Quo Vadis A Narrative of the Time of Nero
Part 10 out of 12
measure was surpassed. Amidst roars, howls, whines, here and there on
the seats of the spectators were heard the terrified and spasmodic
laughter of women, whose strength had given way at last. The people
were terrified. Faces grew dark. Various voices began to cry, "Enough!
But it was easier to let the beasts in than drive them back again.
Cæsar, however, found a means of clearing the arena, and a new amusement
for the people. In all the passages between the seats appeared
detachments of Numidians, black and stately, in feathers and earrings,
with bows in their hands. The people divined what was coming, and
greeted the archers with a shout of delight. The Numidians approached
the railing, and, putting their arrows to the strings, began to shoot
from their bows into the crowd of beasts. That was a new spectacle
truly. Their bodies, shapely as if cut from dark marble, bent backward,
stretched the flexible bows, and sent bolt after bolt. The whizzing of
the strings and the whistling of the feathered missiles were mingled
with the howling of beasts and cries of wonder from the audience.
Wolves, bears, panthers, and people yet alive fell side by side. Here
and there a lion, feeling a shaft in his ribs, turned with sudden
movement, his jaws wrinkled from rage, to seize and break the arrow.
Others groaned from pain. The small beasts, falling into a panic, ran
around the arena at random, or thrust their heads into the grating;
meanwhile the arrows whizzed and whizzed on, till all that was living
had lain down in the final quiver of death.
Hundreds of slaves rushed into the arena armed with spades, shovels,
brooms, wheelbarrows, baskets for carrying out entrails, and bags of
sand. They came, crowd after crowd, and over the whole circle there
seethed up a feverish activity. The space was soon cleared of bodies,
blood, and mire, dug over, made smooth, and sprinkled with a thick layer
of fresh sand. That done, Cupids ran in, scattering leaves of roses,
lilies, and the greatest variety of flowers. The censers were ignited
again, and the velarium was removed, for the sun had sunk now
considerably. But people looked at one another with amazement, and
inquired what kind of new spectacle was waiting for them on that day.
Indeed, such a spectacle was waiting as no one had looked for. Cæsar,
who had left the podium some time before, appeared all at once on the
flowery arena, wearing a purple mantle, and a crown of gold. Twelve
choristers holding citharæ followed him. He had a silver lute, and
advanced with solemn tread to the middle, bowed a number of times to the
spectators, raised his eyes, and stood as if waiting for inspiration.
Then he struck the strings and began to sing,--
"O radiant son of Leto, Ruler of Tenedos, Chilos, Chrysos, Art thou he
who, having in his care The sacred city of Ilion, Could yield it to
Argive anger, And suffer sacred altars, Which blazed unceasingly to his
honor, To be stained with Trojan blood? Aged men raised trembling hands
to thee, O thou of the far-shooting silver bow, Mothers from the depth
of their breasts Raised tearful cries to thee, Imploring pity on their
offspring. Those complaints might have moved a stone, But to the
suffering of people Thou, O Smintheus, wert less feeling than a stone!"
The song passed gradually into an elegy, plaintive and full of pain. In
the Circus there was silence. After a while Cæsar, himself affected,
"With the sound of thy heavenly lyre Thou couldst drown the wailing, The
lament of hearts. At the sad sound of this song The eye to-day is filled
with tears, As a flower is filled with dew, But who can raise from dust
and ashes That day of fire, disaster, ruin? O Smintheus, where wert thou
Here his voice quivered and his eyes grew moist. Tears appeared on the
lids of the vestals; the people listened in silence before they burst
into a long unbroken storm of applause.
Meanwhile from outside through the vomitoria came the sound of creaking
vehicles on which were placed the bloody remnants of Christians, men,
women, and children, to be taken to the pits called "puticuli."
But the Apostle Peter seized his trembling white head with his hands,
and cried in spirit,--
"O Lord, O Lord! to whom hast Thou given rule over the earth, and why
wilt Thou found in this place Thy capital?"
THE sun had lowered toward its setting, and seemed to dissolve in the
red of the evening. The spectacle was finished. Crowds were leaving the
amphitheatre and pouring out to the city through the passages called
vomitoria. Only Augustians delayed; they were waiting for the stream of
people to pass. They had all left their seats and assembled at the
podium, in which Cæsar appeared again to hear praises. Though the
spectators had not spared plaudits at the end of the song, Nero was not
satisfied; he had looked for enthusiasm touching on frenzy. In vain did
hymns of praise sound in his ears; in vain did vestals kiss his "divine"
hand, and while doing so Rubria bent till her reddish hair touched his
breast. Nero was not satisfied, and could not hide the fact. He was
astonished and also disturbed because Petronius was silent. Some
flattering and pointed word from his mouth would have been a great
consolation at that moment. Unable at last to restrain himself, Cæsar
beckoned to the arbiter.
"Speak," said he, when Petronius entered the podium.
"I am silent," answered Petronius, coldly, "for I cannot find words.
Thou hast surpassed thyself."
"So it seemed to me too; but still this people--"
"Canst thou expect mongrels to appreciate poetry?"
"But thou too hast noticed that they have not thanked me as I deserve."
"Because thou hast chosen a bad moment."
"When men's brains are filled with the odor of blood, they cannot listen
"Ah, those Christians!" replied Nero, clenching his fists. "They burned
Rome, and injure me now in addition. What new punishment shall I invent
Petronius saw that he had taken the wrong road, that his words had
produced an effect the very opposite of what he intended; so, to turn
Cæsar's mind in another direction, he bent toward him and whispered,--
"Thy song is marvellous, but I will make one remark: in the fourth line
of the third strophe the metre leaves something to be desired."
Nero, blushing with shame, as if caught in a disgraceful deed, had fear
in his look, and answered in a whisper also,--
"Thou seest everything. I know. I will re-write that. But no one else
noticed it, I think. And do thou, for the love of the gods, mention it
to no one,--if life is dear to thee."
To this Petronius answered, as if in an outburst of vexation and anger,
"Condemn me to death, O divinity, if I deceive thee; but thou wilt not
terrify me, for the gods know best of all if I fear death."
And while speaking he looked straight into Cæsar's eyes, who answered
after a while,--
"Be not angry; thou knowest that I love thee."
"A bad sign!" thought Petronius.
"I wanted to invite thee to-day to a feast," continued Nero, "but I
prefer to shut myself in and polish that cursed line in the third
strophe. Besides thee Seneca may have noticed it, and perhaps Secundus
Carinas did; but I will rid myself of them quickly."
Then he summoned Seneca, and declared that with Acratus and Secundus
Carinas, he sent him to the Italian and all other provinces for money,
which he commanded him to obtain from cities, villages, famous temples,
--in a word, from every place where it was possible to find money, or
from which they could force it. But Seneca, who saw that Cæsar was
confiding to him a work of plunder, sacrilege, and robbery, refused
"I must go to the country, lord," said he, "and await death, for I am
old and my nerves are sick."
Seneca's Iberian nerves were stronger than Chilos; they were not sick,
perhaps, but in general his health was bad, for he seemed like a shadow,
and recently his hair had grown white altogether.
Nero, too, when he looked at him, thought that he would not have to wait
long for the man's death, and answered,--
"I will not expose thee to a journey if thou art ill, but through
affection I wish to keep thee near me. Instead of going to the country,
then, thou wilt stay in thy own house, and not leave it."
Then he laughed, and said, "If I send Acratus and Carinas by themselves,
it will be like sending wolves for sheep. Whom shall I set above them?"
"Me, lord," said Domitius Afer.
"No! I have no wish to draw on Rome the wrath of Mercury, whom ye would
put to shame with your villainy. I need some stoic like Seneca, or like
my new friend, the philosopher Chilo."
Then he looked around, and asked,--
"But what has happened to Chilo?"
Chilo, who had recovered in the open air and returned to the
amphitheatre for Cæsar's song, pushed up, and said,--
"I am here, O Radiant Offspring of the sun and moon. I was ill, but thy
song has restored me."
"I will send thee to Achæa," said Nero. "Thou must know to a copper how
much there is in each temple there."
"Do so, O Zeus, and the gods will give thee such tribute as they have
never given any one."
"I would, but I do not like to prevent thee from seeing the games."
"Baal!" said Chilo.
The Augustians, delighted that Cæsar had regained humor, fell to
laughing, and exclaimed,--
"No, lord, deprive not this valiant Greek of a sight of the games."
"But preserve me, O lord, from the sight of these noisy geese of the
Capitol, whose brains put together would not fill a nutshell," retorted
Chilo. "O firstborn of Apollo, I am writing a Greek hymn in thy honor,
and I wish to spend a few days in the temple of the Muses to implore
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Nero. "It is thy wish to escape future games.
Nothing will come of that!"
"I swear to thee, lord, that I am writing a hymn."
"Then thou wilt write it at night. Beg inspiration of Diana, who, by
the way, is a sister of Apollo."
Chilo dropped his head and looked with malice on those present, who
began to laugh again. Cæsar, turning to Senecio and Suilius Nerulinus,
"Imagine, of the Christians appointed for to-day we have been able to
finish hardly half!"
At this old Aquilus Regulus, who had great knowledge of everything
touching the amphitheatre, thought a while, and said,--
"Spectacles in which people appear sine armis et sine arte last almost
as long and are less entertaining."
"I will command to give them weapons," answered Nero.
But the superstitious Vestinius was roused from meditation at once, and
asked in a mysterious voice,--
"Have ye noticed that when dying they see something? They look up, and
die as it were without pain. I am sure that they see something."
He raised his eyes then to the opening of the amphitheatre, over which
night had begun to extend its velarium dotted with stars. But others
answered with laughter and jesting suppositions as to what the
Christians could see at the moment of death. Meanwhile Cæsar gave a
signal to the slave torch-bearers, and left the Circus; after him
followed vestals, senators, dignitaries, and Augustians.
