Zeno, and Plato, who are as much wearied there in Cimmerian regions as a
finch in a cage.  I wished to talk with her and with Plautius about
something else.  By the holy stomach of the Egyptian Isis!  If I had
told them right out directly why we came, I suppose that their virtue
would have made as much noise as a bronze shield under the blow of a
club.  And I did not dare to tell!  Wilt thou believe, Vinicius, I did
not dare!  Peacocks are beautiful birds, but they have too shrill a cry.
I feared an outburst.  But I must praise thy choice.  A real 'rosy-fingered
Aurora.' And knowest thou what she reminded me of too?--Spring!
not our spring in Italy, where an apple-tree merely puts forth a blossom
here and there, and olive groves grow gray, just as they were gray
before, but the spring which I saw once in Helvetia,--young, fresh,
bright green.  By that pale moon, I do not wonder at thee, Marcus; but
know that thou art loving Diana, because Aulus and Pomponia are ready to
tear thee to pieces, as the dogs once tore Actæon."

Vinicius was silent a time without raising his head; then he began to
speak with a voice broken by passion,--"I desired her before, but now I
desire her still more.  When I caught her arm, flame embraced me.  I
must have her.  Were I Zeus, I would surround her with a cloud, as he
surrounded Io, or I would fall on her in rain, as he fell on Danaë; I
would kiss her lips till it pained!  I would hear her scream in my arms.
I would kill Aulus and Pomponia, and bear her home in my arms.  I will
not sleep to-night.  I will give command to flog one of my slaves, and
listen to his groans--"

"Calm thyself," said Petronius.  "Thou hast the longing of a carpenter
from the Subura."

"All one to me what thou sayst.  I must have her.  I have turned to thee
for aid; but if thou wilt not find it, I shall find it myself.  Aulus
considers Lygia as a daughter; why should I look on her as a slave? And
since there is no other way, let her ornament the door of my house, let
her anoint it with wolf's fat, and let her sit at my hearth as wife."

"Calm thyself, mad descendant of consuls.  We do not lead in barbarians
bound behind our cars, to make wives of their daughters.  Beware of
extremes.  Exhaust simple, honorable methods, and give thyself and me
time for meditation. Chrysothemis seemed to me too a daughter of Jove,
and still I did not marry her, just as Nero did not marry Acte, though
they called her a daughter of King Attalus.  Calm thyself!  Think that
if she wishes to leave Aulus for thee, he will have no right to detain
her. Know also that thou art not burning alone, for Eros has roused in
her the flame too.  I saw that, and it is well to believe me.  Have
patience.  There is a way to do everything, but to-day I have thought
too much already, and it tires me.  But I promise that to-morrow I will
think of thy love, and unless Petronius is not Petronius, he will
discover some method."

They were both silent again.

"I thank thee," said Vinicius at last.  "May Fortune be bountiful to
thee."

"Be patient."

"Whither hast thou given command to bear us?"

"To Chrysothemis."

"Thou art happy in possessing her whom thou lovest."

"I? Dost thou know what amuses me yet in Chrysothemis?  This, that she
is false to me with my freedman Theokles, and thinks that I do not
notice it.  Once I loved her, but now she amuses me with her lying and
stupidity.  Come with me to her.  Should she begin to flirt with thee,
and write letters on the table with her fingers steeped in wine, know
that I shall not be jealous."

And he gave command to bear them both to Chrysothemis.

But in the entrance Petronius put his hand on Vinicius's shoulder, and
said,--"Wait; it seems to me that I have discovered a plan."

"May all the gods reward thee!"

"I have it!  I judge that this plan is infallible.  Knowest what,
Marcus?"

"I listen to thee, my wisdom."

"Well, in a few days the divine Lygia will partake of Demeter's grain in
thy house."

"Thou art greater than Cæsar!" exclaimed Vinicius with enthusiasm.




Chapter IV


IN fact, Petronius kept his promise.  He slept all the day following his
visit to Chrysothemis, it is true; but in the evening he gave command to
bear him to the Palatine, where he had a confidential conversation with
Nero; in consequence of this, on the third day a centurion, at the head
of some tens of pretorian soldiers, appeared before the house of
Plautius.

The period was uncertain and terrible.  Messengers of this kind were
more frequently heralds of death.  So when the centurion struck the
hammer at Aulus's door, and when the guard of the atrium announced that
there were soldiers in the anteroom, terror rose through the whole
house.  The family surrounded the old general at once, for no one
doubted that danger hung over him above all.  Pomponia, embracing his
neck with her arms, clung to him with all her strength, and her blue
lips moved quickly while uttering some whispered phrase.  Lygia, with a
face pale as linen, kissed his hand; little Aulus clung to his toga.
From the corridor, from chambers in the lower story intended for
servant-women and attendants, from the bath, from the arches of lower
dwellings, from the whole house, crowds of slaves began to hurry out,
and the cries of "Heu! heu, me miserum!" were heard.  The women broke
into great weeping; some scratched their cheeks, or covered their heads
with kerchiefs.

Only the old general himself, accustomed for years to look death
straight in the eye, remained calm, and his short eagle face became as
rigid as if chiselled from stone.  After a while, when he had silenced
the uproar, and commanded the attendants to disappear, he said,--"Let me
go, Pomponia.  If my end has come, we shall have time to take leave."

And he pushed her aside gently; but she said,--"God grant thy fate and
mine to be one, O Aulus!"

Then, failing on her knees, she began to pray with that force which fear
for some dear one alone can give.

Aulus passed out to the atrium, where the centurion was waiting for him.
It was old Caius Hasta, his former subordinate and companion in British
wars.

"I greet thee, general," said he.  "I bring a command, and the greeting
of Cæsar; here are the tablets and the signet to show that I come in his
name."

"I am thankful to Cæsar for the greeting, and I shall obey the command,"
answered Aulus.  "Be welcome, Hasta, and say what command thou hast
brought."

"Aulus Plautius," began Hasta, "Cæsar has learned that in thy house is
dwelling the daughter of the king of the Lygians, whom that king during
the life of the divine Claudius gave into the hands of the Romans as a
pledge that the boundaries of the empire would never be violated by the
Lygians.  The divine Nero is grateful to thee, O general, because thou
hast given her hospitality in thy house for so many years; but, not
wishing to burden thee longer, and considering also that the maiden as a
hostage should be under the guardianship of Cæsar and the senate, he
commands thee to give her into my hands."

Aulus was too much a soldier and too much a veteran to permit himself
regret in view of an order, or vain words, or complaint. A slight
wrinkle of sudden anger and pain, however, appeared on his forehead.
Before that frown legions in Britain had trembled on a time, and even at
that moment fear was evident on the face of Hasta.  But in view of the
order, Aulus Plautius felt defenceless.  He looked for some time at the
tablets and the signet; then raising his eyes to the old centurion, he
said calmly,--"Wait, Hasta, in the atrium till the hostage is delivered
to thee."

After these words he passed to the other end of the house, to the hall
called œcus, where Pomponia Græcina, Lygia, and little Aulus were
waiting for him in fear and alarm.

"Death threatens no one, nor banishment to distant islands," said he;
"still Cæsar's messenger is a herald of misfortune.  It is a question of
thee, Lygia."

"Of Lygia?" exclaimed Pomponia, with astonishment.

"Yes," answered Aulus.

And turning to the maiden, he began: "Lygia, thou wert reared in our
house as our own child; I and Pomponia love thee as our daughter.  But
know this, that thou art not our daughter.  Thou art a hostage, given by
thy people to Rome, and guardianship over thee belongs to Cæsar.  Now
Cæsar takes thee from our house."

The general spoke calmly, but with a certain strange, unusual voice.
Lygia listened to his words, blinking, as if not understanding what the
question was.  Pomponia's cheeks became pallid.  In the doors leading
from the corridor to the œcus, terrified faces of slaves began to show
themselves a second time.

"The will of Cæsar must be accomplished," said Aulus.

"Aulus!" exclaimed Pomponia, embracing the maiden with her arms, as if
wishing to defend her, "it would be better for her to die."

Lygia, nestling up to her breast, repeated, "Mother, mother!" unable in
her sobbing to find other words.

On Aulus's face anger and pain were reflected again.  "If I were alone
in the world," said he, gloomily, "I would not surrender her alive, and
my relatives might give offerings this day to 'Jupiter Liberator.' But I
have not the right to kill thee and our child, who may live to happier
times.  I will go to Cæsar this day, and implore him to change his
command.  Whether he will hear me, I know not. Meanwhile, farewell,
Lygia, and know that I and Pomponia ever bless the day in which thou
didst take thy seat at our hearth."

Thus speaking, he placed his hand on her head; but though he strove to
preserve his calmness, when Lygia turned to him eyes filled with tears,
and seizing his hand pressed it to her lips, his voice was filled with
deep fatherly sorrow.

"Farewell, our joy, and the light of our eyes," said he.

And he went to the atrium quickly, so as not to let himself be conquered
by emotion unworthy of a Roman and a general.

Meanwhile Pomponia, when she had conducted Lygia to the cubiculum, began
to comfort, console, and encourage her, uttering words meanwhile which
sounded strangely in that house, where near them in an adjoining chamber
the lararium remained yet, and where the hearth was on which Aulus
Plautius, faithful to ancient usage, made offerings to the household
divinities.  Now the hour of trial had come.  On a time Virginius had
pierced the bosom of his own daughter to save her from the hands of
Appius; still earlier Lucretia had redeemed her shame with her life.
The house of Cæsar is a den of infamy, of evil, of crime.  But we,
Lygia, know why we have not the right to raise hands on ourselves!  Yes!
The law under which we both live is another, a greater, a holier, but it
gives permission to defend oneself from evil and shame even should it
happen to pay for that defence with life and torment. Whoso goes forth
pure from the dwelling of corruption has the greater merit thereby.  The
earth is that dwelling; but fortunately life is one twinkle of the eye,
and resurrection is only from the grave; beyond that not Nero, but Mercy
bears rule, and there instead of pain is delight, there instead of tears
is rejoicing.

Next she began to speak of herself.  Yes! she was calm; but in her
breast there was no lack of painful wounds.  For example, Aulus was a
cataract on her eye; the fountain of light had not flowed to him yet.
Neither was it permitted her to rear her son in Truth. When she thought,
therefore, that it might be thus to the end of her life, and that for
them a moment of separation might come which would be a hundred times
more grievous and terrible than that temporary one over which they were
both suffering then, she could not so much as understand how she might
be happy even in heaven without them.  And she had wept many nights
through already, she had passed many nights in prayer, imploring grace
and mercy.  But she offered her suffering to God, and waited and
trusted.  And now, when a new blow struck her, when the tyrant's command
took from her a dear one,--the one whom Aulus had called the light of
their eyes,--she trusted yet, believing that there was a power greater
than Nero's and a mercy mightier than his anger.

And she pressed the maiden's head to her bosom still more firmly. Lygia
dropped to her knees after a while, and, covering her eyes in the folds
of Pomponia's peplus, she remained thus a long time in silence; but when
she stood up again, some calmness was evident on her face.

"I grieve for thee, mother, and for father and for my brother; but I
know that resistance is useless, and would destroy all of us.  I promise
thee that in the house of Cæsar I will never forget thy words."

Once more she threw her arms around Pomponia's neck; then both went out
to the œcus, and she took farewell of little Aulus, of the old Greek
their teacher, of the dressing-maid who had been her nurse, and of all
the slaves.  One of these, a tall and broad-shouldered Lygian, called
Ursus in the house, who with other servants had in his time gone with
Lygia's mother and her to the camp of the Romans, fell now at her feet,
and then bent down to the knees of Pomponia, saying,--"O domina! permit
me to go with my lady, to serve her and watch over her in the house of
Cæsar."

"Thou art not our servant, but Lygia's," answered Pomponia; "but if they
admit thee through Cæsar's doors, in what way wilt thou be able to watch
over her?"

"I know not, domina; I know only that iron breaks in my hands just as
wood does."

When Aulus, who came up at that moment, had heard what the question was,
not only did he not oppose the wishes of Ursus, but he declared that he
had not even the right to detain him.  They were sending away Lygia as a
hostage whom Cæsar had claimed, and they were obliged in the same way to
send her retinue, which passed with her to the control of Cæsar.  Here
he whispered to Pomponia that under the form of an escort she could add
as many slaves as she thought proper, for the centurion could not refuse
to receive them.

There was a certain comfort for Lygia in this.  Pomponia also was glad
that she could surround her with servants of her own choice. Therefore,
besides Ursus, she appointed to her the old tire-woman, two maidens from
Cyprus well skilled in hair-dressing, and two German maidens for the
bath.  Her choice fell exclusively on adherents of the new faith; Ursus,
too, had professed it for a number of years.  Pomponia could count on
the faithfulness of those servants, and at the same time consoled
herself with the thought that soon grains of truth would be in Cæsar's
house.

She wrote a few words also, committing care over Lygia to Nero's
freedwoman, Acte.  Pomponia had not seen her, it is true, at meetings of
confessors of the new faith; but she had heard from them that Acte had
never refused them a service, and that she read the letters of Paul of
Tarsus eagerly.  It was known to her also that the young freedwoman
lived in melancholy, that she was a person different from all other
women of Nero's house, and that in general she was the good spirit of
the palace.

Hasta engaged to deliver the letter himself to Acte.  Considering it
natural that the daughter of a king should have a retinue of her own
servants, he did not raise the least difficulty in taking them to the
palace, but wondered rather that there should be so few.  He begged
haste, however, fearing lest he might be suspected of want of zeal in
carrying out orders.

The moment of parting came.  The eyes of Pomponia and Lygia were filled
with fresh tears; Aulus placed his hand on her head again, and after a
while the soldiers, followed by the cry of little Aulus, who in defence
of his sister threatened the centurion with his small fists, conducted
Lygia to Cæsar's house.

The old general gave command to prepare his litter at once; meanwhile,
shutting himself up with Pomponia in the pinacotheca adjoining the œcus,
he said to her,--"Listen to me, Pomponia.  I will go to Cæsar, though I
judge that my visit will be useless; and though Seneca's word means
nothing with Nero now, I will go also to Seneca.  To-day Sophonius,
Tigellinus, Petronius, or Vatinius have more influence.  As to Cæsar,
perhaps he has never even heard of the Lygian people; and if he has
demanded the delivery of Lygia, the hostage, he has done so because some
one persuaded him to it,--it is easy to guess who could do that."

She raised her eyes to him quickly.

"Is it Petronius?"

"It is."

A moment of silence followed; then the general continued,--"See what it
is to admit over the threshold any of those people without conscience or
honor.  Cursed be the moment in which Vinicius entered our house, for he
brought Petronius.  Woe to Lygia, since those men are not seeking a
hostage, but a concubine."

And his speech became more hissing than usual, because of helpless rage
and of sorrow for his adopted daughter.  He struggled with himself some
time, and only his clenched fists showed how severe was the struggle
within him.

"I have revered the gods so far," said he; "but at this moment I think
that not they are over the world, but one mad, malicious monster named
Nero."

"Aulus," said Pomponia.  "Nero is only a handful of rotten dust before
God."

But Aulus began to walk with long steps over the mosaic of the
pinacotheca.  In his life there had been great deeds, but no great
misfortunes; hence he was unused to them.  The old soldier had grown
more attached to Lygia than he himself had been aware of, and now he
could not be reconciled to the thought that he had lost her.  Besides,
he felt humiliated.  A hand was weighing on him which he despised, and
at the same time he felt that before its power his power was as nothing.

But when at last he stifled in himself the anger which disturbed his
thoughts, he said,--"I judge that Petronius has not taken her from us
for Cæsar, since he would not offend Poppæa.  Therefore he took her
either for himself or Vinicius.  Today I will discover this."

And after a while the litter bore him in the direction of the Palatine.
Pomponia, when left alone, went to little Aulus, who did not cease
crying for his sister, or threatening Cæsar.




Chapter V


AULUS had judged rightly that he would not be admitted to Nero's
presence.  They told him that Cæsar was occupied in singing with the
lute-player, Terpnos, and that in general he did not receive those whom
he himself had not summoned.  In other words, that Aulus must not
attempt in future to see him.

Seneca, though ill with a fever, received the old general with due
honor; but when he had heard what the question was, he laughed bitterly,
and said,--"I can render thee only one service, noble Plautius, not to
show Cæsar at any time that my heart feels thy pain, or that I should
like to aid thee; for should Cæsar have the least suspicion on this
head, know that he would not give thee back Lygia, though for no other
reason than to spite me."

He did not advise him, either, to go to Tigellinus or Vatinius or
Vitelius.  It might be possible to do something with them through money;
perhaps, also, they would like to do evil to Petronius, whose influence
they were trying to undermine, but most likely they would disclose
before Nero how dear Lygia was to Plautius, and then Nero would all the
more resolve not to yield her to him. Here the old sage began to speak
with a biting irony, which he turned against himself: "Thou hast been
silent, Plautius, thou hast been silent for whole years, and Cæsar does
not like those who are silent.  How couldst thou help being carried away
by his beauty, his virtue, his singing, his declamation, his chariot-
driving, and his verses?  Why didst thou not glorify the death of
Britannicus, and repeat panegyrics in honor of the mother-slayer, and
not offer congratulations after the stifling of Octavia?  Thou art
lacking in foresight, Aulus, which we who live happily at the court
possess in proper measure."

Thus speaking, he raised a goblet which he carried at his belt, took
water from a fountain at the impluvium, freshened his burning lips, and
continued,--"Ah, Nero has a grateful heart.  He loves thee because thou
hast served Rome and glorified its name at the ends of the earth; he
loves me because I was his master in youth. Therefore, seest thou, I
know that this water is not poisoned, and I drink it in peace.  Wine in
my own house would be less reliable.  If thou art thirsty, drink boldly
of this water.  The aqueducts bring it from beyond the Alban hills, and
any one wishing to poison it would have to poison every fountain in
Rome.  As thou seest, it is possible yet to be safe in this world and to
have a quiet old age.  I am sick, it is true, but rather in soul than in
body."

This was true.  Seneca lacked the strength of soul which Cornutus
possessed, for example, or Thrasea; hence his life was a series of
concessions to crime.  He felt this himself; he understood that an
adherent of the principles of Zeno, of Citium, should go by another
road, and he suffered more from that cause than from the fear of death
itself.

But the general interrupted these reflections full of grief.

"Noble Annæus," said he, "I know how Cæsar rewarded thee for the care
with which thou didst surround his years of youth.  But the author of
the removal of Lygia is Petronius.  Indicate to me a method against him,
indicate the influences to which he yields, and use besides with him all
the eloquence with which friendship for me of long standing can inspire
thee."

"Petronius and I," answered Seneca, "are men of two opposite camps; I
know of no method against him, he yields to no man's influence.  Perhaps
with all his corruption he is worthier than those scoundrels with whom
Nero surrounds himself at present.  But to show him that he has done an
evil deed is to lose time simply. Petronius has lost long since that
faculty which distinguishes good from evil.  Show him that his act is
ugly, he will be ashamed of it. When I see him, I will say, 'Thy act is
worthy of a freedman.' If that will not help thee, nothing can."

"Thanks for that, even," answered the general.

Then he gave command to carry him to the house of Vinicius, whom he
found at sword practice with his domestic trainer.  Aulus was borne away
by terrible anger at sight of the young man occupied calmly with fencing
during the attack on Lygia; and barely had the curtain dropped behind
the trainer when this anger burst forth in a torrent of bitter
reproaches and injuries.  But Vinicius, when he learned that Lygia had
been carried away, grew so terribly pale that Aulus could not for even
an instant suspect him of sharing in the deed.  The young man's forehead
was covered with sweat; the blood, which had rushed to his heart for a
moment, returned to his face in a burning wave; his eyes began to shoot
sparks, his mouth to hurl disconnected questions.  Jealousy and rage
tossed him in turn, like a tempest.  It seemed to him that Lygia, once
she had crossed the threshold of Cæsar's house, was lost to him
absolutely.  When Aulus pronounced the name of Petronius, suspicion flew
like a lightning flash through the young soldier's mind, that Petronius
had made sport of him, and either wanted to win new favor from Nero by
the gift of Lygia, or keep her for himself.  That any one who had seen
Lygia would not desire her at once, did not find a place in his head.
Impetuousness, inherited in his family, carried him away like a wild
horse, and took from him presence of mind.

"General," said he, with a broken voice, "return home and wait for me.
Know that if Petronius were my own father, I would avenge on him the
wrong done to Lygia.  Return home and wait for me. Neither Petronius nor
Cæsar will have her."

Then he went with clinched fists to the waxed masks standing clothed in
the atrium, and burst out,--"By those mortal masks!  I would rather kill
her and myself."  When he had said this, he sent another "Wait for me"
after Aulus, then ran forth like a madman from the atrium, and flew to
Petronius's house, thrusting pedestrians aside on the way.

Aulus returned home with a certain encouragement.  He judged that if
Petronius had persuaded Cæsar to take Lygia to give her to Vinicius,
Vinicius would bring her to their house.  Finally, the thought was no
little consolation to him, that should Lygia not be rescued she would be
avenged and protected by death from disgrace.  He believed that Vinicius
would do everything that he had promised.  He had seen his rage, and he
knew the excitability innate in the whole family.  He himself, though he
loved Lygia as her own father, would rather kill her than give her to
Cæsar; and had he not regarded his son, the last descendant of his
stock, he would doubtless have done so.  Aulus was a soldier; he had
hardly heard of the Stoics, but in character he was not far from their
ideas,--death was more acceptable to his pride than disgrace.

When he returned home, he pacified Pomponia, gave her the consolation
that he had, and both began to await news from Vinicius.  At moments
when the steps of some of the slaves were heard in the atrium, they
thought that perhaps Vinicius was bringing their beloved child to them,
and they were ready in the depth of their souls to bless both.  Time
passed, however, and no news came.  Only in the evening was the hammer
heard on the gate.

After a while a slave entered and handed Aulus a letter.  The old
general, though he liked to show command over himself, took it with a
somewhat trembling hand, and began to read as hastily as if it were a
question of his whole house.

All at once his face darkened, as if a shadow from a passing cloud had
fallen on it.

"Read," said he, turning to Pomponia.

Pomponia took the letter and read as follows:--

"Marcus Vinicius to Aulus Plautius greeting.  What has happened, has
happened by the will of Cæsar, before which incline your heads, as I and
Petronius incline ours."

A long silence followed.




Chapter VI


PETRONIUS was at home.  The doorkeeper did not dare to stop Vinicius,
who burst into the atrium like a storm, and, learning that the master of
the house was in the library, he rushed into the library with the same
impetus.  Finding Petronius writing, he snatched the reed from his hand,
broke it, trampled the reed on the floor, then fixed his fingers into
his shoulder, and, approaching his face to that of his uncle, asked,
with a hoarse voice,--"What hast thou done with her?  Where is she?"

Suddenly an amazing thing happened.  That slender and effeminate
Petronius seized the hand of the youthful athlete, which was grasping
his shoulder, then seized the other, and, holding them both in his one
hand with the grip of an iron vice, he said,--"I am incapable only in
the morning; in the evening I regain my former strength.  Try to escape.
A weaver must have taught thee gymnastics, and a blacksmith thy
manners."

On his face not even anger was evident, but in his eyes there was a
certain pale reflection of energy and daring.  After a while he let the
hands of Vinicius drop.  Vinicius stood before him shamefaced and
enraged.

"Thou hast a steel hand," said he; "but if thou hast betrayed me, I
swear, by all the infernal gods, that I will thrust a knife into thy
body, though thou be in the chambers of Cæsar."

"Let us talk calmly," said Petronius.  "Steel is stronger, as thou
seest, than iron; hence, though out of one of thy arms two as large as
mine might be made, I have no need to fear thee.  On the contrary, I
grieve over thy rudeness, and if the ingratitude of men could astonish
me yet, I should be astonished at thy ingratitude."

"Where is Lygia?"

"In a brothel,--that is, in the house of Cæsar."

"Petronius!"

"Calm thyself, and be seated.  I asked Cæsar for two things, which he
promised me,--first, to take Lygia from the house of Aulus, and second
to give her to thee.  Hast thou not a knife there under the folds of thy
toga?  Perhaps thou wilt stab me!  But I advise thee to wait a couple of
days, for thou wouldst be taken to prison, and meanwhile Lygia would be
wearied in thy house."

Silence followed.  Vinicius looked for some time with astonished eyes on
Petronius; then he said,--"Pardon me; I love her, and love is disturbing
my faculties."

"Look at me, Marcus.  The day before yesterday I spoke to Cæsar as
follows: 'My sister's son, Vinicius, has so fallen in love with a lean
little girl who is being reared with the Auluses that his house is
turned into a steambath from sighs. Neither thou, O Cæsar, nor I--we who
know, each of us, what true beauty is--would give a thousand sesterces
for her; but that lad has ever been as dull as a tripod, and now he has
lost all the wit that was in him.'"

"Petronius!"

"If thou understand not that I said this to insure Lygia's safety, I am
ready to believe that I told the truth.  I persuaded Bronzebeard that a
man of his æsthetic nature could not consider such a girl beautiful; and
Nero, who so far has not dared to look otherwise than through my eyes,
will not find in her beauty, and, not finding it, will not desire her.
It was necessary to insure ourselves against the monkey and take him on
a rope.  Not he, but Poppæa, will value Lygia now; and Poppæa will
strive, of course, to send the girl out of the palace at the earliest.
I said further to Bronzebeard, in passing: 'Take Lygia and give her to
Vinicius!  Thou hast the right to do so, for she is a hostage; and if
thou take her, thou wilt inflict pain on Aulus.' He agreed; he had not
the least reason not to agree, all the more since I gave him a chance to
annoy decent people.  They will make thee official guardian of the
hostage, and give into thy hands that Lygian treasure; thou, as a friend
of the valiant Lygians, and also a faithful servant of Cæsar, wilt not
waste any of the treasure, but wilt strive to increase it.  Cæsar, to
preserve appearances, will keep her a few days in his house, and then
send her to thy insula.  Lucky man!"

"Is this true?  Does nothing threaten her there in Cæsar's house?"

"If she had to live there permanently, Poppæa would talk about her to
Locusta, but for a few days there is no danger.  Ten thousand people
live in it.  Nero will not see her, perhaps, all the more since he left
everything to me, to the degree that just now the centurion was here
with information that he had conducted the maiden to the palace and
committed her to Acte.  She is a good soul, that Acte; hence I gave
command to deliver Lygia to her.  Clearly Pomponia Græcina is of that
opinion too, for she wrote to Acte.  To-morrow there is a feast at
Nero's. I have requested a place for thee at the side of Lygia."

"Pardon me, Caius, my hastiness.  I judged that thou hadst given command
to take her for thyself or for Cæsar."

"I can forgive thy hastiness; but it is more difficult to forgive rude
gestures, vulgar shouts, and a voice reminding one of players at mora.
I do not like that style, Marcus, and do thou guard against it. Know
that Tigellinus is Cæsar's pander; but know also that if I wanted the
girl for myself now, looking thee straight in the eyes, I would say,
'Vinicius!  I take Lygia from thee and I will keep her till I am tired
of her."

Thus speaking, he began to look with his hazel eyes straight into the
eyes of Vinicius with a cold and insolent stare.  The young man lost
himself completely.

"The fault is mine," said he.  "Thou art kind and worthy.  I thank thee
from my whole soul.  Permit me only to put one more question: Why didst
thou not have Lygia sent directly to my house?"

"Because Cæsar wishes to preserve appearances.  People in Rome will talk
about this,--that we removed Lygia as a hostage.  While they are
talking, she will remain in Cæsar's palace.  Afterward she will be
removed quietly to thy house, and that will be the end. Bronzebeard is a
cowardly cur.  He knows that his power is unlimited, and still he tries
to give specious appearances to every act.  Hast thou recovered to the
degree of being able to philosophize a little?  More than once have I
thought, Why does crime, even when as powerful as Cæsar, and assured of
being beyond punishment, strive always for the appearances of truth,
justice, and virtue?  Why does it take the trouble?  I consider that to
murder a brother, a mother, a wife, is a thing worthy of some petty
Asiatic king, not a Roman Cæsar; but if that position were mine, I
should not write justifying letters to the Senate.  But Nero writes.
Nero is looking for appearances, for Nero is a coward.  But Tiberius was
not a coward; still he justified every step he took. Why is this?  What
a marvellous, involuntary homage paid to virtue by evil!  And knowest
thou what strikes me?  This, that it is done because transgression is
ugly and virtue is beautiful.  Therefore a man of genuine æsthetic
feeling is also a virtuous man.  Hence I am virtuous.  To-day I must
pour out a little wine to the shades of Protagoras, Prodicus, and
Gorgias.  It seems that sophists too can be of service.  Listen, for I
am speaking yet.  I took Lygia from Aulus to give her to thee.  Well.
But Lysippus would have made wonderful groups of her and thee.  Ye are
both beautiful; therefore my act is beautiful, and being beautiful it
cannot be bad.  Marcus, here sitting before thee is virtue incarnate in
Caius Petronius!  If Aristides were living, it would be his duty to come
to me and offer a hundred minæ for a short treatise on virtue."

But Vinicius, as a man more concerned with reality than with treatises
on virtue, replied,--"To-morrow I shall see Lygia, and then have her in
my house daily, always, and till death."

"Thou wilt have Lygia, and I shall have Aulus on my head.  He will
summon the vengeance of all the infernal gods against me.  And if the
beast would take at least a preliminary lesson in good declamation!  He
will blame me, however, as my former doorkeeper blamed my clients but
him I sent to prison in the country."

"Aulus has been at my house.  I promised to give him news of Lygia."

"Write to him that the will of the 'divine' Cæsar is the highest law,
and that thy first son will bear the name Aulus.  It is necessary that
the old man should have some consolation.  I am ready to pray
Bronzebeard to invite him to-morrow to the feast.  Let him see thee in
the triclinium next to Lygia."

"Do not do that.  I am sorry for them, especially for Pomponia."

And he sat down to write that letter which took from the old general the
remnant of his hope.




Chapter VII


ONCE the highest heads in Rome inclined before Acte, the former favorite
of Nero.  But even at that period she showed no desire to interfere in
public questions, and if on any occasion she used her influence over the
young ruler, it was only to implore mercy for some one.  Quiet and
unassuming, she won the gratitude of many, and made no one her enemy.
Even Octavia was unable to hate her. To those who envied her she seemed
exceedingly harmless.  It was known that she continued to love Nero with
a sad and pained love, which lived not in hope, but only in memories of
the time in which that Nero was not only younger and loving, but better.
It was known that she could not tear her thoughts and soul from those
memories, but expected nothing; since there was no real fear that Nero
would return to her, she was looked upon as a person wholly inoffensive,
and hence was left in peace.  Poppæa considered her merely as a quiet
servant, so harmless that she did not even try to drive her from the
palace.

But since Cæsar had loved her once and dropped her without offence in a
quiet and to some extent friendly manner, a certain respect was retained
for her.  Nero, when he had freed her, let her live in the palace, and
gave her special apartments with a few servants.  And as in their time
Pallas and Narcissus, though freedmen of Claudius, not only sat at
feasts with Claudius, but also held places of honor as powerful
ministers, so she too was invited at times to Cæsar's table.  This was
done perhaps because her beautiful form was a real ornament to a feast.
Cæsar for that matter had long since ceased to count with any
appearances in his choice of company.  At his table the most varied
medley of people of every position and calling found places.  Among them
were senators, but mainly those who were content to be jesters as well.
There were patricians, old and young, eager for luxury, excess, and
enjoyment.  There were women with great names, who did not hesitate to
put on a yellow wig of an evening and seek adventures on dark streets
for amusement's sake.  There were also high officials, and priests who
at full goblets were willing to jeer at their own gods.  At the side of
these was a rabble of every sort: singers, mimes, musicians, dancers of
both sexes; poets who, while declaiming, were thinking of the sesterces
which might fall to them for praise of Cæsar's verses; hungry
philosophers following the dishes with eager eyes; finally, noted
charioteers, tricksters, miracle-wrights, tale-tellers, jesters, and the
most varied adventurers brought through fashion or folly to a few days'
notoriety.  Among these were not lacking even men who covered with long
hair their ears pierced in sign of slavery.

The most noted sat directly at the tables; the lesser served to amuse in
time of eating, and waited for the moment in which the servants would
permit them to rush at the remnants of food and drink.  Guests of this
sort were furnished by Tigellinus, Vatinius, and Vitelius; for these
guests they were forced more than once to find clothing befitting the
chambers of Cæsar, who, however, liked their society, through feeling
most free in it.  The luxury of the court gilded everything, and covered
all things with glitter. High and low, the descendants of great
families, and the needy from the pavements of the city, great artists,
and vile scrapings of talent, thronged to the palace to sate their
dazzled eyes with a splendor almost surpassing human estimate, and to
approach the giver of every favor, wealth, and property,--whose single
glance might abase, it is true, but might also exalt beyond measure.

That day Lygia too had to take part in such a feast.  Fear, uncertainty,
and a dazed feeling, not to be wondered at after the sudden change, were
struggling in her with a wish to resist.  She feared Nero; she feared
the people and the palace whose uproar deprived her of presence of mind;
she feared the feasts of whose shamelessness she had heard from Aulus,
Pomponia Græcina, and their friends.  Though young, she was not without
knowledge, for knowledge of evil in those times reached even children's
ears early.  She knew, therefore, that ruin was threatening her in the
palace.  Pomponia, moreover, had warned her of this at the moment of
parting.  But having a youthful spirit, unacquainted with corruption,
and confessing a lofty faith, implanted in her by her foster mother, she
had promised to defend herself against that ruin; she had promised her
mother, herself and also that Divine Teacher in whom she not only
believed, but whom she had come to love with her half-childlike heart
for the sweetness of his doctrine, the bitterness of his death, and the
glory of his resurrection.

She was confident too that now neither Aulus nor Pomponia would be
answerable for her actions; she was thinking therefore whether it would
not be better to resist and not go to the feast.  On the one hand fear
and alarm spoke audibly in her soul; on the other the wish rose in her
to show courage in suffering, in exposure to torture and death.  The
Divine Teacher had commanded to act thus.  He had given the example
himself.  Pomponia had told her that the most earnest among the
adherents desire with all their souls such a test, and pray for it.  And
Lygia, when still in the house of Aulus, had been mastered at moments by
a similar desire.  She had seen herself as a martyr, with wounds on her
feet and hands, white as snow, beautiful with a beauty not of earth, and
borne by equally white angels into the azure sky; and her imagination
admired such a vision.  There was in it much childish brooding, but
there was in it also something of delight in herself, which Pomponia had
reprimanded.  But now, when opposition to Cæsar's will might draw after
it some terrible punishment, and the martyrdom scene of imagination
become a reality, there was added to the beautiful visions and to the
delight a kind of curiosity mingled with dread, as to how they would
punish her, and what kind of torments they would provide.  And her soul,
half childish yet, was hesitating on two sides.  But Acte, hearing of
these hesitations, looked at her with astonishment as if the maiden were
talking in a fever.  To oppose Cæsar's will, expose oneself from the
first moment to his anger?  To act thus one would need to be a child
that knows not what it says.  From Lygia's own words it appears that she
is, properly speaking, not really a hostage, but a maiden forgotten by
her own people.  No law of nations protects her; and even if it did,
Cæsar is powerful enough to trample on it in a moment of anger.  It has
pleased Cæsar to take her, and he will dispose of her.  Thenceforth she
is at his will, above which there is not another on earth.

"So it is," continued Acte.  "I too have read the letters of Paul of
Tarsus, and I know that above the earth is God, and the Son of God, who
rose from the dead; but on the earth there is only Cæsar. Think of this,
Lygia.  I know too that thy doctrine does not permit thee to be what I
was, and that to you as to the Stoics,--of whom Epictetus has told me,--
when it comes to a choice between shame and death, it is permitted to
choose only death.  But canst thou say that death awaits thee and not
shame too?  Hast thou heard of the daughter of Sejanus, a young maiden,
who at command of Tiberius had to pass through shame before her death,
so as to respect a law which prohibits the punishment of virgins with
death?  Lygia, Lygia, do not irritate Cæsar.  If the decisive moment
comes when thou must choose between disgrace and death, thou wilt act as
thy faith commands; but seek not destruction thyself, and do not
irritate for a trivial cause an earthly and at the same time a cruel
divinity."

Acte spoke with great compassion, and even with enthusiasm; and being a
little short-sighted, she pushed her sweet face up to Lygia's as if
wishing to see surely the effect of her words.

But Lygia threw her arms around Acte's neck with childish trustfulness
and said,--"Thou art kind, Acte."

Acte, pleased by the praise and confidence, pressed her to her heart;
and then disengaging herself from the arms of the maiden, answered,--"My
happiness has passed and my joy is gone, but I am not wicked."  Then she
began to walk with quick steps through the room and to speak to herself,
as if in despair.

"No! And he was not wicked.  He thought himself good at that time, and
he wished to be good.  I know that best.  All his change came later,
when he ceased to love.  Others made him what he is--yes, others--and
Poppæa."

Here her eyelids filled with tears.  Lygia followed her for some time
with her blue eyes, and asked at last,--"Art thou sorry for him, Acte?"

"I am sorry for him!" answered the Grecian, with a low voice.  And again
she began to walk, her hands clinched as if in pain, and her face
without hope.

"Dost thou love him yet, Acte?" asked Lygia, timidly.

"I love him."

And after a while she added,--"No one loves him but me."

Silence followed, during which Acte strove to recover her calmness,
disturbed by memories; and when at length her face resumed its usual
look of calm sorrow, she said,--

"Let us speak of thee, Lygia.  Do not even think of opposing Cæsar; that
would be madness.  And be calm.  I know this house well, and I judge
that on Cæsar's part nothing threatens thee.  If Nero had given command
to take thee away for himself, he would not have brought thee to the
Palatine.  Here Poppæa rules; and Nero, since she bore him a daughter,
is more than ever under her influence.  No, Nero gave command, it is
true, that thou shouldst be at the feast, but he has not seen thee yet;
he has not inquired about thee, hence he does not care about thee.
Maybe he took thee from Aulus and Pomponia only through anger at them.
Petronius wrote me to have care of thee; and since Pomponia too wrote,
as thou knowest, maybe they had an understanding.  Maybe he did that at
her request.  If this be true, if he at the request of Pomponia will
occupy himself with thee, nothing threatens thee; and who knows if Nero
may not send thee back to Aulus at his persuasion?  I know not whether
Nero loves him over much, but I know that rarely has he the courage to
be of an opinion opposite to his."

"Ah, Acte!" answered Lygia; "Petronius was with us before they took me,
and my mother was convinced that Nero demanded my surrender at his
instigation."

"That would be bad," said Acte.  But she stopped for a while, and then
said,--"Perhaps Petronius only said, in Nero's presence at some supper,
that he saw a hostage of the Lygians at Aulus's, and Nero, who is
jealous of his own power, demanded thee only because hostages belong to
Cæsar.  But he does not like Aulus and Pomponia.  No! it does not seem
to me that if Petronius wished to take thee from Aulus he would use such
a method.  I do not know whether Petronius is better than others of
Cæsar's court, but he is different.  Maybe too thou wilt find some one
else who would be willing to intercede for thee.  Hast thou not seen at
Aulus's some one who is near Cæsar?"

"I have seen Vespasian and Titus."

"Cæsar does not like them."

"And Seneca."

"If Seneca advised something, that would be enough to make Nero act
otherwise."

The bright face of Lygia was covered with a blush.  "And Vinicius-"

"I do not know him."

"He is a relative of Petronius, and returned not long since from
Armenia."

"Dost thou think that Nero likes him?"

"All like Vinicius."

"And would he intercede for thee?"

"He would."

Acte smiled tenderly, and said, "Then thou wilt see him surely at the
feast.  Thou must be there, first, because thou must,--only such a child
as thou could think otherwise.  Second, if thou wish to return to the
house of Aulus, thou wilt find means of beseeching Petronius and
Vinicius to gain for thee by their influence the right to return.  If
they were here, both would tell thee as I do, that it would be madness
and ruin to try resistance.  Cæsar might not notice thy absence, it is
true; but if he noticed it and thought that thou hadst the daring to
oppose his will, here would be no salvation for thee.  Go, Lygia!  Dost
thou hear the noise in the palace?  The sun is near setting; guests will
begin to arrive soon."

"Thou art right," answered Lygia, "and I will follow thy advice."

How much desire to see Vinicius and Petronius there was in this resolve,
how much of woman's curiosity there was to see such a feast once in
life, and to see at it Cæsar, the court, the renowned Poppæa and other
beauties, and all that unheard-of splendor, of which wonders were
narrated in Rome, Lygia could not give account to herself of a
certainty.  But Acte was right, and Lygia felt this distinctly.  There
was need to go; therefore, when necessity and simple reason supported
the hidden temptation, she ceased to hesitate.

Acte conducted her to her own unctorium to anoint and dress her; and
though there was no lack of slave women in Cæsar's house, and Acte had
enough of them for her personal service, still, through sympathy for the
maiden whose beauty and innocence had caught her heart, she resolved to
dress her herself.  It became clear at once that in the young Grecian,
in spite of her sadness and her perusal of the letters of Paul of
Tarsus, there was yet much of the ancient Hellenic spirit, to which
physical beauty spoke with more eloquence than aught else on earth.
When she had undressed Lygia, she could not restrain an exclamation of
wonder at sight of her form, at once slender and full, created, as it
were, from pearl and roses; and stepping back a few paces, she looked
with delight on that matchless, spring-like form.

"Lygia," exclaimed she at last, "thou art a hundred times more beautiful
than Poppæa!"

But, reared in the strict house of Pomponia, where modesty was observed,
even when women were by themselves, the maiden, wonderful as a wonderful
dream, harmonious as a work of Praxiteles or as a song, stood alarmed,
blushing from modesty, with knees pressed together, with her hands on
her bosom, and downcast eyes.  At last, raising her arms with sudden
movement, she removed the pins which held her hair, and in one moment,
with one shake of her head, she covered herself with it as with a
mantle.

Acte, approaching her and touching her dark tresses, said,--

"Oh, what hair thou hast!  I will not sprinkle golden powder on it; it
gleams of itself in one place and another with gold, where it waves.  I
will add, perhaps, barely a sprinkle here and there; but lightly,
lightly, as if a sun ray had freshened it.  Wonderful must thy Lygian
country be where such maidens are born!

"I do not remember it," answered Lygia; "but Ursus has told me that with
us it is forests, forests, and forests."

"But flowers bloom in those forests," said Acte, dipping her hand in a
vase filled with verbena, and moistening Lygia's hair with it. When she
had finished this work, Acte anointed her body lightly with odoriferous
oils from Arabia, and then dressed her in a soft gold-colored tunic
without sleeves, over which was to be put a snow-white peplus.  But
since she had to dress Lygia's hair first, she put on her meanwhile a
kind of roomy dress called synthesis, and, seating her in an armchair,
gave her for a time into the hands of slave women, so as to stand at a
distance herself and follow the hairdressing.  Two other slave women put
on Lygia's feet white sandals, embroidered with purple, fastening them
to her alabaster ankles with golden lacings drawn crosswise.  When at
last the hair-dressing was finished, they put a peplus on her in very
beautiful, light folds; then Acte fastened pearls to her neck, and
touching her hair at the folds with gold dust, gave command to the women
to dress her, following Lygia with delighted eyes meanwhile.

But she was ready soon; and when the first litters began to appear
before the main gate, both entered the side portico from which were
visible the chief entrance, the interior galleries, and the courtyard
surrounded by a colonnade of Numidian marble.

Gradually people passed in greater and greater numbers under the lofty
arch of the entrance, over which the splendid quadrigæ of Lysias seemed
to bear Apollo and Diana into space.  Lygia's eyes were struck by that
magnificence, of which the modest house of Aulus could not have given
her the slightest idea.  It was sunset; the last rays were falling on
the yellow Numidian marble of the columns, which shone like gold in
those gleams and changed into rose color also.  Among the columns, at
the side of white statues of the Danaides and others, representing gods
or heroes, crowds of people flowed past,--men and women; resembling
statues also, for they were draped in togas, pepluses, and robes,
falling with grace and beauty toward the earth in soft folds, on which
the rays of the setting sun were expiring.  A gigantic Hercules, with
head in the light yet, from the breast down sunk in shadow cast by the
columns, looked from above on that throng.  Acte showed Lygia senators
in wide-bordered togas, in colored tunics, in sandals with crescents on
them, and knights, and famed artists; she showed her Roman ladies, in
Roman, in Grecian, in fantastic Oriental costume, with hair dressed in
towers or pyramids, or dressed like that of the statues of goddesses,
low on the head, and adorned with flowers.  Many men and women did Acte
call by name, adding to their names histories, brief and sometimes
terrible, which pierced Lygia with fear, amazement, and wonder.  For her
this was a strange world, whose beauty intoxicated her eyes, but whose
contrasts her girlish understanding could not grasp.  In those twilights
of the sky, in those rows of motionless columns vanishing in the
distance, and in those statuesque people, there was a certain lofty
repose.  It seemed that in the midst of those marbles of simple lines
demigods might live free of care, at peace and in happiness. Meanwhile
the low voice of Acte disclosed, time after time, a new and dreadful
secret of that palace and those people.  See, there at a distance is the
covered portico on whose columns and floor are still visible red stains
from the blood with which Caligula sprinkled the white marble when he
fell beneath the knife of Cassius Chærea; there his wife was slain;
there his child was dashed against a stone; under that wing is the
dungeon in which the younger Drusus gnawed his hands from hunger; there
the elder Drusus was poisoned; there Gemellus quivered in terror, and
Claudius in convulsions; there Germanicus suffered,--everywhere those
walls had heard the groans and death-rattle of the dying; and those
people hurrying now to the feast in togas, in colored tunics, in
flowers, and in jewels, may be the condemned of to-morrow; on more than
one face, perhaps, a smile conceals terror, alarm, the uncertainty of
the next day; perhaps feverishness, greed, envy are gnawing at this
moment into the hearts of those crowned demigods, who in appearance are
free of care.  Lygia's frightened thoughts could not keep pace with
Acte's words; and when that wonderful world attracted her eyes with
increasing force, her heart contracted within her from fear, and in her
soul she struggled with an immense, inexpressible yearning for the
beloved Pomponia Græcina, and the calm house of Aulus, in which love,
and not crime, was the ruling power.

Meanwhile new waves of guests were flowing in from the Vicus Apollinis.
From beyond the gates came the uproar and shouts of clients, escorting
their patrons.  The courtyard and the colonnades were swarming with the
multitude of Cæsar's slaves, of both sexes, small boys, and pretorian
soldiers, who kept guard in the palace.  Here and there among dark or
swarthy visages was the black face of a Numidian, in a feathered helmet,
and with large gold rings in his ears.  Some were bearing lutes and
citharas, hand lamps of gold, silver, and bronze, and bunches of
flowers, reared artificially despite the late autumn season.  Louder and
louder the sound of conversation was mingled with the splashing of the
fountain, the rosy streams of which fell from above on the marble and
were broken, as if in sobs.

Acte had stopped her narration; but Lygia gazed at the throng, as if
searching for some one.  All at once her face was covered with a blush,
and from among the columns came forth Vinicius with Petronius.  They
went to the great triclinium, beautiful, calm, like white gods, in their
togas.  It seemed to Lygia, when she saw those two known and friendly
faces among strange people, and especially when she saw Vinicius, that a
great weight had fallen from her heart.  She felt less alone.  That
measureless yearning for Pomponia and the house of Aulus, which had
broken out in her a little while before, ceased at once to be painful.
The desire to see Vinicius and to talk with him drowned in her other
voices.  In vain did she remember all the evil which she had heard of
the house of Cæsar, the words of Acte, the warnings of Pomponia; in
spite of those words and warnings, she felt all at once that not only
must she be at that feast, but that she wished to be there.  At the
thought that soon she would hear that dear and pleasant voice, which had
spoken of love to her and of happiness worthy of the gods, and which was
sounding like a song in her ears yet, delight seized her straightway.

But the next moment she feared that delight.  It seemed to her that she
would be false to the pure teaching in which she had been reared, false
to Pomponia, and false to herself.  It is one thing to go by constraint,
and another to delight in such a necessity.  She felt guilty, unworthy,
and ruined.

Despair swept her away, and she wanted to weep.  Had she been alone, she
would have knelt down and beaten her breast, saying, "Mea culpa! mea
culpa!"  Acte, taking her hand at that moment, led her through the
interior apartments to the grand triclinium, where the feast was to be.
Darkness was in her eyes, and a roaring in her ears from internal
emotion; the beating of her heart stopped her breath.  As in a dream,
she saw thousands of lamps gleaming on the tables and on the walls; as
in a dream, she heard the shout with which the guests greeted Cæsar; as
through a mist, she saw Cæsar himself.  The shout deafened her, the
glitter dazzled, the odors intoxicated; and, losing the remnant of her
consciousness, she was barely able to recognize Acte, who seated her at
the table and took a place at her side.

But after a while a low and known voice was heard at the other side,--"A
greeting, most beautiful of maidens on earth and of stars in heaven.  A
greeting to thee, divine Callina!"

Lygia, having recovered somewhat, looked up; at her side was Vinicius.
He was without a toga, for convenience and custom had enjoined to cast
aside the toga at feasts.  His body was covered with only a sleeveless
scarlet tunic embroidered in silver palms.  His bare arms were
ornamented in Eastern fashion with two broad golden bands fastened above
the elbow; below they were carefully stripped of hair.  They were
smooth, but too muscular,--real arms of a soldier, they were made for
the sword and the shield.  On his head was a garland of roses.  With
brows joining above the nose, with splendid eyes and a dark complexion,
he was the impersonation of youth and strength, as it were.  To Lygia he
seemed so beautiful that though her first amazement had passed, she was
barely able to answer,--"A greeting, Marcus."

"Happy," said he, "are my eyes, which see thee; happy my ears, which
hear thy voice, dearer to me than the sound of lutes or citharas.  Were
it commanded me to choose who was to rest here by my side at this feast,
thou, Lygia, or Venus, I would choose thee, divine one!"

And he looked at the maiden as if he wished to sate himself with the
sight of her, to burn her eyes with his eyes.  His glance slipped from
her face to her neck and bare arms, fondled her shapely outlines,
admired her, embraced her, devoured her; but besides desire, there was
gleaming in him happiness, admiration, and ecstasy beyond limit.

"I knew that I should see thee in Cæsar's house," continued he; "but
still, when I saw thee, such delight shook my whole soul, as if a
happiness entirely unexpected had met me."

Lygia, having recovered herself and feeling that in that throng and in
that house he was the only being who was near to her, began to converse
with him, and ask about everything which she did not understand and
which filled her with fear.  Whence did he know that he would find her
in Cæsar's house?  Why is she there?  Why did Cæsar take her from
Pomponia?  She is full of fear where she is, and wishes to return to
Pomponia.  She would die from alarm and grief were it not for the hope
that Petronius and he will intercede for her before Cæsar.

Vinicius explained that he learned from Aulus himself that she had been
taken.  Why she is there, he knows not.  Cæsar gives account to no one
of his orders and commands.  But let her not fear.  He, Vinicius, is
near her and will stay near her.  He would rather lose his eyes than not
see her; he would rather lose his life than desert her.  She is his
soul, and hence he will guard her as his soul.  In his house he will
build to her, as to a divinity, an altar on which he will offer myrrh
and aloes, and in spring saffron and apple-blossoms; and since she has a
dread of Cæsar's house, he promises that she shall not stay in it.

And though he spoke evasively and at times invented, truth was to be
felt in his voice, because his feelings were real.  Genuine pity
possessed him, too, and her words went to his soul so thoroughly that
when she began to thank him and assure him that Pomponia would love him
for his goodness, and that she herself would be grateful to him all her
life, he could not master his emotion, and it seemed to him that he
would never be able in life to resist her prayer.  The heart began to
melt in him.  Her beauty intoxicated his senses, and he desired her; but
at the same time he felt that she was very dear to him, and that in
truth he might do homage to her, as to a divinity; he felt also
irresistible need of speaking of her beauty and of his own homage.  As
the noise at the feast increased, he drew nearer to her, whispered kind,
sweet words flowing from the depth of his soul, words as resonant as
music and intoxicating as wine.

And he intoxicated her.  Amid those strange people he seemed to her ever
nearer, ever dearer, altogether true, and devoted with his whole soul.
He pacified her; he promised to rescue her from the house of Cæsar; he
promised not to desert her, and said that he would serve her.  Besides,
he had spoken before at Aulus's only in general about love and the
happiness which it can give; but now he said directly that he loved her,
and that she was dear and most precious to him.  Lygia heard such words
from a man's lips for the first time; and as she heard them it seemed to
her that something was wakening in her as from a sleep, that some
species of happiness was embracing her in which immense delight was
mingled with immense alarm.  Her cheeks began to burn, her heart to
beat, her mouth opened as in wonder.  She was seized with fear because
she was listening to such things, still she did not wish for any cause
on earth to lose one word.  At moments she dropped her eyes; then again
she raised her clear glance to Vinicius, timid and also inquiring, as if
she wished to say to him, "Speak on!"  The sound of the music, the odor
of flowers and of Arabian perfumes, began to daze her.  In Rome it was
the custom to recline at banquets, but at home Lygia occupied a place
between Pomponia and little Aulus.  Now Vinicius was reclining near her,
youthful, immense, in love, burning; and she, feeling the heat that
issued from him, felt both delight and shame.  A kind of sweet weakness,
a kind of faintness and forgetfulness seized her; it was as if
drowsiness tortured her.

But her nearness to him began to act on Vinicius also.  His nostrils
dilated, like those of an Eastern steed.  The beating of his heart with
unusual throb was evident under his scarlet tunic; his breathing grew
short, and the expressions that fell from his lips were broken.  For the
first time, too, he was so near her.  His thoughts grew disturbed; he
felt a flame in his veins which he tried in vain to quench with wine.
Not wine, but her marvellous face, her bare arms, her maiden breast
heaving under the golden tunic, and her form hidden in the white folds
of the peplus, intoxicated him more and more.  Finally, he seized her
arm above the wrist, as he had done once at Aulus's, and drawing her
toward him whispered, with trembling lips,--"I love thee, Callina,--
divine one."

"Let me go, Marcus," said Lygia.

But he continued, his eyes mist-covered, "Love me, my goddess!"

But at that moment was heard the voice of Acte, who was reclining on the
other side of Lygia.

"Cæsar is looking at you both."

Vinicius was carried away by sudden anger at Cæsar and at Acte. Her
words had broken the charm of his intoxication.  To the young man even a
friendly voice would have seemed repulsive at such a moment, but he
judged that Acte wished purposely to interrupt his conversation with
Lygia.  So, raising his head and looking over the shoulder of Lygia at
the young freedwoman, he said with malice:

"The hour has passed, Acte, when thou didst recline near Cæsar's side at
banquets, and they say that blindness is threatening thee; how then
canst thou see him?"

But she answered as if in sadness: "Still I see him.  He, too, has short
sight, and is looking at thee through an emerald."

Everything that Nero did roused attention, even in those nearest him;
hence Vinicius was alarmed.  He regained self-control, and began
imperceptibly to look toward Cæsar.  Lygia, who, embarrassed at the
beginning of the banquet, had seen Nero as in a mist, and afterward,
occupied by the presence and conversation of Vinicius, had not looked at
him at all, turned to him eyes at once curious and terrified.

Acte spoke truly.  Cæsar had bent over the table, half-closed one eye,
and holding before the other a round polished emerald, which he used,
was looking at them.  For a moment his glance met Lygia's eyes, and the
heart of the maiden was straitened with terror.  When still a child on
Aulus's Sicilian estate, an old Egyptian slave had told her of dragons
which occupied dens in the mountains, and it seemed to her now that all
at once the greenish eye of such a monster was gazing at her.  She
caught at Vinicius's hand as a frightened child would, and disconnected,
quick impressions pressed into her head: Was not that he, the terrible,
the all-powerful? She had not seen him hitherto, and she thought that he
looked differently.  She had imagined some kind of ghastly face, with
malignity petrified in its features; now she saw a great head, fixed on
a thick neck, terrible, it is true, but almost ridiculous, for from a
distance it resembled the head of a child.  A tunic of amethyst color,
forbidden to ordinary mortals, cast a bluish tinge on his broad and
short face.  He had dark hair, dressed, in the fashion introduced by
Otho, in four curls.

He had no beard, because he had sacrified it recently to Jove,--for
which all Rome gave him thanks, though people whispered to each other
that he had sacrificed it because his beard, like that of his whole
family, was red.  In his forehead, projecting strongly above his brows,
there remained something Olympian.  In his contracted brows the
consciousness of supreme power was evident; but under that forehead of a
demigod was the face of a monkey, a drunkard, and a comedian,--vain,
full of changing desires, swollen with fat, notwithstanding his youth;
besides, it was sickly and foul.  To Lygia he seemed ominous, but above
all repulsive.

After a while he laid down the emerald and ceased to look at her. Then
she saw his prominent blue eyes, blinking before the excess of light,
glassy, without thought, resembling the eyes of the dead.

"Is that the hostage with whom Vinicius is in love?" asked he, turning
to Petronius.

"That is she," answered Petronius.

"What are her people called?"

"The Lygians."

"Does Vinicius think her beautiful?"

"Array a rotten olive trunk in the peplus of a woman, and Vinicius will
declare it beautiful.  But on thy countenance, incomparable judge, I
read her sentence already.  Thou hast no need to pronounce it!  The
sentence is true: she is too dry, thin, a mere blossom on a slender
stalk; and thou, O divine æsthete, esteemest the stalk in a woman.
Thrice and four times art thou right!  The face alone does not signify.
I have learned much in thy company, but even now I have not a perfect
cast of the eye.  But I am ready to lay a wager with Tullius Senecio
concerning his mistress, that, although at a feast, when all are
reclining, it is difficult to judge the whole form, thou hast said in
thy mind already, 'Too narrow in the hips.'"

"Too narrow in the hips," answered Nero, blinking.

On Petronius's lips appeared a scarcely perceptible smile; but Tullius
Senecio, who till that moment was occupied in conversing with Vestinius,
or rather in reviling dreams, while Vestinius believed in them, turned
to Petronius, and though he had not the least idea touching that of
which they were talking, he said,--"Thou art mistaken!  I hold with
Cæsar."

"Very well," answered Petronius.  "I have just maintained that thou hast
a glimmer of understanding, but Cæsar insists that thou art an ass pure
and simple."

"Habet!" said Cæsar, laughing, and turning down the thumb, as was done
in the Circus, in sign that the gladiator had received a blow and was to
be finished.

But Vestinius, thinking that the question was of dreams, exclaimed,--
"But I believe in dreams, and Seneca told me on a time that he believes
too."

"Last night I dreamt that I had become a vestal virgin," said Calvia
Crispinilla, bending over the table.

At this Nero clapped his hands, other followed, and in a moment clapping
of hands was heard all around,--for Crispinilla had been divorced a
number of times, and was known throughout Rome for her fabulous
debauchery.

But she, not disconcerted in the least, said,--"Well!  They are all old
and ugly.  Rubria alone has a human semblance, and so there would be two
of us, though Rubria gets freckles in summer."

"But admit, purest Calvia," said Petronius, "that thou couldst become a
vestal only in dreams."

"But if Cæsar commanded?"

"I should believe that even the most impossible dreams might come true."

"But they do come true," said Vestinius.  "I understand those who do not
believe in the gods, but how is it possible not to believe in dreams?"

"But predictions?" inquired Nero.  "It was predicted once to me, that
Rome would cease to exist, and that I should rule the whole Orient."

"Predictions and dreams are connected," said Vestinius.  "Once a certain
proconsul, a great disbeliever, sent a slave to the temple of Mopsus
with a sealed letter which he would not let any one open; he did this to
try if the god could answer the question contained in the letter.  The
slave slept a night in the temple to have a prophetic dream; he returned
then and said: 'I saw a youth in my dreams; he was as bright as the sun,
and spoke only one word, "Black."' The proconsul, when he heard this,
grew pale, and turning to his guests, disbelievers like himself, said:
'Do ye know what was in the letter?'" Here Vestinius stopped, and,
raising his goblet with wine, began to drink.

"What was in the letter?" asked Senecio.

"In the letter was the question: 'What is the color of the bull which I
am to sacrifice: white or black?'"

But the interest roused by the narrative was interrupted by Vitelius,
who, drunk when he came to the feast, burst forth on a sudden and
without cause in senseless laughter.

"What is that keg of tallow laughing at?" asked Nero.

"Laughter distinguishes men from animals," said Petronius, "and he has
no other proof that he is not a wild boar."

Vitelius stopped half-way in his laughter, and smacking his lips,
shining from fat and sauces, looked at those present with as much
astonishment as if he had never seen them before; then he raised his two
hands, which were like cushions, and said in a hoarse voice,--"The ring
of a knight has fallen from my finger, and it was inherited from my
father."

"Who was a tailor," added Nero.

But Vitelius burst forth again in unexpected laughter, and began to
search for his ring in the peplus of Calvia Crispinilla.

Hereupon Vestinius fell to imitating the cries of a frightened woman.
Nigidia, a friend of Calvia,--a young widow with the face of a child and
the eyes of a wanton,--said aloud,--"He is seeking what he has not
lost."

"And which will be useless to him if he finds it," finished the poet
Lucan.

The feast grew more animated.  Crowds of slaves bore around successive
courses; from great vases filled with snow and garlanded with ivy,
smaller vessels with various kinds of wine were brought forth
unceasingly.  All drank freely.  On the guests, roses fell from the
ceiling at intervals.

Petronius entreated Nero to dignify the feast with his song before the
guests drank too deeply.  A chorus of voices supported his words, but
Nero refused at first.  It was not a question of courage alone, he said,
though that failed him always.  The gods knew what efforts every success
cost him.  He did not avoid them, however, for it was needful to do
something for art; and besides, if Apollo had gifted him with a certain
voice, it was not proper to let divine gifts be wasted.  He understood,
even, that it was his duty to the State not to let them be wasted.  But
that day he was really hoarse. In the night he had placed leaden weights
on his chest, but that had not helped in any way.  He was thinking even
to go to Antium, to breathe the sea air.

Lucan implored him in the name of art and humanity.  All knew that the
divine poet and singer had composed a new hymn to Venus, compared with
which Lucretius's hymn was as the howl of a yearling wolf.  Let that
feast be a genuine feast.  So kind a ruler should not cause such
tortures to his subjects.  "Be not cruel, O Cæsar!"

"Be not cruel!" repeated all who were sitting near.

Nero spread his hands in sign that he had to yield.  All faces assumed
then an expression of gratitude, and all eyes were turned to him; but he
gave command first to announce to Poppæa that he would sing; he informed
those present that she had not come to the feast, because she did not
feel in good health; but since no medicine gave her such relief as his
singing, he would be sorry to deprive her of this opportunity.

In fact, Poppæa came soon.  Hitherto she had ruled Nero as if he had
been her subject, but she knew that when his vanity as a singer, a
charioteer, or a poet was involved, there was danger in provoking it.
She came in therefore, beautiful as a divinity, arrayed, like Nero, in
robes of amethyst color, and wearing a necklace of immense pearls,
stolen on a time from Massinissa; she was golden-haired, sweet, and
though divorced from two husbands she had the face and the look of a
virgin.

She was greeted with shouts, and the appellation "Divine Augusta."
Lygia had never seen any one so beautiful, and she could not believe her
own eyes, for she knew that Poppæa Sabina was one of the vilest women on
earth.  She knew from Pomponia that she had brought Cæsar to murder his
mother and his wife; she knew her from accounts given by Aulus's guests
and the servants; she had heard that statues to her had been thrown down
at night in the city; she had heard of inscriptions, the writers of
which had been condemned to severest punishment, but which still
appeared on the city walls every morning.  Yet at sight of the notorious
Poppæa, considered by the confessors of Christ as crime and evil
incarnate, it seemed to her that angels or spirits of heaven might look
like her.  She was unable simply to take her eyes from Poppæa; and from
her lips was wrested involuntarily the question,--"Ah, Marcus, can it
be possible?"

But he, roused by wine, and as it were impatient that so many things had
scattered her attention, and taken her from him and his words, said,--
"Yes, she is beautiful, but thou art a hundred times more beautiful.
Thou dost not know thyself, or thou wouldst be in love with thyself, as
Narcissus was; she bathes in asses' milk, but Venus bathed thee in her
own milk.  Thou dost not know thyself, Ocelle mi!  Look not at her.
Turn thy eyes to me, Ocelle mi!  Touch this goblet of wine with thy
lips, and I will put mine on the same place."

And he pushed up nearer and nearer, and she began to withdraw toward
Acte.  But at that moment silence was enjoined because Cæsar had risen.
The singer Diodorus had given him a lute of the kind called delta;
another singer named Terpnos, who had to accompany him in playing,
approached with an instrument called the nablium.  Nero, resting the
delta on the table, raised his eyes; and for a moment silence reigned in
the triclinium, broken only by a rustle, as roses fell from the ceiling.

Then he began to chant, or rather to declaim, singingly and
rhythmically, to the accompaniment of the two lutes, his own hymn to
Venus.  Neither the voice, though somewhat injured, nor the verses were
bad, so that reproaches of conscience took possession of Lygia again;
for the hymn, though glorifying the impure pagan Venus, seemed to her
more than beautiful, and Cæsar himself, with a laurel crown on his head
and uplifted eyes, nobler, much less terrible, and less repulsive than
at the beginning of the feast.

The guests answered with a thunder of applause.  Cries of, "Oh, heavenly
voice!" were heard round about; some of the women raised their hands,
and held them thus, as a sign of delight, even after the end of the
hymn; others wiped their tearful eyes; the whole hall was seething as in
a beehive.  Poppæa, bending her golden-haired head, raised Nero's hand
to her lips, and held it long in silence.  Pythagoras, a young Greek of
marvellous beauty,--the same to whom later the half-insane Nero
commanded the flamens to marry him, with the observance of all rites,--
knelt now at his feet.

But Nero looked carefully at Petronius, whose praises were desired by
him always before every other, and who said,--"If it is a question of
music, Orpheus must at this moment be as yellow from envy as Lucan, who
is here present; and as to the verses, I am sorry that they are not
worse; if they were I might find proper words to praise them."

Lucan did not take the mention of envy evil of him; on the contrary, he
looked at Petronius with gratitude, and, affecting ill-humor, began to
murmur,--"Cursed fate, which commanded me to live contemporary with such
a poet.  One might have a place in the memory of man, and on Parnassus;
but now one will quench, as a candle in sunlight."

Petronius, who had an amazing memory, began to repeat extracts from the
hymn and cite single verses, exalt, and analyze the more beautiful
expressions.  Lucan, forgetting as it were his envy before the charm of
the poetry, joined his ecstasy to Petronius's words.  On Nero's face
were reflected delight and fathomless vanity, not only nearing
stupidity, but reaching it perfectly.  He indicated to them verses which
he considered the most beautiful; and finally he began to comfort Lucan,
and tell him not to lose heart, for though whatever a man is born that
he is, the honor which people give Jove does not exclude respect for
other divinities.

Then he rose to conduct Poppæa, who, being really in ill health, wished
to withdraw.  But he commanded the guests who remained to occupy their
places anew, and promised to return, In fact, he returned a little
later, to stupefy himself with the smoke of incense, and gaze at further
spectacles which he himself, Petronius, or Tigellinus had prepared for
the feast.

Again verses were read or dialogues listened to in which extravagance
took the place of wit.  After that Paris, the celebrated mime,
represented the adventures of Io, the daughter of Inachus. To the
guests, and especially to Lygia, unaccustomed to such scenes, it seemed
that they were gazing at miracles and enchantment.  Paris, with motions
of his hands and body, was able to express things apparently impossible
in a dance.  His hands dimmed the air, creating a cloud, bright, living,
quivering, voluptuous, surrounding the half-fainting form of a maiden
shaken by a spasm of delight.  That was a picture, not a dance; an
expressive picture, disclosing the secrets of love, bewitching and
shameless; and when at the end of it Corybantes rushed in and began a
bacchic dance with girls of Syria to the sounds of cithara, lutes,
drums, and cymbals,--a dance filled with wild shouts and still wilder
license,--it seemed to Lygia that living fire was burning her, and that
a thunderbolt ought to strike that house, or the ceiling fall on the
heads of those feasting there.

But from the golden net fastened to the ceiling only roses fell, and the
now half-drunken Vinicius said to her,--"I saw thee in the house of
Aulus, at the fountain.  It was daylight, and thou didst think that no
one saw thee; but I saw thee.  And I see thee thus yet, though that
peplus hides thee.  Cast aside the peplus, like Crispinilla.  See, gods
and men seek love.  There is nothing in the world but love.  Lay thy
head on my breast and close thy eyes."

The pulse beat oppressively in Lygia's hands and temples.  A feeling
seized her that she was flying into some abyss, and that Vinicius, who
before had seemed so near and so trustworthy, instead of saving was
drawing her toward it.  And she felt sorry for him.  She began again to
dread the feast and him and herself.  Some voice, like that of Pomponia,
was calling yet in her soul, "O Lygia, save thyself!"  But something
told her also that it was too late; that the one whom such a flame had
embraced as that which had embraced her, the one who had seen what was
done at that feast and whose heart had beaten as hers had on hearing the
words of Vinicius, the one through whom such a shiver had passed as had
passed through her when he approached, was lost beyond recovery. She
grew weak.  It seemed at moments to her that she would faint, and then
something terrible would happen.  She knew that, under penalty of
Cæsar's anger, it was not permitted any one to rise till Cæsar rose; but
even were that not the case, she had not strength now to rise.

Meanwhile it was far to the end of the feast yet.  Slaves brought new
courses, and filled the goblets unceasingly with wine; before the table,
on a platform open at one side, appeared two athletes to give the guests
a spectacle of wrestling.

They began the struggle at once, and the powerful bodies, shining from
olive oil, formed one mass; bones cracked in their iron arms, and from
their set jaws came an ominous gritting of teeth.  At moments was heard
the quick, dull thump of their feet on the platform strewn with saffron;
again they were motionless, silent, and it seemed to the spectators that
they had before them a group chiselled out of stone.  Roman eyes
followed with delight the movement of tremendously exerted backs,
thighs, and arms.  But the struggle was not too prolonged; for Croton, a
master, and the founder of a school of gladiators, did not pass in vain
for the strongest man in the empire.  His opponent began to breathe more
and more quickly: next a rattle was heard in his throat; then his face
grew blue; finally he threw blood from his mouth and fell.

A thunder of applause greeted the end of the struggle, and Croton,
resting his foot on the breast of his opponent, crossed his gigantic
arms on his breast, and cast the eyes of a victor around the hall.

Next appeared men who mimicked beasts and their voices, ball-players and
buffoons.  Only a few persons looked at them, however, since wine had
darkened the eyes of the audience.  The feast passed by degrees into a
drunken revel and a dissolute orgy. The Syrian damsels, who appeared at
first in the bacchic dance, mingled now with the guests.  The music
changed into a disordered and wild outburst of citharas, lutes, Armenian
cymbals, Egyptian sistra, trumpets, and horns.  As some of the guests
wished to talk, they shouted at the musicians to disappear.  The air,
filled with the odor of flowers and the perfume of oils with which
beautiful boys had sprinkled the feet of the guests during the feast,
permeated with saffron and the exhalations of people, became stifling;
lamps burned with a dim flame; the wreaths dropped sidewise on the
heads of guests; faces grew pale and were covered with sweat. Vitelius
rolled under the table.  Nigidia, stripping herself to the waist,
dropped her drunken childlike head on the breast of Lucan, who, drunk in
like degree, fell to blowing the golden powder from her hair, and
raising his eyes with immense delight.  Vestinius, with the stubbornness
of intoxication, repeated for the tenth time the answer of Mopsus to the
sealed letter of the proconsul.  Tullius, who reviled the gods, said,
with a drawling voice broken by hiccoughs,--"If the spheros of
Xenophanes is round, then consider, such a god might be pushed along
before one with the foot, like a barrel."

But Domitius Afer, a hardened criminal and informer, was indignant at
the discourse, and through indignation spilled Falernian over his whole
tunic.  He had always believed in the gods.  People say that Rome will
perish, and there are some even who contend that it is perishing
already.  And surely!  But if that should come, it is because the youth
are without faith, and without faith there can be no virtue.  People
have abandoned also the strict habits of former days, and it never
occurs to them that Epicureans will not stand against barbarians.  As
for him, he--As for him, he was sorry that he had lived to such times,
and that he must seek in pleasures a refuge against griefs which, if not
met, would soon kill him.

When he had said this, he drew toward him a Syrian dancer, and kissed
her neck and shoulders with his toothless mouth.  Seeing this, the
consul Memmius Regulus laughed, and, raising his bald head with wreath
awry, exclaimed,--"Who says that Rome is perishing?  What folly!  I, a
consul, know better.  Videant consules! Thirty legions are guarding our
pax romana!"

Here he put his fists to his temples and shouted, in a voice heard
throughout the triclinium,--"Thirty legions! thirty legions! from
Britain to the Parthian boundaries!"  But he stopped on a sudden, and,
putting a finger to his forehead, said,--"As I live, I think there are
thirty-two."  He rolled under the table, and began soon to send forth
flamingo tongues, roast and chilled mushrooms, locusts in honey, fish,
meat, and everything which he had eaten or drunk.

But the number of the legions guarding Roman peace did not pacify
Domitius.

No, no!  Rome must perish; for faith in the gods was lost, and so were
strict habits!  Rome must perish; and it was a pity, for still life was
pleasant there.  Cæsar was gracious, wine was good!  Oh, what a pity!

And hiding his head on the arm of a Syrian bacchanal, he burst into
tears.  "What is a future life!  Achilles was right,--better be a slave
in the world beneath the sun than a king in Cimmerian regions.  And
still the question whether there are any gods--since it is unbelief--is
destroying the youth."

Lucan meanwhile had blown all the gold powder from Nigidia's hair, and
she being drunk had fallen asleep.  Next he took wreaths of ivy from the
vase before him, put them on the sleeping woman, and when he had
finished looked at those present with a delighted and inquiring glance.
He arrayed himself in ivy too, repeating, in a voice of deep conviction,
"I am not a man at all, but a faun."

Petronius was not drunk; but Nero, who drank little at first, out of
regard for his "heavenly" voice, emptied goblet after goblet toward the
end, and was drunk.  He wanted even to sing more of his verses,--this
time in Greek,--but he had forgotten them, and by mistake sang an ode of
Anacreon.  Pythagoras, Diodorus, and Terpnos accompanied him; but
failing to keep time, they stopped.  Nero as a judge and an æsthete was
enchanted with the beauty of Pythagoras, and fell to kissing his hands
in ecstasy.  "Such beautiful hands I have seen only once, and whose were
they?"  Then placing his palm on his moist forehead, he tried to
remember.  After a while terror was reflected on his face.

Ah! His mother's--Agrippina's!

And a gloomy vision seized him forthwith.

"They say," said he, "that she wanders by moonlight on the sea around
Baiæ and Bauli.  She merely walks,--walks as if seeking for something.
When she comes near a boat, she looks at it and goes away; but the
fisherman on whom she has fixed her eye dies."

"Not a bad theme," said Petronius.

But Vestinius, stretching his neck like a stork, whispered
mysteriously,--"I do not believe in the gods; but I believe in spirits
--Oi!"

Nero paid no attention to their words, and continued,--"I celebrated the
Lemuria, and have no wish to see her.  This is the fifth year--I had to
condemn her, for she sent assassins against me; and, had I not been
quicker than she, ye would not be listening to-night to my song."

"Thanks be to Cæsar, in the name of the city and the world!" cried
Domitius Afer.

"Wine! and let them strike the tympans!"

The uproar began anew.  Lucan, all in ivy, wishing to outshout him, rose
and cried,--"I am not a man, but a faun; and I dwell in the forest.
Eho-o-o-oo!"  Cæsar drank himself drunk at last; men were drunk, and
women were drunk.  Vinicius was not less drunk than others; and in
addition there was roused in him, besides desire, a wish to quarrel,
which happened always when he passed the measure.  His dark face became
paler, and his tongue stuttered when he spoke, in a voice now loud and
commanding,--"Give me thy lips!  To-day, to-morrow, it is all one!
Enough of this!

"Cæsar took thee from Aulus to give thee to me, dost understand?
To-morrow, about dusk, I will send for thee, dost understand? Cæsar
promised thee to me before he took thee.  Thou must be mine!  Give me
thy lips!  I will not wait for to-morrow,--give thy lips quickly."

And he moved to embrace her; but Acte began to defend her, and she
defended herself with the remnant of her strength, for she felt that she
was perishing.  But in vain did she struggle with both hands to remove
his hairless arm; in vain, with a voice in which terror and grief were
quivering, did she implore him not to be what he was, and to have pity
on her.  Sated with wine, his breath blew around her nearer and nearer,
and his face was there near her face. He was no longer the former kind
Vinicius, almost dear to her soul; he was a drunken, wicked satyr, who
filled her with repulsion and terror.  But her strength deserted her
more and more.  In vain did she bend and turn away her face to escape
his kisses.  He rose to his feet, caught her in both arms, and drawing
her head to his breast, began, panting, to press her pale lips with his.

But at this instant a tremendous power removed his arms from her neck
with as much ease as if they had been the arms of a child, and pushed
him aside, like a dried limb or a withered leaf.  What had happened?
Vinicius rubbed his astonished eyes, and saw before him the gigantic
figure of the Lygian, called Ursus, whom he had seen at the house of
Aulus.

Ursus stood calmly, but looked at Vinicius so strangely with his blue
eyes that the blood stiffened in the veins of the young man; then the
giant took his queen on his arm, and walked out of the triclinium with
an even, quiet step.

Acte in that moment went after him.

Vinicius sat for the twinkle of an eye as if petrified; then he sprang
up and ran toward the entrance crying,--"Lygia!  Lygia!"

But desire, astonishment, rage, and wine cut the legs from under him.
He staggered once and a second time, seized the naked arm of one of the
bacchanals, and began to inquire, with blinking eyes, what had happened.
She, taking a goblet of wine, gave it to him with a smile in her
mist-covered eyes.

"Drink!" said she.

Vinicius drank, and fell to the floor.

The greater number of the guests were lying under the table; others were
walking with tottering tread through the triclinium, while others were
sleeping on couches at the table, snoring, or giving forth the excess of
wine.  Meanwhile, from the golden network, roses were dropping and
dropping on those drunken consuls and senators, on those drunken
knights, philosophers, and poets, on those drunken dancing damsels and
patrician ladies, on that society all dominant as yet but with the soul
gone from it, on that society garlanded and ungirdled but perishing.

Dawn had begun out of doors.




Chapter VIII


No one stopped Ursus, no one inquired even what he was doing. Those
guests who were not under the table had not kept their own places; hence
the servants, seeing a giant carrying a guest on his arm, thought him
some slave bearing out his intoxicated mistress. Moreover, Acte was with
them, and her presence removed all suspicion.

In this way they went from the triclinium to the adjoining chamber, and
thence to the gallery leading to Acte's apartments. To such a degree had
her strength deserted Lygia, that she hung as if dead on the arm of
Ursus.  But when the cool, pure breeze of morning beat around her, she
opened her eyes.  It was growing clearer and clearer in the open air.
After they had passed along the colonnade awhile, they turned to a side
portico, coming out, not in the courtyard, but the palace gardens, where
the tops of the pines and cypresses were growing ruddy from the light of
morning.  That part of the building was empty, so that echoes of music
and sounds of the feast came with decreasing distinctness.  It seemed to
Lygia that she had been rescued from hell, and borne into God's bright
world outside.  There was something, then, besides that disgusting
triclinium.  There was the sky, the dawn, light, and peace.  Sudden
weeping seized the maiden, and, taking shelter on the arm of the giant,
she repeated, with sobbing,--"Let us go home, Ursus! home, to the house
of Aulus."

"Let us go!" answered Ursus.

They found themselves now in the small atrium of Acte's apartments.
Ursus placed Lygia on a marble bench at a distance from the fountain.
Acte strove to pacify her; she urged her to sleep, and declared that for
the moment there was no danger,--after the feast the drunken guests
would sleep till evening.  For a long time Lygia could not calm herself,
and, pressing her temples with both hands, she repeated like a child,--
"Let us go home, to the house of Aulus!"

Ursus was ready.  At the gates stood pretorians, it is true, but he
would pass them.  The soldiers would not stop out-going people. The
space before the arch was crowded with litters.  Guests were beginning
to go forth in throngs.  No one would detain them.  They would pass with
the crowd and go home directly.  For that matter, what does he care?  As
the queen commands, so must it be.  He is there to carry out her orders.

"Yes, Ursus," said Lygia, "let us go."

Acte was forced to find reason for both.  They would pass out, true; no
one would stop them.  But it is not permitted to flee from the house of
Cæsar; whoso does that offends Cæsar's majesty.  They may go; but in the
evening a centurion at the head of soldiers will take a death sentence
to Aulus and Pomponia Græcina; they will bring Lygia to the palace
again, and then there will be no rescue for her.  Should Aulus and his
wife receive her under their roof, death awaits them to a certainty.

Lygia's arms dropped.  There was no other outcome.  She must choose her
own ruin or that of Plautius.  In going to the feast, she had hoped that
Vinicius and Petronius would win her from Cæsar, and return her to
Pomponia; now she knew that it was they who had brought Cæsar to remove
her from the house of Aulus.  There was no help.  Only a miracle could
save her from the abyss,--a miracle and the might of God.

"Acte," said she, in despair, "didst thou hear Vinicius say that Cæsar
had given me to him, and that he will send slaves here this evening to
take me to his house?"

"I did," answered Acte; and, raising her arms from her side, she was
silent.  The despair with which Lygia spoke found in her no echo.  She
herself had been Nero's favorite.  Her heart, though good, could not
feel clearly the shame of such a relation.  A former slave, she had
grown too much inured to the law of slavery; and, besides, she loved
Nero yet.  If he returned to her, she would stretch her arms to him, as
to happiness.  Comprehending clearly that Lygia must become the mistress
of the youthful and stately Vinicius, or expose Aulus and Pomponia to
ruin, she failed to understand how the girl could hesitate.

"In Cæsar's house," said she, after a while, "it would not be safer for
thee than in that of Vinicius."

And it did not occur to her that, though she told the truth, her words
meant, "Be resigned to fate and become the concubine of Vinicius."

As to Lygia, who felt on her lips yet his kisses, burning as coals and
full of beastly desire, the blood rushed to her face with shame at the
mere thought of them.

"Never," cried she, with an outburst, "will I remain here, or at the
house of Vinicius,--never!"

"But," inquired Acte, "is Vinicius hateful to thee?"

Lygia was unable to answer, for weeping seized her anew.  Acte gathered
the maiden to her bosom, and strove to calm her excitement.  Ursus
breathed heavily, and balled his giant fists; for, loving his queen with
the devotion of a dog, he could not bear the sight of her tears.  In his
half-wild Lygian heart was the wish to return to the triclinium, choke
Vinicius, and, should the need come, Cæsar himself; but he feared to
sacrifice thereby his mistress, and was not certain that such an act,
which to him seemed very simple, would befit a confessor of the
Crucified Lamb.

But Acte, while caressing Lygia, asked again, "Is he so hateful to
thee?"

"No," said Lygia; "it is not permitted me to hate, for I am a
Christian."

"I know, Lygia.  I know also from the letters of Paul of Tarsus, that it
is not permitted to defile one's self, nor to fear death more than sin;
but tell me if thy teaching permits one person to cause the death of
others?"

"No."

"Then how canst thou bring Cæsar's vengeance on the house of Aulus?"  A
moment of silence followed.  A bottomless abyss yawned before Lygia
again.

"I ask," continued the young freedwoman, "for I have compassion on thee
--and I have compassion on the good Pomponia and Aulus, and on their
child.  It is long since I began to live in this house, and I know what
Cæsar's anger is.  No! thou art not at liberty to flee from here.  One
way remains to thee: implore Vinicius to return thee to Pomponia."

But Lygia dropped on her knees to implore some one else.  Ursus knelt
down after a while, too, and both began to pray in Cæsar's house at the
morning dawn.

Acte witnessed such a prayer for the first time, and could not take her
eyes from Lygia, who, seen by her in profile, with raised hands, and
face turned heavenward, seemed to implore rescue.  The dawn, casting
light on her dark hair and white peplus, was reflected in her eyes.
Entirely in the light, she seemed herself like light.  In that pale
face, in those parted lips, in those raised hands and eyes, a kind of
superhuman exaltation was evident.  Acte understood then why Lygia could
not become the concubine of any man.  Before the face of Nero's former
favorite was drawn aside, as it were, a corner of that veil which hides
a world altogether different from that to which she was accustomed.  She
was astonished by prayer in that abode of crime and infamy.  A moment
earlier it had seemed to her that there was no rescue for Lygia; now she
began to think that something uncommon would happen, that some aid would
come,--aid so mighty that Cæsar himself would be powerless to resist
it; that some winged army would descend from the sky to help that
maiden, or that the sun would spread its rays beneath her feet and draw
her up to itself.  She had heard of many miracles among Christians, and
she thought now that everything said of them was true, since Lygia was
praying.

Lygia rose at last, with a face serene with hope.  Ursus rose too, and,
holding to the bench, looked at his mistress, waiting for her words.

But it grew dark in her eyes, and after a time two great tears rolled
down her checks slowly.

"May God bless Pomponia and Aulus," said she.  "It is not permitted me
to bring ruin on them; therefore I shall never see them again."

Then turning to Ursus she said that he alone remained to her in the
world; that he must be to her as a protector and a father.  They could
not seek refuge in the house of Aulus, for they would bring on it the
anger of Cæsar.  But neither could she remain in the house of Cæsar or
that of Vinicius.  Let Ursus take her then; let him conduct her out of
the city; let him conceal her in some place where neither Vinicius nor
his servants could find her.  She would follow Ursus anywhere, even
beyond the sea, even beyond the mountains, to the barbarians, where the
Roman name was not heard, and whither the power of Cæsar did not reach.
Let him take her and save her, for he alone had remained to her.

The Lygian was ready, and in sign of obedience he bent to her feet and
embraced them.  But on the face of Acte, who had been expecting a
miracle, disappointment was evident.  Had the prayer effected only that
much?  To flee from the house of Cæsar is to commit an offence against
majesty which must be avenged; and even if Lygia succeeded in hiding,
Cæsar would avenge himself on Aulus and Pomponia.  If she wishes to
escape, let her escape from the house of Vinicius.  Then Cæsar, who does
not like to occupy himself with the affairs of others, may not wish even
to aid Vinicius in the pursuit; in every case it will not be a crime
against majesty.

But Lygia's thoughts were just the following: Aulus would not even know
where she was; Pomponia herself would not know.  She would escape not
from the house of Vinicius, however, but while on the way to it.  When
drunk, Vinicius had said that he would send his slaves for her in the
evening.  Beyond doubt he had told the truth, which he would not have
done had he been sober.  Evidently he himself, or perhaps he and
Petronius, had seen Cæsar before the feast, and won from him the promise
to give her on the following evening.  And if they forgot that day, they
would send for her on the morrow.  But Ursus will save her.  He will
come; he will bear her out of the litter as he bore her out of the
triclinium, and they will go into the world.  No one could resist Ursus,
not even that terrible athlete who wrestled at the feast yesterday.  But
as Vinicius might send a great number of slaves, Ursus would go at once
to Bishop Linus for aid and counsel.  The bishop will take compassion on
her, will not leave her in the hands of Vinicius; he will command
Christians to go with Ursus to rescue her.  They will seize her and bear
her away; then Ursus can take her out of the city and hide her from the
power of Rome.

And her face began to flush and smile.  Consolation entered her anew, as
if the hope of rescue had turned to reality.  She threw herself on
Acte's neck suddenly, and, putting her beautiful lips to Acte's cheek,
she whispered:

"Thou wilt not betray, Acte, wilt thou?"

"By the shade of my mother," answered the freedwoman, "I will not; but
pray to thy God that Ursus be able to bear thee away."

The blue, childlike eyes of the giant were gleaming with happiness.  He
had not been able to frame any plan, though he had been breaking his
poor head; but a thing like this he could do,--and whether in the day or
in the night it was all one to him!  He would go to the bishop, for the
bishop can read in the sky what is needed and what is not.  Besides, he
could assemble Christians himself.  Are his acquaintances few among
slaves, gladiators, and free people, both in the Subura and beyond the
bridges?  He can collect a couple of thousand of them.  He will rescue
his lady, and take her outside the city, and he can go with her.  They
will go to the end of the world, even to that place from which they had
come, where no one has heard of Rome.

Here he began to look forward, as if to see things in the future and
very distant.

"To the forest?  Ai, what a forest, what a forest!"

But after a while he shook himself out of his visions.  Well, he will go
to the bishop at once, and in the evening will wait with something like
a hundred men for the litter.  And let not slaves, but even pretorians,
take her from him!  Better for any man not to come under his fist, even
though in iron armor,--for is iron so strong? When he strikes iron
earnestly, the head underneath will not survive.

But Lygia raised her finger with great and also childlike seriousness.

"Ursus, do not kill," said she.

Ursus put his fist, which was like a maul, to the back of his head, and,
rubbing his neck with great seriousness, began to mutter.  But he must
rescue "his light."  She herself had said that his turn had come.  He
will try all he can.  But if something happens in spite of him?  In
every case he must save her.  But should anything happen, he will
repent, and so entreat the Innocent Lamb that the Crucified Lamb will
have mercy on him, poor fellow.  He has no wish to offend the Lamb; but
then his hands are so heavy.

Great tenderness was expressed on his face; but wishing to hide it, he
bowed and said,--"Now I will go to the holy bishop."

Acte put her arms around Lygia's neck, and began to weep.  Once more the
freedwoman understood that there was a world in which greater happiness
existed, even in suffering, than in all the excesses and luxury of
Cæsar's house.  Once more a kind of door to the light was opened a
little before her, but she felt at once that she was unworthy to pass
through it.




Chapter IX


LYGIA was grieved to lose Pomponia Græcina, whom she loved with her
whole soul, and she grieved for the household of Aulus; still her
despair passed away.  She felt a certain delight even in the thought
that she was sacrificing plenty and comfort for her Truth, and was
entering on an unknown and wandering existence. Perhaps there was in
this a little also of childish curiosity as to what that life would be,
off somewhere in remote regions, among wild beasts and barbarians.  But
there was still more a deep and trusting faith, that by acting thus she
was doing as the Divine Master had commanded, and that henceforth He
Himself would watch over her, as over an obedient and faithful child.
In such a case what harm could meet her?  If sufferings come, she will
endure them in His name.  If sudden death comes, He will take her; and
some time, when Pomponia dies, they will be together for all eternity.
More than once when she was in the house of Aulus, she tortured her
childish head because she, a Christian, could do nothing for that
Crucified, of whom Ursus spoke with such tenderness.  But now the moment
had come.  Lygia felt almost happy, and began to speak of her happiness
to Acte, who could not understand her, however.  To leave everything,--
to leave house, wealth, the city, gardens, temples, porticos, everything
that is beautiful; leave a sunny land and people near to one--and for
what purpose?  To hide from the love of a young and stately knight. In
Acte's head these things could not find place.  At times she felt that
Lygia's action was right, that there must be some immense mysterious
happiness in it; but she could not give a clear account to herself of
the matter, especially since an adventure was before Lygia which might
have an evil ending,--an adventure in which she might lose her life
simply.  Acte was timid by nature, and she thought with dread of what
the coming evening might bring.  But she was loath to mention her fears
to Lygia; meanwhile, as the day was clear and the sun looked into the
atrium, she began to persuade her to take the rest needed after a night
without sleep. Lygia did not refuse; and both went to the cubiculum,
which was spacious and furnished with luxury because of Acte's former
relations with Cæsar.  There they lay down side by side, but in spite of
her weariness Acte could not sleep.  For a long time she had been sad
and unhappy, but now she was seized by a certain uneasiness which she
had never felt before.  So far life had seemed to her simply grievous
and deprived of a morrow; now all at once it seemed to her dishonorable.

Increasing chaos rose in her head.  Again the door to light began to
open and close.  But in the moment when it opened, that light so dazzled
her that she could see nothing distinctly.  She divined, merely, that in
that light there was happiness of some kind, happiness beyond measure,
in presence of which every other was nothing, to such a degree that if
Cæsar, for example, were to set aside Poppæa, and love her, Acte, again,
it would be vanity. Suddenly the thought came to her that that Cæsar
whom she loved, whom she held involuntarily as a kind of demigod, was as
pitiful as any slave, and that palace, with columns of Numidian marble,
no better than a heap of stones.  At last, however, those feelings which
she had not power to define began to torment her; she wanted to sleep,
but being tortured by alarm she could not. Thinking that Lygia,
threatened by so many perils and uncertainties, was not sleeping either,
she turned to her to speak of her flight in the evening.  But Lygia was
sleeping calmly.  Into the dark cubiculum, past the curtain which was
not closely drawn, came a few bright rays, in which golden dust-motes
were playing. By the light of these rays Acte saw her delicate face,
resting on her bare arm, her closed eyes, and her mouth slightly open.
She was breathing regularly, but as people breathe while asleep.

"She sleeps,--she is able to sleep," thought Acte.  "She is a child
yet."  Still, after a while it came to her mind that that child chose to
flee rather than remain the beloved of Vinicius; she preferred want to
shame, wandering to a lordly house, to robes, jewels, and feasts, to the
sound of lutes and citharas.

"Why?"

And she gazed at Lygia, as if to find an answer in her sleeping face.
She looked at her clear forehead, at the calm arch of her brows, at her
dark tresses, at her parted lips, at her virgin bosom moved by calm
breathing; then she thought again,--"How different from me!"

Lygia seemed to her a miracle, a sort of divine vision, something
beloved of the gods, a hundred times more beautiful than all the flowers
in Cæsar's garden, than all the statues in his palace.  But in the Greek
woman's heart there was no envy.  On the contrary, at thought of the
dangers which threatened the girl, great pity seized her.  A certain
motherly feeling rose in the woman.  Lygia seemed to her not only as
beautiful as a beautiful vision, but also very dear, and, putting her
lips to her dark hair, she kissed it.

But Lygia slept on calmly, as if at home, under the care of Pomponia
Græcina.  And she slept rather long.  Midday had passed when she opened
her blue eyes and looked around the cubiculum in astonishment.
Evidently she wondered that she was not in the house of Aulus.

"That is thou, Acte?" said she at last, seeing in the darkness the face
of the Greek.

"I, Lygia."

"Is it evening?"

"No, child; but midday has passed."

"And has Ursus not returned?"

"Ursus did not say that he would return; he said that he would watch in
the evening, with Christians, for the litter."

"True."

Then they left the cubiculum and went to the bath, where Acte bathed
Lygia; then she took her to breakfast and afterward to the gardens of
the palace, in which no dangerous meeting might be feared, since Cæsar
and his principal courtiers were sleeping yet. For the first time in her
life Lygia saw those magnificent gardens, full of pines, cypresses,
oaks, olives, and myrtles, among which appeared white here and there a
whole population of statues.  The mirror of ponds gleamed quietly;
groves of roses were blooming, watered with the spray of fountains;
entrances to charming grottos were encircled with a growth of ivy or
woodbine; silver-colored swans were sailing on the water; amidst statues
and trees wandered tame gazelles from the deserts of Africa, and rich-
colored birds from all known countries on earth.

The gardens were empty; but here and there slaves were working, spade in
hand, singing in an undertone; others, to whom was granted a moment of
rest, were sitting by ponds or in the shade of groves, in trembling
light produced by sun-rays breaking in between leaves; others were
watering roses or the pale lily-colored blossoms of the saffron.  Acte
and Lygia walked rather long, looking at all the wonders of the gardens;
and though Lygia's mind was not at rest, she was too much a child yet to
resist pleasure, curiosity, and wonder.  It occurred to her, even, that
if Cæsar were good, he might be very happy in such a palace, in such
gardens.

But at last, tired somewhat, the two women sat down on a bench hidden
almost entirely by dense cypresses and began to talk of that which
weighed on their hearts most,--that is, of Lygia's escape in the
evening.  Acte was far less at rest than Lygia touching its success.  At
times it seemed to her even a mad project, which could not succeed.  She
felt a growing pity for Lygia.  It seemed to her that it would be a
hundred times safer to try to act on Vinicius.  After a while she
inquired of Lygia how long she had known him, and whether she did not
think that he would let himself be persuaded to return her to Pomponia.

But Lygia shook her dark head in sadness.  "No. In Aulus's house,
Vinicius had been different, he had been very kind, but since
yesterday's feast she feared him, and would rather flee to the Lygians."

"But in Aulus's house," inquired Acte, "he was dear to thee, was he
not?"

"He was," answered Lygia, inclining her head.

"And thou wert not a slave, as I was," said Acte, after a moment's
thought.  "Vinicius might marry thee.  Thou art a hostage, and a
daughter of the Lygian king.  Aulus and Pomponia love thee as their own
child; I am sure that they are ready to adopt thee. Vinicius might marry
thee, Lygia."

But Lygia answered calmly, and with still greater sadness, "I would
rather flee to the Lygians."

"Lygia, dost thou wish me to go directly to Vinicius, rouse him, if he
is sleeping, and tell him what I have told thee?  Yes, my precious one,
I will go to him and say, 'Vinicius, this is a king's daughter, and a
dear child of the famous Aulus; if thou love her, return her to Aulus
and Pomponia, and take her as wife from their house.'"

But the maiden answered with a voice so low that Acte could barely hear
it,--

"I would rather flee to the Lygians."  And two tears were hanging on her
drooping lids.

Further conversation was stopped by the rustle of approaching steps, and
before Acte had time to see who was coming, Poppæa Sabina appeared in
front of the bench with a small retinue of slave women.  Two of them
held over her head bunches of ostrich feathers fixed to golden wires;
with these they fanned her lightly, and at the same time protected her
from the autumn sun, which was hot yet.  Before her a woman from Egypt,
black as ebony, and with bosom swollen as if from milk, bore in her arms
an infant wrapped in purple fringed with gold.  Acte and Lygia rose,
thinking that Poppæa would pass the bench without turning attention to
either; but she halted before them and said,--"Acte, the bells sent by
thee for the doll were badly fastened; the child tore off one and put it
to her mouth; luckily Lilith saw it in season."

"Pardon, divinity," answered Acte, crossing her arms on her breast and
bending her head.

But Poppæa began to gaze at Lygia.

"What slave is this?" asked she, after a pause.

"She is not a slave, divine Augusta, but a foster child of Pomponia
Græcina, and a daughter of the Lygian king given by him as hostage to
Rome."

"And has she come to visit thee?"

"No, Augusta.  She is dwelling in the palace since the day before
yesterday."

"Was she at the feast last night?"

"She was, Augusta."

"At whose command?"

"At Cæsar's command."

Poppæa looked still more attentively at Lygia, who stood with bowed
head, now raising her bright eyes to her with curiosity, now covering
them with their lids.  Suddenly a frown appeared between the brows of
the Augusta.  Jealous of her own beauty and power, she lived in
continual alarm lest at some time a fortunate rival might ruin her, as
she had ruined Octavia.  Hence every beautiful face in the palace roused
her suspicion.  With the eye of a critic she took in at once every part
of Lygia's form, estimated every detail of her face, and was frightened.
"That is simply a nymph," thought she, "and 'twas Venus who gave birth
to her."  On a sudden this came to her mind which had never come before
at sight of any beauty,--that she herself had grown notably older!
Wounded vanity quivered in Poppæa, alarm seized her, and various fears
shot through her head.  "Perhaps Nero has not seen the girl, or, seeing
her through the emerald, has not appreciated her.  But what would happen
should he meet such a marvel in the daytime, in sunlight?  Moreover she
is not a slave, she is the daughter of a king,--a king of barbarians,
it is true, but a king.  Immortal gods! she is as beautiful as I am, but
younger!"  The wrinkle between her brows increased, and her eyes began
to shine under their golden lashes with a cold gleam.

"Hast thou spoken with Cæsar?"

"No, Augusta."

"Why dost thou choose to be here rather than in the house of Aulus?"

"I do not choose, lady.  Petronius persuaded Cæsar to take me from
Pomponia.  I am here against my will."

"And wouldst thou return to Pomponia?"

This last question Poppæa gave with a softer and milder voice; hence a
sudden hope rose in Lygia's heart.

"Lady," said she, extending her hand to her, "Cæsar promised to give me
as a slave to Vinicius, but do thou intercede and return me to
Pomponia."

"Then Petronius persuaded Cæsar to take thee from Aulus, and give thee
to Vinicius?"

"True, lady.  Vinicius is to send for me to-day, but thou art good, have
compassion on me."  When she had said this, she inclined, and, seizing
the border of Poppæa's robe, waited for her word with beating heart.
Poppæa looked at her for a while, with a face lighted by an evil smile,
and said,--"Then I promise that thou wilt become the slave of Vinicius
this day."  And she went on, beautiful as a vision, but evil.  To the
ears of Lygia and Acte came only the wail of the infant, which began to
cry, it was unknown for what reason.

Lygia's eyes too were filled with tears; but after a while she took
Acte's hand and said,--"Let us return.  Help is to be looked for only
whence it can come."  And they returned to the atrium, which they did
not leave till evening.

When darkness had come and slaves brought in tapers with great flames,
both women were very pale.  Their conversation failed every moment.
Both were listening to hear if some one were coming.  Lygia repeated
again and again that, though grieved to leave Acte, she preferred that
all should take place that day, as Ursus must be waiting in the dark for
her then.  But her breathing grew quicker from emotion, and louder.
Acte collected feverishly such jewels as she could, and, fastening them
in a corner of Lygia's peplus, implored her not to reject that gift and
means of escape.  At moments came a deep silence full of deceptions for
the ear.  It seemed to both that they heard at one time a whisper beyond
the curtain, at another the distant weeping of a child, at another the
barking of dogs.

Suddenly the curtain of the entrance moved without noise, and a tall,
dark man, his face marked with small-pox, appeared like a spirit in the
atrium.  In one moment Lygia recognized Atacinus, a freedman of
Vinicius, who had visited the house of Aulus.

