Quo Vadis A Narrative of the Time of Nero
Part 3 out of 12
That has happened which Lygia herself wished."
"It was known to thee that she wished to flee!" burst out Vinicius.
"I knew that she would not become thy concubine." And she looked at him
with her misty eyes almost sternly.
"And thou,--what hast thou been all thy life?"
"I was a slave, first of all."
But Vinicius did not cease to be enraged. Cæsar had given him Lygia;
hence he had no need to inquire what she had been before. He would find
her, even under the earth, and he would do what he liked with her. He
would indeed! She should be his concubine. He would give command to
flog her as often as he pleased. If she grew distasteful to him, he
would give her to the lowest of his slaves, or he would command her to
turn a handmill on his lands in Africa. He would seek her out now, and
find her only to bend her, to trample on her, and conquer her.
And, growing more and more excited, he lost every sense of measure, to
the degree that even Acte saw that he was promising more than he could
execute; that he was talking because of pain and anger. She might have
had even compassion on him, but his extravagance exhausted her patience,
and at last she inquired why he had come to her.
Vinicius did not find an answer immediately. He had come to her because
he wished to come, because he judged that she would give him
information; but really he had come to Cæsar, and, not being able to see
him, he came to her. Lygia, by fleeing, opposed the will of Cæsar;
hence he would implore him to give an order to search for her throughout
the city and the empire, even if it came to using for that purpose all
the legions, and to ransacking in turn every house within Roman
dominion. Petronius would support his prayer, and the search would
begin from that day.
"Have a care," answered Acte, "lest thou lose her forever the moment she
is found, at command of Cæsar."
Vinicius wrinkled his brows. "What does that mean?" inquired he.
"Listen to me, Marcus. Yesterday Lygia and I were in the gardens here,
and we met Poppæa, with the infant Augusta, borne by an African woman,
Lilith. In the evening the child fell ill, and Lilith insists that she
was bewitched; that that foreign woman whom they met in the garden
bewitched her. Should the child recover, they will forget this, but in
the opposite case Poppæa will be the first to accuse Lygia of
witchcraft, and wherever she is found there will be no rescue for her."
A moment of silence followed; then Vinicius said,--"But perhaps she did
bewitch her, and has bewitched me."
"Lilith repeats that the child began to cry the moment she carried her
past us. And really the child did begin to cry. It is certain that she
was sick when they took her out of the garden. Marcus, seek for Lygia
whenever it may please thee, but till the infant Augusta recovers, speak
not of her to Cæsar, or thou wilt bring on her Poppæa's vengeance. Her
eyes have wept enough because of thee already, and may all the gods
guard her poor head."
"Dost thou love her, Acte?" inquired Vinicius, gloomily.
"Yes, I love her." And tears glittered in the eyes of the freedwoman.
"Thou lovest her because she has not repaid thee with hatred, as she has
Acte looked at him for a time as if hesitating, or as if wishing to
learn if he spoke sincerely; then she said,--"O blind and passionate
man--she loved thee."
Vinicius sprang up under the influence of those words, as if possessed.
"It is not true."
She hated him. How could Acte know? Would Lygia make a confession to
her after one day's acquaintance? What love is that which prefers
wandering, the disgrace of poverty, the uncertainty of to-morrow, or a
shameful death even, to a wreath-bedecked house, in which a lover is
waiting with a feast? It is better for him not to hear such things, for
he is ready to go mad. He would not have given that girl for all
Cæsar's treasures, and she fled. What kind of love is that which dreads
delight and gives pain? Who can understand it? Who can fathom it?
Were it not for the hope that he should find her, he would sink a sword
in himself. Love surrenders; it does not take away. There were moments
at the house of Aulus when he himself believed in near happiness, but
now he knows that she hated him, that she hates him, and will die with
hatred in her heart.
But Acte, usually mild and timid, burst forth in her turn with
indignation. How had he tried to win Lygia? Instead of bowing before
Aulus and Pomponia to get her, he took the child away from her parents
by stratagem. He wanted to make, not a wife, but a concubine of her,
the foster daughter of an honorable house, and the daughter of a king.
He had her brought to this abode of crime and infamy; he defiled her
innocent eyes with the sight of a shameful feast; he acted with her as
with a wanton. Had he forgotten the house of Aulus and Pomponia
Græcina, who had reared Lygia? Had he not sense enough to understand
that there are women different from Nigidia or Calvia Crispinilla or
Poppæa, and from all those whom he meets in Cæsar's house? Did he not
understand at once on seeing Lygia that she is an honest maiden, who
prefers death to infamy? Whence does he know what kind of gods she
worships, and whether they are not purer and better than the wanton
Venus, or than Isis, worshipped by the profligate women of Rome? No!
Lygia had made no confession to her, but she had said that she looked
for rescue to him, to Vinicius: she had hoped that he would obtain for
her permission from Cæsar to return home, that he would restore her to
Pomponia. And while speaking of this, Lygia blushed like a maiden who
loves and trusts. Lygia's heart beat for him; but he, Vinicius, had
terrified and offended her; had made her indignant; let him seek her now
with the aid of Cæsar's soldiers, but let him know that should Poppæa's
child die, suspicion will fall on Lygia, whose destruction will then be
Emotion began to force its way through the anger and pain of Vinicius.
The information that he was loved by Lygia shook him to the depth of his
soul. He remembered her in Aulus's garden, when she was listening to
his words with blushes on her face and her eyes full of light. It
seemed to him then that she had begun to love him; and all at once, at
that thought, a feeling of certain happiness embraced him, a hundred
times greater than that which he desired. He thought that he might have
won her gradually, and besides as one loving him. She would have
wreathed his door, rubbed it with wolf's fat, and then sat as his wife
by his hearth on the sheepskin. He would have heard from her mouth the
sacramental: "Where thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia." And she would
have been his forever. Why did he not act thus? True, he had been
ready so to act. But now she is gone, and it may be impossible to find
her; and should he find her, perhaps he will cause her death, and should
he not cause her death, neither she nor Aulus nor Pomponia Græcina will
favor him. Here anger raised the hair on his head again; but his anger
turned now, not against the house of Aulus, or Lygia, but against
Petronius. Petronius was to blame for everything. Had it not been for
him Lygia would not have been forced to wander; she would be his
betrothed, and no danger would be hanging over her dear head. But now
all is past, and it is too late to correct the evil which will not yield
"Too late!" And it seemed to him that a gulf had opened before his
feet. He did not know what to begin, how to proceed, whither to betake
himself. Acte repeated as an echo the words, "Too late," which from
another's mouth sounded like a death sentence. He understood one thing,
however, that he must find Lygia, or something evil would happen to him.
And wrapping himself mechanically in his toga, he was about to depart
without taking farewell even of Acte, when suddenly the curtain
separating the entrance from the atrium was pushed aside, and he saw
before him the pensive figure of Pomponia Græcina.
Evidently she too had heard of the disappearance of Lygia, and, judging
that she could see Acte more easily than Aulus, had come for news to
But, seeing Vinicius, she turned her pale, delicate face to him, and
said, after a pause,--"May God forgive thee the wrong, Marcus, which
thou hast done to us and to Lygia."
He stood with drooping head, with a feeling of misfortune and guilt, not
understanding what God was to forgive him or could forgive him.
Pomponia had no cause to mention forgiveness; she ought to have spoken
At last he went out with a head devoid of counsel, full of grievous
thoughts, immense care, and amazement.
In the court and under the gallery were crowds of anxious people. Among
slaves of the palace were knights and senators who had come to inquire
about the health of the infant, and at the same time to show themselves
in the palace, and exhibit a proof of their anxiety, even in presence of
Nero's slaves. News of the illness of the "divine" had spread quickly
it was evident, for new forms appeared in the gateway every moment, and
through the opening of the arcade whole crowds were visible. Some of
the newly arrived, seeing that Vinicius was coming from the palace,
attacked him for news; but he hurried on without answering their
questions, till Petronius, who had come for news too, almost struck his
breast and stopped him.
Beyond doubt Vinicius would have become enraged at sight of Petronius,
and let himself do some lawless act in Cæsar's palace, had it not been
that when he had left Acte he was so crushed, so weighed down and
exhausted, that for the moment even his innate irascibility had left
him. He pushed Petronius aside and wished to pass; but the other
detained him, by force almost.
"How is the divine infant?" asked he.
But this constraint angered Vinicius a second time, and roused his
indignation in an instant.
"May Hades swallow her and all this house!" said he, gritting his teeth.
"Silence, hapless man!" said Petronius, and looking around he added
hurriedly,--"If thou wish to know something of Lygia, come with me; I
will tell nothing here! Come with me; I will tell my thoughts in the
And putting his arm around the young tribune, he conducted him from the
palace as quickly as possible. That was his main concern, for he had no
news whatever; but being a man of resources, and having, in spite of his
indignation of yesterday, much sympathy for Vinicius, and finally
feeling responsible for all that had happened, he had undertaken
something already, and when they entered the litter he said,--"I have
commanded my slaves to watch at every gate. I gave them an accurate
description of the girl, and that giant who bore her from the feast at
Cæsar's,--for he is the man, beyond doubt, who intercepted her. Listen
to me: Perhaps Aulus and Pomponia wish to secrete her in some estate of
theirs; in that case we shall learn the direction in which they took
her. If my slaves do not see her at some gate, we shall know that she
is in the city yet, and shall begin this very day to search in Rome for
"Aulus does not know where she is," answered Vinicius.
"Art thou sure of that?"
"I saw Pomponia. She too is looking for her."
"She could not leave the city yesterday, for the gates are closed at
night. Two of my people are watching at each gate. One is to follow
Lygia and the giant, the other to return at once and inform me. If she
is in the city, we shall find her, for that Lygian is easily recognized,
even by his stature and his shoulders. Thou art lucky that it was not
Cæsar who took her, and I can assure thee that he did not, for there are
no secrets from me on the Palatine."
But Vinicius burst forth in sorrow still more than in anger, and in a
voice broken by emotion told Petronius what he had heard from Acte, and
what new dangers were threatening Lygia,--dangers so dreadful that
because of them there would be need to hide her from Poppæa most
carefully, in case they discovered her. Then he reproached Petroruus
bitterly for his counsel. Had it not been for him, everything would
have gone differently. Lygia would have been at the house of Aulus, and
he, Vinicius, might have seen her every day, and he would have been
happier at that moment than Cæsar. And carried away as he went on with
his narrative, he yielded more and more to emotion, till at last tears
of sorrow and rage began to fall from his eyes.
Petronius, who had not even thought that the young man could love and
desire to such a degree, when he saw the tears of despair said to
himself, with a certain astonishment,--"O mighty Lady of Cyprus, thou
alone art ruler of gods and men!"
