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A Friend of Caesar - A Tale of the Fall of the Roman Republic. Time, 50-47 B.C.
by William Stearns Davis
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And the proconsul took both of his guest's hands in his own, and said, with seriousness:—

"Quintus Drusus, why did you abandon your bride to support my cause?"

"Because," replied the other, with perfect frankness, "I should not be worthy to look Cornelia in the face, if I did not sacrifice all to aid the one Roman who can save the state."

"Young man," replied the proconsul, "many follow me for selfish gain, many follow me to pay off a grudge, but few follow me because they believe that because Caesar is ambitious, he is ambitious as a god should be ambitious—to bestow the greatest benefits possible upon the men entrusted to his charge. I know not what thread for me the Fates have spun; but this I know, that Caesar will never prove false to those who trust him to bring righteousness to Rome, and peace to the world."

* * * * *

That night, as Drusus was retiring, Curio spoke to him:—

And what manner of man do you think is the proconsul?"

"I think," replied Drusus, "that I have discovered the one man in the world whom I craved to find."

"And who is that?"

"The man with an ideal."



Chapter XII

Pratinas Meets Ill-Fortune

I

Probably of the various personages mentioned in the course of our story none was more thoroughly enjoying life about this time than Agias. Drusus had left him in the city when he started for Ravenna, with general instructions to keep an eye on Lucius Ahenobarbus and Pratinas, and also to gather all he could of the political drift among the lower classes. Agias was free now. He let his hair grow long in token of his newly gained liberty; paraded a many-folded toga; and used part of the donatives which Drusus and Fabia had lavished upon him, in buying one or two slave-boys of his own, whom, so far from treating gently on account of his own lately servile position, he cuffed and abused with grim satisfaction at being able to do what had so often been done to him.

Agias had been given lodgings by Drusus in a tenement house, owned by the latter, in the Subura.

The rooms were over a bakery, and at the sides were a doctor's and surgeon's office and a barber's shop—a rendezvous which gave the young Greek an admirable chance to pick up the current gossip. Every street-pedler, every forum-idler, had his political convictions and pet theories. The partisans who arrogated to themselves the modest epithet of "The Company of All Good Men," clamoured noisily that "Liberty and Ancient Freedom" were in danger, if Caesar set foot in Rome save as an impeached traitor. And the Populares—the supporters of the proconsul—raged equally fiercely against the greed of the Senate party that wished to perpetuate itself forever in office. Agias could only see that neither faction really understood the causes for and against which they fought; and observed in silence, trusting that his patron knew more of the issues than he.

But the newly manumitted freedman was thoroughly enjoying himself. The windy speeches in the Senate, the crowded and excited meetings in the Forum, the action and reaction of the tides of popular prejudice and fancy, the eloquence of Antonius, and the threatenings and ravings of Marcellus the consul—all these were interesting but not disturbing. Agias was catching glimpses of a little Olympus of his own—an Olympus in which he was at once Zeus, Poseidon, and Apollo; Sesostris—so he declared—the lame cup-bearer Hephaestus; and in place of Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, were the smiles and laughter of Artemisia. Agias was head over ears in love with this pretty little cage-bird shut up in Pratinas's gloomy suite of rooms. Her "uncle" took her out now and then to the theatre or to the circus; but she had had little enough companionship save such as Sesostris could give; and to her, Agias was a wonderful hero, the master of every art, the victor over a hundred monsters. He had told her of his adventure with Phaon—not calling names, lest disagreeable consequences ensue—and Artemisia dreamed of him as the cleverest creature on the earth, able to outwit Hermes in subtlety. Agias had found out when Pratinas was likely to be away from home—and that worthy Hellene, be it said, never declined an invitation to dine with a friend—and Agias timed his visits accordingly. He taught Artemisia to play the cithera and to sing, and she made such rapid progress under his tutoring that the unconscious Pratinas commended her efforts to acquire the accomplishments he wished. And Agias was never so happy as when those bright eyes were hanging on his lips or that merry tongue was chattering a thousand pointless remarks or jests.

Yes, Agias found himself in a condition when he could well ask to have no change. The possibility that Pratinas would come home, and put an end to the romance once and for all, was just great enough to give the affair the zest of a dangerous adventure. Despite Sesostris's warnings that Artemisia might at any time be sold away by her pseudo-uncle, Agias could not discover that that danger was imminent enough to need frustration. He was content to live himself and to let Artemisia live, basking in the stolen sunshine of the hour, and to let the thought of the approaching shadows fade out of his mind.

Another person who saw the sunshine rather brighter than before was Pisander. That excellent philosopher had received his share of the gratitude Drusus had bestowed on his deliverers. But he was still in the service of Valeria, for Drusus saw that he had admirable opportunities for catching the stray bits of political gossip that inevitably intermixed themselves with the conversation of Valeria and her circle. Pisander had continued to read Plato to his mistress, and to groan silently at her frivolity; albeit, he did not groan so hopelessly as before, because he had good money in his pouch and knew where to procure more when he needed it.

So Agias enjoyed himself. He was a youth; a Pagan youth; and in his short life he had seen many a scene of wickedness and shame. Yet there was nothing unholy in the affection which he found was daily growing stronger and stronger for Artemisia. She was a pure, innocent flower, that by the very whiteness of her simple sweet presence drove away anything that "defiled or made a lie." Agias did not worship her; she was too winning; too cunning and pretty to attract the least reverence; but in her company the young Greek was insensibly raised pinnacles above the murky moral atmosphere in which most men and youths of his station walked.

It was all like an Idyl of Theocritus; with the tenement of Pratinas for a shepherd's hut; and Sesostris for a black-backed sheep to whom the herdsmen and the nymph of his love could play on "oaten reed." At first, Agias had never dreamed of telling a word of his affection to Artemisia. In truth, it was very hard to tell, for she, with an absolute innocence, took all his advances for far more than they were worth; told him that next to her "uncle and dear Sesostris" he was quite the best friend she had; that she loved him, and was glad to hear him say that he loved her.

All this was delightful in the ears of her admirer, but very disconcerting. Agias thought of the hollow civilities of Valeria's life, as he had seen it; of the outward decorum of language, of the delicately veiled compliments, of the interchange of words that summed up, in a few polished commonplaces, a whole network of low intrigue and passion. Was this the same world! Could Valeria and Artemisia both be women! The one—a beauty, whose guilty heart was not ignorant of a single form of fashionable sin; the other—as it were, a blossom, that was pure sweetness, in whose opening petals the clear diamond of the morning dew still remained! Agias did not compare Artemisia with Cornelia; for Cornelia, in his eyes, was a goddess, and in beauty and passions was above the hope or regard of mortal men.

But what was one to do in an emergency like the following? Agias had been singing the "Love Song" from the "Cyclops," and trying to throw into the lines all the depth of tender affection which voice and look rendered possible.

"One with eyes the fairest Cometh from his dwelling, Some one loves thee, rarest, Bright beyond my telling. In thy grace thou shinest Like some nymph divinest, In her caverns dewy;— All delights pursue thee, Soon pied flowers, sweet-breathing, Shall thy head be wreathing."[126]

[126] Translated by Shelley.

And at the conclusion of the song Artemisia threw her arms around Agias's neck and kissed him; and then with astounding impartiality sprang into Sesostris's lap, and patted the old Ethiop's black cheeks, and bestowed on him all manner of endearing epithets. What was poor Agias to do in such a case? He blankly concluded that it had proved easier to blast the plot of Pratinas and Ahenobarbus, than to win the love—as he meant "love"—of this provokingly affectionate girl. It was growing late. Pratinas might at any time return. And Agias constrained himself to depart.

"By Zeus!" was the exclamation he addressed to himself as he fought his way through the crowds toward his own quarters; "where will this all end? How much longer are you going to lie in the toils of that most innocent of Circes? Will she never open her eyes? If I could only make her cry, 'I hate you!' there would be some hope; for when one hates, as I want her to, love is but a step away. Confound that Sesostris! For me to have to sit there, and see that baboon kissed and fondled!"

And so reflecting, he reached his rooms. One of the luckless slave-boys who now addressed him as "Dominus," was waiting to tell him that a very gaunt, strange-looking man, with an enormous beard, had called to see him while he was out, and would return—so the visitor said—in the evening, for his business was important. "Pisander," remarked Agias; and he stayed in that evening to meet the philosopher, although he had arranged to share a dinner with one or two other freedmen, who were his friends.

The man of learning appeared at a very late hour. In fact, the water-clock showed that it wanted little of midnight before he came. His explanation was that Valeria had called him in to read verses to a company of friends who were supping with her, and he could not get away sooner. Besides, the dark streets were full of bandits, and he had therefore taken a circuitous route to avoid attack. Agias had to let him ramble through all the details, although he knew very well that Pisander would never have taken so much trouble to come if he had not had information of the first importance to impart.

"And now, my dear Pisander," ventured the young Greek, at length, "I will ask Dromo to set something to drink before us; and I hope you will tell me why you have come."

Pisander glanced timidly over his shoulder, pulled at his beard with suppressed excitement, then bent down, and in a very low voice burst out:—

"Pratinas and"—he hesitated—"Valeria!"

"Ai" cried Agias, "I have suspected it for a very long time. You are sure the fox has snapped up his goose?"

"By Hercules, very sure! They are planning to go to Egypt. Pratinas has just had a wonderful stroke of luck. He received six hundred thousand sesterces[127] with which to corrupt a jury for some poor wretch who expected to enlist Pratinas's cunning to get him out of the toils of the law. Pratinas calmly put the money in his strong-box, and let the unhappy wight be cast. He is not at all poor—he has amassed a large fortune while he has been in Rome. Shade of Plato! how this knave has prospered! And now he is arranging with Valeria to strip poor Calatinus of nearly all his valuables, before they fly the country."

[127] $24,000.