Acte screamed; but Atacinus bent low and said,--"A greeting, divine
Lygia, from Marcus Vinicius, who awaits thee with a feast in his house
which is decked in green."

The lips of the maiden grew pale.

"I go," said she.

Then she threw her arms around Acte's neck in farewell.




Chapter X


THE house of Vinicius was indeed decked in the green of myrtle and ivy,
which had been hung on the walls and over the doors.  The columns were
wreathed with grape vine.  In the atrium, which was closed above by a
purple woollen cloth as protection from the night cold, it was as clear
as in daylight.  Eight and twelve flamed lamps were burning; these were
like vessels, trees, animals, birds, or statues, holding cups filled
with perfumed olive oil, lamps of alabaster, marble, or gilded
Corinthian bronze, not so wonderful as that famed candlestick used by
Nero and taken from the temple of Apollo, but beautiful and made by
famous masters.  Some of the lights were shaded by Alexandrian glass, or
transparent stuffs from the Indus, of red, blue, yellow, or violet
color, so that the whole atrium was filled with many colored rays.
Everywhere was given out the odor of nard, to which Vinicius had grown
used, and which he had learned to love in the Orient.  The depths of the
house, in which the forms of male and female slaves were movmg, gleamed
also with light.  In the triclinium a table was laid for four persons.
At the feast were to sit, besides Vinicius and Lygia, Petronius and
Chrysothemis.  Vinicius had followed in everything the words of
Petronius, who advised him not to go for Lygia, but to send Atacinus
with the permission obtained from Cæsar, to receive her himself in the
house, receive her with friendliness and even with marks of honor.

"Thou wert drunk yesterday," said he; "I saw thee.  Thou didst act with
her like a quarryman from the Alban Hills.  Be not over-insistent, and
remember that one should drink good wine slowly.  Know too that it is
sweet to desire, but sweeter to be desired."

Chrysothemis had her own and a somewhat different opinion on this point;
but Petronius, calling her his vestal and his dove, began to explain the
difference which must exist between a trained charioteer of the Circus
and the youth who sits on the quadriga for the first time.  Then,
turning to Vinicius, he continued,--"Win her confidence, make her
joyful, be magnanimous.  I have no wish to see a gloomy feast.  Swear to
her, by Hades even, that thou wilt return her to Pomponia, and it will
be thy affair that to-morrow she prefers to stay with thee."

Then pointing to Chrysothemis, he added,--"For five years I have acted
thus more or less with this timid dove, and I cannot complain of her
harshness."

Chrysothemis struck him with her fan of peacock feathers, and said,--
"But I did not resist, thou satyr!"

"Out of consideration for my predecessor--"

"But wert thou not at my feet?"

"Yes; to put rings on thy toes."

Chrysothemis looked involuntarily at her feet, on the toes of which
diamonds were really glittering; and she and Petronius began to laugh.
But Vinicius did not give ear to their bantering.  His heart was beating
unquietly under the robes of a Syrian priest, in which he had arrayed
himself to receive Lygia.

"They must have left the palace," said he, as if in a monologue.

"They must," answered Petronius.  "Meanwhile I may mention the
predictions of Apollonius of Tyana, or that history of Rufinus which I
have not finished, I do not remember why."

But Vinicius cared no more for Apollonius of Tyana than for the history
of Rufinus.  His mind was with Lygia; and though he felt that it was
more appropriate to receive her at home than to go in the rôle of a
myrmidon to the palace, he was sorry at moments that he had not gone,
for the single reason that he might have seen her sooner, and sat near
her in the dark, in the double litter.

Meanwhile slaves brought in a tripod ornamented with rams' heads, bronze
dishes with coals, on which they sprinkled bits of myrrh and nard.

"Now they are turning toward the Carinæ," said Vinicius, again.

"He cannot wait; he will run to meet the litter, and is likely to miss
them!" exclaimed Chrysothemis.

Vinicius smiled without thinking, and said,--"On the contrary, I will
wait."

But he distended his nostrils and panted; seeing which, Petronius
shrugged his shoulders, and said,--"There is not in him a philosopher to
the value of one sestertium, and I shall never make a man of that son of
Mars."

"They are now in the Carinæ."

In fact, they were turning toward the Carinæ.  The slaves called
lampadarii were in front; others called pedisequii, were on both sides
of the litter.  Atacinus was right behind, overseeing the advance.  But
they moved slowly, for lamps showed the way badly in a place not lighted
at all.  The streets near the palace were empty; here and there only
some man moved forward with a lantern, but farther on the place was
uncommonly crowded.  From almost every alley people were pushing out in
threes and fours, all without lamps, all in dark mantles.  Some walked
on with the procession, mingling with the slaves; others in greater
numbers came from the opposite direction.  Some staggered as if drunk.
At moments the advance grew so difficult that the lampadarii cried,--
"Give way to the noble tribune, Marcus Vinicius!"

Lygia saw those dark crowds through the curtains which were pushed
aside, and trembled with emotion.  She was carried away at one moment by
hope, at another by fear.

"That is he!--that is Ursus and the Christians!  Now it will happen
quickly," said she, with trembling lips.  "O Christ, aid!  O Christ,
save!"

Atacinus himself, who at first did not notice the uncommon animation of
the street, began at last to be alarmed.  There was something strange in
this.  The lampadarii had to cry oftener and oftener, "Give way to the
litter of the noble tribune!"  From the sides unknown people crowded up
to the litter so much that Atacinus commanded the slaves to repulse them
with clubs.

Suddenly a cry was heard in front of the procession.  In one instant all
the lights were extinguished.  Around the litter came a rush, an uproar,
a struggle.

Atacinus saw that this was simply an attack; and when he saw it he was
frightened.  It was known to all that Cæsar with a crowd of attendants
made attacks frequently for amusement in the Subura and in other parts
of the city.  It was known that even at times he brought out of these
night adventures black and blue spots; but whoso defended himself went
to his death, even if a senator.  The house of the guards, whose duty it
was to watch over the city, was not very far; but during such attacks
the guards feigned to be deaf and blind.

Meanwhile there was an uproar around the litter; people struck,
struggled, threw, and trampled one another.  The thought flashed on
Atacinus to save Lygia and himself, above all, and leave the rest to
their fate.  So, drawing her out of the litter, he took her in his arms
and strove to escape in the darkness.

But Lygia called, "Ursus!  Ursus!"

She was dressed in white; hence it was easy to see her.  Atacinus, with
his other arm, which was free, was throwing his own mantle over her
hastily, when terrible claws seized his neck, and on his head a
gigantic, crushing mass fell like a stone.

He dropped in one instant, as an ox felled by the back of an axe before
the altar of Jove.

The slaves for the greater part were either lying on the ground, or had
saved themselves by scattering in the thick darkness, around the turns
of the walls.  On the spot remained only the litter, broken in the
onset.  Ursus bore away Lygia to the Subura; his comrades followed him,
dispersing gradually along the way.

The slaves assembled before the house of Vinicius, and took counsel.
They had not courage to enter.  After a short deliberation they returned
to the place of conflict, where they found a few corpses, and among them
Atacinus.  He was quivering yet; but, after a moment of more violent
convulsion, he stretched and was motionless.

They took him then, and, returning, stopped before the gate a second
time.  But they must declare to their lord what had happened.

"Let Gulo declare it," whispered some voices; "blood is flowing from his
face as from ours; and the master loves him; it is safer for Gulo than
for others."

Gulo, a German, an old slave, who had nursed Vinicius, and was inherited
by him from his mother, the sister of Petronius, said,--

"I will tell him; but do ye all come.  Do not let his anger fall on my
head alone."

Vinicius was growing thoroughly impatient.  Petronius and Chrysothemis
were laughing; but he walked with quick step up and down the atrium.

"They ought to be here!  They ought to be here!"

He wished to go out to meet the litter, but Petronius and Chrysothemis
detained him.

Steps were heard suddenly in the entrance; the slaves rushed into the
atrium in a crowd, and, halting quickly at the wall, raised their hands,
and began to repeat with groaning,--"Aaaa!--aa!"

Vinicius sprang toward them.

"Where is Lygia?" cried he, with a terrible and changed voice.

"Aaaa!"

Then Gulo pushed forward with his bloody face, and exclaimed, in haste
and pitifully,--

"See our blood, lord!  We fought!  See our blood!  See our blood!"

But he had not finished when Vinicius seized a bronze lamp, and with one
blow shattered the skull of the slave; then, seizing his own head with
both hands, he drove his fingers into his hair, repeating hoarsely,--"Me
miserum! me miserum!"

His face became blue, his eyes turned in his head, foam came out on his
lips.

"Whips!" roared he at last, with an unearthly voice.

"Lord!  Aaaa!  Take pity!" groaned the slaves.

Petronius stood up with an expression of disgust on his face. "Come,
Chrysothemis!" said he.  "If 'tis thy wish to look on raw flesh, I will
give command to open a butcher's stall on the Carinæ!"

And he walked out of the atrium.  But through the whole house,
ornamented in the green of ivy and prepared for a feast, were heard,
from moment to moment, groans and the whistling of whips, which lasted
almost till morning.




Chapter XI


VINICIUS did not lie down that night.  Some time after the departure of
Petronius, when the groans of his flogged slaves could allay neither his
rage nor his pain, he collected a crowd of other servants, and, though
the night was far advanced, rushed forth at the head of these to look
for Lygia.  He visited the district of the Esquiline, then the Subura,
Vicus Sceleratus, and all the adjoining alleys.  Passing next around the
Capitol, he went to the island over the bridge of Fabricius; after that
he passed through a part of the Trans-Tiber.  But that was a pursuit
without object, for he himself had no hope of finding Lygia, and if he
sought her it was mainly to fill out with something a terrible night.
In fact he returned home about daybreak, when the carts and mules of
dealers in vegetables began to appear in the city, and when bakers were
opening their shops.

On returning he gave command to put away Gulo's corpse, which no one had
ventured to touch.  The slaves from whom Lygia had been taken he sent to
rural prisons,--a punishment almost more dreadful than death.  Throwing
himself at last on a couch in the atrium, he began to think confusedly
of how he was to find and seize Lygia.

To resign her, to lose her, not to see her again, seemed to him
impossible; and at this thought alone frenzy took hold of him.  For the
first time in life the imperious nature of the youthful soldier met
resistance, met another unbending will, and he could not understand
simply how any one could have the daring to thwart his wishes.  Vinicius
would have chosen to see the world and the city sink in ruins rather
than fail of his purpose.  The cup of delight had been snatched from
before his lips almost; hence it seemed to him that something unheard of
had happened, something crying to divine and human laws for vengeance.

But, first of all, he was unwilling and unable to be reconciled with
fate, for never in life had he so desired anything as Lygia.  It seemed
to him that he could not exist without her.  He could not tell himself
what he was to do without her on the morrow, how he was to survive the
days following.  At moments he was transported by a rage against her,
which approached madness.  He wanted to have her, to beat her, to drag
her by the hair to the cubiculum, and gloat over her; then, again, he
was carried away by a terrible yearning for her voice, her form, her
eyes, and he felt that he would be ready to lie at her feet.  He called
to her, gnawed his fingers, clasped his head with his hands.  He strove
with all his might to think calmly about searching for her,--and was
unable. A thousand methods and means flew through his head, but one
wilder than another.  At last the thought flashed on him that no one
else had intercepted her but Aulus, that in every case Aulus must know
where she was hiding.  And he sprang up to run to the house of Aulus.

If they will not yield her to him, if they have no fear of his threats,
he will go to Cæsar, accuse the old general of disobedience, and obtain
a sentence of death against him; but before that, he will gain from them
a confession of where Lygia is.  If they give her, even willingly, he
will be revenged.  They received him, it is true, in their house and
nursed him,--but that is nothing!  With this one injustice they have
freed him from every debt of gratitude.  Here his vengeful and stubborn
soul began to take pleasure at the despair of Pomponia Græcina, when the
centurion would bring the death sentence to old Aulus.  He was almost
certain that he would get it.  Petronius would assist him.  Moreover,
Cæsar never denies anything to his intimates, the Augustians, unless
personal dislike or desire enjoins a refusal.

Suddenly his heart almost died within him, under the influence of this
terrible supposition,--"But if Cæsar himself has taken Lygia?"

All knew that Nero from tedium sought recreation in night attacks. Even
Petronius took part in these amusements.  Their main object was to seize
women and toss each on a soldier's mantle till she fainted.  Even Nero
himself on occasions called these expeditions "pearl hunts," for it
happened that in the depth of districts occupied by a numerous and needy
population they caught a real pearl of youth and beauty sometimes.  Then
the "sagatio," as they termed the tossing, was changed into a genuine
carrying away, and the pearl was sent either to the Palatine or to one
of Cæsar's numberless villas, or finally Cæsar yielded it to one of his
intimates.  So might it happen also with Lygia.  Cæsar had seen her
during the feast; and Vinicius doubted not for an instant that she must
have seemed to him the most beautiful woman he had seen yet.  How could
it be otherwise?  It is true that Lygia had been in Nero's own house on
the Palatine, and he might have kept her openly.  But, as Petronius said
truly, Cæsar had no courage in crime, and, with power to act openly, he
chose to act always in secret.  This time fear of Poppæa might incline
him also to secrecy.  It occurred now to the young soldier that Aulus
would not have dared, perhaps, to carry off forcibly a girl given him,
Vinicius, by Cæsar.  Besides, who would dare?  Would that gigantic blue-
eyed Lygian, who had the courage to enter the triclinium and carry her
from the feast on his arm?  But where could he hide with her; whither
could he take her?  No! a slave would not have ventured that far.  Hence
no one had done the deed except Cæsar.

At this thought it grew dark in his eyes, and drops of sweat covered his
forehead.  In that case Lygia was lost to him forever.  It was possible
to wrest her from the hands of any one else, but not from the hands of
Cæsar.  Now, with greater truth than ever, could he exclaim, "Væ misero
mihi!"  His imagination represented Lygia in Nero's arms, and, for the
first time in life, he understood that there are thoughts which are
simply beyond man's endurance.  He knew then, for the first time, how he
loved her.  As his whole life flashes through the memory of a drowning
man, so Lygia began to pass through his.  He saw her, heard every word
of hers,--saw her at the fountain, saw her at the house of Aulus, and at
the feast; felt her near him, felt the odor of her hair, the warmth of
her body, the delight of the kisses which at the feast he had pressed on
her innocent lips.  She seemed to him a hundred times sweeter, more
beautiful, more desired than ever,--a hundred times more the only one,
the one chosen from among all mortals and divinities.  And when he
thought that all this which had become so fixed in his heart, which had
become his blood and life, might be possessed by Nero, a pain seized
him, which was purely physical, and so piercing that he wanted to beat
his head against the wall of the atrium, until he should break it.  He
felt that he might go mad; and he would have gone mad beyond doubt, had
not vengeance remained to him.  But as hitherto he had thought that he
could not live unless he got Lygia, he thought now that he would not die
till he had avenged her.  This gave him a certain kind of comfort. "I
will be thy Cassius Chærea!" [The slayer of Caligula] said he to himself
in thinking of Nero.  After a while, seizing earth in his hands from the
flower vases surrounding the impluvium, he made a dreadful vow to
Erebus, Hecate, and his own household lares, that he would have
vengeance.

And he received a sort of consolation.  He had at least something to
live for and something with which to fill his nights and days.  Then,
dropping his idea of visiting Aulus, he gave command to bear him to the
Palatine.  Along the way he concluded that if they would not admit him
to Cæsar, or if they should try to find weapons on his person, it would
be a proof that Cæsar had taken Lygia.  He had no weapons with him.  He
had lost presence of mind in general; but as is usual with persons
possessed by a single idea, he preserved it in that which concerned his
revenge.  He did not wish his desire of revenge to fall away
prematurely.  He wished above all to see Acte, for he expected to learn
the truth from her.  At moments the hope flashed on him that he might
see Lygia also, and at that thought he began to tremble.  For if Cæsar
had carried her away without knowledge of whom he was taking, he might
return her that day. But after a while he cast aside this supposition.
Had there been a wish to return her to him, she would have been sent
yesterday. Acte was the only person who could explain everything, and
there was need to see her before others.

Convinced of this, he commanded the slaves to hasten; and along the road
he thought without order, now of Lygia, now of revenge. He had heard
that Egyptian priests of the goddess Pasht could bring disease on
whomever they wished, and he determined to learn the means of doing
this.  In the Orient they had told him, too, that Jews have certain
invocations by which they cover their enemies' bodies with ulcers.  He
had a number of Jews among his domestic slaves; hence he promised
himself to torture them on his return till they divulged the secret.  He
found most delight, however, in thinking of the short Roman sword which
lets out a stream of blood such as had gushed from Caius Caligula and
made ineffaceable stains on the columns of the portico.  He was ready to
exterminate all Rome; and had vengeful gods promised that all people
should die except him and Lygia, he would have accepted the promise.

In front of the arch he regained presence of mind, and thought when he
saw the pretorian guard, "If they make the least difficulty in admitting
me, they will prove that Lygia is in the palace by the will of Cæsar."

But the chief centurion smiled at him in a friendly manner, then
advanced a number of steps, and said,--"A greeting, noble tribune.  If
thou desire to give an obeisance to Cæsar, thou hast found an
unfortunate moment.  I do not think that thou wilt be able to see him."

"What has happened?" inquired Vinicius.

"The infant Augusta fell ill yesterday on a sudden.  Cæsar and the
august Poppæa are attending her, with physicians whom they have summoned
from the whole city."

This was an important event.  When that daughter was born to him, Cæsar
was simply wild from delight, and received her with extra humanum
gaudium.  Previously the senate had committed the womb of Poppæa to the
gods with the utmost solemnity.  A votive offering was made at Antium,
where the delivery took place; splendid games were celebrated, and
besides a temple was erected to the two Fortunes.  Nero, unable to be
moderate in anything, loved the infant beyond measure; to Poppæa the
child was dear also, even for this, that it strengthened her position
and made her influence irresistible.

The fate of the whole empire might depend on the health and life of the
infant Augusta; but Vinicius was so occupied with himself, his own case
and his love, that without paying attention to the news of the centurion
he answered, "I only wish to see Acte."  And he passed in.

But Acte was occupied also near the child, and he had to wait a long
time to see her.  She came only about midday, with a face pale and
wearied, which grew paler still at sight of Vinicius.

"Acte!" cried Vinicius, seizing her hand and drawing her to the middle
of the atrium, "where is Lygia?"

"I wanted to ask thee touching that," answered she, looking him in the
eyes with reproach.

But though he had promised himself to inquire of her calmly, he pressed
his head with his hands again, and said, with a face distorted by pain
and anger,--"She is gone.  She was taken from me on the way!"

After a while, however, he recovered, and thrusting his face up to
Acte's, said through his set teeth,--"Acte!  If life be dear to thee, if
thou wish not to cause misfortunes which thou are unable even to
imagine, answer me truly.  Did Cæsar take her?"

"Cæsar did not leave the palace yesterday."

"By the shade of thy mother, by all the gods, is she not in the palace?"

"By the shade of my mother, Marcus, she is not in the palace, and Cæsar
did not intercept her.  The infant Augusta is ill since yesterday, and
Nero has not left her cradle."

Vinicius drew breath.  That which had seemed the most terrible ceased to
threaten him.

"Ah, then," said he, sitting on the bench and clinching his fists,
"Aulus intercepted her, and in that case woe to him!"

"Aulus Plautius was here this morning.  He could not see me, for I was
occupied with the child; but he inquired of Epaphroditus, and others of
Cæsar's servants, touching Lygia, and told them that he would come again
to see me."

"He wished to turn suspicion from himself.  If he knew not what
happened, he would have come to seek Lygia in my house."

"He left a few words on a tablet, from which thou wilt see that, knowing
Lygia to have been taken from his house by Cæsar, at thy request and
that of Petronius, he expected that she would be sent to thee, and this
morning early he was at thy house, where they told him what had
happened."

When she had said this, she went to the cubiculum and returned soon with
the tablet which Aulus had left.

Vinicius read the tablet, and was silent; Acte seemed to read the
thoughts on his gloomy face, for she said after a while,--"No, Marcus.
That has happened which Lygia herself wished."

"It was known to thee that she wished to flee!" burst out Vinicius.

"I knew that she would not become thy concubine."  And she looked at him
with her misty eyes almost sternly.

"And thou,--what hast thou been all thy life?"

"I was a slave, first of all."

But Vinicius did not cease to be enraged.  Cæsar had given him Lygia;
hence he had no need to inquire what she had been before. He would find
her, even under the earth, and he would do what he liked with her.  He
would indeed!  She should be his concubine.  He would give command to
flog her as often as he pleased.  If she grew distasteful to him, he
would give her to the lowest of his slaves, or he would command her to
turn a handmill on his lands in Africa.  He would seek her out now, and
find her only to bend her, to trample on her, and conquer her.

And, growing more and more excited, he lost every sense of measure, to
the degree that even Acte saw that he was promising more than he could
execute; that he was talking because of pain and anger.  She might have
had even compassion on him, but his extravagance exhausted her patience,
and at last she inquired why he had come to her.

Vinicius did not find an answer immediately.  He had come to her because
he wished to come, because he judged that she would give him
information; but really he had come to Cæsar, and, not being able to see
him, he came to her.  Lygia, by fleeing, opposed the will of Cæsar;
hence he would implore him to give an order to search for her throughout
the city and the empire, even if it came to using for that purpose all
the legions, and to ransacking in turn every house within Roman
dominion.  Petronius would support his prayer, and the search would
begin from that day.

"Have a care," answered Acte, "lest thou lose her forever the moment she
is found, at command of Cæsar."

Vinicius wrinkled his brows.  "What does that mean?" inquired he.

"Listen to me, Marcus.  Yesterday Lygia and I were in the gardens here,
and we met Poppæa, with the infant Augusta, borne by an African woman,
Lilith.  In the evening the child fell ill, and Lilith insists that she
was bewitched; that that foreign woman whom they met in the garden
bewitched her.  Should the child recover, they will forget this, but in
the opposite case Poppæa will be the first to accuse Lygia of
witchcraft, and wherever she is found there will be no rescue for her."

A moment of silence followed; then Vinicius said,--"But perhaps she did
bewitch her, and has bewitched me."

"Lilith repeats that the child began to cry the moment she carried her
past us.  And really the child did begin to cry.  It is certain that she
was sick when they took her out of the garden.  Marcus, seek for Lygia
whenever it may please thee, but till the infant Augusta recovers, speak
not of her to Cæsar, or thou wilt bring on her Poppæa's vengeance.  Her
eyes have wept enough because of thee already, and may all the gods
guard her poor head."

"Dost thou love her, Acte?" inquired Vinicius, gloomily.

"Yes, I love her."  And tears glittered in the eyes of the freedwoman.

"Thou lovest her because she has not repaid thee with hatred, as she has
me."

Acte looked at him for a time as if hesitating, or as if wishing to
learn if he spoke sincerely; then she said,--"O blind and passionate
man--she loved thee."

Vinicius sprang up under the influence of those words, as if possessed.
"It is not true."

She hated him.  How could Acte know?  Would Lygia make a confession to
her after one day's acquaintance?  What love is that which prefers
wandering, the disgrace of poverty, the uncertainty of to-morrow, or a
shameful death even, to a wreath-bedecked house, in which a lover is
waiting with a feast?  It is better for him not to hear such things, for
he is ready to go mad.  He would not have given that girl for all
Cæsar's treasures, and she fled.  What kind of love is that which dreads
delight and gives pain?  Who can understand it?  Who can fathom it?
Were it not for the hope that he should find her, he would sink a sword
in himself.  Love surrenders; it does not take away.  There were moments
at the house of Aulus when he himself believed in near happiness, but
now he knows that she hated him, that she hates him, and will die with
hatred in her heart.

But Acte, usually mild and timid, burst forth in her turn with
indignation.  How had he tried to win Lygia?  Instead of bowing before
Aulus and Pomponia to get her, he took the child away from her parents
by stratagem.  He wanted to make, not a wife, but a concubine of her,
the foster daughter of an honorable house, and the daughter of a king.
He had her brought to this abode of crime and infamy; he defiled her
innocent eyes with the sight of a shameful feast; he acted with her as
with a wanton.  Had he forgotten the house of Aulus and Pomponia
Græcina, who had reared Lygia?  Had he not sense enough to understand
that there are women different from Nigidia or Calvia Crispinilla or
Poppæa, and from all those whom he meets in Cæsar's house?  Did he not
understand at once on seeing Lygia that she is an honest maiden, who
prefers death to infamy?  Whence does he know what kind of gods she
worships, and whether they are not purer and better than the wanton
Venus, or than Isis, worshipped by the profligate women of Rome?  No!
Lygia had made no confession to her, but she had said that she looked
for rescue to him, to Vinicius: she had hoped that he would obtain for
her permission from Cæsar to return home, that he would restore her to
Pomponia.  And while speaking of this, Lygia blushed like a maiden who
loves and trusts. Lygia's heart beat for him; but he, Vinicius, had
terrified and offended her; had made her indignant; let him seek her now
with the aid of Cæsar's soldiers, but let him know that should Poppæa's
child die, suspicion will fall on Lygia, whose destruction will then be
inevitable.

Emotion began to force its way through the anger and pain of Vinicius.
The information that he was loved by Lygia shook him to the depth of his
soul.  He remembered her in Aulus's garden, when she was listening to
his words with blushes on her face and her eyes full of light.  It
seemed to him then that she had begun to love him; and all at once, at
that thought, a feeling of certain happiness embraced him, a hundred
times greater than that which he desired. He thought that he might have
won her gradually, and besides as one loving him.  She would have
wreathed his door, rubbed it with wolf's fat, and then sat as his wife
by his hearth on the sheepskin. He would have heard from her mouth the
sacramental: "Where thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia."  And she would
have been his forever.  Why did he not act thus?  True, he had been
ready so to act.  But now she is gone, and it may be impossible to find
her; and should he find her, perhaps he will cause her death, and should
he not cause her death, neither she nor Aulus nor Pomponia Græcina will
favor him.  Here anger raised the hair on his head again; but his anger
turned now, not against the house of Aulus, or Lygia, but against
Petronius.  Petronius was to blame for everything.  Had it not been for
him Lygia would not have been forced to wander; she would be his
betrothed, and no danger would be hanging over her dear head.  But now
all is past, and it is too late to correct the evil which will not yield
to correction.

"Too late!"  And it seemed to him that a gulf had opened before his
feet.  He did not know what to begin, how to proceed, whither to betake
himself.  Acte repeated as an echo the words, "Too late," which from
another's mouth sounded like a death sentence.  He understood one thing,
however, that he must find Lygia, or something evil would happen to him.

And wrapping himself mechanically in his toga, he was about to depart
without taking farewell even of Acte, when suddenly the curtain
separating the entrance from the atrium was pushed aside, and he saw
before him the pensive figure of Pomponia Græcina.

Evidently she too had heard of the disappearance of Lygia, and, judging
that she could see Acte more easily than Aulus, had come for news to
her.

But, seeing Vinicius, she turned her pale, delicate face to him, and
said, after a pause,--"May God forgive thee the wrong, Marcus, which
thou hast done to us and to Lygia."

He stood with drooping head, with a feeling of misfortune and guilt, not
understanding what God was to forgive him or could forgive him.
Pomponia had no cause to mention forgiveness; she ought to have spoken
of revenge.

At last he went out with a head devoid of counsel, full of grievous
thoughts, immense care, and amazement.

In the court and under the gallery were crowds of anxious people. Among
slaves of the palace were knights and senators who had come to inquire
about the health of the infant, and at the same time to show themselves
in the palace, and exhibit a proof of their anxiety, even in presence of
Nero's slaves.  News of the illness of the "divine" had spread quickly
it was evident, for new forms appeared in the gateway every moment, and
through the opening of the arcade whole crowds were visible.  Some of
the newly arrived, seeing that Vinicius was coming from the palace,
attacked him for news; but he hurried on without answering their
questions, till Petronius, who had come for news too, almost struck his
breast and stopped him.

Beyond doubt Vinicius would have become enraged at sight of Petronius,
and let himself do some lawless act in Cæsar's palace, had it not been
that when he had left Acte he was so crushed, so weighed down and
exhausted, that for the moment even his innate irascibility had left
him.  He pushed Petronius aside and wished to pass; but the other
detained him, by force almost.

"How is the divine infant?" asked he.

But this constraint angered Vinicius a second time, and roused his
indignation in an instant.

"May Hades swallow her and all this house!" said he, gritting his teeth.

"Silence, hapless man!" said Petronius, and looking around he added
hurriedly,--"If thou wish to know something of Lygia, come with me; I
will tell nothing here!  Come with me; I will tell my thoughts in the
litter."

And putting his arm around the young tribune, he conducted him from the
palace as quickly as possible.  That was his main concern, for he had no
news whatever; but being a man of resources, and having, in spite of his
indignation of yesterday, much sympathy for Vinicius, and finally
feeling responsible for all that had happened, he had undertaken
something already, and when they entered the litter he said,--"I have
commanded my slaves to watch at every gate.  I gave them an accurate
description of the girl, and that giant who bore her from the feast at
Cæsar's,--for he is the man, beyond doubt, who intercepted her.  Listen
to me: Perhaps Aulus and Pomponia wish to secrete her in some estate of
theirs; in that case we shall learn the direction in which they took
her.  If my slaves do not see her at some gate, we shall know that she
is in the city yet, and shall begin this very day to search in Rome for
her."

"Aulus does not know where she is," answered Vinicius.

"Art thou sure of that?"

"I saw Pomponia.  She too is looking for her."

"She could not leave the city yesterday, for the gates are closed at
night.  Two of my people are watching at each gate.  One is to follow
Lygia and the giant, the other to return at once and inform me.  If she
is in the city, we shall find her, for that Lygian is easily recognized,
even by his stature and his shoulders.  Thou art lucky that it was not
Cæsar who took her, and I can assure thee that he did not, for there are
no secrets from me on the Palatine."

But Vinicius burst forth in sorrow still more than in anger, and in a
voice broken by emotion told Petronius what he had heard from Acte, and
what new dangers were threatening Lygia,--dangers so dreadful that
because of them there would be need to hide her from Poppæa most
carefully, in case they discovered her.  Then he reproached Petronius
bitterly for his counsel.  Had it not been for him, everything would
have gone differently.  Lygia would have been at the house of Aulus, and
he, Vinicius, might have seen her every day, and he would have been
happier at that moment than Cæsar.  And carried away as he went on with
his narrative, he yielded more and more to emotion, till at last tears
of sorrow and rage began to fall from his eyes.

Petronius, who had not even thought that the young man could love and
desire to such a degree, when he saw the tears of despair said to
himself, with a certain astonishment,--"O mighty Lady of Cyprus, thou
alone art ruler of gods and men!"




Chapter XII


WHEN they alighted in front of the arbiter's house, the chief of the
atrium answered them that of slaves sent to the gates none had returned
yet.  The atriensis had given orders to take food to them, and a new
command, that under penalty of rods they were to watch carefully all who
left the city.

"Thou seest," said Petronius, "that they are in Rome, beyond doubt, and
in that case we shall find them.  But command thy people also to watch
at the gates,--those, namely, who were sent for Lygia, as they will
recognize her easily."

"I have given orders to send them to rural prisons," said Vinicius, "but
I will recall the orders at once, and let them go to the gates."

And writing a few words on a wax-covered tablet, he handed it to
Petronius, who gave directions to send it at once to the house of
Vinicius.  Then they passed into the interior portico, and, sitting on a
marble bench, began to talk.  The golden-haired Eunice and Iras pushed
bronze footstools under their feet, and poured wine for them into
goblets, out of wonderful narrow-necked pitchers from Volaterræ and
Cæcina.

"Hast thou among thy people any one who knows that giant Lygian?" asked
Petronius.

"Atacinus and Gulo knew him; but Atacinus fell yesterday at the litter,
and Gulo I killed."

"I am sorry for him," said Petronius.  "He carried not only thee, but
me, in his arms."

"I intended to free him," answered Vinicius; "but do not mention him.
Let us speak of Lygia.  Rome is a sea-"

"A sea is just the place where men fish for pearls.  Of course we shall
not find her to-day, or to-morrow, but we shall find her surely.  Thou
hast accused me just now of giving thee this method; but the method was
good in itself, and became bad only when turned to bad.  Thou hast heard
from Aulus himself, that he intends to go to Sicily with his whole
family.  In that case the girl would be far from thee."

"I should follow them," said Vinicius, "and in every case she would be
out of danger; but now, if that child dies, Poppæa will believe, and
will persuade Cæsar, that she died because of Lygia."

"True; that alarmed me, too.  But that little doll may recover. Should
she die, we shall find some way of escape."

Here Petronius meditated a while and added,--"Poppæa, it is said,
follows the religion of the Jews, and believes in evil spirits.  Cæsar
is superstitious.  If we spread the report that evil spirits carried off
Lygia, the news will find belief, especially as neither Cæsar nor Aulus
Plautius intercepted her; her escape was really mysterious.  The Lygian
could not have effected it alone; he must have had help.  And where
could a slave find so many people in the course of one day?"

"Slaves help one another in Rome."

"Some person pays for that with blood at times.  True, they support one
another, but not some against others.  In this case it was known that
responsibility and punishment would fall on thy people.  If thou give
thy people the idea of evil spirits, they will say at once that they saw
such with their own eyes, because that will justify them in thy sight.
Ask one of them, as a test, if he did not see spirits carrying off Lygia
through the air, he will swear at once by the ægis of Zeus that he saw
them."

Vinicius, who was superstitious also, looked at Petronius with sudden
and great fear.

"If Ursus could not have men to help him, and was not able to take her
alone, who could take her?"

Petronius began to laugh.

"See," said he, "they will believe, since thou art half a believer
thyself.  Such is our society, which ridicules the gods.  They, too,
will believe, and they will not look for her.  Meanwhile we shall put
her away somewhere far off from the city, in some villa of mine or
thine."

"But who could help her?"

"Her co-religionists," answered Petronius.

"Who are they?  What deity does she worship?  I ought to know that
better than thou."

"Nearly every woman in Rome honors a different one.  It is almost beyond
doubt that Pomponia reared her in the religion of that deity which she
herself worships; what one she worships I know not. One thing is
certain, that no person has seen her make an offering to our gods in any
temple.  They have accused her even of being a Christian; but that is
not possible; a domestic tribunal cleared her of the charge.  They say
that Christians not only worship an ass's head, but are enemies of the
human race, and permit the foulest crimes.  Pomponia cannot be a
Christian, as her virtue is known, and an enemy of the human race could
not treat slaves as she does."

"In no house are they treated as at Aulus's," interrupted Vinicius.

"Ah! Pomponia mentioned to me some god, who must be one powerful and
merciful.  Where she has put away all the others is her affair; it is
enough that that Logos of hers cannot be very mighty, or rather he must
be a very weak god, since he has had only two adherents,--Pomponia and
Lygia,--and Ursus in addition.  It must be that there are more of those
adherents, and that they assisted Lygia."

"That faith commands forgiveness," said Vinicius.  "At Acte's I met
Pomponia, who said to me: 'May God forgive thee the evil which thou hast
done to us and to Lygia.'"

"Evidently their God is some curator who is very mild.  Ha! let him
forgive thee, and in sign of forgiveness return thee the maiden."

"I would offer him a hecatomb to-morrow!  I have no wish for food, or
the bath, or sleep.  I will take a dark lantern and wander through the
city.  Perhaps I shall find her in disguise.  I am sick."

Petronius looked at him with commiseration.  In fact, there was blue
under his eyes, his pupils were gleaming with fever, his unshaven beard
indicated a dark strip on his firmly outlined jaws, his hair was in
disorder, and he was really like a sick man.  Iras and the golden-haired
Eunice looked at him also with sympathy; but he seemed not to see them,
and he and Petronius took no notice whatever of the slave women, just as
they would not have noticed dogs moving around them.

"Fever is tormenting thee," said Petronius.

"It is."

"Then listen to me.  I know not what the doctor has prescribed to thee,
but I know how I should act in thy place.  Till this lost one is found I
should seek in another that which for the moment has gone from me with
her.  I saw splendid forms at thy villa.  Do not contradict me.  I know
what love is; and I know that when one is desired another cannot take
her place.  But in a beautiful slave it is possible to find even
momentary distraction."

"I do not need it," said Vinicius.

But Petronius, who had for him a real weakness, and who wished to soften
his pain, began to meditate how he might do so.

"Perhaps thine have not for thee the charm of novelty," said he, after a
while (and here he began to look in turn at Iras and Eunice, and finally
he placed his palm on the hip of the golden-haired Eunice). "Look at
this grace! for whom some days since Fonteius Capiton the younger
offered three wonderful boys from Clazomene.  A more beautiful figure
than hers even Skopas himself has not chiselled.  I myself cannot tell
why I have remained indifferent to her thus far, since thoughts of
Chrysothemis have not restrained me.  Well, I give her to thee; take her
for thyself!"

When the golden-haired Eunice heard this, she grew pale in one moment,
and, looking with frightened eyes on Vinicius, seemed to wait for his
answer without breath in her breast.

But he sprang up suddenly, and, pressing his temples with his hands,
said quickly, like a man who is tortured by disease, and will not hear
anything,--"No, no!  I care not for her!  I care not for others!  I
thank thee, but I do not want her.  I will seek that one through the
city.  Give command to bring me a Gallic cloak with a hood.  I will go
beyond the Tiber--if I could see even Ursus."

And he hurried away.  Petronius, seeing that he could not remain in one
place, did not try to detain him.  Taking, however, his refusal as a
temporary dislike for all women save Lygia, and not wishing his own
magnanimity to go for naught, he said, turning to the slave,--"Eunice,
thou wilt bathe and anoint thyself, then dress: after that thou wilt go
to the house of Vinicius."

But she dropped before him on her knees, and with joined palms implored
him not to remove her from the house.  She would not go to Vinicius, she
said.  She would rather carry fuel to the hypocaustum in his house than
be chief servant in that of Vinicius. She would not, she could not go;
and she begged him to have pity on her.  Let him give command to flog
her daily, only not send her away.

And trembling like a leaf with fear and excitement, she stretched her
hands to him, while he listened with amazement.  A slave who ventured to
beg relief from the fulfilment of a command, who said "I will not and I
cannot," was something so unheard-of in Rome that Petronius could not
believe his own ears at first.  Finally he frowned.  He was too refined
to be cruel.  His slaves, especially in the department of pleasure, were
freer than others, on condition of performing their service in an
exemplary manner, and honoring the will of their master, like that of a
god.  In case they failed in these two respects, he was able not to
spare punishment, to which, according to general custom, they were
subject.  Since, besides this, he could not endure opposition, nor
anything which ruffled his calmness, he looked for a while at the
kneeling girl, and then said,--"Call Tiresias, and return with him."

Eunice rose, trembling, with tears in her eyes, and went out; after a
time she returned with the chief of the atrium, Tiresias, a Cretan.

"Thou wilt take Eunice," said Petronius, "and give her five-and-twenty
lashes, in such fashion, however, as not to harm her skin."

When he had said this, he passed into the library, and, sitting down at
a table of rose-colored marble, began to work on his "Feast of
Trimalchion."  But the flight of Lygia and the illness of the infant
Augusta had disturbed his mind so much that he could not work long.
That illness, above all, was important.  It occurred to Petronius that
were Cæsar to believe that Lygia had cast spells on the infant, the
responsibility might fall on him also, for the girl had been brought at
his request to the palace.  But he could reckon on this, that at the
first interview with Cæsar he would be able in some way to show the
utter absurdity of such an idea; he counted a little, too, on a certain
weakness which Poppæa had for him,--a weakness hidden carefully, it is
true, but not so carefully that he could not divine it.  After a while
he shrugged his shoulders at these fears, and decided to go to the
triclinium to strengthen himself, and then order the litter to bear him
once more to the palace, after that to the Campus Martius, and then to
Chrysothemis.

But on the way to the triclinium at the entrance to the corridor
assigned to servants, he saw unexpectedly the slender form of Eunice
standing, among other slaves, at the wall; and forgetting that he had
given Tiresias no order beyond flogging her, he wrinkled his brow again,
and looked around for the atriensis.  Not seeing him among the servants,
he turned to Eunice.

"Hast thou received the lashes?"

She cast herself at his feet a second time, pressed the border of his
toga to her lips, and said,--"Oh, yes, lord, I have received them! Oh,
yes, lord!"  In her voice were heard, as it were, joy and gratitude.  It
was clear that she looked on the lashes as a substitute for her removal
from the house, and that now she might stay there. Petronius, who
understood this, wondered at the passionate resistance of the girl; but
he was too deeply versed in human nature not to know that love alone
could call forth such resistance.

"Dost thou love some one in this house?" asked he.

She raised her blue, tearful eyes to him, and answered, in a voice so
low that it was hardly possible to hear her,--"Yes, lord."

And with those eyes, with that golden hair thrown back, with fear and
hope in her face, she was so beautiful, she looked at him so
entreatingly, that Petronius, who, as a philosopher, had proclaimed the
might of love, and who, as a man of æsthetic nature, had given homage to
all beauty, felt for her a certain species of compassion.

"Whom of those dost thou love?" inquired he, indicating the servants
with his head.

There was no answer to that question.  Eunice inclined her head to his
feet and remained motionless.

Petronius looked at the slaves, among whom were beautiful and stately
youths.  He could read nothing on any face; on the contrary, all had
certain strange smiles.  He looked then for a while on Eunice lying at
his feet, and went in silence to the triclinium.

After he had eaten, he gave command to bear him to the palace, and then
to Chrysothemis, with whom he remained till late at night.  But when he
returned, he gave command to call Tiresias.

"Did Eunice receive the flogging?" inquired he.

"She did, lord.  Thou didst not let the skin be cut, however."

"Did I give no other command touching her?"

"No, lord," answered the atriensis with alarm.

"That is well.  Whom of the slaves does she love?"

"No one, lord."

"What dost thou know of her?"

Tiresias began to speak in a somewhat uncertain voice:

"At night Eunice never leaves the cubiculum in which she lives with old
Acrisiona and Ifida; after thou art dressed she never goes to the
bath-rooms.  Other slaves ridicule her, and call her Diana."

"Enough," said Petronius.  "My relative, Vinicius, to whom I offered her
to-day, did not accept her; hence she may stay in the house.  Thou art
free to go."

"Is it permitted me to speak more of Eunice, lord?"

"I have commanded thee to say all thou knowest."

"The whole familia are speaking of the flight of the maiden who was to
dwell in the house of the noble Vinicius.  After thy departure, Eunice
came to me and said that she knew a man who could find her."

"Ah! What kind of man is he?"

"I know not, lord; but I thought that I ought to inform thee of this
matter."

"That is well.  Let that man wait to-morrow in my house for the arrival
of the tribune, whom thou wilt request in my name to meet me here."

The atriensis bowed and went out.  But Petronius began to think of
Eunice.  At first it seemed clear to him that the young slave wished
Vinicius to find Lygia for this reason only, that she would not be
forced from his house.  Afterward, however, it occurred to him that the
man whom Eunice was pushing forward might be her lover, and all at once
that thought seemed to him disagreeable.  There was, it is true, a
simple way of learning the truth, for it was enough to summon Eunice;
but the hour was late, Petronius felt tired after his long visit with
Chrysothemis, and was in a hurry to sleep.  But on the way to the
cubiculum he remembered--it is unknown why--that he had noticed
wrinkles, that day, in the corners of Chrysothemis's eyes.  He thought,
also, that her beauty was more celebrated in Rome than it deserved; and
that Fonteius Capiton, who had offered him three boys from Clazomene for
Eunice, wanted to buy her too cheaply.




Chapter XIII


NEXT morning, Petronius had barely finished dressing in the unctorium
when Vinicius came, called by Tiresias.  He knew that no news had come
from the gates.  This information, instead of comforting him, as a proof
that Lygia was still in Rome, weighed him down still more, for he began
to think that Ursus might have conducted her out of the city immediately
after her seizure, and hence before Petronius's slaves had begun to keep
watch at the gates.  It is true that in autumn, when the days become
shorter, the gates are closed rather early; but it is true, also, that
they are opened for persons going out, and the number of these is
considerable.  It was possible, also, to pass the walls by other ways,
well known, for instance, to slaves who wish to escape from the city.
Vinicius had sent out his people to all roads leading to the provinces,
to watchmen in the smaller towns, proclaiming a pair of fugitive slaves,
with a detailed description of Ursus and Lygia, coupled with the offer
of a reward for seizing them.  But it was doubtful whether that pursuit
would reach the fugitives; and even should it reach them, whether the
local authorities would feel justified in making the arrest at the
private instance of Vinicius, without the support of a pretor.  Indeed,
there had not been time to obtain such support.  Vinicius himself,
disguised as a slave, had sought Lygia the whole day before, through
every corner of the city, but had been unable to find the least
indication or trace of her.  He had seen Aulus's servants, it is true;
but they seemed to be seeking something also, and that confirmed him in
the belief that it was not Aulus who had intercepted the maiden, and
that the old general did not know what had happened to her.

When Tiresias announced to him, then, that there was a man who would
undertake to find Lygia, he hurried with all speed to the house of
Petronius; and barely had he finished saluting his uncle, when he
inquired for the man.

"We shall see him at once, Eunice knows him," said Petronius. "She will
come this moment to arrange the folds of my toga, and will give nearer
information concerning him."

"Oh! she whom thou hadst the wish to bestow on me yesterday?"

"The one whom thou didst reject; for which I am grateful, for she is the
best vestiplica in the whole city."

In fact, the vestiplica came in before he had finished speaking, and
taking the toga, laid on a chair inlaid with pearl, she opened the
garment to throw it on Petronius's shoulder.  Her face was clear and
calm; joy was in her eyes.

Petronius looked at her.  She seemed to him very beautiful.  After a
while, when she had covered him with the toga, she began to arrange it,
bending at times to lengthen the folds. He noticed that her arms had a
marvellous pale rose-color, and her bosom and shoulders the transparent
reflections of pearl or alabaster.

"Eunice," said he, "has the man come to Tiresias whom thou didst mention
yesterday?"

"He has, lord."

"What is his name?"

"Chilo Chilonides."

"Who is he?"

"A physician, a sage, a soothsayer, who knows how to read people's fates
and predict the future."

"Has he predicted the future to thee?"

Eunice was covered with a blush which gave a rosy color to her ears and
her neck even.

"Yes, lord."

"What has he predicted?"

"That pain and happiness would meet me."

"Pain met thee yesterday at the hands of Tiresias; hence happiness also
should come."

"It has come, lord, already."

"What?"

"I remain," said she in a whisper.

Petronius put his hand on her golden head.

"Thou hast arranged the folds well to-day, and I am satisfied with thee,
Eunice."

Under that touch her eyes were mist-covered in one instant from
happiness, and her bosom began to heave quickly.

Petronius and Vinicius passed into the atrium, where Chilo Chilonides
was waiting.  When he saw them, he made a low bow. A smile came to the
lips of Petronius at thought of his suspicion of yesterday, that this
man might be Eunice's lover.  The man who was standing before him could
not be any one's lover.  In that marvellous figure there was something
both foul and ridiculous. He was not old; in his dirty beard and curly
locks a gray hair shone here and there.  He had a lank stomach and
stooping shoulders, so that at the first cast of the eye he appeared to
be hunchbacked; above that hump rose a large head, with the face of a
monkey and also of a fox; the eye was penetrating.  His yellowish
complexion was varied with pimples; and his nose, covered with them
completely, might indicate too great a love for the bottle.  His
neglected apparel, composed of a dark tunic of goat's wool and a mantle
of similar material with holes in it, showed real or simulated poverty.
At sight of him, Homer's Thersites came to the mind of Petronius.
Hence, answering with a wave of the hand to his bow, he said,--

"A greeting, divine Thersites!  How are the lumps which Ulysses gave
thee at Troy, and what is he doing himself in the Elysian Fields?"

"Noble lord," answered Chilo Chilonides, "Ulysses, the wisest of the
dead, sends a greeting through me to Petronius, the wisest of the
living, and the request to cover my lumps with a new mantle."

"By Hecate Triformis!" exclaimed Petronius, "the answer deserves a new
mantle."

But further conversation was interrupted by the impatient Vinicius, who
inquired directly,--"Dost thou know clearly what thou art undertaking?"

"When two households in two lordly mansions speak of naught else, and
when half Rome is repeating the news, it is not difficult to know,"
answered Chilo.  "The night before last a maiden named Lygia, but
specially Callina, and reared in the house of Aulus Plautius, was
intercepted.  Thy slaves were conducting her, O lord, from Cæsar's
palace to thy 'insula,' and I undertake to find her in the city, or, if
she has left the city--which is little likely--to indicate to thee,
noble tribune, whither she has fled and where she has hidden."

"That is well," said Vinicius, who was pleased with the precision of the
answer.  "What means hast thou to do this?"

Chilo smiled cunningly.  "Thou hast the means, lord; I have the wit
only."

Petronius smiled also, for he was perfectly satisfied with his guest.

"That man can find the maiden," thought he.  Meanwhile Vinicius wrinkled
his joined brows, and said,--"Wretch, in case thou deceive me for gain,
I will give command to beat thee with clubs."

"I am a philosopher, lord, and a philosopher cannot be greedy of gain,
especially of such as thou hast just offered magnanimously."

"Oh, art thou a philosopher?" inquired Petronius.  "Eunice told me that
thou art a physician and a soothsayer.  Whence knowest thou Eunice?"

"She came to me for aid, for my fame struck her ears."

"What aid did she want?"

"Aid in love, lord.  She wanted to be cured of unrequited love."

"Didst thou cure her?"

"I did more, lord.  I gave her an amulet which secures mutuality.  In
Paphos, on the island of Cyprus, is a temple, O lord, in which is
preserved a zone of Venus.  I gave her two threads from that zone,
enclosed in an almond shell."

"And didst thou make her pay well for them?"

"One can never pay enough for mutuality, and I, who lack two fingers on
my right hand, am collecting money to buy a slave copyist to write down
my thoughts, and preserve my wisdom for mankind."

"Of what school art thou, divine sage?"

"I am a Cynic, lord, because I wear a tattered mantle; I am a Stoic,
because I bear poverty patiently; I am a Peripatetic, for, not owning a
litter, I go on foot from one wine-shop to another, and on the way teach
those who promise to pay for a pitcher of wine."

"And at the pitcher thou dost become a rhetor?"

"Heraclitus declares that 'all is fluid,' and canst thou deny, lord,
that wine is fluid?"

"And he declared that fire is a divinity; divinity, therefore, is
blushing in thy nose."

"But the divine Diogenes from Apollonia declared that air is the essence
of things, and the warmer the air the more perfect the beings it makes,
and from the warmest come the souls of sages. And since the autumns are
cold, a genuine sage should warm his soul with wine; and wouldst thou
hinder, O lord, a pitcher of even the stuff produced in Capua or Telesia
from bearing heat to all the bones of a perishable human body?"

"Chilo Chilonides, where is thy birthplace?"

"On the Euxine Pontus.  I come from Mesembria."

"Oh, Chilo, thou art great!"

"And unrecognized," said the sage, pensively.

But Vinicius was impatient again.  In view of the hope which had gleamed
before him, he wished Chilo to set out at once on his work; hence the
whole conversation seemed to him simply a vain loss of time, and he was
angry at Petronius.

"When wilt thou begin the search?" asked he, turning to the Greek.

"I have begun it already," answered Chilo.  "And since I am here, and
answering thy affable question, I am searching yet.  Only have
confidence, honored tribune, and know that if thou wert to lose the
string of thy sandal I should find it, or him who picked it up on the
street."

"Hast thou been employed in similar services?" asked Petronius.

The Greek raised his eyes.  "To-day men esteem virtue and wisdom too
low, for a philosopher not to be forced to seek other means of living."

"What are thy means?"

"To know everything, and to serve those with news who are in need of
it."

"And who pay for it?"

"Ah, lord, I need to buy a copyist.  Otherwise my wisdom will perish
with me."

"If thou hast not collected enough yet to buy a sound mantle, thy
services cannot be very famous."

"Modesty hinders me.  But remember, lord, that to-day there are not such
benefactors as were numerous formerly; and for whom it was as pleasant
to cover service with gold as to swallow an oyster from Puteoli.  No; my
services are not small, but the gratitude of mankind is small.  At
times, when a valued slave escapes, who will find him, if not the only
son of my father?  When on the walls there are inscriptions against the
divine Poppæa, who will indicate those who composed them?  Who will
discover at the book-stalls verses against Cæsar?  Who will declare what
is said in the houses of knights and senators?  Who will carry letters
which the writers will not intrust to slaves?  Who will listen to news
at the doors of barbers?  For whom have wine-shops and bake-shops no
secret?  In whom do slaves trust?  Who can see through every house, from
the atrium to the garden?  Who knows every street, every alley and
hiding-place?  Who knows what they say in the baths, in the Circus, in
the markets, in the fencing-schools, in slave-dealers' sheds, and even
in the arenas?"

"By the gods! enough, noble sage!" cried Petronius; "we are drowning in
thy services, thy virtue, thy wisdom, and thy eloquence.  Enough!  We
wanted to know who thou art, and we know!"

But Vinicius was glad, for he thought that this man, like a hound, once
put on the trail, would not stop till he had found out the hiding-place.

"Well," said he, "dost thou need indications?"

"I need arms."

"Of what kind?" asked Vinicius, with astonishment.

The Greek stretched out one hand; with the other he made the gesture of
counting money.

"Such are the times, lord," said he, with a sigh.

"Thou wilt be the ass, then," said Petronius, "to win the fortress with
bags of gold?"

"I am only a poor philosopher," answered Chilo, with humility; "ye have
the gold."

Vinicius tossed him a purse, which the Greek caught in the air, though
two fingers were lacking on his right hand.

He raised his head then, and said: "I know more than thou thinkest. I
have not come empty-handed.  I know that Aulus did not intercept the
maiden, for I have spoken with his slaves.  I know that she is not on
the Palatine, for all are occupied with the infant Augusta; and perhaps
I may even divine why ye prefer to search for the maiden with my help
rather than that of the city guards and Cæsar's soldiers.  I know that
her escape was effected by a servant,--a slave coming from the same
country as she.  He could not find assistance among slaves, for slaves
all stand together, and would not act against thy slaves.  Only a
co-religionist would help him."

"Dost hear, Vinicius?" broke in Petronius.  "Have I not said the same,
word for word, to thee?"

"That is an honor for me," said Chilo.  "The maiden, lord," continued
he, turning again to Vinicius, "worships beyond a doubt the same
divinity as that most virtuous of Roman ladies, that genuine matron,
Pomponia.  I have heard this, too, that Pomponia was tried in her own
house for worshipping some kind of foreign god, but I could not learn
from her slaves what god that is, or what his worshippers are called.
If I could learn that, I should go to them, become the most devoted
among them, and gain their confidence.  But thou, lord, who hast passed,
as I know too, a number of days in the house of the noble Aulus, canst
thou not give me some information thereon?"

"I cannot," said Vinicius.

"Ye have asked me long about various things, noble lords, and I have
answered the questions; permit me now to give one.  Hast thou not seen,
honored tribune, some statuette, some offering, some token, some amulet
on Pomponia or thy divine Lygia?  Hast thou not seen them making signs
to each other, intelligible to them alone?"

"Signs?  Wait!  Yes; I saw once that Lygia made a fish on the sand."

"A fish?  A-a! O-o-o! Did she do that once, or a number of times?"

"Only once."

"And art thou certain, lord, that she outlined a fish?  O-o?"

"Yes," answered Vinicius, with roused curiosity.  "Dost thou divine what
that means?"

"Do I divine!" exclaimed Chilo.  And bowing in sign of farewell, he
added: "May Fortune scatter on you both equally all gifts, worthy
lords!"

"Give command to bring thee a mantle," said Petronius to him at parting.

"Ulysses gives thee thanks for Thersites," said the Greek; and bowing a
second time, he walked out.

"What wilt thou say of that noble sage?" inquired Petronius.

"This, that he will find Lygia," answered Vinicius, with delight; "but I
will say, too, that were there a kingdom of rogues he might be the king
of it."

"Most certainly.  I shall make a nearer acquaintance with this stoic;
meanwhile I must give command to perfume the atrium."

But Chilo Chilonides, wrapping his new mantle about him, threw up on his
palm, under its folds, the purse received from Vinicius, and admired
both its weight and its jingle.  Walking on slowly, and looking around
to see if they were not looking at him from the house, he passed the
portico of Livia, and, reaching the corner of the Clivus Virbius, turned
toward the Subura.

"I must go to Sporus," said he to himself, "and pour out a little wine
to Fortuna.  I have found at last what I have been seeking this long
time.  He is young, irascible, bounteous as mines in Cyprus, and ready
to give half his fortune for that Lygian linnet.  Just such a man have I
been seeking this long time.  It is needful, however, to be on one's
guard with him, for the wrinkling of his brow forebodes no good.  Ah!
the wolf-whelps lord it over the world to-day!  I should fear that
Petronius less.  O gods! but the trade of procurer pays better at
present than virtue.  Ah! she drew a fish on the sand!  If I know what
that means, may I choke myself with a piece of goat's cheese!  But I
shall know.  Fish live under water, and searching under water is more
difficult than on land, ergo he will pay me separately for this fish.
Another such purse and I might cast aside the beggar's wallet and buy
myself a slave.  But what wouldst thou say, Chilo, were I to advise thee
to buy not a male but a female slave?  I know thee; I know that thou
wouldst consent. If she were beautiful, like Eunice, for instance, thou
thyself wouldst grow young near her, and at the same time wouldst have
from her a good and certain income.  I sold to that poor Eunice two
threads from my old mantle.  She is dull; but if Petronius were to give
her to me, I would take her.  Yes, yes, Chilo Chilonides, thou hast lost
father and mother, thou art an orphan; therefore buy to console thee
even a female slave.  She must indeed live somewhere, therefore Vinicius
will hire her a dwelling, in which thou too mayest find shelter; she
must dress, hence Vinicius will pay for the dress; and must eat, hence
he will support her.  Och! what a hard life!  Where are the times in
which for an obolus a man could buy as much pork and beans as he could
hold in both hands, or a piece of goat's entrails as long as the arm of
a boy twelve years old, and filled with blood?  But here is that villain
Sporus!  In the wine-shop it will be easier to learn something."

Thus conversing, he entered the wine-shop and ordered a pitcher of
"dark" for himself.  Seeing the sceptical look of the shopkeeper, he
took a gold coin from his purse, and, putting it on the table, said,--
"Sporus, I toiled to-day with Seneca from dawn till midday, and this is
what my friend gave me at parting."

The plump eyes of Sporus became plumper still at this sight, and the
wine was soon before Chilo.  Moistening his fingers in it, he drew a
fish on the table, and said,--"Knowest what that means?"

"A fish?  Well, a fish,--yes, that's a fish."

"Thou art dull; though thou dost add so much water to the wine that thou
mightst find a fish in it.  This is a symbol which, in the language of
philosophers, means 'the smile of fortune.' If thou hadst divined it,
thou too mightst have made a fortune.  Honor philosophy, I tell thee, or
I shall change my wine-shop,--an act to which Petronius, my personal
friend, has been urging me this long time."




Chapter XIV


FOR a number of days after the interview, Chilo did not show himself
anywhere.  Vinicius, since he had learned from Acte that Lygia loved
him, was a hundred times more eager to find her, and began himself to
search.  He was unwilling, and also unable, to ask aid of Cæsar, who was
in great fear because of the illness of the infant Augusta.

Sacrifices in the temples did not help, neither did prayers and
offerings, nor the art of physicians, nor all the means of enchantment
to which they turned finally.  In a week the child died. Mourning fell
upon the court and Rome.  Cæsar, who at the birth of the infant was wild
with delight, was wild now from despair, and, confining himself in his
apartments, refused food for two days; and though the palace was
swarming with senators and Augustians, who hastened with marks of sorrow
and sympathy, he denied audience to every one.  The senate assembled in
an extraordinary session, at which the dead child was pronounced divine.
It was decided to rear to her a temple and appoint a special priest to
her service.  New sacrifices were offered in other temples in honor of
the deceased; statues of her were cast from precious metals; and her
funeral was one immense solemnity, during which the people wondered at
the unrestrained marks of grief which Cæsar exhibited; they wept with
him, stretched out their hands for gifts, and above all amused
themselves with the unparalleled spectacle.

That death alarmed Petronius.  All knew in Rome that Poppæa ascribed it
to enchantment.  The physicians, who were thus enabled to explain the
vanity of their efforts, supported her; the priests, whose sacrifices
proved powerless, did the same, as well as the sorcerers, who were
trembling for their lives, and also the people. Petronius was glad now
that Lygia had fled; for he wished no evil to Aulus and Pomponia, and he
wished good to himself and Vinicius; therefore when the cypress, set out
before the Palatine as a sign of mourning, was removed, he went to the
reception appointed for the senators and Augustians to learn how far
Nero had lent ear to reports of spells, and to neutralize results which
might come from his belief.

Knowing Nero, he thought, too, that though he did not believe in charms,
he would feign belief, so as to magnify his own suffering, and take
vengeance on some one, finally, to escape the suspicion that the gods
had begun to punish him for crimes.  Petronius did not think that Cæsar
could love really and deeply even his own child; though he loved her
passionately, he felt certain, however, that he would exaggerate his
suffering.  He was not mistaken.  Nero listened, with stony face and
fixed eyes, to the consolation offered by knights and senators.  It was
evident that, even if he suffered, he was thinking of this: What
impression would his suffering make upon others?  He was posing as a
Niobe, and giving an exhibition of parental sorrow, as an actor would
give it on the stage.  He had not the power even then to endure in his
silent and as it were petrified sorrow, for at moments he made a gesture
as if to cast the dust of the earth on his head, and at moments he
groaned deeply; but seeing Petronius, he sprang up and cried in a tragic
voice, so that all present could hear him,--"Eheu!  And thou art guilty
of her death!  At thy advice the evil spirit entered these walls,--the
evil spirit which, with one look, drew the life from her breast!  Woe is
me!  Would that my eyes had not seen the light of Helios!  Woe is me!
Eheu! eheu!"

And raising his voice still more, he passed into a despairing shout; but
Petronius resolved at that moment to put everything on one cast of the
dice; hence, stretching out his hand, he seized the silk kerchief which
Nero wore around his neck always, and, placing it on the mouth of the
Imperator, said solemnly,--"Lord, Rome and the world are benumbed with
pain; but do thou preserve thy voice for us!"

Those present were amazed; Nero himself was amazed for a moment.
Petronius alone was unmoved; he knew too well what he was doing.  He
remembered, besides, that Terpnos and Diodorus had a direct order to
close Cæsar's mouth whenever he raised his voice too much and exposed it
to danger.

"O Cæsar!" continued he, with the same seriousness and sorrow, "we have
suffered an immeasurable loss; let even this treasure of consolation
remain to us!"

Nero's face quivered, and after a while tears came from his eyes. All at
once he rested his hands on Petronius's shoulders, and, dropping his
head on his breast, began to repeat, amid sobs,

"Thou alone of all thought of this,--thou alone, O Petronius! thou
alone!"

Tigellinus grew yellow from envy; but Petronius continued,--

"Go to Antium! there she came to the world, there joy flowed in on thee,
there solace will come to thee.  Let the sea air freshen thy divine
throat; let thy breast breathe the salt dampness. We, thy devoted ones,
will follow thee everywhere; and when we assuage thy pain with
friendship, thou wilt comfort us with song.

"True!" answered Nero, sadly, "I will write a hymn in her honor, and
compose music for it."

"And then thou wilt find the warm sun in Baiæ."

"And afterward--forgetfulness in Greece."

"In the birthplace of poetry and song."

And his stony, gloomy state of mind passed away gradually, as clouds
pass that are covering the sun; and then a conversation began which,
though full of sadness, yet was full of plans for the future,--touching
a journey, artistic exhibitions, and even the receptions required at the
promised coming of Tiridates, King of Armenia.  Tigellinus tried, it is
true, to bring forward again the enchantment; but Petronius, sure now of
victory, took up the challenge directly.

"Tigellinus," said he, "dost thou think that enchantments can injure the
gods?"

"Cæsar himself has mentioned them," answered the courtier.

"Pain was speaking, not Cæsar; but thou--what is thy opinion of the
matter?"

"The gods are too mighty to be subject to charms."

"Then wouldst thou deny divinity to Cæsar and his family?"

"Peractum est!" muttered Eprius Marcellus, standing near, repeating that
shout which the people gave always when a gladiator in the arena
received such a blow that he needed no other.

Tigellinus gnawed his own anger.  Between him and Petronius there had
long existed a rivalry touching Nero.  Tigellinus had this superiority,
that Nero acted with less ceremony, or rather with none whatever in his
presence; while thus far Petronius overcame Tigellinus at every
encounter with wit and intellect.

So it happened now.  Tigellinus was silent, and simply recorded in his
memory those senators and knights who, when Petronius withdrew to the
depth of the chamber, surrounded him straightway, supposing that after
this incident he would surely be Cæsar's first favorite.

Petronius, on leaving the palace, betook himself to Vinicius, and
described his encounter with Cæsar and Tigellinus.

"Not only have I turned away danger," said he, "from Aulus Plautius,
Pomponia, and us, but even from Lygia, whom they will not seek, even for
this reason, that I have persuaded Bronzebeard, the monkey, to go to
Antium, and thence to Naples or Baiæ and he will go.  I know that he has
not ventured yet to appear in the theatre publicly; I have known this
long time that he intends to do so at Naples.  He is dreaming, moreover,
of Greece, where he wants to sing in all the more prominent cities, and
then make a triumphal entry into Rome, with all the crowns which the
'Græculi' will bestow on him.  During that time we shall be able to seek
Lygia unhindered and secrete her in safety.  But has not our noble
philosopher been here yet?"

"Thy noble philosopher is a cheat.  No; he has not shown himself, and he
will not show himself again!"

"But I have a better understanding, if not of his honesty, of his wit.
He has drawn blood once from thy purse, and will come even for this, to
draw it a second time."

"Let him beware lest I draw his own blood."

"Draw it not; have patience till thou art convinced surely of his
deceit.  Do not give him more money, but promise a liberal reward if he
brings thee certain information.  Wilt thou thyself undertake
something?"

"My two freedmen, Nymphidius and Demas, are searching for her with sixty
men.  Freedom is promised the slave who finds her. Besides I have sent
out special persons by all roads leading from Rome to inquire at every
inn for the Lygian and the maiden.  I course through the city myself day
and night, counting on a chance meeting."

"Whenever thou hast tidings let me know, for I must go to Antium."

"I will do so."

"And if thou wake up some morning and say, 'It is not worth while to
torment myself for one girl, and take so much trouble because of her,'
come to Antium.  There will be no lack of women there, or amusement."

Vinicius began to walk with quick steps.  Petronius looked for some time
at him, and said at last,--"Tell me sincerely, not as a mad head, who
talks something into his brain and excites himself, but as a man of
judgment who is answering a friend: Art thou concerned as much as ever
about this Lygia?"

Vinicius stopped a moment, and looked at Petronius as if he had not seen
him before; then he began to walk again.  It was evident that he was
restraining an outburst.  At last, from a feeling of helplessness,
sorrow, anger, and invincible yearning, two tears gathered in his eyes,
which spoke with greater power to Petronius than the most eloquent
words.

Then, meditating for a moment, he said,--"It is not Atlas who carries
the world on his shoulders, but woman; and sometimes she plays with it
as with a ball."

"True," said Vinicius.

And they began to take farewell of each other.  But at that moment a
slave announced that Chilo Chilonides was waiting in the antechamber,
and begged to be admitted to the presence of the lord.

Vinicius gave command to admit him immediately, and Petronius said,--
"Ha! have I not told thee?  By Hercules! keep thy calmness; or he will
command thee, not thou him."

"A greeting and honor to the noble tribune of the army, and to thee,
lord," said Chilo, entering.  "May your happiness be equal to your fame,
and may your fame course through the world from the pillars of Hercules
to the boundaries of the Arsacidæ."

"A greeting, O lawgiver of virtue and wisdom," answered Petronius.

But Vinicius inquired with affected calmness, "What dost thou bring?"

"The first time I came I brought thee hope, O lord; at present, I bring
certainty that the maiden will be found."

"That means that thou hast not found her yet?"

"Yes, lord; but I have found what that sign means which she made. I know
who the people are who rescued her, and I know the God among whose
worshippers to seek her."

Vinicius wished to spring from the chair in which he was sitting; but
Petronius placed his hand on his shoulder, and turning to Chilo said,--
"Speak on!"

"Art thou perfectly certain, lord, that she drew a fish on the sand?"

"Yes," burst out Vinicius.

"Then she is a Christian and Christians carried her away."  A moment of
silence followed.

"Listen, Chilo," said Petronius.  "My relative has predestined to thee a
considerable sum of money for finding the girl, but a no less
considerable number of rods if thou deceive him.  In the first case thou
wilt purchase not one, but three scribes; in the second, the philosophy
of all the seven sages, with the addition of thy own, will not suffice
to get thee ointment."

"The maiden is a Christian, lord," cried the Greek.

"Stop, Chilo.  Thou art not a dull man.  We know that Junia and Calvia
Crispinilla accused Pomponia Græcina of confessing the Christian
superstition; but we know too, that a domestic court acquitted her.
Wouldst thou raise this again?  Wouldst thou persuade us that Pomponia,
and with her Lygia, could belong to the enemies of the human race, to
the poisoners of wells and fountains, to the worshippers of an ass's
head, to people who murder infants and give themselves up to the foulest
license? Think, Chilo, if that thesis which thou art announcing to us
will not rebound as an antithesis on thy own back."

Chilo spread out his arms in sign that that was not his fault, and then
said,--"Lord, utter in Greek the following sentence: Jesus Christ, Son
of God, Saviour."  [Iesous Christos, Theou Uios, Soter.]

"Well, I have uttered it.  What comes of that?"

"Now take the first letters of each of those words and put them into one
word."

"Fish!" said Petronius with astonishment. [Ichthus, the Greek word for
"fish."]

"There, that is why fish has become the watchword of the Christians,"
answered Chilo, proudly.

A moment of silence followed.  But there was something so striking in
the conclusions of the Greek that the two friends could not guard
themselves from amazement.

"Vinicius, art thou not mistaken?" asked Petronius.  "Did Lygia really
draw a fish for thee?"

"By all the infernal gods, one might go mad!" cried the young man, with
excitement.  "If she had drawn a bird for me, I should have said a
bird."

"Therefore she is a Christian," repeated Chilo.

"This signifies," said Petronius, "that Pomponia and Lygia poison wells,
murder children caught on the street, and give themselves up to
dissoluteness!  Folly!  Thou, Vinicius, wert at their house for a time,
I was there a little while; but I know Pomponia and Aulus enough, I know
even Lygia enough, to say monstrous and foolish! If a fish is the symbol
of the Christians, which it is difficult really to deny, and if those
women are Christians, then, by Proserpina! evidently Christians are not
what we hold them to be."

"Thou speakest like Socrates, lord," answered Chilo.  "Who has ever
examined a Christian?  Who has learned their religion?  When I was
travelling three years ago from Naples hither to Rome (oh, why did I not
stay in Naples!), a man joined me, whose name was Glaucus, of whom
people said that he was a Christian; but in spite of that I convinced
myself that he was a good and virtuous man."

"Was it not from that virtuous man that thou hast learned now what the
fish means?"

"Unfortunately, lord, on the way, at an inn, some one thrust a knife
into that honorable old man; and his wife and child were carried away by
slave-dealers.  I lost in their defence these two fingers; since, as
people say, there is no lack among Christians of miracles, I hope that
the fingers will grow out on my hand again."

"How is that?  Hast thou become a Christian?"

"Since yesterday, lord, since yesterday!  The fish made me a Christian.
But see what a power there is in it.  For some days I shall be the most
zealous of the zealous, so that they may admit me to all their secrets;
and when they admit me to their secrets, I shall know where the maiden
is hiding.  Perhaps then my Christianity will pay me better than my
philosophy.  I have made a vow also to Mercury, that if he helps me to
find the maiden, I will sacrifice to him two heifers of the same size
and color and will gild their horns."

"Then thy Christianity of yesterday and thy philosophy of long standing
permit thee to believe in Mercury?"

"I believe always in that in which I need to believe; that is my
philosophy, which ought to please Mercury.  Unfortunately (ye know,
worthy lords, what a suspicious god he is), he does not trust the
promises even of blameless philosophers, and prefers the heifers in
advance; meanwhile this outlay is immense.  Not every one is a Seneca,
and I cannot afford the sacrifice; should the noble Vinicius, however,
wish to give something, on account of that sum which he promised--"

"Not an obolus, Chilo!" said Petronius, "not an obolus.  The bounty of
Vinicius will surpass thy expectations, but only when Lygia is found,--
that is, when thou shalt indicate to us her hiding-place. Mercury must
trust thee for the two heifers, though I am not astonished at him for
not wishing to do so; in this I recognize his acuteness."

"Listen to me, worthy lords.  The discovery which I have made is great;
for though I have not found the maiden yet, I have found the way in
which I must seek her.  Ye have sent freedmen and slaves throughout the
city and into the country; has any one given you a clew?  No! I alone
have given one.  I tell you more.  Among your slaves there may be
Christians, of whom ye have no knowledge, for this superstition has
spread everywhere; and they, instead of aiding, will betray you.  It is
unfortunate that they see me here; do thou therefore, noble Petronius,
enjoin silence on Eunice; and thou too, noble Vinicius, spread a report
that I sell thee an ointment which insures victory in the Circus to
horses rubbed with it.  I alone will search for her, and single-handed I
will find the fugitives; and do ye trust in me, and know that whatever I
receive in advance will be for me simply an encouragement, for I shall
hope always for more, and shall feel the greater certainty that the
promised reward will not fail me.  Ah, it is true!  As a philosopher I
despise money, though neither Seneca, nor even Musonius, nor Cornutus
despises it, though they have not lost fingers in any one's defence, and
are able themselves to write and leave their names to posterity.  But,
aside from the slave, whom I intend to buy, and besides Mercury, to whom
I have promised the heifers,--and ye know how dear cattle have become in
these times,--the searching itself involves much outlay.  Only listen to
me patiently.  Well, for the last few days my feet are wounded from
continual walking.  I have gone to wine-shops to talk with people, to
bakeries, to butcher-shops, to dealers in olive oil, and to fishermen.
I have run through every street and alley; I have been in the hiding
places of fugitive slaves; I have lost money, nearly a hundred ases, in
playing mora; I have been in laundries, in drying-sheds, in cheap
kitchens; I have seen mule-drivers and carvers; I have seen people who
cure bladder complaints and pull teeth; I have talked with dealers in
dried figs; I have been at cemeteries; and do ye know why?  This is why;
so as to outline a fish everywhere, look people in the eyes, and hear
what they would say of that sign.  For a long time I was unable to learn
anything, till at last I saw an old slave at a fountain.  He was drawing
water with a bucket, and weeping.  Approaching him, I asked the cause of
his tears.  When we had sat down on the steps of the fountain, he
answered that all his life he had been collecting sestertium after
sestertium, to redeem his beloved son; but his master, a certain Pansa,
when the money was delivered to him, took it, but kept the son in
slavery. 'And so I am weeping,' said the old man, 'for though I repeat,
Let the will of God be done, I, poor sinner, am not able to keep down my
tears.' Then, as if penetrated by a forewarning, I moistened my finger
in the water and drew a fish for him.  To this he answered, 'My hope,
too, is in Christ.' I asked him then, 'Hast thou confessed to me by that
sign?' 'I have,' said he; 'and peace be with thee.' I began then to draw
him out, and the honest old man told me everything.  His master, that
Pansa, is himself a freedman of the great Pansa; and he brings stones by
the Tiber to Rome, where slaves and hired persons unload them from the
boats, and carry them to buildings in the night time, so as not to
obstruct movement in the streets during daylight.  Among these people
many Christians work, and also his son; as the work is beyond his son's
strength, he wished to redeem him.  But Pansa preferred to keep both the
money and the slave. While telling me this, he began again to weep; and
I mingled my tears with his,--tears came to me easily because of my kind
heart, and the pain in my feet, which I got from walking excessively.  I
began also to lament that as I had come from Naples only a few days
since, I knew no one of the brotherhood, and did not know where they
assembled for prayer.  He wondered that Christians in Naples had not
given me letters to their brethren in Rome; but I explained to him that
the letters were stolen from me on the road. Then he told me to come to
the river at night, and he would acquaint me with brethren who would
conduct me to houses of prayer and to elders who govern the Christian
community.  When I heard this, I was so delighted that I gave him the
sum needed to redeem his son, in the hope that the lordly Vinicius would
return it to me twofold."

"Chilo," interrupted Petronius, "in thy narrative falsehood appears on
the surface of truth, as oil does on water.  Thou hast brought important
information; I do not deny that.  I assert, even, that a great step is
made toward finding Lygia; but do not cover thy news with falsehood.
What is the name of that old man from whom thou hast learned that the
Christians recognize each other through the sign of a fish?"

"Euricius.  A poor, unfortunate old man!  He reminded me of Glaucus,
whom I defended from murderers, and he touched me mainly by this."

"I believe that thou didst discover him, and wilt be able to make use of
the acquaintance; but thou hast given him no money.  Thou hast not given
him an as; dost understand me?  Thou hast not given anything."

"But I helped him to lift the bucket, and I spoke of his son with the
greatest sympathy.  Yes, lord, what can hide before the penetration of
Petronius?  Well, I did not give him money, or rather, I gave it to him,
but only in spirit, in intention, which, had he been a real philosopher,
should have sufficed him.  I gave it to him because I saw that such an
act was indispensable and useful; for think, lord, how this act has won
all the Christians at once to me, what access to them it has opened, and
what confidence it has roused in them."

"True," said Petronius, "and it was thy duty to do it."

"For this very reason I have come to get the means to do it."

Petronius turned to Vinicius,--"Give command to count out to him five
thousand sestertia, but in spirit, in intention."

"I will give thee a young man," said Vinicius, "who will take the sum
necessary; thou wilt say to Euricius that the youth is thy slave, and
thou wilt count out to the old man, in the youth's presence, this money.
Since thou hast brought important tidings, thou wilt receive the same
amount for thyself.  Come for the youth and the money this evening."

"Thou art a real Cæsar!" said Chilo.  "Permit me, lord, to dedicate my
work to thee; but permit also that this evening I come only for the
money, since Euricius told me that all the boats had been unloaded, and
that new ones would come from Ostia only after some days.  Peace be with
you!  Thus do Christians take farewell of one another.  I will buy
myself a slave woman,--that is, I wanted to say a slave man.  Fish are
caught with a bait, and Christians with fish.  Fax vobiscum! pax! pax!
pax!"




Chapter XV

PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:


"I send to thee from Antium, by a trusty slave, this letter, to which,
though thy hand is more accustomed to the sword and the javelin than the
pen, I think that thou wilt answer through the same messenger without
needless delay.  I left thee on a good trail, and full of hope; hence I
trust that thou hast either satisfied thy pleasant desires in the
embraces of Lygia, or wilt satisfy them before the real wintry wind from
the summits of Soracte shall blow on the Campania.  Oh, my Vinicius! may
thy preceptress be the golden goddess of Cyprus; be thou, on thy part,
the preceptor of that Lygian Aurora, who is fleeing before the sun of
love.  And remember always that marble, though most precious, is nothing
of itself, and acquires real value only when the sculptor's hand turns
it into a masterpiece.  Be thou such a sculptor, carissime!  To love is
not sufficient; one must know how to love; one must know how to teach
love.  Though the plebs, too, and even animals, experience pleasure, a
genuine man differs from them in this especially, that he makes love in
some way a noble art, and, admiring it, knows all its divine value,
makes it present in his mind, thus satisfying not his body merely, but
his soul.  More than once, when I think here of the emptiness, the
uncertainty, the dreariness of life, it occurs to me that perhaps thou
hast chosen better, and that not Cæsar's court, but war and love, are
the only objects for which it is worth while to be born and to live.

"Thou wert fortunate in war, be fortunate also in love; and if thou art
curious as to what men are doing at the court of Cæsar, I will inform
thee from time to time.  We are living here at Antium, and nursing our
heavenly voice; we continue to cherish the same hatred of Rome, and
think of betaking ourselves to Baiæ for the winter, to appear in public
at Naples, whose inhabitants, being Greeks, will appreciate us better
than that wolf brood on the banks of the Tiber.  People will hasten
thither from Baiæ, from Pompeii, Puteoli, Cumæ, and Stabia; neither
applause nor crowns will be lacking, and that will be an encouragement
for the proposed expedition to Achæa.

"But the memory of the infant Augusta?  Yes! we are bewailing her yet.
We are singing hymns of our own composition, so wonderful that the
sirens have been hiding from envy in Amphitrite's deepest caves.  But
the dolphins would listen to us, were they not prevented by the sound of
the sea.  Our suffering is not allayed yet; hence we will exhibit it to
the world in every form which sculpture can employ, and observe
carefully if we are beautiful in our suffering and if people recognize
this beauty.  Oh, my dear! we shall die buffoons and comedians!

"All the Augustians are here, male and female, not counting ten thousand
servants, and five hundred she asses, in whose milk Poppæa bathes.  At
times even it is cheerful here.  Calvia Crispinilla is growing old.  It
is said that she has begged Poppæa to let her take the bath immediately
after herself.  Lucan slapped Nigidia on the face, because he suspected
her of relations with a gladiator.  Sporus lost his wife at dice to
Senecio.  Torquatus Silanus has offered me for Eunice four chestnut
horses, which this year will win the prize beyond doubt.  I would not
accept!  Thanks to thee, also, that thou didst not take her.  As to
Torquatus Silanus, the poor man does not even suspect that he is already
more a shade than a man.  His death is decided.  And knowest what his
crime is?  He is the great-grandson of the deified Augustus.  There is
no rescue for him. Such is our world.

"As is known to thee, we have been expecting Tiridates here; meanwhile
Vologeses has written an offensive letter.  Because he has conquered
Armenia, he asks that it be left to him for Tiridates; if not, he will
not yield it in any case.  Pure comedy!  So we have decided on war.
Corbulo will receive power such as Pompeius Magnus received in the war
with pirates.  There was a moment, however, when Nero hesitated.  He
seems afraid of the glory which Corbulo will win in case of victory.  It
was even thought to offer the chief command to our Aulus.  This was
opposed by Poppæa, for whom evidently Pomponia's virtue is as salt in
the eye.

"Vatinius described to us a remarkable fight of gladiators, which is to
take place in Beneventum.  See to what cobblers rise in our time, in
spite of the saying, 'Ne sutor ultra crepidam!'  Vitelius is the
descendant of a cobbler; but Vatinius is the son of one!  Perhaps he
drew thread himself!  The actor Aliturus represented Œdipus yesterday
wonderfully.  I asked him, by the way, as a Jew, if Christians and Jews
were the same.  He answered that the Jews have an eternal religion, but
that Christians are a new sect risen recently in Judea; that in the time
of Tiberius the Jews crucified a certain man, whose adherents increase
daily, and that the Christians consider him as God.  They refuse, it
seems, to recognize other gods, ours especially.  I cannot understand
what harm it would do them to recognize these gods.

"Tigellinus shows me open enmity now.  So far he is unequal to me; but
he is, superior in this, that he cares more for life, and is at the same
time a greater scoundrel, which brings him nearer Ahenobarbus.  These
two will understand each other earlier or later, and then my turn will
come.  I know not when it will come; but I know this, that as things are
it must come; hence let time pass.  Meanwhile we must amuse ourselves.
Life of itself would not be bad were it not for Bronzebeard.  Thanks to
him, a man at times is disgusted with himself.  It is not correct to
consider the struggle for his favor as a kind of rivalry in a circus,--
as a kind of game, as a struggle, in which victory flatters vanity.
True, I explain it to myself in that way frequently; but still it seems
to me sometimes that I am like Chilo, and better in nothing than he.
When he ceases to be needful to thee, send him to me.  I have taken a
fancy to his edifying conversation.  A greeting from me to thy divine
Christian, or rather beg her in my name not to be a fish to thee.
Inform me of thy health, inform me of thy love, know how to love, teach
how to love, and farewell."

VINICIUS to PETRONIUS:

"Lygia is not found yet!  Were it not for the hope that I shall find her
soon, thou wouldst not receive an answer; for when a man is disgusted
with life, he has no wish to write letters.  I wanted to learn whether
Chilo was not deceiving me; and at night when he came to get the money
for Euricius, I threw on a military mantle, and unobserved followed him
and the slave whom I sent with him. When they reached the place, I
watched from a distance, hidden behind a portico pillar, and convinced
myself that Euricius was not invented.  Below, a number of tens of
people were unloading stones from a spacious barge, and piling them up
on the bank.  I saw Chilo approach them, and begin to talk with some old
man, who after a while fell at his feet.  Others surrounded them with
shouts of admiration.  Before my eyes the boy gave a purse to Euricius,
who on seizing it began to pray with upraised hands, while at his side
some second person was kneeling, evidently his son.  Chilo said
something which I could not hear, and blessed the two who were kneeling,
as well as others, making in the air signs in the form of a cross, which
they honor apparently, for all bent their knees.  The desire seized me
to go among them, and promise three such purses to him who would deliver
to me Lygia; but I feared to spoil Chilo's work, and after hesitating a
moment went home.

"This happened at least twelve days after thy departure.  Since then
Chilo has been a number of times with me.  He says that he has gained
great significance among the Christians; that if he has not found Lygia
so far, it is because the Christians in Rome are innumerable, hence all
are not acquainted with each person in their community, and cannot know
everything that is done in it.  They are cautious, too, and in general
reticent.  He gives assurance, however, that when he reaches the elders,
who are called presbyters, he will learn every secret.  He has made the
acquaintance of a number of these already, and has begun to inquire of
them, though carefully, so as not to rouse suspicion by haste, and not
to make the work still more difficult.  Though it is hard to wait,
though patience fails, I feel that he is right, and I wait.

"He learned, too, that they have places of meeting for prayer,
frequently outside the city, in empty houses and even in sand-pits. There
they worship Christ, sing hymns, and have feasts.  There are many such
places.  Chilo supposes that Lygia goes purposely to different ones from
Pomponia, so that the latter, in case of legal proceedings or an
examination, might swear boldly that she knew nothing of Lygia's hiding
place.  It may be that the presbyters have advised caution.  When Chilo
discovers those places, I will go with him; and if the gods let me see
Lygia, I swear to thee by Jupiter that she will not escape my hands this
time.

"I am thinking continually of those places of prayer.  Chilo is
unwilling that I should go with him; he is afraid.  But I cannot stay at
home.  I should know her at once, even in disguise or if veiled. They
assemble in the night, but I should recognize her in the night even.  I
should know her voice and motions anywhere.  I will go myself in
disguise, and look at every person who goes in or out.  I am thinking of
her always, and shall recognize her.  Chilo is to come to-morrow, and we
shall go.  I will take arms.  Some of my slaves sent to the provinces
have returned empty-handed.  But I am certain now that she is in the
city,   perhaps not far away even.  I myself have visited many houses
under pretext of renting them. She will fare better with me a hundred
times; where she is, whole legions of poor people dwell.  Besides, I
shall spare nothing for her sake.  Thou writest that I have chosen well.
I have chosen suffering and sorrow.  We shall go first to those houses
which are in the city, then beyond the gates.  Hope looks for something
every morning, otherwise life would be impossible.  Thou sayest that one
should know how to love.  I knew how to talk of love to Lygia.  But now
I only yearn; I do nothing but wait for Chilo.  Life to me is
unendurable in my own house.  Farewell!"




Chapter XVI


BUT Chilo did not appear for some time, and Vinicius knew not at last
what to think of his absence.  In vain he repeated to himself that
searching, if continued to a certain and successful issue, must be
gradual.  His blood and impulsive nature rebelled against the voice of
judgment.  To do nothing, to wait, to sit with folded arms, was so
repulsive to him that he could not be reconciled to it in any way.  To
search the alleys of the city in the dark garb of a slave, through this
alone, that it was useless, seemed to him merely a mask for his own
inefficiency, and could give no satisfaction.  His freedmen, persons of
experience, whom he commanded to search independently, turned out a
hundred times less expert than Chilo. Meanwhile there rose in him,
besides his love for Lygia, the stubbornness of a player resolved to
win.  Vinicius had been always a person of this kind.  From earliest
youth he had accomplished what he desired with the passionateness of one
who does not understand failure, or the need of yielding something.  For
a time military discipline had put his self-will within bounds, but also
it had engrafted into him the conviction that every command of his to
subordinates must be fulfilled; his prolonged stay in the Orient, among
people pliant and inured to slavish obedience, confirmed in him the
faith that for his "I wish" there were no limits.  At present his
vanity, too, was wounded painfully.  There was, besides, in Lygia's
opposition and resistance, and in her flight itself, which was to him
incomprehensible, a kind of riddle.  In trying to solve this riddle he
racked his head terribly.  He felt that Acte had told the truth, and
that Lygia was not indifferent.  But if this were true, why had she
preferred wandering and misery to his love, his tenderness, and a
residence in his splendid mansion?  To this question he found no answer,
and arrived only at a kind of dim understanding that between him and
Lygia, between their ideas, between the world which belonged to him and
Petronius, and the world of Lygia and Pomponia, there existed some sort
of difference, some kind of misunderstanding as deep as an abyss, which
nothing could fill up or make even.  It seemed to him, then, that he
must lose Lygia; and at this thought he lost the remnant of balance
which Petronius wished to preserve in him.  There were moments in which
he did not know whether he loved Lygia or hated her; he understood only
that he must find her, and he would rather that the earth swallowed her
than that he should not see and possess her.  By the power of
imagination he saw her as clearly at times as if she had been before his
face.  He recalled every word which he had spoken to her; every word
which he had heard from her.  He felt her near; felt her on his bosom,
in his arms; and then desire embraced him like a flame.  He loved her
and called to her.

And when he thought that he was loved, that she might do with
willingness all that he wished of her, sore and endless sorrow seized
him, and a kind of deep tenderness flooded his heart, like a mighty
wave.  But there were moments, too, in which he grew pale from rage, and
delighted in thoughts of the humiliation and tortures which he would
inflict on Lygia when he found her.  He wanted not only to have her, but
to have her as a trampled slave. At the same time he felt that if the
choice were left him, to be her slave or not to see her in life again,
he would rather be her slave. There were days in which he thought of the
marks which the lash would leave on her rosy body, and at the same time
he wanted to kiss those marks.  It came to his head also that he would
be happy if he could kill her.

In this torture, torment, uncertainty, and suffering, he lost health,
and even beauty.  He became a cruel and incomprehensible master. His
slaves, and even his freedmen, approached him with trembling; and when
punishments fell on them causelessly,--punishments as merciless as
undeserved,--they began to hate him in secret; while he, feeling this,
and feeling his own isolation, took revenge all the more on them.  He
restrained himself with Chilo alone, fearing lest he might cease his
searches; the Greek, noting this, began to gain control of him, and grew
more and more exacting.  At first he assured Vinicius at each visit that
the affair would proceed easily and quickly; now he began to discover
difficulties, and without ceasing, it is true, to guarantee the
undoubted success of the searches, he did not hide the fact that they
must continue yet for a good while.

At last he came, after long days of waiting, with a face so gloomy that
the young man grew pale at sight of him, and springing up had barely
strength to ask,--"Is she not among the Christians?"  "She is, lord,"
answered Chilo; "but I found Glaucus among them."  "Of what art thou
speaking, and who is Glaucus?"  "Thou hast forgotten, lord, it seems,
that old man with whom I journeyed from Naples to Rome, and in whose
defence I lost these two fingers,--a loss which prevents me from
writing.  Robbers, who bore away his wife and child, stabbed him with a
knife.  I left him dying at an inn in Minturna, and bewailed him long.
Alas!  I have convinced myself that he is alive yet, and belongs in Rome
to the Christian community."

Vinicius, who could not understand what the question was, understood
only that Glaucus was becoming a hindrance to the discovery of Lygia;
hence he suppressed his rising anger, and said,--"If thou didst defend
him, he should be thankful and help thee."

"Ah! worthy tribune, even gods are not always grateful, and what must
the case be with men?  True, he should be thankful.  But, unhappily, he
is an old man, of a mind weak and darkened by age and disappointment;
for which reason, not only is he not grateful, but, as I learned from
his co-religionists, he accuses me of having conspired with the robbers,
and says that I am the cause of his misfortunes.  That is the recompense
for my fingers!"

"Scoundrel!  I am certain that it was as he says," replied Vinicius.

"Then thou knowest more than he does, lord, for he only surmises that it
was so; which, however, would not prevent him from summoning the
Christians, and from revenging himself on me cruelly.  He would have
done that undoubtedly, and others, with equal certainty, would have
helped him; but fortunately he does not know my name, and in the house
of prayer where we met, he did not notice me.  I, however, knew him at
once, and at the first moment wished to throw myself on his neck.
Wisdom, however, and the habit of thinking before every step which I
intend to take, restrained me.  Therefore, on issuing from the house of
prayer, I inquired concerning him, and those who knew him declared that
he was the man who had been betrayed by his comrade on the journey from
Naples.  Otherwise I should not have known that he gives out such a
story."

"How does this concern me?  Tell what thou sawest in the house of
prayer."

"It does not concern thee, lord, but it concerns me just as much as my
life.  Since I wish that my wisdom should survive me, I would rather
renounce the reward which thou hast offered, than expose my life for
empty lucre; without which, I as a true philosopher shall be able to
live and seek divine wisdom."

But Vinicius approached him with an ominous countenance, and began in a
suppressed voice,--"Who told thee that death would meet thee sooner at
the hands of Glaucus than at mine?  Whence knowest thou, dog, that I
will not have thee buried right away in my garden?"

Chilo, who was a coward, looked at Vinicius, and in the twinkle of an
eye understood that one more unguarded word and he was lost beyond
redemption.

"I will search for her, lord, and I will find her!" cried he, hurriedly.

Silence followed, during which were heard the quick breathing of
Vinicius, and the distant song of slaves at work in the garden.

Only after a while did the Greek resume his speech, when he noticed that
the young patrician was somewhat pacified.

"Death passed me, but I looked on it with the calmness of Socrates.  No,
lord, I have not said that I refuse to search for the maiden; I desired
merely to tell thee that search for her is connected now with great
peril to me.  On a time thou didst doubt that there was a certain
Euricius in the world, and though thou wert convinced by thine own eyes
that the son of my father told the truth to thee, thou hast suspicions
now that I have invented Glaucus.  Ah! would that he were only a
fiction, that I might go among the Christians with perfect safety, as I
went some time since; I would give up for that the poor old slave woman
whom I bought, three days since, to care for my advanced age and maimed
condition.  But Glaucus is living, lord; and if he had seen me once,
thou wouldst not have seen me again, and in that case who would find the
maiden?"

Here he was silent again, and began to dry his tears.

"But while Glaucus lives," continued he, "how can I search for her?--for
I may meet him at any step; and if I meet him I shall perish, and with
me will cease all my searching."

"What art thou aiming at?  What help is there?  What dost thou wish to
undertake?" inquired Vinicius.

"Aristotle teaches us, lord, that less things should be sacrificed for
greater, and King Priam said frequently that old age was a grievous
burden.  Indeed, the burden of old age and misfortune weighs upon
Glaucus this long time, and so heavily that death would be to him a
benefit.  For what is death, according to Seneca, but liberation?"

"Play the fool with Petronius, not with me!  Tell what thy desire is."

"If virtue is folly, may the gods permit me to be a fool all my life. I
desire, lord, to set aside Glaucus, for while he is living my life and
searches are in continual peril."

"Hire men to beat him to death with clubs; I will pay them."

"They will rob thee, lord, and afterward make profit of the secret.
There are as many ruffians in Rome as grains of sand in the arena, but
thou wilt not believe how dear they are when an honest man needs to
employ their villainy.  No, worthy tribune!  But if watchmen catch the
murderers in the act?  They would tell, beyond doubt, who hired them,
and then thou wouldst have trouble.  They will not point to me, for I
shall not give my name.  Thou art doing ill not to trust in me, for,
setting aside my keenness, remember that there is a question of two
other things,--of my life, and the reward which thou has promised me."

"How much dost thou need?"

"A thousand sestertia, for turn attention to this, that I must find
honest ruffians, men who when they have received earnest money, will not
take it off without a trace.  For good work there must be good pay!
Something might be added, too, for my sake, to wipe away the tears which
I shall shed out of pity for Glaucus.  I take the gods to witness how I
love him.  If I receive a thousand sestertia to-day, two days hence his
soul will be in Hades; and then, if souls preserve memory and the gift
of thought, he will know for the first time how I loved him.  I will
find people this very day, and tell them that for each day of the life
of Glaucus I will withhold one hundred sestertia.  I have, besides, a
certain idea, which seems to me infallible."

Vinicius promised him once more the desired sum, forbidding him to
mention Glaucus again; but asked what other news he brought, where he
had been all the time, what he had seen, and what he had discovered.
But Chilo was not able to tell much.  He had been in two more houses of
prayer,--had observed each person carefully, especially the women,--but
had seen no one who resembled Lygia: the Christians, however, looked on
him as one of their own sect, and, since he redeemed the son of
Euricius, they honored him as a man following in the steps of "Christ."
He had learned from them, also, that a great lawgiver of theirs, a
certain Paul of Tarsus, was in Rome, imprisoned because of charges
preferred by the Jews, and with this man he had resolved to become
acquainted. But most of all was he pleased by this,--that the supreme
priest of the whole sect, who had been Christ's disciple, and to whom
Christ had confided government over the whole world of Christians, might
arrive in Rome any moment.  All the Christians desired evidently to see
him, and hear his teachings.  Some great meetings would follow, at which
he, Chilo, would be present; and what is more, since it is easy to hide
in the crowd, he would take Vinicius to those meetings.  Then they would
find Lygia certainly.  If Glaucus were once set aside, it would not be
connected even with great danger.  As to revenge, the Christians, too,
would revenge but in general they were peaceful people.

Here Chilo began to relate, with a certain surprise, that he had never
seen that they gave themselves up to debauchery, that they poisoned
wells or fountains, that they were enemies of the human race, worshipped
an ass, or ate the flesh of children.  No; he had seen nothing of that
sort.  Certainly he would find among them even people who would hide
away Glaucus for money; but their religion, as far as he knew, did not
incite to crime,--on the contrary, it enjoined forgiveness of offences.

Vinicius remembered what Pomponia had said to him at Acte's, and in
general he listened to Chilo's words with pleasure.  Though his feeling
for Lygia assumed at times the seeming of hatred, he felt a relief when
he heard that the religion which she and Pomponia confessed was neither
criminal nor repulsive.  But a species of undefined feeling rose in him
that it was just that reverence for Christ, unknown and mysterious,
which created the difference between himself and Lygia; hence he began
at once to fear that religion and to hate it.




Chapter XVII


FOR Chilo, it was really important to set aside Glaucus, who, though
advanced in years, was by no means decrepit.  There was considerable
truth in what Chilo had narrated to Vinicius.  He had known Glaucus on a
time, he had betrayed him, sold him to robbers, deprived him of family,
of property, and delivered him to murder.  But he bore the memory of
these events easily, for he had thrown the man aside dying, not at an
inn, but in a field near Minturna.  This one thing he had not foreseen,
that Glaucus would be cured of his wounds and come to Rome.  When he saw
him, therefore, in the house of prayer, he was in truth terrified, and
at the first moment wished to discontinue the search for Lygia.  But on
the other hand, Vinicius terrified him still more.  He understood that
he must choose between the fear of Glaucus, and the pursuit and
vengeance of a powerful patrician, to whose aid would come, beyond
doubt, another and still greater, Petronius.  In view of this, Chilo
ceased to hesitate.  He thought it better to have small enemies than
great ones, and, though his cowardly nature trembled somewhat at bloody
methods, he saw the need of killing Glaucus through the aid of other
hands.

At present the only question with him was the choice of people, and to
this he was turning that thought of which he had made mention to
Vinicius.  Spending his nights in wine-shops most frequently, and
lodging in them, among men without a roof, without faith or honor, he
could find persons easily to undertake any task, and still more easily
others who, if they sniffed coin on his person, would begin, but when
they had received earnest money, would extort the whole sum by
threatening to deliver him to justice.  Besides, for a certain time past
Chilo had felt a repulsion for nakedness, for those disgusting and
terrible figures lurking about suspected houses in the Subura or in the
Trans-Tiber.  Measuring everything with his own measure, and not having
fathomed sufficiently the Christians or their religion, he judged that
among them, too, he could find willing tools.  Since they seemed more
reliable than others, he resolved to turn to them and present the affair
in such fashion that they would undertake it, not for money's sake
merely, but through devotion.

In view of this, he went in the evening to Euricius, whom he knew as
devoted with whole soul to his person, and who, he was sure, would do
all in his power to assist him.  Naturally cautious, Chilo did not even
dream of revealing his real intentions, which would be in clear
opposition, moreover, to the faith which the old man had in his piety
and virtue.  He wished to find people who were ready for anything, and
to talk with them of the affair only in such a way that, out of regard
to themselves, they would guard it as an eternal secret.

The old man Euricius, after the redemption of his son, hired one of
those little shops so numerous near the Circus Maximus, in which were
sold olives, beans, unleavened paste, and water sweetened with honey, to
spectators coming to the Circus.  Chilo found him at home arranging his
shop; and when he had greeted him in Christ's name, he began to speak of
the affair which had brought him. Since he had rendered them a service,
he considered that they would pay him with gratitude.  He needed two or
three strong and courageous men, to ward off danger threatening not only
him, but all Christians.  He was poor, it was true, since he had given
to Euricius almost all that he owned; still he would pay such men for
their services if they would trust him and perform faithfully what he
commanded.

Euricius and his son Quartus listened to him as their benefactor almost
on their knees.  Both declared that they were ready themselves to do all
that he asked of them, believing that a man so holy could not ask for
deeds inconsistent with the teaching of Christ.

