Quo Vadis A Narrative of the Time of Nero
Part 5 out of 12
Lygia, who had heard all from the other room and who was certain that
Vinicius would do what he promised, was terrified. She would not have
him die for anything. Wounded and defenceless, he roused in her
compassion, not fear. Living from the time of her flight among people
in continual religious enthusiasm, thinking only of sacrifices,
offerings, and boundless charity, she had grown so excited herself
through that new inspiration, that for her it took the place of house,
family, lost happiness, and made her one of those Christian maidens who,
later on, changed the former soul of the world. Vinicius had been too
important in her fate, had been thrust too much on her, to let her
forget him. She had thought of him whole days, and more than once had
begged God for the moment in which, following the inspiration of
religion, she might return good for his evil, mercy for his persecution,
break him, win him to Christ, save him. And now it seemed to her that
precisely that moment had come, and that her prayers had been heard.
She approached Crispus therefore with a face as if inspired, and
addressed him as though some other voice spoke through her,--"Let him
stay among us, Crispus, and we will stay with him till Christ gives him
The old presbyter, accustomed to seek in all things the inspiration of
God, beholding her exaltation, thought at once that perhaps a higher
power was speaking through her, and, fearing in his heart, he bent his
gray head, saying,--"Let it be as thou sayest."
On Vinicius, who the whole time had not taken his eyes from her, this
ready obedience of Crispus produced a wonderful and pervading
impression. It seemed to him that among the Christians Lygia was a kind
of sibyl or priestess whom they surrounded with obedience and honor; and
he yielded himself also to that honor. To the love which he felt was
joined now a certain awe, in presence of which love itself became
something almost insolent. He could not familiarize himself, however,
with the thought that their relations had changed: that now not she was
dependent on his will, but he on hers; that he was lying there sick and
broken; that he had ceased to be an attacking, a conquering force; that
he was like a defenceless child in her care. For his proud and
commanding nature such relations with any other person would have been
humiliating; now, however, not only did he not feel humiliated, but he
was thankful to her as to his sovereign. In him those were feelings
unheard-of, feelings which he could not have entertained the day before,
and which would have amazed him even on that day had he been able to
analyze them clearly. But he did not inquire at the moment why it was
so, just as if the position had been perfectly natural; he merely felt
happy because he remained there.
And he wished to thank her with gratefulness, and still with a kind of
feeling unknown to him in such a degree that he knew not what to call
it, for it was simply submission. His previous excitement had so
exhausted him that he could not speak, and he thanked her only with his
eyes, which were gleaming from delight because he remained near her, and
would be able to see her--to-morrow, next day, perhaps a long time.
That delight was diminished only by the dread that he might lose what he
had gained. So great was this dread that when Lygia gave him water a
second time, and the wish seized him to take her hand, he feared to do
so. He feared!--he, that Vinicius who at Cęsar's feast had kissed her
lips in spite of her! he, that Vinicius who after her flight had
promised himself to drag her by the hair to the cubiculum, or give
command to flog her!
BUT he began also to fear that some outside force might disturb his
delight. Chilo might give notice of his disappearance to the prefect of
the city, or to his freedmen at home; and in such an event an invasion
of the house by the city guards was likely. Through his head flew the
thought, it is true, that in that event he might give command to seize
Lygia and shut her up in his house, but he felt that he ought not to do
so, and he was not capable of acting thus. He was tyrannical, insolent,
and corrupt enough, if need be he was inexorable, but he was not
Tigellinus or Nero. Military life had left in him a certain feeling of
justice, and religion, and a conscience to understand that such a deed
would be monstrously mean. He would have been capable, perhaps, of
committing such a deed during an access of anger and while in possession
of his strength, but at that moment he was filled with tenderness, and
was sick. The only question for Vinicius at that time was that no one
should stand between him and Lygia.
He noticed, too, with astonishment, that from the moment when Lygia had
taken his part, neither she herself nor Crispus asked from him any
assurances, just as if they felt confident that, in case of need, some
superhuman power would defend them. The young tribune, in whose head
the distinction between things possible and impossible had grown
involved and faint since the discourse of the Apostle in Ostrianum, was
also not too far from supposing that that might take place. But
considering things more soberly, he remembered what he had said of the
Greek, and asked again that Chilo be brought to him.
Crispus agrecd, and they decided to send Ursus. Vinicius, who in recent
days, before his visit to Ostrianum, had sent slaves frequently to
Chilo, though without result, indicated his lodgings accurately to the
Lygian; then writing a few words on the tablet, he said, turning to
Crispus,--"I give a tablet, for this man is suspicious and cunning.
Frequently when summoned by me, he gave directions to answer my people
that he was not at home; he did so always when he had no good news for
me, and feared my anger."
"If I find him, I will bring him, willing or unwilling," said Ursus.
Then, taking his mantle, he went out hurriedly.
To find any one in Rome was not easy, even with the most accurate
directions; but in those cases the instinct of a hunter aided Ursus, and
also his great knowledge of the city. After a certain time, therefore,
he found himself at Chilo's lodgings.
He did not recognize Chilo, however. He had seen him but once in his
life before, and moreover, in the night. Besides, that lofty and
confident old man who had persuaded him to murder Glaucus was so unlike
the Greek, bent double from terror, that no one could suppose the two to
be one person. Chilo, noticing that Ursus looked at him as a perfect
stranger, recovered from his first fear. The sight of the tablet, with
the writing of Vinicius, calmed him still more. At least the suspicion
that he would take him into an ambush purposely did not trouble him. He
thought, besides, that the Christians had not killed Vinicius, evidently
because they had not dared to raise hands on so noted a person.
"And then Vinicius will protect me in case of need," thought he; "of
course he does not send to deliver me to death."
Summoning some courage, therefore, he said: "My good man, has not my
friend the noble Vinicius sent a litter? My feet are swollen; I cannot
walk so far."
"He has not," answered Ursus; "we shall go on foot."
"But if I refuse?"
"Do not, for thou wilt have to go."
"And I will go, but of my own will. No one could force me, for I am a
free man, and a friend of the prefect of the city. As a sage, I have
also means to overcome others, and I know how to turn people into trees
and wild beasts. But I will go, I will go! I will only put on a mantle
somewhat warmer, and a hood, lest the slaves of that quarter might
recognize me; they would stop me every moment to kiss my hands."
He put on a new mantle then, and let down a broad Gallic hood, lest
Ursus might recognize his features on coming into clearer light.
"Where wilt thou take me?" asked he on the road.
"To the Trans-Tiber."
"I am not long in Rome, and I have never been there, but there too, of
course, live men who love virtue."
But Ursus, who was a simple man, and had heard Vinicius say that the
Greek had been with him in Ostrianum, and had seen him with Croton enter
the house in which Lygia lived, stopped for a moment and said,--"Speak
no untruth, old man, for to-day thou wert with Vinicius in Ostrianum and
under our gate."
"Ah!" said Chilo, "then is your house in the Trans-Tiber? I have not
been long in Rome, and know not how the different parts are named. That
is true, friend; I was under the gate, and implored Vinicius in the name
of virtue not to enter. I was in Ostrianum, and dost thou know why? I
am working for a certain time over the conversion of Vinicius, and
wished him to hear the chief of the Apostles. May the light penetrate
his soul and thine! But thou art a Christian, and wishest truth to
"That is true," answered Ursus, with humility.
Courage returned to Chilo completely.
"Vinicius is a powerful lord," said he, "and a friend of Cęsar. He
listens often yet to the whisperings of the evil spirit; but if even a
hair should fall from his head, Cęsar would take vengeance on all the
"A higher power is protecting us."
"Surely, surely! But what do ye intend to do with Vinicius?" inquired
Chilo, with fresh alarm.
"I know not. Christ commands mercy."
"Thou hast answered excellently. Think of this always, or thou wilt fry
in hell like a sausage in a frying-pan."
Ursus sighed, and Chilo thought that he could always do what he liked
with that man, who was terrible at the moment of his first outburst.
So, wishing to know what happened at the seizing of Lygia, he asked
further, in the voice of a stern judge,--"How did ye treat Croton?
Speak, and do not prevaricate."
Ursus sighed a second time. "Vinicius will tell thee."
"That means that thou didst stab him with a knife, or kill him with a
"I was without arms."
The Greek could not resist amazement at the superhuman strength of the
"May Pluto--that is to say, may Christ pardon thee!"
They went on for some time in silence; then Chilo said:
"I will not betray thee; but have a care of the watches."
"I fear Christ, not the watches."
"And that is proper. There is no more grievous crime than murder. I
will pray for thee; but I know not if even my prayer can be effective,
unless thou make a vow never to touch any one in life with a finger."
"As it is, I have not killed purposely," answered Ursus.
But Chilo, who desired to secure himself in every case, did not cease to
condemn murder, and urge Ursus to make the vow. He inquired also about
Vinicius; but the Lygian answered his inquiries unwillingly, repeating
that from Vinicius himself he would hear what he needed. Speaking in
this way, they passed at last the long road which separated the lodgings
of the Greek from the Trans-Tiber, and found themselves before the
house. Chilo's heart began to beat again unquietly. From dread it
seemed to him that Ursus was beginning to look at him with a kind of
"It is small consolation to me," said he to himself, "if he kills me
unwillingly. I prefer in every case that paralysis should strike him,
and with him all the Lygians,--which do thou effect, O Zeus, if thou art
Thus meditating, he wrapped himself more closely in his Gallic mantle,
repeating that he feared the cold. Finally, when they had passed the
entrance and the first court, and found themselves in the corridor
leading to the garden of the little house, he halted suddenly and said,-
-"Let me draw breath, or I shall not be able to speak with Vinicius and
give him saving advice."
He halted; for though he said to himself that no danger threatened,
still his legs trembled under him at the thought that he was among those
mysterious people whom he had seen in Ostrianum.
Meanwhile a hymn came to their ears from the little house.
"What is that?" inquired Chilo.
"Thou sayest that thou art a Christian, and knowest not that among us it
is the custom after every meal to glorify our Saviour with singing,"
answered Ursus. "Miriam and her son must have returned, and perhaps the
Apostle is with them, for he visits the widow and Crispus every day."