The night was clear and warm. Before the Circus were moving throngs of
people, curious to witness the departure of Cæsar; but in some way they
were gloomy and silent. Here and there applause was heard, but it
ceased quickly. From the spoliarium creaking carts bore away the bloody
remnants of Christians.
Petronius and Vinicius passed over their road in silence. Only when
near his villa did Petronius inquire,--
"Hast thou thought of what I told thee?" "I have," answered Vinicius.
"Dost believe that for me too this is a question of the highest
importance? I must liberate her in spite of Cæsar and Tigellinus. This
is a kind of battle in which I have undertaken to conquer, a kind of
play in which I wish to win, even at the cost of my life. This day has
confirmed me still more in my plan."
"May Christ reward thee."
"Thou wilt see."
Thus conversing, they stopped at the door of the villa and descended
from the litter. At that moment a dark figure approached them, and
"Is the noble Vinicius here?"
"He is," answered the tribune. "What is thy wish?"
"I am Nazarius, the son of Miriam. I come from the prison, and bring
tidings of Lygia."
Vinicius placed his hand on the young man's shoulder and looked into his
eyes by the torchlight, without power to speak a word, but Nazarius
divined the question which was dying on his lips, and replied,--
"She is living yet. Ursus sent me to say that she prays in her fever,
and repeats thy name."
"Praise be to Christ, who has power to restore her to me," said
Vinicius. He conducted Nazarius to the library, and after a while
Petronius came in to hear their conversation.
"Sickness saved her from shame, for executioners are timid," said the
youth. "Ursus and Glaucus the physician watch over her night and day."
"Are the guards the same?"
"They are, and she is in their chamber. All the prisoners in the lower
dungeon died of fever, or were stifled from foul air."
"Who art thou?" inquired Petronins.
"The noble Vinicius knows me. I am the son of that widow with whom
"And a Christian?"
The youth looked with inquiring glance at Vinicius, but, seeing him in
prayer, he raised his head, and answered,--
"How canst thou enter the prison freely?"
"I hired myself to carry out corpses; I did so to assist my brethren and
bring them news from the city."
Petronius looked more attentively at the comely face of the youth, his
blue eyes, and dark, abundant hair.
"From what country art thou, youth?" asked he.
"I am a Galilean, lord."
"Wouldst thou like to see Lygia free?"
The youth raised his eyes. "Yes, even had I to die afterwards."
Then Vinicius ceased to pray, and said,--
"Tell the guards to place her in a coffin as if she were dead. Thou
wilt find assistants to bear her out in the night with thee. Near the
'Putrid Pits' will be people with a litter waiting for you; to them ye
will give the coffin. Promise the guards from me as much gold as each
can carry in his mantle."
While speaking, his face lost its usual torpor, and in him was roused
the soldier to whom hope had restored his former energy.
Nazarius was flushed with delight, and, raising his hands, he exclaimed,
"May Christ give her health, for she will be free."
"Dost thou think that the guards will consent?" inquired Petronius.
"They, lord? Yes, if they know that punishment and torture will not
"The guards would consent to her flight; all the more will they let us
bear her out as a corpse," said Vinicius.
"There is a man, it is true," said Nazarius, "who burns with red-hot
iron to see if the bodies which we carry out are dead. But he will take
even a few sestertia not to touch the face of the dead with iron. For
one aureus he will touch the coffin, not the body."
"Tell him that he will get a cap full of aurei," said Petronius. "But
canst thou find reliable assistants?"
"I can find men who would sell their own wives and children for money."
"Where wilt thou find them?"
"In the prison itself or in the city. Once the guards are paid, they
will admit whomever I like."
"In that case take me as a hired servant," said Vinicius.
But Petronius opposed this most earnestly. "The pretorians might
recognize thee even in disguise, and all would be lost. Go neither to
the prison nor the 'Putrid Pits.' All, including Cæsar and Tigellinus,
should be convinced that she died; otherwise they will order immediate
pursuit. We can lull suspicion only in this way: When she is taken to
the Alban Hills or farther, to Sicily, we shall be in Rome. A week or
two later thou wilt fall ill, and summon Nero's physician; he will tell
thee to go to the mountains. Thou and she will meet, and afterward--"
Here he thought a while; then, waving his hand, he said,--
"Other times may come."
"May Christ have mercy on her," said Vinicius. "Thou art speaking of
Sicily, while she is sick and may die."
"Let us keep her nearer Rome at first. The air alone will restore her,
if only we snatch her from the dungeon. Hast thou no manager in the
mountains whom thou canst trust?"
"I have," replied Vinicius, hurriedly. "Near Corioli is a reliable man
who carried me in his arms when I was a child, and who loves me yet."
"Write to him to come to-morrow," said Petronius, handing Vinicius
tablets. "I will send a courier at once."
He called the chief of the atrium then, and gave the needful orders. A
few minutes later, a mounted slave was coursing in the night toward
"It would please me were Ursus to accompany her," said Vinicius. "I
should be more at rest."
"Lord," said Nazarius, "that is a man of superhuman strength; he can
break gratings and follow her. There is one window above a steep, high
rock where no guard is placed. I will take Ursus a rope; the rest he
will do himself."
"By Hercules!" said Petronius, "let him tear himself out as he pleases,
but not at the same time with her, and not two or three days later, for
they would follow him and discover her hiding-place. By Hercules! do ye
wish to destroy yourselves and her? I forbid you to name Corioli to
him, or I wash my hands."
Both recognized the justice of these words, and were silent. Nazarius
took leave, promising to come the next morning at daybreak.
He hoped to finish that night with the guards, but wished first to run
in to see his mother, who in that uncertain and dreadful time had no
rest for a moment thinking of her son. After some thought he had
determined not to seek an assistant in the city, but to find and bribe
one from among his fellow corpse-bearers. When going, he stopped, and,
taking Vinicius aside, whispered,--
"I will not mention our plan to any one, not even to my mother, but the
Apostle Peter promised to come from the amphitheatre to our house; I
will tell him everything."
"Here thou canst speak openly," replied Vinicius. "The Apostle was in
the amphitheatre with the people of Petronius. But I will go with you
He gave command to bring him a slave's mantle, and they passed out.
Petronius sighed deeply.
"I wished her to die of that fever," thought he, "since that would have
been less terrible for Vinicius. But now I am ready to offer a golden
tripod to Esculapius for her health. Ah! Ahenobarbus, thou hast the
wish to turn a lover's pain into a spectacle; thou, Augusta, wert
jealous of the maiden's beauty, and wouldst devour her alive because thy
Rufius has perished. Thou, Tigellinus, wouldst destroy her to spite me!
We shall see. I tell you that your eyes will not behold her on the
arena, for she will either die her own death, or I shall wrest her from
you as from the jaws of dogs, and wrest her in such fashion that ye
shall not know it; and as often afterward as I look at you I shall
think, These are the fools whom Caius Petronius outwitted."
And, self-satisfied, he passed to the triclinium, where he sat down to
supper with Eunice. During the meal a lector read to them the Idyls of
Theocritus. Out of doors the wind brought clouds from the direction of
Soracte, and a sudden storm broke the silence of the calm summer night.
From time to time thunder reverberated on the seven hills, while they,
reclining near each other at the table, listened to the bucolic poet,
who in the singing Doric dialect celebrated the loves of shepherds.
Later on, with minds at rest, they prepared for sweet slumber.
But before this Vinicius returned. Petronius heard of his coming, and
went to meet him.
"Well? Have ye fixed anything new?" inquired he. "Has Nazarius gone to
"He has," answered the young man, arranging his hair, wet from the rain.
"Nazarius went to arrange with the guards, and I have seen Peter, who
commanded me to pray and believe."
"That is well. If all goes favorably, we can bear her away to-morrow
"My manager must be here at daybreak with men."
"The road is a short one. Now go to rest."
But Vinicius knelt in his cubiculum and prayed.
At sunrise Niger, the manager, arrived from Corioli, bringing with him,
at the order of Vinicius, mules, a litter, and four trusty men selected
among slaves from Britain, whom, to save appearances, he had left at an
inn in the Subura. Vinicius, who had watched all night, went to meet
him. Niger, moved at sight of his youthful master, kissed his hands and
"My dear, thou art ill, or else suffering has sucked the blood from thy
face, for hardly did I know thee at first."
Vinicius took him to the interior colonnade, and there admitted him to
the secret. Niger listened with fixed attention, and on his dry,
sunburnt face great emotion was evident; this he did not even try to
"Then she is a Christian?" exclaimed Niger; and he looked inquiringly
into the face of Vinicius, who divined evidently what the gaze of the
countryman was asking, since he answered,--
"I too am a Christian."
Tears glistened in Niger's eyes that moment. He was silent for a while;
then, raising his hands, he said,--
"I thank Thee, O Christ, for having taken the beam from eyes which are
the dearest on earth to me."
Then he embraced the head of Vinicius, and, weeping from happiness, fell
to kissing his forehead. A moment later, Petronius appeared, bringing
"Good news!" cried he, while still at a distance.
Indeed, the news was good. First, Glaucus the physician guaranteed
Lygia's life, though she had the same prison fever of which, in the
Tullianum and other dungeons, hundreds of people were dying daily. As
to the guards and the man who tried corpses with red-hot iron, there was
not the least difficulty. Attys, the assistant, was satisfied also.
"We made openings in the coffin to let the sick woman breathe," said
Nazarius. "The only danger is that she may groan or speak as we pass
the pretorians. But she is very weak, and is lying with closed eyes
since early morning. Besides, Glaucus will give her a sleeping draught
prepared by himself from drugs brought by me purposely from the city.
The cover will not be nailed to the coffin; ye will raise it easily and
take the patient to the litter. We will place in the coffin a long bag
of sand, which ye will provide."