Chilo assured them that that was true, and, raising his eyes to heaven,
he seemed to be praying; in fact, he was thinking whether it would not
be well to accept their proposal, which might save him a thousand
sestertia.  But after a moment of thought he rejected it.  Euricius was
an old man, perhaps not so much weighted by years as weakened by care
and disease.  Quartus was sixteen years of age.  Chilo needed dexterous,
and, above all, stalwart men.  As to the thousand sestertia, he
considered that--thanks to the plan which he had invented--he would be
able in every case to spare a large part of it.

They insisted for some time, but when he refused decisively they
yielded.

"I know the baker Demas," said Quartus, "in whose mills slaves and hired
men are employed.  One of those hired men is so strong that he would
take the place, not of two, but of four.  I myself have seen him lift
stones from the ground which four men could not stir."

"If that is a God-fearing man, who can sacrifice himself for the
brotherhood, make me acquainted with him," said Chilo.

"He is a Christian, lord," answered Quartus; "nearly all who work for
Demas are Christians.  He has night as well as day laborers; this man is
of the night laborers.  Were we to go now to the mill, we should find
them at supper, and thou mightest speak to him freely. Demas lives near
the Emporium."

Chilo consented most willingly.  The Emporium was at the foot of the
Aventine, hence not very far from the Circus Maximus.  It was possible,
without going around the hill, to pass along the river through the
Porticus Æmilia, which would shorten the road considerably.

"I am old," said Chilo, when they went under the Colonnade; "at times I
suffer effacement of memory.  Yes, though our Christ was betrayed by one
of his disciples, the name of the traitor I cannot recall at this
moment--"

"Judas, lord, who hanged himself," answered Quartus, wondering a little
in his soul how it was possible to forget that name.

"Oh, yes--Judas!  I thank thee," said Chilo.

And they went on some time in silence.  When they came to the Emporium,
which was closed, they passed it, and going around the storehouse, from
which grain was distributed to the populace, they turned toward the
left, to houses which stretched along the Via Ostiensis, up to the Mons
Testaceus and the Forum Pistorium. There they halted before a wooden
building, from the interior of which came the noise of millstones.
Quartus went in; but Chilo, who did not like to show himself to large
numbers of people, and was in continual dread that some fate might bring
him to meet Glaucus, remained outside.

"I am curious about that Hercules who serves in a mill," said he to
himself, looking at the brightly shining moon.  "If he is a scoundrel
and a wise man, he will cost me something; if a virtuous Christian and
dull, he will do what I want without money."

Further meditation was interrupted by the return of Quartus, who issued
from the building with a second man, wearing only a tunic called
"exomis," cut in such fashion that the right arm and right breast were
exposed.  Such garments, since they left perfect freedom of movement,
were used especially by laborers.  Chilo, when he saw the man coming,
drew a breath of satisfaction, for he had not seen in his life such an
arm and such a breast.

"Here, lord," said Quartus, "is the brother whom it was thy wish to
see."

"May the peace of Christ be with thee!" answered Chilo.  "Do thou,
Quartus, tell this brother whether I deserve faith and trust, and then
return in the name of God; for there is no need that thy gray-haired
father should be left in loneliness."

"This is a holy man," said Quartus, "who gave all his property to redeem
me from slavery,--me, a man unknown to him.  May our Lord the Saviour
prepare him a heavenly reward therefor!"

The gigantic laborer, hearing this, bent down and kissed Chilo's hand.

"What is thy name, brother?" inquired the Greek.

"At holy baptism, father, the name Urban was given me."

"Urban, my brother, hast thou time to talk with me freely?"

"Our work begins at midnight, and only now are they preparing our
supper."

"Then there is time sufficient.  Let us go to the river; there thou wilt
hear my words."

They went, and sat on the embankment, in a silence broken only by the
distant sound of the millstones and the plash of the onflowing river.
Chilo looked into the face of the laborer, which, notwithstanding a
somewhat severe and sad expression, such as was usual on faces of
barbarians living in Rome, seemed to him kind and honest.

"This is a good-natured, dull man who will kill Glaucus for nothing,"
thought Chilo.

"Urban," inquired he then, "dost thou love Christ?"

"I love him from the soul of my heart," said the laborer.

"And thy brethren and sisters, and those who taught thee truth and faith
in Christ?"

"I love them, too, father."

"Then may peace be with thee!"

"And with thee, father!"

Again silence set in, but in the distance the millstones were roaring,
and the river was plashing below the two men.

Chilo looked with fixed gaze into the clear moonlight, and with a slow,
restrained voice began to speak of Christ's death.  He seemed not as
speaking to Urban, but as if recalling to himself that death, or some
secret which he was confiding to the drowsy city.  There was in this,
too, something touching as well as impressive.  The laborer wept; and
when Chilo began to groan and complain that in the moment of the
Saviour's passion there was no one to defend him, if not from
crucifixion, at least from the insults of Jews and soldiers, the
gigantic fists of the barbarian began to squeeze from pity and
suppressed rage.  The death only moved him; but at thought of that
rabble reviling the Lamb nailed to the cross, the simple soul in him was
indignant, and a wild desire of vengeance seized the man.

"Urban, dost thou know who Judas was?" asked Chilo, suddenly.

"I know, I know!--but he hanged himself!" exclaimed the laborer.

And in his voice there was a kind of sorrow that the traitor had meted
out punishment to himself, and that Judas could not fall into his hands.

"But if he had not hanged himself," continued Chilo, "and if some
Christian were to meet him on land or on sea, would it not be the duty
of that Christian to take revenge for the torment, the blood, and the
death of the Saviour?"

"Who is there who would not take revenge, father?"

"Peace be with thee, faithful servant of the Lamb!  True, it is
permitted to forgive wrongs done ourselves; but who has the right to
forgive a wrong done to God?  But as a serpent engenders a serpent, as
malice breeds malice, and treason breeds treason, so from the poison of
Judas another traitor has come; and as that one delivered to Jews and
Roman soldiers the Saviour, so this man who lives among us intends to
give Christ's sheep to the wolves; and if no one will anticipate the
treason, if no one will crush the head of the serpent in time,
destruction is waiting for us all, and with us will perish the honor of
the Lamb."

The laborer looked at Chilo with immense alarm, as if not understanding
what he had heard.  But the Greek, covering his head with a corner of
his mantle, began to repeat, with a voice coming as if from beneath the
earth,--"Woe to you, servants of the true God! woe to you, Christian men
and Christian women!"

And again came silence, again were heard only the roar of the
millstones, the deep song of the millers, and the sound of the river.

"Father," asked the laborer at last, "what kind of traitor is that?"

Chilo dropped his head.  "What kind of traitor?  A son of Judas, a son
of his poison, a man who pretends to be a Christian, and goes to houses
of prayer only to complain of the brotherhood to Cæsar,--declaring that
they will not recognize Cæsar as a god; that they poison fountains,
murder children, and wish to destroy the city, so that one stone may not
remain on another.  Behold! in a few days a command will be given to the
pretorians to cast old men, women, and children into prison, and lead
them to death, just as they led to death the slaves of Pedanius
Secundus.  All this has been done by that second Judas.  But if no one
punished the first Judas, if no one took vengeance on him, if no one
defended Christ in the hour of torment, who will punish this one, who
will destroy the serpent before Cæsar hears him, who will destroy him,
who will defend from destruction our brothers in the faith of Christ?"

Urban, who had been sitting thus far on a stone, stood up on a sudden,
and said,--"I will, father."

Chilo rose also; he looked for a while on the face of the laborer,
lighted up by the shining of the moon, then, stretching his arm, he put
his hand slowly on his head.

"Go among Christians," said he, with solemnity; "go to the houses of
prayer, and ask the brethren about Glaucus; and when they show him to
thee, slay him at once in Christ's name!"

"About Glaucus?" repeated the laborer, as if wishing to fix that name in
his memory.

"Dost thou know him?"

"No, I do not.  There are thousands of Christians in Rome, and they are
not all known to one another.  But to-morrow, in Ostrianum, brethren and
sisters will assemble in the night to the last soul, because a great
apostle of Christ has come, who will teach them, and the brethren will
point out to me Glaucus."

"In Ostrianum?" inquired Chilo.  "But that is outside the city gates!
The brethren and all the sisters,--at night?  Outside the city gates, in
Ostrianum?"

"Yes, father; that is our cemetery, between the Viæ Salaria and
Nomentana.  Is it not known to thee that the Great Apostle will teach
there?"

"I have been two days from home, hence I did not receive his epistle;
and I do not know where Ostrianum is, for I came here not long since
from Corinth, where I govern a Christian community. But it is as thou
sayest,--there thou wilt find Glaucus among the brethren, and thou wilt
slay him on the way home to the city.  For this all thy sins will be
forgiven.  And now peace be with thee--"

"Father--"

"I listen to thee, servant of the Lamb."

On the laborer's face perplexity was evident.  Not long before he had
killed a man, and perhaps two, but the teaching of Christ forbids
killing.  He had not killed them in his own defence, for even that is
not permitted.  He had not killed them, Christ preserve! for profit.
The bishop himself had given him brethren to assist, but had not
permitted him to kill; he had killed inadvertently, for God had punished
him with too much strength.  And now he was doing grievous penance.
Others sing when the millstones are grinding; but he, hapless man, is
thinking of his sin, of his offence against the Lamb.  How much has he
prayed already and wept?  How much has he implored the Lamb?  And he
feels that he has not done penance enough yet!  But now he has promised
again to kill a traitor,--and done well!  He is permitted to pardon only
offences against himself; hence he will kill Glaucus, even before the
eyes of all the brethren and sisters, in Ostrianum to-morrow.  But let
Glaucus be condemned previously by the elders among the brethren, by the
bishop, or by the Apostle.  To kill is not a great thing; to kill a
traitor is even as pleasant as to kill a bear or a wolf. But suppose
Glaucus to perish innocently?  How take on his conscience a new murder,
a new sin, a new offence against the Lamb?

"There is no time for a trial, my son," said Chilo.  "The traitor will
hurry from Ostrianum straightway to Cæsar in Antium, or hide in the
house of a certain patrician whom he is serving.  I will give thee a
sign; if thou show it after the death of Glaucus, the bishop and the
Great Apostle will bless thy deed."

Saying this, he took out a small coin, and began to search for a knife
at his belt; having found it, he scratched with the point on the
sestertium the sign of the cross; this coin he gave to the laborer.

"Here is the sentence of Glaucus, and a sign for thee.  If thou show
this to the bishop after the death of Glaucus, he will forgive thee the
killing which thou hast done without wishing it."

The laborer stretched out his hand involuntarily for the coin; but
having the first murder too freshly in his memory just then, he
experienced a feeling of terror.

"Father," said he with a voice almost of entreaty, "dost thou take this
deed on thy conscience, and hast thou thyself heard Glaucus betraying
his brethren?"

Chilo understood that he must give proofs, mention names, otherwise
doubt might creep into the heart of the giant.  All at once a happy
thought flashed through his head.

"Listen, Urban," said he, "I dwell in Corinth, but I came from Kos; and
here in Rome I instruct in the religion of Christ a certain serving
maiden named Eunice.  She serves as vestiplica in the house of a friend
of Cæsar, a certain Petronius.  In that house I have heard how Glaucus
has undertaken to betray all the Christians; and, besides, he has
promised another informer of Cæsar's, Vinicius, to find a certain maiden
for him among the Christians."

Here he stopped and looked with amazement at the laborer, whose eyes
blazed suddenly like the eyes of a wild beast, and his face took on an
expression of mad rage and threat.

"What is the matter with thee?" asked Chilo, almost in fear.

"Nothing, father; to-morrow I will kill Glaucus."

The Greek was silent.  After a while he took the arm of the laborer,
turned him so that the light of the moon struck his face squarely, and
examined him with care.  It was evident that he was wavering in spirit
whether to inquire further and bring everything out with clearness, or
for that time to stop with what he had learned or surmised.

At last, however, his innate caution prevailed.  He breathed deeply once
and a second time; then, placing his hand on the laborer's head again,
he asked, in an emphatic and solemn voice,--"But in holy baptism the
name Urban was given thee?"

"It was, father."

"Then peace be with thee, Urban!"




Chapter XVIII

PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:


"Thy case is a bad one, carissime.  It is clear that Venus has disturbed
thy mind, deprived thee of reason and memory, as well as the power to
think of aught else except love.  Read some time thy answer to my
letter, and thou wilt see how indifferent thy mind is to all except
Lygia; how exclusively it is occupied with her, how it returns to her
always, and circles above her, as a falcon above chosen prey.  By
Pollux! find her quickly, or that of thee which fire has not turned into
ashes will become an Egyptian sphinx, which, enamored, as 'tis said, of
pale Isis, grew deaf and indifferent to all things, waiting only for
night, so as to gaze with stony eyes at the loved one.

"Run disguised through the city in the evening, even honor Christian
houses of prayer in thy philosopher's company.  Whatever excites hope
and kills time is praiseworthy.  But for my friendship's sake do this
one thing:  Ursus, Lygia's slave, is a man of uncommon strength very
likely; hire Croton, and go out three together; that will be safer and
wiser. The Christians, since Pomponia and Lygia belong to them, are
surely not such scoundrels as most people imagine. But when a lamb of
their flock is in question they are no triflers, as they have shown by
carrying away Lygia.  When thou seest Lygia thou wilt not restrain
thyself, I am sure, and wilt try to bear her away on the spot.  But how
wilt thou and Chilonides do it?  Croton would take care of himself, even
though ten like Ursus defended the maiden. Be not plundered by Chilo,
but be not sparing of money on Croton. Of all counsels which I can give
this is the best one.

"Here they have ceased to speak of the infant Augusta, or to say that
she perished through witchcraft.  Poppæa mentions her at times yet; but
Cæsar's mind is stuffed with something else. Moreover, if it be true
that the divine Augusta is in a changed state again, the memory of that
child will be blown away without trace. We have been in Naples for some
days, or rather in Baiæ.  If thou art capable of any thought, echoes of
our life must strike thy ear, for surely Rome talks of naught else.  We
went directly to Baiæ, where at first memories of the mother attacked
us, and reproaches of conscience.  But dost thou know to what
Ahenobarbus has gone already?  To this, that for him even the murder of
his mother is a mere theme for verses, and a reason for buffoonish
tragic scenes.

"Formerly he felt real reproaches only in so far as he was a coward;
now, when he is convinced that the earth is under his feet as before,
and that no god is taking vengeance, he feigns them only to move people
by his fate.  He springs up at night sometimes declaring that the Furies
are hunting him; he rouses us, looks around, assumes the posture of an
actor playing the role of Orestes, and the posture of a bad actor too;
he declaims Greek verses, and looks to see if we are admiring him.  We
admire him apparently; and instead of saying to him, Go to sleep, thou
buffoon! we bring ourselves also to the tone of tragedy, and protect the
great artist from the Furies.  By Castor! this news at least must have
reached thee, that he has appeared in public at Naples.  They drove in
from the city and the surrounding towns all the Greek ruffians, who
filled the arena with such a vile odor of sweat and garlic that I thank
the gods that, instead of sitting in the first rows with the Augustians,
I was behind the scenes with Ahenobarbus.  And wilt thou believe it, he
was afraid really!  He took my hand and put it to his heart, which was
beating with increased pulsation; his breath was short; and at the
moment when he had to appear he grew as pale as a parchment, and his
forehead was covered with drops of sweat.  Still he saw that in every
row of seats were pretorians, armed with clubs, to rouse enthusiasm if
the need came.  But there was no need.  No herd of monkeys from the
environs of Carthage could howl as did this rabble.  I tell thee that
the smell of garlic came to the stage; but Nero bowed, pressed his hand
to his heart, sent kisses from his lips, and shed tears.  Then he rushed
in among us, who were waiting behind the scenes, like a drunken man,
crying, 'What were the triumphs of Julius compared with this triumph of
mine?' But the rabble was howling yet and applauding, knowing that it
would applaud to itself favors, gifts, banquets, lottery tickets, and a
fresh exhibition by the Imperial buffoon.  I do not wonder that they
applauded, for such a sight had not been seen till that evening.  And
every moment he repeated: 'See what the Greeks are! see what the Greeks
are!' From that evening it has seemed to me that his hatred for Rome is
increasing.  Meanwhile special couriers were hurried to Rome announcing
the triumph, and we expect thanks from the Senate one of these days.
Immediately after Nero's first exhibition, a strange event happened
here.  The theatre fell in on a sudden, but just after the audience had
gone.  I was there, and did not see even one corpse taken from the
ruins.  Many, even among the Greeks, see in this event the anger of the
gods, because the dignity of Cæsar was disgraced; he, on the contrary,
finds in it favor of the gods, who have his song, and those who listen
to it, under their evident protection.  Hence there are offerings in all
the temples, and great thanks.  For Nero it is a great encouragement to
make the journey to Achæa. A few days since he told me, however, that he
had doubts as to what the Roman people might say; that they might revolt
out of love for him, and fear touching the distribution of grain and
touching the games, which might fail them in case of his prolonged
absence.

"We are going, however, to Beneventum to look at the cobbler
magnificence which Vatinius will exhibit, and thence to Greece, under
the protection of the divine brothers of Helen.  As to me, I have noted
one thing, that when a man is among the mad he grows mad himself, and,
what is more, finds a certain charm in mad pranks.  Greece and the
journey in a thousand ships; a kind of triumphal advance of Bacchus
among nymphs and bacchantes crowned with myrtle, vine, and honeysuckle;
there will be women in tiger skins harnessed to chariots; flowers,
thyrses, garlands, shouts of 'Evoe!' music, poetry, and applauding
Hellas.  All this is well; but we cherish besides more daring projects.
We wish to create a species of Oriental Imperium,--an empire of palm-
trees, sunshine, poetry, and reality turned into a dream, reality turned
into the delight of life only.  We want to forget Rome; to fix the
balancing point of the world somewhere between Greece, Asia, and Egypt;
to live the life not of men but of gods; not to know what commonness is;
to wander in golden galleys under the shadow of purple sails along the
Archipelago; to be Apollo, Osiris, and Baal in one person; to be rosy
with the dawn, golden with the sun, silver with the moon; to command, to
sing, to dream.  And wilt thou believe that I, who have still sound
judgment to the value of a sestertium, and sense to the value of an as,
let myself be borne away by these fantasies, and I do this for the
reason that, if they are not possible, they are at least grandiose and
uncommon?  Such a fabulous empire would be a thing which, some time or
other, after long ages, would seem a dream to mankind.  Except when
Venus takes the form of Lygia, or even of a slave Eunice, or when art
beautifies it, life itself is empty, and many a time it has the face of
a monkey.  But Bronzebeard will not realize his plans, even for this
cause, that in his fabulous kingdom of poetry and the Orient no place is
given to treason, meanness, and death; and that in him with the poses of
a poet sits a wretched comedian, a dull charioteer, and a frivolous
tyrant.  Meanwhile we are killing people whenever they displease us in
any way.  Poor Torquatus Silanus is now a shade; he opened his veins a
few days since.  Lecanius and Licinus will enter on the consulate with
terror.  Old Thrasea will not escape death, for he dares to be honest.
Tigellinus is not able yet to frame a command for me to open my veins.
I am still needed not only as elegantiæ arbiter, but as a man without
whose counsel and taste the expedition to Achæa might fail.  More than
once, however, I think that sooner or later it must end in opening my
veins; and knowest thou what the question will be then with me?--that
Bronzebeard should not get my goblet, which thou knowest and admirest.
Shouldst thou be near at the moment of my death, I will give it to thee;
shouldst thou be at a distance, I will break it. But meanwhile I have
before me yet Beneventum of the cobblers and Olympian Greece; I have
Fate too, which, unknown and unforeseen, points out the road to every
one.

"Be well, and engage Croton; otherwise they will snatch Lygia from thee
a second time.  When Chilonides ceases to be needful, send him to me
wherever I may be.  Perhaps I shall make him a second Vatinius, and
consuls and senators may tremble before him yet, as they trembled before
that knight Dratevka.  It would be worth while to live to see such a
spectacle.  When thou hast found Lygia, let me know, so that I may offer
for you both a pair of swans and a pair of doves in the round temple of
Venus here.  Once I saw Lygia in a dream, sitting on thy knee, seeking
thy kisses.  Try to make that dream prophetic.  May there be no clouds
on thy sky; or if there be, let them have the color and the odor of
roses!  Be in good health; and farewell!"




Chapter XIX


BARELY had Vinicius finished reading when Chilo pushed quietly into his
library, unannounced by any one, for the servants had the order to admit
him at every hour of the day or night.

"May the divine mother of thy magnanimous ancestor Æneas be full of
favor to thee, as the son of Maia was kind to me."

"What dost thou mean?" asked Vinicius, springing from the table at which
he was sitting.

Chilo raised his head and said, "Eureka!"

The young patrician was so excited that for a long time he could not
utter a word.

"Hast thou seen her?" asked he, at last.

"I have seen Ursus, lord, and have spoken with him."

"Dost thou know where they are secreted?"

"No, lord.  Another, through boastfulness, would have let the Lygian
know that he divined who he was; another would have tried to extort from
him the knowledge of where he lived, and would have received either a
stroke of the fist,--after which all earthly affairs would have become
indifferent to him,--or he would have roused the suspicion of the giant
and caused this,--that a new hiding-place would be found for the girl,
this very night perhaps.  I did not act thus.  It suffices me to know
that Ursus works near the Emporium, for a miller named Demas, the same
name as that borne by thy freedman; now any trusted slave of thine may
go in the morning on his track, and discover their hiding place.  I
bring thee merely the assurance that, since Ursus is here, the divine
Lygia also is in Rome, and a second news that she will be in Ostrianum
to-night, almost certainly--"

"In Ostrianum?  Where is that?" interrupted Vinicius, wishing evidently
to run to the place indicated.

"An old hypogeum between the Viæ Salaria and Nomentana.  That pontifex
maximus of the Christians, of whom I spoke to thee, and whom they
expected somewhat later, has come, and to-night he will teach and
baptize in that cemetery.  They hide their religion, for, though there
are no edicts to prohibit it as yet, the people hate them, so they must
be careful.  Ursus himself told me that all, to the last soul, would be
in Ostrianum to-night, for every one wishes to see and hear him who was
the foremost disciple of Christ, and whom they call Apostle.  Since
among them women hear instruction as well as men, Pomponia alone perhaps
of women will not be there; she could not explain to Aulus, a worshipper
of the ancient gods, her absence from home at night.  But Lygia, lord,
who is under the care of Ursus and the Christian elders, will go
undoubtedly with other women."

Vinicius, who had lived hitherto in a fever, and upheld as it were, by
hope alone, now that his hope seemed fulfilled felt all at once the
weakness that a man feels after a journey which has proved beyond his
strength.  Chilo noticed this, and resolved to make use of it.

"The gates are watched, it is true, by thy people, and the Christians
must know that.  But they do not need gates.  The Tiber, too, does not
need them; and though it is far from the river to those roads, it is
worth while to walk one road more to see the 'Great Apostle.' Moreover
they may have a thousand ways of going beyond the walls, and I know that
they have.  In Ostrianum thou wilt find Lygia; and even should she not
be there, which I will not admit, Ursus will be there, for he has
promised to kill Glaucus.  He told me himself that he would be there,
and that he would kill him. Dost hear, noble tribune?  Either thou wilt
follow Ursus and learn where Lygia dwells, or thou wilt command thy
people to seize him as a murderer, and, having him in thy hand, thou
wilt make him confess where he has hidden Lygia.  I have done my best!
Another would have told thee that he had drunk ten cantars of the best
wine with Ursus before he wormed the secret out of him; another would
have told thee that he had lost a thousand sestertia to him in scriptœ
duodecim, or that he had bought the intelligence for two thousand; I
know that thou wouldst repay me doubly, but in spite of that, once in my
life--I mean, as always in my life--I shall be honest, for I think, as
the magnanimous Petronius says, that thy bounty exceeds all my hopes and
expectations."

Vinicius, who was a soldier and accustomed not only to take counsel of
himself in all cases, but to act, was overcome by a momentary weakness
and said,--"Thou wilt not deceive thyself as to my liberality, but first
thou wilt go with me to Ostrianum."

"I, to Ostrianum?" inquired Chilo, who had not the least wish to go
there.  "I, noble tribune, promised thee to point out Lygia, but I did
not promise to take her away for thee.  Think, lord, what would happen
to me if that Lygian bear, when he had torn Glaucus to pieces, should
convince himself straightway that he had torn him not altogether
justly?  Would he not look on me (of course without reason) as the cause
of the accomplished murder?  Remember, lord, that the greater
philosopher a man is, the more difficult it is for him to answer the
foolish questions of common people; what should I answer him were he to
ask me why I calumniated Glaucus?  But if thou suspect that I deceive
thee, I say, pay me only when I point out the house in which Lygia
lives; show me to-day only a part of thy liberality, so that if thou,
lord (which may all the gods ward from thee), succumb to some accident,
I shall not be entirely without recompense.  Thy heart could not endure
that."

Vinicius went to a casket called "area," standing on a marble pedestal,
and, taking out a purse, threw it to Chilo.

"There are scrupula," said he; "when Lygia shall be in my house, thou
wilt get the same full of aurei."

"Thou art Jove!" exclaimed Chilo.

But Vinicius frowned.

"Thou wilt receive food here," said he; "then thou mayest rest. Thou
wilt not leave this house till evening, and when night falls thou wilt
go with me to Ostrianum."

Fear and hesitation were reflected on the Greek's face for a time; but
afterward he grew calm, and said,--"Who can oppose thee, lord!  Receive
these my words as of good omen, just as our great hero received words
like them in the temple of Ammon.  As to me, these 'scruples'" (here he
shook the purse) "have outweighed mine, not to mention thy society,
which for me is delight and happiness."

Vinicius interrupted him impatiently, and asked for details of his
conversation with Ursus.  From them it seemed clear that either Lygia's
hiding-place would be discovered that night, or he would be able to
seize her on the road back from Ostrianum.  At thought of this, Vinicius
was borne away by wild delight.  Now, when he felt clearly sure of
finding Lygia, his anger against her, and his feeling of offence almost
vanished.  In return for that delight he forgave her every fault.  He
thought of her only as dear and desired, and he had the same impression
as if she were returning after a long journey.  He wished to summon his
slaves and command them to deck the house with garlands.  In that hour
he had not a complaint against Ursus, even.  He was ready to forgive all
people everything.  Chilo, for whom, in spite of his  services, he had
felt hitherto a certain repulsion, seemed to him for the first time an
amusing and also an uncommon person.  His house grew radiant; his eyes
and his face became bright.  He began again to feel youth and the
pleasure of life.  His former gloomy suffering had not given him yet a
sufficient measure of how he loved Lygia.  He understood this now for
the first time, when he hoped to possess her.  His desires woke in him,
as the earth, warmed by the sun, wakes in spring; but his desires this
time were less blind and wild, as it were, and more joyous and tender.
He felt also within himself energy without bounds, and was convinced
that should he but see Lygia with his own eyes, all the Christians on
earth could not take her from him, nor could Cæsar himself.

Chilo, emboldened by the young tribune's delight, regained power of
speech and began to give advice.  According to him, it behooved Vinicius
not to look on the affair as won, and to observe the greatest caution,
without which all their work might end in nothing.  He implored Vinicius
not to carry off Lygia from Ostrianum.  They ought to go there with
hoods on their heads, with their faces hidden, and restrict themselves
to looking at all who were present from some dark corner.  When they saw
Lygia, it would be safest to follow her at a distance, see what house
she entered, surround it next morning at daybreak, and take her away in
open daylight.  Since she was a hostage and belonged specially to Cæsar,
they might do that without fear of law.  In the event of not finding her
in Ostrianum they could follow Ursus, and the result would be the same.
To go to the cemetery with a crowd of attendants was impracticable,--
that might draw attention to them easily; then the Christians need only
put out the lights, as they did when she was intercepted, and scatter in
the darkness, or betake themselves to places known to them only.  But
Vinicius and he should arm, and, still better, take a couple of strong,
trusty men to defend them in case of need.

Vinicius saw the perfect truth of what he said, and, recalling
Petronius's counsel, commanded his slaves to bring Croton.  Chilo, who
knew every one in Rome, was set at rest notably when he heard the name
of the famous athlete, whose superhuman strength in the arena he had
wondered at more than once, and he declared that he would go to
Ostrianum.  The purse filled with great aurei seemed to him much easier
of acquisition through the aid of Croton.

Hence he sat down in good spirits at the table to which, after a time,
he was called by the chief of the atrium.

While eating, he told the slaves that he had obtained for their master a
miraculous ointment.  The worst horse, if rubbed on the hoofs with it,
would leave every other far behind.  A certain Christian had taught him
how to prepare that ointment, for the Christian elders were far more
skilled in enchantment and miracles than even the Thessalians, though
Thessaly was renowned for its witches.  The Christians had immense
confidence in him--why, any one easily understands who knows what a fish
means.  While speaking he looked sharply at the eyes of the slaves, in
the hope of discovering a Christian among them and informing Vinicius.
But when the hope failed him, he fell to eating and drinking uncommon
quantities, not sparing praises on the cook, and declaring that he would
endeavor to buy him of Vinicius.  His joyfulness was dimmed only by the
thought that at night he must go to Ostrianum.  He comforted himself,
however, as he would go in disguise, in darkness, and in the company of
two men, one of whom was so strong that he was the idol of Rome; the
other a patrician, a man of high dignity in the army.  "Even should they
discover Vinicius," said he to himself, "they will not dare to raise a
hand on him; as to me, they will be wise if they see the tip of my nose
even."

He fell then to recalling his conversation with the laborer; and the
recollection of that filled him again with delight.  He had not the
least doubt that that laborer was Ursus.  He knew of the uncommon
strength of the man, from the narratives of Vinicius, and those who had
brought Lygia from Cæsar's palace.  When he inquired of Euricius
touching men of exceptional strength, there was nothing remarkable in
this, that they pointed out Ursus.  Then the confusion and rage of the
laborer at mention of Vinicius and Lygia left him no doubt that those
persons concerned him particularly; the laborer had mentioned also his
penance for killing a man,--Ursus had killed Atacinus; finally, the
appearance of the laborer answered perfectly to the account which
Vinicius had given of the Lygian. The change of name was all that could
provoke doubt, but Chilo knew that frequently Christians took new names
at baptism.

"Should Ursus kill Glaucus," said Chilo to himself, "that will be better
still; but should he not kill him, that will be a good sign, for it will
show how difficult it is for Christians to murder.  I described Glaucus
as a real son of Judas, and a traitor to all Christians; I was so
eloquent that a stone would have been moved, and would have promised to
fall on the head of Glaucus.  Still I hardly moved that Lygian bear to
put his paw on him.  He hesitated, was unwilling, spoke of his penance
and compunction.  Evidently murder is not common among them.  Offences
against one's self must be forgiven, and there is not much freedom in
taking revenge for others.  Ergo, stop! think, Chilo, what can threaten
thee?  Glaucus is not free to avenge himself on thee.  If Ursus will not
kill Glaucus for such a great crime as the betrayal of all Christians,
so much the more will he not kill thee for the small offence of
betraying one Christian.  Moreover, when I have once pointed out to this
ardent wood-pigeon the nest of that turtle-dove, I will wash my hands of
everything, and transfer myself to Naples.  The Christians talk, also,
of a kind of washing of the hands; that is evidently a method by which,
if a man has an affair with them, he may finish it decisively.  What
good people these Christians are, and how ill men speak of them!  O God!
such is the justice of this world.  But I love that religion, since it
does not permit killing; but if it does not permit killing, it certainly
does not permit stealing, deceit, or false testimony; hence I will not
say that it is easy.  It teaches, evidently, not only to die honestly,
as the Stoics teach, but to live honestly also.  If ever I have property
and a house, like this, and slaves in such numbers as Vinicius, perhaps
I shall be a Christian as long as may be convenient.  For a rich man can
permit himself everything, even virtue.  This is a religion for the
rich; hence I do not understand how there are so many poor among its
adherents. What good is it for them, and why do they let virtue tie
their hands?  I must think over this sometime.  Meanwhile praise to
thee, Hermes! for helping me discover this badger.  But if thou hast
done so for the two white yearling heifers with gilded horns, I know
thee not.  Be ashamed, O slayer of Argos! such a wise god as thou, and
not foresee that thou wilt get nothing!  I will offer thee my gratitude;
and if thou prefer two beasts to it, thou art the third beast thyself,
and in the best event thou shouldst be a shepherd, not a god.  Have a
care, too, lest I, as a philosopher, prove to men that thou art non-
existent, and then all will cease to bring thee offerings.  It is safer
to be on good terms with philosophers."

Speaking thus to himself and to Hermes, he stretched on the sofa, put
his mantle under his head, and was sleeping when the slave removed the
dishes.  He woke,--or rather they roused him,--only at the coming of
Croton.  He went to the atrium, then, and began to examine with pleasure
the form of the trainer, an ex-gladiator, who seemed to fill the whole
place with his immensity.  Croton had stipulated as to the price of the
trip, and was just speaking to Vinicius.

"By Hercules! it is well, lord," said he, "that thou hast sent to-day
for me, since I shall start to-morrow for Beneventum, whither the noble
Vatinius has summoned me to make a trial, in presence of Cæsar, of a
certain Syphax, the most powerful negro that Africa has ever produced.
Dost thou imagine, lord, how his spinal column will crack in my arms, or
how besides I shall break his black jaw with my fist?"

"By Pollux!  Croton, I am sure that thou wilt do that," answered
Vinicius.

"And thou wilt act excellently," added Chilo.  "Yes, to break his jaw,
besides!  That's a good idea, and a deed which befits thee.  But rub thy
limbs with olive oil to-day, my Hercules, and gird thyself, for know
this, you mayst meet a real Cacus.  The man who is guarding that girl in
whom the worthy Vinicius takes interest, has exceptional strength very
likely."

Chilo spoke thus only to rouse Croton's ambition.

"That is true," said Vinicius; "I have not seen him, but they tell me
that he can take a bull by the horns and drag him wherever he pleases."

"Oi!" exclaimed Chilo, who had not imagined that Ursus was so strong.
But Croton laughed, from contempt.  "I undertake, worthy lord," said he,
"to bear away with this hand whomever thou shalt point out to me, and
with this other defend myself against seven such Lygians, and bring the
maiden to thy dwelling though all the Christians in Rome were pursuing
me like Calabrian wolves.  If not, I will let myself be beaten with
clubs in this impluvium."

"Do not permit that, lord," cried Chilo.  "They will hurl stones at us,
and what could his strength effect?  Is it not better to take the girl
from the house,--not expose thyself or her to destruction?"

"This is true, Croton," said Vinicius.

"I receive thy money, I do thy will!  But remember, lord, that to-morrow
I go to Beneventum."

"I have five hundred slaves in the city," answered Vinicius.

He gave them a sign to withdraw, went to the library himself, and
sitting down wrote the following words to Petronius,--

"The Lygian has been found by Chilo.  I go this evening with him and
Croton to Ostrianum, and shall carry her off from the house to-night or
to-morrow.  May the gods pour down on thee everything favorable.  Be
well, O carissime! for joy will not let me write further."

Laying aside the reed then, he began to walk with quick step; for
besides delight, which was overflowing his soul, he was tormented with
fever.  He said to himself that to-morrow Lygia would be in that house.
He did not know how to act with her, but felt that if she would love him
he would be her servant.  He recalled Acte's assurance that he had been
loved, and that moved him to the uttermost.  Hence it would be merely a
question of conquering a certain maiden modesty, and a question of
certain ceremonies which Christian teaching evidently commanded.  But if
that were true, Lygia, when once in his house, would yield to persuasion
or superior force; she would have to say to herself, "It has happened!"
and then she would be amiable and loving.

But Chilo appeared and interrupted the course of these pleasant
thoughts.  "Lord," said the Greek, "this is what has come to my head.
Have not the Christians signs, 'passwords,' without which no one will be
admitted to Ostrianum?  I know that it is so in houses of prayer, and I
have received those passwords from Euricius; permit me then to go to
him, lord, to ask precisely, and receive the needful signs."

"Well, noble sage," answered Vinicius, gladly; "thou speakest as a man
of forethought, and for that praise belongs to thee.  Thou wit go, then,
to Euricius, or whithersoever it may please thee; but as security thou
wilt leave on this table here that purse which thou hast received from
me."

Chilo, who always parted with money unwillingly, squirmed; still he
obeyed the command and went out.  From the Carinæ to the Circus, near
which was the little shop of Euricius, it was not very far; hence he
returned considerably before evening.

"Here are the signs, lord.  Without them they would not admit us.  I
have inquired carefully about the road.  I told Euricius that I needed
the signs only for my friends; that I would not go myself, since it was
too far for my advanced age; that, moreover, I should see the Great
Apostle myself to-morrow, and he would repeat to me the choicest parts
of his sermon."

"How!  Thou wilt not be there?  Thou must go!" said Vinicius.

"I know that I must; but I will go well hooded, and I advise thee to go
in like manner, or we may frighten the birds."

In fact they began soon to prepare, for darkness had come on the world.
They put on Gallic cloaks with hoods, and took lanterns; Vinicius,
besides, armed himself and his companions with short, curved knives;
Chilo put on a wig, which he obtained on the way from the old man's
shop, and they went out, hurrying so as to reach the distant Nomentan
Gate before it was closed.




Chapter XX


THEY went through the Vicus Patricius, along the Viminal to the former
Viminal gate, near the plain on which Diocletian afterward built
splendid baths.  They passed the remains of the wall of Servius Tullius,
and through places more and more deserted they reached the Via
Nomentana; there, turning to the left, towards the Via Salaria, they
found themselves among hills full of sand-pits, and here and there they
found graveyards.

Meanwhile it had grown dark completely, and since the moon had not risen
yet, it would have been rather difficult for them to find the road were
it not that the Christians themselves indicated it, as Chilo foresaw.

In fact, on the right, on the left, and in front, dark forms were
evident, making their way carefully toward sandy hollows.  Some of these
people carried lanterns,--covering them, however, as far as possible
with mantles; others, knowing the road better, went in the dark.  The
trained military eye of Vinicius distinguished, by their movements,
younger men from old ones, who walked with canes, and from women,
wrapped carefully in long mantles.  The highway police, and villagers
leaving the city, took those night wanderers, evidently, for laborers,
going to sand-pits; or grave-diggers, who at times celebrated ceremonies
of their own in the night-time.  In proportion, however, as the young
patrician and his attendants pushed forward, more and more lanterns
gleamed, and the number of persons grew greater.  Some of them sang
songs in low voices, which to Vinicius seemed filled with sadness.  At
moments a separate word or a phrase of the song struck his ear, as, for
instance, "Awake, thou that sleepest," or "Rise from the dead"; at
times, again, the name of Christ was repeated by men and women.

But Vinicius turned slight attention to the words, for it came to his
head that one of those dark forms might be Lygia.  Some, passing near,
said, "Peace be with thee!" or "Glory be to Christ!" but disquiet seized
him, and his heart began to beat with more life, for it seemed to him
that he heard Lygia's voice.  Forms or movements like hers deceived him
in the darkness every moment, and only when he had corrected mistakes
made repeatedly did he begin to distrust his own eyes.

The way seemed long to him.  He knew the neighborhood exactly, but could
not fix places in the darkness.  Every moment they came to some narrow
passage, or piece of wall, or booths, which he did not remember as being
in the vicinity of the city.  Finally the edge of the moon appeared from
behind a mass of clouds, and lighted the place better than dim lanterns.
Something from afar began at last to glimmer like a fire, or the flame
of a torch.  Vinicius turned to Chilo.

"Is that Ostrianum?" asked he.

Chilo, on whom night, distance from the city, and those ghostlike forms
made a deep impression, replied in a voice somewhat uncertain,--"I know
not, lord; I have never been in Ostrianum. But they might praise God in
some spot nearer the city."

After a while, feeling the need of conversation, and of strengthening
his courage, he added,--"They come together like murderers; still they
are not permitted to murder, unless that Lygian has deceived me
shamefully."

Vinicius, who was thinking of Lygia, was astonished also by the caution
and mysteriousness with which her co-religionists assembled to hear
their highest priest; hence he said,--"Like all religions, this has its
adherents in the midst of us; but the Christians are a Jewish sect.  Why
do they assemble here, when in the Trans-Tiber there are temples to
which the Jews take their offerings in daylight?"

"The Jews, lord, are their bitterest enemies.  I have heard that, before
the present Cæsar's time, it came to war, almost, between Jews and
Christians.  Those outbreaks forced Claudius Cæsar to expell all the
Jews, but at present that edict is abolished.  The Christians, however,
hide themselves from Jews, and from the populace, who, as is known to
thee, accuse them of crimes and hate them."

They walked on some time in silence, till Chilo, whose fear increased as
he receded from the gates, said,--"When returning from the shop of
Euricius, I borrowed a wig from a barber, and have put two beans in my
nostrils.  They must not recognize me; but if they do, they will not
kill me.  They are not malignant!  They are even very honest.  I esteem
and love them."

"Do not win them to thyself by premature praises," retorted Vinicius.

They went now into a narrow depression, closed, as it were, by two
ditches on the side, over which an aqueduct was thrown in one place.
The moon came out from behind clouds, and at the end of the depression
they saw a wall, covered thickly with ivy, which looked silvery in the
moonlight.  That was Ostrianum.

Vinicius's heart began to beat now with more vigor.  At the gate two
quarryrnen took the signs from them.  In a moment Vinicius and his
attendants were in a rather spacious place enclosed on all sides by a
wall.  Here and there were separate monuments, and in the centre was the
entrance to the hypogeum itself, or crypt.  In the lower part of the
crypt, beneath the earth, were graves; before the entrance a fountain
was playing.  But it was evident that no very large number of persons
could find room in the hypogeum; hence Vinicius divined without
difficulty that the ceremony would take place outside, in the space
where a very numerous throng was soon gathered.

As far as the eye could reach, lantern gleamed near lantern, but many of
those who came had no light whatever.  With the exception of a few
uncovered heads, all were hooded, from fear of treason or the cold; and
the young patrician thought with alarm that, should they remain thus, he
would not be able to recognize Lygia in that crowd and in the dim light.

But all at once, near the crypt, some pitch torches were ignited and put
into a little pile.  There was more light.  After a while the crowd
began to sing a certain strange hymn, at first in a low voice, and then
louder.  Vinicius had never heard such a hymn before.  The same yearning
which had struck him in the hymns murmured by separate persons on the
way to the cemetery, was heard now in that, but with far more
distinctness and power; and at last it became as penetrating and immense
as if together with the people, the whole cemetery, the hills, the pits,
and the region about, had begun to yearn.  It might seem, also, that
there was in it a certain calling in the night, a certain humble prayer
for rescue in wandering and darkness.

Eyes turned upward seemed to see some one far above, there on high, and
outstretched hands seemed to implore him to descend. When the hymn
ceased, there followed a moment as it were of suspense,--so impressive
that Vinicius and his companions looked unwittingly toward the stars, as
if in dread that something uncommon would happen, and that some one
would really descend to them.

Vinicius had seen a multitude of temples of most various structure in
Asia Minor, in Egypt, and in Rome itself; he had become acquainted with
a multitude of religions, most varied in character, and had heard many
hymns; but here, for the first time, he saw people calling on a divinity
with hymns,--not to carry out a fixed ritual, but calling from the
bottom of the heart, with the genuine yearning which children might feel
for a father or a mother.  One had to be blind not to see that those
people not merely honored their God, but loved him with the whole soul.
Vinicius had not seen the like, so far, in any land, during any
ceremony, in any sanctuary; for in Rome and in Greece those who still
rendered honor to the gods did so to gain aid for themselves or through
fear; but it had not even entered any one's head to love those
divinities.

Though his mind was occupied with Lygia, and his attention with seeking
her in the crowd, he could not avoid seeing those uncommon and wonderful
things which were happening around him.  Meanwhile a few more torches
were thrown on the fire, which filled the cemetery with ruddy light and
darkened the gleam of the lanterns.  That moment an old man, wearing a
hooded mantle but with a bare head, issued from the hypogeum.  This man
mounted a stone which lay near the fire.

The crowd swayed before him. Voices near Vinicius whispered, "Peter!
Peter!"  Some knelt, others extended their hands toward him.  There
followed a silence so deep that one heard every charred particle that
dropped from the torches, the distant rattle of wheels on the Via
Nomentana, and the sound of wind through the few pines which grew close
to the cemetery.

Chilo bent toward Vinicius and whispered,--"This is he!  The foremost
disciple of Christ-a fisherman!"

The old man raised his hand, and with the sign of the cross blessed
those present, who fell on their knees simultaneously.  Vinicius and his
attendants, not wishing to betray themselves, followed the example of
others.  The young man could not seize his impressions immediately, for
it seemed to him that the form which he saw there before him was both
simple and uncommon, and, what was more, the uncommonness flowed just
from the simplicity.  The old man had no mitre on his head, no garland
of oak-leaves on his temples, no palm in his hand, no golden tablet on
his breast, he wore no white robe embroidered with stars; in a word, he
bore no insignia of the kind worn by priests--Oriental, Egyptian, or
Greek--or by Roman flamens.  And Vinicius was struck by that same
difference again which he felt when listening to the Christian hymns;
for that "fisherman," too, seemed to him, not like some high priest
skilled in ceremonial, but as it were a witness, simple, aged, and
immensely venerable, who had journeyed from afar to relate a truth which
he had seen, which he had touched, which he believed as he believed in
existence, and he had come to love this truth precisely because he
believed it.  There was in his face, therefore, such a power of
convincing as truth itself has.  And Vinicius, who had been a sceptic,
who did not wish to yield to the charm of the old man, yielded, however,
to a certain feverish curiosity to know what would flow from the lips of
that companion of the mysterious "Christus," and what that teaching was
of which Lygia and Pomponia Græcina were followers.

Meanwhile Peter began to speak, and he spoke from the beginning like a
father instructing his children and teaching them how to live. He
enjoined on them to renounce excess and luxury, to love poverty, purity
of life, and truth, to endure wrongs and persecutions patiently, to obey
the government and those placed above them, to guard against treason,
deceit, and calumny; finally, to give an example in their own society to
each other, and even to pagans.

Vinicius, for whom good was only that which could bring back to him
Lygia, and evil everything which stood as a barrier between them, was
touched and angered by certain of those counsels.  It seemed to him that
by enjoining purity and a struggle with desires the old man dared, not
only to condemn his love, but to rouse Lygia against him and confirm her
in opposition.  He understood that if she were in the assembly listening
to those words, and if she took them to heart, she must think of him as
an enemy of that teaching and an outcast.

Anger seized him at this thought.  "What have I heard that is new?"
thought he.  "Is this the new religion?  Every one knows this, every one
has heard it.  The Cynics enjoined poverty and a restriction of
necessities; Socrates enjoined virtue as an old thing and a good one;
the first Stoic one meets, even such a one as Seneca, who has five
hundred tables of lemon-wood, praises moderation, enjoins truth,
patience in adversity, endurance in misfortune,--and all that is like
stale, mouse-eaten grain; but people do not wish to eat it because it
smells of age."

And besides anger, he had a feeling of disappointment, for he expected
the discovery of unknown, magic secrets of some kind, and thought that
at least he would hear a rhetor astonishing by his eloquence; meanwhile
he heard only words which were immensely simple, devoid of every
ornament.  He was astonished only by the mute attention with which the
crowd listened.

But the old man spoke on to those people sunk in listening,--told them
to be kind, poor, peaceful, just, and pure; not that they might have
peace during life, but that they might live eternally with Christ after
death, in such joy and such glory, in such health and delight, as no one
on earth had attained at any time.  And here Vinicius, though
predisposed unfavorably, could not but notice that still there was a
difference between the teaching of the old man and that of the Cynics,
Stoics, and other philosophers; for they enjoin good and virtue as
reasonable, and the only thing practical in life, while he promised
immortality, and that not some kind of hapless immortality beneath the
earth, in wretchednes, emptiness, and want, but a magnificent life,
equal to that of the gods almost.  He spoke meanwhile of it as of a
thing perfectly certain; hence, in view of such a faith, virtue acquired
a value simply measureless, and the misfortunes of this life became
incomparably trivial.  To suffer temporally for inexhaustible happiness
is a thing absolutely different from suffering because such is the order
of nature.  But the old man said further that virtue and truth should be
loved for themselves, since the highest eternal good and the virtue
existing before ages is God; whoso therefore loves them loves God, and
by that same becomes a cherished child of His.

Vinicius did not understand this well, but he knew previously, from
words spoken by Pomponia Græcina to Petronius, that, according to the
belief of Christians, God was one and almighty; when, therefore, he
heard now again that He is all good and all just, he thought
involuntarily that, in presence of such a demiurge, Jupiter, Saturn,
Apollo, Juno, Vesta, and Venus would seem like some vain and noisy
rabble, in which all were interfering at once, and each on his or her
own account.

But the greatest astonishment seized him when the old man declared that
God was universal love also; hence he who loves man fulfils God's
supreme command.  But it is not enough to love men of one's own nation,
for the God-man shed his blood for all, and found among pagans such
elect of his as Cornelius the Centurion; it is not enough either to love
those who do good to us, for Christ forgave the Jews who delivered him
to death, and the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross, we should
not only forgive but love those who injure us, and return them good for
evil; it is not enough to love the good, we must love the wicked also,
since by love alone is it possible to expel from them evil.

Chilo at these words thought to himself that his work had gone for
nothing, that never in the world would Ursus dare to kill Glaucus,
either that night or any other night.  But he comforted himself at once
by another inference from the teaching of the old man; namely, that
neither would Glaucus kill him, though he should discover and recognize
him.

Vinicius did not think now that there was nothing new in the words of
the old man, but with amazement he asked himself: "What kind of God is
this, what kind of religion is this, and what kind of people are these?"
All that he had just heard could not find place in his head simply.  For
him all was an unheard-of medley of ideas.  He felt that if he wished,
for example, to follow that teaching, he would have to place on a
burning pile all his thoughts, habits, and character, his whole nature
up to that moment, burn them into ashes, and then fill himself with a
life altogether different, and an entirely new soul.  To him the science
or the religion which commanded a Roman to love Parthians, Syrians,
Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, and Britons, to forgive enemies, to return
them good for evil, and to love them, seemed madness.  At the same time
he had a feeling that in that madness itself there was something
mightier than all philosophies so far.  He thought that because of its
madness it was impracticable, but because of its impracticability it was
divine.  In his soul he rejected it; but he felt that he was parting as
if from a field full of spikenard, a kind of intoxicating incense; when
a man has once breathed of this he must, as in the land of the lotus-
eaters, forget all things else ever after, and yearn for it only.

It seemed to him that there was nothing real in that religion, but that
reality in presence of it was so paltry that it deserved not the time
for thought.  Expanses of some kind, of which hitherto he had not had a
suspicion, surrounded him,--certain immensities, certain clouds.  That
cemetery began to produce on him the impression of a meeting-place for
madmen, but also of a place mysterious and awful, in which, as on a
mystic bed, something was in progress of birth the like of which had not
been in the world so far.  He brought before his mind all that, which
from the first moment of his speech, the old man had said touching life,
truth, love, God; and his thoughts were dazed from the brightness, as
the eyes are blinded from lightning flashes which follow each other
unceasingly.

As is usual with people for whom life has been turned into one single
passion, Vinicius thought of all this through the medium of his love for
Lygia; and in the light of those flashes he saw one thing distinctly,
that if Lygia was in the cemetery, if she confessed that religion,
obeyed and felt it, she never could and never would be his mistress.

For the first time, then, since he had made her acquaintance at Aulus's,
Vinicius felt that though now he had found her he would not get her.
Nothing similar had come to his head so far, and he could not explain it
to himself then, for that was not so much an express understanding as a
dim feeling of irreparable loss and misfortune.  There rose in him an
alarm, which was turned soon into a storm of anger against the
Christians in general, and against the old man in particular.  That
fisherman, whom at the first cast of the eye he considered a peasant,
now filled him with fear almost, and seemed some mysterious power
deciding his fate inexorably and therefore tragically.

The quarrymen again, unobserved, added torches to the fire; the wind
ceased to sound in the pines; the flame rose evenly, with a slender
point toward the stars, which were twinkling in a clear sky. Having
mentioned the death of Christ, the old man talked now of Him only.  All
held the breath in their breasts, and a silence set in which was deeper
than the preceding one, so that it was possible almost to hear the
beating of hearts.  That man had seen! and he narrated as one in whose
memory every moment had been fixed in such a way that were he to close
his eyes he would see yet.  He told, therefore, how on their return from
the Cross he and John had sat two days and nights in the supper-chamber,
neither sleeping nor eating, in suffering, in sorrow, in doubt, in
alarm, holding their heads in their hands, and thinking that He had
died.  Oh, how grievous, how grievous that was!  The third day had
dawned and the light whitened the walls, but he and John were sitting in
the chamber, without hope or comfort.  How desire for sleep tortured
them (for they had spent the night before the Passion without sleep)!
They roused themselves then, and began again to lament. But barely had
the sun risen when Mary of Magdala, panting, her hair dishevelled,
rushed in with the cry, "They have taken away the Lord!"  When they
heard this, he and John sprang up and ran toward the sepulchre.  But
John, being younger, arrived first; he saw the place empty, and dared
not enter.  Only when there were three at the entrance did he, the
person now speaking to them, enter, and find on the stone a shirt with a
winding sheet; but the body he found not.

Fear fell on them then, because they thought that the priests had borne
away Christ, and both returned home in greater grief still. Other
disciples came later and raised a lament, now in company, so that the
Lord of Hosts might hear them more easily, and now separately and in
turn.  The spirit died within them, for they had hoped that the Master
would redeem Israel, and it was now the third day since his death; hence
they did not understand why the Father had deserted the Son, and they
preferred not to look at the daylight, but to die, so grievous was the
burden.

The remembrance of those terrible moments pressed even then from the
eyes of the old man two tears, which were visible by the light of the
fire, coursing down his gray beard.  His hairless and aged head was
shaking, and the voice died in his breast.

"That man is speaking the truth and is weeping over it," said Vinicius
in his soul.  Sorrow seized by the throat the simple-hearted listeners
also.  They had heard more than once of Christ's sufferings, and it was
known to them that joy succeeded sorrow; but since an apostle who had
seen it told this, they wrung their hands under the impression, and
sobbed or beat their breasts.

But they calmed themselves gradually, for the wish to hear more gained
the mastery.  The old man closed his eyes, as if to see distant things
more distinctly in his soul, and continued,--"When the disciples had
lamented in this way, Mary of Magdala rushed in a second time, crying
that she had seen the Lord.  Unable to recognize him, she thought him
the gardener: but He said, 'Mary!' She cried 'Rabboni!' and fell at his
feet.  He commanded her to go to the disciples, and vanished.  But they,
the disciples, did not believe her; and when she wept for joy, some
upbraided her, some thought that sorrow had disturbed her mind, for she
said, too, that she had seen angels at the grave, but they, running
thither a second time, saw the grave empty.  Later in the evening
appeared Cleopas, who had come with another from Emmaus, and they
returned quickly, saying:  'The Lord has indeed risen!' And they
discussed with closed doors, out of fear of the Jews.  Meanwhile He
stood among them, though the doors had made no sound, and when they
feared, He said, 'Peace be with you!'

"And I saw Him, as did all, and He was like light, and like the
happiness of our hearts, for we believed that He had risen from the
dead, and that the seas will dry and the mountains turn to dust, but His
glory will not pass.

"After eight days Thomas Didymus put his finger in the Lord's wounds and
touched His side; Thomas fell at His feet then, and cried, 'My Lord and
my God!'  'Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are
they who have not seen and have believed!' said the Lord.  And we heard
those words, and our eyes looked at Him, for He was among us."

Vinicius listened, and something wonderful took place in him.  He forgot
for a moment where he was; he began to lose the feeling of reality, of
measure, of judgment.  He stood in the presence of two impossibilities.
He could not believe what the old man said; and he felt that it would be
necessary either to be blind or renounce one's own reason, to admit that
that man who said "I saw" was lying. There was something in his
movements, in his tears, in his whole figure, and in the details of the
events which he narrated, which made every suspicion impossible.  To
Vinicius it seemed at moments that he was dreaming.  But round about he
saw the silent throng; the odor of lanterns came to his nostrils; at a
distance the torches were blazing; and before him on the stone stood an
aged man near the grave, with a head trembling somewhat, who, while
bearing witness, repeated, "I saw!"

And he narrated to them everything up to the Ascension into heaven.  At
moments he rested, for he spoke very circumstantially; but it could be
felt that each minute detail had fixed itself in his memory, as a thing
is fixed in a stone into which it has been engraved.  Those who listened
to him were seized by ecstasy.  They threw back their hoods to hear him
better, and not lose a word of those which for them were priceless.  It
seemed to them that some superhuman power had borne them to Galilee;
that they were walking with the disciples through those groves and on
those waters; that the cemetery was turned into the lake of Tiberius;
that on the bank, in the mist of morning, stood Christ, as he stood when
John, looking from the boat, said, "It is the Lord," and Peter cast
himself in to swim, so as to fall the more quickly at the beloved feet.
In the faces of those present were evident enthusiasm beyond bounds,
oblivion of life, happiness, and love immeasurable.  It was clear that
during Peter's long narrative some of them had visions. When he began to
tell how, at the moment of Ascension, the clouds closed in under the
feet of the Saviour, covered Him, and hid Him from the eyes of the
Apostles, all heads were raised toward the sky unconsciously, and a
moment followed as it were of expectation, as if those people hoped to
see Him or as if they hoped that He would descend again from the fields
of heaven, and see how the old Apostle was feeding the sheep confided to
him, and bless both the flock and him.

Rome did not exist for those people, nor did the man Cæsar; there were
no temples of pagan gods; there was only Christ, who filled the land,
the sea, the heavens, and the world.

At the houses scattered here and there along the Via Nomentana, the
cocks began to crow, announcing midnight.  At that moment Chilo pulled
the corner of Vinicius's mantle and whispered,--"Lord, I see Urban over
there, not far from the old man, and with him is a maiden."

Vinicius shook himself, as if out of a dream, and, turning in the
direction indicated by the Greek, he saw Lygia.




Chapter XXI


EVERY drop of blood quivered in the young patrician at sight of her.  He
forgot the crowd, the old man, his own astonishment at the
incomprehensible things which he had heard,--he saw only her. At last,
after all his efforts, after long days of alarm, trouble, and suffering,
he had found her!  For the first time he realized that joy might rush at
the heart, like a wild beast, and squeeze it till breath was lost.  He,
who had supposed hitherto that on "Fortuna" had been imposed a kind of
duty to accomplish all his wishes, hardly believed his own eyes now and
his own happiness.  Were it not for that disbelief, his passionate
nature might have urged him to some unconsidered step; but he wished to
convince himself first that that was not the continuation of those
miracles with which his head was filled, and that he was not dreaming.
But there was no doubt,--he saw Lygia, and an interval of barely a few
steps divided them. She stood in perfect light, so that he could rejoice
in the sight of her as much as he liked.  The hood had fallen from her
head and dishevelled her hair; her mouth was open slightly, her eyes
raised toward the Apostle, her face fixed in listening and delighted.
She was dressed in a dark woollen mantle, like a daughter of the people,
but never had Vinicius seen her more beautiful; and notwithstanding all
the disorder which had risen in him, he was struck by the nobility of
that wonderful patrician head in distinction to the dress, almost that
of a slave.  Love flew over him like a flame, immense, mixed with a
marvellous feeling of yearning, homage, honor, and desire.  He felt the
delight which the sight of her caused him; he drank of her as of life-
giving water after long thirst.  Standing near the gigantic Lygian, she
seemed to him smaller than before, almost a child; he noticed, too, that
she had grown more slender.  Her complexion had become almost
transparent; she made on him the impression of a flower, and a spirit.
But all the more did he desire to possess that woman, so different from
all women whom he had seen or possessed in Rome or the Orient.  He felt
that for her he would have given them all, and with them Rome and the
world in addition.

He  would have lost himself in gazing, and forgotten himself altogether,
had it not been for Chilo, who pulled the corner of his mantle, out of
fear that he might do something to expose them to danger.  Meanwhile the
Christians began to pray and sing.  After a while Maranatha thundered
forth, and then the Great Apostle baptized with water from the fountain
those whom the presbyters presented as ready for baptism.  It seemed to
Vinicius that that night would never end.  He wished now to follow Lygia
as soon as possible, and seize her on the road or at her house.

At last some began to leave the cemetery, and Chilo whispered,--"Let us
go out before the gate, lord, we have not removed our hoods, and people
look at us."

Such was the case, for during the discourse of the Apostle all had cast
aside their hoods so as to hear better, and they had not followed the
general example.  Chilo's advice seemed wise, therefore.  Standing
before the gate, they could look at all who passed; Ursus it was easy to
recognize by his form and size.

"Let us follow them," said Chilo; "we shall see to what house they go.
To-morrow, or rather to-day, thou wilt surround the entrances with
slaves and take her."

"No!" said Vinicius.

"What dost thou wish to do, lord?"

"We will follow her to the house and take her now, if thou wilt
undertake that task, Croton?"

"I will," replied Croton, "and I will give myself to thee as a slave if
I do not break the back of that bison who is guarding her."

But Chilo fell to dissuading and entreating them by all the gods not to
do so.  Croton was taken only for defence against attack in case they
were recognized, not to carry off the girl.  To take her when there were
only two of them was to expose themselves to death, and, what was worse,
they might let her out of their hands, and then she would hide in
another place or leave Rome.  And what could they do?  Why not act with
certainty?  Why expose themselves to destruction and the whole
undertaking to failure?

Though Vinicius restrained himself with the greatest effort from seizing
Lygia in his arms at once, right there in the cemetery, he felt that the
Greek was right, and would have lent ear, perhaps, to his counsels, had
it not been for Croton, to whom reward was the question.

"Lord, command that old goat to be silent," said he, "or let me drop my
fist on his head.  Once in Buxentum, whither Lucius Saturnius took me to
a play, seven drunken gladiators fell on me at an inn, and none of them
escaped with sound ribs.  I do not say to take the girl now from the
crowd, for they might throw stones before our feet, but once she is at
home I will seize her, carry her away, and take her whithersoever thou
shalt indicate."

Vinicius was pleased to hear those words, and answered,--"Thus let it
be, by Hercules!  To-morrow we may not find her at home; if we surprise
them they will remove the girl surely."

"This Lygian seems tremendously strong!" groaned Chilo.

"No one will ask thee to hold his hands," answered Croton.

But they had to wait long yet, and the cocks had begun to crow before
dawn when they saw Ursus coming through the gate, and with him Lygia.
They were accompanied by a number of other persons.  It seemed to Chilo
that he recognized among them the Great Apostle; next to him walked
another old man, considerably lower in stature, two women who were not
young, and a boy, who lighted the way with a lantern.  After that
handful followed a crowd, about two hundred in number; Vinicius, Chilo,
and Croton walked with these people.

"Yes, lord," said Chilo, "thy maiden is under powerful protection. That
is the Great Apostle with her, for see how passing people kneel to him."

People did in fact kneel before him, but Vinicius did not look at them.
He did not lose Lygia from his eyes for a moment; he thought only of
bearing her away and, accustomed as he had been in wars to stratagems of
all sorts, he arranged in his head the whole plan of seizure with
soldierly precision.  He felt that the step on which he had decided was
bold, but he knew well that bold attacks give success generally.

The way was long; hence at moments he thought too of the gulf which that
wonderful religion had dug between him and Lygia. Now he understood
everything that had happened in the past, and why it had happened.  He
was sufficiently penetrating for that. Lygia he had not known hitherto.
He had seen in her a maiden wonderful beyond others, a maiden toward
whom his feelings were inflamed: he knew now that her religion made her
different from other women, and his hope that feeling, desire, wealth,
luxury, would attract her he knew now to be a vain illusion.  Finally he
understood this, which he and Petronius had not understood, that the new
religion ingrafted into the soul something unknown to that world in
which he lived, and that Lygia, even if she loved him, would not
sacrifice any of her Christian truths for his sake, and that, if
pleasure existed for her, it was a pleasure different altogether from
that which he and Petronius and Cæsar's court and all Rome were
pursuing.  Every other woman whom he knew might become his mistress, but
that Christian would become only his victim.  And when he thought of
this, he felt anger and burning pain, for he felt that his anger was
powerless.  To carry off Lygia seemed to him possible; he was almost
sure that he could take her, but he was equally sure that, in view of
her religion, he himself with his bravery was nothing, that his power
was nothing, and that through it he could effect nothing.  That Roman
military tribune, convinced that the power of the sword and the fist
which had conquered the world, would command it forever, saw for the
first time in life that beyond that power there might be something else;
hence he asked himself with amazement what it was.  And he could not
answer distinctly; through his head flew merely pictures of the
cemetery, the assembled crowd, and Lygia, listening with her whole soul
to the words of the old man, as he narrated the passion, death, and
resurrection of the God-man, who had redeemed the world, and promised it
happiness on the other shore of the Styx.

When he thought of this, chaos rose in his head.  But he was brought out
of this chaos by Chilo, who fell to lamenting his own fate.  He had
agreed to find Lygia.  He had sought for her in peril of his life, and
he had pointed her out.  But what more do they want? Had he offered to
carry the maiden away?  Who could ask anything like this of a maimed man
deprived of two fingers, an old man, devoted to meditation, to science,
and virtue?  What would happen were a lord of such dignity as Vinicius
to meet some mishap while bearing the maiden away?  It is true that the
gods are bound to watch over their chosen ones,--but have not such
things happened more than once, as if the gods were playing games
instead of watching what was passing in the world?  Fortune is
blindfold, as is well known, and does not see even in daylight; what
must the case be at night?  Let something happen,--let that Lygian bear
hurl a millstone at the noble Vinicius, or a keg of wine, or, still
worse, water,--who will give assurance that instead of a reward blame
will not fall on the hapless Chilo? He, the poor sage, has attached
himself to the noble Vinicius as Aristotle to Alexander of Macedon.  If
the noble lord should give him at least that purse which he had thrust
into his girdle before leaving home, there would be something with which
to invoke aid in case of need, or to influence the Christians.  Oh, why
not listen to the counsels of an old man, counsels dictated by
experience and prudence?

Vinicius, hearing this, took the purse from his belt, and threw it to
the fingers of Chilo.

"Thou hast it; be silent!"

The Greek felt that it was unusually heavy, and gained confidence.

"My whole hope is in this," said he, "that Hercules or Theseus performed
deeds still more arduous; what is my personal, nearest friend, Croton,
if not Hercules?  Thee, worthy lord, I will not call a demigod, for thou
art a full god, and in future thou wilt not forget a poor, faithful
servant, whose needs it will be necessary to provide for from time to
time, for once he is sunk in books, he thinks of nothing else; some few
stadia of garden land and a little house, even with the smallest
portico, for coolness in summer, would befit such a donor.  Meanwhile I
shall admire thy heroic deeds from afar, and invoke Jove to befriend
thee, and if need be I will make such an outcry that half Rome will be
roused to thy assistance.  What a wretched, rough road!  The olive oil
is burned out in the lantern; and if Croton, who is as noble as he is
strong, would bear me to the gate in his arms, he would learn, to begin
with, whether he will carry the maiden easily; second, he would act like
Æneas, and win all the good gods to such a degree that touching the
result of the enterprise I should be thoroughly satisfied."

"I should rather carry a sheep which died of mange a month ago,"
answered the gladiator; "but give that purse, bestowed by the worthy
tribune, and I will bear thee to the gate."

"Mayst thou knock the great toe from thy foot," replied the Greek; "what
profit hast thou from the teachings of that worthy old man, who
described poverty and charity as the two foremost virtues? Has he not
commanded thee expressly to love me?  Never shall I make thee, I see,
even a poor Christian; it would be easier for the sun to pierce the
walls of the Mamertine prison than for truth to penetrate thy skull of a
hippopotamus."

"Never fear!" said Croton, who with the strength of a beast had no human
feeling.  "I shall not be a Christian!  I have no wish to lose my
bread."

"But if thou knew even the rudiments of philosophy, thou wouldst know
that gold is vanity."

"Come to me with thy philosophy.  I will give thee one blow of my head
in the stomach; we shall see then who wins."

"An ox might have said the same to Aristotle," retorted Chilo.

It was growing gray in the world.  The dawn covered with pale light the
outlines of the walls.  The trees along the wayside, the buildings, and
the gravestones scattered here and there began to issue from the shade.
The road was no longer quite empty. Marketmen were moving toward the
gates, leading asses and mules laden with vegetables; here and there
moved creaking carts in which game was conveyed.  On the road and along
both sides of it was a light mist at the very earth, which promised good
weather. People at some distance seemed like apparitions in that mist.
Vinicius stared at the slender form of Lygia, which became more silvery
as the light increased.

"Lord," said Chilo, "I should offend thee were I to foresee the end of
thy bounty, but now, when thou hast paid me, I may not be suspected of
speaking for my own interest only.  I advise thee once more to go home
for slaves and a litter, when thou hast learned in what house the divine
Lygia dwells; listen not to that elephant trunk, Croton, who undertakes
to carry off the maiden only to squeeze thy purse as if it were a bag of
curds."

"I have a blow of the fist to be struck between the shoulders, which
means that thou wilt perish," said Croton.

"I have a cask of Cephalonian wine, which means that I shall be well,"
answered Chilo.

Vinicius made no answer, for he approached the gate, at which a
wonderful sight struck his eyes.  Two soldiers knelt when the Apostle
was passing; Peter placed his hand on their iron helmets for a moment,
and then made the sign of the cross on them.  It had never occurred to
the patrician before that there could be Christians in the army; with
astonishment he thought that as fire in a burning city takes in more and
more houses, so to all appearances that doctrine embraces new souls
every day, and extends itself over all human understandings.  This
struck him also with reference to Lygia, for he was convinced that, had
she wished to flee from the city, there would be guards willing to
facilitate her flight.  He thanked the gods then that this had not
happened.

After they had passed vacant places beyond the wall, the Christians
began to scatter.  There was need, therefore, to follow Lygia more from
a distance, and more carefully, so as not to rouse attention.  Chilo
fell to complaining of wounds, of pains in his legs, and dropped more
and more to the rear.  Vinicius did not oppose this, judging that the
cowardly and incompetent Greek would not be needed.  He would even have
permitted him to depart, had he wished; but the worthy sage was detained
by circumspection. Curiosity pressed him evidently, since he continued
behind, and at moments even approached with his previous counsels; he
thought too that the old man accompanying the Apostle might be Glaucus,
were it not for his rather low stature.

They walked a good while before reaching the Trans-Tiber, and the sun
was near rising when the group surrounding Lygia dispersed.  The
Apostle, an old woman, and a boy went up the river; the old man of lower
stature, Ursus, and Lygia entered a narrow vicus, and, advancing still
about a hundred yards, went into a house in which were two shops,--one
for the sale of olives, the other for poultry.

Chilo, who walked about fifty yards behind Vinicius and Croton, halted
all at once, as if fixed to the earth, and, squeezing up to the wall,
began to hiss at them to turn.

They did so, for they needed to take counsel.

"Go, Chilo," said Vinicius, "and see if this house fronts on another
street."  Chilo, though he had complained of wounds in his feet, sprang
away as quickly as if he had had the wings of Mercury on his ankles, and
returned in a moment.

"No," said he, "there is but one entrance."

Then, putting his hands together, he said, "I implore thee, lord, by
Jupiter, Apollo, Vesta, Cybele, Isis, Osiris, Mithra Baal, and all the
gods of the Orient and the Occident to drop this plan.  Listen to me--"

But he stopped on a sudden, for he saw that Vinicius's face was pale
from emotion, and that his eyes were glittering like the eyes of a wolf.
It was enough to look at him to understand that nothing in the world
would restrain him from the undertaking.  Croton began to draw air into
his herculean breast, and to sway his undeveloped skull from side to
side as bears do when confined in a cage, but on his face not the least
fear was evident.

"I will go in first," said he.

"Thou wilt follow me," said Vinicius, in commanding tones.

And after a while both vanished in the dark entrance.

Chilo sprang to the corner of the nearest alley and watched from behind
it, waiting for what would happen.




Chapter XXII


ONLY inside the entrance did Vinicius comprehend the whole difficulty of
the undertaking.  The house was large, of several stories, one of the
kind of which thousands were built in Rome, in view of profit from rent;
hence, as a rule, they were built so hurriedly and badly that scarcely a
year passed in which numbers of them did not fall on the heads of
tenants.  Real hives, too high and too narrow, full of chambers and
little dens, in which poor people fixed themselves too numerously.  In a
city where many streets had no names, those houses had no numbers; the
owners committed the collection of rent to slaves, who, not obliged by
the city government to give names of occupants, were ignorant themselves
of them frequently.  To find some one by inquiry in such a house was
often very difficult, especially when there was no gate-keeper.

Vinicius and Croton came to a narrow, corridor-like passage walled in on
four sides, forming a kind of common atrium for the whole house, with a
fountain in the middle whose stream fell into a stone basin fixed in the
ground.  At all the walls were internal stairways, some of stone, some
of wood, leading to galleries from which there were entrances to
lodgings.  There were lodgings on the ground, also; some provided with
wooden doors, others separated from the yard by woollen screens only.
These, for the greater part, were worn, rent, or patched.

The hour was early, and there was not a living soul in the yard.  It was
evident that all were asleep in the house except those who had returned
from Ostrianum.

"What shall we do, lord?" asked Croton, halting.

"Let us wait here; some one may appear," replied Vinicius.  "We should
not be seen in the yard."

At this moment, he thought Chilo's counsel practical.  If there were
some tens of slaves present, it would be easy to occupy the gate, which
seemed the only exit, search all the lodgings simultaneously, and thus
come to Lygia's; otherwise Christians, who surely were not lacking in
that house, might give notice that people were seeking her.  In view of
this, there was risk in inquiring of strangers.  Vinicius stopped to
think whether it would not be better to go for his slaves.  Just then,
from behind a screen hiding a remoter lodging, came a man with a sieve
in his hand, and approached the fountain.

At the first glance the young tribune recognized Ursus.

"That is the Lygian!" whispered Vinicius.

"Am I to break his bones now?"

"Wait awhile!"

Ursus did not notice the two men, as they were in the shadow of the
entrance, and he began quietly to sink in water vegetables which filled
the sieve.  It was evident that, after a whole night spent in the
cemetery, he intended to prepare a meal.  After a while the washing was
finished; he took the wet sieve and disappeared behind the screen.
Croton and Vinicius followed him, thinking that they would come directly
to Lygia's lodgings.  Their astonishment was great when they saw that
the screen divided from the court, not lodgings, but another dark
corridor, at the end of which was a little garden containing a few
cypresses, some myrtle bushes, and a small house fixed to the windowless
stone wall of another stone building.

Both understood at once that this was for them a favoring circumstance.
In the courtyard all the tenants might assemble; the seclusion of the
little house facilitated the enterprise.  They would set aside
defenders, or rather Ursus, quickly, and would reach the street just as
quickly with the captured Lygia; and there they would help themselves.
It was likely that no one would attack them; if attacked, they would say
that a hostage was fleeing from Cæsar. Vinicius would declare himself
then to the guards, and summon their assistance.

Ursus was almost entering the little house, when the sound of steps
attracted his attention; he halted, and, seeing two persons, put his
sieve on the balustrade and turned to them.

"What do ye want here?" asked he.

"Thee!" said Vinicius.

Then, turning to Croton, he said in a low, hurried voice:

"Kill!"

Croton rushed at him like a tiger, and in one moment, before the Lygian
was able to think or to recognize his enemies, Croton had caught him in
his arms of steel.

Vinicius was too confident in the man's preternatural strength to wait
for the end of the struggle.  He passed the two, sprang to the door of
the little house, pushed it open and found himself in a room a trifle
dark, lighted, however, by a fire burning in the chimney.  A gleam of
this fire fell on Lygia's face directly.  A second person, sitting at
the fire, was that old man who had accompanied the young girl and Ursus
on the road from Ostrianum.

Vinicius rushed in so suddenly that before Lygia could recognize him he
had seized her by the waist, and, raising her, rushed toward the door
again.  The old man barred the way, it is true; but pressing the girl
with one arm to his breast, Vinicius pushed him aside with the other,
which was free.  The hood fell from his head, and at sight of that face,
which was known to her and which at that moment was terrible, the blood
grew cold in Lygia from fright, and the voice died in her throat.  She
wished to summon aid, but had not the power.  Equally vain was her wish
to grasp the door, to resist. Her fingers slipped along the stone, and
she would have fainted but for the terrible picture which struck her
eyes when Vinicius rushed into the garden.

Ursus was holding in his arms some man doubled back completely, with
hanging head and mouth filled with blood.  When he saw them, he struck
the head once more with his fist, and in the twinkle of an eye sprang
toward Vinicius like a raging wild beast.

"Death!" thought the young patrician.

Then he heard, as through a dream, the scream of Lygia, "Kill not!"  He
felt that something, as it were a thunderbolt, opened the arms with
which he held Lygia; then the earth turned round with him, and the light
of day died in his eyes.


Chilo, hidden behind the angle of the corner house, was waiting for what
would happen, since curiosity was struggling with fear in him.  He
thought that if they succeeded in carrying off Lygia, he would fare well
near Vinicius.  He feared Urban no longer, for he also felt certain that
Croton would kill him.  And he calculated that in case a gathering
should begin on the streets, which so far were empty,--if Christians, or
people of any kind, should offer resistance,--he, Chilo, would speak to
them as one representing authority, as an executor of Cæsar's will, and
if need came, call the guards to aid the young patrician against the
street rabble--thus winning to himself fresh favor.  In his soul he
judged yet that the young tribune's method was unwise; considering,
however, Croton's terrible strength, he admitted that it might succeed,
and thought, "If it go hard with him, Vinicius can carry the girl, and
Croton clear the way."  Delay grew wearisome, however; the silence of
the entrance which he watched alarmed him.

"If they do not hit upon her hiding-place, and make an uproar, they will
frighten her."

But this thought was not disagreeable; for Chilo understood that in that
event he would be necessary again to Vinicius, and could squeeze afresh
a goodly number of sestertia from the tribune.

"Whatever they do," said he to himself, "they will work for me, though
no one divines that.  O gods!  O gods! only permit me-"

And he stopped suddenly, for it seemed to him that some one was bending
forward through the entrance; then, squeezing up to the wall, he began
to look, holding the breath in his breast.

And he had not deceived himself, for a head thrust itself half out of
the entrance and looked around.  After a while, however, it vanished.

"That is Vinicius, or Croton," thought Chilo; "but if they have taken
the girl, why does she not scream, and why are they looking out to the
street?  They must meet people anyhow, for before they reach the Carinæ
there will be movement in the city--What is that?  By the immortal
gods!"

And suddenly the remnant of his hair stood on end.

In the door appeared Ursus, with the body of Croton hanging on his arm,
and looking around once more, he began to run, bearing it along the
empty street toward the river.

Chilo made himself as flat against the wall as a bit of mud.

"I am lost if he sees me!" thought he.

But Ursus ran past the corner quickly, and disappeared beyond the
neighboring house.  Chilo, without further waiting, his teeth chattering
from terror, ran along the cross street with a speed which even in a
young man might have roused admiration.

"If he sees me from a distance when he is returning, he will catch and
kill me," said he to himself.  "Save me, Zeus; save me, Apollo; save me,
Hermes; save me, O God of the Christians!  I will leave Rome, I will
return to Mesembria, but save me from the hands of that demon!"

And that Lygian who had killed Croton seemed to him at that moment some
superhuman being.  While running, he thought that he might be some god
who had taken the form of a barbarian.  At that moment he believed in
all the gods of the world, and in all myths, at which he jeered usually.
It flew through his head, too, that it might be the God of the
Christians who had killed Croton; and his hair stood on end again at the
thought that he was in conflict with such a power.

Only when he had run through a number of alleys, and saw some workmen
coming toward him from a distance, was he calmed somewhat.  Breath
failed in his breast; so he sat on the threshold of a house and began to
wipe, with a corner of his mantle, his sweat-covered forehead.

"I am old, and need calm," said he.

The people coming toward him turned into some little side street, and
again the place round about was empty.  The city was sleeping yet.  In
the morning movement began earlier in the wealthier parts of the city,
where the slaves of rich houses were forced to rise before daylight; in
portions inhabited by a free population, supported at the cost of the
State, hence unoccupied, they woke rather late, especially in winter.
Chilo, after he had sat some time on the threshold, felt a piercing
cold; so he rose, and, convincing himself that he had not lost the purse
received from Vinicius, turned toward the river with a step now much
slower.

"I may see Croton's body somewhere," said he to himself.  "O gods! that
Lygian, if he is a man, might make millions of sestertia in the course
of one year; for if he choked Croton, like a whelp, who can resist him?
They would give for his every appearance in the arena as much gold as he
himself weighs.  He guards that maiden better than Cerberus does Hades.
But may Hades swallow him, for all that!  I will have nothing to do with
him.  He is too bony.  But where shall I begin in this case?  A dreadful
thing has happened.  If he has broken the bones of such a man as Croton,
beyond a doubt the soul of Vinicius is puling above that cursed house
now, awaiting his burial.  By Castor! but he is a patrician, a friend of
Cæsar, a relative of Petronius, a man known in all Rome, a military
tribune. His death cannot pass without punishment.  Suppose I were to go
to the pretorian camp, or the guards of the city, for instance?"

Here he stopped and began to think, but said after a while,--"Woe is me!
Who took him to that house if not I?  His freedmen and his slaves know
that I came to his house, and some of them know with what object.  What
will happen if they suspect me of having pointed out to him purposely
the house in which his death met him?  Though it appear afterward, in
the court, that I did not wish his death, they will say that I was the
cause of it.  Besides, he is a patrician; hence in no event can I avoid
punishment.  But if I leave Rome in silence, and go far away somewhere,
I shall place myself under still greater suspicion."

It was bad in every case.  The only question was to choose the less
evil.  Rome was immense; still Chilo felt that it might become too small
for him.  Any other man might go directly to the prefect of the city
guards and tell what had happened, and, though some suspicion might fall
on him, await the issue calmly.  But Chilo's whole past was of such
character that every closer acquaintance with the prefect of the city or
the prefect of the guard must cause him very serious trouble, and
confirm also every suspicion which might enter the heads of officials.

On the other hand, to flee would be to confirm Petronius in the opinion
that Vinicius had been betrayed and murdered through conspiracy.
Petronius was a powerful man, who could command the police of the whole
Empire, and who beyond doubt would try to find the guilty parties even
at the ends of the earth.  Still, Chilo thought to go straight to him,
and tell what had happened.  Yes; that was the best plan.  Petronius was
calm, and Chilo might be sure of this, at least, that he would hear him
to the end.  Petronius, who knew the affair from its inception, would
believe in Chilo's innocence more easily than would the prefects.

But to go to him, it was needful to know with certainty what had
happened to Vinicius.  Chilo did not know that.  He had seen, it is
true, the Lygian stealing with Croton's body to the river, but nothing
more.  Vinicius might be killed; but he might be wounded or detained.
Now it occurred to Chilo for the first time, that surely the Christians
would not dare to kill a man so powerful,--a friend of Cæsar, and a high
military official,--for that kind of act might draw on them a general
persecution.  It was more likely that they had detained him by superior
force, to give Lygia means to hide herself a second time.

This thought filled Chilo with hope.

"If that Lygian dragon has not torn him to pieces at the first attack,
he is alive, and if he is alive he himself will testify that I have not
betrayed him; and then not only does nothing threaten me, but--O Hermes,
count again on two heifers--a fresh field is opening.  I can inform one
of the freedmen where to seek his lord; and whether he goes to the
prefect or not is his affair, the only point being that I should not go.
Also, I can go to Petronius, and count on a reward.  I have found Lygia;
now I shall find Vinicius, and then again Lygia.  It is needful to know
first whether Vinicius is dead or living."

Here it occurred to him that he might go in the night to the baker Demas
and inquire about Ursus.  But he rejected that thought immediately.  He
preferred to have nothing to do with Ursus.  He might suppose, justly,
that if Ursus had not killed Glaucus he had been warned, evidently, by
the Christian elder to whom he had confessed his design,--warned that
the affair was an unclean one, to which some traitor had persuaded him.
In every case, at the mere recollection of Ursus, a shiver ran through
Chilo's whole body.  But he thought that in the evening he would send
Euricius for news to that house in which the thing had happened.
Meanwhile he needed refreshment, a bath, and rest.  The sleepless night,
the journey to Ostrianum, the flight from the Trans-Tiber, had wearied
him exceedingly.

One thing gave him permanent comfort: he had on his person two purses,--
that which Vinicius had given him at home, and that which he had thrown
him on the way from the cemetery.  In view of this happy circumstance,
and of all the excitement through which he had passed, he resolved to
eat abundantly, and drink better wine than he drank usually.

When the hour for opening the wine-shop came at last, he did so in such
a marked measure that he forgot the bath; he wished to sleep, above all,
and drowsiness overcame his strength so that he returned with tottering
step to his dwelling in the Subura, where a slave woman, purchased with
money obtained from Vinicius, was waiting for him.

When he had entered a sleeping-room, as dark as the den of a fox, he
threw himself on the bed, and fell asleep in one instant.  He woke only
in the evening, or rather he was roused by the slave woman, who called
him to rise, for some one was inquiring, and wished to see him on urgent
business.

The watchful Chilo came to himself in one moment, threw on his hooded
mantle hastily, and, commanding the slave woman to stand aside, looked
out cautiously.

And he was benumbed! for he saw before the door of the sleeping-room the
gigantic form of Ursus.

At that sight he felt his feet and head grow icy-cold, the heart ceased
to beat in his bosom, and shivers were creeping along his back.  For a
time he was unable to speak; then with chattering teeth he said, or
rather groaned,--

"Syra--I am not at home--I don't know that--good man-"

"I told him that thou wert at home, but asleep, lord," answered the
girl; "he asked to rouse thee."

"O gods!  I will command that thou--"

But Ursus, as if impatient of delay, approached the door of the
sleeping-room, and, bending, thrust in his head.

"O Chilo Chilonides!" said he.

"Pax tecum! pax! pax!" answered Chilo.  "O best of Christians!  Yes, I
am Chilo; but this is a mistake,--I do not know thee!"

"Chilo Chilonides," repeated Ursus, "thy lord, Vinicius, summons thee to
go with me to him."




Chapter XXIII


A PIERCING pain roused Vinicius.  At the first moment he could not
understand where he was, nor what was happening.  He felt a roaring in
his head, and his eyes were covered as if with mist. Gradually, however,
his consciousness returned, and at last he beheld through that mist
three persons bending over him.  Two he recognized: one was Ursus, the
other the old man whom he had thrust aside when carrying off Lygia.  The
third, an utter stranger, was holding his left arm, and feeling it from
the elbow upward as far as the shoulder-blade.  This caused so terrible
a pain that Vinicius, thinking it a kind of revenge which they were
taking, said through his set teeth, "Kill me!"  But they paid no
apparent heed to his words, just as though they heard them not, or
considered them the usual groans of suffering.  Ursus, with his anxious
and also threatening face of a barbarian, held a bundle of white cloth
torn in long strips.  The old man spoke to the person who was pressing
the arm of Vinicius,--"Glaucus, art thou certain that the wound in the
head is not mortal?"

"Yes, worthy Crispus," answered Glaucus.  "While serving in the fleet as
a slave, and afterward while living at Naples, I cured many wounds, and
with the pay which came to me from that occupation I freed myself and my
relatives at last.  The wound in the head is slight.  When this one
[here he pointed to Ursus with his head] took the girl from the young
man, he pushed him against the wall; the young man while falling put out
his arm, evidently to save himself; he broke and disjointed it, but by
so doing saved his head and his life."

"Thou hast had more than one of the brotherhood in thy care," added
Crispus, "and hast the repute of a skilful physician; therefore I sent
Ursus to bring thee."

"Ursus, who on the road confessed that yesterday he was ready to kill
me!"

"He confessed his intention earlier to me than to thee; but I, who know
thee and thy love for Christ, explained to him that the traitor is not
thou, but the unknown, who tried to persuade him to murder."

"That was an evil spirit, but I took him for an angel," said Ursus, with
a sigh.

"Some other time thou wilt tell me, but now we must think of this
wounded man."  Thus speaking, he began to set the arm.  Though Crispus
sprinkled water on his face, Vinicius fainted repeatedly from suffering;
that was, however, a fortunate circumstance, since he did not feel the
pain of putting his arm into joint, nor of setting it.  Glaucus fixed
the limb between two strips of wood, which he bound quickly and firmly,
so as to keep the arm motionless.  When the operation was over, Vinicius
recovered consciousness again and saw Lygia above him.  She stood there
at the bed holding a brass basin with water, in which from time to time
Glaucus dipped a sponge and moistened the head of his patient.

Vinicius gazed and could not believe his eyes.  What he saw seemed a
dream, or the pleasant vision brought by fever, and only after a long
time could he whisper,--"Lygia!"

The basin trembled in her hand at that sound, but she turned on him eyes
full of sadness.

"Peace be with thee!" answered she, in a low voice.

She stood there with extended arms, her face full of pity and sorrow.
But he gazed, as if to fill his sight with her, so that after his lids
were closed the picture might remain under them.  He looked at her face,
paler and smaller than it had been, at the tresses of dark hair, at the
poor dress of a laboring woman; he looked so intently that her snowy
forehead began to grow rose-colored under the influence of his look.
And first he thought that he would love her always; and second, that
that paleness of hers and that poverty were his work,--that it was he
who had driven her from a house where she was loved, and surrounded with
plenty and comfort, and thrust her into that squalid room, and clothed
her in that poor robe of dark wool.

He would have arrayed her in the costliest brocade, in all the jewels of
the earth; hence astonishment, alarm, and pity seized him, and sorrow so
great that he would have fallen at her feet had he been able to move.

"Lygia," said he, "thou didst not permit my death."

"May God return health to thee," she answered, with sweetness.

For Vinicius, who had a feeling both of those wrongs which he had
inflicted on her formerly, and those which he had wished to inflict on
her recently, there was a real balsam in Lygia's words.  He forgot at
the moment that through her mouth Christian teaching might speak; he
felt only that a beloved woman was speaking, and that in her answer
there was a special tenderness, a goodness simply preterhuman, which
shook him to the depth of his soul.  As just before he had grown weak
from pain, so now he grew weak from emotion.  A certain faintness came
on him, at once immense and agreeable.  He felt as if falling into some
abyss, but he felt that to fall was pleasant, and that he was happy.  He
thought at that moment of weakness that a divinity was standing above
him.

Meanwhile Glaucus had finished washing the wound in his head, and had
applied a healing ointment.  Ursus took the brass basin from Lygia's
hands; she brought a cup of water and wine which stood ready on the
table, and put it to the wounded man's lips. Vinicius drank eagerly, and
felt great relief.  After the operation the pain had almost passed; the
wound and contusion began to grow firm; perfect consciousness returned
to him.

"Give me another drink," said he.

Lygia took the empty cup to the next room; meanwhile Crispus, after a
few words with Glaucus, approached the bed saying,--

"God has not permitted thee, Vinicius, to accomplish an evil deed, and
has preserved thee in life so that thou shouldst come to thy mind.  He,
before whom man is but dust, delivered thee defenceless into our hands;
but Christ, in whom we believe, commanded us to love even our enemies.
Therefore we have dressed thy wounds, and, as Lygia has said, we will
implore God to restore thy health, but we cannot watch over thee longer.
Be in peace, then, and think whether it beseems thee to continue thy
pursuit of Lygia.  Thou hast deprived her of guardians, and us of a
roof, though we return thee good for evil."

"Do ye wish to leave me? inquired Vinicius.

"We wish to leave this house, in which prosecution by the prefect of the
city may reach us.  Thy companion was killed; thou, who art powerful
among thy own people, art wounded.  This did not happen through our
fault, but the anger of the law might fall on us."

"Have no fear of prosecution," replied Vinicius; "I will protect you."

Crispus did not like to tell him that with them it was not only a
question of the prefect and the police, but of him; they wished to
secure Lygia from his further pursuit.

"Lord," said he, "thy right arm is well.  Here are tablets and a stilus;
write to thy servants to bring a litter this evening and bear thee to
thy own house, where thou wilt have more comfort than in our poverty.
We dwell here with a poor widow, who will return soon with her son, and
this youth will take thy letter; as to us, we must all find another
hiding-place."

Vinicius grew pale, for he understood that they wished to separate him
from Lygia, and that if he lost her now he might never see her in life
again.  He knew indeed that things of great import had come between him
and her, in virtue of which, if he wished to possess her, he must seek
some new methods which he had not had time yet to think over.  He
understood too that whatever he might tell these people, though he
should swear that he would return Lygia to Pomponia Græcina, they would
not believe him, and were justified in refusing belief.  Moreover, he
might have done that before.  Instead of hunting for Lygia, he might
have gone to Pomponia and sworn to her that he renounced pursuit, and in
that case Pomponia herself would have found Lygia and brought her home.
No; he felt that such promises would not restrain them, and no solemn
oath would be received, the more since, not being a Christian, he could
swear only by the immortal gods, in whom he did not himself believe
greatly, and whom they considered evil spirits.

He desired desperately to influence Lygia and her guardians in some way,
but for that there was need of time.  For him it was all-important to
see her, to look at her for a few days even.  As every fragment of a
plank or an oar seems salvation to a drowning man, so to him it seemed
that during those few days he might say something to bring him nearer to
her, that he might think out something, that something favorable might
happen.  Hence he collected his thoughts and said,--

"Listen to me, Christians.  Yesterday I was with you in Ostrianum, and I
heard your teaching; but though I did not know it, your deeds have
convinced me that you are honest and good people.  Tell that widow who
occupies this house to stay in it, stay in it yourselves, and let me
stay.  Let this man [here he turned to Glaucus], who is a physician, or
at least understands the care of wounds, tell whether it is possible to
carry me from here to-day.  I am sick, I have a broken arm, which must
remain immovable for a few days even; therefore I declare to you that I
will not leave this house unless you bear me hence by force!"

Here he stopped, for breath failed in his breast, and Crispus said,--"We
will use no force against thee, lord; we will only take away our own
heads."

At this the young man, unused to resistance, frowned and said,--"Permit
me to recover breath"; and after a time he began again to speak,--"Of
Croton, whom Ursus killed, no one will inquire.  He had to go to-day to
Beneventum, whither he was summoned by Vatinius, therefore all will
think that he has gone there.  When I entered this house in company with
Croton, no one saw us except a Greek who was with us in Ostrianum.  I
will indicate to you his lodgings; bring that man to me.  On him I will
enjoin silence; he is paid by me.  I will send a letter to my own house
stating that I too went to Beneventum.  If the Greek has informed the
prefect already, I will declare that I myself killed Croton, and that it
was he who broke my arm.  I will do this, by my father's shade and by my
mother's!  Ye may remain in safety here; not a hair will fall from the
head of one of you.  Bring hither, and bring in haste, the Greek whose
name is Chilo Chilonides!"

"Then Glaucus will remain with thee," said Crispus, "and the widow will
nurse thee."

"Consider, old man, what I say," said Vinicius, who frowned still more.
"I owe thee gratitude, and thou seemest good and honest; but thou dost
not tell me what thou hast in the bottom of thy soul. Thou art afraid
lest I summon my slaves and command them to take Lygia.  Is this true?"

"It is," said Crispus, with sternness.

"Then remember this, I shall speak before all to Chilo, and write a
letter home that I have gone to Beneventum.  I shall have no messengers
hereafter but you.  Remember this, and do not irritate me longer."

Here he was indignant, and his face was contorted with anger. Afterward
he began to speak excitedly,--

"Hast thou thought that I would deny that I wish to stay here to see
her? A fool would have divined that, even had I denied it.  But I will
not try to take her by force any longer.  I will tell thee more: if she
will not stay here, I will tear the bandages with this sound hand from
my arm, will take neither food nor drink; let my death fall on thee and
thy brethren.  Why hast thou nursed me?  Why hast thou not commanded to
kill me?"  He grew pale from weakness and anger.

Lygia, who had heard all from the other room and who was certain that
Vinicius would do what he promised, was terrified.  She would not have
him die for anything.  Wounded and defenceless, he roused in her
compassion, not fear.  Living from the time of her flight among people
in continual religious enthusiasm, thinking only of sacrifices,
offerings, and boundless charity, she had grown so excited herself
through that new inspiration, that for her it took the place of house,
family, lost happiness, and made her one of those Christian maidens who,
later on, changed the former soul of the world.  Vinicius had been too
important in her fate, had been thrust too much on her, to let her
forget him.  She had thought of him whole days, and more than once had
begged God for the moment in which, following the inspiration of
religion, she might return good for his evil, mercy for his persecution,
break him, win him to Christ, save him.  And now it seemed to her that
precisely that moment had come, and that her prayers had been heard.

She approached Crispus therefore with a face as if inspired, and
addressed him as though some other voice spoke through her,--"Let him
stay among us, Crispus, and we will stay with him till Christ gives him
health."

The old presbyter, accustomed to seek in all things the inspiration of
God, beholding her exaltation, thought at once that perhaps a higher
power was speaking through her, and, fearing in his heart, he bent his
gray head, saying,--"Let it be as thou sayest."

On Vinicius, who the whole time had not taken his eyes from her, this
ready obedience of Crispus produced a wonderful and pervading
impression.  It seemed to him that among the Christians Lygia was a kind
of sibyl or priestess whom they surrounded with obedience and honor; and
he yielded himself also to that honor.  To the love which he felt was
joined now a certain awe, in presence of which love itself became
something almost insolent.  He could not familiarize himself, however,
with the thought that their relations had changed: that now not she was
dependent on his will, but he on hers; that he was lying there sick and
broken; that he had ceased to be an attacking, a conquering force; that
he was like a defenceless child in her care.  For his proud and
commanding nature such relations with any other person would have been
humiliating; now, however, not only did he not feel humiliated, but he
was thankful to her as to his sovereign.  In him those were feelings
unheard-of, feelings which he could not have entertained the day before,
and which would have amazed him even on that day had he been able to
analyze them clearly.  But he did not inquire at the moment why it was
so, just as if the position had been perfectly natural; he merely felt
happy because he remained there.

And he wished to thank her with gratefulness, and still with a kind of
feeling unknown to him in such a degree that he knew not what to call
it, for it was simply submission.  His previous excitement had so
exhausted him that he could not speak, and he thanked her only with his
eyes, which were gleaming from delight because he remained near her, and
would be able to see her--to-morrow, next day, perhaps a long time.
That delight was diminished only by the dread that he might lose what he
had gained.  So great was this dread that when Lygia gave him water a
second time, and the wish seized him to take her hand, he feared to do
so.  He feared!--he, that Vinicius who at Cæsar's feast had kissed her
lips in spite of her! he, that Vinicius who after her flight had
promised himself to drag her by the hair to the cubiculum, or give
command to flog her!




Chapter XXIV


BUT he began also to fear that some outside force might disturb his
delight.  Chilo might give notice of his disappearance to the prefect of
the city, or to his freedmen at home; and in such an event an invasion
of the house by the city guards was likely. Through his head flew the
thought, it is true, that in that event he might give command to seize
Lygia and shut her up in his house, but he felt that he ought not to do
so, and he was not capable of acting thus.  He was tyrannical, insolent,
and corrupt enough, if need be he was inexorable, but he was not
Tigellinus or Nero. Military life had left in him a certain feeling of
justice, and religion, and a conscience to understand that such a deed
would be monstrously mean.  He would have been capable, perhaps, of
committing such a deed during an access of anger and while in possession
of his strength, but at that moment he was filled with tenderness, and
was sick.  The only question for Vinicius at that time was that no one
should stand between him and Lygia.

He noticed, too, with astonishment, that from the moment when Lygia had
taken his part, neither she herself nor Crispus asked from him any
assurances, just as if they felt confident that, in case of need, some
superhuman power would defend them.  The young tribune, in whose head
the distinction between things possible and impossible had grown
involved and faint since the discourse of the Apostle in Ostrianum, was
also not too far from supposing that that might take place.  But
considering things more soberly, he remembered what he had said of the
Greek, and asked again that Chilo be brought to him.

Crispus agreed, and they decided to send Ursus.  Vinicius, who in recent
days, before his visit to Ostrianum, had sent slaves frequently to
Chilo, though without result, indicated his lodgings accurately to the
Lygian; then writing a few words on the tablet, he said, turning to
Crispus,--"I give a tablet, for this man is suspicious and cunning.
Frequently when summoned by me, he gave directions to answer my people
that he was not at home; he did so always when he had no good news for
me, and feared my anger."

"If I find him, I will bring him, willing or unwilling," said Ursus.
Then, taking his mantle, he went out hurriedly.

To find any one in Rome was not easy, even with the most accurate
directions; but in those cases the instinct of a hunter aided Ursus, and
also his great knowledge of the city.  After a certain time, therefore,
he found himself at Chilo's lodgings.

He did not recognize Chilo, however.  He had seen him but once in his
life before, and moreover, in the night.  Besides, that lofty and
confident old man who had persuaded him to murder Glaucus was so unlike
the Greek, bent double from terror, that no one could suppose the two to
be one person.  Chilo, noticing that Ursus looked at him as a perfect
stranger, recovered from his first fear.  The sight of the tablet, with
the writing of Vinicius, calmed him still more. At least the suspicion
that he would take him into an ambush purposely did not trouble him.  He
thought, besides, that the Christians had not killed Vinicius, evidently
because they had not dared to raise hands on so noted a person.

"And then Vinicius will protect me in case of need," thought he; "of
course he does not send to deliver me to death."

Summoning some courage, therefore, he said: "My good man, has not my
friend the noble Vinicius sent a litter?  My feet are swollen; I cannot
walk so far."

"He has not," answered Ursus; "we shall go on foot."

"But if I refuse?"

"Do not, for thou wilt have to go."

"And I will go, but of my own will.  No one could force me, for I am a
free man, and a friend of the prefect of the city.  As a sage, I have
also means to overcome others, and I know how to turn people into trees
and wild beasts.  But I will go, I will go!  I will only put on a mantle
somewhat warmer, and a hood, lest the slaves of that quarter might
recognize me; they would stop me every moment to kiss my hands."

