Speaking thus to himself and to Hermes, he stretched on the sofa, put his mantle under his head, and was sleeping when the slave removed the dishes. He woke,—or rather they roused him,—only at the coming of Croton. He went to the atrium, then, and began to examine with pleasure the form of the trainer, an ex-gladiator, who seemed to fill the whole place with his immensity. Croton had stipulated as to the price of the trip, and was just speaking to Vinicius.
"By Hercules! it is well, lord," said he, "that thou hast sent to-day for me, since I shall start to-morrow for Beneventum, whither the noble Vatinius has summoned me to make a trial, in presence of Caesar, of a certain Syphax, the most powerful negro that Africa has ever produced. Dost thou imagine, lord, how his spinal column will crack in my arms, or how besides I shall break his black jaw with my fist?"
"By Pollux! Croton, I am sure that thou wilt do that," answered Vinicius.
"And thou wilt act excellently," added Chilo. "Yes, to break his jaw, besides! That's a good idea, and a deed which befits thee. But rub thy limbs with olive oil to-day, my Hercules, and gird thyself, for know this, you mayst meet a real Cacus. The man who is guarding that girl in whom the worthy Vinicius takes interest, has exceptional strength very likely."
Chilo spoke thus only to rouse Croton's ambition.
"That is true," said Vinicius; "I have not seen him, but they tell me that he can take a bull by the horns and drag him wherever he pleases."
"Oi!" exclaimed Chilo, who had not imagined that Ursus was so strong. But Croton laughed, from contempt. "I undertake, worthy lord," said he, "to bear away with this hand whomever thou shalt point out to me, and with this other defend myself against seven such Lygians, and bring the maiden to thy dwelling though all the Christians in Rome were pursuing me like Calabrian wolves. If not, I will let myself be beaten with clubs in this impluvium."
"Do not permit that, lord," cried Chilo. "They will hurl stones at us, and what could his strength effect? Is it not better to take the girl from the house,—not expose thyself or her to destruction?"
"This is true, Croton," said Vinicius.
"I receive thy money, I do thy will! But remember, lord, that to-morrow I go to Beneventum."
"I have five hundred slaves in the city," answered Vinicius.
He gave them a sign to withdraw, went to the library himself, and sitting down wrote the following words to Petronius,—
"The Lygian has been found by Chilo. I go this evening with him and Croton to Ostrianum, and shall carry her off from the house to-night or to-morrow. May the gods pour down on thee everything favorable. Be well, O carissime! for joy will not let me write further."
Laying aside the reed then, he began to walk with quick step; for besides delight, which was overflowing his soul, he was tormented with fever. He said to himself that to-morrow Lygia would be in that house. He did not know how to act with her, but felt that if she would love him he would be her servant. He recalled Acte's assurance that he had been loved, and that moved him to the uttermost. Hence it would be merely a question of conquering a certain maiden modesty, and a question of certain ceremonies which Christian teaching evidently commanded. But if that were true, Lygia, when once in his house, would yield to persuasion or superior force; she would have to say to herself, "It has happened!" and then she would be amiable and loving.
But Chilo appeared and interrupted the course of these pleasant thoughts. "Lord," said the Greek, "this is what has come to my head. Have not the Christians signs, 'passwords,' without which no one will be admitted to Ostrianum? I know that it is so in houses of prayer, and I have received those passwords from Euricius; permit me then to go to him, lord, to ask precisely, and receive the needful signs."
"Well, noble sage," answered Vinicius, gladly; "thou speakest as a man of forethought, and for that praise belongs to thee. Thou wit go, then, to Euricius, or whithersoever it may please thee; but as security thou wilt leave on this table here that purse which thou hast received from me."
Chilo, who always parted with money unwillingly, squirmed; still he obeyed the command and went out. From the Carinae to the Circus, near which was the little shop of Euricius, it was not very far; hence he returned considerably before evening.
"Here are the signs, lord. Without them they would not admit us. I have inquired carefully about the road. I told Euricius that I needed the signs only for my friends; that I would not go myself, since it was too far for my advanced age; that, moreover, I should see the Great Apostle myself to-morrow, and he would repeat to me the choicest parts of his sermon."
"How! Thou wilt not be there? Thou must go!" said Vinicius.
"I know that I must; but I will go well hooded, and I advise thee to go in like manner, or we may frighten the birds."
In fact they began soon to prepare, for darkness had come on the world. They put on Gallic cloaks with hoods, and took lanterns; Vinicius, besides, armed himself and his companions with short, curved knives; Chilo put on a wig, which he obtained on the way from the old man's shop, and they went out, hurrying so as to reach the distant Nomentan Gate before it was closed.
THEY went through the Vicus Patricius, along the Viminal to the former Viminal gate, near the plain on which Diocletian afterward built splendid baths. They passed the remains of the wall of Servius Tullius, and through places more and more deserted they reached the Via Nomentana; there, turning to the left, towards the Via Salaria, they found themselves among hills full of sand-pits, and here and there they found graveyards.
Meanwhile it had grown dark completely, and since the moon had not risen yet, it would have been rather difficult for them to find the road were it not that the Christians themselves indicated it, as Chilo foresaw.
In fact, on the right, on the left, and in front, dark forms were evident, making their way carefully toward sandy hollows. Some of these people carried lanterns,—covering them, however, as far as possible with mantles; others, knowing the road better, went in the dark. The trained military eye of Vinicius distinguished, by their movements, younger men from old ones, who walked with canes, and from women, wrapped carefully in long mantles. The highway police, and villagers leaving the city, took those night wanderers, evidently, for laborers, going to sand-pits; or grave-diggers, who at times celebrated ceremonies of their own in the night-time. In proportion, however, as the young patrician and his attendants pushed forward, more and more lanterns gleamed, and the number of persons grew greater. Some of them sang songs in low voices, which to Vinicius seemed filled with sadness. At moments a separate word or a phrase of the song struck his ear, as, for instance, "Awake, thou that sleepest," or "Rise from the dead"; at times, again, the name of Christ was repeated by men and women.
But Vinicius turned slight attention to the words, for it came to his head that one of those dark forms might be Lygia. Some, passing near, said, "Peace be with thee!" or "Glory be to Christ!" but disquiet seized him, and his heart began to beat with more life, for it seemed to him that he heard Lygia's voice. Forms or movements like hers deceived him in the darkness every moment, and only when he had corrected mistakes made repeatedly did he begin to distrust his own eyes.
The way seemed long to him. He knew the neighborhood exactly, but could not fix places in the darkness. Every moment they came to some narrow passage, or piece of wall, or booths, which he did not remember as being in the vicinity of the city. Finally the edge of the moon appeared from behind a mass of clouds, and lighted the place better than dim lanterns. Something from afar began at last to glimmer like a fire, or the flame of a torch. Vinicius turned to Chilo.
"Is that Ostrianum?" asked he.
Chilo, on whom night, distance from the city, and those ghostlike forms made a deep impression, replied in a voice somewhat uncertain,—"I know not, lord; I have never been in Ostrianum. But they might praise God in some spot nearer the city."
After a while, feeling the need of conversation, and of strengthening his courage, he added,—"They come together like murderers; still they are not permitted to murder, unless that Lygian has deceived me shamefully."
Vinicius, who was thinking of Lygia, was astonished also by the caution and mysteriousness with which her co-religionists assembled to hear their highest priest; hence he said,—"Like all religions, this has its adherents in the midst of us; but the Christians are a Jewish sect. Why do they assemble here, when in the Trans-Tiber there are temples to which the Jews take their offerings in daylight?"
"The Jews, lord, are their bitterest enemies. I have heard that, before the present Caesar's time, it came to war, almost, between Jews and Christians. Those outbreaks forced Claudius Caesar to expell all the Jews, but at present that edict is abolished. The Christians, however, hide themselves from Jews, and from the populace, who, as is known to thee, accuse them of crimes and hate them."
They walked on some time in silence, till Chilo, whose fear increased as he receded from the gates, said,—"When returning from the shop of Euricius, I borrowed a wig from a barber, and have put two beans in my nostrils. They must not recognize me; but if they do, they will not kill me. They are not malignant! They are even very honest. I esteem and love them."
"Do not win them to thyself by premature praises," retorted Vinicius.
They went now into a narrow depression, closed, as it were, by two ditches on the side, over which an aqueduct was thrown in one place. The moon came out from behind clouds, and at the end of the depression they saw a wall, covered thickly with ivy, which looked silvery in the moonlight. That was Ostrianum.
Vinicius's heart began to beat now with more vigor. At the gate two quarryrnen took the signs from them. In a moment Vinicius and his attendants were in a rather spacious place enclosed on all sides by a wall. Here and there were separate monuments, and in the centre was the entrance to the hypogeum itself, or crypt. In the lower part of the crypt, beneath the earth, were graves; before the entrance a fountain was playing. But it was evident that no very large number of persons could find room in the hypogeum; hence Vinicius divined without difficulty that the ceremony would take place outside, in the space where a very numerous throng was soon gathered.
As far as the eye could reach, lantern gleamed near lantern, but many of those who came had no light whatever. With the exception of a few uncovered heads, all were hooded, from fear of treason or the cold; and the young patrician thought with alarm that, should they remain thus, he would not be able to recognize Lygia in that crowd and in the dim light.
But all at once, near the crypt, some pitch torches were ignited and put into a little pile. There was more light. After a while the crowd began to sing a certain strange hymn, at first in a low voice, and then louder. Vinicius had never heard such a hymn before. The same yearning which had struck him in the hymns murmured by separate persons on the way to the cemetery, was heard now in that, but with far more distinctness and power; and at last it became as penetrating and immense as if together with the people, the whole cemetery, the hills, the pits, and the region about, had begun to yearn. It might seem, also, that there was in it a certain calling in the night, a certain humble prayer for rescue in wandering and darkness.
