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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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But Antonius was again on his feet; and at his side stood Quintus Cassius.

"Lucius Lentulus," he thundered, "I forbid the division. Veto!"

"Veto!" shouted Cassius.

Domitius, too, had risen. "Conscript Fathers, let the consuls remonstrate with the tribunes to withdraw their prohibition. And, if they do not succeed, let them lay before the Senate that order which is the safeguard of the Republic."

Everybody knew what Domitius meant. If Antonius would not give way, martial law was to be declared. Hot and furious raged the debate. More and more passionate the expressions of party hatred. More and more menacing the gestures directed upon the two Caesarian tribunes. But even the impetuous fierceness of Lentulus, Cato, Scipio, and Domitius combined could not drive the browbeaten Senate to cast loose from its last mooring that night. Domitius's measure went over. It was late—the stars were shining outside. Lamps had been brought in, and threw their ruddy glare over the long tiers of seats and their august occupants. Finally the angry debate ended, because it was a physical impossibility to continue longer. Senators went away with dark frowns or care-knit foreheads. Out in the Forum bands of young "Optimates" were shouting for Pompeius, and cursing Caesar and his followers. Drusus, following Antonius, felt that he was the adherent of a lost cause, the member of a routed army that was defending its last stronghold, which overwhelming numbers must take, be the defence never so valiant. And when very late he lay down on his bed that night, the howls of the fashionable mob were still ringing in his ears.

II

That night the most old-fashioned and sober Roman went to bed at an advanced hour. Men were gathered in little knots along the streets, in the forums, in the porticos and basilicas, arguing, gesticulating, wrangling. Military tribunes and centurions in armour of Pompeius's legions were parading on the comitium.[142] Veterans of that leader were jostling about in the crowd, clanking their newly furbished armour and shouting for their old general. If a man spoke for Caesar, a crowd of bystanders was ready to hoot him down. Staid householders locked up their dwellings and stationed trusty slaves at the doors to see that the crowds did not take to riot and pillage. The sailors from the wharves had been drinking heavily in all the taverns, and now roved up and down the crowded streets, seeking opportunity for brawls. Thieves and cutpurses were plying their most successful work; but no officials had time to direct the efforts of the harassed and slender police corps. To Pompeius's palace, without the gates, every man whose voice or vote seemed worth the winning had been summoned. All the senators had streamed out thither; and there the Magnus had brought them under the spell of his martial authority and made them as wax in his hand. And all "that majesty that doth hedge about a king," or about a victorious general, exerted its full influence. The senators came into the palace of Pompeius as into the palace of their despot. He stood before them in his largest hall, wearing the embroidered robe of a triumphator, with the laurel crown of his victories upon his head. At his right hand, as first vizir of his state, stood Lentulus Crus; at his left Lucius Domitius. The senators came to him and bowed low, and said their "Aves" and "Salves" as though cringing before a Mithridates or Tigranes of the East; and Pompeius, by the cordiality or coolness of his response, indicated which of his vassals had or had not fallen under his disfavour.

[142] Assembly-place in the Forum Romanum.

Yes, despotism had come at last for Rome. The oligarchy had by its corrupt incapacity made a tyranny inevitable. They could make choice of masters, but a master they must have. Many were the proud Fabii, Claudii, and Valerii present that night—men whose lines of curule ancestors were as long as the duration of the Republic—who ground their teeth with shame and inward rage the very moment they cried, "Salve, Magne!" Yet the recipient of all this adulation was in no enviable frame of mind. He looked harassed and weary, despite the splendour of his dress and crown. And many were the whispered conversations that passed between him and his ministers, or rather custodians, Lentulus and Domitius.

"Ah! poor Julia," sighed Pompeius, whose mind ever reverted to his dead wife, "what misery would have been yours if you had seen this day. Poor Julia; how I loved her; and Caesar, her father, loved her too; and now—"

"Be yourself, Magnus," expostulated the consul at his side; "remember that for the good of the Republic every personal affection is to be put away. Recall Brutus, who put his own sons to death because they committed treason. Remember what Scipio AEmilianus said when he learned that Tiberius Gracchus, his dear brother-in-law, had been put to death for sedition. He quoted Homer's line:—

"'So perish all who do the like again!'"

"And must I trample down every tie, every affection?" complained wretched Pompeius, who never ceased hoping against hope that something would avert the catastrophe.

"There is no tie, no affection, Magnus," said Domitius, sternly, "that binds you to Caesar. Cast his friendship from your breast as you would a viper. Think only of being justly hailed with Romulus, Camillus, and Marius as the fourth founder of Rome. Strike, and win immortal glory."

And so to the last hour these confederates wrought upon their supple instrument, and bent him to their will; and their tool in turn had all else at his mercy. Pompeius addressed the senators, and, well trained by his guardians, spoke with brutal frankness to those who had dared to advise moderation.

"You, Rufus," he said, pointing a menacing finger, before which that senator cowered in dread, "have been advising the Republic to tolerate the chief of its enemies. You bid me to disarm or withdraw from Italy, as though the lives and property of any good men would be safe the moment Caesar was left unopposed to pour his cohorts of barbarous Gauls and Germans into the country. You, Calidius, have given the same untimely advice. Beware lest you repent the hour when you counselled that I should disarm or quit the neighbourhood of Rome." The two-edged suggestion contained in this last warning was too marked for the reproved men not to turn pale with dread, and slink away trembling behind their associates.

"But," continued Pompeius, "I have praise as well as blame; Marcus Cato has not deserted the Republic. He has advised, and advised well, that the proconsul of the Gauls be stripped of his legions." It was Cato's turn now to bite his lips with mortification, for in times past he had foretold that through Pompeius great miseries would come to the state, and in his praetorship had declared that Pompeius ought to go to his province, and not stay at home to stir up tumults and anarchy from which he could emerge as monarch. And such praise from the Magnus's lips, under the present circumstances, was gall and wormwood to his haughty soul.

"And," continued Pompeius, "I shall not forget to applaud the energetic counsels of Domitius and Lentulus Crus. Let those who wish to preserve life and property," he added, with a menacing significance, "see to it that they do as these gentlemen advise."

And thereupon there was a great shout of applause from all the more rabid senators, in which the rest thought it safer to join, with simulated heartiness. But Pompeius did not stop here. He brought before the senators tribunes from the two legions taken from Caesar, and these tribunes loudly declaimed—having learned their lesson well—that their troops were ill-affected toward their former commander, and would follow Pompeius to the last. And the Magnus produced veteran officers of his old campaigns, whom hope of reward and promotion had induced to come and declare for their former commander. Late, very late, the informal session of the Senate broke up. The "Fathers of the Republic" went each man to his own dwelling; but there was no longer any doubt as to what was to come of the doings of the day.

Flaccus, the banker, had of course no access to the conference; but he had waited outside the gate of the palace, to learn the issue from an acquaintance in the Senate. His patience was at last rewarded.

"Tell me, friend," was his question, "what will be the outcome of this; shall I risk any loans to-morrow?"

The friendly senator seemed doubtful.

"Caesar is a ruined man. Who imagines his legions will fight? We know Labienus is with Pompeius."

"You are wrong," said Flaccus.

"Wrong? I?" replied the senator. "I know whereof I speak."

"Phy!" cried the banker, "not Caesar, but you are ruined. The legions will fight."

"Don't prophesy," sneered the acquaintance, "seeing that you brokers always keep out of politics."

"You politicians are blind," retorted Flaccus.

* * * * *

The debate raged on. But by law the Senate could not convene on the third and fourth of the month, and the question of setting aside the tribunician veto went over until the fifth. It was the last lull before the outbreak of the great tempest. The little group of Caesarians put forth their final efforts. Drusus went in person to call on Cicero, the great orator, and plead with him to come out from his residence in the suburbs and argue for peace. The destroyer of Catilina had declared that he would not forfeit his rights to a triumph for his Cilician victories by appearing prematurely in the Senate. Besides, he could never antagonize Pompeius. Curio smiled grimly when his colleague reported his fruitless embassy.

"I think, my friends," said the politician, "we shall soon prove the old saying, 'Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.'"



Chapter XV

The Seventh of January

I

The rapid march of events that week had taken Drusus out of himself, and made him forgetful of personal consequences; but it sobered him when he heard Curio and Caelius, his associates, telling Balbus where their wills would be found deposited if anything calamitous were to befall them. After all, life was very sweet to the young Livian. He could not at heart desire to drift off into nothingness—to stop breathing, thinking, feeling. And for the last time he reviewed his position; told himself that it was not an unworthy cause for which he was contending; that it was not treason, but patriotism, to wish to overthrow the great oligarchy of noble families, who by their federated influence had pulled the wires to every electoral assembly, so that hardly a man not of their own coterie had been elected to high office for many a long year; while the officials themselves had grown full and wanton on the revenues wrung from the score of unfortunate provinces.

The feeling against the Caesarians was very bitter in the city. Caesar had always been the friend and darling of the populace; but, now that his star seemed setting, hardly a voice was raised, save to cry up the patriotism and determination of the consuls and Pompeius Magnus. Soldiers of the latter's legions were everywhere. The Senate was to convene the afternoon of the seventh, in the Curia of Pompeius, in the Campus Martius. Lentulus Crus was dragging forth every obscure senator, every retired politician, whose feet almost touched the grave, to swell his majority. All knew that the tribunes' vetoes were to be set aside, and arbitrary power decreed to the consuls. Drusus began to realize that the personal peril was pressing.