WHEN they alighted in front of the arbiter's house, the chief of the
atrium answered them that of slaves sent to the gates none had returned
yet. The atriensis had given orders to take food to them, and a new
command, that under penalty of rods they were to watch carefully all who
left the city.
"Thou seest," said Petronius, "that they are in Rome, beyond doubt, and
in that case we shall find them. But command thy people also to watch
at the gates,--those, namely, who were sent for Lygia, as they will
recognize her easily."
"I have given orders to send them to rural prisons," said Vinicius, "but
I will recall the orders at once, and let them go to the gates."
And writing a few words on a wax-covered tablet, he handed it to
Petronius, who gave directions to send it at once to the house of
Vinicius. Then they passed into the interior portico, and, sitting on a
marble bench, began to talk. The golden-haired Eunice and Iras pushed
bronze footstools under their feet, and poured wine for them into
goblets, out of wonderful narrow-necked pitchers from Volaterræ and
"Hast thou among thy people any one who knows that giant Lygian?" asked
"Atacinus and Gulo knew him; but Atacinus fell yesterday at the litter,
and Gulo I killed."
"I am sorry for him," said Petronius. "He carried not only thee, but
me, in his arms."
"I intended to free him," answered Vinicius; "but do not mention him.
Let us speak of Lygia. Rome is a sea-"
"A sea is just the place where men fish for pearls. Of course we shall
not find her to-day, or to-morrow, but we shall find her surely. Thou
hast accused me just now of giving thee this method; but the method was
good in itself, and became bad only when turned to bad. Thou hast heard
from Aulus himself, that he intends to go to Sicily with his whole
family. In that case the girl would be far from thee."
"I should follow them," said Vinicius, "and in every case she would be
out of danger; but now, if that child dies, Poppæa will believe, and
will persuade Cæsar, that she died because of Lygia."
"True; that alarmed me, too. But that little doll may recover. Should
she die, we shall find some way of escape."
Here Petronius meditated a while and added,--"Poppæa, it is said,
follows the religion of the Jews, and believes in evil spirits. Cæsar
is superstitious. If we spread the report that evil spirits carried off
Lygia, the news will find belief, especially as neither Cæsar nor Aulus
Plautius intercepted her; her escape was really mysterious. The Lygian
could not have effected it alone; he must have had help. And where
could a slave find so many people in the course of one day?"
"Slaves help one another in Rome."
"Some person pays for that with blood at times. True, they support one
another, but not some against others. In this case it was known that
responsibility and punishment would fall on thy people. If thou give
thy people the idea of evil spirits, they will say at once that they saw
such with their own eyes, because that will justify them in thy sight.
Ask one of them, as a test, if he did not see spirits carrying off Lygia
through the air, he will swear at once by the ægis of Zeus that he saw
Vinicius, who was superstitious also, looked at Petronius with sudden
and great fear.
"If Ursus could not have men to help him, and was not able to take her
alone, who could take her?"
Petronius began to laugh.
"See," said he, "they will believe, since thou art half a believer
thyself. Such is our society, which ridicules the gods. They, too,
will believe, and they will not look for her. Meanwhile we shall put
her away somewhere far off from the city, in some villa of mine or
"But who could help her?"
"Her co-religionists," answered Petronius.
"Who are they? What deity does she worship? I ought to know that
better than thou."
"Nearly every woman in Rome honors a different one. It is almost beyond
doubt that Pomponia reared her in the religion of that deity which she
herself worships; what one she worships I know not. One thing is
certain, that no person has seen her make an offering to our gods in any
temple. They have accused her even of being a Christian; but that is
not possible; a domestic tribunal cleared her of the charge. They say
that Christians not only worship an ass's head, but are enemies of the
human race, and permit the foulest crimes. Pomponia cannot be a
Christian, as her virtue is known, and an enemy of the human race could
not treat slaves as she does."
"In no house are they treated as at Aulus's," interrupted Vinicius.
"Ah! Pomponia mentioned to me some god, who must be one powerful and
merciful. Where she has put away all the others is her affair; it is
enough that that Logos of hers cannot be very mighty, or rather he must
be a very weak god, since he has had only two adherents,--Pomponia and
Lygia,--and Ursus in addition. It must be that there are more of those
adherents, and that they assisted Lygia."
"That faith commands forgiveness," said Vinicius. "At Acte's I met
Pomponia, who said to me: 'May God forgive thee the evil which thou hast
done to us and to Lygia.'"
"Evidently their God is some curator who is very mild. Ha! let him
forgive thee, and in sign of forgiveness return thee the maiden."
"I would offer him a hecatomb to-morrow! I have no wish for food, or
the bath, or sleep. I will take a dark lantern and wander through the
city. Perhaps I shall find her in disguise. I am sick."
Petronius looked at him with commiseration. In fact, there was blue
under his eyes, his pupils were gleaming with fever, his unshaven beard
indicated a dark strip on his firmly outlined jaws, his hair was in
disorder, and he was really like a sick man. Iras and the golden-haired
Eunice looked at him also with sympathy; but he seemed not to see them,
and he and Petronius took no notice whatever of the slave women, just as
they would not have noticed dogs moving around them.
"Fever is tormenting thee," said Petronius.
"Then listen to me. I know not what the doctor has prescribed to thee,
but I know how I should act in thy place. Till this lost one is found I
should seek in another that which for the moment has gone from me with
her. I saw splendid forms at thy villa. Do not contradict me. I know
what love is; and I know that when one is desired another cannot take
her place. But in a beautiful slave it is possible to find even
"I do not need it," said Vinicius.
But Petronius, who had for him a real weakness, and who wished to soften
his pain, began to meditate how he might do so.
"Perhaps thine have not for thee the charm of novelty," said he, after a
while (and here he began to look in turn at Iras and Eunice, and finally
he placed his palm on the hip of the golden-haired Eunice). "Look at
this grace! for whom some days since Fonteius Capiton the younger
offered three wonderful boys from Clazomene. A more beautiful figure
than hers even Skopas himself has not chiselled. I myself cannot tell
why I have remained indifferent to her thus far, since thoughts of
Chrysothemis have not restrained me. Well, I give her to thee; take her
When the golden-haired Eunice heard this, she grew pale in one moment,
and, looking with frightened eyes on Vinicius, seemed to wait for his
answer without breath in her breast.
But he sprang up suddenly, and, pressing his temples with his hands,
said quickly, like a man who is tortured by disease, and will not hear
anything,--"No, no! I care not for her! I care not for others! I
thank thee, but I do not want her. I will seek that one through the
city. Give command to bring me a Gallic cloak with a hood. I will go
beyond the Tiber--if I could see even Ursus."
And he hurried away. Petronius, seeing that he could not remain in one
place, did not try to detain him. Taking, however, his refusal as a
temporary dislike for all women save Lygia, and not wishing his own
magnanimity to go for naught, he said, turning to the slave,--"Eunice,
thou wilt bathe and anoint thyself, then dress: after that thou wilt go
to the house of Vinicius."
But she dropped before him on her knees, and with joined palms implored
him not to remove her from the house. She would not go to Vinicius, she
said. She would rather carry fuel to the hypocaustum in his house than
be chief servant in that of Vinicius. She would not, she could not go;
and she begged him to have pity on her. Let him give command to flog
her daily, only not send her away.
And trembling like a leaf with fear and excitement, she stretched her
hands to him, while he listened with amazement. A slave who ventured to
beg relief from the fulfilment of a command, who said "I will not and I
cannot," was something so unheard-of in Rome that Petronius could not
believe his own ears at first. Finally he frowned. He was too refined
to be cruel. His slaves, especially in the department of pleasure, were
freer than others, on condition of performing their service in an
exemplary manner, and honoring the will of their master, like that of a
god. In case they failed in these two respects, he was able not to
spare punishment, to which, according to general custom, they were
subject. Since, besides this, he could not endure opposition, nor
anything which ruffled his calmness, he looked for a while at the
kneeling girl, and then said,--"Call Tiresias, and return with him."
Eunice rose, trembling, with tears in her eyes, and went out; after a
time she returned with the chief of the atrium, Tiresias, a Cretan.
"Thou wilt take Eunice," said Petronius, "and give her five-and-twenty
lashes, in such fashion, however, as not to harm her skin."
When he had said this, he passed into the library, and, sitting down at
a table of rose-colored marble, began to work on his "Feast of
Trimalchion." But the flight of Lygia and the illness of the infant
Augusta had disturbed his mind so much that he could not work long.
That illness, above all, was important. It occurred to Petronius that
were Cæsar to believe that Lygia had cast spells on the infant, the
responsibility might fall on him also, for the girl had been brought at
his request to the palace. But he could reckon on this, that at the
first interview with Cæsar he would be able in some way to show the
utter absurdity of such an idea; he counted a little, too, on a certain
weakness which Poppæa had for him,--a weakness hidden carefully, it is
true, but not so carefully that he could not divine it. After a while
he shrugged his shoulders at these fears, and decided to go to the
triclinium to strengthen himself, and then order the litter to bear him
once more to the palace, after that to the Campus Martius, and then to
But on the way to the triclinium at the entrance to the corridor
assigned to servants, he saw unexpectedly the slender form of Eunice
standing, among other slaves, at the wall; and forgetting that he had
given Tiresias no order beyond flogging her, he wrinkled his brow again,
and looked around for the atriensis. Not seeing him among the servants,
he turned to Eunice.
"Hast thou received the lashes?"
She cast herself at his feet a second time, pressed the border of his
toga to her lips, and said,--"Oh, yes, lord, I have received them! Oh,
yes, lord!" In her voice were heard, as it were, joy and gratitude. It
was clear that she looked on the lashes as a substitute for her removal
from the house, and that now she might stay there. Petronius, who
understood this, wondered at the passionate resistance of the girl; but
he was too deeply versed in human nature not to know that love alone
could call forth such resistance.
"Dost thou love some one in this house?" asked he.
She raised her blue, tearful eyes to him, and answered, in a voice so
low that it was hardly possible to hear her,--"Yes, lord."
And with those eyes, with that golden hair thrown back, with fear and
hope in her face, she was so beautiful, she looked at him so
entreatingly, that Petronius, who, as a philosopher, had proclaimed the
might of love, and who, as a man of æsthetic nature, had given homage to
all beauty, felt for her a certain species of compassion.
"Whom of those dost thou love?" inquired he, indicating the servants
with his head.
There was no answer to that question. Eunice inclined her head to his
feet and remained motionless.
Petronius looked at the slaves, among whom were beautiful and stately
youths. He could read nothing on any face; on the contrary, all had
certain strange smiles. He looked then for a while on Eunice lying at
his feet, and went in silence to the triclinium.
After he had eaten, he gave command to bear him to the palace, and then
to Chrysothemis, with whom he remained till late at night. But when he
returned, he gave command to call Tiresias.