Eyes turned upward seemed to see some one far above, there on high, and outstretched hands seemed to implore him to descend. When the hymn ceased, there followed a moment as it were of suspense,—so impressive that Vinicius and his companions looked unwittingly toward the stars, as if in dread that something uncommon would happen, and that some one would really descend to them.
Vinicius had seen a multitude of temples of most various structure in Asia Minor, in Egypt, and in Rome itself; he had become acquainted with a multitude of religions, most varied in character, and had heard many hymns; but here, for the first time, he saw people calling on a divinity with hymns,—not to carry out a fixed ritual, but calling from the bottom of the heart, with the genuine yearning which children might feel for a father or a mother. One had to be blind not to see that those people not merely honored their God, but loved him with the whole soul. Vinicius had not seen the like, so far, in any land, during any ceremony, in any sanctuary; for in Rome and in Greece those who still rendered honor to the gods did so to gain aid for themselves or through fear; but it had not even entered any one's head to love those divinities.
Though his mind was occupied with Lygia, and his attention with seeking her in the crowd, he could not avoid seeing those uncommon and wonderful things which were happening around him. Meanwhile a few more torches were thrown on the fire, which filled the cemetery with ruddy light and darkened the gleam of the lanterns. That moment an old man, wearing a hooded mantle but with a bare head, issued from the hypogeum. This man mounted a stone which lay near the fire.
The crowd swayed before him. Voices near Vinicius whispered, "Peter! Peter!" Some knelt, others extended their hands toward him. There followed a silence so deep that one heard every charred particle that dropped from the torches, the distant rattle of wheels on the Via Nomentana, and the sound of wind through the few pines which grew close to the cemetery.
Chilo bent toward Vinicius and whispered,—"This is he! The foremost disciple of Christ-a fisherman!"
The old man raised his hand, and with the sign of the cross blessed those present, who fell on their knees simultaneously. Vinicius and his attendants, not wishing to betray themselves, followed the example of others. The young man could not seize his impressions immediately, for it seemed to him that the form which he saw there before him was both simple and uncommon, and, what was more, the uncommonness flowed just from the simplicity. The old man had no mitre on his head, no garland of oak-leaves on his temples, no palm in his hand, no golden tablet on his breast, he wore no white robe embroidered with stars; in a word, he bore no insignia of the kind worn by priests—Oriental, Egyptian, or Greek—or by Roman flamens. And Vinicius was struck by that same difference again which he felt when listening to the Christian hymns; for that "fisherman," too, seemed to him, not like some high priest skilled in ceremonial, but as it were a witness, simple, aged, and immensely venerable, who had journeyed from afar to relate a truth which he had seen, which he had touched, which he believed as he believed in existence, and he had come to love this truth precisely because he believed it. There was in his face, therefore, such a power of convincing as truth itself has. And Vinicius, who had been a sceptic, who did not wish to yield to the charm of the old man, yielded, however, to a certain feverish curiosity to know what would flow from the lips of that companion of the mysterious "Christus," and what that teaching was of which Lygia and Pomponia Graecina were followers.
Meanwhile Peter began to speak, and he spoke from the beginning like a father instructing his children and teaching them how to live. He enjoined on them to renounce excess and luxury, to love poverty, purity of life, and truth, to endure wrongs and persecutions patiently, to obey the government and those placed above them, to guard against treason, deceit, and calumny; finally, to give an example in their own society to each other, and even to pagans.
Vinicius, for whom good was only that which could bring back to him Lygia, and evil everything which stood as a barrier between them, was touched and angered by certain of those counsels. It seemed to him that by enjoining purity and a struggle with desires the old man dared, not only to condemn his love, but to rouse Lygia against him and confirm her in opposition. He understood that if she were in the assembly listening to those words, and if she took them to heart, she must think of him as an enemy of that teaching and an outcast.
Anger seized him at this thought. "What have I heard that is new?" thought he. "Is this the new religion? Every one knows this, every one has heard it. The Cynics enjoined poverty and a restriction of necessities; Socrates enjoined virtue as an old thing and a good one; the first Stoic one meets, even such a one as Seneca, who has five hundred tables of lemon-wood, praises moderation, enjoins truth, patience in adversity, endurance in misfortune,—and all that is like stale, mouse-eaten grain; but people do not wish to eat it because it smells of age."
And besides anger, he had a feeling of disappointment, for he expected the discovery of unknown, magic secrets of some kind, and thought that at least he would hear a rhetor astonishing by his eloquence; meanwhile he heard only words which were immensely simple, devoid of every ornament. He was astonished only by the mute attention with which the crowd listened.
But the old man spoke on to those people sunk in listening,—told them to be kind, poor, peaceful, just, and pure; not that they might have peace during life, but that they might live eternally with Christ after death, in such joy and such glory, in such health and delight, as no one on earth had attained at any time. And here Vinicius, though predisposed unfavorably, could not but notice that still there was a difference between the teaching of the old man and that of the Cynics, Stoics, and other philosophers; for they enjoin good and virtue as reasonable, and the only thing practical in life, while he promised immortality, and that not some kind of hapless immortality beneath the earth, in wretchedness, emptiness, and want, but a magnificent life, equal to that of the gods almost. He spoke meanwhile of it as of a thing perfectly certain; hence, in view of such a faith, virtue acquired a value simply measureless, and the misfortunes of this life became incomparably trivial. To suffer temporally for inexhaustible happiness is a thing absolutely different from suffering because such is the order of nature. But the old man said further that virtue and truth should be loved for themselves, since the highest eternal good and the virtue existing before ages is God; whoso therefore loves them loves God, and by that same becomes a cherished child of His.
Vinicius did not understand this well, but he knew previously, from words spoken by Pomponia Graecina to Petronius, that, according to the belief of Christians, God was one and almighty; when, therefore, he heard now again that He is all good and all just, he thought involuntarily that, in presence of such a demiurge, Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo, Juno, Vesta, and Venus would seem like some vain and noisy rabble, in which all were interfering at once, and each on his or her own account.
But the greatest astonishment seized him when the old man declared that God was universal love also; hence he who loves man fulfils God's supreme command. But it is not enough to love men of one's own nation, for the God-man shed his blood for all, and found among pagans such elect of his as Cornelius the Centurion; it is not enough either to love those who do good to us, for Christ forgave the Jews who delivered him to death, and the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross, we should not only forgive but love those who injure us, and return them good for evil; it is not enough to love the good, we must love the wicked also, since by love alone is it possible to expel from them evil.
Chilo at these words thought to himself that his work had gone for nothing, that never in the world would Ursus dare to kill Glaucus, either that night or any other night. But he comforted himself at once by another inference from the teaching of the old man; namely, that neither would Glaucus kill him, though he should discover and recognize him.
Vinicius did not think now that there was nothing new in the words of the old man, but with amazement he asked himself: "What kind of God is this, what kind of religion is this, and what kind of people are these?" All that he had just heard could not find place in his head simply. For him all was an unheard-of medley of ideas. He felt that if he wished, for example, to follow that teaching, he would have to place on a burning pile all his thoughts, habits, and character, his whole nature up to that moment, burn them into ashes, and then fill himself with a life altogether different, and an entirely new soul. To him the science or the religion which commanded a Roman to love Parthians, Syrians, Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, and Britons, to forgive enemies, to return them good for evil, and to love them, seemed madness. At the same time he had a feeling that in that madness itself there was something mightier than all philosophies so far. He thought that because of its madness it was impracticable, but because of its impracticability it was divine. In his soul he rejected it; but he felt that he was parting as if from a field full of spikenard, a kind of intoxicating incense; when a man has once breathed of this he must, as in the land of the lotus-eaters, forget all things else ever after, and yearn for it only.
It seemed to him that there was nothing real in that religion, but that reality in presence of it was so paltry that it deserved not the time for thought. Expanses of some kind, of which hitherto he had not had a suspicion, surrounded him,—certain immensities, certain clouds. That cemetery began to produce on him the impression of a meeting-place for madmen, but also of a place mysterious and awful, in which, as on a mystic bed, something was in progress of birth the like of which had not been in the world so far. He brought before his mind all that, which from the first moment of his speech, the old man had said touching life, truth, love, God; and his thoughts were dazed from the brightness, as the eyes are blinded from lightning flashes which follow each other unceasingly.
As is usual with people for whom life has been turned into one single passion, Vinicius thought of all this through the medium of his love for Lygia; and in the light of those flashes he saw one thing distinctly, that if Lygia was in the cemetery, if she confessed that religion, obeyed and felt it, she never could and never would be his mistress.
For the first time, then, since he had made her acquaintance at Aulus's, Vinicius felt that though now he had found her he would not get her. Nothing similar had come to his head so far, and he could not explain it to himself then, for that was not so much an express understanding as a dim feeling of irreparable loss and misfortune. There rose in him an alarm, which was turned soon into a storm of anger against the Christians in general, and against the old man in particular. That fisherman, whom at the first cast of the eye he considered a peasant, now filled him with fear almost, and seemed some mysterious power deciding his fate inexorably and therefore tragically.