"Conduct me directly to Vinicius."
"Vinicius is in the same room with all, for that is the only large one;
the others are very small chambers, to which we go only to sleep. Come
in; thou wilt rest there."
They entered. It was rather dark in the room; the evening was cloudy
and cold, the flames of a few candles did not dispel the darkness
altogether. Vinicius divined rather than recognized Chilo in the hooded
man. Chilo, seeing the bed in the corner of the room, and on it
Vinicius, moved toward him directly, not looking at the others, as if
with the conviction that it would be safest near him.
"Oh, lord, why didst thou not listen to my counsels?" exclaimed he,
putting his hands together.
"Silence!" said Vinicius, "and listen!"
Here he looked sharply into Chilo's eyes, and spoke slowly with
emphasis, as if wishing the Greek to understand every word of his as a
command, and to keep it forever in memory.
"Croton threw himself on me to kill and rob me, dost understand? I
killed him then, and these people dressed the wounds which I received in
Chilo understood in a moment that if Vinicius spoke in this way it must
be in virtue of some agreement with the Christians, and in that case he
wished people to believe him. He saw this, too, from his face; hence in
one moment, without showing doubt or astonishment, he raised his eyes
and exclaimed,--"That was a faith-breaking ruffian! But I warned thee,
lord, not to trust him; my teachings bounded from his head as do peas
when thrown against a wall. In all Hades there are not torments enough
for him. He who cannot be honest must be a rogue; what is more
difficult than for a rogue to become honest? But to fall on his
benefactor, a lord so magnanimous--O gods!"
Here he remembered that he had represented himself to Ursus on the way
as a Christian, and stopped.
"Were it not for the 'sica,' which I brought, he would have slain me,"
"I bless the moment in which I advised thee to take a knife even."
Vinicius turned an inquiring glance on the Greek, and asked,--"What hast
thou done to-day?"
"How? What! have I not told thee, lord, that I made a vow for thy
"I was just preparing to visit thee, when this good man came and said
that thou hadst sent for me."
"Here is a tablet. Thou wilt go with it to my house; thou wilt find my
freedman and give it to him. It is written on the tablet that I have
gone to Beneventum. Thou wit tell Demas from thyself that I went this
morning, summoned by an urgent letter from Petronius." Here he repeated
with emphasis: "I have gone to Beneventum, dost understand?"
"Thou has gone, lord. This morning I took leave of thee at the Porta
Capena, and from the time of thy departure such sadness possesses me
that if thy magnanimity will not soften it, I shall cry myself to death,
like the unhappy wife of Zethos [Aedon turned into a nightingale] in
grief for Itylos."
Vinicius, though sick and accustomed to the Greek's suppleness, could
not repress a smile. He was glad, moreover, that Chilo understood in a
flash; hence he said,-
"Therefore I will write that thy tears be wiped away. Give me the
candle." Chilo, now pacified perfectly, rose, and, advancing a few
steps toward the chimney, took one of the candles which was burning at
the wall. But while he was doing this, the hood slipped from his head,
and the light fell directly on his face. Glaucus sprang from his seat
and, coming up quickly, stood before him.
"Dost thou not recognize me, Cephas?" asked he. In his voice there was
something so terrible that a shiver ran through all present.
Chilo raised the candle, and dropped it to the earth almost the same
instant; then he bent nearly double and began to groan,--"I am not he--I
am not he! Mercy!"
Glaucus turned toward the faithful, and said,--"This is the man who
betrayed--who ruined me and my family!"
That history was known to all the Christians and to Vinicius, who had
not guessed who that Glaucus was,--for this reason only, that he fainted
repeatedly from pain during the dressing of his wound, and had not heard
his name. But for Ursus that short moment, with the words of Glaucus,
was like a lightning-flash in darkness. Recognizing Chilo, he was at his
side with one spring, and, seizing his arm, bent it back, exclaiming,--
"This is the man who persuaded me to kill Glaucus!"
"Mercy!" groaned Chilo. "I will give you--O lord!" exclaimed he,
turning his head to Vinicius, "save me! I trusted in thee, take my
part. Thy letter--I will deliver it. O lord, lord!"
But Vinicius, who looked with more indifference than any one at what was
passing, first because all the affairs of the Greek were more or less
known to him, and second because his heart knew not what pity was,
said,--"Bury him in the garden; some one else will take the letter."
It seemed to Chilo that those words were his final sentence. His bones
were shaking in the terrible hands of Ursus; his eyes were filled with
tears from pain.
"By your God, pity!" cried he; "I am a Christian! Pax vobiscum! I am a
Christian; and if ye do not believe me, baptize me again, baptize me
twice, ten times! Glaucus, that is a mistake! Let me speak, make me a
slave! Do not kill me! Have mercy!"
His voice, stifled with pain, was growing weaker and weaker, when the
Apostle Peter rose at the table; for a moment his white head shook,
drooping toward his breast, and his eyes were closed; but he opened them
then, and said amid silence,--
"The Saviour said this to us: 'If thy brother has sinned against thee,
chastise him; but if he is repentant, forgive him. And if he has
offended seven times in the day against thee, and has turned to thee
seven times, saying, "Have mercy on me!" forgive him.'"
Then came a still deeper silence. Glaucus remained a long time with his
hands covering his face; at last he removed them and said,--"Cephas,
may God forgive thy offences, as I forgive them in the name of Christ."
Ursus, letting go the arms of the Greek, added at once:
"May the Saviour be merciful to thee as I forgive thee."
Chilo dropped to the ground, and, supported on it with his hands, turned
his head like a wild beast caught in a snare, looking around to see
whence death might come. He did not trust his eyes and ears yet, and
dared not hope for forgiveness. Consciousness returned to him slowly;
his blue lips were still trembling from terror.
"Depart in peace!" said the Apostle, meanwhile.
Chilo rose, but could not speak. He approached the bed of Vinicius, as
if seeking protection in it still; for he had not time yet to think that
that man, though he had used his services and was still his accomplice,
condemned him, while those against whom he had acted forgave. This
thought was to come to him later. At present simply astonishment and
incredulity were evident in his look. Though he had seen that they
forgave him, he wished to bear away his head at the earliest from among
these incomprehensible people, whose kindness terrified him almost as
much as their cruelty would have terrified. It seemed to him that
should he remain longer, something unexpected would happen again; hence,
standing above Vinicius, he said with a broken voice,--
"Give the letter, lord,--give the letter!"
And snatching the tablet which Vinicius handed him, he made one
obeisance to the Christians, another to the sick man, pushed along
sidewise by the very wall, and hurried out through the door. In the
garden, when darkness surrounded him, fear raised the hair on his head
again, for he felt sure that Ursus would rush out and kill him in the
night. He would have run with all his might, but his legs would not
move; next moment they were perfectly uncontrollable, for Ursus stood
near him really.
Chilo fell with his face to the earth, and began to groan: "Urban--in
But Urban said: "Fear not. The Apostle commanded me to lead thee out
beyond the gate, lest thou might go astray in the darkness, and, if
strength failed thee, to conduct thee home."
"What dost thou say?" asked Chilo, raising his face. "What? Thou wilt
not kill me?"
"No, I will not; and if I seized thee too roughly and harmed a bone in
thee, pardon me."
"Help me to rise," said the Greek. "Thou wilt not kill me? Thou wilt
not? Take me to the Street; I will go farther alone."
Ursus raised him as he might a feather, and placed him on his feet; then
he conducted him through the dark corridor to the second court. From
there was a passage to the entrance and the street. In the corridor
Chilo repeated again in his soul, "It is all over with me!" Only when
he found himself on the street did he recover and say, "I can go on
"Peace be with thee."
"And with thee! and with thee! Let me draw breath."
And after Ursus had gone, he breathed with a full breast. He felt his
waist and hips, as if to convince himself that he was living, and then
moved forward with hurried step.
"But why did they not kill me?" And in spite of all his talk with
Euricius about Christian teaching, in spite of his conversation at the
river with Urban, and in spite of all that he had heard in Ostrianum, he
could find no answer to that question.
NEITHER could Vinicius discover the cause of what had happened; and in
the bottom of his soul he was almost as much astonished as Chilo. That
those people should treat him as they had, and, instead of avenging his
attack, dress his wounds carefully, he ascribed partly to the doctrine
which they confessed, more to Lygia, and a little, also, to his great
significance. But their conduct with Chilo simply went beyond his
understanding of man's power of forgiveness. And the question thrust
itself into his mind: Why did they not kill the Greek? They might have
killed him with impunity. Ursus would have buried him in the garden, or
borne him in the dark to the Tiber, which during that period of night-
murders, committed by Cęsar himself even, cast up human bodies so
frequently in the morning that no one inquired whence they came. To his
thinking, the Christians had not only the power, but the right to kill
Chilo. True, pity was not entirely a stranger to that world to which
the young patrician belonged. The Athenians raised an altar to pity,
and opposed for a long time the introduction of gladiatorial combats
into Athens. In Rome itself the conquered received pardon sometimes,
as, for instance, Calicratus, king of the Britons, who, taken prisoner
in the time of Claudius, and provided for by him bountifully, dwelt in
the city in freedom. But vengeance for a personal wrong seemed to
Vinicius, as to all, proper and justified. The neglect of it was
entirely opposed to his spirit. True, he had heard in Ostrianum that
one should love even enemies; that, however, he considered as a kind of
theory without application in life. And now this passed through his
head: that perhaps they had not killed Chilo because the day was among
festivals, or was in some period of the moon during which it was not
proper for Christians to kill a man. He had heard that there are days
among various nations on which it is not permitted to begin war even.
But why, in such a case, did they not deliver the Greek up to justice?
Why did the Apostle say that if a man offended seven times, it was
necessary to forgive him seven times; and why did Glaucus say to Chilo,
"May God forgive thee, as I forgive thee"?