"Ah, luckless Calatinus!" laughed Agias. "That will be the end of his marrying the handsomest woman in Rome. And so this is what you came here to tell me? It really was a good secret to keep."

"St!" interrupted Pisander, "Pratinas has something else to attend to. Calatinus will get consolation for losing his dear spouse. I suppose Pratinas wishes to indemnify him, but he himself will make a good bit at the same time."

In a twinkling a thought had flashed through Agias's mind, that made a cold sweat break out all over him, and a hot surge of blood mount to his head.

"Man, man!" he cried, grasping Pisander's wrists with all his strength, "speak! Don't look at me this way! Don't say that you mean Artemisia?"

"Ai! You know the girl, then?" said the other, with the most excruciating inquisitiveness.

"Know her?" raged Agias, "I love the sunbeam on which her eyes rest. Speak! Tell me all, everything, all about it I Quick! I must know!"

Pisander drew himself together, and with a deliberation that was nearly maddening to his auditor, began:—

"Well, you see, I had occasion this morning to be in Calatinus's library. Yes, I remember, I was just putting the new copy of Theognis back into the cupboard, when I noticed that the Mimnermus was not neatly rolled, and so I happened to stay in the room, and—"

"By Zeus, speak faster and to the point!" cried Agias.

"Oh, there wasn't very much to it all! Why, how excited you are! Pratinas came into the atrium, and Calatinus was already there. I heard the latter say, 'So I am to give you forty thousand sesterces for the little girl you had with you at the circus yesterday?' And Pratinas replied, 'Yes, if she pleases you. I told you her name was Artemisia, and that I always taught her to believe that she was my niece.'"

"Hei! Hei!" groaned Agias, rushing up and down the room, half frantic. "Don't tell any more, I've heard enough! Fool, fool I have been, to sit in the sunshine, and never think of preparing to carry out my promise to Sesostris. No, you must tell me—you must tell me if you have learned any more. Did Calatinus fix on any time at which he was to take possession of the poor girl?"

"No," replied the still amazed Pisander. "I did not hear the whole conversation. There was something about 'a very few days,' and then Pratinas began to condole with Calatinus over being beaten for the tribunate after having spent so much money for the canvass. But why are you so stirred up? As Plato very admirably observes in his 'Philebus'—"

"The Furies seize upon your 'Philebus'!" thundered Agias. "Keep quiet, if you've nothing good to tell! Oh, Agias, Agias! where are your wits, where is your cunning? What in the world can I do?"

And so he poured out his distress and anger. But, after all, there was nothing to be done that night. Pisander, who at last began to realize the dilemma of his friend, ventured on a sort of sympathy which was worse than no sympathy at all, for philosophical platitudes are ever the worst of consolations. Agias invited the good man to spend the night with him, and not risk a second time the robbers of the streets. The young Greek himself finally went to bed, with no definite purpose in his mind except to rescue Artemisia, at any and every hazard, from falling into the clutches of Calatinus, who was perhaps the one man in the world Agias detested the most heartily.

II

Early in the morning Agias was awake. He had slept very little. The face of Artemisia was ever before him, and he saw it bathed in tears, and clouded with anguish and terror. But, early as he arose, it was none too early. Dromo, one of his slaves, came to announce to his dread lord that an aged Ethiop was waiting to see him, and Agias did not need to be told that this was Sesostris.

That faithful servant of an unworthy master was indeed in a pitiable condition. His ordinarily neat and clean dress was crumpled and disarranged, as though he had not changed it during the night, but had rather been tossing and wakeful. His eyes were swollen, and tears were trickling down his cheeks. His voice had sunk to a husky choking, and when he stood before Agias he was unable to get out a word, but, after a few vain attempts which ended in prolonged sniffles, thrust into his young friend's hand a tablet.

It was in Greek, in the childish, awkward hand of Artemisia, and ran as follows:—

"Artemisia to her dear, dear Agias. I never wrote a letter before, and you must excuse the blunders in this. I don't know how to begin to tell you the dreadful thing that may happen to me. I will try and stop crying, and write it out just as it all happened. The day before yesterday Pratinas took me to the circus, where I enjoyed the racing very much. While we were sitting there, a very fine gentleman—at least he had purple stripes on his tunic and ever so many rings—came and sat down beside us. Pratinas told me that this gentleman was Lucius Calatinus, who was a great lord, but a friend of his. I tried to say something polite to Calatinus, but I didn't like him. He seemed coarse, and looked as though he might be cruel at times. He talked to me something the way you have talked—said I was pretty and my voice sounded very sweet. But I didn't enjoy these things from him, I can hardly tell why—though I'm delighted to hear you say them. Well, after quite a while he went away, and I didn't think anything more about him for a time, and yesterday you know how happy I was when you visited me. Only a little while after you left, Pratinas came back. I could see that he had something on his mind, although he said nothing. He seemed uneasy, and kept casting sidelong glances at me, which made me feel uncomfortable. I went up to him, and put my arms around his neck. 'Dear uncle,' I said, 'what is troubling you to-night?' 'Nothing,' he answered, and he half tried to take my arms away. Then he said, 'I was thinking how soon I was to go back to Alexandria.' 'To Alexandria!' I cried, and I was just going to clap my hands when I thought that, although Alexandria was a far nicer place than Rome, you could not go with us, and so I felt very sorry. Then Pratinas spoke again in a hard, cold voice he has never used to me before. 'Artemisia, I must tell you now the truth about yourself. I have let you call me uncle, and have tried to be kind to you. But you cannot come back to Alexandria with me. The day after to-morrow Calatinus, the gentleman you met at the circus yesterday, will come and take you away. He is a very rich man, and if you please him will give you everything you desire.' I couldn't understand at all what he meant, and cried out, 'But, uncle, I don't like Calatinus, and you—you don't really mean to leave me behind?' 'You little donkey,' said Pratinas, laughing, oh! so heartlessly, 'I'm not your uncle. You've been my slave, and I've sold you to Calatinus; so don't quarrel with him, but learn to like him quickly.' I don't remember what he said or I said next. I was so frightened and grieved that I don't know what I did. I know Pratinas finally whipped me, something he never did before. I went to bed feeling so sore, that I could not get really to sleep, but dreadful visions of Calatinus kept frightening me. I don't know which grieves me most, to know I am a slave, to know that Pratinas is not my uncle and does not love me, or to be about to be sold to Calatinus. Dear Sesostris has done all he can to console me, but that's very little; and so, very early this morning, I've written to you, Agias, just as soon as Pratinas left the house, for I am sure that you, who are so clever and wise, can see some way to get me out of my dreadful trouble."

It would be hardly necessary to say that, after reading this appeal, Agias hurried away to do all that lay in his power to console Artemisia, and deliver her from her danger. When he reached Pratinas's tenement, Artemisia ran to meet him, and kissed him again and again, and cuddled down in his strong, young arms, quite content to believe that she had found a protector on whom she could cast all her burdens. And Agias? He laughed and bade her wipe away her tears, and swore a great oath that, so long as he breathed, Calatinus should not lay a finger upon her.

Artemisia had practically told all her story in her letter. It was clear that Calatinus had caught sight of her several times,—though she had remained in blissful ignorance,—and Pratinas had deliberately planned to waylay him as a customer who would pay a good price for the girl, whom it would be manifestly inconvenient for him to take with Valeria on his premeditated flight to Egypt. But this enlightenment did not make Agias's task any the easier. He knew perfectly well that he could never raise a tithe of the forty thousand sesterces that Pratinas was to receive from Calatinus, and so redeem Artemisia. He had no right to expect the gift of such a sum from Drusus. If Pratinas really owned the poor girl as a slave, he could do anything he listed with her, and no law could be invoked to say him nay. There was only one recourse left to Agias, and that was fairly desperate—to carry off Artemisia and keep her in hiding until Pratinas should give up the quest and depart for Egypt. That there was peril in such a step he was well aware. Not merely could Artemisia, if recaptured, receive any form whatsoever of brutal punishment, but he, as the abettor of her flight, would be liable to a heavy penalty. Slave property was necessarily very precarious property, and to aid a slave to escape was an extremely heinous crime. "So many slaves, so many enemies," ran the harsh maxim; and it was almost treason to society for a freedman to aid a servant to run away.

But Agias had no time to count the cost, no time to evolve a plan of escape that admitted no form of disaster. Artemisia besought him not to leave her for a moment, and accordingly he remained by her, laughing, poking fun, and making reckless gibes at her fears. Sesostris went about his simple household duties with a long face, and now and then a tear trickled down his cheek. Whatever came of the matter, Artemisia would have to be separated from him. He might never see her again, and the old Ethiopian loved her more than he did life itself.

"You will not wrong the girl when she is with you?" he whispered dolefully to Agias.

"I swear by Zeus she shall be treated as if she were my own dear sister," was his reply.

"It is well. I can trust you; but mu! mu! it is hard, it is hard! I love her like my own eyes! Isis preserve her dear life!"

And so at last Artemisia, having cried out all her first burst of grief, was beginning to smile once more.

"And now, oh! makaira,"[128] said Agias, "I must go away for just a little while. I have ever so many things to attend to; and you must be a good, brave girl, and wait until I come back."

[128] Blessed dear.

"St!" broke in Sesostris, "there's a step on the stairs. Pratinas is coming!"

"Hide me!" cried Agias, as the approaching feet grew nearer. There was no time to take refuge in one of the farther rooms.

"Here;" and Sesostris threw open the same iron clamped chest in which some time ago we saw Pratinas inspecting his treasure. "The money was taken out yesterday."

Agias bounded into the box, and Sesostris pushed down the cover. The luckless occupant had only a chance to push out a corner of his tunic through the slit to admit a little air, when Pratinas entered the room. Agias longed to spring forth and throttle him, but such an act would have been folly.

The young Greek's prison was sufficiently cramped and stuffy; but for a moment Agias tried to persuade himself that he had only to wait with patience until Pratinas should be gone, and no one would be the worse. An exclamation from the room without dispelled this comforting illusion.