The quarrymen again, unobserved, added torches to the fire; the wind ceased to sound in the pines; the flame rose evenly, with a slender point toward the stars, which were twinkling in a clear sky. Having mentioned the death of Christ, the old man talked now of Him only. All held the breath in their breasts, and a silence set in which was deeper than the preceding one, so that it was possible almost to hear the beating of hearts. That man had seen! and he narrated as one in whose memory every moment had been fixed in such a way that were he to close his eyes he would see yet. He told, therefore, how on their return from the Cross he and John had sat two days and nights in the supper-chamber, neither sleeping nor eating, in suffering, in sorrow, in doubt, in alarm, holding their heads in their hands, and thinking that He had died. Oh, how grievous, how grievous that was! The third day had dawned and the light whitened the walls, but he and John were sitting in the chamber, without hope or comfort. How desire for sleep tortured them (for they had spent the night before the Passion without sleep)! They roused themselves then, and began again to lament. But barely had the sun risen when Mary of Magdala, panting, her hair dishevelled, rushed in with the cry, "They have taken away the Lord!" When they heard this, he and John sprang up and ran toward the sepulchre. But John, being younger, arrived first; he saw the place empty, and dared not enter. Only when there were three at the entrance did he, the person now speaking to them, enter, and find on the stone a shirt with a winding sheet; but the body he found not.
Fear fell on them then, because they thought that the priests had borne away Christ, and both returned home in greater grief still. Other disciples came later and raised a lament, now in company, so that the Lord of Hosts might hear them more easily, and now separately and in turn. The spirit died within them, for they had hoped that the Master would redeem Israel, and it was now the third day since his death; hence they did not understand why the Father had deserted the Son, and they preferred not to look at the daylight, but to die, so grievous was the burden.
The remembrance of those terrible moments pressed even then from the eyes of the old man two tears, which were visible by the light of the fire, coursing down his gray beard. His hairless and aged head was shaking, and the voice died in his breast.
"That man is speaking the truth and is weeping over it," said Vinicius in his soul. Sorrow seized by the throat the simple-hearted listeners also. They had heard more than once of Christ's sufferings, and it was known to them that joy succeeded sorrow; but since an apostle who had seen it told this, they wrung their hands under the impression, and sobbed or beat their breasts.
But they calmed themselves gradually, for the wish to hear more gained the mastery. The old man closed his eyes, as if to see distant things more distinctly in his soul, and continued,—"When the disciples had lamented in this way, Mary of Magdala rushed in a second time, crying that she had seen the Lord. Unable to recognize him, she thought him the gardener: but He said, 'Mary!' She cried 'Rabboni!' and fell at his feet. He commanded her to go to the disciples, and vanished. But they, the disciples, did not believe her; and when she wept for joy, some upbraided her, some thought that sorrow had disturbed her mind, for she said, too, that she had seen angels at the grave, but they, running thither a second time, saw the grave empty. Later in the evening appeared Cleopas, who had come with another from Emmaus, and they returned quickly, saying: 'The Lord has indeed risen!' And they discussed with closed doors, out of fear of the Jews. Meanwhile He stood among them, though the doors had made no sound, and when they feared, He said, 'Peace be with you!'
"And I saw Him, as did all, and He was like light, and like the happiness of our hearts, for we believed that He had risen from the dead, and that the seas will dry and the mountains turn to dust, but His glory will not pass.
"After eight days Thomas Didymus put his finger in the Lord's wounds and touched His side; Thomas fell at His feet then, and cried, 'My Lord and my God!' 'Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen and have believed!' said the Lord. And we heard those words, and our eyes looked at Him, for He was among us."
Vinicius listened, and something wonderful took place in him. He forgot for a moment where he was; he began to lose the feeling of reality, of measure, of judgment. He stood in the presence of two impossibilities. He could not believe what the old man said; and he felt that it would be necessary either to be blind or renounce one's own reason, to admit that that man who said "I saw" was lying. There was something in his movements, in his tears, in his whole figure, and in the details of the events which he narrated, which made every suspicion impossible. To Vinicius it seemed at moments that he was dreaming. But round about he saw the silent throng; the odor of lanterns came to his nostrils; at a distance the torches were blazing; and before him on the stone stood an aged man near the grave, with a head trembling somewhat, who, while bearing witness, repeated, "I saw!"
And he narrated to them everything up to the Ascension into heaven. At moments he rested, for he spoke very circumstantially; but it could be felt that each minute detail had fixed itself in his memory, as a thing is fixed in a stone into which it has been engraved. Those who listened to him were seized by ecstasy. They threw back their hoods to hear him better, and not lose a word of those which for them were priceless. It seemed to them that some superhuman power had borne them to Galilee; that they were walking with the disciples through those groves and on those waters; that the cemetery was turned into the lake of Tiberius; that on the bank, in the mist of morning, stood Christ, as he stood when John, looking from the boat, said, "It is the Lord," and Peter cast himself in to swim, so as to fall the more quickly at the beloved feet. In the faces of those present were evident enthusiasm beyond bounds, oblivion of life, happiness, and love immeasurable. It was clear that during Peter's long narrative some of them had visions. When he began to tell how, at the moment of Ascension, the clouds closed in under the feet of the Saviour, covered Him, and hid Him from the eyes of the Apostles, all heads were raised toward the sky unconsciously, and a moment followed as it were of expectation, as if those people hoped to see Him or as if they hoped that He would descend again from the fields of heaven, and see how the old Apostle was feeding the sheep confided to him, and bless both the flock and him.
Rome did not exist for those people, nor did the man Caesar; there were no temples of pagan gods; there was only Christ, who filled the land, the sea, the heavens, and the world.
At the houses scattered here and there along the Via Nomentana, the cocks began to crow, announcing midnight. At that moment Chilo pulled the corner of Vinicius's mantle and whispered,—"Lord, I see Urban over there, not far from the old man, and with him is a maiden."
Vinicius shook himself, as if out of a dream, and, turning in the direction indicated by the Greek, he saw Lygia.
EVERY drop of blood quivered in the young patrician at sight of her. He forgot the crowd, the old man, his own astonishment at the incomprehensible things which he had heard,—he saw only her. At last, after all his efforts, after long days of alarm, trouble, and suffering, he had found her! For the first time he realized that joy might rush at the heart, like a wild beast, and squeeze it till breath was lost. He, who had supposed hitherto that on "Fortuna" had been imposed a kind of duty to accomplish all his wishes, hardly believed his own eyes now and his own happiness. Were it not for that disbelief, his passionate nature might have urged him to some unconsidered step; but he wished to convince himself first that that was not the continuation of those miracles with which his head was filled, and that he was not dreaming. But there was no doubt,—he saw Lygia, and an interval of barely a few steps divided them. She stood in perfect light, so that he could rejoice in the sight of her as much as he liked. The hood had fallen from her head and dishevelled her hair; her mouth was open slightly, her eyes raised toward the Apostle, her face fixed in listening and delighted. She was dressed in a dark woollen mantle, like a daughter of the people, but never had Vinicius seen her more beautiful; and notwithstanding all the disorder which had risen in him, he was struck by the nobility of that wonderful patrician head in distinction to the dress, almost that of a slave. Love flew over him like a flame, immense, mixed with a marvellous feeling of yearning, homage, honor, and desire. He felt the delight which the sight of her caused him; he drank of her as of life-giving water after long thirst. Standing near the gigantic Lygian, she seemed to him smaller than before, almost a child; he noticed, too, that she had grown more slender. Her complexion had become almost transparent; she made on him the impression of a flower, and a spirit. But all the more did he desire to possess that woman, so different from all women whom he had seen or possessed in Rome or the Orient. He felt that for her he would have given them all, and with them Rome and the world in addition.
He would have lost himself in gazing, and forgotten himself altogether, had it not been for Chilo, who pulled the corner of his mantle, out of fear that he might do something to expose them to danger. Meanwhile the Christians began to pray and sing. After a while Maranatha thundered forth, and then the Great Apostle baptized with water from the fountain those whom the presbyters presented as ready for baptism. It seemed to Vinicius that that night would never end. He wished now to follow Lygia as soon as possible, and seize her on the road or at her house.
At last some began to leave the cemetery, and Chilo whispered,—"Let us go out before the gate, lord, we have not removed our hoods, and people look at us."
Such was the case, for during the discourse of the Apostle all had cast aside their hoods so as to hear better, and they had not followed the general example. Chilo's advice seemed wise, therefore. Standing before the gate, they could look at all who passed; Ursus it was easy to recognize by his form and size.
"Let us follow them," said Chilo; "we shall see to what house they go. To-morrow, or rather to-day, thou wilt surround the entrances with slaves and take her."
"No!" said Vinicius.
"What dost thou wish to do, lord?"
"We will follow her to the house and take her now, if thou wilt undertake that task, Croton?"
"I will," replied Croton, "and I will give myself to thee as a slave if I do not break the back of that bison who is guarding her."
But Chilo fell to dissuading and entreating them by all the gods not to do so. Croton was taken only for defence against attack in case they were recognized, not to carry off the girl. To take her when there were only two of them was to expose themselves to death, and, what was worse, they might let her out of their hands, and then she would hide in another place or leave Rome. And what could they do? Why not act with certainty? Why expose themselves to destruction and the whole undertaking to failure?
Though Vinicius restrained himself with the greatest effort from seizing Lygia in his arms at once, right there in the cemetery, he felt that the Greek was right, and would have lent ear, perhaps, to his counsels, had it not been for Croton, to whom reward was the question.
"Lord, command that old goat to be silent," said he, "or let me drop my fist on his head. Once in Buxentum, whither Lucius Saturnius took me to a play, seven drunken gladiators fell on me at an inn, and none of them escaped with sound ribs. I do not say to take the girl now from the crowd, for they might throw stones before our feet, but once she is at home I will seize her, carry her away, and take her whithersoever thou shalt indicate."
Vinicius was pleased to hear those words, and answered,—"Thus let it be, by Hercules! To-morrow we may not find her at home; if we surprise them they will remove the girl surely."
"This Lygian seems tremendously strong!" groaned Chilo.
"No one will ask thee to hold his hands," answered Croton.