Vinicius, while hearing these words, was as pale as linen; but he
listened with such attention that he seemed to divine at a glance what
Nazarius had to say.
"Will they carry out other bodies from the prison?" inquired Petronius.
"About twenty died last night, and before evening more will be dead,"
said the youth. "We must go with a whole company, but we will delay and
drop into the rear. At the first corner my comrade will get lame
purposely. In that way we shall remain behind the others considerably.
Ye will wait for us at the small temple of Libitina. May God give a
night as dark as possible!"
"He will," said Niger. "Last evening was bright, and then a sudden
storm came. To-day the sky is clear, but since morning it is sultry.
Every night now there will be wind and rain."
"Will ye go without torches?" inquired Vinicius.
"The torches are carried only in advance. In every event, be near the
temple of Libitina at dark, though usually we carry out the corpses only
just before midnight."
They stopped. Nothing was to be heard save the hurried breathing of
Vinicius. Petronius turned to him,--
"I said yesterday that it would be best were we both to stay at home,
but now I see that I could not stay. Were it a question of flight,
there would be need of the greatest caution; but since she will be borne
out as a corpse, it seems that not the least suspicion will enter the
head of any one."
"True, true!" answered Vinicius. "I must be there. I will take her
from the coffin myself."
"Once she is in my house at Corioli, I answer for her," said Niger.
Conversation stopped here. Niger returned to his men at the inn.
Nazarius took a purse of gold under his tunic and went to the prison.
For Vinicius began a day filled with alarm, excitement, disquiet, and
"The undertaking ought to succeed, for it is well planned," said
Petronius. "It was impossible to plan better. Thou must feign
suffering, and wear a dark toga. Do not desert the amphitheatre. Let
people see thee. All is so fixed that there cannot be failure. But--
art thou perfectly sure of thy manager?"
"He is a Christian," replied Vinicius.
Petronius looked at him with amazement, then shrugged his shoulders, and
said, as if in soliloquy,--
"By Pollux! how it spreads, and commands people's souls. Under such
terror as the present, men would renounce straightway all the gods of
Rome, Greece, and Egypt. Still, this is wonderful! By Pollux! if I
believed that anything depended on our gods, I would sacrifice six white
bullocks to each of them, and twelve to Capitoline Jove. Spare no
promises to thy Christ."
"I have given Him my soul," said Vinicius.
And they parted. Petronius returned to his cubiculum; but Vinicius went
to look from a distance at the prison, and thence betook himself to the
slope of the Vatican hill,--to that hut of the quarryman where he had
received baptism from the hands of the Apostle. It seemed to him that
Christ would hear him more readily there than in any other place; so
when he found it, he threw himself on the ground and exerted all the
strength of his suffering soul in prayer for mercy, and so forgot
himself that he remembered not where he was or what he was doing. In
the afternoon he was roused by the sound of trumpets which came from the
direction of Nero's Circus. He went out of the hut, and gazed around
with eyes which were as if just opened from sleep.
It was hot; the stillness was broken at intervals by the sound of brass
and continually by the ceaseless noise of grasshoppers. The air had
become sultry, the sky was still clear over the city, but near the
Sabine Hills dark clouds were gathering at the edge of the horizon.
Vinicius went home. Petronius was waiting for him in the atrium.
"I have been on the Palatine," said he. "I showed myself there
purposely, and even sat down at dice. There is a feast at the house of
Anicius this evening; I promised to go, but only after midnight, saying
that I must sleep before that hour. In fact I shall be there, and it
would be well wert thou to go also."
"Are there no tidings from Niger or Nazarius?" inquired Vinicius.
"No; we shall see them only at midnight. Hast noticed that a storm is
"To-morrow there is to be an exhibition of crucified Christians, but
perhaps rain will prevent it."
Then he drew nearer and said, touching his nephew's shoulder,--"But thou
wilt not see her on the cross; thou wilt see her only in Corioli. By
Castor! I would not give the moment in which we free her for all the
gems in Rome. The evening is near."
In truth the evening was near, and darkness began to encircle the city
earlier than usual because clouds covered the whole horizon. With the
coming of night heavy rain fell, which turned into steam on the stones
warmed by the heat of the day, and filled the streets of the city with
mist. After that came a lull, then brief violent showers.
"Let us hurry!" said Vinicius at last; "they may carry bodies from the
prison earlier because of the storm."
"It is time!" said Petronius.
And taking Gallic mantles with hoods, they passed through the garden
door to the street. Petronius had armed himself with a short Roman
knife called sicca, which he took always during night trips.
The city was empty because of the storm. From time to time lightning
rent the clouds, illuminating with its glare the fresh walls of houses
newly built or in process of building and the wet flag-stones with which
the streets were paved. At last a flash came, when they saw, after a
rather long road, the mound on which stood the small temple of Libitina,
and at the foot of the mound a group of mules and horses.
"Niger!" called Vinicius, in a low voice.
"I am here, lord," said a voice in the rain.
"Is everything ready?"
"It is. We were here at dark. But hide yourselves under the rampart,
or ye will be drenched. What a storm! Hail will fall, I think."
In fact Niger's fear was justified, for soon hail began to fall, at
first fine, then larger and more frequent. The air grew cold at once.
While standing under the rampart, sheltered from the wind and icy
missiles, they conversed in low voices.
"Even should some one see us," said Niger, "there will be no suspicion;
we look like people waiting for the storm to pass. But I fear that they
may not bring the bodies out till morning."
"The hail-storm will not last," said Petronius. "We must wait even till
They waited, listening to hear the sound of the procession. The
hail-storm passed, but immediately after a shower began to roar. At
times the wind rose, and brought from the "Putrid Pits" a dreadful odor
of decaying bodies, buried near the surface and carelessly.
"I see a light through the mist," said Niger,--"one, two, three,--those
are torches. See that the mules do not snort," said he, turning to the
"They are coming!" said Petronius.
The lights were growing more and more distinct. After a time it was
possible to see torches under the quivering flames.
Niger made the sign of the cross, and began to pray. Meanwhile the
gloomy procession drew nearer, and halted at last in front of the temple
of Libitina. Petronius, Vinicius, and Niger pressed up to the rampart
in silence, not knowing why the halt was made. But the men had stopped
only to cover their mouths and faces with cloths to ward off the
stifling stench which at the edge of the "Putrid Pits" was simply
unendurable; then they raised the biers with coffins and moved on. Only
one coffin stopped before the temple. Vinicius sprang toward it, and
after him Petronius, Niger, and two British slaves with the litter.
But before they had reached it in the darkness, the voice of Nazarius
was heard, full of pain,--
"Lord, they took her with Ursus to the Esquiline prison. We are
carrying another body! They removed her before midnight."
Petronius, when he had returned home, was gloomy as a storm, and did not
even try to console Vinicius. He understood that to free Lygia from the
Esquiline dungeons was not to be dreamed of. He divined that very
likely she had been taken from the Tullianum so as not to die of fever
and escape the amphitheatre assigned to her. But for this very reason
she was watched and guarded more carefully than others. From the bottom
of his soul Petronius was sorry for her and Vinicius, but he was wounded
also by the thought that for the first time in life he had not
succeeded, and for the first time was beaten in a struggle.
"Fortune seems to desert me," said he to himself, "but the gods are
mistaken if they think that I will accept such a life as his, for
Here he turned toward Vinicius, who looked at him with staring eyes.
"What is the matter? Thou hast a fever," said Petronius.
But Vinicius answered with a certain strange, broken, halting voice,
like that of a sick child,--"But I believe that He--can restore her to
Above the city the last thunders of the storm had ceased.
THREE days' rain, an exceptional phenomenon in Rome during summer, and
hail falling in opposition to the natural order, not only in the day,
but even at night, interrupted the spectacles. People were growing
alarmed. A failure of grapes was predicted, and when on a certain
afternoon a thunderbolt melted the bronze statue of Ceres on the
Capitol, sacrifices were ordered in the temple of Jupiter Salvator. The
priests of Ceres spread a report that the anger of the gods was turned
on the city because of the too hasty punishment of Christians; hence
crowds began to insist that the spectacles be given without reference to
weather. Delight seized all Rome when the announcement was made at last
that the ludus would begin again after three days' interval.
Meanwhile beautiful weather returned. The amphitheatre was filled at
daybreak with thousands of people. Cæsar came early with the vestals
and the court. The spectacle was to begin with a battle among the
Christians, who to this end were arrayed as gladiators and furnished
with all kinds of weapons which served gladiators by profession in
offensive and defensive struggles. But here came disappointment. The
Christians threw nets, darts, tridents, and swords on the arena,
embraced and encouraged one another to endurance in view of torture and
death. At this deep indignation and resentment seized the hearts of the
multitude. Some reproached the Christians with cowardice and
pusillanimity; others asserted that they refused to fight through hatred
of the people, so as to deprive them of that pleasure which the sight of
bravery produces. Finally, at command of Cæsar, real gladiators were
let out, who despatched in one twinkle the kneeling and defenceless
When these bodies were removed, the spectacle was a series of mythologic
pictures,--Cæsar's own idea. The audience saw Hercules blazing in
living fire on Mount Oeta. Vinicius had trembled at the thought that
the role of Hercules might be intended for Ursus; but evidently the turn
of Lygia's faithful servant had not come, for on the pile some other
Christian was burning,--a man quite unknown to Vinicius. In the next
picture Chilo, whom Cæsar would not excuse from attendance, saw
acquaintances. The death of Dædalus was represented, and also that of
Icarus. In the rôle of Dædalus appeared Euricius, that old man who had
given Chilo the sign of the fish; the role of Icarus was taken by his
son, Quartus. Both were raised aloft with cunning machinery, and then
hurled suddenly from an immense height to the arena. Young Quartus fell
so near Cæsar's podium that he spattered with blood not only the
external ornaments but the purple covering spread over the front of the
podium. Chilo did not see the fall, for he closed his eyes; but he
heard the dull thump of the body, and when after a time he saw blood
there close to him, he came near fainting a second time.