"By Zeus!" cried Pratinas, "what is this? Whence came this new toga?"

Agias writhed in his confinement. In the plentitude of the glory of his newly acquired freedom, he had come abroad in an elegant new toga; but he had laid it on a chair when he entered the room.

There was an awkward pause outside; then Pratinas burst out, "You worthless Ethiopian, you, where did this toga come from? It hasn't wings or feet! How came it here? Who's been here? Speak, speak, you fool, or I will teach you a lesson!"

Agias gathered himself for a spring; for he expected to hear Sesostris whimper out a confession, and see Pratinas's wickedly handsome face peering into the chest. "He shan't cut my throat without a struggle!" was his vow.

But, to his surprise, Sesostris answered with a tone of unlooked-for firmness, "Master, I cannot tell you where the toga came from."

The tone of Pratinas, in reply, indicated his passion. "Sheep! Dog! Have I had you all these years that you should need a thrashing for impertinence! What rascal has been here to ogle at this wretched girl?" He might have thundered his commands to Artemisia, who was sobbing in evident distress; but his anger was concentrated on Sesostris. "Will you not speak?"

"Master," came the same firm reply, "I will not tell you, though you take my life for refusing."

What followed was, as Agias heard it, a volley of curses, blows, groans, and scuffling; then a heavy fall; an extremely fierce execration from Pratinas, and a loud shrill scream from Artemisia, "O Sesostris; dear Sesostris! He doesn't speak! He doesn't move! You've killed him!"

"And I will kill you too if you won't tell the truth!" thundered Pratinas, in an ungovernable passion. Agias heard a blow as of a clinched fist, and a low moan. It was enough. One spring, and the ponderous cover flew back. The toga, the innocent cause of the catastrophe, lay on the chair close at hand. Agias grasped the whole picture in a twinkling: Sesostris lying beside a heavy wooden bench, with blood flowing from a great wound in his head which had struck in falling on a sharp corner; Artemisia crying in unspeakable dread on a divan; Pratinas, his face black as night, with uplifted hand prepared to strike a second time. Agias saw; and while he saw acted. Down over Pratinas's head dashed the broad linen folds of the toga, and two muscular arms drew it tight around the neck. Then began the struggle. Pratinas was of powerful physique, and resisted like a madman. The carpet was torn to shreds, the chairs shivered. But Agias, too, battled for grim life. He kept the hood over his opponent's eyes and never gave Pratinas a glimpse of the identity of his assailant. And at last a life of debauches and late dinners and unhealthy excitement began to tell against even so powerful a constitution as that of Pratinas. Tighter and tighter grew the pressure around his neck. And now Artemisia sprang up, and flew like a tiny tigress to her lover's assistance, and caught at her tormentor's hands, tearing them with her white little teeth, and pulling the enveloping mantle closer and closer. The contest could only have one end. Ere long, Pratinas was lying on the floor, bound hand and foot with strings of torn clothing, and his head still muffled in the toga. Agias, victorious, but with not a whole rag on his back, rose from his contest.

"Sesostris! help him!" cried Artemisia, trying in vain to get some response from the motionless form by the bench. Agias looked at the Ethiop. The hard wood had struck the top of his skull, and death must have been instantaneous.

"He does not feel any pain," explained the young Greek, who realized that this was no moment to indulge in emotions of any sort. "Now, Artemisia, you must hurry and put on a clean dress yourself; and give me at least a new tunic, for I cannot show this on the streets. Put into a basket all the bread you have, and some oil, and some olives, and some slices of salt fish."

Artemisia disappeared in the next room. Agias returned to his prisoner. Pratinas was coughing and twisting, and trying to ejaculate oaths.

"My good sir," said Agias, "I am not a bloodthirsty man, otherwise I would cut your throat, and so let you forget a predicament which doubtless embarrasses you not a little. But, since that is not to be, do not blame me if I arrange so that it will be unlikely that two such cold friends as you and myself will ever meet again. First of all, that purse which is at your side, and which, by its weight, shows that it contains a fair night's winnings, must go with me to speed me on my way. I have never stolen very much before. But I believe you, sir, are an Epicurean, who teach that pleasure is the highest good, and that all things are the result of chance. Now," and here he detached the purse, and counted over a very considerable sum, "you will observe that Fortune has thrown this money in my way, and it is my pleasure to take it. Therefore I am fulfilling the highest good. And you, as a philosopher, should be quite reconciled."

Artemisia came back into the room, having completed the few simple preparations.

"Now, my excellent sir," continued Agias, suiting his actions to his words, "I will stand you on your feet—so. I will push you, still bound, into this closet—so. I will pile furniture against the door, so that, when you have worked clear of your bonds, as I imagine you will in a few hours, even then you will not get out too quickly. And now, as your dear Roman friends say, Vale! We are off!"

Artemisia flung herself on the form of Sesostris, and covered the black, ugly face with kisses.

"He's growing cold," she lamented. "What is the matter? I can't leave him this way!"

But Agias did not dare to admit the least delaying.

"Dear Artemisia," he said, "we can't do anything for Sesostris. I will explain to you by and by about him. He is not feeling cold now at all. You must come at once with me. I will take you where Pratinas will never touch you."

III

If Agias had been a trifle more reckless he would have cut short Pratinas's thread of life then and there, and greatly diminished the chance of unpleasant consequences. But he had not sunk so low as that. Besides, he had already worked out in his versatile head a plan that seemed practicable, albeit utterly audacious. Cornelia was at Baiae. Cornelia owed him a great debt of gratitude for saving Drusus. Cornelia might harbour Artemisia as a new maid, if he could contrive to get his charge over the hundred long miles that lay between Rome and Baiae.

In the street he made Artemisia draw her mantle over her pretty face, and pressed through the crowds as fast as he could drag her onward. Quickly as he might he left the noisy Subura behind, and led on toward the Palatine. At length he turned in toward a large house, and by a narrow alley reached a garden gate, and gained admission to the rear. By his confident movements he showed himself familiar with the spot. The dwelling, as a matter of fact, was that of Calatinus.

As Agias pushed open the gate, and led Artemisia into a little garden enclosed with a high stone wall, he surprised a dapper-appearing young slave-lad of about his age, who was lying idly on the tiny grass plot, and indulging in a solitary game of backgammon.[129]

[129] Duodecim scripta.

"Hem! Iasus," was Agias's salutation, "can you do an old friend a favour?"

Iasus sprang to his feet, with eyes, nose, and mouth wide open. He turned red, turned white, turned red once more.

"Phy!" cried the other; "you aren't so silly as to take me for a shade from Hades? I've as much strength and muscle as you."

"Agias!" blurted out Iasus, "are you alive? Really alive? They didn't beat you to death! I am so glad! You know—"

"St!" interrupted Agias. "You did, indeed, serve me an awkward trick some time since; but who can blame you for wanting to save your own skin. Pisander and Arsinoe and Semiramis have kept the secret that I'm alive very well, for in some ways it shouldn't come to Valeria's ears. My story later. Where's her most noble ladyship?"

"The domina," replied Iasus, with a sniff, "has just gone out on a visit to a friend who has a country-house near Fidenae, up the Tiber."

"Praise the gods! Far enough to be abroad for the day, and perhaps over night! This suits my purpose wonderfully. Is Pisander at home, and Arsinoe?"

"I will fetch them," replied Iasus; and in a minute the philosopher and the waiting-maid were in the garden.

A very few words explained to these two sympathetic souls the whole situation.

Artemisia shrank back at sight of Pisander.

"I am afraid of that man. He wears a great beard like Pratinas, and I don't love Pratinas any longer."

"Oh, don't say that, my little swallow," said the worthy man of books, looking very sheepish. "I should be sorry to think that your bright eyes were vexed to see me."

"Phui! Pisander," laughed Arsinoe, "what have Zeno and Diogenes to do with 'bright eyes'?"

But for once Pisander's heart was wiser than his head, and he only tossed Artemisia an enormous Persian peach, at which, when she sampled the gift, she made peace at once, and forever after held Pisander in her toils as a devoted servant.

But Agias was soon gone; and Artemisia spent the rest of the morning and the whole of the afternoon in that very satisfactory Elysium of Syrian pears and honey-apples which Semiramis and Arsinoe supplied in full measure, with Pisander to sit by, and stare, boylike, at her clear, fair profile, and cast jealous glances at Iasus when that young man ventured to utilize his opportunity for a like advantage. Many of the servants had gone with Valeria, and the others readily agreed to preserve secrecy in a matter in which their former fellow-slave and favourite had so much at stake. So the day passed, and no one came to disturb her; and just as the shadows were falling Agias knocked at the garden gate.

"St!" were his words, "I have hired a gig which will carry us both. Pratinas is loose and has been raising heaven and earth to get at us. There is a crier going the rounds of the Forum offering a thousand sesterces for the return of Artemisia. Pratinas has gone before the triumviri capitales[130] and obtained from them an order on the apparitores[131] to track down the runaway and her abettor."

[130] One of their functions made these officers practically chiefs of police.

[131] A part of these public officers performed police duty.

"Eho!" cried Pisander, "then you'd better leave your treasure here awhile, for us to take care of."

"Not at all," replied Agias; "I could have taken her out of the city at once, but in the daytime we should have been certainly noticed and subsequently tracked. No one will imagine Artemisia is here—at least for a while. But this is a large familia; all may be my friends, but all may not have prudent tongues in their heads. The reward is large, and perhaps some will be tempted;" he glanced at Iasus, who, to do him justice, had never thought of a second deed of baseness. "I cannot risk that. No, Artemisia goes out of the city to-night, and she must get ready without the least delay."