But they had to wait long yet, and the cocks had begun to crow before dawn when they saw Ursus coming through the gate, and with him Lygia. They were accompanied by a number of other persons. It seemed to Chilo that he recognized among them the Great Apostle; next to him walked another old man, considerably lower in stature, two women who were not young, and a boy, who lighted the way with a lantern. After that handful followed a crowd, about two hundred in number; Vinicius, Chilo, and Croton walked with these people.
"Yes, lord," said Chilo, "thy maiden is under powerful protection. That is the Great Apostle with her, for see how passing people kneel to him."
People did in fact kneel before him, but Vinicius did not look at them. He did not lose Lygia from his eyes for a moment; he thought only of bearing her away and, accustomed as he had been in wars to stratagems of all sorts, he arranged in his head the whole plan of seizure with soldierly precision. He felt that the step on which he had decided was bold, but he knew well that bold attacks give success generally.
The way was long; hence at moments he thought too of the gulf which that wonderful religion had dug between him and Lygia. Now he understood everything that had happened in the past, and why it had happened. He was sufficiently penetrating for that. Lygia he had not known hitherto. He had seen in her a maiden wonderful beyond others, a maiden toward whom his feelings were inflamed: he knew now that her religion made her different from other women, and his hope that feeling, desire, wealth, luxury, would attract her he knew now to be a vain illusion. Finally he understood this, which he and Petronius had not understood, that the new religion ingrafted into the soul something unknown to that world in which he lived, and that Lygia, even if she loved him, would not sacrifice any of her Christian truths for his sake, and that, if pleasure existed for her, it was a pleasure different altogether from that which he and Petronius and Caesar's court and all Rome were pursuing. Every other woman whom he knew might become his mistress, but that Christian would become only his victim. And when he thought of this, he felt anger and burning pain, for he felt that his anger was powerless. To carry off Lygia seemed to him possible; he was almost sure that he could take her, but he was equally sure that, in view of her religion, he himself with his bravery was nothing, that his power was nothing, and that through it he could effect nothing. That Roman military tribune, convinced that the power of the sword and the fist which had conquered the world, would command it forever, saw for the first time in life that beyond that power there might be something else; hence he asked himself with amazement what it was. And he could not answer distinctly; through his head flew merely pictures of the cemetery, the assembled crowd, and Lygia, listening with her whole soul to the words of the old man, as he narrated the passion, death, and resurrection of the God-man, who had redeemed the world, and promised it happiness on the other shore of the Styx.
When he thought of this, chaos rose in his head. But he was brought out of this chaos by Chilo, who fell to lamenting his own fate. He had agreed to find Lygia. He had sought for her in peril of his life, and he had pointed her out. But what more do they want? Had he offered to carry the maiden away? Who could ask anything like this of a maimed man deprived of two fingers, an old man, devoted to meditation, to science, and virtue? What would happen were a lord of such dignity as Vinicius to meet some mishap while bearing the maiden away? It is true that the gods are bound to watch over their chosen ones,—but have not such things happened more than once, as if the gods were playing games instead of watching what was passing in the world? Fortune is blindfold, as is well known, and does not see even in daylight; what must the case be at night? Let something happen,—let that Lygian bear hurl a millstone at the noble Vinicius, or a keg of wine, or, still worse, water,—who will give assurance that instead of a reward blame will not fall on the hapless Chilo? He, the poor sage, has attached himself to the noble Vinicius as Aristotle to Alexander of Macedon. If the noble lord should give him at least that purse which he had thrust into his girdle before leaving home, there would be something with which to invoke aid in case of need, or to influence the Christians. Oh, why not listen to the counsels of an old man, counsels dictated by experience and prudence?
Vinicius, hearing this, took the purse from his belt, and threw it to the fingers of Chilo.
"Thou hast it; be silent!"
The Greek felt that it was unusually heavy, and gained confidence.
"My whole hope is in this," said he, "that Hercules or Theseus performed deeds still more arduous; what is my personal, nearest friend, Croton, if not Hercules? Thee, worthy lord, I will not call a demigod, for thou art a full god, and in future thou wilt not forget a poor, faithful servant, whose needs it will be necessary to provide for from time to time, for once he is sunk in books, he thinks of nothing else; some few stadia of garden land and a little house, even with the smallest portico, for coolness in summer, would befit such a donor. Meanwhile I shall admire thy heroic deeds from afar, and invoke Jove to befriend thee, and if need be I will make such an outcry that half Rome will be roused to thy assistance. What a wretched, rough road! The olive oil is burned out in the lantern; and if Croton, who is as noble as he is strong, would bear me to the gate in his arms, he would learn, to begin with, whether he will carry the maiden easily; second, he would act like AEneas, and win all the good gods to such a degree that touching the result of the enterprise I should be thoroughly satisfied."
"I should rather carry a sheep which died of mange a month ago," answered the gladiator; "but give that purse, bestowed by the worthy tribune, and I will bear thee to the gate."
"Mayst thou knock the great toe from thy foot," replied the Greek; "what profit hast thou from the teachings of that worthy old man, who described poverty and charity as the two foremost virtues? Has he not commanded thee expressly to love me? Never shall I make thee, I see, even a poor Christian; it would be easier for the sun to pierce the walls of the Mamertine prison than for truth to penetrate thy skull of a hippopotamus."
"Never fear!" said Croton, who with the strength of a beast had no human feeling. "I shall not be a Christian! I have no wish to lose my bread."
"But if thou knew even the rudiments of philosophy, thou wouldst know that gold is vanity."
"Come to me with thy philosophy. I will give thee one blow of my head in the stomach; we shall see then who wins."
"An ox might have said the same to Aristotle," retorted Chilo.
It was growing gray in the world. The dawn covered with pale light the outlines of the walls. The trees along the wayside, the buildings, and the gravestones scattered here and there began to issue from the shade. The road was no longer quite empty. Marketmen were moving toward the gates, leading asses and mules laden with vegetables; here and there moved creaking carts in which game was conveyed. On the road and along both sides of it was a light mist at the very earth, which promised good weather. People at some distance seemed like apparitions in that mist. Vinicius stared at the slender form of Lygia, which became more silvery as the light increased.
"Lord," said Chilo, "I should offend thee were I to foresee the end of thy bounty, but now, when thou hast paid me, I may not be suspected of speaking for my own interest only. I advise thee once more to go home for slaves and a litter, when thou hast learned in what house the divine Lygia dwells; listen not to that elephant trunk, Croton, who undertakes to carry off the maiden only to squeeze thy purse as if it were a bag of curds."
"I have a blow of the fist to be struck between the shoulders, which means that thou wilt perish," said Croton.
"I have a cask of Cephalonian wine, which means that I shall be well," answered Chilo.
Vinicius made no answer, for he approached the gate, at which a wonderful sight struck his eyes. Two soldiers knelt when the Apostle was passing; Peter placed his hand on their iron helmets for a moment, and then made the sign of the cross on them. It had never occurred to the patrician before that there could be Christians in the army; with astonishment he thought that as fire in a burning city takes in more and more houses, so to all appearances that doctrine embraces new souls every day, and extends itself over all human understandings. This struck him also with reference to Lygia, for he was convinced that, had she wished to flee from the city, there would be guards willing to facilitate her flight. He thanked the gods then that this had not happened.
After they had passed vacant places beyond the wall, the Christians began to scatter. There was need, therefore, to follow Lygia more from a distance, and more carefully, so as not to rouse attention. Chilo fell to complaining of wounds, of pains in his legs, and dropped more and more to the rear. Vinicius did not oppose this, judging that the cowardly and incompetent Greek would not be needed. He would even have permitted him to depart, had he wished; but the worthy sage was detained by circumspection. Curiosity pressed him evidently, since he continued behind, and at moments even approached with his previous counsels; he thought too that the old man accompanying the Apostle might be Glaucus, were it not for his rather low stature.
They walked a good while before reaching the Trans-Tiber, and the sun was near rising when the group surrounding Lygia dispersed. The Apostle, an old woman, and a boy went up the river; the old man of lower stature, Ursus, and Lygia entered a narrow vicus, and, advancing still about a hundred yards, went into a house in which were two shops,—one for the sale of olives, the other for poultry.
Chilo, who walked about fifty yards behind Vinicius and Croton, halted all at once, as if fixed to the earth, and, squeezing up to the wall, began to hiss at them to turn.
They did so, for they needed to take counsel.
"Go, Chilo," said Vinicius, "and see if this house fronts on another street." Chilo, though he had complained of wounds in his feet, sprang away as quickly as if he had had the wings of Mercury on his ankles, and returned in a moment.
"No," said he, "there is but one entrance."
Then, putting his hands together, he said, "I implore thee, lord, by Jupiter, Apollo, Vesta, Cybele, Isis, Osiris, Mithra Baal, and all the gods of the Orient and the Occident to drop this plan. Listen to me—"
But he stopped on a sudden, for he saw that Vinicius's face was pale from emotion, and that his eyes were glittering like the eyes of a wolf. It was enough to look at him to understand that nothing in the world would restrain him from the undertaking. Croton began to draw air into his herculean breast, and to sway his undeveloped skull from side to side as bears do when confined in a cage, but on his face not the least fear was evident.
"I will go in first," said he.
"Thou wilt follow me," said Vinicius, in commanding tones.
And after a while both vanished in the dark entrance.
Chilo sprang to the corner of the nearest alley and watched from behind it, waiting for what would happen.
ONLY inside the entrance did Vinicius comprehend the whole difficulty of the undertaking. The house was large, of several stories, one of the kind of which thousands were built in Rome, in view of profit from rent; hence, as a rule, they were built so hurriedly and badly that scarcely a year passed in which numbers of them did not fall on the heads of tenants. Real hives, too high and too narrow, full of chambers and little dens, in which poor people fixed themselves too numerously. In a city where many streets had no names, those houses had no numbers; the owners committed the collection of rent to slaves, who, not obliged by the city government to give names of occupants, were ignorant themselves of them frequently. To find some one by inquiry in such a house was often very difficult, especially when there was no gate-keeper.