Chilo had done him the most terrible wrong that one man could do
another. At the very thought of how he would act with a man who killed
Lygia, for instance, the heart of Vinicius seethed up, as does water in
a caldron; there were no torments which he would not inflict in his
vengeance! But Glaucus had forgiven; Ursus, too, had forgiven,--Ursus,
who might in fact kill whomever he wished in Rome with perfect impunity,
for all he needed was to kill the king of the grove in Nemi, and take
his place. Could the gladiator holding that office to which he had
succeeded only by killing the previous "king," resist the man whom
Croton could not resist? There was only one answer to all these
questions: that they refrained from killing him through a goodness so
great that the like of it had not been in the world up to that time, and
through an unbounded love of man, which commands to forget one's self,
one's wrongs, one's happiness and misfortune, and live for others. What
reward those people were to receive for this, Vinicius heard in
Ostrianum, but he could not understand it. He felt, however, that the
earthly life connected with the duty of renouncing everything good and
rich for the benefit of others must be wretched. So in what he thought
of the Christians at that moment, besides the greatest astonishment,
there was pity, and as it were a shade of contempt. It seemed to him
that they were sheep which earlier or later must be eaten by wolves; his
Roman nature could yield no recognition to people who let themselves be
devoured. This one thing struck him, however,--that after Chilo's
departure the faces of all were bright with a certain deep joy. The
Apostle approached Glaucus, placed his hand on his head, and said,--"In
thee Christ has triumphed."
The other raised his eyes, which were full of hope, and as bright with
joy as if some great unexpected happiness had been poured on him.
Vinicius, who could understand only joy or delight born of vengeance,
looked on him with eyes staring from fever, and somewhat as he would on
a madman. He saw, however, and saw not without internal indignation,
that Lygia pressed her lips of a queen to the hand of that man, who had
the appearance of a slave; and it seemed to him that the order of the
world was inverted utterly. Next Ursus told how he had conducted Chilo
to the street, and had asked forgiveness for the harm which he might
have done his bones; for this the Apostle blessed him also. Crispus
declared that it was a day of great victory. Hearing of this victory,
Vinicius lost the thread of his thought altogether.
But when Lygia gave him a cooling draught again, he held her hand for a
moment, and asked,--"Then must thou also forgive me?"
"We are Christians; it is not permitted us to keep anger in the heart."
"Lygia," said he, "whoever thy God is, I honor Him only because He is
"Thou wilt honor Him in thy heart when thou lovest Him."
"Only because He is thine," repeated Vinicius, in a fainter voice; and
he closed his eyes, for weakness had mastered him again.
Lygia went out, but returned after a time, and bent over him to learn if
he were sleeping. Vinicius, feeling that she was near, opened his eyes
and smiled. She placed her hand over them lightly, as if to incline him
to slumber. A great sweetness seized him then; but soon he felt more
grievously ill than before, and was very ill in reality. Night had
come, and with it a more violent fever. He could not sleep, and
followed Lygia with his eyes wherever she went.
At times he fell into a kind of doze, in which he saw and heard
everything which happened around him, but in which reality was mingled
with feverish dreams. It seemed to him that in some old, deserted
cemetery stood a temple, in the form of a tower, in which Lygia was
priestess. He did not take his eyes from her, but saw her on the summit
of the tower, with a lute in her hands, all in the light, like those
priestesses who in the night-time sing hymns in honor of the moon, and
whom he had seen in the Orient. He himself was climbing up winding
steps, with great effort, to bear her away with him. Behind was
creeping up Chilo, with teeth chattering from terror, and repeating, "Do
not do that, lord; she is a priestess, for whom He will take vengeance."
Vinicius did not know who that He was, but he understood that he himself
was going to commit some sacrilege, and he felt a boundless fear also.
But when he went to the balustrade surrounding the summit of the tower,
the Apostle with his silvery beard stood at Lygia's side on a sudden,
"Do not raise a hand; she belongs to me." Then he moved forward with
her, on a path formed by rays from the moon, as if on a path made to
heaven. He stretched his hands toward them, and begged both to take him
into their company.
Here he woke, became conscious, and looked before him. The lamp on the
tall staff shone more dimly, but still cast a light sufficiently clear.
All were sitting in front of the fire warming themselves, for the night
was chilly, and the chamber rather cold. Vinicius saw the breath coming
as steam from their lips. In the midst of them sat the Apostle; at his
knees, on a low footstool, was Lygia; farther on, Glaucus, Crispus,
Miriam, and at the edge, on one side Ursus, on the other Miriam's son
Nazarius, a youth with a handsome face, and long, dark hair reaching
down to his shoulders.
Lygia listened with eyes raised to the Apostle, and every head was
turned toward him, while he told something in an undertone. Vinicius
gazed at Peter with a certain superstitious awe, hardly inferior to that
terror which he felt during the fever dream. The thought passed through
his mind that that dream had touched truth; that the gray-haired man
there, freshly come from distant shores, would take Lygia from him
really, and take her somewhere away by unknown paths. He felt sure also
that the old man was speaking of him, perhaps telling how to separate
him from Lygia, for it seemed to him impossible that any one could speak
of aught else. Hence, collecting all his presence of mind, he listened
to Peter's words.
But he was mistaken altogether, for the Apostle was speaking of Christ
"They live only through that name," thought Vinicius.
The old man was describing the seizure of Christ. "A company came, and
servants of the priest to seize Him. When the Saviour asked whom they
were seeking, they answered, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' But when He said to
them, 'I am He,' they fell on the ground, and dared not raise a hand on
Him. Only after the second inquiry did they seize Him."
Here the Apostle stopped, stretched his hands toward the fire and
continued:--"The night was cold, like this one, but the heart in me was
seething; so, drawing a sword to defend Him, I cut an ear from the
servant of the high-priest. I would have defended Him more than my own
life had He not said to me, 'Put thy sword into the sheath: the cup
which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?' Then they seized
and bound Him."
When he had spoken thus far, Peter placed his palm on his forehead, and
was silent, wishing before he went further to stop the crowd of his
recollections. But Ursus, unable to restrain himself, sprang to his
feet, trimmed the light on the staff till the sparks scattered in golden
rain and the flame shot up with more vigor. Then he sat down, and
"No matter what happened. I--"
He stopped suddenly, for Lygia had put her finger to her lips. But he
breathed loudly, and it was clear that a storm was in his soul; and
though he was ready at all times to kiss the feet of the Apostle, that
act was one he could not accept; if some one in his presence had raised
hands on the Redeemer, if he had been with Him on that night--Oi!
splinters would have shot from the soldiers, the servants of the priest,
and the officials. Tears came to his eyes at the very thought of this,
and because of his sorrow and mental struggle; for on the one hand he
thought that he would not only have defended the Redeemer, but would
have called Lygians to his aid,--splendid fellows,--and on the other, if
he had acted thus he would have disobeyed the Redeemer, and hindered the
salvation of man. For this reason he could not keep back his tears.
After a while Peter took his palm from his forehead, and resumed the
narrative. But Vinicius was overpowered by a new feverish, waking
dream. What he heard now was in his mind mixed up with what the Apostle
had told the night previous in Ostrianum, of that day in which Christ
appeared on the shore of the sea of Tiberius. He saw a sheet of water
broadly spread out; on it the boat of a fisherman, and in the boat Peter
and Lygia. He himself was moving with all his might after that boat,
but pain in his broken arm prevented him from reaching it. The wind
hurled waves in his eyes, he began to sink, and called with entreating
voice for rescue. Lygia knelt down then before the Apostle, who turned
his boat, and reached an oar, which Vinicius seized: with their
assistance he entered the boat and fell on the bottom of it.
It seemed to him, then, that he stood up, and saw a multitude of people
sailing after them. Waves covered their heads with foam; in the whirl
only the hands of a few could be seen; but Peter saved the drowning time
after time, and gathered them into his boat, which grew larger, as if by
a miracle. Soon crowds filled it, as numerous as those which were
collected in Ostrianum, and then still greater crowds. Vinicius
wondered how they could find place there, and he was afraid that they
would sink to the bottom. But Lygia pacified him by showing him a light
on the distant shore toward which they were sailing. These dream
pictures of Vinicius were blended again with descriptions which he had
heard in Ostrianum, from the lips of the Apostle, as to how Christ had
appeared on the lake once. So that he saw now in that light on the
shore a certain form toward which Peter was steering, and as he
approached it the weather grew calmer, the water grew smoother, the
light became greater. The crowd began to sing sweet hymns; the air was
filled with the odor of nard; the play of water formed a rainbow, as if
from the bottom of the lake lilies and roses were looking, and at last
the boat struck its breast safely against the sand. Lygia took his hand
then, and said, "Come, I will lead thee!" and she led him to the light.
Vinicius woke again; but his dreaming ceased slowly, and he did not
recover at once the sense of reality. It seemed for a time to him that
he was still on the lake, and surrounded by crowds, among which, not
knowing the reason himself, he began to look for Petronius, and was
astonished not to find him. The bright light from the chimney, at which
there was no one at that time, brought him completely to his senses.
Olive sticks were burning slowly under the rosy ashes; but the splinters
of pine, which evidently had been put there some moments before, shot up
a bright flame, and in the light of this, Vinicius saw Lygia, sitting
not far from his bedside.
The sight of her touched him to the depth of his soul. He remembered
that she had spent the night before in Ostrianum, and had busied herself
the whole day in nursing him, and now when all had gone to rest, she was
the only one watching. It was easy to divine that she must be wearied,
for while sitting motionless her eyes were closed. Vinicius knew not
whether she was sleeping or sunk in thought. He looked at her profile,
at her drooping lashes, at her hands lying on her knees; and in his
pagan head the idea began to hatch with difficulty that at the side of
naked beauty, confident, and proud of Greek and Roman symmetry, there is
another in the world, new, immensely pure, in which a soul has its
He could not bring himself so far as to call it Christian, but, thinking
of Lygia, he could not separate her from the religion which she
confessed. He understood, even, that if all the others had gone to
rest, and she alone were watching, she whom he had injured, it was
because her religion commanded her to watch. But that thought, which
filled him with wonder for the religion, was disagreeable to him. He
would rather that Lygia acted thus out of love for him, his face, his
eyes, his statuesque form,--in a word for reasons because of which more
than once snow-white Grecian and Roman arms had been wound around his
Still he felt all at once, that, were she like other women, something
would be lacking in her. He was amazed, and knew not what was happening
in him; for he saw that new feelings of some kind were rising in him,
new likings, strange to the world in which he had lived hitherto.