He put on a new mantle then, and let down a broad Gallic hood, lest
Ursus might recognize his features on coming into clearer light.

"Where wilt thou take me?" asked he on the road.

"To the Trans-Tiber."

"I am not long in Rome, and I have never been there, but there too, of
course, live men who love virtue."

But Ursus, who was a simple man, and had heard Vinicius say that the
Greek had been with him in Ostrianum, and had seen him with Croton enter
the house in which Lygia lived, stopped for a moment and said,--"Speak
no untruth, old man, for to-day thou wert with Vinicius in Ostrianum and
under our gate."

"Ah!" said Chilo, "then is your house in the Trans-Tiber?  I have not
been long in Rome, and know not how the different parts are named.  That
is true, friend; I was under the gate, and implored Vinicius in the name
of virtue not to enter.  I was in Ostrianum, and dost thou know why?  I
am working for a certain time over the conversion of Vinicius, and
wished him to hear the chief of the Apostles.  May the light penetrate
his soul and thine!  But thou art a Christian, and wishest truth to
overcome falsehood."

"That is true," answered Ursus, with humility.

Courage returned to Chilo completely.

"Vinicius is a powerful lord," said he, "and a friend of Cæsar.  He
listens often yet to the whisperings of the evil spirit; but if even a
hair should fall from his head, Cæsar would take vengeance on all the
Christians."

"A higher power is protecting us."

"Surely, surely!  But what do ye intend to do with Vinicius?" inquired
Chilo, with fresh alarm.

"I know not.  Christ commands mercy."

"Thou hast answered excellently.  Think of this always, or thou wilt fry
in hell like a sausage in a frying-pan."

Ursus sighed, and Chilo thought that he could always do what he liked
with that man, who was terrible at the moment of his first outburst.
So, wishing to know what happened at the seizing of Lygia, he asked
further, in the voice of a stern judge,--"How did ye treat Croton?
Speak, and do not prevaricate."

Ursus sighed a second time.  "Vinicius will tell thee."

"That means that thou didst stab him with a knife, or kill him with a
club."

"I was without arms."

The Greek could not resist amazement at the superhuman strength of the
barbarian.

"May Pluto--that is to say, may Christ pardon thee!"

They went on for some time in silence; then Chilo said:

"I will not betray thee; but have a care of the watches."

"I fear Christ, not the watches."

"And that is proper.  There is no more grievous crime than murder. I
will pray for thee; but I know not if even my prayer can be effective,
unless thou make a vow never to touch any one in life with a finger."

"As it is, I have not killed purposely," answered Ursus.

But Chilo, who desired to secure himself in every case, did not cease to
condemn murder, and urge Ursus to make the vow.  He inquired also about
Vinicius; but the Lygian answered his inquiries unwillingly, repeating
that from Vinicius himself he would hear what he needed.  Speaking in
this way, they passed at last the long road which separated the lodgings
of the Greek from the Trans-Tiber, and found themselves before the
house.  Chilo's heart began to beat again unquietly.  From dread it
seemed to him that Ursus was beginning to look at him with a kind of
greedy expression.

"It is small consolation to me," said he to himself, "if he kills me
unwillingly.  I prefer in every case that paralysis should strike him,
and with him all the Lygians,--which do thou effect, O Zeus, if thou art
able."

Thus meditating, he wrapped himself more closely in his Gallic mantle,
repeating that he feared the cold.  Finally, when they had passed the
entrance and the first court, and found themselves in the corridor
leading to the garden of the little house, he halted suddenly and said,
--"Let me draw breath, or I shall not be able to speak with Vinicius and
give him saving advice."

He halted; for though he said to himself that no danger threatened,
still his legs trembled under him at the thought that he was among those
mysterious people whom he had seen in Ostrianum.

Meanwhile a hymn came to their ears from the little house.

"What is that?" inquired Chilo.

"Thou sayest that thou art a Christian, and knowest not that among us it
is the custom after every meal to glorify our Saviour with singing,"
answered Ursus.  "Miriam and her son must have returned, and perhaps the
Apostle is with them, for he visits the widow and Crispus every day."

"Conduct me directly to Vinicius."

"Vinicius is in the same room with all, for that is the only large one;
the others are very small chambers, to which we go only to sleep.  Come
in; thou wilt rest there."

They entered.  It was rather dark in the room; the evening was cloudy
and cold, the flames of a few candles did not dispel the darkness
altogether.  Vinicius divined rather than recognized Chilo in the hooded
man.  Chilo, seeing the bed in the corner of the room, and on it
Vinicius, moved toward him directly, not looking at the others, as if
with the conviction that it would be safest near him.

"Oh, lord, why didst thou not listen to my counsels?" exclaimed he,
putting his hands together.

"Silence!" said Vinicius, "and listen!"

Here he looked sharply into Chilo's eyes, and spoke slowly with
emphasis, as if wishing the Greek to understand every word of his as a
command, and to keep it forever in memory.

"Croton threw himself on me to kill and rob me, dost understand?  I
killed him then, and these people dressed the wounds which I received in
the struggle."

Chilo understood in a moment that if Vinicius spoke in this way it must
be in virtue of some agreement with the Christians, and in that case he
wished people to believe him.  He saw this, too, from his face; hence in
one moment, without showing doubt or astonishment, he raised his eyes
and exclaimed,--"That was a faith-breaking ruffian!  But I warned thee,
lord, not to trust him; my teachings bounded from his head as do peas
when thrown against a wall.  In all Hades there are not torments enough
for him.  He who cannot be honest must be a rogue; what is more
difficult than for a rogue to become honest?  But to fall on his
benefactor, a lord so magnanimous--O gods!"

Here he remembered that he had represented himself to Ursus on the way
as a Christian, and stopped.

"Were it not for the 'sica,' which I brought, he would have slain me,"
said Vinicius.

"I bless the moment in which I advised thee to take a knife even."

Vinicius turned an inquiring glance on the Greek, and asked,--"What hast
thou done to-day?"

"How?  What! have I not told thee, lord, that I made a vow for thy
health?"

"Nothing more?"

"I was just preparing to visit thee, when this good man came and said
that thou hadst sent for me."

"Here is a tablet.  Thou wilt go with it to my house; thou wilt find my
freedman and give it to him.  It is written on the tablet that I have
gone to Beneventum.  Thou wilt tell Demas from thyself that I went this
morning, summoned by an urgent letter from Petronius." Here he repeated
with emphasis: "I have gone to Beneventum, dost understand?"

"Thou has gone, lord.  This morning I took leave of thee at the Porta
Capena, and from the time of thy departure such sadness possesses me
that if thy magnanimity will not soften it, I shall cry myself to death,
like the unhappy wife of Zethos [Aedon turned into a nightingale] in
grief for Itylos."

Vinicius, though sick and accustomed to the Greek's suppleness, could
not repress a smile.  He was glad, moreover, that Chilo understood in a
flash; hence he said,

"Therefore I will write that thy tears be wiped away.  Give me the
candle."  Chilo, now pacified perfectly, rose, and, advancing a few
steps toward the chimney, took one of the candles which was burning at
the wall.  But while he was doing this, the hood slipped from his head,
and the light fell directly on his face.  Glaucus sprang from his seat
and, coming up quickly, stood before him.

"Dost thou not recognize me, Cephas?" asked he.  In his voice there was
something so terrible that a shiver ran through all present.

Chilo raised the candle, and dropped it to the earth almost the same
instant; then he bent nearly double and began to groan,--"I am not he--I
am not he!  Mercy!"

Glaucus turned toward the faithful, and said,--"This is the man who
betrayed--who ruined me and my family!"

That history was known to all the Christians and to Vinicius, who had
not guessed who that Glaucus was,--for this reason only, that he fainted
repeatedly from pain during the dressing of his wound, and had not heard
his name.  But for Ursus that short moment, with the words of Glaucus,
was like a lightning-flash in darkness. Recognizing Chilo, he was at his
side with one spring, and, seizing his arm, bent it back, exclaiming,--
"This is the man who persuaded me to kill Glaucus!"

"Mercy!" groaned Chilo.  "I will give you--O lord!" exclaimed he,
turning his head to Vinicius, "save me!  I trusted in thee, take my
part.  Thy letter--I will deliver it.  O lord, lord!"

But Vinicius, who looked with more indifference than any one at what was
passing, first because all the affairs of the Greek were more or less
known to him, and second because his heart knew not what pity was,
said,--"Bury him in the garden; some one else will take the letter."

It seemed to Chilo that those words were his final sentence.  His bones
were shaking in the terrible hands of Ursus; his eyes were filled with
tears from pain.

"By your God, pity!" cried he; "I am a Christian! Pax vobiscum!  I am a
Christian; and if ye do not believe me, baptize me again, baptize me
twice, ten times!  Glaucus, that is a mistake!  Let me speak, make me a
slave!  Do not kill me!  Have mercy!"

His voice, stifled with pain, was growing weaker and weaker, when the
Apostle Peter rose at the table; for a moment his white head shook,
drooping toward his breast, and his eyes were closed; but he opened them
then, and said amid silence,--

"The Saviour said this to us: 'If thy brother has sinned against thee,
chastise him; but if he is repentant, forgive him.  And if he has
offended seven times in the day against thee, and has turned to thee
seven times, saying, "Have mercy on me!" forgive him.'"

Then came a still deeper silence.  Glaucus remained a long time with his
hands covering his face; at last he removed them and said,--"Cephas,
may God forgive thy offences, as I forgive them in the name of Christ."

Ursus, letting go the arms of the Greek, added at once:

"May the Saviour be merciful to thee as I forgive thee."

Chilo dropped to the ground, and, supported on it with his hands, turned
his head like a wild beast caught in a snare, looking around to see
whence death might come.  He did not trust his eyes and ears yet, and
dared not hope for forgiveness.  Consciousness returned to him slowly;
his blue lips were still trembling from terror.

"Depart in peace!" said the Apostle, meanwhile.

Chilo rose, but could not speak.  He approached the bed of Vinicius, as
if seeking protection in it still; for he had not time yet to think that
that man, though he had used his services and was still his accomplice,
condemned him, while those against whom he had acted forgave.  This
thought was to come to him later.  At present simply astonishment and
incredulity were evident in his look. Though he had seen that they
forgave him, he wished to bear away his head at the earliest from among
these incomprehensible people, whose kindness terrified him almost as
much as their cruelty would have terrified.  It seemed to him that
should he remain longer, something unexpected would happen again; hence,
standing above Vinicius, he said with a broken voice,--

"Give the letter, lord,--give the letter!"

And snatching the tablet which Vinicius handed him, he made one
obeisance to the Christians, another to the sick man, pushed along
sidewise by the very wall, and hurried out through the door.  In the
garden, when darkness surrounded him, fear raised the hair on his head
again, for he felt sure that Ursus would rush out and kill him in the
night.  He would have run with all his might, but his legs would not
move; next moment they were perfectly uncontrollable, for Ursus stood
near him really.

Chilo fell with his face to the earth, and began to groan: "Urban--in
Christ's name"--

But Urban said: "Fear not.  The Apostle commanded me to lead thee out
beyond the gate, lest thou might go astray in the darkness, and, if
strength failed thee, to conduct thee home."

"What dost thou say?" asked Chilo, raising his face.  "What?  Thou wilt
not kill me?"

"No, I will not; and if I seized thee too roughly and harmed a bone in
thee, pardon me."

"Help me to rise," said the Greek.  "Thou wilt not kill me?  Thou wilt
not?  Take me to the Street; I will go farther alone."

Ursus raised him as he might a feather, and placed him on his feet; then
he conducted him through the dark corridor to the second court.  From
there was a passage to the entrance and the street.  In the corridor
Chilo repeated again in his soul, "It is all over with me!"  Only when
he found himself on the street did he recover and say, "I can go on
alone."

"Peace be with thee."

"And with thee! and with thee!  Let me draw breath."

And after Ursus had gone, he breathed with a full breast.  He felt his
waist and hips, as if to convince himself that he was living, and then
moved forward with hurried step.

"But why did they not kill me?"  And in spite of all his talk with
Euricius about Christian teaching, in spite of his conversation at the
river with Urban, and in spite of all that he had heard in Ostrianum, he
could find no answer to that question.




Chapter XXV


NEITHER could Vinicius discover the cause of what had happened; and in
the bottom of his soul he was almost as much astonished as Chilo.  That
those people should treat him as they had, and, instead of avenging his
attack, dress his wounds carefully, he ascribed partly to the doctrine
which they confessed, more to Lygia, and a little, also, to his great
significance.  But their conduct with Chilo simply went beyond his
understanding of man's power of forgiveness.  And the question thrust
itself into his mind: Why did they not kill the Greek?  They might have
killed him with impunity.  Ursus would have buried him in the garden, or
borne him in the dark to the Tiber, which during that period of night-
murders, committed by Cæsar himself even, cast up human bodies so
frequently in the morning that no one inquired whence they came.  To his
thinking, the Christians had not only the power, but the right to kill
Chilo.  True, pity was not entirely a stranger to that world to which
the young patrician belonged.  The Athenians raised an altar to pity,
and opposed for a long time the introduction of gladiatorial combats
into Athens.  In Rome itself the conquered received pardon sometimes,
as, for instance, Calicratus, king of the Britons, who, taken prisoner
in the time of Claudius, and provided for by him bountifully, dwelt in
the city in freedom.  But vengeance for a personal wrong seemed to
Vinicius, as to all, proper and justified.  The neglect of it was
entirely opposed to his spirit.  True, he had heard in Ostrianum that
one should love even enemies; that, however, he considered as a kind of
theory without application in life.  And now this passed through his
head: that perhaps they had not killed Chilo because the day was among
festivals, or was in some period of the moon during which it was not
proper for Christians to kill a man.  He had heard that there are days
among various nations on which it is not permitted to begin war even.
But why, in such a case, did they not deliver the Greek up to justice?
Why did the Apostle say that if a man offended seven times, it was
necessary to forgive him seven times; and why did Glaucus say to Chilo,
"May God forgive thee, as I forgive thee"?

Chilo had done him the most terrible wrong that one man could do
another.  At the very thought of how he would act with a man who killed
Lygia, for instance, the heart of Vinicius seethed up, as does water in
a caldron; there were no torments which he would not inflict in his
vengeance!  But Glaucus had forgiven; Ursus, too, had forgiven,--Ursus,
who might in fact kill whomever he wished in Rome with perfect impunity,
for all he needed was to kill the king of the grove in Nemi, and take
his place.  Could the gladiator holding that office to which he had
succeeded only by killing the previous "king," resist the man whom
Croton could not resist? There was only one answer to all these
questions: that they refrained from killing him through a goodness so
great that the like of it had not been in the world up to that time, and
through an unbounded love of man, which commands to forget one's self,
one's wrongs, one's happiness and misfortune, and live for others. What
reward those people were to receive for this, Vinicius heard in
Ostrianum, but he could not understand it.  He felt, however, that the
earthly life connected with the duty of renouncing everything good and
rich for the benefit of others must be wretched.  So in what he thought
of the Christians at that moment, besides the greatest astonishment,
there was pity, and as it were a shade of contempt.  It seemed to him
that they were sheep which earlier or later must be eaten by wolves; his
Roman nature could yield no recognition to people who let themselves be
devoured.  This one thing struck him, however,--that after Chilo's
departure the faces of all were bright with a certain deep joy.  The
Apostle approached Glaucus, placed his hand on his head, and said,--"In
thee Christ has triumphed."

The other raised his eyes, which were full of hope, and as bright with
joy as if some great unexpected happiness had been poured on him.
Vinicius, who could understand only joy or delight born of vengeance,
looked on him with eyes staring from fever, and somewhat as he would on
a madman.  He saw, however, and saw not without internal indignation,
that Lygia pressed her lips of a queen to the hand of that man, who had
the appearance of a slave; and it seemed to him that the order of the
world was inverted utterly.  Next Ursus told how he had conducted Chilo
to the street, and had asked forgiveness for the harm which he might
have done his bones; for this the Apostle blessed him also.  Crispus
declared that it was a day of great victory.  Hearing of this victory,
Vinicius lost the thread of his thought altogether.

But when Lygia gave him a cooling draught again, he held her hand for a
moment, and asked,--"Then must thou also forgive me?"

"We are Christians; it is not permitted us to keep anger in the heart."

"Lygia," said he, "whoever thy God is, I honor Him only because He is
thine."

"Thou wilt honor Him in thy heart when thou lovest Him."

"Only because He is thine," repeated Vinicius, in a fainter voice; and
he closed his eyes, for weakness had mastered him again.

Lygia went out, but returned after a time, and bent over him to learn if
he were sleeping.  Vinicius, feeling that she was near, opened his eyes
and smiled.  She placed her hand over them lightly, as if to incline him
to slumber.  A great sweetness seized him then; but soon he felt more
grievously ill than before, and was very ill in reality.  Night had
come, and with it a more violent fever.  He could not sleep, and
followed Lygia with his eyes wherever she went.

At times he fell into a kind of doze, in which he saw and heard
everything which happened around him, but in which reality was mingled
with feverish dreams.  It seemed to him that in some old, deserted
cemetery stood a temple, in the form of a tower, in which Lygia was
priestess.  He did not take his eyes from her, but saw her on the summit
of the tower, with a lute in her hands, all in the light, like those
priestesses who in the night-time sing hymns in honor of the moon, and
whom he had seen in the Orient.  He himself was climbing up winding
steps, with great effort, to bear her away with him.  Behind was
creeping up Chilo, with teeth chattering from terror, and repeating, "Do
not do that, lord; she is a priestess, for whom He will take vengeance."
Vinicius did not know who that He was, but he understood that he himself
was going to commit some sacrilege, and he felt a boundless fear also.
But when he went to the balustrade surrounding the summit of the tower,
the Apostle with his silvery beard stood at Lygia's side on a sudden,
and said:

"Do not raise a hand; she belongs to me."  Then he moved forward with
her, on a path formed by rays from the moon, as if on a path made to
heaven.  He stretched his hands toward them, and begged both to take him
into their company.

Here he woke, became conscious, and looked before him.  The lamp on the
tall staff shone more dimly, but still cast a light sufficiently clear.
All were sitting in front of the fire warming themselves, for the night
was chilly, and the chamber rather cold. Vinicius saw the breath coming
as steam from their lips.  In the midst of them sat the Apostle; at his
knees, on a low footstool, was Lygia; farther on, Glaucus, Crispus,
Miriam, and at the edge, on one side Ursus, on the other Miriam's son
Nazarius, a youth with a handsome face, and long, dark hair reaching
down to his shoulders.

Lygia listened with eyes raised to the Apostle, and every head was
turned toward him, while he told something in an undertone. Vinicius
gazed at Peter with a certain superstitious awe, hardly inferior to that
terror which he felt during the fever dream.  The thought passed through
his mind that that dream had touched truth; that the gray-haired man
there, freshly come from distant shores, would take Lygia from him
really, and take her somewhere away by unknown paths.  He felt sure also
that the old man was speaking of him, perhaps telling how to separate
him from Lygia, for it seemed to him impossible that any one could speak
of aught else. Hence, collecting all his presence of mind, he listened
to Peter's words.

But he was mistaken altogether, for the Apostle was speaking of Christ
again.

"They live only through that name," thought Vinicius.

The old man was describing the seizure of Christ.  "A company came, and
servants of the priest to seize Him.  When the Saviour asked whom they
were seeking, they answered, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' But when He said to
them, 'I am He,' they fell on the ground, and dared not raise a hand on
Him.  Only after the second inquiry did they seize Him."

Here the Apostle stopped, stretched his hands toward the fire and
continued:--"The night was cold, like this one, but the heart in me was
seething; so, drawing a sword to defend Him, I cut an ear from the
servant of the high-priest.  I would have defended Him more than my own
life had He not said to me, 'Put thy sword into the sheath: the cup
which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?' Then they seized
and bound Him."

When he had spoken thus far, Peter placed his palm on his forehead, and
was silent, wishing before he went further to stop the crowd of his
recollections.  But Ursus, unable to restrain himself, sprang to his
feet, trimmed the light on the staff till the sparks scattered in golden
rain and the flame shot up with more vigor.  Then he sat down, and
exclaimed:

"No matter what happened.  I--"

He stopped suddenly, for Lygia had put her finger to her lips.  But he
breathed loudly, and it was clear that a storm was in his soul; and
though he was ready at all times to kiss the feet of the Apostle, that
act was one he could not accept; if some one in his presence had raised
hands on the Redeemer, if he had been with Him on that night--Oi!
splinters would have shot from the soldiers, the servants of the priest,
and the officials.  Tears came to his eyes at the very thought of this,
and because of his sorrow and mental struggle; for on the one hand he
thought that he would not only have defended the Redeemer, but would
have called Lygians to his aid,--splendid fellows,--and on the other, if
he had acted thus he would have disobeyed the Redeemer, and hindered the
salvation of man.  For this reason he could not keep back his tears.

After a while Peter took his palm from his forehead, and resumed the
narrative.  But Vinicius was overpowered by a new feverish, waking
dream.  What he heard now was in his mind mixed up with what the Apostle
had told the night previous in Ostrianum, of that day in which Christ
appeared on the shore of the sea of Tiberius. He saw a sheet of water
broadly spread out; on it the boat of a fisherman, and in the boat Peter
and Lygia.  He himself was moving with all his might after that boat,
but pain in his broken arm prevented him from reaching it.  The wind
hurled waves in his eyes, he began to sink, and called with entreating
voice for rescue. Lygia knelt down then before the Apostle, who turned
his boat, and reached an oar, which Vinicius seized: with their
assistance he entered the boat and fell on the bottom of it.

It seemed to him, then, that he stood up, and saw a multitude of people
sailing after them.  Waves covered their heads with foam; in the whirl
only the hands of a few could be seen; but Peter saved the drowning time
after time, and gathered them into his boat, which grew larger, as if by
a miracle.  Soon crowds filled it, as numerous as those which were
collected in Ostrianum, and then still greater crowds.  Vinicius
wondered how they could find place there, and he was afraid that they
would sink to the bottom.  But Lygia pacified him by showing him a light
on the distant shore toward which they were sailing.  These dream
pictures of Vinicius were blended again with descriptions which he had
heard in Ostrianum, from the lips of the Apostle, as to how Christ had
appeared on the lake once.  So that he saw now in that light on the
shore a certain form toward which Peter was steering, and as he
approached it the weather grew calmer, the water grew smoother, the
light became greater.  The crowd began to sing sweet hymns; the air was
filled with the odor of nard; the play of water formed a rainbow, as if
from the bottom of the lake lilies and roses were looking, and at last
the boat struck its breast safely against the sand.  Lygia took his hand
then, and said, "Come, I will lead thee!" and she led him to the light.

Vinicius woke again; but his dreaming ceased slowly, and he did not
recover at once the sense of reality.  It seemed for a time to him that
he was still on the lake, and surrounded by crowds, among which, not
knowing the reason himself, he began to look for Petronius, and was
astonished not to find him.  The bright light from the chimney, at which
there was no one at that time, brought him completely to his senses.
Olive sticks were burning slowly under the rosy ashes; but the splinters
of pine, which evidently had been put there some moments before, shot up
a bright flame, and in the light of this, Vinicius saw Lygia, sitting
not far from his bedside.

The sight of her touched him to the depth of his soul.  He remembered
that she had spent the night before in Ostrianum, and had busied herself
the whole day in nursing him, and now when all had gone to rest, she was
the only one watching.  It was easy to divine that she must be wearied,
for while sitting motionless her eyes were closed.  Vinicius knew not
whether she was sleeping or sunk in thought.  He looked at her profile,
at her drooping lashes, at her hands lying on her knees; and in his
pagan head the idea began to hatch with difficulty that at the side of
naked beauty, confident, and proud of Greek and Roman symmetry, there is
another in the world, new, immensely pure, in which a soul has its
dwelling.

He could not bring himself so far as to call it Christian, but, thinking
of Lygia, he could not separate her from the religion which she
confessed.  He understood, even, that if all the others had gone to
rest, and she alone were watching, she whom he had injured, it was
because her religion commanded her to watch.  But that thought, which
filled him with wonder for the religion, was disagreeable to him.  He
would rather that Lygia acted thus out of love for him, his face, his
eyes, his statuesque form,--in a word for reasons because of which more
than once snow-white Grecian and Roman arms had been wound around his
neck.

Still he felt all at once, that, were she like other women, something
would be lacking in her.  He was amazed, and knew not what was happening
in him; for he saw that new feelings of some kind were rising in him,
new likings, strange to the world in which he had lived hitherto.

She opened her eyes then, and, seeing that Vinicius was gazing at her,
she approached him and said,--"I am with thee."

"I saw thy soul in a dream," replied he.




Chapter XXVI


NEXT morning he woke up weak, but with a cool head and free of fever.
It seemed to him that a whispered conversation had roused him; but when
he opened his eyes, Lygia was not there.  Ursus, stooping before the
chimney, was raking apart the gray ashes, and seeking live coals beneath
them.  When he found some, he began to blow, not with his mouth, but as
it were with the bellows of a blacksmith.  Vinicius, remembering how
that man had crushed Croton the day before, examined with attention
befitting a lover of the arena his gigantic back, which resembled the
back of a Cyclops, and his limbs strong as columns.

"Thanks to Mercury that my neck was not broken by him," thought
Vinicius.  "By Pollux! if the other Lygians are like this one, the
Danubian legions will have heavy work some time!"

But aloud he said, "Hei, slave!"

Ursus drew his head out of the chimney, and, smiling in a manner almost
friendly, said,--"God give thee a good day, lord, and good health; but I
am a free man, not a slave."

On Vinicius who wished to question Ursus touching Lygia's birthplace,
these words produced a certain pleasant impression; for discourse with a
free though a common man was less disagreeable to his Roman and
patrician pride, than with a slave, in whom neither law nor custom
recognized human nature.

"Then thou dost not belong to Aulus?" asked he.

"No, lord, I serve Callina, as I served her mother, of my own will."

Here he hid his head again in the chimney, to blow the coals, on which
he had placed some wood.  When he had finished, he took it out and
said,--"With us there are no slaves."

"Where is Lygia?" inquired Vinicius.

"She has gone out, and I am to cook food for thee.  She watched over
thee the whole night."

"Why didst thou not relieve her?"

"Because she wished to watch, and it is for me to obey."  Here his eyes
grew gloomy, and after a while he added:

"If I had disobeyed her, thou wouldst not be living."

"Art thou sorry for not having killed me?"

"No, lord.  Christ has not commanded us to kill."

"But Atacinus and Croton?"

"I could not do otherwise," muttered Ursus.  And he looked with regret
on his hands, which had remained pagan evidently, though his soul had
accepted the cross.  Then he put a pot on the crane, and fixed his
thoughtful eyes on the fire.

"That was thy fault, lord," said he at last.  "Why didst thou raise thy
hand against her, a king's daughter?"

Pride boiled up, at the first moment, in Vinicius, because a common man
and a barbarian had not merely dared to speak to him thus familiarly,
but to blame him in addition.  To those uncommon and improbable things
which had met him since yesterday, was added another.  But being weak
and without his slaves, he restrained himself, especially since a wish
to learn some details of Lygia's life gained the upper hand in him.

When he had calmed himself, therefore, he inquired about the war of the
Lygians against Vannius and the Suevi.  Ursus was glad to converse, but
could not add much that was new to what in his time Aulus Plautius had
told.  Ursus had not been in battle, for he had attended the hostages to
the camp of Atelius Hister.  He knew only that the Lygians had beaten
the Suevi and the Yazygi, but that their leader and king had fallen from
the arrows of the Yazygi. Immediately after they received news that the
Semnones had set fire to forests on their boundaries, they returned in
haste to avenge the wrong, and the hostages remained with Atelius, who
ordered at first to give them kingly honors.  Afterward Lygia's mother
died. The Roman commander knew not what to do with the child.  Ursus
wished to return with her to their own country, but the road was unsafe
because of wild beasts and wild tribes.  When news came that an embassy
of Lygians had visited Pomponius, offering him aid against the
Marcomani, Hister sent him with Lygia to Pomponius.  When they came to
him they learned, however, that no ambassadors had been there, and in
that way they remained in the camp; whence Pomponius took them to Rome,
and at the conclusion of his triumph he gave the king's daughter to
Pomponia Græcina.

Though only certain small details of this narrative had been unknown to
Vinicius, he listened with pleasure, for his enormous pride of family
was pleased that an eye-witness had confirmed Lygia's royal descent.  As
a king's daughter she might occupy a position at Cæsar's court equal to
the daughters of the very first families, all the more since the nation
whose ruler her father had been, had not warred with Rome so far, and,
though barbarian, it might become terrible; for, according to Atelius
Hister himself, it possessed an immense force of warriors.  Ursus,
moreover, confirmed this completely.

"We live in the woods," said he, in answer to Vinicius, "but we have so
much land that no man knows where the end is, and there are many people
on it.  There are also wooden towns in the forest, in which there is
great plenty; for what the Semnones, the Marcomani, the Vandals, and the
Quadi plunder through the world, we take from them.  They dare not come
to us; but when the wind blows from their side, they burn our forests.
We fear neither them nor the Roman Cæsar."

"The gods gave Rome dominion over the earth," said Vinicius severely.

"The gods are evil spirits," replied Ursus, with simplicity, "and where
there are no Romans, there is no supremacy."

Here he fixed the fire, and said, as if to himself,--"When Cæsar took
Callina to the palace, and I thought that harm might meet her, I wanted
to go to the forest and bring Lygians to help the king's daughter.  And
Lygians would have moved toward the Danube, for they are virtuous people
though pagan.  There I should have given them 'good tidings.' But as it
is, if ever Callina returns to Pomponia Græcina I will bow down to her
for permission to go to them; for Christus was born far away, and they
have not even heard of Him. He knew better than I where He should be
born; but if He had come to the world with us, in the forests, we would
not have tortured Him to death, that is certain.  We would have taken
care of the Child, and guarded Him, so that never should He want for
game, mushrooms, beaver-skins, or amber.  And what we plundered from the
Suevi and the Marcomani we would have given Him, so that He might have
comfort and plenty."

Thus speaking, he put near the fire the vessel with food for Vinicius,
and was silent.  His thoughts wandered evidently, for a time yet,
through the Lygian wildernesses, till the liquid began to boil; then he
poured it into a shallow plate, and, cooling it properly, said,--
"Glaucus advises thee, lord, to move even thy sound arm as little as
possible; Callina has commanded me to give thee food."

Lygia commanded!  There was no answer to that.  It did not even come to
Vinicius's head to oppose her will, just as if she had been the daughter
of Cæsar or a goddess.  He uttered not a word, therefore; and Ursus,
sitting near his bed, took out the liquid with a small cup, and put it
to his mouth.  He did this so carefully, and with such a kindly smile,
that Vinicius could not believe his own eyes, could not think him the
same terrible Titan who the day before had crushed Croton, and, rushing
on him like a storm, would have torn him to pieces but for Lygia's pity.
The young patrician, for the first time in life, began to ponder over
this: What can take place in the breast of a simple man, a barbarian,
and a servant?

But Ursus proved to be a nurse as awkward as painstaking; the cup was
lost among his herculean fingers so completely that there was no place
left for the mouth of the sick man.  After a few fruitless efforts the
giant was troubled greatly, and said,--"Li! it would be easier to lead
an aurochs out of a snare."

The anxiety of the Lygian amused Vinicius, but his remark did not
interest him less.  He had seen in circuses the terrible urus, brought
from wildernesses of the north, against which the most daring bestiarii
went with dread, and which yielded only to elephants in size and
strength.

"Hast thou tried to take such beasts by the horns?" inquired he, with
astonishment.

"Till the twentieth winter passed over me, I was afraid," answered
Ursus; "but after that it happened."

And he began to feed Vinicius still more awkwardly than before.

"I must ask Miriam or Nazarius," said he.

But now Lygia's pale face appeared from behind the curtain.

"I will assist directly," said she.  And after a while she came from the
cubiculum, in which she had been preparing to sleep, as it seemed, for
she was in a single close tunic, called by the ancients capitium,
covering the breast completely, and her hair was unbound.  Vinicius,
whose heart beat with more quickness at sight of her, began to upbraid
her for not thinking of sleep yet; but she answered joyously,--"I was
just preparing to sleep, but first I will take the place of Ursus."

She took the cup, and, sitting on the edge of the bed, began to give
food to Vinicius, who felt at once overcome and delighted.  When she
inclined toward him, the warmth of her body struck him, and her unbound
hair fell on his breast.  He grew pale from the impression; but in the
confusion and impulse of desires he felt also that that was a head dear
above all and magnified above all, in comparison with which the whole
world was nothing.  At first he had desired her; now he began to love
her with a full breast. Before that, as generally in life and in
feeling, he had been, like all people of that time, a blind,
unconditional egotist, who thought only of himself; at present he began
to think of her.

After a while, therefore, he refused further nourishment; and though he
found inexhaustible delight in her presence and in looking at her, he
said,--"Enough!  Go to rest, my divine one."

"Do not address me in that way," answered Lygia; "it is not proper for
me to hear such words."

She smiled at him, however, and said that sleep had fled from her, that
she felt no toil, that she would not go to rest till Glaucus came. He
listened to her words as to music; his heart rose with increasing
delight, increasing gratitude, and his thought was struggling to show
her that gratitude.

"Lygia," said he, after a moment of silence, "I did not know thee
hitherto.  But I know now that I wished to attain thee by a false way;
hence I say, return to Pomponia Græcina, and be assured that in future
no hand will be raised against thee."

Her face became sad on a sudden.  "I should be happy," answered she,
"could I look at her, even from a distance; but I cannot return to her
now."

"Why?" inquired Vinicius, with astonishment.

"We Christians know, through Acte, what is done on the Palatine. Hast
thou not heard that Cæsar, soon after my flight and before his departure
for Naples, summoned Aulus and Pomponia, and, thinking that they had
helped me, threatened them with his anger? Fortunately Aulus was able to
say to him, 'Thou knowest, lord, that a lie has never passed my lips; I
swear to thee now that we did not help her to escape, and we do not
know, as thou dost not, what has happened to her.' Cæsar believed, and
afterward forgot.  By the advice of the elders I have never written to
mother where I am, so that she might take an oath boldly at all times
that she has no knowledge of me.  Thou wilt not understand this,
perhaps, O Vinicius; but it is not permitted us to lie, even in a
question involving life.  Such is the religion on which we fashion our
hearts; therefore I have not seen Pomponia from the hour when I left her
house.  From time to time distant echoes barely reach her that I am
alive and not in danger."

Here a longing seized Lygia, and her eyes were moist with tears; but she
calmed herself quickly, and said,--"I know that Pomponia, too, yearns
for me; but we have consolation which others have not."

"Yes," answered Vinicius, "Christ is your consolation, but I do not
understand that."

"Look at us!  For us there are no partings, no pains, no sufferings; or
if they come they are turned into pleasure.  And death itself, which for
you is the end of life, is for us merely its beginning,--the exchange of
a lower for a higher happiness, a happiness less calm for one calmer and
eternal.  Consider what must a religion be which enjoins on us love even
for our enemies, forbids falsehood, purifies our souls from hatred, and
promises happiness inexhaustible after death."

"I heard those teachings in Ostrianum, and I have seen how ye acted with
me and with Chilo; when I remember your deeds, they are like a dream,
and it seems to me that I ought not to believe my ears or eyes.  But
answer me this question: Art thou happy?"

"I am," answered Lygia.  "One who confesses Christ cannot be unhappy."
Vinicius looked at her, as though what she said passed every measure of
human understanding.

"And hast thou no wish to return to Pomponia?"

"I should like, from my whole soul, to return to her; and shall return,
if such be God's will."

"I say to thee, therefore, return; and I swear by my lares that I will
not raise a hand against thee."

Lygia thought for a moment, and answered,--"No, I cannot expose those
near me to danger.  Cæsar does not like the Plautiuses. Should I return
--thou knowest how every news is spread throughout Rome by slaves--my
return would be noised about in the city.  Nero would hear of it surely
through his slaves, and punish Aulus and Pomponia,--at least take me
from them a second time."

"True," answered Vinicius, frowning, "that would be possible.  He would
do so, even to show that his will must be obeyed.  It is true that he
only forgot thee, or would remember thee, because the loss was not his,
but mine.  Perhaps, if he took thee from Aulus and Pomponia, he would
send thee to me and I could give thee back to them."

"Vinicius, wouldst thou see me again on the Palatine?" inquired Lygia.

He set his teeth, and answered,--"No. Thou art right.  I spoke like a
fool!  No!"

And all at once he saw before him a precipice, as it were without
bottom. He was a patrician, a military tribune, a powerful man; but
above every power of that world to which he belonged was a madman whose
will and malignity it was impossible to foresee.  Only such people as
the Christians might cease to reckon with Nero or fear him,--people for
whom this whole world, with its separations and sufferings, was as
nothing; people for whom death itself was as nothing.  All others had to
tremble before him.  The terrors of the time in which they lived showed
themselves to Vinicius in all their monstrous extent.  He could not
return Lygia to Aulus and Pomponia, then, through fear that the monster
would remember her, and turn on her his anger; for the very same reason,
if he should take her as wife, he might expose her, himself, and Aulus.
A moment of ill-humor was enough to ruin all.  Vinicius felt, for the
first time in life, that either the world must change and be
transformed, or life would become impossible altogether.  He understood
also this, which a moment before had been dark to him, that in such
times only Christians could be happy.

But above all, sorrow seized him, for he understood, too, that it was he
who had so involved his own life and Lygia's that out of the
complication there was scarcely an outcome.  And under the influence of
that sorrow he began to speak:

"Dost thou know that thou art happier than I?  Thou art in poverty, and
in this one chamber, among simple people, thou hast thy religion and thy
Christ; but I have only thee, and when I lacked thee I was like a beggar
without a roof above him and without bread.  Thou art dearer to me than
the whole world.  I sought thee, for I could not live without thee.  I
wished neither feasts nor sleep. Had it not been for the hope of finding
thee, I should have cast myself on a sword.  But I fear death, for if
dead I could not see thee.  I speak the pure truth in saying that I
shall not be able to live without thee.  I have lived so far only in the
hope of finding and beholding thee.  Dost thou remember our
conversations at the house of Aulus?  Once thou didst draw a fish for me
on the sand, and I knew not what its meaning was.  Dost thou remember
how we played ball?  I loved thee then above life, and thou hadst begun
already to divine that I loved thee.  Aulus came, frightened us with
Libitina, and interrupted our talk.  Pomponia, at parting, told
Petronius that God is one, all-mighty and all-merciful, but it did not
even occur to us that Christ was thy God and hers.  Let Him give thee to
me and I will love Him, though He seems to me a god of slaves,
foreigners, and beggars.  Thou sittest near me, and thinkest of Him
only.  Think of me too, or I shall hate Him.  For me thou alone art a
divinity.  Blessed be thy father and mother; blessed the land which
produced thee!  I should wish to embrace thy feet and pray to thee, give
thee honor, homage, offerings, thou thrice divine!  Thou knowest not, or
canst not know, how I love thee."

Thus speaking, he placed his hand on his pale forehead and closed his
eyes.  His nature never knew bounds in love or anger.  He spoke with
enthusiasm, like a man who, having lost self-control, has no wish to
observe any measure in words or feelings.  But he spoke from the depth
of his soul, and sincerely.  It was to be felt that the pain, ecstasy,
desire, and homage accumulated in his breast had burst forth at last in
an irresistible torrent of words.  To Lygia his words appeared
blasphemous, but still her heart began to beat as if it would tear the
tunic enclosing her bosom.  She could not resist pity for him and his
suffering.  She was moved by the homage with which he spoke to her.  She
felt beloved and deified without bounds; she felt that that unbending
and dangerous man belonged to her now, soul and body, like a slave; and
that feeling of his submission and her own power filled her with
happiness.  Her recollections revived in one moment.  He was for her
again that splendid Vinicius, beautiful as a pagan god; he, who in the
house of Aulus had spoken to her of love, and roused as if from sleep
her heart half childlike at that time; he from whose embraces Ursus had
wrested her on the Palatine, as he might have wrested her from flames.
But at present, with ecstasy, and at the same time with pain in his
eagle face, with pale forehead and imploring eyes,--wounded, broken by
love, loving, full of homage and submissive,--he seemed to her such as
she would have wished him, and such as she would have loved with her
whole soul, therefore dearer than he had ever been before.

All at once she understood that a moment might come in which his love
would seize her and bear her away, as a whirlwind; and when she felt
this, she had the same impression that he had a moment before,--that she
was standing on the edge of a precipice.  Was it for this that she had
left the house of Aulus?  Was it for this that she had saved herself by
flight?  Was it for this that she had hidden so long in wretched parts
of the city?  Who was that Vinicius?  An Augustian, a soldier, a
courtier of Nero!  Moreover he took part in his profligacy and madness,
as was shown by that feast, which she could not forget; and he went with
others to the temples, and made offerings to vile gods, in whom he did
not believe, perhaps, but still he gave them official honor.  Still more
he had pursued her to make her his slave and mistress, and at the same
time to thrust her into that terrible world of excess, luxury, crime,
and dishonor which calls for the anger and vengeance of God.  He seemed
changed, it is true, but still he had just said to her that if she would
think more of Christ than of him, he was ready to hate Christ.  It
seemed to Lygia that the very idea of any other love than the love of
Christ was a sin against Him and against religion.  When she saw then
that other feelings and desires might be roused in the depth of her
soul, she was seized by alarm for her own future and her own heart.

At this moment of internal struggle appeared Glaucus, who had come to
care for the patient and study his health.  In the twinkle of an eye,
anger and impatience were reflected on the face of Vinicius.  He was
angry that his conversation with Lygia had been interrupted; and when
Glaucus questioned him, he answered with contempt almost.  It is true
that he moderated himself quickly; but if Lygia had any illusions as to
this,--that what he had heard in Ostrianum might have acted on his
unyielding nature,--those illusions must vanish.  He had changed only
for her; but beyond that single feeling there remained in his breast the
former harsh and selfish heart, truly Roman and wolfish, incapable not
only of the sweet sentiment of Christian teaching but even of gratitude.

She went away at last filled with internal care and anxiety. Formerly in
her prayers she had offered to Christ a heart calm, and really pure as a
tear.  Now that calmness was disturbed.  To the interior of the flower a
poisonous insect had come and began to buzz.  Even sleep, in spite of
the two nights passed without sleep, brought her no relief.  She dreamed
that at Ostrianum Nero, at the head of a whole band of Augustians,
bacchantes, corybantes, and gladiators, was trampling crowds of
Christians with his chariot wreathed in roses; and Vinicius seized her
by the arm, drew her to the quadriga, and, pressing her to his bosom,
whispered "Come with us."




Chapter XXVII


FROM that moment Lygia showed herself more rarely in the common chamber,
and approached his couch less frequently.  But peace did not return to
her.  She saw that Vinicius followed her with imploring glance; that he
was waiting for every word of hers, as for a favor; that he suffered and
dared not complain, lest he might turn her away from him; that she alone
was his health and delight.  And then her heart swelled with compassion.
Soon she observed, too, that the more she tried to avoid him, the more
compassion she had for him; and by this itself the more tender were the
feelings which rose in her.  Peace left her.  At times she said to
herself that it was her special duty to be near him always, first,
because the religion of God commands return of good for evil; second,
that by conversing with him, she might attract him to the faith.  But at
the same time conscience told her that she was tempting herself; that
only love for him and the charm which he exerted were attracting her,
nothing else.  Thus she lived in a ceaseless struggle, which was
intensified daily.  At times it seemed that a kind of net surrounded
her, and that in trying to break through it she entangled herself more
and more.  She had also to confess that for her the sight of him was
becoming more needful, his voice was becoming dearer, and that she had
to struggle with all her might against the wish to sit at his bedside.
When she approached him, and he grew radiant, delight filled her heart.
On a certain day she noticed traces of tears on his eyelids, and for the
first time in life the thought came to her, to dry them with kisses.
Terrified by that thought, and full of self-contempt, she wept all the
night following.

He was as enduring as if he had made a vow of patience.  When at moments
his eyes flashed with petulance, self-will, and anger, he restrained
those flashes promptly, and looked with alarm at her, as if to implore
pardon.  This acted still more on her.  Never had she such a feeling of
being greatly loved as then; and when she thought of this, she felt at
once guilty and happy.  Vinicius, too, had changed essentially.  In his
conversations with Glaucus there was less pride.  It occurred to him
frequently that even that poor slave physician and that foreign woman,
old Miriam, who surrounded him with attention, and Crispus, whom he saw
absorbed in continual prayer, were still human.  He was astonished at
such thoughts, but he had them.  After a time he conceived a liking for
Ursus, with whom he conversed entire days; for with him he could talk
about Lygia.  The giant, on his part, was inexhaustible in narrative,
and while performing the most simple services for the sick man, he began
to show him also some attachment.  For Vinicius, Lygia had been at all
times a being of another order, higher a hundred times than those around
her: nevertheless, he began to observe simple and poor people,--a thing
which he had never done before,--and he discovered in them various
traits the existence of which he had never suspected.

Nazarius, however, he could not endure, for it seemed to him that the
young lad had dared to fall in love with Lygia.  He had restrained his
aversion for a long time, it is true; but once when he brought her two
quails, which he had bought in the market with his own earned money, the
descendant of the Quirites spoke out in Vinicius, for whom one who had
wandered in from a strange people had less worth than the meanest worm.
When he heard Lygia's thanks, he grew terribly pale; and when Nazarius
went out to get water for the birds, he said,--"Lygia, canst thou endure
that he should give thee gifts?  Dost thou not know that the Greeks call
people of his nation Jewish dogs?"

"I do not know what the Greeks call them; but I know that Nazarius is a
Christian and my brother."

When she had said this she looked at Vinicius with astonishment and
regret, for he had disaccustomed her to similar outbursts; and he set
his teeth, so as not to tell her that he would have given command to
beat such a brother with sticks, or would have sent him as a compeditus
[A man who labors with chained feet] to dig earth in his Sicilian
vineyards.  He restrained himself, however, throttled the anger within
him, and only after a while did he say,--"Pardon me, Lygia.  For me thou
art the daughter of a king and the adopted child of Plautius."  And he
subdued himself to that degree that when Nazarius appeared in the
chamber again, he promised him, on returning to his villa, the gift of a
pair of peacocks or flamingoes, of which he had a garden full.

Lygia understood what such victories over himself must have cost him;
but the oftener he gained them the more her heart turned to him.  His
merit with regard to Nazarius was less, however, than she supposed.
Vinicius might be indignant for a moment, but he could not be jealous of
him.  In fact the son of Miriam did not, in his eyes, mean much more
than a dog; besides, he was a child yet, who, if he loved Lygia, loved
her unconsciously and servilely. Greater struggles must the young
tribune have with himself to submit, even in silence, to that honor with
which among those people the name of Christ and His religion was
surrounded.  In this regard wonderful things took place in Vinicius.
That was in every case a religion which Lygia believed; hence for that
single reason he was ready to receive it.  Afterward, the more he
returned to health, the more he remembered the whole series of events
which had happened since that night at Ostrianum, and the whole series
of thoughts which had come to his head from that time, the more he was
astonished at the superhuman power of that religion which changed the
souls of men to their foundations.  He understood that in it there was
something uncommon, something which had not been on earth before, and he
felt that could it embrace the whole world, could it ingraft on the
world its love and charity, an epoch would come recalling that in which
not Jupiter, but Saturn had ruled.  He did not dare either to doubt the
supernatural origin of Christ, or His resurrection, or the other
miracles.  The eye-witnesses who spoke of them were too trustworthy and
despised falsehood too much to let him suppose that they were telling
things that had not happened.  Finally, Roman scepticism permitted
disbelief in the gods, but believed in miracles.  Vinicius, therefore,
stood before a kind of marvellous puzzle which he could not solve.  On
the other hand, however, that religion seemed to him opposed to the
existing state of things, impossible of practice, and mad in a degree
beyond all others.  According to him, people in Rome and in the whole
world might be bad, but the order of things was good.  Had Cæsar, for
example, been an honest man, had the Senate been composed, not of
insignificant libertines, but of men like Thrasea, what more could one
wish?  Nay, Roman peace and supremacy were good; distinction among
people just and proper. But that religion, according to the
understanding of Vinicius, would destroy all order, all supremacy, every
distinction.  What would happen then to the dominion and lordship of
Rome?  Could the Romans cease to rule, or could they recognize a whole
herd of conquered nations as equal to themselves?  That was a thought
which could find no place in the head of a patrician.  As regarded him
personally, that religion was opposed to all his ideas and habits, his
whole character and understanding of life.  He was simply unable to
imagine how he could exist were he to accept it. He feared and admired
it; but as to accepting it, his nature shuddered at that.  He
understood, finally, that nothing save that religion separated him from
Lygia; and when he thought of this, he hated it with all the powers of
his soul.

Still he acknowledged to himself that it had adorned Lygia with that
exceptional, unexplained beauty which in his heart had produced, besides
love, respect, besides desire, homage, and had made of that same Lygia a
being dear to him beyond all others in the world.  And then he wished
anew to love Christ.  And he understood clearly that he must either love
or hate Him; he could not remain indifferent.  Meanwhile two opposing
currents were as if driving him: he hesitated in thoughts, in feelings;
he knew not how to choose, he bowed his head, however, to that God by
him uncomprehended, and paid silent honor for this sole reason, that He
was Lygia's God.

Lygia saw what was happening in him; she saw how he was breaking
himself, how his nature was rejecting that religion; and though this
mortified her to the death, compassion, pity, and gratitude for the
silent respect which he showed Christ inclined her heart to him with
irresistible force.  She recalled Pomponia Græcina and Aulus.  For
Pomponia a source of ceaseless sorrow and tears that never dried was the
thought that beyond the grave she would not find Aulus.  Lygia began now
to understand better that pain, that bitterness.  She too had found a
being dear to her, and she was threatened by eternal separation from
this dear one.

At times, it is true, she was self-deceived, thinking that his soul
would open itself to Christ's teaching; but these illusions could not
remain.  She knew and understood him too well.  Vinicius a Christian!--
These two ideas could find no place together in her unenlightened head.
If the thoughtful, discreet Aulus had not become a Christian under the
influence of the wise and perfect Pomponia, how could Vinicius become
one?  To this there was no answer, or rather there was only one,--that
for him there was neither hope nor salvation.

But Lygia saw with terror that that sentence of condemnation which hung
over him instead of making him repulsive made him still dearer simply
through compassion.  At moments the wish seized her to speak to him of
his dark future; but once, when she had sat near him and told him that
outside Christian truth there was no life, he, having grown stronger at
that time, rose on his sound arm and placed his head on her knees
suddenly.  "Thou art life!" said he.  And that moment breath failed in
her breast, presence of mind left her, a certain quiver of ecstasy
rushed over her from head to feet.  Seizing his temples with her hands,
she tried to raise him, but bent the while so that her lips touched his
hair; and for a moment both were overcome with delight, with themselves,
and with love, which urged them the one to the other.

Lygia rose at last and rushed away, with a flame in her veins and a
giddiness in her head; but that was the drop which overflowed the cup
filled already to the brim.  Vinicius did not divine how dearly he would
have to pay for that happy moment, but Lygia understood that now she
herself needed rescue.  She spent the night after that evening without
sleep, in tears and in prayer, with the feeling that she was unworthy to
pray and could not be heard.  Next morning she went from the cubiculum
early, and, calling Crispus to the garden summer-house, covered with ivy
and withered vines, opened her whole soul to him, imploring him at the
same time to let her leave Miriam's house, since she could not trust
herself longer, and could not overcome her heart's love for Vinicius.

Crispus, an old man, severe and absorbed in endless enthusiasm,
consented to the plan of leaving Miriam's house, but he had no words of
forgiveness for that love, to his thinking sinful.  His heart swelled
with indignation at the very thought that Lygia, whom he had guarded
since the time of her flight, whom he had loved, whom he had confirmed
in the faith, and on whom he looked now as a white lily grown up on the
field of Christian teaching undefiled by any earthly breath, could have
found a place in her soul for love other than heavenly.  He had believed
hitherto that nowhere in the world did there beat a heart more purely
devoted to the glory of Christ.  He wanted to offer her to Him as a
pearl, a jewel, the precious work of his own hands; hence the
disappointment which he felt filled him with grief and amazement.

"Go and beg God to forgive thy fault," said he, gloomily.  "Flee before
the evil spirit who involved thee bring thee to utter fall, and before
thou oppose the Saviour.  God died on the cross to redeem thy soul with
His blood, but thou hast preferred to love him who wished to make thee
his concubine.  God saved thee by a miracle of His own hands, but thou
hast opened thy heart to impure desire, and hast loved the son of
darkness.  Who is he?  The friend and servant of Antichrist, his
copartner in crime and profligacy. Whither will he lead thee, if not to
that abyss and to that Sodom in which he himself is living, but which
God will destroy with the flame of His anger?  But I say to thee, would
thou hadst died, would the walls of this house had fallen on thy head
before that serpent had crept into thy bosom and beslimed it with the
poison of iniquity."

And he was borne away more and more, for Lygia's fault filled him not
only with anger but with loathing and contempt for human nature in
general, and in particular for women, whom even Christian truth could
not save from Eve's weakness.  To him it seemed nothing that the maiden
had remained pure, that she wished to flee from that love, that she had
confessed it with compunction and penitence.  Crispus had wished to
transform her into an angel, to raise her to heights where love for
Christ alone existed, and she had fallen in love with an Augustian.  The
very thought of that filled his heart with horror, strengthened by a
feeling of disillusion and disappointment.  No, no, he could not forgive
her.  Words of horror burned his lips like glowing coals; he struggled
still with himself not to utter them, but he shook his emaciated hands
over the terrified girl.  Lygia felt guilty, but not to that degree.
She had judged even that withdrawal from Miriam's house would be her
victory over temptation, and would lessen her fault.  Crispus rubbed her
into the dust; showed her all the misery and insignificance of her soul,
which she had not suspected hitherto.  She had judged even that the old
presbyter, who from the moment of her flight from the Palatine had been
to her as a father, would show some compassion, console her, give her
courage, and strengthen her.

"I offer my pain and disappointment to God," said he, "but thou hast
deceived the Saviour also, for thou hast gone as it were to a quagmire
which has poisoned thy soul with its miasma.  Thou mightst have offered
it to Christ as a costly vessel, and said to Him, 'Fill it with grace, O
Lord!' but thou hast preferred to offer it to the servant of the evil
one.  May God forgive thee and have mercy on thee; for till thou cast
out the serpent, I who held thee as chosen-"

But he ceased suddenly to speak, for he saw that they were not alone.
Through the withered vines and the ivy, which was green alike in summer
and winter, he saw two men, one of whom was Peter the Apostle.  The
other he was unable to recognize at once, for a mantle of coarse woollen
stuff, called cilicium, concealed a part of his face.  It seemed to
Crispus for a moment that that was Chilo.

They, hearing the loud voice of Crispus, entered the summer-house and
sat on a stone bench.  Peter's companion had an emaciated face; his
head, which was growing bald, was covered at the sides with curly hair;
he had reddened eyelids and a crooked nose; in the face, ugly and at the
same time inspired, Crispus recognized the features of Paul of Tarsus.

Lygia, casting herself on her knees, embraced Peter's feet, as if from
despair, and, sheltering her tortured head in the fold of his mantle,
remained thus in silence.

"Peace to your souls!" said Peter.

And seeing the child at his feet he asked what had happened. Crispus
began then to narrate all that Lygia had confessed to him,--her sinful
love, her desire to flee from Miriam's house,--and his sorrow that a
soul which he had thought to offer to Christ pure as a tear had defiled
itself with earthly feelings for a sharer in all those crimes into which
the pagan world had sunk, and which called for God's vengeance.

Lygia during his speech embraced with increasing force the feet of the
Apostle, as if wishing to seek refuge near them, and to beg even a
little compassion.

But the Apostle, when he had listened to the end, bent down and placed
his aged hand on her head; then he raised his eyes to the old presbyter,
and said,--"Crispus, hast thou not heard that our beloved Master was in
Cana, at a wedding, and blessed love between man and woman?"

Crispus's hands dropped, and he looked with astonishment on the speaker,
without power to utter one word.  After a moment's silence Peter asked
again,--"Crispus, dost thou think that Christ, who permitted Mary of
Magdala to lie at his feet, and who forgave the public sinner, would
turn from this maiden, who is as pure as a lily of the field?"

Lygia nestled up more urgently to the feet of Peter, with sobbing,
understanding that she had not sought refuge in vain.  The Apostle
raised her face, which was covered with tears, and said to her,--"While
the eyes of him whom thou lovest are not open to the light of truth,
avoid him, lest he bring thee to sin, but pray for him, and know that
there is no sin in thy love.  And since it is thy wish to avoid
temptation, this will be accounted to thee as a merit.  Do not suffer,
and do not weep; for I tell thee that the grace of the Redeemer has not
deserted thee, and that thy prayers will be heard; after sorrow will
come days of gladness."

When he had said this, he placed both hands on her head, and, raising
his eyes, blessed her.  From his face there shone a goodness beyond that
of earth.

The penitent Crispus began humbly to explain himself; "I have sinned
against mercy," said he; "but I thought that by admitting to her heart
an earthly love she had denied Christ."

"I denied Him thrice," answered Peter, "and still He forgave me, and
commanded me to feed His sheep."

"And because," concluded Crispus, "Vinicius is an Augustian."

"Christ softened harder hearts than his," replied Peter.

Then Paul of Tarsus, who had been silent so far, placed his finger on
his breast, pointing to himself, and said,--"I am he who persecuted and
hurried servants of Christ to their death; I am he who during the
stoning of Stephen kept the garments of those who stoned him; I am he
who wished to root out the truth in every part of the inhabited earth,
and yet the Lord predestined me to declare it in every land.  I have
declared it in Judea, in Greece, on the Islands, and in this godless
city, where first I resided as a prisoner. And now when Peter, my
superior, has summoned me, I enter this house to bend that proud head to
the feet of Christ, and cast a grain of seed in that stony field, which
the Lord will fertilize, so that it may bring forth a bountiful
harvest."

And he rose.  To Crispus that diminutive hunchback seemed then that
which he was in reality,--a giant, who was to stir the world to its
foundations and gather in lands and nations.




Chapter XXVIII


PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:--"Have pity, carissime; imitate not in thy
letters the Lacedemonians or Julius Cæsar!  Couldst thou, like Julius,
write Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered), I might understand
thy brevity.  But thy letter means absolutely Veni, vidi, fugi (I came,
I saw, I fled). Since such a conclusion of the affair is directly
opposed to thy nature, since thou art wounded, and since, finally,
uncommon things are happening to thee, thy letter needs explanation.  I
could not believe my eyes when I read that the Lygian giant killed
Croton as easily as a Caledonian dog would kill a wolf in the defiles of
Hibernia.  That man is worth as much gold as he himself weighs, and it
depends on him alone to become a favorite of Cæsar.  When I return to
the city, I must gain a nearer acquaintance with that Lygian, and have a
bronze statue of him made for myself.  Ahenobarbus will burst from
curiosity, when I tell him that it is from nature.  Bodies really
athletic are becoming rarer in Italy and in Greece; of the Orient no
mention need be made; the Germans, though large, have muscles covered
with fat, and are greater in bulk than in strength.  Learn from the
Lygian if he is an exception, or if in his country there are more men
like him.  Should it happen sometime to thee or me to organize games
officially, it would be well to know where to seek for the best bodies.

"But praise to the gods of the Orient and the Occident that thou hast
come out of such hands alive.  Thou hast escaped, of course, because
thou art a patrician, and the son of a consul; but everything which has
happened astonishes me in the highest degree,--that cemetery where thou
wert among the Christians, they, their treatment of thee, the subsequent
flight of Lygia; finally, that peculiar sadness and disquiet which
breathes from thy short letter.  Explain, for there are many points
which I cannot understand; and if thou wish the truth, I will tell thee
plainly, that I understand neither the Christians nor thee nor Lygia.
Wonder not that I, who care for few things on earth except my own
person, inquire of thee so eagerly.  I have contributed to all this
affair of thine; hence it is my affair so far.  Write soon, for I cannot
foresee surely when we may meet.  In Bronzebeard's head plans change, as
winds do in autumn.  At present, while tarrying in Beneventum, he has
the wish to go straightway to Greece, without returning to Rome.
Tigellinus, however, advises him to visit the city even for a time,
since the people, yearning overmuch for his person (read 'for games and
bread') may revolt.  So I cannot tell how it will be. Should Achæa
overbalance, we may want to see Egypt.  I should insist with all my
might on thy coming, for I think that in thy state of mind travelling
and our amusements would be a medicine, but thou mightst not find us.
Consider, then, whether in that case repose in thy Sicilian estates
would not be preferable to remaining in Rome.  Write me minutely of
thyself, and farewell.  I add no wish this time, except health; for, by
Pollux! I know not what to wish thee."

Vinicius, on receiving this letter, felt at first no desire to reply.
He had a kind of feeling that it was not worth while to reply, that an
answer would benefit no one in any way, that it would explain nothing.
Discontent, and a feeling of the vanity of life, possessed him.  He
thought, moreover, that Petronius would not comprehend him in any case,
and that something had happened which would remove them from each other.
He could not come to an agreement with himself, even.  When he returned
from the Trans-Tiber to his splendid "insula," he was exhausted, and
found for the first days a certain satisfaction in rest and in the
comfort and abundance about him.  That satisfaction lasted but a short
time, however.  He felt soon that he was living in vanity; that all
which so far had formed the interest of his life either had ceased to
exist for him or had shrunk to proportions barely perceptible.  He had a
feeling as if those ties which hitherto had connected him with life had
been cut in his soul, and that no new ones had been formed.  At the
thought that he might go to Beneventum and thence to Achæa, to swim in a
life of luxury and wild excess, he had a feeling of emptiness.  "To what
end?  What shall I gain from it?"  These were the first questions which
passed through his head.  And for the first time in life, also, he
thought that if he went, the conversation of Petronius, his wit, his
quickness, his exquisite outlining of thought, and his choice of apt
phrases for every idea might annoy him.

But solitude, too, had begun to annoy him.  All his acquaintances were
with Cæsar in Beneventum; so he had to stay at home alone, with a head
full of thoughts, and a heart full of feelings which he could not
analyze.  He had moments, however, in which he judged that if he could
converse with some one about everything that took place in him, perhaps
he might be able to grasp it all somehow, bring it to order, and
estimate it better.  Under the influence of this hope, and after some
days of hesitation, he decided to answer Petronius; and, though not
certain that he would send the answer, he wrote it in the following
words:--

"It is thy wish that I write more minutely, agreed then; whether I shall
be able to do it more clearly, I cannot tell, for there are many knots
which I know not myself how to loosen.  I described to thee my stay
among the Christians, and their treatment of enemies, among whom they
had a right to count both me and Chilo; finally, of the kindness with
which they nursed me, and of the disappearance of Lygia.  No, my dear
friend, I was not spared because of being the son of a consul.  Such
considerations do not exist for them, since they forgave even Chilo,
though I urged them to bury him in the garden.  Those are people such as
the world has not seen hitherto, and their teaching is of a kind that
the world has not heard up to this time.  I can say nothing else, and he
errs who measures them with our measure.  I tell thee that, if I had
been lying with a broken arm in my own house, and if my own peoples,
even my own family, had nursed me, I should have had more comforts, of
course, but I should not have received half the care which I found among
them.

"Know this, too, that Lygia is like the others.  Had she been my sister
or my wife, she could not have nursed me more tenderly. Delight filled
my heart more than once, for I judged that love alone could inspire the
like tenderness.  More than once I saw love in her look, in her face;
and, wilt thou believe me? among those simple people then in that poor
chamber, which was at once a culina and a triclinium, I felt happier
than ever before.  No; she was not indifferent to me--and to-day even I
cannot think that she was. Still that same Lygia left Miriam's dwelling
in secret because of me.  I sit now whole days with my head on my hands,
and think, Why did she do so?  Have I written thee that I volunteered to
restore her to Aulus?  True, she declared that to be impossible at
present, because Aulus and Pomponia had gone to Sicily, and because news
of her return going from house to house, through slaves, would reach the
Palatine, and Cæsar might take her from Aulus again.  But she knew that
I would not pursue her longer; that I had left the way of violence;
that, unable to cease loving her or to live without her, I would bring
her into my house through a wreathed door, and seat her on a sacred skin
at my hearth.  Still she fled!  Why?  Nothing was threatening her.  Did
she not love me, she might have rejected me.  The day before her flight,
I made the acquaintance of a wonderful man, a certain Paul of Tarsus,
who spoke to me of Christ and His teachings, and spoke with such power
that every word of his, without his willing it, turns all the
foundations of our society into ashes.  That same man visited me after
her flight, and said: 'If God open thy eyes to the light, and take the
beam from them as He took it from mine, thou wilt feel that she acted
properly; and then, perhaps, thou wilt find her.' And now I am breaking
my head over these words, as if I had heard them from the mouth of the
Pythoness at Delphi.  I seem to understand something.  Though they love
people, the Christians are enemies of our life, our gods, and our
crimes; hence she fled from me, as from a man who belongs to our
society, and with whom she would have to share a life counted criminal
by Christians.  Thou wilt say that since she might reject me, she had no
need to withdraw.  But if she loved me?  In that case she desired to
flee from love.  At the very thought of this I wish to send slaves into
every alley in Rome, and command them to cry throughout the houses,
'Return, Lygia!' But I cease to understand why she fled.  I should not
have stopped her from believing in her Christ, and would myself have
reared an altar to Him in the atrium.  What harm could one more god do
me?  Why might I not believe in him,--I who do not believe overmuch in
the old gods?  I know with full certainty that the Christlans do not
lie; and they say that he rose from the dead.  A man cannot rise from
the dead.  That Paul of Tarsus, who is a Roman citizen, but who, as a
Jew, knows the old Hebrew writings, told me that the coming of Christ
was promised by prophets for whole thousands of years.  All these are
uncommon things, but does not the uncommon surround us on every side?
People have not ceased talking yet of Apollonius of Tyana.  Paul's
statement that there is one God, not a whole assembly of them, seems
sound to me.  Perhaps Seneca is of this opinion, and before him many
others.  Christ lived, gave Himself to be crucified for the salvation of
the world, and rose from the dead.  All this is perfectly certain.  I do
not see, therefore, a reason why I should insist on an opposite opinion,
or why I should not rear to Him an altar, if I am ready to rear one to
Serapis, for instance.  It would not be difficult for me even to
renounce other gods, for no reasoning mind believes in them at present.
But it seems that all this is not enough yet for the Christians.  It is
not enough to honor Christ, one must also live according to His
teachings; and here thou art on the shore of a sea which they command
thee to wade through.

"If I promised to do so, they themselves would feel that the promise was
an empty sound of words.  Paul told me so openly. Thou knowest how I
love Lygia, and knowest that there is nothing that I would not do for
her.  Still, even at her wish, I cannot raise Soracte or Vesuvius on my
shoulders, or place Thrasymene Lake on the palm of my hand, or from
black make my eyes blue, like those of the Lygians.  If she so desired,
I could have the wish, but the change does not lie in my power.  I am
not a philosopher, but also I am not so dull as I have seemed, perhaps,
more than once to thee.  I will state now the following: I know not how
the Christians order their own lives, but I know that where their
religion begins, Roman rule ends, Rome itself ends, our mode of life
ends, the distinction between conquered and conqueror, between rich and
poor, lord and slave, ends, government ends, Cæsar ends, law and all the
order of the world ends; and in place of those appear Christ, with a
certain mercy not existent hitherto, and kindness, opposed to human and
our Roman instincts.  It is true that Lygia is more to me than all Rome
and its lordship; and I would let society vanish could I have her in my
house.  But that is another thing.  Agreement in words does not satisfy
the Christians; a man must feel that their teaching is truth, and not
have aught else in his soul.  But that, the gods are my witnesses, is
beyond me.  Dost understand what that means?  There is something in my
nature which shudders at this religion; and were my lips to glorify it,
were I to conform to its precepts, my soul and my reason would say that
I do so through love for Lygia, and that apart from her there is to me
nothing on earth more repulsive.  And, a strange thing, Paul of Tarsus
understands this, and so does that old theurgus Peter, who in spite of
all his simplicity and low origin is the highest among them, and was the
disciple of Christ.  And dost thou know what they are doing?  They are
praying for me, and calling down something which they call grace; but
nothing descends on me, save disquiet, and a greater yearning for Lygia.

"I have written thee that she went away secretly; but when going she
left me a cross which she put together from twigs of boxwood. When I
woke up, I found it near my bed.  I have it now in the lararium, and I
approach it yet, I cannot tell why, as if there were something divine in
it,--that is, with awe and reverence.  I love it because her hand bound
it, and I hate it because it divides us.  At times it seems to me that
there are enchantments of some kind in all this affair, and that the
theurgus, Peter, though he declares himself to be a simple shepherd, is
greater than Apollonius, and all who preceded him, and that he has
involved us all--Lygia, Pomponia, and me--with them.

"Thou hast written that in my previous letter disquiet and sadness are
visible.  Sadness there must be, for I have lost her again, and there is
disquiet because something has changed in me.  I tell thee sincerely,
that nothing is more repugnant to my nature than that religion, and
still I cannot recognize myself since I met Lygia.  Is it enchantment,
or love?  Circe changed people's bodies by touching them, but my soul
has been changed.  No one but Lygia could have done that, or rather
Lygia through that wonderful religion which she professes.  When I
returned to my house from the Christians, no one was waiting for me.
The slaves thought that I was in Beneventum, and would not return soon;
hence there was disorder in the house.  I found the slaves drunk, and a
feast, which they were giving themselves, in my triclinium.  They had
more thought of seeing death than me, and would have been less terrified
by it. Thou knowest with what a firm hand I hold my house; all to the
last one dropped on their knees, and some fainted from terror.  But dost
thou know how I acted?  At the first moment I wished to call for rods
and hot iron, but immediately a kind of shame seized me, and, wilt thou
lend belief? a species of pity for those wretched people.  Among them
are old slaves whom my grandfather, Marcus Vinicius, brought from the
Rhine in the time of Augustus. I shut myself up alone in the library,
and there came stranger thoughts still to my head; namely, that after
what I had heard and seen among the Christians, it did not become me to
act with slaves as I had acted hitherto--that they too were people.  For
a number of days they moved about in mortal terror, in the belief that I
was delaying so as to invent punishment the more cruel, but I did not
punish, and did not punish because I was not able.  Summoning them on
the third day, I said, 'I forgive you; strive then with earnest service
to correct your fault!' They fell on their knees, covering their faces
with tears, stretching forth their hands with groans, and called me lord
and father; but I--with shame do I write this--was equally moved.  It
seemed to me that at that moment I was looking at the sweet face of
Lygia, and her eyes filled with tears, thanking me for that act.  And,
proh pudor!  I felt that my lips too were moist. Dost know what I will
confess to thee?  This--that I cannot do without her, that it is ill for
me alone, that I am simply unhappy, and that my sadness is greater than
thou wilt admit.  But, as to my slaves, one thing arrested my attention.
The forgiveness which they received not only did not make them insolent,
not only did not weaken discipline, but never had fear roused them to
such ready service as has gratitude.  Not only do they serve, but they
seem to vie with one another to divine my wishes.  I mention this to
thee because, when, the day before I left the Christians, I told Paul
that society would fall apart because of his religion, as a cask without
hoops, he answered, 'Love is a stronger hoop than fear.' And now I see
that in certain cases his opinion may be right.  I have verified it also
with references to clients, who, learning of my return, hurried to
salute me.  Thou knowest that I have never been penurious with them; but
my father acted haughtily with clients on principle, and taught me to
treat them in like manner.  But when I saw their worn mantles and hungry
faces, I had a feeling something like compassion.  I gave command to
bring them food, and conversed besides with them,--called some by name,
some I asked about their wives and children,--and again in the eyes
before me I saw tears; again it seemed to me that Lygia saw what I was
doing, that she praised and was delighted.  Is my mind beginning to
wander, or is love confusing my feelings?  I cannot tell.  But this I do
know; I have a continual feeling that she is looking at me from a
distance, and I am afraid to do aught that might trouble or offend her.

"So it is, Caius! but they have changed my soul, and sometimes I feel
well for that reason.  At times again I am tormented with the thought,
for I fear that my manhood and energy are taken from me; that, perhaps,
I am useless, not only for counsel, for judgment, for feasts, but for
war even.  These are undoubted enchantments!  And to such a degree am I
changed that I tell thee this, too, which came to my head when I lay
wounded: that if Lygia were like Nigidia, Poppæa, Crispinilla, and our
divorced women, if she were as vile, as pitiless, and as cheap as they,
I should not love her as I do at present.  But since I love her for that
which divides us, thou wilt divine what a chaos is rising in my soul, in
what darkness I live, how it is that I cannot see certain roads before
me, and how far I am from knowing what to begin.  If life may be
compared to a spring, in my spring disquiet flows instead of water.  I
live through the hope that I shall see her, perhaps, and sometimes it
seems to me that I shall see her surely.  But what will happen to me in
a year or two years, I know not, and cannot divine.  I shall not leave
Rome.  I could not endure the society of the Augustians; and besides,
the one solace in my sadness and disquiet is the thought that I am near
Lygia, that through Glaucus the physician, who promised to visit me, or
through Paul of Tarsus, I can learn something of her at times.  No; I
would not leave Rome, even were ye to offer me the government of Egypt.
Know also, that I have ordered the sculptor to make a stone monument for
Gulo, whom I slew in anger.  Too late did it come to my mind that he had
carried me in his arms, and was the first to teach me how to put an
arrow on a bow.  I know not why it was that a recollection of him rose
in me which was sorrow and reproach.  If what I write astonish thee, I
reply that it astonishes me no less, but I write pure truth.--Farewell."




Chapter XXIX


VINICUS received no answer to this letter.  Petronius did not write,
thinking evidently that Cæsar might command a return to Rome any day.
In fact, news of it was spread in the city, and roused great delight in
the hearts of the rabble, eager for games with gifts of grain and
olives, great supplies of which had been accumulated in Ostia.  Helius,
Nero's freedman, announced at last the return in the Senate.  But Nero,
having embarked with his court on ships at Misenum, returned slowly,
disembarking at coast towns for rest, or exhibitions in theatres.  He
remained between ten and twenty days in Minturna, and even thought to
return to Naples and wait there for spring, which was earlier than
usual, and warm.  During all this time Vinicius lived shut up in his
house, thinking of Lygia, and all those new things which occupied his
soul, and brought to it ideas and feelings foreign to it thus far.  He
saw, from time to time, only Glaucus the physician, every one of whose
visits delighted him, for he could converse with the man about Lygia.
Glaucus knew not, it is true, where she had found refuge, but he gave
assurance that the elders were protecting her with watchful care.  Once
too, when moved by the sadness of Vinicius, he told him that Peter had
blamed Crispus for reproaching Lygia with her love.  The young
patrician, hearing this, grew pale from emotion.  He had thought more
than once that Lygia was not indifferent to him, but he fell into
frequent doubt and uncertainty.  Now for the first time he heard the
confirmation of his desires and hopes from strange lips, and, besides,
those of a Christian.  At the first moment of gratitude he wished to run
to Peter.  When he learned, however, that he was not in the city, but
teaching in the neighborhood, he implored Glaucus to accompany him
thither, promising to make liberal gifts to the poor community.  It
seemed to him, too, that if Lygia loved him, all obstacles were thereby
set aside, as he was ready at any moment to honor Christ.  Glaucus,
though he urged him persistently to receive baptism, would not venture
to assure him that he would gain Lygia at once, and said that it was
necessary to desire the religion for its own sake, through love of
Christ, not for other objects.  "One must have a Christian soul, too,"
said he.  And Vinicius, though every obstacle angered him, had begun to
understand that Glaucus, as a Christian, said what he ought to say. He
had not become clearly conscious that one of the deepest changes in his
nature was this,--that formerly he had measured people and things only
by his own selfishness, but now he was accustoming himself gradually to
the thought that other eyes might see differently, other hearts feel
differently, and that justice did not mean always the same as personal
profit.

He wished often to see Paul of Tarsus, whose discourse made him curious
and disturbed him.  He arranged in his mind arguments to overthrow his
teaching, he resisted him in thought; still he wished to see him and to
hear him.  Paul, however, had gone to Aricium, and, since the visits of
Glaucus had become rarer, Vinicius was in perfect solitude.  He began
again to run through back streets adjoining the Subura, and narrow lanes
of the Trans-Tiber, in the hope that even from a distance he might see
Lygia.  When even that hope failed him, weariness and impatience began
to rise in his heart.  At last the time came when his former nature was
felt again mightily, like that onrush of a wave to the shore from which
it had receded.  It seemed to him that he had been a fool to no purpose,
that he had stuffed his head with things which brought sadness, that he
ought to accept from life what it gives.  He resolved to forget Lygia,
or at least to seek pleasure and the use of things aside from her.  He
felt that this trial, however, was the last, and he threw himself into
it with all the blind energy of impulse peculiar to him. Life itself
seemed to urge him to this course.

THE APPIAN WAY. From the painting by G. Boulanger.

The city, torpid and depopulated by winter, began to revive with hope of
the near coming of Cæsar.  A solemn reception was in waiting for him.
Meanwhile spring was there; the snow on the Alban Hills had vanished
under the breath of winds from Africa. Grass-plots in the gardens were
covered with violets.  The Forums and the Campus Martius were filled
with people warmed by a sun of growing heat.  Along the Appian Way, the
usual place for drives outside the city, a movement of richly ornamented
chariots had begun.  Excursions were made to the Alban Hills.  Youthful
women, under pretext of worshipping Juno in Lanuvium, or Diana in
Aricia, left home to seek adventures, society, meetings, and pleasure
beyond the city.  Here Vinicius saw one day among lordly chariots the
splendid car of Chrysothemis, preceded by two Molossian dogs; it was
surrounded by a crowd of young men and by old senators, whose position
detained them in the city. Chrysothemis, driving four Corsican ponies
herself, scattered smiles round about, and light strokes of a golden
whip; but when she saw Vinicius she reined in her horses, took him into
her car, and then to a feast at her house, which lasted all night.  At
that feast Vinicius drank so much that he did not remember when they
took him home; he recollected, however, that when Chrysothemis mentioned
Lygia he was offended, and, being drunk, emptied a goblet of Falernian
on her head.  When he thought of this in soberness, he was angrier
still.  But a day later Chrysothemis, forgetting evidently the injury,
visited him at his house, and took him to the Appian Way a second time.
Then she supped at his house, and confessed that not only Petronius, but
his lute-player, had grown tedious to her long since, and that her heart
was free now.  They appeared together for a week, but the relation did
not promise permanence.  After the Falernian incident, however, Lygia's
name was never mentioned, but Vinicius could not free himself from
thoughts of her.  He had the feeling always that her eyes were looking
at his face, and that feeling filled him, as it were, with fear.  He
suffered, and could not escape the thought that he was saddening Lygia,
or the regret which that thought roused in him.  After the first scene
of jealousy which Chrysothemis made because of two Syrian damsels whom
he purchased, he let her go in rude fashion.  He did not cease at once
from pleasure and license, it is true, but he followed them out of
spite, as it were, toward Lygia.  At last he saw that the thought of her
did not leave him for an instant; that she was the one cause of his evil
activity as well as his good; and that really nothing in the world
occupied him except her.  Disgust, and then weariness, mastered him.
Pleasure had grown loathsome, and left mere reproaches.  It seemed to
him that he was wretched, and this last feeling filled him with
measureless astonishment, for formerly he recognized as good everything
which pleased him.  Finally, he lost freedom, self-confidence, and fell
into perfect torpidity, from which even the news of Cæsar's coming could
not rouse him.  Nothing touched him, and he did not visit Petronius till
the latter sent an invitation and his litter.

On seeing his uncle, though greeted with gladness, he replied to his
questions unwillingly; but his feelings and thoughts, repressed for a
long time, burst forth at last, and flowed from his mouth in a torrent
of words.  Once more he told in detail the history of his search for
Lygia, his life among the Christians, everything which he had heard and
seen there, everything which had passed through his head and heart; and
finally he complained that he had fallen into a chaos, in which were
lost composure and the gift of distinguishing and judging.  Nothing, he
said, attracted him, nothing was pleasing; he did not know what to hold
to, nor how to act.  He was ready both to honor and persecute Christ; he
understood the loftiness of His teaching, but he felt also an
irresistible repugnance to it.  He understood that, even should he
possess Lygia, he would not possess her completely, for he would have to
share her with Christ.  Finally, he was living as if not living,--
without hope, without a morrow, without belief in happiness; around him
was darkness in which he was groping for an exit, and could not find it.

Petronius, during this narrative, looked at his changed face, at his
hands, which while speaking he stretched forth in a strange manner, as
if actually seeking a road in the darkness, and he fell to thinking.
All at once he rose, and, approaching Vinicius, caught with his fingers
the hair above his ear.

"Dost know," asked he, "that thou hast gray hairs on thy temple?"

"Perhaps I have," answered Vinicius; "I should not be astonished were
all my hair to grow white soon."

Silence followed.  Petronius was a man of sense, and more than once he
meditated on the soul of man and on life.  In general, life, in the
society in which they both lived, might be happy or unhappy externally,
but internally it was at rest.  Just as a thunderbolt or an earthquake
might overturn a temple, so might misfortune crush a life.  In itself,
however, it was composed of simple and harmonious lines, free of
complication.  But there was something else in the words of Vinicius,
and Petronius stood for the first time before a series of spiritual
snarls which no one had straightened out hitherto.  He was sufficiently
a man of reason to feel their importance, but with all his quickness he
could not answer the questions put to him.  After a long silence, he
said at last,--

"These must be enchantments."

"I too have thought so," answered Vinicius; "more than once it seemed to
me that we were enchanted, both of us."

"And if thou," said Petronius, "were to go, for example, to the priests
of Serapis?  Among them, as among priests in general, there are many
deceivers, no doubt; but there are others who have reached wonderful
secrets."

He said this, however, without conviction and with an uncertain voice,
for he himself felt how empty and even ridiculous that counsel must seem
on his lips.

Vinicius rubbed his forehead, and said: "Enchantments!  I have seen
sorcerers who employed unknown and subterranean powers to their personal
profit; I have seen those who used them to the harm of their enemies.
But these Christians live in poverty, forgive their enemies, preach
submission, virtue, and mercy; what profit could they get from
enchantments, and why should they use them?"

Petronius was angry that his acuteness could find no reply; not wishing,
however, to acknowledge this, he said, so as to offer an answer of some
kind,--"That is a new sect."  After a while he added: "By the divine
dweller in Paphian groves, how all that injures life!  Thou wilt admire
the goodness and virtue of those people; but I tell thee that they are
bad, for they are enemies of life, as are diseases, and death itself.
As things are, we have enough of these enemies; we do not need the
Christians in addition.  Just count them: diseases, Cæsar, Tigellinus,
Cæsar's poetry, cobblers who govern the descendants of ancient Quirites,
freedmen who sit in the Senate.  By Castor! there is enough of this.
That is a destructive and disgusting sect.  Hast thou tried to shake
thyself out of this sadness, and make some little use of life?"

"I have tried," answered Vinicius.

"Ah, traitor!" said Petronius, laughing; "news spreads quickly through
slaves; thou hast seduced from me Chrysothemis!"

Vinicius waved his hand in disgust.

"In every case I thank thee," said Petronius.  "I will send her a pair
of slippers embroidered with pearls.  In my language of a lover that
means, 'Walk away.' I owe thee a double gratitude,--first, thou didst
not accept Eunice; second, thou hast freed me from Chrysothemis.  Listen
to me!  Thou seest before thee a man who has risen early, bathed,
feasted, possessed Chrysothemis, written satires, and even at times
interwoven prose with verses, but who has been as wearied as Cæsar, and
often unable to unfetter himself from gloomy thoughts.  And dost thou
know why that was so?  It was because I sought at a distance that which
was near. A beautiful woman is worth her weight always in gold; but if
she loves in addition, she has simply no price.  Such a one thou wilt
not buy with the riches of Verres.  I say now to myself as follows: I
will fill my life with happiness, as a goblet with the foremost wine
which the earth has produced, and I will drink till my hand becomes
powerless and my lips grow pale.  What will come, I care not; and this
is my latest philosophy."

"Thou hast proclaimed it always; there is nothing new in it."

"There is substance, which was lacking."

When he had said this, he called Eunice, who entered dressed in white
drapery,--the former slave no longer, but as it were a goddess of love
and happiness.

Petronius opened his arms to her, and said,--"Come."

At this she ran up to him, and, sitting on his knee, surrounded his neck
with her arms, and placed her head on his breast.  Vinicius saw how a
reflection of purple began to cover her cheeks, how her eyes melted
gradually in mist.  They formed a wonderful group of love and happiness.
Petronius stretched his hand to a flat vase standing at one side on a
table, and, taking a whole handful of violets, covered with them the
head, bosom, and robe of Eunice; then he pushed the tunic from her arms,
and said,--

"Happy he who, like me, has found love enclosed in such a form!  At
times it seems to me that we are a pair of gods.  Look thyself!  Has
Praxiteles, or Miron, or Skopas, or Lysias even, created more wonderful
lines?  Or does there exist in Paros or in Pentelicus such marble as
this,--warm, rosy, and full of love?  There are people who kiss off the
edges of vases, but I prefer to look for pleasure where it may be found
really."

He began to pass his lips along her shoulders and neck.  She was
penetrated with a quivering; her eyes now closed, now opened, with an
expression of unspeakable delight.  Petronius after a while raised her
exquisite head, and said, turning to Vinicius,--"But think now, what are
thy gloomy Christians in comparison with this?  And if thou understand
not the difference, go thy way to them.  But this sight will cure thee."

Vinicius distended his nostrils, through which entered the odor of
violets, which filled the whole chamber, and he grew pale; for he
thought that if he could have passed his lips along Lygia's shoulders in
that way, it would have been a kind of sacrilegious delight so great
that let the world vanish afterward!  But accustomed now to a quick
perception of that which took place in him, he noticed that at that
moment he was thinking of Lygia, and of her only.

"Eunice," said Petronius, "give command, thou divine one, to prepare
garlands for our heads and a meal."

When she had gone out he turned to Vinicius.

"I offered to make her free, but knowest thou what she answered?--'I
would rather be thy slave than Cæsar's wife!'  And she would not
consent.  I freed her then without her knowledge.  The pretor favored me
by not requiring her presence.  But she does not know that she is free,
as also she does not know that this house and all my jewels, excepting
the gems, will belong to her in case of my death."  He rose and walked
through the room, and said: "Love changes some more, others less, but it
has changed even me. Once I loved the odor of verbenas; but as Eunice
prefers violets, I like them now beyond all other flowers, and since
spring came we breathe only violets."

Here he stopped before Vinicius and inquired,--"But as to thee, dost
thou keep always to nard?"

"Give me peace!" answered the young man.

"I wished thee to see Eunice, and I mentioned her to thee, because thou,
perhaps, art seeking also at a distance that which is near. Maybe for
thee too is beating, somewhere in the chambers of thy slaves, a true and
simple heart.  Apply such a balsam to thy wounds.  Thou sayest that
Lygia loves thee?  Perhaps she does.  But what kind of love is that
which abdicates?  Is not the meaning this,--that there is another force
stronger than her love?  No, my dear, Lygia is not Eunice."

"All is one torment merely," answered Vinicius.  "I saw thee kissing
Eunice's shoulders, and I thought then that if Lygia would lay hers bare
to me I should not care if the ground opened under us next moment.  But
at the very thought of such an act a certain dread seized me, as if I
had attacked some vestal or wished to defile a divinity.  Lygia is not
Eunice, but I understand the difference not in thy way.  Love has
changed thy nostrils, and thou preferrest violets to verbenas; but it
has changed my soul: hence, in spite of my misery and desire, I prefer
Lygia to be what she is rather than to be like others."

"In that case no injustice is done thee.  But I do not understand the
position."

"True, true!" answered Vinicius, feverishly.  "We understand each other
no longer."

Another moment of silence followed.

"May Hades swallow thy Christians!" exclaimed Petronius.  "They have
filled thee with disquiet, and destroyed thy sense of life.  May Hades
devour them!  Thou art mistaken in thinking that their religion is good,
for good is what gives people happiness, namely, beauty, love, power;
but these they call vanity.  Thou art mistaken in this, that they are
just; for if we pay good for evil, what shall we pay for good?  And
besides, if we pay the same for one and the other, why are people to be
good?"

"No, the pay is not the same; but according to their teaching it begins
in a future life, which is without limit."

"I do not enter into that question, for we shall see hereafter if it be
possible to see anything without eyes.  Meanwhile they are simply
incompetents.  Ursus strangled Croton because he has limbs of bronze;
but these are mopes, and the future cannot belong to mopes."

"For them life begins with death."

"Which is as if one were to say, 'Day begins with night.' Hast thou the
intent to carry off Lygia?"

"No, I cannot pay her evil for good, and I swore that I would not."

"Dost thou intend to accept the religion of Christ?"

"I wish to do so, but my nature cannot endure it."

"But wilt thou be able to forget Lygia?"

"No."

"Then travel."

At that moment the slaves announced that the repast was ready; but
Petronius, to whom it seemed that he had fallen on a good thought, said,
on the way to the triclinium,--"Thou has ridden over a part of the
world, but only as a soldier hastening to his place of destination, and
without halting by the way.  Go with us to Achæa.  Cæsar has not given
up the journey.  He will stop everywhere on the way, sing, receive
crowns, plunder temples, and return as a triumphator to Italy.  That
will resemble somewhat a journey of Bacchus and Apollo in one person.
Augustians, male and female, a thousand citharæ.  By Castor! that will
be worth witnessing, for hitherto the world has not seen anything like
it!"

Here he placed himself on the couch before the table, by the side of
Eunice; and when the slaves put a wreath of anemones on his head, he
continued,--"What hast thou seen in Corbulo's service? Nothing.  Hast
thou seen the Grecian temples thoroughly, as I have,--I who was passing
more than two years from the hands of one guide to those of another?
Hast thou been in Rhodes to examine the site of the Colossus?  Hast thou
seen in Panopeus, in Phocis, the clay from which Prometheus shaped man;
or in Sparta the eggs laid by Leda; or in Athens the famous Sarmatian
armor made of horse-hoofs; or in Eubœa the ship of Agamemnon; or the cup
for whose pattern the left breast of Helen served?  Hast thou seen
Alexandria, Memphis, the Pyramids, the hair which Isis tore from her
head in grief for Osiris?  Hast thou heard the shout of Memnon?  The
world is wide; everything does not end at the Trans-Tiber!  I will
accompany Cæsar, and when he returns I will leave him and go to Cyprus;
for it is the wish of this golden-haired goddess of mine that we offer
doves together to the divinity in Paphos, and thou must know that
whatever she wishes must happen."

"I am thy slave," said Eunice.

He rested his garlanded head on her bosom, and said with a smile,--
"Then I am the slave of a slave.  I admire thee, divine one, from feet
to head!"

Then he said to Vinicius: "Come with us to Cyprus.  But first remember
that thou must see Cæsar.  It is bad that thou hast not been with him
yet; Tigellinus is ready to use this to thy disadvantage.  He has no
personal hatred for thee, it is true; but he cannot love thee, even
because thou art my sister's son.  We shall say that thou wert sick.  We
must think over what thou art to answer should he ask thee about Lygia.
It will be best to wave thy hand and say that she was with thee till she
wearied thee.  He will understand that.  Tell him also that sickness
kept thee at home; that thy fever was increased by disappointment at not
being able to visit Naples and hear his song; that thou wert assisted to
health only by the hope of hearing him.  Fear no exaggeration.
Tigellinus promises to invent, not only something great for Cæsar, but
something enormous.  I am afraid that he will undermine me; I am afraid
too of thy disposition."

"Dost thou know," said Vinicius, "that there are people who have no fear
of Cæsar, and who live as calmly as if he were non-existent?"

"I know whom thou hast in mind--the Christians."

"Yes; they alone.  But our life,--what is it if not unbroken terror?"

"Do not mention thy Christians.  They fear not Cæsar, because he has not
even heard of them perhaps; and in every case he knows nothing of them,
and they concern him as much as withered leaves. But I tell thee that
they are incompetents.  Thou feelest this thyself; if thy nature is
repugnant to their teaching, it is just because thou feelest their
incompetence.  Thou art a man of other clay; so trouble not thyself or
me with them.  We shall be able to live and die, and what more they will
be able to do is unknown."

These words struck Vinicius; and when he returned home, he began to
think that in truth, perhaps, the goodness and charity of Christians was
a proof of their incompetience of soul.  It seemed to him that people of
strength and temper could not forgive thus.  It came to his head that
this must be the real cause of the repulsion which his Roman soul felt
toward their teaching.  "We shall be able to live and die!" said
Petronius. As to them, they know only how to forgive, and understand
neither true love nor true hatred.




Chapter XXX


Cæsar, on returning to Rome, was angry because he had returned, and
after some days was filled anew with a wish to visit Achæa. He even
issued an edict in which he declared that his absence would be short,
and that public affairs would not be exposed to detriment because of it.
In company with Augustians, among whom was Vinicius, he repaired to the
Capitol to make offerings to the gods for an auspicious journey.  But on
the second day, when he visited the temple of Vesta, an event took place
which changed all his projects.  Nero feared the gods, though he did not
believe in them; he feared especially the mysterious Vesta, who filled
him with such awe that at sight of the divinity and the sacred fire his
hair rose on a sudden from terror, his teeth chattered, a shiver ran
through his limbs, and he dropped into the arms of Vinicius, who
happened there behind him.  He was borne out of the temple at once, and
conveyed to the Palatine, where he recovered soon, but did not leave the
bed for that day.  He declared, moreover, to the great astonishment of
those present, that he deferred his journey, since the divinity had
warned him secretly against haste.  An hour later it was announced
throughout Rome that Cæsar, seeing the gloomy faces of the citizens, and
moved by love for them, as a father for his children, would remain to
share their lot and their pleasures.  The people, rejoiced at this
decision, and certain also that they would not miss games and a
distribution of wheat, assembled in crowds before the gates of the
Palatine, and raised shouts in honor of the divine Cæsar, who
interrupted the play at dice with which he was amusing himself with
Augustians, and said:

"Yes, there was need to defer the journey.  Egypt, and predicted
dominion over the Orient, cannot escape me; hence Achæa, too, will not
be lost.  I will give command to cut through the isthmus of Corinth; I
will rear such monuments in Egypt that the pyramids will seem childish
toys in comparison; I will have a sphinx built seven times greater than
that which is gazing into the desert outside Memphis; but I will command
that it have my face. Coming ages will speak only of that monument and
of me."

"With thy verses thou hast reared a monument to thyself already, not
seven, but thrice seven, times greater than the pyramid of Cheops," said
Petronius.

"But with my song?" inquired Nero.

"Ah! if men could only build for thee a statue, like that of Memnon, to
call with thy voice at sunrise!  For all ages to come the seas adjoining
Egypt would swarm with ships in which crowds from the three parts of the
world would be lost in listenmg to thy song."

"Alas! who can do that?" said Nero.

"But thou canst give command to cut out of basalt thyself driving a
quadriga."

"True!  I will do that!"

"Thou wilt bestow a gift on humanity."

"In Egypt I will marry the Moon, who is now a widow, and I shall be a
god really."

"And thou wilt give us stars for wives; we will make a new
constellation, which will be called the constellation of Nero.  But do
thou marry Vitelius to the Nile, so that he may beget hippopotamuses.
Give the desert to Tigellinus, he will be king of the jackals."

"And what dost thou predestine to me?" inquired Vatinius.

"Apis bless thee!  Thou didst arrange such splendid games in Beneventum
that I cannot wish thee ill.  Make a pair of boots for the sphinx, whose
paws must grow numb during night-dews; after that thou will make sandals
for the Colossi which form the alleys before the temples.  Each one will
find there a fitting occupation. Domitius Afer, for example, will be
treasurer, since he is known for his honesty.  I am glad, Cæsar, when
thou art dreaming of Egypt, and I am saddened because thou hast deferred
thy plan of a journey."

"Thy mortal eyes saw nothing, for the deity becomes invisible to
whomever it wishes," said Nero.  "Know that when I was in the temple of
Vesta she herself stood near me, and whispered in my ear, 'Defer the
journey.' That happened so unexpectedly that I was terrified, though for
such an evident care of the gods for me I should be thankful."

"We were all terrified," said Tigellinus, "and the vestal Rubria
fainted."

"Rubria!" said Nero; "what a snowy neck she has!"

"But she blushed at sight of the divine Cæsar--"

"True!  I noticed that myself.  That is wonderful.  There is something
divine in every vestal, and Rubria is very beautiful.

"Tell me," said he, after a moment's meditation, "why people fear Vesta
more than other gods.  What does this mean?  Though I am the chief
priest, fear seized me to-day.  I remember only that I was falling back,
and should have dropped to the ground had not some one supported me.
Who was it?"

"I," answered Vinicius.

"Oh, thou 'stern Mars'! Why wert thou not in Beneventum?  They told me
that thou wert ill, and indeed thy face is changed.  But I heard that
Croton wished to kill thee?  Is that true?"

"It is, and he broke my arm; but I defended myself."

"With a broken arm?"

"A certain barbarian helped me; he was stronger than Croton."

Nero looked at him with astonishment.  "Stronger than Croton?  Art thou
jesting?  Croton was the strongest of men, but now here is Syphax from
Ethiopia."

"I tell thee, Cæsar, what I saw with my own eyes."

"Where is that pearl?  Has he not become king of Nemi?"

"I cannot tell, Cæsar.  I lost sight of him."

"Thou knowest not even of what people he is?"

"I had a broken arm, and could not inquire for him."

"Seek him, and find him for me."

"I will occupy myself with that," said Tigellinus.

But Nero spoke further to Vinicius: "I thank thee for having supported
me; I might have broken my head by a fall.  On a time thou wert a good
companion, but campaigning and service with Corbulo have made thee wild
in some way; I see thee rarely.

"How is that maiden too narrow in the hips, with whom thou wert in
love," asked he after a while, "and whom I took from Aulus for thee?"

Vinicius was confused, but Petronius came to his aid at that moment.  "I
will lay a wager, lord," said he, "that he has forgotten. Dost thou see
his confusion?  Ask him how many of them there were since that time, and
I will not give assurance of his power to answer.  The Vinicius are good
soldiers, but still better gamecocks. They need whole flocks.  Punish
him for that, lord, by not inviting him to the feast which Tigellinus
promises to arrange in thy honor on the pond of Agrippa."

"I will not do that.  I trust, Tigellinus, that flocks of beauty will
not be lacking there."

"Could the Graces be absent where Amor will be present?" answered
Tigellinus.

"Weariness tortures me," said Nero.  "I have remained in Rome at the
will of the goddess, but I cannot endure the city.  I will go to Antium.
I am stifled in these narrow streets, amid these tumble-down houses,
amid these alleys.  Foul air flies even here to my house and my gardens.
Oh, if an earthquake would destroy Rome, if some angry god would level
it to the earth!  I would show how a city should be built, which is the
head of the world and my capital."

"Cæsar," answered Tigellinus, "thou sayest, 'If some angry god would
destroy the city,'--is it so?"

"It is!  What then?"

"But art thou not a god?"

Nero waved his hand with an expression of weariness, and said,--"We
shall see thy work on the pond of Agrippa.  Afterward I go to Antium.
Ye are all little, hence do not understand that I need immense things."

Then he closed his eyes, giving to understand in that way that he needed
rest.  In fact, the Augustians were beginning to depart. Petronius went
out with Vinicius, and said to him,--"Thou art invited, then, to share
in the amusement.  Bronzebeard has renounced the journey, but he will be
madder than ever; he has fixed himself in the city as in his own house.
Try thou, too, to find in these madnesses amusement and forgetfulness.
Well! we have conquered the world, and have a right to amuse ourselves.
Thou, Marcus, art a very comely fellow, and to that I ascribe in part
the weakness which I have for thee.  By the Ephesian Diana! if thou
couldst see thy joined brows, and thy face in which the ancient blood of
the Quirites is evident!  Others near thee looked like freedmen.  True!
were it not for that mad religion, Lygia would be in thy house to-day.
Attempt once more to prove to me that they are not enemies of life and
mankind.  They have acted well toward thee, hence thou mayst be grateful
to them; but in thy place I should detest that religion, and seek
pleasure where I could find it. Thou art a comely fellow, I repeat, and
Rome is swarming with divorced women."

"I wonder only that all this does not torture thee yet?"

"Who has told thee that it does not?  It tortures me this long time, but
I am not of thy years.  Besides, I have other attachments which are
lacking thee.  I love books, thou hast no love for them; I love poetry,
which annoys thee; I love pottery, gems, a multitude of things, at which
thou dost not look; I have a pain in my loins, which thou hast not; and,
finally, I have found Eunice, but thou hast found nothing similar.  For
me, it is pleasant in my house, among masterpieces; of thee I can never
make a man of æsthetic feeling.  I know that in life I shall never find
anything beyond what I have found; thou thyself knowest not that thou
art hoping yet continually, and seeking.  If death were to visit thee,
with all thy courage and sadness, thou wouldst die with astonishment
that it was necessary to leave the world; but I should accept death as a
necessity, with the conviction that there is no fruit in the world which
I have not tasted.  I do not hurry, neither shall I loiter; I shall try
merely to be joyful to the end.  There are cheerful sceptics in the
world.  For me, the Stoics are fools; but stoicism tempers men, at
least, while thy Christians bring sadness into the world, which in life
is the same as rain in nature.  Dost thou know what I have learned?
That during the festivities which Tigellinus will arrange at the pond of
Agrippa, there will be lupanaria, and in them women from the first
houses of Rome.  Will there be not even one sufficiently beautiful to
console thee?  There will be maidens, too, appearing in society for the
first time--as nymphs.  Such is our Roman Cæsardom!  The air is mild
already; the midday breeze will warm the water and not bring pimples on
naked bodies.  And thou, Narcissus, know this, that there will not be
one to refuse thee,--not one, even though she be a vestal virgin."

Vinicius began to strike his head with his palm, like a man occupied
eternally with one thought.