"Did Eunice receive the flogging?" inquired he.
"She did, lord. Thou didst not let the skin be cut, however."
"Did I give no other command touching her?"
"No, lord," answered the atriensis with alarm.
"That is well. Whom of the slaves does she love?"
"No one, lord."
"What dost thou know of her?"
Tiresias began to speak in a somewhat uncertain voice:
"At night Eunice never leaves the cubiculum in which she lives with old
Acrisiona and Ifida; after thou art dressed she never goes to the
bath-rooms. Other slaves ridicule her, and call her Diana."
"Enough," said Petronius. "My relative, Vinicius, to whom I offered her
to-day, did not accept her; hence she may stay in the house. Thou art
free to go."
"Is it permitted me to speak more of Eunice, lord?"
"I have commanded thee to say all thou knowest."
"The whole familia are speaking of the flight of the maiden who was to
dwell in the house of the noble Vinicius. After thy departure, Eunice
came to me and said that she knew a man who could find her."
"Ah! What kind of man is he?"
"I know not, lord; but I thought that I ought to inform thee of this
"That is well. Let that man wait to-morrow in my house for the arrival
of the tribune, whom thou wilt request in my name to meet me here."
The atriensis bowed and went out. But Petronius began to think of
Eunice. At first it seemed clear to him that the young slave wished
Vinicius to find Lygia for this reason only, that she would not be
forced from his house. Afterward, however, it occurred to him that the
man whom Eunice was pushing forward might be her lover, and all at once
that thought seemed to him disagreeable. There was, it is true, a
simple way of learning the truth, for it was enough to summon Eunice;
but the hour was late, Petronius felt tired after his long visit with
Chrysothemis, and was in a hurry to sleep. But on the way to the
cubiculum he remembered--it is unknown why--that he had noticed
wrinkles, that day, in the corners of Chrysothemis's eyes. He thought,
also, that her beauty was more celebrated in Rome than it deserved; and
that Fonteius Capiton, who had offered him three boys from Clazomene for
Eunice, wanted to buy her too cheaply.
NEXT morning, Petronius had barely finished dressing in the unctorium
when Vinicius came, called by Tiresias. He knew that no news had come
from the gates. This information, instead of comforting him, as a proof
that Lygia was still in Rome, weighed him down still more, for he began
to think that Ursus might have conducted her out of the city immediately
after her seizure, and hence before Petronius's slaves had begun to keep
watch at the gates. It is true that in autumn, when the days become
shorter, the gates are closed rather early; but it is true, also, that
they are opened for persons going out, and the number of these is
considerable. It was possible, also, to pass the walls by other ways,
well known, for instance, to slaves who wish to escape from the city.
Vinicius had sent out his people to all roads leading to the provinces,
to watchmen in the smaller towns, proclaiming a pair of fugitive slaves,
with a detailed description of Ursus and Lygia, coupled with the offer
of a reward for seizing them. But it was doubtful whether that pursuit
would reach the fugitives; and even should it reach them, whether the
local authorities would feel justified in making the arrest at the
private instance of Vinicius, without the support of a pretor. Indeed,
there had not been time to obtain such support. Vinicius himself,
disguised as a slave, had sought Lygia the whole day before, through
every corner of the city, but had been unable to find the least
indication or trace of her. He had seen Aulus's servants, it is true;
but they seemed to be seeking something also, and that confirmed him in
the belief that it was not Aulus who had intercepted the maiden, and
that the old general did not know what had happened to her.
When Tiresias announced to him, then, that there was a man who would
undertake to find Lygia, he hurried with all speed to the house of
Petronius; and barely had he finished saluting his uncle, when he
inquired for the man.
"We shall see him at once, Eunice knows him," said Petronius. "She will
come this moment to arrange the folds of my toga, and will give nearer
information concerning him."
"Oh! she whom thou hadst the wish to bestow on me yesterday?"
"The one whom thou didst reject; for which I am grateful, for she is the
best vestiplica in the whole city."
In fact, the vestiplica came in before he had finished speaking, and
taking the toga, laid on a chair inlaid with pearl, she opened the
garment to throw it on Petronius's shoulder. Her face was clear and
calm; joy was in her eyes.
Petronius looked at her. She seemed to him very beautiful. After a
while, when she had covered him with the toga, she began to arrange it,
bending at times to lengthen the folds. He noticed that her arms had a
marvellous pale rose-color, and her bosom and shoulders the transparent
reflections of pearl or alabaster.
"Eunice," said he, "has the man come to Tiresias whom thou didst mention
"He has, lord."
"What is his name?"
"Who is he?"
"A physician, a sage, a soothsayer, who knows how to read people's fates
and predict the future."
"Has he predicted the future to thee?"
Eunice was covered with a blush which gave a rosy color to her ears and
her neck even.
"What has he predicted?"
"That pain and happiness would meet me."
"Pain met thee yesterday at the hands of Tiresias; hence happiness also
"It has come, lord, already."
"I remain," said she in a whisper.
Petronius put his hand on her golden head.
"Thou hast arranged the folds well to-day, and I am satisfied with thee,
Under that touch her eyes were mist-covered in one instant from
happiness, and her bosom began to heave quickly.
Petronius and Vinicius passed into the atrium, where Chilo Chilonides
was waiting. When he saw them, he made a low bow. A smile came to the
lips of Petronius at thought of his suspicion of yesterday, that this
man might be Eunice's lover. The man who was standing before him could
not be any one's lover. In that marvellous figure there was something
both foul and ridiculous. He was not old; in his dirty beard and curly
locks a gray hair shone here and there. He had a lank stomach and
stooping shoulders, so that at the first cast of the eye he appeared to
be hunchbacked; above that hump rose a large head, with the face of a
monkey and also of a fox; the eye was penetrating. His yellowish
complexion was varied with pimples; and his nose, covered with them
completely, might indicate too great a love for the bottle. His
neglected apparel, composed of a dark tunic of goat's wool and a mantle
of similar material with holes in it, showed real or simulated poverty.
At sight of him, Homer's Thersites came to the mind of Petronius.
Hence, answering with a wave of the hand to his bow, he said,--
"A greeting, divine Thersites! How are the lumps which Ulysses gave
thee at Troy, and what is he doing himself in the Elysian Fields?"
"Noble lord," answered Chilo Chilonides, "Ulysses, the wisest of the
dead, sends a greeting through me to Petronius, the wisest of the
living, and the request to cover my lumps with a new mantle."
"By Hecate Triformis!" exclaimed Petronius, "the answer deserves a new
But further conversation was interrupted by the impatient Vinicius, who
inquired directly,--"Dost thou know clearly what thou art undertaking?"
"When two households in two lordly mansions speak of naught else, and
when half Rome is repeating the news, it is not difficult to know,"
answered Chilo. "The night before last a maiden named Lygia, but
specially Callina, and reared in the house of Aulus Plautius, was
intercepted. Thy slaves were conducting her, O lord, from Cæsar's
palace to thy 'insula,' and I undertake to find her in the city, or, if
she has left the city--which is little likely--to indicate to thee,
noble tribune, whither she has fled and where she has hidden."
"That is well," said Vinicius, who was pleased with the precision of the
answer. "What means hast thou to do this?"
Chilo smiled cunningly. "Thou hast the means, lord; I have the wit
Petronius smiled also, for he was perfectly satisfied with his guest.
"That man can find the maiden," thought he. Meanwhile Vinicius wrinkled
his joined brows, and said,--"Wretch, in case thou deceive me for gain,
I will give command to beat thee with clubs."
"I am a philosopher, lord, and a philosopher cannot be greedy of gain,
especially of such as thou hast just offered magnanimously."
"Oh, art thou a philosopher?" inquired Petronius. "Eunice told me that
thou art a physician and a soothsayer. Whence knowest thou Eunice?"
"She came to me for aid, for my fame struck her ears."
"What aid did she want?"
"Aid in love, lord. She wanted to be cured of unrequited love."
"Didst thou cure her?"
"I did more, lord. I gave her an amulet which secures mutuality. In
Paphos, on the island of Cyprus, is a temple, O lord, in which is
preserved a zone of Venus. I gave her two threads from that zone,
enclosed in an almond shell."
"And didst thou make her pay well for them?"
"One can never pay enough for mutuality, and I, who lack two fingers on
my right hand, am collecting money to buy a slave copyist to write down
my thoughts, and preserve my wisdom for mankind."
"Of what school art thou, divine sage?"
"I am a Cynic, lord, because I wear a tattered mantle; I am a Stoic,
because I bear poverty patiently; I am a Peripatetic, for, not owning a
litter, I go on foot from one wine-shop to another, and on the way teach
those who promise to pay for a pitcher of wine."
"And at the pitcher thou dost become a rhetor?"
"Heraclitus declares that 'all is fluid,' and canst thou deny, lord,
that wine is fluid?"
"And he declared that fire is a divinity; divinity, therefore, is
blushing in thy nose."
"But the divine Diogenes from Apollonia declared that air is the essence
of things, and the warmer the air the more perfect the beings it makes,
and from the warmest come the souls of sages. And since the autumns are
cold, a genuine sage should warm his soul with wine; and wouldst thou
hinder, O lord, a pitcher of even the stuff produced in Capua or Telesia
from bearing heat to all the bones of a perishable human body?"
"Chilo Chilonides, where is thy birthplace?"
"On the Euxine Pontus. I come from Mesembria."
"Oh, Chilo, thou art great!"
"And unrecognized," said the sage, pensively.
But Vinicius was impatient again. In view of the hope which had gleamed
before him, he wished Chilo to set out at once on his work; hence the
whole conversation seemed to him simply a vain loss of time, and he was
angry at Petronius.
"When wilt thou begin the search?" asked he, turning to the Greek.
"I have begun it already," answered Chilo. "And since I am here, and
answering thy affable question, I am searching yet. Only have
confidence, honored tribune, and know that if thou wert to lose the
string of thy sandal I should find it, or him who picked it up on the
"Hast thou been employed in similar services?" asked Petronius.
The Greek raised his eyes. "To-day men esteem virtue and wisdom too
low, for a philosopher not to be forced to seek other means of living."
"What are thy means?"
"To know everything, and to serve those with news who are in need of
"And who pay for it?"
"Ah, lord, I need to buy a copyist. Otherwise my wisdom will perish
"If thou hast not collected enough yet to buy a sound mantle, thy
services cannot be very famous."