Artemisia, who was charmed with her present surroundings and adulation, demurred at leaving her entertainers; but Agias was imperative, and the others realized well enough that there was not much time to be lost. Agias, however, waited until it had become tolerably dark before starting. Meantime, he proceeded to make certain changes of his own and Artemisia's costume that indicated the rather serious character of the risk he was preparing to run. For himself he put on a very full and flowing crimson evening dress, as if he were proceeding to a dinner-party; he piled a dozen odd rings upon his fingers, and laughingly asked Semiramis to arrange his hair for him in the most fashionable style, and anoint it heavily with Valeria's most pungent perfumes. At the same time, Arsinoe was quite transforming Artemisia. Valeria's cosmetic vials were for once put into play for a purpose, and when Artemisia reappeared from the dressing-room after her treatment, Agias saw before him no longer a fair-skinned little Greek, but a small, slender, but certainly very handsome Egyptian serving-lad, with bronzed skin, conspicuous carmine lips, and features that Arsinoe's paint and pencils had coarsened and exaggerated. Fortunately, the classic costume both for men and women was so essentially alike, that Artemisia did not have to undergo that mortification from a change of clothes which might have befallen one at the present day in a like predicament. Her not very long black hair was loose, and shaken over her shoulders. Agias had brought for her a short, variegated lacerna[132] which answered well enough as the habit of a boy-valet who was on good terms with his master.

[132] A sort of mantle held on the shoulders by a clasp.

"Eho!" cried Agias, when he had witnessed the transformation, "we must hasten or Valeria will be anxious to keep you as her serving-boy! Ah, I forgot she is going with her dear Pratinas to Egypt. Now, Arsinoe, and you, Semiramis, I shall not forget the good turn you have done me; don't let Valeria miss her unguents and ask questions that might prove disagreeable. Farewell, Iasus and Pisander; we shall soon meet again, the gods willing."

The friends took leave of Artemisia; the slave-women kissed her; Pisander, presuming on his age, kissed her, albeit very sheepishly, as though he feared the ghosts of all the Stoics would see him. Iasus cast an angry jealous glance at the philosopher; he contented himself with a mere shake of the hand.

Agias swung Artemisia into the gig and touched the lash to the swift mules.

"Good-by, dear friends!" she cried, her merry Greek smile shining out through her bronze disguise.

The gig rolled down the street, Agias glancing to right and left to see that no inquisitive eye followed them.

"Oh! Agias," cried the girl, "am I at last going away with you? Going away all alone, with only you to take care of me? I feel—I feel queerly!"

Agias only touched the mules again, and laughed and squeezed Artemisia's hand, then more gravely said:—

"Now, makaira, you must do everything as I say, or we shall never get away from Pratinas. Remember, if I tell you to do anything you must do it instantly; and, above everything else, no matter what happens, speak not a word; don't scream or cry or utter a sound. If anybody questions us I shall say that I am a gentleman driving out to the suburbs to enjoy a late party at a friend's villa, and you are my valet, who is a mute, whom it is useless to question because he cannot answer. Do you understand?"

Artemisia nodded her little head, and bit her pretty lips very hard to keep from speaking. The fear of Pratinas made her all obedience.

It was after sundown, and driving was permitted in the city, though nearly all the teams that blocked Agias's way, as he drove down the crowded streets to turn on to the Via Appia, were heavy wagons loaded with timber and builders' stone.

So far, all was safe enough; but Agias knew perfectly well that Pratinas was an awkward man to have for an enemy. The critical moment, however, was close at hand, and Agias called up all his wits to meet it. Under the damp arch of the ancient Porta Capena were pacing several men, whose lanterns and clinking sword-scabbards proclaimed them to be members of the city constabulary. There was no possibility of evading their scrutiny. No doubt any other gate was equally well watched. Agias drove straight ahead, as though he had seen nothing.

"Hold!" and one of the constables was at the heads of the mules, and another was waving a lantern up into the face of the occupants of the gig.

"Rascals," roared Agias, menacing with his whip, "are you highwaymen grown so impudent!"

"We have an order from the triumviri," began one officer.

"Eho!" replied Agias, settling back, as though relieved not to have to fight for his purse, "I can't see what for; I owe nothing. I have no suit pending."

"We are to search all carriages and pedestrians," recommenced the constable, "to find if we may a certain Artemisia, a runaway slave-girl of the most noble Greek gentleman, Pratinas."

"My good sirs," interrupted Agias, "I am already like to be very late at my dear friend Cimber's dinner party"—he mentioned the name of the owner of a very large villa not far down the road; "I have with me only Midas, my mute valet. If you detain me any longer I shall complain—"

And here a denarius slipped into the hands of the officer with the lantern.

"I think it's all right, Macer," was his report to his comrade. The latter left the heads of the mules.

"Mehercle! how handsome some of those Egyptians grow!" commented the first constable.

But the rest of his remarks were lost on Agias. He was whizzing down the "Queen of Roads," with a good team before him, Artemisia at his side, and a happy consciousness that two excellent officials had missed a chance to earn one thousand sesterces.

Hardly were they beyond earshot, when Artemisia burst out into an uncontrollable fit of giggling, which lasted a long time, only to be renewed and renewed, as often as a desperate effort seemed to have suppressed it. Then she drew the robes of the carriage round her, laid her head on Agias's shoulder, and with a confidence in her protector that would have inspired him to go through fire and water for her sake, shook out her dark locks and fell fast asleep, despite the fact that the mules were running their fastest. Agias grasped the reins with one hand, and with the other pressed tight the sleeping girl. He would not have exchanged his present position for all the wealth of Sardanapalus.

* * * * *

Five days later Agias was back in Rome. He had succeeded in reaching Baiae, and introducing Artemisia into the familia of the villa of the Lentuli, as a new waiting-maid from Rome sent by Claudia to her daughter. For the present at least there was practically no chance of Pratinas recovering his lost property. And indeed, when Agias reached Rome once more, all fears in that direction were completely set at rest. The fashionable circle in which Claudia and Herennia were enmeshed was in a flutter and a chatter over no ordinary scandal. Valeria, wife of Calatinus, and Pratinas, the "charming" Epicurean philosopher, had both fled Rome two days before, and rumour had it that they had embarked together at Ostia on a ship leaving direct for Egypt. Of course Calatinus was receiving all the sympathy, and was a much abused man; and so the tongues ran on.

To Agias this great event brought a considerable gain in peace of mind, and some little loss. Valeria had taken with her her two maids, Agias's good friends, and also Iasus. Pisander ignominiously had been left behind. Calatinus had no use for the man of learning, and Agias was fain to take him before Drusus, who had returned from Ravenna, and induce his patron to give Pisander sufficient capital to start afresh a public school of philosophy, although the chances of acquiring opulence in that profession were sufficiently meagre.



Chapter XIII

What Befell at Baiae

I

Cornelia was at Baiae, the famous watering-place, upon the classic Neapolitan bay,—which was the Brighton or Newport of the Roman. Here was the haunt of the sybarites, whose gay barks skimmed the shallow waters of the Lucrine lake; and not far off slumbered in its volcanic hollow that other lake, Avernus, renowned in legend and poetry, through whose caverns, fable had it, lay the entrance to the world of the dead. The whole country about was one city of stately villas, of cool groves, of bright gardens; a huge pleasure world, where freedom too often became license; where the dregs of the nectar cup too often meant physical ruin and moral death.

Cornelia had lost all desire to die now. She no longer thought of suicide. Lentulus's freedmen held her in close surveillance, but she was very happy. Drusus lived, was safe, would do great things, would win a name and a fame in the world of politics and arms. For herself she had but one ambition—to hear men say, "This woman is the wife of the great Quintus Drusus." That would have been Elysium indeed. Cornelia, in fact, was building around her a world of sweet fantasy, that grew so real, so tangible, that the stern realities of life, realities that had hitherto worn out her very soul, became less galling. The reaction following the collapse of the plot against Drusus had thrown her into an unnatural cheerfulness. For the time the one thought when she arose in the morning, the one thought when she fell asleep at night, was, "One day," or "One night more is gone, of the time that severs me from Quintus." It was a strained, an unhealthy cheerfulness; but while it lasted it made all the world fair for Cornelia. Indeed, she had no right—from one way of thinking—not to enjoy herself, unless it be that she had no congenial companions. The villa of the Lentuli was one of the newest and finest at Baiae. It rested on a sort of breakwater built out into the sea, so that the waves actually beat against the embankment at the foot of Cornelia's chamber. The building rose in several stories, each smaller than the one below it, an ornamental cupola highest of all. On the successive terraces were formally plotted, but luxuriant, gardens. Cornelia, from her room in the second story, could command a broad vista of the bay. Puteoli was only two miles distant. Vesuvius was ten times as far; but the eye swept clear down the verdant coast toward Surrentum to the southward. At her feet was the sea,—the Italian, Neapolitan sea,—dancing, sparkling, dimpling from the first flush of morning to the last glint of the fading western clouds at eve. The azure above glowed with living brightness, and by night the stars and planets burned and twinkled down from a crystalline void, through which the unfettered soul might soar and soar, swimming onward through the sweet darkness of the infinite.

