A Friend of Caesar - A Tale of the Fall of the Roman Republic. Time, 50-47 B.C.
by William Stearns Davis
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[107] Ostium.

"There is no need for that," remarked the Vestal, who never before in her life had experienced such an unaccountable sense of disquietude.

"It is my habit always to push the bolt," said the slave, bowing, and leading the way toward the peristylium.

"You are Titus Denter's slave?" asked Fabia. The other nodded. "And your master is a very sick man?"

"Your most noble ladyship shall judge for herself."

"Take me to him at once, if he can see me."

"He is waiting."

The two went through the narrow passageway which led from the outer court of the atrium into the inner court of the peristylium. Fabia was surprised to see that here all the marble work had been carefully washed clean, the little enclosed garden was in beautiful order, and in various corners and behind some of the pillars were bronze and sculptured statues of really choice art. The slave stopped and pointed to a couch upholstered in crimson, beside the fish tank, where tame lampreys were rising for a bit of food.

"Take me to your master!" repeated Fabia, puzzled by the gesture. "I am not weary. You say he waits me?"

"He will be here," replied the servant, with another bow.

"Here?" exclaimed the Vestal, now really alarmed. "Here? He, a man sick unto death?"

"Certainly; here!" broke in a strange voice; and forth from behind a pillar stepped Publius Gabinius, all pomaded and rouged, dressed only in a gauzy, many-folded scarlet synthesis.[108]

[108] The "dinner coat" of the Romans.

Fabia gave a scream and sprang back in instinctive alarm. In the twinkling of an eye it flashed over her that for some purpose or other she had been trapped. Gabinius she knew barely by sight; but his reputation had come to her ears, and fame spoke nothing good of him. Yet even at the moment when she felt herself in the most imminent personal peril, the inbred dignity and composed hauteur of the Vestal did not desert her. At the selfsame instant that she said to herself, "Can I escape through the atrium before they can stop me?" recovering from her first surprise, and with never a quiver of eyelash or a paling of cheek, she was saying aloud, in a tone cold as ice, "And indeed, most excellent Gabinius, you must pardon me for being startled; for all that I know of you tells me that you are likely to find a sombre Vestal sorry enough company."

Gabinius had been counting coolly on a very noisy scene, one of a kind he was fairly familiar with—an abundance of screaming, expostulation, tearing of hair, and other manifestations of feminine agony—to be followed, of course, by ultimate submission to the will of all-dominant man. He was not accustomed to have a woman look him fairly in the eye and speak in tones, not of bootless fury, but of superior scorn. And his answer was painfully lacking in the ascendant volubility which would have befitted the occasion.

"Forgive me; pardon; it was of course necessary to resort to some subterfuge in order—in order to prevent your attendants from becoming suspicious."

Fabia cast a glance behind her, and saw that before the two doors leading to the atrium her conductor and another tall slave had placed themselves; but she replied in a tone a little more lofty, if possible, than before:—

"I cannot well, sir, understand you. Are you a friend of Titus Denter, who is sick? I do not see that any subterfuge is necessary when I am to receive the deposit of a will from a dying man. It is a recognized duty of my office."

Gabinius was still more at a loss.

"You should certainly understand, lady," he began, cursing himself for having to resort to circumlocutions, "that this is my own villa, and I have not the pleasure of knowing Titus Denter. I sent the letter because—"

"Because, my worthy sir," interrupted Fabia, not however raising her voice in the least, "you are weary of Greek flute-players for sweethearts or such Roman young ladies as admire either the ointments or the pimples of your face, and consequently seek a little diversion by laying snares for a sacred Vestal."

Gabinius at last found free use for his tongue.

"Oh, lady; Lady Fabia," he cried, stretching out his arms and taking a step nearer, "don't misjudge me so cruelly! I will forsake anything, everything, for you! I have nothing to dream of day or night but your face. You have served your thirty years in the Temple, and can quit its service. Why entertain any superstitious scruple against doing what the law allows? Come with me to Egypt; to Spain; to Parthia; anywhere! Only do not reject me and my entreaties! I will do anything for your sake!"

Critical as was her situation, Fabia could not refrain from a sense of humour, when she saw and heard this creature—the last intimate she would select in the world—pressing his suit with such genuine passion. When she answered, an exasperating smile was on her lips.

"By Castor!" she replied, "the noble Gabinius is not a bad tragedian. If he has nothing further to inform me than that I am favoured by his good graces, I can only decline his proposals with humble firmness, and depart."

"By the immortal gods!" cried Gabinius, feeling that he and not his would-be victim were like to go into a frenzy, "you shan't go! I have you here. And here you shall remain until I have your word that you will quit the Temple service and fly with me to Egypt. If you won't have me as your slave, I'll have you as your master!" And again he advanced.

"What restrains me here?" queried Fabia, sternly, the blood sinking from her cheeks, but by step or by glance quailing not in the least. "Who dare restrain or offer harm to a Vestal of the Roman Republic?"

"I!" shouted Gabinius in mad defiance, with a menacing gesture.

Fabia took a step toward him, and instinctively he fell back.

"You?" she repeated, her black eyes, ablaze with the fire of a holy indignation, searching Gabinius's impure heart through and through. "You, little man? Are you fond of death, and yet lack courage to drink the poison yourself?"

"I dare anything!" cried Gabinius, getting more and more uncontrolled. "This is my house. These are my slaves. The high walls will cut off any screams you may utter in this court. I have you in my power. You have placed yourself in my hands by coming here. Refuse to do as I say, and a charge will be laid against you before the pontifices,[109] that you have broken the vow which binds every Vestal. All the appearances will be against you, and you know what will follow then!"

[109] College of chief priests.

Fabia grew a shade paler, if it were possible, than before.

"I know," she replied, still very gently, "that an unfaithful Vestal is buried alive in the Campus Sceleratus; but I know, too, that her seducer is beaten to death with rods. Accuse me, or attack me, and whatever be my fate, I can say that which will send your black soul down to Tartarus with guilt enough for Minos to punish. Your delicately anointed skin would be sadly bruised by the stripes falling upon it. And now, if these creatures will stand one side, I will leave you."

And Fabia drew her mantle about her, and walked straight past the awestruck slaves into the atrium, where she unbolted the door and passed out. Gabinius stood gazing after her, half-fascinated, half-dazed. Only when the door closed did he burst out to one of the slaves:—

"Timid dog, why did you let her escape?"

"Dominus," whimpered the menial, "why did you let her escape?"

"Insolence!" cried Gabinius, seizing a staff, and beating first one, then the other, of his servants indiscriminately; and so he continued to vent his vexation, until Fabia's litter was well inside the Porta Capena.


Fabia had thus escaped from the clutches of Gabinius, and the latter was sullen and foiled. But none the less the Vestal was in a tremor of fear for the consequences of her meeting with the libertine. She knew that Gabinius was determined, dexterous, and indefatigable; that he was baffled, but not necessarily driven to throw over his illicit quest. And Fabia realized keenly that going as she had unattended into a strange house, and remaining there some time with no friendly eye to bear witness to her actions, would count terribly against her, if Gabinius was driven to bay. She dared not, as she would gladly have done, appear before the pontifices and demand of them that they mete out due punishment on Gabinius for grossly insulting the sanctity of a Vestal. Her hope was that Gabinius would realize that he could not incriminate her without ruining himself, and that he had been so thoroughly terrified on reflection as to what might be the consequences to himself, if he tried to follow the intrigue, that he would prudently drop it. These considerations hardly served to lighten the gloom which had fallen across Fabia's life. It was not so much the personal peril that saddened her. All her life she had heard the ugly din of the world's wickedness pass harmlessly over her head, like a storm dashing at the doors of some secluded dwelling that shielded its inhabitants from the tempest. But now she had come personally face to face with the demon of impurity; she had felt the fetid touch almost upon herself; and it hurt, it sickened her. Therefore it was that the other Vestals marvelled, asking what change had come over their companion, to quench the mild sunshine of her life; and Fabia held little Livia very long and very closely in her arms, as if it were a solace to feel near her an innocent little thing "unspotted of the world."

All this had happened a very few days before the breathless Agias came to inform Fabia of the plot against her nephew. Perhaps, as with Cornelia, the fact that one near and dear was in peril aided to make the consciousness of her own unhappiness less keen. None could question Fabia's resolute energy. She sent Agias on his way, then hurried off in her litter in quest of Caius Marcellus, the consul. AEmilius Paulus, the other consul, was a nonentity, not worth appealing to, since he had virtually abdicated office upon selling his neutrality to Caesar. But Marcellus gave her little comfort. She broke in upon the noble lord, while he was participating in a drunken garden-party in the Gardens of Lucullus. The consul—hardly sober enough to talk coherently—had declared that it was impossible to start any troops that day to Praeneste. "To-morrow, when he had time, he would consider the matter." And Fabia realized that the engine of government would be very slow to set in motion in favour of a marked Caesarian.

But she had another recourse, and hastened her litter down one of the quieter streets of the Subura, where was the modest house occupied by Julius Caesar before he became Pontifex Maximus. This building was now used by the Caesarian leaders as a sort of party headquarters. Fabia boldly ordered the porter to summon before her Curio—whom she was sure was in the house. Much marvelling at the visit of a Vestal, the slave obeyed, and in a few moments that tribune was in her presence.