"I should need luck to find such a one."

"And who did this for thee, if not the Christians?  But people whose
standard is a cross cannot be different.  Listen to me: Greece was
beautiful, and created wisdom; we created power; and what, to thy
thinking, can this teaching create?  If thou know, explain; for, by
Pollux!  I cannot divine it."

"Thou art afraid, it seems, lest I become a Christian," said Vinicius,
shrugging his shoulders.

"I am afraid that thou hast spoiled life for thyself.  If thou canst not
be a Grecian, be a Roman; possess and enjoy.  Our madnesses have a
certain sense, for there is in them a kind of thought of our own.  I
despise Bronzebeard, because he is a Greek buffoon.  If he held himself
a Roman, I should recognize that he was right in permitting himself
madness.  Promise me that if thou find some Christian on returning home,
thou wilt show thy tongue to him.  If he be Glaucus the physician, he
will not wonder.--Till we meet on the pond of Agrippa."




Chapter XXXI


PRETORIANS surrounded the groves on the banks of the pond of Agrippa,
lest over-numerous throngs of spectators might annoy Cæsar and his
guests; though it was said that everything in Rome distinguished for
wealth, beauty, or intellect was present at that feast, which had no
equal in the history of the city.  Tigellinus wished to recompense Cæsar
for the deferred journey to Achæa, to surpass all who had ever feasted
Nero, and prove that no man could entertain as he could.  With this
object in view, while with Cæsar in Naples, and later in Beneventum, he
had made preparations and sent orders to bring from the remotest regions
of the earth beasts, birds, rare fish, and plants, not omitting vessels
and cloths, which were to enhance the splendor of the feast.  The
revenues of whole provinces went to satisfy mad projects; but the
powerful favorite had no need to hesitate.  His influence grew daily.
Tigellinus was not dearer than others to Nero yet, perhaps, but he was
becoming more and more indispensable.  Petronius surpassed him
infinitely in polish, intellect, wit; in conversation he knew better how
to amuse Cæsar: but to his misfortune he surpassed in conversation Cæsar
himself, hence he roused his jealousy; moreover he could not be an
obedient instrument in everything, and Cæsar feared his opinion when
there were questions in matters of taste.  But before Tigellinus, Nero
never felt any restraint.  The very title, Arbiter Elegantiarum, which
had been given to Petronius, annoyed Nero's vanity, for who had the
right to bear that title but himself?  Tigellinus had sense enough to
know his own deficiencies; and seeing that he could not compete with
Petronius, Lucan, or others distinguished by birth, talents, or
learning, he resolved to extinguish them by the suppleness of his
services, and above all by such a magnificence that the imagination of
Nero himself would be struck by it.  He had arranged to give the feast
on a gigantic raft, framed of gilded timbers.  The borders of this raft
were decked with splendid shells found in the Red Sea and the Indian
Ocean, shells brilliant with the colors of pearls and the rainbow.  The
banks of the pond were covered with groups of palm, with groves of
lotus, and blooming roses.  In the midst of these were hidden fountains
of perfumed water, statues of gods and goddesses, and gold or silver
cages filled with birds of various colors.  In the centre of the raft
rose an immense tent, or rather, not to hide the feasters, only the roof
of a tent, made of Syrian purple, resting on silver columns; under it
were gleaming, like suns, tables prepared for the guests, loaded with
Alexandrian glass, crystal, and vessels simply beyond price,--the
plunder of Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor.  The raft, which because of
plants accumulated on it had the appearance of an island and a garden,
was joined by cords of gold and purple to boats shaped like fish, swans,
mews, and flamingoes, in which sat at painted oars naked rowers of both
sexes, with forms and features of marvellous beauty, their hair dressed
in Oriental fashion, or gathered in golden nets.  When Nero arrived at
the main raft with Poppæa and the Augustians, and sat beneath the purple
tent-roof, the oars struck the water, the boats moved, the golden cords
stretched, and the raft with the feast and the guests began to move and
describe circles on the pond.  Other boats surrounded it, and other
smaller rafts, filled with women playing on citharæ and harps, women
whose rosy bodies on the blue background of the sky and the water and in
the reflections from golden instruments seemed to absorb that blue and
those reflections, and to change and bloom like flowers.

From the groves at the banks, from fantastic buildings reared for that
day and hidden among thickets, were heard music and song. The
neighborhood resounded, the groves resounded; echoes bore around the
voices of horns and trumpets.  Cæsar himself, with Poppæa on one side of
him, and Pythagoras on the other, was amazed; and more especially when
among the boats young slave maidens appeared as sirens, and were covered
with green network in imitation of scales, he did not spare praises on
Tigellinus.  But he looked at Petronius from habit, wishing to learn the
opinion of the "arbiter," who seemed indifferent for a long time, and
only when questioned outright, answered,--"I judge, lord, that ten
thousand naked maidens make less impression than one."

But the "floating feast" pleased Cæsar, for it was something new.
Besides, such exquisite dishes were served that the imagination of
Apicius would have failed at sight of them, and wines of so many kinds
that Otho, who used to serve eighty, would have hidden under water with
shame, could he have witnessed the luxury of that feast.  Besides women,
the Augustians sat down at the table, among whom Vinicius excelled all
with his beauty.  Formerly his figure and face indicated too clearly the
soldier by profession; now mental suffering and the physical pain
through which he had passed had chiselled his features, as if the
delicate hand of a master had passed over them.  His complexion had lost
its former swarthiness, but the yellowish gleam of Numidian marble
remained on it.  His eyes had grown larger and more pensive.  His body
had retained its former powerful outlines, as if created for armor; but
above the body of a legionary was seen the head of a Grecian god, or at
least of a refined patrician, at once subtle and splendid.  Petronius,
in saying that none of the ladies of Cæsar's court would be able or
willing to resist Vinicius, spoke like a man of experience.  All gazed
at him now, not excepting Poppæa, or the vestal virgin Rubria, whom
Cæsar wished to see at the feast.

Wines, cooled in mountain snow, soon warmed the hearts and heads of the
guests.  Boats shaped as grasshoppers or butterflies shot forth from the
bushes at the shore every moment.  The blue surface of the pond seemed
occupied by butterflies.  Above the boats here and there flew doves, and
other birds from India and Africa, fastened with silver and blue threads
or strings.  The sun had passed the greater part of the sky, but the day
was warm and even hot, though in the beginning of May.  The pond heaved
from the strokes of oars, which beat the water in time with music; but
in the air there was not the least breath of wind; the groves were
motionless, as if lost in listening and in gazing at that which was
happening on the water.  The raft circled continually on the pond,
bearing guests who were increasingly drunk and boisterous.

The feast had not run half its course yet, when the order in which all
sat at the table was observed no longer.  Cæsar gave the example, for,
rising himself, he commanded Vinicius, who sat next to Rubria the
vestal, to move.  Nero occupied the place, and began to whisper
something in Rubria's ear.  Vinicius found himself next to Poppæa, who
extended her arm and begged him to fasten her loosened bracelet.  When
he did so, with hands trembling somewhat, she cast at him from beneath
her long lashes a glance as it were of modesty, and shook her golden
head as if in resistance.

Meanwhile the sun, growing larger, ruddier, sank slowly behind the tops
of the grove; the guests were for the greater part thoroughly
intoxicated.  The raft circled now nearer the shore, on which, among
bunches of trees and flowers, were seen groups of people, disguised as
fauns or satyrs, playing on flutes, bagpipes, and drums, with groups of
maidens representing nymphs, dryads, and hamadryads.  Darkness fell at
last amid drunken shouts from the tent, shouts raised in honor of Luna.
Meanwhile the groves were lighted with a thousand lamps.  From the
lupanaria on the shores shone swarms of lights; on the terraces appeared
new naked groups, formed of the wives and daughters of the first Roman
houses.  These with voice and unrestrained manner began to lure
partners.  The raft touched the shore at last.  Cæsar and the Augustians
vanished in the groves, scattered in lupanaria, in tents hidden in
thickets, in grottos artificially arranged among fountains and springs.
Madness seized all; no one knew whither Cæsar had gone; no one knew who
was a senator, who a knight, who a dancer, who a musician.  Satyrs and
fauns fell to chasing nymphs with shouting.  They struck lamps with
thyrses to quench them. Darkness covered certain parts of the grove.
Everywhere, however, laughter and shouts were heard, and whispers, and
panting breaths. In fact Rome had not seen anything like that before.

Vinicius was not drunk, as he had been at the feast in Nero's palace,
when Lygia was present; but he was roused and intoxicated by the sight
of everything done round about, and at last the fever of pleasure seized
him.  Rushing into the forest, he ran, with others, examining who of the
dryads seemed most beautiful.  New flocks of these raced around him
every moment with shouts and with songs; these flocks were pursued by
fauns, satyrs, senators, knights, and by sounds of music.  Seeing at
last a band of maidens led by one arrayed as Diana, he sprang to it,
intending to examine the goddess more closely.  All at once the heart
sank in his bosom, for he thought that in that goddess, with the moon on
her forehead, he recognized Lygia.

They encircled him with a mad whirl, and, wishing evidently to incline
him to follow, rushed away the next moment like a herd of deer.  But he
stood on the spot with beating heart, breathless; for though he saw that
the Diana was not Lygia, and that at close sight she was not even like
her, the too powerful impression deprived him of strength.  Straightway
he was seized by such yearning as he had never felt before, and love for
Lygia rushed to his breast in a new, immense wave.  Never had she seemed
so dear, pure, and beloved as in that forest of madness and frenzied
excess.  A moment before, he himself wished to drink of that cup, and
share in that shameless letting loose of the senses; now disgust and
repugnance possessed him.  He felt that infamy was stifling him; that
his breast needed air and the stars which were hidden by the thickets of
that dreadful grove.  He determined to flee; but barely had he moved
when before him stood some veiled figure, which placed its hands on his
shoulders and whispered, flooding his face with burning breath,   "I
love thee!  Come! no one will see us, hasten!"

Vinicius was roused, as if from a dream.

"Who art thou?"

But she leaned her breast on him and insisted,--"Hurry!  See how lonely
it is here, and I love thee!  Come!"

"Who art thou?" repeated Vinicius.

"Guess!"

As she said this, she pressed her lips to his through the veil, drawing
toward her his head at the same time, till at last breath failed the
woman and she tore her face from him.

"Night of love! night of madness!" said she, catching the air quickly.
"Today is free!  Thou hast me!"

But that kiss burned Vinicius; it filled him with disquiet.  His soul
and heart were elsewhere; in the whole world nothing existed for him
except Lygia.  So, pushing back the veiled figure, he said,--

"Whoever thou be, I love another, I do not wish thee."

"Remove the veil," said she, lowering her head toward him.

At that moment the leaves of the nearest myrtle began to rustle; the
veiled woman vanished like a dream vision, but from a distance her laugh
was heard, strange in some way, and ominous.

Petronius stood before Vinicius.

"I have heard and seen," said he.

"Let us go from this place," replied Vinicius.

And they went.  They passed the lupanaria gleaming with light, the
grove, the line of mounted pretorians, and found the litters.

"I will go with thee," said Petronius.

They sat down together.  On the road both were silent, and only in the
atrium of Vinicius's house did Petronius ask,--"Dost thou know who that
was?"

"Was it Rubria?" asked Vinicius, repulsed at the very thought that
Rubria was a vestal.

"No."

"Who then?"

Petronius lowered his voice.  "The fire of Vesta was defiled, for Rubria
was with Cæsar.  But with thee was speaking"--and he finished in a still
lower voice, "the divine Augusta."

A moment of silence followed.

"Cæsar," said Petronius, "was unable to hide from Poppæa his desire for
Rubria; therefore she wished, perhaps, to avenge herself. But I hindered
you both.  Hadst thou recognized the Augusta and refused her, thou
wouldst have been ruined beyond rescue,--thou, Lygia, and I, perhaps."

"I have enough of Rome, Cæsar, feasts, the Augusta, Tigellinus, and all
of you!" burst out Vinicius.  "I am stifling.  I cannot live thus; I
cannot.  Dost understand me?"

"Vinicius, thou art losing sense, judgment, moderation."

"I love only her in this world."

"What of that?"

"This, that I wish no other love.  I have no wish for your life, your
feasts, your shamelessness, your crimes!"

"What is taking place in thee?  Art thou a Christian?"

The young man seized his head with both hands, and repeated, as if in
despair,--"Not yet! not yet!"




Chapter XXXII


PETRONIUS went home shrugging his shoulders and greatly dissatisfied.
It was evident to him that he and Vinicius had ceased to understand each
other, that their souls had separated entirely. Once Petronius had
immense influence over the young soldier.  He had been for him a model
in everything, and frequently a few ironical words of his sufficed to
restrain Vinicius or urge him to something.  At present there remained
nothing of that; such was the change that Petronius did not try his
former methods, feeling that his wit and irony would slip without effect
along the new principles which love and contact with the uncomprehended
society of Christians had put in the soul of Vinicius.  The veteran
sceptic understood that he had lost the key to that soul.  This
knowledge filled him with dissatisfaction and even with fear, which was
heightened by the events of that night.  "If on the part of the Augusta
it is not a passing whim but a more enduring desire," thought Petronius,
"one of two things will happen,--either Vinicius will not resist her,
and he may be ruined by any accident, or, what is like him to-day, he
will resist, and in that event he will be ruined certainly, and perhaps
I with him, even because I am his relative, and because the Augusta,
having included a whole family in her hatred, will throw the weight of
her influence on the side of Tigellinus.  In this way and that it is
bad."  Petronius was a man of courage and felt no dread of death; but
since he hoped nothing from it, he had no wish to invite it.  After long
meditation, he decided at last that it would be better and safer to send
Vinicius from Rome on a journey.  Ah! but if in addition he could give
him Lygia for the road, he would do so with pleasure.  But he hoped that
it would not be too difficult to persuade him to the journey without
her.  He would spread a report on the Palatine then of Vinicius's
illness, and remove danger as well from his nephew as himself.  The
Augusta did not know whether she was recognized by Vinicius; she might
suppose that she was not, hence her vanity had not suffered much so far.
But it might be different in the future, and it was necessary to avoid
peril.  Petronius wished to gain time, above all; for he understood that
once Cæsar set out for Achæa, Tigellinus, who comprehended nothing in
the domain of art, would descend to the second place and lose his
influence.  In Greece Petronius was sure of victory over every opponent.

Meanwhile he determined to watch over Vinicius, and urge him to the
journey.  For a number of days he was ever thinking over this, that if
he obtained an edict from Cæsar expelling the Christians from Rome,
Lygia would leave it with the other confessors of Christ, and after her
Vinicius too.  Then there would be no need to persuade him.  The thing
itself was possible.  In fact it was not so long since, when the Jews
began disturbances out of hatred to the Christians, Claudius, unable to
distinguish one from the other, expelled the Jews.  Why should not Nero
expel the Christians? There would be more room in Rome without them.
After that "floating feast" Petronius saw Nero daily, both on the
Palatine and in other houses.  To suggest such an idea was easy, for
Nero never opposed suggestions which brought harm or ruin to any one.
After mature decision Petronius framed a whole plan for himself.  He
would prepare a feast in his own house, and at this feast persuade Cæsar
to issue an edict.  He had even a hope, which was not barren, that Cæsar
would confide the execution of the edict to him.  He would send out
Lygia with all the consideration proper to the mistress of Vinicius to
Baiæ, for instance, and let them love and amuse themselves there with
Christianity as much as they liked.

Meanwhile he visited Vinicius frequently, first, because he could not,
despite all his Roman selfishness, rid himself of attachment to the
young tribune, and second, because he wished to persuade him to the
journey.  Vinicius feigned sickness, and did not show himself on the
Palatine, where new plans appeared every day.  At last Petronius heard
from Cæsar's own lips that three days from then he would go to Antium
without fail.  Next morning he went straightway to inform Vinicius, who
showed him a list of persons invited to Antium, which list one of
Cæsar's freedmen had brought him that morning.

"My name is on it; so is thine," said he.  "Thou wilt find the same at
thy house on returning."

"Were I not among the invited," replied Petronius, "it would mean that I
must die; I do not expect that to happen before the journey to Achæa.  I
shall be too useful to Nero.  Barely have we come to Rome," said he, on
looking at the list, "when we must leave again, and drag over the road
to Antium.  But we must go, for this is not merely an invitation, it is
a command as well."

"And if some one would not obey?"

"He would be invited in another style to go on a journey notably
longer,--one from which people do not return.  What a pity that thou
hast not obeyed my counsel and left Rome in season!  Now thou must go to
Antium."

"I must go to Antium.  See in what times we live and what vile slaves we
are!"

"Hast thou noticed that only to-day?"

"No.  But thou hast explained to me that Christian teaching is an enemy
of life, since it shackles it.  But can their shackles be stronger than
those which we carry?  Thou hast said, 'Greece created wisdom and
beauty, and Rome power.'  Where is our power?"

"Call Chilo and talk with him.  I have no desire to-day to philosophize.
By Hercules!  I did not create these times, and I do not answer for
them.  Let us speak of Antium.  Know that great danger is awaiting thee,
and it would be better, perhaps, to measure strength with that Ursus who
choked Croton than to go there, but still thou canst not refuse."

Vinicius waved his hand carelessly, and said,--"Danger!  We are all
wandering in the shadow of death, and every moment some head sinks in
its darkness."

"Am I to enumerate all who had a little sense, and therefore, in spite
of the times of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, lived eighty and
ninety years?  Let even such a man as Domitius Afer serve thee as an
example.  He has grown old quietly, though all his life he has been a
criminal and a villain."

"Perhaps for that very reason!" answered Vinicius.

Then he began to glance over the list and read: "Tigellinus, Vatinius,
Sextus Africanus, Aquilinus Regulus, Suilius Nerulinus, Eprius
Marcellus, and so on!  What an assembly of ruffians and scoundrels!  And
to say that they govern the world!  Would it not become them better to
exhibit an Egyptian or Syrian divinity through villages, jingle sistra,
and earn their bread by telling fortunes or dancing?"

"Or exhibiting learned monkeys, calculating dogs, or a flute-playing
ass," added Petronius.  "That is true, but let us speak of something
more important.  Summon thy attention and listen.  I have said on the
Palatine that thou art ill, unable to leave the house; still thy name is
on the list, which proves that some one does not credit my stories and
has seen to this purposely.  Nero cares nothing for the matter, since
for him thou art a soldier, who has no conception of poetry or music,
and with whom at the very highest he can talk only about races in the
circus.  So Poppæa must have seen to putting down thy name, which means
that her desire for thee was not a passing whim, and that she wants to
win thee."

"She is a daring Augusta."

"Indeed she is daring, for she may ruin herself beyond redemption. May
Venus inspire her, however, with another love as soon as possible; but
since she desires thee thou must observe the very greatest caution.  She
has begun to weary Bronzebeard already; he prefers Rubria now, or
Pythagoras, but, through consideration of self, he would wreak the most
horrible vengeance on us."

"In the grove I knew not that she was speaking to me; but thou wert
listening.  I said that I loved another, and did not wish her. Thou
knowest that."

"I implore thee, by all the infernal gods, lose not the remnant of
reason which the Christians have left in thee.  How is it possible to
hesitate, having a choice between probable and certain destruction?
Have I not said already that if thou hadst wounded the Augusta's vanity,
there would have been no rescue for thee?  By Hades! if life has grown
hateful to thee, better open thy veins at once, or cast thyself on a
sword, for shouldst thou offend Poppæa, a less easy death may meet thee.
It was easier once to converse with thee.  What concerns thee specially?
Would this affair cause thee loss, or hinder thee from loving thy Lygia?
Remember, besides, that Poppæa saw her on the Palatine.  It will not be
difficult for her to guess why thou art rejecting such lofty favor, and
she will get Lygia even from under the earth.  Thou wilt ruin not only
thyself, but Lygia too.  Dost understand?"

Vinicius listened as if thinking of something else, and at last he
said,--

"I must see her."

"Who?  Lygia?"

"Lygia."

"Dost thou know where she is?"

"No."

"Then thou wilt begin anew to search for her in old cemeteries and
beyond the Tiber?"

"I know not, but I must see her."

"Well, though she is a Christian, it may turn out that she has more
judgment than thou; and it will ccrtainly, unless she wishes thy ruin."

Vinicius shrugged his shoulders.  "She saved me from the hands of
Ursus."

"Then hurry, for Bronzebeard will not postpone his departure. Sentences
of death may be issued in Antium also."

But Vinicius did not hear.  One thought alone occupied him, an interview
with Lygia; hence he began to think over methods.

Meanwhile something intervened which might set aside every difficulty.
Chilo came to his house unexpectedly.

He entered wretched and worn, with signs of hunger on his face and in
rags; but the servants, who had the former command to admit him at all
hours of the day or night, did not dare to detain him, so he went
straight to the atrium, and standing before Vinicius said,--"May the
gods give thee immortality, and share with thee dominion over the
world."

Vinicius at the first moment wished to give the order to throw him out
of doors; but the thought came to him that the Greek perhaps knew
something of Lygia, and curiosity overcame his disgust.

"Is that thou?" asked he.  "What has happened to thee?"

"Evil, O son of Jove," answered Chilo.  "Real virtue is a ware for which
no one inquires now, and a genuine sage must be glad of this even, that
once in five days he has something with which to buy from the butcher a
sheep's head, to gnaw in a garret, washing it down with his tears.  Ah,
lord!  What thou didst give me I paid Atractus for books, and afterward
I was robbed and ruined.  The slave who was to write down my wisdom
fled, taking the remnant of what thy generosity bestowed on me.  I am in
misery, but I thought to myself: To whom can I go, if not to thee, O
Serapis, whom I love and deify, for whom I have exposed my life?"

"Why hast thou come, and what dost thou bring?"

"I come for aid, O Baal, and I bring my misery, my tears, my love, and
finally the information which through love for thee I have collected.
Thou rememberest, lord, I told thee once how I had given a slave of the
divine Petronius one thread from the girdle of the Paphian Venus?  I
know now that it helped her, and thou, O descendant of the Sun, who
knowest what is happening in that house, knowest also what Eunice is
there.  I have another such thread.  I have preserved it for thee,
lord."

Here he stopped, on noticing the anger which was gathering on the brows
of Vinicius, and said quickly, so as to anticipate the outburst,--

"I know where the divine Lygia is living; I will show thee the street
and the house."

Vinicius repressed the emotion with which that news filled him, and
said,--"Where is she?"

"With Linus, the elder priest of the Christians.  She is there with
Ursus, who goes as before to the miller, a namesake of thy dispensator
Demas.  Yes, Demas!  Ursus works in the night; so if thou surround the
house at night, thou wilt not find him.  Linus is old, and besides him
there are only two aged women in the house."

"Whence dost thou know all this?"

"Thou rememberest, lord, that the Christians had me in their hands, and
spared me.  True, Glaucus was mistaken in thinking that I was the cause
of his misfortunes; but he believed that I was, poor man, and he
believes so yet.  Still they spared me.  Then be not astonished, lord,
that gratitude filled my heart.  I am a man of former, of better times.
This was my thought:  Am I to desert friends and benefactors?  Would I
not have been hard-hearted not to inquire about them, not to learn what
was happening to them, how health was serving them, and where they were
living?  By the Pessinian Cybele!  I am not capable of such conduct.  At
first I was restrained by fear that they might interpret my wishes
incorrectly.  But the love which I bore them proved greater than my
fear, and the ease with which they forgive every injustice lent me
special courage.  But above all I was thinking of thee, lord.  Our last
attempt ended in defeat; but can such a son of Fortune be reconciled
with defeat?  So I prepared victory for thee. The house stands apart.
Thou mayst give command to thy slaves to surround it so that not a mouse
could escape.  My lord, on thee alone it depends to have that
magnanimous king's daughter in thy house this very night.  But should
that happen, remember that the cause of it is the very poor and hungry
son of my father."

The blood rushed to Vinicius's head.  Temptation shook all his being
again.  Yes; that was the method, and this time a certain one. Once he
has Lygia in his house, who can take her?  Once he makes Lygia his
mistress, what will be left to her, unless to remain so forever?  And
let all religions perish!  What will the Christians mean to him then,
with their mercy and forbidding faith?  Is it not time to shake himself
free of all that?  Is it not time to live as all live?  What will Lygia
do later, save to reconcile her fate with the religion which she
professes?  That, too, is a question of inferior significance.  Those
are matters devoid of importance.  First of all, she will be his,--and
his this very day.  And it is a question, too, whether that religion
will hold out in her soul against the world which is new to her, against
luxury, and excitements to which she must yield.  All may happen to-day.
He needs only to detain Chilo, and give an order at dark.  And then
delight without end!  "What has my life been?" thought Vinicius;
"suffering, unsatisfied desire, and an endless propounding of problems
without answer."  In this way all will be cut short and ended.  He
recollected, it is true, that he had promised not to raise a hand
against her.  But by what had he sworn?  Not by the gods, for he did not
believe in them; not by Christ, for he did not believe in him yet.
Finally, if she feels injured, he will marry her, and thus repair the
wrong.  Yes; to that he feels bound, for to her he is indebted for life.
Here he recalled the day in which with Croton he had attacked her
retreat; he remembered the Lygian's fist raised above him, and all that
had happened later.  He saw her again bent over his couch, dressed in
the garb of a slave, beautiful as a divinity, a benefactress kind and
glorified.  His eyes passed to the lararium unconsciously, and to the
little cross which she left him before going.  Will he pay for all that
by a new attack?  Will he drag her by the hair as a slave to his
cubiculum?  And how will he be able to do so, since he not only desires
but loves her, and he loves her specially because she is as she is?  All
at once he felt that it was not enough for him to have her in the house,
it was not enough to seize her in his arms by superior force; he felt
that his love needed something more,--her consent, her loves and her
soul.  Blessed that roof, if she come under it willingly; blessed the
moment, blessed the day, blessed his life.  Then the happiness of both
will be as inexhaustible as the ocean, as the sun.  But to seize her by
violence would be to destroy that happiness forever, and at the same
time to destroy, and defile that which is most precious and alone
beloved in life.  Terror seized him now at the very thought of this.  He
glanced at Chilo, who, while  watching him, pushed his hands under his
rags and scratched himself  uneasily.  That instant, disgust unspeakable
took possession of  Vinicius, and a wish to trample that former
assistant of his, as he  would a foul worm or venomous serpent.  In an
instant he knew what to do.  But knowing no measure in anything, and
following the impulse of  his stern Roman nature, he turned toward Chilo
and said,--

"I will not do what thou advisest, but, lest thou go without just
reward, I will command to give thee three hundred stripes in the
domestic prison."

Chilo grew pale.  There was so much cold resolution in the beautiful
face of Vinicius that he could not deceive himself for a moment with the
hope that the promised reward was no more than a cruel jest.

Hence he threw himself on his knees in one instant, and bending double
began to groan in a broken voice,--"How, O king of Persia?  Why?--O
pyramid of kindness!  Colossus of mercy!  For what?--I am old, hungry,
unfortunate--I have served thee--dost thou repay in this manner?"

"As thou didst the Christians," said Vinicius.  And he called the
dispensator.

But Chilo sprang toward his feet, and, embracing them convulsively,
talked, while his face was covered with deathly pallor,--"O lord, O
lord!  I am old!  Fifty, not three hundred stripes.  Fifty are enough!
A hundred, not three hundred!  Oh, mercy, mercy!"

Vinicius thrust him away with his foot, and gave the order.  In the
twinkle of an eye two powerful Quadi followed the dispensator, and,
seizing Chilo by the remnant of his hair, tied his own rags around his
neck and dragged him to the prison.

"In the name of Christ!" called the Greek, at the exit of the corridor.

Vinicius was left alone.  The order just issued roused and enlivened
him.  He endeavored to collect his scattered thoughts, and bring them to
order.  He felt great relief, and the victory which he had gained over
himself filled him with comfort.  He thought that he had made some great
approach toward Lygia, and that some high reward should be given him.
At the first moment it did not even occur to him that he had done a
grievous wrong to Chilo, and had him flogged for the very acts for which
he had rewarded him previously.  He was too much of a Roman yet to be
pained by another man's suffering, and to occupy his attention with one
wretched Greek.  Had he even thought of Chilo's suffering he would have
considered that he had acted properly in giving command to punish such a
villain.  But he was thinking of Lygia, and said to her: I will not pay
thee with evil for good; and when thou shalt learn how I acted with him
who strove to persuade me to raise hands against thee, thou wilt be
grateful.  But here he stopped at this thought:  Would Lygia praise his
treatment of Chilo? The religion which she professes commands
forgiveness; nay, the Christians forgave the villain, though they had
greater reasons for revenge.  Then for the first time was heard in his
soul the cry: "In the name of Christ!"  He remembered then that Chilo
had ransomed himself from the hands of Ursus with such a cry, and he
determined to remit the remainder of the punishment.

With that object he was going to summon the dispensator, when that
person stood before him, and said,--"Lord, the old man has fainted, and
perhaps he is dead.  Am I to command further flogging?"

"Revive him and bring him before me."

The chief of the atrium vanished behind the curtain, but the revival
could not have been easy, for Vinicius waited a long time and was
growing impatient, when the slaves brought in Chilo, and disappeared at
a signal.

Chilo was as pale as linen, and down his legs threads of blood were
flowing to the mosaic pavement of the atrium.  He was conscious,
however, and, falling on his knees, began to speak, with extended
hands,--"Thanks to thee, lord.  Thou art great and merciful."

"Dog," said Vinicius, "know that I forgave thee because of that Christ
to whom I owe my own life."

"O lord, I will serve Him and thee."

"Be silent and listen.  Rise!  Thou wilt go and show me the house in
which Lygia dwells."

Chilo sprang up; but he was barely on his feet when he grew more deathly
pale yet, and said in a failing voice,--"Lord, I am really hungry--I
will go, lord, I will go! but I have not the strength. Command to give
me even remnants from the plate of thy dog, and I will go."

Vinicius commanded to give him food, a piece of gold, and a mantle.  But
Chilo, weakened by stripes and hunger, could not go to take food, though
terror raised the hair on his head, lest Vinicius might mistake his
weakness for stubbornness and command to flog him anew.

"Only let wine warm me," repeated he, with chattering teeth, "I shall be
able to go at once, even to Magna Græcia."

He regained some strength after a time, and they went out.

The way was long, for, like the majority of Christians, Linus dwelt in
the Trans-Tiber, and not far from Miriam.  At last Chilo showed Vinicius
a small house, standing apart, surrounded by a wall covered entirely
with ivy, and said,

"Here it is, lord."

"Well," said Vinicius, "go thy way now, but listen first to what I tell
thee.  Forget that thou hast served me; forget where Miriam, Peter, and
Glaucus dwell; forget also this house, and all Christians. Thou wilt
come every month to my house, where Demas, my freedman, will pay thee
two pieces of gold.  But shouldst thou spy further after Christians, I
will have thee flogged, or delivered into the hands of the prefect of
the city."

Chilo bowed down, and said,--"I will forget."

But when Vinicius vanished beyond the corner of the street, he stretched
his hands after him, and, threatening with his fists, exclaimed,--"By
Ate and the Furies!  I will not forget!"

Then he grew faint again.




Chapter XXXIII


VINICIUS went directly to the house in which Miriam lived. Before the
gate he met Nazarius, who was confused at sight of him; but greeting the
lad cordially, he asked to be conducted to his mother's lodgings.

Besides Miriam, Vinicius found Peter, Glaucus, Crispus, and Paul of
Tarsus, who had returned recently from Fregellæ.  At sight of the young
tribune, astonishment was reflected on all faces; but he said,--"I greet
you in the name of Christ, whom ye honor."

"May His name be glorified forever!" answered they.

"I have seen your virtue and experienced your kindness, hence I come as
a friend."

"And we greet thee as a friend," answered Peter.  "Sit down, lord, and
partake of our refreshment, as a guest."

"I will sit down and share your repast; but first listen to me, thou
Peter, and thou Paul of Tarsus, so that ye may know my sincerity.  I
know where Lygia is.  I have returned from before the house of Linus,
which is near this dwelling.  I have a right to her given me by Cæsar.
I have at my houses in the city nearly five hundred slaves.  I might
surround her hiding-place and seize her; still I have not done so, and
will not."

"For this reason the blessing of the Lord will be upon thee, and thy
heart will be purified," said Peter.

"I thank thee.  But listen to me further: I have not done so, though I
am living in suffering and sadness.  Before I knew you, I should have
taken her undoubtedly, and held her by force; but your virtue and your
religion, though I do not profess it, have changed something in my soul,
so that I do not venture on violence.  I know not myself why this is so,
but it is so; hence I come to you, for ye take the place of Lygia's
father and mother, and I say to you: Give her to me as wife, and I swear
that not only will I not forbid her to confess Christ, but I will begin
myself to learn His religion."

He spoke with head erect and decisively; but still he was moved, and his
legs trembled beneath his mantle.  When silence followed his words, he
continued, as if wishing to anticipate an unfavorable answer,--

"I know what obstacles exist, but I love her as my own eyes; and though
I am not a Christian yet, I am neither your enemy nor Christ's. I wish
to be sincere, so that you may trust me.  At this moment it is a
question of life with me, still I tell you the truth. Another might say,
Baptize me; I say, Enlighten me.  I believe that Christ rose from the
dead, for people say so who love the truth, and who saw Him after death.
I believe, for I have seen myself, that your religion produces virtue,
justice, and mercy,--not crime, which is laid to your charge.  I have
not known your religion much so far.  A little from you, a little from
your works, a little from Lygia, a little from conversations with you.
Still I repeat that it has made some change in me.  Formerly I held my
servants with an iron hand; I cannot do so now.  I knew no pity; I know
it now.  I was fond of pleasure; the other night I fled from the pond of
Agrippa, for the breath was taken from me through disgust. Formerly I
believed in superior force; now I have abandoned it. Know ye that I do
not recognize myself.  I am disgusted by feasts, wine, singing, citharæ,
garlands, the court of Cæsar, naked bodies, and every crime.  When I
think that Lygia is like snow in the mountains, I love her the more; and
when I think that she is what she is through your religion, I love and
desire that religion.  But since I understand it not, since I know not
whether I shall be able to live according to it, nor whether my nature
can endure it, I am in uncertainty and suffering, as if I were in
prison."

Here his brows met in wrinkle of pain, and a flush appeared on his
cheeks; after that he spoke on with growing haste and greater emotion,--

"As ye see, I am tortured from love and uncertainty. Men tell me that in
your religion there is no place for life, or human joy, or happiness, or
law, or order, or authority, or Roman dominion.  Is this true?  Men tell
me that ye are madmen; but tell me yourselves what ye bring.  Is it a
sin to love, a sin to feel joy, a sin to want happiness?  Are ye enemies
of life?  Must a Christian be wretched?  Must I renounce Lygia?  What is
truth in your view? Your deeds and words are like transparent water, but
what is under that water?  Ye see that I am sincere.  Scatter the
darkness.  Men say this to me also: Greece created beauty and wisdom,
Rome created power; but they--what do they bring?  Tell, then, what ye
bring.  If there is brightness beyond your doors, open them."

"We bring love," said Peter.

And Paul of Tarsus added,--"If I speak with the tongues of men and of
angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass."

But the heart of the old Apostle was stirred by that soul in suffering,
which, like a bird in a cage, was struggling toward air and the sun;
hence, stretching his hand to Vinicius, he said,--"Whoso knocketh, to
him will be opened.  The favor and grace of God is upon thee; for this
reason I bless thee, thy soul and thy love, in the name of the Redeemer
of mankind."

Vinicius, who had spoken with enthusiasm already, sprang toward Peter on
hearing this blessing, and an uncommon thing happened. That descendant
of Quirites, who till recently had not recognized humanity in a
foreigner, seized the hand of the old Galilean, and pressed it in
gratitude to his lips.

Peter was pleased; for he understood that his sowing had fallen on an
additional field, that his fishing-net had gathered in a new soul.

Those present, not less pleased by that evident expression of honor for
the Apostle of God, exclaimed in one voice,--"Praise to the Lord in the
highest!"

Vinicius rose with a radiant face, and began,--"I see that happiness may
dwell among you, for I feel happy, and I think that ye can convince me
of other things in the same way.  But I will add that this cannot happen
in Rome.  Cæsar is goin to Antium and I must go with him, for I have the
order.  Ye know that not to obey is death.  But if I have found favor in
your eyes, go with me to teach your truth.  It will be safer for you
than for me.  Even in that great throng of people, ye can announce your
truth in the very court of Cæsar.  They say that Acte is a Christian;
and there are Christians among pretorians even, for I myself have seen
soldiers kneeling before thee, Peter, at the Nomentan gate.  In Antium I
have a villa where we shall assemble to hear your teaching, at the side
of Nero. Glaucus told me that ye are ready to go to the end of the earth
for one soul; so do for me what ye have done for those for whose sake ye
have come from Judea,--do it, and desert not my soul."

Hearing this, they began to take counsel, thinking with delight of the
victory of their religion, and of the significance for the pagan world
which the conversion of an Augustian, and a descendant of one of the
oldest Roman families, would have.  They were ready, indeed, to wander
to the end of the earth for one human soul, and since the death of the
Master they had, in fact, done nothing else; hence a negative answer did
not even come to their minds.  Peter was at that moment the pastor of a
whole multitude, hence he could not go; but Paul of Tarsus, who had been
in Aricium and Fregellæ not long before, and who was preparing for a
long journey to the East to visit churches there and freshen them with a
new spirit of zeal, consented to accompany the young tribune to Antium.
It was easy to find a ship there going to Grecian waters.

Vinicius, though sad because Peter, to whom he owed so much, could not
visit Antium, thanked him with gratitude, and then turned to the old
Apostle with his last request,--"Knowing Lygia's dwelling," said he, "I
might have gone to her and asked, as is proper, whether she would take
me as husband should my soul become Christian, but I prefer to ask thee,
O Apostle!  Permit me to see her, or take me thyself to her.  I know not
how long I shall be in Antium; and remember that near Cæsar no one is
sure of to-morrow.  Petronius himself told me that I should not be
altogether safe there.  Let me see her before I go; let me delight my
eyes with her; and let me ask her if she will forget my evil and return
good."

Peter smiled kindly and said,--"But who could refuse thee a proper joy,
my son?"

Vinicius stooped again to Peter's hands, for he could not in any way
restrain his overflowing heart.  The Apostle took him by the temples and
said,--"Have no fear of Cæsar, for I tell thee that a hair will not fall
from thy head."

He sent Miriam for Lygia, telling her not to say who was with them, so
as to give the maiden more delight.

It was not far; so after a short time those in the chamber saw among the
myrtles of the garden Miriam leading Lygia by the hand.

Vinicius wished to run forth to meet her; but at sight of that beloved
form happiness took his strength, and he stood with beating heart,
breathless, barely able to keep his feet, a hundred times more excited
than when for the first time in life he heard the Parthian arrows
whizzing round his head.

She ran in, unsuspecting; but at sight of him she halted as if fixed to
the earth.  Her face flushed, and then became very pale; she looked with
astonished and frightened eyes on those present.

But round about she saw clear glances, full of kindness.  The Apostle
Peter approached her and asked,--"Lygia, dost thou love him as ever?"

A moment of silence followed.  Her lips began to quiver like those of a
child who is preparing to cry, who feels that it is guilty, but sees
that it must confess the guilt.

"Answer," said the Apostle.

Then, with humility, obedience, and fear in her voice, she whispered,
kneeling at the knees of Peter,--"I do."

In one moment Vinicius knelt at her side.  Peter placed his hands on
their heads, and said,--"Love each other in the Lord and to His glory,
for there is no sin in your love."




Chapter XXXIV


WHILE walking with Lygia through the garden, Vinicius described briefly,
in words from the depth of his heart, that which a short time before he
had confessed to the Apostles,--that is, the alarm of his soul, the
changes which had taken place in him, and, finally, that immense
yearning which had veiled life from him, beginning with the hour when he
left Miriam's dwelling.  He confessed to Lygia that he had tried to
forget her, but was not able.  He thought whole days and nights of her.
That little cross of boxwood twigs which she had left reminded him of
her,--that cross, which he had placed in the lararium and revered
involuntarily as something divine.  And he yearned more and more every
moment, for love was stronger than he, and had seized his soul
altogether, even when he was at the house of Aulus.  The Parcæ weave the
thread of life for others; but love, yearning, and melancholy had woven
it for him.  His acts had been evil, but they had their origin in love.
He had loved her when she was in the house of Aulus, when she was on the
Palatine, when he saw her in Ostrianum listening to Peter's words, when
he went with Croton to carry her away, when she watched at his bedside,
and when she deserted him.  Then came Chilo, who discovered her
dwelling, and advised him to seize her a second time; but he chose to
punish Chilo, and go to the Apostles to ask for truth and for her.  And
blessed be that moment in which such a thought came to his head, for now
he is at her side, and she will not flee from him, as the last time she
fled from the house of Miriam.

"I did not flee from thee," said Lygia.

"Then why didst thou go?"

She raised her iris-colored eyes to him, and, bending her blushing face,
said,--"Thou knowest--"

Vinicius was silent for a moment from excess of happiness, and began
again to speak, as his eyes were opened gradually to this,--that she was
different utterly from Roman women, and resembled Pomponia alone.
Besides, he could not explain this to her clearly, for he could not
define his feeling,--that beauty of a new kind altogether was coming to
the world in her, such beauty as had not been in it thus far; beauty
which is not merely a statue, but a spirit. He told her something,
however, which filled her with delight,--that he loved her just because
she had fled from him, and that she would be sacred to him at his
hearth.  Then, seizing her hand, he could not continue; he merely gazed
on her with rapture as on his life's happiness which he had won, and
repeated her name, as if to assure himself that he had found her and was
near her.

"Oh, Lygia, Lygia!"

At last he inquired what had taken place in her mind, and she confessed
that she had loved him while in the house of Aulus, and that if he had
taken her back to them from the Palatine she would have told them of her
love and tried to soften their anger against him.

"I swear to thee," said Vinicius, "that it had not even risen in my mind
to take thee from Aulus.  Petronius will tell thee sometime that I told
him then how I loved and wished to marry thee. 'Let her anoint my door
with wolf fat, and let her sit at my hearth,' said I to him.  But he
ridiculed me, and gave Cæsar the idea of demanding thee as a hostage and
giving thee to me.  How often in my sorrow have I cursed him; but
perhaps fate ordained thus, for otherwise I should not have known the
Christians, and should not have understood thee."

"Believe me, Marcus," replied Lygia, "it was Christ who led thee to
Himself by design."

Vinicius raised his head with a certain astonishment.

"True," answered he, with animation.  "Everything fixed itself so
marvellously that in seeking thee I met the Christians.  In Ostrianum I
listened to the Apostle with wonder, for I had never heard such words.
And there thou didst pray for me?"

"I did," answered Lygia.

They passed near the summer-house covered with thick ivy, and approached
the place where Ursus, after stifling Croton, threw himself upon
Vinicius.

"Here," said the young man, "I should have perished but for thee."

"Do not mention that," answered Lygia, "and do not speak of it to
Ursus."

"Could I be revenged on him for defending thee?  Had he been a slave, I
should have given him freedom straightway."

"Had he been a slave, Aulus would have freed him long ago."

"Dost thou remember," asked Vinicius, "that I wished to take thee back
to Aulus, but the answer was, that Cæsar might hear of it and take
revenge on Aulus and Pomponia?  Think of this: thou mayst see them now
as often as thou wishest."

"How, Marcus?"

"I say 'now,' and I think that thou wilt be able to see them without
danger, when thou art mine.  For should Cæsar hear of this, and ask what
I did with the hostage whom he gave me, I should say 'I married her, and
she visits the house of Aulus with my consent.' He will not remain long
in Antium, for he wishes to go to Achæa; and even should he remain, I
shall not need to see him daily.  When Paul of Tarsus teaches me your
faith, I will receive baptism at once, I will come here, gain the
friendship of Aulus and Pomponia, who will return to the city by that
time, and there will be no further hindrance, I will seat thee at my
hearth.  Oh, carissima! carissima!"

And he stretched forth his hand, as if taking Heaven as witness of his
love; and Lygia, raising her clear eyes to him, said,--

"And then I shall say, 'Wherever thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia.'"

"No, Lygia," cried Vinicius, "I swear to thee that never has woman been
so honored in the house of her husband as thou shalt be in mine."

For a time they walked on in silence, without being able to take in with
their breasts their happiness, in love with each other, like two
deities, and as beautiful as if spring had given them to the world with
the flowers.

They halted at last under the cypress growing near the entrance of the
house.  Lygia leaned against his breast, and Vinicius began to entreat
again with a trembling voice,--"Tell Ursus to go to the house of Aulus
for thy furniture and playthings of childhood."

But she, blushing like a rose or like the dawn, answered,--"Custom
commands otherwise."

"I know that.  The pronuba [The matron who accompanies the bride and
explains to her the duties of a wife] usually brings them behind the
bride, but do this for me.  I will take them to my villa in Antium, and
they will remind me of thee."

Here he placed his hands together and repeated, like a child who is
begging for something,--"It will be some days before Pomponia returns;
so do this, diva, do this, carissima."

"But Pomponia will do as she likes," answered Lygia, blushing still more
deeply at mention of the pronuba.

And again they were silent, for love had begun to stop the breath in
their breasts.  Lygia stood with shoulders leaning against the cypress,
her face whitening in the shadow, like a flower, her eyes drooping, her
bosom heaving with more and more life.  Vinicius changed in the face,
and grew pale.  In the silence of the afternoon they only heard the
beating of their hearts, and in their mutual ecstasy that cypress, the
myrtle bushes, and the ivy of the summer-house became for them a
paradise of love.  But Miriam appeared in the door, and invited them to
the afternoon meal.  They sat down then with the Apostles, who gazed at
them with pleasure, as on the young generation which after their death
would preserve and sow still further the seed of the new faith.  Peter
broke and blessed bread.  There was calm on all faces, and a certain
immense happiness seemed to overflow the whole house.

"See," said Paul at last, turning to Vinicius, "are we enemies of life
and happiness?"

"I know how that is," answered Vinicius, "for never have I been so happy
as among you."




Chapter XXXV


ON the evening of that day Vinicius, while returning home through the
Forum, saw at the entrance to the Vicus Tuscus the gilded litter of
Petronius, carried by eight stalwart Bithynians, and, stopping it with a
sign of his hand, he approached the curtains.

"Thou hast had a pleasant dream, I trust, and a happy one!" cried he,
laughing at sight of the slumbering Petronius.

"Oh, is it thou?" said Petronius, waking up.  "Yes; I dropped asleep for
a moment, as I passed the night at the Palatine.  I have come out to buy
something to read on the road to Antium.  What is the news?"

"Art thou visiting the book-shops?" inquired Vinicius.

"Yes, I do not like to bring disorder into my library, so I am
collecting a special supply for the journey.  It is likely that some new
things of Musonius and Seneca have come out.  I am looking also for
Persius, and a certain edition of the Eclogues of Vergilius, which I do
not possess.  Oh, how tired I am; and how my hands ache from covers and
rings!  For when a man is once in a book-shop curiosity seizes him to
look here and there.  I was at the shop of Avirnus, and at that of
Atractus on the Argiletum, and with the Sozii on Vicus Sandalarius.  By
Castor! how I want to sleep!"

"Thou wert on the Palatine?  Then I would ask thee what is it to be
heard there?  Or, knowest what?--send home the litter and the tubes with
books, and come to my house.  We will talk of Antium, and of something
else."

"That is well," answered Petronius, coming out of the litter.  "Thou
must know, besides, that we start for Antium the day after to-morrow."

"Whence should I know that?"

"In what world art thou living?  Well, I shall be the first to announce
the news to thee.  Yes; be ready for the day after to-morrow in the
morning.  Peas in olive oil have not helped, a cloth around his thick
neck has not helped, and Bronzebeard is hoarse.  In view of this, delay
is not to be mentioned.  He curses Rome and its atmosphere, with what
the world stands on; he would be glad to level it to the earth or to
destroy it with fire, and he longs for the sea at the earliest.  He says
that the smells which the wind brings from the narrow streets are
driving him into the grave. To-day great sacrifices were offered in all
the temples to restore his voice; and woe to Rome, but especially to the
Senate, should it not return quickly!"

"Then there would be no reason for his visit to Achæa?"

"But is that the only talent possessed by our divine Cæsar?" asked
Petronius, smiling.  "He would appear in the Olympic games, as a poet,
with his 'Burning of Troy'; as a charioteer, as a musician, as an
athlete,--nay, even as a dancer, and would receive in every case all the
crowns intended for victors.  Dost know why that monkey grew hoarse?
Yesterday he wanted to equal our Paris in dancing, and danced for us the
adventures of Leda, during which he sweated and caught cold.  He was as
wet and slippery as an eel freshly taken from water.  He changed masks
one after another, whirled like a spindle, waved his hands like a
drunken sailor, till disgust seized me while looking at that great
stomach and those slim legs.  Paris taught him during two weeks; but
imagine to thyself Ahenobarbus as Leda or as the divine swan. That was a
swan!--there is no use in denying it.  But he wants to appear before the
public in that pantomime,--first in Antium, and then in Rome."

"People are offended already because he sang in public; but to think
that a Roman Cæsar will appear as a mime!  No; even Rome will not endure
that!"

"My dear friend, Rome will endure anything; the Senate will pass a vote
of thanks to the 'Father of his country.' And the rabble will be elated
because Cæsar is its buffoon."

"Say thyself, is it possible to be more debased?"

Petronius shrugged his shoulders.  "Thou art living by thyself at home,
and meditating, now about Lygia, now about Christians, so thou knowest
not, perhaps, what happened two days since.  Nero married, in public,
Pythagoras, who appeared as a bride.  That passed the measure of
madness, it would seem, would it not?  And what wilt thou say? the
flamens, who were summoned, came and performed the ceremony with
solemnity.  I was present.  I can endure much; still I thought, I
confess, that the gods, if there be any, should give a sign.  But Cæsar
does not believe in the gods, and he is right."

"So he is in one person chief priest, a god, and an atheist," said
Vinicius.

"True," said Petronius, beginning to laugh.  "That had not entered my
head; but the combination is such as the world has not seen."  Then,
stopping a moment, he said: "One should add that this chief priest who
does not believe in the gods, and this god who reviles the gods, fears
them in his character of atheist."

"The proof of this is what happened in the temple of Vesta."  "What a
society!"

"As the society is, so is Cæsar.  But this will not last long."

Thus conversing, they entered the house of Vinicius, who called for
supper joyously; then, turning to Petronius he said,--"No, my dear,
society must be renewed."

"We shall not renew it," answered Petronius, "even for the reason that
in Nero's time man is like a butterfly,--he lives in the sunshine of
favor, and at the first cold wind he perishes, even against his will.
By the son of Maia! more than once have I given myself this question: By
what miracle has such a man as Lucius Saturninus been able to reach the
age of ninety-three, to survive Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius?  But never
mind.  Wilt thou permit me to send thy litter for Eunice?  My wish to
sleep has gone, somehow, and I should like to be joyous.  Give command
to cithara players to come to the supper, and afterward we will talk of
Antium.  It is needful to think of it, especially for thee."

Vinicius gave the order to send for Eunice, but declared that he had no
thought of breaking his head over the stay in Antium.

"Let those break their heads who cannot live otherwise than in the rays
of Cæsar's favor.  The world does not end on the Palatine, especially
for those who have something else in their hearts and souls."

He said this so carelessly and with such animation and gladness that his
whole manner struck Petronius; hence, looking for a time at him, he
asked,--"What is taking place in thee?  Thou art to-day as thou wert
when wearing the golden bulla on thy neck."

"I am happy," answered Vinicius.  "I have invited thee purposely to tell
thee so."

"What has happened?"

"Something which I would not give for the Roman Empire."

Then he sat down, and, leaning on the arm of the chair, rested his head
on his hand, and asked,--"Dost remember how we were at the house of
Aulus Plautius, and there thou didst see for the first time the godlike
maiden called by thee 'the dawn and the spring'? Dost remember that
Psyche, that incomparable, that one more beautiful than our maidens and
our goddesses?"

Petronius looked at him with astonishment, as if he wished to make sure
that his head was right.

"Of whom art thou speaking?" asked he at last.  "Evidently I remember
Lygia."

"I am her betrothed."

"What!"

But Vinicius sprang up and called his dispensator.

"Let the slaves stand before me to the last soul, quickly!"

"Art thou her betrothed?" repeated Petronius.

But before he recovered from his astonishment the immense atrium was
swarming with people.  Panting old men ran in, men in the vigor of life,
women, boys, and girls.  With each moment the atrium was filled more and
more; in corridors, called "fauces," voices were heard calling in
various languages.  Finally, all took their places in rows at the walls
and among the columns.  Vinicius, standing near the impluvium, turned to
Demas, the freedman, and said,--

"Those who have served twenty years in my house are to appear tomorrow
before the pretor, where they will receive freedom; those who have not
served out the time will receive three pieces of gold and double rations
for a week.  Send an order to the village prisons to remit punishment,
strike the fetters from people's feet, and feed them sufficiently.  Know
that a happy day has come to me, and I wish rejoicing in the house."

For a moment they stood in silence, as if not believing their ears; then
all hands were raised at once, and all mouths cried,--"A-a! lord! a-a-a!"

Vinicius dismissed them with a wave of his hand.  Though they desired to
thank him and to fall at his feet, they went away hurriedly, filling the
house with happiness from cellar to roof.

"To-morrow," said Vinicius, "I will command them to meet again in the
garden, and to make such signs on the ground as they choose.  Lygia will
free those who draw a fish."

Petronius, who never wondered long at anything, had grown indifferent,
and asked,--"A fish, is it?  Ah, ha!  According to Chilo, that is the
sign of a Christian, I remember."  Then he extended his hand to
Vinicius, and said: "Happiness is always where a man sees it.  May Flora
strew flowers under thy feet for long years.  I wish thee everything
which thou wishest thyself."

"I thank thee, for I thought that thou wouldst dissuade me, and that, as
thou seest, would be time lost."

"I? Dissuade?  By no means.  On the contrary, I tell thee that thou art
doing well."

"Ha, traitor!" answered Vinicius, joyfully; "hast forgotten what thou
didst tell me once when we were leaving the house of Pomponia Græcina?"

"No," answered Petronius, with cool blood; "but I have changed my
opinion.  My dear," added he after a while, "in Rome everything changes.
Husbands change wives, wives change husbands; why should not I change
opinions?  It lacked little of Nero's marrying Acte, whom for his sake
they represented as the descendant of a kingly line.  Well, he would
have had an honest wife, and we an honest Augusta.  By Proteus and his
barren spaces in the sea!  I shall change my opinion as often as I find
it appropriate or profitable. As to Lygia, her royal descent is more
certain than Acte's. But in Antium be on thy guard against Poppæa, who
is revengeful."

"I do not think of doing so.  A hair will not fall from my head in
Antium."

"If thou think to astonish me a second time, thou art mistaken; but
whence hast thou that certainty?"

"The Apostle Peter told me so."

"Ah, the Apostle Peter told thee!  Against that there is no argument;
permit me, however, to take certain measures of precaution even to this
end, that the Apostle Peter may not turn out a false phophet; for,
should the Apostle be mistaken, perchance he might lose thy confidence,
which certainly will be of use to him in the future."

"Do what may please thee, but I believe him.  And if thou think to turn
me against him by repeating his name with irony, thou art mistaken."

"But one question more.  Hast thou become a Christian?"

"Not yet; but Paul of Tarsus will travel with me to explain the
teachings of Christ, and afterward I will receive baptism; for thy
statement that they are enemies of life and pleasantness is not true."

"All the better for thee and Lygia," answered Petronius; then, shrugging
his shoulders, he said, as if to himself, "But it is astonishing how
skilled those people are in gaining adherents, and how that sect is
extending."

"Yes," answered Vinicius, with as much warmth as if he had been baptized
already; "there are thousands and tens of thousands of them in Rome, in
the cities of Italy, in Grecce and Asia.  There are Christians among the
legions and among the pretorians; they are in the palace of Cæsar
itself.  Slaves and citizens, poor and rich, plebeian and patrician,
confess that faith.  Dost thou know that the Cornelii are Christians,
that Pomponia Græcina is a Christian, that likely Octavia was, and Acte
is?  Yes, that teaching will embrace the world, and it alone is able to
renew it.  Do not shrug thy shoulders, for who knows whether in a month
or a year thou wilt not receive it thyself?"

"I?" said Petronius.  "No, by the son of Leto!  I will not receive it;
even if the truth and wisdom of gods and men were contained in it. That
would require labor, and I have no fondness for labor.  Labor demands
self-denial, and I will not deny myself anything.  With thy nature,
which is like fire and boiling water, something like this may happen any
time.  But I?  I have my gems, my cameos, my vases, my Eunice.  I do not
believe in Olympus, but I arrange it on earth for myself; and I shall
flourish till the arrows of the divine archer pierce me, or till Cæsar
commands me to open my veins.  I love the odor of violets too much, and
a comfortable triclinium.  I love even our gods, as rhetorical figures,
and Achæa, to which I am preparing to go with our fat, thin-legged,
incomparable, godlike Cæsar, the august period-compelling Hercules,
Nero."

Then he was joyous at the very supposition that he could accept the
teaching of Galilean fishermen, and began to sing in an undertone,--

"I will entwine my bright sword in myrtle, After the example of
Harmodius and Aristogiton."

But he stopped, for the arrival of Eunice was announced. Immediately
after her coming supper was served, during which songs were sung by the
cithara players; Vinicius told of Chilo's visit, and also how that visit
had given the idea of going to the Apostles directly,--an idea which
came to him while they were flogging Chilo.

At mention of this, Petronius, who began to be drowsy, placed his hand
on his forehead, and said,--"The thought was good, since the object was
good.  But as to Chilo, I should have given him five pieces of gold; but
as it was thy will to flog him, it was better to flog him, for who knows
but in time senators will bow to him, as to-day they are bowing to our
cobbler-knight, Vatinius. Good-night."

And, removing his wreath, he, with Eunice, prepared for home. When they
had gone, Vinicius went to his library and wrote to Lygia as follows:--

"When thou openest thy beautiful eyes, I wish this letter to say
Good-day! to thee.  Hence I write now, though I shall see thee tomorrow.
Cæsar will go to Antium after to-morrow,--and I, eheu! must go with him.
I have told thee already that not to obey would be to risk life--and at
present I could not find courage to die.  But if thou wish me not to go,
write one word, and I will stay.  Petronius will turn away danger from
me with a speech.  To-day, in the hour of my delight, I gave rewards to
all my slaves; those who have served in the house twenty years I shall
take to the pretor to-morrow and free.  Thou, my dear, shouldst praise
me, since this act as I think will be in accord with that mild religion
of thine; secondly, I do this for thy sake.  They are to thank thee for
their freedom.  I shall tell them so to-morrow, so that they may be
grateful to thee and praise thy name.  I give myself in bondage to
happiness and thee.  God grant that I never see liberation.  May Antium
be cursed, and the journey of Ahenobarbus!  Thrice and four times happy
am I in not being so wise as Petronius; if I were, I should be forced to
go to Greece perhaps.  Meanwhile the moment of separation will sweeten
my memory of thee.  Whenever I can tear myself away, I shall sit on a
horse, and rush back to Rome, to gladden my eyes with sight of thee, and
my ears with thy voice.  When I cannot come I shall send a slave with a
letter, and an inquiry about thee.  I salute thee, divine one, and
embrace thy feet.  Be not angry that I call thee divine.  If thou
forbid, I shall obey, but to-day I cannot call thee otherwise.  I
congratulate thee on thy future house with my whole soul."




Chapter XXVI


IT was known in Rome that Cæsar wished to see Ostia on the journey, or
rather the largest ship in the world, which had brought wheat recently
from Alexandria, and from Ostia to go by the Via Littoralis to Antium.
Orders had been given a number of days earlier; hence at the Porta
Ostiensis, from early morning, crowds made up of the local rabble and of
all nations of the earth had collected to feast their eyes with the
sight of Cæsar's retinue, on which the Roman population could never gaze
sufficiently.  The road to Antium was neither difficult nor long.  In
the place itself, which was composed of palaces and villas built and
furnished in a lordly manner, it was possible to find everything
demanded by comfort, and even the most exquisite luxury of the period.
Cæsar had the habit, however, of taking with him on a journey every
object in which he found delight, beginning with musical instruments and
domestic furniture, and ending with statues and mosaics, which were
taken even when he wished to remain on the road merely a short time for
rest or recreation.  He was accompanied, therefore, on every expedition
by whole legions of servants, without reckoning divisions of pretorian
guards, and Augustians; of the latter each had a personal retinue of
slaves.

Early on the morning of that day herdsmen from the Campania, with
sunburnt faces, wearing goat-skins on their legs, drove forth five
hundred she-asses through the gates, so that Poppæa on the morrow of her
arrival at Antium might have her bath in their milk. The rabble gazed
with delight and ridicule at the long ears swaying amid clouds of dust,
and listened with pleasure to the whistling of whips and the wild shouts
of the herdsmen.  After the asses had gone by, crowds of youth rushed
forth, swept the road carefully, and covered it with flowers and needles
from pine-trees.  In the crowds people whispered to each other, with a
certain feeling of pride, that the whole road to Antium would be strewn
in that way with flowers taken from private gardens round about, or
bought at high prices from dealers at the Porta Mugionis.  As the
morning hours passed, the throng increased every moment.  Some had
brought their whole families, and, lest the time might seem tedious,
they spread provisions on stones intended for the new temple of Ceres,
and ate their prandium beneath the open sky. Here and there were groups,
in which the lead was taken by persons who had travelled; they talked of
Cæsar's present trip, of his future journeys, and journeys in general.
Sailors and old soldiers narrated wonders which during distant campaigns
they had heard about countries which a Roman foot had never touched.
Home-stayers, who had never gone beyond the Appian Way, listened with
amazement to marvellous tales of India, of Arabia, of archipelagos
surrounding Britain in which, on a small island inhabited by spirits,
Briareus had imprisoned the sleeping Saturn. They heard of hyperborean
regions of stiffened seas, of the hisses and roars which the ocean gives
forth when the sun plunges into his bath.  Stories of this kind found
ready credence among the rabble, stories believed by such men even as
Tacitus and Pliny. They spoke also of that ship which Cæsar was to look
at,--a ship which had brought wheat to last for two years, without
reckoning four hundred passengers, an equal number of soldiers, and a
multitude of wild beasts to be used during the summer games.  This
produced general good feeling toward Cæsar, who not only nourished the
populace, but amused it.  Hence a greeting full of enthusiasm was
waiting for him.

Meanwhile came a detachment of Numidian horse, who belonged to the
pretorian guard.  They wore yellow uniforms, red girdles, and great
earrings, which cast a golden gleam on their black faces.  The points of
their bamboo spears glittered like flames, in the sun. After they had
passed, a procession-like movement began.  The throng crowded forward to
look at it more nearly; but divisions of pretorian foot were there, and,
forming in line on both sides of the gate, prevented approach to the
road.  In advance moved wagons carrying tents, purple, red, and violet,
and tents of byssus woven from threads as white as snow; and oriental
carpets, and tables of citrus, and pieces of mosaic, and kitchen
utensils, and cages with birds from the East, North, and West, birds
whose tongues or brains were to go to Cæsar's table, and vessels with
wine and baskets with fruit.  But objects not to be exposed to bruising
or breaking in vehicles were borne by slaves.  Hence hundreds of people
were seen on foot, carrying vessels, and statues of Corinthian bronze.
There were companies appointed specially to Etruscan vases; others to
Grecian; others to golden or silver vessels, or vessels of Alexandrian
glass.  These were guarded by small detachments of pretorian infantry
and cavalry; over each division of slaves were taskmasters, holding
whips armed at the end with lumps of lead or iron, instead of snappers.
The procession, formed of men bearing with importance and attention
various objects, seemed like some solemn religious procession; and the
resemblance grew still more striking when the musical instruments of
Cæsar and the court were borne past.  There were seen harps, Grecian
lutes, lutes of the Hebrews and Egyptians, lyres, formingas, citharas,
flutes, long, winding buffalo horns and cymbals.  While looking at that
sea of instruments, gleaming beneath the sun in gold, bronze, precious
stones, and pearls, it might be imagined that Apollo and Bacchus had set
out on a journey through the world.  After the instruments came rich
chariots filled with acrobats, dancers male and female, grouped
artistically, with wands in their hands.  After them followed slaves
intended, not for service, but excess; so there were boys and little
girls, selected from all Greece and Asia Minor, with long hair, or with
winding curls arranged in golden nets, children resembling Cupids, with
wonderful faces, but faces covered completely with a thick coating of
cosmetics, lest the wind of the Campania might tan their delicate
complexions.

And again appeared a pretorian cohort of gigantic Sicambrians, blue-
eyed, bearded, blond and red haired.  In front of them Roman eagles were
carried by banner-bearers called "imaginarii," tablets with
inscriptions, statues of German and Roman gods, and finally statues and
busts of Cæsar.  From under the skins and armor of the soldier appeared
limbs sunburnt and mighty, looking like military engines capable of
wielding the heavy weapons with which guards of that kind were
furnished.  The earth seemed to bend beneath their measured and weighty
tread.  As if conscious of strength which they could use against Cæsar
himself, they looked with contempt on the rabble of the street,
forgetting, it was evident, that many of themselves had come to that
city in manacles.  But they were insignificant in numbers, for the
pretorian force had remained in camp specially to guard the city and
hold it within bounds.  When they had marched past, Nero's chained lions
and tigers were led by, so that, should the wish come to him of
imitating Dionysus, he would have them to attach to his chariots. They
were led in chains of steel by Arabs and Hindoos, but the chains were so
entwined with garlands that the beasts seemed led with flowers.  The
lions and tigers, tamed by skilled trainers, looked at the crowds with
green and seemingly sleepy eyes; but at moments they raised their giant
heads, and breathed through wheezing nostrils the exhalations of the
multitude, licking their jaws the while with spiny tongues.

Now came Cæsar's vehicles and litters, great and small, gold or purple,
inlaid with ivory or pearls, or glittering with diamonds; after them
came another small cohort of pretorians in Roman armor, pretorians
composed of Italian volunteers only;*  then crowds of select slave
servants, and boys; and at last came Cæsar himself, whose approach was
heralded from afar by the shouts of thousands.

[* The inhabitants of Italy were freed from military service by
Augustus, in consequence of which the so-called cohors Italica,
stationed generally in Asia, was composed of volunteers.  The pretorian
guards, in so far as they were not composed of foreigners, were made up
of volunteers.]

In the crowd was the Apostle Peter, who wished to see Cæsar once in
life.  He was accompanied by Lygia, whose face was hidden by a thick
veil, and Ursus, whose strength formed the surest defence of the young
girl in the wild and boisterous crowd.  The Lygian seized a stone to be
used in building the temple, and brought it to the Apostle, so that by
standing on it he might see better than others.

The crowd muttered when Ursus pushed it apart, as a ship pushes waves;
but when he carried the stone, which four of the strongest men could not
raise, the muttering was turned into wonderment, and cries of "Macte!"
were heard round about.

Meanwhile Cæsar appeared.  He was sitting in a chariot drawn by six
white Idumean stallions shod with gold.  The chariot had the form of a
tent with sides open, purposely, so that the crowds could see Cæsar.  A
number of persons might have found place in the chariot; but Nero,
desiring that attention should be fixed on him exclusively, passed
through the city alone, having at his feet merely two deformed dwarfs.
He wore a white tunic, and a toga of amethyst color, which cast a bluish
tinge on his face.  On his head was a laurel wreath.  Since his
departure from Naples he had increased notably in body.  His face had
grown wide; under his lower jaw hung a double chin, by which his mouth,
always too near his nose, seemed to touch his nostrils.  His bulky neck
was protected, as usual, by a silk kerchief, which he arranged from
moment to moment with a white and fat hand grown over with red hair,
forming as it were bloody stains; he would not permit epilatores to
pluck out this hair, since he had been told that to do so would bring
trembling of the fingers and injure his lute-playing. Measureless vanity
was depicted then, as at all times, on his face, together with tedium
and suffering.  On the whole, it was a face both terrible and trivial.
While advancing he turned his head from side to side, blinking at times,
and listening carefully to the manner in which the multitude greeted
him.  He was met by a storm of shouts and applause: "Hail, divine Cæsar!
lmperator, hail, conqueror! hail, incomparable!--Son of Apollo, Apollo
himself!"

When he heard these words, he smiled; but at moments a cloud, as it
were, passed over his face, for the Roman rabble was satirical and keen
in reckoning, and let itself criticise even great triumphators, even men
whom it loved and respected.  It was known that on a time they shouted
during the entrance to Rome of Julius Cæsar: "Citizens, hide your wives;
the old libertine is coming!"  But Nero's monstrous vanity could not
endure the least blame or criticism; meanwhile in the throng, amid
shouts of applause were heard cries of "Ahenobarbus, Ahenobarbus!  Where
hast thou put thy flaming beard?  Dost thou fear that Rome might catch
fire from it?"  And those who cried out in that fashion knew not that
their jest concealed a dreadful prophecy.

These voices did not anger Cæsar overmuch, since he did not wear a
beard, for long before he had devoted it in a golden cylinder to Jupiter
Capitolinus.  But other persons, hidden behind piles of stones and the
corners of temples, shouted: "Matricide! Nero!  Orestes!  Alcmæon!" and
still others: "Where is Octavia?" "Surrender the purple!"  At Poppæa,
who came directly after him, they shouted, "Flava coma (yellow hair)!!"
with which name they indicated a street-walker.  Cæsar's musical ear
caught these exclamations also, and he raised the polished emerald to
his eyes as if to see and remember those who uttered them.  While
looking thus, his glance rested on the Apostle standing on the stone.

For a while those two men looked at each other.  It occurred to no one
in that brilliant retinue, and to no one in that immense throng, that at
that moment two powers of the earth were looking at each other, one of
which would vanish quickly as a bloody dream, and the other, dressed in
simple garments, would seize in eternal possession the world and the
city.

Meanwhile Cæsar had passed; and immediately after him eight Africans
bore a magnificent litter, in which sat Poppæa, who was detested by the
people.  Arrayed, as was Nero, in amethyst color, with a thick
application of cosmetics on her face, immovable, thoughtful,
indifferent, she looked like some beautiful and wicked divinity carried
in procession.  In her wake followed a whole court of servants, male and
female, next a line of wagons bearing materials of dress and use.  The
sun had sunk sensibly from midday when the passage of Augustians began,
--a brilliant glittering line gleaming like an endless serpent.  The
indolent Petronius, greeted kindly by the multitude, had given command
to bear him and his godlike slave in a litter.  Tigellinus went in a
chariot drawn by ponies ornamented with white and purple feathers, They
saw him as he rose in the chariot repeatedly, and stretched his neck to
see if Cæsar was preparing to give him the sign to go his chariot. Among
others the crowd greeted Licinianus with applause, Vitelius with
laughter, Vatinius with hissing.  Towards Licinus and Lecanius the
consuls they were indifferent, but Tullius Senecio they loved, it was
unknown why, and Vestinius received applause.

The court was innumerable.  It seemed that all that was richest, most
brilliant and noted in Rome, was migrating to Antium.  Nero never
travelled otherwise than with thousands of vehicles; the society which
acompanied him almost always exceeded the number of soldiers in a
legion. [In the time of the Cæsars a legion was always 12,000 men.]
Hence Domitius Afer appeared, and the decrepit Lucius Saturninus; and
Vespasian, who had not gone yet on his expedition to Judea, from which
he returned for the crown of Cæsar, and his sons, and young Nerva, and
Lucan, and Annius Gallo, and Quintianus, and a multitude of women
renowned for wealth, beauty, luxury, and vice.

The eyes of the multitude were turned to the harness, the chariots, the
horses, the strange livery of the servants, made up of all peoples of
the earth.  In that procession of pride and grandeur one hardly knew
what to look at; and not only the eye, but the mind, was dazzled by such
gleaming of gold, purple, and violet, by the flashing of precious
stones, the glitter of brocade, pearls, and ivory.  It seemed that the
very rays of the sun were dissolving in that abyss of brilliancy.  And
though wretched people were not lacking in that throng, people with
sunken stomachs, and with hunger in their eyes, that spectacle inflamed
not only their desire of enjoyment and their envy, but filled them with
delight and pride, because it gave a feeling of the might and
invincibility of Rome, to which the world contributed, and before which
the world knelt.  Indeed there was not on earth any one who ventured to
think that that power would not endure through all ages, and outlive all
nations, or that there was anything in existence that had strength to
oppose it.

Vinicius, riding at the end of the retinue, sprang out of his chariot at
sight of the Apostle and Lygia, whom he had not expected to see, and,
greeting them with a radiant face, spoke with hurried voice, like a man
who has no time to spare,--"Hast thou come?  I know not how to thank
thee, O Lygia!  God could not have sent me a better omen.  I greet thee
even while taking farewell, but not farewell for a long time.  On the
road I shall dispose relays of horses, and every free day I shall come
to thee till I get leave to return.--Farewell!"

"Farewell, Marcus!" answered Lygia; then she added in a lower voice:
"May Christ go with thee, and open thy soul to Paul's word."

He was glad at heart that she was concerned about his becoming a
Christian soon; hence he answered,--

"Ocelle mi! let it be as thou sayest.  Paul prefers to travel with my
people, but he is with me, and will be to me a companion and master.
Draw aside thy veil, my delight, let me see thee before my journey.  Why
art thou thus hidden?"

She raised the veil, and showed him her bright face and her wonderfully
smiling eyes, inquiring,--

"Is the veil bad?"

And her smile had in it a little of maiden opposition; but Vinicius,
while looking at her with delight, answered,--

"Bad for my eyes, which till death would look on thee only."

Then he turned to Ursus and said,--

"Ursus, guard her as the sight in thy eye, for she is my domina as well
as thine."

Seizing her hand then, he pressed it with his lips, to the great
astonishment of the crowd, who could not understand signs of such honor
from a brilliant Augustian to a maiden arrayed in simple garments,
almost those of a slave.

"Farewell!"

Then he departed quickly, for Cæsar's whole retinue had pushed forward
considerably.  The Apostle Peter blessed him with a slight sign of the
cross; but the kindly Ursus began at once to glorify him, glad that his
young mistress listened eagerly and was grateful to him for those
praises.

The retinue moved on and hid itself in clouds of golden dust; they gazed
long after it, however, till Demas the miller approached, he for whom
Ursus worked in the night-time.  When he had kissed the Apostle's hand,
he entreated them to enter his dwelling for refreshment, saying that it
was near the Emporium, that they must be hungry and wearied since they
had spent the greater part of the day at the gate.

They went with him, and, after rest and refreshment in his house,
returned to the Trans-Tiber only toward evening.  Intending to cross the
river by the Æmilian bridge, they passed through the Clivus Publicus,
going over the Aventine, between the temples of Diana and Mercury.  From
that height the Apostle looked on the edifices about him, and on those
vanishing in the distance.  Sunk in silence he meditated on the
immensity and dominion of that city, to which he had come to announce
the word of God.  Hitherto he had seen the rule of Rome and its legions
in various lands through which he had wandered, but they were single
members as it were of the power, which that day for the first time he
had seen impersonated in the form of Nero.  That city, immense,
predatory, ravenous, unrestrained, rotten to the marrow of its bones,
and unassailable in its preterhuman power; that Cæsar, a fratricide, a
matricide, a wife-slayer, after him dragged a retinue of bloody spectres
no less in number than his court.  That profligate, that buffoon, but
also lord of thirty legions, and through them of the whole earth; those
courtiers covered with gold and scarlet, uncertain of the morrow, but
mightier meanwhile than kings,--all this together seemed a species of
hellish kingdom of wrong and evil.  In his simple heart he marvelled
that God could give such inconceivable almightiness to Satan, that He
could yield the earth to him to knead, overturn, and trample it, to
squeeze blood and tears from it, to twist it like a whirlwind, to storm
it like a tempest, to consume it like a flame.  And his Apostle-heart
was alarmed by those thoughts, and in spirit he spoke to the Master: "O
Lord, how shall I begin in this city, to which Thou hast sent me?  To it
belong seas and lands, the beasts of the field, and the creatures of the
water; it owns other kingdoms and cities, and thirty legions which guard
them; but I, O Lord, am a fisherman from a lake!  How shall I begin, and
how shall I conquer its malice?"

Thus speaking he raised his gray, trembling head toward heaven, praying
and exclaiming from the depth of his heart to his Divine Master, himself
full of sadness and fear.

Meanwhile his prayer was interrupted by Lygia.

"The whole city is as if on fire," said she.

In fact the sun went down that day in a marvellous manner.  Its immense
shield had sunk half-way behind the Janiculum, the whole expanse of
heaven was filled with a red gleam.  From the place on which they were
standing, Peter's glance embraced large expanses.  Somewhat to the right
they saw the long extending walls of the Circus Maximus; above it the
towering palaces of the Palatine; and directly in front of them, beyond
the Forum Boarium and the Velabrum, the summit of the Capitol, with the
temple of Jupiter.  But the walls and the columns and the summits of the
temples were as if sunk in that golden and purple gleam.  The parts of
the river visible from afar flowed as if in blood; and as the sun sank
moment after moment behind the mountain, the gleam became redder and
redder, more and more like a conflagration, and it increased and
extended till finally it embraced the seven hills, from which it
extended to the whole region about.

"The whole city seems on fire!" repeated Lygia.

Peter shaded his eyes with his hand, and said--

"The wrath of God is upon it."




Chapter XXXVII

VINCIUS to LYGIA:


"The slave Phlegon, by whom I send this letter, is a Christian; hence he
will be one of those to receive freedom from thy hands, my dearest.  He
is an old servant of our house; so I can write to thee with full
confidence, and without fear that the letter will fall into other hands
than thine. I write from Laurentum, where we have halted because of
heat.  Otho owned here a lordly villa, which on a time he presented to
Poppæa; and she, though divorced from him, saw fit to retain the
magnificent present.  When I think of the women who surround me now and
of thee, it seems to me that from the stones hurled by Deucalion there
must have risen people of various kinds, altogether unlike one another,
and that thou art of those born of crystal.

"I admire and love thee from my whole soul, and wish to speak only of
thee; hence I am forced to constrain myself to write of our journey, of
that which happens to me, and of news of the court. Well, Cæsar was the
guest of Poppæa, who prepared for him secretly a magnificent reception.
She invited only a few of his favorites, but Petronius and I were among
them.  After dinner we sailed in golden boats over the sea, which was as
calm as if it had been sleeping, and as blue as thy eyes, O divine one.
We ourselves rowed, for evidently it flattered the Augusta that men of
consular dignity, or their sons, were rowing for her.  Cæsar, sitting at
the rudder in a purple toga, sang a hymn in honor of the sea; this hymn
he had composed the night before, and with Diodorus had arranged music
to it.  In other boats he was accompanied by slaves from India who knew
how to play on sea-shells while round about appeared numerous dolphins,
as if really enticed from Amphitrite's depths by music.  Dost thou know
what I was doing?  I was thinking of thee, and yearning.  I wanted to
gather in that sea, that calm, and that music, and give the whole to
thee.

"Dost thou wish that we should live in some place at the seashore far
from Rome, my Augusta?  I have land in Sicily, on which there is an
almond forest which has rose-colored blossoms in spring, and this forest
goes down so near the sea that the tips of the branches almost touch the
water.  There I will love thee and magnify Paul's teaching, for I know
now that it will not be opposed to love and happiness.  Dost thou wish?
--But before I hear thy answer I will write further of what happened on
the boat.

"Soon the shore was far behind.  We saw a sail before us in the
distance, and all at once a dispute rose as to whether it was a common
fishing-boat or a great ship from Ostia.  I was the first to discover
what it was, and then the Augusta said that for my eyes evidently
nothing was hidden, and, dropping the veil over her face on a sudden,
she inquired if I could recognize her thus. Petronius answered
immediately that it was not possible to see even the sun behind a cloud;
but she said, as if in jest, that love alone could blind such a piercing
glance as mine, and, naming various women of the court, she fell to
inquiring and guessing which one I loved.  I answered calmly, but at
last she mentioned thy name.  Speaking of thee, she uncovered her face
again, and looked at me with evil and inquiring eyes.

"I feel real gratitude to Petronius, who turned the boat at that moment,
through which general attention was taken from me; for had I heard
hostile or sneering words touching thee, I should not have been able to
hide my anger, and should have had to struggle with the wish to break
the head of that wicked, malicious woman with my oar.  Thou rememberest
the incident at the pond of Agrippa about which I told thee at the house
of Linus on the eve of my departure.  Petronius is alarmed on my
account, and to-day again he implored me not to offend the Augusta's
vanity.  But Petronius does not understand me, and does not realize
that, apart from thee, I know no pleasure or beauty or love, and that
for Poppæa I feel only disgust and contempt.  Thou hast changed my soul
greatly,--so greatly that I should not wish now to return to my former
life.  But have no fear that harm may reach me here. Poppæa does not
love me, for she cannot love any one, and her desires arise only from
anger at Cæsar, who is under her influence yet, and who is even capable
of loving her yet; still, he does not spare her, and does not hide from
her his transgressions and shamelessness.

"I will tell thee, besides, something which should pacify thee.  Peter
told me in parting not to fear Cæsar, since a hair would not fall from
my head; and I believe him.  Some voice in my soul says that every word
of his must be accomplished; that since he blessed our love, neither
Cæsar, nor all the powers of Hades, nor predestination itself, could
take thee from me, O Lygia.  When I think of this I am as happy as if I
were in heaven, which alone is calm and happy.  But what I say of heaven
and predestination may offend thee, a Christian.  Christ has not washed
me yet, but my heart is like an empty chalice, which Paul of Tarsus is
to fill with the sweet doctrine professed by thee,--the sweeter for me
that it is thine.  Thou, divine one, count even this as a merit to me
that I have emptied it of the liquid with which I had filled it before,
and that I do not withdraw it, but hold it forth as a thirsty man
standing at a pure spring.  Let me find favor in thy eyes.

"In Antium my days and nights will pass in listening to Paul, who
acquired such influence among my people on the first day that they
surround him continually, seeing in him not only a wonder-worker, but a
being almost supernatural.  Yesterday I saw gladness on his face, and
when I asked what he was doing, he answered, 'I am sowing!' Petronius
knows that he is among my people, and wishes to see him, as does Seneca
also, who heard of him from Gallo.

"But the stars are growing pale, O Lygia, and 'Lucifer' of the morning
is bright with growing force.  Soon the dawn will make the sea ruddy;
all is sleeping round about, but I am thinking of thee and loving thee.
Be greeted together with the morning dawn, sponsa mea!"




Chapter XXXVIII

VINICIUS to LYGIA:


"Hast thou ever been in Antium, my dear one, with Aulus and Pomponia?
If not, I shall be happy when I show this place to thee. All the way
from Laurentum there is a line of villas along the seashore; and Antium
itself is an endless succession of palaces and porticos, whose columns
in fair weather see themselves in the water.  I, too, have a residence
here right over the sea, with an olive garden and a forest of cypresses
behind the villa, and when I think that the place will sometime be
thine, its marble seems whiter to me, its groves more shady, and the sea
bluer.  Oh, Lygia, how good it is to live and love!  Old Menikles, who
manages the villa, planted irises on the ground under myrtles, and at
sight of them the house of Aulus, the impluvium, and the garden in which
I sat near thee, came to my mind.  The irises will remind thee, too, of
thy childhood's home; therefore I am certain that thou wilt love Antium
and this villa.

"Immediately after our arrival I talked long with Paul at dinner. We
spoke of thee, and afterward he taught.  I listened long, and I say only
this, that even could I write like Petronius, I should not have power to
explain everything which passed through my soul and my mind.  I had not
supposed that there could be such happiness in this world, such beauty
and peace of which hitherto people had no knowledge.  But I retain all
this for conversation with thee, for at the first free moment I shall be
in Rome.

"How could the earth find place at once for the Apostle Peter, Paul of
Tarsus, and Cæsar?  Tell me this.  I ask because I passed the evening
after Paul's teaching with Nero, and dost thou know what I heard there?
Well, to begin with, he read his poem on the destruction of Troy, and
complained that never had he seen a burning city.  He envied Priam, and
called him happy just for this, that he saw the conflagration and ruin
of his birthplace. Whereupon Tigellinus said, 'Speak a word, O divinity,
I will take a torch, and before the night passes thou shalt see blazing
Antium.' But Cæsar called him a fool. 'Where,' asked he, 'should I go to
breathe the sea air, and preserve the voice with which the gods have
gifted me, and which men say I should preserve for the benefit of
mankind?  Is it not Rome that injures me; is it not the exhalations of
the Subura and the Esquiline which add to my hoarseness?  Would not the
palaces of Rome present a spectacle a hundredfold more tragic and
magnificent than Antium?' Here all began to talk, and to say what an
unheard tragedy the picture of a city like that would be, a city which
had conquered the world turned now into a heap of gray ashes.  Cæsar
declared that then his poem would surpass the songs of Homer, and he
began to describe how he would rebuild the city, and how coming ages
would admire his achievensents, in presence of which all other human
works would be petty. 'Do that! do that!' exclaimed the drunken company.
'I must have more faithful and more devoted friends,' answered he.

"I confess that I was alarmed at once when I heard this, for thou art in
Rome, carissima.  I laugh now at that alarm, and I think that Cæsar and
his friends, though mad, would not dare to permit such insanity.  Still,
see how a man fears for his love; I should prefer that the house of
Linus were not in that narrow Trans-Tiber alley, and in a part occupied
by common people, who are less considered in such a case.  For me, the
very palaces on the Palatine would not be a residence fit for thee;
hence I should wish also that nothing were lacking thee of those
ornaments and comforts to which thou art accustomed from childhood.

"Go to the house of Aulus, my Lygia.  I have thought much here over this
matter.  If Cæsar were in Rome, news of thy return might reach the
Palatine through slaves, turn attention to thee, and bring persecution,
because thou didst dare to act against the will of Cæsar.  But he will
remain long in Antium, and before he returns slaves will have ceased to
speak of thee.  Linus and Ursus can be with thee.  Besides, I live in
hope that before Palatine sees Cæsar, thou, my goddess, shalt be
dwelling in thy own house on the Carinæ. Blessed be the day, hour, and
moment in which thou shalt cross my threshold; and if Christ, whom I am
learning to accept, effects this, may His name be blessed also.  I shall
serve Him, and give life and blood for Him.  I speak incorrectly; we
shall serve Him, both of us, as long as the threads of life hold.

"I love thee and salute thee with my whole soul."




Chapter XXXIX


Unsus was taking water from a cistern, and while drawing up a double
amphora, with a rope, was singing a strange Lygian song in an undertone,
looking meanwhile with delighted eyes at Lygia and Vinicius, who, among
the cypresses in Linus's garden, seemed as white as two statues.  Their
clothing was not moved by the least breeze.  A golden and lily-colored
twilight was sinking on the world while they were conversing in the calm
of evening, each holding the other by the hand.

"May not some evil meet thee, Marcus, because thou hast left Antium
without Cæsar's knowledge?" asked Lygia.

"No, my dear," answered Vinicius.  "Cæsar announced that he would shut
himself in for two days with Terpnos, and compose new songs.  He acts
thus frequently, and at such times neither knows nor remembers aught
else.  Moreover, what is Cæsar to me since I am near thee and am looking
at thee?  I have yearned too much already, and these last nights sleep
has left me.  More than once, when I dozed from weariness, I woke on a
sudden, with a feeling that danger was hanging over thee; at times I
dreamed that the relays of horses which were to bear me from Antium to
Rome were stolen,--horses with which I passed that road more swiftly
than any of Cæsar's couriers.  Besides, I could not live longer without
thee; I love thee too much for that, my dearest."

"I knew that thou wert coming.  Twice Ursus ran out, at my request, to
the Carinæ, and inquired for thee at thy house.  Linus laughed at me,
and Ursus also."

It was, indeed, evident that she had expected him; for instead of her
usual dark dress, she wore a soft white stola, out of whose beautiful
folds her arms and head emerged like primroses out of snow.  A few ruddy
anemones ornamented her hair.

Vinicius pressed his lips to her hands; then they sat on the stone bench
amidst wild grapevines, and inclining toward each other, were silent,
looking at the twilight whose last gleams were reflected in their eyes.

The charm of the quiet evening mastered them completely.

"How calm it is here, and how beautiful the world is," said Vinicius, in
a lowered voice.  "The night is wonderfully still.  I feel happier than
ever in life before.  Tell me, Lygia, what is this?  Never have I
thought that there could be such love.  I thought that love was merely
fire in the blood and desire; but now for the first time I see that it
is possible to love with every drop of one's blood and every breath, and
feel therewith such sweet and immeasurable calm as if Sleep and Death
had put the soul to rest.  For me this is something new.  I look on this
calmness of the trees, and it seems to be within me.  Now I understand
for the first time that there may be happiness of which people have not
known thus far.  Now I begin to understand why thou and Pomponia Græcina
have such peace.  Yes!  Christ gives it."

At that moment Lygia placed her beautiful face on his shoulder and
said,--"My dear Marcus--" But she was unable to continue. Joy,
gratitude, and the feeling that at last she was free to love deprived
her of voice, and her eyes were filled with tears of emotion.

Vinicius, embracing her slender form with his arm, drew her toward him
and said,--"Lygia!  May the moment be blessed in which I heard His name
for the first time."

"I love thee, Marcus," said she then in a low voice.

Both were silent again, unable to bring words from their overcharged
breasts.  The last lily reflections had died on the cypresses, and the
garden began to be silver-like from the crescent of the moon.  After a
while Vinicius said,

"I know.  Barely had I entered here, barely had I kissed thy dear hands,
when I read in thy eyes the question whether I had received the divine
doctrine to which thou art attached, and whether I was baptized.  No, I
am not baptized yet; but knowest thou, my flower, why?  Paul said to me:
'I have convinced thee that God came into the world and gave Himself to
be crucified for its salvation; but let Peter wash thee in the fountain
of grace, he who first stretched his hands over thee and blessed thee.'
And I, my dearest, wish thee to witness my baptism, and I wish Pomponia
to be my godmother.  This is why I am not baptized yet, though I believe
in the Saviour and in his teaching.  Paul has convinced me, has
converted me; and could it be otherwise?  How was I not to believe that
Christ came into the world, since he, who was His disciple, says so, and
Paul, to whom He appeared?  How was I not to believe that He was God,
since He rose from the dead?  Others saw Him in the city and on the lake
and on the mountain; people saw Him whose lips have not known a lie.  I
began to believe this the first time I heard Peter in Ostrianum, for I
said to myself even then:  In the whole world any other man might lie
rather than this one who says, 'I saw.'  But I feared thy religion.  It
seemed to me that thy religion would take thee from me.  I thought that
there was neither wisdom nor beauty nor happiness in it.  But to-day,
when I know it, what kind of man should I be were I not to wish truth to
rule the world instead of fahehood, love instead of hatred, virtue
instead of crime, faithfulness instead of unfaithfulness, mercy instead
of vengeance? What sort of man would he be who would not choose and wish
the same?  But your religion teaches this.  Others desire justice also;
but thy religion is the only one which makes man's heart just, and
besides makes it pure, like thine and Pomponia's, makes it faithful,
like thine and Pomponia's.  I should be blind were I not to see this.
But if in addition Christ God has promised eternal life, and has
promised happiness as immeasurable as the all-might of God can give,
what more can one wish?  Were I to ask Seneca why he enjoins virtue, if
wickedness brings more happiness, he would not be able to say anything
sensible.  But I know now that I ought to be virtuous, because virtue
and love flow from Christ, and because, when death closes my eyes, I
shall find life and happiness, I shall find myself and thee.  Why not
love and accept a religion which both speaks the truth and destroys
death?  Who would not prefer good to evil?  I thought thy religion
opposed to happiness; meanwhile Paul has convinced me that not only does
it not take away, but that it gives.  All this hardly finds a place in
my head; but I feel that it is true, for I have never been so happy,
neither could I be, had I taken thee by force and possessed thee in my
house.  Just see, thou hast said a moment since, 'I love thee,' and I
could not have won these words from thy lips with all the might of Rome.
O Lygia!  Reason declares this religion divine, and the best; the heart
feels it, and who can resist two such forces?"

Lygia listened, fixing on him her blue eyes, which in the light of the
moon were like mystic flowers, and bedewed like flowers.

"Yes, Marcus, that is true!" said she, nestling her head more closely to
his shoulder.

And at that moment they felt immensely happy, for they understood that
besides love they were united by another power, at once sweet and
irresistible, by which love itself becomes endless, not subject to
change, deceit, treason, or even death.  Their hearts were filled with
perfect certainty that, no matter what might happen, they would not
cease to love and belong to each other.  For that reason an unspeakable
repose flowed in on their souls. Vinicius felt, besides, that that love
was not merely profound and pure, but altogether new,--such as the world
had not known and could not give.  In his head all was combined in this
love,--Lygia, the teaching of Christ, the light of the moon resting
calmly on the cypresses, and the still night,--so that to him the whole
universe seemed filled with it.

After a while he said with a lowered and quivering voice: "Thou wilt be
the soul of my soul, and the dearest in the world to me.  Our hearts
will beat together, we shall have one prayer and one gratitude to
Christ.  O my dear!  To live together, to honor together the sweet God,
and to know that when death comes our eyes will open again, as after a
pleasant sleep, to a new light,--what better could be imagined?  I only
marvel that I did not understand this at first.  And knowest thou what
occurs to me now?  That no one can resist this religion.  In two hundred
or three hundred years the whole world will accept it.  People will
forget Jupiter, and there will be no God except Christ, and no other
temples but Christian. Who would not wish his own happiness?  Ah! but I
heard Paul's conversation with Petronius and dost thou know what
Petronius said at the end? 'That is not for me'; but he could give no
other answer."

"Repeat Paul's words to me," said Lygia.

"It was at my house one evening.  Petronius began to speak playfully and
to banter, as he does usually, whereupon Paul said to him: 'How canst
thou deny, O wise Petronius, that Christ existed and rose from the dead,
since thou wert not in the world at that time, but Peter and John saw
Him, and I saw Him on the road to Damascus?  Let thy wisdom show, first
of all, then, that we are liars, and then only deny our testimony.'
Petronius answered that he had no thought of denying, for he knew that
many incomprehensible things were done, which trustworthy people
affirmed. 'But the discovery of some new foreign god is one thing,' said
he, 'and the reception of his teaching another.  I have no wish to know
anything which may deform life and mar its beauty.  Never mind whether
our gods are true or not; they are beautiful, their rule is pleasant for
us, and we live without care.' 'Thou art willing to reject the religion
of love, justice, and mercy through dread of the cares of life,' replied
Paul; 'but think, Petronius, is thy life really free from anxieties?
Behold, neither thou nor any man among the richest and most powerful
knows when he falls asleep at night that he may not wake to a death
sentence.  But tell me, if Cæsar professed this religion, which enjoins
love and justice, would not thy happiness be more assured? Thou art
alarmed about thy delight, but would not life be more joyous then?  As
to life's beauty and ornaments, if ye have reared so many beautiful
temples and statues to evil, revengeful, adulterous, and faithless
divinities, what would ye not do in honor of one God of truth and mercy?
Thou art ready to praise thy lot, because thou art wealthy and living in
luxury; but it was possible even in thy case to be poor and deserted,
though coming of a great house, and then in truth it would have been
better for thee if people confessed Christ.  In Rome even wealthy
parents, unwilling to toil at rearing children, cast them out of the
house frequently; those children are called alumni.  And chance might
have made thee an alumnus, like one of those.  But if parents live
according to our religion, this cannot happen.  And hadst thou, at
manhood's years, married a woman of thy love, thy wish would be to see
her faithful till death. Meanwhile look around, what happens among you,
what vileness, what shame, what bartering in the faith of wives!  Nay,
ye yourselves are astonished when a woman appears whom ye call "univira"
(of one husband). But I tell thee that those women who carry Christ in
their hearts will not break faith with their husbands, just as Christian
husbands will keep faith with their wives.  But ye are neither sure of
rulers nor fathers nor wives nor children nor servants.  The whole world
is trembling before you, and ye are trembling before your own slaves,
for ye know that any hour may raise an awful war against your
oppression, such a war as has been raised more than once.  Though rich,
thou art not sure that the command may not come to thee to-morrow to
leave thy wealth; thou art young, but to-morrow it may be necessary for
thee to die. Thou lovest, but treason is in wait for thee; thou art
enamoured of villas and statues, but to-morrow power may thrust thee
forth into the empty places of the Pandataria; thou hast thousands of
servants, but to-morrow these servants may let thy blood flow.  And if
that be the case, how canst thou be calm and happy, how canst thou live
in delight?  But I proclaim love, and I proclaim a religion which
commands rulers to love their subjects, masters their slaves, slaves to
serve with love, to do justice and be merciful; and at last it promises
happiness boundless as a sea without end.  How, then, Petronius, canst
thou say that that religion spoils life, since it corrects, and since
thou thyself wouldst be a hundred times happier and more secure were it
to embrace the world as Rome's dominion has embraced it?'

"Thus discussed Paul, and then Petronius said, 'That is not for me.'
Feigning drowsiness, he went out, and when going added: 'I prefer my
Eunice, O little Jew, but I should not wish to struggle with thee on the
platform.' I listened to Paul's words with my whole soul, and when he
spoke of our women, I magnified with all my heart that religion from
which thou hast sprung as a lily from a rich field in springtime.  And I
thought then: There is Poppæa, who cast aside two husbands for Nero,
there is Calvia Crispinilla, there is Nigidia, there are almost all whom
I know, save only Pomponia; they trafficked with faith and with oaths,
but she and my own one will not desert, will not deceive, and will not
quench the fire, even though all in whom I place trust should desert and
deceive me. Hence I said to thee in my soul, How can I show gratitude to
thee, if not with love and honor?  Didst thou feel that in Antium I
spoke and conversed with thee all the time as if thou hadst been at my
side?  I love thee a hundred times more for having escaped me from
Cæsar's house.  Neither do I care for Cæsar's house any longer; I wish
not its luxury and music, I wish only thee.  Say a word, we will leave
Rome to settle somewhere at a distance."

Without removing her head from his shouldcr, Lygia, as if meditating,
raised her eyes to the silver tops of the cypresses, and answered,--
"Very well, Marcus.  Thou hast written to me of Sicily, where Aulus
wishes to settle in old age."  And Vinieius interrupted her with
delight.

"True, my dear!  Our lands are adjacent.  That is a wonderful coast,
where the climate is sweeter and the nights still brighter than in Rome,
odoriferous and transparent.  There life and happiness are almost one
and the same."

And he began then to dream of the future.

"There we may forget anxieties.  In groves, among olive-trees, we shall
walk and rest in the shade.  O Lygia! what a life to love and cherish
each other, to look at the sea together, to look at the sky together, to
honor together a kind God, to do in peace what is just and true."

Both were silent, looking into the future; only he drew her more firmly
toward him, and the knight's ring on his finger glittered meanwhile in
the rays of the moon.  In the part occupied by the poor toiling people,
all were sleeping; no murmur broke the silence.

"Wilt thou permit me to see Pomponia?" asked Lygia.

"Yes, dear one.  We will invite them to our house, or go to them
ourselves.  If thou wish, we can take Peter the Apostle.  He is bowed
down with age and work.  Paul will visit us also,--he will convert Aulus
Plautius; and as soldiers found colonies in distant lands, so we will
found a colony of Christians."

Lygia raised her hand and, taking his palm, wished to press it to her
lips; but he whispered, as if fearing to frighten happiness,--"No,
Lygia, no!  It is I who honor thee and exalt thee; give me thy hands."

"I love thee."

He had pressed his lips to her hands, white as jessamine, and for a time
they heard only the beating of their own hearts.  There was not the
slightest movement in the air; the cypresses stood as motionless as if
they too were holding breath in their breasts.

All at once the silence was broken by an unexpected thunder, deep, and
as if coming from under the earth.  A shiver ran through Lygia's body.
Vinicius stood up, and said,--"Lions are roaring in the vivarium."

Both began to listen.  Now the first thunder was answered by a second, a
third, a tenth, from all sides and divisions of the city.  In Rome
several thousand lions were quartered at times in various arenas, and
frequently in the night-time they approached the grating, and, leaning
their gigantic heads against it, gave utterance to their yearning for
freedom and the desert.  Thus they began on this occasion, and,
answering one another in the stillness of night, they filled the whole
city with roaring.  There was something so indescribably gloomy and
terrible in those roars that Lygia, whose bright and calm visions of the
future were scattered, listened with a straitened heart and with
wonderful fear and sadness.

But Vinicius encircled her with his arm, and said,--"Fear not, dear one.
The games are at hand, and all the vivaria are crowded."

Then both entered the house of Linus, accompanied by the thunder of
lions, growing louder and louder.




Chapter XL


IN Antium, meanwhile, Petronius gained new victories almost daily over
courtiers vying with him for the favor of Cæsar.  The influence of
Tigellinus had fallen completely.  In Rome, when there was occasion to
set aside men who seemed dangerous, to plunder their property or to
settle political cases, to give spectacles astounding by their luxury
and bad taste, or finally to satisty the monstrous whims of Cæsar,
Tigellinus, as adroit, as he was ready for anything, became
indispensable.  But in Antium, among palaces reflected in the azure of
the sea, Cæsar led a Hellenic existence.  From morning till evening Nero
and his attendants read verses, discoursed on their structure and
finish, were delighted with happy turns of expression, were occupied
with music, the theatre,--in a word, exclusively with that which Grecian
genius had invented, and with which it had beautified life. Under these
conditions Petronius, incomparably more refined than Tigellinus and the
other courtiers,--witty, eloquent, full of subtile feelings and tastes,
--obtained pre-eminence of necessity.  Cæsar sought his society, took his
opinion, asked for advice when he composed, and showed a more lively
friendship than at any other time whatever.  It seemed to courtiers that
his influence had won a supreme triumph at last, that friendship between
him and Cæsar had entered on a period of certainty which would last for
years. Even those who had shown dislike previously to the exquisite
Epicurean, began now to crowd around him and vie for his favor. More
than one was even sincerely glad in his soul that preponderance had come
to a man who knew really what to think of a given person, who received
with a sceptical smile the flattery of his enemies of yesterday, but
who, either through indolence or culture, was not vengeful, and did not
use his power to the detriment or destruction of others.  There were
moments when he might have destroyed even Tigellinus, but he preferred
to ridicule him, and expose his vulgarity and want of refinement.  In
Rome the Senate drew breath, for no death sentence had been issued for a
month and a half.  It is true that in Antium and the city people told
wonders of the refinement which the profligacy of Cæsar and his favorite
had reached, but every one preferred a refined Cæsar to one brutalized
in the hands of Tigellinus.  Tigellinus himself lost his head, and
hesitated whether or not to yield as conquered, for Cæsar had said
repeatedly that in all Rome and in his court there were only two spirits
capable of understanding each other, two real Hellenes,--he and
Petronius.