And there were pleasures enough for Cornelia if she would join therein. Lentulus had ordered his freedmen not to deny her amusements; anything, in fact, that would divert her from her morbid infatuation for Drusus. The consul-designate had indeed reached the conclusion that his niece was suffering some serious mental derangement, or she would not thus continue to pursue a profitless passion, obviously impossible of fulfilment. So Cornelia had every chance to make herself a centre to those gay pleasure-seekers who were still at Baiae; for the summer season was a little past, and all but confirmed or fashionable invalids and professional vacationers were drifting back to Rome. For a time all went merrily enough. Just sufficient of the Lucius Ahenobarbus affair had come to the Baiaeans to make Cornelia the object of a great amount of curiosity. When she invited a select number of the pleasure-seekers to her dinner parties, she had the adulation and plaudits of every guest, and plenty of return favours. Lucius Ahenobarbus soon had a score of hot rivals; and Cornelia's pretty face was chipped on more than one admirer's seal ring. But presently it began to be said that the niece of the consul-designate was an extremely stoical and peculiar woman; she did not enjoy freedom which the very air of Baiae seemed to render inevitable. She never lacked wit and vivacity, but there was around her an air of restraint and cold modesty that was admirable in every way—only it would never do in Baiae. And so Cornelia, without ceasing to be admired, became less courted; and presently, quite tiring of the butterfly life, was thrown back more and more on herself and on her books. This did not disturb her. A levee or a banquet had never given her perfect pleasure; and it was no delight to know that half the women of Baiae hated her with a perfect jealousy. Cornelia read and studied, now Greek, now Latin; and sometimes caught herself half wishing to be a man and able to expound a cosmogony, or to decide the fate of empires by words flung down from the rostrum. Then finally Agias came bringing Artemisia, who, as has been related, was introduced—by means of some little contriving—into the familia as a new serving-maid. Such Artemisia was in name; but Cornelia, whose gratitude to Agias had known no bounds, took the little thing into her heart, and determined to devote herself to instructing an innocence that must not continue too long, despite its charming naivete.

Thus the days had passed for Cornelia. But only a little while after Agias left for Rome,—with a very large packet of letters for Drusus,—the pleasant, self-created world of fantasy, that had given Cornelia some portion of happiness, vanished. Like a clap of thunder from a cloudless sky Lucius Ahenobarbus suddenly arrived in Baiae. He was tired of Rome, which was still very hot and uncomfortable. He loathed politics, they were stupid. He had lost a boon companion when Publius Gabinius was driven into outlawry. Marcus Laeca was too deeply in debt to give any more dinners. Pratinas was fled to Egypt. And so he had come to Baiae, to harass Cornelia by his presence; to gibe at her; and assure her that her uncle was more determined than ever that she should marry him—say and do what she might.

Ahenobarbus quartered himself in the Lentulan villa as the prospective nephew-in-law of its owner. He brought with him his customary train of underlings, and had travelled in appropriate state, in a litter with eight picked bearers, lolling on a cushion stuffed with rose-leaves, and covered with Maltese gauze, one garland on his head, another round his neck, and holding to his nose a smelling-bag of small-meshed linen filled with roses.

With all his effeminacy, he was beyond the least doubt desperately determined to possess himself of Cornelia. His passion was purely animal and unrefined, but none could doubt it. Cornelia feared to have him near her, and knew peace neither day nor night. He assumed all a master's rights over the slaves and freedmen, sending them hither and yon to do his bidding. He had recovered from the fear Cornelia had struck into him, in her first defiance, and met her threats and hauteur with open scorn.

"You are a most adorable actress!" was his constant sneer. And his every action told that he did not intend to let Cornelia play with him a second time. With all his profligacy and moral worthlessness, he had a tenacity of purpose and an energy in this matter that showed that either Cornelia must in the end bow to his will, or their contest would end in something very like a tragedy.

And if a tragedy, so be it, was the desperate resolve of Cornelia; whose eyes were too stern for tears when she saw that Lucius was still the former creature of appetite; full of intrigue, sweethearts, seashore revels, carouses, singing, and music parties and water excursions with creatures of his choice from morning until midnight. She could not altogether shun him, though she successfully resisted his half blandishments, half coercion, to make her join in his wild frivolities. One revenge she found she could take on him—a revenge that she enjoyed because it proclaimed her own intellectual superiority, and made Ahenobarbus writhe with impotent vexation—she had him at her mercy when they played at checkers;[133] and at last Lucius lost so much money and temper at this game of wit, not chance, that he would sulkily decline a challenge. But this was poor consolation to Cornelia. The time was drifting on. Before many days Lentulus Crus and Caius Clodius Marcellus would be consuls, and the anti-Caesarians would be ready to work their great opponent's undoing, or be themselves forever undone. Where was Drusus? What was he doing? What part would he play in the struggle, perhaps of arms, about to begin? O for one sight of him, for one word! And the hunger in Cornelia's breast grew and grew.

[133] Latrunculi.

Many are our wishes. Some flit through our hearts like birds darting under the foliage of trees, then out again, lost in the sunshine; others linger awhile and we nestle them in our bosoms until we forget that they are there, and the noble desire, the craving for something dear, for something that bears for us as it were a divine image, is gone—we are the poorer that we no longer wish to wish it. But some things there are—some things too high or too deep for speech, too secret for really conscious thought, too holy to call from the innermost shrines of the heart; and there they linger and hover, demanding to be satisfied, and until they are satisfied there is void and dreariness within, be the sunshine never so bright without. And so Cornelia was a-hungered. She could fight against herself to save Drusus's life no longer; she could build around herself her dream castles no more; she must see him face to face, must hold his hand in hers, must feel his breath on her cheek.

Is it but a tale that is told, that soul can communicate to distant soul? That through two sundered hearts without visible communication can spring up, unforewarned, a single desire, a single purpose? Is there no magnetism subtle beyond all thought, that bounds from spirit to spirit, defying every bond, every space? We may not say; but if Cornelia longed, she longed not utterly in vain. One morning, as she was dressing, Cassandra, who was moving around the room aiding her mistress, let fall a very tiny slip of papyrus into Cornelia's lap, and with it a whisper, "Don't look; but keep it carefully." The injunction was needed, for several other serving-women were in the room, and Cornelia more than suspected that they were ready to spy on her to prevent unauthorized correspondence with Drusus. When she was dressed, and could walk alone on the terrace overlooking the sea, she unrolled the papyrus and read:—

"Delectissima, I have come from Rome to Puteoli. I cannot live longer without seeing you. Great things are stirring, and it may well be that ere long, if your uncle and his friends have their way, I may be a proscribed fugitive from Italy, or a dead man. But I must talk with your dear self first. Agias was known by the familia, and had no difficulty in seeing you quietly; but I have no such facility. I cannot remain long. Plan how we may meet and not be interrupted. I have taken Cassandra into my pay, and believe that she can be trusted. Vale."

There was no name of the sender; but Cornelia did not need to question. Cassandra, who evidently knew that her mistress would require her services, came carelessly strolling out on to the terrace.

"Cassandra," said Cornelia, "the last time I saw Quintus, you betrayed us to my uncle; will you be more faithful now?"

The woman hung down her head.

"A! domina, your uncle threatened me terribly. I did not intentionally betray you! Did I not receive my beating? And then Master Drusus is such a handsome and generous young gentleman."

"I can rely on you alone," replied Cornelia. "You must arrange everything. If you are untrue, be sure that it is not I who will in the end punish, but Master Drusus, whose memory is long. You have more schemes than I, now that Agias is not here to devise for me. You must make up any stories that are necessary to save us from interruption, and see that no one discovers anything or grows suspicious. My hands are tied. I cannot see to plan. I will go to the library, and leave everything to you."

And with this stoical resolve to bear with equanimity whatever the Fates flung in her way for good or ill, Cornelia tried to bury herself in her Lucretius. Vain resolution! What care for the atomic theory when in a day, an hour, a moment, she might be straining to her heart another heart that was reaching out toward hers, as hers did toward it. It was useless to read; useless to try to admire the varying shades of blue on the sea, tones of green, and tones of deep cerulean, deepening and deepening, as her eye drifted off toward the horizon, like the blendings of a chromatic series. And so Cornelia passed the morning in a mood of joyful discontent. Lucius Ahenobarbus, who came to have his usual passage of arms with her, found her so extremely affable, yet half-preoccupied, that he was puzzled, yet on the whole delighted. "She must be yielding," he mentally commented; and when they played at draughts, Cornelia actually allowed herself to be beaten. Ahenobarbus started off for Puteoli in an excellent humour. His litter had barely swung down the road from the villa before Cassandra was knocking at her mistress's chamber door.

"Io! domina," was her joyful exclamation, "I think I have got every eavesdropper out of the way. Ahenobarbus is off for Puteoli. I have cooked up a story to keep the freedmen and other busybodies off. You have a desperate headache, and cannot leave the room, nor see any one. But remember the terrace over the water, where the colonnade shuts it in on all sides but toward the sea. This afternoon, if a boat with two strange-looking fishermen passes under the embankment, don't be surprised."

And having imparted this precious bit of information, the woman was off. Drusus's gold pieces had made her the most successful of schemers.

II

Cornelia feigned her headache, and succeeded in making herself so thoroughly petulant and exacting to all her maids, that when she ordered them out of the room, and told them on no account to disturb her in any respect for the rest of the day, they "rejoiced with trembling," and had no anxiety to thrust their attentions upon so unreasonable a mistress. And a little while later a visit of a strolling juggler—whose call had perhaps been prompted by Cassandra—made their respite from duty doubly welcome.

Cornelia was left to herself, and spent the next hour in a division of labour before her silver wall-mirror, dressing—something which was sufficiently troublesome for her, accustomed to the services of a bevy of maids—and at the window, gazing toward Puteoli for the fishing-boat that seemed never in sight. At last the toilet was completed to her satisfaction. Cornelia surveyed herself in her best silken purple flounced stola, thrust the last pin into her hair, and confined it all in a net of golden thread. Roman maidens were not as a rule taught to be modest about their charms, and Cornelia, with perfect frankness, said aloud to herself, "You are so beautiful that Drusus can't help loving you;" and with this candid confession, she was again on the terrace, straining her eyes toward Puteoli. Boats came, boats went, but there was none that approached the villa; and Cornelia began to harbour dark thoughts against Cassandra.