"Modesty hinders me. But remember, lord, that to-day there are not such
benefactors as were numerous formerly; and for whom it was as pleasant
to cover service with gold as to swallow an oyster from Puteoli. No; my
services are not small, but the gratitude of mankind is small. At
times, when a valued slave escapes, who will find him, if not the only
son of my father? When on the walls there are inscriptions against the
divine Poppæa, who will indicate those who composed them? Who will
discover at the book-stalls verses against Cæsar? Who will declare what
is said in the houses of knights and senators? Who will carry letters
which the writers will not intrust to slaves? Who will listen to news
at the doors of barbers? For whom have wine-shops and bake-shops no
secret? In whom do slaves trust? Who can see through every house, from
the atrium to the garden? Who knows every street, every alley and
hiding-place? Who knows what they say in the baths, in the Circus, in
the markets, in the fencing-schools, in slave-dealers' sheds, and even
in the arenas?"
"By the gods! enough, noble sage!" cried Petronius; "we are drowning in
thy services, thy virtue, thy wisdom, and thy eloquence. Enough! We
wanted to know who thou art, and we know!"
But Vinicius was glad, for he thought that this man, like a hound, once
put on the trail, would not stop till he had found out the hiding-place.
"Well," said he, "dost thou need indications?"
"I need arms."
"Of what kind?" asked Vinicius, with astonishment.
The Greek stretched out one hand; with the other he made the gesture of
"Such are the times, lord," said he, with a sigh.
"Thou wilt be the ass, then," said Petronius, "to win the fortress with
bags of gold?"
"I am only a poor philosopher," answered Chilo, with humility; "ye have
Vinicius tossed him a purse, which the Greek caught in the air, though
two fingers were lacking on his right hand.
He raised his head then, and said: "I know more than thou thinkest. I
have not come empty-handed. I know that Aulus did not intercept the
maiden, for I have spoken with his slaves. I know that she is not on
the Palatine, for all are occupied with the infant Augusta; and perhaps
I may even divine why ye prefer to search for the maiden with my help
rather than that of the city guards and Cæsar's soldiers. I know that
her escape was effected by a servant,--a slave coming from the same
country as she. He could not find assistance among slaves, for slaves
all stand together, and would not act against thy slaves. Only a
co-religionist would help him."
"Dost hear, Vinicius?" broke in Petronius. "Have I not said the same,
word for word, to thee?"
"That is an honor for me," said Chilo. "The maiden, lord," continued
he, turning again to Vinicius, "worships beyond a doubt the same
divinity as that most virtuous of Roman ladies, that genuine matron,
Pomponia. I have heard this, too, that Pomponia was tried in her own
house for worshipping some kind of foreign god, but I could not learn
from her slaves what god that is, or what his worshippers are called.
If I could learn that, I should go to them, become the most devoted
among them, and gain their confidence. But thou, lord, who hast passed,
as I know too, a number of days in the house of the noble Aulus, canst
thou not give me some information thereon?"
"I cannot," said Vinicius.
"Ye have asked me long about various things, noble lords, and I have
answered the questions; permit me now to give one. Hast thou not seen,
honored tribune, some statuette, some offering, some token, some amulet
on Pomponia or thy divine Lygia? Hast thou not seen them making signs
to each other, intelligible to them alone?"
"Signs? Wait! Yes; I saw once that Lygia made a fish on the sand."
"A fish? A-a! O-o-o! Did she do that once, or a number of times?"
"And art thou certain, lord, that she outlined a fish? O-o?"
"Yes," answered Vinicius, with roused curiosity. "Dost thou divine what
"Do I divine!" exclaimed Chilo. And bowing in sign of farewell, he
added: "May Fortune scatter on you both equally all gifts, worthy
"Give command to bring thee a mantle," said Petronius to him at parting.
"Ulysses gives thee thanks for Thersites," said the Greek; and bowing a
second time, he walked out.
"What wilt thou say of that noble sage?" inquired Petronius.
"This, that he will find Lygia," answered Vinicius, with delight; "but I
will say, too, that were there a kingdom of rogues he might be the king
"Most certainly. I shall make a nearer acquaintance with this stoic;
meanwhile I must give command to perfume the atrium."
But Chilo Chilonides, wrapping his new mantle about him, threw up on his
palm, under its folds, the purse received from Vinicius, and admired
both its weight and its jingle. Walking on slowly, and looking around
to see if they were not looking at him from the house, he passed the
portico of Livia, and, reaching the corner of the Clivus Virbius, turned
toward the Subura.
"I must go to Sporus," said he to himself, "and pour out a little wine
to Fortuna. I have found at last what I have been seeking this long
time. He is young, irascible, bounteous as mines in Cyprus, and ready
to give half his fortune for that Lygian linnet. Just such a man have I
been seeking this long time. It is needful, however, to be on one's
guard with him, for the wrinkling of his brow forebodes no good. Ah!
the wolf-whelps lord it over the world to-day! I should fear that
Petronius less. O gods! but the trade of procurer pays better at
present than virtue. Ah! she drew a fish on the sand! If I know what
that means, may I choke myself with a piece of goat's cheese! But I
shall know. Fish live under water, and searching under water is more
difficult than on land, ergo he will pay me separately for this fish.
Another such purse and I might cast aside the beggar's wallet and buy
myself a slave. But what wouldst thou say, Chilo, were I to advise thee
to buy not a male but a female slave? I know thee; I know that thou
wouldst consent. If she were beautiful, like Eunice, for instance, thou
thyself wouldst grow young near her, and at the same time wouldst have
from her a good and certain income. I sold to that poor Eunice two
threads from my old mantle. She is dull; but if Petronius were to give
her to me, I would take her. Yes, yes, Chilo Chilonides, thou hast lost
father and mother, thou art an orphan; therefore buy to console thee
even a female slave. She must indeed live somewhere, therefore Vinicius
will hire her a dwelling, in which thou too mayest find shelter; she
must dress, hence Vinicius will pay for the dress; and must eat, hence
he will support her. Och! what a hard life! Where are the times in
which for an obolus a man could buy as much pork and beans as he could
hold in both hands, or a piece of goat's entrails as long as the arm of
a boy twelve years old, and filled with blood? But here is that villain
Sporus! In the wine-shop it will be easier to learn something."
Thus conversing, he entered the wine-shop and ordered a pitcher of
"dark" for himself. Seeing the sceptical look of the shopkeeper, he
took a gold coin from his purse, and, putting it on the table, said,--
"Sporus, I toiled to-day with Seneca from dawn till midday, and this is
what my friend gave me at parting."
The plump eyes of Sporus became plumper still at this sight, and the
wine was soon before Chilo. Moistening his fingers in it, he drew a
fish on the table, and said,--"Knowest what that means?"
"A fish? Well, a fish,--yes, that's a fish."
"Thou art dull; though thou dost add so much water to the wine that thou
mightst find a fish in it. This is a symbol which, in the language of
philosophers, means 'the smile of fortune.' If thou hadst divined it,
thou too mightst have made a fortune. Honor philosophy, I tell thee, or
I shall change my wineshop,--an act to which Petronius, my personal
friend, has been urging me this long time."
FOR a number of days after the interview, Chilo did not show himself
anywhere. Vinicius, since he had learned from Acte that Lygia loved
him, was a hundred times more eager to find her, and began himself to
search. He was unwilling, and also unable, to ask aid of Cæsar, who was
in great fear because of the illness of the infant Augusta.
Sacrifices in the temples did not help, neither did prayers and
offerings, nor the art of physicians, nor all the means of enchantment
to which they turned finally. In a week the child died. Mourning fell
upon the court and Rome. Cæsar, who at the birth of the infant was wild
with delight, was wild now from despair, and, confining himself in his
apartments, refused food for two days; and though the palace was
swarming with senators and Augustians, who hastened with marks of sorrow
and sympathy, he denied audience to every one. The senate assembled in
an extraordinary session, at which the dead child was pronounced divine.
It was decided to rear to her a temple and appoint a special priest to
her service. New sacrifices were offered in other temples in honor of
the deceased; statues of her were cast from precious metals; and her
funeral was one immense solemnity, during which the people wondered at
the unrestrained marks of grief which Cæsar exhibited; they wept with
him, stretched out their hands for gifts, and above all amused
themselves with the unparalleled spectacle.
That death alarmed Petronius. All knew in Rome that Poppæa ascribed it
to enchantment. The physicians, who were thus enabled to explain the
vanity of their efforts, supported her; the priests, whose sacrifices
proved powerless, did the same, as well as the sorcerers, who were
trembling for their lives, and also the people. Petronius was glad now
that Lygia had fled; for he wished no evil to Aulus and Pomponia, and he
wished good to himself and Vinicius; therefore when the cypress, set out
before the Palatine as a sign of mourning, was removed, he went to the
reception appointed for the senators and Augustians to learn how far
Nero had lent ear to reports of spells, and to neutralize results which
might come from his belief.
Knowing Nero, he thought, too, that though he did not believe in charms,
he would feign belief, so as to magnify his own suffering, and take
vengeance on some one, finally, to escape the suspicion that the gods
had begun to punish him for crimes. Petronius did not think that Cæsar
could love really and deeply even his own child; though he loved her
passionately, he felt certain, however, that he would exaggerate his
suffering. He was not mistaken. Nero listened, with stony face and
fixed eyes, to the consolation offered by knights and senators. It was
evident that, even if he suffered, he was thinking of this: What
impression would his suffering make upon others? He was posing as a
Niobe, and giving an exhibition of parental sorrow, as an actor would
give it on the stage. He had not the power even then to endure in his
silent and as it were petrified sorrow, for at moments he made a gesture
as if to cast the dust of the earth on his head, and at moments he
groaned deeply; but seeing Petronius, he sprang up and cried in a tragic
voice, so that all present could hear him,--"Eheu! And thou art guilty
of her death! At thy advice the evil spirit entered these walls,--the
evil spirit which, with one look, drew the life from her breast! Woe is
me! Would that my eyes had not seen the light of Helios! Woe is me!
And raising his voice still more, he passed into a despairing shout; but
Petronius resolved at that moment to put everything on one cast of the
dice; hence, stretching out his hand, he seized the silk kerchief which
Nero wore around his neck always, and, placing it on the mouth of the
Imperator, said solemnly,--"Lord, Rome and the world are benumbed with
pain; but do thou preserve thy voice for us!"
Those present were amazed; Nero himself was amazed for a moment.
Petronius alone was unmoved; he knew too well what he was doing. He
remembered, besides, that Terpnos and Diodorus had a direct order to
close Cæsar's mouth whenever he raised his voice too much and exposed it
"O Cæsar!" continued he, with the same seriousness and sorrow, "we have
suffered an immeasurable loss; let even this treasure of consolation
remain to us!"
Nero's face quivered, and after a while tears came from his eyes. All at
once he rested his hands on Petronius's shoulders, and, dropping his
head on his breast, began to repeat, amid sobs,-
"Thou alone of all thought of this,--thou alone, O Petronius! thou
Tigellinus grew yellow from envy; but Petronius continued,--
"Go to Antium! there she came to the world, there joy flowed in on thee,
there solace will come to thee. Let the sea air freshen thy divine
throat; let thy breast breathe the salt dampness. We, thy devoted ones,
will follow thee everywhere; and when we assuage thy pain with
friendship, thou wilt comfort us with song.
