Quo Vadis A Narrative of the Time of Nero
Part 4 out of 12
Chilo looked with fixed gaze into the clear moonlight, and with a slow,
restrained voice began to speak of Christ's death. He seemed not as
speaking to Urban, but as if recalling to himself that death, or some
secret which he was confiding to the drowsy city. There was in this,
too, something touching as well as impressive. The laborer wept; and
when Chilo began to groan and complain that in the moment of the
Saviour's passion there was no one to defend him, if not from
crucifixion, at least from the insults of Jews and soldiers, the
gigantic fists of the barbarian began to squeeze from pity and
suppressed rage. The death only moved him; but at thought of that
rabble reviling the Lamb nailed to the cross, the simple soul in him was
indignant, and a wild desire of vengeance seized the man.
"Urban, dost thou know who Judas was?" asked Chilo, suddenly.
"I know, I know!--but he hanged himself!" exclaimed the laborer.
And in his voice there was a kind of sorrow that the traitor had meted
out punishment to himself, and that Judas could not fall into his hands.
"But if he had not hanged himself," continued Chilo, "and if some
Christian were to meet him on land or on sea, would it not be the duty
of that Christian to take revenge for the torment, the blood, and the
death of the Saviour?"
"Who is there who would not take revenge, father?"
"Peace be with thee, faithful servant of the Lamb! True, it is
permitted to forgive wrongs done ourselves; but who has the right to
forgive a wrong done to God? But as a serpent engenders a serpent, as
malice breeds malice, and treason breeds treason, so from the poison of
Judas another traitor has come; and as that one delivered to Jews and
Roman soldiers the Saviour, so this man who lives among us intends to
give Christ's sheep to the wolves; and if no one will anticipate the
treason, if no one will crush the head of the serpent in time,
destruction is waiting for us all, and with us will perish the honor of
The laborer looked at Chilo with immense alarm, as if not understanding
what he had heard. But the Greek, covering his head with a corner of
his mantle, began to repeat, with a voice coming as if from beneath the
earth,--"Woe to you, servants of the true God! woe to you, Christian men
and Christian women!"
And again came silence, again were heard only the roar of the
millstones, the deep song of the millers, and the sound of the river.
"Father," asked the laborer at last, "what kind of traitor is that?"
Chilo dropped his head. "What kind of traitor? A son of Judas, a son
of his poison, a man who pretends to be a Christian, and goes to houses
of prayer only to complain of the brotherhood to Cęsar,--declaring that
they will not recognize Cęsar as a god; that they poison fountains,
murder children, and wish to destroy the city, so that one stone may not
remain on another. Behold! in a few days a command will be given to the
pretorians to cast old men, women, and children into prison, and lead
them to death, just as they led to death the slaves of Pedanius
Secundus. All this has been done by that second Judas. But if no one
punished the first Judas, if no one took vengeance on him, if no one
defended Christ in the hour of torment, who will punish this one, who
will destroy the serpent before Cęsar hears him, who will destroy him,
who will defend from destruction our brothers in the faith of Christ?"
Urban, who had been sitting thus far on a stone, stood up on a sudden,
and said,--"I will, father."
Chilo rose also; he looked for a while on the face of the laborer,
lighted up by the shining of the moon, then, stretching his arm, he put
his hand slowly on his head.
"Go among Christians," said he, with solemnity; "go to the houses of
prayer, and ask the brethren about Glaucus; and when they show him to
thee, slay him at once in Christ's name!"
"About Glaucus?" repeated the laborer, as if wishing to fix that name in
"Dost thou know him?"
"No, I do not. There are thousands of Christians in Rome, and they are
not all known to one another. But to-morrow, in Ostrianum, brethren and
sisters will assemble in the night to the last soul, because a great
apostle of Christ has come, who will teach them, and the brethren will
point out to me Glaucus."
"In Ostrianum?" inquired Chilo. "But that is outside the city gates!
The brethren and all the sisters,--at night? Outside the city gates, in
"Yes, father; that is our cemetery, between the Vię Salaria and
Nomentana. Is it not known to thee that the Great Apostle will teach
"I have been two days from home, hence I did not receive his epistle;
and I do not know where Ostrianum is, for I came here not long since
from Corinth, where I govern a Christian community. But it is as thou
sayest,--there thou wilt find Glaucus among the brethren, and thou wilt
slay him on the way home to the city. For this all thy sins will be
forgiven. And now peace be with thee--"
"I listen to thee, servant of the Lamb."
On the laborer's face perplexity was evident. Not long before he had
killed a man, and perhaps two, but the teaching of Christ forbids
killing. He had not killed them in his own defence, for even that is
not permitted. He had not killed them, Christ preserve! for profit.
The bishop himself had given him brethren to assist, but had not
permitted him to kill; he had killed inadvertently, for God had punished
him with too much strength. And now he was doing grievous penance.
Others sing when the millstones are grinding; but he, hapless man, is
thinking of his sin, of his offence against the Lamb. How much has he
prayed already and wept? How much has he implored the Lamb? And he
feels that he has not done penance enough yet! But now he has promised
again to kill a traitor,--and done well! He is permitted to pardon only
offences against himself; hence he will kill Glaucus, even before the
eyes of all the brethren and sisters, in Ostrianum to-morrow. But let
Glaucus be condemned previously by the elders among the brethren, by the
bishop, or by the Apostle. To kill is not a great thing; to kill a
traitor is even as pleasant as to kill a bear or a wolf. But suppose
Glaucus to perish innocently? How take on his conscience a new murder,
a new sin, a new offence against the Lamb?
"There is no time for a trial, my son," said Chilo. "The traitor will
hurry from Ostrianum straightway to Cęsar in Antium, or hide in the
house of a certain patrician whom he is serving. I will give thee a
sign; if thou show it after the death of Glaucus, the bishop and the
Great Apostle will bless thy deed."
Saying this, he took out a small coin, and began to search for a knife
at his belt; having found it, he scratched with the point on the
sestertium the sign of the cross; this coin he gave to the laborer.
"Here is the sentence of Glaucus, and a sign for thee. If thou show
this to the bishop after the death of Glaucus, he will forgive thee the
killing which thou hast done without wishing it."
The laborer stretched out his hand involuntarily for the coin; but
having the first murder too freshly in his memory just then, he
experienced a feeling of terror.
"Father," said he with a voice almost of entreaty, "dost thou take this
deed on thy conscience, and hast thou thyself heard Glaucus betraying
Chilo understood that he must give proofs, mention names, otherwise
doubt might creep into the heart of the giant. All at once a happy
thought flashed through his head.
"Listen, Urban," said he, "I dwell in Corinth, but I came from Kos; and
here in Rome I instruct in the religion of Christ a certain serving
maiden named Eunice. She serves as vestiplica in the house of a friend
of Cęsar, a certain Petronius. In that house I have heard how Glaucus
has undertaken to betray all the Christians; and, besides, he has
promised another informer of Cęsar's, Vinicius, to find a certain maiden
for him among the Christians."
Here he stopped and looked with amazement at the laborer, whose eyes
blazed suddenly like the eyes of a wild beast, and his face took on an
expression of mad rage and threat.
"What is the matter with thee?" asked Chilo, almost in fear.
"Nothing, father; to-morrow I will kill Glaucus."
The Greek was silent. After a while he took the arm of the laborer,
turned him so that the light of the moon struck his face squarely, and
examined him with care. It was evident that he was wavering in spirit
whether to inquire further and bring everything out with clearness, or
for that time to stop with what he had learned or surmised.
At last, however, his innate caution prevailed. He breathed deeply once
and a second time; then, placing his hand on the laborer's head again,
he asked, in an emphatic and solemn voice,--"But in holy baptism the
name Urban was given thee?"
"It was, father."
"Then peace be with thee, Urban!"
PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:
"Thy case is a bad one, carissime. It is clear that Venus has disturbed
thy mind, deprived thee of reason and memory, as well as the power to
think of aught else except love. Read some time thy answer to my
letter, and thou wilt see how indifferent thy mind is to all except
Lygia; how exclusively it is occupied with her, how it returns to her
always, and circles above her, as a falcon above chosen prey. By
Pollux! find her quickly, or that of thee which fire has not turned into
ashes will become an Egyptian sphinx, which, enamored, as 'tis said, of
pale Isis, grew deaf and indifferent to all things, waiting only for
night, so as to gaze with stony eyes at the loved one.
"Run disguised through the city in the evening, even honor Christian
houses of prayer in thy philosopher's company. Whatever excites hope
and kills time is praiseworthy. But for my friendship's sake do this
one thing: Ursus, Lygia's slave, is a man of uncommon strength very
likely; hire Croton, and go out three together; that will be safer and
wiser. The Christians, since Pomponia and Lygia belong to them, are
surely not such scoundrels as most people imagine. But when a lamb of
their flock is in question they are no triflers, as they have shown by
carrying away Lygia. When thou seest Lygia thou wilt not restrain
thyself, I am sure, and wilt try to bear her away on the spot. But how
wilt thou and Chilonides do it? Croton would take care of himself, even
though ten like Ursus defended the maiden. Be not plundered by Chilo,
but be not sparing of money on Croton. Of all counsels which I can give
this is the best one.
"Here they have ceased to speak of the infant Augusta, or to say that
she perished through witchcraft. Poppęa mentions her at times yet; but
Cęsar's mind is stuffed with something else. Moreover, if it be true
that the divine Augusta is in a changed state again, the memory of that
child will be blown away without trace. We have been in Naples for some
days, or rather in Baię. If thou art capable of any thought, echoes of
our life must strike thy ear, for surely Rome talks of naught else. We
went directly to Baię, where at first memories of the mother attacked
us, and reproaches of conscience. But dost thou know to what
Ahenobarbus has gone already? To this, that for him even the murder of
his mother is a mere theme for verses, and a reason for buffoonish
"Formerly he felt real reproaches only in so far as he was a coward;
now, when he is convinced that the earth is under his feet as before,
and that no god is taking vengeance, he feigns them only to move people
by his fate. He springs up at night sometimes declaring that the Furies
are hunting him; he rouses us, looks around, assumes the posture of an
actor playing the role of Orestes, and the posture of a bad actor too;
he declaims Greek verses, and looks to see if we are admiring him. We
admire him apparently; and instead of saying to him, Go to sleep, thou
buffoon! we bring ourselves also to the tone of tragedy, and protect the
great artist from the Furies. By Castor! this news at least must have
reached thee, that he has appeared in public at Naples. They drove in
from the city and the surrounding towns all the Greek ruffians, who
filled the arena with such a vile odor of sweat and garlic that I thank
the gods that, instead of sitting in the first rows with the Augustians,
I was behind the scenes with Ahenobarbus. And wilt thou believe it, he
was afraid really! He took my hand and put it to his heart, which was
beating with increased pulsation; his breath was short; and at the
moment when he had to appear he grew as pale as a parchment, and his
forehead was covered with drops of sweat. Still he saw that in every
row of seats were pretorians, armed with clubs, to rouse enthusiasm if
the need came. But there was no need. No herd of monkeys from the
environs of Carthage could howl as did this rabble. I tell thee that
the smell of garlic came to the stage; but Nero bowed, pressed his hand
to his heart, sent kisses from his lips, and shed tears. Then he rushed
in among us, who were waiting behind the scenes, like a drunken man,
crying, 'What were the triumphs of Julius compared with this triumph of
mine?' But the rabble was howling yet and applauding, knowing that it
would applaud to itself favors, gifts, banquets, lottery tickets, and a
fresh exhibition by the Imperial buffoon. I do not wonder that they
applauded, for such a sight had not been seen till that evening. And
every moment he repeated: 'See what the Greeks are! see what the Greeks
are!' From that evening it has seemed to me that his hatred for Rome is
increasing. Meanwhile special couriers were hurried to Rome announcing
the triumph, and we expect thanks from the Senate one of these days.