Caius Scribonius Curio was probably a very typical man of his age. He was personally of voluptuous habits, fearfully extravagant, endowed with very few scruples and a very weak sense of right and wrong. But he was clear-headed, energetic, a good orator, a clever reasoner, an astute handler of men, courageous, versatile, full of recourse, and on the whole above the commission of any really glaring moral infraction. He was now in his early prime, and he came before Fabia as a man tall, athletic, deep-chested, deep-voiced, with a regular profile, a clear, dark complexion, curly hair carefully dressed, freshly shaven, and in perfect toilet. It was a pleasure, in short, to come in contact with such a vigorous, aggressive personality, be the dark corners of his life what they might.

Curio yielded to no man in his love of Lucrine oysters and good Caecuban wine. But he had been spending little time on the dining couch that evening. In fact he had at that moment in his hand a set of tablets on which he had been writing.

"Salve! Domina!" was his greeting, "what unusual honour is this which brings the most noble Vestal to the trysting spot of us poor Populares."

And, with the courtesy of a gentleman of the world, he offered Fabia an armchair.

"Caius Curio," said the Vestal, wasting very few words, "do you know my nephew, Quintus Drusus of Praeneste?"

"It is an honour to acknowledge friendship with such an excellent young man," said Curio, bowing.

"I am glad to hear so. I understand that he has already suffered no slight calamity for adhering to your party."

"Vah!" and the tribune shrugged his shoulders. "Doubtless he has had a disagreeable time with the consul-elect, but from all that I can hear, the girl he lost was hardly one to make his life a happy one. It's notorious the way she has displayed her passion for young Lucius Ahenobarbus, and we all know what kind of a man he is. But I may presume to remark that your ladyship would hardly come here simply to remind me of this."

"No," replied Fabia, directly, "I have come here to appeal to you to do something for me which Marcellus the consul was too drunk to try to accomplish if he would."

Fabia had struck the right note. Only a few days before Appius Claudius, the censor, had tried to strike Curio's name from the rolls of the Senate. Piso, the other censor, had resisted. There had been an angry debate in the Senate, and Marcellus had inveighed against the Caesarian tribune, and had joined in a furious war of words. The Senate had voted to allow Curio to keep his seat; and the anti-Caesarians had paraded in mourning as if the vote were a great calamity.

Curio's eyes lit up with an angry fire.

"Lump of filth! Who was he, to disoblige you!"

"You will understand," said Fabia, still quietly; and then briefly she told of the conspiracy against the life of Drusus, so far as she had gathered it.

"Where did you learn all this," queried Curio, "if I may venture to ask?"

"From Agias, the slave of Cornelia, niece of Lentulus."

"But what is Drusus to her?" demanded the marvelling tribune.

"He is everything to her. She has been trying to win her way into Ahenobarbus's confidence, and learn all of the plot."

A sudden light seemed to break over the face of the politician. He actually smiled with relieved pleasure, and cried, "Papae! Wonderful! I may be the farthest of all the world from Diogenes the Cynic; but a man cannot go through life, unless he has his eyes shut, and not know that there are different kinds of women. I was sorry enough to have to feel that a girl like Cornelia was becoming one of Clodia's coterie. After all, the world isn't so bad as we make it out to be, if it is Curio the profligate who says it."

"But Drusus, my nephew?" exclaimed Fabia. "He is in frightful danger. You know Dumnorix will have a great band of gladiators, and there is no force in Praeneste that can be counted on to restrain him."

"My dear lady," said Curio, laughing, "I am praising the happy Genius that brought you here. We Caesarians are taught by our leaders never to desert a friend in need; and Drusus has been a very good friend to us, especially by using all his influence, very successfully, for our cause among the Praenestians and the people of those parts. When did you say that Dumnorix would pass through the town?"

"Early to-morrow, possibly," replied the Vestal.

"Phui! Dismiss all care. I'll find out at once how many gladiators he took with him to Anagnia. Some of his gang will be killed in the games there, and more will be wounded and weak or disabled. I am tribune, and I imagine I ought not to be out of the city over night,[110] but before daybreak to-morrow I will take Antonius and Sallustius and Quintus Cassius; and perhaps I can get Balbus and our other associates to go. We will arm a few slaves and freedmen; and it will be strange indeed if we cannot scatter to the four winds Dumnorix's gladiators, before they have accomplished any mischief."

[110] This was the law, that the tribunes might always be ready to render help (auxilium) to the distressed.

"The gods reward you!" said Fabia, simply. "I will go back to the Temple, and pray that my nephew be kept from harm; and you also, and your friends who will defend him."

Curio stood in the atrium a long time after the Vestal had left.

"The gods reward you!" he repeated. "So she believes in the gods, that there are gods, and that they care for us struggling men. Ah! Caius, Caius Curio; if the mob had murdered you that day you protected Caesar after he spoke in the Senate in favour of the Catilinarians, where would you be to-day? Whence have you come? Whither do you go? What assurance have you that you can depend on anything, but your own hand and keen wits? What is to become of you, if you are knocked on the head in that adventure to-morrow? And yet that woman believes there are gods! What educated man is there that does? Perhaps we would, if we led the simple lives our fathers did, and that woman lives. Enough of this! I must be over letters to Caesar at Ravenna till midnight: and then at morn off to gallop till our horses are foundered."

Chapter X

Mamercus Guards the Door


Agias left Phaon in the clutches of the landlord and his subordinates and was reasonably certain that since the freedman had not a farthing left with which to bribe his keepers, he was out of harm's way for the time being. The moon was risen, and guided by its light the young slave flew on toward Praeneste without incident. Whatever part of the conspirator's plans depended on Phaon was sure to collapse. For the rest, Agias could only warn Drusus, and have the latter arm his clients and slaves, and call in his friends from the town. With such precautions Dumnorix could hardly venture to risk himself and his men, whatever might be the plot.

Thus satisfied in mind, Agias arrived at the estate of the Drusi, close to Praeneste, and demanded admittance, about two hours before midnight. He had some difficulty in stirring up the porter, and when that worthy at last condescended to unbar the front door, the young Greek was surprised and dismayed to hear that the master of the house had gone to visit a farm at Lanuvium, a town some fifteen miles to the south. Agias was thunderstruck; he had not counted on Drusus being absent temporarily. But perhaps his very absence would cause the plot to fail.

"And what time will he return?" asked Agias.

"What time?" replied the porter, with a sudden gleam of intelligence darting up in his lack-lustre eyes. "We expect he will return early to-morrow morning. But the road from Lanuvium is across country and you have to skirt the Alban Mount. He may be rather late in arriving, drives he ever so hard."

"Hercules!" cried the agitated messenger. "My horse is blown, and I don't know the road in the dark. Send, I pray you—by all the gods—to Lanuvium this instant."

"Aye," drawled the porter, "And wherefore at such an hour?"

"It's for life and death!" expostulated Agias.

The porter, who was a thick-set, powerful man, with a bristly black beard, and a low forehead crowned by a heavy shock of dark hair, at this instant thrust out a capacious paw, and seized Agias roughly by the wrist.

"Ha, ha, ha, young cut-throat! I wondered how long this would last on your part! Well, now I must take you to Falto, to get the beginning of your deserts."

"Are you mad, fellow?" bawled Agias, while the porter, grasping him by the one hand, and the dim lamp by the other, dragged him into the house. "Do you know who I am? or what my business is? Do you want to have your master murdered?"

"Perpol! Not in the least. That's why I do as I do. Tell your story to Falto. Eho! What's that you've got under your cloak?" And he pounced upon a small dagger poor Agias had carried as a precaution against eventualities. "I imagine you are accustomed to use a little knife like this." And the fellow gave a gleeful chuckle.

It was in vain that Agias expostulated and tried to explain. The porter kept him fast as a prisoner, and in a few moments by his shouts had aroused the whole sleeping household, and stewards, freedmen, and slaves came rushing into the atrium. Candelabra blazed forth. Torches tossed. Maids screamed. Many tongues were raised in discordant shout and question. At last order was in some measure restored. Agias found himself before a tribunal composed of Falto, the subordinate villicus,[111] as chief judge, and two or three freedmen to act in capacity of assessors. All of this bench were hard, grey-headed, weazened agriculturists, who looked with no very lenient eye upon the delicate and handsome young prisoner before them. Agias had to answer a series of savagely propounded questions which led he knew not whither, and which he was almost too bewildered to answer intelligently. The true state of the case only came over him by degrees. These were the facts. Drusus had known that there was a conspiracy against his life, and had taken precautions against poisoning or being waylaid by a small band of cut-throats such as he imagined Ahenobarbus might have sent to despatch him. He had not expected an attack on the scale of Dumnorix's whole band; and he had seen no reason why, accompanied by the trusty Mamerci and Cappadox, he should not visit his Lanuvian farm. The whole care of guarding against conspirators had been left to Marcus Mamercus, and that worthy ex-warrior had believed he had taken all needed precautions. He had warned the porter and the other slaves and freedmen to be on the lookout for suspicious characters, and had let just enough of the plot—as it was known to him—leak out, to put all the household on the qui vive to apprehend any would-be assassin of their beloved young master. But with that fatuity which often ruins the plans of "mice and men," he had failed to inform even his subordinate Falto of the likelihood of Agias arriving from Rome. It had obviously been desirable that it should not be bruited among the servants that Cornelia and Drusus were still communicating, and when Agias was haled into the atrium, his only identification was by some over-zealous slave, who declared that the prisoner belonged to the familia of Lentulus Crus, the bitter foe of their master.

[111] Farm steward.