She opened her eyes then, and, seeing that Vinicius was gazing at her,
she approached him and said,--"I am with thee."
"I saw thy soul in a dream," replied he.
NEXT morning he woke up weak, but with a cool head and free of fever.
It seemed to him that a whispered conversation had roused him; but when
he opened his eyes, Lygia was not there. Ursus, stooping before the
chimney, was raking apart the gray ashes, and seeking live coals beneath
them. When he found some, he began to blow, not with his mouth, but as
it were with the bellows of a blacksmith. Vinicius, remembering how
that man had crushed Croton the day before, examined with attention
befitting a lover of the arena his gigantic back, which resembled the
back of a Cyclops, and his limbs strong as columns.
"Thanks to Mercury that my neck was not broken by him," thought
Vinicius. "By Pollux! if the other Lygians are like this one, the
Danubian legions will have heavy work some time!"
But aloud he said, "Hei, slave!"
Ursus drew his head out of the chimney, and, smiling in a manner almost
friendly, said,--"God give thee a good day, lord, and good health; but I
am a free man, not a slave."
On Vinicius. who wished to question Ursus touching Lygia's birthplace,
these words produced a certain pleasant impression; for discourse with a
free though a common man was less disagreeable to his Roman and
patrician pride, than with a slave, in whom neither law nor custom
recognized human nature.
"Then thou dost not belong to Aulus?" asked he.
"No, lord, I serve Callina, as I served her mother, of my own will."
Here he hid his head again in the chimney, to blow the coals, on which
he had placed some wood. When he had finished, he took it out and
said,--"With us there are no slaves."
"Where is Lygia?" inquired Vinicius.
"She has gone out, and I am to cook food for thee. She watched over
thee the whole night."
"Why didst thou not relieve her?"
"Because she wished to watch, and it is for me to obey." Here his eyes
grew gloomy, and after a while he added:
"If I had disobeyed her, thou wouldst not be living."
"Art thou sorry for not having killed me?"
"No, lord. Christ has not commanded us to kill."
"But Atacinus and Croton?"
"I could not do otherwise," muttered Ursus. And he looked with regret
on his hands, which had remained pagan evidently, though his soul had
accepted the cross. Then be put a pot on the crane, and fixed his
thoughtful eyes on the fire.
"That was thy fault, lord," said he at last. "Why didst thou raise thy
hand against her, a king's daughter?"
Pride boiled up, at the first moment, in Vinicius, because a common man
and a barbarian had not merely dared to speak to him thus familiarly,
but to blame him in addition. To those uncommon and improbable things
which had met him since yesterday, was added another. But being weak
and without his slaves, he restrained himself, especially since a wish
to learn some details of Lygia's life gained the upper hand in him.
When he had calmed himself, therefore, he inquired about the war of the
Lygians against Vannius and the Suevi. Ursus was glad to converse, but
could not add much that was new to what in his time Aulus Plautius had
told. Ursus had not been in battle, for he had attended the hostages to
the camp of Atelius Hister. He knew only that the Lygians had beaten
the Suevi and the Yazygi, but that their leader and king had fallen from
the arrows of the Yazygi. Immediately after they received news that the
Semnones had set fire to forests on their boundaries, they returned in
haste to avenge the wrong, and the hostages remained with Atelius, who
ordered at first to give them kingly honors. Afterward Lygia's mother
died. The Roman commander knew not what to do with the child. Ursus
wished to return with her to their own country, but the road was unsafe
because of wild beasts and wild tribes. When news came that an embassy
of Lygians had visited Pomponius, offering him aid against the
Marcomani, Hister sent him with Lygia to Pomponius. When they came to
him they learned, however, that no ambassadors had been there, and in
that way they remained in the camp; whence Pomponius took them to Rome,
and at the conclusion of his triumph he gave the king's daughter to
Though only certain small details of this narrative had been unknown to
Vinicius, he listened with pleasure, for his enormous pride of family
was pleased that an eye-witness had confirmed Lygia's royal descent. As
a king's daughter she might occupy a position at Cęsar's court equal to
the daughters of the very first families, all the more since the nation
whose ruler her father had been, had not warred with Rome so far, and,
though barbarian, it might become terrible; for, according to Atelius
Hister himself, it possessed an immense force of warriors. Ursus,
moreover, confirmed this completely.
"We live in the woods," said he, in answer to Vinicius, "but we have so
much land that no man knows where the end is, and there are many people
on it. There are also wooden towns in the forest, in which there is
great plenty; for what the Semnones, the Marcomani, the Vandals, and the
Quadi plunder through the world, we take from them. They dare not come
to us; but when the wind blows from their side, they burn our forests.
We fear neither them nor the Roman Cęsar."
"The gods gave Rome dominion over the earth," said Vinicius severely.
"The gods are evil spirits," replied Ursus, with simplicity, "and where
there are no Romans, there is no supremacy."
Here he fixed the fire, and said, as if to himself,--"When Cęsar took
Callina to the palace, and I thought that harm might meet her, I wanted
to go to the forest and bring Lygians to help the king's daughter. And
Lygians would have moved toward the Danube, for they are virtuous people
though pagan. There I should have given them 'good tidings.' But as it
is, if ever Callina returns to Pomponia Gręcina I will bow down to her
for permission to go to them; for Christus was born far away, and they
have not even heard of Him. He knew better than I where He should be
born; but if He had come to the world with us, in the forests, we would
not have tortured Him to death, that is certain. We would have taken
care of the Child, and guarded Him, so that never should He want for
game, mushrooms, beaver-skins, or amber. And what we plundered from the
Suevi and the Marcomani we would have given Him, so that He might have
comfort and plenty."
Thus speaking, he put near the fire the vessel with food for Vinicius,
and was silent. His thoughts wandered evidently, for a time yet,
through the Lygian wildernesses, till the liquid began to boil; then he
poured it into a shallow plate, and, cooling it properly, said,--
"Glaucus advises thee, lord, to move even thy sound arm as little as
possible; Callina has commanded me to give thee food."
Lygia commanded! There was no answer to that. It did not even come to
Vinicius's head to oppose her will, just as if she had been the daughter
of Cęsar or a goddess. He uttered not a word, therefore; and Ursus,
sitting near his bed, took out the liquid with a small cup, and put it
to his mouth. He did this so carefully, and with such a kindly smile,
that Vinicius could not believe his own eyes, could not think him the
same terrible Titan who the day before had crushed Croton, and, rushing
on him like a storm, would have torn him to pieces but for Lygia's pity.
The young patrician, for the first time in life, began to ponder over
this: What can take place in the breast of a simple man, a barbarian,
and a servant?
But Ursus proved to be a nurse as awkward as painstaking; the cup was
lost among his herculean fingers so completely that there was no place
left for the mouth of the sick man. After a few fruitless efforts the
giant was troubled greatly, and said,--"Li! it would be easier to lead
an aurochs out of a snare."
The anxiety of the Lygian amused Vinicius, but his remark did not
interest him less. He had seen in circuses the terrible urus, brought
from wildernesses of the north, against which the most daring bestiarii
went with dread, and which yielded only to elephants in size and
"Hast thou tried to take such beasts by the horns?" inquired he, with
"Till the twentieth winter passed over me, I was afraid," answered
Ursus; "but after that it happened."
And he began to feed Vinicius still more awkwardly than before.
"I must ask Miriam or Nazarius," said he.
But now Lygia's pale face appeared from behind the curtain.
"I will assist directly," said she. And after a while she came from the
cubiculum, in which she had been preparing to sleep, as it seemed, for
she was in a single close tunic, called by the ancients capitium,
covering the breast completely, and her hair was unbound. Vinicius,
whose heart beat with more quickness at sight of her, began to upbraid
her for not thinking of sleep yet; but she answered joyously,--"I was
just preparing to sleep, but first I will take the place of Ursus."
She took the cup, and, sitting on the edge of the bed, began to give
food to Vinicius, who felt at once overcome and delighted. When she
inclined toward him, the warmth of her body struck him, and her unbound
hair fell on his breast. He grew pale from the impression; but in the
confusion and impulse of desires he felt also that that was a head dear
above all and magnified above all, in comparison with which the whole
world was nothing. At first he had desired her; now he began to love
her with a full breast. Before that, as generally in life and in
feeling, he had been, like all people of that time, a blind,
unconditional egotist, who thought only of himself; at present he began
to think of her.
After a while, therefore, he refused further nourishment; and though he
found inexhaustible delight in her presence and in looking at her, he
said,--"Enough! Go to rest, my divine one."
"Do not address me in that way," answered Lygia; "it is not proper for
me to hear such words."
She smiled at him, however, and said that sleep had fled from her, that
she felt no toil, that she would not go to rest till Glaucus came. He
listened to her words as to music; his heart rose with increasing
delight, increasing gratitude, and his thought was struggling to show
her that gratitude.
"Lygia," said he, after a moment of silence, "I did not know thee
hitherto. But I know now that I wished to attain thee by a false way;
hence I say, return to Pomponia Gręcina, and be assured that in future
no hand will be raised against thee."
Her face became sad on a sudden. "I should be happy," answered she,
"could I look at her, even from a distance; but I cannot return to her
"Why?" inquired Vinicius, with astonishment.
"We Christians know, through Acte, what is done on the Palatine. Hast
thou not heard that Cęsar, soon after my flight and before his departure
for Naples, summoned Aulus and Pomponia, and, thinking that they had
helped me, threatened them with his anger? Fortunately Aulus was able to
say to him, 'Thou knowest, lord, that a lie has never passed my lips; I
swear to thee now that we did not help her to escape, and we do not
know, as thou dost not, what has happened to her.' Cęsar believed, and
afterward forgot. By the advice of the elders I have never written to
mother where I am, so that she might take an oath boldly at all times
that she has no knowledge of me. Thou wilt not understand this,
perhaps, O Vinicius; but it is not permitted us to lie, even in a
question involving life. Such is the religion on which we fashion our
hearts; therefore I have not seen Pomponia from the hour when I left her
house. From time to time distant echoes barely reach her that I am
alive and not in danger."