"If the wretched woman had played false to her mistress again—" but the threat was never formulated. There was a chink and click of a pair of oars moving on their thole-pins. For an instant a skiff was visible at the foot of the embankment; two occupants were in it. The boat disappeared under the friendly cover of the protecting sea-wall of the lower terrace. There was a little landing-place here, with a few steps leading upward, where now and then a yacht was moored. The embankment shut off this tiny wharf from view on either side. Cornelia dared not leave the upper terrace. Her heart beat faster and faster. Below she heard the slap, slap, of the waves on the sea-wall, and a rattle of rings and ropes as some skiff was being made fast. An instant more and Drusus was coming, with quick, athletic bounds, up the stairway to the second terrace. It was he! she saw him! In her eyes he was everything in physique and virile beauty that a maiden of the Republic could desire! The bitterness and waiting of months were worth the blessedness of the instant. Cornelia never knew what Drusus said to her, or what she said to him. She only knew that he was holding her in his strong arms and gazing into her eyes; while the hearts of both talked to one another so fast that they had neither time nor need for words. They were happy, happy! Long it was before their utterance passed beyond the merest words of endearment; longer still before they were composed enough for Cornelia to listen to Drusus while he gave his own account of Mamercus's heroic resistance to Dumnorix's gang at Praeneste; and told of his own visit to Ravenna, of his intense admiration for the proconsul of the two Gauls; and of how he had come to Puteoli and opened communications with Cassandra, through Cappadox, the trusty body-servant who in the guise of a fisherman was waiting in the boat below.

"And as Homer puts it, so with us," cried Cornelia, at length: "'And so the pair had joy in happy love, and joyed in talking too, and each relating; she, the royal lady, what she had endured at home, watching the wasteful throng of suitors; and he, high-born Odysseus, what miseries he brought on other men, and bore himself in anguish;—all he told, and she was glad to hear.'"

So laughed Cornelia when all their stories were finished, likening their reunion to that of the son of Laertes and the long-faithful Penelope.

"How long were Penelope and Odysseus asunder?" quoth Drusus.

"Twenty years."

"Vah! We have not been sundered twenty months or one-third as many. How shall we make the time fly more rapidly?"

"I know not," said Cornelia, for the first time looking down and sighing, "a lifetime seems very long; but lifetimes will pass. I shall be an old woman in a few years; and my hair will be all grey, and you won't love me."

"Eho," cried Drusus, "do you think I love you for your hair?"

"I don't know," replied Cornelia, shaking her head, "I am afraid so. What is there in me more than any other woman that you should love; except—" and here she raised her face half-seriously, half in play—"I am very beautiful? Ah! if I were a man, I would have something else to be loved for; I would have eloquence, or strength, or power of command, or wisdom in philosophy. But no, I can be loved for only two things; an ignoble or a poor man would take me if I were hideous as Atropos, for I am noble, and, if my uncle were an honest guardian, rich. But you need not regard these at all, so—" and she brushed her face across Drusus's cheek, touching it with her hair.

"O Cornelia," cried the young man, out of the fulness of his heart, "we must not waste this precious time asking why we love each other. Love each other we do as long as we view the sun. O carissima! we cannot trust ourselves to look too deeply into the whys and wherefores of things. We men and women are so ignorant! We know nothing. What is all our philosophy—words! What is all our state religion—empty form! What is all our life—a dream, mostly evil, that comes out of the eternal unconscious sleep and into that unconscious sleep will return! And yet not all a dream; for when I feel your hands in mine I know that I am not dreaming—for dreamers feel nothing so delicious as this! Not long ago I recalled what old Artabanus said to King Xerxes when the millions of Persia passed in review before their lord at Abydos, 'Short as our time is, death, through the wretchedness of our life, is the most sweet refuge of our race; and God, who gives us tastes that we enjoy of pleasant times, is seen, in His very gift, to be envious.' And I thought, 'How wise was the Persian!' And then I thought, 'No, though to live were to drag one's days in torture and in woe, if only love come once into life, an eternity of misery is endurable; yes, to be chained forever, as Prometheus, on drearest mountain crag, if only the fire which is stolen be that which kindles soul by soul.'"

"Ah!" cried Cornelia, "if only these were to be real souls! But what can we say? See my Lucretius here; read: 'I have shown the soul to be formed fine and to be of minute bodies and made up of much smaller first-beginnings than the liquid air, or mist, or smoke. As you see water, when the vessels are shattered, flow away on every side, and as mist and smoke vanish away into the air, believe that the soul, too, is shed abroad, and perishes much more quickly and dissolves sooner into its first bodies, when once it has been taken out of the limbs of a man and has withdrawn.' O Quintus, is the thing within me that loves you lighter, more fragile, than smoke? Shall I blow away, and vanish into nothingness? It is that which affrights me!"

And Drusus tried as best he might to comfort her, telling her there was no danger that she or he would be dissipated speedily, and that she must not fret her dear head with things that set the sagest greybeards a-wrangling. Then he told her about the political world, and how in a month at most either every cloud would have cleared away, and Lentulus be in no position to resist the legal claims which Drusus had on the hand of his niece; or, if war came, if fortune but favoured Caesar, Cornelia's waiting for deliverance would not be for long. Drusus did not dwell on the alternative presented if civic strife came to arms; he only knew that, come what might, Cornelia could never be driven to become the bride of Lucius Ahenobarbus; and he had no need to exact a new pledge of her faithful devotion.

So at last, like everything terrestrial that is sweet and lovely, the slowly advancing afternoon warned Drusus that for this day, at least, they must separate.

"I will come again to-morrow, or the next day, if Cassandra can so arrange," said he, tearing himself away. "But part to-night we must, nor will it make amends to imitate Carbo, who, when he was being led to execution, was suddenly seized with a pain in the stomach, and begged not to be beheaded until he should feel a little better."

He kissed her, strained her to his breast, and stepped toward the landing-place. Cappadox had taken the boat out from the moorings to minimize a chance of discovery by some one in the house. Drusus was just turning for a last embrace, when many voices and the plash of oars sounded below. Cornelia staggered with dread.

"It's Ahenobarbus," she gasped, in a deathly whisper; "he sometimes comes back from Puteoli by boat. He will murder you when he finds you here!"

"Can't I escape through the house?"

The words, however, were no sooner out of Drusus's mouth, than Lucius Ahenobarbus, dressed in the most fashionably cut scarlet lacerna, perfumed and coiffured to a nicety, appeared on the terrace. Some evil genius had led him straight up without the least delay.

It was the first time that the two enemies had met face to face since Drusus had declined the invitation to Marcus Laeca's supper. Be it said to Lucius's credit that he sensed the situation with only the minimum of confusion, and instantly realized all of Cornelia's worst fears. Drusus had drawn back from the steps to the lower terrace, and stood with stern brow and knotted fist, trapped by a blunder that could hardly have been guarded against, no submissive victim to what fate had in store. Cornelia, for once quite distraught with terror, cowered on a bench, unable to scream through sheer fright.

"Salve! amice," was the satirical salutation of Ahenobarbus. "How excellently well met. Heus! Phaon, bring your boatmen, quick! Not an instant to lose!"

"Pity! mercy!" gasped Cornelia, "I will do anything for you, but spare him;" and she made as if to fall on her knees before Ahenobarbus.

"Girl!" Drusus had never spoken in that way to her before; his tones were cold as ice. "Go into the house! Your place is not here. If Lucius Ahenobarbus intends to murder me—"

The boatmen and two or three other slaves that were always at Ahenobarbus's heels were crowding up on to the terrace ready to do their master's bidding.

"Throw me that fellow over the balcony," ordered Lucius, his sense of triumph and opportunity mastering every fear that Flaccus would execute his threat of prosecution. "See that he does not float!"

Cornelia found her voice. She screamed, screamed shrilly, and ran into the house. Already the familia was alarmed. Two or three freedmen of Lentulus were rushing toward the terrace. They were murdering Quintus! He was resisting, resisting with all the powers of a wild animal driven to its last lair. Outside, on the terrace, where but an instant before she and her lover were cooing in delicious ecstasy, there were oaths, blows, and the sharp pants and howls of mortal struggle. And she could do nothing—nothing! And it was through his love for her that Drusus was to go down to his untimely grave! The seconds of struggle and anguish moved on leaden feet. Every breath was agony, every sound maddening. And she could do nothing—nothing. Still they were fighting. Phaon—she knew his voice—was crying out as if in grievous pain. And now the voice of Lucius Ahenobarbus sounded again: "One thousand denarii if you fling him into the sea!" and she could do nothing—nothing! She tore down the purple tapestries around her bed, and dashed from its tripod a costly bowl of opal Alexandrian glass—all in the mere rage of impotence. And still they were fighting. What was that ornament hanging on the wall, half hid behind the torn tapestry? A scabbard—a sword, some relic of ancient wars! And all the combatants were unarmed! The antique weapon was held by stout thongs to the wall; she plucked it from its fastenings with the strength of a Titaness. The rusty blade resisted an instant; she dragged it forth. Then out on to the terrace. Really only a moment had elapsed since she left it. One of the slaves was lying dead, or stunned, prone on the turf. Phaon was writhing and howling beside him, nursing a broken jaw. The other assailants had sunk back in temporary repulse and were preparing for a second rush. Drusus was still standing. He half leaned upon the stone pedestal of an heroic-sized Athena, who seemed to be spreading her protecting aegis above him. His garments were rent to the veriest shreds. His features were hidden behind streaming blood, his arms and neck were bruised and bleeding; but clearly his adversaries could not yet congratulate themselves that the lion's strength was too sapped to be no longer dreaded.

"Come, you," was his hot challenge to Lucius Ahenobarbus, who stood, half delighted, half afraid, shivering and laughing spasmodically, as he surveyed the struggle from a safe distance. "Come, you, and have your share in the villany!"

And again, for it was all the affair of the veriest moment, the slaves rushed once more on their indocile victim. "Freedom to the man who pulls him down!" was the incentive of Ahenobarbus.

But again Drusus, who, to tell the truth, had to contend with only the flabby, soft-handed, unskilful underlings of Lucius, struck out so furiously that another of his attackers fell backward with a groan and a gasp. All this Cornelia saw while, sword in hand, she flew toward the knot of writhing men. She pushed aside the slaves by sheer force. She asked no civilities, received none.