Immediately after Nero's first exhibition, a strange event happened
here. The theatre fell in on a sudden, but just after the audience had
gone. I was there, and did not see even one corpse taken from the
ruins. Many, even among the Greeks, see in this event the anger of the
gods, because the dignity of Cęsar was disgraced; he, on the contrary,
finds in it favor of the gods, who have his song, and those who listen
to it, under their evident protection. Hence there are offerings in all
the temples, and great thanks. For Nero it is a great encouragement to
make the journey to Achęa. A few days since he told me, however, that he
had doubts as to what the Roman people might say; that they might revolt
out of love for him, and fear touching the distribution of grain and
touching the games, which might fail them in case of his prolonged
"We are going, however, to Beneventum to look at the cobbler
magnificence which Vatinius will exhibit, and thence to Greece, under
the protection of the divine brothers of Helen. As to me, I have noted
one thing, that when a man is among the mad he grows mad himself, and,
what is more, finds a certain charm in mad pranks. Greece and the
journey in a thousand ships; a kind of triumphal advance of Bacchus
among nymphs and bacchantes crowned with myrtle, vine, and honeysuckle;
there will be women in tiger skins harnessed to chariots; flowers,
thyrses, garlands, shouts of 'Evoe!' music, poetry, and applauding
Hellas. All this is well; but we cherish besides more daring projects.
We wish to create a species of Oriental Imperium,--an empire of palm-
trees, sunshine, poetry, and reality turned into a dream, reality turned
into the delight of life only. We want to forget Rome; to fix the
balancing point of the world somewhere between Greece, Asia, and Egypt;
to live the life not of men but of gods; not to know what commonness is;
to wander in golden galleys under the shadow of purple sails along the
Archipelago; to be Apollo, Osiris, and Baal in one person; to be rosy
with the dawn, golden with the sun, silver with the moon; to command, to
sing, to dream. And wilt thou believe that I, who have still sound
judgment to the value of a sestertium, and sense to the value of an as,
let myself be borne away by these fantasies, and I do this for the
reason that, if they are not possible, they are at least grandiose and
uncommon? Such a fabulous empire would be a thing which, some time or
other, after long ages, would seem a dream to mankind. Except when
Venus takes the form of Lygia, or even of a slave Eunice, or when art
beautifies it, life itself is empty, and many a time it has the face of
a monkey. But Bronzebeard will not realize his plans, even for this
cause, that in his fabulous kingdom of poetry and the Orient no place is
given to treason, meanness, and death; and that in him with the poses of
a poet sits a wretched comedian, a dull charioteer, and a frivolous
tyrant. Meanwhile we are killing people whenever they displease us in
any way. Poor Torquatus Silanus is now a shade; he opened his veins a
few days since. Lecanius and Licinus will enter on the consulate with
terror. Old Thrasea will not escape death, for he dares to be honest.
Tigellinus is not able yet to frame a command for me to open my veins.
I am still needed not only as elegantię arbiter, but as a man without
whose counsel and taste the expedition to Achęa might fail. More than
once, however, I think that sooner or later it must end in opening my
veins; and knowest thou what the question will be then with me?--that
Bronzebeard should not get my goblet, which thou knowest and admirest.
Shouldst thou be near at the moment of my death, I will give it to thee;
shouldst thou be at a distance, I will break it. But meanwhile I have
before me yet Beneventum of the cobblers and Olympian Greece; I have
Fate too, which, unknown and unforeseen, points out the road to every
"Be well, and engage Croton; otherwise they will snatch Lygia from thee
a second time. When Chilonides ceases to be needful, send him to me
wherever I may be. Perhaps I shall make him a second Vatinius, and
consuls and senators may tremble before him yet, as they trembled before
that knight Dratevka. It would be worth while to live to see such a
spectacle. When thou hast found Lygia, let me know, so that I may offer
for you both a pair of swans and a pair of doves in the round temple of
Venus here. Once I saw Lygia in a dream, sitting on thy knee, seeking
thy kisses. Try to make that dream prophetic. May there be no clouds
on thy sky; or if there be, let them have the color and the odor of
roses! Be in good health; and farewell!"
BARELY had Vinicius finished reading when Chilo pushed quietly into his
library, unannounced by any one, for the servants had the order to admit
him at every hour of the day or night.
"May the divine mother of thy magnanimous ancestor Ęneas be full of
favor to thee, as the son of Maia was kind to me."
"What dost thou mean?" asked Vinicius, springing from the table at which
he was sitting.
Chilo raised his head and said, "Eureka!"
The young patrician was so excited that for a long time he could not
utter a word.
"Hast thou seen her?" asked he, at last.
"I have seen Ursus, lord, and have spoken with him."
"Dost thou know where they are secreted?"
"No, lord. Another, through boastfulness, would have let the Lygian
know that he divined who he was; another would have tried to extort from
him the knowledge of where he lived, and would have received either a
stroke of the fist,--after which all earthly affairs would have become
indifferent to him,--or he would have roused the suspicion of the giant
and caused this,--that a new hiding-place would be found for the girl,
this very night perhaps. I did not act thus. It suffices me to know
that Ursus works near the Emporium, for a miller named Demas, the same
name as that borne by thy freedman; now any trusted slave of thine may
go in the morning on his track, and discover their hiding place. I
bring thee merely the assurance that, since Ursus is here, the divine
Lygia also is in Rome, and a second news that she will be in Ostrianum
to-night, almost certainly--"
"In Ostrianum? Where is that?" interrupted Vinicius, wishing evidently
to run to the place indicated.
"An old hypogeum between the Vię Salaria and Nomentana. That pontifex
maximus of the Christians, of whom I spoke to thee, and whom they
expected somewhat later, has come, and to-night he will teach and
baptize in that cemetery. They hide their religion, for, though there
are no edicts to prohibit it as yet, the people hate them, so they must
be careful. Ursus himself told me that all, to the last soul, would be
in Ostrianum to-night, for every one wishes to see and hear him who was
the foremost disciple of Christ, and whom they call Apostle. Since
among them women hear instruction as well as men, Pomponia alone perhaps
of women will not be there; she could not explain to Aulus, a worshipper
of the ancient gods, her absence from home at night. But Lygia, lord,
who is under the care of Ursus and the Christian elders, will go
undoubtedly with other women."
Vinicius, who had lived hitherto in a fever, and upheld as it were, by
hope alone, now that his hope seemed fulfilled felt all at once the
weakness that a man feels after a journey which has proved beyond his
strength. Chilo noticed this, and resolved to make use of it.
"The gates are watched, it is true, by thy people, and the Christians
must know that. But they do not need gates. The Tiber, too, does not
need them; and though it is far from the river to those roads, it is
worth while to walk one road more to see the 'Great Apostle.' Moreover
they may have a thousand ways of going beyond the walls, and I know that
they have. In Ostrianum thou wilt find Lygia; and even should she not
be there, which I will not admit, Ursus will be there, for he has
promised to kill Glaucus. He told me himself that he would be there,
and that he would kill him. Dost hear, noble tribune? Either thou wilt
follow Ursus and learn where Lygia dwells, or thou wilt command thy
people to seize him as a murderer, and, having him in thy hand, thou
wilt make him confess where he has hidden Lygia. I have done my best!
Another would have told thee that he had drunk ten cantars of the best
wine with Ursus before he wormed the secret out of him; another would
have told thee that he had lost a thousand sestertia to him in script
duodecim, or that he had bought the intelligence for two thousand; I
know that thou wouldst repay me doubly, but in spite of that, once in my
life--I mean, as always in my life--I shall be honest, for I think, as
the magnanimous Petronius says, that thy bounty exceeds all my hopes and
Vinicius, who was a soldier and accustomed not only to take counsel of
himself in all cases, but to act, was overcome by a momentary weakness
and said,--"Thou wilt not deceive thyself as to my liberality, but first
thou wilt go with me to Ostrianum."
"I, to Ostrianum?" inquired Chilo, who had not the least wish to go
there. "I, noble tribune, promised thee to point out Lygia, but I did
not promise to take her away for thee. Think, lord, what would happen
to me if that Lygian bear, when he had torn Glaucus to pieces, should
convince himself straight-way that he had torn him not altogether
justly? Would he not look on me (of course without reason) as the cause
of the accomplished murder? Remember, lord, that the greater
philosopher a man is, the more difficult it is for him to answer the
foolish questions of common people; what should I answer him were he to
ask me why I calumniated Glaucus? But if thou suspect that I deceive
thee, I say, pay me only when I point out the house in which Lygia
lives; show me to-day only a part of thy liberality, so that if thou,
lord (which may all the gods ward from thee), succumb to some accident,
I shall not be entirely without recompense. Thy heart could not endure
Vinicius went to a casket called "area," standing on a marble pedestal,
and, taking out a purse, threw it to Chilo.
"There are scrupula," said he; "when Lygia shall be in my house, thou
wilt get the same full of aurei."
"Thou art Jove!" exclaimed Chilo.
But Vinicius frowned.
"Thou wilt receive food here," said he; "then thou mayest rest. Thou
wilt not leave this house till evening, and when night falls thou wilt
go with me to Ostrianum."
Fear and hesitation were reflected on the Greek's face for a time; but
afterward he grew calm, and said,--"Who can oppose thee, lord! Receive
these my words as of good omen, just as our great hero received words
like them in the temple of Ammon. As to me, these 'scruples'" (here he
shook the purse) "have outweighed mine, not to mention thy society,
which for me is delight and happiness."
Vinicius interrupted him impatiently, and asked for details of his
conversation with Ursus. From them it seemed clear that either Lygia's
hiding-place would be discovered that night, or he would be able to
seize her on the road back from Ostrianum. At thought of this, Vinicius
was borne away by wild delight. Now, when he felt clearly sure of
finding Lygia, his anger against her, and his feeling of offence almost
vanished. In return for that delight he forgave her every fault. He
thought of her only as dear and desired, and he had the same impression
as if she were returning after a long journey. He wished to summon his
slaves and command them to deck the house with garlands. In that hour
he had not a complaint against Ursus, even. He was ready to forgive all
people everything. Chilo, for whom, in spite of his services, he had
felt hitherto a certain repulsion, seemed to him for the first time an
amusing and also an uncommon person. His house grew radiant; his eyes
and his face became bright. He began again to feel youth and the
pleasure of life. His former gloomy suffering had not given him yet a
sufficient measure of how he loved Lygia. He understood this now for
the first time, when he hoped to possess her. His desires woke in him,
as the earth, warmed by the sun, wakes in spring; but his desires this
time were less blind and wild, as it were, and more joyous and tender.
He felt also within himself energy without bounds, and was convinced
that should he but see Lygia with his own eyes, all the Christians on
earth could not take her from him, nor could Cęsar himself.