With senses unduly alert the porter, as soon as he was aroused from his slumbers, had noticed that evening that Agias had come on some unusual business, and that he was obviously confused when he learned that Drusus was not at home. With his suspicions thus quickened, every word the luckless Greek uttered went to incriminate him in the mind of the porter. Agias was certainly an accomplice in the plot against Drusus, sent to the house at an unseasonable hour, on some dark errand. The porter had freely protested this belief to Falto and his court, and to support his indictment produced the captured dagger, the sure sign of a would-be murderer. Besides, a large sum of gold was found on Agias's person; his fast Numidian horse was still steaming before the door—and what honest slave could travel thus, with such a quantity of money?

Agias tried to tell his story, but to no effect; Falto and his fellow-judges dryly remarked to one another that the prisoner was trying to clear himself, by plausibly admitting the existence of the conspiracy, but of course suppressing the real details. Agias reasoned. He was met with obstinate incredulity. He entreated, prayed, implored. The prejudiced rustics mocked at him, and hinted that they cared too much for their patron to believe any tale that such a manifest impostor might tell them. Pausanias, the Mamerci, and Cappadox, the only persons, besides Drusus, who could readily identify him, were away at Lanuvium.

The verdict of guilty was so unanimous that it needed little or no discussion; and Falto pronounced sentence.

"Mago," to the huge African, "take this wretched boy to the slave-prison; fetter him heavily. On your life do not let him escape. Give him bread and water at sunrise. When Master Drusus returns he will doubtless bid us crucify the villain, and in the morning Natta the carpenter shall prepare two beams for the purpose."

Agias comforted himself by reflecting that things would hardly go to that terrible extremity; but it was not reassuring to hear Ligus, the crabbed old cellarer, urge that he be made to confess then and there under the cat. Falto overruled the proposition. "It was late, and Mamercus was the man to extort confession." So Agias found himself thrust into a filthy cell, lighted only by a small chink, near the top of the low stone wall, into which strayed a bit of moonlight. The night he passed wretchedly enough, on a truss of fetid straw; while the tight irons that confined him chafed his wrists and ankles. Needless to add, he cursed roundly all things human and heavenly, before he fell into a brief, troubled sleep. In the morning Mago, who acted as jailer, brought him a pot of water and a saucer of uncooked wheat porridge;[112] and informed him, with a grin, that Natta was making the beams ready. Agias contented himself by asking Mago to tell Drusus about him, as soon as the master returned. "You are very young to wish to die," said the Libyan, grimly. Agias did not argue. Mago left him. By climbing up a rude stool, Agias could peer through the loophole, which by great luck commanded a fairly ample view of the highway. Drusus he naturally expected would come from the south, toward Praeneste. And thence every moment he trembled lest Dumnorix's gang should appear in sight. But every distant dust-cloud for a long time resolved itself sooner or later into a shepherd with a flock of unruly sheep, or a wagon tugged by a pair of mules and containing a single huge wine-skin. Drusus came not; Dumnorix came not. Agias grew weary of watching, and climbed painfully down from the stool to eat his raw porridge. Hardly had he done so than a loud clatter of hoofs sounded without. With a bound that twisted his confined ankles and wrists sadly, Agias was back at his post. A single rider on a handsome bay horse was coming up from the direction of Rome. As he drew near to the villa, he pulled at his reins, and brought his steed down to a walk. The horseman passed close to the loophole, and there was no mistaking his identity. Agias had often seen that pale, pimpled face, and those long effeminate curls in company with Lucius Ahenobarbus. The rider was Publius Gabinius, and the young Greek did not need to be told that his coming boded no good to Drusus. Gabinius looked carefully at the villa, into the groves surrounding it, and then up and down the highway. Then he touched the spur to his mount, and was gone.

[112] Puls, the primitive Italian food.

Agias wrung his manacled hands. Drusus would be murdered, Cornelia's happiness undone, and he himself would become the slave of Lucius Ahenobarbus, who, when he had heard Phaon's story, would show little enough of mercy. He cursed the suspicious porter, cursed Falto, cursed every slave and freedman on the estate, cursed Mamercus for not leaving some word about the possibility of his coming from Rome. Agias's imprecations spent themselves in air; and he was none the happier. Would Drusus never come? The time was drifting on. The sun had been up three or more hours. At any instant the gladiators might arrive.

Then again there was a clatter of hoofs, at the very moment when Agias had again remounted to the loophole. There were voices raised in questions and greetings; slave-boys were scampering to and fro to take the horses; Drusus with Pausanias and the Mamerci had returned from Lanuvium. Agias pressed his head out the loophole and screamed to attract attention. His voice could not penetrate the domestic hubbub. Drusus was standing shaking hands with a couple of clients and evidently in a very good humour over some blunt rustic compliment. Mago was nowhere to be seen. Agias glanced up the road toward Praeneste. The highway was straight and fairly level, but as it went over a hill-slope some little way off, what was that he saw upon it?—the sun flashing on bright arms, which glinted out from the dust-cloud raised by a considerable number of men marching!

"Drusus! Master Drusus!" Agias threw all his soul into the cry. As if to blast his last hope, Drusus hastily bowed away the salves and aves of the two clients, turned, and went into the villa. Agias groaned in agony. A very few moments would bring Dumnorix to the villa, and the young slave did not doubt that Gabinius was with the lanista to direct the attack. Agias tore at his chains, and cursed again, calling on all the Furies of Tartarus to confound the porter and Falto. Suddenly before the loophole passed a slave damsel of winning face and blithesome manner, humming to herself a rude little ditty, while she balanced a large earthen water-pot on her head. It was Chloe, whom the reader has met in the opening scene of this book, though Agias did not know her name.

"By all the gods, girl!" he cried frantically, "do you want to have your master slaughtered before your very eyes?"

Chloe stopped, a little startled at this voice, almost from under her feet.

"Oh, you, Master Assassin!" she sneered. "Do you want to repeat those pretty stories of yours, such as I heard you tell last night?"

"Woman," cried Agias, with all the earnestness which agony and fear could throw into face and voice, "go this instant! Tell Master Drusus that Dumnorix and his gang are not a furlong[113] away. They mean to murder him. Say that I, Agias, say so, and he, at least, will believe me. You yourself can see the sun gleaming on their steel as they march down the hill."

[113] About 606-3/4 English feet.

Perhaps it was the sight which Agias indicated, perhaps it was his earnest words, perhaps it was his handsome face—Chloe was very susceptible to good looks—but for some cause she put down the pot and was off, as fast as her light heels could carry her, toward the house.


Drusus had ridden hard to get back early from Lanuvium and write some letters to Cornelia, for he had expected that Agias would come on that very afternoon, on one of his regular, though private, visits; and he wished to be able to tell Cornelia that, so long a time had elapsed since he had been warned against Ahenobarbus and Pratinas, and as no attempt at all had been made on his life, her fears for him were probably groundless and the plot had been for some cause abandoned. Drusus himself was weary, and was glad to shake off the little knot of clients and retire to his chamber, preparatory for a bath and a change of clothes. He had seen Falto, but the latter deemed it best not to trouble his patron at the time by mentioning the prisoner. Mago, too, concluded that it was best to defer executing his promise. Drusus was just letting Cappadox take off his cloak, when the shrill voice of Chloe was heard outside the door, expostulating with the boy on guard.

"I must see the dominus at once. It's very important."

"Don't you see, you idiot, that you can't while he's dressing?"

"I must!" screamed Chloe. And, violating every law of subordination and decorum, she threw open the door.

Cappadox flew to eject her, but Chloe's quick tongue did its work.

"A lad who calls himself Agias is chained in the ergastulum. He says some gladiators are going to attack the house, and will be here in a moment! Oh, I am so frightened!" and the poor girl threw her mantle over her head, and began to whimper and sob.

"Agias!" shouted Drusus, at the top of his voice. "In the ergastulum? Per deos immortales! What's this? Mamercus! Falto!"

And the young master rushed out of the room, Cappadox, who like lightning had caught up a sword, following him.

Falto came running from the stables; Mamercus from the garden. Drusus faced his two subordinates, and in an eye's twinkling had taken in the situation. Mamercus, who felt within himself that he, by his oversight, had been the chief blunderer, to vent his vexation smote Falto so sound a cuff that the under villicus sprawled his full length.

"Go to the ergastulum and fetch Agias this instant," cried Drusus, in thundering accents, to the trembling Mago, who had appeared on the scene.

Mago disappeared like magic, but in an instant a din was rising from the front of the house,—cries, blows, clash of steel. Into the peristylium, where the angry young master was standing, rushed the old slave woman, Lais.

"Hei! hei!" she screamed, "they are breaking in! Monsters! a hundred of them! They will kill us all!"

Drusus grew calm in an instant.

"Barricade the doors to the atrium!" he commanded, "while I can put on my armour. You, Mamercus, are too old for this kind of work; run and call in the field-hands, the clients, and the neighbours. Cappadox, Falto, and I can hold the doors till aid comes."

"I run?" cried the veteran, in hot incredulity, while with his single hand he tore from its stout leather wall-fastenings a shield that had been beaten with Punic swords at the Metaurus.[114] "I run?" he repeated, while a mighty crash told that the front door had given way, and the attackers were pouring into the atrium. And the veteran had thrust a venerable helmet over his grizzled locks, and was wielding his shield with his handless left arm, while a good Spanish short-sword gleamed in his right hand.

[114] The great battle won in 207 B.C. over Hasdrubal.

The others had not been idle. Cappadox had barred both doors leading into the front part of the house. Drusus had armed, and Falto,—a more loyal soul than whom lived not,—burning to retrieve his blunder, had sprung to his patron's side, also in shield and helm.

"They will soon force these doors," said Drusus, quietly, growing more composed as closer and closer came the actual danger. "Falto and I will guard the right. Cappadox and you, Mamercus, if you will stay, must guard the left. Some aid must come before a great while."