"Pull her away!" shouted Lucius, and started himself to accomplish his purpose. A rude hand smote her in the face; she staggered, fell; but as she fell a hand snatched the sword out of her grasp. She released her hold gladly, for did she not know that hand? When she rose to her feet there were shrieks of fear and pain on every side. The slaves were cringing in dread before him. Drusus was standing under the Athena, with the keen steel in his hand—its blade dyed crimson; and at his feet lay Ahenobarbus's favourite valet—the wretch literally disembowelled by one deadly stroke.

"Fly, fly!" she implored; "they will bring arms! They will never let you escape."

"I'll pay you for letting him kill Croesus," howled Lucius, facing himself resolutely toward his enemy. "How can he fly when the house is full of servants, and his boat is away from the landing? You give yourself trouble for no purpose, my lady! Lentulus's people will be here with swords in a moment!"

But as he spoke a blow of some unseen giant dashed him prostrate, and upon the terrace from below came Cappadox, foaming with anxious rage, his brow blacker than night, his brawny arms swinging a heavy paddle with which he clubbed the cowering slaves right and left.

"Have they killed him! Have the gods spared him!" These two demands came bounding in a breath from the honest servant's lips. And when he saw Drusus, bleeding, but still standing, he rushed forward to fling his arms about his master's neck.

"Fly! fly!" urged Cornelia, and out of the building, armed now with swords and staves, came flocking the freedmen of the house and as many slaves as they could muster.

"Salve! carissima," and Drusus, who never at the instant gave thought to the blood all over him, pressed her in one last kiss. He gained the terrace steps by a single bound ahead of his armed attackers. Cappadox smote down the foremost freedman with a buffet of the oar. Ahenobarbus staggered to his feet as Drusus sprang over him, and the latter tore a packet of tablets from his hand, never stopping in his own flight.

Then down on to the little landing-place pursuers and pursued tumbled. The large six-oared boat of Ahenobarbus was moored close beside Cappadox's skiff.

Drusus was into the skiff and casting loose before Lucius could descend from the upper terrace. The young Domitian was in a terrible distress.

"The letters! The letters! Freedom to you all if you save them! Cast off! Chase! Sink the skiff!"

But before any of the unskilful assailants could execute the order, Cappadox had driven the butt of his paddle clean through the bottom planking of the larger boat, and she was filling rapidly. The paddle shivered, but it was madness to embark on the stoven craft.

The skiff shot away from the landing as though an intelligent soul, rising equal to the needs of the crisis. The blue dancing water lapped between her gunwale and the shore. Drusus stood erect in the boat, brushed back the blood that was still streaming over his eyes, and looked landward. The slaves and freedmen were still on the landing, gazing blankly after their escaped prey. Ahenobarbus was pouring out upon their inefficiency a torrent of wrathful malediction, that promised employment for the "whipper" for some time to come. But Drusus gave heed to none of these things. Standing on the upper terrace, her hair now dishevelled and blowing in tresses upon the wind, was Cornelia, and on her all her lover's gaze was fixed.

"Safe?" and the melodious shout drifted out over the widening stretch of water.

"Safe! to live and to love!" And Drusus thought, with his keen lover's eye, he could see the dimming face brighten, and the hands go up in a gesture of thanksgiving.

It was all that was said. Another boat might be procured at any time by Lucius Ahenobarbus; and with only one paddle Cappadox could make but slow headway. Stiff and bruised, the young man flung himself on the bottom of the skiff, and panted and nursed himself after his mortal struggle. Now that the combat was over he felt weak and sore enough, and was quite content to let Cappadox adjust such improvised bandages as were available, and scull him toward Puteoli. Fortunately none of the bruises was caused by any harder weapons than fists, and, though his body was black and blue, he had sustained no serious hurt. And so he rested his head on a wrap, and closed his eyes, and called up before his mind the vision of Cornelia. How beautiful she had been when he met her! How much more beautiful when she thrust her way through the fighting slaves and put the sword in his hand, at that moment of mortal combat, which he expected to be his last! Did he only love her because her face was sweet, her voice was sweet, and the touch of her hair was sweet? Happy was he, her lover;—he could say "no," and have never a fear that his sincerity would be tested. And Lucius Ahenobarbus? He hated him with a perfect hatred. A Roman who was no Roman! A womanish man whom every true woman must despise! A serpent who had not even the bright scales of a serpent! What would he do to Cornelia? Drusus's face grew hard. Had he, Drusus, yet done any injury worth mentioning to his enemy? Why had he not used the moment when Lucius lay prostrate, and run the sword through his body? Ill-timed, thoughtless mercy! But the letters, the packet he had wrenched from Ahenobarbus's hand? Why was it so precious? Drusus had flung it into the boat. He took up the packet. Doubtless some billet-doux. Why should he degrade his mind by giving an instant's thought to any of his enemy's foul intrigues? He could only open his eyes with difficulty, but a curiosity that did not add to his self-esteem overmastered him. The seal! Could he believe his senses—the imprint of three trophies of victory? It was the seal of Pompeius! The instinct of the partisan and politician conquered every infirmity. He broke the wax, untied the thread, and opened. The letters were in cipher, and at first sight illegible. But this did not present any insuperable difficulty. Most classic ciphers were sufficiently simple to be solved without very much trouble. Drusus knew that in all Caesar's correspondence a cipher had been used which consisted merely of substituting for each letter the fourth letter beyond it, as D for A; and a little examination showed that the present cryptogram was made on the same rude method. After a few guesses he struck the proper substitutions, and was able to read.

"Pompeius Magnus, Imperator, to the most excellent Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, Rome, tenth day before the Calends of January. If it is well with you, it is well; I am well.[134] I write to warn you that we are told that Quintus Drusus, your personal enemy and the friend of our own foes, is in Campania. We need not add more, for we trust to you to see to it that he stirs up no faction in favour of his master in those parts. Be assured that you will not be long troubled by this enemy. He is marked out as one of the earliest of those to pay with their lives for their conspiracy against the Republic. If possible see that Drusus is seized for some alleged offence, and lodged in prison until the new consuls come into office. After that time he can work little or no mischief. Use the uttermost endeavours in this matter; check him and his schemes at all hazards. I trust your energy and prudence, which your father and Lentulus Crus assure me will not fail. Vale!"

[134] Si vales bene est ego valeo, written commonly simply S. V. B. E. E. V.

Drusus lay back in the bottom of the boat, and looked up into the blue dome. It was the same azure as ever, but a strange feeling of disenchantment seemed to have come over him. For the first time he realized the deadly stakes for which he and his party were playing their game. What fate had been treasured up for him in the impending chaos of civil war? If he perished in battle or by the executioner's axe, what awaited Cornelia? But he had chosen his road; he would follow it to the end. The battle spirit mounted in him.

The sky was darkening when the boat drew up to one of the busy quays of Puteoli. Stars had begun to twinkle. Cappadox aided his bruised and stiffened master to disembark.

"To-night rest," cried Drusus, forgetting all his wounds. "To-morrow away to Rome. And at Rome—the war of the Gods and the Giants!"



Chapter XIV

The New Consuls

I

It had come—the great crisis that by crooked ways or straight was to set right all the follies and crimes of many a generation. On the Calends of January Lentulus Crus and Caius Clodius Marcellus were inaugurated consuls. In solemn procession with Senate, priesthoods, and people, they had gone up to the Capitol and sacrificed chosen white steers to Jupiter, "Best and Greatest,"[135] and invoked his blessing upon the Roman State. And so began the last consulship of the Free Republic.

[135] Optimus maximus.

Rome was in a ferment. All knew the intention of the consuls to move the recall of Caesar from his government. All knew that Curio had brought a letter from Ravenna, the contents whereof he carefully guarded. That same afternoon the consuls convened the Senate in the Temple of Capitoline Jove, and every man knew to what purpose. All Rome swept in the direction of the Capitol. Drusus accompanied his friend, the tribune Antonius, as the latter's viator, for there was need of a trusty guard.

The excitement in the streets ran even higher than when Catilina's great plot was exposed. The streets were jammed with crowds,—not of the idle and base born, but of equites and noble ladies, and young patricians not old enough to step into their fathers' places. They were howling and cheering for Pompeius and Lentulus, and cursing the absent proconsul. As Drusus passed along at the side of Antonius, he could not fail to hear the execrations and vile epithets flung from every side at him and his friend. He had always supposed the masses were on Caesar's side, but now every man's hand seemed turned against the conqueror of the Gauls. Was there to be but a repetition of the same old tragedy of the Gracchi and of Marcus Drusus? A brave man standing out for the people, and the people deserting him in his hour of need?

They reached the Temple. The Senate was already nearly ready for business; every toothless consular who had been in public service for perquisites only, and who for years had been wasting his life enjoying the pickings of an unfortunate province—all such were in their seats on the front row of benches. Behind them were the praetorii and the aedilicii,[136] a full session of that great body which had matched its tireless wisdom and tenacity against Pyrrhus, Hannibal, and Antiochus the Great, and been victorious. Drusus ran his eye over the seats. There they sat, even in the midst of the general excitement, a body of calm, dignified elders, severe and immaculate in their long white togas and purple-edged tunics. The multitudes without were howling and jeering; within the temple, reigned silence—the silence that gathered about the most august and powerful assembly the world has ever seen.

[136] Ex-praetors and ex-aediles.