The amazing dexterity of Petronius confirmed people in the conviction
that his influence would outlive every other.  They did not see how
Cæsar could dispense with him,--with whom could he converse touching
poetry, music, and comparative excellence; in whose eyes could he look
to learn whether his creation was indeed perfect?  Petronius, with his
habitual indifference, seemed to attach no importance to his position.
As usual, he was remiss, slothful, sceptical, and witty.  He produced on
people frequently the impression of a man who made light of them, of
himself, of Cæsar, of the whole world.  At moments he ventured to
criticise Cæsar to his face, and when others judged that he was going
too far, or simply preparing his own ruin, he was able to turn the
criticism suddenly in such a way that it came out to his profit; he
roused amazement in those present, and the conviction that there was no
position from which he could not issue in triumph.

About a week after the return of Vinicius from Rome, Cæsar read in a
small circle an extract from his Troyad; when he had finished and the
shouts of rapture had ended, Petronius, interrogated by a glance from
Cæsar, replied,--

"Common verses, fit for the fire."

The hearts of those present stopped beating from terror.  Since the
years of his childhood Nero had never heard such a sentence from any
man.  The face of Tigellinus was radiant with delight.  But Vinicius
grew pale, thinking that Petronius, who thus far had never been drunk,
was drunk this time.

Nero, however, inquired in a honeyed voice, in which more or less deeply
wounded vanity was quivering,--

"What defect dost thou find in them?"

"Do not believe them," said Petronius, attacking him, and pointing to
those present; "they understand nothing.  Thou hast asked what defect
there is in thy verses.  If thou desire truth, I will tell thee. Thy
verses would be worthy of Virgil, of Ovid, even of Homer, but they are
not worthy of thee.  Thou art not free to write such.  The conflagration
described by thee does not blaze enough; thy fire is not hot enough.
Listen not to Lucan's flatteries.  Had he written those verses, I should
acknowledge him a genius, but thy case is different.  And knowest thou
why?  Thou art greater than they.  From him who is gifted of the gods as
thou art, more is demanded.  But thou art slothful,--thou wouldst rather
sleep after dinner than sit to wrinkles.  Thou canst create a work such
as the world has not heard of to this day; hence I tell thee to thy
eyes, write better!"

And he said this carelessly, as if bantering and also chiding; but
Cæsar's eyes were mist-covered from delight.

"The gods have given me a little talent," said he, "but they have given
me something greater, a true judge and friend, the only man able to
speak the truth to my eyes."

Then he stretched his fat hand, grown over with reddish hair, to a
golden candelabrum plundered from Delphi, to burn the verses. But
Petronius seized them before the flame touched the paper.

"No, no!" said he; "even thus they belong to mankind.  Leave them to
me."

"In such case let me send them to thee in a cylinder of my own
invention," answered Nero, embracing Petronius.

"True; thou art right," said he, after a while.  "My conflagration of
Troy does not blaze enough; my fire is not hot enough.  But I thought it
sufficient to equal Homer.  A certain timidity and low estimate of my
power have fettered me always.  Thou hast opened my eyes.  But knowest
why it is, as thou sayest?  When a sculptor makes the statue of a god,
he seeks a model; but never have I had a model.  I never have seen a
burning city; hence there is a lack of truth in my description."

"Then I will say that only a great artist understands this."

Nero grew thoughtful, and after a while he said,--"Answer one question,
Petronius.  Dost thou regret the burning of Troy?"

"Do I regret?  By the lame consort of Venus, not in the least!  And I
will tell thee the reason.  Troy would not have been consumed if
Prometheus had not given fire to man, and the Greeks made war on Priam.
Æschylus would not have written his Prometheus had there been no fire,
just as Homer would not have written the Iliad had there been no Trojan
war.  I think it better to have Prometheus and the Iliad than a small
and shabby city, which was unclean, I think, and wretched, and in which
at best there would be now some procurator annoying thee through
quarrels with the local areopagus."

"That is what we call speaking with sound reason," said Nero.  "For art
and poetry it is permitted, and it is right, to sacrifice everything.
Happy were the Achæans who furnished Homer with the substance of the
Iliad, and happy Priam who beheld the ruin of his birthplace. As to me,
I have never seen a burning city."

A time of silence followed, which was broken at last by Tigellinus.

"But I have said to thee, Cæsar, already, command and I will burn
Antium; or dost thou know what?  If thou art sorry for these villas and
palaces, give command to burn the ships in Ostia; or I will build a
wooden city on the Alban Hills, into which thou shalt hurl the fire
thyself.  Dost thou wish?"

"Am I to gaze on the burning of wooden sheds?" asked Nero, casting a
look of contempt on him.  "Thy mind has grown utterly barren,
Tigellinus.  And I see, besides, that thou dost set no great value on my
talent or my Troyad, since thou judgest that any sacrifice would be too
great for it."

Tigellinus was confused; but Nero, as if wishing to change the
conversation, added after a while,--

"Summer is passing.  Oh, what a stench there must be in that Rome now!
And still we must return for the summer games."

"When thou dismissest the Augustians, O Cæsar, permit me to remain with
thee a moment," said Tigellinus.

An hour later Vinicius, returning with Petronius from Cæsar's villa,
said,--"I was a trifle alarmed for thee.  I judged that while drunk thou
hadst ruined thyself beyond redemption.  Remember that thou art playing
with death."

"That is my arena," answered Petronius, carelessly; "and the feeling
that I am the best gladiator in it amuses me.  See how it ended.  My
influence has increased this evening.  He will send me his verses in a
cylinder which--dost wish to lay a wager?--will be immensely rich and in
immensely bad taste.  I shall command my physician to keep physic in it.
I did this for another reason,--because Tigellinus, seeing how such
things succeed, will wish surely to imitate me, and I imagine what will
happen.  The moment he starts a witticism, it will be as if a bear of
the Pyrenees were rope-walking.  I shall laugh like Democritus.  If I
wished I could destroy Tigellinus perhaps, and become pretorian prefect
in his place, and have Ahenobarbus himself in my hands.  But I am
indolent; I prefer my present life and even Cæsar's verses to trouble."

"What dexterity to be able to turn even blame into flattery!  But are
those verses really so bad?  I am no judge in those matters."

"The verses are not worse than others.  Lucan has more talent in one
finger, but in Bronzebeard too there is something.  He has, above all,
an immense love for poetry and music.  In two days we are to be with him
to hear the music of his hymn to Aphrodite, which he will finish to-day
or to-morrow.  We shall be in a small circle,--only I, thou, Tullius
Senecio, and young Nerva.  But as to what I said touching Nero's verses,
that I use them after feasting as Vitelius does flamingo feathers, is
not true.  At times they are eloquent. Hecuba's words are touching.  She
complains of the pangs of birth, and Nero was able to find happy
expressions,--for this reason, perhaps, that he gives birth to every
verse in torment. At times I am sorry for him.  By Pollux, what a
marvellous mixture!  The fifth stave was lacking in Caligula, but still
he never did such strange things."

"Who can foresee to what the madness of Ahenobarbus will go?" asked
Vinicius.

"No man whatever.  Such things may happen yet that the hair will stand
on men's heads for whole centuries at thought of them.  But it is that
precisely which interests me; and though I am bored more than once, like
Jupiter Ammon in the desert, I believe that under another Cæsar I should
be bored a hundred times more.  Paul, thy little Jew, is eloquent,--that
I accord to him; and if people like him proclaim that religion, our gods
must defend themselves seriously, lest in time they be led away captive.
It is true that if Cæsar, for example, were a Christian, all would feel
safer.  But thy prophet of Tarsus, in applying proofs to me, did not
think, seest thou, that for me this uncertainty becomes the charm of
life. Whoso does not play at dice will not lose property, but still
people play at dice.  There is in that a certain delight and destruction
of the present.  I have known sons of knights and senators to become
gladiators of their own will.  I play with life, thou sayest, and that
is true, but I play because it pleases me; while Christian virtues would
bore me in a day, as do the discourses of Seneca.  Because of this,
Paul's eloquence is exerted in vain.  He should understand that people
like me will never accept his religion.  With thy disposition thou
mightst either hate the name Christian, or become a Christian
immediately.  I recognize, while yawning, the truth of what they say.
We are mad.  We are hastening to the precipice, something unknown is
coming toward us out of the future, something is breaking beneath us,
something is dying around us,--agreed!  But we shall succeed in dying;
meanwhile we have no wish to burden life, and serve death before it
takes us.  Life exists for itself alone, not for death."

"But I pity thee, Petronius."

"Do not pity me more than I pity myself.  Formerly thou wert glad among
us; while campaigning in Armenia, thou wert longing for Rome."

"And now I am longing for Rome."

"True; for thou art in love with a Christian vestal, who sits in the
Trans-Tiber.  I neither wonder at this, nor do I blame thee.  I wonder
more, that in spite of a religion described by thee as a sea of
happiness, and in spite of a love which is soon to be crowned, sadness
has not left thy face.  Pomponia Græcina is eternally pensive; from the
time of thy becoming a Christian thou hast ceased to laugh.  Do not try
to persuade me that this religion is cheerful.  Thou hast returned from
Rome sadder than ever.  If Christians love in this way, by the bright
curls of Bacchus! I shall not imitate them!"

"That is another thing," answered Vinicius.  "I swear to thee, not by
the curls of Bacehus, but by the soul of my father, that never in times
past have I experienced even a foretaste of such happiness as I breathe
to-day.  But I yearn greatly; and what is stranger, when I am far from
Lygia, I think that danger is threatening her.  I know not what danger,
nor whence it may come; but I feel it, as one feels a coming tempest."

"In two days I will try to obtain for thee permission to leave Antium,
for as long a time as may please thee.  Poppæa is somewhat more quiet;
and, as far as I know, no danger from her threatens thee or Lygia."

"This very day she asked me what I was doing in Rome, though my
departure was secret."

"Perhaps she gave command to set spies on thee.  Now, however, even she
must count with me."

"Paul told me," said Vinicius, "that God forewarns sometimes, but does
not permit us to believe in omens; hence I guard myself against this
belief, but I cannot ward it off.  I will tell thee what happened, so as
to cast the weight from my heart.  Lygia and I were sitting side by side
on a night as calm as this, and planning our future.  I cannot tell thee
how happy and calm we were.  All at once lions began to roar.  That is
common in Rome, but since then I have no rest.  It seems to me that in
that roaring there was a threat, an announcement as it were of
misfortune.  Thou knowest that I am not frightened easily; that night,
however, something happened which filled all the darkness with terror.
It came so strangely and unexpectedly that I have those sounds in my
ears yet, and unbroken fear in my heart, as if Lygia were asking my
protection from something dreadful,--even from those same lions.  I am
in torture.  Obtain for me permission to leave Antium, or I shall go
without it.  I cannot remain.  I repeat to thee, I cannot!"

"Sons of consuls or their wives are not given to lions yet in the
arenas," said Petronius, laughing.  "Any other death may meet thee but
that.  Who knows, besides, that they were lions?  German bisons roar
with no less gentleness than lions.  As to me, I ridicule omens and
fates.  Last night was warm and I saw stars falling like rain. Many a
man has an evil foreboding at such a sight; but I thought, 'If among
these is my star too, I shall not lack society at least!'" Then he was
silent, but added after a moment's thought,--"If your Christ has risen
from the dead, He may perhaps protect you both from death."

"He may," answered Vinicius, looking at the heavens filled with stars.




Chapter XLI


NERO played and sang, in honor of the "Lady of Cyprus," a hymn the
verses and music of which were composed by himself.  That day he was in
voice, and felt that his music really captivated those present.  That
feeling added such power to the sounds produced and roused his own soul
so much that he seemed inspired.  At last he grew pale from genuine
emotion.  This was surely the first time that he had no desire to hear
praises from others.  He sat for a time with his hands on the cithara
and with bowed head; then, rising suddenly, he said,--

"I am tired and need air, Meanwhile ye will tune the citharæ."

He covered his throat then with a silk kerchief.

"Ye will go with me," said he, turning to Petronius and Vinicius, who
were sitting in a corner of the hall.  "Give me thy arm, Vinicius, for
strength fails me; Petronius will talk to me of music."

They went out on the terrace, which was paved with alabaster and
sprinkled with saffron.

"Here one can breathe more freely," said Nero.  "My soul is moved and
sad, though I see that with what I have sung to thee on trial just now I
may appear in public, and my triumph will be such as no Roman has ever
achieved."

"Thou mayst appear here, in Rome, in Achæa.  I admire thee with my whole
heart and mind, divinity," answered Petronius.

"I know.  Thou art too slothful to force thyself to flattery, and thou
art as sincere as Tullius Senecio, but thou hast more knowledge than he.
Tell me, what is thy judgment on music?"

"When I listen to poetry, when I look at a quadriga directed by thee in
the Circus, when I look at a beautiful statue, temple, or picture, I
feel that I comprehend perfectly what I see, that my enthusiasm takes in
all that these can give.  But when I listen to music, especially thy
music, new delights and beauties open before me every instant.  I pursue
them, I try to seize them; but before I can take them to myself, new and
newer ones flow in, just like waves of the sea, which roll on from
infinity.  Hence I tell thee that music is like the sea.  We stand on
one shore and gaze at remoteness, but we cannot see the other shore."

"Ah, what deep knowledge thou hast!" said Nero; and they walked on for a
moment, only the slight sound of the saffron leaves under their feet
being heard.

"Thou hast expressed my idea," said Nero at last; "hence I say now, as
ever, in all Rome thou art the only man able to understand me.  Thus it
is, my judgment of music is the same as thine.  When I play and sing, I
see things which I did not know as existing in my dominions or in the
world.  I am Cæsar, and the world is mine.  I can do everything.  But
music opens new kingdoms to me, new mountains, new seas, new delights
unknown before.  Most frequently I cannot name them or grasp them; I
only feel them.  I feel the gods, I see Olympus.  Some kind of breeze
from beyond the earth blows in on me; I behold, as in a mist, certain
immeasurable greatnesses, but calm and bright as sunshine.  The whole
Spheros plays around me; and I declare to thee" (here Nero's voice
quivered with genuine wonder) "that I, Cæsar and god, feel at such times
as diminutive as dust.  Wilt thou believe this?"

"I will.  Only great artists have power to feel small in the presence of
art."

"This is a night of sincerity; hence I open my soul to thee as to a
friend, and I will say more: dost thou consider that I am blind or
deprived of reason?  Dost thou think that I am ignorant of this, that
people in Rome write insults on the walls against me, call me a
matricide, a wife-murderer, hold me a monster and a tyrant, because
Tigellinus obtained a few sentences of death against my enemies?  Yes,
my dear, they hold me a monster, and I know it. They have talked cruelty
on me to that degree that at times I put the question to myself, 'Am I
not cruel?' But they do not understand this, that a man's deeds may be
cruel at times while he himself is not cruel.  Ah, no one will believe,
and perhaps even thou, my dear, wilt not believe, that at moments when
music caresses my soul I feel as kind as a child in the cradle.  I swear
by those stars which shine above us, that I speak the pure truth to
thee.  People do not know how much goodness lies in this heart, and what
treasures I see in it when music opens the door to them."

Petronius, who had not the least doubt that Nero was speaking sincerely
at that moment, and that music might bring out various more noble
inclinations of his soul, which were overwhelmed by mountains of
egotism, profligacy, and crime, said,--"Men should know thee as nearly
as I do; Rome has never been able to appreciate thee."

Cæsar leaned more heavily on Vinicius's arm, as if he were bending under
the weight of injustice, and answered,--

"Tigellinus has told me that in the Senate they whisper into one
another's ears that Diodorus and Terpnos play on the cithara better than
I.  They refuse me even that!  But tell me, thou who art truthful
always, do they play better, or as well?"

"By no means.  Thy touch is finer, and has greater power.  In thee the
artist is evident, in them the expert.  The man who hears their music
first understands better what thou art."

"If that be true, let them live.  They will never imagine what a service
thou hast rendered them in this moment.  For that matter, if I had
condemned those two, I should have had to take others in place of them."

"And people would say, besides, that out of love for music thou
destroyest music in thy dominions.  Never kill art for art's sake, O
divinity."

"How different thou art from Tigellinus!" answered Nero.  "But seest
thou, I am an artist in everything; and since music opens for me spaces
the existence of which I had not divined, regions which I do not
possess, delight and happiness which I do not know, I cannot live a
common life.  Music tells me that the uncommon exists, so I seek it with
all the power of dominion which the gods have placed in my hands.  At
times it seems to me that to reach those Olympian worlds I must do
something which no man has done hitherto,--I must surpass the stature of
man in good or evil.  I know that people declare me mad.  But I am not
mad, I am only seeking.  And if I am going mad, it is out of disgust and
impatience that I cannot find.  I am seeking! Dost understand me?  And
therefore I wish to be greater than man, for only in that way can I be
the greatest as an artist."

Here he lowered his voice so that Vinicius could not hear him, and,
putting his mouth to the ear of Petronius, he whispered,--"Dost know
that I condemned my mother and wife to death mainly because I wished to
lay at the gate of an unknown world the greatest sacrifice that man
could put there?  I thought that afterward something would happen, that
doors would be opened beyond which I should see something unknown.  Let
it be wonderful or awful, surpassing human conception, if only great and
uncommon.  But that sacrifice was not sufficient.  To open the empyrean
doors it is evident that something greater is needed, and let it be
given as the Fates desire."

"What dost thou intend to do?"

"Thou shalt see sooner than thou thinkest.  Meanwhile be assured that
there are two Neros,--one such as people know, the other an artist, whom
thou alone knowest, and if he slays as does death, or is in frenzy like
Bacchus, it is only because the flatness and misery of common life
stifle him; and I should like to destroy them, though I had to use fire
or iron.  Oh, how flat this world will be when I am gone from it!  No
man has suspected yet, not thou even, what an artist I am.  But
precisely because of this I suffer, and sincerely do I tell thee that
the soul in me is as gloomy as those cypresses which stand dark there in
front of us.  It is grievous for a man to bear at once the weight of
supreme power and the highest talents."

"I sympathize with thee, O Cæsar; and with me earth and sea, not
counting Vinicius, who deifies thee in his soul."

"He, too, has always been dear to me," said Cæsar, "though he serves
Mars, not the Muses."

"He serves Aphrodite first of all," answered Petronius.  And suddenly he
determined to settle the affair of his nephew at a blow, and at the same
time to eliminate every danger which might threaten him.  "He is in
love, as was Troilus with Cressida.  Permit him, lord, to visit Rome,
for he is dying on my hands.  Dost thou know that that Lygian hostage
whom thou gavest him has been found, and Vinicius, when leaving for
Antium, left her in care of a certain Linus?  I did not mention this to
thee, for thou wert composing thy hymn, and that was more important than
all besides.  Vinicius wanted her as a mistress; but when she turned out
to be as virtuous as Lucretia, he fell in love with her virtue, and now
his desire is to marry her.  She is a king's daughter, hence she will
cause him no detriment; but he is a real soldier: he sighs and withers
and groans, but he is waiting for the permission of his Imperator."

"The Imperator does not choose wives for his soldiers.  What good is my
permission to Vinicius?"

"I have told thee, O lord, that he deifies thee."

"All the more may he be certain of permission.  That is a comely maiden,
but too narrow in the hips.  The Augusta Poppæa has complained to me
that she enchanted our child in the gardens of the Palatine."

"But I told Tigellinus that the gods are not subject to evil charms.
Thou rememberest, divinity, his confusion and thy exclamation, 'Habet!'"

"I remember."

Here he turned to Vinicius,--"Dost thou love her, as Petronius says?"

"I love her, lord," replied Vinicius.

"Then I command thee to set out for Rome to-morrow, and marry her.
Appear not again before my eyes without the marriage ring."

"Thanks to thee, lord, from my heart and soul."

"Oh, how pleasant it is to make people happy!" said Nero.  "Would that I
might do nothing else all my life!"

"Grant us one favor more, O divinity," said Petronius: "declare thy will
in this matter before the Augusta.  Vinicius would never venture to wed
a woman displeasing to the Augusta; thou wilt dissipate her prejudice, O
lord, with a word, by declaring that thou hast commanded this marriage."

"I am willing," said Cæsar.  "I could refuse nothing to thee or
Vinicius."

He turned toward the villa, and they followed.  Their hearts were filled
with delight over the victory; and Vinicius had to use self-restraint to
avoid throwing himself on the neck of Petronius, for it seemed now that
all dangers and obstacles were removed.

In the atrium of the villa young Nerva and Tullius Senecio were
entertaining the Augusta with conversation.  Terpnos and Diodorus were
tuning citharæ.

Nero entered, sat in an armchair inlaid with tortoise-shell, whispered
something in the ear of a Greek slave near his side, and waited.

The page returned soon with a golden casket.  Nero opened it and took
out a necklace of great opals.

"These are jewels worthy of this evening," said he.

"The light of Aurora is playing in them," answered Poppæa, convinced
that the necklace was for her.

Cæsar, now raising, now lowering the rosy stones, said at last,--
"Vinicius, thou wilt give, from me, this necklace to her whom I command
thee to marry, the youthful daughter of the Lygian king."

Poppæa's glance, filled with anger and sudden amazement, passed from
Cæsar to Vinicius.  At last it rested on Petronius.  But he, leaning
carelessly over the arm of the chair, passed his hand along the back of
the harp as if to fix its form firmly in his mind.

Vinicius gave thanks for the gift, approached Petronius, and asked,--
"How shall I thank thee for what thou hast done this day for me?"

"Sacrifice a pair of swans to Euterpe," replied Petronius, "praise
Cæsar's songs, and laugh at omens.  Henceforth the roaring of lions will
not disturb thy sleep, I trust, nor that of thy Lygian lily."

"No," said Vinicius; "now I am perfectly at rest."

"May Fortune favor thee!  But be careful, for Cæsar is taking his lute
again.  Hold thy breath, listen, and shed tears."

In fact Cæsar had taken the lute and raised his eyes.  In the hall
conversation had stopped, and people were as still as if petrified.
Terpnos and Diodorus, who had to accompany Cæsar, were on the alert,
looking now at each other and now at his lips, waiting for the first
tones of the song.

Just then a movement and noise began in the entrance; and after a moment
Cæsar's freedman, Phaon, appeared from beyond the curtain.  Close behind
him was the consul Lecanius.

Nero frowned.

"Pardon, divine Imperator," said Phaon, with panting voice, "there is a
conflagration in Rome!  The greater part of the city is in flames!"

At this news all sprang from their seats.

"O gods!  I shall see a burning city and finish the Troyad," said Nero,
setting aside his lute.

Then he turned to the consul,--"If I go at once, shall I see the fire?"

"Lord," answered Lecanius, as pale as a wall, "the whole city is one sea
of flame; smoke is suffocating the inhabitants, and people faint, or
cast themselves into the fire from delirium.  Rome is perishing, lord."

A moment of silence followed, which was broken by the cry of Vinicius,--

"Væ misero mihi!"

And the young man, casting his toga aside, rushed forth in his tunic.
Nero raised his hands and exclaimed,--

"Woe to thee, sacred city of Priam!"




Chapter XLII


VINICIUS had barely time to command a few slaves to follow him; then,
springing on his horse, he rushed forth in the deep night along the
empty streets toward Laurentum.  Through the influence of the dreadful
news he had fallen as it were into frenzy and mental distraction.  At
moments he did not know clearly what was happening in his mind; he had
merely the feeling that misfortune was on the horse with him, sitting
behind his shoulders, and shouting in his ears, "Rome is burning!" that
it was lashing his horse and him, urging them toward the fire.  Laying
his bare head on the beast's neck, he rushed on, in his single tunic,
alone, at random, not looking ahead, and taking no note of obstacles
against which he might perchance dash himself.

In silence and in that calm night, the rider and the horse, covered with
gleams of the moon, seemed like dream visions.  The Idumean stallion,
dropping his ears and stretching his neck, shot on like an arrow past
the motionless cypresses and the white villas hidden among them.  The
sound of hoofs on the stone flags roused dogs here and there; these
followed the strange vision with their barking; afterward, excited by
its suddenness, they fell to howling, and raised their jaws toward the
moon.  The slaves hastening after Vinicius soon dropped behind, as their
horses were greatly inferior.  When he had rushed like a storm through
sleeping Laurentum, he turned toward Ardea, in which, as in Aricia,
Bovillæ, and Ustrinum, he had kept relays of horses from the day of his
coming to Antium, so as to pass in the shortest time possible the
interval between Rome and him.  Remembering these relays, he forced all
the strength from his horse.

Beyond Ardea it seemed to him that the sky on the northeast was covered
with a rosy reflection.  That might be the dawn, for the hour was late,
and in July daybreak came early.  But Vinicius could not keep down a cry
of rage and despair, for it seemed to him that that was the glare of the
conflagration.  He remembered the consul's words, "The whole city is one
sea of flame," and for a while he felt that madness was threatening him
really, for he had lost utterly all hope that he could save Lygia, or
even reach the city before it was turned into one heap of ashes.  His
thoughts were quicker now than the rush of the stallion, they flew on
ahead like a flock of birds, black, monstrous, and rousing despair.  He
knew not, it is true, in what part of the city the fire had begun; but
he supposed that the Trans-Tiber division, as it was packed with
tenements, timber-yards, storehouses, and wooden sheds serving as slave
marts, might have become the first food of the flames.

In Rome fires happened frequently enough; during these fires, as
frequently, deeds of violence and robbery were committed, especially in
the parts occupied by a needy and half-barbarous population.  What might
happen, therefore, in a place like the Trans-Tiber, which was the
retreat of a rabble collected from all parts of the earth?  Here the
thought of Ursus with his preterhuman power flashed into Vinicius's
head; but what could be done by a man, even were he a Titan, against the
destructive force of fire?

The fear of servile rebellion was like a nightmare, which had stifled
Rome for whole years.  It was said that hundreds of thousands of those
people were thinking of the times of Spartacus, and merely waiting for a
favorable moment to seize arms against their oppressors and Rome.  Now
the moment had come!  Perhaps war and slaughter were raging in the city
together with fire.  It was possible even that the pretorians had hurled
themselves on the city, and were slaughtering at command of Cæsar.

And that moment the hair rose from terror on his head.  He recalled all
the conversations about burning cities, which for some time had been
repeated at Cæsar's court with wonderful persistence; he recalled
Cæsar's complaints that he was forced to describe a burning city without
having seen a real fire; his contemptuous answer to Tigellinus, who
offered to burn Antium or an artificial wooden city; finally, his
complaints against Rome, and the pestilential alleys of the Subura.
Yes; Cæsar has commanded the burning of the city!  He alone could give
such a command, as Tigellinus alone could accomplish it.  But if Rome is
burning at command of Cæsar, who can be sure that the population will
not be slaughtered at his command also?  The monster is capable even of
such a deed.  Conflagration, a servile revolt, and slaughter!  What a
horrible chaos, what a letting loose of destructive elements and popular
frenzy!  And in all this is Lygia.

The groans of Vinicius were mingled with the snorting and groans of his
horse; the beast, running on a road which rose continually toward
Aricia, was using the last of its breath.  Who will snatch her from the
burning city; who can save her?  Here Vinicius, stretching himself
entirely on the horse, thrust his fingers into his own hair, ready to
gnaw the beast's neck from pain.

At that moment a horseman, rushing also like a whirlwind, but in the
opposite direction, toward Antium, shouted as he raced past, "Rome is
perishing!" and on he went.  To the ears of Vinicius came only one more
expression: "Gods!" the rest was drowned by the thunder of hoofs.  But
that expression sobered him,--"Gods!"

Vinicius raised his head suddenly, and, stretching his arms toward the
sky filled with stars, began to pray.

"Not to you do I call whose temples are burning, but to Thee!  Thou
Thyself hast suffered.  Thou alone art merciful!  Thou alone hast
understood people's pain; Thou didst come to this world to teach pity to
mankind; then show it now.  If Thou art what Peter and Paul declare,
save for me Lygia, take her in Thy arms, bear her out of the flames.
Thou hast the power to do that!  Give her to me, and I will give Thee my
blood.  But if Thou art unwilling to do this for me, do it for her.  She
loves Thee and trusts in Thee.  Thou dost promise life and happiness
after death, but happiness after death will not pass away, and she does
not wish to die yet.  Let her live. Take her in Thy arms, bear her out
of Rome.  Thou canst do so, unless Thou art unwilling."

And he stopped, for he felt that further prayer might turn to a threat;
he feared to offend Divinity at the moment when he needed favor and
mercy most.  He was terrified at the very thought of that, and, so as
not to admit to his head a shade even of threat, he began to lash his
horse again, especially since the white walls of Aricia, which lay
midway to Rome, gleained up before him in the moonlight.

After a time he rushed at full speed past the temple of Mercury, which
stood in a grove before the city.  Evidently people knew of the
catastrophe, for there was an uncommon movement in front of the temple.
While passing, Vinicius saw crowds on the steps and between the columns.
These people holding torches were hastening to put themselves under
protection of the deity. Moreover the road was not so empty or free as
beyond Ardea. Crowds were hurrying, it is true, to the grove by side-
paths, but on the main road were groups which pushed aside hurriedly
before the on-rushing horseman.  From the town came the sound of voices.
Vinicius rode into Aricia like a whirlwind, overturning and trampling a
number of persons on the way.  He was surrounded by shouts of "Rome is
burning!"  "Rome is on fire!"  "May the gods rescue Rome!"

The horse stumbled, but, reined in by a powerful hand, rose on his
haunches before the inn, where Vinicius had another beast in relay.
Slaves, as if waiting for the arrival of their master, stood before the
inn, and at his command ran one before the other to lead out a fresh
horse.  Vinicius, seeing a detachment of ten mounted pretorians, going
evidently with news from the city to Antium, sprang toward them.

"What part of the city is on fire?" inquired he.

"Who art thou?" asked the decurion.

"Vinicius, a tribune of the army, an Augustian.  Answer on thy head!"

"The fire broke out in the shops near the Circus Maximus.  When we were
despatched, the centre of the city was on fire."

"And the Trans-Tiber?"

"The fire has not reached the Trans-Tiber yet, but it is seizing new
parts every moment with a force which nothing can stop.  People are
perishing from heat and smoke; all rescue is impossible."

At this moment they brought the fresh horse.  The young tribune sprang
to his back and rushed on.  He was riding now toward Albanum, leaving
Alba Longa and its splendid lake on the right. The road from Aricia lay
at the foot of the mountain, which hid the horizon completely, and
Albanum lying on the other side of it.  But Vinicius knew that on
reaching the top he should see, not only Bovillæ and Ustrinum, where
fresh horses were ready for him, but Rome as well: for beyond Albanum
the low level Campania stretched on both sides of the Appian Way, along
which only the arches of the aqueducts ran toward the city, and nothing
obstructed the view.

"From the top I shall see the flames," said he; and he began to lash his
horse anew.  But before he had reached the top of the mountain he felt
the wind on his face, and with it came the odor of smoke to his
nostrils.  At the same time the summit of the height was becoming
gilded.

"The fire!" thought Vinicius.

The night had paled long since, the dawn had passed into light, and on
all the nearer summits golden and rosy gleams were shining, which might
come either from burning Rome or the rising daylight.  Vinicius touched
the summit at last, and then a terrible sight struck his eyes.

The whole lower region was covered with smoke, forming as it were one
gigantic cloud lying close to the earth.  In this cloud towns,
aqueducts, villas, trees, disappeared; but beyond this gray ghastly
plain the city was burning on the hills.

The conflagration had not the form of a pillar of fire, as happens when
a single building is burning, even when of the greatest size. That was a
long belt, rather, shaped like the belt of dawn.  Above this belt rose a
wave of smoke, in places entirely black, in places looking rose-colored,
in places like blood, in places turning in on itself, in some places
inflated, in others squeezed and squirming, like a serpent which is
unwinding and extending.  That monstrous wave seemed at times to cover
even the belt of fire, which became then as narrow as a ribbon; but
later this ribbon illuminated the smoke from beneath, changing its lower
rolls into waves of flame. The two extended from one side of the sky to
the other, hiding its lower part, as at times a stretch of forest hides
the horizon.  The Sabine hills were not visible in the least.

To Vinicius it seemed at the first glance of the eye that not only the
city was burning, but the whole world, and that no living being could
save itself from that ocean of flame and smoke.

The wind blew with growing strength from the region of the fire,
bringing the smell of burnt things and of smoke, which began to hide
even nearer objects.  Clear daylight had come, and the sun lighted up
the summits surrounding the Alban Lake.  But the bright golden rays of
the morning appeared as it were reddish and sickly through the haze.
Vinicius, while descending toward Albanum, entered smoke which was
denser, less and less transparent.  The town itself was buried in it
thoroughly.  The alarmed citizens had moved out to the street.  It was a
terror to think of what might be in Rome, when it was difficult to
breathe in Albanum.

Despair seized Vinicius anew, and terror began to raise the hair on his
head.  But he tried to fortify himself as best he might.  "It is
impossible," thought he, "that a city should begin to burn in all places
at once.  The wind is blowing from the north and bears smoke in this
direction only.  On the other side there is none.  But in every case it
will be enough for Ursus to go through the Janiculum gate with Lygia, to
save himself and her.  It is equally impossible that a whole population
should perish, and the world-ruling city be swept from the face of the
earth with its inhabitants.  Even in captured places, where fire and
slaughter rage together, some people survive in all cases; why, then,
should Lygia perish of a certainty?  On the contrary, God watches over
her, He who Himself, conquered death."  Thus reasoning, he began to pray
again, and, yielding to fixed habit, he made great vows to Christ, with
promises of gifts and sacrifices.  After he had hurried through Albanum,
nearly all of whose inhabitants were on roofs and on trees to look at
Rome, he grew somewhat calm, and regained his cool blood.  He
remembered, too, that Lygia was protected not only by Ursus and Linus,
but by the Apostle Peter.  At the mere remembrance of this, fresh solace
entered his heart.  For him Peter was an incomprehensible, an almost
superhuman being.  From the time when he heard him at Ostrianum, a
wonderful impression clung to him, touching which he had written to
Lygia at the beginning of his stay in Antium,--that every word of the
old man was true, or would show its truth hereafter.  The nearer
acquaintance which during his illness he had formed with the Apostle
heightened the impression, which was turned afterward into fixed faith.
Since Peter had blessed his love and promised him Lygia, Lygia could not
perish in the flames.  The city might burn, but no spark from the fire
would fall on her garments.  Under the influence of a sleepless night,
mad riding, and impressions, a wonderful exaltation possessed the young
tribune; in this exaltation all things seemed possible: Peter speaks to
the flame, opens it with a word, and they pass uninjured through an
alley of fire.  Moreover, Peter saw future events; hence, beyond doubt,
he foresaw the fire, and in that ease how could he fail to warn and lead
forth the Christians from the city, and among others Lygia, whom he
loved, as he might his own child?  And a hope, which was strengthening
every moment, entered the heart of Vinicius.  If they were fleeing from
the city, he might find them in Bovillæ, or meet them on the road.  The
beloved face might appear any moment from out the smoke, which was
stretching more widely over all the Campania.

This seemed to him more likely, since he met increasing numbers of
people, who had deserted the city and were going to the Alban Hills;
they had escaped the fire, and wished to go beyond the line of smoke.
Before he had reached Ustrinum he had to slacken his pace because of the
throng.  Besides pedestrians with bundles on their backs, he met horses
with packs, mules and vehicles laden with effects, and finally litters
in which slaves were bearing the wealthier citizens.  Ustrinum was so
thronged with fugitives from Rome that it was difficult to push through
the crowd.  On the market square, under temple porticos, and on the
streets were swarms of fugitives.  Here and there people were erecting
tents under which whole families were to find shelter.  Others settled
down under the naked sky, shouting, calling on the gods, or cursing the
fates.  In the general terror it was difficult to inquire about
anything.  People to whom Vinicius applied either did not answer, or
with eyes half bewildered from terror answered that the city and the
world were perishing.  New crowds of men, women, and children arrived
from the direction of Rome every moment; these increased the disorder
and outcry.  Some, gone astray in the throng, sought desperately those
whom they had lost; others fought for a camping-place.  Half-wild
shepherds from the Campania crowded to the town to hear news, or find
profit in plunder made easy by the uproar.  Here and there crowds of
slaves of every nationality and gladiators fell to robbing houses and
villas in the town, and to fighting with the soldiers who appeared in
defence of the citizens.

Junius, a senator, whom Vinicius saw at the inn surrounded by a
detachment of Batavian slaves, was the first to give more detailed news
of the conflagration.  The fire had begun at the Circus Maximus, in the
part which touches the Palatine and the Cælian Hill, but extended with
incomprehensible rapidity and seized the whole centre of the city.
Never since the time of Brennus had such an awful catastrophe come upon
Rome.  "The entire Circus has burnt, as well as the shops and houses
surrounding it," said Junius; "the Aventine and Cælian Hills are on
fire.  The flames surrounding the Palatine have reached the Carinæ."

Here Junius, who possessed on the Carinæ a magnificent "insula," filled
with works of art which he loved, seized a handful of foul dust, and,
scattering it on his head, began to groan despairingly.

But Vinicius shook him by the shoulder: "My house too is on the Carinæ,"
said he; "but when everything is perishing, let it perish also."

Then recollecting that at his advice Lygia might have gone to the house
of Aulus, he inquired,--

"But the Vicus Patricius?"

"On fire!" replied Junius.

"The Trans-Tiber?"

Junius looked at him with amazement.

"Never mind the Trans-Tiber," said he, pressing his aching temples with
his palms.

"The Trans-Tiber is more important to me than all other parts of Rome,"
cried Vinicius, with vehemence.

"The way is through the Via Portuensis, near the Aventine; but the heat
will stifle thee.  The Trans-Tiber?  I know not.  The fire had not
reached it; but whether it is not there at this moment the gods alone
know."  Here Junius hesitated a moment, then said in a low voice: "I
know that thou wilt not betray me, so I will tell thee that this is no
common fire.  People were not permitted to save the Circus.  When houses
began to burn in every direction, I myself heard thousands of voices
exclaiming, 'Death to those who save!' Certain people ran through the
city and hurled burning torches into buildings.  On the other hand
people are revolting, and crying that the city is burning at command.  I
can say nothing more.  Woe to the city, woe to us all, and to me!  The
tongue of man cannot tell what is happening there.  People are perishing
in flames or slaying one another in the throng.  This is the end of
Rome!"

And again he fell to repeating, "Woe!  Woe to the city and to us!"
Vinicius sprang to his horse, and hurried forward along the Appian Way.
But now it was rather a struggling through the midst of a river of
people and vehicles, which was flowing from the city.  The city,
embraced by a monstrous conflagration, lay before Vinicius as a thing on
the palm of his hand.  From the sea of fire and smoke came a terrible
heat, and the uproar of people could not drown the roar and the hissing
of flames.




Chapter XLIII


As Vinicius approached the walls, he found it easier to reach Rome than
penetrate to the middle of the city.  It was difficult to push along the
Appian Way, because of the throng of people. Houses, fields, cemeteries,
gardens, and temples, lying on both sides of it, were turned into
camping places.  In the temple of Mars, which stood near the Porta
Appia, the crowd had thrown down the doors, so as to find a refuge
within during night-hours. In the cemeteries the larger monuments were
seized, and battles fought in defence of them, which were carried to
bloodshed. Ustrinum with its disorder gave barely a slight foretaste of
that which was happening beneath the walls of the capital.  All regard
for the dignity of law, for family ties, for difference of position, had
ceased.  Gladiators drunk with wine seized in the Emporium gathered in
crowds, ran with wild shouts through the neighboring squares,
scattering, trampling, and robbing the people.  A multitude of
barbarians, exposed for sale in the city, escaped from the booths.  For
them the burning and ruin of Rome was at once the end of slavery and the
hour of revenge; so that when the permanent inhabitants, who had lost
all they owned in the fire, stretched their hands to the gods in
despair, calling for rescue, these slaves with howls of delight
scattered the crowds, dragged clothing from people's backs, and bore
away the younger women.  They were joined by slaves serving in the city
from of old, wretches who had nothing on their bodies save woollen
girdles around their hips, dreadful figures from the alleys, who were
hardly ever seen on the streets in the daytime, and whose existence in
Rome it was difficult to suspect.  Men of this wild and unrestrained
crowd, Asiatics, Africans, Greeks, Thracians, Germans, Britons, howling
in every language of the earth, raged, thinking that the hour had come
in which they were free to reward themselves for years of misery and
suffering.  In the midst of that surging throng of humanity, in the
glitter of day and of fire, shone the helmets of pretorians, under whose
protection the more peaceable population had taken refuge, and who in
hand-to-hand battle had to meet the raging multitude in many places.
Vinicius had seen captured cities, but never had his eyes beheld a
spectacle in which despair, tears, pain, groans, wild delight, madness,
rage, and license were mingled together in such immeasurable chaos.
Above this heaving, mad human multitude roared the fire, surging up to
the hill-tops of the greatest city on earth, sending into the whirling
throng its fiery breath, and covering it with smoke, through which it
was impossible to see the blue sky.  The young tribune with supreme
effort, and exposing his life every moment, forced his way at last to
the Appian Gate; but there he saw that he could not reach the city
through the division of the Porta Capena, not merely because of the
throng, but also because of the terrible heat from which the whole
atmosphere was quivering inside the gate.  Besides, the bridge at the
Porta Trigenia, opposite the temple of the Bona Dea, did not exist yet,
hence whoso wished to go beyond the Tiber had to push through to the
Pons Sublicius, that is, to pass around the Aventine through a part of
the city covered now with one sea of flame.  That was an impossibility.
Vinicius understood that he must return toward Ustrinum, turn from the
Appian Way, cross the river below the city, and go to the Via
Portuensis, which led straight to the Trans-Tiber.  That was not easy
because of the increasing disorder on the Appian Way.  He must open a
passage for himself there, even with the sword.  Vinicius had no
weapons; he had left Antium just as the news of the fire had reached him
in Cæsar's villa.  At the fountain of Mercury, however, he saw a
centurion who was known to him.  This man, at the head of a few tens of
soldiers, was defending the precinct of the temple; he commanded him to
follow.  Recognizing a tribune and an Augustian, the centurion did not
dare to disobey the order.

Vinicius took command of the detachment himself, and, forgetting for
that moment the teaching of Paul touching love for one's neighbor, he
pressed and cut the throng in front with a haste that was fatal to many
who could not push aside in season.  He and his men were followed by
curses and a shower of stones; but to these he gave no heed, caring only
to reach freer spaces at the earliest. Still he advanced with the
greatest effort.  People who had encamped would not move, and heaped
loud curses on Cæsar and the pretorians.  The throng assumed in places a
threatening aspect. Vinicius heard voices accusing Nero of burning the
city.  He and Poppæa were threatened with death.  Shouts of "Sanio,"
"Histrio" (buffoon, actor), "Matricide!" were heard round about.  Some
shouted to drag him to the Tiber; others that Rome had shown patience
enough.  It was clear that were a leader found, these threats could be
changed into open rebellion which might break out any moment.  Meanwhile
the rage and despair of the crowd turned against the pretorians, who for
another reason could not make their way out of the crowd: the road was
blocked by piles of goods, borne from the fire previously, boxes,
barrels of provisions, furniture the most costly, vessels, infants'
cradles, beds, carts, hand-packs.  Here and there they fought hand to
hand; but the pretorians conquered the weaponless multitude easily.
After they had ridden with difficulty across the Viæ Latina, Numitia,
Ardea, Lavinia, and Ostia, and passed around villas, gardens,
cemeteries, and temples, Vinicius reached at last a village called Vicus
Alexandri, beyond which he crossed the Tiber.  There was more open space
at this spot, and less smoke.  From fugitives, of whom there was no lack
even there, he learned that only certain alleys of the Trans-Tiber were
burning, but that surely nothing could resist the fury of the
conflagration, since people were spreading the fire purposely, and
permitted no one to quench it, declaring that they acted at command.
The young tribune had not the least doubt then that Cæsar had given
command to burn Rome; and the vengeance which people demanded seemed to
him just and proper.  What more could Mithridates or any of Rome's most
inveterate enemies have done?  The measure had been exceeded; his
madness had grown to be too enormous, and the existence of people too
difficult because of him.  Vinicius believed that Nero's hour had
struck, that those ruins into which the city was falling should and must
overwhelm the monstrous buffoon together with all those crimes of his.
Should a man be found of courage sufficient to stand at the head of the
despairing people, that might happen in a few hours.  Here vengeful and
daring thoughts began to fly through his head.  But if he should do
that?  The house of Vinicius, which till recent times counted a whole
series of consuls, was known throughout Rome.  The crowds needed only a
name.  Once, when four hundred slaves of the prefect Pedanius Secundus
were sentenced, Rome reached the verge of rebellion and civil war. What
would happen to-day in view of a dreadful calamity surpassing almost
everything which Rome had undergone in the course of eight centuries?
Whoso calls the Quirites to arms, thought Vinicius, will overthrow Nero
undoubtedly, and clothe himself in purple.  And why should he not do
this?  He was firmer, more active, younger than other Augustians.  True,
Nero commanded thirty legions stationed on the borders of the Empire;
but would not those legions and their leaders rise up at news of the
burning of Rome and its temples?  And in that case Vinicius might become
Cæsar.  It was even whispered among the Augustians that a soothsayer had
predicted the purple to Otho.  In what way was he inferior to Otho?
Perhaps Christ Himself would assist him with His divine power; maybe
that inspiration was His?  "Oh, would that it were!" exclaimed Vinicius,
in spirit.  He would take vengeance on Nero for the danger of Lygia and
his own fear; he would begin the reign of truth and justice, he would
extend Christ's religion from the Euphrates to the misty shores of
Britain; he would array Lygia in the purple, and make her mistress of
the world.

But these thoughts which had burst forth in his head like a bunch of
sparks from a blazing house, died away like sparks.  First of all was
the need to save Lygia.  He looked now on the catastrophe from near by;
hence fear seized him again, and before that sea of flame and smoke,
before the touch of dreadful reality, that confidence with which he
believed that Peter would rescue Lygia died in his heart altogether.
Despair seized him a second time when he had come out on the Via
Portuensis, which led directly to the Trans-Tiber.  He did not recover
till he came to the gate, where people repeated what fugitives had said
before, that the greater part of that division of the city was not
seized by the flames yet, but that fire had crossed the river in a
number of places.

Still the Trans-Tiber was full of smoke, and crowds of fugitives made it
more difficult to reach the interior of the place, since people, having
more time there, had saved greater quantities of goods.  The main street
itself was in many parts filled completely, and around the Naumachia
Augusta great heaps were piled up. Narrow alleys, in which smoke had
collected more densely, were simply impassable.  The inhabitants were
fleeing in thousands.  On the way Vinicius saw wonderful sights.  More
than once two rivers of people, flowing in opposite directions, met in a
narrow passage, stopped each other, men fought hand to hand, struck and
trampled one another.  Families lost one another in the uproar; mothers
called on their children despairingly.  The young tribune's hair stood
on end at thought of what must happen nearer the fire.  Amid shouts and
howls it was difficult to inquire about anything or understand what was
said.  At times new columns of smoke from beyond the river rolled toward
them, smoke black and so heavy that it moved near the ground, hiding
houses, people, and every object, just as night does.  But the wind
caused by the conflagration blew it away again, and then Vinicius pushed
forward farther toward the alley in which stood the house of Linus.  The
fervor of a July day, increased by the heat of the burning parts of the
city, became unendurable.  Smoke pained the eyes; breath failed in men's
breasts.  Even the inhabitants who, hoping that the fire would not cross
the river, had remained in their houses so far, began to leave them; and
the throng increased hourly.  The pretorians accompanying Vinicius
remained in the rear.  In the crush some one wounded his horse with a
hammer; the beast threw up its bloody head, reared, and refused
obedience.  The crowd recognized in Vinicius an Augustian by his rich
tunic, and at once cries were raised round about: "Death to Nero and his
incendiaries!"  This was a moment of terrible danger; hundreds of hands
were stretched toward Vinicius; but his frightened horse bore him away,
trampling people as he went, and the next moment a new wave of black
smoke rolled in and filled the street with darkness.  Vinicius, seeing
that he could not ride past, sprang to the earth and rushed forward on
foot, slipping along walls, and at times waiting till the fleeing
multitude passed him.  He said to himself in spirit that these were vain
efforts.  Lygia might not be in the city; she might have saved herself
by flight.  It was easier to find a pin on the seashore than her in that
crowd and chaos.  Still he wished to reach the house of Linus, even at
the cost of his own life.  At times he stopped and rubbed his eyes.
Tearing off the edge of his tunic, he covered his nose and mouth with it
and ran on.  As he approached the river, the heat increased terribly.
Vinicius, knowing that the fire had begun at the Circus Maximus, thought
at first that that heat came from its cinders and from the Forum Boarium
and the Velabrum, which, situated near by, must be also in flames.  But
the heat was growing unendurable.  One old man on crutches and fleeing,
the last whom Vinicius noticed, cried: "Go not near the bridge of
Cestius!  The whole island is on fire!"  It was, indeed, impossible to
be deceived any longer.  At the turn toward the Vicus Judæorum, on which
stood the house of Linus, the young tribune saw flames amid clouds of
smoke.  Not only the island was burning, but the Trans-Tiber, or at
least the other end of the street on which Lygia dwelt.

Vinicius remembered that the house of Linus was surrounded by a garden;
between the garden and the Tiber was an unoccupied field of no great
size.  This thought consoled him.  The fire might stop at the vacant
place.  In that hope he ran forward, though every breeze brought not
only smoke, but sparks in thousands, which might raise a fire at the
other end of the alley and cut off his return.

At last he saw through the smoky curtain the cypresses in Linus's
garden.

The houses beyond the unoccupied field were burning already like piles
of fuel, but Linus's little "insula" stood untouched yet. Vinicius
glanced heavenward with thankfulness, and sprang toward the house though
the very air began to burn him.  The door was closed, but he pushed it
open and rushed in.

There was not a living soul in the garden, and the house seemed quite
empty.  "Perhaps they have fainted from smoke and heat," thought
Vinicius.  He began to call,--

"Lygia!  Lygia!"

Silence answered him.  Nothing could be heard in the stillness there
save the roar of the distant fire.

"Lygia!"

Suddenly his ear was struck by that gloomy sound which he had heard
before in that garden.  Evidently the vivarium near the temple of
Esculapius, on the neighboring island, had caught fire.  In this
vivarium every kind of wild beast, and among others lions, began to roar
from affright.  A shiver ran through Vinicius from foot to head.  Now, a
second time, at a moment when his whole being was concentrated in Lygia,
these terrible voices answered, as a herald of misfortune, as a
marvellous prophecy of an ominous future.

But this was a brief impression, for the thunder of the flames, more
terrible yet than the roaring of wild beasts, commanded him to think of
something else.  Lygia did not answer his calls; but she might be in a
faint or stifled in that threatened building.  Vinicius sprang to the
interior.  The little atrium was empty, and dark with smoke.  Feeling
for the door which led to the sleeping-rooms, he saw the gleaming flame
of a small lamp, and approaching it saw the lararium in which was a
cross instead of lares.  Under the cross a taper was burning.  Through
the head of the young catechumen, the thought passed with lightning
speed that that cross sent him the taper with which he could find Lygia;
hence he took the taper and searched for the sleeping-rooms.  He found
one, pushed aside the curtains, and, holding the taper, looked around.

There was no one there, either.  Vinicius was sure that he had found
Lygia's sleeping-room, for her clothing was on nails in the wall, and on
the bed lay a capitium, or close garment worn by women next the body.
Vinicius seized that, pressed it to his lips, and taking it on his arm
went farther.  The house was small, so that he examined every room, and
even the cellar quickly.  Nowhere could he find a living soul.  It was
evident that Lygia, Linus, and Ursus, with other inhabitants of that
part, must have sought safety in flight.

"I must seek them among the crowd beyond the gates of the city," thought
Vinicius.

He was not astonished greatly at not meeting them on the Via Portuensis,
for they might have left the Trans-Tiber through the opposite side along
the Vatican Hill.  In every case they were safe from fire at least.  A
stone fell from his breast.  He saw, it is true, the terrible danger
with which the flight was connected, but he was comforted at thought of
the preterhuman strength of Ursus.  "I must flee now," said he, "and
reach the gardens of Agrippina through the gardens of Domitius, where I
shall find them.  The smoke is not so terrible there, since the wind
blows from the Sabine Hill."

The hour had come now in which he must think of his own safety, for the
river of fire was flowing nearer and nearer from the direction of the
island, and rolls of smoke covered the alley almost completely.  The
taper, which had lighted him in the house, was quenched from the current
of air.  Vinicius rushed to the street, and ran at full speed toward the
Via Portuensis, whence he had come; the fire seemed to pursue him with
burning breath, now surrounding him with fresh clouds of smoke, now
covering him with sparks, which fell on his hair, neck, and clothing.
The tunic began to smoulder on him in places; he cared not, but ran
forward lest he might be stifled from smoke.  He had the taste of soot
and burning in his mouth; his throat and lungs were as if on fire.  The
blood rushed to his head, and at moments all things, even the smoke
itself, seemed red to him.  Then he thought: "This is living fire!
Better cast myself on the ground and perish."  The running tortured him
more and more.  His head, neck, and shoulders were streaming with sweat,
which scalded like boiling water.  Had it not been for Lygia's name,
repeated by him in thought, had it not been for her capitium, which he
wound across his mouth, he would have fallen.  Some moments later he
failed to recognize the street along which he ran.  Consciousness was
leaving him gradually; he remembered only that he must flee, for in the
open field beyond waited Lygia, whom Peter had promised him.  And all at
once he was seized by a certain wonderful conviction, half feverish,
like a vision before death, that he must see her, marry her, and then
die.

But he ran on as if drunk, staggering from one side of the street to the
other.  Meanwhile something changed in that monstrous conflagration
which had embraced the giant city.  Everything which till then had only
glimmered, burst forth visibly into one sea of flame; the wind had
ceased to bring smoke.  That smoke which had collected in the streets
was borne away by a mad whirl of heated air.  That whirl drove with it
millions of sparks, so that Vinicius was running in a fiery cloud as it
were.  But he was able to see before him all the better, and in a
moment, almost when he was ready to fall, he saw the end of the street.
That sight gave him fresh strength.  Passing the corner, he found
himself in a street which led to the Via Portuensis and the Codetan
Field.  The sparks ceased to drive him.  He understood that if he could
run to the Via Portuensis he was safe, even were he to faint on it.

At the end of the street he saw again a cloud, as it seemed, which
stopped the exit.  "If that is smoke," thought he, "I cannot pass."  He
ran with the remnant of his strength.  On the way he threw off his
tunic, which, on fire from the sparks, was burning him like the shirt of
Nessus, having only Lygia's capitium around his head and before his
mouth.  When he had run farther, he saw that what he had taken for smoke
was dust, from which rose a multitude of cries and voices.

"The rabble are plundering houses," thought Vinicius.  But he ran toward
the voices.  In every case people were there; they might assist him.  In
this hope he shouted for aid with all his might before he reached them.
But this was his last effort.  It grew redder still in his eyes, breath
failed his lungs, strength failed his bones; he fell.

They heard him, however, or rather saw him.  Two men ran with gourds
full of water.  Vinicius, who had fallen from exhaustion but had not
lost consciousness, seized a gourd with both hands, and emptied one-half
of it.

"Thanks," said he; "place me on my feet, I can walk on alone."

The other laborer poured water on his head; the two not only placed him
on his feet, but raised him from the ground, and carried him to the
others, who surrounded him and asked if he had suffered seriously.  This
tenderness astonished Vinicius.

"People, who are ye?" asked he.

"We are breaking down houses, so that the fire may not reach the Via
Portuensis," answered one of the laborers.

"Ye came to my aid when I had fallen.  Thanks to you."

"We are not permitted to refuse aid," answered a number of voices.

Vinicius, who from early morning had seen brutal crowds, slaying and
robbing, looked with more attention on the faces around him, and said,--

"May Christ reward you."

"Praise to His name!" exclaimed a whole chorus of voices.

"Linus?" inquired Vinicius.

But he could not finish the question or hear the answer, for he fainted
from emotion and over-exertion.  He recovered only in the Codetan Field
in a garden, surrounded by a number of men and women.  The first words
which he uttered were,--

"Where is Linus?"

For a while there was no answer; then some voice, known to Vinicius,
said all at once,--

"He went out by the Nomentan Gate to Ostrianum two days ago. Peace be
with thee, O king of Persia!"

Vinicius rose to a sitting posture, and saw Chilo before him.

"Thy house is burned surely, O lord," said the Greek, "for the Carinæ is
in flames; but thou wilt be always as rich as Midas. Oh, what a
misfortune!  The Christians, O son of Serapis, have predicted this long
time that fire would destroy the city.  But Linus, with the daughter of
Jove, is in Ostrianum.  Oh, what a misfortune for the city!"

Vinicius became weak again.

"Hast thou seen them?" he inquired.

"I saw them, O lord.  May Christ and all the gods be thanked that I am
able to pay for thy benefactions with good news.  But, O Cyrus, I shall
pay thee still more, I swear by this burning Rome."

It was evening, but in the garden one could see as in daylight, for the
conflagration had increased.  It seemed that not single parts of the
city were burning, but the whole city through the length and the breadth
of it.  The sky was red as far as the eye could see it, and that night
in the world was a red night.




Chapter XLIV


Light from the burning city filled the sky as far as human eye could
reach.  The moon rose large and full from behind the mountains, and
inflamed at once by the glare took on the color of heated brass.  It
seemed to look with amazement on the world-ruling city which was
perishing.  In the rose-colored abysses of heaven rose-colored stars
were glittering; but in distinction from usual nights the earth was
brighter than the heavens.  Rome, like a giant pile, illuminated the
whole Campania.  In the bloody light were seen distant mountains, towns,
villas, temples, mountains, and the aqueducts stretching toward the city
from all the adjacent hills; on the aqueducts were swarms of people, who
had gathered there for safety or to gaze at the burning.

Meanwhile the dreadful element was embracing new divisions of the city.
It was impossible to doubt that criminal hands were spreading the fire,
since new conflagrations were breaking out all the time in places remote
from the principal fire.  From the heights on which Rome was founded the
flames flowed like waves of the sea into the valleys densely occupied by
houses,--houses of five and six stories, full of shops, booths, movable
wooden amphitheatres, built to accommodate various spectacles; and
finally storehouses of wood, olives, grain, nuts, pine cones, the
kernels of which nourishcd the more needy population, and clothing,
which through Cæsar's favor was distributed from time to time among the
rabble huddled into narrow alleys.  In those places the fire, finding
abundance of inflammable materials, became almost a series of
explosions, and took possession of whole streets with unheard-of
rapidity.  People encamping outside the city, or standing on the
aqueducts knew from the color of the flame what was burning.  The
furious power of the wind carried forth from the fiery gulf thousands
and millions of burning shells of walnuts and almonds, which, shooting
suddenly into the sky, like countless flocks of bright butterflies,
burst with a crackling, or, driven by the wind, fell in other parts of
the city, on aqueducts, and fields beyond Rome.  All thought of rescue
seemed out of place; confusion increased every moment, for on one side
the population of the city was fleeing through every gate to places
outside; on the other the fire had lured in thousands of people from the
neighborhood, such as dwellers in small towns, peasants, and half-wild
shepherds of the Campania, brought in by hope of plunder.  The shout,
"Rome is perishing!" did not leave the lips of the crowd; the ruin of
the city seemed at that time to end every rule, and loosen all bonds
which hitherto had joined people in a single integrity.  The mob, in
which slaves were more numerous, cared nothing for the lordship of Rome.
Destruction of the city could only free them; hence here and there they
assumed a threatening attitude.  Violence and robbery were extending.
It seemed that only the spectacle of the perishing city arrested
attention, and restrained for the moment an outburst of slaughter, which
would begin as soon as the city was turned into ruins. Hundreds of
thousands of slaves, forgetting that Rome, besides temples and walls,
possessed some tens of legions in all parts of the world, appeared
merely waiting for a watchword and a leader. People began to mention the
name of Spartacus, but Spartacus was not alive.  Meanwhile citizens
assembled, and armed themselves each with what he could.  The most
monstrous reports were current at all the gates.  Some declared that
Vulcan, commanded by Jupiter, was destroying the city with fire from
beneath the earth; others that Vesta was taking vengeance for Rubria.
People with these convictions did not care to save anything, but,
besieging the temples, implored mercy of the gods.  It was repeated most
generally, however, that Cæsar had given command to burn Rome, so as to
free himself from odors which rose from the Subura, and build a new city
under the name of Neronia.  Rage seized the populace at thought of this;
and if, as Vinicius believed, a leader had taken advantage of that
outburst of hatred, Nero's hour would have struck whole years before it
did.

It was said also that Cæsar had gone mad, that he would command
pretorians and gladiators to fall upon the people and make a general
slaughter.  Others swore by the gods that wild beasts had been let out
of all the vivaria at Bronzebeard's command.  Men had seen on the
streets lions with burning manes, and mad elephants and bisons,
trampling down people in crowds.  There was even some truth in this; for
in certain places elephants, at sight of the approaching fire, had burst
the vivaria, and, gaining their freedom, rushed away from the fire in
wild fright, destroying everything before them like a tempest.  Public
report estimated at tens of thousands the number of persons who had
perished in the conflagration.  In truth a great number had perished.
There were people who, losing all their property, or those dearest their
hearts, threw themselves willingly into the flames, from despair.
Others were suffocated by smoke.  In the middle of the city, between the
Capitol, on one side, and the Quirinal, the Viminal, and the Esquiline
on the other, as also between the Palatine and the Cælian Hill, where
the streets were most densely occupied, the fire began in so many places
at once that whole crowds of people, while fleeing in one direction,
struck unexpectedly on a new wall of fire in front of them, and died a
dreadful death in a deluge of flame.

In terror, in distraction, and bewilderment, people knew not where to
flee.  The streets were obstructed with goods, and in many narrow places
were simply closed.  Those who took refuge in those markets and squares
of the city, where the Flavian Amphitheatre stood afterward, near the
temple of the Earth, near the Portico of Silvia, and higher up, at the
temples of Juno and Lucinia, between the Clivus Virbius and the old
Esquiline Gate, perished from heat, surrounded by a sea of fire.  In
places not reached by the flames were found afterward hundreds of bodies
burned to a crisp, though here and there unfortunates tore up flat
stones and half buried themselves in defence against the heat.  Hardly a
family inhabiting the centre of the city survived in full; hence along
the walls, at the gates, on all roads were heard howls of despairing
women, calling on the dear names of those who had perished in the throng
or the fire.

And so, while some were imploring the gods, others blasphemed them
because of this awful catastrophe.  Old men were seen coming from the
temple of Jupiter Liberator, stretching forth their hands, and crying,
"If thou be a liberator, save thy altars and the city!"  But despair
turned mainly against the old Roman gods, who, in the minds of the
populace, were bound to watch over the city more carefully than others.
They had proved themselves powerless; hence were insulted.  On the other
hand it happened on the Via Asinaria that when a company of Egyptian
priests appeared conducting a statue of Isis, which they had saved from
the temple near the Porta Cælimontana, a crowd of people rushed among
the priests, attached themselves to the chariot, which they drew to the
Appian Gate, and seizing the statue placed it in the temple of Mars,
overwhelming the priests of that deity who dared to resist them.  In
other places people invoked Serapis, Baal, or Jehovah, whose adherents,
swarming out of the alleys in the neighborhood of the Subura and the
Trans-Tiber, filled with shouts and uproar the fields near the walls.
In their cries were heard tones as if of triumph; when, therefore, some
of the citizens joined the chorus and glorified "the Lord of the World,"
others, indignant at this glad shouting, strove to repress it by
violence.  Here and there hymns were heard, sung by men in the bloom of
life, by old men, by women and children,--hymns wonderful and solemn,
whose meaning they understood not, but in which were repeated from
moment to moment the words, "Behold the Judge cometh in the day of wrath
and disaster."  Thus this deluge of restless and sleepless people
encircled the burning city, like a tempest-driven sea.

But neither despair nor blasphemy nor hymn helped in any way. The
destruction seemed as irresistible, perfect, and pitiless as
Predestination itself.  Around Pompey's Amphitheatre stores of hemp
caught fire, and ropes used in circuses, arenas, and every kind of
machine at the games, and with them the adjoining buildings containing
barrels of pitch with which ropes were smeared.  In a few hours all that
part of the city, beyond which lay the Campus Martius, was so lighted by
bright yellow flames that for a time it seemed to the spectators, only
half conscious from terror, that in the general ruin the order of night
and day had been lost, and that they were looking at sunshine.  But
later a monstrous bloody gleam extinguished all other colors of flame.
From the sea of fire shot up to the heated sky gigantic fountains, and
pillars of flame spreading at their summits into fiery branches and
feathers; then the wind bore them away, turned them into golden threads,
into hair, into sparks, and swept them on over the Campania toward the
Alban Hills.  The night became brighter; the air itself seemed
penetrated, not only with light, but with flame.  The Tiber flowed on as
living fire.  The hapless city was turned into one pandemonium.  The
conflagration seized more and more space, took hills by storm, flooded
level places, drowned valleys, raged, roared, and thundered.




Chapter XLV


MACRINUS, a weaver, to whose house Vinicius was carried, washed him, and
gave him clothing and food.  When the young tribune had recovered his
strength altogether, he declared that he would search further for Linus
that very night.  Macrinus, who was a Christian, confirmed Chilo's
report, that Linus, with Clement the chief priest, had gone to
Ostrianum, where Peter was to baptize a whole company of confessors of
the new faith.  In that division of the city it was known to Christians
that Linus had confided the care of his house two days before to a
certain Gaius.  For Vinicius this was a proof that neither Lygia nor
Ursus had remained in the house, and that they also must have gone to
Ostrianum.

This thought gave him great comfort.  Linus was an old man, for whom it
would be difficult to walk daily to the distant Nomentan Gate, and back
to the Trans-Tiber; hence it was likely that he lodged those few days
with some co-religionist beyond the walls, and with him also Lygia and
Ursus.  Thus they escaped the fire, which in general had not reached the
other slope of the Esquiline. Vinicius saw in all this a dispensation of
Christ, whose care he felt above him, and his heart was filled more than
ever with love; he swore in his soul to pay with his whole life for
those clear marks of favor.

But all the more did he hurry to Ostrianum.  He would find Lygia, find
Linus and Peter; he would take them to a distance, to some of his lands,
even to Sicily.  Let Rome burn; in a few days it would be a mere heap of
ashes.  Why remain in the face of disaster and a mad rabble?  In his
lands troops of obedient slaves would protect them, they would be
surrounded by the calm of the country, and live in peace under Christ's
wings blessed by Peter.  Oh, if he could find them!

That was no easy thing.  Vinicius remembered the difficulty with which
he had passed from the Appian Way to the Trans-Tiber, and how he must
circle around to reach the Via Portuensis.  He resolved, therefore, to
go around the city this time in the opposite direction.  Going by the
Via Triumphatoris, it was possible to reach the Æmilian bridge by going
along the river, thence passing the Pincian Hill, all the Campus
Martius, outside the gardens of Pompey, Lucullus, and Sallust, to make a
push forward to the Via Nomentana.  That was the shortest way; but
Macrinus and Chilo advised him not to take it.  The fire had not touched
that part of the city, it is true; but all the market squares and
streets might be packed densely with people and their goods.  Chilo
advised him to go through the Ager Vaticanus to the Porta Flaminia,
cross the river at that point, and push on outside the walls beyond the
gardens of Acilius to the Porta Salaria.  Vinicius, after a moment's
hesitation, took this advice.

Macrinus had to remain in care of his house; but he provided two mules,
which would serve Lygia also in a further journey.  He wished to give a
slave, too; but Vinicius refused, judging that the first detachment of
pretorians he met on the road would pass under his orders.

Soon he and Chilo moved on through the Pagus Janiculensis to the
Triumphal Way.  There were vehicles there, too, in open places; but they
pushed between them with less difficulty, as the inhabitants had fled
for the greater part by the Via Portuensis toward the sea.  Beyond the
Septimian Gate they rode between the river and the splendid gardens of
Domitius; the mighty cypresses were red from the conflagration, as if
from evening sunshine.  The road became freer; at times they had to
struggle merely with the current of incoming rustics.  Vinicius urged
his mule forward as much as possible; but Chilo, riding closely in the
rear, talked to himself almost the whole way.

"Well, we have left the fire behind, and now it is heating our
shoulders.  Never yet has there been so much light on this road in the
night-time.  O Zeus! if thou wilt not send torrents of rain on that
fire, thou hast no love for Rome, surely.  The power of man will not
quench those flames.  Such a city,--a city which Greece and the whole
world was serving!  And now the first Greek who comes along may roast
beans in its ashes.  Who could have looked for this?  And now there will
be no longer a Rome, nor Roman rulers. Whoso wants to walk on the ashes,
when they grow cold, and whistle over them, may whistle without danger.
O gods! to whistle over such a world-ruling city!  What Greek, or even
barbarian, could have hoped for this?  And still one may whistle; for a
heap of ashes, whether left after a shepherd's fire or a burnt city, is
mere ashes, which the wind will blow away sooner or later."

Thus talking, he turned from moment to moment toward the conflagration,
and looked at the waves of flame with a face filled at once with delight
and malice.

"It will perish!  It will perish!" continued he, "and will never be on
earth again.  Whither will the world send its wheat now, its olives, and
its money?  Who will squeeze gold and tears from it?  Marble does not
burn, but it crumbles in fire.  The Capitol will turn into dust, and the
Palatine into dust.  O Zeus!  Rome was like a shepherd, and other
nations like sheep.  When the shepherd was hungry, he slaughtered a
sheep, ate the flesh, and to thee, O father of the gods, he made an
offering of the skin.  Who, O Cloud-compeller, will do the slaughtering
now, and into whose hand wilt thou put the shepherd's whip?  For Rome is
burning, O father, as truly as if thou hadst fired it with thy
thunderbolt."

"Hurry!" urged Vinicius; "what art thou doing there?"

"I am weeping over Rome, lord,--Jove's city!"

For a time they rode on in silence, listening to the roar of the
burning, and the sound of birds' wings.  Doves, a multitude of which had
their nests about villas and in small towns of the Campania, and also
every kind of field-bird from near the sea and the surrounding
mountains, mistaking evidently the gleam of the conflagration for
sunlight, were flying, whole flocks of them, blindly into the fire.
Vinicius broke the silence first,--

"Where wert thou when the fire burst out?"

"I was going to my friend Euricius, lord, who kept a shop near the
Circus Maximus, and I was just meditating on the teaching of Christ,
when men began to shout: 'Fire!' People gathered around the Circus for
safety, and through curiosity; but when the flames seized the whole
Circus, and began to appear in other places also, each had to think of
his own safety."

"Didst thou see people throwing torches into houses?"

"What have I not seen, O grandson of Æneas!  I saw people making a way
for themselves through the crowd with swords; I have seen battles, the
entrails of people trampled on the pavement. Ah, if thou hadst seen
that, thou wouldst have thought that barbarians had captured the city,
and were putting it to the sword. People round about cried that the end
of the world had come. Some lost their heads altogether, and, forgetting
to flee, waited stupidly till the flames seized them.  Some fell into
bewilderment, others howled in despair; I saw some also who howled from
delight.  O lord, there are many bad people in the world who know not
how to value the benefactions of your mild rule, and those just laws in
virtue of which ye take from all what they have and give it to
yourselves.  People will not be reconciled to the will of God!"

Vinicius was too much occupied with his own thoughts to note the irony
quivering in Chilo's words.  A shudder of terror seized him at the
simple thought that Lygia might be in the midst of that chaos on those
terrible streets where people's entrails were trampled on. Hence, though
he had asked at least ten times of Chilo touching all which the old man
could know, he turned to him once again,--

"But hast thou seen them in Ostrianum with thy own eyes?"

"I saw them, O son of Venus; I saw the maiden, the good Lygian, holy
Linus, and the Apostle Peter."

"Before the fire?"

"Before the fire, O Mithra!"

But a doubt rose in the soul of Vinicius whether Chilo was not lying;
hence, reining his mule in, he looked threateningly at the old Greek and
inquired,--

"What wert thou doing there?"

Chilo was confused.  True, it seemed to him, as to many, that with the
destruction of Rome would come the end also of Roman dominion.  But he
was face to face with Vinicius; he remembered that the young soldier had
prohibited him, under a terrible threat, from watching the Christians,
and especially Linus and Lygia.

"Lord," said he, "why dost thou not believe that I love them?  I do.  I
was in Ostrianum, for I am half a Christian.  Pyrrho has taught me to
esteem virtue more than philosophy; hence I cleave more and more to
virtuous people.  And, besides, I am poor; and when thou, O Jove, wert
at Antium, I suffered hunger frequently over my books; therefore I sat
at the wall of Ostrianum, for the Christians, though poor, distribute
more alms than all other inhabitants of Rome taken together."

This reason seemed sufficient to Vinicius, and he inquired less
severely,--

"And dost thou not know where Linus is dwelling at this moment?"

"Thou didst punish me sharply on a time for curiosity," replied the
Greek.

Vinicius ceased talking and rode on.

"O lord," said Chilo, after a while, "thou wouldst not have found the
maiden but for me, and if we find her now, thou wilt not forget the
needy sage?"

"Thou wilt receive a house with a vineyard at Ameriola."

"Thanks to thee, O Hercules!  With a vineyard?  Thanks to thee!  Oh,
yes, with a vineyard!"

They were passing the Vatican Hill now, which was ruddy from the fire;
but beyond the Naumachia they turned to the right, so that when they had
passed the Vatican Field they would reach the river, and, crossing it,
go to the Flaminian Gate.  Suddenly Chilo reined in his mule,
and said,--

"A good thought has come to my head, lord!"

"Speak!" answered Vinicius.

"Between the Janiculum and the Vatican Hill, beyond the gardens of
Agrippina, are excavations from which stones and sand were taken to
build the Circus of Nero.  Hear me, lord.  Recently the Jews, of whom,
as thou knowest, there is a multitude in Trans-Tiber, have begun to
persecute Christians cruelly.  Thou hast in mind that in the time of the
divine Claudius there were such disturbances that Cæsar was forced to
expel them from Rome.  Now, when they have returned, and when, thanks to
the protection of the Augusta, they feel safe, they annoy Christians
more insolently.  I know this; I have seen it.  No edict against
Christians has been issued; but the Jews complain to the prefect of the
city that Christians murder infants, worship an ass, and preach a
religion not recognized by the Senate; they beat them, and attack their
houses of prayer so fiercely that the Christians are forced to hide."

"What dost thou wish to say?" inquired Vinicius.

"This, lord, that synagogues exist openly in the Trans-Tiber; but that
Christians, in their wish to avoid persecution, are forced to pray in
secret and assemble in ruined sheds outside the city or in sand-pits.
Those who dwell in the Trans-Tiber have chosen just that place which was
excavated for the building of the Circus and various houses along the
Tiber.  Now, when the city is perishing, the adherents of Christ are
praying.  Beyond doubt we shall find a countless number of them in the
excavation; so my advice is to go in there along the road."

"But thou hast said that Linus has gone to Ostrianum," cried Vinicius
impatiently.

"But thou has promised me a house with a vineyard at Ameriola," answered
Chilo; "for that reason I wish to seek the maiden wherever I hope to
find her.  They might have returned to the Trans-Tiber after the
outbreak of the fire.  They might have gone around outside the city, as
we are doing at this momnent.  Linus has a house, perhaps he wished to
be nearer his house to see if the fire had seized that part of the city
also.  If they have returned, I swear to thee, by Persephone, that we
shall find them at prayer in the excavation; in the worst event, we
shall get tidings of them."

"Thou art right; lead on!" said the tribune.

Chilo, without hesitation, turned to the left toward the hill.

For a while the slope of the hill concealed the conflagration, so that,
though the neighboring heights were in the light, the two men were in
the shade.  When they had passed the Circus, they turned still to the
left, and entered a kind of passage completely dark.  But in that
darkness Vinicius saw swarms of gleaming lanterns.

"They are there," said Chilo.  "There will be more of them to-day than
ever, for other houses of prayer are burnt or are filled with smoke, as
is the whole Trans-Tiber."

"True!" said Vinicius, "I hear singing."

In fact, the voices of people singing reached the hill from the dark
opening, and the lanterns vanished in it one after the other.  But from
side passages new forms appeared continually, so that after some time
Vinicius and Chilo found themselves amid a whole assemblage of people.

Chilo slipped from his mule, and, beckoning to a youth who sat near,
said to him,--"I am a priest of Christ and a bishop.  Hold the mules for
us; thou wilt  receive my blessing and forgiveness of sins."

Then, without waiting for an answer, he thrust the reins into his hands,
and, in company with Vinicius, joined the advancing throng.

They entered the excavation after a while, and pushed on through the
dark passage by the dim light of lanterns till they reached a spacious
cave, from which stone had been taken evidently, for the walls were
formed of fresh fragments.

It was brighter there than in the corridor, for, in addition to tapers
and lanterns, torches were burning.  By the light of these Vinicius saw
a whole throng of kneeling people with upraised hands.  He could not see
Lygia, the Apostle Peter, or Linus, but he was surrounded by faces
solenm and full of emotion.  On some of them expectation or alarm was
evident; on some, hope.  Light was reflected in the whites of their
upraised eyes; perspiration was flowing along their foreheads, pale as
chalk; some were singing hymns, others were repeating feverishly the
name of Jesus, some were beating their breasts.  It was apparent that
they expected something uncommon at any moment.

Meanwhile the hymn ceased, and above the assembly, in a niche formed by
the removal of an immense stone, appeared Crispus, the acquaintance of
Vinicius, with a face as it were half delirious, pale, stern, and
fanatical.  All eyes were turned to him, as though waiting for words of
consolation and hope.  After he had blessed the assembly, he began in
hurried, almost shouting tones,--

"Bewail your sins, for the hour has come!  Behold the Lord has sent down
destroying flames on Babylon, on the city of profligacy and crime.  The
hour of judgment has struck, the hour of wrath and dissolution.  The
Lord has promised to come, and soon you will see Him.  He will not come
as the Lamb, who offered His blood for your sins, but as an awful judge,
who in His justice will hurl sinners and unbelievers into the pit.  Woe
to the world, woe to sinners! there will be no mercy for them.  I see
Thee, O Christ! Stars are falling to the earth in showers, the sun is
darkened, the earth opens in yawning gulfs, the dead rise from their
graves, but Thou art moving amid the sound of trumpets and legions of
angels, amid thunders and lightnings.  I see Thee, I hear Thee, O
Christ!"

Then he was silent, and, raising his eyes, seemed to gaze into something
distant and dreadful.  That moment a dull roar was heard in the cave,--
once, twice, a tenth time, in the burning city whole streets of partly
consumed houses began to fall with a crash.  But most Christians took
those sounds as a visible sign that the dreadful hour was approaching;
belief in the early second coming of Christ and in the end of the world
was universal among them, now the destruction of the city had
strengthened it.  Terror seized the assembly.  Many voices repeated,
"The day of judgment! Behold, it is coming!"  Some covered their faces
with their hands, believing that the earth would be shaken to its
foundation, that beasts of hell would rush out through its openings and
hurl themselves on sinners.  Others cried, "Christ have mercy on us!"
"Redeemer, be pitiful!"  Some confessed their sins aloud; others cast
themselves into the arms of friends, so as to have some near heart with
them in the hour of dismay.

But there were faces which seemed rapt into heaven, faces with smiles
not of earth; these showed no fear.  In some places were heard voices;
those were of people who in religious excitement had begun to cry out
unknown words in strange languages.  Some person in a dark corner cried,
"Wake thou that sleepest!"  Above all rose the shout of Crispus, "Watch
ye! watch ye!"

At moments, however, silence came, as if all were holding the breath in
their breasts, and waiting for what would come.  And then was heard the
distant thunder of parts of the city falling into ruins, after which
were heard again groans and cries,--"Renounce earthly riches, for soon
there will be no earth beneath your feet! Renounce earthly loves, for
the Lord will condemn those who love wife or child more than Him.  Woe
to the one who loves the creature more than the Creator!  Woe to the
rich! woe to the luxurious! woe to the dissolute! woe to husband, wife,
and child!"

Suddenly a roar louder than any which had preceded shook the quarry.
All fell to the earth, stretching their arms in cross form to ward away
evil spirits by that figure.  Silence followed, in which was heard only
panting breath, whispers full of terror, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!" and in
places the weeping of children.  At that moment a certain calm voice
spoke above that prostrate multitude,--

"Peace be with you!"

That was the voice of Peter the Apostle, who had entered the cave a
moment earlier.  At the sound of his voice terror passed at once, as it
passes from a flock in which the shepherd has appeared. People rose from
the earth; those who were nearer gathered at his knees, as if seeking
protection under his wings.  He stretched his hands over them and
said,--

"Why are ye troubled in heart?  Who of you can tell what will happen
before the hour cometh?  The Lord has punished Babylon with fire; but
His mercy will be on those whom baptism has purified, and ye whose sins
are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb will die with His name on your
lips.  Peace be with you!"

After the terrible and merciless words of Crispus, those of Peter fell
like a balm on all present.  Instead of fear of God, the love of God
took possession of their spirits.  Those people found the Christ whom
they had learned to love from the Apostle's narratives; hence not a
merciless judge, but a mild and patient Lamb, whose mercy surpasses
man's wickedness a hundredfold.  A feeling of solace possessed the whole
assembly; and comfort, with thankfulness to the Apostle, filled their
hearts, Voices from various sides began to cry, "We are thy sheep, feed
us!"  Those nearer said, "Desert us not in the day of disaster!"  And
they knelt at his knees; seeing which Vinicius approached, seized the
edge of Peter's mantle, and, inclining, said,--

"Save me, lord.  I have sought her in the smoke of the burning and in
the throng of people; nowhere could I find her, but I believe that thou
canst restore her."

Peter placed his hand on the tribune's head.

"Have trust," said he, "and come with me."




Chapter XLVI


The city burned on.  The Circus Maximus had fallen in ruins. Entire
streets and alleys in parts which began to burn first were falling in
turn.  After every fall pillars of flame rose for a time to the very
sky.  The wind had changed, and blew now with mighty force from the sea,
bearing toward the Cælian, the Esquiline, and the Viminal rivers of
flame, brands, and cinders.  Still the authorities provided for rescue.
At command of Tigellinus, who had hastened from Antium the third day
before, houses on the Esquiline were torn down so that the fire,
reaching empty spaces, died of itself.  That was, however, undertaken
solely to save a remnant of the city; to save that which was burning was
not to be thought of.  There was need also to guard against further
results of the ruin.  Incalculable wealth had perished in Rome; all the
property of its citizens had vanished; hundreds of thousands of people
were wandering in utter want outside the walls.  Hunger had begun to
pinch this throng the second day, for the immense stores of provisions
in the city had burned with it.  In the universal disorder and in the
destruction of authority no one had thought of furnishing new supplies.
Only after the arrival of Tigellinus were proper orders sent to Ostia;
but meanwhile the people had grown more threatening.

The house at Aqua Appia, in which Tigellinus lodged for the moment, was
surrounded by crowds of women, who from morning till late at night
cried, "Bread and a roof!"  Vainly did pretorians, brought from the
great camp between the Via Salaria and the Nomentana, strive to maintain
order of some kind.  Here and there they were met by open, armed
resistance.  In places weaponless crowds pointed to the burning city,
and shouted, "Kill us in view of that fire!"  They abused Cæsar, the
Augustians, the pretorians; excitement rose every moment, so that
Tigellinus, looking at night on the thousands of fires around the city,
said to himself that those were fires in hostile camps.

Besides flour, as much baked bread as possible was brought at his
command, not only from Ostia, but from all towns and neighboring
villages.  When the first instalment came at night to the Emporium, the
people broke the chief gate toward the Aventine, seized all supplies in
the twinkle of an eye, and caused terrible disturbance. In the light of
the conflagration they fought for loaves, and trampled many of them into
the earth.  Flour from torn bags whitened like snow the whole space from
the granary to the arches of Drusus and Germanicus.  The uproar
continued till soldiers seized the building and dispersed the crowd with
arrows and missiles.

Never since the invasion by the Gauls under Brennus had Rome beheld such
disaster.  People in despair compared the two conflagrations.  But in
the time of Brennus the Capitol remained. Now the Capitol was encircled
by a dreadful wreath of flame.  The marbles, it is true, were not
blazing; but at night, when the wind swept the flames aside for a
moment, rows of columns in the lofty sanctuary of Jove were visible, red
as glowing coals.  In the days of Brennus, moreover, Rome had a
disciplined integral people, attached to the city and its altars; but
now crowds of a many-tongued populace roamed nomad-like around the walls
of burning Rome,--people composed for the greater part of slaves and
freedmen, excited, disorderly, and ready, under the pressure of want, to
turn against authority and the city.

But the very immensity of the fire, which terrified every heart,
disarmed the crowd in a certain measure.  After the fire might come
famine and disease; and to complete the misfortune the terrible heat of
July had appeared.  It was impossible to breathe air inflamed both by
fire and the sun.  Night brought no relief, on the contrary it presented
a hell.  During daylight an awful and ominous spectacle met the eye.  In
the centre a giant city on heights was turned into a roaring volcano;
round about as far as the Alban Hills was one boundless camp, formed of
sheds, tents, huts, vehicles, bales, packs, stands, fires, all covered
with smoke and dust, lighted by sun-rays reddened by passing through
smoke,--everything filled with roars, shouts, threats, hatred and
terror, a monstrous swarm of men, women, and children.  Mingled with
Quirites were Greeks, shaggy men from the North with blue eyes,
Africans, and Asiatics; among citizens were slaves, freedmen,
gladiators, merchants, mechanics, servants, and soldiers,--a real sea of
people, flowing around the island of fire.

Various reports moved this sea as wind does a real one.  These reports
were favorable and unfavorable.  People told of immense supplies of
wheat and clothing to be brought to the Emporium and distributed gratis.
It was said, too, that provinces in Asia and Africa would be stripped of
their wealth at Cæsar's command, and the treasures thus gained be given
to the inhabitants of Rome, so that each man might build his own
dwelling.  But it was noised about also that water in the aqueducts had
been poisoned; that Nero intended to annihilate the city, destroy the
inhabitants to the last person, then move to Greece or to Egypt, and
rule the world from a new place.  Each report ran with lightning speed,
and each found belief among the rabble, causing outbursts of hope,
anger, terror, or rage.  Finally a kind of fever mastered those nomadic
thousands.  The belief of Christians that the end of the world by fire
was at hand, spread even among adherents of the gods, and extended
daily.  People fell into torpor or madness.  In clouds lighted by the
burning, gods were seen gazing down on the ruin; hands were stretched
toward those gods then to implore pity or send them curses.

Meanwhile soldiers, aided by a certain number of inhabitants, continued
to tear down houses on the Esquiline and the Cælian, as also in the
Trans-Tiber; these divisions were saved therefore in considerable part.
But in the city itself were destroyed incalculable treasures accumulated
through centuries of conquest; priceless works of art, splendid temples,
the most precious monuments of Rome's past, and Rome's glory.  They
foresaw that of all Rome there would remain barely a few parts on the
edges, and that hundreds of thousands of people would be without a roof.
Some spread reports that the soldiers were tearing down houses not to
stop the fire, but to prevent any part of the city from being saved.
Tigellinus sent courier after courier to Antium, imploring Cæsar in each
letter to come and calm the despairing people with his presence.  But
Nero moved only when fire had seized the "domus transitoria," and he
hurried so as not to miss the moment in which the conflagration should
be at its highest.

Meanwhile fire had reached the Via Nomentana, but turned from it at once
with a change of wind toward the Via Lata and the Tiber.  It surrounded
the Capitol, spread along the Forum Boarium, destroyed everything which
it had spared before, and approached the Palatine a second time.

Tigellinus, assembling all the pretorian forces, despatched courier
after courier to Cæsar with an announcement that he would lose nothing
of the grandeur of the spectacle, for the fire had increased.

But Nero, who was on the road, wished to come at night, so as to sate
himself all the better with a view of the perishing capital. Therefore
he halted, in the neighborhood of Aqua Albana, and, summoning to his
tent the tragedian Aliturus, decided with his aid on posture, look, and
expression; learned fitting gestures, disputing with the actor
stubbornly whether at the words "O sacred city, which seemed more
enduring than Ida," he was to raise both hands, or, holding in one the
forminga, drop it by his side and raise only the other.  This question
seemed to him then more important than all others.  Starting at last
about nightfall, he took counsel of Petronius also whether to the lines
describing the catastrophe he might add a few magnificent blasphemies
against the gods, and whether, considered from the standpoint of art,
they would not have rushed spontaneously from the mouth of a man in such
a position, a man who was losing his birthplace.

At length he approached the walls about midnight with his numerous
court, composed of whole detachments of nobles, senators, knights,
freedmen, slaves, women, and children.  Sixteen thousand pretorians,
arranged in line of battle along the road, guarded the peace and safety
of his entrance, and held the excited populace at a proper distance.
The people cursed, shouted, and hissed on seeing the retinue, but dared
not attack it.  In many places, however, applause was given by the
rabble, which, owning nothing, had lost nothing in the fire, and which
hoped for a more bountiful distribution than usual of wheat, olives,
clothing, and money.  Finally, shouts, hissing, and applause were
drowned in the blare of horns and trumpets, which Tigellinus had caused
to be sounded.

Nero, on arriving at the Ostian Gate, halted, and said, "Houseless ruler
of a houseless people, where shall I lay my unfortunate head for the
night?"

After he had passed the Clivus Delphini, he ascended the Appian aqueduct
on steps prepared purposely.  After him followed the Augustians and a
choir of singers, bearing citharæ, lutes, and other musical instruments.

And all held the breath in their breasts, waiting to learn if he would
say some great words, which for their own safety they ought to remember.
But he stood solemn, silent, in a purple mantle, and a wreath of golden
laurels, gazing at the raging might of the flames. When Terpnos gave him
a golden lute, he raised his eyes to the sky, filled with the
conflagration, as if he were waiting for inspiration.

The people pointed at him from afar as he stood in the bloody gleam.  In
the distance fiery serpents were hissing.  The ancient and most sacred
edifices were in flames: the temple of Hercules, reared by Evander, was
burning; the temple of Jupiter Stator was burning, the temple of Luna,
built by Servius Tullius, the house of Numa Pompilius, the sanctuary of
Vesta with the penates of the Roman people; through waving flames the
Capitol appeared at intervals; the past and the spirit of Rome was
burning.  But he, Cæsar, was there with a lute in his hand and a
theatrical expression on his face, not thinking of his perishing
country, but of his posture and the prophetic words with which he might
describe best the greatness of the catastrophe, rouse most admiration,
and receive the warmest plaudits.  He detested that city, he detested
its inhabitants, beloved only his own songs and verses; hence he
rejoiced in heart that at last he saw a tragedy like that which he was
writing.  The verse-maker was happy, the declaimer felt inspired, the
seeker for emotions was delighted at the awful sight, and thought with
rapture that even the destruction of Troy was as nothing if compared
with the destruction of that giant city.  What more could he desire?
There was world-ruling Rome in flames, and he, standing on the arches of
the aqueduct with a golden lute, conspicuous, purple, admired,
magnificent, poetic.  Down below, somewhere in the darkness, the people
are muttering and storming. But let them mutter!  Ages will pass,
thousands of years will go by, but mankind will remember and glorify the
poet, who in that night sang the fall and the burning of Troy.  What was
Homer compared with him?  What Apollo himself with his hollowed-out
lute?

Here he raised his hands and, striking the strings, pronounced the words
of Priam.

"O nest of my fathers, O dear cradle!"  His voice in the open air, with
the roar of the conflagration, and the distant murmur of crowding
thousands, seemed marvellously weak, uncertain, and low, and the sound
of the accompaniment like the buzzing of insects.  But senators,
dignitaries, and Augustians, assembled on the aqueduct, bowed their
heads and listened in silent rapture.  He sang long, and his motive was
ever sadder.  At moments, when he stopped to catch breath, the chorus of
singers repeated the last verse; then Nero cast the tragic "syrma" [A
robe with train, worn especially by tragic actors] from his shoulder
with a gesture learned from Aliturus, struck the lute, and sang on.
When at last he had finished the lines composed, he improvised, seeking
grandiose comparisons in the spectacle unfolded before him.  His face
began to change.  He was not moved, it is true, by the destruction of
his country's capital; but he was delighted and moved with the pathos of
his own words to such a degree that his eyes filled with tears on a
sudden.  At last he dropped the lute to his feet with a clatter, and,
wrapping himself in the "syrma," stood as if petrified, like one of
those statues of Niobe which ornamented the courtyard of the Palatine.

Soon a storm of applause broke the silence.  But in the distance this
was answered by the howling of multitudes.  No one doubted then that
Cæsar had given command to burn the city, so as to afford himself a
spectacle and sing a song at it.  Nero, when he heard that cry from
hundreds of thousands, turned to the Augustians with the sad, resigned
smile of a man who is suffering from injustice.

"See," said he, "how the Quirites value poetry and me."

"Scoundrels!" answered Vatinius.  "Command the pretorians, lord, to fall
on them."

Nero turned to Tigellinus,--

"Can I count on the loyalty of the soldiers?"

"Yes, divinity," answered the prefect.

But Petronius shrugged his shoulders, and said,--

"On their loyalty, yes, but not on their numbers.  Remain meanwhile
where thou art, for here it is safest; but there is need to pacify the
people."

Seneca was of this opinion also, as was Licinus the consul. Meanwhile
the excitement below was increasing.  The people were arming with
stones, tent-poles, sticks from the wagons, planks, and various pieces
of iron.  After a while some of the pretorian leaders came, declaring
that the cohorts, pressed by the multitude, kept the line of battle with
extreme difficulty, and, being without orders to attack, they knew not
what to do.

"O gods," said Nero, "what a night!"  On one side a fire, on the other a
raging sea of people.  And he fell to seeking expressions the most
splendid to describe the danger of the moment, but, seeing around him
alarmed looks and pale faces, he was frightened, with the others.

"Give me my dark mantle with a hood!" cried he; "must it come really to
battle?"

"Lord," said Tigellinus, in an uncertain voice, "I have done what I
could, but danger is threatening.  Speak, O lord, to the people, and
make them promises."

"Shall Cæsar speak to the rabble?  Let another do that in my name. Who
will undertake it?"

"I!" answered Petronius, calmly.

"Go, my friend; thou art most faithful to me in every necessity.  Go,
and spare no promises."

Petronius turned to the retinue with a careless, sarcastic expression,--

"Senators here present, also Piso, Nerva, and Senecio, follow me."

Then he descended the aqueduct slowly.  Those whom he had summoned
followed, not without hesitation, but with a certain confidence which
his calmness had given them.  Petronius, halting at the foot of the
arches, gave command to bring him a white horse, and, mounting, rode on,
at the head of the cavalcade, between the deep ranks of pretorians, to
the black, howling multitude; he was unarmed, having only a slender
ivory cane which he carried habitually.

When he had ridden up, he pushed his horse into the throng.  All around,
visible in the light of the burning, were upraised hands, armed with
every manner of weapon, inflamed eyes, sweating faces, bellowing and
foaming lips.  A mad sea of people surrounded him and his attendants;
round about was a sea of heads, moving, roaring, dreadful.

The outbursts increased and became an unearthly roar; poles, forks, and
even swords were brandished above Petronius; grasping hands were
stretched toward his horse's reins and toward him, but he rode farther;
cool, indifferent, contemptuous.  At moments he struck the most insolent
heads with his cane, as if clearing a road for himself in an ordinary
crowd; and that confidence of his, that calmness, amazed the raging
rabble.  They recognized him at length, and numerous voices began to
shout,--

"Petronius!  Arbiter Elegantiarum!  Petronius!  Petronius!" was heard on
all sides.  And as that name was repeated, the faces about became less
terrible, the uproar less savage: for that exquisite patrician, though
he had never striven for the favor of the populace, was still their
favorite.  He passed for a humane and magnanimous man; and his
popularity had increased, especially since the affair of Pedanius
Secundus, when he spoke in favor of mitigating the cruel sentence
condemning all the slaves of that prefect to death.  The slaves more
especially loved him thenceforward with that unbounded love which the
oppressed or unfortunate are accustomed to give those who show them even
small sympathy.  Besides, in that moment was added curiosity as to what
Cæsar's envoy would say, for no one doubted that Cæsar had sent him.

He removed his white toga, bordered with scarlet, raised it in the air,
and waved it above his head, in sign that he wished to speak.

"Silence!  Silence!" cried the people on all sides.

After a while there was silence.  Then he straightened himself on the
horse and said in a clear, firm voice,--

"Citizens, let those who hear me repeat my words to those who are more
distant, and bear yourselves, all of you, like men, not like beasts in
the arena."

"We will, we will!"

"Then listen.  The city will be rebuilt.  The gardens of Lucullus,
Mæcenas, Cæsar, and Agrippina will be opened to you. To-morrow will
begin the distribution of wheat, wine, and olives, so that every man may
be full to the throat.  Then Cæsar will have games for you, such as the
world has not seen yet; during these games banquets and gifts will be
given you.  Ye will be richer after the fire than before it."

A murmur answered him which spread from the centre in every direction,
as a wave rises on water in which a stone has been cast. Those nearer
repeated his words to those more distant.  Afterward were heard here and
there shouts of anger or applause, which turned at length into one
universal call of "Panem et circenses!!!"

Petronius wrapped himself in his toga and listened for a time without
moving, resembling in his white garment a marble statue. The uproar
increased, drowned the roar of the fire, was answered from every side and
from ever-increasing distances.  But evidently the envoy had something
to add, for he waited.  Finally, commanding silence anew, he cried,--"I
promised you panem et circenses; and now give a shout in honor of Cæsar,
who feeds and clothes you; then go to sleep, dear populace, for the dawn
will begin before long."

He turned his horse then, and, tapping lightly with his cane the heads
and faces of those who stood in his way, he rode slowly to the pretorian
ranks.  Soon he was under the aqueduct.  He found almost a panic above,
where they had not understood the shout "Panem et circenses," and
supposed it to be a new outburst of rage. They had not even expected
that Petronius would save himself; so Nero, when he saw him, ran to the
steps, and with face pale from emotion, inquired,--

"Well, what are they doing?  Is there a battle?"

Petronius drew air into his lungs, breathed deeply, and answered,--"By
Pollux! they are sweating! and such a stench!  Will some one give me an
epilimma?--for I am faint."  Then he turned to Cæsar.

"I promised them," said he, "wheat, olives, the opening of the gardens,
and games.  They worship thee anew, and are howling in thy honor.  Gods,
what a foul odor those plebeians have!"

"I had pretorians ready," cried Tigellinus; "and hadst thou not quieted
them, the shouters would have been silenced forever.  It is a pity,
Cæsar, that thou didst not let me use force."

Petronius looked at him, shrugged his shoulders, and added,--

"The chance is not lost.  Thou mayst have to use it to-morrow."

"No, no!" cried Cæsar, "I will give command to open the gardens to them,
and distribute wheat.  Thanks to thee, Petronius, I will have games; and
that song, which I sang to-day, I will sing publicly."

Then he placed his hands on the arbiter's shoulder, was silent a moment,
and starting up at last inquired,--

"Tell me sincerely, how did I seem to thee while I was singing?"

"Thou wert worthy of the spectacle, and the spectacle was worthy of
thee," said Petronius.

"But let us look at it again," said he, turning to the fire, "and bid
farewell to ancient Rome."




Chapter XLVII


THE Apostle's words put confidence in the souls of the Christians. The
end of the world seemed ever near to them, but they began to think that
the day of judgment would not come immediately, that first they would
see the end of Nero's reign, which they looked on as the reign of Satan,
and the punishment of God for Cæsar's crimes, which were crying for
vengeance.  Strengthened in heart, they dispersed, after the prayer, to
their temporary dwellings, and even to the Trans-Tiber; for news had
come that the fire, set there in a number of places, had, with the
change of wind, turned back toward the river, and, after devouring what
it could here and there, had ceased to extend.

The Apostle, with Vinicius and Chilo, who followed him, left the
excavation also.  The young tribune did not venture to interrupt his
prayers; hence he walked on in silence, merely imploring pity with his
eyes, and trembling from alarm.  Many approached to kiss Peter's hands,
and the hem of his mantle; mothers held out their children to him; some
knelt in the dark, long passage, and, holding up tapers, begged a
blessing; others, going alongside, sang: so there was no chance for
question or answer.  Thus it was in the narrow passage.  Only when they
came out to broader spaces, from which the burning city was in view, did
the Apostle bless them three times, and say, turning to Vinicius,--

"Fear not.  The hut of the quarryman is near; in it we shall find Linus,
and Lygia, with her faithful servant.  Christ, who predestined her to
thee, has preserved her."

Vinicius tottered, and placed his hand against the cliff.  The road from
Antium, the events at the wall, the search for Lygia amidst burning
houses, sleeplessness, and his terrible alarm had exhausted him; and the
news that the dearest person in the world was near by, and that soon he
would see her, took the remnant of his strength from him.  So great a
weakness possessed him on a sudden that he dropped to the Apostle's
feet, and, embracing his knees, remained thus, without power to say a
word.

"Not to me, not to me, but to Christ," said the Apostle, who warded off
thanks and honor.