"Won't his head look pretty for the crows to pick at?" commented Marcus Laeca to a friend, as the two swept past Drusus on the street. The Livian heard the loudly muttered words and trembled. It was easy to laud the Decii who calmly sacrificed their lives for the Republic, and many another martyr to patriotism; it was quite another thing to feel the mortal fear of death coursing in one's veins, to reflect that soon perhaps the dogs might be tearing this body which guarded that strange thing one calls self; to reflect that all which soon will be left of one is a bleaching skull, fixed high in some public place, at which the heartless mob would point and gibber, saying, "That is the head of Quintus Livius Drusus, the rebel!"

Drusus wandered on—on to the only place in Rome where he could gain the moral courage to carry him undaunted through that which was before him—to the Atrium of Vesta. He entered the house of the Vestals and sent for his aunt. Fabia came quickly enough, for her heart had been with her nephew all these days that tried men's souls. The noble woman put her arms around the youth—for he was still hardly more—and pressed him to her breast.

"Aunt Fabia," said Drusus, growing very weak and pale, now that he felt her warm, loving caress, "do you know that in two or three days you will have as nephew a proscribed insurgent, perhaps with a price on his head, who perhaps is speedily to die by the executioner, like the most ignoble felon?"

"Yes," said Fabia, also very pale, yet smiling with a sweet, grave smile—the smile of a goddess who grieves at the miseries of mortal men, yet with divine omniscience glances beyond, and sees the happiness evolved from pain. "Yes, I have heard of all that is passing in the Senate. And I know, too, that my Quintus will prove himself a Fabian and a Livian, to whom the right cause and the good of the Republic are all—and the fear of shame and death is nothing." And then she sat down with him upon a couch, and took his head in her lap, and stroked him as if she were his mother. "Ah! my Quintus," she said, "you are still very young, and it is easy for one like you to enlist with all your ardour in a cause that seems righteous; yes, and in the heat of the moment to make any sacrifice for it; but it is not so easy for you or any other man calmly to face shame and annihilation, when the actual shadow of danger can be seen creeping up hour by hour. I know that neither you nor many another man wise and good believes that there are any gods. And I—I am only a silly old woman, with little or no wisdom and wit—"

"Not silly and not old, carissima!" interrupted Drusus, smiling at her self-depreciation.

"We won't argue," said Fabia, in a bit lighter vein. "But—as I would say—I believe in gods, and that they order all things well."

"Why, then," protested the young man, "do we suffer wrong or grief? If gods there are, they are indifferent; or, far worse, malevolent, who love to work us woe."

Again Fabia shook her head.

"If we were gods," said she, "we would all be wise, and could see the good to come out of every seeming evil. There! I am, as I said, silly and old, and little enough comfort can words of mine bring a bright young man whose head is crammed with all the learned lore of the schools of Athens. But know this, Quintus, so long as I live, you shall live in my heart—living or dead though you be. And believe me, the pleasure of life is but a very little thing; it is sweet, but how quickly it passes! And the curses or praises of men—these, too, only a few mouldy rolls of books keep for decay! What profits it to Miltiades this hour, that a few marks on a papyrus sheet ascribe to him renown; or how much is the joy of Sextus Tarquinius darkened because a group of other marks cast reproach upon his name? If so be death is a sleep, how much better to feel at the end, 'I die, but I die self-approved, and justified by self!' And if death is not all a sleep; if, as Socrates tells us, there are hopes that we but pass from a base life to another with less of dross, then how do pleasures and glories, griefs and dishonours, of this present life touch upon a man whose happiness or woe will be found all within?"

And so the good woman talked, giving to Drusus her own pure faith and hope and courage; and when the intellectual philosopher within him revolted at some of her simple premises and guileless sophistries, against his will he was persuaded by them, and was fain to own to himself that the heart of a good woman is past finding out; that its impulses are more genuine, its intuitions truer, its promptings surer, than all the fine-spun intellectuality of the most subtle metaphysician. When at last Drusus rose to leave his aunt, his face was glowing with a healthy colour, his step was elastic, his voice resonant with a noble courage. Fabia embraced him again and again. "Remember, whatever befalls," were her parting words, "I shall still love you." And when Drusus went out of the house he saw the dignified figure of the Vestal gazing after him. A few minutes later he passed no less a personage than the consular Lucius Domitius on his way to some political conference. He did not know what that dignitary muttered as he swept past in spotless toga, but the gloomy ferocity of his brow needed no interpreter. Drusus, however, never for a moment gave himself disquietude. He was fortified for the best and the worst, not by any dumb resignation, not by any cant of philosophy, but by an inward monitor which told him that some power in some way would lead him forth out of all dangers in a manner whereof man could neither ask nor think.

* * * * *

On the sixth of January the debate, as already said, drew toward its end. All measures of conciliation had been voted down; the crisis was close at hand. On the seventh, after his interview with Fabia, Drusus went back to his own lodgings, made a few revisions in his will, and in the presence of two or three friends declared Cappadox manumitted,[143] lest he, by some chance, fall into the clutches of a brutal master. The young man next wrote a long letter to Cornelia for Agias to forward to Baiae, and put in it such hope as he could glean from the dark words of the philosophers; that even if destruction now overtook him, death perhaps did not end all; that perhaps they would meet beyond the grave. Then he took leave of his weeping freedmen and slaves, and strolled out into the city, and wandered about the Forum and the Sacred Way, to enjoy, perchance, a last view of the sites that were to the Roman so dear. Then finally he turned toward the Campus Martius, and was strolling down under the long marble-paved colonnade of the Portico of Pompeius. Lost in a deep reverie, he was forgetful of all present events, until he was roused by a quick twitch at the elbow; he looked around and found Agias before him.

[143] Manumissio inter amicos was less formal than the regular ceremony before the praetor.

"A! domine," cried the young Greek, "I have friends in the house of Lentulus. I have just been told by them that the consul has sworn that he will begin to play Sulla this very day. Neither you, nor Antonius, Cassius, Curio, nor the other supporters of Caesar will be alive to-night. Do not go into the Curia. Get away, quickly! Warn your friends, and leave Rome, or to-night you will all be strangled in the Tullianum!"

The Tullianum! Drusus knew no other term to conjure up a like abode of horrors—the ancient prison of the city, a mere chamber sunk in the ground, and beneath that a dungeon, accessible only by an opening in the floor above—where the luckless Jugurtha had perished of cold and starvation, and where Lentulus Sura, Cethegus, and the other lieutenants of Catilina had been garroted, in defiance of all their legal rights, by the arbitrary decree of a rancorous Senate! So at last the danger had come! Drusus felt himself quiver at every fibre. He endured a sensation the like of which he had never felt before—one of utter moral faintness. But he steadied himself quickly. Shame at his own recurring cowardice overmastered him. "I am an unworthy Livian, indeed," he muttered, not perhaps realizing that it is far more heroic consciously to confront and receive the full terrors of a peril, and put them by, than to have them harmlessly roll off on some self-acting mental armour.

"Escape! There is yet time!" urged Agias, pulling his toga. Drusus shook his head.

"Not until the Senate has set aside the veto of the tribunes," he replied quietly.

"But the danger will then be imminent!"

"A good soldier does not leave his post, my excellent Agias," said the Roman, "until duty orders him away. Our duty is in the Senate until we can by our presence and voice do no more. When that task is over, we go to Caesar as fast as horse may bear us; but not until then."

"Then I have warned you all in vain!" cried Agias.

"Not at all. You may still be of the greatest service. Arrange so that we can leave Rome the instant we quit the Curia."

"But if the lictors seize you before you get out of the building?"

"We can only take our chance. I think we shall be permitted to go out. I had intended to ride out of the city this evening if nothing hindered and the final vote had been passed. But now I see that cannot be done. You have wit and cunning, Agias. Scheme, provide. We must escape from Rome at the earliest moment consistent with our duty and honour."

"I have it," said Agias, his face lighting up. "Come at once after leaving the Curia, to the rear of the Temple of Mars.[144] I know one or two of the temple servants, and they will give me the use of their rooms. There I will have ready some slave dresses for a disguise, and just across the AEmilian bridge I will have some fast horses waiting—that is, if you can give me an order on your stables."

[144] The AEdes Martis of the Campus Martius.

Drusus took off his signet ring.

"Show that to Pausanias. He will honour every request you make, be it for a million sesterces."

Agias bowed and was off. For the last time Drusus was tempted to call him back and say that the flight would begin at once. But the nimble Greek was already out of sight, and heroism became a necessity. Drusus resolutely turned his steps toward the senate-house. Not having been able to forecast the immediate moves of the enemy, he had not arranged for hurried flight; it was to be regretted, although he had known that on that day the end of the crisis would come. He soon met Antonius, and imparted to him what he had just learned from Agias, and the precautions taken.

Antonius shook his head, and remarked:—

"You ought not to go with me. Little enough can we who are tribunes do; you have neither voice nor vote, and Lentulus is your personal foe. So back, before it is too late. Let us shift for ourselves."

Drusus replied never a word, but simply took the tribune's arm and walked the faster toward the Curia.

"I am a very young soldier," he said presently; "do not be angry if I wish to show that I am not afraid of the whizzing arrows."

"Then, my friend, whatever befalls, so long as life is in my body, remember you have a brother in Marcus Antonius."

The two friends pressed one another's hands, and entered the Curia Pompeii. There in one of the foremost seats sat the Magnus,[145] the centre of a great flock of adulators, who were basking in the sunshine of his favour. Yet Drusus, as he glanced over at the Imperator, thought that the great man looked harassed and worried—forced to be partner in a scheme when he would cheerfully be absent. Fluttering in their broad togas about the senate-house were Domitius, Cato, the Marcelli, and Scipio, busy whipping into line the few remaining waverers. As Cato passed the tribune's bench, and saw the handful of Caesarians gathered there, he cast a glance of indescribable malignity upon them, a glance that made Drusus shudder, and think again of the horrors of the Tullianum.