Here a longing seized Lygia, and her eyes were moist with tears; but she
calmed herself quickly, and said,--"I know that Pomponia, too, yearns
for me; but we have consolation which others have not."
"Yes," answered Vinicius, "Christ is your consolation, but I do not
"Look at us! For us there are no partings, no pains, no sufferings; or
if they come they are turned into pleasure. And death itself, which for
you is the end of life, is for us merely its beginning,--the exchange of
a lower for a higher happiness, a happiness less calm for one calmer and
eternal. Consider what must a religion be which enjoins on us love even
for our enemies, forbids falsehood, purifies our souls from hatred, and
promises happiness inexhaustible after death."
"I heard those teachings in Ostrianum, and I have seen how ye acted with
me and with Chilo; when I remember your deeds, they are like a dream,
and it seems to me that I ought not to believe my ears or eyes. But
answer me this question: Art thou happy?"
"I am," answered Lygia. "One who confesses Christ cannot be unhappy."
Vinicius looked at her, as though what she said passed every measure of
"And hast thou no wish to return to Pomponia?"
"I should like, from my whole soul, to return to her; and shall return,
if such be God's will."
"I say to thee, therefore, return; and I swear by my lares that I will
not raise a hand against thee."
Lygia thought for a moment, and answered,--"No, I cannot expose those
near me to danger. Cęsar does not like the Plautiuses. Should I return
--thou knowest how every news is spread throughout Rome by slaves--my
return would be noised about in the city. Nero would hear of it surely
through his slaves, and punish Aulus and Pomponia,--at least take me
from them a second time."
"True," answered Vinicius, frowning, "that would be possible. He would
do so, even to show that his will must be obeyed. It is true that he
only forgot thee, or would remember thee, because the loss was not his,
but mine. Perhaps, if he took thee from Aulus and Pomponia, he would
send thee to me and I could give thee back to them."
"Vinicius, wouldst thou see me again on the Palatine?" inquired Lygia.
He set his teeth, and answered,--"No. Thou art right. I spoke like a
And all at once he saw before him a precipice, as it were without
bottom. He was a patrician, a military tribune, a powerful man; but
above every power of that world to which he belonged was a madman whose
will and malignity it was impossible to foresee. Only such people as
the Christians might cease to reckon with Nero or fear him,--people for
whom this whole world, with its separations and sufferings, was as
nothing; people for whom death itself was as nothing. All others had to
tremble before him. The terrors of the time in which they lived showed
themselves to Vinicius in all their monstrous extent. He could not
return Lygia to Aulus and Pomponia, then, through fear that the monster
would remember her, and turn on her his anger; for the very same reason,
if he should take her as wife, he might expose her, himself, and Aulus.
A moment of ill-humor was enough to ruin all. Vinicius felt, for the
first time in life, that either the world must change and be
transformed, or life would become impossible altogether. He understood
also this, which a moment before had been dark to him, that in such
times only Christians could be happy.
But above all, sorrow seized him, for he understood, too, that it was he
who had so involved his own life and Lygia's that out of the
complication there was scarcely an outcome. And under the influence of
that sorrow he began to speak:
"Dost thou know that thou art happier than I? Thou art in poverty, and
in this one chamber, among simple people, thou hast thy religion and thy
Christ; but I have only thee, and when I lacked thee I was like a beggar
without a roof above him and without bread. Thou art dearer to me than
the whole world. I sought thee, for I could not live without thee. I
wished neither feasts nor sleep. Had it not been for the hope of finding
thee, I should have cast myself on a sword. But I fear death, for if
dead I could not see thee. I speak the pure truth in saying that I
shall not be able to live without thee. I have lived so far only in the
hope of finding and beholding thee. Dost thou remember our
conversations at the house of Aulus? Once thou didst draw a fish for me
on the sand, and I knew not what its meaning was. Dost thou remember
how we played ball? I loved thee then above life, and thou hadst begun
already to divine that I loved thee. Aulus came, frightened us with
Libitina, and interrupted our talk. Pomponia, at parting, told
Petronius that God is one, all-mighty and all-merciful, but it did not
even occur to us that Christ was thy God and hers. Let Him give thee to
me and I will love Him, though He seems to me a god of slaves,
foreigners, and beggars. Thou sittest near me, and thinkest of Him
only. Think of me too, or I shall hate Him. For me thou alone art a
divinity. Blessed be thy father and mother; blessed the land which
produced thee! I should wish to embrace thy feet and pray to thee, give
thee honor, homage, offerings, thou thrice divine! Thou knowest not, or
canst not know, how I love thee."
Thus speaking, he placed his hand on his pale forehead and closed his
eyes. His nature never knew bounds in love or anger. He spoke with
enthusiasm, like a man who, having lost self-control, has no wish to
observe any measure in words or feelings. But he spoke from the depth
of his soul, and sincerely. It was to be felt that the pain, ecstasy,
desire, and homage accumulated in his breast had burst forth at last in
an irresistible torrent of words. To Lygia his words appeared
blasphemous, but still her heart began to beat as if it would tear the
tunic enclosing her bosom. She could not resist pity for him and his
suffering. She was moved by the homage with which he spoke to her. She
felt beloved and deified without bounds; she felt that that unbending
and dangerous man belonged to her now, soul and body, like a slave; and
that feeling of his submission and her own power filled her with
happiness. Her recollections revived in one moment. He was for her
again that splendid Vinicius, beautiful as a pagan god; he, who in the
house of Aulus had spoken to her of love, and roused as if from sleep
her heart half childlike at that time; he from whose embraces Ursus had
wrested her on the Palatine, as he might have wrested her from flames.
But at present, with ecstasy, and at the same time with pain in his
eagle face, with pale forehead and imploring eyes,--wounded, broken by
love, loving, full of homage and submissive,--he seemed to her such as
she would have wished him, and such as she would have loved with her
whole soul, therefore dearer than he had ever been before.
All at once she understood that a moment might come in which his love
would seize her and bear her away, as a whirlwind; and when she felt
this, she had the same impression that he had a moment before,--that she
was standing on the edge of a precipice. Was it for this that she had
left the house of Aulus? Was it for this that she had saved herself by
flight? Was it for this that she had hidden so long in wretched parts
of the city? Who was that Vinicius? An Augustian, a soldier, a
courtier of Nero! Moreover he took part in his profligacy and madness,
as was shown by that feast, which she could not forget; and he went with
others to the temples, and made offerings to vile gods, in whom he did
not believe, perhaps, but still he gave them official honor. Still more
he had pursued her to make her his slave and mistress, and at the same
time to thrust her into that terrible world of excess, luxury, crime,
and dishonor which calls for the anger and vengeance of God. He seemed
changed, it is true, but still he had just said to her that if she would
think more of Christ than of him, he was ready to hate Christ. It
seemed to Lygia that the very idea of any other love than the love of
Christ was a sin against Him and against religion. When she saw then
that other feelings and desires might be roused in the depth of her
soul, she was seized by alarm for her own future and her own heart.
At this moment of internal struggle appeared Glaucus, who had come to
care for the patient and study his health. In the twinkle of an eye,
anger and impatience were reflected on the face of Vinicius. He was
angry that his conversation with Lygia had been interrupted; and when
Glaucus questioned him, he answered with contempt almost. It is true
that he moderated himself quickly; but if Lygia had any illusions as to
this,--that what he had heard in Ostrianum might have acted on his
unyielding nature,--those illusions must vanish. He had changed only
for her; but beyond that single feeling there remained in his breast the
former harsh and selfish heart, truly Roman and wolfish, incapable not
only of the sweet sentiment of Christian teaching but even of gratitude.
She went away at last filled with internal care and anxiety. Formerly in
her prayers she had offered to Christ a heart calm, and really pure as a
tear. Now that calmness was disturbed. To the interior of the flower a
poisonous insect had come and began to buzz. Even sleep, in spite of
the two nights passed without sleep, brought her no relief. She dreamed
that at Ostrianum Nero, at the head of a whole band of Augustians,
bacchantes, corybantes, and gladiators, was trampling crowds of
Christians with his chariot wreathed in roses; and Vinicius seized her
by the arm, drew her to the quadriga, and, pressing her to his bosom,
whispered "Come with us."
FROM that moment Lygia showed herself more rarely in the common chamber,
and approached his couch less frequently. But peace did not return to
her. She saw that Vinicius followed her with imploring glance; that he
was waiting for every word of hers, as for a favor; that he suffered and
dared not complain, lest he might turn her away from him; that she alone
was his health and delight. And then her heart swelled with compassion.
Soon she observed, too, that the more she tried to avoid him, the more
compassion she had for him; and by this itself the more tender were the
feelings which rose in her. Peace left her. At times she said to
herself that it was her special duty to be near him always, first,
because the religion of God commands return of good for evil; second,
that by conversing with him, she might attract him to the faith. But at
the same time conscience told her that she was tempting herself; that
only love for him and the charm which he exerted were attracting her,
nothing else. Thus she lived in a ceaseless struggle, which was
intensified daily. At times it seemed that a kind of net surrounded
her, and that in trying to break through it she entangled herself more
and more. She had also to confess that for her the sight of him was
becoming more needful, his voice was becoming dearer, and that she had
to struggle with all her might against the wish to sit at his bedside.
When she approached him, and he grew radiant, delight filled her heart.
On a certain day she noticed traces of tears on his eyelids, and for the
first time in life the thought came to her, to dry them with kisses.