"What a good God!" said the voice of Chilo from behind, "but what shall
I do with the mules that are waiting down here?"

"Rise and come with me," said Peter to the young man.

Vinicius rose.  By the light of the burning, tears were visible on his
face, which was pale from emotion.  His lips moved, as if in prayer.

"Let us go," said he.

But Chilo repeated again: "Lord, what shall I do with the mules that are
waiting?  Perhaps this worthy prophet prefers riding to walking."

Vinicius did not know himself what to answer; but hearing from Peter
that the quarryman's hut was near by, he said,--

"Take the mules to Macrinus."

"Pardon me, lord, if I mention the house in Ameriola.  In view of such
an awful fire, it is easy to forget a thing so paltry."

"Thou wilt get it."

"O grandson of Numa Pompilius, I have always been sure, but now, when
this magnanimous prophet also has heard the promise, I will not remind
thee even of this, that thou hast promised me a vineyard.  Pax vobiscum.
I shall find thee, lord.  Pax vobiscum."

They answered, "And peace with thee."

Then both turned to the right toward the hills.  Along the road Vinicius
said,

"Lord, wash me with the water of baptism, so that I may call myself a
real confessor of Christ, for I love Him with all the power of my soul.
Wash me quickly, for I am ready in heart.  And what thou commandest I
will do, but tell me, so that I may do it in addition."

"Love men as thy own brothers," answered the Apostle, "for only with
love mayst thou serve Him."

"Yes, I understand and feel that.  When a child I believed in the Roman
gods, though I did not love them.  But I so love Him the One God that I
would give my life for Him gladly."  And he looked toward the sky,
repeating with exaltation: "For He is one, for He alone is kind and
merciful; hence, let not only this city perish, but the whole world, Him
alone will I confess and recognize."

"And He will bless thee and thy house," concluded the Apostle.

Meanwhile they turned into another ravine, at the end of which a faint
light was visible.  Peter pointed to it and said,--

"There is the hut of the quarryman who gave us a refuge when, on the way
from Ostrianum with the sick Linus, we could not go to the Trans-Tiber."

After a while they arrived.  The hut was rather a cave rounded Out in an
indentation of the hill, and was faced outside with a wall made of
reeds.  The door was closed, but through an opening, which served for a
window, the interior was visible, lighted by a fire.  Some dark giant
figure rose up to meet them, and inquired,--"Who are ye?"

"Servants of Christ," answered Peter.  "Peace be with thee, Ursus."

Ursus bent to the Apostle's feet; then, recognizing Vinicius, seized his
hand by the wrist, and raised it to his lips.

"And thou, lord," said he.  "Blessed be the name of the Lamb, for the
joy which thou wilt bring to Callina."

He opened the door then, and entered.  Linus was lying on a bundle of
straw, with an emaciated face and a forehead as yellow as ivory.  Near
the fire sat Lygia with a string of small fish, intended evidently for
supper.  Occupied in removing the fish from the string, and thinking
that it was Ursus who had entered, she did not raise her eyes.  But
Vinicius approached, and, pronouncing her name, stretched his hand to
her.  She sprang up quickly then; a flash of astonishment and delight
shot across her face.  Without a word, like a child who after days of
fear and sorrow had found father or mother, she threw herself into his
open arms.

He embraced her, pressed her to his bosom for some time with such
ecstasy as if she had been saved by a miracle.  Then, withdrawing his
arms, he took her temples between his hands, kissed her forehead and her
eyes, embraced her again, repeated her name, bent to her knees, to her
palms, greeted her, did her homage, honored her.  His delight had no
bounds; neither had his love and happiness.

At last he told her how he had rushed in from Antium; had searched for
her at the walls, in the smoke at the house of Linus; how he had
suffered and was terrified; how much he had endured before the Apostle
had shown him her retreat.

"But now," said he, "that I have found thee, I will not leave thee near
fire and raging crowds.  People are slaying one another under the walls,
slaves are revolting and plundering.  God alone knows what miseries may
fall yet on Rome.  But I will save thee and all of you.  Oh, my dear,
let us go to Antium; we will take a ship there and sail to Sicily.  My
land is thy land, my houses are thy houses. Listen to me!  In Sicily we
shall find Aulus.  I will give thee back to Pomponia, and take thee from
her hands afterward.  But, O carissima, have no further fear of me.
Christ has not washed me yet, but ask Peter if on the way hither I have
not told him my wish to be a real confessor of Christ, and begged him to
baptize me, even in this hut of a quarryman.  Believe, and let all
believe me."

Lygia heard these words with radiant face.  The Christians formerly,
because of Jewish persecutions, and then because of the fire and
disturbance caused by the disaster, lived in fear and uncertainty.  A
journey to quiet Sicily would put an end to all danger, and open a new
epoch of happiness in their lives.  If Vinicius had wished to take only
Lygia, she would have resisted the temptation surely, as she did not
wish to leave Peter and Linus; but Vinicius said to them, "Come with me;
my lands are your lands, my houses your houses."  At this Lygia inclined
to kiss his hand, in sign of obedience, and said,--

"Where thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia."

Then confused that she had spoken words which by Roman custom were
repeated only at marriage, she blushed deeply, and stood in the light of
the fire, with drooping head, in doubt lest he might take them ill of
her.  But in his face boundless homage alone was depicted.  He turned
then to Peter, and continued,--

"Rome is burning at command of Cæsar.  In Antium he complained that he
had never seen a great fire.  And if he has not hesitated at such a
crime, think what may happen yet.  Who knows that he may not bring in
troops, and command a slaughter?  Who knows what proscriptions may come;
who knows whether after the fire, civil war, murder, and famine may not
come?

"Hide yourselves, therefore, and let us hide Lygia.  There ye can wait
till the storm passes, and when it is over return to sow your grain
anew."

Outside, from the direction of the Vatican Field, as if to confirm his
fears, distant cries were heard full of rage and terror.  At that moment
the quarryman entered, the master of the hut, and, shutting the door
hastily, he cried,--

"People are killing one another near the Circus of Nero.  Slaves and
gladiators have attacked the citizens."

"Do ye hear?" said Vinicius.

"The measure is full," said the Apostle; "and disasters will come, like
a boundless sea."  Then he turned, and, pointing to Lygia, said, "Take
the maiden, whom God has predestined to thee, and save her, and let
Linus, who is sick, and Ursus go with you."

But Vinicius, who had come to love the Apostle with all the power of his
impetuous soul, exclaimed: "I swear, my teacher, that I will not leave
thee here to destruction."

"The Lord bless thee for thy wish," answered Peter; "but hast thou not
heard that Christ repeated thrice on the lake to me, 'Feed my lambs'?"

Vinicius was silent.

"If thou, to whom no one has confided care over me, sayest that thou
wilt not leave me to destruction, how canst thou wish me to leave my
flock in the day of disaster?  When there was a storm on the lake, and
we were terrified in heart, He did not desert us; why should I, a
servant, not follow my Master's example?"

Then Linus raised his emaciated face and inquired,--

"O viceregent of the Lord, why should I not follow thy example?"

Vinicius began to pass his hand over his head, as if struggling with
himself or fighting with his thoughts; then, seizing Lygia by the hand,
he said, in a voice in which the energy of a Roman soldier was
quivering,--

"Hear me, Peter, Linus, and thou, Lygia!  I spoke as my human reason
dictated; but ye have another reason, which regards, not your own
danger, but the commands of the Redeemer.  True, I did not understand
this, and I erred, for the beam is not taken from my eyes yet, and the
former nature is heard in me.  But since I love Christ, and wish to be
His servant, though it is a question for me of something more than my
own life, I kneel here before thee, and swear that I will accomplish the
command of love, and will not leave my brethren in the day of trouble."

Then he knelt, and enthusiasm possessed him; raising his hands and eyes,
he cried: "Do I understand Thee, O Christ?  Am I worthy of Thee?"

His hands trembled; his eyes glistened with tears; his body trembled
with faith and love.  Peter took an earthen vessel with water, and,
bringing it near him, said with solemnity,--

"Behold, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen."

Then a religious ecstasy seized all present.  They thought that some
light from beyond this world had filled the hut, that they heard some
superhuman music, that the cliffs had opened above their heads, that
choirs of angels were floating down from heaven, and far up there they
saw a cross, and pierced hands blessing them.

Meanwhile the shouts of fighting were heard outside, and the roar of
flames in the burning city.




Chapter XLVIII


CAMPS of people were disposed in the lordly gardens of Cæsar, formerly
gardens of Domitius and Agrippina; they were disposed also on the Campus
Martius, in the gardens of Pompey, Sallust, and Mæcenas, in porticos,
tennis-courts, splendid summer-houses, and buildings erected for wild
beasts.  Peacocks, flamingoes, swans, ostriches, gazelles, African
antelopes, and deer, which had served as ornaments to those gardens,
went under the knives of the rabble.  Provisions began to come in now
from Ostria so abundantly that one might walk, as on a bridge, over
ships, boats, and barges from one bank of the Tiber to the other.  Wheat
was sold at the unheard-of low price of three sestertia, and was given
gratis to the indigent.  Immense supplies of wine, olives, and chestnuts
were brought to the city; sheep and cattle were driven in every day from
the mountains.  Wretches who before the fire had been hiding in alleys
of the Subura, and were perishing of hunger in ordinary times, had a
more pleasant life now.  The danger of famine was averted completely,
but it was more difficult to suppress robbery, murder, and abuses.  A
nomadic life insured impunity to thieves; the more easily since they
proclaimed themselves admirers of Cæsar, and were unsparing of plaudits
wherever he appeared.  Moreover, when, by the pressure of events, the
authorities were in abeyance, and there was a lack of armed force to
quell insolence in a city inhabited by the dregs of contemporary
mankind, deeds were done which passed human imagination.  Every night
there were battles and murders; every night boys and women were snatched
away.  At the Porta Mugionis, where there was a halting-place for herds
driven in from the Campania, it come to engagements in which people
perished by hundreds.  Every morning the banks of the Tiber were covered
with drowned bodies, which no one collected; these decayed quickly
because of heat heightened by fire, and filled the air with foul odors.
Sickness broke out on the camping-grounds, and the more timorous foresaw
a great pestilence.

But the city burned on unceasingly.  Only on the sixth day, when the
fire reached empty spaces on the Esquiline, where an enormous number of
houses had been demolished purposely, did it weaken.  But the piles of
burning cinders gave such strong light yet that people would not believe
that the end of the catastrophe had come.  In fact the fire burst forth
with fresh force on the seventh night in the buildings of Tigellinus,
but had short duration for lack of fuel.  Burnt houses, however, fell
here and there, and threw up towers of flame and pillars of sparks.  But
the glowing ruins began to grow black on the surface.  After sunset the
heavens ceased to gleam with bloody light, and only after dark did blue
tongues quiver above the extended black waste, tongues which rose from
piles of cinders.

Of the fourteen divisions of Rome there remained only four, including
the Trans-Tiber.  Flames had consumed all the others. When at last the
piles of cinders had been turned into ashes, an immense space was
visible from the Tiber to the Esquiline, gray, gloomy, dead.  In this
space stood rows of chimneys, like columns over graves in a cemetery.
Among these columns gloomy crowds of people moved about in the daytime,
some seeking for precious objects, others for the bones of those dear to
them.  In the night dogs howled above the ashes and ruins of former
dwellings.

All the bounty and aid shown by Cæsar to the populace did not restrain
evil speech and indignation.  Only the herd of robbers, criminals, and
homeless ruffians, who could eat, drink, and rob enough, were contented.
People who had lost all their property and their nearest relatives were
not won over by the opening of gardens, the distribution of bread, or
the promise of games and gifts.  The catastrophe had been too great and
unparalleled.  Others, in whom was hidden yet some spark of love for the
city and their birthplace, were brought to despair by news that the old
name "Roma" was to vanish, and that from the ashes of the capital Cæsar
would erect a new city called Neropolis.  A flood of hatred rose and
swelled every day, despite the flatteries of the Augustians and the
calumnies of Tigellinus.  Nero, more sensitive than any former Cæsar to
the favor of the populace, thought with alarm that in the sullen and
mortal struggle which he was waging with patricians in the Senate, he
might lack support.  The Augustians themselves were not less alarmed,
for any morning might bring them destruction.  Tigellinus thought of
summoning certain legions from Asia Minor.  Vatinius, who laughed even
when slapped on the face, lost his humor; Vitelius lost his appetite.

Others were taking counsel among themselves how to avert the danger, for
it was no secret that were an outburst to carry off Cæsar, not one of
the Augustians would escape, except, perhaps, Petronius.  To their
influence were ascribed the madnesses of Nero, to their suggestions all
the crimes which he committed.  Hatred for them almost surpassed that
for Nero.  Hence some began to make efforts to rid themselves of
responsibility for the burning of the city.  But to free themselves they
must clear Cæsar also from suspicion, or no one would believe that they
had not caused the catastrophe.  Tigellinus took counsel on this subject
with Domitius Afer, and even with Seneca, though he hated him.  Poppæa,
who understood that the ruin of Nero would be her own sentence, took the
opinion of her confidants and of Hebrew priests, for it had been
admitted for years that she held the faith of Jehovah.  Nero found his
own methods, which, frequently terrible, were more frequently foolish,
and fell now into terror, now into childish delight, but above all he
complained.

On a time a long and fruitless consultation was held in the house of
Tiberius, which had survived the fire.  Petronius thought it best to
leave troubles, go to Greece, thence to Egypt and Asia Minor. The
journey had been planned long before; why defer it, when in Rome were
sadness and danger?

Cæsar accepted the counsel with eagerness; but Seneca when he had
thought awhile, said,--

"It is easy to go, but it would be more difficult to return."

"By Heracles!" replied Petronius, "we may return at the head of Asiatic
legions."

"This will I do!" exclaimed Nero.

But Tigellinus opposed.  He could discover nothing himself, and if the
arbiter's idea had come to his own head he would beyond doubt have
declared it the saving one; but with him the question was that Petronius
might not be a second time the only man who in difficult moments could
rescue all and every one.

"Hear me, divinity," said he, "this advice is destructive!  Before thou
art at Ostia a civil war will break out; who knows but one of the
surviving collateral descendants of the divine Augustus will declare
himself Cæsar, and what shall we do if the legions take his side?"

"We shall try," answered Nero, "that there be no descendants of
Augustus.  There are not many now; hence it is easy to rid ourselves of
them."

"It is possible to do so, but is it a question of them alone?  No longer
ago than yesterday my people heard in the crowd that a man like Thrasea
should be Cæsar."

Nero bit his lips.  After a while he raised his eyes and said:
"Insatiable and thankless.  They have grain enough, and they have coal
on which to bake cakes; what more do they want?"

"Vengeance!" replied Tigellinus.

Silence followed.  Cæsar rose on a sudden, extended his hand, and began
to declaim,--

"Hearts call for vengeance, and vengeance wants a victim."  Then,
forgetting everything, he said, with radiant face: "Give me the tablet
and stilus to write this line.  Never could Lucan have composed the
like.  Have ye noticed that I found it in a twinkle?"

"O incomparable!" exclaimed a number of voices.  Nero wrote down the
line, and said,--

"Yes, vengeance wants a victim."  Then he cast a glance on those around
him.  "But if we spread the report that Vatinius gave command to burn
the city, and devote him to the anger of the people?"

"O divinity!  Who am I?" exclaimed Vatmius.

"True!  One more important than thou is demanded.  Is it Vitelius?"

Vitelius grew pale, but began to laugh.

"My fat," answered he, "might start the fire again."

But Nero had something else on his mind; in his soul he was looking for
a victim who might really satisfy the people's anger, and he found him.

"Tigellinus," said he after a while, "it was thou who didst burn Rome!"
A shiver ran through those present.  They understood that Cæsar had
ceased to jest this time, and that a moment had come which was pregnant
with events.

The face of Tigellinus was wrinkled, like the lips of a dog about to
bite.

"I burnt Rome at thy command!" said he.

And the two glared at each other like a pair of devils.  Such silence
followed that the buzzing of flies was heard as they flew through the
atrium.

"Tigellinus," said Nero, "dost thou love me?"

"Thou knowest, lord."

"Sacrifice thyself for me."

"O divine Cæsar," answered Tigellinus, "why present the sweet cup which
I may not raise to my lips?  The people are muttering and rising; dost
thou wish the pretorians also to rise?"

A feeling of terror pressed the hearts of those present.  Tigellinus was
pretorian prefect, and his words had the direct meaning of a threat.
Nero himself understood this, and his face became pallid.

At that moment Epaphroditus, Cæsar's freedman, entered, announcing that
the divine Augusta wished to see Tigellinus, as there were people in her
apartments whom the prefect ought to hear.

Tigellinus bowed to Cæsar, and went out with a face calm and
contemptuous.  Now, when they had wished to strike him, he had shown his
teeth; he had made them understand who he was, and, knowing Nero's
cowardice, he was confident that that ruler of the world would never
dare to raise a hand against him.

Nero sat in silence for a moment; then, seeing that those present
expected some answer, he said,--

"I have reared a serpent in my bosom."

Petronius shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that it was not difficult
to pluck the head from such a serpent.

"What wilt thou say?  Speak, advise!" exclaimed Nero, noticing this
motion.  "I trust in thee alone, for thou hast more sense than all of
them, and thou lovest me."

Petronius had the following on his lips: "Make me pretorian prefect, I
will deliver Tigellinus to the people, and pacify the city in a day."
But his innate slothfulness prevailed.  To be prefect meant to bear on
his shoulder's Cæsar's person and also thousands of public affairs.  And
why should he perform that labor?  Was it not better to read poetry in
his splendid library, look at vases and statues, or hold to his breast
the divine body of Eunice, twining her golden hair through his fingers,
and inclining his lips to her coral mouth?  Hence he said,--

"I advise the journey to Achæa."

"Ah!" answered Nero, "I looked for something more from thee. The Senate
hates me.  If I depart, who will guarantee that it will not revolt and
proclaim some one else Cæsar?  The people have been faithful to me so
far, but now they will follow the Senate.  By Hades! if that Senate and
that people had one head!--"

"Permit me to say, O divinity, that if thou desire to save Rome, there
is need to save even a few Romans," remarked Petronius, with a smile.

"What care I for Rome and Romans?" complained Nero.  "I should be obeyed
in Achæa.  Here only treason surrounds me.  All desert me, and ye are
making ready for treason.  I know it, I know it.  Ye do not even imagine
what future ages will say of you if ye desert such an artist as I am."

Here he tapped his forehead on a sudden, and cried,--

"True!  Amid these cares even I forget who I am."

Then he turned to Petronius with a radiant face.

"Petronius," said he, "the people murmur; but if I take my lute and go
to the Campus Martius, if I sing that song to them which I sang during
the conflagration, dost thou not think that I will move them, as Orpheus
moved wild beasts?"

To this Tullius Senecio, who was impatient to return to his slave women
brought in from Antium, and who had been impatient a long time,
replied,--

"Beyond doubt, O Cæsar, if they permit thee to begin."

"Let us go to Hellas!" cried Nero, with disgust.

But at that moment Poppæa appeared, and with her Tigellinis. The eyes of
those present turned to him unconsciously, for never had triumphator
ascended the Capitol with pride such as his when he stood before Cæsar.
He began to speak slowly and with emphasis, in tones through which the
bite of iron, as it were, was heard,--

"Listen.  O Cæsar, for I can say: I have found!  The people want
vengeance, they want not one victim, but hundreds, thousands. Hast
heard, lord, who Christos was,--he who was crucified by Pontius Pilate?
And knowest thou who the Christians are?  Have I not told thee of their
crimes and foul ceremonies, of their predictions that fire would cause
the end of the world?  People hate and suspect them.  No one has seen
them in a temple at any time, for they consider our gods evil spirits;
they are not in the Stadium, for they despise horse races.  Never have
the hands of a Christian done thee honor with plaudits.  Never has one
of them recognized thee as god.  They are enemies of the human race, of
the city, and of thee.  The people murmur against thee; but thou hast
given me no command to burn Rome, and I did not burn it.  The people
want vengeance; let them have it.  The people want blood and games; let
them have them.  The people suspect thee; let their suspicion turn in
another direction."

Nero listened with amazement at first; but as Tigellinus proceeded, his
actor's face changed, and assumed in succession expressions of anger,
sorrow, sympathy, indignation.  Suddenly he rose, and, casting off the
toga, which dropped at his feet, he raised both hands and stood silent
for a time.  At last he said, in the tones of a tragedian,--

"O Zeus, Apollo, Here, Athene, Persephone, and all ye immortals! why did
ye not come to aid us?  What has this hapless city done to those cruel
wretches that they burnt it so inhumanly?"

"They are enemies of mankind and of thee," said Poppæa.

"Do justice!" cried others.  "Punish the incendiaries!  The gods
themselves call for vengeance!"

Nero sat down, dropped his head to his breast, and was silent a second
time, as if stunned by the wickedness of which he had heard.  But after
a while he shook his hands, and said,--

"What punishments, what tortures befit such a crime?  But the gods will
inspire me, and, aided by the powers of Tartarus, I will give my poor
people such a spectacle that they will remember me for ages with
gratitude."

The forehead of Petronius was covered with a sudden cloud.  He thought
of the danger hanging over Lygia and over Vinicius, whom he loved, and
over all those people whose religion he rejected, but of whose innocence
he was certain.  He thought also that one of those bloody orgies would
begin which his eyes, those of an æsthetic man, could not suffer.  But
above all he thought: "I must save Vinicius, who will go mad if that
maiden perishes"; and this consideration outweighed every other, for
Petronius understood well that he was beginning a game far more perilous
than any in his life.  He began, however, to speak freely and
carelessly, as his wont was when criticising or ridiculing plans of
Cæsar and the Augustians that were not sufficiently æsthetic,--

"Ye have found victims!  That is true.  Ye may send them to the arena,
or array them in 'painful tunics.' That is true also.  But hear me!  Ye
have authority, ye have pretorians, ye have power; then be sincere, at
least, when no one is listening!  Deceive the people, but deceive not
one another.  Give the Christians to the populace, condemn them to any
torture ye like; but have courage to say to yourselves that it was not
they who burnt Rome.  Phy!  Ye call me 'arbiter elegantiarum'; hence I
declare to you that I cannot endure wretched comedies!  Phy! how all
this reminds me of the theatrical booths near the Porta Asinaria, in
which actors play the parts of gods and kings to amuse the suburban
rabble, and when the play is over wash down onions with sour wine, or
get blows of clubs!  Be gods and kings in reality; for I say that ye can
permit yourselves the position!  As to thee, O Cæsar, thou hast
threatened us with the sentence of coming ages; but think, those ages
will utter judgment concerning thee also.  By the divine Clio!  Nero,
ruler of the world, Nero, a god, burnt Rome, because he was as powerful
on earth as Zeus on Olympus,--Nero the poet loved poetry so much that he
sacrificed to it his country!  From the beginning of the world no one
did the like, no one ventured on the like.  I beseech thee in the name
of the double-crowned Libethrides, renounce not such glory, for songs of
thee will sound to the end of ages!  What will Priam be when compared
with thee; what Agamenmon; what Achilles; what the gods themselves?  We
need not say that the burning of Rome was good, but it was colossal and
uncommon.  I tell thee, besides, that the people will raise no hand
against thee!  It is not true that they will.  Have courage; guard
thyself against acts unworthy of thee,--for this alone threatens thee,
that future ages may say, 'Nero burned Rome; but as a timid Cæsar and a
timid poet he denied the great deed out of fear, and cast the blame of
it on the innocent!'"

The arbiter's words produced the usual deep impression on Nero; but
Petronius was not deceived as to this, that what he had said was a
desperate means which in a fortunate event might save the Christians, it
is true, but might still more easily destroy himself. He had not
hesitated, however, for it was a question at once of Vinicius whom he
loved, and of hazard with which he amused himself.  "The dice are
thrown," said he to himself, "and we shall see how far fear for his own
life outweighs in the monkey his love of glory."

And in his soul he had no doubt that fear would outweigh.

Meanwhile silence fell after his words.  Poppæa and all present were
looking at Nero's eyes as at a rainbow.  He began to raise his lips,
drawing them to his very nostrils, as was his custom when he knew not
what to do; at last disgust and trouble were evident on his features.

"Lord," cried Tigellinus, on noting this, "permit me to go; for when
people wish to expose thy person to destruction, and call thee, besides,
a cowardly Cæsar, a cowardly poet, an incendiary, and a comedian, my
ears cannot suffer such expressions!"

"I have lost," thought Petronius.  But turning to Tigellinus, he
measured him with a glance in which was that contempt for a ruffian
which is felt by a great lord who is an exquisite.

"Tigellinus," said he, "it was thou whom I called a comedian; for thou
art one at this very moment."

"Is it because I will not listen to thy insults?"

"It is because thou art feigning boundless love for Cæsar,--thou who a
short while since wert threatening him with pretorians, which we all
understood as did he!"

Tigellinus, who had not thought Petronius sufficiently daring to throw
dice such as those on the table, turned pale, lost his head, and was
speechless.  This was, however, the last victory of the arbiter over his
rival, for that moment Poppæa said,--

"Lord, how permit that such a thought should even pass through the head
of any one, and all the more that any one should venture to express it
aloud in thy presence!"

"Punish the insolent!" exclaimed Vitelius.

Nero raised his lips again to his nostrils, and, turning his
near-sighted, glassy eyes on Petronius, said,--

"Is this the way thou payest me for the friendship which I had for
thee?"

"If I am mistaken, show me my error," said Petronius; "but know that I
speak that which love for thee dictates."

"Punish the insolent!" repeated Vitelius.

"Punish!" called a number of voices.

In the atrium there was a murmur and a movement, for people began to
withdraw from Petronius.  Even Tullius Senecio, his constant companion
at the court, pushed away, as did young Nerva, who had shown him
hitherto the greatest friendship.  After a while Petronius was alone on
the left side of the atrium, with a smile on his lips; and gathering
with his hands the folds of his toga, he waited yet for what Cæsar would
say or do.

"Ye wish me to punish him" said Cæsar; "but he is my friend and comrade.
Though he has wounded my heart, let him know that for friends this heart
has naught but forgiveness."

"I have lost, and am ruined," thought Petronius.

Meanwhile Cæsar rose, and the consultation was ended.




Chapter XLIX


PETRONIUS went home.  Nero and Tigellinus went to Poppæa's atrium, where
they were expected by people with whom the prefect had spoken already.

There were two Trans-Tiber rabbis in long solemn robes and mitred, a
young copyist, their assistant, together with Chilo.  At sight of Cæsar
the priests grew pale from emotion, and, raising their hands an arm's
length, bent their heads to his hands.

"Be greeted, O ruler of the earth, guardian of the chosen people, and
Cæsar, lion among men, whose reign is like sunlight, like the cedar of
Lebanon, like a spring, like a palm, like the balsam of Jericho."

"Do ye refuse to call me god?" inquired Nero.

The priests grew still paler.  The chief one spoke again,--

"Thy words, O lord, are as sweet as a cluster of grapes, as a ripe fig,
--for Jehovah filled thy heart with goodness!  Thy father's predecessor,
Cæsar Caius, was stern; still our envoys did not call him god,
preferring death itself to violation of the law."

"And did not Caligula give command to throw them to the lions?"

"No, lord; Cæsar Caius feared Jehovah's anger."

And they raised their heads, for the name of the powerful Jehovah gave
them courage; confident in his might, they looked into Nero's eyes with
more boldness.

"Do ye accuse the Christians of burning Rome?" inquired Cæsar. "We,
lord, accuse them of this alone,--that they are enemies of the law, of
the human race, of Rome, and of thee; that long since they have
threatened the city and the world with fire!  The rest will be told thee
by this man, whose lips are unstained by a lie, for in his mother's
veins flowed the blood of the chosen people."

Nero turned to Chilo:  "Who art thou?"

"One who honors thee, O Cyrus; and, besides, a poor Stoic-"

"I hate the Stoics," said Nero.  "I hate Thrasea; I hate Musonius and
Cornutus.  Their speech is repulsive to me; their contempt for art,
their voluntary squalor and filth."

"O lord, thy master Seneca has one thousand tables of citrus wood. At
thy wish I will have twice as many.  I am a Stoic from necessity. Dress
my stoicism, O Radiant One, in a garland of roses, put a pitcher of wine
before it; it will sing Anacreon in such strains as to deafen every
Epicurean."

Nero, who was pleased by the title "Radiant," smiled and said,-"Thou
dost please me."

"This man is worth his weight in gold!" cried Tigellinus.

"Put thy liberality with my weight," answered Chilo, "or the wind will
blow my reward away."

"He would not outweigh Vitelius," put in Cæsar.

"Eheu!  Silver-bowed, my wit is not of lead."

"I see that thy faith does not hinder thee from calling me a god."

"O Immortal!  My faith is in thee; the Christians blaspheme against that
faith, and I hate them."

"What dost thou know of the Christians?"

"Wilt thou permit me to weep, O divinity?"

"No," answered Nero; "weeping annoys me."

"Thou art triply right, for eyes that have seen thee should be free of
tears forever.  O lord, defend me against my enemies."

"Speak of the Christians," said Poppæa, with a shade of impatience.

"It will be at thy command, O Isis," answered Chilo.  "From youth I
devoted myself to philosophy, and sought truth.  I sought it among the
ancient divine sages, in the Academy at Athens, and in the Serapeum at
Alexandria.  When I heard of the Christians, I judged that they formed
some new school in which I could find certain kernels of truth; and to
my misfortune I made their acquaintance. The first Christian whom evil
fate brought near me was one Glaucus, a physician of Naples.  From him I
learned in time that they worship a certain Chrestos, who promised to
exterminate all people and destroy every city on earth, but to spare
them if they helped him to exterminate the children of Deucalion.  For
this reason, O lady, they hate men, and poison fountains; for this
reason in their assemblies they shower curses on Rome, and on all
temples in which our gods are honored.  Chrestos was crucified; but he
promised that when Rome was destroyed by fire, he would come again and
give Christians dominion over the world."

"People will understand now why Rome was destroyed," interrupted
Tigellinus.

"Many understand that already, O lord, for I go about in the gardens, I
go to the Campus Martius, and teach.  But if ye listen to the end, ye
will know my reasons for vengeance.  Glaucus the physician did not
reveal to me at first that their religion taught hatred.  On the
contrary, he told me that Chrestos was a good divinity, that the basis
of their religion was love.  My sensitive heart could not resist such a
truth; hence I took to loving Glaucus, I trusted him, I shared every
morsel of bread with him, every copper coin, and dost thou know, lady,
how he repaid me?  On the road from Naples to Rome he thrust a knife
into my body, and my wife, the beautiful and youthful Berenice, he sold
to a slave-merchant.  If Sophocles knew my history--but what do I say?
One better than Sophocles is listening."

"Poor man!" said Poppæa.

"Whoso has seen the face of Aphrodite is not poor, lady; and I see it at
this moment.  But then I sought consolation in philosophy. When I came
to Rome, I tried to meet Christian elders to obtain justice against
Glaucus.  I thought that they would force him to yield up my wife.  I
became acquainted with their chief priest; I became acquainted with
another, named Paul, who was in prison in this city, but was liberated
afterward; I became acquainted with the son of Zebedee, with Linus and
Clitus and many others.  I know where they lived before the fire, I know
where they meet.  I can point out one excavation in the Vatican Hill and
a cemetery beyond the Nomentan Gate, where they celebrate their
shameless ceremonies.  I saw the Apostle Peter.  I saw how Glaucus
killed children, so that the Apostle might have something to sprinkle on
the heads of those present; and I saw Lygia, the foster-child of
Pomponia Græcina, who boasted that though unable to bring the blood of
an infant, she brought the death of an infant, for she bewitched the
little Augusta, thy daughter, O Cyrus, and thine, O Isis!"

"Dost hear, Cæsar?" asked Poppæa.

"Can that be!" exclaimed Nero.

"I could forgive wrongs done myself," continued Chilo, "but when I heard
of yours, I wanted to stab her.  Unfortunately I was stopped by the
noble Vinicius, who loves her."

"Vinicius?  But did she not flee from him?"

"She fled, but he made search for her; he could not exist without her.
For wretched pay I helped him in the search, and it was I who pointed
out to him the house in which she lived among the Christians in the
Trans-Tiber.  We went there together, and with us thy wrestler Croton,
whom the noble Vinicius hired to protect him. But Ursus, Lygia's slave,
crushed Croton.  That is a man of dreadful strength, O Lord, who can
break a bull's neck as easily as another might a poppy stalk.  Aulus and
Pomponia loved him because of that."

"By Hercules," said Nero, "the mortal who crushed Croton deserves a
statue in the Forum.  But, old man, thou art mistaken or art inventing,
for Vinicius killed Croton with a knife."

"That is how people calumniate the gods.  O lord, I myself saw Croton's
ribs breaking in the arms of Ursus, who rushed then on Vinicius and
would have killed him but for Lygia.  Vinicius was ill for a long time
after that but they nursed him in the hope that through love he would
become a Christian.  In fact, he did become a Christian."

"Vinicius?"

"Yes."

"And, perhaps, Petronius too?" inquired Tigellinus, hurriedly.

Chilo squirmed, rubbed his hands, and said,--

"I admire thy penetration, O lord.  He may have become one!  He may very
well have become one."

"Now I understand why he defended the Christians."

Nero laughed:  "Petronius a Christian!  Petronius an enemy of life and
luxury!  Be not foolish; do not ask me to believe that, since I am ready
not to believe anything."

"But the noble Vinicius became a Christian, lord.  I swear by that
radiance which comes from thee that I speak the truth, and that nothing
pierces me with such disgust as lying.  Pomponia Græcina is a Christian,
little Aulus is a Christian, Lygia is a Christian, and so is Vinicius.
I served him faithfully, and in return, at the desire of Glaucus the
physician, he gave command to flog me, though I am old and was sick and
hungry.  And I have sworn by Hades that I will not forget that for him.
O lord, avenge my wrongs on them, and I will deliver to thee Peter the
Apostle and Linus and Clitus and Glaucus and Crispus, the highest ones,
and Lygia and Ursus.  I will point out hundreds of them to you,
thousands; I will indicate their houses of prayer, the cemeteries,   all
thy prisons will not hold them!  Without me ye could not find them.  In
misfortunes I have sought consolation; hitherto in philosophy alone, now
I will find it in favors that will descend on me.  I am old, and have
not known life; let me begin."

"It is thy wish to be a Stoic before a full plate," said Nero.

"Whoso renders service to thee will fill it by that same."

"Thou art not mistaken, O philosopher."

But Poppæa did not forget her enemies.  Her fancy for Vinicius was,
indeed, rather a momentary whim, which had risen under the influence of
jealousy, anger, and wounded vanity.  Still the coolness of the young
patrician touched her deeply, and filled her heart with a stubborn
feeling of offence.  This alone, that he had dared to prefer another,
seemed to her a crime calling for vengeance.  As to Lygia, she hated her
from the first moment, when the beauty of that northern lily alarmed
her.  Petronius, who spoke of the too narrow hips of the girl, might
talk what he pleased into Cæsar, but not into the Augusta.  Poppæa the
critic understood at one cast of the eye that in all Rome Lygia alone
could rival and even surpass her.  Thenceforth she vowed her ruin.

"Lord," said she, "avenge our child."

"Hasten!" cried Chilo, "hasten!  Otherwise Vinicius will hide her. I
will point out the house to which she returned after the fire."

"I will give thee ten men, and go this moment," said Tigellinus.

"O lord! thou hast not seen Croton in the arms of Ursus; if thou wilt
give fifty men, I will only show the house from a distance.  But if ye
will not imprison Vinicius, I am lost."

Tigellinus looked at Nero.  "Would it not be well, O divinity, to finish
at once with the uncle and nephew?"

Nero thought a moment and answered,--

"No, not now.  People would not believe us if we tried to persuade them
that Petronius, Vinicius, or Pomponia Græcina had fired Rome.  Their
houses were too beautiful.  Their turn will come later; to-day other
victims are needed."

"Then, O lord, give me soldiers as a guard," said Chilo.

"See to this, Tigellinus."

"Thou wilt lodge meanwhile with me," said the prefect to Chilo.

Delight beamed from the face of the Greek.

"I will give up all! only hasten!--hasten!" cried he, with a hoarse
voice.




Chapter L


ON leaving Cæsar, Petronius had himself borne to his house on the
Carinæ, which, being surrounded on three sides by a garden, and having
in front the small Cecilian Forum, escaped the fire luckily.  For this
cause other Augustians, who had lost their houses and in them vast
wealth and many works of art, called Petronius fortunate.  For years it
had been repeated that he was the first-born of Fortune, and Cæsar's
growing friendship in recent times seemed to confirm the correctness of
this statement.

But that first-born of Fortune might meditate now on the fickleness of
his mother, or rather on her likeness to Chronos, who devoured his own
children.

"Were my house burnt," said he to himself, "and with it my gems,
Etruscan vases, Alexandrian glass, and Corinthian bronze, Nero might
indeed have forgotten the offence.  By Pollux!  And to think that it
depended on me alone to be pretorian prefect at this moment.  I should
proclaim Tigellinus the incendiary, which he is really; I should array
him in the 'painful tunic,' and deliver him to the populace, protect the
Christians, rebuild Rome.  Who knows even if a better epoch would not
begin thus for honest people?  I ought to have taken the office, simply
out of regard for Vinicius.  In case of overwork I could have
surrendered command to him, and Nero would not have even tried to
resist.  Then let Vinicius baptize all the pretorians, nay, Cæsar
himself; what harm could that be to me?  Nero pious, Nero virtuous and
merciful,--this would be even an amusing spectacle."

And his carelessness was so great that he began to laugh.  But after a
time his thoughts turned in another direction.  It seemed to him that he
was in Antium; that Paul of Tarsus was saying to him, "Ye call us
enemies of life, but answer me, Petronius: If Cæsar were a Christian,
and acted according to our religion, would not life be safer and more
certain?"

And remembering these words, he continued: "By Castor!  No matter how
many Christians they murder here, Paul will find as many new ones; for
he is right, unless the world can rest on scoundrelism.  But who knows
that this will not be the case soon?  I myself, who have learned not a
little, did not learn how to be a great enough scoundrel; hence I shall
have to open my veins.  But in every case it must have ended thus, and
if not thus, in some other way.  I am sorry for Eunice and my Myrrhene
vase; but Eunice is free, and the vase will go with me.  Ahenobarbus
will not get it, in any event!  I am sorry also for Vinicius.  But,
though I was bored less of late than before, I am ready.  In the world
things are beautiful; but people are so vile for the greater part that
life is not worth a regret.  He who knew how to live should know how to
die. Though I belong to the Augustians, I was freer than they supposed."
Here he shrugged his shoulders.  "They may think that my knees are
trembling at this moment, and that terror has raised the hair on my
head; but on reaching home, I will take a bath in violet water, my
golden-haired herself will anoint me; then after refreshment we will
have sung to us that hymn to Apollo composed by Anthemios.  I said once
to myself that it was not worth while to think of death, for death
thinks of us without our assistance.  It would be a wonder if there are
really Elysian fields, and in them shades of people.  Eunice would come
in time to me, and we should wander together over asphodel meadows.  I
should find, too, society better than this.  What buffoons, tricksters,
a vile herd without taste or polish!  Tens of Arbiters Elegantiarum
could not transform those Trimalchilons into decent people.  By
Persephone!  I have had enough!"

And he noted with astonishment that something separated him from those
people already.  He had known them well earlier, and had known what to
think of them; still they seemed to him now as farther away and more
deserving of contempt than usual.  Indeed, he had had enough of them!

But afterward he began to think over his position.  Thanks to his
acuteness, he knew that destruction was not threatening him directly.
Nero had seized an appropriate occasion to utter a few select, lofty
phrases about friendship and forgiveness, thus binding himself for the
moment.  "He will have to seek pretexts, and before he finds them much
time may pass.  First of all, he will celebrate the games with
Christians," said Petronius to himself; "only then will he think of me,
and if that be true, it is not worth while to take trouble or change my
course of life.  Nearer danger threatens Vinicius!"

And thenceforth he thought only of Vinicius, whom he resolved to rescue.
Four sturdy Bithynians bore his litter quickly through ruins, ash-heaps,
and stones with which the Carinæ was filled yet; but he commanded them
to run swiftly so as to be home at the earliest. Vinicius, whose
"insula" had been burned, was living with him, and was at home,
fortunately.

"Hast seen Lygia to-day?" were the first words of Petronius.

"I have just come from her."

"Hear what I tell thee, and lose no time in questions.  It has been
decided this morning at Cæsar's to lay the blame of burning Rome on the
Christians.  Persecutions and tortures threaten them.  Pursuit may begin
any instant.  Take Lygia and flee at once beyond the Alps even, or to
Africa.  And hasten, for the Palatine is nearer the Trans-Tiber than is
this place."

Vinicius was, indeed, too much of a soldier to lose time in useless
queries.  He listened with frowning brows, and a face intent and
terrible, but fearless.  Evidently the first feeling of his nature in
presence of peril was a wish to defend and give battle.

"I go," said he.

"One word more.  Take a purse of gold, take weapons, and a handful of
thy Christians.  In case of need, rescue her!"

Vinicius was in the door of the atrium already.

"Send me news by a slave!" cried Petronius.

When left alone, he began to walk by the columns which adorned the
atrium, thinking of what had happened.  He knew that Lygia and Linus had
returned after the fire to the former house, which, like the greater
part of the Trans-Tiber, had been saved; and that was an unfavorable
circumstance, for otherwise it would have been difficult to find them
among throngs of people.  Petronius hoped, however, that as things were,
no one in the Palatine knew where they lived, and therefore in every
case Vinicius would anticipate the pretorians.  It occurred to him also
that Tigellinus, wishing to seize at one attempt as many Christians as
possible, would extend his net over all Rome.  "If they send no more
than ten people after her," thought he, "that giant Lygian will break
their bones and what will it be if Vinicius comes with assistance?"
Thinking of this he was consoled.  True, armed resistance to the
pretorians was almost the same as war with Cæsar.  Petronius knew also
that if Vinicius hid from the vengeance of Nero, that vengeance might
fall on himself; but he cared little.  On the contrary, he rejoiced at
the thought of crossing Nero's plans and those of Tigellinus, and
determined to spare in the matter neither men nor money.  Since in
Antium Paul of Tarsus had converted most of his slaves, he, while
defending Christians, might count on their zeal and devotion.

The entrance of Eunice interrupted his thoughts.  At sight of her all
his cares and troubles vanished without a trace.  He forgot Cæsar, the
disfavor into which he had fallen, the degraded Augustians, the
persecution threatening the Christians, Vinicius, Lygia, and looked only
at her with the eyes of an anthetic man enamoured of marvellous forms,
and of a lover for whom love breathes from those forms.  She, in a
transparent violet robe called "Coa vestis," through which her maiden-
like form appeared, was really as beautiful as a goddess.  Feeling
herself admired meanwhile, and loving him with all her soul, ever eager
for his fondling, she blushed with delight as if she had been an
innocent maiden.

"What wilt thou say to me, Charis?" asked Petronius, stretching his
hands to her.

She, inclining her golden head to him, answered,--"Anthemios has come
with his choristers, and asks if 'tis thy wish to hear him."

"Let him stay; he will sing to us during dinner the hymn to Apollo. By
the groves of Paphos! when I see thee in that Coan gauze, I think that
Aphrodite has veiled herself with a piece of the sky, and is standing
before me."

"O lord!"

"Come hither, Eunice, embrace me with thy arms, and give thy lips to me.
Dost thou love me?"

"I should not have loved Zeus more."

Then she pressed her lips to his, while quivering in his arms from
happiness.  After a while Petronius asked,--

"But if we should have to separate?"

Eunice looked at him with fear in her eyes.

"How is that, lord?"

"Fear not; I ask, for who knows but I may have to set out on a long
journey?"

"Take me with thee-"

Petronius changed the conversation quickly, and said,--

"Tell me, are there asphodels on the grass plot in the garden?"

"The cypresses and the grass plots are yellow from the fire, the leaves
have fallen from the myrtles, and the whole garden seems dead."

"All Rome seems dead, and soon it will be a real graveyard.  Dost thou
know that an edict against the Christians is to be issued, and a
persecution will begin during which thousands will perish?"

"Why punish the Christians, lord?  They are good and peaceful."

"For that very reason."

"Let us go to the sea.  Thy beautiful eyes do not like to see blood."

"Well, but meanwhile I must bathe.  Come to the elæothesium to anoint my
arms.  By the girdle of Kypris! never hast thou seemed to me so
beautiful.  I will give command to make a bath for thee in the form of a
shell; thou wilt be like a costly pearl in it.  Come, Golden-haired!"

He went out, and an hour later both, in garlands of roses and with misty
eyes, were resting before a table covered with a service of gold.  They
were served by boys dressed as Cupids, they drank wine from ivy-wreathed
goblets, and heard the hymn to Apollo sung to the sound of harps, under
direction of Anthemios.  What cared they if around the villa chimneys
pointed up from the ruins of houses, and gusts of wind swept the ashes
of burnt Rome in every direction?  They were happy thinking only of
love, which had made their lives like a divine dream.  But before the
hymn was finished a slave, the chief of the atrium, entered the hall.

"Lord," said he, in a voice quivering with alarm, "a centurion with a
detachment of pretorians is standing before the gate, and, at command of
Cæsar, wishes to see thee."

The song and the sound of lutes ceased.  Alarm was roused in all
present; for Cæsar, in communications with friends, did not employ
pretorians usually, and their arrival at such times foreboded no good.
Petronius alone showed not the slightest emotion, but said, like a man
annoyed by continual visits,--

"They might let me dine in peace."  Then turning to the chief of the
atrium, he said, "Let him enter."

The slave disappeared behind the curtain; a moment later heavy steps
were heard, and an acquaintance of Petronius appeared, the centurion
Aper, armed, and with an iron helmet on his head.

"Noble lord," said he, "here is a letter from Cæsar."

Petronius extended his white hand lazily, took the tablet, and, casting
his eye over it, gave it, in all calmness to Eunice.

"He will read a new book of the Troyad this evening, and invites me to
come.'

"I have only the order to deliver the letter," said the centurion.

"Yes, there will be no answer.  But, centurion, thou mightst rest a
while with us and empty a goblet of wine?"

"Thanks to thee, noble lord.  A goblet of wine I will drink to thy
health willingly; but rest I may not, for I am on duty."

"Why was the letter given to thee, and not sent by a slave?"

"I know not, lord.  Perhaps because I was sent in this direction on
other duty."

"I know, against the Christians?"

"Yes, lord."

"Is it long since the pursuit was begun?"

"Some divisions were sent to the Trans-Tiber before midday." When he had
said this, the centurion shook a little wine from the goblet in honor of
Mars; then he emptied it, and said,--

"May the gods grant thee, lord, what thou desirest."

"Take the goblet too," said Petronius.

Then he gave a sign to Anthemios to finish the hymn to Apollo.

"Bronzebeard is beginning to play with me and Vinicius," thought he,
when the harps sounded anew.  "I divine his plan!  He wanted to terrify
me by sending the invitation through a centurion.  They will ask the
centurion in the evening how I received him.  No, no! thou wilt not
amuse thyself overmuch, cruel and wicked prophet.  I know that thou wilt
not forget the offence, I know that my destruction will not fail; but if
thou think that I shall look into thy eyes imploringly, that thou wilt
see fear and humility on my face, thou art mistaken."

"Cæsar writes, lord," said Eunice, "'Come if thou hast the wish'; wilt
thou go?"

"I am in excellent health, and can listen even to his verses," answered
Petronius; "hence I shall go, all the more since Vinicius cannot go."

In fact, after the dinner was finished and after the usual walk, he gave
himself into the hands of hairdressers and of slaves who arranged his
robes, and an hour later, beautiful as a god, he gave command to take
him to the Palatine.

It was late, the evening was warm and calm; the moon shone so brightly
that the lampadarii going before the litter put out their torches.  On
the streets and among the ruins crowds of people were pushing along,
drunk with wine, in garlands of ivy and honeysuckle, bearing in their
hands branches of myrtle and laurel taken from Cæsar's gardens.
Abundance of grain and hopes of great games filled the hearts of all
with gladness.  Here and there songs were sung magnifying the "divine
night" and love; here and there they were dancing by the light of the
moon, and the slaves were forced repeatedly to demand space for the
litter "of the noble Petronius," and then the crowd pushed apart,
shouting in honor of their favorite.

He was thinking of Vinicius, and wondering why he had no news from him.
He was an Epicurean and an egotist, but passing time, now with Paul of
Tarsus, now with Vinicius, hearing daily of the Christians, he had
changed somewhat without his own knowledge. A certain breeze from them
had blown on him; this cast new seeds into his soul.  Besides his own
person others began to occupy him; moreover, he had been always attached
to Vinicius, for in childhood he had loved greatly his sister, the
mother of Vinicius; at present, therefore, when he had taken part in his
affairs, he looked on them with that interest with which he would have
looked on some tragedy.

Petronius did not lose hope that Vinicius had anticipated the pretorians
and fled with Lygia, or, in the worse case, had rescued her.  But he
would have preferred to be certain, since he foresaw that he might have
to answer various questions for which he would better be prepared.

Stopping before the house of Tiberius, he alighted from the litter, and
after a while entered the atrium, filled already with Augustians.
Yesterday's friends, though astonished that he was invited, still pushed
back; but he moved on among them, beautiful, free, unconcerned, as self-
confident as if he himself had the power to distribute favors.  Some,
seeing him thus, were alarmed in spirit lest they had shown him
indifference too early.

Cæsar, however, feigned not to see him, and did not return his
obeisance, pretending to be occupied in conversation.  But Tigellinus
approached and said,

"Good evening, Arbiter Elegantiarum.  Dost thou assert still that it was
not the Christians who burnt Rome?"

Petronius shrugged his shoulders, and, clapping Tigellinus on the back
as he would a freedman, answered,--

"Thou knowest as well as I what to think of that."

"I do not dare to rival thee in wisdom."

"And thou art right, for when Cæsar reads to us a new book from the
Troyad, thou, instead of crying out like a jackdaw, wouldst have to give
an opinion that was not pointless."

Tigellinus bit his lips.  He was not over-rejoiced that Cæsar had
decided to read a new book, for that opened a field in which he could
not rival Petronius.  In fact, during the reading, Nero, from habit,
turned his eyes involuntarily toward Petronius, looking carefully to see
what he could read in his face.  The latter listened, raised his brows,
agreed at times, in places increased his attention as if to be sure that
he heard correctly.  Then he praised or criticised, demanded corrections
or the smoothing of certain verses.  Nero himself felt that for others
in their exaggerated praises it was simply a question of themselves,
that Petronius alone was occupied with poetry for its own sake; that he
alone understood it, and that if he praised one could be sure that the
verses deserved praise.  Gradually therefore he began to discuss with
him, to dispute; and when at last Petronius brought the fitness of a
certain expression into doubt, he said,--

"Thou wilt see in the last book why I used it."

"Ah," thought Petronius, "then we shall wait for the last book."

More than one hearing this said in spirit: "Woe to me!  Petronius with
time before him may return to favor and overturn even Tigellinus."  And
they began again to approach him.  But the end of the evening was less
fortunate; for Cæsar, at the moment when Petronius was taking leave,
inquired suddenly, with blinking eyes and a face at once glad and
malicious,--

"But why did not Vinicius come?"

Had Petronius been sure that Vinicius and Lygia were beyond the gates of
the city, he would have answered, "With thy permission he has married
and gone."  But seeing Nero's strange smile, he answered,--

"Thy invitation, divinity, did not find him at home."

"Say to Vinicius that I shall be glad to see him," answered Nero, "and
tell him from me not to neglect the games in which Christians will
appear."

These words alarmed Petronius.  It seemed to him that they related to
Lygia directly.  Sitting in his litter, he gave command to bear him home
still more quickly than in the morning.  That, however, was not easy.
Before the house of Tiberius stood a crowd dense and noisy, drunk as
before, though not singing and dancing, but, as it were, excited.  From
afar came certain shouts which Petronius could not understand at once,
but which rose and grew till at last they were one savage roar,--

"To the lions with Christians!"

Rich litters of courtiers pushed through the howling rabble.  From the
depth of burnt streets new crowds rushed forth continually; these,
hearing the cry, repeated it.  News passed from mouth to mouth that the
pursuit had continued from the forenoon, that a multitude of
incendiaries were seized; and immediately along the newly cleared and
the old streets, through alleys lying among ruins around the Palatine,
over all the hills and gardens were heard through the length and breadth
of Rome shouts of swelling rage,--

"To the lions with Christians!"

"Herd!" repeated Petronius, with contempt; "a people worthy of Cæsar!"
And he began to think that a society resting on superior force, on
cruelty of which even barbarians had no conception, on crimes and mad
profligacy, could not endure.  Rome ruled the world, but was also its
ulcer.  The odor of a corpse was rising from it.  Over its decaying life
the shadow of death was descending. More than once this had been
mentioned even among the Augustians, but never before had Petronius had
a clearer view of this truth that the laurelled chariot on which Rome
stood in the form of a triumphator, and which dragged behind a chained
herd of nations, was going to the precipice.  The life of that world-
ruling city seemed to him a kind of mad dance, an orgy, which must end.
He saw then that the Christians alone had a new basis of life; but he
judged that soon there would not remain a trace of the Christians.  And
what then?

The mad dance would continue under Nero; and if Nero disappeared,
another would be found of the same kind or worse, for with such a people
and such patricians there was no reason to find a better leader.  There
would be a new orgy, and moreover a fouler and a viler one.

But the orgy could not last forever, and there would be need of sleep
when it was over, even because of simple exhaustion.

While thinking of this, Petronius felt immensely wearied.  Was it worth
while to live, and live in uncertainty, with no purpose but to look at
such a society?  The genius of death was not less beautiful than the
genius of sleep, and he also had wings at his shoulders.

The litter stopped before the arbiter's door, which was opened that
instant by the watchful keeper.

"Has the noble Vinicius returned?" inquired Petronius.

"Yes, lord, a moment ago," replied the slave.

"He has not rescued her," thought Petronius.  And casting aside his
toga, he ran into the atrium.  Vinicius was sitting on a stool; his head
bent almost to his knees with his hands on his head; but at the sound of
steps he raised his stony face, in which the eyes alone had a feverish
brightness.

"Thou wert late?" asked Petronius.

"Yes; they seized her before midday."

A moment of silence followed.

"Hast thou seen her?"

"Yes."

"Where is she?"

"In the Mamertine prison."

Petronius trembled and looked at Vinicius with an inquiring glance.  The
latter understood.

"No," said he.  "She was not thrust down to the Tullianum [The lowest
part of the prison, lying entirely underground, with a single opening in
the ceiling.  Jugurtha died there of hunger.] nor even to the middle
prison.  I paid the guard to give her his own room.  Ursus took his
place at the threshold and is guarding her."

"Why did Ursus not defend her?"

"They sent fifty pretorians, and Linus forbade him."

"But Linus?"

"Linus is dying; therefore they did not seize him."

"What is thy intention?"

"To save her or die with her.  I too believe in Christ."

Vinicius spoke with apparent calmness; but there was such despair in his
voice that the heart of Petronius quivered from pure pity.

"I understand thee," said he; "but how dost thou think to save her?"

"I paid the guards highly, first to shield her from indignity, and
second not to hinder her flight."

"When can that happen?"

"They answered that they could not give her to me at once, as they
feared responsibility.  When the prison will be filled with a multitude
of people, and when the tally of prisoners is confused, they will
deliver her.  But that is a desperate thing!  Do thou save her, and me
first!  Thou art a friend of Cæsar.  He himself gave her to me.  Go to
him and save me!"

Petronius, instead of answering, called a slave, and, commanding him to
bring two dark mantles and two swords, turned to Vinicius,

"On the way I will tell thee," said he.  "Meanwhile take the mantle and
weapon, and we will go to the prison.  There give the guards a hundred
thousand sestertia; give them twice and five times more, if they will
free Lygia at once.  Otherwise it will be too late."

"Let us go," said Vinicius.

After a while both were on the street.

"Now listen to me," said Petronius.  "I did not wish to lose time.  I am
in disfavor, beginning with to-day.  My own life is hanging on a hair;
hence I can do nothing with Cæsar.  Worse than that, I am sure that he
would act in opposition to my request.  If that were not the case, would
I advise thee to flee with Lygia or to rescue her? Besides, if thou
escape, Cæsar's wrath will turn on me.  To-day he would rather do
something at thy request than at mine.  Do not count on that, however.
Get her out of the prison, and flee! Nothing else is left.  If that does
not succeed, there will be time for other methods.  Meanwhile know that
Lygia is in prison, not alone for belief in Christ; Poppæa's anger is
pursuing her and thee.  Thou hast offended the Augusta by rejecting her,
dost remember?  She knows that she was rejected for Lygia, whom she
hated from the first cast of the eye.  Nay, she tried to destroy Lygia
before by ascribing the death of her own infant to her witchcraft.  The
hand of Poppæa is in this.  How explain that Lygia was the first to be
imprisoned?  Who could point out the house of Linus?  But I tell thee
that she has been followed this long time.  I know that I wring thy
soul, and take the remnant of thy hope from thee, but I tell thee this
purposely, for the reason that if thou free her not before they come at
the idea that thou wilt try, ye are both lost."

"Yes; I understand!" muttered Vinicius.

The streets were empty because of the late hour.  Their further
conversation was interrupted, however, by a drunken gladiator who came
toward them.  He reeled against Petronius, put one hand on his shoulder,
covering his face with a breath filled with wine, and shouted in a
hoarse voice,--

"To the lions with Christians!"

"Mirmillon," answered Petronius, quietly, "listen to good counsel; go
thy way."

With his other hand the drunken man seized him by the arm,--

"Shout with me, or I'll break thy neck: Christians to the lions!"  But
the arbiter's nerves had had enough of those shouts.  From the time that
he had left the Palatine they had been stifling him like a nightmare,
and rending his ears.  So when he saw the fist of the giant above him,
the measure of his patience was exceeded.

"Friend," said he, "thou hint the smell of wine, and art stopping my
way."

Thus speaking, he drove into the man's breast to the hilt the short
sword which he had brought from home; then, taking the arm of Vinicius,
he continued as if nothing had happened,--

"Cæsar said to-day, 'Tell Vinicius from me to be at the games in which
Christians will appear.' Dost understand what that means?  They wish to
make a spectacle of thy pain.  That is a settled affair. Perhaps that is
why thou and I are not imprisoned yet.  If thou art not able to get her
at once--I do not know--Acte might take thy part; but can she effect
anything?  Thy Sicilian lands, too, might tempt Tigellinus.  Make the
trial."

"I will give him all that I have," answered Vinicius.

From the Carinæ to the Forum was not very far; hence they arrived soon.
The night had begun to pale, and the walls of the castle came out
definitely from the shadow.

Suddenly, as they turned toward the Mamertine prison, Petronius stopped,
and said,

"Pretorians!  Too late!"

In fact the prison was surrounded by a double rank of soldiers.  The
morning dawn was silvering their helmets and the points of their
javelins.

Vinicius grew as pale as marble.  "Let us go on," said he.

After a while they halted before the line.  Gifted with an uncommon
memory, Petronius knew not only the officers, but nearly all the
pretorian soldiers.  Soon he saw an acquaintance, a leader of a cohort,
and nodded to him.

"But what is this, Niger?" asked he; "are ye commanded to watch the
prison?"

"Yes, noble Petronius.  The prefect feared lest they might try to rescue
the incendiaries."

"Have ye the order to admit no one?" inquired Vinicius.

"We have not; acquaintances will visit the prisoners, and in that way we
shall seize more Christians."

"Then let me in," said Vinicius; and pressing Petronius's hand, he said,
"See Acte, I will come to learn her answer."

"Come," responded Petronius.

At that moment under the ground and beyond the thick walls was heard
singing.  The hymn, at first low and muffled, rose more and more.  The
voices of men, women, and children were mingled in one harmonious
chorus.  The whole prison began to sound, in the calmness of dawn, like
a harp.  But those were not voices of sorrow or despair; on the
contrary, gladness and triumph were heard in them.

The soldiers looked at one another with amazement.  The first golden and
rosy gleams of the morning appeared in the sky.




Chapter LI


THE cry, "Christians to the lions!" was heard increasingly in every part
of the city.  At first not only did no one doubt that they were the real
authors of the catastrophe, but no one wished to doubt, since their
punishment was to be a splendid amusement for the populace.  Still the
opinion spread that the catastrophe would not have assumed such dreadful
proportions but for the anger of the gods; for this reason "piacula," or
purifying sacrifices, were commanded in the temples.  By advice of the
Sibylline books, the Senate ordained solemnities and public prayer to
Vulcan, Ceres, and Proserpina.  Matrons made offerings to Juno; a whole
procession of them went to the seashore to take water and sprinkle with
it the statue of the goddess.  Married women prepared feasts to the gods
and night watches.  All Rome purified itself from sin, made offerings,
and placated the Immortals.  Meanwhile new broad streets were opened
among the ruins.  In one place and another foundations were laid for
magnificent houses, palaces, and temples.  But first of all they built
with unheard-of haste an enormous wooden amphitheatre in which
Christians were to die. Immediately after that consultation in the house
of Tiberius, orders went to consuls to furnish wild beasts.  Tigellinus
emptied the vivaria of all Italian cities, not excepting the smaller
ones.  In Africa, at his command, gigantic hunts were organized, in
which the entire local population was forced to take part.  Elephants
and tigers were brought in from Asia, crocodiles and hippopotamuses from
the Nile, lions from the Atlas, wolves and bears from the Pyrenees,
savage hounds from Hibernia, Molossian dogs from Epirus, bisons and the
gigantic wild aurochs from Germany. Because of the number of prisoners,
the games were to surpass in greatness anything seen up to that time.
Cæsar wished to drown all memory of the fire in blood, and make Rome
drunk with it; hence never had there been a greater promise of
bloodshed.

The willing people helped guards and pretorians in hunting Christians.
That was no difficult labor for whole groups of them camped with the
other population in the midst of the gardens, and confessed their faith
openly.  When surrounded, they knelt, and while singing hymns let
themselves be borne away without resistance.  But their patience only
increased the anger of the populace, who, not understanding its origin,
considered it as rage and persistence in crime.  A madness seized the
persecutors.  It happened that the mob wrested Christians from
pretorians, and tore them to pieces; women were dragged to prison by the
hair; children's heads were dashed against stones.  Thousands of people
rushed, howling, night and day through the streets.  Victims were sought
in ruins, in chimneys, in cellars.  Before the prison bacchanalian
feasts and dances were celebrated at fires, around casks of wine.

In the evening was heard with delight bellowing which was like thunder,
and which sounded throughout the city.  The prisons were overflowing
with thousands of people; every day the mob and pretorians drove in new
victims.  Pity had died out.  It seemed that people had forgotten to
speak, and in their wild frenzy remembered one shout alone: "To the
lions with Christians!" Wonderfully hot days came, and nights more
stifling than ever before; the very air seemed filled with blood, crime,
and madness.

And that surpassing measure of cruelty was answered by an equal measure
of desire for martyrdom,--the confessors of Christ went to death
willingly, or even sought death till they were restrained by the stern
commands of superiors.  By the injunction of these superiors they began
to assemble only outside the city, in excavations near the Appian Way,
and in vineyards belonging to patrician Christians, of whom none had
been imprisoned so far.  It was known perfectly on the Palatine that to
the confessors of Christ belonged Flavius, Domitilla, Pomponia Græcina,
Cornelius Pudens, and Vinicius.  Cæsar himself, however, feared that the
mob would not believe that such people had burned Rome, and since it was
important beyond everything to convince the mob, punishment and
vengeance were deferred till later days.  Others were of the opinion,
but erroneously, that those patricians were saved by the influence of
Acte.  Petronius, after parting with Vinicius, turned to Acte, it is
true, to gain assistance for Lygia; but she could offer him only tears,
for she lived in oblivion and suffering, and was endured only in so far
as she hid herself from Poppæa and Cæsar.

But she had visited Lygia in prison, she had carried her clothing and
food, and above all had saved her from injury on the part of the prison-
guards, who, moreover, were bribed already.

Petronius, unable to forget that had it not been for him and his plan of
taking Lygia from the house of Aulus, probably she would not be in
prison at that moment, and, besides, wishing to win the game against
Tigellinus, spared neither time nor efforts.  In the course of a few
days he saw Seneca, Domitius Afer, Crispinilla, and Diodorus, through
whom he wished to reach Poppæa; he saw Terpnos, and the beautiful
Pythagoras, and finally Aliturus and Paris, to whom Cæsar usually
refused nothing.  With the help of Chrysothemis, then mistress of
Vatinius, he tried to gain even his aid, not sparing in this case and in
others promises and money.

But all these efforts were fruitless.  Seneca, uncertain of the morrow,
fell to explaining to him that the Christians, even if they had not
burned Rome, should be exterminated, for the good of the city,--in a
word, he justified the coming slaughter for political reasons.  Terpnos
and Diodorus took the money, and did nothing in return for it.  Vatinius
reported to Cæsar that they had been trying to bribe him.  Aliturus
alone, who at first was hostile to the Christians, took pity on them
then, and made bold to mention to Cæsar the imprisoned maiden, and to
implore in her behalf.  He obtained nothing, however, but the answer,--

"Dost thou think that I have a soul inferior to that of Brutus, who
spared not his own sons for the good of Rome?"

When this answer was repeated to Petronius, he said,--

"Since Nero has compared himself to Brutus, there is no salvation."

But he was sorry for Vinicius, and dread seized him lest he might
attempt his own life.  "Now," thought the arbiter, "he is upheld by the
efforts which he makes to save her, by the sight of her, and by his own
suffering; but when all means fail and the last ray of hope is quenched,
by Castor! he will not survive, he will throw himself on his sword."
Petronius understood better how to die thus than to love and suffer like
Vinicius.

Meanwhile Vinicius did all that he could think of to save Lygia. He
visited Augustians; and he, once so proud, now begged their assistance.
Through Vitelius he offered Tigellinus all his Sicilian estates, and
whatever else the man might ask; but Tigellinus, not wishing apparently
to offend the Augusta, refused.  To go to Cæsar himself, embrace his
knees and implore, would lead to nothing. Vinicius wished, it is true,
to do this; but Petronius, hearing of his purpose, inquired,--

"But should he refuse thee, or answer with a jest or a shameless threat,
what wouldst thou do?"

At this the young tribune's features contracted with pain and rage, and
from his fixed jaws a gritting sound was heard.

"Yes," said Petronius, "I advise thee against this, because thou wouldst
close all paths of rescue."

Vinicius restrained himself, and passing his palm over his forehead,
which was covered with cold sweat, replied,--

"No, no!  I am a Christian."

"But thou will forget this, as thou didst a moment ago.  Thou hast the
right to ruin thyself, but not her.  Remember what the daughter of
Sejanus passed through before death."

Speaking thus he was not altogether sincere, since he was concerned more
for Vinicius than for Lygia.  Still he knew that in no way could he
restrain him from a dangerous step as well as by telling him that he
would bring inexorable destruction on Lygia. Moreover he was right; for
on the Palatine they had counted on the visit of the young tribune, and
had taken needful precautions.

But the suffering of Vinicius surpassed human endurance.  From the
moment that Lygia was imprisoned and the glory of coming martyrdom had
fallen on her, not only did he love her a hundred times more, but he
began simply to give her in his soul almost religious honor, as he would
a superhuman being.  And now, at the thought that he must lose this
being both loved and holy, that besides death torments might be
inflicted on her more terrible than death itself, the blood stiffened in
his veins.  His soul was turned into one groan, his thoughts were
confused.  At times it seemed to him that his skull was filled with
living fire, which would either burn or burst it.  He ceased to
understand what was happening; he ceased to understand why Christ, the
Merciful, the Divine, did not come with aid to His adherents; why the
dingy walls of the Palatine did not sink through the earth, and with
them Nero, the Augustians, the pretorian camp, and all that city of
crime.  He thought that it could not and should not be otherwise; and
all that his eyes saw, and because of which his heart was breaking, was
a dream.  But the roaring of wild beasts informed him that it was
reality; the sound of the axes beneath which rose the arena told him
that it was reality; the howling of the people and the overfilled
prisons confirmed this.  Then his faith in Christ was alarmed; and that
alarm was a new torture, the most dreadful of all, perhaps.

"Remember what the daughter of Sejanus endured before death," said
Petronius to him, meanwhile.




Chapter LII


AND everything had failed.  Vinicius lowered himself to the degree that
he sought support from freedmen and slaves, both those of Cæsar and
Poppæa; he overpaid their empty promises, he won their good will with
rich gifts.  He found the first husband of Poppæa, Rufus Crispinus, and
obtained from him a letter.  He gave a villa in Antium to Rufius, her
son by the first marriage; but thereby he merely angered Cæsar, who
hated his step-son.  By a special courier he sent a letter to Poppæa's
second husband, Otho, in Spain.  He sacrificed his property and himself,
until he saw at last that he was simply the plaything of people; that if
he had pretended that the imprisonment of Lygia concerned him little, he
would have freed her sooner.

Petronius saw this, too.  Meanwhile day followed day.  The amphitheatre
was finished.  The "tesseræ" were distributed,--that is, tickets of
entrance, to the ludus matutinus (morning games). But this time the
morning games, because of the unheard-of number of victims, were to
continue for days, weeks, and months. It was not known where to put the
Christians.  The prisons were crammed, and fever was raging in them.
The puticuli--common pits in which slaves were kept--began to be
overfilled.  There was fear that diseases might spread over the whole
city hence, haste.

All these reports struck the ears of Vinicius, extinguishing in him the
last hope.  While there was yet time, he might delude himself with the
belief that he could do something, but now there was no time.  The
spectacles must begin.  Lygia might find herself any day in a cuniculum
of the circus, whence the only exit was to the arena.  Vinicius, not
knowing whither fate and the cruelty of superior force might throw her,
visited all the circuses, bribed guards and beast-keepers, laying before
them plans which they could not execute.  In time he saw that he was
working for this only,--to make death less terrible to her; and just
then he felt that instead of brains he had glowing coals in his head.

For the rest he had no thought of surviving her, and determined to
perish at the same time.  But he feared lest pain might burn his life
out before the dreadful hour came.  His friends and Petronius thought
also that any day might open the kingdom of shadows before him.  His
face was black, and resembled those waxen masks kept in lararia.  In his
features astonishment had grown frigid, as if he hid no understanding of
what had happened and what might happen.  When any one spoke to him, he
raised his hands to his face mechanically, and, pressing his temples,
looked at the speaker with an inquiring and astonished gaze.  He passed
whole nights with Ursus at Lygia's door in the prison; if she commanded
him to go away and rest, he returned to Petronius, and walked in the
atrium till morning.  The slaves found him frequently kneeling with
upraised hands or lying with his face to the earth.  He prayed to
Christ, for Christ was his last hope.  Everything had failed him. Only a
miracle could save Lygia; hence he beat the stone flags with his
forehead and prayed for the miracle.

But he knew enough yet to understand that Peter's prayers were more
important than his own.  Peter had promised him Lygia, Peter had
baptized him, Peter had performed miracles, let him give aid and rescue.

And a certain night he went to seek the Apostle.  The Christians, of
whom not many remained, had concealed him now carefully even from other
brethren, lest any of the weaker in spirit might betray him wittingly or
unwittingly.  Vinicius, amid the general confusion and disaster,
occupied also in efforts to get Lygia out of prison, had lost sight of
Peter, he had barely seen him once from the time of his own baptism till
the beginning of the persecution.  But betaking himself to that
quarryman in whose hut he was baptized, he learned that there would be a
meeting outside the Porta Salaria in a vineyard which belonged to
Cornelius Pudens.  The quarryman offered to guide him, and declared that
he would find Peter there. They started about dusk, and, passing beyond
the wall, through hollows overgrown with reeds, reached the vineyard in
a wild and lonely place.  The meeting was held in a wine-shed.  As
Vinicius drew near, the murmur of prayer reached his ears.  On entering
he saw by dim lamplight a few tens of kneeling figures sunk in prayer.
They were saying a kind of litany; a chorus of voices, male and female,
repeated every moment, "Christ have mercy on us."  In those voices,
deep, piercing sadness and sorrow were heard.

Peter was present.  He was kneeling in front of the others, before a
wooden cross nailed to the wall of the shed, and was praying. From a
distance Vinicius recognized his white hair and his upraised hands.  The
first thought of the young patrician was to pass through the assembly,
cast himself at the Apostle's feet, and cry, "Save!" but whether it was
the solemnity of the prayer, or because weakness bent the knees under
Vinicius, he began to repeat while he groaned and clasped his hands:
"Christ have mercy!"  Had he been conscious, he would have understood
that his was not the only prayer in which there was a groan; that he was
not the only one who had brought with him his pain, alarm, and grief.
There was not in that assembly one soul which had not lost persons dear
to the heart; and when the most zealous and courageous confessors were
in prison already, when with every moment new tidings were borne about
of insults and tortures inflicted on them in the prisons, when the
greatness of the calamity exceeded every imagination, when only that
handful remained, there was not one heart there which was not terrified
in its faith, which did not ask doubtfully, Where is Christ? and why
does He let evil be mightier than God?  Meanwhile they implored Him
despairingly for mercy, since in each soul there still smouldered a
spark of hope that He would come, hurl Nero into the abyss, and rule the
world.  They looked yet toward the sky; they listened yet; they prayed
yet with trembling.  Vinicius, too, in proportion as they repeated,
"Christ have mercy on us!" was seized by such an ecstasy as formerly in
the quarryman's hut.  Now from the depths they call on Him in the
profoundness of their sorrow, now Peter calls on Him; so any moment the
heavens may be rent, the earth tremble to its foundations, and He appear
in infinite glory, with stars at His feet, merciful, but awful.  He will
raise up the faithful, and command the abysses to swallow the
persecutors.

Vinicius covered his face with both hands, and bowed to the earth.
Immediately silence was around him, as if fear had stopped further
breathing on the lips of all present.  And it seemed to him that
something must happen surely, that a moment of miracle would follow.  He
felt certain that when he rose and opened his eyes he would see a light
from which mortal eyes would be blinded, and hear a voice from which
hearts would grow faint.

But the silence was unbroken.  It was interrupted at last by the sobbing
of women.  Vinicius rose and looked forward with dazed eyes.  In the
shed, instead of glories not of earth, shone the faint gleam of
lanterns, and rays of the moon, entering through an opening in the roof,
filled the place with silvery light.  The people kneeling around
Vinicius raised their tearful eyes toward the cross in silence; here and
there sobbing was heard, and from outside came the warning whistles of
watchmen.  Meanwhile Peter rose, and, turning to the assembly, said,

"Children, raise your hearts to the Redeemer and offer Him your tears."

After that he was silent.

All at once was heard the voice of a woman, full of sorrowful complaint
and pain,--

"I am a widow; I had one son who supported me.  Give him back, O Lord!"
Silence followed again.  Peter was standing before the kneeling
audience, old, full of care.  In that moment he seemed to them
decrepitude and weakness personified.  With that a second voice began to
complain,

"Executioners insulted my daughter, and Christ permitted them!"

Then a third,--

"I alone have remained to my children, and when I am taken who will give
them bread and water?"

Then a fourth,--

"Linus, spared at first, they have taken now and put to torture, O
Lord!"

Then a fifth,

"When we return to our houses, pretorians will seize us.  We know not
where to hide."

"Woe to us!  Who will protect us?"

And thus in that silence of the night complaint after complaint was
heard.  The old fisherman closed his eyes and shook his white head over
that human pain and fear.  New silence followed; the watchman merely
gave out low whistles beyond the shed.

Vinicius sprang up again, so as to break through the crowd to the
Apostle and demand salvation; but on a sudden he saw before him, as it
were, a precipice, the sight of which took strength from his feet.  What
if the Apostle were to confess his own weakness, affirm that the Roman
Cæsar was stronger than Christ the Nazarene? And at that thought terror
raised the hair on his head, for he felt that in such a case not only
the remnant of his hope would fall into that abyss, but with it he
himself, and all through which he had life, and there would remain only
night and death, resembling a shoreless sea.

Meanwhile Peter began to speak in a voice so low at first that it was
barely possible to hear him,--

"My children, on Golgotha I saw them nail God to the cross.  I heard the
hammers, and I saw them raise the cross on high, so that the rabble
might gaze at the death of the Son of Man.  I saw them open His side,
and I saw Him die.  When returning from the cross, I cried in pain, as
ye are crying, 'Woe! woe!  O Lord, Thou art God! Why hast Thou permitted
this?  Why hast Thou died, and why hast Thou tormented the hearts of us
who believed that Thy kingdom would come?'

"But He, our Lord and God, rose from the dead the third day, and was
among us till He entered His kingdom in great glory.

"And we, seeing our little faith, became strong in heart, and from that
time we are sowing His grain."

Here, turning toward the place whence the first complaint came, he began
in a voice now stronger,--

"Why do ye complain?  God gave Himself to torture and death, and ye wish
Him to shield you from the same.  People of little faith, have ye
received His teaching?  Has He promised you nothing but life?  He comes
to you and says, 'Follow in my path.' He raises you to Himself, and ye
catch at this earth with your hands, crying, 'Lord, save us!' I am dust
before God, but before you I am His apostle and viceregent.  I speak to
you in the name of Christ.  Not death is before you, but life; not
tortures, but endless delights; not tears and groans, but singing; not
bondage, but rule!  I, God's apostle, say this: O widow, thy son will
not die; he will be born into glory, into eternal life, and thou wilt
rejoin him!  To thee, O father, whose innocent daughter was defiled by
executioners, I promise that thou shalt find her whiter than the lilies
of Hebron! To you, mothers, whom they are tearing away from your
orphans; to you who lose fathers; to you who complain; to you who will
see the death of loved ones; to you the careworn, the unfortunate, the
timid; to you who must die,--in the name of Christ I declare that ye
will wake as if from sleep to a happy waking, as if from night to the
light of God.  In the name of Christ, let the beam fall from your eyes,
and let your hearts be inflamed."

When he had said this, he raised his hand as if commanding, and they
felt new blood in their veins, and also a quiver in their bones; for
before them was standing, not a decrepit and careworn old man, but a
potentate, who took their souls and raised them from dust and terror.

"Amen!" called a number of voices.

From the Apostle's eyes came a light ever increasing, power issued from
him, majesty issued from him, and holiness.  Heads bent before him, and
he, when the "Amen" ceased, continued:--

"Ye sow in tears to reap in joy.  Why fear ye the power of evil? Above
the earth, above Rome, above the walls of cities is the Lord, who has
taken His dwelling within you.  The stones will be wet from tears, the
sand steeped in blood, the valleys will be filled with your bodies, but
I say that ye are victorious.  The Lord is advancing to the conquest of
this city of crime, oppression, and pride, and ye are His legions!  He
redeemed with His own blood and torture the sins of the world; so He
wishes that ye should redeem with torture and blood this nest of
injustice.  This He announces to you through my lips."

And he opened his arms, and fixed his eyes upward; the hearts almost
ceased to beat in their breasts, for they felt that his glance beheld
something which their mortal sight could not see.

In fact, his face had changed, and was overspread with serenity; he
gazed some time in silence, as if speechless from ecstasy, but after a
while they heard his voice,--

"Thou art here, O Lord, and dost show Thy ways to me.  True, O Christ!
Not in Jerusalem, but in this city of Satan wilt Thou fix Thy capital.
Here out of these tears and this blood dost Thou wish to build Thy
Church.  Here, where Nero rules to-day, Thy eternal kingdom is to stand.
Thine, O Lord, O Lord!  And Thou commandest these timid ones to form the
foundation of Thy holy Zion of their bones, and Thou commandest my
spirit to assume rule over it, and over peoples of the earth.  And Thou
art pouring the fountain of strength on the weak, so that they become
strong; and now Thou commandest me to feed Thy sheep from this spot, to
the end of ages.  Oh, be Thou praised in Thy decrees by which Thou
commandest to conquer.  Hosanna!  Hosanna!"

Those who were timid rose; into those who doubted streams of faith
flowed.  Some voices cried, "Hosanna!" others, "Pro Christo!" Then
silence followed.  Bright summer lightning illuminated the interior of
the shed, and the pale, excited faces.

Peter, fixed in a vision, prayed a long time yet; but conscious at last,
he turned his inspired face, full of light, to the assembly, and said,--

"This is how the Lord has overcome doubt in you; so ye will go to
victory in His name."

And though he knew that they would conquer, though he knew what would
grow out of their tears and blood, still his voice quivered with emotion
when he was blessing them with the cross, and he said,--

"Now I bless you, my children, as ye go to torture, to death, to
eternity."

They gathered round him and wept.  "We are ready," said they; "but do
thou, O holy head, guard thyself, for thou art the viceregent who
performs the office of Christ."

And thus speaking, they seized his mantle; he placed his hands on their
heads, and blessed each one separately, just as a father does children
whom he is sending on a long journey.

And they began at once to go out of the shed, for they were in a hurry,
to their houses, and from them to the prisons and arenas. Their thoughts
were separated from the earth, their souls had taken flight toward
eternity, and they walked on as if in a dream, in ecstasy opposing that
force which was in them to the force and the cruelty of the "Beast."

Nereus, the servant of Pudens, took the Apostle and led him by a secret
path in the vineyard to his house.  But Vinicius followed them in the
clear night, and when they reached the cottage of Nereus at last, he
threw himself suddenly at the feet of the Apostle.

"What dost thou wish, my Son?" asked Peter, recognizing him.

After what he had heard in the vineyard, Vinicius dared not implore him
for anything; but, embracing his feet with both hands, he pressed his
forehead to them with sobbing, and called for compassion in that dumb
manner.

"I know.  They took the maiden whom thou lovest.  Pray for her."

"Lord," groaned Vinicius, embracing his feet still more firmly,--"Lord,
I am a wretched worm; but thou didst know Christ. Implore Him,--take her
part."

And from pain he trembled like a leaf; and he beat the earth with his
forehead, for, knowing the strength of the Apostle, he knew that he
alone could rescue her.

Peter was moved by that pain.  He remembered how on a time Lygia
herself, when attacked by Crispus, lay at his feet in like manner
imploring pity.  He remembered that he had raised her and comforted her;
hence now he raised Vinicius.

"My son," said he, "I will pray for her; but do thou remember that I
told those doubting ones that God Himself passed through the torment of
the cross, and remember that after this life begins another,--an eternal
one."

"I know; I have heard!" answered Vinicius, catching the air with his
pale lips; "but thou seest, lord, that I cannot!  If blood is required,
implore Christ to take mine,--I am a soldier.  Let Him double, let Him
triple, the torment intended for her, I will suffer it; but let Him
spare her.  She is a child yet, and He is mightier than Cæsar, I
believe, mightier.  Thou didst love her thyself; thou didst bless us.
She is an innocent child yet."

Again he bowed, and, putting his face to Peter's knees, he repeated,--

"Thou didst know Christ, lord,--thou didst know Him.  He will give ear
to thee; take her part."

Peter closed his lids, and prayed earnestly.  The summer lightning
illuminated the sky again.  Vinicius, by the light of it, looked at the
lips of the Apostle, waiting sentence of life or death from them.  In
the silence quails were heard calling in the vineyard, and the dull,
distant sound of treadmills near the Via Salaria.

"Vinicius," asked the Apostle at last, "dost thou believe?"

"Would I have come hither if I believed not?" answered Vinicius.

"Then believe to the end, for faith will remove mountains.  Hence,
though thou wert to see that maiden under the sword of the executioner
or in the jaws of a lion, believe that Christ can save her.  Believe,
and pray to Him, and I will pray with thee."

Then, raising his face toward heaven, he said aloud,--

"O merciful Christ, look on this aching heart and console it!  O
merciful Christ, temper the wind to the fleece of the lamb!  O merciful
Christ, who didst implore the Father to turn away the bitter cup from
Thy mouth, turn it from the mouth of this Thy servant!  Amen."

But Vinicius, stretching his hand toward the stars, said, groaning,--

"I am Thine; take me instead of her."

The sky began to grow pale in the east.




Chapter LIII


VINICIUS, on leaving the Apostle, went to the prison with a heart
renewed by hope.  Somewhere in the depth of his soul, despair and terror
were still crying; but he stifled those voices.  It seemed to him
impossible that the intercession of the viceregent of God and the power
of his prayer should be without effect.  He feared to hope; he feared to
doubt.  "I will believe in His mercy," said he to himself, "even though
I saw her in the jaws of a lion."  And at this thought, even though the
soul quivered in him and cold sweat drenched his temples, he believed.
Every throb of his heart was a prayer then.  He began to understand that
faith would move mountains, for he felt in himself a wonderful strength,
which he had not felt earlier.  It seemed to him that he could do things
which he had not the power to do the day before.  At moments he had an
impression that the danger had passed.  If despair was heard groaning
again in his soul, he recalled that night, and that holy gray face
raised to heaven in prayer.

"No, Christ will not refuse His first disciple and the pastor of His
flock!  Christ will not refuse him!  I will not doubt!"  And he ran
toward the prison as a herald of good news.

But there an unexpected thing awaited him.

All the pretorian guards taking turn before the Mamertine prison knew
him, and generally they raised not the least difficulty; this time,
however, the line did not open, but a centurion approached him and
said,--

"Pardon, noble tribune, to-day we have a command to admit no one."

"A command?" repeated Vinicius, growing pale.

The soldier looked at him with pity, and answered,--

"Yes, lord, a command of Cæsar.  In the prison there are many sick, and
perhaps it is feared that visitors might spread infection through the
city."

"But hast thou said that the order was for to-day only?"

"The guards change at noon."

Vinicius was silent and uncovered his head, for it seemed to him that
the pileolus which he wore was of lead.

Meanwhile the soldier approached him, and said in a low voice,

"Be at rest, lord, the guard and Ursus are watching over her." When he
had said this, he bent and, in the twinkle of an eye, drew with his long
Gallic sword on the flag stone the form of a fish.

Vinicius looked at him quickly.

"And thou art a pretorian?"

"Till I shall be there," answered the soldier, pointing to the prison.

"And I, too, worship Christ."

"May His name be praised!  I know, lord, I cannot admit thee to the
prison, but write a letter, I will give it to the guard."

"Thanks to thee, brother."

He pressed the soldier's hand, and went away.  The pileolus ceased to
weigh like lead.  The morning sun rose over the walls of the prison, and
with its brightness consolation began to enter his heart again.  That
Christian soldier was for him a new witness of the power of Christ.
After a while he halted, and, fixing his glance on the rosy clouds above
the Capitol and the temple of Jupiter Stator, he said,--

"I have not seen her to-day, O Lord, but I believe in Thy mercy."

At the house he found Petronius, who, making day out of night as usual,
had returned not long before.  He had succeeded, however, in taking his
bath and anointing himself for sleep.

"I have news for thee," said he.  "To-day I was with Tullius Senecio,
whom Cæsar also visited.  I know not whence it came to the mind of the
Augusta to bring little Rufius with her,--perhaps to soften the heart of
Cæsar by his beauty.  Unfortunately, the child, wearied by drowsiness,
fell asleep during the reading, as Vespasian did once; seeing this,
Ahenobarbus hurled a goblet at his step-son, and wounded him seriously.
Poppæa fainted; all heard how Cæsar said, 'I have enough of this brood!'
and that, knowest thou, means as much as death."

"The punishment of God was hanging over the Augusta," answered Vinicius;
"but why dost thou tell me this?"

"I tell thee because the anger of Poppæa pursued thee and Lygia;
occupied now by her own misfortune, she may leave her vengeance and be
more easily influenced.  I will see her this evening and talk with her."

"Thanks to thee.  Thou givest me good news."

"But do thou bathe and rest.  Thy lips are blue, and there is not a
shadow of thee left."

"Is not the time of the first 'ludus matutinus' announced?" inquired
Vinicius.

"In ten days.  But they will take other prisons first.  The more time
that remains to us the better.  All is not lost yet."

But he did not believe this; for he knew perfectly that since to the
request of Aliturus, Cæsar had found the splendidly sounding answer in
which he compared himself to Brutus, there was no rescue for Lygia.  He
hid also, through pity, what he had heard at Senecio's, that Cæsar and
Tigellinus had decided to select for themselves and their friends the
most beautiful Christian maidens, and defile them before the torture;
the others were to be given, on the day of the games, to pretorians and
beast-keepers.

Knowing that Vinicius would not survive Lygia in any case, he
strengthened hope in his heart designedly, first, through sympathy for
him; and second, because he wished that if Vinicius had to die, he
should die beautiful,--not with a face deformed and black from pain and
watching.

"To-day I will speak more or less thus to Augusta," said he: "'Save
Lygia for Vinicius, I will save Ruflus for thee.' And I will think of
that seriously.

"One word spoken to Ahenobarbus at the right moment may save or ruin any
one.  In the worst case, we will gain time."

"Thanks to thee," repeated Vinicius.

"Thou wilt thank me best if thou eat and sleep.  By Athene!  In the
greatest straits Odysseus had sleep and food in mind.  Thou hast spent
the whole night in prison, of course?"

"No," answered Vinicius; "I wished to visit the prison to-day, but there
is an order to admit no one.  Learn, O Petronius, if the order is for
to-day alone or till the day of the games."

"I will discover this evening, and to-morrow morning will tell thee for
what time and why the order was issued.  But now, even were Helios to go
to Cimmerian regions from sorrow, I shall sleep, and do thou follow my
example."

They separated; but Vinicius went to the library and wrote a letter to
Lygia.  When he had finished, he took it himself to the Christian
centurion who carried it at once to the prison.  After a while he
returned with a greeting from Lygia, and promised to deliver her answer
that day.

Vinicius did not wish to return home, but sat on a stone and waited for
Lygia's letter.  The sun had risen high in the heavens, and crowds of
people flowed in, as usual, through the Clivus Argentarius to the Forum.
Hucksters called out their wares, soothsayers offered their services to
passers-by, citizens walked with deliberate steps toward the rostra to
hear orators of the day, or tell the latest news to one another.  As the
heat increased, crowds of idlers betook themselves to the porticos of
the temples, from under which flew from moment to moment, with great
rustle of wings, flocks of doves, whose white feathers glistened in the
sunlight and in the blue of the sky.

From excess of light and the influence of bustle, heat, and great
weariness, the eyes of Vinicius began to close.  The monotonous calls of
boys playing mora, and the measured tread of soldiers, lulled him to
sleep.  He raised his head still a number of times, and took in the
prison with his eyes; then he leaned against a Stone, sighed like a
child drowsy after long weeping, and dropped asleep.

Soon dreams came.  It seemed to him that he was carrying Lygia in his
arms at night through a strange vineyard.  Before him was Pomponia
Græcina lighting the way with a lamp.  A voice, as it were of Petronius
called from afar to him, "Turn back!" but he did not mind the call, and
followed Pomponia till they reached a cottage; at the threshold of the
cottage stood Peter.  He showed Peter Lygia, and said, "We are coming
from the arena, lord, but we cannot wake her; wake her thou."  "Christ
himself  will come to wake her," answered the Apostle.

Then the pictures began to change.  Through the dream he saw Nero, and
Poppæa holding in her arms little Ruflus with bleeding head, which
Petronius was washing and he saw Tigellinus sprinkling ashes on tables
covered with costly dishes, and Vitelius devouring those dishes, while a
multitude of other Augustians were sitting at the feast.  He himself was
resting near Lygia; but between the tables walked lions from out whose
yellow manes trickled blood.  Lygia begged him to take her away, but so
terrible a weakness had seized him that he could not even move.  Then
still greater disorder involved his visions, and finally all fell into
perfect darkness.

He was roused from deep sleep at last by the heat of the sun, and shouts
given forth right there around the place where he was sitting.  Vinicius
rubbed his eyes.  The street was swarming with people; but two runners,
wearing yellow tunics, pushed aside the throng with long staffs, crying
and making room for a splendid litter which was carried by four stalwart
Egyptian slaves.

In the litter sat a man in white robes, whose face was not easily seen,
for he held close to his eyes a roll of papyrus and was reading
something diligently.

"Make way for the noble Augustian!" cried the runners.

But the street was so crowded that the litter had to wait awhile. The
Augustian put down his roll of papyrus and bent his head, crying,--

"Push aside those wretches!  Make haste!"

Seeing Vinicius suddenly, he drew back his head and raised the papyrus
quickly.

Vinicius drew his hand across his forehead, thinking that he was
dreaming yet.

In the litter was sitting Chilo.

Meanwhile the runners had opened the way, and the Egyptians were ready
to move, when the young tribune, who in one moment understood many
things which till then had been incomprehensible, approached the litter.

"A greeting to thee, O Chilo!" said he.

"Young man," answered the Greek, with pride and importance, endeavoring
to give his face an expression of calmness which was not in his soul,
"be greeted, but detain me not, for I am hastening to my friend, the
noble Tigellinus."

Vinicius, grasping the edge of the litter and looking him straight in
the eyes, said with a lowered voice,--

"Didst thou betray Lygia?"

"Colossus of Memnon!" cried Chilo, with fear.

But there was no threat in the eyes of Vinicius; hence the old Greek's
alarm vanished quickly.  He remembered that he was under the protection
of Tigellinus and of Cæsar himself,--that is, of a power before which
everything trembled,--that he was surrounded by sturdy slaves, and that
Vinicius stood before him unarmed, with an emaciated face and body bent
by suffering.

At this thought his insolence returned to him.  He fixed on Vinicius his
eyes, which were surrounded by red lids, and whispered in answer,--

"But thou, when I was dying of hunger, didst give command to flog me."

For a moment both were silent; then the dull voice of Vinicius was
heard,--

"I wronged thee, Chilo."

The Greek raised his head, and, snapping his fingers which in Rome was a
mark of slight and contempt, said so loudly that all could hear him,--

"Friend, if thou hast a petition to present, come to my house on the
Esquiline in the morning hour, when I receive guests and clients after
my bath."

And he waved his hand; at that sign the Egyptians raised the litter, and
the slaves, dressed in yellow tunics, began to cry as they brandished
their staffs,--

"Make way for the litter of the noble Chilo Chilonides!  Make way, make
way!"




Chapter LIV


LYGIA, in a long letter written hurriedly, took farewell to Vinicius
forever.  She knew that no one was permitted to enter the prison, and
that she could see Vinicius only from the arena.  She begged him
therefore to discover when the turn of the Mamertine prisoners would
come, and to be at the games, for she wished to see him once more in
life.  No fear was evident in her letter.  She wrote that she and the
others were longing for the arena, where they would find liberation from
imprisonment.  She hoped for the coming of Pomponia and Aulus; she
entreated that they too be present.  Every word of her showed ecstasy,
and that separation from life in which all the prisoners lived, and at
the same time an unshaken faith that all promises would be fulfilled
beyond the grave.

"Whether Christ," wrote she, "frees me in this life or after death, He
has promised me to thee by the lips of the Apostle; therefore I am
thine."  She implored him not to grieve for her, and not to let himself
be overcome by suffering.  For her death was not a dissolution of
marriage.  With the confidence of a child she assured Vinicius that
immediately after her suffering in the arena she would tell Christ that
her betrothed Marcus had remained in Rome, that he was longing for her
with his whole heart.  And she thought that Christ would permit her
soul, perhaps, to return to him for a moment, to tell him that she was
living, that she did not remember her torments, and that she was happy.
Her whole letter breathed happiness and immense hope.  There was only
one request in it connected with affairs of earth,--that Vinicius should
take her body from the spoliarium and bury it as that of his wife in the
tomb in which he himself would rest sometime.

He read this letter with a suffering spirit, but at the same time it
seemed to him impossible that Lygia should perish under the claws of
wild beasts, and that Christ would not take compassion on her. But just
in that were hidden hope and trust.  When he returned home, he wrote
that he would come every day to the walls of the Tullianum to wait till
Christ crushed the walls and restored her.  He commanded her to believe
that Christ could give her to him, even in the Circus; that the great
Apostle was imploring Him to do so, and that the hour of liberation was
near.  The converted centurion was to bear this letter to her on the
morrow.

But when Vinicius came to the prison next morning, the centurion left
the rank, approached him first, and said,--

"Listen to me, lord.  Christ, who enlightened thee, has shown thee
favor.  Last night Cæsar's freedman and those of the prefect came to
select Christian maidens for disgrace; they inquired for thy betrothed,
but our Lord sent her a fever, of which prisoners are dying in the
Tullianum, and they left her.  Last evening she was unconscious, and
blessed be the name of the Redeemer, for the sickness which has saved
her from shame may save her from death."

Vinicius placed his hand on the soldier's shoulder to guard himself from
falling; but the other continued,--

"Thank the mercy of the Lord!  They took and tortured Linus, but, seeing
that he was dying, they surrendered him.  They may give her now to thee,
and Christ will give back health to her."

The young tribune stood some time with drooping head; then raised it and
said in a whisper,--

"True, centurion.  Christ, who saved her from shame, will save her from
death."  And sitting at the wall of the prison till evening, he returned
home to send people for Linus and have him taken to one of his suburban
villas.

But when Petronius had heard everything, he determined to act also.  He
had visited the Augusta; now he went to her a second time.  He found her
at the bed of little Rufius.  The child with broken head was struggling
in a fever; his mother, with despair and terror in her heart, was trying
to save him, thinking, however, that if she did save him it might be
only to perish soon by a more dreadful death.

Occupied exclusively with her own suffering, she would not even hear of
Vinicius and Lygia; but Petronius terrified her.

"Thou hast offended," said he to her, "a new, unknown divinity. Thou,
Augusta, art a worshipper, it seems, of the Hebrew Jehovah; but the
Christians maintain that Chrestos is his son.  Reflect, then, if the
anger of the father is not pursuing thee.  Who knows but it is their
vengeance which has struck thee?  Who knows but the life of Rufius
depends on this,--how thou wilt act?"

"What dost thou wish me to do?" asked Poppæa, with terror.

"Mollify the offended deities."

"How?"

"Lygia is sick; influence Cæsar or Tigellinus to give her to Vinicius."

"Dost thou think that I can do that?" asked she, in despair.

"Thou canst do something else.  If Lygia recovers, she must die.  Go
thou to the temple of Vesta, and ask the virgo magna to happen near the
Tullianum at the moment when they are leading prisoners out to death,
and give command to free that maiden.  The chief vestal will not refuse
thee."

"But if Lygia dies of the fever?"

"The Christians say that Christ is vengeful, but just; maybe thou wilt
soften Him by thy wish alone."

"Let Him give me some sign that will heal Rufius."

Petronius shrugged his shoulders.

"I have not come as His envoy; O divinity, I merely say to thee, Be on
better terms with all the gods, Roman and foreign."

"I will go!" said Poppæa, with a broken voice.

Petronius drew a deep breath.  "At last I have done something," thought
he, and returning to Vinicius he said to him,--

"Implore thy God that Lygia die not of the fever, for should she
survive, the chief vestal will give command to free her.  The Augusta
herself will ask her to do so."

"Christ will free her," said Vinicius, looking at him with eyes in which
fever was glittering.

Poppæa, who for the recovery of Rufius was willing to burn hecatombs to
all the gods of the world, went that same evening through the Forum to
the vestals, leaving care over the sick child to her faithful nurse,
Silvia, by whom she herself had been reared.

But on the Palatine sentence had been issued against the child already;
for barely had Poppæa's litter vanished behind the great gate when two
freedmen entered the chamber in which her son was resting.  One of these
threw himself on old Silvia and gagged her; the other, seizing a bronze
statue of the Sphinx, stunned the old woman with the first blow.

Then they approached Rufius.  The little boy, tormented with fever and
insensible, not knowing what was passing around him, smiled at them, and
blinked with his beautiful eyes, as if trying to recognize the men.
Stripping from the nurse her girdle, they put it around his neck and
pulled it.  The child called once for his mother, and died easily.  Then
they wound him in a sheet, and sitting on horses which were waiting,
hurried to Ostia, where they threw the body into the sea.

Poppæa, not finding the virgo magna, who with other vestals was at the
house of Vatinius, returned soon to the Palatine.  Seeing the empty bed
and the cold body of Silvia, she fainted, and when they restored her she
began to scream; her wild cries were heard all that night and the day
following.

But Cæsar commanded her to appear at a feast on the third day; so,
arraying herself in an amethyst-colored tunic, she came and sat with
stony face, golden-haired, silent, wonderful, and as ominous as an angel
of death.




Chapter LV


BEFORE the Flavii had reared the Colosseum, amphitheatres in Rome were
built of wood mainly; for that reason nearly all of them had burned
during the fire.  But Nero, for the celebration of the promised games,
had given command to build several, and among them a gigantic one, for
which they began, immediately after the fire was extinguished, to bring
by sea and the Tiber great trunks of trees cut on the slopes of Atlas;
for the games were to surpass all previous ones in splendor and the
number of victims.

Large spaces were given therefore for people and for animals. Thousands
of mechanics worked at the structure night and day. They built and
ornamented without rest.  Wonders were told concerning pillars inlaid
with bronze, amber, ivory, mother of pearl, and transmarine tortoise-
shells.  Canals filled with ice-cold water from the mountains and
running along the seats were to keep an agreeable coolness in the
building, even during the greatest heat.  A gigantic purple velarium
gave shelter from the rays of the sun.  Among the rows of seats were
disposed vessels for the burning of Arabian perfumes; above them were
fixed instruments to sprinkle the spectators with dew of saffron and
verbena.  The renowned builders Severus and Celer put forth all their
skill to construct an amphitheatre at once incomparable and fitted for
such a number of the curious as none of those known before had been able
to accommodate.

Hence, the day when the ludus matutinus was to begin, throngs of the
populace were awaiting from daylight the opening of the gates, listening
with delight to the roars of lions, the hoarse growls of panthers, and
the howls of dogs.  The beasts had not been fed for two days, but pieces
of bloody flesh had been pushed before them to rouse their rage and
hunger all the more.  At times such a storm of wild voices was raised
that people standing before the Circus could not converse, and the most
sensitive grew pale from fear.