[145] Pompeius was not allowed by law to attend sessions of the Senate (so long as he was proconsul of Spain) when held inside the old city limits; but the Curia which he himself built was outside the walls in the Campus Martius. This meeting seems to have been convened there especially that he might attend it.

"I know now how Cato looked," said he to Antonius, "when he denounced the Catilinarians and urged that they should be put to death without trial."

Antonius shrugged his shoulders, and replied:—

"Cato cannot forgive Caesar. When Caesar was consul, Cato interrupted his speech, and Caesar had him haled off to prison. Marcus Cato never forgives or forgets."

Curio, Caelius, and Quintus Cassius had entered the senate-house—the only Caesarians present besides Antonius and his viator. The first two went and took their seats in the body of the building, and Drusus noticed how their colleagues shrank away from them, refusing to sit near the supporters of the Gallic proconsul.

"Eho!" remarked Antonius, his spirits rising as the crisis drew on. "This is much like Catilina's days, to be sure! No one would sit with him when he went into the Senate. However, I imagine that these excellent gentlemen will hardly find Caesar as easy to handle as Catilina."

Again Lentulus was in his curule chair, and again the solemn farce of taking the auspices, preparatory to commencing the session, was gone through.

Then for the last time in that memorable series of debates Lentulus arose and addressed the Senate, storming, browbeating, threatening, and finally ending with these words, that brought everything to a head:—

"Seeing then, Conscript Fathers, that Quintus Cassius and Marcus Antonius are using their tribunician office to aid Caius Caesar to perpetuate his tyranny, the consuls ask you to clothe the magistrates with dictatorial power in order that the liberties of the Republic may not be subverted!"

The liberties of the Republic! Liberty to plunder provinces! To bribe! To rob the treasury! To defraud! To violate the law of man and God! To rule the whole world so that a corrupt oligarchy might be aggrandized! Far, far had the nation of the older Claudii, Fabii, and Cornelii fallen from that proud eminence when, a hundred years before, Polybius, contrasting the Romans with the degenerate Greeks, had exclaimed, "A statesman of Hellas, with ten checking clerks and ten seals, ... cannot keep faith with a single talent; Romans, in their magistracies and embassies, handle great sums of money, and yet from pure respect of oath keep their faith intact."

But the words of selfish virulence and cant had been uttered, and up from the body of the house swelled a shout of approval, growing louder and louder every instant.

Then up rose Domitius, on his face the leer of a brutal triumph.

"Conscript Fathers," he said, "I call for a vote on the question of martial law. Have the Senate divide on the motion. 'Let the consuls, praetors, tribunes of the plebs, and men of consular rank see to it that the Republic suffers no harm.'"

Another shout of applause rolled along the seats, fiercer and fiercer, and through it all a shower of curses and abusive epithets upon the Caesarians. All around Drusus seemed to be tossing and bellowing the breakers of some vast ocean, an ocean of human forms and faces, that was about to dash upon him and overwhelm him, in mad fury irresistible. The din was louder and louder. The bronze casings on the walls rattled, the pediments and pavements seemed to vibrate; outside, the vast mob swarming around the Curia reŽchoed the shout. "Down with Caesar!" "Down with the tribunes!" "Io! Pompeius!"

It was all as some wild distorted dream passing before Drusus's eyes. He could not bring himself to conceive the scene as otherwise. In a sort of stupor he saw the senators swarming to the right of the building, hastening to cast their votes in favour of Domitius's motion. Only two men—under a storm of abuse and hootings, passed to the left and went on record against the measure. These were Curio and Caelius; and they stood for some moments alone on the deserted side of the house, defiantly glaring at the raging Senate. Antonius and Cassius contemptuously remained in their seats—for no magistrate could vote in the Senate.

It was done; it could not be undone. Not Caesar, but the Senate, had decreed the end of the glorious Republic. Already, with hasty ostentation, some senators were stepping outside the Curia, and returning clad no longer in the toga of peace, but in a military cloak[146] which a slave had been keeping close at hand in readiness. Already Cato was on his feet glaring at the Caesarian tribunes, and demanding that first of all they be subjected to punishment for persisting in their veto. The Senate was getting more boisterous each minute. A tumult was like to break out, in which some deed of violence would be committed, which would give the key-note to the whole sanguinary struggle impending. Yet in the face of the raging tempest Marcus Antonius arose and confronted the assembly. It raged, hooted, howled, cursed. He still remained standing. Cato tried to continue his invective. The tempest that he had done so much to raise drowned his own voice, and he relapsed into his seat. But still Antonius stood his ground, quietly, with no attempt to shout down the raging Senate, as steadfastly as though a thousand threats were not buzzing around his ears. Drusus's heart went with his friend that instant. He had never been in a battle, yet he realized that it was vastly more heroic to stand undaunted before this audience, than to walk into the bloodiest melee without a tremor.

[146] Sagum.

Then of a sudden, like the interval between the recession of one wave and the advance of a second billow, came a moment of silence; and into that silence Antonius broke, with a voice so strong, so piercing, so resonant, that the most envenomed oligarch checked his clamour to give ear.

"Hearken, ye senators of the Republic, ye false patres, ye fathers of the people who are no fathers! So far have we waited; we wait no more! So much have we seen; we'll see no further! So much have we endured,—reproaches, repulses, deceits, insult, outrage, yes, for I see it in the consul's eye, next do we suffer violence itself; but that we will not tamely suffer. Ay! drive us from our seats, as Marcus Cato bids you! Ay! strike our names from the Senate list, as Domitius will propose! Ay! hound your lictors, sir consul, after us, to lay their rods across our backs! Ay! enforce your decree proclaiming martial law! So have you acted before to give legal fiction to your tyranny! But tell me this, senators, praetorii, consulars, and consuls, where will this mad violence of yours find end? Tiberius Gracchus you have murdered. Caius Gracchus you have murdered. Marcus Drusus you have murdered. Ten thousand good men has your creature Sulla murdered. Without trial, without defence, were the friends of Catilina murdered. And now will ye add one more deed of blood to those going before? Will ye strike down an inviolate tribune, in Rome,—in the shadow of the very Curia? Ah! days of the Decemvirs, when an evil Ten ruled over the state—would that those days might return! Not ten tyrants but a thousand oppress us now! Then despotism wore no cloak of patriotism or legal right, but walked unmasked in all its blackness!

"Hearken, ye senators, and in the evil days to come, remember all I say. Out of the seed which ye sow this hour come wars, civil wars; Roman against Roman, kinsman against kinsman, brother against brother! There comes impiety, violence, cruelty, bloodshed, anarchy! There comes the destruction of the old; there comes the birth, amid pain and anguish, of the new! Ye who grasp at money, at power, at high office; who trample on truth and right to serve your selfish ends; false, degenerate Romans,—one thing can wipe away your crimes—"

"What?" shouted Cato, across the senate-house; while Pompeius, who was shifting uncomfortably in his seat, had turned very red.

"Blood!" cried back Antonius, carried away by the frenzy of his own invective; then, shooting a lightning glance over the awe-struck Senate, he spoke as though gifted with some terrible prophetic omniscience. "Pompeius Magnus, the day of your prosperity is past—prepare ingloriously to die! Lentulus Crus, you, too, shall pay the forfeit of your crimes! Metellus Scipio, Marcus Cato, Lucius Domitius, within five years shall you all be dead—dead and with infamy upon your names! Your blood, your blood shall wipe away your folly and your lust for power. Ye stay, we go. Ye stay to pass once more unvetoed the decree declaring Caesar and his friends enemies of the Republic; we go—go to endure our outlaw state. But we go to appeal from the unjust scales of your false Justice to the juster sword of an impartial Mars, and may the Furies that haunt the lives of tyrants and shedders of innocent blood attend you—attend your persons so long as ye are doomed to live, and your memory so long as men shall have power to heap on your names reproach!"

Drusus hardly knew that Antonius had so much as stopped, when he found his friend leading him out of the Curia.

Behind, all was still as they walked away toward the Temple of Mars. Then, as they proceeded a little distance, a great roar as of a distant storm-wind drifted out from the senate-house—so long had Antonius held his audience spellbound.

"Finitum est!" said Curio, his eyes cast on the ground. "We have seen, my friends, the last day of the Republic."

II

Behind the Temple of Mars the faithful Agias was ready with the slaves' dresses which were to serve as a simple disguise. Antonius and his companions tossed off their cumbrous togas and put on the dark, coarse cloaks and slippers which were worn by slaves and people of the lower classes. These changes were quickly made, but valuable time was wasted while Antonius—who, as a bit of a dandy, wore his hair rather long[147]—underwent a few touches with the shears. It was now necessary to get across the Tiber without being recognized, and once fairly out of Rome the chances of a successful pursuit were not many. On leaving the friendly shelter of the Temple buildings, nothing untoward was to be seen. The crowds rushing to and fro, from the Curia and back, were too busy and excited to pay attention to a little group of slaves, who carefully kept from intruding themselves into notice. Occasionally the roar and echo of applause and shouting came from the now distant Curia, indicating that the Senate was still at its unholy work of voting wars and destructions. A short walk would bring them across the Pons AEmilius, and there, in the shelter of one of the groves of the new public gardens which Caesar had just been laying out on Janiculum, were waiting several of the fastest mounts which the activity of Agias and the lavish expenditures of Pausanias had been able to procure.

[147] Slaves were always close clipped.

The friends breathed more easily.

"I hardly think," said Quintus Cassius, "we shall be molested. The consuls cannot carry their mad hate so far."