Terrified by that thought, and full of self-contempt, she wept all the
He was as enduring as if he had made a vow of patience. When at moments
his eyes flashed with petulance, self-will, and anger, he restrained
those flashes promptly, and looked with alarm at her, as if to implore
pardon. This acted still more on her. Never had she such a feeling of
being greatly loved as then; and when she thought of this, she felt at
once guilty and happy. Vinicius, too, had changed essentially. In his
conversations with Glaucus there was less pride. It occurred to him
frequently that even that poor slave physician and that foreign woman,
old Miriam, who surrounded him with attention, and Crispus, whom he saw
absorbed in continual prayer, were still human. He was astonished at
such thoughts, but he had them. After a time he conceived a liking for
Ursus, with whom he conversed entire days; for with him he could talk
about Lygia. The giant, on his part, was inexhaustible in narrative,
and while performing the most simple services for the sick man, he began
to show him also some attachment. For Vinicius, Lygia had been at all
times a being of another order, higher a hundred times than those around
her: nevertheless, he began to observe simple and poor people,--a thing
which he had never done before,--and he discovered in them various
traits the existence of which he had never suspected.
Nazarius, however, he could not endure, for it seemed to him that the
young lad had dared to fall in love with Lygia. He had restrained his
aversion for a long time, it is true; but once when he brought her two
quails, which he had bought in the market with his own earned money, the
descendant of the Quirites spoke out in Vinicius, for whom one who had
wandered in from a strange people had less worth than the meanest worm.
When he heard Lygia's thanks, he grew terribly pale; and when Nazarius
went out to get water for the birds, he said,--"Lygia, canst thou endure
that he should give thee gifts? Dost thou not know that the Greeks call
people of his nation Jewish dogs?"
"I do not know what the Greeks call them; but I know that Nazarius is a
Christian and my brother."
When she had said this she looked at Vinicius with astonishment and
regret, for he had disaccustomed her to similar outbursts; and he set
his teeth, so as not to tell her that he would have given command to
beat such a brother with sticks, or would have sent him as a compeditus
[A man who labors with chained feet] to dig earth in his Sicilian
vineyards. He restrained himself, however, throttled the anger within
him, and only after a while did he say,--"Pardon me, Lygia. For me thou
art the daughter of a king and the adopted child of Plautius." And he
subdued himself to that degree that when Nazarius appeared in the
chamber again, he promised him, on returning to his villa, the gift of a
pair of peacocks or flamingoes, of which he had a garden full.
Lygia understood what such victories over himself must have cost him;
but the oftener he gained them the more her heart turned to him. His
merit with regard to Nazarius was less, however, than she supposed.
Vinicius might be indignant for a moment, but he could not be jealous of
him. In fact the son of Miriam did not, in his eyes, mean much more
than a dog; besides, he was a child yet, who, if he loved Lygia, loved
her unconsciously and servilely. Greater struggles must the young
tribune have with himself to submit, even in silence, to that honor with
which among those people the name of Christ and His religion was
surrounded. In this regard wonderful things took place in Vinicius.
That was in every case a religion which Lygia believed; hence for that
single reason he was ready to receive it. Afterward, the more he
returned to health, the more he remembered the whole series of events
which had happened since that night at Ostrianum, and the whole series
of thoughts which had come to his head from that time, the more he was
astonished at the superhuman power of that religion which changed the
souls of men to their foundations. He understood that in it there was
something uncommon, something which had not been on earth before, and he
felt that could it embrace the whole world, could it ingraft on the
world its love and charity, an epoch would come recalling that in which
not Jupiter, but Saturn had ruled. He did not dare either to doubt the
supernatural origin of Christ, or His resurrection, or the other
miracles. The eye-witnesses who spoke of them were too trustworthy and
despised falsehood too much to let him suppose that they were telling
things that had not happened. Finally, Roman scepticism permitted
disbelief in the gods, but believed in miracles. Vinicius, therefore,
stood before a kind of marvellous puzzle which he could not solve. On
the other hand, however, that religion seemed to him opposed to the
existing state of things, impossible of practice, and mad in a degree
beyond all others. According to him, people in Rome and in the whole
world might be bad, but the order of things was good. Had Cęsar, for
example, been an honest man, had the Senate been composed, not of
insignificant libertines, but of men like Thrasea, what more could one
wish? Nay, Roman peace and supremacy were good; distinction among
people just and proper. But that religion, according to the
understanding of Vinicius, would destroy all order, all supremacy, every
distinction. What would happen then to the dominion and lordship of
Rome? Could the Romans cease to rule, or could they recognize a whole
herd of conquered nations as equal to themselves? That was a thought
which could find no place in the head of a patrician. As regarded him
personally, that religion was opposed to all his ideas and habits, his
whole character and understanding of life. He was simply unable to
imagine how he could exist were he to accept it. He feared and admired
it; but as to accepting it, his nature shuddered at that. He
understood, finally, that nothing save that religion separated him from
Lygia; and when he thought of this, he hated it with all the powers of
Still he acknowledged to himself that it had adorned Lygia with that
exceptional, unexplained beauty which in his heart had produced, besides
love, respect, besides desire, homage, and had made of that same Lygia a
being dear to him beyond all others in the world. And then he wished
anew to love Christ. And he understood clearly that he must either love
or hate Him; he could not remain indifferent. Meanwhile two opposing
currents were as if driving him: he hesitated in thoughts, in feelings;
he knew not how to choose, he bowed his head, however, to that God by
him uncomprehended, and paid silent honor for this sole reason, that He
was Lygia's God.
Lygia saw what was happening in him; she saw how he was breaking
himself, how his nature was rejecting that religion; and though this
mortified her to the death, compassion, pity, and gratitude for the
silent respect which he showed Christ inclined her heart to him with
irresistible force. She recalled Pomponia Gręcina and Aulus. For
Pomponia a source of ceaseless sorrow and tears that never dried was the
thought that beyond the grave she would not find Aulus. Lygia began now
to understand better that pain, that bitterness. She too had found a
being dear to her, and she was threatened by eternal separation from
this dear one.
At times, it is true, she was self-deceived, thinking that his soul
would open itself to Christ's teaching; but these illusions could not
remain. She knew and understood him too well. Vinicius a Christian!--
These two ideas could find no place together in her unenlightened head.
If the thoughtful, discreet Aulus had not become a Christian under the
influence of the wise and perfect Pomponia, how could Vinicius become
one? To this there was no answer, or rather there was only one,--that
for him there was neither hope nor salvation.
But Lygia saw with terror that that sentence of condemnation which hung
over him instead of making him repulsive made him still dearer simply
through compassion. At moments the wish seized her to speak to him of
his dark future; but once, when she had sat near him and told him that
outside Christian truth there was no life, he, having grown stronger at
that time, rose on his sound arm and placed his head on her knees
suddenly. "Thou art life!" said he. And that moment breath failed in
her breast, presence of mind left her, a certain quiver of ecstasy
rushed over her from head to feet. Seizing his temples with her hands,
she tried to raise him, but bent the while so that her lips touched his
hair; and for a moment both were overcome with delight, with themselves,
and with love, which urged them the one to the other.
Lygia rose at last and rushed away, with a flame in her veins and a
giddiness in her head; but that was the drop which overflowed the cup
filled already to the brim. Vinicius did not divine how dearly he would
have to pay for that happy moment, but Lygia understood that now she
herself needed rescue. She spent the night after that evening without
sleep, in tears and in prayer, with the feeling that she was unworthy to
pray and could not be heard. Next morning she went from the cubiculum
early, and, calling Crispus to the garden summer-house, covered with ivy
and withered vines, opened her whole soul to him, imploring him at the
same time to let her leave Miriam's house, since she could not trust
herself longer, and could not overcome her heart's love for Vinicius.
Crispus, an old man, severe and absorbed in endless enthusiasm,
consented to the plan of leaving Miriam's house, but he had no words of
forgiveness for that love, to his thinking sinful. His heart swelled
with indignation at the very thought that Lygia, whom he had guarded
since the time of her flight, whom he had loved, whom he had confirmed
in the faith, and on whom he looked now as a white lily grown up on the
field of Christian teaching undefiled by any earthly breath, could have
found a place in her soul for love other than heavenly. He had believed
hitherto that nowhere in the world did there beat a heart more purely
devoted to the glory of Christ. He wanted to offer her to Him as a
pearl, a jewel, the precious work of his own hands; hence the
disappointment which he felt filled him with grief and amazement.
"Go and beg God to forgive thy fault," said he, gloomily. "Flee before
the evil spirit who involved thee bring thee to utter fall, and before
thou oppose the Saviour. God died on the cross to redeem thy soul with
His blood, but thou hast preferred to love him who wished to make thee
his concubine. God saved thee by a miracle of His own hands, but thou
hast opened thy heart to impure desire, and hast loved the son of
darkness. Who is he? The friend and servant of Antichrist, his
copartner in crime and profligacy. Whither will he lead thee, if not to
that abyss and to that Sodom in which he himself is living, but which
God will destroy with the flame of His anger? But I say to thee, would
thou hadst died, would the walls of this house had fallen on thy head
before that serpent had crept into thy bosom and beslimed it with the
poison of iniquity."
And he was borne away more and more, for Lygia's fault filled him not
only with anger but with loathing and contempt for human nature in
general, and in particular for women, whom even Christian truth could
not save from Eve's weakness. To him it seemed nothing that the maiden
had remained pure, that she wished to flee from that love, that she had
confessed it with compunction and penitence. Crispus had wished to
transform her into an angel, to raise her to heights where love for
Christ alone existed, and she had fallen in love with an Augustian. The
very thought of that filled his heart with horror, strengthened by a
feeling of disillusion and disappointment. No, no, he could not forgive
her. Words of horror burned his lips like glowing coals; he struggled
still with himself not to utter them, but he shook his emaciated hands
over the terrified girl. Lygia felt guilty, but not to that degree.
She had judged even that withdrawal from Miriam's house would be her
victory over temptation, and would lessen her fault. Crispus rubbed her
into the dust; showed her all the misery and insignificance of her soul,
which she had not suspected hitherto. She had judged even that the old
presbyter, who from the moment of her flight from the Palatine had been
to her as a father, would show some compassion, console her, give her
courage, and strengthen her.