With the rising of the sun were intoned in the enclosure of the Circus
hymns resonant but calm.  The people heard these with amazement, and
said one to another, "The Christians! the Christians!"  In fact, many
detachments of Christians had been brought to the amphitheatre that
night, and not from one place, as planned at first, but a few from each
prison.  It was known in the crowd that the spectacles would continue
through weeks and months, but they doubted that it would be possible to
finish in a single day those Christians who had been intended for that
one occasion.  The voices of men, women, and children singing the
morning hymn were so numerous that spectators of experience asserted
that even if one or two hundred persons were sent out at once, the
beasts would grow tired, become sated, and not tear all to pieces before
evening.  Others declared that an excessive number of victims in the
arena would divert attention, and not give a chance to enjoy the
spectacle properly.

As the moment drew near for opening the vomitoria, or passages which led
to the interior, people grew animated and joyous; they discussed and
disputed about various things touching the spectacle.  Parties were
formed praising the greater efficiency of lions or tigers in tearing.
Here and there bets were made.  Others however talked about gladiators
who were to appear in the arena earlier than the Christians; and again
there were parties, some in favor of Samnites, others of Gauls, others
of Mirmillons, others of Thracians, others of the retiarii.

Early in the morning larger or smaller detachments of gladiators began
to arrive at the amphitheatre under the lead of masters, called lanistæ.
Not wishing to be wearied too soon, they entered unarmed, often entirely
naked, often with green boughs in their hands, or crowned with flowers,
young, beautiful, in the light of morning, and full of life.  Their
bodies, shining from olive oil, were strong as if chiselled from marble;
they roused to delight people who loved shapely forms.  Many were known
personally, and from moment to moment were heard: "A greeting, Furnius!
A greeting, Leo!  A greeting, Maximus!  A greeting, Diomed!"  Young
maidens raised to them eyes full of admiration; they, selecting the
maiden most beautiful, answered with jests, as if no care weighed on
them, sending kisses, or exclaiming, "Embrace me before death does!"
Then they vanished in the gates, through which many of them were never
to come forth again.

New arrivals drew away the attention of the throngs.  Behind the
gladiators came mastigophori; that is, men armed with scourges, whose
office it was to lash and urge forward combatants.  Next mules drew, in
the direction of the spoliarium, whole rows of vehicles on which were
piled wooden coffins.  People were diverted at sight of this, inferring
from the number of coffins the greatness of the spectacle.  Now marched
in men who were to kill the wounded; these were dressed so that each
resembled Charon or Mercury.  Next came those who looked after order in
the Circus, and assigned places; after that slaves to bear around food
and refreshments; finally, pretorians, whom every Cæsar had always at
hand in the amphitheatre.

At last the vomitoria were opened, and crowds rushed to the centre.  But
such was the number of those assembled that they flowed in and flowed in
for hours, till it was a marvel that the Circus could hold such a
countless multitude.  The roars of wild beasts, catching the exhalations
of people, grew louder.  While taking their places, the spectators made
an uproar like the sea in time of storm.

Finally, the prefect of the city came, surrounded by guards; and after
him, in unbroken line, appeared the litters of senators, consuls,
pretors, ediles, officials of the government and the palace, of
pretorian officers, patricians, and exquisite ladies.  Some litters were
preceded by lictors bearing maces in bundles of rods; others by crowds
of slaves.  In the sun gleamed the gilding of the litters, the white and
varied colored stuffs, feathers, earrings, jewels, steel of the maces.
From the Circus came shouts with which the people greeted great
dignitaries.  Small divisions of pretorians arrived from time to time.

The priests of various temples came somewhat later; only after them were
brought in the sacred virgins of Vesta, preceded by lictors.

To begin the spectacle, they were waiting now only for Cæsar, who,
unwilling to expose the people to over-long waiting, and wishing to win
them by promptness, came soon, in company with the Augusta and
Augustians.

Petronius arrived among the Augustians, having Vinicius in his litter.
The latter knew that Lygia was sick and unconscious; but as access to
the prison had been forbidden most strictly during the preceding days,
and as the former guards had been replaced by new ones who were not
permitted to speak with the jailers or even to communicate the least
information to those who came to inquire about prisoners, he was not
even sure that she was not among the victims intended for the first day
of spectacles.  They might send out even a sick woman for the lions,
though she were unconscious. But since the victims were to be sewed up
in skins of wild beasts and sent to the arena in crowds, no spectator
could be certain that one more or less might not be among them, and no
man could recognize any one.  The jailers and all the servants of the
amphitheatre had been bribed, and a bargain made with the beast-keepers
to hide Lygia in some dark corner, and give her at night into the hands
of a confidant of Vinicius, who would take her at once to the Alban
Hills.  Petronius, admitted to the secret, advised Vinicius to go with
him openly to the amphitheatre, and after he had entered to disappear in
the throng and hurry to the vaults, where, to avoid possible mistake, he
was to point out Lygia to the guards personally.

The guards admitted him through a small door by which they came out
themselves.  One of these, named Cyrus, led him at once to the
Christians.  On the way he said,--

"I know not, lord, that thou wilt find what thou art seeking.  We
inquired for a maiden named Lygia, but no one gave us answer; it may be,
though, that they do not trust us."

"Are there many?" asked Vinicius.

"Many, lord, had to wait till to-morrow."

"Are there sick ones among them?"

"There were none who could not stand."

Cyrus opened a door and entered as it were an enormous chamber, but low
and dark, for the light came in only through grated openings which
separated it from the arena.  At first Vinicius could see nothing; he
heard only the murmur of voices in the room, and the shouts of people in
the amphitheatre.  But after a time, when his eyes had grown used to the
gloom, he saw crowds of strange beings, resembling wolves and bears.
Those were Christians sewed up in skins of beasts.  Some of them were
standing; others were kneeling in prayer.  Here and there one might
divine by the long hair flowing over the skin that the victim was a
woman.  Women, looking like wolves, carried in their arms children sewed
up in equally shaggy coverings.  But from beneath the skins appeared
bright faces and eyes which in the darkness gleamed with delight and
feverishness.  It was evident that the greater number of those people
were mastered by one thought, exclusive and beyond the earth,--a thought
which during life made them indifferent to everything which happened
around them and which could meet them.  Some, when asked by Vinicius
about Lygia, looked at him with eyes as if roused from sleep, without
answering his questions; others smiled at him, placing a finger on their
lips or pointing to the iron grating through which bright streaks of
light entered.  But here and there children were crying, frightened by
the roaring of beasts, the howling of dogs, the uproar of people, and
the forms of their own parents who looked like wild beasts.  Vinicius as
he walked by the side of Cyrus looked into faces, searched, inquired, at
times stumbled against bodies of people who had fainted from the crowd,
the stifling air, the heat, and pushed farther into the dark depth of
the room, which seemed to be as spacious as a whole amphitheatre.

But he stopped on a sudden, for he seemed to hear near the grating a
voice known to him.  He listened for a while, turned, and, pushing
through the crowd, went near.  Light fell on the face of the speaker,
and Vinicius recognized under the skin of a wolf the emaciated and
implacable countenance of Crispus.

"Mourn for your sins!" exclaimed Crispus, "for the moment is near.  But
whoso thinks by death itself to redeem his sins commits a fresh sin, and
will be hurled into endless fire.  With every sin committed in life ye
have renewed the Lord's suffering; how dare ye think that that life
which awaits you will redeem this one? To-day the just and the sinner
will die the same death; but the Lord will find His own.  Woe to you,
the claws of the lions will rend your bodies; but not your sins, nor
your reckoning with God.  The Lord showed mercy sufficient when He let
Himself be nailed to the cross; but thenceforth He will be only the
judge, who will leave no fault unpunished.  Whoso among you has thought
to extinguish his sins by suffering, has blasphemed against God's
justice, and will sink all the deeper.  Mercy is at an end, and the hour
of God's wrath has come.  Soon ye will stand before the awful Judge in
whose presence the good will hardly be justified.  Bewail your sins, for
the jaws of hell are open; woe to you, husbands and wives; woe to you,
parents and children."

And stretching forth his bony hands, he shook them above the bent heads;
he was unterrified and implacable even in the presence of death, to
which in a while all those doomed people were to go. After his words,
were heard voices:  "We bewail our sins!"  Then came silence, and only
the cry of children was audible, and the beating of hands against
breasts.

The blood of Vinicius stiffened in his veins.  He, who had placed all
his hope in the mercy of Christ, heard now that the day of wrath had
come, and that even death in the arena would not obtain mercy.  Through
his head shot, it is true, the thought, clear and swift as lightning,
that Peter would have spoken otherwise to those about to die.  Still
those terrible words of Crispus filled with fanaticism that dark chamber
with its grating, beyond which was the field of torture.  The nearness
of that torture, and the throng of victims arrayed for death already,
filled his soul with fear and terror.  All this seemed to him dreadful,
and a hundred times more ghastly than the bloodiest battle in which he
had ever taken part. The odor and heat began to stifle him; cold sweat
came out on his forehead.  He was seized by fear that he would faint
like those against whose bodies he had stumbled while searching in the
depth of the apartment; so when he remembered that they might open the
grating any moment, he began to call Lygia and Ursus aloud, in the hope
that, if not they, some one knowing them would answer.

In fact, some man, clothed as a bear, pulled his toga, and said,--

"Lord, they remained in prison.  I was the last one brought out; I saw
her sick on the couch."

"Who art thou?" inquired Vinicius.

"The quarryman in whose hut the Apostle baptized thee, lord.  They
imprisoned me three days ago, and to-day I die."

Vinicius was relieved.  When entering, he had wished to find Lygia; now
he was ready to thank Christ that she was not there, and to see in that
a sign of mercy.  Meanwhile the quarryman pulled his toga again, and
said,--

"Dost remember, lord, that I conducted thee to the vineyard of
Cornelius, when the Apostle discoursed in the shed?"

"I remember."

"I saw him later, the day before they imprisoned me, He blessed me, and
said that he would come to the amphitheatre to bless the perishing.  If
I could look at him in the moment of death and see the sign of the
cross, it would be easier for me to die.  If thou know where he is,
lord, inform me."

Vinicius lowered his voice, and said,--

"He is among the people of Petronius, disguised as a slave.  I know not
where they chose their places, but I will return to the Circus and see.
Look thou at me when ye enter the arena.  I will rise and turn my face
toward them; then thou wilt find him with thy eyes."

"Thanks to thee, lord, and peace be with thee."

"May the Redeemer be merciful to thee."

"Amen."

Vinicius went out of the cuniculum, and betook himself to the
amphitheatre, where he had a place near Petronius among the other
Augustians.

"Is she there?" inquired Petronius.

"No; she remained in prison."

"Hear what has occurred to me, but while listening look at Nigidia for
example, so that we may seem to talk of her hair-dressing. Tigellinus
and Chilo are looking at us now.  Listen then.  Let them put Lygia in a
coffin at night and carry her out of the prison as a corpse; thou
divinest the rest?"

"Yes," answered Vinicius.

Their further conversation was interrupted by Tullius Senecio, who,
bending toward them, asked,--

"Do ye know whether they will give weapons to the Christians?"

"We do not," answered Petronius.  "I should prefer that arms were
given," said Tullius; "if not, the arena will become like butcher's
shambles too early.  But what a splendid amphitheatre!"

The sight was, in truth, magnificent.  The lower seats, crowded with
togas were as white as snow.  In the gilded podium sat Cæsar, wearing a
diamond collar and a golden crown on his head; next to him sat the
beautiful and gloomy Augusta, and on both sides were vestal virgins,
great officials, senators with embroidered togas, officers of the army
with glittering weapons,--in a word, all that was powerful, brilliant,
and wealthy in Rome.  In the farther rows sat knights; and higher up
darkened in rows a sea of common heads, above which from pillar to
pillar hung festoons of roses, lilies, ivy, and grapevines.

People conversed aloud, called to one another, sang; at times they broke
into laughter at some witty word which was sent from row to row, and
they stamped with impatience to hasten the spectacle.

At last the stamping became like thunder, and unbroken.  Then the
prefect of the city, who rode around the arena with a brilliant retinue,
gave a signal with a handkerchief, which was answered throughout the
amphitheatre by "A-a-a!" from thousands of breasts.

Usually a spectacle was begun by hunts of wild beasts, in which various
Northern and Southern barbarians excelled; but this time they had too
many beasts, so they began with andabates,--that is, men wearing helmets
without an opening for the eyes, hence fighting blindfold.  A number of
these came into the arena together, and slashed at random with their
swords; the scourgers with long forks pushed some toward others to make
them meet.  The more select of the audience looked with contempt and
indifference at this spectacle; but the crowd were amused by the awkward
motions of the swordsmen.  When it happened that they met with their
shoulders, they burst out in loud laughter.  "To the right!"  "To the
left!" cried they, misleading the opponents frequently by design.  A
number of pairs closed, however, and the struggle began to be bloody.
The determined combatants cast aside their shields, and giving their
left hands to each other, so as not to part again, struggled to the
death with their right.  Whoever fell raised his fingers, begging mercy
by that sign; but in the beginning of a spectacle the audience demanded
death usually for the wounded, especially in the case of men who had
their faces covered and were unknown.  Gradually the number of
combatants decreased; and when at last only two remained, these were
pushed together; both fell on the sand, and stabbed each other mutually.
Then, amid cries of "Peractum est!" servants carried out the bodies,
youths raked away the bloody traces on the sand and sprinkled it with
leaves of saffron.

Now a more important contest was to come,--rousing interest not only in
the herd, but in exquisites; during this contest young patricians made
enormous bets at times, often losing all they owned.  Straightway from
hand to hand went tablets on which were written names of favorites, and
also the number of sestertia which each man wagered on his favorite.
"Spectati"--that is, champions who had appeared already on the arena and
gained victories--found most partisans; but among betters were also
those who risked considerably on gladiators who were new and quite
unknown, hoping to win immense sums should these conquer. Cæsar himself
bet; priests, vestals, senators, knights bet; the populace bet.  People
of the crowd, when money failed them, bet their own freedom frequently.
They waited with heart-beating and even with fear for the combatants,
and more than one made audible vows to the gods to gain their protection
for a favorite.

In fact, when the shrill sound of trumpets was heard, there was a
stillness of expectation in the amphitheatre.  Thousands of eyes were
turned to the great bolts, which a man approached dressed like Charon,
and amid the universal silence struck three times with a hammer, as if
summoning to death those who were hidden behind them.  Then both halves
of the gate opened slowly, showing a black gully, out of which
gladiators began to appear in the bright arena.  They came in divisions
of twenty-five, Thracians, Mirmillons, Samnites, Gauls, each nation
separately, all heavily armed; and last the retiarii, holding in one
hand a net, in the other a trident.  At sight of them, here and there on
the benches rose applause, which soon turned into one immense and
unbroken storm.  From above to below were seen excited faces, clapping
hands, and open mouths, from which shouts burst forth.  The gladiators
encircled the whole arena with even and springy tread, gleaming with
their weapons and rich outfit; they halted before Cæsar's podium, proud,
calm, and brilliant.  The shrill sound of a horn stopped the applause;
the combatants stretched their right hands upward, raised their eyes and
heads toward Cæsar, and began to cry or rather to chant with drawling
voice,--

"Ave, Cæsar imperator! Morituri te salutant!"

Then they pushed apart quickly, occupying their places on the arena.
They were to attack one another in whole detachments; but first it was
permitted the most famous fencers to have a series of single combats, in
which the strength, dexterity, and courage of opponents were best
exhibited.  In fact, from among the Gauls appeared a champion, well
known to lovers of the amphitheatre under the name of Lanio, a victor in
many games.  With a great helmet on his head, and in mail which formed a
ridge in front of his powerful breast and behind, he looked in the gleam
of the golden arena like a giant beetle.  The no less famous retiarius
Calendio came out against him.

Among the spectators people began to bet.

"Five hundred sestertia on the Gaul!"

"Five hundred on Calendio!"

"By Hercules, one thousand!"

"Two thousand!"

Meanwhile the Gaul, reaching the centre of the arena, began to withdraw
with pointed sword, and, lowering his head, watched his opponent
carefully through the opening of his visor; the light retiarius,
stately, statuesque, wholly naked save a belt around his loins, circled
quickly about his heavy antagonist, waving the net with graceful
movement, lowering or raising his trident, and singing the usual song of
the retiarius,--

"Non te peto, piscem peto; Quid me fugis, Galle?"

["I seek not thee, I seek a fish; Why flee from me O Gaul?"]

But the Gaul was not fleeing, for after a while he stopped, and standing
in one place began to turn with barely a slight movement, so as to have
his enemy always in front, in his form and monstrously large head there
was now something terrible. The spectators understood perfectly that
that heavy body encased in bronze was preparing for a sudden throw to
decide the battle.  The retiarius meanwhile sprang up to him, then
sprang away, making with his three-toothed fork motions so quick that
the eye hardly followed them.  The sound of the teeth on the shield was
heard repeatedly; but the Gaul did not quiver, giving proof by this of
his gigantic strength.  All his attention seemed fixed, not on the
trident, but the net which was circling above his head, like a bird of
ill omen.  The spectators held the breath in their breasts, and followed
the masterly play of the gladiators.  The Gaul waited, chose the moment,
and rushed at last on his enemy; the latter with equal quickness shot
past under his sword, straightened himself with raised arm, and threw
the net.

The Gaul, turning where he stood, caught it on his shield; then both
sprang apart.  In the amphitheatre shouts of "Macte!" thundered; in the
lower rows they began to make new bets.  Cæsar himself, who at first had
been talking with Rubria, and so far had not paid much attention to the
spectacle, turned his head toward the arena.

They began to struggle again, so regularly and with such precision in
their movements, that sometimes it seemed that with them it was not a
question of life or death, but of exhibiting skill.  The Gaul escaping
twice more from the net, pushed toward the edge of the arena; those who
held bets against him, not wishing the champion to rest, began to cry,
"Bear on!"  The Gaul obeyed, and attacked.  The arm of the retiarius was
covered on a sudden with blood, and his net dropped.  The Gaul summoned
his strength, and sprang forward to give the final blow.  That instant
Calendio, who feigned inability to wield the net, sprang aside, escaped
the thrust, ran the trident between the knees of his opponent, and
brought him to the earth.

The Gaul tried to rise, but in a twinkle he was covered by the fatal
meshes, in which he was entangled more and more by every movement of his
feet and hands.  Meanwhile stabs of the trident fixed him time after
time to the earth.  He made one more effort, rested on his arm, and
tried to rise; in vain!  He raised to his head his falling hand which
could hold the sword no longer, and fell on his back.  Calendio pressed
his neck to the ground with the trident, and, resting both hands on the
handle of it, turned toward Cæsar's box.

The whole Circus was trembling from plaudits and the roar of people.
For those who had bet on Calendio he was at that moment greater than
Cæsar; but for this very reason animosity against the Gaul vanished from
their hearts.  At the cost of his blood he had filled their purses.  The
voices of the audience were divided.  On the upper seats half the signs
were for death, and half for mercy; but the retiarius looked only at the
box of Cæsar and the vestals, waiting for what they would decide.

To the misfortune of the fallen gladiator, Nero did not like him, for at
the last games before the fire he had bet against the Gaul, and had lost
considerable sums to Licinus; hence he thrust his hand out of the
podium, and turned his thumb toward the earth.

The vestals supported the sign at once.  Calendio knelt on the breast of
the Gaul, drew a short knife from his belt, pushed apart the armor
around the neck of his opponent, and drove the three-edged blade into
his throat to the handle.

"Peractum est!" sounded voices in the amphitheatre.

The Gaul quivered a time, like a stabbed bullock, dug the sand with his
heels, stretched, and was motionless.

Mercury had no need to try with heated iron if he were living yet. He
was hidden away quickly, and other pairs appeared.  After them came a
battle of whole detachments.  The audience took part in it with soul,
heart, and eyes.  They howled, roared, whistled, applauded, laughed,
urged on the combatants, grew wild.  The gladiators on the arena,
divided into two legions, fought with the rage of wild beasts; breast
struck breast, bodies were intertwined in a death grapple, strong limbs
cracked in their joints, swords were buried in breasts and in stomachs,
pale lips threw blood on to the sand.  Toward the end such terrible fear
seized some novices that, tearing themselves from the turmoil, they
fled; but the scourgers drove them back again quickly to the battle with
lashes tipped with lead.  On the sand great dark spots were formed; more
and more naked and armed bodies lay stretched like grain sheaves. The
living fought on the corpses; they struck against armor and shields, cut
their feet against broken weapons, and fell.  The audience lost self-
command from delight; and intoxicated with death breathed it, sated
their eyes with the sight of it, and drew into their lungs the
exhalations of it with ecstasy.

The conquered lay dead, almost every man.  Barely a few wounded knelt in
the middle of the arena, and trembling stretched their hands to the
audience with a prayer for mercy.  To the victors were given rewards,--
crowns, olive wreaths.  And a moment of rest came, which, at command of
the all-powerful Cæsar, was turned into a feast.  Perfumes were burned
in vases.  Sprinklers scattered saffron and violet rain on the people.
Cooling drinks were served, roasted meats, sweet cakes, wine, olives,
and fruits.  The people devoured, talked, and shouted in honor of Cæsar,
to incline him to greater bounteousness.  When hunger and thirst had
been satisfied, hundreds of slaves bore around baskets full of gifts,
from which boys, dressed as Cupids, took various objects and threw them
with both hands among the seats.  When lottery tickets were distributed,
a battle began.  People crowded, threw, trampled one another; cried for
rescue, sprang over rows of seats, stifled one another in the terrible
crush, since whoever got a lucky number might win possibly a house with
a garden, a slave, a splendid dress, or a wild beast which he could sell
to the amphitheatre afterward.  For this reason there were such
disorders that frequently the pretorians had to interfere; and after
every distribution they carried out people with broken arms or legs, and
some were even trampled to death in the throng.

But the more wealthy took no part in the fight for tesseræ.  The
Augustians amused themselves now with the spectacle of Chilo, and with
making sport of his vain efforts to show that he could look at fighting
and blood-spilling as well as any man.  But in vain did the unfortunate
Greek wrinkle his brow, gnaw his lips, and squeeze his fists till the
nails entered his palms.  His Greek nature and his personal cowardice
were unable to endure such sights.  His face grew pale, his forehead was
dotted with drops of sweat, his lips were blue, his eyes turned in, his
teeth began to chatter, and a trembling seized his body.  At the end of
the battle he recovered somewhat; but when they attacked him with
tongues, sudden anger seized him, and he defended himself desperately.

"Ha, Greek! the sight of torn skin on a man is beyond thy strength!"
said Vatinius, taking him by the beard.

Chilo bared his last two yellow teeth at him and answered,--

"My father was not a cobbler, so I cannot mend it."

"Macte! habet (Good! he has caught it!)" called a number of voices; but
others jeered on.

"He is not to blame that instead of a heart he has a piece of cheese in
his breast," said Senecio.

"Thou art not to blame that instead of a head thou hast a bladder,"
retorted Chilo.

"Maybe thou wilt become a gladiator! thou wouldst look well with a net
on the arena."

"If I should catch thee in it, I should catch a stinking hoopoe."

"And how will it be with the Christians?" asked Festus, from Liguria.
"Wouldst thou not like to be a dog and bite them?"

"I should not like to be thy brother."

"Thou Mæotian copper-nose!"

"Thou Ligurian mule!"

"Thy skin is itching, evidently, but I don't advise thee to ask me to
scratch it."

"Scratch thyself.  If thou scratch thy own pimple, thou wilt destroy
what is best in thee."

And in this manner they attacked him.  He defended himself venomously,
amid universal laughter.  Cæsar, clapping his hands, repeated, "Macte!"
and urged them on.  After a while Petronius approached, and, touching
the Greek's shoulder with his carved ivory cane, said coldly,--

"This is well, philosopher; but in one thing thou hast blundered: the
gods created thee a pickpocket, and thou hast become a demon.  That is
why thou canst not endure."

The old man looked at him with his red eyes, but this time somehow he
did not find a ready insult.  He was silent for a moment; then answered,
as if with a certain effort,--

"I shall endure."

Meanwhile the trumpets announced the end of the interval.  People began
to leave the passages where they had assembled to straighten their legs
and converse.  A general movement set in with the usual dispute about
seats occupied previously.  Senators and patricians hastened to their
places.  The uproar ceased after a time, and the amphitheatre returned
to order.  On the arena a crowd of people appeared whose work was to dig
out here and there lumps of sand formed with stiffened blood.

The turn of the Christians was at hand.  But since that was a new
spectacle for people, and no one knew how the Christians would bear
themselves, all waited with a certain curiosity.  The disposition of the
audience was attentive but unfriendly; they were waiting for uncommon
scenes.  Those people who were to appear had burned Rome and its ancient
treasures.  They had drunk the blood of infants, and poisoned water;
they had cursed the whole human race, and committed the vilest crimes.
The harshest punishment did not suffice the roused hatred; and if any
fear possessed people's hearts, it was this: that the torture of the
Christians would not equal the guilt of those ominous criminals.

Meanwhile the sun had risen high; its rays, passing through the purple
velarium, had filled the amphitheatre with blood-colored light.  The
sand assumed a fiery hue, and in those gleams, in the faces of people,
as well as in the empty arena, which after a time was to be filled with
the torture of people and the rage of savage beasts, there was something
terrible.  Death and terror seemed hovering in the air.  The throng,
usually gladsome, became moody under the influence of hate and silence.
Faces had a sullen expression.

Now the prefect gave a sign.  The same old man appeared, dressed as
Charon, who had called the gladiators to death, and, passing with slow
step across the arena amid silence, he struck three times again on the
door.

Throughout the amphitheatre was heard the deep murmur,--

"The Christians! the Christians!"

The iron gratings creaked; through the dark openings were heard the
usual cries of the scourgers, "To the sand!" and in one moment the arena
was peopled with crowds as it were of satyrs covered with skins.  All
ran quickly, somewhat feverishly, and, reaching the middle of the
circle, they knelt one by another with raised heads. The spectators,
judging this to be a prayer for pity, and enraged by such cowardice,
began to stamp, whistle, throw empty wine-vessels, bones from which the
flesh had been eaten, and shout, "The beasts! the beasts!"  But all at
once something unexpected took place.  From out the shaggy assembly
singing voices were raised, and then sounded that hynm heard for the
first time in a Roman amphitheatre, "Christus regnat!" ["Christ
reigns!"]

Astonishment seized the spectators.  The condemned sang with eyes raised
to the velarium.  The audience saw faces pale, but as it were inspired.
All understood that those people were not asking for mercy, and that
they seemed not to see the Circus, the audience, the Senate, or Cæsar.
"Christus regnat!" rose ever louder, and in the seats, far up to the
highest, among the rows of spectators, more than one asked himself the
question, "What is happening, and who is that Christus who reigns in the
mouths of those people who are about to die?"  But meanwhile a new
grating was opened, and into the arena rushed, with mad speed and
barking, whole packs of dogs,--gigantic, yellow Molossians from the
Peloponnesus, pied dogs from the Pyrenees, and wolf-like hounds from
Hibernia, purposely famished; their sides lank, and their eyes
bloodshot. Their howls and whines filled the amphitheatre.  When the
Christians had finished their hymn, they remained kneeling, motionless,
as if petrified, merely repeating in one groaning chorus, "Pro Christo!
Pro Christo!"  The dogs, catching the odor of people under the skins of
beasts, and surprised by their silence, did not rush on them at once.
Some stood against the walls of the boxes, as if wishing to go among the
spectators; others ran around barking furiously, as though chasing some
unseen beast.  The people were angry.  A thousand voices began to call;
some howled like wild beasts; some barked like dogs; others urged them
on in every language.  The amphitheatre was trembling from uproar.  The
excited dogs began to run to the kneeling people, then to draw back,
snapping their teeth, till at last one of the Molossians drove his teeth
into the shoulder of a woman kneeling in front, and dragged her under
him.

Tens of dogs rushed into the crowd now, as if to break through it. The
audience ceased to howl, so as to look with greater attention. Amidst
the howling and whining were heard yet plaintive voices of men and
women: "Pro Christo!  Pro Christo!" but on the arena were formed
quivering masses of the bodies of dogs and people.  Blood flowed in
streams from the torn bodies.  Dogs dragged from each other the bloody
limbs of people.  The odor of blood and torn entrails was stronger than
Arabian perfumes, and filled the whole Circus.

At last only here and there were visible single kneeling forms, which
were soon covered by moving squirming masses.

Vinicius, who at the moment when the Christians ran in, stood up and
turned so as to indicate to the quarryman, as he had promised, the
direction in which the Apostle was hidden among the people of Petronius,
sat down again, and with the face of a dead man continued to look with
glassy eyes on the ghastly spectacle.  At first fear that the quarryman
might have been mistaken, and that perchance Lygia was among the
victims, benumbed him completely; but when he heard the voices, "Pro
Christo!" when he saw the torture of so many victims who, in dying,
confessed their faith and their God, another feeling possessed him,
piercing him like the most dreadful pain, but irresistible.  That
feeling was this,--if Christ Himself died in torment, if thousands are
perishing for Him now, if a sea of blood is poured forth, one drop more
signifies nothing, and it is a sin even to ask for mercy.  That thought
came to him from the arena, penetrated him with the groans of the dying,
with the odor of their blood.  But still he prayed and repeated with
parched lips, "O Christ!  O Christ! and Thy Apostle prayed for her!"
Then he forgot himself, lost consciousness of where he was.  It seemed
to him that blood on the arena was rising and rising, that it was coming
up and flowing out of the Circus over all Rome.  For the rest he heard
nothing, neither the howling of dogs nor the uproar of the people nor
the voices of the Augustians, who began all at once to cry,--

"Chilo has fainted!"

"Chilo has fainted!" said Petronius, turning toward the Greek.

And he had fainted really; he sat there white as linen, his head fallen
back, his mouth wide open, like that of a corpse.

At that same moment they were urging into the arena new victims, sewed
up in skins.

These knelt immediately, like those who had gone before; but the weary
dogs would not rend them.  Barely a few threw themselves on to those
kneeling nearest; but others lay down, and, raising their bloody jaws,
began to scratch their sides and yawn heavily.

Then the audience, disturbed in spirit, but drunk with blood and wild,
began to cry with hoarse voices,--

"The lions! the lions!  Let out the lions!"

The lions were to be kept for the next day; but in the amphitheatres the
people imposed their will on every one, even on Cæsar. Caligula alone,
insolent and changeable in his wishes, dared to oppose them, and there
were cases when he gave command to beat the people with clubs; but even
he yielded most frequently.  Nero, to whom plaudits were dearer than all
else in the world, never resisted.  All the more did he not resist now,
when it was a question of mollifying the populace, excited after the
conflagration, and a question of the Christians, on whom he wished to
cast the blame of the catastrophe.

He gave the sign therefore to open the cuniculum, seeing which, the
people were calmed in a moment.  They heard the creaking of the doors
behind which were the lions.  At sight of the lions the dogs gathered
with low whines, on the opposite side of the arena. The lions walked
into the arena one after another, immense, tawny, with great shaggy
heads.  Cæsar himself turned his wearied face toward them, and placed
the emerald to his eye to see better. The Augustians greeted them with
applause; the crowd counted them on their fingers, and followed eagerly
the impression which the sight of them would make on the Christians
kneeling in the centre, who again had begun to repeat the words, without
meaning for many, though annoying to all, "Pro Christo!  Pro Christo!"

But the lions, though hungry, did not hasten to their victims.  The
ruddy light in the arena dazzled them and they half closed their eyes as
if dazed.  Some stretched their yellowish bodies lazily; some, opening
their jaws, yawned,--one might have said that they wanted to show their
terrible teeth to the audience.  But later the odor of blood and torn
bodies, many of which were lying on the sand, began to act on them.
Soon their movements became restless, their manes rose, their nostrils
drew in the air with hoarse sound.  One fell suddenly on the body of a
woman with a torn face, and, lying with his fore paws on the body,
licked with a rough tongue the stiffened blood: another approached a man
who was holding in his arms a child sewed up in a fawn's skin.

The child, trembling from crying, and weeping, clung convulsively to the
neck of its father; he, to prolong its life even for a moment, tried to
pull it from his neck, so as to hand it to those kneeling farther on.
But the cry and the movement irritated the lion.  All at once he gave
out a short, broken roar, killed the child with one blow of his paw, and
seizing the head of the father in his jaws, crushed it in a twinkle.

At sight of this all the other lions fell upon the crowd of Christians.
Some women could not restrain cries of terror; but the audience drowned
these with plaudits, which soon ceased, however, for the wish to see
gained the mastery.  They beheld terrible things then: heads
disappearing entirely in open jaws, breasts torn apart with one blow,
hearts and lungs swept away; the crushing of bones under the teeth of
lions.  Some lions, seizing victims by the ribs or loins, ran with mad
springs through the arena, as if seeking hidden places in which to
devour them; others fought, rose on their hind legs, grappled one
another like wrestlers, and filled the amphitheatre with thunder.
People rose from their places.  Some left their seats, went down lower
through the passages to see better, and crowded one another mortally.
It seemed that the excited multitude would throw itself at last into the
arena, and rend the Christians in company with the lions.  At moments an
unearthly noise was heard; at moments applause; at moments roaring,
rumbling, the clashing of teeth, the howling of Molossian dogs; at times
only groans.

Cæsar, holding the emerald to his eye, looked now with attention. The
face of Petronius assumed an expression of contempt and disgust.  Chilo
had been borne out of the Circus.

But from the cuniculum new victims were driven forth continually.

From the highest row in the amphitheatre the Apostle Peter looked at
them.  No one saw him, for all heads were turned to the arena; so he
rose and as formerly in the vineyard of Cornelius he had blessed for
death and eternity those who were intended for imprisonment, so now he
blessed with the cross those who were perishing under the teeth of wild
beasts.  He blessed their blood, their torture, their dead bodies turned
into shapeless masses, and their souls flying away from the bloody sand.
Some raised their eyes to him, and their faces grew radiant; they smiled
when they saw high above them the sign of the cross.  But his heart was
rent, and he said, "O Lord! let Thy will be done.  These my sheep perish
to Thy glory in testimony of the truth.  Thou didst command me to feed
them; hence I give them to Thee, and do Thou count them, Lord, take
them, heal their wounds, soften their pain, give them happiness greater
than the torments which they suffered here."

And he blessed them one after another, crowd after crowd, with as much
love as if they had been his children whom he was giving directly into
the hands of Christ.  Then Cæsar, whether from madness, or the wish that
the exhibition should surpass everything seen in Rome so far, whispered
a few words to the prefect of the city.  He left the podium and went at
once to the cuniculum.  Even the populace were astonished when, after a
while, they saw the gratings open again.  Beasts of all kinds were let
out this time,--tigers from the Euphrates, Numidian panthers, bears,
wolves, hyenas, and jackals.  The whole arena was covered as with a
moving sea of striped, yellow, flax-colored, dark-brown, and spotted
skins.  There rose a chaos in which the eye could distinguish nothing
save a terrible turning and twisting of the backs of wild beasts.  The
spectacle lost the appearance of reality, and became as it were an orgy
of blood, a dreadful dream, a gigantic kaleidoscope of mad fancy.  The
measure was surpassed. Amidst roars, howls, whines, here and there on
the seats of the spectators were heard the terrified and spasmodic
laughter of women, whose strength had given way at last.  The people
were terrified.  Faces grew dark.  Various voices began to cry, "Enough!
enough!"

But it was easier to let the beasts in than drive them back again.
Cæsar, however, found a means of clearing the arena, and a new amusement
for the people.  In all the passages between the seats appeared
detachments of Numidians, black and stately, in feathers and earrings,
with bows in their hands.  The people divined what was coming, and
greeted the archers with a shout of delight.  The Numidians approached
the railing, and, putting their arrows to the strings, began to shoot
from their bows into the crowd of beasts. That was a new spectacle
truly.  Their bodies, shapely as if cut from dark marble, bent backward,
stretched the flexible bows, and sent bolt after bolt.  The whizzing of
the strings and the whistling of the feathered missiles were mingled
with the howling of beasts and cries of wonder from the audience.
Wolves, bears, panthers, and people yet alive fell side by side.  Here
and there a lion, feeling a shaft in his ribs, turned with sudden
movement, his jaws wrinkled from rage, to seize and break the arrow.
Others groaned from pain.  The small beasts, falling into a panic, ran
around the arena at random, or thrust their heads into the grating;
meanwhile the arrows whizzed and whizzed on, till all that was living
had lain down in the final quiver of death.

Hundreds of slaves rushed into the arena armed with spades, shovels,
brooms, wheelbarrows, baskets for carrying out entrails, and bags of
sand.  They came, crowd after crowd, and over the whole circle there
seethed up a feverish activity.  The space was soon cleared of bodies,
blood, and mire, dug over, made smooth, and sprinkled with a thick layer
of fresh sand.  That done, Cupids ran in, scattering leaves of roses,
lilies, and the greatest variety of flowers.  The censers were ignited
again, and the velarium was removed, for the sun had sunk now
considerably.  But people looked at one another with amazement, and
inquired what kind of new spectacle was waiting for them on that day.

Indeed, such a spectacle was waiting as no one had looked for. Cæsar,
who had left the podium some time before, appeared all at once on the
flowery arena, wearing a purple mantle, and a crown of gold.  Twelve
choristers holding citharæ followed him.  He had a silver lute, and
advanced with solemn tread to the middle, bowed a number of times to the
spectators, raised his eyes, and stood as if waiting for inspiration.

Then he struck the strings and began to sing,--

"O radiant son of Leto, Ruler of Tenedos, Chilos, Chrysos, Art thou he
who, having in his care The sacred city of Ilion, Could yield it to
Argive anger, And suffer sacred altars, Which blazed unceasingly to his
honor, To be stained with Trojan blood? Aged men raised trembling hands
to thee, O thou of the far-shooting silver bow, Mothers from the depth
of their breasts Raised tearful cries to thee, Imploring pity on their
offspring. Those complaints might have moved a stone, But to the
suffering of people Thou, O Smintheus, wert less feeling than a stone!"

The song passed gradually into an elegy, plaintive and full of pain. In
the Circus there was silence.  After a while Cæsar, himself affected,
sang on,--

"With the sound of thy heavenly lyre Thou couldst drown the wailing, The
lament of hearts. At the sad sound of this song The eye to-day is filled
with tears, As a flower is filled with dew, But who can raise from dust
and ashes That day of fire, disaster, ruin? O Smintheus, where wert thou
then?"

Here his voice quivered and his eyes grew moist.  Tears appeared on the
lids of the vestals; the people listened in silence before they burst
into a long unbroken storm of applause.

Meanwhile from outside through the vomitoria came the sound of creaking
vehicles on which were placed the bloody remnants of Christians, men,
women, and children, to be taken to the pits called "puticuli."

But the Apostle Peter seized his trembling white head with his hands,
and cried in spirit,--

"O Lord, O Lord! to whom hast Thou given rule over the earth, and why
wilt Thou found in this place Thy capital?"




Chapter LVI


THE sun had lowered toward its setting, and seemed to dissolve in the
red of the evening.  The spectacle was finished. Crowds were leaving the
amphitheatre and pouring out to the city through the passages called
vomitoria.  Only Augustians delayed; they were waiting for the stream of
people to pass.  They had all left their seats and assembled at the
podium, in which Cæsar appeared again to hear praises.  Though the
spectators had not spared plaudits at the end of the song, Nero was not
satisfied; he had looked for enthusiasm touching on frenzy.  In vain did
hymns of praise sound in his ears; in vain did vestals kiss his "divine"
hand, and while doing so Rubria bent till her reddish hair touched his
breast.  Nero was not satisfied, and could not hide the fact.  He was
astonished and also disturbed because Petronius was silent.  Some
flattering and pointed word from his mouth would have been a great
consolation at that moment.  Unable at last to restrain himself, Cæsar
beckoned to the arbiter.

"Speak," said he, when Petronius entered the podium.

"I am silent," answered Petronius, coldly, "for I cannot find words.
Thou hast surpassed thyself."

"So it seemed to me too; but still this people--"

"Canst thou expect mongrels to appreciate poetry?"

"But thou too hast noticed that they have not thanked me as I deserve."

"Because thou hast chosen a bad moment."

"How?"

"When men's brains are filled with the odor of blood, they cannot listen
attentively."

"Ah, those Christians!" replied Nero, clenching his fists.  "They burned
Rome, and injure me now in addition.  What new punishment shall I invent
for them?"

Petronius saw that he had taken the wrong road, that his words had
produced an effect the very opposite of what he intended; so, to turn
Cæsar's mind in another direction, he bent toward him and whispered,--

"Thy song is marvellous, but I will make one remark: in the fourth line
of the third strophe the metre leaves something to be desired."

Nero, blushing with shame, as if caught in a disgraceful deed, had fear
in his look, and answered in a whisper also,--

"Thou seest everything.  I know.  I will re-write that.  But no one else
noticed it, I think.  And do thou, for the love of the gods, mention it
to no one,--if life is dear to thee."

To this Petronius answered, as if in an outburst of vexation and anger,

"Condemn me to death, O divinity, if I deceive thee; but thou wilt not
terrify me, for the gods know best of all if I fear death."

And while speaking he looked straight into Cæsar's eyes, who answered
after a while,--

"Be not angry; thou knowest that I love thee."

"A bad sign!" thought Petronius.

"I wanted to invite thee to-day to a feast," continued Nero, "but I
prefer to shut myself in and polish that cursed line in the third
strophe.  Besides thee Seneca may have noticed it, and perhaps Secundus
Carinas did; but I will rid myself of them quickly."

Then he summoned Seneca, and declared that with Acratus and Secundus
Carinas, he sent him to the Italian and all other provinces for money,
which he commanded him to obtain from cities, villages, famous temples,
--in a word, from every place where it was possible to find money, or
from which they could force it.  But Seneca, who saw that Cæsar was
confiding to him a work of plunder, sacrilege, and robbery, refused
straightway.

"I must go to the country, lord," said he, "and await death, for I am
old and my nerves are sick."

Seneca's Iberian nerves were stronger than Chilos; they were not sick,
perhaps, but in general his health was bad, for he seemed like a shadow,
and recently his hair had grown white altogether.

Nero, too, when he looked at him, thought that he would not have to wait
long for the man's death, and answered,--

"I will not expose thee to a journey if thou art ill, but through
affection I wish to keep thee near me.  Instead of going to the country,
then, thou wilt stay in thy own house, and not leave it."

Then he laughed, and said, "If I send Acratus and Carinas by themselves,
it will be like sending wolves for sheep.  Whom shall I set above them?"

"Me, lord," said Domitius Afer.

"No! I have no wish to draw on Rome the wrath of Mercury, whom ye would
put to shame with your villainy.  I need some stoic like Seneca, or like
my new friend, the philosopher Chilo."

Then he looked around, and asked,--

"But what has happened to Chilo?"

Chilo, who had recovered in the open air and returned to the
amphitheatre for Cæsar's song, pushed up, and said,--

"I am here, O Radiant Offspring of the sun and moon.  I was ill, but thy
song has restored me."

"I will send thee to Achæa," said Nero.  "Thou must know to a copper how
much there is in each temple there."

"Do so, O Zeus, and the gods will give thee such tribute as they have
never given any one."

"I would, but I do not like to prevent thee from seeing the games."

"Baal!" said Chilo.

The Augustians, delighted that Cæsar had regained humor, fell to
laughing, and exclaimed,--

"No, lord, deprive not this valiant Greek of a sight of the games."

"But preserve me, O lord, from the sight of these noisy geese of the
Capitol, whose brains put together would not fill a nutshell," retorted
Chilo.  "O first-born of Apollo, I am writing a Greek hymn in thy honor,
and I wish to spend a few days in the temple of the Muses to implore
inspiration."

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Nero.  "It is thy wish to escape future games.
Nothing will come of that!"

"I swear to thee, lord, that I am writing a hymn."

"Then thou wilt write it at night.  Beg inspiration of Diana, who, by
the way, is a sister of Apollo."

Chilo dropped his head and looked with malice on those present, who
began to laugh again.  Cæsar, turning to Senecio and Suilius Nerulinus,
said,--

"Imagine, of the Christians appointed for to-day we have been able to
finish hardly half!"

At this old Aquilus Regulus, who had great knowledge of everything
touching the amphitheatre, thought a while, and said,--

"Spectacles in which people appear sine armis et sine arte last almost
as long and are less entertaining."

"I will command to give them weapons," answered Nero.

But the superstitious Vestinius was roused from meditation at once, and
asked in a mysterious voice,--

"Have ye noticed that when dying they see something?  They look up, and
die as it were without pain.  I am sure that they see something."

He raised his eyes then to the opening of the amphitheatre, over which
night had begun to extend its velarium dotted with stars.  But others
answered with laughter and jesting suppositions as to what the
Christians could see at the moment of death.  Meanwhile Cæsar gave a
signal to the slave torch-bearers, and left the Circus; after him
followed vestals, senators, dignitaries, and Augustians.

The night was clear and warm.  Before the Circus were moving throngs of
people, curious to witness the departure of Cæsar; but in some way they
were gloomy and silent.  Here and there applause was heard, but it
ceased quickly.  From the spoliarium creaking carts bore away the bloody
remnants of Christians.

Petronius and Vinicius passed over their road in silence.  Only when
near his villa did Petronius inquire,--

"Hast thou thought of what I told thee?"  "I have," answered Vinicius.

"Dost believe that for me too this is a question of the highest
importance?  I must liberate her in spite of Cæsar and Tigellinus. This
is a kind of battle in which I have undertaken to conquer, a kind of
play in which I wish to win, even at the cost of my life. This day has
confirmed me still more in my plan."

"May Christ reward thee."

"Thou wilt see."

Thus conversing, they stopped at the door of the villa and descended
from the litter.  At that moment a dark figure approached them, and
asked,--

"Is the noble Vinicius here?"

"He is," answered the tribune.  "What is thy wish?"

"I am Nazarius, the son of Miriam.  I come from the prison, and bring
tidings of Lygia."

Vinicius placed his hand on the young man's shoulder and looked into his
eyes by the torchlight, without power to speak a word, but Nazarius
divined the question which was dying on his lips, and replied,--

"She is living yet.  Ursus sent me to say that she prays in her fever,
and repeats thy name."

"Praise be to Christ, who has power to restore her to me," said
Vinicius.  He conducted Nazarius to the library, and after a while
Petronius came in to hear their conversation.

"Sickness saved her from shame, for executioners are timid," said the
youth.  "Ursus and Glaucus the physician watch over her night and day."

"Are the guards the same?"

"They are, and she is in their chamber.  All the prisoners in the lower
dungeon died of fever, or were stifled from foul air."

"Who art thou?" inquired Petronins.

"The noble Vinicius knows me.  I am the son of that widow with whom
Lygia lodged."

"And a Christian?"

The youth looked with inquiring glance at Vinicius, but, seeing him in
prayer, he raised his head, and answered,--

"I am."

"How canst thou enter the prison freely?"

"I hired myself to carry out corpses; I did so to assist my brethren and
bring them news from the city."

Petronius looked more attentively at the comely face of the youth, his
blue eyes, and dark, abundant hair.

"From what country art thou, youth?" asked he.

"I am a Galilean, lord."

"Wouldst thou like to see Lygia free?"

The youth raised his eyes.  "Yes, even had I to die afterwards."

Then Vinicius ceased to pray, and said,--

"Tell the guards to place her in a coffin as if she were dead.  Thou
wilt find assistants to bear her out in the night with thee.  Near the
'Putrid Pits' will be people with a litter waiting for you; to them ye
will give the coffin.  Promise the guards from me as much gold as each
can carry in his mantle."

While speaking, his face lost its usual torpor, and in him was roused
the soldier to whom hope had restored his former energy.

Nazarius was flushed with delight, and, raising his hands, he exclaimed,

"May Christ give her health, for she will be free."

"Dost thou think that the guards will consent?" inquired Petronius.

"They, lord?  Yes, if they know that punishment and torture will not
touch them."

"The guards would consent to her flight; all the more will they let us
bear her out as a corpse," said Vinicius.

"There is a man, it is true," said Nazarius, "who burns with red-hot
iron to see if the bodies which we carry out are dead.  But he will take
even a few sestertia not to touch the face of the dead with iron.  For
one aureus he will touch the coffin, not the body."

"Tell him that he will get a cap full of aurei," said Petronius.  "But
canst thou find reliable assistants?"

"I can find men who would sell their own wives and children for money."

"Where wilt thou find them?"

"In the prison itself or in the city.  Once the guards are paid, they
will admit whomever I like."

"In that case take me as a hired servant," said Vinicius.

But Petronius opposed this most earnestly.  "The pretorians might
recognize thee even in disguise, and all would be lost.  Go neither to
the prison nor the 'Putrid Pits.' All, including Cæsar and Tigellinus,
should be convinced that she died; otherwise they will order immediate
pursuit.  We can lull suspicion only in this way: When she is taken to
the Alban Hills or farther, to Sicily, we shall be in Rome.  A week or
two later thou wilt fall ill, and summon Nero's physician; he will tell
thee to go to the mountains.  Thou and she will meet, and afterward--"

Here he thought a while; then, waving his hand, he said,--

"Other times may come."

"May Christ have mercy on her," said Vinicius.  "Thou art speaking of
Sicily, while she is sick and may die."

"Let us keep her nearer Rome at first.  The air alone will restore her,
if only we snatch her from the dungeon.  Hast thou no manager in the
mountains whom thou canst trust?"

"I have," replied Vinicius, hurriedly.  "Near Corioli is a reliable man
who carried me in his arms when I was a child, and who loves me yet."

"Write to him to come to-morrow," said Petronius, handing Vinicius
tablets.  "I will send a courier at once."

He called the chief of the atrium then, and gave the needful orders. A
few minutes later, a mounted slave was coursing in the night toward
Corioli.

"It would please me were Ursus to accompany her," said Vinicius. "I
should be more at rest."

"Lord," said Nazarius, "that is a man of superhuman strength; he can
break gratings and follow her.  There is one window above a steep, high
rock where no guard is placed.  I will take Ursus a rope; the rest he
will do himself."

"By Hercules!" said Petronius, "let him tear himself out as he pleases,
but not at the same time with her, and not two or three days later, for
they would follow him and discover her hiding-place.  By Hercules! do ye
wish to destroy yourselves and her?  I forbid you to name Corioli to
him, or I wash my hands."

Both recognized the justice of these words, and were silent. Nazarius
took leave, promising to come the next morning at daybreak.

He hoped to finish that night with the guards, but wished first to run
in to see his mother, who in that uncertain and dreadful time had no
rest for a moment thinking of her son.  After some thought he had
determined not to seek an assistant in the city, but to find and bribe
one from among his fellow corpse-bearers.  When going, he stopped, and,
taking Vinicius aside, whispered,--

"I will not mention our plan to any one, not even to my mother, but the
Apostle Peter promised to come from the amphitheatre to our house; I
will tell him everything."

"Here thou canst speak openly," replied Vinicius.  "The Apostle was in
the amphitheatre with the people of Petronius.  But I will go with you
myself."

He gave command to bring him a slave's mantle, and they passed out.
Petronius sighed deeply.

"I wished her to die of that fever," thought he, "since that would have
been less terrible for Vinicius.  But now I am ready to offer a golden
tripod to Esculapius for her health.  Ah! Ahenobarbus, thou hast the
wish to turn a lover's pain into a spectacle; thou, Augusta, wert
jealous of the maiden's beauty, and wouldst devour her alive because thy
Rufius has perished.  Thou, Tigellinus, wouldst destroy her to spite me!
We shall see.  I tell you that your eyes will not behold her on the
arena, for she will either die her own death, or I shall wrest her from
you as from the jaws of dogs, and wrest her in such fashion that ye
shall not know it; and as often afterward as I look at you I shall
think, These are the fools whom Caius Petronius outwitted."

And, self-satisfied, he passed to the triclinium, where he sat down to
supper with Eunice.  During the meal a lector read to them the Idyls of
Theocritus.  Out of doors the wind brought clouds from the direction of
Soracte, and a sudden storm broke the silence of the calm summer night.
From time to time thunder reverberated on the seven hills, while they,
reclining near each other at the table, listened to the bucolic poet,
who in the singing Doric dialect celebrated the loves of shepherds.
Later on, with minds at rest, they prepared for sweet slumber.

But before this Vinicius returned.  Petronius heard of his coming, and
went to meet him.

"Well?  Have ye fixed anything new?" inquired he.  "Has Nazarius gone to
the prison?"

"He has," answered the young man, arranging his hair, wet from the rain.
"Nazarius went to arrange with the guards, and I have seen Peter, who
commanded me to pray and believe."

"That is well.  If all goes favorably, we can bear her away to-morrow
night."

"My manager must be here at daybreak with men."

"The road is a short one.  Now go to rest."

But Vinicius knelt in his cubiculum and prayed.

At sunrise Niger, the manager, arrived from Corioli, bringing with him,
at the order of Vinicius, mules, a litter, and four trusty men selected
among slaves from Britain, whom, to save appearances, he had left at an
inn in the Subura.  Vinicius, who had watched all night, went to meet
him. Niger, moved at sight of his youthful master, kissed his hands and
eyes, saying,--

"My dear, thou art ill, or else suffering has sucked the blood from thy
face, for hardly did I know thee at first."

Vinicius took him to the interior colonnade, and there admitted him to
the secret.  Niger listened with fixed attention, and on his dry,
sunburnt face great emotion was evident; this he did not even try to
master.

"Then she is a Christian?" exclaimed Niger; and he looked inquiringly
into the face of Vinicius, who divined evidently what the gaze of the
countryman was asking, since he answered,--

"I too am a Christian."

Tears glistened in Niger's eyes that moment.  He was silent for a while;
then, raising his hands, he said,--

"I thank Thee, O Christ, for having taken the beam from eyes which are
the dearest on earth to me."

Then he embraced the head of Vinicius, and, weeping from happiness, fell
to kissing his forehead.  A moment later, Petronius appeared, bringing
Nazarius.

"Good news!" cried he, while still at a distance.

Indeed, the news was good.  First, Glaucus the physician guaranteed
Lygia's life, though she had the same prison fever of which, in the
Tullianum and other dungeons, hundreds of people were dying daily.  As
to the guards and the man who tried corpses with red-hot iron, there was
not the least difficulty.  Attys, the assistant, was satisfied also.

"We made openings in the coffin to let the sick woman breathe," said
Nazarius.  "The only danger is that she may groan or speak as we pass
the pretorians.  But she is very weak, and is lying with closed eyes
since early morning.  Besides, Glaucus will give her a sleeping draught
prepared by himself from drugs brought by me purposely from the city.
The cover will not be nailed to the coffin; ye will raise it easily and
take the patient to the litter.  We will place in the coffin a long bag
of sand, which ye will provide."

Vinicius, while hearing these words, was as pale as linen; but he
listened with such attention that he seemed to divine at a glance what
Nazarius had to say.

"Will they carry out other bodies from the prison?" inquired Petronius.

"About twenty died last night, and before evening more will be dead,"
said the youth.  "We must go with a whole company, but we will delay and
drop into the rear.  At the first corner my comrade will get lame
purposely.  In that way we shall remain behind the others considerably.
Ye will wait for us at the small temple of Libitina.  May God give a
night as dark as possible!"

"He will," said Niger.  "Last evening was bright, and then a sudden
storm came.  To-day the sky is clear, but since morning it is sultry.
Every night now there will be wind and rain."

"Will ye go without torches?" inquired Vinicius.

"The torches are carried only in advance.  In every event, be near the
temple of Libitina at dark, though usually we carry out the corpses only
just before midnight."

They stopped.  Nothing was to be heard save the hurried breathing of
Vinicius.  Petronius turned to him,--

"I said yesterday that it would be best were we both to stay at home,
but now I see that I could not stay.  Were it a question of flight,
there would be need of the greatest caution; but since she will be borne
out as a corpse, it seems that not the least suspicion will enter the
head of any one."

"True, true!" answered Vinicius.  "I must be there.  I will take her
from the coffin myself."

"Once she is in my house at Corioli, I answer for her," said Niger.
Conversation stopped here.  Niger returned to his men at the inn.
Nazarius took a purse of gold under his tunic and went to the prison.
For Vinicius began a day filled with alarm, excitement, disquiet, and
hope.

"The undertaking ought to succeed, for it is well planned," said
Petronius.  "It was impossible to plan better.  Thou must feign
suffering, and wear a dark toga.  Do not desert the amphitheatre. Let
people see thee.  All is so fixed that there cannot be failure.  But--
art thou perfectly sure of thy manager?"

"He is a Christian," replied Vinicius.

Petronius looked at him with amazement, then shrugged his shoulders, and
said, as if in soliloquy,--

"By Pollux! how it spreads, and commands people's souls.  Under such
terror as the present, men would renounce straightway all the gods of
Rome, Greece, and Egypt.  Still, this is wonderful!  By Pollux! if I
believed that anything depended on our gods, I would sacrifice six white
bullocks to each of them, and twelve to Capitoline Jove.  Spare no
promises to thy Christ."

"I have given Him my soul," said Vinicius.

And they parted.  Petronius returned to his cubiculum; but Vinicius went
to look from a distance at the prison, and thence betook himself to the
slope of the Vatican hill,--to that hut of the quarryman where he had
received baptism from the hands of the Apostle.  It seemed to him that
Christ would hear him more readily there than in any other place; so
when he found it, he threw himself on the ground and exerted all the
strength of his suffering soul in prayer for mercy, and so forgot
himself that he remembered not where he was or what he was doing.  In
the afternoon he was roused by the sound of trumpets which came from the
direction of Nero's Circus.  He went out of the hut, and gazed around
with eyes which were as if just opened from sleep.

It was hot; the stillness was broken at intervals by the sound of brass
and continually by the ceaseless noise of grasshoppers.  The air had
become sultry, the sky was still clear over the city, but near the
Sabine Hills dark clouds were gathering at the edge of the horizon.

Vinicius went home.  Petronius was waiting for him in the atrium.

"I have been on the Palatine," said he.  "I showed myself there
purposely, and even sat down at dice.  There is a feast at the house of
Vinicius this evening; I promised to go, but only after midnight, saying
that I must sleep before that hour.  In fact I shall be there, and it
would be well wert thou to go also."

"Are there no tidings from Niger or Nazarius?" inquired Vinicius.

"No; we shall see them only at midnight.  Hast noticed that a storm is
threatening?"

"Yes."

"To-morrow there is to be an exhibition of crucified Christians, but
perhaps rain will prevent it."

Then he drew nearer and said, touching his nephew's shoulder,--"But thou
wilt not see her on the cross; thou wilt see her only in Corioli.  By
Castor!  I would not give the moment in which we free her for all the
gems in Rome.  The evening is near."

In truth the evening was near, and darkness began to encircle the city
earlier than usual because clouds covered the whole horizon. With the
coming of night heavy rain fell, which turned into steam on the stones
warmed by the heat of the day, and filled the streets of the city with
mist.  After that came a lull, then brief violent showers.

"Let us hurry!" said Vinicius at last; "they may carry bodies from the
prison earlier because of the storm."

"It is time!" said Petronius.

And taking Gallic mantles with hoods, they passed through the garden
door to the street.  Petronius had armed himself with a short Roman
knife called sicca, which he took always during night trips.

The city was empty because of the storm.  From time to time lightning
rent the clouds, illuminating with its glare the fresh walls of houses
newly built or in process of building and the wet flag-stones with which
the streets were paved.  At last a flash came, when they saw, after a
rather long road, the mound on which stood the small temple of Libitina,
and at the foot of the mound a group of mules and horses.

"Niger!" called Vinicius, in a low voice.

"I am here, lord," said a voice in the rain.

"Is everything ready?"

"It is.  We were here at dark.  But hide yourselves under the rampart,
or ye will be drenched.  What a storm!  Hail will fall, I think."

In fact Niger's fear was justified, for soon hail began to fall, at
first fine, then larger and more frequent.  The air grew cold at once.
While standing under the rampart, sheltered from the wind and icy
missiles, they conversed in low voices.

"Even should some one see us," said Niger, "there will be no suspicion;
we look like people waiting for the storm to pass.  But I fear that they
may not bring the bodies out till morning."

"The hail-storm will not last," said Petronius.  "We must wait even till
daybreak."

They waited, listening to hear the sound of the procession.  The
hail-storm passed, but immediately after a shower began to roar. At
times the wind rose, and brought from the "Putrid Pits" a dreadful odor
of decaying bodies, buried near the surface and carelessly.

"I see a light through the mist," said Niger,--"one, two, three,--those
are torches.  See that the mules do not snort," said he, turning to the
men.

"They are coming!" said Petronius.

The lights were growing more and more distinct.  After a time it was
possible to see torches under the quivering flames.

Niger made the sign of the cross, and began to pray.  Meanwhile the
gloomy procession drew nearer, and halted at last in front of the temple
of Libitina.  Petronius, Vinicius, and Niger pressed up to the rampart
in silence, not knowing why the halt was made.  But the men had stopped
only to cover their mouths and faces with cloths to ward off the
stifling stench which at the edge of the "Putrid Pits" was simply
unendurable; then they raised the biers with coffins and moved on.  Only
one coffin stopped before the temple.  Vinicius sprang toward it, and
after him Petronius, Niger, and two British slaves with the litter.

But before they had reached it in the darkness, the voice of Nazarius
was heard, full of pain,--

"Lord, they took her with Ursus to the Esquiline prison.  We are
carrying another body!  They removed her before midnight."

Petronius, when he had returned home, was gloomy as a storm, and did not
even try to console Vinicius.  He understood that to free Lygia from the
Esquiline dungeons was not to be dreamed of.  He divined that very
likely she had been taken from the Tullianum so as not to die of fever
and escape the amphitheatre assigned to her. But for this very reason
she was watched and guarded more carefully than others.  From the bottom
of his soul Petronius was sorry for her and Vinicius, but he was wounded
also by the thought that for the first time in life he had not
succeeded, and for the first time was beaten in a struggle.

"Fortune seems to desert me," said he to himself, "but the gods are
mistaken if they think that I will accept such a life as his, for
example."

Here he turned toward Vinicius, who looked at him with staring eyes.
"What is the matter?  Thou hast a fever," said Petronius.

But Vinicius answered with a certain strange, broken, halting voice,
like that of a sick child,--"But I believe that He--can restore her to
me."

Above the city the last thunders of the storm had ceased.




Chapter LVII


THREE days' rain, an exceptional phenomenon in Rome during summer, and
hail falling in opposition to the natural order, not only in the day,
but even at night, interrupted the spectacles. People were growing
alarmed.  A failure of grapes was predicted, and when on a certain
afternoon a thunderbolt melted the bronze statue of Ceres on the
Capitol, sacrifices were ordered in the temple of Jupiter Salvator.  The
priests of Ceres spread a report that the anger of the gods was turned
on the city because of the too hasty punishment of Christians; hence
crowds began to insist that the spectacles be given without reference to
weather.  Delight seized all Rome when the announcement was made at last
that the ludus would begin again after three days' interval.

Meanwhile beautiful weather returned.  The amphitheatre was filled at
daybreak with thousands of people.  Cæsar came early with the vestals
and the court.  The spectacle was to begin with a battle among the
Christians, who to this end were arrayed as gladiators and furnished
with all kinds of weapons which served gladiators by profession in
offensive and defensive struggles.  But here came disappointment.  The
Christians threw nets, darts, tridents, and swords on the arena,
embraced and encouraged one another to endurance in view of torture and
death.  At this deep indignation and resentment seized the hearts of the
multitude. Some reproached the Christians with cowardice and
pusillanimity; others asserted that they refused to fight through hatred
of the people, so as to deprive them of that pleasure which the sight of
bravery produces.  Finally, at command of Cæsar, real gladiators were
let out, who despatched in one twinkle the kneeling and defenceless
victims.

When these bodies were removed, the spectacle was a series of mythologic
pictures,--Cæsar's own idea.  The audience saw Hercules blazing in
living fire on Mount Oeta.  Vinicius had trembled at the thought that
the role of Hercules might be intended for Ursus; but evidently the turn
of Lygia's faithful servant had not come, for on the pile some other
Christian was burning,--a man quite unknown to Vinicius.  In the next
picture Chilo, whom Cæsar would not excuse from attendance, saw
acquaintances.  The death of Dædalus was represented, and also that of
Icarus.  In the rôle of Dædalus appeared Euricius, that old man who had
given Chilo the sign of the fish; the role of Icarus was taken by his
son, Quartus.  Both were raised aloft with cunning machinery, and then
hurled suddenly from an immense height to the arena.  Young Quartus fell
so near Cæsar's podium that he spattered with blood not only the
external ornaments but the purple covering spread over the front of the
podium.  Chilo did not see the fall, for he closed his eyes; but he
heard the dull thump of the body, and when after a time he saw blood
there close to him, he came near fainting a second time.

The pictures changed quickly.  The shameful torments of maidens violated
before death by gladiators dressed as wild beasts, delighted the hearts
of the rabble.  They saw priestesses of Cybele and Ceres, they saw the
Danaides, they saw Dirce and Pasiphaë; finally they saw young girls, not
mature yet, torn asunder by wild horses.  Every moment the crowd
applauded new ideas of Nero, who, proud of them, and made happy by
plaudits, did not take the emerald from his eye for one instant while
looking at white bodies torn with iron, and the convulsive quivering of
victims.

Pictures were given also from the history of the city.  After the
maidens they saw Mucius Scævola, whose hand fastened over a fire to a
tripod filled the amphitheatre with the odor of burnt flesh; but this
man, like the real Scævola, remained without a groan, his eyes raised
and the murmur of prayer on his blackening lips.  When he had expired
and his body was dragged to the spoliarium, the usual midday interlude
followed.  Cæsar with the vestals and the Augustians left the
amphitheatre, and withdrew to an immense scarlet tent erected purposely;
in this was prepared for him and the guests a magnificent prandium.  The
spectators for the greater part followed his example, and, streaming
out, disposed themselves in picturesque groups around the tent, to rest
their limbs wearied from long sitting, and enjoy the food which, through
Cæsar's favor, was served by slaves to them.  Only the most curious
descended to the arena itself, and, touching with their fingers lumps of
sand held together by blood, conversed, as specialists and amateurs, of
that which had happened and of that which was to follow.  Soon even
these went away, lest they might be late for the feast; only those few
were left who stayed not through curiosity, but sympathy for the coming
victims.  Those concealed themselves behind seats or in the lower
places.

Meanwhile the arena was levelled, and slaves began to dig holes one near
the other in rows throughout the whole circuit from side to side, so
that the last row was but a few paces distant from Cæsar's podium.  From
outside came the murmur of people, shouts and plaudits, while within
they were preparing in hot haste for new tortures.  The cunicula were
opened simultaneously, and in all passages leading to the arena were
urged forward crowds of Christians naked and carrying crosses on their
shoulders.  The whole arena was filled with them.  Old men, bending
under the weight of wooden beams, ran forward; at the side of these went
men in the prime of life, women with loosened hair behind which they
strove to hide their nakedness, small boys, and little children. The
crosses, for the greater part, as well as the victims, were wreathed
with flowers.  The servants of the amphitheatre beat the unfortunates
with clubs, forcing them to lay down their crosses near the holes
prepared, and stand themselves there in rows.  Thus were to perish those
whom executioners had had no chance to drive out as food for dogs and
wild beasts the first day of the games.  Black slaves seized the
victims, laid them face upward on the wood, and fell to nailing their
hands hurriedly and quickly to the arms of the crosses, so that people
returning after the interlude might find all the crosses standing.  The
whole amphitheatre resounded with the noise of hammers which echoed
through all the rows, went out to the space surrounding the
amphitheatre, and into the tent where Cæsar was entertaining his suite
and the vestals.  There he drank wine, bantered with Chilo, and
whispered strange words in the ears of the priestesses of Vesta; but on
the arena the work was seething,--nails were going into the hands and
feet of the Christians; shovels moved quickly, filling the holes in
which the crosses had been planted.

Among the new victims whose turn was to come soon was Crispus.  The
lions had not had time to rend him; hence he was appointed to the cross.
He, ready at all times for death, was delighted with the thought that
his hour was approaching.  He seemed another man, for his emaciated body
was wholly naked,--only a girdle of ivy encircled his hips, on his head
was a garland of roses.  But in his eyes gleamed always that same
exhaustless energy; that same fanatical stern face gazed from beneath
the crown of roses.  Neither had his heart changed; for, as once in the
cuniculum he had threatened with the wrath of God his brethren sewed up
in the skins of wild beasts, so to-day he thundered in place of
consoling them.

"Thank the Redeemer," said Crispus, "that He permits you to die the same
death that He Himself died.  Maybe a part of your sins will be remitted
for this cause; but tremble, since justice must be satisfied, and there
cannot be one reward for the just and the wicked."

His words were accompanied by the sound of the hammers nailing the hands
and feet of victims.  Every moment more crosses were raised on the
arena; but he, turning to the crowd standing each man by his own cross,
continued,--

"I see heaven open, but I see also the yawning abyss.  I know not what
account of my life to give the Lord, though I have believed, and hated
evil.  I fear, not death, but resurrection; I fear, not torture, but
judgment, for the day of wrath is at hand."

At that moment was heard from between the nearest rows some voice, calm
and solemn,--

"Not the day of wrath, but of mercy, the day of salvation and happiness;
for I say that Christ will gather you in, will comfort you and seat you
at His right hand.  Be confident, for heaven is opening before you."

At these words all eyes were turned to the benches; even those who were
hanging on the crosses raised their pale, tortured faces, and looked
toward the man who was speaking.

But he went to the barrier surrounding the arena, and blessed them with
the sign of the cross.

Crispus stretched out his arm as if to thunder at him; but when he saw
the man's face, he dropped his arm, the knees bent under him, and his
lips whispered, "Paul the Apostle!"

To the great astonishment of the servants of the Circus, all of those
who were not nailed to the crosses yet knelt down.  Paul turned to
Crispus and said,

"Threaten them not, Crispus, for this day they will be with thee in
paradise.  It is thy thought that they may be condemned.  But who will
condemn?

"Will God, who gave His Son for them?  Will Christ, who died for their
salvation, condemn when they die for His name?  And how is it possible
that He  who loves can condemn?  Who will accuse the chosen of God?  Who
will say of this blood, 'It is cursed'?"

"I have hated evil," said the old priest.

"Christ's command to love men was higher than that to hate evil, for His
religion is not hatred, but love."

"I have sinned in the hour of death," answered Crispus, beating his
breast.  The manager of the seats approached the Apostle, and inquired,

"Who art thou, speaking to the condemned?"

"A Roman citizen," answered Paul, calmly.  Then, turning to Crispus, he
said: "Be confident, for to-day is a day of grace; die in peace, O
servant of God."

The black men approached Crispus at that moment to place him on the
cross; but he looked around once again, and cried,--

"My brethren, pray for me!"

His face had lost its usual sternness; his stony features had taken an
expression of peace and sweetness.  He stretched his arms himself along
the arms of the cross, to make the work easier, and, looking directly
into heaven, began to pray earnestly.  He seemed to feel nothing; for
when the nails entered his hands, not the least quiver shook his body,
nor on his face did there appear any wrinkle of pain.  He prayed when
they raised the cross and trampled the earth around it.  Only when
crowds began to fill the amphitheatre with shouts and laughter did his
brows frown somewhat, as if in anger that a pagan people were disturbing
the calm and peace of a sweet death.

But all the crosses had been raised, so that in the arena there stood as
it were a forest, with people hanging on the trees.  On the arms of the
crosses and on the heads of the martyrs fell the gleam of the sun; but
on the arena was a deep shadow, forming a kind of black involved grating
through which glittered the golden sand.  That was a spectacle in which
the whole delight of the audience consisted in looking at a lingering
death.  Never before had men seen such a density of crosses.  The arena
was packed so closely that the servants squeezed between them only with
effort.  On the edges were women especially; but Crispus, as a leader,
was raised almost in front of Cæsar's podium, on an immense cross,
wreathed below with honeysuckle.  None of the victims had died yet, but
some of those fastened earlier had fainted.  No one groaned; no one
called for mercy.  Some were hanging with head inclined on one arm, or
dropped on the breast, as if seized by sleep; some were as if in
meditation; some, looking toward heaven, were moving their lips quietly.
In this terrible forest of crosses, among those crucified bodies, in
that silence of victims there was something ominous. The people who,
filled by the feast and gladsome, had returned to the Circus with
shouts, became silent, not knowing on which body to rest their eyes, or
what to think of the spectacle.  The nakedness of strained female forms
roused no feeling.  They did not make the usual bets as to who would die
first,--a thing done generally when there was even the smallest number
of criminals on the arena.  It seemed that Cæsar himself was bored, for
he turned lazily and with drowsy expression to arrange his necklace.

At that moment Crispus, who was hanging opposite, and who, like a man in
a faint or dying, had kept his eyes closed, opened them and looked at
Cæsar.  His face assumed an expression so pitiless, and his eyes flashed
with such fire, that the Augustians whispered to one another, pointing
at him with their fingers, and at last Cæsar himself turned to that
cross, and placed the emerald to his eye sluggishly.

Perfect silence followed.  The eyes of the spectators were fixed on
Crispus, who strove to move his right hand, as if to tear it from the
tree.

After a while his breast rose, his ribs were visible, and he cried:
"Matricide! woe to thee!"

The Augustians, hearing this mortal insult flung at the lord of the
world in presence of thousands, did not dare to breathe.  Chilo was half
dead.  Cæsar trembled, and dropped the emerald from his fingers.  The
people, too, held the breath in their breasts.  The voice of Crispus was
heard, as it rose in power, throughout the amphitheatre,--

"Woe to thee, murderer of wife and brother! woe to thee, Antichrist.
The abyss is opening beneath thee, death is stretching its hands to
thee, the grave is waiting for thee.  Woe, living corpse, for in terror
shalt thou die and be damned to eternity!"

Unable to tear his hand from the cross, Crispus strained awfully. He was
terrible,--a living skeleton; unbending as predestination, he shook his
white beard over Nero's podium, scattering, as he nodded, rose leaves
from the garland on his head.

"Woe to thee, murderer!  Thy measure is surpassed, and thy hour is at
hand!"

Here he made one more effort.  It seemed for a moment that he would free
his hand from the cross and hold it in menace above Cæsar; but all at
once his emaciated arms extended still more, his body settled down, his
head fell on his breast, and he died.

In that forest of crosses the weakest began also the sleep of eternity.




Chapter LVIII


"LORD," said Chilo, "the sea is like olive oil, the waves seem to sleep.
Let us go to Achæa.  There the glory of Apollo is awaiting thee, crowns
and triumph are awaiting thee, the people will deify thee, the gods will
receive thee as a guest, their own equal; but here, O lord--"

And he stopped, for his lower lip began to quiver so violently that his
words passed into meaningless sounds.

"We will go when the games are over," replied Nero.  "I know that even
now some call the Christians innoxia corpora.  If I were to go, all
would repeat this.  What dost thou fear?"

Then he frowned, but looked with inquiring glance at Chilo, as if
expecting an answer, for he only feigned cool blood.  At the last
exhibition he himself feared the words of Crispus; and when he had
returned to the Palatine, he could not sleep from rage and shame, but
also from fear.

Then Vestinius, who heard their conversation in silence, looked around,
and said in a mysterious voice,--

"Listen, lord, to this old man.  There is something strange in those
Christians.  Their deity gives them an easy death, but he may be
vengeful."

"It was not I who arranged the games, but Tigellinus," replied Nero,
quickly.

"True! it was I," added Tigellinus, who heard Cæsar's answer, "and I
jeer at all Christian gods.  Vestinius is a bladder full of prejudices,
and this valiant Greek is ready to die of terror at sight of a hen with
feathers up in defence of her chickens."

"True!" said Nero; "but henceforth give command to cut the tongues out
of Christians and stop their mouths."

"Fire will stop them, O divinity."

"Woe is me!" groaned Chilo.

But Cæsar, to whom the insolent confidence of Tigellinus gave courage,
began to laugh, and said, pointing to the old Greek,--

"See how the descendant of Achilles looks!"

Indeed Chilo looked terribly.  The remnant of hair on his head had grown
white; on his face was fixed an expression of some immense dread, alarm,
and oppression.  He seemed at times, too, as if stunned and only half
conscious.  Often he gave no answer to questions; then again he fell
into anger, and became so insolent that the Augustians preferred not to
attack him.  Such a moment had come to him then.

"Do what ye like with me, but I will not go to the games!" cried he, in
desperation.

Nero looked at him for a while, and, turning to Tigellinus, said,--

"Have a care that this Stoic is near me in the gardens.  I want to see
what impression our torches will make on him."

Chilo was afraid of the threat which quivered in Cæsar's voice. "O
lord," said he, "I shall see nothing, for I cannot see in the night-
time."

"The night will be as bright as day," replied Cæsar, with a threatening
laugh.

Turning then to the Augustians, Nero talked about races which he
intended to have when the games were over.

Petronius approached Chilo, and asked, pushing him on the shoulder,--

"Have I not said that thou wouldst not hold out?"

"I wish to drink," said Chilo, stretching his trembling hand toward a
goblet of wine; but he was unable to raise it to his lips.  Seeing this,
Vestinius took the vessel; but later he drew near, and inquired with
curious and frightened face,--

"Are the Furies pursuing thee?"

The old man looked at him a certain time with open lips, as if not
understanding what he said.  But Vestinius repeated,

"Are the Furies pursuing thee?"

"No," answered Chilo; "but night is before me."

"How, night?  May the gods have mercy on thee.  How night?"

"Night, ghastly and impenetrable, in which something is moving,
something coming toward me; but I know not what it is, and I am
terrified."

"I have always been sure that there are witches.  Dost thou not dream of
something?"

"No, for I do not sleep.  I did not think that they would be punished
thus."

"Art thou sorry for them?"

"Why do ye shed so much blood?  Hast heard what that one said from the
cross?  Woe to us!"

"I heard," answered Vestinius, in a low voice.  "But they are
incendiaries."

"Not true!"

"And enemies of the human race."

"Not true!"

"And poisoners of water."

"Not true!"

"And murderers of children."

"Not true!"

"How?" inquired Vestinius, with astonishment.  "Thou hast said so
thyself, and given them into the hands of Tigellinus."

"Therefore night has surrounded me, and death is coming toward me.  At
times it seems to me that I am dead already, and ye also."

"No! it is they who are dying; we are alive.  But tell me, what do they
see when they are dying?"

"Christ."

"That is their god.  Is he a mighty god?"

But Chilo answered with a question,--

"What kind of torches are to burn in the gardens?  Hast thou heard what
Cæsar said?"

"I heard, and I know.  Those torches are called Sarmentitii and Semaxii.
They are made by arraying men in painful tunics, steeped in pitch, and
binding them to pillars, to which fire is set afterward. May their god
not send misfortune on the city.  Semaxii! that is a dreadful
punishment!"

"I would rather see it, for there will not be blood," answered Chilo.
"Command a slave to hold the goblet to my mouth.  I wish to drink, but I
spill the wine; my hand trembles from age."

Others also were speaking of the Christians.  Old Domitius Afer reviled
them.

"There is such a multitude of them," said he, "that they might raise a
civil war; and, remember, there were fears lest they might arm. But they
die like sheep."

"Let them try to die otherwise!" said Tigellinus.

To this Petronius answered, "Ye deceive yourselves.  They are arming."

"With what?"

"With patience."

"That is a new kind of weapon."

"True.  But can ye say that they die like common criminals?  No! They
die as if the criminals were those who condemned them to death,--that
is, we and the whole Roman people."

"What raving!" said Tigellinus.

"Hic Abdera!" answered Petronius.

[A proverbial expression meaning "The dullest of the dull"--Note by the
Author.]

But others, struck by the justice of his remark, began to look at one
another with astonishment, and repeat,--

"True! there is something peculiar and strange in their death."

"I tell you that they see their divinity!" cried Vestinius, from one
side.  Thereupon a number of Augustians turned to Chilo,--

"Hai, old man, thou knowest them well; tell us what they see."

The Greek spat out wine on his tunic, and answered,--

"The resurrection."  And he began to tremble so that the guests sitting
nearer burst into loud laughter.




Chapter LIX


FOR some time Vinicius had spent his nights away from home.  It occurred
to Petronius that perhaps he had formed a new plan, and was working to
liberate Lygia from the Esquiline dungeon; he did not wish, however, to
inquire about anything, lest he might bring misfortune to the work.
This sceptical exquisite had become in a certain sense superstitious.
He had failed to snatch Lygia from the Mamertine prison, hence had
ceased to believe in his own star.

Besides, he did not count this time on a favorable outcome for the
efforts of Vinicius.  The Esquiline prison, formed in a hurry from the
cellars of houses thrown down to stop the fire, was not, it is true, so
terrible as the old Tullianum near the Capitol, but it was a hundred
times better guarded.  Petronius understood perfectly that Lygia had
been taken there only to escape death and not escape the amphitheatre.
He could understand at once that for this very reason they were guarding
her as a man guards the eye in his head.

"Evidently," said he to himself, "Cæsar and Tigellinus have reserved her
for some special spectacle, more dreadful than all others, and Vinicius
is more likely to perish than rescue her."

Vinicius, too, had lost hope of being able to free Lygia.  Christ alone
could do that.  The young tribune now thought only of seeing her in
prison.

For some time the knowledge that Nazarius had penetrated the Mamertine
prison as a corpse-bearer had given him no peace; hence he resolved to
try that method also.

The overseer of the "Putrid Pits," who had been bribed for an immense
sum of money, admitted him at last among servants whom he sent nightly
to prisons for corpses.  The danger that Vinicius might be recognized
was really small.  He was preserved from it by night, the dress of a
slave, and the defective illumination of the prison.  Besides, into
whose head could it enter that a patrician, the grandson of one consul,
the son of another, could be found among servants, corpse-bearers,
exposed to the miasma of prisons and the "Putrid Pits"?  And he began
work to which men were forced only by slavery or the direst need.

When the desired evening came, he girded his loins gladly, covered his
head with a cloth steeped in turpentine, and with throbbing heart betook
himself, with a crowd of others, to the Esquiline.

The pretorian guards made no trouble, for all had brought proper
tesseræ, which the centurion examined by the light of a lantern. After a
while the great iron doors opened before them, and they entered.

Vinicius saw an extensive vaulted cellar, from which they passed to a
series of others.  Dim tapers illuminated the interior of each, which
was filled with people.  Some of these were lying at the walls sunk in
sleep, or dead, perhaps.  Others surrounded large vessels of water,
standing in the middle, out of which they drank as people tormented with
fever; others were sitting on the grounds, their elbows on their knees,
their heads on their palms; here and there children were sleeping,
nestled up to their mothers.  Groans, loud hurried breathing of the
sick, weeping, whispered prayers, hymns in an undertone, the curses of
overseers were heard round about it.  In this dungeon was the odor of
crowds and corpses.  In its gloomy depth dark figures were swarming;
nearer, close to flickering lights, were visible faces, pale, terrified,
hungry, and cadaverous, with eyes dim, or else flaming with fever, with
lips blue, with streams of sweat on their foreheads, and with clammy
hair.  In corners the sick were moaning loudly; some begged for water;
others, to be led to death.  And still that prison was less terrible
than the old Tullianum.  The legs bent under Vinicius when he saw all
this, and breath was failing in his breast.  At the thought that Lygia
was in the midst of this misery and misfortune, the hair rose on his
head, and he stifled a cry of despair.  The amphitheatre, the teeth of
wild beasts, the cross,--anything was better than those dreadful
dungeons filled with the odor of corpses, places in which imploring
voices called from every corner,--

"Lead us to death!"

Vinicius pressed his nails into his palms, for he felt that he was
growing weak, and that presence of mind was deserting him.  All that he
had felt till then, all his love and pain, changed in him to one desire
for death.

Just then near his side was heard the overseer of the "Putrid Pits,"

"How many corpses have ye to-day?"

"About a dozen," answered the guardian of the prison, "but there will be
more before morning; some are in agony at the walls."

And he fell to complaining of women who concealed dead children so as to
keep them near and not yield them to the "Putrid Pits."  "We must
discover corpses first by the odor; through this the air, so terrible
already, is spoiled still more.  I would rather be a slave in some rural
prison than guard these dogs rotting here while alive--"

The overseer of the pits comforted him, saying that his own service was
no easier.  By this time the sense of reality had returned to Vinicius.
He began to search the dungeon; but sought in vain for Lygia, fearing
meanwhile that he would never see her alive.  A number of cellars were
connected by newly made passages; the corpse-bearers entered only those
from which corpses were to be carried.  Fear seized Vinicius lest that
privilege which had cost so much trouble might serve no purpose.
Luckily his patron aided him.

"Infection spreads most through corpses," said he.  "Ye must carry out
the bodies at once, or die yourselves, together with the prisoners."

"There are only ten of us for all the cellars," said the guardian, "and
we must sleep."

"I will leave four men of mine, who will go through the cellars at night
to see if these are dead."

"We will drink to-morrow if thou do that.  Everybody must be taken to
the test; for an order has come to pierce the neck of each corpse, and
then to the 'Putrid Pits' at once with it."

"Very well, but we will drink," said the overseer.

Four men were selected, and among them Vinicius; the others he took to
put the corpses on the biers.

Vinicius was at rest; he was certain now at least of finding Lygia. The
young tribune began by examining the first dungeon carefully; he looked
into all the dark corners hardly reached by the light of his torch; he
examined figures sleeping at the walls under coarse cloths; he saw that
the most grievously ill were drawn into a corner apart.  But Lygia he
found in no place.  In a second and third dungeon his search was equally
fruitless.

Meanwhile the hour had grown late; all corpses had been carried out.
The guards, disposing themselves in the corridors between cellars, were
asleep; the children, wearied with crying, were silent; nothing was
heard save the breathing of troubled breasts, and here and there the
murmur of prayer.

Vinicius went with his torch to the fourth dungeon, which was
considerably smaller.  Raising the light, he began to examine it, and
trembled all at once, for it seemed to him that he saw, near a latticed
opening in the wall, the gigantic form of Ursus.  Then, blowing out the
light, he approached him, and asked,

"Ursus, art thou here?"

"Who art thou?" asked the giant, turning his head.

"Dost not know me?"

"Thou hast quenched the torch; how could I know thee?"

But at that moment Vinicius saw Lygia lying on a cloak near the wall;
so, without speaking further, he knelt near her.  Ursus recognized him,
and said,--

"Praise be to Christ! but do not wake her, lord."

Vinicius, kneeling down, gazed at her through his tears.  In spite of
the darkness he could distinguish her face, which seemed to him as pale
as alabaster, and her emaciated arms.  At that sight he was seized by a
love which was like a rending pain, a love which shook his soul to its
uttermost depth, and which at the same time was so full of pity,
respect, and homage that he fell on his face, and pressed to his lips
the hem of the cloak on which rested that head dearer to him than all
else on earth.

Ursus looked at Vinicius for a long time in silence, but at last he
pulled his tunic.

"Lord," asked he, "how didst thou come, and hast thou come here to save
her?"

Vinicius rose, and struggled for a time with his emotion.  "Show me the
means," replied he.

"I thought that thou wouldst find them, lord.  Only one method came to
my head--"

Here he turned toward the grating in the wall, as if in answer to
himself, and said,--

"In that way--but there are soldiers outside--"

"A hundred pretorians."

"Then we cannot pass?"

"No!"

The Lygian rubbed his forehead, and asked again,--

"How didst thou enter?"

"I have a tessera from the overseer of the 'Putrid Pits.'" Then Vinicius
stopped suddenly, as if some idea had flashed through his head.

"By the Passion of the Redeemer," said he, in a hurried voice, "I will
stay here.  Let her take my tessera; she can wrap her head in a cloth,
cover her shoulders with a mantle, and pass out.  Among the slaves who
carry out corpses there are several youths not full grown; hence the
pretorians will not notice her, and once at the house of Petronius she
is safe."

But the Lygian dropped his head on his breast, and said,--"She would not
consent, for she loves thee; besides, she is sick, and unable to stand
alone.  If thou and the noble Petronius cannot save her from prison, who
can?" said he, after a while.

"Christ alone."

Then both were silent.

"Christ could save all Christians," thought the Lygian, in his simple
heart; "but since He does not save them, it is clear that the hour of
torture and death has come."

He accepted it for himself, but was grieved to the depth of his soul for
that child who had grown up in his arms, and whom he loved beyond life.

Vinicius knelt again near Lygia.  Through the grating in the wall
moonbeams came in, and gave better light than the one candle burning yet
over the entrance.  Lygia opened her eyes now, and said, placing her
feverish hand on the arm of Vinicius,

"I see thee; I knew that thou wouldst come."

He seized her hands, pressed them to his forehead and his heart, raised
her somewhat, and held her to his breast.

"I have come, dearest.  May Christ guard and free thee, beloved Lygia!"
He could say no more, for the heart began to whine in his breast from
pain and love, and he would not show pain in her presence.

"I am sick, Marcus," said Lygia, "and I must die either on the arena or
here in prison--I have prayed to see thee before death; thou hast come,
--Christ has heard me."--

Unable to utter a word yet, he pressed her to his bosom, and she
continued,--

"I saw thee through the window in the Tullianum.  I saw that thou hadst
the wish to come to me.  Now the Redeemer has given me a moment of
consciousness, so that we may take farewell of each other.  I am going
to Him, Marcus, but I love thee, and shall love always."

Vinicius conquered himself; he stifled his pain and began to speak in a
voice which he tried to make calm,--

"No, dear Lygia, thou wilt not die.  The Apostle commanded me to
believe, and he promised to pray for thee; he knew Christ,--Christ loved
him and will not refuse him.  Hadst thou to die, Peter would not have
commanded me to be confident; but he said, 'Have confidence!'--No,
Lygia!  Christ will have mercy.  He does not wish thy death.  He will
not permit it.  I Swear to thee by the name of the Redeemer that Peter
is praying for thee."

Silence followed.  The one candle hanging above the entrance went out,
but moonlight entered through the whole opening.  In the opposite corner
of the cellar a child whined and was silent.  From outside came the
voices of pretorians, who, after watching their turn out, were playing
under the wall at scriptœ duodecim.

"O Marcus," said Lygia, "Christ Himself called to the Father, 'Remove
this bitter cup from Me'; still He drank it.  Christ Himself died on the
cross, and thousands are perishing for His sake.  Why, then, should He
spare me alone?  Who am I, Marcus?  I have heard Peter say that he too
would die in torture.  Who am I, compared with Peter?  When the
pretorians came to us, I dreaded death and torture, but I dread them no
longer.  See what a terrible prison this is, but I am going to heaven.
Think of it: Cæsar is here, but there the Redeemer, kind and merciful.
And there is no death there. Thou lovest me; think, then, how happy I
shall be.  Oh, dear Marcus, think that thou wilt come to me there."

Here she stopped to get breath in her sick breast, and then raised his
hand to her lips,--

"Marcus?"

"What, dear one?"

"Do not weep for me, and remember this,--thou wilt come to me. I have
lived a short time, but God gave thy soul to me; hence I shall tell
Christ that though I died, and thou wert looking at my death, though
thou wert left in grief, thou didst not blaspheme against His will, and
that thou lovest Him always.  Thou wilt love Him, and endure my death
patiently?  For then He will unite us.  I love thee and I wish to be
with thee."

Breath failed her then, and in a barely audible voice she finished,

"Promise me this, Marcus!"

Vinicius embraced her with trembling arms, and said,

"By thy sacred head!  I promise."

Her pale face became radiant in the sad light of the moon, and once more
she raised his hand to her lips, and whispered,--

"I am thy wife!"

Beyond the wall the pretorians playing scriptœ duodecim raised a louder
dispute; but Vinicius and Lygia forgot the prison, the guards, the
world, and, feeling within them the souls of angels, they began to pray.




Chapter LX


FOR three days, or rather three nights, nothing disturbed their peace.
When the usual prison work was finished, which consisted in separating
the dead from the living and the grievously sick from those in better
health, when the wearied guards had lain down to sleep in the corridors,
Vinicius entered Lygia's dungeon and remained there till daylight.  She
put her head on his breast, and they talked in low voices of love and of
death.  In thought and speech, in desires and hopes even, both were
removed unconsciously more and more from life, and they lost the sense
of it.  Both were like people who, having sailed from land in a ship,
saw the shore no more, and were sinking gradually into infinity. Both
changed by degrees into sad souls in love with each other and with
Christ, and ready to fly away.  Only at times did pain start up in the
heart of Vinicius like a whirlwind, at times there flashed in him like
lightning, hope, born of love and faith in the crucified God; but he
tore himself away more and more each day from the earth, and yielded to
death.  In the morning, when he went from the prison, he looked on the
world, on the city, on acquaintances, on vital interests, as through a
dream.  Everything seemed to him strange, distant, vain, fleeting.  Even
torture ceased to terrify, since one might pass through it while sunk in
thought and with eyes fixed on another thing.  It seemed to both that
eternity had begun to receive them.  They conversed of how they would
love and live together, but beyond the grave; and if their thoughts
returned to the earth at intervals, these were thoughts of people who,
setting out on a long journey, speak of preparations for the road.
Moreover they were surrounded by such silence as in some desert
surrounds two columns far away and forgotten.  Their only care was that
Christ should not separate them; and as each moment strengthened their
conviction that He would not, they loved Him as a link uniting them in
endless happiness and peace.  While still on earth, the dust of earth
fell from them.  The soul of each was as pure as a tear.  Under terror
of death, amid misery and suffering, in that prison den, heaven had
begun, for she had taken him by the hand, and, as if saved and a saint,
had led him to the source of endless life.

Petronius was astonished at seeing in the face of Vinicius increasing
peace and a certain wonderful serenity which he had not noted before.
At times even he supposed that Vinicius had found some mode of rescue,
and he was piqued because his nephew had not confided his hopes to him.
At last, unable to restrain himself, he said,--

"Now thou hast another look; do not keep from me secrets, for I wish and
am able to aid thee.  Hast thou arranged anything?"

"I have," said Vinicius; "but thou canst not help me.  After her death I
will confess that I am a Christian and follow her."

"Then thou hast no hope?"

"On the contrary, I have.  Christ will give her to me, and I shall never
be separated from her."

Petronius began to walk in the atrium; disillusion and impatience were
evident on his face.

"Thy Christ is not needed for this,--our Thanatos [death] can render the
same service."

Vinicius smiled sadly, and said,--"No, my dear, thou art unwilling to
understand."

"I am unwilling and unable.  It is not the time for discussion, but
remember what I said when we failed to free her from the Tullianum.  I
lost all hope, and on the way home thou didst say, 'But I believe that
Christ can restore her to me.' Let Him restore her.  If I throw a costly
goblet into the sea, no god of ours can give it back to me; if yours is
no better, I know not why I should honor Him beyond the old ones."

"But He will restore her to me."

Pettonius shrugged his shoulders.  "Dost know," inquired he, "that
Christians are to illuminate Cæsar's gardens to-morrow?"

"To-morrow?" repeated Vinicius.

And in view of the near and dreadful reality his heart trembled with
pain and fear.  "This is the last night, perhaps, which I can pass with
Lygia," thought he.  So bidding farewell to Petronius, he went hurriedly
to the overseer of the "Putrid Pits" for his tessera. But disappointment
was in waiting,--the overseer would not give the tessera.

"Pardon me," said he, "I have done what I could for thee, but I cannot
risk my life.  To-night they are to conduct the Christians to Cæsar's
gardens.  The prisons will be full of soldiers and officials. Shouldst
thou be recognized, I and my children would be lost."

Vinicius understood that it would be vain to insist.  The hope gleamed
in him, however, that the soldiers who had seen him before would admit
him even without a tessera; so, with the coming of night, he disguised
himself as usual in the tunic of a corpse-bearer, and, winding a cloth
around his head, betook himself to the prison.

But that day the tesseræ were verified with greater care than usual; and
what was more, the centurion Scevinus, a strict soldier, devoted soul
and body to Cæsar, recognized Vinicius.  But evidently in his iron-clad
breast there glimmered yet some spark of pity for misfortunes.  Instead
of striking his spear in token of alarm, he led Vinicius aside and
said,--

"Return to thy house, lord.  I recognize thee; but not wishing thy ruin,
I am silent.  I cannot admit thee; go thy way, and may the gods send
thee solace."

"Thou canst not admit me," said Vinicius, "but let me stand here and
look at those who are led forth."

"My order does not forbid that," said Scevinus.

Vinicius stood before the gate and waited.  About midnight the prison
gate was opened widely, and whole ranks of prisoners appeared,--men,
women, and children, surrounded by armed pretorians.  The night was very
bright; hence it was possible to distinguish not only the forms, but the
faces of the unfortunates. They went two abreast, in a long, gloomy
train, amid stillness broken only by the clatter of weapons.  So many
were led out that all the dungeons must be empty, as it seemed.  In the
rear of the line Vinicius saw Glaucus the physician distinctly, but
Lygia and Ursus were not among the condemned.




Chapter LXI


DARKNESS had not come when the first waves of people began to flow into
Cæsar's gardens.  The crowds, in holiday costume, crowned with flowers,
joyous, singing, and some of them drunk, were going to look at the new,
magnificent spectacle.  Shouts of "Semaxii!  Sarmentitii!" were heard on
the Via Tecta, on the bridge of Æmilius, and from the other side of the
Tiber, on the Triumphal Way, around the Circus of Nero, and off towards
the Vatican Hill. In Rome people had been seen burnt on pillars before,
but never had any one seen such a number of victims.

Cæsar and Tigellinus, wishing to finish at once with the Christians and
also to avoid infection, which from the prisons was spreading more and
more through the city, had given command to empty all dungeons, so that
there remained in them barely a few tens of people intended for the
close of the spectacles.  So, when the crowds had passed the gates, they
were dumb with amazement. All the main and side alleys, which lay
through dense groves and along lawns, thickets, ponds, fields, and
squares filled with flowers, were packed with pillars smeared with
pitch, to which Christians were fastened.  In higher places, where the
view was not hindered by trees, one could see whole rows of pillars and
bodies decked with flowers, myrtle, and ivy, extending into the distance
on high and low places, so far that, though the nearest were like masts
of ships, the farthest seemed colored darts, or staffs thrust into the
earth.  The number of them surpassed the expectation of the multitude.
One might suppose that a whole nation had been lashed to pillars for
Rome's amusement and for Cæsar's. The throng of spectators stopped
before single masts when their curiosity was roused by the form or the
sex of the victim; they looked at the faces, the crowns, the garlands of
ivy; then they went farther and farther, asking themselves with
amazement, "Could there have been so many criminals, or how could
children barely able to walk have set fire to Rome?" and astonishment
passed by degrees into fear.

Meanwhile darkness came, and the first stars twinkled in the sky. Near
each condemned person a slave took his place, torch in hand; when the
sound of trumpets was heard in various parts of the gardens, in sign
that the spectacle was to begin, each slave put his torch to the foot of
a pillar.  The straw, hidden under the flowers and steeped in pitch,
burned at once with a bright flame which, increasing every instant,
withered the ivy, and rising embraced the feet of the victims.  The
people were silent; the gardens resounded with one immense groan and
with cries of pain.  Some victims, however, raising their faces toward
the starry sky, began to sing, praising Christ.  The people listened.
But the hardest hearts were filled with terror when, on smaller pillars,
children cried with shrill voices, "Mamma!  Mamma!"  A shiver ran
through even spectators who were drunk when they saw little heads and
innocent faces distorted with pain, or children fainting in the smoke
which began to stifle them.  But the flames rose, and seized new crowns
of roses and ivy every instant.  The main and side alleys were
illuminated; the groups of trees, the lawns, and the flowery squares
were illuminated; the water in pools and ponds was gleaming, the
trembling leaves on the trees had grown rose-colored, and all was as
visible as in daylight.  When the odor of burnt bodies filled the
gardens, slaves sprinkled between the pillars myrrh and aloes prepared
purposely.  In the crowds were heard here and there shouts,--whether of
sympathy or delight and joy, it was unknown; and they increased every
moment with the fire, which embraced the pillars, climbed to the breasts
of the victims, shrivelled with burning breath the hair on their heads,
threw veils over their blackened faces, and then shot up higher, as if
showing the victory and triumph of that power which had given command to
rouse it.

At the very beginning of the spectacle Cæsar had appeared among the
people in a magnificent quadriga of the Circus, drawn by four white
steeds.  He was dressed as a charioteer in the color of the Greens,--the
court party and his.  After him followed other chariots filled with
courtiers in brilliant array, senators, priests, bacchantes, naked and
crowned, holding pitchers of wine, and partly drunk, uttering wild
shouts.  At the side of these were musicians dressed as fauns and
satyrs, who played on citharas, formingas, flutes, and horns.  In other
chariots advanced matrons and maidens of Rome, drunk also and half
naked.  Around the quadriga ran men who shook thyrses ornamented with
ribbons; others beat drums; others scattered flowers.

All that brilliant throng moved forward, shouting, "Evoe!" on the widest
road of the garden, amidst smoke and processions of people.  Cæsar,
keeping near him Tigellinus and also Chilo, in whose terror he sought to
find amusement, drove the steeds himself, and, advancing at a walk,
looked at the burning bodies, and heard the shouts of the multitude.
Standing on the lofty gilded chariot, surrounded by a sea of people who
bent to his feet, in the glitter of the fire, in the golden crown of a
circus-victor, he was a head above the courtiers and the crowd.  He
seemed a giant.  His immense arms, stretched forward to hold the reins,
seemed to bless the multitude.  There was a smile on his face and in his
blinking eyes; he shone above the throng as a sun or a deity, terrible
but commanding and mighty.

At times he stopped to look with more care at some maiden whose bosom
had begun to shrink in the flames, or at the face of a child distorted
by convulsions; and again he drove on, leading behind him a wild,
excited retinue.  At times he bowed to the people, then again he bent
backward, drew in the golden reins, and spoke to Tigellinus.  At last,
when he had reached the great fountain in the middle of two crossing
streets, he stepped from the quadriga, and, nodding to his attendants,
mingled with the throng.

He was greeted with shouts and plaudits.  The bacchantes, the nymphs,
the senators and Augustians, the priests, the fauns, satyrs, and
soldiers surrounded him at once in an excited circle; but he, with
Tigellinus on one side and Chilo on the other, walked around the
fountain, about which were burning some tens of torches; stopping before
each one, he made remarks on the victims, or jeered at the old Greek, on
who