They were close to the bridge. The way was lined with tall warehouses and grain storehouses,[148] the precursors of the modern "elevators." They could see the tawny Tiber water flashing between the stone arches of the bridge. The swarms of peasants and countrymen driving herds of lowing kine and bleating sheep toward the adjacent Forum Boarium seemed unsuspicious and inoffensive. A moment more and all Drusus's tremors and anxieties would have passed as harmless fantasy.

[148] Horreae.

Their feet were on the bridge. They could notice the wind sweeping through the tall cypresses in the gardens where waited the steeds that were to take them to safety. The friends quickened their pace. A cloud had drifted across the sun; there was a moment's gloom. When the light danced back, Drusus caught Curio's arm with a start.

"Look!" The new sunbeams had glanced on the polished helmet of a soldier standing guard at the farther end of the bridge.

There was only an instant for hesitation.

"Lentulus has foreseen that we must try to escape by this way," said Curio, seriously, but without panic. "We must go back at once, and try to cross by the wooden bridge below or by some other means."

But a great herd of dirty silver-grey Etruscan cattle came over the causeway, and to get ahead of them would have been impracticable without attracting the most unusual attention. It was now evident enough that there was a considerable guard at the head of the bridge, and to make a rush and overpower it was impossible. The heavy-uddered cows and snorting, bellowing bulls dragged by with a slow plodding that almost drove Drusus frantic. They were over at last, and the friends hastened after them, far more anxious to leave the bridge than they had been an instant before to set foot upon it. On they pressed, until as if by magic there stood across their path the twelve lictors of one of the consuls, with upraised fasces. Behind the lictors was a half-century of soldiers in full armour led by their optio.[149]

[149] Adjutant, subordinate to a centurion.

"Sirs," announced the head lictor, "I am commanded by the consul, Lucius Lentulus Crus, to put you all under arrest for treason against the Republic. Spare yourselves the indignity of personal violence, by offering no resistance."

To resist would indeed have been suicide. The friends had worn their short swords under their cloaks, but counting Agias they were only six, and the lictors were twelve, to say nothing of the soldiers, of whom there were thirty or more.

The ground seemed swaying before Drusus's eyes; in his ears was a buzzing; his thoughts came to him, thick, confused, yet through them all ran the vision of Cornelia, and the conviction that he was never to see her again. He looked back. The soldiers at the head of the bridge had taken alarm and were marching down to complete the arrest. He looked before. The lictors, the troops, the stupid cattle and their stolid drivers, and the great black-sided warehouses, casting their gloomy shadow over the rippling river. Down stream; not a skiff seemed stirring. The water was plashing, dancing, glancing in the sunshine. Below the wooden bridge the spars of a huge merchantman were just covering with canvas, as she stood away from her quay. Up stream (the views were all compressed into the veriest moment)—with the current came working, or rather drifting, a heavy barge loaded with timber. Only two men, handling rude paddles, stood upon her deck. The barge was about to pass under the very arch upon which stood the handful of entrapped Caesarians. A word, a motion, and the last hope of escape would have been comprehended by the enemy, and all would have been lost. But in moments of extreme peril it is easy to make a glance full of pregnancy. Antonius saw the face of his friend—saw and understood; and the other seemingly doomed men understood likewise. In an instant the barge would pass under the bridge!

"Fellow," replied Antonius (the whole inspection of the situation, formation of the plot, and visual dialogue had really been so rapid as to make no long break after the lictor ceased speaking), "do you dare thus to do what even the most profane and impious have never dared before? Will you lay hands on two inviolate tribunes of the plebs, and those under their personal protection; and by your very act become a sacer—an outlaw devoted to the gods, whom it is a pious thing for any man to slay?"

"I have my orders, sir," replied the head lictor, menacingly. "And I would have you know that neither you nor Quintus Cassius are reckoned tribunes longer by the Senate; so by no such plea can you escape arrest."

"Tribunes no longer!" cried Antonius; "has tyranny progressed so far that no magistrate can hold office after he ceases to humour the consuls?"

"We waste time, sir," said the lictor, sternly. "Forward, men; seize and bind them!"

But Antonius's brief parley had done its work. As the bow of the barge shot under the bridge, Curio, with a single bound over the parapet, sprang on to its deck; after him leaped Quintus Cassius, and after him Caelius. Before Drusus could follow, however, the stern of the barge had vanished under the archway. The lictors and soldiers had sprung forward, but a second had been lost by rushing to the eastern side of the bridge, where the barge had just disappeared from sight. Agias, Antonius, and Drusus were already standing on the western parapet. The lictors and soldiers were on them in an instant. The blow of one of the fasces smote down Antonius, but he fell directly into the vessel beneath—stunned but safe. A soldier caught Agias by the leg to drag him down. Drusus smote the man under the ear so that he fell without a groan; but Agias himself had been thrown from the parapet on to the bridge; the soldiers were thronging around. Drusus saw the naked steel of their swords flashing before his eyes; he knew that the barge was slipping away in the current. It was a time of seconds, but of seconds expanded for him into eternities. With one arm he dashed back a lictor, with the other cast Agias—he never knew whence came that strength which enabled him to do the feat—over the stonework, and into the arms of Curio in the receding boat. Then he himself leaped. A rude hand caught his cloak. It was torn from his back. A sword whisked past his head—he never learned how closely. He was in the air, saw that the barge was getting away, and next he was chilled by a sudden dash of water and Caelius was dragging him aboard; he had landed under the very stern of the barge. Struggling in the water, weighed down by their armour, were several soldiers who had leaped after him and had missed their distance completely.

The young man clambered on to the rude vessel. Its crew (two simple, harmless peasants) were cowering among the lumber. Curio had seized one of the paddles and was guiding the craft out into the middle of the current; for the soldiers were already running along the wharves and preparing to fling their darts. The other men, who had just been plucked out of the jaws of destruction, were all engaged in collecting their more or less scattered wits and trying to discover the next turn of calamity in store. Antonius—who, despite his fall, had come down upon a coil of rope and so escaped broken bones and serious bruises—was the first to sense the great peril of even their present situation.

"In a few moments," he remarked, casting a glance down the river, "we shall be under the Pons Sublicius, and we shall either be easily stopped and taken, or crushed with darts as we pass by. You see they are already signalling from the upper bridge to their guard at the lower. We shall drift down into their hands, and gain nothing by our first escape."

"Anchor," suggested Cassius, who was an impulsive and rather inconsiderate man. And he prepared to pitch overboard the heavy mooring-stone.

"Phui! You sheep," cried Curio, contemptuously, mincing no words at that dread moment. "How long will it be before there will be ten boatloads of soldiers alongside? Can we beat off all Pompeius's legions?"

Antonius caught up another paddle and passed it through a rower's thong.

"Friends," he said, with that ready command which his military life had given him, "these soldiers are in armour and can run none too swiftly. Once show them the back, and they must throw away their arms or give over the chase. It is madness to drift down upon the lower bridge. We must turn across the river, risk the darts, and try to land on the farther bank. Take oars!"

There was but one remaining paddle. Drusus seized it and pushed against the water with so much force that the tough wood bent and creaked, but did not snap. The unwieldy barge sluggishly answered this powerful pressure, and under the stroke of the three oars began to head diagonally across the current and move slowly toward the farther shore. The soldiers did not at once perceive the intent of this move. By their actions they showed that they had expected the barge to try to slip through the Pons Sublicius, and so escape down the river. They had run some little way along the south bank of the Tiber, to reenforce their comrades at the lower bridge, when they saw the new course taken by their expected prey. Much valuable time had thus been gained by the pursued, time which they needed sadly enough, for, despite their frantic rowing, their unwieldy craft would barely crawl across the current.

Long before the barge was within landing distance of the northern bank, the soldiers who had been on guard at the head of the Pons AEmilius had regained their former station, and were running along the shore to cut off any attempt there to escape. Soon a whizzing javelin dug into the plank at Drusus's feet, and a second rushed over Caelius's head, and plashed into the water beyond the barge. Other soldiers on the now receding southern bank were piling into a light skiff to second their comrades' efforts by a direct attack on the fugitives.

A third dart grazed Antonius's hair and buried its head in the pile of lumber. The tribune handed his oar to Caelius, and, deliberately wresting the weapon from the timber, flung it back with so deadly an aim that one pursuing legionary went down, pierced through the breastplate. The others recoiled for an instant, and no more javelins were thrown, which was some slight gain for the pursued.

It seemed, however, that the contest could have only a single ending. The soldiers were running parallel and apace with the barge, which was now as close to the northern bank as was safe in view of the missiles. The Pons Sublicius was getting minute by minute nearer, and upon it could be seen a considerable body of troops ready with darts and grapnels to cut off the last hope of escape.

But Antonius never withdrew his eye from the line of dark weatherbeaten warehouses that stretched down to the river's edge on the north bank just above the Pons Sublicius.

"Row," he exhorted his companions, "row! as life is dear! Row as never before!"

And under the combined impulse of the three desperate men, even the heavy barge leaped forward and a little eddy of foaming waves began to trail behind her stern. Drusus had no time to ask of himself or Antonius the special object of this last burst of speed. He only knew that he was flinging every pound of strength into the heavy handle of his oar, and that his life depended on making the broad blade push back the water as rapidly as possible. Antonius, however, had had good cause for his command. A searching scrutiny had revealed to him that a single very long warehouse ran clear down to the river's edge, and so made it impossible to continue running along the bank. A pursuer must double around the whole length of the building before continuing the chase of the barge. And for a small quay just beyond this warehouse Antonius headed his clumsy vessel. The soldiers continued their chase up to the very walls of the warehouse, where they, of a sudden, found themselves stopped by an impenetrable barrier. They lost an instant of valuable time in trying to wade along the bank, where the channel shelved off rapidly, and, finding the attempt useless, dashed a volley of their missiles after the barge. But the range was very long. Few reached the vessel; none did damage. The soldiers disappeared behind the warehouse, still running at a headlong pace. Before they reappeared on the other side, Antonius had brought his craft to the quay. There was no time for mooring, and the instant the barge lost way the hard-pressed Caesarians were on shore. Another instant, and the clumsy vessel had been caught by the current, and swung out into the stream.