"True!" answered Nero, sadly, "I will write a hymn in her honor, and
compose music for it."
"And then thou wilt find the warm sun in Baiæ."
"And afterward--forgetfulness in Greece."
"In the birthplace of poetry and song."
And his stony, gloomy state of mind passed away gradually, as clouds
pass that are covering the sun; and then a conversation began which,
though full of sadness, yet was full of plans for the future,--touching
a journey, artistic exhibitions, and even the receptions required at the
promised coming of Tiridates, King of Armenia. Tigellinus tried, it is
true, to bring forward again the enchantment; but Petronius, sure now of
victory, took up the challenge directly.
"Tigellinus," said he, "dost thou think that enchantments can injure the
"Cæsar himself has mentioned them," answered the courtier.
"Pain was speaking, not Cæsar; but thou--what is thy opinion of the
"The gods are too mighty to be subject to charms."
"Then wouldst thou deny divinity to Cæsar and his family?"
"Peractum est!" muttered Eprius Marcellus, standing near, repeating that
shout which the people gave always when a gladiator in the arena
received such a blow that he needed no other.
Tigellinus gnawed his own anger. Between him and Petronius there had
long existed a rivalry touching Nero. Tigellinus had this superiority,
that Nero acted with less ceremony, or rather with none whatever in his
presence; while thus far Petronius overcame Tigellinus at every
encounter with wit and intellect.
So it happened now. Tigellinus was silent, and simply recorded in his
memory those senators and knights who, when Petronius withdrew to the
depth of the chamber, surrounded him straightway, supposing that after
this incident he would surely be Casar's first favorite.
Petronius, on leaving the palace, betook himself to Vinicius, and
described his encounter with Cæsar and Tigellinus.
"Not only have I turned away danger," said he, "from Aulus Plautius,
Pomponia, and us, but even from Lygia, whom they will not seek, even for
this reason, that I have persuaded Bronzebeard, the monkey, to go to
Antium, and thence to Naples or Baiæ and he will go. I know that he has
not ventured yet to appear in the theatre publicly; I have known this
long time that he intends to do so at Naples. He is dreaming, moreover,
of Greece, where he wants to sing in all the more prominent cities, and
then make a triumphal entry into Rome, with all the crowns which the
'Græculi' will bestow on him. During that time we shall be able to seek
Lygia unhindered and secrete her in safety. But has not our noble
philosopher been here yet?"
"Thy noble philosopher is a cheat. No; he has not shown himself, and he
will not show himself again!"
"But I have a better understanding, if not of his honesty, of his wit.
He has drawn blood once from thy purse, and will come even for this, to
draw it a second time."
"Let him beware lest I draw his own blood."
"Draw it not; have patience till thou art convinced surely of his
deceit. Do not give him more money, but promise a liberal reward if he
brings thee certain information. Wilt thou thyself undertake
"My two freedmen, Nymphidius and Demas, are searching for her with sixty
men. Freedom is promised the slave who finds her. Besides I have sent
out special persons by all roads leading from Rome to inquire at every
inn for the Lygian and the maiden. I course through the city myself day
and night, counting on a chance meeting."
"Whenever thou hast tidings let me know, for I must go to Antium."
"I will do so."
"And if thou wake up some morning and say, 'It is not worth while to
torment myself for one girl, and take so much trouble because of her,'
come to Antium. There will be no lack of women there, or amusement."
Vinicius began to walk with quick steps. Petronius looked for some time
at him, and said at last,--"Tell me sincerely, not as a mad head, who
talks something into his brain and excites himself, but as a man of
judgment who is answering a friend: Art thou concerned as much as ever
about this Lygia?"
Vinicius stopped a moment, and looked at Petronius as if he had not seen
him before; then he began to walk again. It was evident that he was
restraining an outburst. At last, from a feeling of helplessness,
sorrow, anger, and invincible yearning, two tears gathered in his eyes,
which spoke with greater power to Petronius than the most eloquent
Then, meditating for a moment, he said,--"It is not Atlas who carries
the world on his shoulders, but woman; and sometimes she plays with it
as with a ball."
"True," said Vinicius.
And they began to take farewell of each other. But at that moment a
slave announced that Chilo Chilonides was waiting in the antechamber,
and begged to be admitted to the presence of the lord.
Vinicius gave command to admit him immediately, and Petronius said,--
"Ha! have I not told thee? By Hercules! keep thy calmness; or he will
command thee, not thou him."
"A greeting and honor to the noble tribune of the army, and to thee,
lord," said Chilo, entering. "May your happiness be equal to your fame,
and may your fame course through the world from the pillars of Hercules
to the boundaries of the Arsacidæ."
"A greeting, O lawgiver of virtue and wisdom," answered Petronius.
But Vinicius inquired with affected calmness, "What dost thou bring?"
"The first time I came I brought thee hope, O lord; at present, I bring
certainty that the maiden will be found."
"That means that thou hast not found her yet?"
"Yes, lord; but I have found what that sign means which she made. I know
who the people are who rescued her, and I know the God among whose
worshippers to seek her."
Vinicius wished to spring from the chair in which he was sitting; but
Petronius placed his hand on his shoulder, and turning to Chilo said,--
"Art thou perfectly certain, lord, that she drew a fish on the sand?"
"Yes," burst out Vinicius.
"Then she is a Christian and Christians carried her away." A moment of
"Listen, Chilo," said Petronius. "My relative has predestined to thee a
considerable sum of money for finding the girl, but a no less
considerable number of rods if thou deceive him. In the first case thou
wilt purchase not one, but three scribes; in the second, the philosophy
of all the seven sages, with the addition of thy own, will not suffice
to get thee ointment."
"The maiden is a Christian, lord," cried the Greek.
"Stop, Chilo. Thou art not a dull man. We know that Junia and Calvia
Crispinilla accused Pomponia Græcina of confessing the Christian
superstition; but we know too, that a domestic court acquitted her.
Wouldst thou raise this again? Wouldst thou persuade us that Pomponia,
and with her Lygia, could belong to the enemies of the human race, to
the poisoners of wells and fountains, to the worshippers of an ass's
head, to people who murder infants and give themselves up to the foulest
license? Think, Chilo, if that thesis which thou art announcing to us
will not rebound as an antithesis on thy own back."
Chilo spread out his arms in sign that that was not his fault, and then
said,--"Lord, utter in Greek the following sentence: Jesus Christ, Son
of God, Saviour." [Iesous Christos, Theou Uios, Soter.]
"Well, I have uttered it. What comes of that?"
"Now take the first letters of each of those words and put them into one
"Fish!" said Petronius with astonishment. [Ichthus, the Greek word for
"There, that is why fish has become the watchword of the Christians,"
answered Chilo, proudly.
A moment of silence followed. But there was something so striking in
the conclusions of the Greek that the two friends could not guard
themselves from amazement.
"Vinicius, art thou not mistaken?" asked Petronius. "Did Lygia really
draw a fish for thee?"
"By all the infernal gods, one might go mad!" cried the young man, with
excitement. "If she had drawn a bird for me, I should have said a
"Therefore she is a Christian," repeated Chilo.
"This signifies," said Petronius, "that Pomponia and Lygia poison wells,
murder children caught on the street, and give themselves up to
dissoluteness! Folly! Thou, Vinicius, wert at their house for a time,
I was there a little while; but I know Pomponia and Aulus enough, I know
even Lygia enough, to say monstrous and foolish! If a fish is the symbol
of the Christians, which it is difficult really to deny, and if those
women are Christians, then, by Proserpina! evidently Christians are not
what we hold them to be."
"Thou speakest like Socrates, lord," answered Chilo. "Who has ever
examined a Christian? Who has learned their religion? When I was
travelling three years ago from Naples hither to Rome (oh, why did I not
stay in Naples!), a man joined me, whose name was Glaucus, of whom
people said that he was a Christian; but in spite of that I convinced
myself that he was a good and virtuous man."
"Was it not from that virtuous man that thou hast learned now what the
"Unfortunately, lord, on the way, at an inn, some one thrust a knife
into that honorable old man; and his wife and child were carried away by
slave-dealers. I lost in their defence these two fingers; since, as
people say, there is no lack among Christians of miracles, I hope that
the fingers will grow out on my hand again."
"How is that? Hast thou become a Christian?"
"Since yesterday, lord, since yesterday! The fish made me a Christian.
But see what a power there is in it. For some days I shall be the most
zealous of the zealous, so that they may admit me to all their secrets;
and when they admit me to their secrets, I shall know where the maiden
is hiding. Perhaps then my Christianity will pay me better than my
philosophy. I have made a vow also to Mercury, that if he helps me to
find the maiden, I will sacrifice to him two heifers of the same size
and color and will gild their horns."
"Then thy Christianity of yesterday and thy philosophy of long standing
permit thee to believe in Mercury?"
"I believe always in that in which I need to believe; that is my
philosophy, which ought to please Mercury. Unfortunately (ye know,
worthy lords, what a suspicious god he is), he does not trust the
promises even of blameless philosophers, and prefers the heifers in
advance; meanwhile this outlay is immense. Not every one is a Seneca,
and I cannot afford the sacrifice; should the noble Vinicius, however,
wish to give something, on account of that sum which he promised--"
"Not an obolus, Chilo!" said Petronius, "not an obolus. The bounty of
Vinicius will surpass thy expectations, but only when Lygia is found,--
that is, when thou shalt indicate to us her hiding-place. Mercury must
trust thee for the two heifers, though I am not astonished at him for
not wishing to do so; in this I recognize his acuteness."
"Listen to me, worthy lords. The discovery which I have made is great;
for though I have not found the maiden yet, I have found the way in
which I must seek her. Ye have sent freedmen and slaves throughout the
city and into the country; has any one given you a clew? No! I alone
have given one. I tell you more. Among your slaves there may be
Christians, of whom ye have no knowledge, for this superstition has
spread everywhere; and they, instead of aiding, will betray you. It is
unfortunate that they see me here; do thou therefore, noble Petronius,
enjoin silence on Eunice; and thou too, noble Vinicius, spread a report
that I sell thee an ointment which insures victory in the Circus to
horses rubbed with it. I alone will search for her, and single-handed I
will find the fugitives; and do ye trust in me, and know that whatever I
receive in advance will be for me simply an encouragement, for I shall
hope always for more, and shall feel the greater certainty that the
promised reward will not fail me. Ah, it is true! As a philosopher I
despise money, though neither Seneca, nor even Musonius, nor Cornutus
despises it, though they have not lost fingers in any one's defence, and
are able themselves to write and leave their names to posterity. But,
aside from the slave, whom I intend to buy, and besides Mercury, to whom
I have promised the heifers,--and ye know how dear cattle have become in
these times,--the searching itself involves much outlay. Only listen to
me patiently. Well, for the last few days my feet are wounded from
continual walking. I have gone to wine-shops to talk with people, to
bakeries, to butcher-shops, to dealers in olive oil, and to fishermen.