But again the veteran whipped out an angry oath, and thundered, "You stay, you soft-fingered Quintus! You stay and face those German giants! Why, you are the very man they are after! Leave fighting to an old soldier! Take him away, Cappadox, if you love him!"

"I will never leave!" blazed forth Drusus. "My place is here. A Livian always faces his foes. Here, if needs be, I will die." But before he could protest further, Cappadox had caught him in his powerful arms, and despite his struggles was running with him through the rear of the house.

Pandemonium reigned in the atrium. The gladiators were shivering fine sculptures, ripping up upholstery, swearing in their uncouth Celtic or German dialects, searching everywhere for their victim in the rooms that led off the atrium. A voice in Latin was raising loud remonstrance.

"AEdepol! Dumnorix, call off your men! Phaon hasn't led our bird into the net. We shall be ruined if this keeps on! Drusus isn't here!"

"By the Holy Oak, Gabinius," replied another voice, in barbarous Latin, "what I've begun I'll end! I'll find Drusus yet; and we won't leave a soul living to testify against us! You men, break down that door and let us into the rest of the house!"

Mamercus heard a rush down one of the passages leading to the peristylium. The house was almost entirely deserted, except by the shrieking maids. The clients and freedmen and male slaves were almost all in the fields. The veteran, Falto, and Pausanias, who had come in, and who was brave enough, but nothing of a warrior, were the only defenders of the peristylium.

"You two," shouted Mamercus, "guard the other door! Move that heavy chest against it. Pile the couch and cabinet on top. This door I will hold."

There was the blow of a heavy mace on the portal, and the wood sprang out, and the pivots started.

"Leave this alone," roared Mamercus, when his two helpers paused, as if to join him. "Guard your own doorway!"

"Down with it!" bellowed the voice of the leaders without. "Don't let the game escape! Strike again!"

Crash! And the door, beaten from its fastenings by a mighty stroke, tumbled inward on to the mosaic pavement of the peristylium. The light was streaming bright and free into that court, but the passageway from the atrium was shrouded in darkness. Mamercus, sword drawn, stood across the entrance.

"By the god Tarann!"[115] shouted Dumnorix, who from the rear of his followers was directing the attack. "Here is a stout old game-cock! Out of the way, greybeard! We'll spare you for your spirit. Take him, some of you, alive!"

[115] The Gallic thunder-god.

Two gigantic, blond Germans thrust their prodigious bodies through the doorway. Mamercus was no small man, but slight he seemed before these mighty Northerners.

The Germans had intended to seize him in their naked hands, but something made them swing their ponderous long swords and then, two flashes from the short blade in the hand of the veteran, and both the giants were weltering across the threshold, their breasts pierced and torn by the Roman's murderous thrusts.

"Habet!" cried Mamercus. "A fair hit! Come on, you scum of the earth; come on, you German and Gallic dogs; do you think I haven't faced the like of you before? Do you think your great bulks and fierce mustaches will make a soldier of Marius quiver? Do you want to taste Roman steel again?"

And then there was a strange sight. A phantasm seemed to have come before every member of that mad, murderous band; for they saw, as it were, in the single champion before them, a long, swaying line of men of slight stature like him; of men who dashed through their phalanxes and spear hedges; who beat down their chieftains; whom no arrow fire, no sword-play, no stress of numbers, might stop; but who charged home with pilum and short-sword, and defeated the most valorous enemy.

"Ha! Dogs!" taunted Mamercus, "you have seen Romans fight before, else you were not all here, to make sport for our holiday!"

"He is Tyr,[116] the 'one-armed,' who put his left hand in the jaws of Fenris-wolf!" cried a German, shrinking back in dread. "A god is fighting us!"

[116] A Germanic war-god.

"Fools!" shouted Gabinius from a distance. "At him, and cut him down!"

"Cut him down!" roared Dumnorix, who had wits enough to realize that every instant's delay gave Drusus time to escape, or collect help.

There was another rush down the passage; but at the narrow doorway the press stopped. Mamercus fought as ten. His shield and sword were everywhere. The Roman was as one inspired; his eyes shone bright and clear; his lips were parted in a grim, fierce smile; he belched forth rude soldier oaths that had been current in the army of fifty years before. Thrusting and parrying, he yielded no step, he sustained no wound. And once, twice, thrice his terrible short-sword found its sheath in the breast of a victim. In impotent rage the gladiators recoiled a second time.

"Storm the other door!" commanded Dumnorix.

The two defenders there had undertaken to pile up furniture against it; but a few blows beat down the entire barrier. Falto and Pausanias stood to their posts stoutly enough; but there was no master-swordsman to guard this entrance. The first gladiator indeed went down with a pierced neck, but the next instant Falto was beside him, atoning for his stupid folly, the whole side of his head cleft away by a stroke from a Gallic long-sword.

"One rush and we have the old man surrounded," exhorted Dumnorix, when only Pausanias barred the way.

There was a growl and a bound, and straight at the foremost attacker flew Argos, Mamercus's great British mastiff, who had silently slipped on to the scene. The assailant fell with the dog's fangs in his throat. Again the gladiators recoiled, and before they could return to the charge, back into the peristylium rushed Drusus, escaped from Cappadox, with that worthy and Mago and Agias, just released, at his heels.

"Here's your man!" cried Gabinius, who still kept discreetly in the rear.

"Freedom and ten sestertia[117] to the one who strikes Drusus down," called Dumnorix, feeling that at last the game was in his hands.

[117] About $400.

But Mamercus had made of his young patron an apt pupil. All the fighting blood of the great Livian house, of the consulars and triumphators, was mantling in Drusus's veins, and he threw himself into the struggle with the deliberate courage of an experienced warrior. His short-sword, too, found its victims; and across Falto's body soon were piled more. And now Drusus was not alone. For in from the barns and fields came running first the servants from the stables, armed with mattocks and muck-forks, and then the farm-hands with their scythes and reaping hooks.

"We shall never force these doors," exclaimed Gabinius, in despair, as he saw the defenders augmenting.

Dumnorix turned to his men.

"Go, some of you. Enter from behind! Take this rabble from the rear. In fair fight we can soon master it."

A part of the gladiators started to leave the atrium, Gabinius with them. An instant later he had rushed back in blank dismay.

"Horsemen! They are dismounting before the house. There are more than a score of them. We shall be cut to pieces."

"We have more than fifty," retorted Dumnorix, viciously. "I will sacrifice them all, rather than have the attack fail!—" But before he could speak further, to the din of the fighting at the doors of the peristylium was added a second clamour without. And into the atrium, sword in hand, burst Caius Curio, and another young, handsome, aquiline-featured man, dressed in a low-girt tunic, with a loose, coarse mantle above it,—a man known to history as Marcus Antonius, or "Marc Antony "; and at their backs were twenty men in full armour.

The courage of the lanista had failed him. Already Drusus's reinforcements in the peristylium had become so numerous and so well armed that the young chieftain was pushing back the gladiators and rapidly assuming the offensive. Gabinius was the first to take flight. He plunged into one of the rooms off the atrium, and through a side door gained the open. The demoralized and beaten gladiators followed him, like a flock of sheep. Only Dumnorix and two or three of his best men stood at the exit long enough to cover, in some measure, the retreat.

Once outside, the late assailants gained a temporary respite, owing to the fact that the defenders had been disorganized by their very victory.

"We have lost," groaned Gabinius, as the lanista drew his men together in a compact body, before commencing his retreat.

"We are alive," growled Dumnorix.

"We cannot go back to Rome," moaned the other. "We are all identified. No bribe or favour can save us now."

"A robber's life is still left," retorted Dumnorix, "and we must make of it what we can. Some of my men know these parts, where they have been slaves, before coming to my hands. We must strike off for the mountains, if we live to get there."

All that day the country was in a turmoil. The Praenestean senate had met in hasty session, and the decurions[118] ordered the entire community under arms to hunt down the disturbers of the peace. Not until nightfall did Dumnorix and a mere remnant of his band find themselves able, under the shadow of the darkness, to shake off the pursuit. Gabinius was still with him. Curio and Antonius had chased them down with their horsemen; many of the gladiators had been slain, many more taken. For the survivors only the life of outlaws remained. The fastnesses of the Apennines were their sole safety; and thither—scarce daring to stop to pillage for victuals—they hurried their weary steps.

[118] Local municipal magistrates.


Lucius Ahenobarbus spent that day in frightful anxiety. One moment he was fingering Drusus's money bags; the next haunted by the murdered man's ghost. When he called on Cornelia, her slaves said she had a headache and would receive no one. Pratinas held aloof. No news all day—the suspense became unendurable. He lived through the following night harassed by waking visions of every conceivable calamity; but toward morning fell asleep, and as was his wont, awoke late. The first friend he met on the street was Calvus, the young poet and orator.

"Have you heard the news from Praeneste?" began Calvus.

"News? What news?"

"Why, how Dumnorix's gang of gladiators attacked the villa of your distant relative, Quintus Drusus, and were beaten off, while they tried to murder him. A most daring attempt! But you will hear all about it. I have a case at the courts and cannot linger."

And Calvus was gone, leaving Ahenobarbus as though he had been cudgelled into numbness. With a great effort he collected himself. After all, Dumnorix's gladiators were nothing to him. And when later he found that neither Dumnorix, nor Gabinius, nor Phaon had been taken or slain at Praeneste, he breathed the easier. No one else except Pratinas, he was certain, knew why the lanista had made his attack; and there was no danger of being charged with complicity in the conspiracy. And so he was able to bear the stroke of ill-fortune with some equanimity, and at last rejoice that his dreams would no longer be haunted by the shade of Drusus. He was in no mood to meet Pratinas, and the smooth Greek evidently did not care to meet him. He went around to visit Cornelia again—she was still quite indisposed. So he spent that morning with Servius Flaccus playing draughts, a game at which his opponent was so excessively stupid that Ahenobarbus won at pleasure, and consequently found himself after lunch[119] in a moderately equable humour. Then it was he was agreeably surprised to receive the following note from Cornelia.