She had done her work. The pursued men broke into a dash for the nearest highway. The soldiers were close after them. But they had flung away their javelins, and what with their heavy armour and the fatigue of running were quite as exhausted as the Caesarians, three of whom had been thoroughly winded by their desperate rowing. On the Pons Sublicius, where a great crowd had gathered to watch the exciting chase, there was shouting and tumult. No doubt voices few enough would have been raised for the Caesarians if they had been captured; but now that they bade fair to escape, the air was thick with gibes at the soldiers, and cries of encouragement to the pursued. On the two parties ran. Soon they were plunged in the tortuous, dirty lanes of the "Trans-Tiber" district, rushing at frantic speed past the shops of dirty Jews and the taverns of noisy fishermen and sailors. Already news of the chase had gone before them, and, as Drusus followed his friends under the half-arching shadows of the tall tenement houses, drunken pedlers and ribald women howled out their wishes of success, precisely as though they were in a race-course. Now the dirty streets were left behind and the fatigued runners panted up the slopes of the Janiculum, toward the gardens of Caesar. They passed the little grove sacred to the Furies, and, even as for life he ran, Drusus recalled with shame how over this very road to this very grove, had fled Caius Gracchus, the great tribune of the people, whom Drusus's own great grandfather, Marcus Livius Drusus, had hounded to his death; that day when all men encouraged him as he ran, but none would raise a hand to aid.

But now up from the bridge came the thunder of horses' hoofs,—cavalry, tearing at a furious gallop. Pompeius had evidently ordered out a turma[150] of mounted men to chase down the runaways. More and more frantic the race—Drusus's tongue hung from his mouth like a dog's. He flew past a running fountain, and was just desperate enough to wonder if it was safe to stop one instant and touch—he would not ask to drink—one drop of the cool water. Fortunately the Caesarians were all active young men, of about equal physical powers, and they kept well together and encouraged one another, not by word—they had no breath for that—but by interchange of courage and sympathy from eye to eye. The heavy legionaries had given up the chase; it was the cavalry, now flying almost at their very heels, that urged them to their final burst of speed.

[150] Squadron of 30 horse.

At last! Here were the gardens of Caesar, and close by the roadway under a spreading oak, their grooms holding them in readiness for instant service, were six of the best specimens of horseflesh money could command.

None of the little party had breath left to speak a word. To fling themselves into the saddles, to snatch the reins from the attendants' hands, to plunge the heels of their sandals, in lieu of spurs, into the flanks of their already restless steeds,—these things were done in an instant, but none too soon. For, almost as the six riders turned out upon the road to give head to their horses, the cavalry were upon them. The foremost rider sent his lance over Curio's shoulder, grazing the skin and starting blood; a second struck with his short sword at Caelius's steed, but the horse shied, and before the blow could be repeated the frightened beast had taken a great bound ahead and out of danger. This exciting phase of the pursuit, however, was of only momentary duration. The horses of the Caesarians were so incomparably superior to the common army hacks of the soldiers, that, as soon as the noble blooded animals began to stretch their long limbs on the hard Roman road, the troopers dropped back to a harmless distance in the rear. The cavalrymen's horses, furthermore, had been thoroughly winded by the fierce gallop over the bridge, and now it was out of the question for them to pursue. Before the flight had continued a mile, the Caesarians had the satisfaction of seeing their enemies draw rein, then turn back to the city. The friends, however, did not check their pace until, safe beyond chance of overtaking, they reined in at an hospitable tavern in the old Etruscan town of Veii.

Here Drusus took leave of Agias.

"You are quite too unimportant an enemy," said he to the young Greek, "to be worth arrest by the consuls, if indeed they know what part you have had in our escape. I know not what perils are before me, and I have no right to ask you to share them. You have long ago paid off any debt of gratitude that you owed me and mine when Fabia saved your life. I am your patron no longer; go, and live honourably, and you will find deposited with Flaccus a sum that will provide for all your needs. If ever I return to Rome, my party victorious, myself in favour, then let us renew our friendship; but till then you and I meet no more."

Agias knelt and kissed Drusus's robe in a semi-Oriental obeisance.

"And is there nothing," he asked half wistfully at the parting, "that I can yet do for you?"

"Nothing," said Drusus, "except to see that no harm come to my Aunt Fabia, and if it be possible deliver Cornelia from the clutches of her bloody uncle."

"Ah!" said Agias, smiling, "that is indeed something! But be not troubled, domine,"—he spoke as if Drusus was still his master,—"I will find a way."

That evening, under the canopy of night, the five Caesarians sped, swift as their horses could bear them, on their way to Ravenna.



Chapter XVI

The Rubicon

I

It was growing late, but the proconsul apparently was manifesting no impatience. All the afternoon he had been transacting the routine business of a provincial governor—listening to appeals to his judgment seat, signing requisitions for tax imposts, making out commissions, and giving undivided attention to a multitude of seeming trifles. Only Decimus Mamercus, the young centurion,—elder son of the veteran of Praeneste,—who stood guard at the doorway of the public office of the praetorium, thought he could observe a hidden nervousness and a still more concealed petulance in his superior's manner that betokened anxiety and a desire to be done with the routine of the day. Finally the last litigant departed, the governor descended from the curule chair, the guard saluted as he passed out to his own private rooms, and soon, as the autumn darkness began to steal over the cantonment, nothing but the call of the sentries broke the calm of the advancing night.

Caesar was submitting to the attentions of his slaves, who were exchanging his robes of state for the comfortable evening synthesis. But the proconsul was in no mood for the publicity of the evening banquet. When his chief freedman announced that the invited guests had assembled, the master bade him go to the company and inform them that their host was indisposed, and wished them to make merry without him. The evening advanced. Twice Caesar touched to his lips a cup of spiced wine, but partook of nothing else. Sending his servants from his chamber, he alternately read, and wrote nervously on his tablets, then erased all that he had inscribed, and paced up and down the room. Presently the anxious head-freedman thrust his head into the apartment.

"My lord, it is past midnight. The guests have long departed. There will be serious injury done your health, if you take no food and rest."

"My good Antiochus," replied the proconsul, "you are a faithful friend."

The freedman—an elderly, half-Hellenized Asiatic—knelt and kissed the Roman's robe.

"My lord knows that I would die for him."

"I believe you, Antiochus. The gods know I never needed a friend more than now! Do not leave the room."

The general's eyes were glittering, his cheeks flushed with an unhealthy colour. The freedman was startled.

"Domine, domine!" he began, "you are not well—let me send for Calchas, the physician; a mild sleeping powder—"

For the first time in his long service of Caesar, Antiochus met with a burst of wrath from his master.

"Vagabond! Do you think a sleeping potion will give peace to me? Speak again of Calchas, and I'll have you crucified!"

"Domine, domine!" cried the trembling freedman; but Caesar swept on:—

"Don't go from the room! I am desperate to-night. I may lay violent hands on myself. Why should I not ask you for a poisoned dagger?"

Antiochus cowered at his master's feet.

"Yes, why not? What have I to gain by living? I have won some little fame. I have conquered all Gaul. I have invaded Britain. I have made the Germans tremble. Life is an evil dream, a nightmare, a frightful delusion. Death is real. Sleep—sleep—forever sleep! No care, no ambition, no vexation, no anger, no sorrow. Cornelia, the wife of my love, is asleep. Julia is asleep. All that I loved sleep. Why not I also?"

"Domine, speak not so!" and Antiochus clasped the proconsul's knees.

Caesar bent down and lifted him up by the hand. When he spoke again, the tone was entirely changed.

"Old friend, you have known me; have loved me. You were my pedagogue[151] when I went to school at Rome. You taught me to ride and fence and wrestle. You aided me to escape the myrmidons of Sulla. You were with me in Greece. You shared my joy in my political successes, my triumphs in the field. And now what am I to do? You know the last advices from Rome; you know the determination of the consuls to work my ruin. To-day no news has come at all, and for us no news is the worst of news."

[151] Slave who looked after the welfare and conduct of a schoolboy.

"Domine," said Antiochus, wiping his eyes, "I cannot dream that the Senate and Pompeius will deny you your right to the second consulship."

"But if they do? You know what Curio reports. What then?"

Antiochus shook his head.

"It would mean war, bloody war, the upturning of the whole world!"

"War, or—" and Caesar paused.

"What, my lord?" said the freedman.

"I cease either to be a care to myself or my enemies."

"I do not understand you, domine," ventured Antiochus, turning pale.

"I mean, good friend," said the proconsul, calmly, "that when I consider how little life often seems worth, and how much disaster the continuance of my act of living means to my fellow-men, I feel often that I have no right to live."

Antiochus staggered with dread. Caesar was no longer talking wildly; and the freedman knew that when in a calm mood the proconsul was always perfectly serious.

"Domine, you have not rashly determined this?" he hinted.

"I have determined nothing. I never rashly determine anything. Hark! Some one is at the door."

There was a loud military knock, and the clang of armour.

"Enter," commanded Caesar.

Decimus Mamercus hastened into the room. So great was his excitement that his Roman discipline had forsaken him. He neglected to salute.