The pictures changed quickly. The shameful torments of maidens violated
before death by gladiators dressed as wild beasts, delighted the hearts
of the rabble. They saw priestesses of Cybele and Ceres, they saw the
Danaides, they saw Dirce and Pasiphaë; finally they saw young girls, not
mature yet, torn asunder by wild horses. Every moment the crowd
applauded new ideas of Nero, who, proud of them, and made happy by
plaudits, did not take the emerald from his eye for one instant while
looking at white bodies torn with iron, and the convulsive quivering of
Pictures were given also from the history of the city. After the
maidens they saw Mucius Scævola, whose hand fastened over a fire to a
tripod filled the amphitheatre with the odor of burnt flesh; but this
man, like the real Scævola, remained without a groan, his eyes raised
and the murmur of prayer on his blackening lips. When he had expired
and his body was dragged to the spoliarium, the usual midday interlude
followed. Cæsar with the vestals and the Augustians left the
amphitheatre, and withdrew to an immense scarlet tent erected purposely;
in this was prepared for him and the guests a magnificent prandium. The
spectators for the greater part followed his example, and, streaming
out, disposed themselves in picturesque groups around the tent, to rest
their limbs wearied from long sitting, and enjoy the food which, through
Cæsar's favor, was served by slaves to them. Only the most curious
descended to the arena itself, and, touching with their fingers lumps of
sand held together by blood, conversed, as specialists and amateurs, of
that which had happened and of that which was to follow. Soon even
these went away, lest they might be late for the feast; only those few
were left who stayed not through curiosity, but sympathy for the coming
victims. Those concealed themselves behind seats or in the lower
Meanwhile the arena was levelled, and slaves began to dig holes one near
the other in rows throughout the whole circuit from side to side, so
that the last row was but a few paces distant from Cæsar's podium. From
outside came the murmur of people, shouts and plaudits, while within
they were preparing in hot haste for new tortures. The cunicula were
opened simultaneously, and in all passages leading to the arena were
urged forward crowds of Christians naked and carrying crosses on their
shoulders. The whole arena was filled with them. Old men, bending
under the weight of wooden beams, ran forward; at the side of these went
men in the prime of life, women with loosened hair behind which they
strove to hide their nakedness, small boys, and little children. The
crosses, for the greater part, as well as the victims, were wreathed
with flowers. The servants of the amphitheatre beat the unfortunates
with clubs, forcing them to lay down their crosses near the holes
prepared, and stand themselves there in rows. Thus were to perish those
whom executioners had had no chance to drive out as food for dogs and
wild beasts the first day of the games. Black slaves seized the
victims, laid them face upward on the wood, and fell to nailing their
hands hurriedly and quickly to the arms of the crosses, so that people
returning after the interlude might find all the crosses standing. The
whole amphitheatre resounded with the noise of hammers which echoed
through all the rows, went out to the space surrounding the
amphitheatre, and into the tent where Cæsar was entertaining his suite
and the vestals. There he drank wine, bantered with Chilo, and
whispered strange words in the ears of the priestesses of Vesta; but on
the arena the work was seething,--nails were going into the hands and
feet of the Christians; shovels moved quickly, filling the holes in
which the crosses had been planted.
Among the new victims whose turn was to come soon was Crispus. The
lions had not had time to rend him; hence he was appointed to the cross.
He, ready at all times for death, was delighted with the thought that
his hour was approaching. He seemed another man, for his emaciated body
was wholly naked,--only a girdle of ivy encircled his hips, on his head
was a garland of roses. But in his eyes gleamed always that same
exhaustless energy; that same fanatical stern face gazed from beneath
the crown of roses. Neither had his heart changed; for, as once in the
cuniculum he had threatened with the wrath of God his brethren sewed up
in the skins of wild beasts, so to-day he thundered in place of
"Thank the Redeemer," said Crispus, "that He permits you to die the same
death that He Himself died. Maybe a part of your sins will be remitted
for this cause; but tremble, since justice must be satisfied, and there
cannot be one reward for the just and the wicked."
His words were accompanied by the sound of the hammers nailing the hands
and feet of victims. Every moment more crosses were raised on the
arena; but he, turning to the crowd standing each man by his own cross,
"I see heaven open, but I see also the yawning abyss. I know not what
account of my life to give the Lord, though I have believed, and hated
evil. I fear, not death, but resurrection; I fear, not torture, but
judgment, for the day of wrath is at hand."
At that moment was heard from between the nearest rows some voice, calm
"Not the day of wrath, but of mercy, the day of salvation and happiness;
for I say that Christ will gather you in, will comfort you and seat you
at His right hand. Be confident, for heaven is opening before you."
At these words all eyes were turned to the benches; even those who were
hanging on the crosses raised their pale, tortured faces, and looked
toward the man who was speaking.
But he went to the barrier surrounding the arena, and blessed them with
the sign of the cross.
Crispus stretched out his arm as if to thunder at him; but when he saw
the man's face, he dropped his arm, the knees bent under him, and his
lips whispered, "Paul the Apostle!"
To the great astonishment of the servants of the Circus, all of those
who were not nailed to the crosses yet knelt down. Paul turned to
Crispus and said,-
"Threaten them not, Crispus, for this day they will be with thee in
paradise. It is thy thought that they may be condemned. But who will
"Will God, who gave His Son for them? Will Christ, who died for their
salvation, condemn when they die for His name? And how is it possible
that He who loves can condemn? Who will accuse the chosen of God? Who
will say of this blood, 'It is cursed'?"
"I have hated evil," said the old priest.
"Christ's command to love men was higher than that to hate evil, for His
religion is not hatred, but love."
"I have sinned in the hour of death," answered Crispus, beating his
breast. The manager of the seats approached the Apostle, and inquired,
"Who art thou, speaking to the condemned?"
"A Roman citizen," answered Paul, calmly. Then, turning to Crispus, he
said: "Be confident, for to-day is a day of grace; die in peace, O
servant of God."
The black men approached Crispus at that moment to place him on the
cross; but he looked around once again, and cried,--
"My brethren, pray for me!"
His face had lost its usual sternness; his stony features had taken an
expression of peace and sweetness. He stretched his arms himself along
the arms of the cross, to make the work easier, and, looking directly
into heaven, began to pray earnestly. He seemed to feel nothing; for
when the nails entered his hands, not the least quiver shook his body,
nor on his face did there appear any wrinkle of pain. He prayed when
they raised the cross and trampled the earth around it. Only when
crowds began to fill the amphitheatre with shouts and laughter did his
brows frown somewhat, as if in anger that a pagan people were disturbing
the calm and peace of a sweet death.
But all the crosses had been raised, so that in the arena there stood as
it were a forest, with people hanging on the trees. On the arms of the
crosses and on the heads of the martyrs fell the gleam of the sun; but
on the arena was a deep shadow, forming a kind of black involved grating
through which glittered the golden sand. That was a spectacle in which
the whole delight of the audience consisted in looking at a lingering
death. Never before had men seen such a density of crosses. The arena
was packed so closely that the servants squeezed between them only with
effort. On the edges were women especially; but Crispus, as a leader,
was raised almost in front of Cæsar's podium, on an immense cross,
wreathed below with honeysuckle. None of the victims had died yet, but
some of those fastened earlier had fainted. No one groaned; no one
called for mercy. Some were hanging with head inclined on one arm, or
dropped on the breast, as if seized by sleep; some were as if in
meditation; some, looking toward heaven, were moving their lips quietly.
In this terrible forest of crosses, among those crucified bodies, in
that silence of victims there was something ominous. The people who,
filled by the feast and gladsome, had returned to the Circus with
shouts, became silent, not knowing on which body to rest their eyes, or
what to think of the spectacle. The nakedness of strained female forms
roused no feeling. They did not make the usual bets as to who would die
first,--a thing done generally when there was even the smallest number
of criminals on the arena. It seemed that Cæsar himself was bored, for
he turned lazily and with drowsy expression to arrange his necklace.
At that moment Crispus, who was hanging opposite, and who, like a man in
a faint or dying, had kept his eyes closed, opened them and looked at
Cæsar. His face assumed an expression so pitiless, and his eyes flashed
with such fire, that the Augustians whispered to one another, pointing
at him with their fingers, and at last Cæsar himself turned to that
cross, and placed the emerald to his eye sluggishly.
Perfect silence followed. The eyes of the spectators were fixed on
Crispus, who strove to move his right hand, as if to tear it from the
After a while his breast rose, his ribs were visible, and he cried:
"Matricide! woe to thee!"
The Augustians, hearing this mortal insult flung at the lord of the
world in presence of thousands, did not dare to breathe. Chilo was half
dead. Cæsar trembled, and dropped the emerald from his fingers. The
people, too, held the breath in their breasts. The voice of Crispus was
heard, as it rose in power, throughout the amphitheatre,--
"Woe to thee, murderer of wife and brother! woe to thee, Antichrist.
The abyss is opening beneath thee, death is stretching its hands to
thee, the grave is waiting for thee. Woe, living corpse, for in terror
shalt thou die and be damned to eternity!"
Unable to tear his hand from the cross, Crispus strained awfully. He was
terrible,--a living skeleton; unbending as predestination, he shook his
white beard over Nero's podium, scattering, as he nodded, rose leaves
from the garland on his head.
"Woe to thee, murderer! Thy measure is surpassed, and thy hour is at
Here he made one more effort. It seemed for a moment that he would free
his hand from the cross and hold it in menace above Cæsar; but all at
once his emaciated arms extended still more, his body settled down, his
head fell on his breast, and he died.