[119] Prandium.

"Cornelia to her dearest Lucius, greeting.

I have been very miserable these past two days, but this afternoon will be better. Come and visit me and my uncle, for there are several things I would be glad to say before you both. Farewell."

"I think," remarked Lucius to himself, "that the girl wants to have the wedding-day hastened. I know of nothing else to make her desire both Lentulus and myself at once. I want to see her alone. Well, I cannot complain. I'll have Drusus's bride, even if I can't have his money or his life."

And so deliberating, he put on his finest saffron-tinted synthesis, his most elegant set of rings, his newest pair of black shoes,[120] and spent half an hour with his hairdresser; and thus habited he repaired to the house of the Lentuli.

[120] Black shoes were worn as a sort of badge by equites.

"The Lady Cornelia is in the Corinthian hall," announced the slave who carried in the news of his coming, "and there she awaits you."

Lucius, nothing loth, followed the servant. A moment and he was in the large room. It was empty. The great marble pillars rose cold and magnificent in four stately rows, on all sides of the high-vaulted apartment. On the walls Cupids and blithesome nymphs were careering in fresco. The floor was soft with carpets. A dull scent of burning incense from a little brazier, smoking before a bronze Minerva, in one corner of the room, hung heavy on the air. The sun was shining warm and bright without, but the windows of the hall were small and high and the shutters also were drawn. Everything was cool, still, and dark. Only through a single aperture shot a clear ray of sunlight, and stretched in a radiant bar across the gaudy carpets.

Lucius stumbled, half groping, into a chair, and seated himself. Cornelia had never received him thus before. What was she preparing? Another moment and Lentulus Crus entered the darkened hall.

"Perpol! Ahenobarbus," he cried, as he came across his prospective nephew-in-law, "what can Cornelia be wanting of us both? And in this place? I can't imagine. Ah! Those were strange doings yesterday up in Praeneste. I would hardly have put on mourning if Drusus had been ferried over the Styx; but it was a bold way to attack him. I don't know that he has an enemy in the world except myself, and I can bide my time and pay off old scores at leisure. Who could have been back of Dumnorix when he blundered so evidently?"

Ahenobarbus felt that it was hardly possible Lentulus would condemn his plot very severely; but he replied diplomatically:—

"One has always plenty of enemies."

"Mehercle! of course," laughed the consul-elect, "what would life be without the pleasure of revenge! But why does my niece keep us waiting? Jupiter, what can she want of us?"

"Uncle, Lucius, I am here." And before them, standing illumined in the panel of sunlight, stood Cornelia. Ahenobarbus had never seen her so beautiful before. She wore a flowing violet-tinted stola, that tumbled in soft, silky flounces down to her ankles, and from beneath it peered the tint of her shapely feet bound to thin sandals by bright red ribbons. Her bare rounded arms were clasped above and below the elbow and at the wrists by circlets shaped as coiled serpents, whose eyes were gleaming rubies. At her white throat was fastened a necklace of interlinked jewel-set gold pendants that shimmered on her half-bare shoulders and breast. In each ear was the lustre of a great pearl. Her thick black hair fell unconfined down her back; across her brow was a frontlet blazing with great diamonds, with one huge sapphire in their midst. As she stood in the sunlight she was as a goddess, an Aphrodite descended from Olympus, to drive men to sweet madness by the ravishing puissance of her charms.

"Cornelia!" cried Lucius, with all the fierce impure admiration of his nature welling up in his black heart, "you are an immortal! Let me throw my arms about you! Let me kiss you! Kiss your neck but once!" And he took a step forward.

"Be quiet, Lucius," said Cornelia, speaking slowly and with as little passion as a sculptured marble endued with the powers of speech. "We have other things to talk of now. That is why I have called you here; you and my uncle."

"Cornelia!" exclaimed the young man, shrinking back as though a sight of some awful mystery had stricken him with trembling reverence, "why do you look at me so? Why do your eyes fasten on me that way? What are you going to do?"

It was as if he had never spoken. Cornelia continued steadily, looking straight before her.

"Uncle, is it your wish that I become the wife of Lucius Ahenobarbus?"

"You know it is," replied Lentulus, a little uneasily. He could not see where this bit of affection on the part of his niece would end. He had never heard her speak in such a tone before.

"I think, uncle," went on Cornelia, "that before we say anything further it will be well to read this letter. It was sent to me, but both you and Lucius will find it of some interest." And she held out two or three wax tablets.

Lentulus took them, eager to have done with the by-play. But when he saw on the binding-cords the seal—which, though broken, still showed its impression—he gave a start and exclamation.

"Perpol! The seal of Sextus Flaccus, the great capitalist."

"Certainly, why should it not be from him?"

Lentulus stepped nearer to the light, and read: Lucius standing by and hanging on every word, Cornelia remaining at her previous station rigid as the bronze faun on the pedestal at her elbow. Lentulus read:—

"Sextus Fulvius Flaccus, to the most noble lady Cornelia:—

If you are well it is well with me.

Perhaps you have heard how the plots of the conspirators against my dear friend and financial client Quintus Drusus have been frustrated, thanks, next to the god, to the wit and dexterity of Agias, who has been of late your slave. Drusus as soon as he had fairly beaten off the gladiators sent at once for me, to aid him and certain other of his friends in taking the confession of one Phaon, the freedman of Lucius Ahenobarbus, whom Agias had contrived to entrap in Gabii, and hold prisoner until the danger was over. Phaon's confession puts us in complete possession of all the schemes of the plotters; and it will be well for you to inform that worthy young gentleman, Lucius Ahenobarbus, that I only forbear to prosecute him, and Pratinas, who really made him his supple tool, because I am a peaceable man who would not bring scandal upon an old and noble family. If, however, anything should befall Drusus which should indicate that fresh plots against his life were on foot, let Ahenobarbus be assured that I can no more regard him so leniently. I may add that since it was through a marriage with you that Ahenobarbus expected to profit by the murder, I have already advised Drusus that, according to the decisions of several of the most eminent jurisconsulti,[121] a property provision such as his father inserted in his will would not be binding, especially in view of the present facts of the case. Drusus has accordingly prepared a new will which, if questioned, I shall defend in the courts with all my power. Farewell."

[121] Expounders of the Roman law.

Lentulus turned and glared with sullen amazement at his niece. That Ahenobarbus should conspire against Drusus seemed the most natural thing in the world. That the news that the conspiracy had failed should come from such a quarter, and through the hands of his own niece, at once terrified and angered him. Lucius was standing gaping, in half horror, half fascination, at Cornelia. Had she not urged him on? Had she not almost expressed her wish for Drusus's blood? The name of Flaccus fell on his heart like a stone; for the great banker never went back when he had taken a stand, and was rich enough to corrupt the most lax and merciful jury. Ahenobarbus felt a trap snap upon him, and yet he had no hope of revenge.

"Cornelia," cried Lentulus, regaining at last the powers of speech, "why was this letter sent to you? What to you is that wretched youth, Quintus Drusus, who escaped a fate he richly deserved? Why do you not condole with your lover on his misfortune? What do you mean by your stony stare, your—"

"I mean," retorted Cornelia, every word coming as a deep pant from her heaving chest, while her fingers clasped and unclasped nervously, and the blood surged to her pallid cheeks, "I mean that I need no longer profess to love what I hate; to cherish what I despise; to fondle what I loathe; to cast soft looks on that which I would pierce with daggers!" And she in turn took a step, quick and menacing, toward her wretched lover, who cowered and shrank back into the shadow of a pillar.

"But you yourself said you hoped I would soon rid you of Drusus," howled Lucius.

"Fool!" hissed the woman, through her clenched teeth. "Didn't you know that all that I said, all that I did, all that I thought, was for this end—how might I save Quintus by learning the plans of the wretch who thirsted for his blood? Do you feel paid, now, for all your labours to secure the wealth of a man whose name should not be uttered beside that of yours?"

"And you do not love me!" screamed Ahenobarbus, springing at her, as if to force his arms around her neck.

"Dog!" and Cornelia smote him so fairly in the face that he shrank back, and pressed his hand to a swelling cheek. "I said I hated and despised you. What I despise, though, is beneath my hate. I would tread on you as on a viper or a desert asp, as a noxious creature that is not fit to live. I have played my game; and though it was not I who won, but Agias who won for me, I am well content. Drusus lives! Lives to see you miserably dead! Lives to grow to glory and honour, to happiness and a noble old age, when the worms have long since finished their work on you!"

"Girl," thundered Lentulus, fiercely, "you are raving! Ahenobarbus is your affianced husband. Rome knows it. I will compel you to marry him. Otherwise you may well blush to think of the stories that vulgar report will fasten around your name."

But Cornelia faced him in turn, and threw her white arms aloft as though calling down some mightier power than human to her aid; and her words came fast:—

"What Rome says is not what my heart says! My heart tells me that I am pure where others are vile; that I keep truth where others are false; that I love honourably where others love dishonourably. I knew the cost of what I would do for Drusus's sake; and, though the vilest slave gibber and point at me, I would hold my head as proudly as did ever a Cornelian or Claudian maiden; for I have done that which my own heart tells me was right; and more than that or less than that, can no true woman do!"