Chilo, emboldened by the young tribune's delight, regained power of
speech and began to give advice. According to him, it behooved Vinicius
not to look on the affair as won, and to observe the greatest caution,
without which all their work might end in nothing. He implored Vinicius
not to carry off Lygia from Ostrianum. They ought to go there with
hoods on their heads, with their faces hidden, and restrict themselves
to looking at all who were present from some dark corner. When they saw
Lygia, it would be safest to follow her at a distance, see what house
she entered, surround it next morning at daybreak, and take her away in
open daylight. Since she was a hostage and belonged specially to Cęsar,
they might do that without fear of law. In the event of not finding her
in Ostrianum they could follow Ursus, and the result would be the same.
To go to the cemetery with a crowd of attendants was impracticable,--
that might draw attention to them easily; then the Christians need only
put out the lights, as they did when she was intercepted, and scatter in
the darkness, or betake themselves to places known to them only. But
Vinicius and he should arm, and, still better, take a couple of strong,
trusty men to defend them in case of need.
Vinicius saw the perfect truth of what he said, and, recalling
Petronius's counsel, commanded his slaves to bring Croton. Chilo, who
knew every one in Rome, was set at rest notably when he heard the name
of the famous athlete, whose superhuman strength in the arena he had
wondered at more than once, and he declared that he would go to
Ostrianum. The purse filled with great aurei seemed to him much easier
of acquisition through the aid of Croton.
Hence he sat down in good spirits at the table to which, after a time,
he was called by the chief of the atrium.
While eating, he told the slaves that he had obtained for their master a
miraculous ointment. The worst horse, if rubbed on the hoofs with it,
would leave every other far behind. A certain Christian had taught him
how to prepare that ointment, for the Christian elders were far more
skilled in enchantment and miracles than even the Thessalians, though
Thessaly was renowned for its witches. The Christians had immense
confidence in him--why, any one easily understands who knows what a fish
means. While speaking he looked sharply at the eyes of the slaves, in
the hope of discovering a Christian among them and informing Vinicius.
But when the hope failed him, he fell to eating and drinking uncommon
quantities, not sparing praises on the cook, and declaring that he would
endeavor to buy him of Vinicius. His joyfulness was dimmed only by the
thought that at night he must go to Ostrianum. He comforted himself,
however, as he would go in disguise, in darkness, and in the company of
two men, one of whom was so strong that he was the idol of Rome; the
other a patrician, a man of high dignity in the army. "Even should they
discover Vinicius," said he to himself, "they will not dare to raise a
hand on him; as to me, they will be wise if they see the tip of my nose
He fell then to recalling his conversation with the laborer; and the
recollection of that filled him again with delight. He had not the
least doubt that that laborer was Ursus. He knew of the uncommon
strength of the man, from the narratives of Vinicius, and those who had
brought Lygia from Cęsar's palace. When he inquired of Euricius
touching men of exceptional strength, there was nothing remarkable in
this, that they pointed out Ursus. Then the confusion and rage of the
laborer at mention of Vinicius and Lygia left him no doubt that those
persons concerned him particularly; the laborer had mentioned also his
penance for killing a man,--Ursus had killed Atacinus; finally, the
appearance of the laborer answered perfectly to the account which
Vinicius had given of the Lygian. The change of name was all that could
provoke doubt, but Chilo knew that frequently Christians took new names
"Should Ursus kill Glaucus," said Chilo to himself, "that will be better
still; but should he not kill him, that will be a good sign, for it will
show how difficult it is for Christians to murder. I described Glaucus
as a real son of Judas, and a traitor to all Christians; I was so
eloquent that a stone would have been moved, and would have promised to
fall on the head of Glaucus. Still I hardly moved that Lygian bear to
put his paw on him. He hesitated, was unwilling, spoke of his penance
and compunction. Evidently murder is not common among them. Offences
against one's self must be forgiven, and there is not much freedom in
taking revenge for others. Ergo, stop! think, Chilo, what can threaten
thee? Glaucus is not free to avenge himself on thee. If Ursus will not
kill Glaucus for such a great crime as the betrayal of all Christians,
so much the more will he not kill thee for the small offence of
betraying one Christian. Moreover, when I have once pointed out to this
ardent wood-pigeon the nest of that turtle-dove, I will wash my hands of
everything, and transfer myself to Naples. The Christians talk, also,
of a kind of washing of the hands; that is evidently a method by which,
if a man has an affair with them, he may finish it decisively. What
good people these Christians are, and how ill men speak of them! O God!
such is the justice of this world. But I love that religion, since it
does not permit killing; but if it does not permit killing, it certainly
does not permit stealing, deceit, or false testimony; hence I will not
say that it is easy. It teaches, evidently, not only to die honestly,
as the Stoics teach, but to live honestly also. If ever I have property
and a house, like this, and slaves in such numbers as Vinicius, perhaps
I shall be a Christian as long as may be convenient. For a rich man can
permit himself everything, even virtue. This is a religion for the
rich; hence I do not understand how there are so many poor among its
adherents. What good is it for them, and why do they let virtue tie
their hands? I must think over this sometime. Meanwhile praise to
thee, Hermes! for helping me discover this badger. But if thou hast
done so for the two white yearling heifers with gilded horns, I know
thee not. Be ashamed, O slayer of Argos! such a wise god as thou, and
not foresee that thou wilt get nothing! I will offer thee my gratitude;
and if thou prefer two beasts to it, thou art the third beast thyself,
and in the best event thou shouldst be a shepherd, not a god. Have a
care, too, lest I, as a philosopher, prove to men that thou art non-
existent, and then all will cease to bring thee offerings. It is safer
to be on good terms with philosophers."
Speaking thus to himself and to Hermes, he stretched on the sofa, put
his mantle under his head, and was sleeping when the slave removed the
dishes. He woke,--or rather they roused him,--only at the coming of
Croton. He went to the atrium, then, and began to examine with pleasure
the form of the trainer, an ex-gladiator, who seemed to fill the whole
place with his immensity. Croton had stipulated as to the price of the
trip, and was just speaking to Vinicius.
"By Hercules! it is well, lord," said he, "that thou hast sent to-day
for me, since I shall start to-morrow for Beneventum, whither the noble
Vatinius has summoned me to make a trial, in presence of Cęsar, of a
certain Syphax, the most powerful negro that Africa has ever produced.
Dost thou imagine, lord, how his spinal column will crack in my arms, or
how besides I shall break his black jaw with my fist?"
"By Pollux! Croton, I am sure that thou wilt do that," answered
"And thou wilt act excellently," added Chilo. "Yes, to break his jaw,
besides! That's a good idea, and a deed which befits thee. But rub thy
limbs with olive oil to-day, my Hercules, and gird thyself, for know
this, you mayst meet a real Cacus. The man who is guarding that girl in
whom the worthy Vinicius takes interest, has exceptional strength very
Chilo spoke thus only to rouse Croton's ambition.
"That is true," said Yinicius; "I have not seen him, but they tell me
that he can take a bull by the horns and drag him wherever he pleases."
"Oi!" exclaimed Chilo, who had not imagined that Ursus was so strong.
But Croton laughed, from contempt. "I undertake, worthy lord," said he,
"to bear away with this hand whomever thou shalt point out to me, and
with this other defend myself against seven such Lygians, and bring the
maiden to thy dwelling though all the Christians in Rome were pursuing
me like Calabrian wolves. If not, I will let myself be beaten with
clubs in this impluvium."
"Do not permit that, lord," cried Chilo. "They will hurl stones at us,
and what could his strength effect? Is it not better to take the girl
from the house,--not expose thyself or her to destruction?"
"This is true, Croton," said Vinicius.
"I receive thy money, I do thy will! But remember, lord, that to-morrow
I go to Beneventum."
"I have five hundred slaves in the city," answered Vinicius.
He gave them a sign to withdraw, went to the library himself, and
sitting down wrote the following words to Petronius,--
"The Lygian has been found by Chilo. I go this evening with him and
Croton to Ostrianum, and shall carry her off from the house to-night or
to-morrow. May the gods pour down on thee everything favorable. Be
well, O carissime! for joy will not let me write further."
Laying aside the reed then, he began to walk with quick step; for
besides delight, which was overflowing his soul, he was tormented with
fever. He said to himself that to-morrow Lygia would be in that house.
He did not know how to act with her, but felt that if she would love him
he would be her servant. He recalled Acte's assurance that he had been
loved, and that moved him to the uttermost. Hence it would be merely a
question of conquering a certain maiden modesty, and a question of
certain ceremonies which Christian teaching evidently commanded. But if
that were true, Lygia, when once in his house, would yield to persuasion
or superior force; she would have to say to herself, "It has happened!"
and then she would be amiable and loving.
But Chilo appeared and interrupted the course of these pleasant
thoughts. "Lord," said the Greek, "this is what has come to my head.
Have not the Christians signs, 'passwords,' without which no one will be
admitted to Ostrianum? I know that it is so in houses of prayer, and I
have received those passwords from Euricius; permit me then to go to
him, lord, to ask precisely, and receive the needful signs."
"Well, noble sage," answered Vinicius, gladly; "thou speakest as a man
of forethought, and for that praise belongs to thee. Thou wit go, then,
to Euricius, or whithersoever it may please thee; but as security thou
wilt leave on this table here that purse which thou hast received from
Chilo, who always parted with money unwillingly, squirmed; still he
obeyed the command and went out. From the Carinę to the Circus, near
which was the little shop of Euricius, it was not very far; hence he
returned considerably before evening.
"Here are the signs, lord. Without them they would not admit us. I
have inquired carefully about the road. I told Euricius that I needed
the signs only for my friends; that I would not go myself, since it was
too far for my advanced age; that, moreover, I should see the Great
Apostle myself to-morrow, and he would repeat to me the choicest parts
of his sermon."
"How! Thou wilt not be there? Thou must go!" said Vinicius.
"I know that I must; but I will go well hooded, and I advise thee to go
in like manner, or we may frighten the birds."
In fact they began soon to prepare, for darkness had come on the world.
They put on Gallic cloaks with hoods, and took lanterns; Vinicius,
besides, armed himself and his companions with short, curved knives;
Chilo put on a wig, which he obtained on the way from the old man's
shop, and they went out, hurrying so as to reach the distant Nomentan
Gate before it was closed.
THEY went through the Vicus Patricius, along the Viminal to the former
Viminal gate, near the plain on which Diocletian afterward built
splendid baths. They passed the remains of the wall of Servius Tullius,
and through places more and more deserted they reached the Via
Nomentana; there, turning to the left, towards the Via Salaria, they
found themselves among hills full of sand-pits, and here and there they
Meanwhile it had grown dark completely, and since the moon had not risen
yet, it would have been rather difficult for them to find the road were
it not that the Christians themselves indicated it, as Chilo foresaw.
In fact, on the right, on the left, and in front, dark forms were
evident, making their way carefully toward sandy hollows. Some of these
people carried lanterns,--covering them, however, as far as possible
with mantles; others, knowing the road better, went in the dark. The
trained military eye of Vinicius distinguished, by their movements,
younger men from old ones, who walked with canes, and from women,
wrapped carefully in long mantles. The highway police, and villagers
leaving the city, took those night wanderers, evidently, for laborers,
going to sand-pits; or grave-diggers, who at times celebrated ceremonies
of their own in the night-time. In proportion, however, as the young
patrician and his attendants pushed forward, more and more lanterns
gleamed, and the number of persons grew greater. Some of them sang
songs in low voices, which to Vinicius seemed filled with sadness. At
moments a separate word or a phrase of the song struck his ear, as, for
instance, "Awake, thou that sleepest," or "Rise from the dead"; at
times, again, the name of Christ was repeated by men and women.