In that forest of crosses the weakest began also the sleep of eternity.
"LORD," said Chilo, "the sea is like olive oil, the waves seem to sleep.
Let us go to Achæa. There the glory of Apollo is awaiting thee, crowns
and triumph are awaiting thee, the people will deify thee, the gods will
receive thee as a guest, their own equal; but here, O lord--"
And he stopped, for his lower lip began to quiver so violently that his
words passed into meaningless sounds.
"We will go when the games are over," replied Nero. "I know that even
now some call the Christians innoxia corpora. If I were to go, all
would repeat this. What dost thou fear?"
Then he frowned, but looked with inquiring glance at Chilo, as if
expecting an answer, for he only feigned cool blood. At the last
exhibition he himself feared the words of Crispus; and when he had
returned to the Palatine, he could not sleep from rage and shame, but
also from fear.
Then Vestinius, who heard their conversation in silence, looked around,
and said in a mysterious voice,--
"Listen, lord, to this old man. There is something strange in those
Christians. Their deity gives them an easy death, but he may be
"It was not I who arranged the games, but Tigellinus," replied Nero,
"True! it was I," added Tigellinus, who heard Cæsar's answer, "and I
jeer at all Christian gods. Vestinius is a bladder full of prejudices,
and this valiant Greek is ready to die of terror at sight of a hen with
feathers up in defence of her chickens."
"True!" said Nero; "but henceforth give command to cut the tongues out
of Christians and stop their mouths."
"Fire will stop them, O divinity."
"Woe is me!" groaned Chilo.
But Cæsar, to whom the insolent confidence of Tigellinus gave courage,
began to laugh, and said, pointing to the old Greek,--
"See how the descendant of Achilles looks!"
Indeed Chilo looked terribly. The remnant of hair on his head had grown
white; on his face was fixed an expression of some immense dread, alarm,
and oppression. He seemed at times, too, as if stunned and only half
conscious. Often he gave no answer to questions; then again he fell
into anger, and became so insolent that the Augustians preferred not to
attack him. Such a moment had come to him then.
"Do what ye like with me, but I will not go to the games!" cried he, in
Nero looked at him for a while, and, turning to Tigellinus, said,--
"Have a care that this Stoic is near me in the gardens. I want to see
what impression our torches will make on him."
Chilo was afraid of the threat which quivered in Cæsar's voice. "O
lord," said he, "I shall see nothing, for I cannot see in the night-
"The night will be as bright as day," replied Cæsar, with a threatening
Turning then to the Augustians, Nero talked about races which he
intended to have when the games were over.
Petronius approached Chilo, and asked, pushing him on the shoulder,--
"Have I not said that thou wouldst not hold out?"
"I wish to drink," said Chilo, stretching his trembling hand toward a
goblet of wine; but he was unable to raise it to his lips. Seeing this,
Vestinius took the vessel; but later he drew near, and inquired with
curious and frightened face,--
"Are the Furies pursuing thee?"
The old man looked at him a certain time with open lips, as if not
understanding what he said. But Vestinius repeated,-
"Are the Furies pursuing thee?"
"No," answered Chilo; "but night is before me."
"How, night? May the gods have mercy on thee. How night?"
"Night, ghastly and impenetrable, in which something is moving,
something coming toward me; but I know not what it is, and I am
"I have always been sure that there are witches. Dost thou not dream of
"No, for I do not sleep. I did not think that they would be punished
"Art thou sorry for them?"
"Why do ye shed so much blood? Hast heard what that one said from the
cross? Woe to us!"
"I heard," answered Vestinius, in a low voice. "But they are
"And enemies of the human race."
"And poisoners of water."
"And murderers of children."
"How?" inquired Vestinius, with astonishment. "Thou hast said so
thyself, and given them into the hands of Tigellinus."
"Therefore night has surrounded me, and death is coming toward me. At
times it seems to me that I am dead already, and ye also."
"No! it is they who are dying; we are alive. But tell me, what do they
see when they are dying?"
"That is their god. Is he a mighty god?"
But Chilo answered with a question,--
"What kind of torches are to burn in the gardens? Hast thou heard what
"I heard, and I know. Those torches are called Sarmentitii and Semaxii.
They are made by arraying men in painful tunics, steeped in pitch, and
binding them to pillars, to which fire is set afterward. May their god
not send misfortune on the city. Semaxii! that is a dreadful
"I would rather see it, for there will not be blood," answered Chilo.
"Command a slave to hold the goblet to my mouth. I wish to drink, but I
spill the wine; my hand trembles from age."
Others also were speaking of the Christians. Old Domitius Afer reviled
"There is such a multitude of them," said he, "that they might raise a
civil war; and, remember, there were fears lest they might arm. But they
die like sheep."
"Let them try to die otherwise!" said Tigellinus.
To this Petronius answered, "Ye deceive yourselves. They are arming."
"That is a new kind of weapon."
"True. But can ye say that they die like common criminals? No! They
die as if the criminals were those who condemned them to death,--that
is, we and the whole Roman people."
"What raving!" said Tigellinus.
"Hic Abdera!" answered Petronius.
[A proverbial expression meaning "The dullest of the dull"--Note by the
But others, struck by the justice of his remark, began to look at one
another with astonishment, and repeat,--
"True! there is something peculiar and strange in their death."
"I tell you that they see their divinity!" cried Vestinius, from one
side. Thereupon a number of Augustians turned to Chilo,--
"Hai, old man, thou knowest them well; tell us what they see."
The Greek spat out wine on his tunic, and answered,--
"The resurrection." And he began to tremble so that the guests sitting
nearer burst into loud laughter.
FOR some time Vinicius had spent his nights away from home. It occurred
to Petronius that perhaps he had formed a new plan, and was working to
liberate Lygia from the Esquiline dungeon; he did not wish, however, to
inquire about anything, lest he might bring misfortune to the work.
This sceptical exquisite had become in a certain sense superstitious.
He had failed to snatch Lygia from the Mamertine prison, hence had
ceased to believe in his own star.
Besides, he did not count this time on a favorable outcome for the
efforts of Vinicius. The Esquiline prison, formed in a hurry from the
cellars of houses thrown down to stop the fire, was not, it is true, so
terrible as the old Tullianum near the Capitol, but it was a hundred
times better guarded. Petronius understood perfectly that Lygia had
been taken there only to escape death and not escape the amphitheatre.
He could understand at once that for this very reason they were guarding
her as a man guards the eye in his head.
"Evidently," said he to himself, "Cæsar and Tigellinus have reserved her
for some special spectacle, more dreadful than all others, and Vinicius
is more likely to perish than rescue her."
Vinicius, too, had lost hope of being able to free Lygia. Christ alone
could do that. The young tribune now thought only of seeing her in
For some time the knowledge that Nazarius had penetrated the Mamertine
prison as a corpse-bearer had given him no peace; hence he resolved to
try that method also.
The overseer of the "Putrid Pits," who had been bribed for an immense
sum of money, admitted him at last among servants whom he sent nightly
to prisons for corpses. The danger that Vinicius might be recognized
was really small. He was preserved from it by night, the dress of a
slave, and the defective illumination of the prison. Besides, into
whose head could it enter that a patrician, the grandson of one consul,
the son of another, could be found among servants, corpse-bearers,
exposed to the miasma of prisons and the "Putrid Pits"? And he began
work to which men were forced only by slavery or the direst need.
When the desired evening came, he girded his loins gladly, covered his
head with a cloth steeped in turpentine, and with throbbing heart betook
himself, with a crowd of others, to the Esquiline.
The pretorian guards made no trouble, for all had brought proper
tesseræ, which the centurion examined by the light of a lantern. After a
while the great iron doors opened before them, and they entered.
Vinicius saw an extensive vaulted cellar, from which they passed to a
series of others. Dim tapers illuminated the interior of each, which
was filled with people. Some of these were lying at the walls sunk in
sleep, or dead, perhaps. Others surrounded large vessels of water,
standing in the middle, out of which they drank as people tormented with
fever; others were sitting on the grounds, their elbows on their knees,
their heads on their palms; here and there children were sleeping,
nestled up to their mothers. Groans, loud hurried breathing of the
sick, weeping, whispered prayers, hymns in an undertone, the curses of
overseers were heard round about it. In this dungeon was the odor of
crowds and corpses. In its gloomy depth dark figures were swarming;
nearer, close to flickering lights, were visible faces, pale, terrified,
hungry, and cadaverous, with eyes dim, or else flaming with fever, with
lips blue, with streams of sweat on their foreheads, and with clammy
hair. In corners the sick were moaning loudly; some begged for water;
others, to be led to death. And still that prison was less terrible
than the old Tullianum. The legs bent under Vinicius when he saw all
this, and breath was failing in his breast. At the thought that Lygia
was in the midst of this misery and misfortune, the hair rose on his
head, and he stifled a cry of despair. The amphitheatre, the teeth of
wild beasts, the cross,--anything was better than those dreadful
dungeons filled with the odor of corpses, places in which imploring
voices called from every corner,--
"Lead us to death!"
Vinicius pressed his nails into his palms, for he felt that he was
growing weak, and that presence of mind was deserting him. All that he
had felt till then, all his love and pain, changed in him to one desire
Just then near his side was heard the overseer of the "Putrid Pits,"-
"How many corpses have ye to-day?"
"About a dozen," answered the guardian of the prison, "but there will be
more before morning; some are in agony at the walls."
And he fell to complaining of women who concealed dead children so as to
keep them near and not yield them to the "Putrid Pits." "We must
discover corpses first by the odor; through this the air, so terrible
already, is spoiled still more. I would rather be a slave in some rural
prison than guard these dogs rotting here while alive--"
The overseer of the pits comforted him, saying that his own service was
no easier. By this time the sense of reality had returned to Vinicius.