I have run through every street and alley; I have been in the hiding-
places of fugitive slaves; I have lost money, nearly a hundred ases, in
playing mora; I have been in laundries, in drying-sheds, in cheap
kitchens; I have seen mule-drivers and carvers; I have seen people who
cure bladder complaints and pull teeth; I have talked with dealers in
dried figs; I have been at cemeteries; and do ye know why? This is why;
so as to outline a fish everywhere, look people in the eyes, and hear
what they would say of that sign. For a long time I was unable to learn
anything, till at last I saw an old slave at a fountain. He was drawing
water with a bucket, and weeping. Approaching him, I asked the cause of
his tears. When we had sat down on the steps of the fountain, he
answered that all his life he had been collecting sestertium after
sestertium, to redeem his beloved son; but his master, a certain Pansa,
when the money was delivered to him, took it, but kept the son in
slavery. 'And so I am weeping,' said the old man, 'for though I repeat,
Let the will of God be done, I, poor sinner, am not able to keep down my
tears.' Then, as if penetrated by a forewarning, I moistened my finger
in the water and drew a fish for him. To this he answered, 'My hope,
too, is in Christ.' I asked him then, 'Hast thou confessed to me by that
sign?' 'I have,' said he; 'and peace be with thee.' I began then to draw
him out, and the honest old man told me everything. His master, that
Pansa, is himself a freedman of the great Pansa; and he brings stones by
the Tiber to Rome, where slaves and hired persons unload them from the
boats, and carry them to buildings in the night time, so as not to
obstruct movement in the streets during daylight. Among these people
many Christians work, and also his son; as the work is beyond his son's
strength, he wished to redeem him. But Pansa preferred to keep both the
money and the slave. While telling me this, he began again to weep; and
I mingled my tears with his,--tears came to me easily because of my kind
heart, and the pain in my feet, which I got from walking excessively. I
began also to lament that as I had come from Naples only a few days
since, I knew no one of the brotherhood, and did not know where they
assembled for prayer. He wondered that Christians in Naples had not
given me letters to their brethren in Rome; but I explained to him that
the letters were stolen from me on the road. Then he told me to come to
the river at night, and he would acquaint me with brethren who would
conduct me to houses of prayer and to elders who govern the Christian
community. When I heard this, I was so delighted that I gave him the
sum needed to redeem his son, in the hope that the lordly Vinicius would
return it to me twofold."
"Chilo," interrupted Petronius, "in thy narrative falsehood appears on
the surface of truth, as oil does on water. Thou hast brought important
information; I do not deny that. I assert, even, that a great step is
made toward finding Lygia; but do not cover thy news with falsehood.
What is the name of that old man from whom thou hast learned that the
Christians recognize each other through the sign of a fish?"
"Euricius. A poor, unfortunate old man! He reminded me of Glaucus,
whom I defended from murderers, and he touched me mainly by this."
"I believe that thou didst discover him, and wilt be able to make use of
the acquaintance; but thou hast given him no money. Thou hast not given
him an as; dost understand me? Thou hast not given anything."
"But I helped him to lift the bucket, and I spoke of his son with the
greatest sympathy. Yes, lord, what can hide before the penetration of
Petronius? Well, I did not give him money, or rather, I gave it to him,
but only in spirit, in intention, which, had he been a real philosopher,
should have sufficed him. I gave it to him because I saw that such an
act was indispensable and useful; for think, lord, how this act has won
all the Christians at once to me, what access to them it has opened, and
what confidence it has roused in them."
"True," said Petronius, "and it was thy duty to do it."
"For this very reason I have come to get the means to do it."
Petronius turned to Vinicius,--"Give command to count out to him five
thousand sestertia, but in spirit, in intention."
"I will give thee a young man," said Vinicius, "who will take the sum
necessary; thou wilt say to Euricius that the youth is thy slave, and
thou wilt count out to the old man, in the youth's presence, this money.
Since thou hast brought important tidings, thou wilt receive the same
amount for thyself. Come for the youth and the money this evening."
"Thou art a real Cæsar!" said Chilo. "Permit me, lord, to dedicate my
work to thee; but permit also that this evening I come only for the
money, since Euricius told me that all the boats had been unloaded, and
that new ones would come from Ostia only after some days. Peace be with
you! Thus do Christians take farewell of one another. I will buy
myself a slave woman,--that is, I wanted to say a slave man. Fish are
caught with a bait, and Christians with fish. Fax vobiscum! pax! pax!
PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:
"I send to thee from Antium, by a trusty slave, this letter, to which,
though thy hand is more accustomed to the sword and the javelin than the
pen, I think that thou wilt answer through the same messenger without
needless delay. I left thee on a good trail, and full of hope; hence I
trust that thou hast either satisfied thy pleasant desires in the
embraces of Lygia, or wilt satisfy them before the real wintry wind from
the summits of Soracte shall blow on the Campania. Oh, my Vinicius! may
thy preceptress be the golden goddess of Cyprus; be thou, on thy part,
the preceptor of that Lygian Aurora, who is fleeing before the sun of
love. And remember always that marble, though most precious, is nothing
of itself, and acquires real value only when the sculptor's hand turns
it into a masterpiece. Be thou such a sculptor, carissime! To love is
not sufficient; one must know how to love; one must know how to teach
love. Though the plebs, too, and even animals, experience pleasure, a
genuine man differs from them in this especially, that he makes love in
some way a noble art, and, admiring it, knows all its divine value,
makes it present in his mind, thus satisfying not his body merely, but
his soul. More than once, when I think here of the emptiness, the
uncertainty, the dreariness of life, it occurs to me that perhaps thou
hast chosen better, and that not Cæsar's court, but war and love, are
the only objects for which it is worth while to be born and to live.
"Thou wert fortunate in war, be fortunate also in love; and if thou art
curious as to what men are doing at the court of Cæsar, I will inform
thee from time to time. We are living here at Antium, and nursing our
heavenly voice; we continue to cherish the same hatred of Rome, and
think of betaking ourselves to Baiæ for the winter, to appear in public
at Naples, whose inhabitants, being Greeks, will appreciate us better
than that wolf brood on the banks of the Tiber. People will hasten
thither from Baiæ, from Pompeii, Puteoli, Cumæ, and Stabia; neither
applause nor crowns will be lacking, and that will be an encouragement
for the proposed expedition to Achæa.
"But the memory of the infant Augusta? Yes! we are bewailing her yet.
We are singing hymns of our own composition, so wonderful that the
sirens have been hiding from envy in Amphitrite's deepest caves. But
the dolphins would listen to us, were they not prevented by the sound of
the sea. Our suffering is not allayed yet; hence we will exhibit it to
the world in every form which sculpture can employ, and observe
carefully if we are beautiful in our suffering and if people recognize
this beauty. Oh, my dear! we shall die buffoons and comedians!
"All the Augustians are here, male and female, not counting ten thousand
servants, and five hundred she asses, in whose milk Poppæa bathes. At
times even it is cheerful here. Calvia Crispinilla is growing old. It
is said that she has begged Poppæa to let her take the bath immediately
after herself. Lucan slapped Nigidia on the face, because he suspected
her of relations with a gladiator. Sporus lost his wife at dice to
Senecio. Torquatus Silanus has offered me for Eunice four chestnut
horses, which this year will win the prize beyond doubt. I would not
accept! Thanks to thee, also, that thou didst not take her. As to
Torquatus Silanus, the poor man does not even suspect that he is already
more a shade than a man. His death is decided. And knowest what his
crime is? He is the great-grandson of the deified Augustus. There is
no rescue for him. Such is our world.
"As is known to thee, we have been expecting Tiridates here; meanwhile
Vologeses has written an offensive letter. Because he has conquered
Armenia, he asks that it be left to him for Tiridates; if not, he will
not yield it in any case. Pure comedy! So we have decided on war.
Corbulo will receive power such as Pompeius Magnus received in the war
with pirates. There was a moment, however, when Nero hesitated. He
seems afraid of the glory which Corbulo will win in case of victory. It
was even thought to offer the chief command to our Aulus. This was
opposed by Poppæa, for whom evidently Pomponia's virtue is as salt in
"Vatinius described to us a remarkable fight of gladiators, which is to
take place in Beneventum. See to what cobblers rise in our time, in
spite of the saying, 'Ne sutor ultra crepidam!' Vitelius is the
descendant of a cobbler; but Vatinius is the son of one! Perhaps he
drew thread himself! The actor Aliturus represented dipus yesterday
wonderfully. I asked him, by the way, as a Jew, if Christians and Jews
were the same. He answered that the Jews have an eternal religion, but
that Christians are a new sect risen recently in Judea; that in the time
of Tiberius the Jews crucified a certain man, whose adherents increase
daily, and that the Christians consider him as God. They refuse, it
seems, to recognize other gods, ours especially. I cannot understand
what harm it would do them to recognize these gods.
"Tigellinus shows me open enmity now. So far he is unequal to me; but
he is, superior in this, that he cares more for life, and is at the same
time a greater scoundrel, which brings him nearer Ahenobarbus. These
two will understand each other earlier or later, and then my turn will
come. I know not when it will come; but I know this, that as things are
it must come; hence let time pass. Meanwhile we must amuse ourselves.
Life of itself would not be bad were it not for Bronzebeard. Thanks to
him, a man at times is disgusted with himself. It is not correct to
consider the struggle for his favor as a kind of rivalry in a circus,--
as a kind of game, as a struggle, in which victory flatters vanity.
True, I explain it to myself in that way frequently; but still it seems
to me sometimes that I am like Chilo, and better in nothing than he.
When he ceases to be needful to thee, send him to me. I have taken a
fancy to his edifying conversation. A greeting from me to thy divine
Christian, or rather beg her in my name not to be a fish to thee.
Inform me of thy health, inform me of thy love, know how to love, teach
how to love, and farewell."