Vinicius and Croton came to a narrow, corridor-like passage walled in on four sides, forming a kind of common atrium for the whole house, with a fountain in the middle whose stream fell into a stone basin fixed in the ground. At all the walls were internal stairways, some of stone, some of wood, leading to galleries from which there were entrances to lodgings. There were lodgings on the ground, also; some provided with wooden doors, others separated from the yard by woollen screens only. These, for the greater part, were worn, rent, or patched.
The hour was early, and there was not a living soul in the yard. It was evident that all were asleep in the house except those who had returned from Ostrianum.
"What shall we do, lord?" asked Croton, halting.
"Let us wait here; some one may appear," replied Vinicius. "We should not be seen in the yard."
At this moment, he thought Chilo's counsel practical. If there were some tens of slaves present, it would be easy to occupy the gate, which seemed the only exit, search all the lodgings simultaneously, and thus come to Lygia's; otherwise Christians, who surely were not lacking in that house, might give notice that people were seeking her. In view of this, there was risk in inquiring of strangers. Vinicius stopped to think whether it would not be better to go for his slaves. Just then, from behind a screen hiding a remoter lodging, came a man with a sieve in his hand, and approached the fountain.
At the first glance the young tribune recognized Ursus.
"That is the Lygian!" whispered Vinicius.
"Am I to break his bones now?"
Ursus did not notice the two men, as they were in the shadow of the entrance, and he began quietly to sink in water vegetables which filled the sieve. It was evident that, after a whole night spent in the cemetery, he intended to prepare a meal. After a while the washing was finished; he took the wet sieve and disappeared behind the screen. Croton and Vinicius followed him, thinking that they would come directly to Lygia's lodgings. Their astonishment was great when they saw that the screen divided from the court, not lodgings, but another dark corridor, at the end of which was a little garden containing a few cypresses, some myrtle bushes, and a small house fixed to the windowless stone wall of another stone building.
Both understood at once that this was for them a favoring circumstance. In the courtyard all the tenants might assemble; the seclusion of the little house facilitated the enterprise. They would set aside defenders, or rather Ursus, quickly, and would reach the street just as quickly with the captured Lygia; and there they would help themselves. It was likely that no one would attack them; if attacked, they would say that a hostage was fleeing from Caesar. Vinicius would declare himself then to the guards, and summon their assistance.
Ursus was almost entering the little house, when the sound of steps attracted his attention; he halted, and, seeing two persons, put his sieve on the balustrade and turned to them.
"What do ye want here?" asked he.
"Thee!" said Vinicius.
Then, turning to Croton, he said in a low, hurried voice:
Croton rushed at him like a tiger, and in one moment, before the Lygian was able to think or to recognize his enemies, Croton had caught him in his arms of steel.
Vinicius was too confident in the man's preternatural strength to wait for the end of the struggle. He passed the two, sprang to the door of the little house, pushed it open and found himself in a room a trifle dark, lighted, however, by a fire burning in the chimney. A gleam of this fire fell on Lygia's face directly. A second person, sitting at the fire, was that old man who had accompanied the young girl and Ursus on the road from Ostrianum.
Vinicius rushed in so suddenly that before Lygia could recognize him he had seized her by the waist, and, raising her, rushed toward the door again. The old man barred the way, it is true; but pressing the girl with one arm to his breast, Vinicius pushed him aside with the other, which was free. The hood fell from his head, and at sight of that face, which was known to her and which at that moment was terrible, the blood grew cold in Lygia from fright, and the voice died in her throat. She wished to summon aid, but had not the power. Equally vain was her wish to grasp the door, to resist. Her fingers slipped along the stone, and she would have fainted but for the terrible picture which struck her eyes when Vinicius rushed into the garden.
Ursus was holding in his arms some man doubled back completely, with hanging head and mouth filled with blood. When he saw them, he struck the head once more with his fist, and in the twinkle of an eye sprang toward Vinicius like a raging wild beast.
"Death!" thought the young patrician.
Then he heard, as through a dream, the scream of Lygia, "Kill not!" He felt that something, as it were a thunderbolt, opened the arms with which he held Lygia; then the earth turned round with him, and the light of day died in his eyes.
Chilo, hidden behind the angle of the corner house, was waiting for what would happen, since curiosity was struggling with fear in him. He thought that if they succeeded in carrying off Lygia, he would fare well near Vinicius. He feared Urban no longer, for he also felt certain that Croton would kill him. And he calculated that in case a gathering should begin on the streets, which so far were empty,—if Christians, or people of any kind, should offer resistance,—he, Chilo, would speak to them as one representing authority, as an executor of Caesar's will, and if need came, call the guards to aid the young patrician against the street rabble—thus winning to himself fresh favor. In his soul he judged yet that the young tribune's method was unwise; considering, however, Croton's terrible strength, he admitted that it might succeed, and thought, "If it go hard with him, Vinicius can carry the girl, and Croton clear the way." Delay grew wearisome, however; the silence of the entrance which he watched alarmed him.
"If they do not hit upon her hiding-place, and make an uproar, they will frighten her."
But this thought was not disagreeable; for Chilo understood that in that event he would be necessary again to Vinicius, and could squeeze afresh a goodly number of sestertia from the tribune.
"Whatever they do," said he to himself, "they will work for me, though no one divines that. O gods! O gods! only permit me-"
And he stopped suddenly, for it seemed to him that some one was bending forward through the entrance; then, squeezing up to the wall, he began to look, holding the breath in his breast.
And he had not deceived himself, for a head thrust itself half out of the entrance and looked around. After a while, however, it vanished.
"That is Vinicius, or Croton," thought Chilo; "but if they have taken the girl, why does she not scream, and why are they looking out to the street? They must meet people anyhow, for before they reach the Carinae there will be movement in the city—What is that? By the immortal gods!"
And suddenly the remnant of his hair stood on end.
In the door appeared Ursus, with the body of Croton hanging on his arm, and looking around once more, he began to run, bearing it along the empty street toward the river.
Chilo made himself as flat against the wall as a bit of mud.
"I am lost if he sees me!" thought he.
But Ursus ran past the corner quickly, and disappeared beyond the neighboring house. Chilo, without further waiting, his teeth chattering from terror, ran along the cross street with a speed which even in a young man might have roused admiration.
"If he sees me from a distance when he is returning, he will catch and kill me," said he to himself. "Save me, Zeus; save me, Apollo; save me, Hermes; save me, O God of the Christians! I will leave Rome, I will return to Mesembria, but save me from the hands of that demon!"
And that Lygian who had killed Croton seemed to him at that moment some superhuman being. While running, he thought that he might be some god who had taken the form of a barbarian. At that moment he believed in all the gods of the world, and in all myths, at which he jeered usually. It flew through his head, too, that it might be the God of the Christians who had killed Croton; and his hair stood on end again at the thought that he was in conflict with such a power.
Only when he had run through a number of alleys, and saw some workmen coming toward him from a distance, was he calmed somewhat. Breath failed in his breast; so he sat on the threshold of a house and began to wipe, with a corner of his mantle, his sweat-covered forehead.
"I am old, and need calm," said he.
The people coming toward him turned into some little side street, and again the place round about was empty. The city was sleeping yet. In the morning movement began earlier in the wealthier parts of the city, where the slaves of rich houses were forced to rise before daylight; in portions inhabited by a free population, supported at the cost of the State, hence unoccupied, they woke rather late, especially in winter. Chilo, after he had sat some time on the threshold, felt a piercing cold; so he rose, and, convincing himself that he had not lost the purse received from Vinicius, turned toward the river with a step now much slower.
"I may see Croton's body somewhere," said he to himself. "O gods! that Lygian, if he is a man, might make millions of sestertia in the course of one year; for if he choked Croton, like a whelp, who can resist him? They would give for his every appearance in the arena as much gold as he himself weighs. He guards that maiden better than Cerberus does Hades. But may Hades swallow him, for all that! I will have nothing to do with him. He is too bony. But where shall I begin in this case? A dreadful thing has happened. If he has broken the bones of such a man as Croton, beyond a doubt the soul of Vinicius is puling above that cursed house now, awaiting his burial. By Castor! but he is a patrician, a friend of Caesar, a relative of Petronius, a man known in all Rome, a military tribune. His death cannot pass without punishment. Suppose I were to go to the pretorian camp, or the guards of the city, for instance?"
Here he stopped and began to think, but said after a while,—"Woe is me! Who took him to that house if not I? His freedmen and his slaves know that I came to his house, and some of them know with what object. What will happen if they suspect me of having pointed out to him purposely the house in which his death met him? Though it appear afterward, in the court, that I did not wish his death, they will say that I was the cause of it. Besides, he is a patrician; hence in no event can I avoid punishment. But if I leave Rome in silence, and go far away somewhere, I shall place myself under still greater suspicion."
It was bad in every case. The only question was to choose the less evil. Rome was immense; still Chilo felt that it might become too small for him. Any other man might go directly to the prefect of the city guards and tell what had happened, and, though some suspicion might fall on him, await the issue calmly. But Chilo's whole past was of such character that every closer acquaintance with the prefect of the city or the prefect of the guard must cause him very serious trouble, and confirm also every suspicion which might enter the heads of officials.
On the other hand, to flee would be to confirm Petronius in the opinion that Vinicius had been betrayed and murdered through conspiracy. Petronius was a powerful man, who could command the police of the whole Empire, and who beyond doubt would try to find the guilty parties even at the ends of the earth. Still, Chilo thought to go straight to him, and tell what had happened. Yes; that was the best plan. Petronius was calm, and Chilo might be sure of this, at least, that he would hear him to the end. Petronius, who knew the affair from its inception, would believe in Chilo's innocence more easily than would the prefects.