"I offer my pain and disappointment to God," said he, "but thou hast
deceived the Saviour also, for thou hast gone as it were to a quagmire
which has poisoned thy soul with its miasma. Thou mightst have offered
it to Christ as a costly vessel, and said to Him, 'Fill it with grace, O
Lord!' but thou hast preferred to offer it to the servant of the evil
one. May God forgive thee and have mercy on thee; for till thou cast
out the serpent, I who held thee as chosen-"
But he ceased suddenly to speak, for he saw that they were not alone.
Through the withered vines and the ivy, which was green alike in summer
and winter, he saw two men, one of whom was Peter the Apostle. The
other he was unable to recognize at once, for a mantle of coarse woollen
stuff, called cilicium, concealed a part of his face. It seemed to
Crispus for a moment that that was Chilo.
They, hearing the loud voice of Crispus, entered the summer-house and
sat on a stone bench. Peter's companion had an emaciated face; his
head, which was growing bald, was covered at the sides with curly hair;
he had reddened eyelids and a crooked nose; in the face, ugly and at the
same time inspired, Crispus recognized the features of Paul of Tarsus.
Lygia, casting herself on her knees, embraced Peter's feet, as if from
despair, and, sheltering her tortured head in the fold of his mantle,
remained thus in silence.
"Peace to your souls!" said Peter.
And seeing the child at his feet he asked what had happened. Crispus
began then to narrate all that Lygia had confessed to him,--her sinful
love, her desire to flee from Miriam's house,--and his sorrow that a
soul which he had thought to offer to Christ pure as a tear had defiled
itself with earthly feelings for a sharer in all those crimes into which
the pagan world had sunk, and which called for God's vengeance.
Lygia during his speech embraced with increasing force the feet of the
Apostle, as if wishing to seek refuge near them, and to beg even a
But the Apostle, when he had listened to the end, bent down and placed
his aged hand on her head; then he raised his eyes to the old presbyter,
and said,--"Crispus, hast thou not heard that our beloved Master was in
Cana, at a wedding, and blessed love between man and woman?"
Crispus's hands dropped, and he looked with astonishment on the speaker,
without power to utter one word. After a moment's silence Peter asked
again,--"Crispus, dost thou think that Christ, who permitted Mary of
Magdala to lie at his feet, and who forgave the public sinner, would
turn from this maiden, who is as pure as a lily of the field?"
Lygia nestled up more urgently to the feet of Peter, with sobbing,
understanding that she had not sought refuge in vain. The Apostle
raised her face, which was covered with tears, and said to her,--"While
the eyes of him whom thou lovest are not open to the light of truth,
avoid him, lest he bring thee to sin, but pray for him, and know that
there is no sin in thy love. And since it is thy wish to avoid
temptation, this will be accounted to thee as a merit. Do not suffer,
and do not weep; for I tell thee that the grace of the Redeemer has not
deserted thee, and that thy prayers will be heard; after sorrow will
come days of gladness."
When he had said this, he placed both hands on her head, and, raising
his eyes, blessed her. From his face there shone a goodness beyond that
The penitent Crispus began humbly to explain himself; "I have sinned
against mercy," said he; "but I thought that by admitting to her heart
an earthly love she had denied Christ."
"I denied Him thrice," answered Peter, "and still He forgave me, and
commanded me to feed His sheep."
"And because," concluded Crispus, "Vinicius is an Augustian."
"Christ softened harder hearts than his," replied Peter.
Then Paul of Tarsus, who had been silent so far, placed his finger on
his breast, pointing to himself, and said,--"I am he who persecuted and
hurried servants of Christ to their death; I am he who during the
stoning of Stephen kept the garments of those who stoned him; I am he
who wished to root out the truth in every part of the inhabited earth,
and yet the Lord predestined me to declare it in every land. I have
declared it in Judea, in Greece, on the Islands, and in this godless
city, where first I resided as a prisoner. And now when Peter, my
superior, has summoned me, I enter this house to bend that proud head to
the feet of Christ, and cast a grain of seed in that stony field, which
the Lord will fertilize, so that it may bring forth a bountiful
And he rose. To Crispus that diminutive hunchback seemed then that
which he was in reality,--a giant, who was to stir the world to its
foundations and gather in lands and nations.
PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:--"Have pity, carissime; imitate not in thy
letters the Lacedemonians or Julius Cęsar! Couldst thou, like Julius,
write Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered), I might understand
thy brevity. But thy letter means absolutely Veni, vidi, fugi (I came,
I saw, I fled). Since such a conclusion of the affair is directly
opposed to thy nature, since thou art wounded, and since, finally,
uncommon things are happening to thee, thy letter needs explanation. I
could not believe my eyes when I read that the Lygian giant killed
Croton as easily as a Caledonian dog would kill a wolf in the defiles of
Hibernia. That man is worth as much gold as he himself weighs, and it
depends on him alone to become a favorite of Cęsar. When I return to
the city, I must gain a nearer acquaintance with that Lygian, and have a
bronze statue of him made for myself. Ahenobarbus will burst from
curiosity, when I tell him that it is from nature. Bodies really
athletic are becoming rarer in Italy and in Greece; of the Orient no
mention need be made; the Germans, though large, have muscles covered
with fat, and are greater in bulk than in strength. Learn from the
Lygian if he is an exception, or if in his country there are more men
like him. Should it happen sometime to thee or me to organize games
officially, it would be well to know where to seek for the best bodies.
"But praise to the gods of the Orient and the Occident that thou hast
come out of such hands alive. Thou hast escaped, of course, because
thou art a patrician, and the son of a consul; but everything which has
happened astonishes me in the highest degree,--that cemetery where thou
wert among the Christians, they, their treatment of thee, the subsequent
flight of Lygia; finally, that peculiar sadness and disquiet which
breathes from thy short letter. Explain, for there are many points
which I cannot understand; and if thou wish the truth, I will tell thee
plainly, that I understand neither the Christians nor thee nor Lygia.
Wonder not that I, who care for few things on earth except my own
person, inquire of thee so eagerly. I have contributed to all this
affair of thine; hence it is my affair so far. Write soon, for I cannot
foresee surely when we may meet. In Bronzebeard's head plans change, as
winds do in autumn. At present, while tarrying in Beneventum, he has
the wish to go straightway to Greece, without returning to Rome.
Tigellinus, however, advises him to visit the city even for a time,
since the people, yearning overmuch for his person (read 'for games and
bread') may revolt. So I cannot tell how it will be. Should Achęa
overbalance, we may want to see Egypt. I should insist with all my
might on thy coming, for I think that in thy state of mind travelling
and our amusements would be a medicine, but thou mightst not find us.
Consider, then, whether in that case repose in thy Sicilian estates
would not be preferable to remaining in Rome. Write me minutely of
thyself, and farewell. I add no wish this time, except health; for, by
Pollux! I know not what to wish thee."
Vinicius, on receiving this letter, felt at first no desire to reply.
He had a kind of feeling that it was not worth while to reply, that an
answer would benefit no one in any way, that it would explain nothing.
Discontent, and a feeling of the vanity of life, possessed him. He
thought, moreover, that Petronius would not comprehend him in any case,
and that something had happened which would remove them from each other.
He could not come to an agreement with himself, even. When he returned
from the Trans-Tiber to his splendid "insula," he was exhausted, and
found for the first days a certain satisfaction in rest and in the
comfort and abundance about him. That satisfaction lasted but a short
time, however. He felt soon that he was living in vanity; that all
which so far had formed the interest of his life either had ceased to
exist for him or had shrunk to proportions barely perceptible. He had a
feeling as if those ties which hitherto had connected him with life had
been cut in his soul, and that no new ones had been formed. At the
thought that he might go to Beneventum and thence to Achęa, to swim in a
life of luxury and wild excess, he had a feeling of emptiness. "To what
end? What shall I gain from it?" These were the first questions which
passed through his head. And for the first time in life, also, he
thought that if he went, the conversation of Petronius, his wit, his
quickness, his exquisite outlining of thought, and his choice of apt
phrases for every idea might annoy him.
But solitude, too, had begun to annoy him. All his acquaintances were
with Cęsar in Beneventum; so he had to stay at home alone, with a head
full of thoughts, and a heart full of feelings which he could not
analyze. He had moments, however, in which he judged that if he could
converse with some one about everything that took place in him, perhaps
he might be able to grasp it all somehow, bring it to order, and
estimate it better. Under the influence of this hope, and after some
days of hesitation, he decided to answer Petronius; and, though not
certain that he would send the answer, he wrote it in the following
"It is thy wish that I write more minutely, agreed then; whether I shall
be able to do it more clearly, I cannot tell, for there are many knots
which I know not myself how to loosen. I described to thee my stay
among the Christians, and their treatment of enemies, among whom they
had a right to count both me and Chilo; finally, of the kindness with
which they nursed me, and of the disappearance of Lygia. No, my dear
friend, I was not spared because of being the son of a consul. Such
considerations do not exist for them, since they forgave even Chilo,
though I urged them to bury him in the garden. Those are people such as
the world has not seen hitherto, and their teaching is of a kind that
the world has not heard up to this time. I can say nothing else, and he
errs who measures them with our measure. I tell thee that, if I had
been lying with a broken arm in my own house, and if my own peoples,
even my own family, had nursed me, I should have had more comforts, of
course, but I should not have received half the care which I found among
"Know this, too, that Lygia is like the others. Had she been my sister
or my wife, she could not have nursed me more tenderly. Delight filled
my heart more than once, for I judged that love alone could inspire the
like tenderness. More than once I saw love in her look, in her face;
and, wilt thou believe me? among those simple people then in that poor
chamber, which was at once a culina and a triclinium, I felt happier
than ever before. No; she was not indifferent to me--and to-day even I
cannot think that she was. Still that same Lygia left Miriam's dwelling
in secret because of me. I sit now whole days with my head on my hands,
and think, Why did she do so? Have I written thee that I volunteered to
restore her to Aulus? True, she declared that to be impossible at
present, because Aulus and Pomponia had gone to Sicily, and because news
of her return going from house to house, through slaves, would reach the
Palatine, and Cęsar might take her from Aulus again. But she knew that
I would not pursue her longer; that I had left the way of violence;
that, unable to cease loving her or to live without her, I would bring
her into my house through a wreathed door, and seat her on a sacred skin
at my hearth. Still she fled! Why? Nothing was threatening her. Did
she not love me, she might have rejected me. The day before her flight,
I made the acquaintance of a wonderful man, a certain Paul of Tarsus,
who spoke to me of Christ and His teachings, and spoke with such power
that every word of his, without his willing it, turns all the
foundations of our society into ashes. That same man visited me after
her flight, and said: 'If God open thy eyes to the light, and take the
beam from them as He took it from mine, thou wilt feel that she acted
properly; and then, perhaps, thou wilt find her.' And now I am breaking
my head over these words, as if I had heard them from the mouth of the
Pythoness at Delphi. I seem to understand something. Though they love
people, the Christians are enemies of our life, our gods, and our
crimes; hence she fled from me, as from a man who belongs to our
society, and with whom she would have to share a life counted criminal
by Christians. Thou wilt say that since she might reject me, she had no
need to withdraw. But if she loved me? In that case she desired to
flee from love. At the very thought of this I wish to send slaves into
every alley in Rome, and command them to cry throughout the houses,
'Return, Lygia!' But I cease to understand why she fled. I should not
have stopped her from believing in her Christ, and would myself have
reared an altar to Him in the atrium. What harm could one more god do
me? Why might I not believe in him,--I who do not believe overmuch in
the old gods? I know with full certainty that the Christlans do not
lie; and they say that he rose from the dead. A man cannot rise from
the dead. That Paul of Tarsus, who is a Roman citizen, but who, as a
Jew, knows the old Hebrew writings, told me that the coming of Christ
was promised by prophets for whole thousands of years. All these are
uncommon things, but does not the uncommon surround us on every side?