But Vinicius turned slight attention to the words, for it came to his
head that one of those dark forms might be Lygia. Some, passing near,
said, "Peace be with thee!" or "Glory be to Christ!" but disquiet seized
him, and his heart began to beat with more life, for it seemed to him
that he heard Lygia's voice. Forms or movements like hers deceived him
in the darkness every moment, and only when he had corrected mistakes
made repeatedly did he begin to distrust his own eyes.
The way seemed long to him. He knew the neighborhood exactly, but could
not fix places in the darkness. Every moment they came to some narrow
passage, or piece of wall, or booths, which he did not remember as being
in the vicinity of the city. Finally the edge of the moon appeared from
behind a mass of clouds, and lighted the place better than dim lanterns.
Something from afar began at last to glimmer like a fire, or the flame
of a torch. Vinicius turned to Chilo.
"Is that Ostrianum?" asked he.
Chilo, on whom night, distance from the city, and those ghostlike forms
made a deep impression, replied in a voice somewhat uncertain,--"I know
not, lord; I have never been in Ostrianum. But they might praise God in
some spot nearer the city."
After a while, feeling the need of conversation, and of strengthening
his courage, he added,--"They come together like murderers; still they
are not permitted to murder, unless that Lygian has deceived me
Vinicius, who was thinking of Lygia, was astonished also by the caution
and mysteriousness with which her co-religionists assembled to hear
their highest priest; hence he said,--"Like all religions, this has its
adherents in the midst of us; but the Christians are a Jewish sect. Why
do they assemble here, when in the Trans-Tiber there are temples to
which the Jews take their offerings in daylight?"
"The Jews, lord, are their bitterest enemies. I have heard that, before
the present Cęsar's time, it came to war, almost, between Jews and
Christians. Those outbreaks forced Claudius Cęsar to expell all the
Jews, but at present that edict is abolished. The Christians, however,
hide themselves from Jews, and from the populace, who, as is known to
thee, accuse them of crimes and hate them."
They walked on some time in silence, till Chilo, whose fear increased as
he receded from the gates, said,--"When returning from the shop of
Euricius, I borrowed a wig from a barber, and have put two beans in my
nostrils. They must not recognize me; but if they do, they will not
kill me. They are not malignant! They are even very honest. I esteem
and love them."
"Do not win them to thyself by premature praises," retorted Vinicius.
They went now into a narrow depression, closed, as it were, by two
ditches on the side, over which an aqueduct was thrown in one place.
The moon came out from behind clouds, and at the end of the depression
they saw a wall, covered thickly with ivy, which looked silvery in the
moonlight. That was Ostrianum.
Vinicius's heart began to beat now with more vigor. At the gate two
quarryrnen took the signs from them. In a moment Vinicius and his
attendants were in a rather spacious place enclosed on all sides by a
wall. Here and there were separate monuments, and in the centre was the
entrance to the hypogeum itself, or crypt. In the lower part of the
crypt, beneath the earth, were graves; before the entrance a fountain
was playing. But it was evident that no very large number of persons
could find room in the hypogeum; hence Vinicius divined without
difficulty that the ceremony would take place outside, in the space
where a very numerous throng was soon gathered.
As far as the eye could reach, lantern gleamed near lantern, but many of
those who came had no light whatever. With the exception of a few
uncovered heads, all were hooded, from fear of treason or the cold; and
the young patrician thought with alarm that, should they remain thus, he
would not be able to recognize Lygia in that crowd and in the dim light.
But all at once, near the crypt, some pitch torches were ignited and put
into a little pile. There was more light. After a while the crowd
began to sing a certain strange hymn, at first in a low voice, and then
louder. Vinicius had never heard such a hymn before. The same yearning
which had struck him in the hymns murmured by separate persons on the
way to the cemetery, was heard now in that, but with far more
distinctness and power; and at last it became as penetrating and immense
as if together with the people, the whole cemetery, the hills, the pits,
and the region about, had begun to yearn. It might seem, also, that
there was in it a certain calling in the night, a certain humble prayer
for rescue in wandering and darkness.
Eyes turned upward seemed to see some one far above, there on high, and
outstretched hands seemed to implore him to descend. When the hymn
ceased, there followed a moment as it were of suspense,--so impressive
that Vinicius and his companions looked unwittingly toward the stars, as
if in dread that something uncommon would happen, and that some one
would really descend to them.
Vinicius had seen a multitude of temples of most various structure in
Asia Minor, in Egypt, and in Rome itself; he had become acquainted with
a multitude of religions, most varied in character, and had heard many
hymns; but here, for the first time, he saw people calling on a divinity
with hymns,--not to carry out a fixed ritual, but calling from the
bottom of the heart, with the genuine yearning which children might feel
for a father or a mother. One had to be blind not to see that those
people not merely honored their God, but loved him with the whole soul.
Vinicius had not seen the like, so far, in any land, during any
ceremony, in any sanctuary; for in Rome and in Greece those who still
rendered honor to the gods did so to gain aid for themselves or through
fear; but it had not even entered any one's head to love those
Though his mind was occupied with Lygia, and his attention with seeking
her in the crowd, he could not avoid seeing those uncommon and wonderful
things which were happening around him. Meanwhile a few more torches
were thrown on the fire, which filled the cemetery with ruddy light and
darkened the gleam of the lanterns. That moment an old man, wearing a
hooded mantle but with a bare head, issued from the hypogeum. This man
mounted a stone which lay near the fire.
The crowd swayed before him. Voices near Vinicius whispered, "Peter!
Peter!" Some knelt, others extended their hands toward him. There
followed a silence so deep that one heard every charred particle that
dropped from the torches, the distant rattle of wheels on the Via
Nomentana, and the sound of wind through the few pines which grew close
to the cemetery.
Chilo bent toward Vinicius and whispered,--"This is he! The foremost
disciple of Christ-a fisherman!"
The old man raised his hand, and with the sign of the cross blessed
those present, who fell on their knees simultaneously. Vinicius and his
attendants, not wishing to betray themselves, followed the example of
others. The young man could not seize his impressions immediately, for
it seemed to him that the form which he saw there before him was both
simple and uncommon, and, what was more, the uncommonness flowed just
from the simplicity. The old man had no mitre on his head, no garland
of oak-leaves on his temples, no palm in his hand, no golden tablet on
his breast, he wore no white robe embroidered with stars; in a word, he
bore no insignia of the kind worn by priests--Oriental, Egyptian, or
Greek--or by Roman flamens. And Vinicius was struck by that same
difference again which he felt when listening to the Christian hymns;
for that "fisherman," too, seemed to him, not like some high priest
skilled in ceremonial, but as it were a witness, simple, aged, and
immensely venerable, who had journeyed from afar to relate a truth which
he had seen, which he had touched, which he believed as he believed in
existence, and he had come to love this truth precisely because he
believed it. There was in his face, therefore, such a power of
convincing as truth itself has. And Vinicius, who had been a sceptic,
who did not wish to yield to the charm of the old man, yielded, however,
to a certain feverish curiosity to know what would flow from the lips of
that companion of the mysterious "Christus," and what that teaching was
of which Lygia and Pomponia Gręcina were followers.
Meanwhile Peter began to speak, and he spoke from the beginning like a
father instructing his children and teaching them how to live. He
enjoined on them to renounce excess and luxury, to love poverty, purity
of life, and truth, to endure wrongs and persecutions patiently, to obey
the government and those placed above them, to guard against treason,
deceit, and calumny; finally, to give an example in their own society to
each other, and even to pagans.
Vinicius, for whom good was only that which could bring back to him
Lygia, and evil everything which stood as a barrier between them, was
touched and angered by certain of those counsels. It seemed to him that
by enjoining purity and a struggle with desires the old man dared, not
only to condemn his love, but to rouse Lygia against him and confirm her
in opposition. He understood that if she were in the assembly listening
to those words, and if she took them to heart, she must think of him as
an enemy of that teaching and an outcast.
Anger seized him at this thought. "What have I heard that is new?"
thought he. "Is this the new religion? Every one knows this, every one
has heard it. The Cynics enjoined poverty and a restriction of
necessities; Socrates enjoined virtue as an old thing and a good one;
the first Stoic one meets, even such a one as Seneca, who has five
hundred tables of lemon-wood, praises moderation, enjoins truth,
patience in adversity, endurance in misfortune,--and all that is like
stale, mouse-eaten grain; but people do not wish to eat it because it
smells of age."
And besides anger, he had a feeling of disappointment, for he expected
the discovery of unknown, magic secrets of some kind, and thought that
at least he would hear a rhetor astonishing by his eloquence; meanwhile
he heard only words which were immensely simple, devoid of every
ornament. He was astonished only by the mute attention with which the
But the old man spoke on to those people sunk in listening,--told them
to be kind, poor, peaceful, just, and pure; not that they might have
peace during life, but that they might live eternally with Christ after
death, in such joy and such glory, in such health and delight, as no one
on earth had attained at any time. And here Vinicius, though
predisposed unfavorably, could not but notice that still there was a
difference between the teaching of the old man and that of the Cynics,
Stoics, and other philosophers; for they enjoin good and virtue as
reasonable, and the only thing practical in life, while he promised
immortality, and that not some kind of hapless immortality beneath the
earth, in wretchednes, emptiness, and want, but a magnificent life,
equal to that of the gods almost. He spoke meanwhile of it as of a
thing perfectly certain; hence, in view of such a faith, virtue acquired
a value simply measureless, and the misfortunes of this life became
incomparably trivial. To suffer temporally for inexhaustible happiness
is a thing absolutely different from suffering because such is the order
of nature. But the old man said further that virtue and truth should be
loved for themselves, since the highest eternal good and the virtue
existing before ages is God; whoso therefore loves them loves God, and
by that same becomes a cherished child of His.
Vinicius did not understand this well, but he knew previously, from
words spoken by Pomponia Gręcina to Petronius, that, according to the
belief of Christians, God was one and almighty; when, therefore, he
heard now again that He is all good and all just, he thought
involuntarily that, in presence of such a demiurge, Jupiter, Saturn,
Apollo, Juno, Vesta, and Venus would seem like some vain and noisy
rabble, in which all were interfering at once, and each on his or her
But the greatest astonishment seized him when the old man declared that
God was universal love also; hence he who loves man fulfils God's
supreme command. But it is not enough to love men of one's own nation,
for the God-man shed his blood for all, and found among pagans such
elect of his as Cornelius the Centurion; it is not enough either to love
those who do good to us, for Christ forgave the Jews who delivered him
to death, and the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross, we should
not only forgive but love those who injure us, and return them good for
evil; it is not enough to love the good, we must love the wicked also,
since by love alone is it possible to expel from them evil.
Chilo at these words thought to himself that his work had gone for
nothing, that never in the world would Ursus dare to kill Glaucus,
either that night or any other night. But he comforted himself at once
by another inference from the teaching of the old man; namely, that
neither would Glaucus kill him, though he should discover and recognize
Vinicius did not think now that there was nothing new in the words of
the old man, but with amazement he asked himself: "What kind of God is
this, what kind of religion is this, and what kind of people are these?"
All that he had just heard could not find place in his head simply. For
him all was an unheard-of medley of ideas. He felt that if he wished,
for example, to follow that teaching, he would have to place on a
burning pile all his thoughts, habits, and character, his whole nature
up to that moment, burn them into ashes, and then fill himself with a
life altogether different, and an entirely new soul. To him the science
or the religion which commanded a Roman to love Parthians, Syrians,
Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, and Britons, to forgive enemies, to return
them good for evil, and to love them, seemed madness. At the same time
he had a feeling that in that madness itself there was something
mightier than all philosophies so far. He thought that because of its
madness it was impracticable, but because of its impracticability it was
divine. In his soul he rejected it; but he felt that he was parting as
if from a field full of spikenard, a kind of intoxicating incense; when
a man has once breathed of this he must, as in the land of the lotus-
eaters, forget all things else ever after, and yearn for it only.