Ahenobarbus felt the room spinning round him. He saw himself ruined in everything that he had held dear. He would be the laughing-stock of Rome; he, the hero of a score of amorous escapades, the darling of as many patrician maidens, jilted by the one woman to whom he had become the abject slave. Courage came from despair.

"Be silent!" he gasped, his face black with fury. "If every word you say were true, yet with all the more reason would I drag you in my marriage procession, and force you to avow yourself my wife. Never have I been balked of woman; and you, too, with all your tragic bathos, shall learn that, if you won't have me for a slave, I'll bow your neck to my yoke."

"I think the very noble Lucius Ahenobarbus," replied Cornelia, in that high pitch of excitement which produces a calm more terrible than any open fury, "will in person be the protagonist in a tragedy very sorry for himself. For I can assure him that if he tries to make good his threat, I shall show myself one of the Danaides, and he will need his funeral feast full soon after the wedding banquet."

"Woman!" and Lentulus, thoroughly exasperated, broke in furiously. "Say another word, and I with my own hands will flog you like a common slave."

Cornelia laughed hysterically.

"Touch me!" she shouted; and in her grasp shone a small bright dagger.

Lentulus fell back. There was something about his niece that warned him to be careful.

"Wretched girl!" he commanded, "put down that dagger."

"I will not," and Cornelia stood resolutely, confronting her two persecutors; her head thrown back, and the light making her throat and face shine white as driven snow.

There was very little chivalry among the ancients. Lentulus deliberately clapped his hands, and two serving-men appeared.

"Take that dagger from the Lady Cornelia!" commanded the master. The men exchanged sly glances, and advanced to accomplish the disarming.

But before they could catch Cornelia's slender wrists in their coarse, rough hands, and tear the little weapon from her, there were cuts and gashes on their own arms; for the struggle if brief was vicious. Cornelia stood disarmed.

"You see what these mock heroics will lead to," commented Lentulus, with sarcastic smile, as he observed his order had been obeyed.

"You will see!" was her quick retort.

"Hei! hei!" screamed one of the slaves an instant later, sinking to the floor. "Poison! It's running through my veins! I shall die!"

"You will die," repeated Cornelia, in ineffable scorn, spurning the wretch with her foot. "Lie there and die! Cease breathing; sleep! And that creature, Ahenobarbus, yonder, shall sleep his sleep too, ere he work his will on me! Ha! ha! Look at my handiwork; the other slave is down!"

"Girl! Murderess!" raged Lentulus. "What is this? You have slain these men."

"I have slain your slaves," said Cornelia, resolutely folding her arms; "the poison on the dagger was very swift. You did excellently well, Lucius, not to come near me." And she picked up the dagger, which the slave, writhing in agony, had dropped.

"Do you wish to attack me again? Phy! I have more resources than this. This venom works too quickly. See, Syrax is already out of his misery; and his fellow will soon be beyond reach of woe. When I strike you, Lucius Ahenobarbus, you shall die slowly, that I may enjoy your pain. What need have I of this weapon?" And she flung the dagger across the carpet so that it struck on the farther wall. "Pick it up, and come and kill me if you wish! Drusus lives, and in him I live, for him I live, and by him I live. And you—and you are but as evil dreams in the first watch of a night which shall be forgotten either in sweet unending slumbers, or the brightness of the morning. And now I have spoken. Do with me as it lies in your power to do; but remember what power is mine. Vale!"

And Cornelia vanished from the darkened hall. The two men heard the click of the door, and turned and gazed blankly into one another's faces.

"The gods defend me, but I shall be yoked to one of the Dirae!" stammered Ahenobarbus.

Chapter XI

The Great Proconsul


The plot was foiled. Drusus was unquestionably safe. So long as Flaccus had the affidavits of Phaon's confession and the depositions of the captured gladiators stored away in his strong-box, neither Lucius Ahenobarbus nor the ever versatile Pratinas would be likely to risk a new conspiracy—especially as their intended victim had carefully drawn up a will leaving the bulk of his property to Titus Mamercus and AEmilia. Drusus had no near relatives, except Fabia and Livia; unless the Ahenobarbi were to be counted such; and it pleased him to think that if aught befell him the worthy children of his aged defender would acquire opulence.

But after the excitement was over, after Phaon had been brought up from the inn at Gabii to Praeneste, and there had the truth wormed out of him by the merciless cross-examination of Curio and Flaccus; after the freedman had been suffered to depart with a warning and threat to his prompters, after the captured gladiators had been crucified along the roadway leading toward Rome, and the wreck left in the atrium of the villa caused by the attack had been cleared away,—after all this, then the reaction came. Drusus, indeed, found that though the sun shone bright, its brightness was not for him. He had friends in plenty; but not such friends as he needed—as his heart craved. Truth to tell, he was one of those more delicate natures to whom the average pity and the ordinary demonstrations of sympathy come with an offending jar, and open, not heal, long-festering wounds. Curio was kind, but could only hold out the vaguest hopes that, for the present at least, anything would compel the consul-elect to consent to his niece's marriage with a mortal enemy. Flaccus took the same position. The hard-headed man of money thought that Drusus was a visionary, to be so distraught over the loss of a wife—as if the possession of a fortune of thirty odd millions did not make up for every possible calamity. Antonius was still less happy in his efforts at consolation. This dashing young politician, who had been equally at home basking in the eyes of the young Egyptian princess, Cleopatra, eight years before, when he was in the East with Aulus Gabinius, or when fighting the Gauls as he had until recently under his uncle, the great proconsul,—had now been elected Tribune of the Plebs for the coming year; and was looking forward to a prosperous and glorious career in statecraft. He had had many a love intrigue, and made such matters a sort of recreation to the real business of life. Why Drusus—who certainly had very fair worldly prospects before him—should not console himself for one unsuccessful passage of arms with Cupid, by straightway engaging in another, he could not see. He plainly intimated to his friend that there were a great many women, almost if not quite as good looking as Cornelia, who would survey him with friendly eyes if he made but a few advances. And Drusus, wounded and stung, was thrown back on himself; and within himself he found very little comfort.

Although he believed himself safe at last from the wiles of Ahenobarbus and his Greek coadjutors, there was still a great dread which would steal over Drusus lest at any moment a stroke might fall. Those were days when children murdered parents, wives husbands, for whim or passion, and very little came to punish their guilt. The scramble for money was universal. Drusus looked forth into the world, and saw little in it that was good. He had tried to cherish an ideal, and found fidelity to it more than difficult. His philosophy did not assure him that a real deity existed. Death ended all. Was it not better to be done with the sham of life; to drink the Lethe water, and sink into eternal, dreamless slumber? He longed unspeakably to see Cornelia face to face; to kiss her; to press her in his arms; and the desire grew and grew.

She was no longer in the capital. Her uncle had sent her away—guarded by trusty freedmen—to the villa of the Lentuli at Baiae. The fashionable circles of the great city had made of her name a three days' scandal, of which the echo all too often came to Drusus's outraged ears. His only comfort was that Ahenobarbus had become the butt and laughing-stock of every one who knew of his repulse by his last inamorata. Then at last Drusus left Praeneste for Rome. Ahenobarbus and Pratinas were as well checked as it was possible they could be, and there was no real ground to dread assassination while in the city, if moderate precautions were taken. Then too the time was coming when the young man felt that he could accomplish something definite for the party for which he had already sacrificed so much.

The events clustering around Dumnorix's unsuccessful attack had made Drusus a sort of hero in the eyes of the Praenesteans. They had years before elected his father as their patron, their legal representative at Rome, and now they pitched upon the son, proud to have this highly honourable function continued in the same family. This election gave Drusus some little prestige at the capital, and some standing in the courts and politics. When he went to Rome it was not as a mere individual who had to carve out his own career, but as a man of honour in his own country, a representative of a considerable local interest, and the possessor of both a noble pedigree and an ample fortune.

Curio found him plenty to do; wire-pulling, speech-making, private bargaining,—all these were rife, for everybody knew that with the first of January, when Lentulus became consul, the fortunes of Caesar were to be made or marred irretrievably. There were rumours, always rumours, now of Caesar, now of Pompeius. The proconsul was going to march on Rome at once, and put all his enemies to the sword. Pompeius was to be proclaimed dictator and exterminate all who adhered to the anti-senatorial party. And into this melee of factions Drusus threw himself, and found relief and inspiration in the conflict. His innate common-sense, a very considerable talent for oratory which had received a moderate training, his energy, his enthusiasm, his incorruptibility, his straightforwardness, all made him valuable to the Caesarians, and he soon found himself deep in the counsels of his party, although he was too young to be advanced as a candidate for any public office.

Agias continued with him. He had never formally deeded the boy to Cornelia, and now it was not safe for the lad to be sent to dwell at Baiae, possibly to fall into the revengeful clutches of Phaon, or Pratinas, or Ahenobarbus. Drusus had rewarded Agias by giving him his freedom; but the boy had nowhere to go, and did not desire to leave Quintus's service; so he continued as a general assistant and understrapper, to carry important letters and verbal messages, and to aid his patron in every case where quick wits or nimble feet were useful. He went once to Baiae, and came back with a letter from Cornelia, in which she said that she was kept actually as a prisoner in her uncle's villa, and that Lentulus still threatened to force Ahenobarbus upon her; but that she had prepared herself for that final emergency.