He began to search the dungeon; but sought in vain for Lygia, fearing
meanwhile that he would never see her alive. A number of cellars were
connected by newly made passages; the corpse-bearers entered only those
from which corpses were to be carried. Fear seized Vinicius lest that
privilege which had cost so much trouble might serve no purpose.
Luckily his patron aided him.
"Infection spreads most through corpses," said he. "Ye must carry out
the bodies at once, or die yourselves, together with the prisoners."
"There are only ten of us for all the cellars," said the guardian, "and
we must sleep."
"I will leave four men of mine, who will go through the cellars at night
to see if these are dead."
"We will drink to-morrow if thou do that. Everybody must be taken to
the test; for an order has come to pierce the neck of each corpse, and
then to the 'Putrid Pits' at once with it."
"Very well, but we will drink," said the overseer.
Four men were selected, and among them Vinicius; the others he took to
put the corpses on the biers.
Vinicius was at rest; he was certain now at least of finding Lygia. The
young tribune began by examining the first dungeon carefully; he looked
into all the dark corners hardly reached by the light of his torch; he
examined figures sleeping at the walls under coarse cloths; he saw that
the most grievously ill were drawn into a corner apart. But Lygia he
found in no place. In a second and third dungeon his search was equally
Meanwhile the hour had grown late; all corpses had been carried out.
The guards, disposing themselves in the corridors between cellars, were
asleep; the children, wearied with crying, were silent; nothing was
heard save the breathing of troubled breasts, and here and there the
murmur of prayer.
Vinicius went with his torch to the fourth dungeon, which was
considerably smaller. Raising the light, he began to examine it, and
trembled all at once, for it seemed to him that he saw, near a latticed
opening in the wall, the gigantic form of Ursus. Then, blowing out the
light, he approached him, and asked,-
"Ursus, art thou here?"
"Who art thou?" asked the giant, turning his head.
"Dost not know me?"
"Thou hast quenched the torch; how could I know thee?"
But at that moment Vinicius saw Lygia lying on a cloak near the wall;
so, without speaking further, he knelt near her. Ursus recognized him,
"Praise be to Christ! but do not wake her, lord."
Vinicius, kneeling down, gazed at her through his tears. In splte of
the darkness he could distinguish her face, which seemed to him as pale
as alabaster, and her emaciated arms. At that sight he was seized by a
love which was like a rending pain, a love which shook his soul to its
uttermost depth, and which at the same time was so full of pity,
respect, and homage that he fell on his face, and pressed to his lips
the hem of the cloak on which rested that head dearer to him than all
else on earth.
Ursus looked at Vinieius for a long time in silence, but at last he
pulled his tunic.
"Lord," asked he, "how didst thou come, and hast thou come here to save
Vinicius rose, and struggled for a time with his emotion. "Show me the
means," replied he.
"I thought that thou wouldst find them, lord. Only one method came to
Here he turned toward the grating in the wall, as if in answer to
himself, and said,--
"In that way--but there are soldiers outside--"
"A hundred pretorians."
"Then we cannot pass?"
The Lygian rubbed his forehead, and asked again,--
"How didst thou enter?"
"I have a tessera from the overseer of the 'Putrid Pits.'" Then Vinicius
stopped suddenly, as if some idea had flashed through his head.
"By the Passion of the Redeemer," said he, in a hurried voice, "I will
stay here. Let her take my tessera; she can wrap her head in a cloth,
cover her shoulders with a mantle, and pass out. Among the slaves who
carry out corpses there are several youths not full grown; hence the
pretorians will not notice her, and once at the house of Petronius she
But the Lygian dropped his head on his breast, and said,--"She would not
consent, for she loves thee; besides, she is sick, and unable to stand
alone. If thou and the noble Petronius cannot save her from prison, who
can?" said he, after a while.
Then both were silent.
"Christ could save all Christians," thought the Lygian, in his simple
heart; "but since He does not save them, it is clear that the hour of
torture and death has come."
He accepted it for himself, but was grieved to the depth of his soul for
that child who had grown up in his arms, and whom he loved beyond life.
Vinicius knelt again near Lygia. Through the grating in the wall
moonbeams came in, and gave better light than the one candle burning yet
over the entrance. Lygia opened her eyes now, and said, placing her
feverish hand on the arm of Vinicius,-
"I see thee; I knew that thou wouldst come."
He seized her hands, pressed them to his forehead and his heart, raised
her somewhat, and held her to his breast.
"I have come, dearest. May Christ guard and free thee, beloved Lygia!"
He could say no more, for the heart began to whine in his breast from
pain and love, and he would not show pain in her presence.
"I am sick, Marcus," said Lygia, "and I must die either on the arena or
here in prison--I have prayed to see thee before death; thou hast come,
--Christ has heard me."--
Unable to utter a word yet, he pressed her to his bosom, and she
"I saw thee through the window in the Tullianum. I saw that thou hadst
the wish to come to me. Now the Redeemer has given me a moment of
consciousness, so that we may take farewell of each other. I am going
to Him, Marcus, but I love thee, and shall love always."
Vinicius conquered himself; he stifled his pain and began to speak in a
voice which he tried to make calm,--
"No, dear Lygia, thou wilt not die. The Apostle commanded me to
believe, and he promised to pray for thee; he knew Christ,--Christ loved
him and will not refuse him. Hadst thou to die, Peter would not have
commanded me to be confident; but he said, 'Have confidence!'--No,
Lygia! Christ will have mercy. He does not wish thy death. He will
not permit it. I Swear to thee by the name of the Redeemer that Peter
is praying for thee."
Silence followed. The one candle hanging above the entrance went out,
but moonlight entered through the whole opening. In the opposite corner
of the cellar a child whined and was silent. From outside came the
voices of pretorians, who, after watching their turn out, were playing
under the wall at script duodecim.
"O Marcus," said Lygia, "Christ Himself called to the Father, 'Remove
this bitter cup from Me'; still He drank it. Christ Himself died on the
cross, and thousands are perishing for His sake. Why, then, should He
spare me alone? Who am I, Marcus? I have heard Peter say that he too
would die in torture. Who am I, compared with Peter? When the
pretorians came to us, I dreaded death and torture, but I dread them no
longer. See what a terrible prison this is, but I am going to heaven.
Think of it: Cæsar is here, but there the Redeemer, kind and merciful.
And there is no death there. Thou lovest me; think, then, how happy I
shall be. Oh, dear Marcus, think that thou wilt come to me there."
Here she stopped to get breath in her sick breast, and then raised his
hand to her lips,--
"What, dear one?"
"Do not weep for me, and remember this,--thou wilt come to me. I have
lived a short time, but God gave thy soul to me; hence I shall tell
Christ that though I died, and thou wert looking at my death, though
thou wert left in grief, thou didst not blaspheme against His will, and
that thou lovest Him always. Thou wilt love Him, and endure my death
patiently? For then He will unite us. I love thee and I wish to be
Breath failed her then, and in a barely audible voice she finished,-
"Promise me this, Marcus!"
Vinicius embraced her with trembling arms, and said,-
"By thy sacred head! I promise."
Her pale face became radiant in the sad light of the moon, and once more
she raised his hand to her lips, and whispered,--
"I am thy wife!"
Beyond the wall the pretorians playing script duodecim raised a louder
dispute; but Vinicius and Lygia forgot the prison, the guards, the
world, and, feeling within them the souls of angels, they began to pray.
FOR three days, or rather three nights, nothing disturbed their peace.
When the usual prison work was finished, which consisted in separating
the dead from the living and the grievously sick from those in better
health, when the wearied guards had lain down to sleep in the corridors,
Vinicius entered Lygia's dungeon and remained there till daylight. She
put her head on his breast, and they talked in low voices of love and of
death. In thought and speech, in desires and hopes even, both were
removed unconsciously more and more from life, and they lost the sense
of it. Both were like people who, having sailed from land in a ship,
saw the shore no more, and were sinking gradually into infinity. Both
changed by degrees into sad souls in love with each other and with
Christ, and ready to fly away. Only at times did pain start up in the
heart of Vinicius like a whirlwind, at times there flashed in him like
lightning, hope, born of love and faith in the crucified God; but he
tore himself away more and more each day from the earth, and yielded to
death. In the morning, when he went from the prison, he looked on the
world, on the city, on acquaintances, on vital interests, as through a
dream. Everything seemed to him strange, distant, vain, fleeting. Even
torture ceased to terrify, since one might pass through it while sunk in
thought and with eyes fixed on another thing. It seemed to both that
eternity had begun to receive them. They conversed of how they would
love and live together, but beyond the grave; and if their thoughts
returned to the earth at intervals, these were thoughts of people who,
setting out on a long journey, speak of preparations for the road.
Moreover they were surrounded by such silence as in some desert
surrounds two columns far away and forgotten. Their only care was that
Christ should not separate them; and as each moment strengthened their
conviction that He would not, they loved Him as a link uniting them in
endless happiness and peace. While still on earth, the dust of earth
fell from them. The soul of each was as pure as a tear. Under terror
of death, amid misery and suffering, in that prison den, heaven had
begun, for she had taken him by the hand, and, as if saved and a saint,
had led him to the source of endless life.
Petronius was astonished at seeing in the face of Vinicius increasing
peace and a certain wonderful serenity which he had not noted before.
At times even he supposed that Vinicius had found some mode of rescue,
and he was piqued because his nephew had not confided his hopes to him.
At last, unable to restrain himself, he said,--
"Now thou hast another look; do not keep from me secrets, for I wish and
am able to aid thee. Hast thou arranged anything?"
"I have," said Vinicius; "but thou canst not help me. After her death I
will confess that I am a Christian and follow her."
"Then thou hast no hope?"
"On the contrary, I have. Christ will give her to me, and I shall never
be separated from her."