The Temple was built of cool, grey stone; the assembly hall was quite apart from the shrine. The Senate had convened in a spacious semicircular vaulted chamber, cut off from the vulgar world by a row of close, low Doric columns. From the shade of these pillars one could command a sweeping view of the Forum, packed with a turbulent multitude. Drusus stood on the Temple steps and looked out and in. Without, confusion; within, order; without, a leaderless mob; within, an assembly almost every member of which had been invested with some high command. For a moment the young man revived courage; after all, the Roman Senate was left as a bulwark against passion and popular wrath; and for the time being, as he looked on those motionless, venerable faces, his confidence in this court of final appeal was restored. Then he began to scan the features of the consulars, and his heart sank. There was Lucius Calpurnius Piso, with the visage of a philosopher, but within mere moral turpitude. There was Favonius; there were the two sanguinary Marcelli, consuls respectively for the two preceding years; there was Domitius; there was Cato, his hard face illumined doubtless by the near realization of unholy hopes; there was Faustus Sulla, another bitter oligarch. Drusus saw them all, and knew that the Caesarian cause had been doomed without a hearing. Caius Marcellus, the new consul, sat in his separate seat, in all the splendid dignity of his embroidered toga. Around him stood his twelve lictors. But Lentulus, at whose behest the Senate had been convened, and who was to act as its president, had not come. Drusus followed Antonius over to the farther side of the house, where on a long, low bench[137] the other tribunes of the plebs were seated. Quintus Cassius was already there. The other tribunes darted angry glances at their newly arrived colleague. Drusus remained standing behind Antonius, ready to act as a body-guard, as much as to serve in mere official capacity. Even as they entered he had noticed a buzz and rustle pass along the tiers of seats, and whisper pass on whisper, "There come the Caesarians!" "What treason is in that letter!" "We must have an end of their impudence!" And Drusus ran his eye over the whole company, and sought for one friendly look; but he met with only stony glances or dark frowns. There was justice neither in the people nor in the Senate. Their hearts were drunk with a sense of revenge and self-willed passion; and Justice literally weighed out her bounty with blinded eyes.

[137] Subsellium.

There was another hum and rustle. And into the hall swept Lentulus Crus, in robes of office, with Scipio, the father-in-law of Pompeius, at his side. Before him strode his twelve lictors bearing their fasces erect. Not a word was spoken while Lentulus Crus seated himself in the ivory curule chair of office. No sign marked the extreme gravity of the occasion.

"Let the sacred chickens be brought," said Lentulus.

Never a lip twitched or curled in all that august multitude while several public attendants brought in a wooden cage containing three or four rather skinny specimens of poultry. Not even Drusus saw anything really ridiculous when Lentulus arose, took grain from an attendant, and scattered a quantity of it before the coop. Close at his elbow stood the augur, to interpret the omen,—a weazened, bald-headed old senator, who wore a purple-striped tunic,[138] and carried in his hand a long stick,[139] curved at its head into a spiral. Drusus knew perfectly well that the fowls had been kept without food all that day; but it would have seemed treason to all the traditions of his native land to cry out against this pompous farce. The hungry chickens pecked up the grain. The augur muttered formula after formula, and Lentulus took pains to repeat the meaningless jargon after him. Presently the augur ceased his chatter and nodded to the consul. Lentulus turned toward the Senate.

[138] Trabea.

[139] Lituus.

"There is no evil sight or sound!"[140] was his announcement, meaning that business could be transacted.

[140] Silentium esse videtur.

Whereupon up from his seat sprang Marcus Antonius, flourishing in his hand a packet. Loudly Lentulus bade him hold his peace; loudly the tribunes who sided with the Senate party forbade him to read. But a rustle and stir of eager curiosity ran along all the benches, and first one voice, then many, cried out that the letter must be made public. With very ill grace the consul declared that Antonius should be allowed to read the communication from Caesar.

Antonius read, and all were astonished at the moderation of the much-maligned proconsul. Caesar made it clear that he would stand on his rights as to the second consulship; but to withdraw possibilities of seeming to issue a threat, he would disband his entire army if Pompeius would only do the same, or, if preferred, he would retain simply Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria with two legions, until the consular elections were over. In either event it would be out of his power to menace the constitution, and the public tranquillity would remain quite undisturbed.

But before the murmur of approbation at this unexpected docility wore away, Lentulus burst forth into a fiery invective. All knew why the Senate had been convened, nor would he allow a few smooth promises to bring the state into danger. The law provided that a proconsul should leave his province at a certain time; and if Caesar thought that a special law exempted him from this requirement, it were well he were disabused of the notion. The Senate had been convened because the presiding consul felt that the continuance of Caesar in his governorship was a menace to the safety of the Republic. Let the Conscript Fathers express themselves boldly, and he, Lentulus, would not desert them; let them waver and try to court the favour of Caesar as in former times, and the consul would have to look to his own safety—and he could make his own terms with Caesar.

Lentulus had started out with studied moderation. His harangue ended with a stinging menace. A low mutter, difficult to interpret, ran through the Senate. Again Antonius leaped to his feet.

"Conscript Fathers, will you not consider the mild offers of Caesar? Do not reject them without debate."

"I ask the opinion of the Senate on my own proposition," broke in Lentulus. "Metellus Scipio, declare what is your judgment."

"I protest at this unseemly haste," cried Antonius; "let us consider the letter first!"

"And I protest against this boisterous and unlawful interruption," retorted the consul, fiercely. "Rise, Metellus Scipio!"

Antonius flushed with rage, but sank into his seat. Drusus leaned over his friend's shoulder and whispered "Veto." Antonius shook his head.

"They must speak. We should be foolish to shoot away our best arrow before the battle had really begun."

Scipio arose. He was not the "chief senator,"[141] usually entitled to speak first; but everybody knew that his words were the mere expressions of his son-in-law, the mighty Pompeius. His oratory and physical presence were wretched, but all the Senate hung upon his words.

[141] Princeps senatus.

"Pompeius did not intend to abandon the Republic, if the Senate would support him; but let them act with energy, for otherwise in the future they might need his aid never so much, and yet implore it in vain."

"You want to destroy the Republic!" cried Quintus Cassius, half leaping from his seat.

"We want to destroy you!" retorted Domitius, savagely.

But all men were not so blinded by fury, hate, and greed of power and revenge. To the dismay of his party Caius Marcellus, the second consul, counselled a certain kind of moderation. There was no love lost by the noble "Optimates" upon Pompeius, and Marcellus hinted this plainly when he said that all Italy must be put under arms, and with such an army at the disposal of the Senate, it could act as it saw fit,—to get rid of a troublesome protector, he implied, no less than an open enemy. And close after him followed Marcus Calidius and Marcus Rufus, two senators, who had at least the sagacity to perceive that it would not free the Commonwealth to crush Caesar, by flinging themselves into the arms of Pompeius. "Let Pompeius go off to his Spanish province, to which he was accredited proconsul; it was but natural Caesar should think himself ill treated, seeing that two legions had been taken from him for Eastern service, and Pompeius was keeping these very troops close to Rome."

For one moment it seemed to Drusus that wisdom and justice had not deserted the Senate of his native state. The consuls were divided; two influential men were counselling moderation. Surely the Senate would not push to extremities. But he had not reckoned on the spell which the malevolent spirit of Lentulus had cast over the assembly. In bitter words the presiding consul refused to put Calidius's proposal to a vote, and then, turning directly upon his colleague before the face of the whole multitude, he poured out reproof and vituperation. Marcellus turned red and then black in the face with rage. Drusus's heart was beating rapidly with hope. So long as the consuls were at enmity, little would be done! Suddenly Scipio started as if to leave the assembly. "He's going to call in Pompeius's cohorts!" belched Lentulus. Marcellus turned pale. Drusus saw Calidius's friends whispering with him, evidently warning and remonstrating. Senators cast uneasy glances toward the doorways, as if expecting to see a century of legionaries march in to enforce the decrees of Pompeius's spokesmen. Marcellus staggered to his feet. He was cowed, and evidently felt himself in personal danger.

"Conscript Fathers," he stammered, "I—I withdraw my motion to delay action for considering the recall of Caesar."

"You have done well!" shouted Lentulus, triumphing savagely. Scipio ostentatiously settled back on his seat, while Cato called with warning, yet exultation:—

"Take care what you do. Caesar is the only sober man among all those engaged in the plot to overturn the government. Remember with whom you must deal, and act!"

Then Scipio arose once more. Every one knew that his fiat was law. "Conscript Fathers," he began, "Marcus Cato speaks well. Consider the power of Caesar. He has trained up bands of gladiators whom his friends, both senators and knights, are drilling for him. He is doubling his soldiers' pay, giving them extra corn, slaves, attendants, and land grants. A great part of the Senate,—yes, Cicero even, they say,—owes him money, at low and favourable rates of interest; he has actually made presents to freedmen and influential slaves. All young prodigals in debt are in his pay. He has made presents to win the favour of cities and princes, or been lending them troops without vote of the Senate. In Italy, Gaul, and Spain,—yes, in Greece, too, and Asia, he is winning the good-will of communities by erecting splendid public buildings. So great is his present power! What he will do in a second consulship I dare not say. I dare not assign bounds to his ambition. Conscript Fathers, shall we vote ourselves freemen or slaves? What more can I add to the words of the consul? I vote to ratify the proposition of Lucius Lentulus, that Caesar either disband his army on a fixed day, or be declared a public enemy!"

"And what is your opinion, Lucius Domitius?" demanded Lentulus, while never a voice was raised to oppose Scipio.

"Let the Senate remember," replied Domitius, "that Caesar will justify the meaning of his name—the 'hard-hitter,' and let us strike the first and telling blow."

A ripple of applause swept down the Senate. The anti-Caesarians had completely recovered from their first discomfiture, and were carrying all sentiment before them. Already there were cries of "A vote! a vote! Divide the Senate! A vote!"

"Conscript Fathers," said Lentulus, "in days of great emergency like this, when your minds seem so happily united in favour of doing that which is for the manifest safety of the Republic, I will not ask for the opinions of each senator in turn. Let the Senate divide; let all who favour the recall of the proconsul of the Gauls pass to the right, those against to the left. And so may it be well and prosperous for the Commonwealth."

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