The letter came at a moment when Drusus was feeling the exhilaration of a soldier in battle, and the missive was depressing and maddening. What did it profit if the crowd roared its plaudits, when he piled execration on the oligarchs from the Rostra, if all his eloquence could not save Cornelia one pang? Close on top of this letter came another disquieting piece of information, although it was only what he had expected. He learned that Lentulus Crus had marked him out personally for confiscation of property and death as a dangerous agitator, as soon as the Senate could decree martial law. To have even a conditional sentence of death hanging over one is hard to bear with equanimity. But it was too late for Drusus to turn back. He had chosen his path; he had determined on the sacrifice; he would follow it to the end. And from one source great comfort came to him. His aunt, Fabia, had always seen in him her hero. With no children of her own, with very little knowledge of the world, she had centred all her hopes and ambitions on her sister's son; and he was not disappointing her. She dreamed of him as consul, triumphator, and dictator. She told him her hopes. She applauded his sacrifice. She told him of the worthies of old, of Camillus, of the Scipios, of Marcellus, the "Sword of Rome," of Lucius AEmilius Paulus, and a host of others, good men and true, whose names were graven on the fabric of the great Republic, and bade him emulate them, and be her perfect Fabian and Livian. And from his aunt Drusus gained infinite courage. If she was not Cornelia, yet it was a boon ineffable to be able to hear a pure, loving woman tell him face to face that her heart suffered when he suffered, and that all his hopes and fears were hers.

Finally an interlude came to Quintus's political activity. Curio was becoming uneasy, lest his distant superior should fail to realize the full venom of the Senate party and the determination of his enemies to work his ruin.

"I must go to Ravenna," said the politician to his young associate. "My tribuneship is nearly run out. Antonius and Cassius will take my place in the office. And you, who have done so much for Caesar, must go also, for he loves to meet and to know all who are his friends."

"To Caesar I will go," answered Drusus; and of himself he asked, "What manner of man will this prove, whom I am serving? A selfish grasper of power? Or will he be what I seek—a man with an ideal?"


Night was falling on the dark masses of the huge Praetorium, the government-house and army barracks of the provincial capital of Ravenna. Outside, sentinels were changing guard; Roman civil officials and provincials were strolling in the cool of the porticos. Laughter, the shout of loungers at play, broke the evening silence. But far in the interior, where there was a secluded suite of rooms, nothing but the tinkle of a water-duct emptying into a cistern broke the stillness, save as some soft-footed attendant stole in and out across the rich, thick carpet.

The room was small; the ceiling low; the frescos not elaborate, but of admirable simplicity and delicacy. The furniture comprised merely a few divans, chairs, and tripods, but all of the choicest wood or brass, and the most excellent upholstery. One or two carved wooden cupboards for books completed the furnishings.

There were only two persons in the room. One of them,—a handsome young Hellene, evidently a freedman, was sitting on a low chair with an open roll before him. His companion half sat and half lay on a divan near by. This second person was a man of height unusual to Italians of his day; his cheeks were pale and a little sunken; his dark eyes were warm, penetrating; his mouth and chin mobile and even affable, but not a line suggested weakness. The forehead was high, massive, and was exaggerated by a semi-baldness which was only partially concealed by combing the dark, grey-streaked hair forward. He was reclining; if he had arisen he would have displayed a frame at once to be called soldierly, though spare and hardly powerful. To complete the figure it should be added that on one finger he wore a large ring set with a very beautiful seal of an armed Venus; and over his loose but carefully arranged tunic was thrown a short, red mantle, caught together on the left shoulder—the paludamentum, a garment only worn by Roman military officers of the very highest rank.

The general—for so his dress proclaimed him—was playing with a stylus and a waxen tablet, while the young Greek read. Now and then he would bid the latter pause while he made a few notes. The book was Euripides's "Troades."

"Read those lines again," interrupted the general. The voice was marvellously flexile, powerful, and melodious.

And the freedman repeated:—

"Sow far and wide, plague, famine, and distress; Make women widows, children fatherless; Break down the altars of the gods, and tread On quiet graves, the temples of the dead; Play to life's end this wicked witless game And you will win what knaves and fools call Fame!"[122]

[122] Translated in the collection "Sales Attici."

The freedman waited for his superior to ask him to continue, but the request did not come. The general seemed lost in a reverie; his expressive dark eyes were wandering off in a kind of quiet melancholy, gazing at the glass water-clock at the end of the room, but evidently not in the least seeing it.

"I have heard enough Euripides to-day," at length he remarked. "I must attend to more important matters. You may leave me."

The Greek rolled up the volume, placed it in the cupboard, and left the room with noiseless step. The general had arisen, and was standing beside the open window that looked out into a quiet little court. It was dark. The lamps of the room threw the court-yard into a sombre relief. Overhead, in the dimming, violet arch of the sky, one or two faint stars were beginning to twinkle.

"Play to life's end this wicked witless game And you will win what knaves and fools call Fame!"

repeated the general, leaning out from the stone work of the window-casing in order to catch the cool air of the court. "Yes, fame, the fame of a Xerxes; perhaps the fame of a Hannibal—no, I wrong the Carthaginian, for he at least struck for his country. And what is it all worth, after all? Does Agamemnon feel that his glory makes the realm of Hades more tolerable? Does not Homer set forth Achilles as a warrior with renown imperishable? And yet, 'Mock me not,' he makes the shade of Achilles say; 'Better to be the hireling of a stranger and serve a man of mean estate, whose living is but small, than be the monarch over all those dead and gone.'"

The general leaned yet farther out, and looked upward. "These were the stars that twinkled over the Troy of Priam; these were the stars that shone on Carthage when she sent forth her armies and her fleets, and nigh drove the Greeks from Sicily; and these are the stars which will shine when Rome is as Troy and Carthage. And I—I am an atom, a creature of chance, thrown out of the infinite to flash like a shooting star for a moment across a blackened firmament and then in the infinite to expire. Cui bono? Why should I care how I live my life, since in a twinkling it will all be as if it had never been? And if Cato and Domitius and Lentulus Crus have their way with me, what matter? What matter if a stab in the dark, or open violence, or the sham forms of justice end this poor comedy? I and all others play. All comedy is tragedy, and at its merriest is but dolorous stuff. While the curtain stays down[123] we are sorry actors with the whole world for our audience, and the hoots mingle full often with the applause. And when the curtain rises, that which is good, the painstaking effort, the labour, is quickly forgotten; the blunders, the false quantities in our lives, are treasured up to be flung against our names. We play, but we do not know our parts; we are Oedipus, who has committed unwitting sin, and yet must reap his reward; we are Prometheus who is to be chained to the rock forever, for offending the gods; we are Orestes whom the Eumenides pursue, chasing him down for his guilt. And all the time we vainly imagine that we are some victorious hero, some Perseus, especially favoured by the gods to fare scatheless over land and sea, and bear away the Medusa's head, and live renowned and happy forever." The reverie was becoming deeper and deeper; the Roman was beginning no longer to whisper merely to himself, he was half declaiming; then of a sudden, by a quick revolution of mind, he broke short the thread of his monologue. "Phui! Caius, you are ranting as if you were still a youth at Rhodes, and Apollonius Molo were just teaching you rhetoric! Why has no letter come from Curio to-day? I am anxious for him. There may have been a riot. I hadn't expected that those excellent 'Optimates' would begin to murder tribunes quite so soon. The carrier is late!" and the general moved away from the window, and took from a cupboard a package of tablets, which he ran over hastily. "Here are the despatches of yesterday. None to-day. I fear the worst." The brow of the solitary speaker grew darker. "Poor Curio, poor Antonius; if they've dared to murder them, let them tremble. I could forgive a mortal enemy to myself, but not one who had slaughtered a friend."

[123] The ancient curtain (aulaeum) had its roller at the bottom.

There were steps in the court below, and voices were raised. In an instant the general's eyes were kindled, his frame on a poise. He sprang to the window, and shouted down the dark court.

"Curio! Do I hear you speaking?"

"Salve! Caesar. It is I!"

"Venus be praised!" and the proconsul, with almost undignified haste, was running out upon the stairs to meet his friend. "Has the city broken out? Has Antonius been murdered? Is the truce at an end? Are you alone?"

And Curio, who did not quite possess his leader's ability to "do all things at the same time," answered in a breath: "The city so far keeps tolerable order. Antonius is safe. The consuls and Senate still keep the peace; but so poorly that I thought it my duty to come to you and say things that cannot go in a letter."

"And who is this young man with you?"

"My friend," said Curio, turning to his companion, "is Quintus Livius Drusus, of whom I have had occasion to write no little."

The proconsul sprang forward and seized Drusus by both hands, and looked him fairly in the eye.

"Papae! I see Sextus Drusus once more, the best tribune in his legion, and my dear friend. Your face should be cause for your welcome, if nothing else. Ah! how much we shall have to say! But you are travel-stained and weary. Words will keep while you bathe, and our dinner is prepared; for I myself have not dined, waiting, as I thought, for your despatches."

"Your excellency shows me too much courtesy," said Drusus, bowing in what was, to tell truth, some little embarrassment; "it is not fit that a young man like myself should dine at the same table with an imperator before whom nations have trembled."

And then it was that Drusus caught his first glimpse of that noble and sententious egotism which was a characteristic of the great proconsul.

"To be a friend of Caesar is to be the peer of kings."

Drusus bowed again, and then, with Curio, followed the attendants who were leading them to comfortably, though not sumptuously, furnished apartments.