"News! news! Imperator! from Rome! News which will set all Italy afire!"

Whereupon the man who had but just before been talking of suicide, with the greatest possible deliberation seated himself on a comfortable chair, arranged his dress, and remarked with perfect coldness:—

"No tidings can justify a soldier in neglecting to salute his general."

Decimus turned red with mortification, and saluted.

"Now," said Caesar, icily, "what have you to report?"

"Imperator," replied Decimus, trying to speak with unimpassioned preciseness, "a messenger has just arrived from Rome. He reports that the Senate and consuls have declared the Republic in peril, that the veto of your tribunes has been over-ridden, and they themselves forced to flee for their lives."

Caesar had carelessly dropped a writing tablet that he was holding, and now he stooped slowly and picked it up again.

"The messenger is here?" he inquired, after a pause.

"He is," replied the centurion.

"Has he been duly refreshed after a hard ride?" was the next question.

"He has just come."

"Then let him have the best food and drink my butler and cellarer can set before him."

"But his news is of extreme importance," gasped Decimus, only half believing his ears.

"I have spoken," said the general, sternly. "What is his name?"

"He is called Quintus Drusus, Imperator."

"Ah!" was his deliberate response, "send him to me when he will eat and drink no more."

Decimus saluted again, and withdrew, while his superior opened the roll in his hands, and with all apparent fixity and interest studied at the precepts and definitions of the grammar of Dionysius Thrax, the noted philologist.

At the end of some minutes Quintus Drusus stood before him.

The young Praenestian was covered with dust, was unkempt, ragged; his step was heavy, his arms hung wearily at his side, his head almost drooped on his breast with exhaustion. But when he came into the Imperator's presence, he straightened himself and tried to make a gesture of salutation. Caesar had risen from his chair.

"Fools!" he cried, to the little group of slaves and soldiers, who were crowding into the room, "do you bring me this worn-out man, who needs rest? Who dared this? Has he been refreshed as I commanded?"

"He would take nothing but some wine—" began Decimus.

"I would have waited until morning, if necessary, before seeing him. Here!" and while Caesar spoke he half led, half thrust, the messenger into his own chair, and, anticipating the nimblest slave, unclasped the travel-soiled paenula from Drusus's shoulders. The young man tried to rise and shake off these ministrations, but the proconsul gently restrained him. A single look sufficed to send all the curious retinue from the room. Only Antiochus remained, sitting on a stool in a distant corner.

"And now, my friend," said Caesar, smiling, and drawing a chair close up to that of Drusus, "tell me when it was that you left Rome."

"Two days ago," gasped the wearied messenger.

"Mehercle!" cried the general, "a hundred and sixty miles in two days! This is incredible! And you come alone?"

"I had Andraemon, the fastest horse in Rome. Antonius, Caelius, Cassius, Curio, and myself kept together as far as Clusium. There was no longer any danger of pursuit, no need for more than one to hasten." Drusus's sentences were coming in hot pants. "I rode ahead. Rode my horse dead. Took another at Arretium. And so I kept changing. And now—I am here." And with this last utterance he stopped, gasping.

Caesar, instead of demanding the tidings from Rome, turned to Antiochus, and bade him bring a basin and perfumed water to wash Drusus's feet. Meantime the young man had recovered his breath.

"You have heard of the violence of the new consuls and how Antonius and Cassius withstood them. On the seventh the end came. The vetoes were set aside. Our protests were disregarded. The Senate has clothed the consuls and other magistrates with dictatorial power; they are about to make Lucius Domitius proconsul of Gaul."

"And I?" asked Caesar, for the first time displaying any personal interest.

"You, Imperator, must disband your army and return to Rome speedily, or be declared an outlaw, as Sertorius or Catilina was."

"Ah!" and for a minute the proconsul sat motionless, while Drusus again kept silence.

"But you—my friends—the tribunes?" demanded the general, "you spoke of danger; why was it that you fled?"

"We fled in slaves' dresses, O Caesar, because otherwise we should long ago have been strangled like bandits in the Tullianum. Lentulus Crus drove us with threats from the Senate. On the bridge, but for the favour of the gods, his lictors would have taken us. We were chased by Pompeius's foot soldiers as far as Janiculum. We ran away from his cavalry. If they hate us, your humble friends, so bitterly, how much the more must they hate you!"

"And the tribunes, and Curio, and Caelius are on their way hither?" asked Caesar.

"They will be here very soon."

"That is well," replied the proconsul; then, with a totally unexpected turn, "Quintus Drusus, what do you advise me to do?"

"I—I advise, Imperator?" stammered the young man.

"And who should advise, if not he who has ridden so hard and fast in my service? Tell me, is there any hope of peace, of reconciliation with Pompeius?"

"None."

"Any chance that the senators will recover their senses, and propose a reasonable compromise?"

"None."

"Will not Cicero use his eloquence in the cause of peace and common justice?"

"I have seen him. He dare not open his mouth."

"Ah!" and again Caesar was silent, this time with a smile, perhaps of scorn, playing around his mouth.

"Are the people, the equites, given body and soul over to the war party?"

Drusus nodded sadly. "So long as the consuls are in the ascendant, they need fear no revolution at home. The people are not at heart your enemies, Imperator; but they will wait to be led by the winning side."

"And you advise?"—pressed Caesar, returning to the charge.

"War!" replied Drusus, with all the rash emphasis of youth.

"Young man," said Caesar, gravely, half sadly, "what you have said is easy to utter. Do you know what war will mean?"

Drusus was silent.

"Let us grant that our cause is most just. Even then, if we fight, we destroy the Republic. If I conquer, it must be over the wreck of the Commonwealth. If Pompeius—on the same terms. I dare not harbour any illusions. The state cannot endure the farce of another Sullian restoration and reformation. A permanent government by one strong man will be the only one practicable to save the world from anarchy. Have you realized that?"

"I only know, Imperator," said Drusus, gloomily, "that no future state can be worse than ours to-day, when the magistrates of the Republic are the most grievous despots."

Caesar shook his head.

"You magnify your own wrongs and mine. If mere revenge prompts us, we are worse than Xerxes, or Sulla. The gods alone can tell us what is right."

"The gods!" cried Drusus, half sunken though he was in a weary lethargy, "do you believe there are any gods?"

Caesar threw back his head. "Not always; but at moments I do not believe in them, I know! And now I know that gods are guiding us!"

"Whither?" exclaimed the young man, starting from his weary drowsiness.

"I know not whither; neither do I care. Enough to be conscious that they guide us!"

And then, as though there was no pressing problem involving the peace of the civilized world weighing upon him, the proconsul stood by in kind attention while Antiochus and an attendant bathed the wearied messenger's feet before taking him away to rest.

After Drusus had been carried to his room, Caesar collected the manuscripts and tablets scattered about the apartment, methodically placed them in the proper cases and presses, suffered himself to be undressed, and slept late into the following morning, as sweetly and soundly as a little child.

II

On the next day Caesar called before him the thirteenth legion,—the only force he had at Ravenna,—and from a pulpit in front of the praetorium he told them the story of what had happened at Rome; of how the Senate had outraged the tribunes of the plebs, whom even the violent Sulla had respected; of how the mighty oligarchy had outraged every soldier in insulting their commander. Then Curio, just arrived, declaimed with indignant fervour of the violence and fury of the consuls and Pompeius; and when he concluded, the veterans could restrain their ardour and devotion no more, five thousand martial throats roared forth an oath of fealty, and as many swords were waved on high in mad defiance to the Senate and the Magnus. Then cohort after cohort cried out that on this campaign they would accept no pay; and the military tribunes and centurions pledged themselves, this officer for the support of two recruits, and that for three.

It was a great personal triumph for Caesar. He stood receiving the pledges and plaudits, and repaying each protestation of loyalty with a few gracious words, or smiles, that were worth fifty talents to each acclaiming maniple. Drusus, who was standing back of the proconsul, beside Curio, realized that never before had he seen such outgoing of magnetism and personal energy from man to man, one mind holding in vassalage five thousand. Yet it was all very quickly over. Almost while the plaudits of the centuries were rending the air, Caesar turned to the senior tribune of the legion.

"Are your men ready for the march, officer?"

The soldier instantly fell into rigid military pose. "Ready this instant, Imperator. We have expected the order."

"March to Ariminum, and take possession of the town. March rapidly."

The tribune saluted, and stepped back among his cohort. And as if some conjurer had flourished a wand of magic, in the twinkling of an eye the first century had formed in marching order; every legionary had flung over his shoulder his shield and pack, and at the harsh blare of the military trumpet the whole legion fell into line; the aquilifer with the bronze eagle, that had tossed on high in a score of hard-fought fights, swung off at the head of the van; and away went the legion, a thing not of thinking flesh and blood, but of brass and iron—a machine that marched as readily and carelessly against the consuls of the Roman Republic as against the wretched Gallic insurgents. The body of troops—cohort after cohort—was vanishing down the road in a cloud of dust, the pack train following after, almost before Drusus could realize that the order to advance had been given.

Caesar was still standing on the little pulpit before the praetorium. Except for Curio and Drusus, almost all the vast company that had but just now been pressing about him with adulation and homage were disappearing from sight. For an instant the Imperator seemed alone, stripped of all the panoply of his high estate. He stood watching the legion until its dust-cloud settled behind some low-lying hills. Then he stepped down from the pulpit. Beyond a few menials and Drusus and that young man's late comrade in danger, no one else was visible. The transaction had been so sudden as to have something of the phantasmagoric about it.

Caesar took his two friends, one by each hand, and led them back to his private study in the praetorium.

"The army is yours, Imperator," said Curio, breaking a rather oppressive silence. "The newest recruit is yours to the death."

"Yes, to the death," replied the general, abstractedly; and his keen eyes wandered down upon the mosaic, seemingly penetrating the stone and seeking something hidden beneath. "The thirteenth legion," he continued, "will do as a test of the loyalty of the others. They will not fail me. The eighth and the twelfth will soon be over the Alps. Fabius is at Narbo with three. They will check Pompeius's Spaniards. I must send to Trebonius for his four among the Belgae; he is sending Fabius one." And then, as if wearied by this recapitulation, Caesar's eyes wandered off again to the pavement.

Drusus had an uneasy sensation. What was this strange mingling of energy and listlessness? Why this soliloquy and internal debate, when the moment called for the most intense activity? The general being still silent, his friends did not venture to disturb him. But Antiochus passed in and out of the study, gathering up writing materials, tablets, and books; and presently Drusus heard the freedman bidding an underling have ready and packed the marble slabs used for the tessellated floor of the Imperator's tent—a bit of luxury that Caesar never denied himself while in the field. Presently the proconsul raised his eyes. He was smiling; there was not the least cloud on his brow.

"There will be some public games here this afternoon," he remarked, as though the sole end in view was to make their stay pleasant to his guests: "I have promised the good people of the town to act as editor,[152] and must not fail to honour them. Perhaps the sport will amuse you, although the provincials cannot of course get such good lanista-trained men as you see at Rome. I have a new fencing school in which perhaps we may find a few threces[153] and retiarii,[154] who will give some tolerable sword and net play."

[152] President of the games.

[153] Buckler and cutlass men.

[154] Net and trident men.

"Hei!" groaned Curio, with a lugubrious whisper, "to think of it, I have never a sesterce left that I can call my own, to stake on the struggle!"

"At least," laughed Drusus, "I am a companion of your grief; already Lentulus and Ahenobarbus have been sharing my forfeited estate."

But the proconsul looked serious and sad.

"Vah, my friends! Would that I could say that your loyalty to my cause would cost you nothing! It is easy to promise to win back for you everything you have abandoned, but as the poets say, 'All that lies in the lap of the gods.' But you shall not be any longer the mere recipients of my bounty. Stern work is before us. I need not ask you if you will play your part. You, Curio, shall have a proper place on my staff of legates as soon as I have enough troops concentrated; but you, my dear Drusus, what post would best reward you for your loyalty? Will you be a military tribune, and succeed your father?"

"Your kindness outruns your judgment, Imperator," replied Drusus. "Save repelling Dumnorix and Ahenobarbus, I never struck a blow in anger. Small service would I be to you, and little glory would I win as an officer, when the meanest legionary knows much that I may learn."

"Then, amice," said Caesar, smiling, perhaps with the satisfaction of a man who knows when it is safe to make a gracious offer which he is aware will not be accepted, though none the less flattering, "if you will thus misappraise yourself, you shall act as centurion for the present, on my corps of praetoriani,[155] where you will be among friends and comrades of your father, and be near my person if I have any special need of you."

[155] General's body-guard of picked veterans.

Drusus proffered the best thanks he could; it was a great honour—one almost as great as a tribuneship, though hardly as responsible; and he felt repaid for all the weariness of his desperate ride to Ravenna.

And then, with another of those strange alternations of behaviour, Caesar led him and Curio off to inspect the fencing-school; then showed them his favourite horse, pointed out its peculiar toelike hoofs, and related merrily how when it was a young colt, a soothsayer had predicted that its owner would be master of the world, and how he—Caesar,—had broken its fiery spirit, and made it perfectly docile, although no other man could ride the beast.

The afternoon wore on. Caesar took his friends to the games, and watched with all apparent interest the rather sanguinary contests between the gladiators. Drusus noticed the effusive loyalty of the Ravenna citizens, who shouted a tumultuous welcome to the illustrious editor, but Caesar acted precisely as though the presidency of the sports were his most important office. Only his young admirer observed that as often as a gladiator brought his opponent down and appealed to the editor for a decision on the life or death of the vanquished, Caesar invariably waved his handkerchief, a sign of mercy, rather than brutally turned down his thumb, the sentence of death. After the games, the proconsul interchanged personal greetings with the more prominent townspeople. Drusus began to wonder whether the whole day and evening were to pass in this manner; and indeed so it seemed, for that night the Imperator dispensed his usual open-handed hospitality. His great banqueting hall contained indeed no army officers, but there were an abundance of the provincial gentry. Caesar dined apart with his two friends. The courses went in and out. The proconsul continued an unceasing flow of light conversation: witty comments on Roman society and fashion, scraps of literary lore, now and then a bit of personal reminiscence of Gaul. Drusus forgot all else in the agreeable pleasure of the moment. Presently Caesar arose and mingled with his less exalted guests; when he returned to the upper table the attendants were bringing on the beakers, and the Cisalpine provincials were pledging one another in draughts of many cyathi, "prosperity to the proconsul, and confusion to his enemies." Caesar took a shallow glass of embossed blue and white bas-relief work,—a triumph of Alexandrian art,—poured into it a few drops of undiluted Caecuban liquor, dashed down the potion, then dropped the priceless beaker on to the floor.

"An offering to Fortuna!" he cried, springing from his couch. "My friends, let us go!" And quietly leaving the table on the dais, the three found themselves outside the banqueting hall, while the provincials, unconscious that their host had departed, continued their noisy revelry.

Drusus at once saw that everything was ready for departure. Antiochus was at hand with travelling cloaks, and assured the young man that due care had been taken to send in advance for him a complete wardrobe and outfit. The proconsul evidently intended to waste no time in starting. Drusus realized by the tone of his voice that Caesar the host had vanished, and Caesar the imperator was present. His words were terse and to the point.

"Curio, you will find a fast horse awaiting you. Take it. Bide at full speed after the legion. Take command of the rear cohorts and of the others as you come up with them. Lead rapidly to Ariminum."

And Curio, who was a man of few words, when few were needed, saluted and disappeared in the darkness. Drusus followed the general out after him. But no saddle-horses were prepared for Caesar. Antiochus and one or two slaves were ready with lanterns, and led the general and Drusus out of the gloomy cantonment, along a short stretch of road, to a mill building, where in the dim light of the last flickers of day could be seen a carriage with mules.

"I have hired this as you wished," said the freedman, briefly.

"It is well," responded his patron.

Antiochus clambered upon the front seat; a stout German serving-man was at the reins. Caesar motioned to Drusus to sit beside him behind. There were a few necessaries in the carriage, but no other attendants, no luggage cart. The German shook the reins over the backs of the two mules, and admonished them in his barbarous native dialect. The dim shadow of the mill faded from sight; the lights of the praetorium grew dimmer and dimmer: soon nothing was to be seen outside the narrow circle of pale light shed on the ground ahead by the lantern.

The autumn season was well advanced. The day however had been warm. The night was sultry. There were no stars above, no moon, no wind. A sickening miasmic odour rose from the low flat country sloping off toward the Adriatic—the smell of overripe fruit, of decaying vegetation, of the harvest grown old. There had been a drought, and now the dust rose thick and heavy, making the mules and travellers cough, and the latter cover their faces. Out of the darkness came not the least sound: save the creaking of the dead boughs on trees, whose dim tracery could just be distinguished against the sombre background of the sky.

No one spoke, unless the incoherent shouts of the German to the mules be termed speech. Antiochus and Caesar were sunk in stupor or reverie. Drusus settled back on the cushions, closed his eyes, and bade himself believe that it was all a dream. Six months ago he had been a student at Athens, wandering with his friends along the trickling Cephissus, or climbing, in holiday sport, the marble cone of Hymettus. And now—he was a proscribed rebel! Enemies thirsted for his blood! He was riding beside a man who made no disclaimer of his intention to subvert the constitution! If Caesar failed, he, Drusus, would share in "that bad eminence" awarded by fame to the execrated Catilinarians. Was it—was it not all a dream? Connected thought became impossible. Now he was in the dear old orchard at Praeneste playing micare[156] with Cornelia and AEmilia; now back in Athens, now in Rome. Poetry, prose, scraps of oratory, philosophy, and rules of rhetoric,—Latin and Greek inextricably intermixed,—ideas without the least possible connection, raced through his head. How long he thus drifted on in his reverie he might not say. Perhaps he fell asleep, for the fatigue of his extraordinary riding still wore on him. A cry from Antiochus, a curse from the German, startled him out of his stupor. He stared about. It was pitch dark. "The gods blast it!" Antiochus was bawling. "The lantern has jolted out!"

[156] A finger-guessing game.

To relight it under existing circumstances, in an age when friction matches were unknown, was practically impossible.

"Fellow," said the proconsul's steady voice, "do you know the road to Ariminum?"

The driver answered in his broken Latin that he was the slave of the stable keeper who had let the carriage, and had been often over the road, but to go safely in the dark was more than he could vouch for. The only thing the German saw to be done was to wait in the road until the morning, or until the moon broke out through the clouds.

"Drusus," remarked the proconsul, "you are the youngest. Can your eyes make out anything to tell us where we are?"

The young man yawned, shook off his drowsiness, and stared out into the gloomy void.

"I can just make out that to our left are tall trees, and I imagine a thicket."

"Very good. If you can see as much as that here, it is safe to proceed. Let us change places. I will take the reins. Do you, Drusus, come and direct me."

"Oh! domine!" entreated Antiochus, "don't imperil yourself to-night! I'm sure some calamity impends before dawn. I consulted a soothsayer before setting out, and the dove which he examined had no heart—a certain sign of evil."