Petronius began to walk in the atrium; disillusion and impatience were
evident on his face.
"Thy Christ is not needed for this,--our Thanatos [death] can render the
Vinicius smiled sadly, and said,--"No, my dear, thou art unwilling to
"I am unwilling and unable. It is not the time for discussion, but
remember what I said when we failed to free her from the Tullianum. I
lost all hope, and on the way home thou didst say, 'But I believe that
Christ can restore her to me.' Let Him restore her. If I throw a costly
goblet into the sea, no god of ours can give it back to me; if yours is
no better, I know not why I should honor Him beyond the old ones."
"But He will restore her to me."
Pettonius shrugged his shoulders. "Dost know," inquired he, "that
Christians are to illuminate Cæsar's gardens to-morrow?"
"To-morrow?" repeated Vinicius.
And in view of the near and dreadful reality his heart trembled with
pain and fear. "This is the last night, perhaps, which I can pass with
Lygia," thought he. So bidding farewell to Petronius, he went hurriedly
to the overseer of the "Putrid Pits" for his tessera. But disappointment
was in waiting,--the overseer would not give the tessera.
"Pardon me," said he, "I have done what I could for thee, but I cannot
risk my life. To-night they are to conduct the Christians to Cæsar's
gardens. The prisons will be full of soldiers and officials. Shouldst
thou be recognized, I and my children would be lost."
Vinicius understood that it would be vain to insist. The hope gleamed
in him, however, that the soldiers who had seen him before would admit
him even without a tessera; so, with the coming of night, he disguised
himself as usual in the tunic of a corpse-bearer, and, winding a cloth
around his head, betook himself to the prison.
But that day the tesseræ were verified with greater care than usual; and
what was more, the centurion Scevinus, a strict soldier, devoted soul
and body to Cæsar, recognized Vinicius. But evidently in his iron-clad
breast there glimmered yet some spark of pity for misfortunes. Instead
of striking his spear in token of alarm, he led Vinicius aside and
"Return to thy house, lord. I recognize thee; but not wishing thy ruin,
I am silent. I cannot admit thee; go thy way, and may the gods send
"Thou canst not admit me," said Vinicius, "but let me stand here and
look at those who are led forth."
"My order does not forbid that," said Scevinus.
Vinicius stood before the gate and waited. About midnight the prison
gate was opened widely, and whole ranks of prisoners appeared,--men,
women, and children, surrounded by armed pretorians. The night was very
bright; hence it was possible to distinguish not only the forms, but the
faces of the unfortunates. They went two abreast, in a long, gloomy
train, amid stillness broken only by the clatter of weapons. So many
were led out that all the dungeons must be empty, as it seemed. In the
rear of the line Vinicius saw Glaucus the physician distinctly, but
Lygia and Ursus were not among the condemned.
DARKNESS had not come when the first waves of people began to flow into
Cæsar's gardens. The crowds, in holiday costume, crowned with flowers,
joyous, singing, and some of them drunk, were going to look at the new,
magnificent spectacle. Shouts of "Semaxii! Sarmentitii!" were heard on
the Via Tecta, on the bridge of Æmilius, and from the other side of the
Tiber, on the Triumphal Way, around the Circus of Nero, and off towards
the Vatican Hill. In Rome people had been seen burnt on pillars before,
but never had any one seen such a number of victims.
Cæsar and Tigellinus, wishing to finish at once with the Christians and
also to avoid infection, which from the prisons was spreading more and
more through the city, had given command to empty all dungeons, so that
there remained in them barely a few tens of people intended for the
close of the spectacles. So, when the crowds had passed the gates, they
were dumb with amazement. All the main and side alleys, which lay
through dense groves and along lawns, thickets, ponds, fields, and
squares filled with flowers, were packed with pillars smeared with
pitch, to which Christians were fastened. In higher places, where the
view was not hindered by trees, one could see whole rows of pillars and
bodies decked with flowers, myrtle, and ivy, extending into the distance
on high and low places, so far that, though the nearest were like masts
of ships, the farthest seemed colored darts, or staffs thrust into the
earth. The number of them surpassed the expectation of the multitude.
One might suppose that a whole nation had been lashed to pillars for
Rome's amusement and for Cæsar's. The throng of spectators stopped
before single masts when their curiosity was roused by the form or the
sex of the victim; they looked at the faces, the crowns, the garlands of
ivy; then they went farther and farther, asking themselves with
amazement, "Could there have been so many criminals, or how could
children barely able to walk have set fire to Rome?" and astonishment
passed by degrees into fear.
Meanwhile darkness came, and the first stars twinkled in the sky. Near
each condemned person a slave took his place, torch in hand; when the
sound of trumpets was heard in various parts of the gardens, in sign
that the spectacle was to begin, each slave put his torch to the foot of
a pillar. The straw, hidden under the flowers and steeped in pitch,
burned at once with a bright flame which, increasing every instant,
withered the ivy, and rising embraced the feet of the victims. The
people were silent; the gardens resounded with one immense groan and
with cries of pain. Some victims, however, raising their faces toward
the starry sky, began to sing, praising Christ. The people listened.
But the hardest hearts were filled with terror when, on smaller pillars,
children cried with shrill voices, "Mamma! Mamma!" A shiver ran
through even spectators who were drunk when they saw little heads and
innocent faces distorted with pain, or children fainting in the smoke
which began to stifle them. But the flames rose, and seized new crowns
of roses and ivy every instant. The main and side alleys were
illuminated; the groups of trees, the lawns, and the flowery squares
were illuminated; the water in pools and ponds was gleaming, the
trembling leaves on the trees had grown rose-colored, and all was as
visible as in daylight. When the odor of burnt bodies filled the
gardens, slaves sprinkled between the pillars myrrh and aloes prepared
purposely. In the crowds were heard here and there shouts,--whether of
sympathy or delight and joy, it was unknown; and they increased every
moment with the fire, which embraced the pillars, climbed to the breasts
of the victims, shrivelled with burning breath the hair on their heads,
threw veils over their blackened faces, and then shot up higher, as if
showing the victory and triumph of that power which had given command to
At the very beginning of the spectacle Cæsar had appeared among the
people in a magnificent quadriga of the Circus, drawn by four white
steeds. He was dressed as a charioteer in the color of the Greens,--the
court party and his. After him followed other chariots filled with
courtiers in brilliant array, senators, priests, bacchantes, naked and
crowned, holding pitchers of wine, and partly drunk, uttering wild
shouts. At the side of these were musicians dressed as fauns and
satyrs, who played on citharas, formingas, flutes, and horns. In other
chariots advanced matrons and maidens of Rome, drunk also and half
naked. Around the quadriga ran men who shook thyrses ornamented with
ribbons; others beat drums; others scattered flowers.
All that brilliant throng moved forward, shouting, "Evoe!" on the widest
road of the garden, amidst smoke and processions of people. Cæsar,
keeping near him Tigellinus and also Chilo, in whose terror he sought to
find amusement, drove the steeds himself, and, advancing at a walk,
looked at the burning bodies, and heard the shouts of the multitude.
Standing on the lofty gilded chariot, surrounded by a sea of people who
bent to his feet, in the glitter of the fire, in the golden crown of a
circus-victor, he was a head above the courtiers and the crowd. He
seemed a giant. His immense arms, stretched forward to hold the reins,
seemed to bless the multitude. There was a smile on his face and in his
blinking eyes; he shone above the throng as a sun or a deity, terrible
but commanding and mighty.
At times he stopped to look with more care at some maiden whose bosom
had begun to shrink in the flames, or at the face of a child distorted
by convulsions; and again he drove on, leading behind him a wild,
excited retinue. At times he bowed to the people, then again he bent
backward, drew in the golden reins, and spoke to Tigellinus. At last,
when he had reached the great fountain in the middle of two crossing
streets, he stepped from the quadriga, and, nodding to his attendants,
mingled with the throng.
He was greeted with shouts and plaudits. The bacchantes, the nymphs,
the senators and Augustians, the priests, the fauns, satyrs, and
soldiers surrounded him at once in an excited circle; but he, with
Tigellinus on one side and Chilo on the other, walked around the
fountain, about which were burning some tens of torches; stopping before
each one, he made remarks on the victims, or jeered at the old Greek, on
whose face boundless despair was depicted.
At last he stood before a lofty mast decked with myrtle and ivy. The red
tongues of fire had risen only to the knees of the victim; but it was
impossible to see his face, for the green burning twigs had covered it
with smoke. After a while, however, the light breeze of night turned
away the smoke and uncovered the head of a man with gray beard falling
on his breast.
At sight of him Chilo was twisted into a lump like a wounded snake, and
from his mouth came a cry more like cawing than a human voice.
In fact, Glaucus the physician looked down from the burning pillar at
him. Glaucus was alive yet. His face expressed pain, and was inclined
forward, as if to look closely for the last time at his executioner, at
the man who had betrayed him, robbed him of wife and children, set a
murderer on him, and who, when all this had been forgiven in the name of
Christ, had delivered him to executioners. Never had one person
inflicted more dreadful or bloody wrongs on another. Now the victim was
burning on the pitched pillar, and the executioner was standing at his
feet. The eyes of Glaucus did nor leave the face of the Greek. At
moments they were hidden by smoke; but when the breeze blew this away,
Chilo saw again those eyes fixed on him. He rose and tried to flee, but
had not strength. All at once his legs seemed of lead; an invisible
hand seemed to hold him at that pillar with superhuman force. He was
petrified. He felt that something was overflowing in him, something
giving way; he felt that he had had a surfeit of blood and torture, that
the end of his life was approaching, that everything was vanishing,
Cæsar, the court, the multitude, and around him was only a kind of
bottomless, dreadful black vacuum with no visible thing in it, save
those eyes of a martyr which were summoning him to judgment. But
Glaucus, bending his head lower down, looked at him fixedly. Those
present divined that something was taking place between those two men.