But to go to him, it was needful to know with certainty what had happened to Vinicius. Chilo did not know that. He had seen, it is true, the Lygian stealing with Croton's body to the river, but nothing more. Vinicius might be killed; but he might be wounded or detained. Now it occurred to Chilo for the first time, that surely the Christians would not dare to kill a man so powerful,—a friend of Caesar, and a high military official,—for that kind of act might draw on them a general persecution. It was more likely that they had detained him by superior force, to give Lygia means to hide herself a second time.
This thought filled Chilo with hope.
"If that Lygian dragon has not torn him to pieces at the first attack, he is alive, and if he is alive he himself will testify that I have not betrayed him; and then not only does nothing threaten me, but—O Hermes, count again on two heifers—a fresh field is opening. I can inform one of the freedmen where to seek his lord; and whether he goes to the prefect or not is his affair, the only point being that I should not go. Also, I can go to Petronius, and count on a reward. I have found Lygia; now I shall find Vinicius, and then again Lygia. It is needful to know first whether Vinicius is dead or living."
Here it occurred to him that he might go in the night to the baker Demas and inquire about Ursus. But he rejected that thought immediately. He preferred to have nothing to do with Ursus. He might suppose, justly, that if Ursus had not killed Glaucus he had been warned, evidently, by the Christian elder to whom he had confessed his design,—warned that the affair was an unclean one, to which some traitor had persuaded him. In every case, at the mere recollection of Ursus, a shiver ran through Chilo's whole body. But he thought that in the evening he would send Euricius for news to that house in which the thing had happened. Meanwhile he needed refreshment, a bath, and rest. The sleepless night, the journey to Ostrianum, the flight from the Trans-Tiber, had wearied him exceedingly.
One thing gave him permanent comfort: he had on his person two purses,—that which Vinicius had given him at home, and that which he had thrown him on the way from the cemetery. In view of this happy circumstance, and of all the excitement through which he had passed, he resolved to eat abundantly, and drink better wine than he drank usually.
When the hour for opening the wine-shop came at last, he did so in such a marked measure that he forgot the bath; he wished to sleep, above all, and drowsiness overcame his strength so that he returned with tottering step to his dwelling in the Subura, where a slave woman, purchased with money obtained from Vinicius, was waiting for him.
When he had entered a sleeping-room, as dark as the den of a fox, he threw himself on the bed, and fell asleep in one instant. He woke only in the evening, or rather he was roused by the slave woman, who called him to rise, for some one was inquiring, and wished to see him on urgent business.
The watchful Chilo came to himself in one moment, threw on his hooded mantle hastily, and, commanding the slave woman to stand aside, looked out cautiously.
And he was benumbed! for he saw before the door of the sleeping-room the gigantic form of Ursus.
At that sight he felt his feet and head grow icy-cold, the heart ceased to beat in his bosom, and shivers were creeping along his back. For a time he was unable to speak; then with chattering teeth he said, or rather groaned,—
"Syra—I am not at home—I don't know that—good man-"
"I told him that thou wert at home, but asleep, lord," answered the girl; "he asked to rouse thee."
"O gods! I will command that thou—"
But Ursus, as if impatient of delay, approached the door of the sleeping-room, and, bending, thrust in his head.
"O Chilo Chilonides!" said he.
"Pax tecum! pax! pax!" answered Chilo. "O best of Christians! Yes, I am Chilo; but this is a mistake,—I do not know thee!"
"Chilo Chilonides," repeated Ursus, "thy lord, Vinicius, summons thee to go with me to him."
A PIERCING pain roused Vinicius. At the first moment he could not understand where he was, nor what was happening. He felt a roaring in his head, and his eyes were covered as if with mist. Gradually, however, his consciousness returned, and at last he beheld through that mist three persons bending over him. Two he recognized: one was Ursus, the other the old man whom he had thrust aside when carrying off Lygia. The third, an utter stranger, was holding his left arm, and feeling it from the elbow upward as far as the shoulder-blade. This caused so terrible a pain that Vinicius, thinking it a kind of revenge which they were taking, said through his set teeth, "Kill me!" But they paid no apparent heed to his words, just as though they heard them not, or considered them the usual groans of suffering. Ursus, with his anxious and also threatening face of a barbarian, held a bundle of white cloth torn in long strips. The old man spoke to the person who was pressing the arm of Vinicius,—"Glaucus, art thou certain that the wound in the head is not mortal?"
"Yes, worthy Crispus," answered Glaucus. "While serving in the fleet as a slave, and afterward while living at Naples, I cured many wounds, and with the pay which came to me from that occupation I freed myself and my relatives at last. The wound in the head is slight. When this one [here he pointed to Ursus with his head] took the girl from the young man, he pushed him against the wall; the young man while falling put out his arm, evidently to save himself; he broke and disjointed it, but by so doing saved his head and his life."
"Thou hast had more than one of the brotherhood in thy care," added Crispus, "and hast the repute of a skilful physician; therefore I sent Ursus to bring thee."
"Ursus, who on the road confessed that yesterday he was ready to kill me!"
"He confessed his intention earlier to me than to thee; but I, who know thee and thy love for Christ, explained to him that the traitor is not thou, but the unknown, who tried to persuade him to murder."
"That was an evil spirit, but I took him for an angel," said Ursus, with a sigh.
"Some other time thou wilt tell me, but now we must think of this wounded man." Thus speaking, he began to set the arm. Though Crispus sprinkled water on his face, Vinicius fainted repeatedly from suffering; that was, however, a fortunate circumstance, since he did not feel the pain of putting his arm into joint, nor of setting it. Glaucus fixed the limb between two strips of wood, which he bound quickly and firmly, so as to keep the arm motionless. When the operation was over, Vinicius recovered consciousness again and saw Lygia above him. She stood there at the bed holding a brass basin with water, in which from time to time Glaucus dipped a sponge and moistened the head of his patient.
Vinicius gazed and could not believe his eyes. What he saw seemed a dream, or the pleasant vision brought by fever, and only after a long time could he whisper,—"Lygia!"
The basin trembled in her hand at that sound, but she turned on him eyes full of sadness.
"Peace be with thee!" answered she, in a low voice.
She stood there with extended arms, her face full of pity and sorrow. But he gazed, as if to fill his sight with her, so that after his lids were closed the picture might remain under them. He looked at her face, paler and smaller than it had been, at the tresses of dark hair, at the poor dress of a laboring woman; he looked so intently that her snowy forehead began to grow rose-colored under the influence of his look. And first he thought that he would love her always; and second, that that paleness of hers and that poverty were his work,—that it was he who had driven her from a house where she was loved, and surrounded with plenty and comfort, and thrust her into that squalid room, and clothed her in that poor robe of dark wool.
He would have arrayed her in the costliest brocade, in all the jewels of the earth; hence astonishment, alarm, and pity seized him, and sorrow so great that he would have fallen at her feet had he been able to move.
"Lygia," said he, "thou didst not permit my death."
"May God return health to thee," she answered, with sweetness.
For Vinicius, who had a feeling both of those wrongs which he had inflicted on her formerly, and those which he had wished to inflict on her recently, there was a real balsam in Lygia's words. He forgot at the moment that through her mouth Christian teaching might speak; he felt only that a beloved woman was speaking, and that in her answer there was a special tenderness, a goodness simply preterhuman, which shook him to the depth of his soul. As just before he had grown weak from pain, so now he grew weak from emotion. A certain faintness came on him, at once immense and agreeable. He felt as if falling into some abyss, but he felt that to fall was pleasant, and that he was happy. He thought at that moment of weakness that a divinity was standing above him.
Meanwhile Glaucus had finished washing the wound in his head, and had applied a healing ointment. Ursus took the brass basin from Lygia's hands; she brought a cup of water and wine which stood ready on the table, and put it to the wounded man's lips. Vinicius drank eagerly, and felt great relief. After the operation the pain had almost passed; the wound and contusion began to grow firm; perfect consciousness returned to him.
"Give me another drink," said he.
Lygia took the empty cup to the next room; meanwhile Crispus, after a few words with Glaucus, approached the bed saying,—
"God has not permitted thee, Vinicius, to accomplish an evil deed, and has preserved thee in life so that thou shouldst come to thy mind. He, before whom man is but dust, delivered thee defenceless into our hands; but Christ, in whom we believe, commanded us to love even our enemies. Therefore we have dressed thy wounds, and, as Lygia has said, we will implore God to restore thy health, but we cannot watch over thee longer. Be in peace, then, and think whether it beseems thee to continue thy pursuit of Lygia. Thou hast deprived her of guardians, and us of a roof, though we return thee good for evil."
"Do ye wish to leave me? inquired Vinicius.
"We wish to leave this house, in which prosecution by the prefect of the city may reach us. Thy companion was killed; thou, who art powerful among thy own people, art wounded. This did not happen through our fault, but the anger of the law might fall on us."
"Have no fear of prosecution," replied Vinicius; "I will protect you."
Crispus did not like to tell him that with them it was not only a question of the prefect and the police, but of him; they wished to secure Lygia from his further pursuit.
"Lord," said he, "thy right arm is well. Here are tablets and a stilus; write to thy servants to bring a litter this evening and bear thee to thy own house, where thou wilt have more comfort than in our poverty. We dwell here with a poor widow, who will return soon with her son, and this youth will take thy letter; as to us, we must all find another hiding-place."