It seemed to him that there was nothing real in that religion, but that
reality in presence of it was so paltry that it deserved not the time
for thought. Expanses of some kind, of which hitherto he had not had a
suspicion, surrounded him,--certain immensities, certain clouds. That
cemetery began to produce on him the impression of a meeting-place for
madmen, but also of a place mysterious and awful, in which, as on a
mystic bed, something was in progress of birth the like of which had not
been in the world so far. He brought before his mind all that, which
from the first moment of his speech, the old man had said touching life,
truth, love, God; and his thoughts were dazed from the brightness, as
the eyes are blinded from lightning flashes which follow each other
As is usual with people for whom life has been turned into one single
passion, Vinicius thought of all this through the medium of his love for
Lygia; and in the light of those flashes he saw one thing distinctly,
that if Lygia was in the cemetery, if she confessed that religion,
obeyed and felt it, she never could and never would be his mistress.
For the first time, then, since he had made her acquaintance at Aulus's,
Vinicius felt that though now he had found her he would not get her.
Nothing similar had come to his head so far, and he could not explain it
to himself then, for that was not so much an express understanding as a
dim feeling of irreparable loss and misfortune. There rose in him an
alarm, which was turned soon into a storm of anger against the
Christians in general, and against the old man in particular. That
fisherman, whom at the first cast of the eye he considered a peasant,
now filled him with fear almost, and seemed some mysterious power
deciding his fate inexorably and therefore tragically.
The quarrymen again, unobserved, added torches to the fire; the wind
ceased to sound in the pines; the flame rose evenly, with a slender
point toward the stars, which were twinkling in a clear sky. Having
mentioned the death of Christ, the old man talked now of Him only. All
held the breath in their breasts, and a silence set in which was deeper
than the preceding one, so that it was possible almost to hear the
beating of hearts. That man had seen! and he narrated as one in whose
memory every moment had been fixed in such a way that were he to close
his eyes he would see yet. He told, therefore, how on their return from
the Cross he and John had sat two days and nights in the supper-chamber,
neither sleeping nor eating, in suffering, in sorrow, in doubt, in
alarm, holding their heads in their hands, and thinking that He had
died. Oh, how grievous, how grievous that was! The third day had
dawned and the light whitened the walls, but he and John were sitting in
the chamber, without hope or comfort. How desire for sleep tortured
them (for they had spent the night before the Passion without sleep)!
They roused themselves then, and began again to lament. But barely had
the sun risen when Mary of Magdala, panting, her hair dishevelled,
rushed in with the cry, "They have taken away the Lord!" When they
heard this, he and John sprang up and ran toward the sepulchre. But
John, being younger, arrived first; he saw the place empty, and dared
not enter. Only when there were three at the entrance did he, the
person now speaking to them, enter, and find on the stone a shirt with a
winding sheet; but the body he found not.
Fear fell on them then, because they thought that the priests had borne
away Christ, and both returned home in greater grief still. Other
disciples came later and raised a lament, now in company, so that the
Lord of Hosts might hear them more easily, and now separately and in
turn. The spirit died within them, for they had hoped that the Master
would redeem Israel, and it was now the third day since his death; hence
they did not understand why the Father had deserted the Son, and they
preferred not to look at the daylight, but to die, so grievous was the
The remembrance of those terrible moments pressed even then from the
eyes of the old man two tears, which were visible by the light of the
fire, coursing down his gray beard. His hairless and aged head was
shaking, and the voice died in his breast.
"That man is speaking the truth and is weeping over it," said Vinicius
in his soul. Sorrow seized by the throat the simple-hearted listeners
also. They had heard more than once of Christ's sufferings, and it was
known to them that joy succeeded sorrow; but since an apostle who had
seen it told this, they wrung their hands under the impression, and
sobbed or beat their breasts.
But they calmed themselves gradually, for the wish to hear more gained
the mastery. The old man closed his eyes, as if to see distant things
more distinctly in his soul, and continued,--"When the disciples had
lamented in this way, Mary of Magdala rushed in a second time, crying
that she had seen the Lord. Unable to recognize him, she thought him
the gardener: but He said, 'Mary!' She cried 'Rabboni!' and fell at his
feet. He commanded her to go to the disciples, and vanished. But they,
the disciples, did not believe her; and when she wept for joy, some
upbraided her, some thought that sorrow had disturbed her mind, for she
said, too, that she had seen angels at the grave, but they, running
thither a second time, saw the grave empty. Later in the evening
appeared Cleopas, who had come with another from Emmaus, and they
returned quickly, saying: 'The Lord has indeed risen!' And they
discussed with closed doors, out of fear of the Jews. Meanwhile He
stood among them, though the doors had made no sound, and when they
feared, He said, 'Peace be with you!'
"And I saw Him, as did all, and He was like light, and like the
happiness of our hearts, for we believed that He had risen from the
dead, and that the seas will dry and the mountains turn to dust, but His
glory will not pass.
"After eight days Thomas Didymus put his finger in the Lord's wounds and
touched His side; Thomas fell at His feet then, and cried, 'My Lord and
my God!' 'Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are
they who have not seen and have believed!' said the Lord. And we heard
those words, and our eyes looked at Him, for He was among us."
Vinicius listened, and something wonderful took place in him. He forgot
for a moment where he was; he began to lose the feeling of reality, of
measure, of judgment. He stood in the presence of two impossibilities.
He could not believe what the old man said; and he felt that it would be
necessary either to be blind or renounce one's own reason, to admit that
that man who said "I saw" was lying. There was something in his
movements, in his tears, in his whole figure, and in the details of the
events which he narrated, which made every suspicion impossible. To
Vinicius it seemed at moments that he was dreaming. But round about he
saw the silent throng; the odor of lanterns came to his nostrils; at a
distance the torches were blazing; and before him on the stone stood an
aged man near the grave, with a head trembling somewhat, who, while
bearing witness, repeated, "I saw!"
And he narrated to them everything up to the Ascension into heaven. At
moments he rested, for he spoke very circumstantially; but it could be
felt that each minute detail had fixed itself in his memory, as a thing
is fixed in a stone into which it has been engraved. Those who listened
to him were seized by ecstasy. They threw back their hoods to hear him
better, and not lose a word of those which for them were priceless. It
seemed to them that some superhuman power had borne them to Galilee;
that they were walking with the disciples through those groves and on
those waters; that the cemetery was turned into the lake of Tiberius;
that on the bank, in the mist of morning, stood Christ, as he stood when
John, looking from the boat, said, "It is the Lord," and Peter cast
himself in to swim, so as to fall the more quickly at the beloved feet.
In the faces of those present were evident enthusiasm beyond bounds,
oblivion of life, happiness, and love immeasurable. It was clear that
during Peter's long narrative some of them had visions. When he began to
tell how, at the moment of Ascension, the clouds closed in under the
feet of the Saviour, covered Him, and hid Him from the eyes of the
Apostles, all heads were raised toward the sky unconsciously, and a
moment followed as it were of expectation, as if those people hoped to
see Him or as if they hoped that He would descend again from the fields
of heaven, and see how the old Apostle was feeding the sheep confided to
him, and bless both the flock and him.
Rome did not exist for those people, nor did the man Cęsar; there were
no temples of pagan gods; there was only Christ, who filled the land,
the sea, the heavens, and the world.
At the houses scattered here and there along the Via Nomentana, the
cocks began to crow, announcing midnight. At that moment Chilo pulled
the corner of Vinicius's mantle and whispered,--"Lord, I see Urban over
there, not far from the old man, and with him is a maiden."
Vinicius shook himself, as if out of a dream, and, turning in the
direction indicated by the Greek, he saw Lygia.
EVERY drop of blood quivered in the young patrician at sight of her. He
forgot the crowd, the old man, his own astonishment at the
incomprehensible things which he had heard,--he saw only her. At last,
after all his efforts, after long days of alarm, trouble, and suffering,
he had found her! For the first time he realized that joy might rush at
the heart, like a wild beast, and squeeze it till breath was lost. He,
who had supposed hitherto that on "Fortuna" had been imposed a kind of
duty to accomplish all his wishes, hardly believed his own eyes now and
his own happiness. Were it not for that disbelief, his passionate
nature might have urged him to some unconsidered step; but he wished to
convince himself first that that was not the continuation of those
miracles with which his head was filled, and that he was not dreaming.
But there was no doubt,--he saw Lygia, and an interval of barely a few
steps divided them. She stood in perfect light, so that he could rejoice
in the sight of her as much as he liked. The hood had fallen from her
head and dishevelled her hair; her mouth was open slightly, her eyes
raised toward the Apostle, her face fixed in listening and delighted.
She was dressed in a dark woollen mantle, like a daughter of the people,
but never had Vinicius seen her more beautiful; and notwithstanding all
the disorder which had risen in him, he was struck by the nobility of
that wonderful patrician head in distinction to the dress, almost that
of a slave. Love flew over him like a flame, immense, mixed with a
marvellous feeling of yearning, homage, honor, and desire. He felt the
delight which the sight of her caused him; he drank of her as of life-
giving water after long thirst. Standing near the gigantic Lygian, she
seemed to him smaller than before, almost a child; he noticed, too, that
she had grown more slender. Her complexion had become almost
transparent; she made on him the impression of a flower, and a spirit.
But all the more did he desire to possess that woman, so different from
all women whom he had seen or possessed in Rome or the Orient. He felt
that for her he would have given them all, and with them Rome and the
world in addition.
He would have lost himself in gazing, and forgotten himself altogether,
had it not been for Chilo, who pulled the corner of his mantle, out of
fear that he might do something to expose them to danger. Meanwhile the
Christians began to pray and sing. After a while Maranatha thundered
forth, and then the Great Apostle baptized with water from the fountain
those whom the presbyters presented as ready for baptism. It seemed to
Vinicius that that night would never end. He wished now to follow Lygia
as soon as possible, and seize her on the road or at her house.
At last some began to leave the cemetery, and Chilo whispered,--"Let us
go out before the gate, lord, we have not removed our hoods, and people
look at us."
Such was the case, for during the discourse of the Apostle all had cast
aside their hoods so as to hear better, and they had not followed the
general example. Chilo's advice seemed wise, therefore. Standing
before the gate, they could look at all who passed; Ursus it was easy to
recognize by his form and size.
"Let us follow them," said Chilo; "we shall see to what house they go.
To-morrow, or rather to-day, thou wilt surround the entrances with
slaves and take her."
"No!" said Vinicius.
"What dost thou wish to do, lord?"
"We will follow her to the house and take her now, if thou wilt
undertake that task, Croton?"
"I will," replied Croton, "and I will give myself to thee as a slave if
I do not break the back of that bison who is guarding her."
But Chilo fell to dissuading and entreating them by all the gods not to
do so. Croton was taken only for defence against attack in case they
were recognized, not to carry off the girl. To take her when there were
only two of them was to expose themselves to death, and, what was worse,
they might let her out of their hands, and then she would hide in
another place or leave Rome. And what could they do? Why not act with
certainty? Why expose themselves to destruction and the whole
undertaking to failure?