Laughter died on their lips, however, for in Chilo's face there was
something terrible: such pain and fear had distorted it as if those
tongues of fire were burning his body. On a sudden he staggered, and,
stretching his arms upward, cried in a terrible and piercing voice,--
"Glaucus! in Christ's name! forgive me!"
It grew silent round about, a quiver ran through the spectators, and all
eyes were raised involuntarily.
The head of the martyr moved slightly, and from the top of the mast was
heard a voice like a groan,--
Chilo threw himself on his face, and howled like a wild beast; grasping
earth in both hands, he sprinkled it on his head. Meanwhile the flames
shot up, seizing the breast and face of Glaucus; they unbound the myrtle
crown on his head, and seized the ribbons on the top of the pillar, the
whole of which shone with great blazing.
Chilo stood up after a while with face so changed that to the Augustians
he seemed another man. His eyes flashed with a light new to him,
ecstasy issued from his wrinkled forehead; the Greek, incompetent a
short time before, looked now like some priest visited by a divinity and
ready to reveal unknown truths.
"What is the matter? Has he gone mad?" asked a number of voices.
But he turned to the mulitiude, and, raising his right hand, cried, or
rather shouted, in a voice so piercing that not only the Augustians but
the multitude heard him,--
"Roman people! I swear by my death, that innocent persons are perishing
here. That is the incendiary!"
And he pointed his finger at Nero.
Then came a moment of silence. The courtiers were benumbed. Chilo
continued to stand with outstretched, trembling arm, and with finger
pointed at Nero. All at once a tumult arose. The people, like a wave,
urged by a sudden whirlwind, rushed toward the old man to look at him
more closely. Here and there were heard cries, "Hold!" In another
place, "Woe to us!" In the throng a hissing and uproar began.
"Ahenobarbus! Matricide! Incendiary!" Disorder increased every
instant. The bacchantes screamed in heaven-piercing voices, and began
to hide in the chariots. Then some pillars which were burned through,
fell, scattered sparks, and increased the confusion. A blind dense wave
of people swept away Chilo, and bore him to the depth of the garden.
The pillars began to burn through in every direction and fall across the
streets, filling alleys with smoke, sparks, the odor of burnt wood and
burnt flesh. The nearer lights died. The gardens began to grow dark.
The crowds, alarmed, gloomy, and disturbed, pressed toward the gates.
News of what had happened passed from mouth to mouth, distorted and
increased. Some said that Cæsar had fainted; others that he had
confessed, saying that he had given command to burn Rome; others that he
had fallen seriously ill; and still others that he had been borne our,
as if dead, in the chariot. Here and there were heard voices of sympathy
for the Christians: "If they had not burned Rome, why so much blood,
torture, and injustice? Will not the gods avenge the innocent, and what
piacula can mollify them now?" The words innoxia corpora were repeated
oftener and oftener. Women expressed aloud their pity for children
thrown in such numbers to wild beasts, nailed to crosses or burned in
those cursed gardens! And finally pity was turned into abuse of Cæsar
and Tigellinus. There were persons, too, who, stopping suddenly, asked
themselves or others the question, "What kind of divinity is that which
gives such strength to meet torture and death?" And they returned home
But Chilo was wandering about in the gardens, not knowing where to go or
where to turn. Again he felt himself a weak, helpless, sick old man.
Now he stumbled against partly burnt bodies; now he struck a torch,
which sent a shower of sparks after him; now he sat down, and looked
around with vacant stare. The gardens had become almost dark. The pale
moon moving among the trees shone with uncertain light on the alleys,
the dark pillars lying across them, and the partly burnt victims turned
into shapeless lumps. But the old Greek thought that in the moon he saw
the face of Glaucus, whose eyes were looking at him yet persistently,
and he hid before the light. At last he went out of the shadow, in
spite of himself; as if pushed by some hidden power, he turned toward
the fountain where Glaucus had yielded up the spirit.
Then some hand touched his shoulder. He turned, and saw an unknown
person before him.
"Who art thou?" exclaimed he, with terror.
"Paul of Tarsus."
"I am accursed!--What dost thou wish?"
"I wish to save thee," answered the Apostle.
Chilo supported himself against a tree. His legs bent under him, and
his arms hung parallel with his body.
"For me there is no salvation," said he, gloomily.
"Hast thou heard how God forgave the thief on the cross who pitied Him?"
"Dost thou know what I have done?"
"I saw thy suffering, and heard thy testimony to the truth."
"And if a servant of Christ forgave thee in the hour of torture and
death, why should Christ not forgive thee?"
Chilo seized his head with both hands, as if in bewilderment.
"Forgiveness! for me, forgiveness!"
"Our God is a God of mercy," said Paul.
"For me?" repeated Chilo; and he began to groan like a man who lacks
strength to control his pain and suffering.
"Lean on me," said Paul, "and go with me."
And taking him he went to the crossing of the streets, guided by the
voice of the fountain, which seemed to weep in the night stillness over
the bodies of those who had died in torture.
"Our God is a God of mercy," repeated the Apostle. "Wert thou to stand
at the sea and cast in pebbles, couldst thou fill its depth with them?
I tell thee that the mercy of Christ is as the sea, and that the sins
and faults of men sink in it as pebbles in the abyss; I tell thee that
it is like the sky which covers mountains, lands, and seas, for it is
everywhere and has neither end nor limit. Thou hast suffered at the
pillar of Glaucus. Christ saw thy suffering. Without reference to what
may meet thee to-morrow, thou didst say, 'That is the incendiary,' and
Christ remembers thy words. Thy malice and falsehood are gone; in thy
heart is left only boundless sorrow. Follow me and listen to what I say.
I am he who hated Christ and persecuted His chosen ones. I did not want
Him, I did not believe in Him till He manifested Himself and called me.
Since then He is, for me, mercy. He has visited thee with compunction,
with alarm, and with pain, to call thee to Himself. Thou didst hate
Him, but He loved thee. Thou didst deliver His confessors to torture,
but He wishes to forgive and save thee."
Immense sobbing shook the breast of the wretched man, sobbing by which
the soul in him was rent to its depths; but Paul took possession of him,
mastered him, led him away, as a soldier leads a captive.
After a while the Apostle began again to speak:--
"Come with me; I will lead thee to Him. For why else have I come to
"Christ commanded me to gather in souls in the name of love; hence I
perform His service. Thou thinkest thyself accursed, but I say: Believe
in Him, and salvation awaits thee. Thou thinkest that thou art hated,
but I repeat that He loves thee. Look at me. Before I had Him I had
nothing save malice, which dwelt in my heart, and now His love suffices
me instead of father and mother, wealth and power. In Him alone is
refuge. He alone will see thy sorrow, believe in thy misery, remove thy
alarm, and raise thee to Himself."
Thus speaking, he led him to the fountain, the silver stream of which
gleamed from afar in the moonlight. Round about was silence; the
gardens were empty, for slaves had removed the charred pillars and the
bodies of the martyrs.
Chilo threw himself on his knees with a groan, and hiding his face in
his hands remained motionless. Paul raised his face to the stars. "O
Lord," prayed he, "look on this wretched man, on his sorrow, his tears,
and his suffering! O God of mercy, who hast shed Thy blood for our
sins, forgive him, through Thy torment, Thy death and resurrection!"
Then he was silent; but for a long time he looked toward the stars, and
Meanwhile from under his feet was heard a cry which resembled a groan,--
"O Christ! O Christ! forgive me!"
Paul approached the fountain then, and, taking water in his hand, turned
to the kneeling wretch,--
"Chilo!--I baptize thee in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Chilo raised his head, opened his arms, and remained in that posture.
The moon shone with full light on his white hair and on his equally
white face, which was as motionless as if dead or cut out of stone. The
moments passed one after another. From the great aviaries in the
gardens of Domitian came the crowing of cocks; but Chilo remained
kneeling, like a statue on a monument. At last he recovered, spoke to
the Apostle, and asked,--
"What am I to do before death?"
Paul was roused also from meditation on the measureless power which even
such spirits as that of this Greek could not resist, and answered,--
"Have faith, and bear witness to the truth."
They went out together. At the gate the Apostle blessed the old man
again, and they parted. Chilo himself insisted on this, for after what
had happened he knew that Cæsar and Tigellinus would give command to
Indeed he was not mistaken. When he returned home, he found the house
surrounded by pretorians, who led him away, and took him under direction
of Scevinus to the Palatine.
Cæsar had gone to rest, but Tigellitius was waiting. When he saw the
unfortunate Greek, he greeted him with a calm but ominous face.
"Thou hast committed the crime of treason," said he, "and punishment
will not pass thee; but if to-morrow thou testify in the amphitheatre
that thou wert drunk and mad, and that the authors of the conflagration
are Christians, thy punishment will be limited to stripes and exile."
"I cannot do that," answered Chilo, calmly.
Tigellinus approached him with slow step, and with a voice also low but
"How is that?" asked he. "Thou canst not, Greek dog? Wert thou not
drunk, and dost thou not understand what is waiting for thee? Look
there!" and he pointed to a corner of the atrium in which, near a long
wooden bench, stood four Thracian slaves in the shade with ropes, and
with pincers in their hands.
But Chilo answered,--
Rage seized Tigellinus, but he restrained himself yet.
"Hast thou seen," inquired he, "how Christians die? Dost wish to die in
The old man raised his pale face; for a time his lips moved in silence,
and he answered,--
"I too believe in Christ."
Tigellinus looked at him with amazement. "Dog, thou hast gone mad in
And suddenly the rage in his breast broke its bounds. Springing at
Chilo, he caught him by the beard with both hands, hurled him to the
floor, trampled him, repeating, with foam on his lips,--
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