Vinicius grew pale, for he understood that they wished to separate him from Lygia, and that if he lost her now he might never see her in life again. He knew indeed that things of great import had come between him and her, in virtue of which, if he wished to possess her, he must seek some new methods which he had not had time yet to think over. He understood too that whatever he might tell these people, though he should swear that he would return Lygia to Pomponia Graecina, they would not believe him, and were justified in refusing belief. Moreover, he might have done that before. Instead of hunting for Lygia, he might have gone to Pomponia and sworn to her that he renounced pursuit, and in that case Pomponia herself would have found Lygia and brought her home. No; he felt that such promises would not restrain them, and no solemn oath would be received, the more since, not being a Christian, he could swear only by the immortal gods, in whom he did not himself believe greatly, and whom they considered evil spirits.
He desired desperately to influence Lygia and her guardians in some way, but for that there was need of time. For him it was all-important to see her, to look at her for a few days even. As every fragment of a plank or an oar seems salvation to a drowning man, so to him it seemed that during those few days he might say something to bring him nearer to her, that he might think out something, that something favorable might happen. Hence he collected his thoughts and said,—
"Listen to me, Christians. Yesterday I was with you in Ostrianum, and I heard your teaching; but though I did not know it, your deeds have convinced me that you are honest and good people. Tell that widow who occupies this house to stay in it, stay in it yourselves, and let me stay. Let this man [here he turned to Glaucus], who is a physician, or at least understands the care of wounds, tell whether it is possible to carry me from here to-day. I am sick, I have a broken arm, which must remain immovable for a few days even; therefore I declare to you that I will not leave this house unless you bear me hence by force!"
Here he stopped, for breath failed in his breast, and Crispus said,—"We will use no force against thee, lord; we will only take away our own heads."
At this the young man, unused to resistance, frowned and said,—"Permit me to recover breath"; and after a time he began again to speak,—"Of Croton, whom Ursus killed, no one will inquire. He had to go to-day to Beneventum, whither he was summoned by Vatinius, therefore all will think that he has gone there. When I entered this house in company with Croton, no one saw us except a Greek who was with us in Ostrianum. I will indicate to you his lodgings; bring that man to me. On him I will enjoin silence; he is paid by me. I will send a letter to my own house stating that I too went to Beneventum. If the Greek has informed the prefect already, I will declare that I myself killed Croton, and that it was he who broke my arm. I will do this, by my father's shade and by my mother's! Ye may remain in safety here; not a hair will fall from the head of one of you. Bring hither, and bring in haste, the Greek whose name is Chilo Chilonides!"
"Then Glaucus will remain with thee," said Crispus, "and the widow will nurse thee."
"Consider, old man, what I say," said Vinicius, who frowned still more. "I owe thee gratitude, and thou seemest good and honest; but thou dost not tell me what thou hast in the bottom of thy soul. Thou art afraid lest I summon my slaves and command them to take Lygia. Is this true?"
"It is," said Crispus, with sternness.
"Then remember this, I shall speak before all to Chilo, and write a letter home that I have gone to Beneventum. I shall have no messengers hereafter but you. Remember this, and do not irritate me longer."
Here he was indignant, and his face was contorted with anger. Afterward he began to speak excitedly,—
"Hast thou thought that I would deny that I wish to stay here to see her? A fool would have divined that, even had I denied it. But I will not try to take her by force any longer. I will tell thee more: if she will not stay here, I will tear the bandages with this sound hand from my arm, will take neither food nor drink; let my death fall on thee and thy brethren. Why hast thou nursed me? Why hast thou not commanded to kill me?" He grew pale from weakness and anger.
Lygia, who had heard all from the other room and who was certain that Vinicius would do what he promised, was terrified. She would not have him die for anything. Wounded and defenceless, he roused in her compassion, not fear. Living from the time of her flight among people in continual religious enthusiasm, thinking only of sacrifices, offerings, and boundless charity, she had grown so excited herself through that new inspiration, that for her it took the place of house, family, lost happiness, and made her one of those Christian maidens who, later on, changed the former soul of the world. Vinicius had been too important in her fate, had been thrust too much on her, to let her forget him. She had thought of him whole days, and more than once had begged God for the moment in which, following the inspiration of religion, she might return good for his evil, mercy for his persecution, break him, win him to Christ, save him. And now it seemed to her that precisely that moment had come, and that her prayers had been heard.
She approached Crispus therefore with a face as if inspired, and addressed him as though some other voice spoke through her,—"Let him stay among us, Crispus, and we will stay with him till Christ gives him health."
The old presbyter, accustomed to seek in all things the inspiration of God, beholding her exaltation, thought at once that perhaps a higher power was speaking through her, and, fearing in his heart, he bent his gray head, saying,—"Let it be as thou sayest."
On Vinicius, who the whole time had not taken his eyes from her, this ready obedience of Crispus produced a wonderful and pervading impression. It seemed to him that among the Christians Lygia was a kind of sibyl or priestess whom they surrounded with obedience and honor; and he yielded himself also to that honor. To the love which he felt was joined now a certain awe, in presence of which love itself became something almost insolent. He could not familiarize himself, however, with the thought that their relations had changed: that now not she was dependent on his will, but he on hers; that he was lying there sick and broken; that he had ceased to be an attacking, a conquering force; that he was like a defenceless child in her care. For his proud and commanding nature such relations with any other person would have been humiliating; now, however, not only did he not feel humiliated, but he was thankful to her as to his sovereign. In him those were feelings unheard-of, feelings which he could not have entertained the day before, and which would have amazed him even on that day had he been able to analyze them clearly. But he did not inquire at the moment why it was so, just as if the position had been perfectly natural; he merely felt happy because he remained there.
And he wished to thank her with gratefulness, and still with a kind of feeling unknown to him in such a degree that he knew not what to call it, for it was simply submission. His previous excitement had so exhausted him that he could not speak, and he thanked her only with his eyes, which were gleaming from delight because he remained near her, and would be able to see her—to-morrow, next day, perhaps a long time. That delight was diminished only by the dread that he might lose what he had gained. So great was this dread that when Lygia gave him water a second time, and the wish seized him to take her hand, he feared to do so. He feared!—he, that Vinicius who at Caesar's feast had kissed her lips in spite of her! he, that Vinicius who after her flight had promised himself to drag her by the hair to the cubiculum, or give command to flog her!
BUT he began also to fear that some outside force might disturb his delight. Chilo might give notice of his disappearance to the prefect of the city, or to his freedmen at home; and in such an event an invasion of the house by the city guards was likely. Through his head flew the thought, it is true, that in that event he might give command to seize Lygia and shut her up in his house, but he felt that he ought not to do so, and he was not capable of acting thus. He was tyrannical, insolent, and corrupt enough, if need be he was inexorable, but he was not Tigellinus or Nero. Military life had left in him a certain feeling of justice, and religion, and a conscience to understand that such a deed would be monstrously mean. He would have been capable, perhaps, of committing such a deed during an access of anger and while in possession of his strength, but at that moment he was filled with tenderness, and was sick. The only question for Vinicius at that time was that no one should stand between him and Lygia.
He noticed, too, with astonishment, that from the moment when Lygia had taken his part, neither she herself nor Crispus asked from him any assurances, just as if they felt confident that, in case of need, some superhuman power would defend them. The young tribune, in whose head the distinction between things possible and impossible had grown involved and faint since the discourse of the Apostle in Ostrianum, was also not too far from supposing that that might take place. But considering things more soberly, he remembered what he had said of the Greek, and asked again that Chilo be brought to him.
Crispus agreed, and they decided to send Ursus. Vinicius, who in recent days, before his visit to Ostrianum, had sent slaves frequently to Chilo, though without result, indicated his lodgings accurately to the Lygian; then writing a few words on the tablet, he said, turning to Crispus,—"I give a tablet, for this man is suspicious and cunning. Frequently when summoned by me, he gave directions to answer my people that he was not at home; he did so always when he had no good news for me, and feared my anger."
"If I find him, I will bring him, willing or unwilling," said Ursus. Then, taking his mantle, he went out hurriedly.
To find any one in Rome was not easy, even with the most accurate directions; but in those cases the instinct of a hunter aided Ursus, and also his great knowledge of the city. After a certain time, therefore, he found himself at Chilo's lodgings.
He did not recognize Chilo, however. He had seen him but once in his life before, and moreover, in the night. Besides, that lofty and confident old man who had persuaded him to murder Glaucus was so unlike the Greek, bent double from terror, that no one could suppose the two to be one person. Chilo, noticing that Ursus looked at him as a perfect stranger, recovered from his first fear. The sight of the tablet, with the writing of Vinicius, calmed him still more. At least the suspicion that he would take him into an ambush purposely did not trouble him. He thought, besides, that the Christians had not killed Vinicius, evidently because they had not dared to raise hands on so noted a person.
"And then Vinicius will protect me in case of need," thought he; "of course he does not send to deliver me to death."
Summoning some courage, therefore, he said: "My good man, has not my friend the noble Vinicius sent a litter? My feet are swollen; I cannot walk so far."
"He has not," answered Ursus; "we shall go on foot."
"But if I refuse?"
"Do not, for thou wilt have to go."
"And I will go, but of my own will. No one could force me, for I am a free man, and a friend of the prefect of the city. As a sage, I have also means to overcome others, and I know how to turn people into trees and wild beasts. But I will go, I will go! I will only put on a mantle somewhat warmer, and a hood, lest the slaves of that quarter might recognize me; they would stop me every moment to kiss my hands."
He put on a new mantle then, and let down a broad Gallic hood, lest Ursus might recognize his features on coming into clearer light.
"Where wilt thou take me?" asked he on the road.
"To the Trans-Tiber."
"I am not long in Rome, and I have never been there, but there too, of course, live men who love virtue."