Though Vinicius restrained himself with the greatest effort from seizing
Lygia in his arms at once, right there in the cemetery, he felt that the
Greek was right, and would have lent ear, perhaps, to his counsels, had
it not been for Croton, to whom reward was the question.
"Lord, command that old goat to be silent," said he, "or let me drop my
fist on his head. Once in Buxentum, whither Lucius Saturnius took me to
a play, seven drunken gladiators fell on me at an inn, and none of them
escaped with sound ribs. I do not say to take the girl now from the
crowd, for they might throw stones before our feet, but once she is at
home I will seize her, carry her away, and take her whithersoever thou
Vinicius was pleased to hear those words, and answered,--"Thus let it
be, by Hercules! To-morrow we may not find her at home; if we surprise
them they will remove the girl surely."
"This Lygian seems tremendously strong!" groaned Chilo.
"No one will ask thee to hold his hands," answered Croton.
But they had to wait long yet, and the cocks had begun to crow before
dawn when they saw Ursus coming through the gate, and with him Lygia.
They were accompanied by a number of other persons. It seemed to Chilo
that he recognized among them the Great Apostle; next to him walked
another old man, considerably lower in stature, two women who were not
young, and a boy, who lighted the way with a lantern. After that
handful followed a crowd, about two hundred in number; Vinicius, Chilo,
and Croton walked with these people.
"Yes, lord," said Chilo, "thy maiden is under powerful protection. That
is the Great Apostle with her, for see how passing people kneel to him."
People did in fact kneel before him, but Vinicius did not look at them.
He did not lose Lygia from his eyes for a moment; he thought only of
bearing her away and, accustomed as he had been in wars to stratagems of
all sorts, he arranged in his head the whole plan of seizure with
soldierly precision. He felt that the step on which he had decided was
bold, but he knew well that bold attacks give success generally.
The way was long; hence at moments he thought too of the gulf which that
wonderful religion had dug between him and Lygia. Now he understood
everything that had happened in the past, and why it had happened. He
was sufficiently penetrating for that. Lygia he had not known hitherto.
He had seen in her a maiden wonderful beyond others, a maiden toward
whom his feelings were inflamed: he knew now that her religion made her
different from other women, and his hope that feeling, desire, wealth,
luxury, would attract her he knew now to be a vain illusion. Finally he
understood this, which he and Petronius had not understood, that the new
religion ingrafted into the soul something unknown to that world in
which he lived, and that Lygia, even if she loved him, would not
sacrifice any of her Christian truths for his sake, and that, if
pleasure existed for her, it was a pleasure different altogether from
that which he and Petronius and Cęsar's court and all Rome were
pursuing. Every other woman whom he knew might become his mistress, but
that Christian would become only his victim. And when he thought of
this, he felt anger and burning pain, for he felt that his anger was
powerless. To carry off Lygia seemed to him possible; he was almost
sure that he could take her, but he was equally sure that, in view of
her religion, he himself with his bravery was nothing, that his power
was nothing, and that through it he could effect nothing. That Roman
military tribune, convinced that the power of the sword and the fist
which had conquered the world, would command it forever, saw for the
first time in life that beyond that power there might be something else;
hence he asked himself with amazement what it was. And he could not
answer distinctly; through his head flew merely pictures of the
cemetery, the assembled crowd, and Lygia, listening with her whole soul
to the words of the old man, as he narrated the passion, death, and
resurrection of the God-man, who had redeemed the world, and promised it
happiness on the other shore of the Styx.
When he thought of this, chaos rose in his head. But he was brought out
of this chaos by Chilo, who fell to lamenting his own fate. He had
agreed to find Lygia. He had sought for her in peril of his life, and
he had pointed her out. But what more do they want? Had he offered to
carry the maiden away? Who could ask anything like this of a maimed man
deprived of two fingers, an old man, devoted to meditation, to science,
and virtue? What would happen were a lord of such dignity as Vinicius
to meet some mishap while bearing the maiden away? It is true that the
gods are bound to watch over their chosen ones,--but have not such
things happened more than once, as if the gods were playing games
instead of watching what was passing in the world? Fortune is
blindfold, as is well known, and does not see even in daylight; what
must the case be at night? Let something happen,--let that Lygian bear
hurl a millstone at the noble Vinicius, or a keg of wine, or, still
worse, water,--who will give assurance that instead of a reward blame
will not fall on the hapless Chilo? He, the poor sage, has attached
himself to the noble Vinicius as Aristotle to Alexander of Macedon. If
the noble lord should give him at least that purse which he had thrust
into his girdle before leaving home, there would be something with which
to invoke aid in case of need, or to influence the Christians. Oh, why
not listen to the counsels of an old man, counsels dictated by
experience and prudence?
Vinicius, hearing this, took the purse from his belt, and threw it to
the fingers of Chilo.
"Thou hast it; be silent!"
The Greek felt that it was unusually heavy, and gained confidence.
"My whole hope is in this," said he, "that Hercules or Theseus performed
deeds still more arduous; what is my personal, nearest friend, Croton,
if not Hercules? Thee, worthy lord, I will not call a demigod, for thou
art a full god, and in future thou wilt not forget a poor, faithful
servant, whose needs it will be necessary to provide for from time to
time, for once he is sunk in books, he thinks of nothing else; some few
stadia of garden land and a little house, even with the smallest
portico, for coolness in summer, would befit such a donor. Meanwhile I
shall admire thy heroic deeds from afar, and invoke Jove to befriend
thee, and if need be I will make such an outcry that half Rome will be
roused to thy assistance. What a wretched, rough road! The olive oil
is burned out in the lantern; and if Croton, who is as noble as he is
strong, would bear me to the gate in his arms, he would learn, to begin
with, whether he will carry the maiden easily; second, he would act like
Ęneas, and win all the good gods to such a degree that touching the
result of the enterprise I should be thoroughly satisfied."
"I should rather carry a sheep which died of mange a month ago,"
answered the gladiator; "but give that purse, bestowed by the worthy
tribune, and I will bear thee to the gate."
"Mayst thou knock the great toe from thy foot," replied the Greek; "what
profit hast thou from the teachings of that worthy old man, who
described poverty and charity as the two foremost virtues? Has he not
commanded thee expressly to love me? Never shall I make thee, I see,
even a poor Christian; it would be easier for the sun to pierce the
walls of the Mamertine prison than for truth to penetrate thy skull of a
"Never fear!" said Croton, who with the strength of a beast had no human
feeling. "I shall not be a Christian! I have no wish to lose my
"But if thou knew even the rudiments of philosophy, thou wouldst know
that gold is vanity."
"Come to me with thy philosophy. I will give thee one blow of my head
in the stomach; we shall see then who wins."
"An ox might have said the same to Aristotle," retorted Chilo.
It was growing gray in the world. The dawn covered with pale light the
outlines of the walls. The trees along the wayside, the buildings, and
the gravestones scattered here and there began to issue from the shade.
The road was no longer quite empty. Marketmen were moving toward the
gates, leading asses and mules laden with vegetables; here and there
moved creaking carts in which game was conveyed. On the road and along
both sides of it was a light mist at the very earth, which promised good
weather. People at some distance seemed like apparitions in that mist.
Vinicius stared at the slender form of Lygia, which became more silvery
as the light increased.
"Lord," said Chilo, "I should offend thee were I to foresee the end of
thy bounty, but now, when thou hast paid me, I may not be suspected of
speaking for my own interest only. I advise thee once more to go home
for slaves and a litter, when thou hast learned in what house the divine
Lygia dwells; listen not to that elephant trunk, Croton, who undertakes
to carry off the maiden only to squeeze thy purse as if it were a bag of
"I have a blow of the fist to be struck between the shoulders, which
means that thou wilt perish," said Croton.
"I have a cask of Cephalonian wine, which means that I shall be well,"
Vinicius made no answer, for he approached the gate, at which a
wonderful sight struck his eyes. Two soldiers knelt when the Apostle
was passing; Peter placed his hand on their iron helmets for a moment,
and then made the sign of the cross on them. It had never occurred to
the patrician before that there could be Christians in the army; with
astonishment he thought that as fire in a burning city takes in more and
more houses, so to all appearances that doctrine embraces new souls
every day, and extends itself over all human understandings. This
struck him also with reference to Lygia, for he was convinced that, had
she wished to flee from the city, there would be guards willing to
facilitate her flight. He thanked the gods then that this had not
After they had passed vacant places beyond the wall, the Christians
began to scatter. There was need, therefore, to follow Lygia more from
a distance, and more carefully, so as not to rouse attention. Chilo
fell to complaining of wounds, of pains in his legs, and dropped more
and more to the rear. Vinicius did not oppose this, judging that the
cowardly and incompetent Greek would not be needed. He would even have
permitted him to depart, had he wished; but the worthy sage was detained
by circumspection. Curiosity pressed him evidently, since he continued
behind, and at moments even approached with his previous counsels; he
thought too that the old man accompanying the Apostle might be Glaucus,
were it not for his rather low stature.
They walked a good while before reaching the Trans-Tiber, and the sun
was near rising when the group surrounding Lygia dispersed. The
Apostle, an old woman, and a boy went up the river; the old man of lower
stature, Ursus, and Lygia entered a narrow vicus, and, advancing still
about a hundred yards, went into a house in which were two shops,--one
for the sale of olives, the other for poultry.
Chilo, who walked about fifty yards behind Vinicius and Croton, halted
all at once, as if fixed to the earth, and, squeezing up to the wall,
began to hiss at them to turn.
They did so, for they needed to take counsel.
"Go, Chilo," said Vinicius, "and see if this house fronts on another
street." Chilo, though he had complained of wounds in his feet, sprang
away as quickly as if he had had the wings of Mercury on his ankles, and
returned in a moment.
"No," said he, "there is but one entrance."
Then, putting his hands together, he said, "I implore thee, lord, by
Jupiter, Apollo, Vesta, Cybele, Isis, Osiris, Mithra Baal, and all the
gods of the Orient and the Occident to drop this plan. Listen to me--"
But he stopped on a sudden, for he saw that Vinicius's face was pale
from emotion, and that his eyes were glittering like the eyes of a wolf.
It was enough to look at him to understand that nothing in the world
would restrain him from the undertaking. Croton began to draw air into
his herculean breast, and to sway his undeveloped skull from side to
side as bears do when confined in a cage, but on his face nut the least
fear was evident.
"I will go in first," said he.
"Thou wilt follow me," said Vinicius, in commanding tones.
And after a while both vanished in the dark entrance.
Chilo sprang to the corner of the nearest alley and watched from behind
it, waiting for what would happen.
ONLY inside the entrance did Vinicius comprehend the whole difficulty of
the undertaking. The house was large, of several stories, one of the
kind of which thousands were built in Rome, in view of profit from rent;
hence, as a rule, they were built so hurriedly and badly that scarcely a
year passed in which numbers of them did not fall on the heads of
tenants. Real hives, too high and too narrow, full of chambers and
little dens, in which poor people fixed themselves too numerously. In a
city where many streets had no names, those houses had no numbers; the
owners committed the collection of rent to slaves, who, not obliged by
the city government to give names of occupants, were ignorant themselves
of them frequently. To find some one by inquiry in such a house was
often very difficult, especially when there was no gate-keeper.
Vinicius and Croton came to a narrow, corridor-like passage walled in on
four sides, forming a kind of common atrium for the whole house, with a
fountain in the middle whose stream fell into a stone basin fixed in the
ground. At all the walls were internal stairways, some of stone, some
of wood, leading to galleries from which there were entrances to
lodgings. There were lodgings on the ground, also; some provided with
wooden doors, others separated from the yard by woollen screens only.
These, for the greater part, were worn, rent, or patched.
The hour was early, and there was not a living soul in the yard. It was
evident that all were asleep in the house except those who had returned
"What shall we do, lord?" asked Croton, halting.
"Let us wait here; some one may appear," replied Vinicius. "We should
not be seen in the yard."
At this moment, he thought Chilo's counsel practical. If there were
some tens of slaves present, it would be easy to occupy the gate, which
seemed the only exit, search all the lodgings simultaneously, and thus
come to Lygia's; otherwise Christians, who surely were not lacking in
that house, might give notice that people were seeking her. In view of
this, there was risk in inquiring of strangers. Vinicius stopped to
think whether it would not be better to go for his slaves. Just then,
from behind a screen hiding a remoter lodging, came a man with a sieve
in his hand, and approached the fountain.
At the first glance the young tribune recognized Ursus.
"That is the Lygian!" whispered Vinicius.
"Am I to break his bones now?"
Ursus did not notice the two men, as they were in the shadow of the
entrance, and he began quietly to sink in water vegetables which filled
the sieve. It was evident that, after a whole night spent in the
cemetery, he intended to prepare a meal. After a while the washing was
finished; he took the wet sieve and disappeared behind the screen.
Croton and Vinicius followed him, thinking that they would come directly
to Lygia's lodgings. Their astonishment was great when they saw that
the screen divided from the court, not lodgings, but another dark
corridor, at the end of which was a little garden containing a few
cypresses, some myrtle bushes, and a small house fixed to the windowless
stone wall of another stone building.
Both understood at once that this was for them a favoring circumstance.
In the courtyard all the tenants might assemble; the seclusion of the
little house facilitated the enterprise. They would set aside
defenders, or rather Ursus, quickly, and would reach the street just as
quickly with the captured Lygia; and there they would help themselves.
It was likely that no one would attack them; if attacked, they would say
that a hostage was fleeing from Cęsar. Vinicius would declare himself
then to the guards, and summon their assistance.
Ursus was almost entering the little house, when the sound of steps
attracted his attention; he halted, and, seeing two persons, put his
sieve on the balustrade and turned to them.
"What do ye want here?" asked he.
"Thee!" said Vinicius.
Then, turning to Croton, he said in a low, hurried voice:
Croton rushed at him like a tiger, and in one moment, before the Lygian
was able to think or to recognize his enemies, Croton had caught him in
his arms of steel.
Vinicius was too confident in the man's preternatural strength to wait
for the end of the struggle. He passed the two, sprang to the door of
the little house, pushed it open and found himself in a room a trifle
dark, lighted, however, by a fire burning in the chimney. A gleam of
this fire fell on Lygia's face directly. A second person, sitting at
the fire, was that old man who had accompanied the young girl and Ursus
on the road from Ostrianum.
Vinicius rushed in so suddenly that before Lygia could recognize him he
had seized her by the waist, and, raising her, rushed toward the door
again. The old man barred the way, it is true; but pressing the girl
with one arm to his breast, Vinicius pushed him aside with the other,
which was free. The hood fell from his head, and at sight of that face,
which was known to her and which at that moment was terrible, the blood
grew cold in Lygia from fright, and the voice died in her throat. She
wished to summon aid, but had not the power. Equally vain was her wish
to grasp the door, to resist. Her fingers slipped along the stone, and
she would have fainted but for the terrible picture which struck her
eyes when Vinicius rushed into the garden.
Ursus was holding in his arms some man doubled back completely, with
hanging head and mouth filled with blood. When he saw them, he struck
the head once more with his fist, and in the twinkle of an eye sprang
toward Vinicius like a raging wild beast.
"Death!" thought the young patrician.
Then he heard, as through a dream, the scream of Lygia, "Kill not!" He
felt that something, as it were a thunderbolt, opened the arms with
which he held Lygia; then the earth turned round with him, and the light
of day died in his eyes.
Chilo, hidden behind the angle of the corner house, was waiting for what
would happen, since curiosity was struggling with fear in him. He
thought that if they succeeded in carrying off Lygia, he would fare well
near Vinicius. He feared Urban no longer, for he also felt certain that
Croton would kill him. And he calculated that in case a gathering
should begin on the streets, which so far were empty,--if Christians, or
people of any kind, should offer resistance,--he, Chilo, would speak to
them as one representing authority, as an executor of Cęsar's will, and
if need came, call the guards to aid the young patrician against the
street rabble--thus winning to himself fresh favor. In his soul he
judged yet that the young tribune's method was unwise; considering,
however, Croton's terrible strength, he admitted that it might succeed,
and thought, "If it go hard with him, Vinicius can carry the girl, and
Croton clear the way." Delay grew wearisome, however; the silence of
the entrance which he watched alarmed him.
"If they do not hit upon her hiding-place, and make an uproar, they will
But this thought was not disagreeable; for Chilo understood that in that
event he would be necessary again to Vinicius, and could squeeze afresh
a goodly number of sestertia from the tribune.
"Whatever they do," said he to himself, "they will work for me, though
no one divines that. O gods! O gods! only permit me-"
And he stopped suddenly, for it seemed to him that some one was bending
forward through the entrance; then, squeezing up to the wall, he began
to look, holding the breath in his breast.
And he had not deceived himself, for a head thrust itself half out of
the entrance and looked around. After a while, however, it vanished.
"That is Vinicius, or Croton," thought Chilo; "but if they have taken
the girl, why does she not scream, and why are they looking out to the
street? They must meet people anyhow, for before they reach the Carinę
there will be movement in the city--What is that? By the immortal
And suddenly the remnant of his hair stood on end.
In the door appeared Ursus, with the body of Croton hanging on his arm,
and looking around once more, he began to run, bearing it along the
empty street toward the river.
Chilo made himself as flat against the wall as a bit of mud.
"I am lost if he sees me!" thought he.
But Ursus ran past the corner quickly, and disappeared beyond the
neighboring house. Chilo, without further waiting, his teeth chattering
from terror, ran along the cross street with a speed which even in a
young man might have roused admiration.
"If he sees me from a distance when he is returning, he will catch and
kill me," said he to himself. "Save me, Zeus; save me, Apollo; save me,
Hermes; save me, O God of the Christians! I will leave Rome, I will
return to Mesembria, but save me from the hands of that demon!"
And that Lygian who had killed Croton seemed to him at that moment some
superhuman being. While running, he thought that he might be some god
who had taken the form of a barbarian. At that moment he believed in
all the gods of the world, and in all myths, at which he jeered usually.
It flew through his head, too, that it might be the God of the
Christians who had killed Croton; and his hair stood on end again at the
thought that he was in conflict with such a power.
Only when he had run through a number of alleys, and saw some workmen
coming toward him from a distance, was he calmed somewhat. Breath
failed in his breast; so he sat on the threshold of a house and began to
wipe, with a corner of his mantle, his sweat-covered forehead.
"I am old, and need calm," said he.
The people coming toward him turned into some little side street, and
again the place round about was empty. The city was sleeping yet. In
the morning movement began earlier in the wealthier parts of the city,
where the slaves of rich houses were forced to rise before daylight; in
portions inhabited by a free population, supported at the cost of the
State, hence unoccupied, they woke rather late, especially in winter.
Chilo, after he had sat some time on the threshold, felt a piercing
cold; so he rose, and, convincing himself that he had not lost the purse
received from Vinicius, turned toward the river with a step now much
"I may see Croton's body somewhere," said he to himself. "O gods! that
Lygian, if he is a man, might make millions of sestertia in the course
of one year; for if he choked Croton, like a whelp, who can resist him?
They would give for his every appearance in the arena as much gold as he
himself weighs. He guards that maiden better than Cerberus does Hades.
But may Hades swallow him, for all that! I will have nothing to do with
him. He is too bony. But where shall I begin in this case? A dreadful
thing has happened. If he has broken the bones of such a man as Croton,
beyond a doubt the soul of Vinicius is puling above that cursed house
now, awaiting his burial. By Castor! but he is a patrician, a friend of
Cęsar, a relative of Petronius, a man known in all Rome, a military
tribune. His death cannot pass without punishment. Suppose I were to go
to the pretorian camp, or the guards of the city, for instance?"
Here he stopped and began to think, but said after a while,--"Woe is me!
Who took him to that house if not I? His freedmen and his slaves know
that I came to his house, and some of them know with what object. What
will happen if they suspect me of having pointed out to him purposely
the house in which his death met him? Though it appear afterward, in
the court, that I did not wish his death, they will say that I was the
cause of it. Besides, he is a patrician; hence in no event can I avoid
punishment. But if I leave Rome in silence, and go far away somewhere,
I shall place myself under still greater suspicion."
It was bad in every case. The only question was to choose the less
evil. Rome was immense; still Chilo felt that it might become too small
for him. Any other man might go directly to the prefect of the city
guards and tell what had happened, and, though some suspicion might fall
on him, await the issue calmly. But Chilo's whole past was of such
character that every closer acquaintance with the prefect of the city or
the prefect of the guard must cause him very serious trouble, and
confirm also every suspicion which might enter the heads of officials.
On the other hand, to flee would be to confirm Petronius in the opinion
that Vinicius had been betrayed and murdered through conspiracy.
Petronius was a powerful man, who could command the police of the whole
Empire, and who beyond doubt would try to find the guilty parties even
at the ends of the earth. Still, Chilo thought to go straight to him,
and tell what had happened. Yes; that was the best plan. Petronius was
calm, and Chilo might be sure of this, at least, that he would hear him
to the end. Petronius, who knew the affair from its inception, would
believe in Chilo's innocence more easily than would the prefects.
But to go to him, it was needful to know with certainty what had
happened to Vinicius. Chilo did not know that. He had seen, it is
true, the Lygian stealing with Crown's body to the river, but nothing
more. Vinicius might be killed; but he might be wounded or detained.
Now it occurred to Chilo for the first time, that surely the Christians
would not dare to kill a man so powerful,--a friend of Cęsar, and a high
military official,--for that kind of act might draw on them a general
persecution. It was more likely that they had detained him by superior
force, to give Lygia means to hide herself a second time.
This thought filled Chilo with hope.
"If that Lygian dragon has not torn him to pieces at the first attack,
he is alive, and if he is alive he himself will testify that I have not
betrayed him; and then not only does nothing threaten me, but--O Hermes,
count again on two heifers--a fresh field is opening. I can inform one
of the freedmen where to seek his lord; and whether he goes to the
prefect or not is his affair, the only point being that I should not go.
Also, I can go to Petronius, and count on a reward. I have found Lygia;
now I shall find Vinicius, and then again Lygia. It is needful to know
first whether Vinicius is dead or living."
Here it occurred to him that he might go in the night to the baker Demas
and inquire about Ursus. But he rejected that thought immediately. He
preferred to have nothing to do with Ursus. He might suppose, justly,
that if Ursus had not killed Glaucus he had been warned, evidently, by
the Christian elder to whom he had confessed his design,--warned that
the affair was an unclean one, to which some traitor had persuaded him.
In every case, at the mere recollection of Ursus, a shiver ran through
Chilo's whole body. But he thought that in the evening he would send
Euricius for news to that house in which the thing had happened.
Meanwhile he needed refreshment, a bath, and rest. The sleepless night,
the journey to Ostrianum, the flight from the Trans-Tiber, had wearied
One thing gave him permanent comfort: he had on his person two purses,--
that which Vinicius had given him at home, and that which he had thrown
him on the way from the cemetery. In view of this happy circumstance,
and of all the excitement through which he had passed, he resolved to
eat abundantly, and drink better wine than he drank usually.
When the hour for opening the wine-shop came at last, he did so in such
a marked measure that he forgot the bath; he wished to sleep, above all,
and drowsiness overcame his strength so that he returned with tottering
step to his dwelling in the Subura, where a slave woman, purchased with
money obtained from Vinicius, was waiting for him.
When he had entered a sleeping-room, as dark as the den of a fox, be
threw himself on the bed, and fell asleep in one instant. He woke only
in the evening, or rather he was roused by the slave woman, who called
him to rise, for some one was inquiring, and wished to see him on urgent
The watchful Chilo came to himself in one moment, threw on his hooded
mantle hastily, and, commanding the slave woman to stand aside, looked
And he was benumbed! for he saw before the door of the sleeping-room the
gigantic form of Ursus.
At that sight he felt his feet and head grow icy-cold, the heart ceased
to beat in his bosom, and shivers were creeping along his back. For a
time he was unable to speak; then with chattering teeth he said, or
"Syra--I am not at home--I don't know that--good man-"
"I told him that thou wert at home, but asleep, lord," answered the
girl; "he asked to rouse thee."
"O gods! I will command that thou--"
But Ursus, as if impatient of delay, approached the door of the
sleeping-room, and, bending, thrust in his head.
"O Chilo Chilonides!" said he.
"Pax tecum! pax! pax!" answered Chilo. "O best of Christians! Yes, I
am Chilo; but this is a mistake,--I do not know thee!"
"Chilo Chilonides," repeated Ursus, "thy lord, Vinicius, summons thee to
go with me to him."
A PIERCING pain roused Vinicius. At the first moment he could not
understand where he was, nor what was happening. He felt a roaring in
his head, and his eyes were covered as if with mist. Gradually, however,
his consciousness returned, and at last he beheld through that mist
three persons bending over him. Two he recognized: one was Ursus, the
other the old man whom he had thrust aside when carrying off Lygia. The
third, an utter stranger, was holding his left arm, and feeling it from
the elbow upward as far as the shoulder-blade. This caused so terrible
a pain that Vinicius, thinking it a kind of revenge which they were
taking, said through his set teeth, "Kill me!" But they paid no
apparent heed to his words, just as though they heard them not, or
considered them the usual groans of suffering. Ursus, with his anxious
and also threatening face of a barbarian, held a bundle of white cloth
torn in long strips. The old man spoke to the person who was pressing
the arm of Vinicius,--"Glaucus, art thou certain that the wound in the
head is not mortal?"
"Yes, worthy Crispus," answered Glaucus. "While serving in the fleet as
a slave, and afterward while living at Naples, I cured many wounds, and
with the pay which came to me from that occupation I freed myself and my
relatives at last. The wound in the head is slight. When this one
[here he pointed to Ursus with his head] took the girl from the young
man, he pushed him against the wall; the young man while falling put out
his arm, evidently to save himself; he broke and disjointed it, but by
so doing saved his head and his life."
"Thou hast had more than one of the brotherhood in thy care," added
Crispus, "and hast the repute of a skilful physician; therefore I sent
Ursus to bring thee."
"Ursus, who on the road confessed that yesterday he was ready to kill
"He confessed his intention earlier to me than to thee; but I, who know
thee and thy love for Christ, explained to him that the traitor is not
thou, but the unknown, who tried to persuade him to murder."
"That was an evil spirit, but I took him for an angel," said Ursus, with
"Some other time thou wilt tell me, but now we must think of this
wounded man." Thus speaking, he began to set the arm. Though Crispus
sprinkled water on his face, Vinicius fainted repeatedly from suffering;
that was, however, a fortunate circumstance, since he did not feel the
pain of putting his arm into joint, nor of setting it. Glaucus fixed
the limb between two strips of wood, which he bound quickly and firmly,
so as to keep the arm motionless. When the operation was over, Vinicius
recovered consciousness again and saw Lygia above him. She stood there
at the bed holding a brass basin with water, in which from time to time
Glaucus dipped a sponge and moistened the head of his patient.
Vinicius gazed and could not believe his eyes. What he saw seemed a
dream, or the pleasant vision brought by fever, and only after a long
time could he whisper,--"Lygia!"
The basin trembled in her hand at that sound, but she turned on him eyes
full of sadness.
"Peace be with thee!" answered she, in a low voice.
She stood there with extended arms, her face full of pity and sorrow.
But he gazed, as if to fill his sight with her, so that after his lids
were closed the picture might remain under them. He looked at her face,
paler and smaller than it had been, at the tresses of dark hair, at the
poor dress of a laboring woman; he looked so intently that her snowy
forehead began to grow rose-colored under the influence of his look.
And first he thought that he would love her always; and second, that
that paleness of hers and that poverty were his work,--that it was he
who had driven her from a house where she was loved, and surrounded with
plenty and comfort, and thrust her into that squalid room, and clothed
her in that poor robe of dark wool.
He would have arrayed her in the costliest brocade, in all the jewels of
the earth; hence astonishment, alarm, and pity seized him, and sorrow so
great that he would have fallen at her feet had he been able to move.
"Lygia," said he, "thou didst not permit my death."
"May God return health to thee," she answered, with sweetness.
For Vinicius, who had a feeling both of those wrongs which he had
inflicted on her formerly, and those which he had wished to inflict on
her recently, there was a real balsam in Lygia's words. He forgot at
the moment that through her mouth Christian teaching might speak; he
felt only that a beloved woman was speaking, and that in her answer
there was a special tenderness, a goodness simply preterhuman, which
shook him to the depth of his soul. As just before he had grown weak
from pain, so now he grew weak from emotion. A certain faintness came
on him, at once immense and agreeable. He felt as if falling into some
abyss, but he felt that to fall was pleasant, and that he was happy. He
thought at that moment of weakness that a divinity was standing above
Meanwhile Glaucus had finished washing the wound in his head, and had
applied a healing ointment. Ursus took the brass basin from Lygia's
hands; she brought a cup of water and wine which stood ready on the
table, and put it to the wounded man's lips. Vinicius drank eagerly, and
felt great relief. After the operation the pain had almost passed; the
wound and contusion began to grow firm; perfect consciousness returned
"Give me another drink," said he.
Lygia took the empty cup to the next room; meanwhile Crispus, after a
few words with Glaucus, approached the bed saying,--
"God has not permitted thee, Vinicius, to accomplish an evil deed, and
has preserved thee in life so that thou shouldst come to thy mind. He,
before whom man is but dust, delivered thee defenceless into our hands;
but Christ, in whom we believe, commanded us to love even our enemies.
Therefore we have dressed thy wounds, and, as Lygia has said, we will
implore God to restore thy health, but we cannot watch over thee longer.
Be in peace, then, and think whether it beseems thee to continue thy
pursuit of Lygia. Thou hast deprived her of guardians, and us of a
roof, though we return thee good for evil."
"Do ye wish to leave me? inquired Vinicius.
"We wish to leave this house, in which prosecution by the prefect of the
city may reach us. Thy companion was killed; thou, who art powerful
among thy own people, art wounded. This did not happen through our
fault, but the anger of the law might fall on us."
"Have no fear of prosecution," replied Vinicius; "I will protect you."
Crispus did not like to tell him that with them it was not only a
question of the prefect and the police, but of him; they wished to
secure Lygia from his further pursuit.
"Lord," said he, "thy right arm is well. Here are tablets and a stilus;
write to thy servants to bring a litter this evening and bear thee to
thy own house, where thou wilt have more comfort than in our poverty.
We dwell here with a poor widow, who will return soon with her son, and
this youth will take thy letter; as to us, we must all find another
Vinicius grew pale, for he understood that they wished to separate him
from Lygia, and that if he lost her now he might never see her in life
again. He knew indeed that things of great import had come between him
and her, in virtue of which, if he wished to possess her, he must seek
some new methods which he had not had time yet to think over. He
understood too that whatever he might tell these people, though he
should swear that he would return Lygia to Pomponia Gręcina, they would
not believe him, and were justified in refusing belief. Moreover, he
might have done that before. Instead of hunting for Lygia, he might
have gone to Pomponia and sworn to her that he renounced pursuit, and in
that case Pomponia herself would have found Lygia and brought her home.
No; he felt that such promises would not restrain them, and no solemn
oath would be received, the more since, not being a Christian, he could
swear only by the immortal gods, in whom he did not himself believe
greatly, and whom they considered evil spirits.
He desired desperately to influence Lygia and her guardians in some way,
but for that there was need of time. For him it was all-important to
see her, to look at her for a few days even. As every fragment of a
plank or an oar seems salvation to a drowning man, so to him it seemed
that during those few days he might say something to bring him nearer to
her, that he might think out something, that something favorable might
happen. Hence he collected his thoughts and said,--
"Listen to me, Christians. Yesterday I was with you in Ostrianum, and I
heard your teaching; but though I did not know it, your deeds have
convinced me that you are honest and good people. Tell that widow who
occupies this house to stay in it, stay in it yourselves, and let me
stay. Let this man [here he turned to Glaucus], who is a physician, or
at least understands the care of wounds, tell whether it is possible to
carry me from here to-day. I am sick, I have a broken arm, which must
remain immovable for a few days even; therefore I declare to you that I
will not leave this house unless you bear me hence by force!"
Here he stopped, for breath failed in his breast, and Crispus said,--"We
will use no force against thee, lord; we will only take away our own
At this the young man, unused to resistance, frowned and said,--"Permit
me to recover breath"; and after a time he began again to speak,--"Of
Croton, whom Ursus killed, no one will inquire. He had to go to-day to
Beneventum, whither he was summoned by Vatinius, therefore all will
think that he has gone there. When I entered this house in company with
Croton, no one saw us except a Greek who was with us in Ostrianum. I
will indicate to you his lodgings; bring that man to me. On him I will
enjoin silence; he is paid by me. I will send a letter to my own house
stating that I too went to Beneventum. If the Greek has informed the
prefect already, I will declare that I myself killed Croton, and that it
was he who broke my arm. I will do this, by my father's shade and by my
mother's! Ye may remain in safety here; not a hair will fall from the
head of one of you. Bring hither, and bring in haste, the Greek whose
name is Chilo Chilonides!"
"Then Glaucus will remain with thee," said Crispus, "and the widow will
"Consider, old man, what I say," said Vinicius, who frowned still more.
"I owe thee gratitude, and thou seemest good and honest; but thou dost
not tell me what thou hast in the bottom of thy soul. Thou art afraid
lest I summon my slaves and command them to take Lygia. Is this true?"
"It is," said Crispus, with sternness.
"Then remember this, I shall speak before all to Chilo, and write a
letter home that I have gone to Beneventum. I shall have no messengers
hereafter but you. Remember this, and do not irritate me longer."
Here he was indignant, and his face was contorted with anger. Afterward
he began to speak excitedly,--
"Hast thou thought that I would deny that I wish to stay here to see
her? A fool would have divined that, even had I denied it. But I will
not try to take her by force any longer. I will tell thee more: if she
will not stay here, I will tear the bandages with this sound hand from
my arm, will take neither food nor drink; let my death fall on thee and
thy brethren. Why hast thou nursed me? Why hast thou not commanded to
kill me?" He grew pale from weakness and anger.
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