VINICIUS to PETRONIUS:
"Lygia is not found yet! Were it not for the hope that I shall find her
soon, thou wouldst not receive an answer; for when a man is disgusted
with life, he has no wish to write letters. I wanted to learn whether
Chilo was not deceiving me; and at night when he came to get the money
for Euricius, I threw on a military mantle, and unobserved followed him
and the slave whom I sent with him. When they reached the place, I
watched from a distance, hidden behind a portico pillar, and convinced
myself that Euricius was not invented. Below, a number of tens of
people were unloading stones from a spacious barge, and piling them up
on the bank. I saw Chilo approach them, and begin to talk with some old
man, who after a while fell at his feet. Others surrounded them with
shouts of admiration. Before my eyes the boy gave a purse to Euricius,
who on seizing it began to pray with upraised hands, while at his side
some second person was kneeling, evidently his son. Chilo said
something which I could not hear, and blessed the two who were kneeling,
as well as others, making in the air signs in the form of a cross, which
they honor apparently, for all bent their knees. The desire seized me
to go among them, and promise three such purses to him who would deliver
to me Lygia; but I feared to spoil Chilo's work, and after hesitating a
moment went home.
"This happened at least twelve days after thy departure. Since then
Chilo has been a number of times with me. He says that he has gained
great significance among the Christians; that if he has not found Lygia
so far, it is because the Christians in Rome are innumerable, hence all
are not acquainted with each person in their community, and cannot know
everything that is done in it. They are cautious, too, and in general
reticent. He gives assurance, however, that when he reaches the elders,
who are called presbyters, he will learn every secret. He has made the
acquaintance of a number of these already, and has begun to inquire of
them, though carefully, so as not to rouse suspicion by haste, and not
to make the work still more difficult. Though it is hard to wait,
though patience fails, I feel that he is right, and I wait.
"He learned, too, that they have places of meeting for prayer,
frequently outside the city, in empty houses and even in sandpits. There
they worship Christ, sing hymns, and have feasts. There are many such
places. Chilo supposes that Lygia goes purposely to different ones from
Pomponia, so that the latter, in case of legal proceedings or an
examination, might swear boldly that she knew nothing of Lygia's hiding-
place. It may be that the presbyters have advised caution. When Chilo
discovers those places, I will go with him; and if the gods let me see
Lygia, I swear to thee by Jupiter that she will not escape my hands this
"I am thinking continually of those places of prayer. Chilo is
unwilling that I should go with him; he is afraid. But I cannot stay at
home. I should know her at once, even in disguise or if veiled. They
assemble in the night, but I should recognize her in the night even. I
should know her voice and motions anywhere. I will go myself in
disguise, and look at every person who goes in or out. I am thinking of
her always, and shall recognize her. Chilo is to come to-morrow, and we
shall go. I will take arms. Some of my slaves sent to the provinces
have returned empty-handed. But I am certain now that she is in the
city, perhaps not far away even. I myself have visited many houses
under pretext of renting them. She will fare better with me a hundred
times; where she is, whole legions of poor people dwell. Besides, I
shall spare nothing for her sake. Thou writest that I have chosen well.
I have chosen suffering and sorrow. We shall go first to those houses
which are in the city, then beyond the gates. Hope looks for something
every morning, otherwise life would be impossible. Thou sayest that one
should know how to love. I knew how to talk of love to Lygia. But now
I only yearn; I do nothing but wait for Chilo. Life to me is
unendurable in my own house. Farewell!"
BUT Chilo did not appear for some time, and Vinicius knew not at last
what to think of his absence. In vain he repeated to himself that
searching, if continued to a certain and successful issue, must be
gradual. His blood and impulsive nature rebelled against the voice of
judgment. To do nothing, to wait, to sit with folded arms, was so
repulsive to him that he could not be reconciled to it in any way. To
search the alleys of the city in the dark garb of a slave, through this
alone, that it was useless, seemed to him merely a mask for his own
inefficiency, and could give no satisfaction. His freedmen, persons of
experience, whom he commanded to search independently, turned out a
hundred times less expert than Chilo. Meanwhile there rose in him,
besides his love for Lygia, the stubbornness of a player resolved to
win. Vinicius had been always a person of this kind. From earliest
youth he had accomplished what he desired with the passionateness of one
who does not understand failure, or the need of yielding something. For
a time military discipline had put his self-will within bounds, but also
it had engrafted into him the conviction that every command of his to
subordinates must be fulfilled; his prolonged stay in the Orient, among
people pliant and inured to slavish obedience, confirmed in him the
faith that for his "I wish" there were no limits. At present his
vanity, too, was wounded painfully. There was, besides, in Lygia's
opposition and resistance, and in her flight itself, which was to him
incomprehensible, a kind of riddle. In trying to solve this riddle he
racked his head terribly. He felt that Acte had told the truth, and
that Lygia was not indifferent. But if this were true, why had she
preferred wandering and misery to his love, his tenderness, and a
residence in his splendid mansion? To this question he found no answer,
and arrived only at a kind of dim understanding that between him and
Lygia, between their ideas, between the world which belonged to him and
Petronius, and the world of Lygia and Pomponia, there existed some sort
of difference, some kind of misunderstanding as deep as an abyss, which
nothing could fill up or make even. It seemed to him, then, that he
must lose Lygia; and at this thought he lost the remnant of balance
which Petronius wished to preserve in him. There were moments in which
he did not know whether he loved Lygia or hated her; he understood only
that he must find her, and he would rather that the earth swallowed her
than that he should not see and possess her. By the power of
imagination he saw her as clearly at times as if she had been before his
face. He recalled every word which he had spoken to her; every word
which he had heard from her. He felt her near; felt her on his bosom,
in his arms; and then desire embraced him like a flame. He loved her
and called to her.
And when he thought that he was loved, that she might do with
willingness all that he wished of her, sore and endless sorrow seized
him, and a kind of deep tenderness flooded his heart, like a mighty
wave. But there were moments, too, in which he grew pale from rage, and
delighted in thoughts of the humiliation and tortures which he would
inflict on Lygia when he found her. He wanted not only to have her, but
to have her as a trampled slave. At the same time he felt that if the
choice were left him, to be her slave or not to see her in life again,
he would rather be her slave. There were days in which he thought of the
marks which the lash would leave on her rosy body, and at the same time
he wanted to kiss those marks. It came to his head also that he would
be happy if he could kill her.
In this torture, torment, uncertainty, and suffering, he lost health,
and even beauty. He became a cruel and incomprehensible master. His
slaves, and even his freedmen, approached him with trembling; and when
punishments fell on them causelessly,--punishments as merciless as
undeserved,--they began to hate him in secret; while he, feeling this,
and feeling his own isolation, took revenge all the more on them. He
restrained himself with Chilo alone, fearing lest he might cease his
searches; the Greek, noting this, began to gain control of him, and grew
more and more exacting. At first he assured Vinicius at each visit that
the affair would proceed easily and quickly; now he began to discover
difficulties, and without ceasing, it is true, to guarantee the
undoubted success of the searches, he did not hide the fact that they
must continue yet for a good while.
At last he came, after long days of waiting, with a face so gloomy that
the young man grew pale at sight of him, and springing up had barely
strength to ask,--"Is she not among the Christians?" "She is, lord,"
answered Chilo; "but I found Glaucus among them." "Of what art thou
speaking, and who is Glaucus?" "Thou hast forgotten, lord, it seems,
that old man with whom I journeyed from Naples to Rome, and in whose
defence I lost these two fingers,--a loss which prevents me from
writing. Robbers, who bore away his wife and child, stabbed him with a
knife. I left him dying at an inn in Minturna, and bewailed him long.
Alas! I have convinced myself that he is alive yet, and belongs in Rome
to the Christian community."
Vinicius, who could not understand what the question was, understood
only that Glaucus was becoming a hindrance to the discovery of Lygia;
hence he suppressed his rising anger, and said,--"If thou didst defend
him, he should be thankful and help thee."
"Ah! worthy tribune, even gods are not always grateful, and what must
the case be with men? True, he should be thankful. But, unhappily, he
is an old man, of a mind weak and darkened by age and disappointment;
for which reason, not only is he not grateful, but, as I learned from
his co-religionists, he accuses me of having conspired with the robbers,
and says that I am the cause of his misfortunes. That is the recompense
for my fingers!"
"Scoundrel! I am certain that it was as he says," replied Vinicius.
"Then thou knowest more than he does, lord, for he only surmises that it
was so; which, however, would not prevent him from summoning the
Christians, and from revenging himself on me cruelly. He would have
done that undoubtedly, and others, with equal certainty, would have
helped him; but fortunately he does not know my name, and in the house
of prayer where we met, he did not notice me. I, however, knew him at
once, and at the first moment wished to throw myself on his neck.
Wisdom, however, and the habit of thinking before every step which I
intend to take, restrained me. Therefore, on issuing from the house of
prayer, I inquired concerning him, and those who knew him declared that
he was the man who had been betrayed by his comrade on the journey from
Naples. Otherwise I should not have known that he gives out such a
"How does this concern me? Tell what thou sawest in the house of
"It does not concern thee, lord, but it concerns me just as much as my
life. Since I wish that my wisdom should survive me, I would rather
renounce the reward which thou hast offered, than expose my life for
empty lucre; without which, I as a true philosopher shall be able to
live and seek divine wisdom."
But Vinicius approached him with an ominous countenance, and began in a
suppressed voice,--"Who told thee that death would meet thee sooner at
the hands of Glaucus than at mine? Whence knowest thou, dog, that I
will not have thee buried right away in my garden?"
Chilo, who was a coward, looked at Vinicius, and in the twinkle of an
eye understood that one more unguarded word and he was lost beyond
"I will search for her, lord, and I will find her!" cried he, hurriedly.
Silence followed, during which were heard the quick breathing of
Vinicius, and the distant song of slaves at work in the garden.
Only after a while did the Greek resume his speech, when he noticed that
the young patrician was somewhat pacified.
"Death passed me, but I looked on it with the calmness of Socrates. No,
lord, I have not said that I refuse to search for the maiden; I desired
merely to tell thee that search for her is connected now with great
peril to me. On a time thou didst doubt that there was a certain
Euricius in the world, and though thou wert convinced by thine own eyes
that the son of my father told the truth to thee, thou hast suspicions
now that I have invented Glaucus. Ah! would that he were only a
fiction, that I might go among the Christians with perfect safety, as I
went some time since; I would give up for that the poor old slave woman
whom I bought, three days since, to care for my advanced age and maimed
condition. But Glaucus is living, lord; and if he had seen me once,
thou wouldst not have seen me again, and in that case who would find the
Here he was silent again, and began to dry his tears.
"But while Glaucus lives," continued he, "how can I search for her?--for
I may meet him at any step; and if I meet him I shall perish, and with
me will cease all my searching."
"What art thou aiming at? What help is there? What dost thou wish to
undertake?" inquired Vinicius.
"Aristotle teaches us, lord, that less things should be sacrificed for
greater, and King Priam said frequently that old age was a grievous
burden. Indeed, the burden of old age and misfortune weighs upon
Glaucus this long time, and so heavily that death would be to him a
benefit. For what is death, according to Seneca, but liberation?"
"Play the fool with Petronius, not with me! Tell what thy desire is."
"If virtue is folly, may the gods permit me to be a fool all my life. I
desire, lord, to set aside Glaucus, for while he is living my life and
searches are in continual peril."
"Hire men to beat him to death with clubs; I will pay them."
"They will rob thee, lord, and afterward make profit of the secret.
There are as many ruffians in Rome as grains of sand in the arena, but
thou wilt not believe how dear they are when an honest man needs to
employ their villainy. No, worthy tribune! But if watchmen catch the
murderers in the act? They would tell, beyond doubt, who hired them,
and then thou wouldst have trouble. They will not point to me, for I
shall not give my name. Thou art doing ill not to trust in me, for,
setting aside my keenness, remember that there is a question of two
other things,--of my life, and the reward which thou has promised me."
"How much dost thou need?"
"A thousand sestertia, for turn attention to this, that I must find
honest ruffians, men who when they have received earnest money, will not
take it off without a trace. For good work there must be good pay!
Something might be added, too, for my sake, to wipe away the tears which
I shall shed out of pity for Glaucus. I take the gods to witness how I
love him. If I receive a thousand sestertia to-day, two days hence his
soul will be in Hades; and then, if souls preserve memory and the gift
of thought, he will know for the first time how I loved him. I will
find people this very day, and tell them that for each day of the life
of Glaucus I will withhold one hundred sestertia. I have, besides, a
certain idea, which seems to me infallible."
Vinicius promised him once more the desired sum, forbidding him to
mention Glaucus again; but asked what other news he brought, where he
had been all the time, what he had seen, and what he had discovered.
But Chilo was not able to tell much. He had been in two more houses of
prayer,--had observed each person carefully, especially the women,--but
had seen no one who resembled Lygia: the Christians, however, looked on
him as one of their own sect, and, since he redeemed the son of
Euricius, they honored him as a man following in the steps of "Christ."
He had learned from them, also, that a great lawgiver of theirs, a
certain Paul of Tarsus, was in Rome, imprisoned because of charges
preferred by the Jews, and with this man he had resolved to become
acquainted. But most of all was he pleased by this,--that the supreme
priest of the whole sect, who had been Christ's disciple, and to whom
Christ had confided government over the whole world of Christians, might
arrive in Rome any moment. All the Christians desired evidently to see
him, and hear his teachings. Some great meetings would follow, at which
he, Chilo, would be present; and what is more, since it is easy to hide
in the crowd, he would take Vinicius to those meetings. Then they would
find Lygia certainly. If Glaucus were once set aside, it would not be
connected even with great danger. As to revenge, the Christians, too,
would revenge but in general they were peaceful people.
Here Chilo began to relate, with a certain surprise, that he had never
seen that they gave themselves up to debauchery, that they poisoned
wells or fountains, that they were enemies of the human race, worshipped
an ass, or ate the flesh of children. No; he had seen nothing of that
sort. Certainly he would find among them even people who would hide
away Glaucus for money; but their religion, as far as he knew, did not
incite to crime,--on the contrary, it enjoined forgiveness of offences.
Vinicius remembered what Pomponia had said to him at Acte's, and in
general he listened to Chilo's words with pleasure. Though his feeling
for Lygia assumed at times the seeming of hatred, he felt a relief when
he heard that the religion which she and Pomponia confessed was neither
criminal nor repulsive. But a species of undefined feeling rose in him
that it was just that reverence for Christ, unknown and mysterious,
which created the difference between himself and Lygia; hence he began
at once to fear that religion and to hate it.
FOR Chilo, it was really important to set aside Glaucus, who, though
advanced in years, was by no means decrepit. There was considerable
truth in what Chilo had narrated to Vinicius. He had known Glaucus on a
time, he had betrayed him, sold him to robbers, deprived him of family,
of property, and delivered him to murder. But he bore the memory of
these events easily, for he had thrown the man aside dying, not at an
inn, but in a field near Minturna. This one thing he had not foreseen,
that Glaucus would be cured of his wounds and come to Rome. When he saw
him, therefore, in the house of prayer, he was in truth terrified, and
at the first moment wished to discontinue the search for Lygia. But on
the other hand, Vinicius terrified him still more. He understood that
he must choose between the fear of Glaucus, and the pursuit and
vengeance of a powerful patrician, to whose aid would come, beyond
doubt, another and still greater, Petronius. In view of this, Chilo
ceased to hesitate. He thought it better to have small enemies than
great ones, and, though his cowardly nature trembled somewhat at bloody
methods, he saw the need of killing Glaucus through the aid of other
At present the only question with him was the choice of people, and to
this he was turning that thought of which he had made mention to
Vinicius. Spending his nights in wine-shops most frequently, and
lodging in them, among men without a roof, without faith or honor, he
could find persons easily to undertake any task, and still more easily
others who, if they sniffed coin on his person, would begin, but when
they had received earnest money, would extort the whole sum by
threatening to deliver him to justice. Besides, for a certain time past
Chilo had felt a repulsion for nakedness, for those disgusting and
terrible figures lurking about suspected houses in the Subura or in the
Trans-Tiber. Measuring everything with his own measure, and not having
fathomed sufficiently the Christians or their religion, he judged that
among them, too, he could find willing tools. Since they seemed more
reliable than others, he resolved to turn to them and present the affair
in such fashion that they would undertake it, not for money's sake
merely, but through devotion.
In view of this, he went in the evening to Euricius, whom he knew as
devoted with whole soul to his person, and who, he was sure, would do
all in his power to assist him. Naturally cautious, Chilo did not even
dream of revealing his real intentions, which would be in clear
opposition, moreover, to the faith which the old man had in his piety
and virtue. He wished to find people who were ready for anything, and
to talk with them of the affair only in such a way that, out of regard
to themselves, they would guard it as an eternal secret.
The old man Euricius, after the redemption of his son, hired one of
those little shops so numerous near the Circus Maximus, in which were
sold olives, beans, unleavened paste, and water sweetened with honey, to
spectators coming to the Circus. Chilo found him at home arranging his
shop; and when he had greeted him in Christ's name, he began to speak of
the affair which had brought him. Since he had rendered them a service,
he considered that they would pay him with gratitude. He needed two or
three strong and courageous men, to ward off danger threatening not only
him, but all Christians. He was poor, it was true, since he had given
to Euricius almost all that he owned; still he would pay such men for
their services if they would trust him and perform faithfully what he
Euricius and his son Quartus listened to him as their benefactor almost
on their knees. Both declared that they were ready themselves to do all
that he asked of them, believing that a man so holy could not ask for
deeds inconsistent with the teaching of Christ.
Chilo assured them that that was true, and, raising his eyes to heaven,
he seemed to be praying; in fact, he was thinking whether it would not
be well to accept their proposal, which might save him a thousand
sestertia. But after a moment of thought he rejected it. Euricius was
an old man, perhaps not so much weighted by years as weakened by care
and disease. Quartus was sixteen years of age. Chilo needed dexterous,
and, above all, stalwart men. As to the thousand sestertia, he
considered that--thanks to the plan which he had invented--he would be
able in every case to spare a large part of it.
They insisted for some time, but when he refused decisively they
"I know the baker Demas," said Quartus, "in whose mills slaves and hired
men are employed. One of those hired men is so strong that he would
take the place, not of two, but of four. I myself have seen him lift
stones from the ground which four men could not stir."
"If that is a God-fearing man, who can sacrifice himself for the
brotherhood, make me acquainted with him," said Chilo.
"He is a Christian, lord," answered Quartus; "nearly all who work for
Demas are Christians. He has night as well as day laborers; this man is
of the night laborers. Were we to go now to the mill, we should find
them at supper, and thou mightest speak to him freely. Demas lives near
Chilo consented most willingly. The Emporium was at the foot of the
Aventine, hence not very far from the Circus Maximus. It was possible,
without going around the hill, to pass along the river through the
Porticus Æmilia, which would shorten the road considerably.
"I am old," said Chilo, when they went under the Colonnade; "at times I
suffer effacement of memory. Yes, though our Christ was betrayed by one
of his disciples, the name of the traitor I cannot recall at this
"Judas, lord, who hanged himself," answered Quartus, wondering a little
in his soul how it was possible to forget that name.
"Oh, yes--Judas! I thank thee," said Chilo.
And they went on some time in silence. When they came to the Emporium,
which was closed, they passed it, and going around the storehouse, from
which grain was distributed to the populace, they turned toward the
left, to houses which stretched along the Via Ostiensis, up to the Mons
Testaceus and the Forum Pistorium. There they halted before a wooden
building, from the interior of which came the noise of millstones.
Quartus went in; but Chilo, who did not like to show himself to large
numbers of people, and was in continual dread that some fate might bring
him to meet Glaucus, remained outside.
"I am curious about that Hercules who serves in a mill," said he to
himself, looking at the brightly shining moon. "If he is a scoundrel
and a wise man, he will cost me something; if a virtuous Christian and
dull, he will do what I want without money."
Further meditation was interrupted by the return of Quartus, who issued
from the building with a second man, wearing only a tunic called
"exomis," cut in such fashion that the right arm and right breast were
exposed. Such garments, since they left perfect freedom of movement,
were used especially by laborers. Chilo, when he saw the man coming,
drew a breath of satisfaction, for he had not seen in his life such an
arm and such a breast.
"Here, lord," said Quartus, "is the brother whom it was thy wish to
"May the peace of Christ be with thee!" answered Chilo. "Do thou,
Quartus, tell this brother whether I deserve faith and trust, and then
return in the name of God; for there is no need that thy gray-haired
father should be left in loneliness."
"This is a holy man," said Quartus, "who gave all his property to redeem
me from slavery,--me, a man unknown to him. May our Lord the Saviour
prepare him a heavenly reward therefor!"
The gigantic laborer, hearing this, bent down and kissed Chilo's hand.
"What is thy name, brother?" inquired the Greek.
"At holy baptism, father, the name Urban was given me."
"Urban, my brother, hast thou time to talk with me freely?"
"Our work begins at midnight, and only now are they preparing our
"Then there is time sufficient. Let us go to the river; there thou wilt
hear my words."
They went, and sat on the embankment, in a silence broken only by the
distant sound of the millstones and the plash of the onflowing river.
Chilo looked into the face of the laborer, which, notwithstanding a
somewhat severe and sad expression, such as was usual on faces of
barbarians living in Rome, seemed to him kind and honest.
"This is a good-natured, dull man who will kill Glaucus for nothing,"
"Urban," inquired he then, "dost thou love Christ?"
"I love him from the soul of my heart," said the laborer.
"And thy brethren and sisters, and those who taught thee truth and faith
"I love them, too, father."
"Then may peace be with thee!"
"And with thee, father!"
Again silence set in, but in the distance the millstones were roaring,
and the river was plashing below the two men.
Back to Full Books