* * * * *

Quintus Drusus in years to come sat at the boards of many great men, enjoyed their conversation, entered into their hopes and fears, but he never forgot the first dinner with the proconsul of the Gauls. Caesar kept a double table. His hospitality was always ready for the people of note of the district where he happened to be staying, and for his own regular army officers. But he dined personally with such high-rank Romans and very noble Provincials as chanced to be with him from day to day. To this last select company Drusus found himself that evening admitted; and in fact he and Curio were the proconsul's only personal guests. The dinner itself was more remarkable for the refinement of the whole service, the exquisite chasteness of the decorations of the dining room, the excellent cooking of the dishes, and the choiceness of the wines than for any lavish display either of a great bill of fare, or of an ostentatious amount of splendour. The company of officers and gentlemen of the Ravenna district dined together in a spacious hall, where Drusus imagined they had a rather more bounteous repast than did the immediate guests of their entertainer. At one end of this large hall was a broad alcove, raised a single step, and here was laid the dinner for the proconsul. Caesar passed through the large company of his humbler guests, followed by Curio and Drusus,—now speaking a familiar word to a favourite centurion; now congratulating a country visitor on his election to his local Senate; now introducing the new-comers to this or that friend. And so presently Drusus found himself resting on his elbow on the same couch with Caesar, while Curio occupied the other end. For a time the latter held by far the larger part of the conversation in his hands. There were a myriad tales to tell of politics at the capital, a myriad warnings to give. Caesar listened to them all; and only rarely interrupted, and then with words so terse and penetrating that Drusus marvelled. The proconsul seemed to know the innermost life history and life motives of everything and everybody. He described a character with an epithet; he fathomed a political problem with an expletive. Only now and then did his words or motions betray any deep personal concern or anxiety, and once only did Drusus see him flush with passion.

"That affair of the magistrate of Coma, to whom you gave the franchise," said Curio, "was extremely unfortunate. You of course heard long ago how Marcellus, the consul, had him beaten with rods and sent home, to show[124]—as he said—to you, Caesar, the print of his stripes."

[124] Caesar had given the magistrates of towns of the north of Italy the Roman franchise: no Roman citizens could be lawfully flogged. By his action Marcellus denied Caesar's right to confer the franchise.

The face of the proconsul reddened, then grew black with hardly reined fury.

"Yes, most unfortunate for Marcellus." It was all that Caesar said, but Drusus would not have exchanged his life then, for that of Marcellus, for a thousand talents of gold.

"And our dear friend, Cato," went on Curio, who was perhaps not unwilling to stir the vials of his superior's wrath, "has just sworn with an oath in public, that as soon as your army is disbanded he will press an impeachment against you; and I've heard it reported that you will be compelled to plead, like Milo when he was tried for the Clodius affair, before judges overawed by armed men."

"I anticipate no such proceeding," said Caesar, dryly, in an accent of infinite contempt. Then turning to Drusus, he entirely changed his intonation.

"So long," he said, with a shrug of his rather slight shoulders, "we have talked of comitias and senates! Praise to the gods, all life is not passed in the Forum or Curia! And now, my dear Quintus, let us put aside those tedious matters whereof we all three have talked and thought quite enough, and tell me of yourself; for, believe me, our friendship would be one-sided indeed, if all your trouble and exertion went for me, and you received no solicitude in return."

And Drusus, who had at first found his words coming awkwardly enough, presently grew fluent as he conversed with the proconsul. He told of his student days at Athens, of his studies of rhetoric and philosophy, of his journey back to Praeneste, and the incidents of the sea voyage, and land travel; of his welcome at Praeneste by the old retainers and the familia of the Drusi, and then of his recent political work at Rome.

"These have been the chief events of my life, Caesar," he concluded, "and since you have condescended to hear, I have ventured to tell; but why need I ask if such a commonplace tale of a young man who has yet his life to live, should interest you?"

Caesar smiled, and laying down the beaker from which he was sipping very slowly, replied:—

"Mehercle! And do you wish to have all your exploits crowded into a few short years of youth, that mature age will have nothing to surpass? Listen,—I believe that when the historians, by whom our dear Cicero is so anxious to be remembered favourably, write their books, they will say something of my name,—good or bad, the Genius knows,—but fame at least will not be denied me. Twelve years ago when I was in Spain I was reading in some book of the exploits of Alexander the Great. Suddenly it seemed as though I could not control myself. I began to weep; and this was the explanation I gave to my friends, 'I have just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable.'"

"But even when your excellency went into Spain," remarked Drusus, "you had done that which should have given renown. Consider, you had won the praetorship, the office of Pontifex Maximus—"

"St," interrupted the proconsul, "a list of titles is not a pledge from Fortune that she will grant fame. Besides, I was about to add—what folly it was for me to weep! Do I imagine now, that Alexander was happy and contented in the midst of his conquests? Rather, unless he were, indeed, of more than mortal stuff, for every morsel of fame, he paid a talent of care and anxiety. Rush not too quickly after fame; only with age comes the strength to pay the price thereof."

Drusus was half wondering at, half admiring, the unconscious comparison the proconsul was drawing between himself and Alexander. But Caesar went on:—

"But you, O Drusus, have not dealt honestly with me, in that you have failed to tell that which lies nearest your heart, and which you consider the pivot of all your present life."

Drusus flushed. "Doubtless, your excellency will pardon a young man for speaking with diffidence on a subject, to recollect which is to cause pain."

Caesar put off the half-careless air of the good-natured wit, which he had been affecting.

"Quintus Livius Drusus," and as he spoke, his auditor turned as if magnetized by his eye and voice, and hung on every word, "be not ashamed to own to me, of all men, that you claim a good woman's love, and for that love are ready to make sacrifice."

And as if to meet a flitting thought in the other's mind, Caesar continued:—

"No, blush not before me, although the fashionable world of Rome will have its stories. I care not enough for such gossip to take pains to say it lies. But this would I have declared, when at your age, and let all the world hear, that I, Caius Caesar, loved honourably, purely, and worthily; and for the sake of that love would and did defy death itself."

The proconsul's pale face flushed with something very akin to passion; his bright eyes were more lustrous than ever.

"I was eighteen years old when I married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, the great leader of the 'Populares.' Sulla, then dictator, ordered me to put her away. Cornelia had not been the wife of my father's choice. He had wished to force upon me Cossutia, an heiress, but with little save riches to commend her. I gained neither riches, political influence, nor family good-will by the marriage. Sulla was in the fulness of his strength. I had seen nearly all my friends proscribed, exiled, or murdered. Sulla bade me put away my wife, and take such a one as he should appoint. He was graciously pleased to spare my life, in order that I might become his tool. Why did I refuse?"

Caesar was sitting upon the couch and speaking nervously, in a manner that betokened great and unusual excitement.

"I knew the dictator meant to favour me if I would only humour him in this matter. A word from him and all ambition of mine had probably been at an end, I take no praise to myself for this. I refused him. I defied his threats. He seized my property, deprived me of my priesthood,[125] finally let loose his pack of assassins upon me. I almost became their victim. But my uncle, Aurelius Cotta, and some good friends of mine among the Vestal Virgins pleaded my cause. I escaped. Sulla said he was over-persuaded in sparing me; 'In me were many Mariuses.' But did I regret the loss, the danger, the check for the time being to my career? Quintus Drusus, I counted them as of little importance, not to be weighed beside the pure love that mastered me. And as the faithful husband of my Cornelia I remained, until cruel death closed her dear eyes forever. One can love once, and honourably, with his whole being, but not truly and honourably love a second time, at least not in a manner like unto the first. Therefore, my Quintus, blush not to confess that which I know is yours,—a thing which too many of us Romans do not know in these declining days,—something that would almost convince me there were indeed celestial gods, who care for us and guide our darkened destinies. For when we reason of the gods, our reason tells us they are not. But when pure passion possesses our hearts, then we see tangible visions, then our dreams become no dreams but realities; we mount up on wings, we fly, we soar to Olympus, to Atlantis, to the Elysian fields; we no longer wish to know, we feel; we no longer wish to prove, we see; and what our reason bids us to reject, a surer monitor bids us to receive: the dangers and perils of this life of shades upon the earth are of no account, for we are transformed into immortals in whose veins courses the divine ichor, and whose food is ambrosial. Therefore while we love we do indeed dwell in the Islands of the Blessed: and when the vision fades away, its sweet memory remains to cheer us in our life below, and teach us that where the cold intellect may not go, there is indeed some way, on through the mists of the future, which leads we know not whither; but which leads to things purer and fairer than those which in our most ambitious moments we crave."

[125] Marius had made young Caesar, Flamen Dialis: priest of Jupiter.

The voice of the conqueror of Gaul and German sank with a half tremor; his eye was moist, his lips continued moving after his words had ceased to flow. Drusus felt himself searched through and through by glance and speech. Was the proconsul a diviner to find all that was deepest in his soul and give it an utterance which Drusus had never expressed even to himself? The young man was thrilled, fascinated. And Caesar, in quite another tone, recovered himself and spoke.

"Wherefore, O Drusus! be ashamed to tell how the Lady Cornelia loves you and you love her? What if the grim old consul-elect, like the jealous elder in the comedy, will stand in your way! Phui! What are the complaints, threats, and prohibitions of such as he? At present, the wind blows from his quarter, but it will not be ever so. Either Lentulus will be in no place to hinder you before long, or we all shall be beyond caring for his triumph or failure."

"Your excellency bids me hope!" cried Drusus.

"I bid you love," replied Caesar, smiling. "I bid you go to Baiae, for there I have heard your dear lady waits her long-absent Odysseus, and tell her that all will be well in time; for Caesar will make it so."

"For Caesar will make it so," repeated the young man, half-unconscious that he was speaking aloud.

"For Caesar will make it so," reiterated the proconsul, as though Zeus on Olympus were nodding his head in awful and irrevocable promise.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse