"Tigellinus," said he, "dost thou think that enchantments can injure the gods?"
"Caesar himself has mentioned them," answered the courtier.
"Pain was speaking, not Caesar; but thou—what is thy opinion of the matter?"
"The gods are too mighty to be subject to charms."
"Then wouldst thou deny divinity to Caesar and his family?"
"Peractum est!" muttered Eprius Marcellus, standing near, repeating that shout which the people gave always when a gladiator in the arena received such a blow that he needed no other.
Tigellinus gnawed his own anger. Between him and Petronius there had long existed a rivalry touching Nero. Tigellinus had this superiority, that Nero acted with less ceremony, or rather with none whatever in his presence; while thus far Petronius overcame Tigellinus at every encounter with wit and intellect.
So it happened now. Tigellinus was silent, and simply recorded in his memory those senators and knights who, when Petronius withdrew to the depth of the chamber, surrounded him straightway, supposing that after this incident he would surely be Caesar's first favorite.
Petronius, on leaving the palace, betook himself to Vinicius, and described his encounter with Caesar and Tigellinus.
"Not only have I turned away danger," said he, "from Aulus Plautius, Pomponia, and us, but even from Lygia, whom they will not seek, even for this reason, that I have persuaded Bronzebeard, the monkey, to go to Antium, and thence to Naples or Baiae and he will go. I know that he has not ventured yet to appear in the theatre publicly; I have known this long time that he intends to do so at Naples. He is dreaming, moreover, of Greece, where he wants to sing in all the more prominent cities, and then make a triumphal entry into Rome, with all the crowns which the 'Graeculi' will bestow on him. During that time we shall be able to seek Lygia unhindered and secrete her in safety. But has not our noble philosopher been here yet?"
"Thy noble philosopher is a cheat. No; he has not shown himself, and he will not show himself again!"
"But I have a better understanding, if not of his honesty, of his wit. He has drawn blood once from thy purse, and will come even for this, to draw it a second time."
"Let him beware lest I draw his own blood."
"Draw it not; have patience till thou art convinced surely of his deceit. Do not give him more money, but promise a liberal reward if he brings thee certain information. Wilt thou thyself undertake something?"
"My two freedmen, Nymphidius and Demas, are searching for her with sixty men. Freedom is promised the slave who finds her. Besides I have sent out special persons by all roads leading from Rome to inquire at every inn for the Lygian and the maiden. I course through the city myself day and night, counting on a chance meeting."
"Whenever thou hast tidings let me know, for I must go to Antium."
"I will do so."
"And if thou wake up some morning and say, 'It is not worth while to torment myself for one girl, and take so much trouble because of her,' come to Antium. There will be no lack of women there, or amusement."
Vinicius began to walk with quick steps. Petronius looked for some time at him, and said at last,—"Tell me sincerely, not as a mad head, who talks something into his brain and excites himself, but as a man of judgment who is answering a friend: Art thou concerned as much as ever about this Lygia?"
Vinicius stopped a moment, and looked at Petronius as if he had not seen him before; then he began to walk again. It was evident that he was restraining an outburst. At last, from a feeling of helplessness, sorrow, anger, and invincible yearning, two tears gathered in his eyes, which spoke with greater power to Petronius than the most eloquent words.
Then, meditating for a moment, he said,—"It is not Atlas who carries the world on his shoulders, but woman; and sometimes she plays with it as with a ball."
"True," said Vinicius.
And they began to take farewell of each other. But at that moment a slave announced that Chilo Chilonides was waiting in the antechamber, and begged to be admitted to the presence of the lord.
Vinicius gave command to admit him immediately, and Petronius said,—"Ha! have I not told thee? By Hercules! keep thy calmness; or he will command thee, not thou him."
"A greeting and honor to the noble tribune of the army, and to thee, lord," said Chilo, entering. "May your happiness be equal to your fame, and may your fame course through the world from the pillars of Hercules to the boundaries of the Arsacidae."
"A greeting, O lawgiver of virtue and wisdom," answered Petronius.
But Vinicius inquired with affected calmness, "What dost thou bring?"
"The first time I came I brought thee hope, O lord; at present, I bring certainty that the maiden will be found."
"That means that thou hast not found her yet?"
"Yes, lord; but I have found what that sign means which she made. I know who the people are who rescued her, and I know the God among whose worshippers to seek her."
Vinicius wished to spring from the chair in which he was sitting; but Petronius placed his hand on his shoulder, and turning to Chilo said,—"Speak on!"
"Art thou perfectly certain, lord, that she drew a fish on the sand?"
"Yes," burst out Vinicius.
"Then she is a Christian and Christians carried her away." A moment of silence followed.
"Listen, Chilo," said Petronius. "My relative has predestined to thee a considerable sum of money for finding the girl, but a no less considerable number of rods if thou deceive him. In the first case thou wilt purchase not one, but three scribes; in the second, the philosophy of all the seven sages, with the addition of thy own, will not suffice to get thee ointment."
"The maiden is a Christian, lord," cried the Greek.
"Stop, Chilo. Thou art not a dull man. We know that Junia and Calvia Crispinilla accused Pomponia Graecina of confessing the Christian superstition; but we know too, that a domestic court acquitted her. Wouldst thou raise this again? Wouldst thou persuade us that Pomponia, and with her Lygia, could belong to the enemies of the human race, to the poisoners of wells and fountains, to the worshippers of an ass's head, to people who murder infants and give themselves up to the foulest license? Think, Chilo, if that thesis which thou art announcing to us will not rebound as an antithesis on thy own back."
Chilo spread out his arms in sign that that was not his fault, and then said,—"Lord, utter in Greek the following sentence: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour." [Iesous Christos, Theou Uios, Soter.]
"Well, I have uttered it. What comes of that?"
"Now take the first letters of each of those words and put them into one word."
"Fish!" said Petronius with astonishment. [Ichthus, the Greek word for "fish."]
"There, that is why fish has become the watchword of the Christians," answered Chilo, proudly.
A moment of silence followed. But there was something so striking in the conclusions of the Greek that the two friends could not guard themselves from amazement.
"Vinicius, art thou not mistaken?" asked Petronius. "Did Lygia really draw a fish for thee?"
"By all the infernal gods, one might go mad!" cried the young man, with excitement. "If she had drawn a bird for me, I should have said a bird."
"Therefore she is a Christian," repeated Chilo.
"This signifies," said Petronius, "that Pomponia and Lygia poison wells, murder children caught on the street, and give themselves up to dissoluteness! Folly! Thou, Vinicius, wert at their house for a time, I was there a little while; but I know Pomponia and Aulus enough, I know even Lygia enough, to say monstrous and foolish! If a fish is the symbol of the Christians, which it is difficult really to deny, and if those women are Christians, then, by Proserpina! evidently Christians are not what we hold them to be."
"Thou speakest like Socrates, lord," answered Chilo. "Who has ever examined a Christian? Who has learned their religion? When I was travelling three years ago from Naples hither to Rome (oh, why did I not stay in Naples!), a man joined me, whose name was Glaucus, of whom people said that he was a Christian; but in spite of that I convinced myself that he was a good and virtuous man."
"Was it not from that virtuous man that thou hast learned now what the fish means?"
"Unfortunately, lord, on the way, at an inn, some one thrust a knife into that honorable old man; and his wife and child were carried away by slave-dealers. I lost in their defence these two fingers; since, as people say, there is no lack among Christians of miracles, I hope that the fingers will grow out on my hand again."
"How is that? Hast thou become a Christian?"
"Since yesterday, lord, since yesterday! The fish made me a Christian. But see what a power there is in it. For some days I shall be the most zealous of the zealous, so that they may admit me to all their secrets; and when they admit me to their secrets, I shall know where the maiden is hiding. Perhaps then my Christianity will pay me better than my philosophy. I have made a vow also to Mercury, that if he helps me to find the maiden, I will sacrifice to him two heifers of the same size and color and will gild their horns."
"Then thy Christianity of yesterday and thy philosophy of long standing permit thee to believe in Mercury?"
"I believe always in that in which I need to believe; that is my philosophy, which ought to please Mercury. Unfortunately (ye know, worthy lords, what a suspicious god he is), he does not trust the promises even of blameless philosophers, and prefers the heifers in advance; meanwhile this outlay is immense. Not every one is a Seneca, and I cannot afford the sacrifice; should the noble Vinicius, however, wish to give something, on account of that sum which he promised—"
"Not an obolus, Chilo!" said Petronius, "not an obolus. The bounty of Vinicius will surpass thy expectations, but only when Lygia is found,—that is, when thou shalt indicate to us her hiding-place. Mercury must trust thee for the two heifers, though I am not astonished at him for not wishing to do so; in this I recognize his acuteness."
"Listen to me, worthy lords. The discovery which I have made is great; for though I have not found the maiden yet, I have found the way in which I must seek her. Ye have sent freedmen and slaves throughout the city and into the country; has any one given you a clew? No! I alone have given one. I tell you more. Among your slaves there may be Christians, of whom ye have no knowledge, for this superstition has spread everywhere; and they, instead of aiding, will betray you. It is unfortunate that they see me here; do thou therefore, noble Petronius, enjoin silence on Eunice; and thou too, noble Vinicius, spread a report that I sell thee an ointment which insures victory in the Circus to horses rubbed with it. I alone will search for her, and single-handed I will find the fugitives; and do ye trust in me, and know that whatever I receive in advance will be for me simply an encouragement, for I shall hope always for more, and shall feel the greater certainty that the promised reward will not fail me. Ah, it is true! As a philosopher I despise money, though neither Seneca, nor even Musonius, nor Cornutus despises it, though they have not lost fingers in any one's defence, and are able themselves to write and leave their names to posterity. But, aside from the slave, whom I intend to buy, and besides Mercury, to whom I have promised the heifers,—and ye know how dear cattle have become in these times,—the searching itself involves much outlay. Only listen to me patiently. Well, for the last few days my feet are wounded from continual walking. I have gone to wine-shops to talk with people, to bakeries, to butcher-shops, to dealers in olive oil, and to fishermen. I have run through every street and alley; I have been in the hiding places of fugitive slaves; I have lost money, nearly a hundred ases, in playing mora; I have been in laundries, in drying-sheds, in cheap kitchens; I have seen mule-drivers and carvers; I have seen people who cure bladder complaints and pull teeth; I have talked with dealers in dried figs; I have been at cemeteries; and do ye know why? This is why; so as to outline a fish everywhere, look people in the eyes, and hear what they would say of that sign. For a long time I was unable to learn anything, till at last I saw an old slave at a fountain. He was drawing water with a bucket, and weeping. Approaching him, I asked the cause of his tears. When we had sat down on the steps of the fountain, he answered that all his life he had been collecting sestertium after sestertium, to redeem his beloved son; but his master, a certain Pansa, when the money was delivered to him, took it, but kept the son in slavery. 'And so I am weeping,' said the old man, 'for though I repeat, Let the will of God be done, I, poor sinner, am not able to keep down my tears.' Then, as if penetrated by a forewarning, I moistened my finger in the water and drew a fish for him. To this he answered, 'My hope, too, is in Christ.' I asked him then, 'Hast thou confessed to me by that sign?' 'I have,' said he; 'and peace be with thee.' I began then to draw him out, and the honest old man told me everything. His master, that Pansa, is himself a freedman of the great Pansa; and he brings stones by the Tiber to Rome, where slaves and hired persons unload them from the boats, and carry them to buildings in the night time, so as not to obstruct movement in the streets during daylight. Among these people many Christians work, and also his son; as the work is beyond his son's strength, he wished to redeem him. But Pansa preferred to keep both the money and the slave. While telling me this, he began again to weep; and I mingled my tears with his,—tears came to me easily because of my kind heart, and the pain in my feet, which I got from walking excessively. I began also to lament that as I had come from Naples only a few days since, I knew no one of the brotherhood, and did not know where they assembled for prayer. He wondered that Christians in Naples had not given me letters to their brethren in Rome; but I explained to him that the letters were stolen from me on the road. Then he told me to come to the river at night, and he would acquaint me with brethren who would conduct me to houses of prayer and to elders who govern the Christian community. When I heard this, I was so delighted that I gave him the sum needed to redeem his son, in the hope that the lordly Vinicius would return it to me twofold."
"Chilo," interrupted Petronius, "in thy narrative falsehood appears on the surface of truth, as oil does on water. Thou hast brought important information; I do not deny that. I assert, even, that a great step is made toward finding Lygia; but do not cover thy news with falsehood. What is the name of that old man from whom thou hast learned that the Christians recognize each other through the sign of a fish?"
"Euricius. A poor, unfortunate old man! He reminded me of Glaucus, whom I defended from murderers, and he touched me mainly by this."
"I believe that thou didst discover him, and wilt be able to make use of the acquaintance; but thou hast given him no money. Thou hast not given him an as; dost understand me? Thou hast not given anything."
"But I helped him to lift the bucket, and I spoke of his son with the greatest sympathy. Yes, lord, what can hide before the penetration of Petronius? Well, I did not give him money, or rather, I gave it to him, but only in spirit, in intention, which, had he been a real philosopher, should have sufficed him. I gave it to him because I saw that such an act was indispensable and useful; for think, lord, how this act has won all the Christians at once to me, what access to them it has opened, and what confidence it has roused in them."
"True," said Petronius, "and it was thy duty to do it."
"For this very reason I have come to get the means to do it."
Petronius turned to Vinicius,—"Give command to count out to him five thousand sestertia, but in spirit, in intention."
"I will give thee a young man," said Vinicius, "who will take the sum necessary; thou wilt say to Euricius that the youth is thy slave, and thou wilt count out to the old man, in the youth's presence, this money. Since thou hast brought important tidings, thou wilt receive the same amount for thyself. Come for the youth and the money this evening."
"Thou art a real Caesar!" said Chilo. "Permit me, lord, to dedicate my work to thee; but permit also that this evening I come only for the money, since Euricius told me that all the boats had been unloaded, and that new ones would come from Ostia only after some days. Peace be with you! Thus do Christians take farewell of one another. I will buy myself a slave woman,—that is, I wanted to say a slave man. Fish are caught with a bait, and Christians with fish. Fax vobiscum! pax! pax! pax!"
PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:
"I send to thee from Antium, by a trusty slave, this letter, to which, though thy hand is more accustomed to the sword and the javelin than the pen, I think that thou wilt answer through the same messenger without needless delay. I left thee on a good trail, and full of hope; hence I trust that thou hast either satisfied thy pleasant desires in the embraces of Lygia, or wilt satisfy them before the real wintry wind from the summits of Soracte shall blow on the Campania. Oh, my Vinicius! may thy preceptress be the golden goddess of Cyprus; be thou, on thy part, the preceptor of that Lygian Aurora, who is fleeing before the sun of love. And remember always that marble, though most precious, is nothing of itself, and acquires real value only when the sculptor's hand turns it into a masterpiece. Be thou such a sculptor, carissime! To love is not sufficient; one must know how to love; one must know how to teach love. Though the plebs, too, and even animals, experience pleasure, a genuine man differs from them in this especially, that he makes love in some way a noble art, and, admiring it, knows all its divine value, makes it present in his mind, thus satisfying not his body merely, but his soul. More than once, when I think here of the emptiness, the uncertainty, the dreariness of life, it occurs to me that perhaps thou hast chosen better, and that not Caesar's court, but war and love, are the only objects for which it is worth while to be born and to live.
"Thou wert fortunate in war, be fortunate also in love; and if thou art curious as to what men are doing at the court of Caesar, I will inform thee from time to time. We are living here at Antium, and nursing our heavenly voice; we continue to cherish the same hatred of Rome, and think of betaking ourselves to Baiae for the winter, to appear in public at Naples, whose inhabitants, being Greeks, will appreciate us better than that wolf brood on the banks of the Tiber. People will hasten thither from Baiae, from Pompeii, Puteoli, Cumae, and Stabia; neither applause nor crowns will be lacking, and that will be an encouragement for the proposed expedition to Achaea.
"But the memory of the infant Augusta? Yes! we are bewailing her yet. We are singing hymns of our own composition, so wonderful that the sirens have been hiding from envy in Amphitrite's deepest caves. But the dolphins would listen to us, were they not prevented by the sound of the sea. Our suffering is not allayed yet; hence we will exhibit it to the world in every form which sculpture can employ, and observe carefully if we are beautiful in our suffering and if people recognize this beauty. Oh, my dear! we shall die buffoons and comedians!
"All the Augustians are here, male and female, not counting ten thousand servants, and five hundred she asses, in whose milk Poppaea bathes. At times even it is cheerful here. Calvia Crispinilla is growing old. It is said that she has begged Poppaea to let her take the bath immediately after herself. Lucan slapped Nigidia on the face, because he suspected her of relations with a gladiator. Sporus lost his wife at dice to Senecio. Torquatus Silanus has offered me for Eunice four chestnut horses, which this year will win the prize beyond doubt. I would not accept! Thanks to thee, also, that thou didst not take her. As to Torquatus Silanus, the poor man does not even suspect that he is already more a shade than a man. His death is decided. And knowest what his crime is? He is the great-grandson of the deified Augustus. There is no rescue for him. Such is our world.
"As is known to thee, we have been expecting Tiridates here; meanwhile Vologeses has written an offensive letter. Because he has conquered Armenia, he asks that it be left to him for Tiridates; if not, he will not yield it in any case. Pure comedy! So we have decided on war. Corbulo will receive power such as Pompeius Magnus received in the war with pirates. There was a moment, however, when Nero hesitated. He seems afraid of the glory which Corbulo will win in case of victory. It was even thought to offer the chief command to our Aulus. This was opposed by Poppaea, for whom evidently Pomponia's virtue is as salt in the eye.
"Vatinius described to us a remarkable fight of gladiators, which is to take place in Beneventum. See to what cobblers rise in our time, in spite of the saying, 'Ne sutor ultra crepidam!' Vitelius is the descendant of a cobbler; but Vatinius is the son of one! Perhaps he drew thread himself! The actor Aliturus represented Oedipus yesterday wonderfully. I asked him, by the way, as a Jew, if Christians and Jews were the same. He answered that the Jews have an eternal religion, but that Christians are a new sect risen recently in Judea; that in the time of Tiberius the Jews crucified a certain man, whose adherents increase daily, and that the Christians consider him as God. They refuse, it seems, to recognize other gods, ours especially. I cannot understand what harm it would do them to recognize these gods.
"Tigellinus shows me open enmity now. So far he is unequal to me; but he is, superior in this, that he cares more for life, and is at the same time a greater scoundrel, which brings him nearer Ahenobarbus. These two will understand each other earlier or later, and then my turn will come. I know not when it will come; but I know this, that as things are it must come; hence let time pass. Meanwhile we must amuse ourselves. Life of itself would not be bad were it not for Bronzebeard. Thanks to him, a man at times is disgusted with himself. It is not correct to consider the struggle for his favor as a kind of rivalry in a circus,—as a kind of game, as a struggle, in which victory flatters vanity. True, I explain it to myself in that way frequently; but still it seems to me sometimes that I am like Chilo, and better in nothing than he. When he ceases to be needful to thee, send him to me. I have taken a fancy to his edifying conversation. A greeting from me to thy divine Christian, or rather beg her in my name not to be a fish to thee. Inform me of thy health, inform me of thy love, know how to love, teach how to love, and farewell."
VINICIUS to PETRONIUS:
"Lygia is not found yet! Were it not for the hope that I shall find her soon, thou wouldst not receive an answer; for when a man is disgusted with life, he has no wish to write letters. I wanted to learn whether Chilo was not deceiving me; and at night when he came to get the money for Euricius, I threw on a military mantle, and unobserved followed him and the slave whom I sent with him. When they reached the place, I watched from a distance, hidden behind a portico pillar, and convinced myself that Euricius was not invented. Below, a number of tens of people were unloading stones from a spacious barge, and piling them up on the bank. I saw Chilo approach them, and begin to talk with some old man, who after a while fell at his feet. Others surrounded them with shouts of admiration. Before my eyes the boy gave a purse to Euricius, who on seizing it began to pray with upraised hands, while at his side some second person was kneeling, evidently his son. Chilo said something which I could not hear, and blessed the two who were kneeling, as well as others, making in the air signs in the form of a cross, which they honor apparently, for all bent their knees. The desire seized me to go among them, and promise three such purses to him who would deliver to me Lygia; but I feared to spoil Chilo's work, and after hesitating a moment went home.
"This happened at least twelve days after thy departure. Since then Chilo has been a number of times with me. He says that he has gained great significance among the Christians; that if he has not found Lygia so far, it is because the Christians in Rome are innumerable, hence all are not acquainted with each person in their community, and cannot know everything that is done in it. They are cautious, too, and in general reticent. He gives assurance, however, that when he reaches the elders, who are called presbyters, he will learn every secret. He has made the acquaintance of a number of these already, and has begun to inquire of them, though carefully, so as not to rouse suspicion by haste, and not to make the work still more difficult. Though it is hard to wait, though patience fails, I feel that he is right, and I wait.
"He learned, too, that they have places of meeting for prayer, frequently outside the city, in empty houses and even in sand-pits. There they worship Christ, sing hymns, and have feasts. There are many such places. Chilo supposes that Lygia goes purposely to different ones from Pomponia, so that the latter, in case of legal proceedings or an examination, might swear boldly that she knew nothing of Lygia's hiding place. It may be that the presbyters have advised caution. When Chilo discovers those places, I will go with him; and if the gods let me see Lygia, I swear to thee by Jupiter that she will not escape my hands this time.
"I am thinking continually of those places of prayer. Chilo is unwilling that I should go with him; he is afraid. But I cannot stay at home. I should know her at once, even in disguise or if veiled. They assemble in the night, but I should recognize her in the night even. I should know her voice and motions anywhere. I will go myself in disguise, and look at every person who goes in or out. I am thinking of her always, and shall recognize her. Chilo is to come to-morrow, and we shall go. I will take arms. Some of my slaves sent to the provinces have returned empty-handed. But I am certain now that she is in the city, perhaps not far away even. I myself have visited many houses under pretext of renting them. She will fare better with me a hundred times; where she is, whole legions of poor people dwell. Besides, I shall spare nothing for her sake. Thou writest that I have chosen well. I have chosen suffering and sorrow. We shall go first to those houses which are in the city, then beyond the gates. Hope looks for something every morning, otherwise life would be impossible. Thou sayest that one should know how to love. I knew how to talk of love to Lygia. But now I only yearn; I do nothing but wait for Chilo. Life to me is unendurable in my own house. Farewell!"
BUT Chilo did not appear for some time, and Vinicius knew not at last what to think of his absence. In vain he repeated to himself that searching, if continued to a certain and successful issue, must be gradual. His blood and impulsive nature rebelled against the voice of judgment. To do nothing, to wait, to sit with folded arms, was so repulsive to him that he could not be reconciled to it in any way. To search the alleys of the city in the dark garb of a slave, through this alone, that it was useless, seemed to him merely a mask for his own inefficiency, and could give no satisfaction. His freedmen, persons of experience, whom he commanded to search independently, turned out a hundred times less expert than Chilo. Meanwhile there rose in him, besides his love for Lygia, the stubbornness of a player resolved to win. Vinicius had been always a person of this kind. From earliest youth he had accomplished what he desired with the passionateness of one who does not understand failure, or the need of yielding something. For a time military discipline had put his self-will within bounds, but also it had engrafted into him the conviction that every command of his to subordinates must be fulfilled; his prolonged stay in the Orient, among people pliant and inured to slavish obedience, confirmed in him the faith that for his "I wish" there were no limits. At present his vanity, too, was wounded painfully. There was, besides, in Lygia's opposition and resistance, and in her flight itself, which was to him incomprehensible, a kind of riddle. In trying to solve this riddle he racked his head terribly. He felt that Acte had told the truth, and that Lygia was not indifferent. But if this were true, why had she preferred wandering and misery to his love, his tenderness, and a residence in his splendid mansion? To this question he found no answer, and arrived only at a kind of dim understanding that between him and Lygia, between their ideas, between the world which belonged to him and Petronius, and the world of Lygia and Pomponia, there existed some sort of difference, some kind of misunderstanding as deep as an abyss, which nothing could fill up or make even. It seemed to him, then, that he must lose Lygia; and at this thought he lost the remnant of balance which Petronius wished to preserve in him. There were moments in which he did not know whether he loved Lygia or hated her; he understood only that he must find her, and he would rather that the earth swallowed her than that he should not see and possess her. By the power of imagination he saw her as clearly at times as if she had been before his face. He recalled every word which he had spoken to her; every word which he had heard from her. He felt her near; felt her on his bosom, in his arms; and then desire embraced him like a flame. He loved her and called to her.
And when he thought that he was loved, that she might do with willingness all that he wished of her, sore and endless sorrow seized him, and a kind of deep tenderness flooded his heart, like a mighty wave. But there were moments, too, in which he grew pale from rage, and delighted in thoughts of the humiliation and tortures which he would inflict on Lygia when he found her. He wanted not only to have her, but to have her as a trampled slave. At the same time he felt that if the choice were left him, to be her slave or not to see her in life again, he would rather be her slave. There were days in which he thought of the marks which the lash would leave on her rosy body, and at the same time he wanted to kiss those marks. It came to his head also that he would be happy if he could kill her.
In this torture, torment, uncertainty, and suffering, he lost health, and even beauty. He became a cruel and incomprehensible master. His slaves, and even his freedmen, approached him with trembling; and when punishments fell on them causelessly,—punishments as merciless as undeserved,—they began to hate him in secret; while he, feeling this, and feeling his own isolation, took revenge all the more on them. He restrained himself with Chilo alone, fearing lest he might cease his searches; the Greek, noting this, began to gain control of him, and grew more and more exacting. At first he assured Vinicius at each visit that the affair would proceed easily and quickly; now he began to discover difficulties, and without ceasing, it is true, to guarantee the undoubted success of the searches, he did not hide the fact that they must continue yet for a good while.
At last he came, after long days of waiting, with a face so gloomy that the young man grew pale at sight of him, and springing up had barely strength to ask,—"Is she not among the Christians?" "She is, lord," answered Chilo; "but I found Glaucus among them." "Of what art thou speaking, and who is Glaucus?" "Thou hast forgotten, lord, it seems, that old man with whom I journeyed from Naples to Rome, and in whose defence I lost these two fingers,—a loss which prevents me from writing. Robbers, who bore away his wife and child, stabbed him with a knife. I left him dying at an inn in Minturna, and bewailed him long. Alas! I have convinced myself that he is alive yet, and belongs in Rome to the Christian community."
Vinicius, who could not understand what the question was, understood only that Glaucus was becoming a hindrance to the discovery of Lygia; hence he suppressed his rising anger, and said,—"If thou didst defend him, he should be thankful and help thee."
"Ah! worthy tribune, even gods are not always grateful, and what must the case be with men? True, he should be thankful. But, unhappily, he is an old man, of a mind weak and darkened by age and disappointment; for which reason, not only is he not grateful, but, as I learned from his co-religionists, he accuses me of having conspired with the robbers, and says that I am the cause of his misfortunes. That is the recompense for my fingers!"
"Scoundrel! I am certain that it was as he says," replied Vinicius.
"Then thou knowest more than he does, lord, for he only surmises that it was so; which, however, would not prevent him from summoning the Christians, and from revenging himself on me cruelly. He would have done that undoubtedly, and others, with equal certainty, would have helped him; but fortunately he does not know my name, and in the house of prayer where we met, he did not notice me. I, however, knew him at once, and at the first moment wished to throw myself on his neck. Wisdom, however, and the habit of thinking before every step which I intend to take, restrained me. Therefore, on issuing from the house of prayer, I inquired concerning him, and those who knew him declared that he was the man who had been betrayed by his comrade on the journey from Naples. Otherwise I should not have known that he gives out such a story."
"How does this concern me? Tell what thou sawest in the house of prayer."
"It does not concern thee, lord, but it concerns me just as much as my life. Since I wish that my wisdom should survive me, I would rather renounce the reward which thou hast offered, than expose my life for empty lucre; without which, I as a true philosopher shall be able to live and seek divine wisdom."
But Vinicius approached him with an ominous countenance, and began in a suppressed voice,—"Who told thee that death would meet thee sooner at the hands of Glaucus than at mine? Whence knowest thou, dog, that I will not have thee buried right away in my garden?"
Chilo, who was a coward, looked at Vinicius, and in the twinkle of an eye understood that one more unguarded word and he was lost beyond redemption.
"I will search for her, lord, and I will find her!" cried he, hurriedly.
Silence followed, during which were heard the quick breathing of Vinicius, and the distant song of slaves at work in the garden.
Only after a while did the Greek resume his speech, when he noticed that the young patrician was somewhat pacified.
"Death passed me, but I looked on it with the calmness of Socrates. No, lord, I have not said that I refuse to search for the maiden; I desired merely to tell thee that search for her is connected now with great peril to me. On a time thou didst doubt that there was a certain Euricius in the world, and though thou wert convinced by thine own eyes that the son of my father told the truth to thee, thou hast suspicions now that I have invented Glaucus. Ah! would that he were only a fiction, that I might go among the Christians with perfect safety, as I went some time since; I would give up for that the poor old slave woman whom I bought, three days since, to care for my advanced age and maimed condition. But Glaucus is living, lord; and if he had seen me once, thou wouldst not have seen me again, and in that case who would find the maiden?"
Here he was silent again, and began to dry his tears.
"But while Glaucus lives," continued he, "how can I search for her?—for I may meet him at any step; and if I meet him I shall perish, and with me will cease all my searching."
"What art thou aiming at? What help is there? What dost thou wish to undertake?" inquired Vinicius.
"Aristotle teaches us, lord, that less things should be sacrificed for greater, and King Priam said frequently that old age was a grievous burden. Indeed, the burden of old age and misfortune weighs upon Glaucus this long time, and so heavily that death would be to him a benefit. For what is death, according to Seneca, but liberation?"
"Play the fool with Petronius, not with me! Tell what thy desire is."
"If virtue is folly, may the gods permit me to be a fool all my life. I desire, lord, to set aside Glaucus, for while he is living my life and searches are in continual peril."
"Hire men to beat him to death with clubs; I will pay them."
"They will rob thee, lord, and afterward make profit of the secret. There are as many ruffians in Rome as grains of sand in the arena, but thou wilt not believe how dear they are when an honest man needs to employ their villainy. No, worthy tribune! But if watchmen catch the murderers in the act? They would tell, beyond doubt, who hired them, and then thou wouldst have trouble. They will not point to me, for I shall not give my name. Thou art doing ill not to trust in me, for, setting aside my keenness, remember that there is a question of two other things,—of my life, and the reward which thou has promised me."
"How much dost thou need?"
"A thousand sestertia, for turn attention to this, that I must find honest ruffians, men who when they have received earnest money, will not take it off without a trace. For good work there must be good pay! Something might be added, too, for my sake, to wipe away the tears which I shall shed out of pity for Glaucus. I take the gods to witness how I love him. If I receive a thousand sestertia to-day, two days hence his soul will be in Hades; and then, if souls preserve memory and the gift of thought, he will know for the first time how I loved him. I will find people this very day, and tell them that for each day of the life of Glaucus I will withhold one hundred sestertia. I have, besides, a certain idea, which seems to me infallible."
Vinicius promised him once more the desired sum, forbidding him to mention Glaucus again; but asked what other news he brought, where he had been all the time, what he had seen, and what he had discovered. But Chilo was not able to tell much. He had been in two more houses of prayer,—had observed each person carefully, especially the women,—but had seen no one who resembled Lygia: the Christians, however, looked on him as one of their own sect, and, since he redeemed the son of Euricius, they honored him as a man following in the steps of "Christ." He had learned from them, also, that a great lawgiver of theirs, a certain Paul of Tarsus, was in Rome, imprisoned because of charges preferred by the Jews, and with this man he had resolved to become acquainted. But most of all was he pleased by this,—that the supreme priest of the whole sect, who had been Christ's disciple, and to whom Christ had confided government over the whole world of Christians, might arrive in Rome any moment. All the Christians desired evidently to see him, and hear his teachings. Some great meetings would follow, at which he, Chilo, would be present; and what is more, since it is easy to hide in the crowd, he would take Vinicius to those meetings. Then they would find Lygia certainly. If Glaucus were once set aside, it would not be connected even with great danger. As to revenge, the Christians, too, would revenge but in general they were peaceful people.
Here Chilo began to relate, with a certain surprise, that he had never seen that they gave themselves up to debauchery, that they poisoned wells or fountains, that they were enemies of the human race, worshipped an ass, or ate the flesh of children. No; he had seen nothing of that sort. Certainly he would find among them even people who would hide away Glaucus for money; but their religion, as far as he knew, did not incite to crime,—on the contrary, it enjoined forgiveness of offences.
Vinicius remembered what Pomponia had said to him at Acte's, and in general he listened to Chilo's words with pleasure. Though his feeling for Lygia assumed at times the seeming of hatred, he felt a relief when he heard that the religion which she and Pomponia confessed was neither criminal nor repulsive. But a species of undefined feeling rose in him that it was just that reverence for Christ, unknown and mysterious, which created the difference between himself and Lygia; hence he began at once to fear that religion and to hate it.
FOR Chilo, it was really important to set aside Glaucus, who, though advanced in years, was by no means decrepit. There was considerable truth in what Chilo had narrated to Vinicius. He had known Glaucus on a time, he had betrayed him, sold him to robbers, deprived him of family, of property, and delivered him to murder. But he bore the memory of these events easily, for he had thrown the man aside dying, not at an inn, but in a field near Minturna. This one thing he had not foreseen, that Glaucus would be cured of his wounds and come to Rome. When he saw him, therefore, in the house of prayer, he was in truth terrified, and at the first moment wished to discontinue the search for Lygia. But on the other hand, Vinicius terrified him still more. He understood that he must choose between the fear of Glaucus, and the pursuit and vengeance of a powerful patrician, to whose aid would come, beyond doubt, another and still greater, Petronius. In view of this, Chilo ceased to hesitate. He thought it better to have small enemies than great ones, and, though his cowardly nature trembled somewhat at bloody methods, he saw the need of killing Glaucus through the aid of other hands.
At present the only question with him was the choice of people, and to this he was turning that thought of which he had made mention to Vinicius. Spending his nights in wine-shops most frequently, and lodging in them, among men without a roof, without faith or honor, he could find persons easily to undertake any task, and still more easily others who, if they sniffed coin on his person, would begin, but when they had received earnest money, would extort the whole sum by threatening to deliver him to justice. Besides, for a certain time past Chilo had felt a repulsion for nakedness, for those disgusting and terrible figures lurking about suspected houses in the Subura or in the Trans-Tiber. Measuring everything with his own measure, and not having fathomed sufficiently the Christians or their religion, he judged that among them, too, he could find willing tools. Since they seemed more reliable than others, he resolved to turn to them and present the affair in such fashion that they would undertake it, not for money's sake merely, but through devotion.
In view of this, he went in the evening to Euricius, whom he knew as devoted with whole soul to his person, and who, he was sure, would do all in his power to assist him. Naturally cautious, Chilo did not even dream of revealing his real intentions, which would be in clear opposition, moreover, to the faith which the old man had in his piety and virtue. He wished to find people who were ready for anything, and to talk with them of the affair only in such a way that, out of regard to themselves, they would guard it as an eternal secret.
The old man Euricius, after the redemption of his son, hired one of those little shops so numerous near the Circus Maximus, in which were sold olives, beans, unleavened paste, and water sweetened with honey, to spectators coming to the Circus. Chilo found him at home arranging his shop; and when he had greeted him in Christ's name, he began to speak of the affair which had brought him. Since he had rendered them a service, he considered that they would pay him with gratitude. He needed two or three strong and courageous men, to ward off danger threatening not only him, but all Christians. He was poor, it was true, since he had given to Euricius almost all that he owned; still he would pay such men for their services if they would trust him and perform faithfully what he commanded.
Euricius and his son Quartus listened to him as their benefactor almost on their knees. Both declared that they were ready themselves to do all that he asked of them, believing that a man so holy could not ask for deeds inconsistent with the teaching of Christ.
Chilo assured them that that was true, and, raising his eyes to heaven, he seemed to be praying; in fact, he was thinking whether it would not be well to accept their proposal, which might save him a thousand sestertia. But after a moment of thought he rejected it. Euricius was an old man, perhaps not so much weighted by years as weakened by care and disease. Quartus was sixteen years of age. Chilo needed dexterous, and, above all, stalwart men. As to the thousand sestertia, he considered that—thanks to the plan which he had invented—he would be able in every case to spare a large part of it.
They insisted for some time, but when he refused decisively they yielded.
"I know the baker Demas," said Quartus, "in whose mills slaves and hired men are employed. One of those hired men is so strong that he would take the place, not of two, but of four. I myself have seen him lift stones from the ground which four men could not stir."
"If that is a God-fearing man, who can sacrifice himself for the brotherhood, make me acquainted with him," said Chilo.
"He is a Christian, lord," answered Quartus; "nearly all who work for Demas are Christians. He has night as well as day laborers; this man is of the night laborers. Were we to go now to the mill, we should find them at supper, and thou mightest speak to him freely. Demas lives near the Emporium."
Chilo consented most willingly. The Emporium was at the foot of the Aventine, hence not very far from the Circus Maximus. It was possible, without going around the hill, to pass along the river through the Porticus AEmilia, which would shorten the road considerably.
"I am old," said Chilo, when they went under the Colonnade; "at times I suffer effacement of memory. Yes, though our Christ was betrayed by one of his disciples, the name of the traitor I cannot recall at this moment—"
"Judas, lord, who hanged himself," answered Quartus, wondering a little in his soul how it was possible to forget that name.
"Oh, yes—Judas! I thank thee," said Chilo.
And they went on some time in silence. When they came to the Emporium, which was closed, they passed it, and going around the storehouse, from which grain was distributed to the populace, they turned toward the left, to houses which stretched along the Via Ostiensis, up to the Mons Testaceus and the Forum Pistorium. There they halted before a wooden building, from the interior of which came the noise of millstones. Quartus went in; but Chilo, who did not like to show himself to large numbers of people, and was in continual dread that some fate might bring him to meet Glaucus, remained outside.
"I am curious about that Hercules who serves in a mill," said he to himself, looking at the brightly shining moon. "If he is a scoundrel and a wise man, he will cost me something; if a virtuous Christian and dull, he will do what I want without money."
Further meditation was interrupted by the return of Quartus, who issued from the building with a second man, wearing only a tunic called "exomis," cut in such fashion that the right arm and right breast were exposed. Such garments, since they left perfect freedom of movement, were used especially by laborers. Chilo, when he saw the man coming, drew a breath of satisfaction, for he had not seen in his life such an arm and such a breast.
"Here, lord," said Quartus, "is the brother whom it was thy wish to see."
"May the peace of Christ be with thee!" answered Chilo. "Do thou, Quartus, tell this brother whether I deserve faith and trust, and then return in the name of God; for there is no need that thy gray-haired father should be left in loneliness."
"This is a holy man," said Quartus, "who gave all his property to redeem me from slavery,—me, a man unknown to him. May our Lord the Saviour prepare him a heavenly reward therefor!"
The gigantic laborer, hearing this, bent down and kissed Chilo's hand.
"What is thy name, brother?" inquired the Greek.
"At holy baptism, father, the name Urban was given me."
"Urban, my brother, hast thou time to talk with me freely?"
"Our work begins at midnight, and only now are they preparing our supper."
"Then there is time sufficient. Let us go to the river; there thou wilt hear my words."
They went, and sat on the embankment, in a silence broken only by the distant sound of the millstones and the plash of the onflowing river. Chilo looked into the face of the laborer, which, notwithstanding a somewhat severe and sad expression, such as was usual on faces of barbarians living in Rome, seemed to him kind and honest.
"This is a good-natured, dull man who will kill Glaucus for nothing," thought Chilo.
"Urban," inquired he then, "dost thou love Christ?"
"I love him from the soul of my heart," said the laborer.
"And thy brethren and sisters, and those who taught thee truth and faith in Christ?"
"I love them, too, father."
"Then may peace be with thee!"
"And with thee, father!"
Again silence set in, but in the distance the millstones were roaring, and the river was plashing below the two men.
Chilo looked with fixed gaze into the clear moonlight, and with a slow, restrained voice began to speak of Christ's death. He seemed not as speaking to Urban, but as if recalling to himself that death, or some secret which he was confiding to the drowsy city. There was in this, too, something touching as well as impressive. The laborer wept; and when Chilo began to groan and complain that in the moment of the Saviour's passion there was no one to defend him, if not from crucifixion, at least from the insults of Jews and soldiers, the gigantic fists of the barbarian began to squeeze from pity and suppressed rage. The death only moved him; but at thought of that rabble reviling the Lamb nailed to the cross, the simple soul in him was indignant, and a wild desire of vengeance seized the man.
"Urban, dost thou know who Judas was?" asked Chilo, suddenly.
"I know, I know!—but he hanged himself!" exclaimed the laborer.
And in his voice there was a kind of sorrow that the traitor had meted out punishment to himself, and that Judas could not fall into his hands.
"But if he had not hanged himself," continued Chilo, "and if some Christian were to meet him on land or on sea, would it not be the duty of that Christian to take revenge for the torment, the blood, and the death of the Saviour?"
"Who is there who would not take revenge, father?"
"Peace be with thee, faithful servant of the Lamb! True, it is permitted to forgive wrongs done ourselves; but who has the right to forgive a wrong done to God? But as a serpent engenders a serpent, as malice breeds malice, and treason breeds treason, so from the poison of Judas another traitor has come; and as that one delivered to Jews and Roman soldiers the Saviour, so this man who lives among us intends to give Christ's sheep to the wolves; and if no one will anticipate the treason, if no one will crush the head of the serpent in time, destruction is waiting for us all, and with us will perish the honor of the Lamb."
The laborer looked at Chilo with immense alarm, as if not understanding what he had heard. But the Greek, covering his head with a corner of his mantle, began to repeat, with a voice coming as if from beneath the earth,—"Woe to you, servants of the true God! woe to you, Christian men and Christian women!"
And again came silence, again were heard only the roar of the millstones, the deep song of the millers, and the sound of the river.
"Father," asked the laborer at last, "what kind of traitor is that?"
Chilo dropped his head. "What kind of traitor? A son of Judas, a son of his poison, a man who pretends to be a Christian, and goes to houses of prayer only to complain of the brotherhood to Caesar,—declaring that they will not recognize Caesar as a god; that they poison fountains, murder children, and wish to destroy the city, so that one stone may not remain on another. Behold! in a few days a command will be given to the pretorians to cast old men, women, and children into prison, and lead them to death, just as they led to death the slaves of Pedanius Secundus. All this has been done by that second Judas. But if no one punished the first Judas, if no one took vengeance on him, if no one defended Christ in the hour of torment, who will punish this one, who will destroy the serpent before Caesar hears him, who will destroy him, who will defend from destruction our brothers in the faith of Christ?"
Urban, who had been sitting thus far on a stone, stood up on a sudden, and said,—"I will, father."
Chilo rose also; he looked for a while on the face of the laborer, lighted up by the shining of the moon, then, stretching his arm, he put his hand slowly on his head.
"Go among Christians," said he, with solemnity; "go to the houses of prayer, and ask the brethren about Glaucus; and when they show him to thee, slay him at once in Christ's name!"
"About Glaucus?" repeated the laborer, as if wishing to fix that name in his memory.
"Dost thou know him?"
"No, I do not. There are thousands of Christians in Rome, and they are not all known to one another. But to-morrow, in Ostrianum, brethren and sisters will assemble in the night to the last soul, because a great apostle of Christ has come, who will teach them, and the brethren will point out to me Glaucus."
"In Ostrianum?" inquired Chilo. "But that is outside the city gates! The brethren and all the sisters,—at night? Outside the city gates, in Ostrianum?"
"Yes, father; that is our cemetery, between the Viae Salaria and Nomentana. Is it not known to thee that the Great Apostle will teach there?"
"I have been two days from home, hence I did not receive his epistle; and I do not know where Ostrianum is, for I came here not long since from Corinth, where I govern a Christian community. But it is as thou sayest,—there thou wilt find Glaucus among the brethren, and thou wilt slay him on the way home to the city. For this all thy sins will be forgiven. And now peace be with thee—"
"I listen to thee, servant of the Lamb."
On the laborer's face perplexity was evident. Not long before he had killed a man, and perhaps two, but the teaching of Christ forbids killing. He had not killed them in his own defence, for even that is not permitted. He had not killed them, Christ preserve! for profit. The bishop himself had given him brethren to assist, but had not permitted him to kill; he had killed inadvertently, for God had punished him with too much strength. And now he was doing grievous penance. Others sing when the millstones are grinding; but he, hapless man, is thinking of his sin, of his offence against the Lamb. How much has he prayed already and wept? How much has he implored the Lamb? And he feels that he has not done penance enough yet! But now he has promised again to kill a traitor,—and done well! He is permitted to pardon only offences against himself; hence he will kill Glaucus, even before the eyes of all the brethren and sisters, in Ostrianum to-morrow. But let Glaucus be condemned previously by the elders among the brethren, by the bishop, or by the Apostle. To kill is not a great thing; to kill a traitor is even as pleasant as to kill a bear or a wolf. But suppose Glaucus to perish innocently? How take on his conscience a new murder, a new sin, a new offence against the Lamb?
"There is no time for a trial, my son," said Chilo. "The traitor will hurry from Ostrianum straightway to Caesar in Antium, or hide in the house of a certain patrician whom he is serving. I will give thee a sign; if thou show it after the death of Glaucus, the bishop and the Great Apostle will bless thy deed."
Saying this, he took out a small coin, and began to search for a knife at his belt; having found it, he scratched with the point on the sestertium the sign of the cross; this coin he gave to the laborer.
"Here is the sentence of Glaucus, and a sign for thee. If thou show this to the bishop after the death of Glaucus, he will forgive thee the killing which thou hast done without wishing it."
The laborer stretched out his hand involuntarily for the coin; but having the first murder too freshly in his memory just then, he experienced a feeling of terror.
"Father," said he with a voice almost of entreaty, "dost thou take this deed on thy conscience, and hast thou thyself heard Glaucus betraying his brethren?"
Chilo understood that he must give proofs, mention names, otherwise doubt might creep into the heart of the giant. All at once a happy thought flashed through his head.
"Listen, Urban," said he, "I dwell in Corinth, but I came from Kos; and here in Rome I instruct in the religion of Christ a certain serving maiden named Eunice. She serves as vestiplica in the house of a friend of Caesar, a certain Petronius. In that house I have heard how Glaucus has undertaken to betray all the Christians; and, besides, he has promised another informer of Caesar's, Vinicius, to find a certain maiden for him among the Christians."
Here he stopped and looked with amazement at the laborer, whose eyes blazed suddenly like the eyes of a wild beast, and his face took on an expression of mad rage and threat.
"What is the matter with thee?" asked Chilo, almost in fear.
"Nothing, father; to-morrow I will kill Glaucus."
The Greek was silent. After a while he took the arm of the laborer, turned him so that the light of the moon struck his face squarely, and examined him with care. It was evident that he was wavering in spirit whether to inquire further and bring everything out with clearness, or for that time to stop with what he had learned or surmised.
At last, however, his innate caution prevailed. He breathed deeply once and a second time; then, placing his hand on the laborer's head again, he asked, in an emphatic and solemn voice,—"But in holy baptism the name Urban was given thee?"
"It was, father."
"Then peace be with thee, Urban!"
PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:
"Thy case is a bad one, carissime. It is clear that Venus has disturbed thy mind, deprived thee of reason and memory, as well as the power to think of aught else except love. Read some time thy answer to my letter, and thou wilt see how indifferent thy mind is to all except Lygia; how exclusively it is occupied with her, how it returns to her always, and circles above her, as a falcon above chosen prey. By Pollux! find her quickly, or that of thee which fire has not turned into ashes will become an Egyptian sphinx, which, enamored, as 'tis said, of pale Isis, grew deaf and indifferent to all things, waiting only for night, so as to gaze with stony eyes at the loved one.
"Run disguised through the city in the evening, even honor Christian houses of prayer in thy philosopher's company. Whatever excites hope and kills time is praiseworthy. But for my friendship's sake do this one thing: Ursus, Lygia's slave, is a man of uncommon strength very likely; hire Croton, and go out three together; that will be safer and wiser. The Christians, since Pomponia and Lygia belong to them, are surely not such scoundrels as most people imagine. But when a lamb of their flock is in question they are no triflers, as they have shown by carrying away Lygia. When thou seest Lygia thou wilt not restrain thyself, I am sure, and wilt try to bear her away on the spot. But how wilt thou and Chilonides do it? Croton would take care of himself, even though ten like Ursus defended the maiden. Be not plundered by Chilo, but be not sparing of money on Croton. Of all counsels which I can give this is the best one.
"Here they have ceased to speak of the infant Augusta, or to say that she perished through witchcraft. Poppaea mentions her at times yet; but Caesar's mind is stuffed with something else. Moreover, if it be true that the divine Augusta is in a changed state again, the memory of that child will be blown away without trace. We have been in Naples for some days, or rather in Baiae. If thou art capable of any thought, echoes of our life must strike thy ear, for surely Rome talks of naught else. We went directly to Baiae, where at first memories of the mother attacked us, and reproaches of conscience. But dost thou know to what Ahenobarbus has gone already? To this, that for him even the murder of his mother is a mere theme for verses, and a reason for buffoonish tragic scenes.
"Formerly he felt real reproaches only in so far as he was a coward; now, when he is convinced that the earth is under his feet as before, and that no god is taking vengeance, he feigns them only to move people by his fate. He springs up at night sometimes declaring that the Furies are hunting him; he rouses us, looks around, assumes the posture of an actor playing the role of Orestes, and the posture of a bad actor too; he declaims Greek verses, and looks to see if we are admiring him. We admire him apparently; and instead of saying to him, Go to sleep, thou buffoon! we bring ourselves also to the tone of tragedy, and protect the great artist from the Furies. By Castor! this news at least must have reached thee, that he has appeared in public at Naples. They drove in from the city and the surrounding towns all the Greek ruffians, who filled the arena with such a vile odor of sweat and garlic that I thank the gods that, instead of sitting in the first rows with the Augustians, I was behind the scenes with Ahenobarbus. And wilt thou believe it, he was afraid really! He took my hand and put it to his heart, which was beating with increased pulsation; his breath was short; and at the moment when he had to appear he grew as pale as a parchment, and his forehead was covered with drops of sweat. Still he saw that in every row of seats were pretorians, armed with clubs, to rouse enthusiasm if the need came. But there was no need. No herd of monkeys from the environs of Carthage could howl as did this rabble. I tell thee that the smell of garlic came to the stage; but Nero bowed, pressed his hand to his heart, sent kisses from his lips, and shed tears. Then he rushed in among us, who were waiting behind the scenes, like a drunken man, crying, 'What were the triumphs of Julius compared with this triumph of mine?' But the rabble was howling yet and applauding, knowing that it would applaud to itself favors, gifts, banquets, lottery tickets, and a fresh exhibition by the Imperial buffoon. I do not wonder that they applauded, for such a sight had not been seen till that evening. And every moment he repeated: 'See what the Greeks are! see what the Greeks are!' From that evening it has seemed to me that his hatred for Rome is increasing. Meanwhile special couriers were hurried to Rome announcing the triumph, and we expect thanks from the Senate one of these days. Immediately after Nero's first exhibition, a strange event happened here. The theatre fell in on a sudden, but just after the audience had gone. I was there, and did not see even one corpse taken from the ruins. Many, even among the Greeks, see in this event the anger of the gods, because the dignity of Caesar was disgraced; he, on the contrary, finds in it favor of the gods, who have his song, and those who listen to it, under their evident protection. Hence there are offerings in all the temples, and great thanks. For Nero it is a great encouragement to make the journey to Achaea. A few days since he told me, however, that he had doubts as to what the Roman people might say; that they might revolt out of love for him, and fear touching the distribution of grain and touching the games, which might fail them in case of his prolonged absence.
"We are going, however, to Beneventum to look at the cobbler magnificence which Vatinius will exhibit, and thence to Greece, under the protection of the divine brothers of Helen. As to me, I have noted one thing, that when a man is among the mad he grows mad himself, and, what is more, finds a certain charm in mad pranks. Greece and the journey in a thousand ships; a kind of triumphal advance of Bacchus among nymphs and bacchantes crowned with myrtle, vine, and honeysuckle; there will be women in tiger skins harnessed to chariots; flowers, thyrses, garlands, shouts of 'Evoe!' music, poetry, and applauding Hellas. All this is well; but we cherish besides more daring projects. We wish to create a species of Oriental Imperium,—an empire of palm-trees, sunshine, poetry, and reality turned into a dream, reality turned into the delight of life only. We want to forget Rome; to fix the balancing point of the world somewhere between Greece, Asia, and Egypt; to live the life not of men but of gods; not to know what commonness is; to wander in golden galleys under the shadow of purple sails along the Archipelago; to be Apollo, Osiris, and Baal in one person; to be rosy with the dawn, golden with the sun, silver with the moon; to command, to sing, to dream. And wilt thou believe that I, who have still sound judgment to the value of a sestertium, and sense to the value of an as, let myself be borne away by these fantasies, and I do this for the reason that, if they are not possible, they are at least grandiose and uncommon? Such a fabulous empire would be a thing which, some time or other, after long ages, would seem a dream to mankind. Except when Venus takes the form of Lygia, or even of a slave Eunice, or when art beautifies it, life itself is empty, and many a time it has the face of a monkey. But Bronzebeard will not realize his plans, even for this cause, that in his fabulous kingdom of poetry and the Orient no place is given to treason, meanness, and death; and that in him with the poses of a poet sits a wretched comedian, a dull charioteer, and a frivolous tyrant. Meanwhile we are killing people whenever they displease us in any way. Poor Torquatus Silanus is now a shade; he opened his veins a few days since. Lecanius and Licinus will enter on the consulate with terror. Old Thrasea will not escape death, for he dares to be honest. Tigellinus is not able yet to frame a command for me to open my veins. I am still needed not only as elegantiae arbiter, but as a man without whose counsel and taste the expedition to Achaea might fail. More than once, however, I think that sooner or later it must end in opening my veins; and knowest thou what the question will be then with me?—that Bronzebeard should not get my goblet, which thou knowest and admirest. Shouldst thou be near at the moment of my death, I will give it to thee; shouldst thou be at a distance, I will break it. But meanwhile I have before me yet Beneventum of the cobblers and Olympian Greece; I have Fate too, which, unknown and unforeseen, points out the road to every one.
"Be well, and engage Croton; otherwise they will snatch Lygia from thee a second time. When Chilonides ceases to be needful, send him to me wherever I may be. Perhaps I shall make him a second Vatinius, and consuls and senators may tremble before him yet, as they trembled before that knight Dratevka. It would be worth while to live to see such a spectacle. When thou hast found Lygia, let me know, so that I may offer for you both a pair of swans and a pair of doves in the round temple of Venus here. Once I saw Lygia in a dream, sitting on thy knee, seeking thy kisses. Try to make that dream prophetic. May there be no clouds on thy sky; or if there be, let them have the color and the odor of roses! Be in good health; and farewell!"
BARELY had Vinicius finished reading when Chilo pushed quietly into his library, unannounced by any one, for the servants had the order to admit him at every hour of the day or night.
"May the divine mother of thy magnanimous ancestor AEneas be full of favor to thee, as the son of Maia was kind to me."
"What dost thou mean?" asked Vinicius, springing from the table at which he was sitting.
Chilo raised his head and said, "Eureka!"
The young patrician was so excited that for a long time he could not utter a word.
"Hast thou seen her?" asked he, at last.
"I have seen Ursus, lord, and have spoken with him."
"Dost thou know where they are secreted?"
"No, lord. Another, through boastfulness, would have let the Lygian know that he divined who he was; another would have tried to extort from him the knowledge of where he lived, and would have received either a stroke of the fist,—after which all earthly affairs would have become indifferent to him,—or he would have roused the suspicion of the giant and caused this,—that a new hiding-place would be found for the girl, this very night perhaps. I did not act thus. It suffices me to know that Ursus works near the Emporium, for a miller named Demas, the same name as that borne by thy freedman; now any trusted slave of thine may go in the morning on his track, and discover their hiding place. I bring thee merely the assurance that, since Ursus is here, the divine Lygia also is in Rome, and a second news that she will be in Ostrianum to-night, almost certainly—"
"In Ostrianum? Where is that?" interrupted Vinicius, wishing evidently to run to the place indicated.
"An old hypogeum between the Viae Salaria and Nomentana. That pontifex maximus of the Christians, of whom I spoke to thee, and whom they expected somewhat later, has come, and to-night he will teach and baptize in that cemetery. They hide their religion, for, though there are no edicts to prohibit it as yet, the people hate them, so they must be careful. Ursus himself told me that all, to the last soul, would be in Ostrianum to-night, for every one wishes to see and hear him who was the foremost disciple of Christ, and whom they call Apostle. Since among them women hear instruction as well as men, Pomponia alone perhaps of women will not be there; she could not explain to Aulus, a worshipper of the ancient gods, her absence from home at night. But Lygia, lord, who is under the care of Ursus and the Christian elders, will go undoubtedly with other women."
Vinicius, who had lived hitherto in a fever, and upheld as it were, by hope alone, now that his hope seemed fulfilled felt all at once the weakness that a man feels after a journey which has proved beyond his strength. Chilo noticed this, and resolved to make use of it.
"The gates are watched, it is true, by thy people, and the Christians must know that. But they do not need gates. The Tiber, too, does not need them; and though it is far from the river to those roads, it is worth while to walk one road more to see the 'Great Apostle.' Moreover they may have a thousand ways of going beyond the walls, and I know that they have. In Ostrianum thou wilt find Lygia; and even should she not be there, which I will not admit, Ursus will be there, for he has promised to kill Glaucus. He told me himself that he would be there, and that he would kill him. Dost hear, noble tribune? Either thou wilt follow Ursus and learn where Lygia dwells, or thou wilt command thy people to seize him as a murderer, and, having him in thy hand, thou wilt make him confess where he has hidden Lygia. I have done my best! Another would have told thee that he had drunk ten cantars of the best wine with Ursus before he wormed the secret out of him; another would have told thee that he had lost a thousand sestertia to him in scriptoe duodecim, or that he had bought the intelligence for two thousand; I know that thou wouldst repay me doubly, but in spite of that, once in my life—I mean, as always in my life—I shall be honest, for I think, as the magnanimous Petronius says, that thy bounty exceeds all my hopes and expectations."
Vinicius, who was a soldier and accustomed not only to take counsel of himself in all cases, but to act, was overcome by a momentary weakness and said,—"Thou wilt not deceive thyself as to my liberality, but first thou wilt go with me to Ostrianum."
"I, to Ostrianum?" inquired Chilo, who had not the least wish to go there. "I, noble tribune, promised thee to point out Lygia, but I did not promise to take her away for thee. Think, lord, what would happen to me if that Lygian bear, when he had torn Glaucus to pieces, should convince himself straightway that he had torn him not altogether justly? Would he not look on me (of course without reason) as the cause of the accomplished murder? Remember, lord, that the greater philosopher a man is, the more difficult it is for him to answer the foolish questions of common people; what should I answer him were he to ask me why I calumniated Glaucus? But if thou suspect that I deceive thee, I say, pay me only when I point out the house in which Lygia lives; show me to-day only a part of thy liberality, so that if thou, lord (which may all the gods ward from thee), succumb to some accident, I shall not be entirely without recompense. Thy heart could not endure that."
Vinicius went to a casket called "area," standing on a marble pedestal, and, taking out a purse, threw it to Chilo.
"There are scrupula," said he; "when Lygia shall be in my house, thou wilt get the same full of aurei."
"Thou art Jove!" exclaimed Chilo.
But Vinicius frowned.
"Thou wilt receive food here," said he; "then thou mayest rest. Thou wilt not leave this house till evening, and when night falls thou wilt go with me to Ostrianum."
Fear and hesitation were reflected on the Greek's face for a time; but afterward he grew calm, and said,—"Who can oppose thee, lord! Receive these my words as of good omen, just as our great hero received words like them in the temple of Ammon. As to me, these 'scruples'" (here he shook the purse) "have outweighed mine, not to mention thy society, which for me is delight and happiness."
Vinicius interrupted him impatiently, and asked for details of his conversation with Ursus. From them it seemed clear that either Lygia's hiding-place would be discovered that night, or he would be able to seize her on the road back from Ostrianum. At thought of this, Vinicius was borne away by wild delight. Now, when he felt clearly sure of finding Lygia, his anger against her, and his feeling of offence almost vanished. In return for that delight he forgave her every fault. He thought of her only as dear and desired, and he had the same impression as if she were returning after a long journey. He wished to summon his slaves and command them to deck the house with garlands. In that hour he had not a complaint against Ursus, even. He was ready to forgive all people everything. Chilo, for whom, in spite of his services, he had felt hitherto a certain repulsion, seemed to him for the first time an amusing and also an uncommon person. His house grew radiant; his eyes and his face became bright. He began again to feel youth and the pleasure of life. His former gloomy suffering had not given him yet a sufficient measure of how he loved Lygia. He understood this now for the first time, when he hoped to possess her. His desires woke in him, as the earth, warmed by the sun, wakes in spring; but his desires this time were less blind and wild, as it were, and more joyous and tender. He felt also within himself energy without bounds, and was convinced that should he but see Lygia with his own eyes, all the Christians on earth could not take her from him, nor could Caesar himself.
Chilo, emboldened by the young tribune's delight, regained power of speech and began to give advice. According to him, it behooved Vinicius not to look on the affair as won, and to observe the greatest caution, without which all their work might end in nothing. He implored Vinicius not to carry off Lygia from Ostrianum. They ought to go there with hoods on their heads, with their faces hidden, and restrict themselves to looking at all who were present from some dark corner. When they saw Lygia, it would be safest to follow her at a distance, see what house she entered, surround it next morning at daybreak, and take her away in open daylight. Since she was a hostage and belonged specially to Caesar, they might do that without fear of law. In the event of not finding her in Ostrianum they could follow Ursus, and the result would be the same. To go to the cemetery with a crowd of attendants was impracticable,—that might draw attention to them easily; then the Christians need only put out the lights, as they did when she was intercepted, and scatter in the darkness, or betake themselves to places known to them only. But Vinicius and he should arm, and, still better, take a couple of strong, trusty men to defend them in case of need.
Vinicius saw the perfect truth of what he said, and, recalling Petronius's counsel, commanded his slaves to bring Croton. Chilo, who knew every one in Rome, was set at rest notably when he heard the name of the famous athlete, whose superhuman strength in the arena he had wondered at more than once, and he declared that he would go to Ostrianum. The purse filled with great aurei seemed to him much easier of acquisition through the aid of Croton.
Hence he sat down in good spirits at the table to which, after a time, he was called by the chief of the atrium.
While eating, he told the slaves that he had obtained for their master a miraculous ointment. The worst horse, if rubbed on the hoofs with it, would leave every other far behind. A certain Christian had taught him how to prepare that ointment, for the Christian elders were far more skilled in enchantment and miracles than even the Thessalians, though Thessaly was renowned for its witches. The Christians had immense confidence in him—why, any one easily understands who knows what a fish means. While speaking he looked sharply at the eyes of the slaves, in the hope of discovering a Christian among them and informing Vinicius. But when the hope failed him, he fell to eating and drinking uncommon quantities, not sparing praises on the cook, and declaring that he would endeavor to buy him of Vinicius. His joyfulness was dimmed only by the thought that at night he must go to Ostrianum. He comforted himself, however, as he would go in disguise, in darkness, and in the company of two men, one of whom was so strong that he was the idol of Rome; the other a patrician, a man of high dignity in the army. "Even should they discover Vinicius," said he to himself, "they will not dare to raise a hand on him; as to me, they will be wise if they see the tip of my nose even."
He fell then to recalling his conversation with the laborer; and the recollection of that filled him again with delight. He had not the least doubt that that laborer was Ursus. He knew of the uncommon strength of the man, from the narratives of Vinicius, and those who had brought Lygia from Caesar's palace. When he inquired of Euricius touching men of exceptional strength, there was nothing remarkable in this, that they pointed out Ursus. Then the confusion and rage of the laborer at mention of Vinicius and Lygia left him no doubt that those persons concerned him particularly; the laborer had mentioned also his penance for killing a man,—Ursus had killed Atacinus; finally, the appearance of the laborer answered perfectly to the account which Vinicius had given of the Lygian. The change of name was all that could provoke doubt, but Chilo knew that frequently Christians took new names at baptism.
"Should Ursus kill Glaucus," said Chilo to himself, "that will be better still; but should he not kill him, that will be a good sign, for it will show how difficult it is for Christians to murder. I described Glaucus as a real son of Judas, and a traitor to all Christians; I was so eloquent that a stone would have been moved, and would have promised to fall on the head of Glaucus. Still I hardly moved that Lygian bear to put his paw on him. He hesitated, was unwilling, spoke of his penance and compunction. Evidently murder is not common among them. Offences against one's self must be forgiven, and there is not much freedom in taking revenge for others. Ergo, stop! think, Chilo, what can threaten thee? Glaucus is not free to avenge himself on thee. If Ursus will not kill Glaucus for such a great crime as the betrayal of all Christians, so much the more will he not kill thee for the small offence of betraying one Christian. Moreover, when I have once pointed out to this ardent wood-pigeon the nest of that turtle-dove, I will wash my hands of everything, and transfer myself to Naples. The Christians talk, also, of a kind of washing of the hands; that is evidently a method by which, if a man has an affair with them, he may finish it decisively. What good people these Christians are, and how ill men speak of them! O God! such is the justice of this world. But I love that religion, since it does not permit killing; but if it does not permit killing, it certainly does not permit stealing, deceit, or false testimony; hence I will not say that it is easy. It teaches, evidently, not only to die honestly, as the Stoics teach, but to live honestly also. If ever I have property and a house, like this, and slaves in such numbers as Vinicius, perhaps I shall be a Christian as long as may be convenient. For a rich man can permit himself everything, even virtue. This is a religion for the rich; hence I do not understand how there are so many poor among its adherents. What good is it for them, and why do they let virtue tie their hands? I must think over this sometime. Meanwhile praise to thee, Hermes! for helping me discover this badger. But if thou hast done so for the two white yearling heifers with gilded horns, I know thee not. Be ashamed, O slayer of Argos! such a wise god as thou, and not foresee that thou wilt get nothing! I will offer thee my gratitude; and if thou prefer two beasts to it, thou art the third beast thyself, and in the best event thou shouldst be a shepherd, not a god. Have a care, too, lest I, as a philosopher, prove to men that thou art non-existent, and then all will cease to bring thee offerings. It is safer to be on good terms with philosophers."