But Ursus, who was a simple man, and had heard Vinicius say that the Greek had been with him in Ostrianum, and had seen him with Croton enter the house in which Lygia lived, stopped for a moment and said,—"Speak no untruth, old man, for to-day thou wert with Vinicius in Ostrianum and under our gate."
"Ah!" said Chilo, "then is your house in the Trans-Tiber? I have not been long in Rome, and know not how the different parts are named. That is true, friend; I was under the gate, and implored Vinicius in the name of virtue not to enter. I was in Ostrianum, and dost thou know why? I am working for a certain time over the conversion of Vinicius, and wished him to hear the chief of the Apostles. May the light penetrate his soul and thine! But thou art a Christian, and wishest truth to overcome falsehood."
"That is true," answered Ursus, with humility.
Courage returned to Chilo completely.
"Vinicius is a powerful lord," said he, "and a friend of Caesar. He listens often yet to the whisperings of the evil spirit; but if even a hair should fall from his head, Caesar would take vengeance on all the Christians."
"A higher power is protecting us."
"Surely, surely! But what do ye intend to do with Vinicius?" inquired Chilo, with fresh alarm.
"I know not. Christ commands mercy."
"Thou hast answered excellently. Think of this always, or thou wilt fry in hell like a sausage in a frying-pan."
Ursus sighed, and Chilo thought that he could always do what he liked with that man, who was terrible at the moment of his first outburst. So, wishing to know what happened at the seizing of Lygia, he asked further, in the voice of a stern judge,—"How did ye treat Croton? Speak, and do not prevaricate."
Ursus sighed a second time. "Vinicius will tell thee."
"That means that thou didst stab him with a knife, or kill him with a club."
"I was without arms."
The Greek could not resist amazement at the superhuman strength of the barbarian.
"May Pluto—that is to say, may Christ pardon thee!"
They went on for some time in silence; then Chilo said:
"I will not betray thee; but have a care of the watches."
"I fear Christ, not the watches."
"And that is proper. There is no more grievous crime than murder. I will pray for thee; but I know not if even my prayer can be effective, unless thou make a vow never to touch any one in life with a finger."
"As it is, I have not killed purposely," answered Ursus.
But Chilo, who desired to secure himself in every case, did not cease to condemn murder, and urge Ursus to make the vow. He inquired also about Vinicius; but the Lygian answered his inquiries unwillingly, repeating that from Vinicius himself he would hear what he needed. Speaking in this way, they passed at last the long road which separated the lodgings of the Greek from the Trans-Tiber, and found themselves before the house. Chilo's heart began to beat again unquietly. From dread it seemed to him that Ursus was beginning to look at him with a kind of greedy expression.
"It is small consolation to me," said he to himself, "if he kills me unwillingly. I prefer in every case that paralysis should strike him, and with him all the Lygians,—which do thou effect, O Zeus, if thou art able."
Thus meditating, he wrapped himself more closely in his Gallic mantle, repeating that he feared the cold. Finally, when they had passed the entrance and the first court, and found themselves in the corridor leading to the garden of the little house, he halted suddenly and said,—"Let me draw breath, or I shall not be able to speak with Vinicius and give him saving advice."
He halted; for though he said to himself that no danger threatened, still his legs trembled under him at the thought that he was among those mysterious people whom he had seen in Ostrianum.
Meanwhile a hymn came to their ears from the little house.
"What is that?" inquired Chilo.
"Thou sayest that thou art a Christian, and knowest not that among us it is the custom after every meal to glorify our Saviour with singing," answered Ursus. "Miriam and her son must have returned, and perhaps the Apostle is with them, for he visits the widow and Crispus every day."
"Conduct me directly to Vinicius."
"Vinicius is in the same room with all, for that is the only large one; the others are very small chambers, to which we go only to sleep. Come in; thou wilt rest there."
They entered. It was rather dark in the room; the evening was cloudy and cold, the flames of a few candles did not dispel the darkness altogether. Vinicius divined rather than recognized Chilo in the hooded man. Chilo, seeing the bed in the corner of the room, and on it Vinicius, moved toward him directly, not looking at the others, as if with the conviction that it would be safest near him.
"Oh, lord, why didst thou not listen to my counsels?" exclaimed he, putting his hands together.
"Silence!" said Vinicius, "and listen!"
Here he looked sharply into Chilo's eyes, and spoke slowly with emphasis, as if wishing the Greek to understand every word of his as a command, and to keep it forever in memory.
"Croton threw himself on me to kill and rob me, dost understand? I killed him then, and these people dressed the wounds which I received in the struggle."
Chilo understood in a moment that if Vinicius spoke in this way it must be in virtue of some agreement with the Christians, and in that case he wished people to believe him. He saw this, too, from his face; hence in one moment, without showing doubt or astonishment, he raised his eyes and exclaimed,—"That was a faith-breaking ruffian! But I warned thee, lord, not to trust him; my teachings bounded from his head as do peas when thrown against a wall. In all Hades there are not torments enough for him. He who cannot be honest must be a rogue; what is more difficult than for a rogue to become honest? But to fall on his benefactor, a lord so magnanimous—O gods!"
Here he remembered that he had represented himself to Ursus on the way as a Christian, and stopped.
"Were it not for the 'sica,' which I brought, he would have slain me," said Vinicius.
"I bless the moment in which I advised thee to take a knife even."
Vinicius turned an inquiring glance on the Greek, and asked,—"What hast thou done to-day?"
"How? What! have I not told thee, lord, that I made a vow for thy health?"
"I was just preparing to visit thee, when this good man came and said that thou hadst sent for me."
"Here is a tablet. Thou wilt go with it to my house; thou wilt find my freedman and give it to him. It is written on the tablet that I have gone to Beneventum. Thou wilt tell Demas from thyself that I went this morning, summoned by an urgent letter from Petronius." Here he repeated with emphasis: "I have gone to Beneventum, dost understand?"
"Thou has gone, lord. This morning I took leave of thee at the Porta Capena, and from the time of thy departure such sadness possesses me that if thy magnanimity will not soften it, I shall cry myself to death, like the unhappy wife of Zethos [Aedon turned into a nightingale] in grief for Itylos."
Vinicius, though sick and accustomed to the Greek's suppleness, could not repress a smile. He was glad, moreover, that Chilo understood in a flash; hence he said,
"Therefore I will write that thy tears be wiped away. Give me the candle." Chilo, now pacified perfectly, rose, and, advancing a few steps toward the chimney, took one of the candles which was burning at the wall. But while he was doing this, the hood slipped from his head, and the light fell directly on his face. Glaucus sprang from his seat and, coming up quickly, stood before him.
"Dost thou not recognize me, Cephas?" asked he. In his voice there was something so terrible that a shiver ran through all present.
Chilo raised the candle, and dropped it to the earth almost the same instant; then he bent nearly double and began to groan,—"I am not he—I am not he! Mercy!"
Glaucus turned toward the faithful, and said,—"This is the man who betrayed—who ruined me and my family!"
That history was known to all the Christians and to Vinicius, who had not guessed who that Glaucus was,—for this reason only, that he fainted repeatedly from pain during the dressing of his wound, and had not heard his name. But for Ursus that short moment, with the words of Glaucus, was like a lightning-flash in darkness. Recognizing Chilo, he was at his side with one spring, and, seizing his arm, bent it back, exclaiming,—"This is the man who persuaded me to kill Glaucus!"
"Mercy!" groaned Chilo. "I will give you—O lord!" exclaimed he, turning his head to Vinicius, "save me! I trusted in thee, take my part. Thy letter—I will deliver it. O lord, lord!"
But Vinicius, who looked with more indifference than any one at what was passing, first because all the affairs of the Greek were more or less known to him, and second because his heart knew not what pity was, said,—"Bury him in the garden; some one else will take the letter."
It seemed to Chilo that those words were his final sentence. His bones were shaking in the terrible hands of Ursus; his eyes were filled with tears from pain.
"By your God, pity!" cried he; "I am a Christian! Pax vobiscum! I am a Christian; and if ye do not believe me, baptize me again, baptize me twice, ten times! Glaucus, that is a mistake! Let me speak, make me a slave! Do not kill me! Have mercy!"
His voice, stifled with pain, was growing weaker and weaker, when the Apostle Peter rose at the table; for a moment his white head shook, drooping toward his breast, and his eyes were closed; but he opened them then, and said amid silence,—
"The Saviour said this to us: 'If thy brother has sinned against thee, chastise him; but if he is repentant, forgive him. And if he has offended seven times in the day against thee, and has turned to thee seven times, saying, "Have mercy on me!" forgive him.'"
Then came a still deeper silence. Glaucus remained a long time with his hands covering his face; at last he removed them and said,—"Cephas, may God forgive thy offences, as I forgive them in the name of Christ."
Ursus, letting go the arms of the Greek, added at once:
"May the Saviour be merciful to thee as I forgive thee."
Chilo dropped to the ground, and, supported on it with his hands, turned his head like a wild beast caught in a snare, looking around to see whence death might come. He did not trust his eyes and ears yet, and dared not hope for forgiveness. Consciousness returned to him slowly; his blue lips were still trembling from terror.
"Depart in peace!" said the Apostle, meanwhile.
Chilo rose, but could not speak. He approached the bed of Vinicius, as if seeking protection in it still; for he had not time yet to think that that man, though he had used his services and was still his accomplice, condemned him, while those against whom he had acted forgave. This thought was to come to him later. At present simply astonishment and incredulity were evident in his look. Though he had seen that they forgave him, he wished to bear away his head at the earliest from among these incomprehensible people, whose kindness terrified him almost as much as their cruelty would have terrified. It seemed to him that should he remain longer, something unexpected would happen again; hence, standing above Vinicius, he said with a broken voice,—