"Rascal!" retorted his patron, "the omens will be more favourable when I please. A beast wants a heart—no very great prodigy! men lose theirs very often, and think it slight disgrace. Change your seat, sirrah!"

Caesar took the reins, smote the mules, and went off at so furious a pace that the worthy Antiochus was soon busy invoking first one, then another, member of the pantheon, to avert disaster. Drusus speedily found that the general's vision was far more keen than his own. Indeed, although the road, he knew, was rough and crooked, they met with no mishaps. Presently a light could be seen twinkling in the distance.

"We must get a guide," remarked the Imperator decisively, and he struck the mules again.

They at last approached what the owl-like discernment of Caesar pronounced to be a small farmhouse with a few out-buildings. But it was no easy matter to arouse the drowsy countrymen, and a still more difficult task to convince the good man of the house that his nocturnal visitors were not brigands. At last it was explained that two gentlemen from Ravenna were bound for Ariminum, on urgent business, and he must furnish a guide for which he would be amply paid. As a result, the German driver at last resumed the reins, and sped away with a fresh lantern, and at his side a stupid peasant boy, who was almost too shy to make himself useful.

But more misfortune was in store. Barely a mile had they traversed, before an ominous crack proclaimed the splitting of an axletree. The cheap hired vehicle could go no farther.

"'Tis a sure sign the gods are against our proceeding this night," expostulated Antiochus; "let us walk back to the farmhouse, my lord."

Caesar did not deign to give him an answer. He deliberately descended, clasped his paenula over his shoulders, and bade the German make the best of his way back to Ravenna. The peasant boy, he declared, could lead them on foot until dawn.

The freedman groaned, but he was helpless. The guide, bearing the lantern, convoyed them out of the highroad, to strike what he assured them was a less circuitous route; and soon had his travellers, now plunged in quagmires that in daylight would have seemed impassable, now clambering over stocks and stones, now leaping broad ditches. At last, after thoroughly exhausting the patience of his companions, the wretched fellow confessed that he had missed the by-path, and indeed did not know the way back.

Antiochus was now too frightened to declare his warnings confirmed. Drusus liked the prospect of a halt on these swampy, miasmic fields little enough, But again the proconsul was all resources. With almost omniscience he led his companions through blind mazes of fallow land and stubble fields: came upon a brook at the only point where there appeared to be any stepping-stones; and at length, just as the murky clouds seemed about to lift, and the first beams of the moon struggled out into the black chaos, the wanderers saw a multitude of fires twinkling before them, and knew that they had come upon the rear cohort of the thirteenth legion, on its way to Ariminum.

The challenge of the sentry was met by a quick return of the watchword, but the effusively loyal soldier was bidden to hold his peace and not disturb his comrades.

"What time is it?" inquired his general. The fellow replied it lacked one hour of morn. Caesar skirted the sleeping camp, and soon came out again on the highroad. There was a faint paleness in the east; a single lark sang from out the mist of grey ether overhead; an ox of the baggage train rattled his tethering chain and bellowed. A soft, damp river fog touched on Drusus's face. Suddenly an early horseman, coming at a moderate gallop, was heard down the road. In the stillness, the pounding of his steed crept slowly nearer and nearer; then, as he was almost on them, came the hollow clatter of the hoofs upon the planks of a bridge. Caesar stopped. Drusus felt himself clutched by the arm so tightly that the grasp almost meant pain.

"Do you hear? Do you see?" muttered the Imperator's voice in his ear. "The bridge, the river—we have reached it!"

"Your excellency—" began Drusus, sorely at a loss.

"No compliments, this is the Rubicon; the boundaries of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. On this side I am still the Proconsul—not as yet rightly deposed. On the other—Caesar, the Outlaw, the Insurgent, the Enemy of his Country, whose hand is against every man, every man's hand against him. What say you? Speak! speak quickly! Shall I cross? Shall I turn back?"

"Imperator," said the young man, struggling to collect his wits and realize the gravity of his own words, "if you did not intend to cross, why send the legion over to commence the invasion? Why harangue them, if you had no test to place upon their loyalty?"

"Because," was his answer, "I would not through my own indecision throw away my chance to strike. But the troops can be recalled. It is not too late. No blood has been shed. I am merely in a position to strike if so I decide. No,—nothing is settled."

Drusus had never felt greater embarrassment. Before he could make reply, Caesar had bidden Antiochus and the peasant boy remain in the roadway, and had led the young man down the embankment that ran sloping toward the river. The light was growing stronger every moment, though the mist still hung heavy and dank. Below their feet the slender stream—it was the end of the season—ran with a monotonous gurgle, now and then casting up a little fleck of foam, as it rolled by a small boulder in its bed.

"Imperator," said Drusus, while Caesar pressed his hand tighter and tighter, "why advise with an inexperienced young man like myself? Why did you send Curio away? I have no wisdom to offer; nor dare proffer it, if such I had."

"Quintus Drusus," replied Caesar, sinking rather wearily down upon the dry, dying grass, "if I had needed the counsel of a soldier, I should have waited until Marcus Antonius arrived; if I had needed that of a politician, I was a fool to send away Curio; if I desire the counsel of one who is, as yet, neither a man of the camp, nor a man of the Forum, but who can see things with clear eyes, can tell what may be neither glorious nor expedient, but what will be the will,"—and here the Imperator hesitated,—"the will of the gods, tell me to whom I shall go."

Drusus was silent; the other continued;—

"Listen, Quintus Drusus. I do not believe in blind fate. We were not given wills only to have them broken. The function of a limb is not to be maimed, nor severed from the body. A limb is to serve a man; just so a man and his actions are to serve the ends of a power higher and nobler than he. If he refuse to serve that power, he is like the mortifying limb,—a thing of evil to be cut off. And this is true of all of us; we all have some end to serve, we are not created for no purpose." Caesar paused. When he began again it was in a different tone of voice. "I have brought you with me, because I know you are intelligent, are humane, love your country, and can make sacrifices for her; because you are my friend and to a certain extent share my destiny; because you are too young to have become overprejudiced, and calloused to pet foibles and transgressions. Therefore I took you with me, having put off the final decision to the last possible instant. And now I desire your counsel."

"How can I counsel peace!" replied Drusus, warming to a sense of the situation. "Is not Italy in the hand of tyrants? Is not Pompeius the tool of coarse schemers? Do they not pray for proscriptions and confiscations and abolition of debt? Will there be any peace, any happiness in life, so long as we call ourselves freemen, yet endure the chains of a despotism worse than that of the Parthians?"

"Ah! amice!" said Caesar, twisting the long limp grass, "every enemy is a tyrant, if he has the upper hand. Consider, what will the war be? Blood, the blood of the noblest Romans! The overturning of time-honoured institutions! A shock that will make the world to tremble, kings be laid low, cities annihilated! East, west, north, south—all involved—so great has our Roman world become!"

"And are there not wrongs, abuses, Imperator, which cry for vengeance and for righting?" replied Drusus, vehemently. "Since the fall of Carthage, have not the fears of Scipio AEmilianus almost come true: Troy has fallen, Carthage has fallen; has not Rome almost fallen, fallen not by the might of her enemies, but by the decay of her morals, the degeneracy of her statesmen? What is the name of liberty, without the semblance! Is it liberty for a few mighty families to enrich themselves, while the Republic groans? Is it liberty for the law courts to have their price, for the provinces to be the farms of a handful of nobles?"

Caesar shook his head.

"You do not know what you say. This is no moment for declamation. Every man has his own life to live, his own death to die. Our intellects cannot assure us of any consciousness the instant that breath has left our bodies. It is then as if we had never hoped, had never feared; it is rest, peace. Quintus Drusus, I have dared many things in my life. I defied Sulla; it was boyish impetuosity. I took the unpopular and perilous side when Catilina's confederates were sent to their deaths; it was the ardour of a young politician. I defied the rage of the Senate, while I was praetor; still more hot madness. I faced death a thousand times in Gaul, against the Nervii, in the campaign with Vercingetorix; all this was the mere courage of the common soldier. But it is not of death I am afraid; be it death on the field of battle, or death at the hands of the executioner, should I fall into the power of my enemies, I fear myself.

"You ask me to explain?" went on the general, without pausing for a question. "Hearken! I am a man, you are a man, our enemies are men. I have slain a hundred thousand men in Gaul. Cruel? No, for had they lived the great designs which the deity wills to accomplish in that country could not be executed! But then my mind was at rest. I said, 'Let these men die,' and no Nemesis has required their blood at my hands. What profit these considerations? The Republic is nothing but a name, without substance or reality. It is doomed to fall. Sulla was a fool to abdicate the dictatorship. Why did he not establish a despotism, and save us all this turmoil of politics? But Lentulus Crus, Pompeius, Cato, Scipio—they are men with as much ambition, as much love of life, as myself. The Republic will fall into their hands. Why will it be worse off than in mine? Why shed rivers of blood? After death one knows no regrets. If I were dead, what would it matter to me if obloquy was imputed to my name, if my enemies triumphed, if the world went to chaos over my grave. It would not mean so much as a single evil dream in my perpetual slumber."

Caesar was no longer resting on the bank. He was pacing to and fro, with rapid, nervous steps, crushing the dry twigs under his shoes, pressing his hands together behind his back, knitting and unknitting his fingers.

Drusus knew enough to be aware that he was present as a spectator of that most terrible of all conflicts—a strong man's wrestle with his own misgivings. To say something, to say anything, that would ease the shock of the contest—that was the young man's compelling desire; but he felt as helpless as though he, single handed, confronted ten legions.

"But your friends, Imperator," he faltered, "think of them! They have made sacrifices for you. They trust in you. Do not abandon them to their enemies!"

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