People have not ceased talking yet of Apollonius of Tyana. Paul's
statement that there is one God, not a whole assembly of them, seems
sound to me. Perhaps Seneca is of this opinion, and before him many
others. Christ lived, gave Himself to be crucified for the salvation of
the world, and rose from the dead. All this is perfectly certain. I do
not see, therefore, a reason why I should insist on an opposite opinion,
or why I should not rear to Him an altar, if I am ready to rear one to
Serapis, for instance. It would not be difficult for me even to
renounce other gods, for no reasoning mind believes in them at present.
But it seems that all this is not enough yet for the Christians. It is
not enough to honor Christ, one must also live according to His
teachings; and here thou art on the shore of a sea which they command
thee to wade through.
"If I promised to do so, they themselves would feel that the promise was
an empty sound of words. Paul told me so openly. Thou knowest how I
love Lygia, and knowest that there is nothing that I would not do for
her. Still, even at her wish, I cannot raise Soracte or Vesuvius on my
shoulders, or place Thrasymene Lake on the palm of my hand, or from
black make my eyes blue, like those of the Lygians. If she so desired,
I could have the wish, but the change does not lie in my power. I am
not a philosopher, but also I am not so dull as I have seemed, perhaps,
more than once to thee. I will state now the following: I know not how
the Christians order their own lives, but I know that where their
religion begins, Roman rule ends, Rome itself ends, our mode of life
ends, the distinction between conquered and conqueror, between rich and
poor, lord and slave, ends, government ends, Cęsar ends, law and all the
order of the world ends; and in place of those appear Christ, with a
certain mercy not existent hitherto, and kindness, opposed to human and
our Roman instincts. It is true that Lygia is more to me than all Rome
and its lordship; and I would let society vanish could I have her in my
house. But that is another thing. Agreement in words does not satisfy
the Christians; a man must feel that their teaching is truth, and not
have aught else in his soul. But that, the gods are my witnesses, is
beyond me. Dost understand what that means? There is something in my
nature which shudders at this religion; and were my lips to glorify it,
were I to conform to its precepts, my soul and my reason would say that
I do so through love for Lygia, and that apart from her there is to me
nothing on earth more repulsive. And, a strange thing, Paul of Tarsus
understands this, and so does that old theurgus Peter, who in spite of
all his simplicity and low origin is the highest among them, and was the
disciple of Christ. And dost thou know what they are doing? They are
praying for me, and calling down something which they call grace; but
nothing descends on me, save disquiet, and a greater yearning for Lygia.
"I have written thee that she went away secretly; but when going she
left me a cross which she put together from twigs of boxwood. When I
woke up, I found it near my bed. I have it now in the lararium, and I
approach it yet, I cannot tell why, as if there were something divine in
it,--that is, with awe and reverence. I love it because her hand bound
it, and I hate it because it divides us. At times it seems to me that
there are enchantments of some kind in all this affair, and that the
theurgus, Peter, though he declares himself to be a simple shepherd, is
greater than Apollonius, and all who preceded him, and that he has
involved us all--Lygia, Pomponia, and me--with them.
"Thou hast written that in my previous letter disquiet and sadness are
visible. Sadness there must be, for I have lost her again, and there is
disquiet because something has changed in me. I tell thee sincerely,
that nothing is more repugnant to my nature than that religion, and
still I cannot recognize myself since I met Lygia. Is it enchantment,
or love? Circe changed people's bodies by touching them, but my soul
has been changed. No one but Lygia could have done that, or rather
Lygia through that wonderful religion which she professes. When I
returned to my house from the Christians, no one was waiting for me.
The slaves thought that I was in Beneventum, and would not return soon;
hence there was disorder in the house. I found the slaves drunk, and a
feast, which they were giving themselves, in my triclinium. They had
more thought of seeing death than me, and would have been less terrified
by it. Thou knowest with what a firm hand I hold my house; all to the
last one dropped on their knees, and some fainted from terror. But dost
thou know how I acted? At the first moment I wished to call for rods
and hot iron, but immediately a kind of shame seized me, and, wilt thou
lend belief? a species of pity for those wretched people. Among them
are old slaves whom my grandfather, Marcus Vinicius, brought from the
Rhine in the time of Augustus. I shut myself up alone in the library,
and there came stranger thoughts still to my head; namely, that after
what I had heard and seen among the Christians, it did not become me to
act with slaves as I had acted hitherto--that they too were people. For
a number of days they moved about in mortal terror, in the belief that I
was delaying so as to invent punishment the more cruel, but I did not
punish, and did not punish because I was not able. Summoning them on
the third day, I said, 'I forgive you; strive then with earnest service
to correct your fault!' They fell on their knees, covering their faces
with tears, stretching forth their hands with groans, and called me lord
and father; but I--with shame do I write this--was equally moved. It
seemed to me that at that moment I was looking at the sweet face of
Lygia, and her eyes filled with tears, thanking me for that act. And,
proh pudor! I felt that my lips too were moist. Dost know what I will
confess to thee? This--that I cannot do without her, that it is ill for
me alone, that I am simply unhappy, and that my sadness is greater than
thou wilt admit. But, as to my slaves, one thing arrested my attention.
The forgiveness which they received not only did not make them insolent,
not only did not weaken discipline, but never had fear roused them to
such ready service as has gratitude. Not only do they serve, but they
seem to vie with one another to divine my wishes. I mention this to
thee because, when, the day before I left the Christians, I told Paul
that society would fall apart because of his religion, as a cask without
hoops, he answered, 'Love is a stronger hoop than fear.' And now I see
that in certain cases his opinion may be right. I have verified it also
with references to clients, who, learning of my return, hurried to
salute me. Thou knowest that I have never been penurious with them; but
my father acted haughtily with clients on principle, and taught me to
treat them in like manner. But when I saw their worn mantles and hungry
faces, I had a feeling something like compassion. I gave command to
bring them food, and conversed besides with them,--called some by name,
some I asked about their wives and children,--and again in the eyes
before me I saw tears; again it seemed to me that Lygia saw what I was
doing, that she praised and was delighted. Is my mind beginning to
wander, or is love confusing my feelings? I cannot tell. But this I do
know; I have a continual feeling that she is looking at me from a
distance, and I am afraid to do aught that might trouble or offend her.
"So it is, Caius! but they have changed my soul, and sometimes I feel
well for that reason. At times again I am tormented with the thought,
for I fear that my manhood and energy are taken from me; that, perhaps,
I am useless, not only for counsel, for judgment, for feasts, but for
war even. These are undoubted enchantments! And to such a degree am I
changed that I tell thee this, too, which came to my head when I lay
wounded: that if Lygia were like Nigidia, Poppęa, Crispinilla, and our
divorced women, if she were as vile, as pitiless, and as cheap as they,
I should not love her as I do at present. But since I love her for that
which divides us, thou wilt divine what a chaos is rising in my soul, in
what darkness I live, how it is that I cannot see certain roads before
me, and how far I am from knowing what to begin. If life may be
compared to a spring, in my spring disquiet flows instead of water. I
live through the hope that I shall see her, perhaps, and sometimes it
seems to me that I shall see her surely. But what will happen to me in
a year or two years, I know not, and cannot divine. I shall not leave
Rome. I could not endure the society of the Augustians; and besides,
the one solace in my sadness and disquiet is the thought that I am near
Lygia, that through Glaucus the physician, who promised to visit me, or
through Paul of Tarsus, I can learn something of her at times. No; I
would not leave Rome, even were ye to offer me the government of Egypt.
Know also, that I have ordered the sculptor to make a stone monument for
Gulo, whom I slew in anger. Too late did it come to my mind that he had
carried me in his arms, and was the first to teach me how to put an
arrow on a bow. I know not why it was that a recollection of him rose
in me which was sorrow and reproach. If what I write astonish thee, I
reply that it astonishes me no less, but I write pure truth.--Farewell."
VINICUS received no answer to this letter. Petronius did not write,
thinking evidently that Cęsar might command a return to Rome any day.
In fact, news of it was spread in the city, and roused great delight in
the hearts of the rabble, eager for games with gifts of grain and
olives, great supplies of which had been accumulated in Ostia. Helius,
Nero's freedman, announced at last the return in the Senate. But Nero,
having embarked with his court on ships at Misenum, returned slowly,
disembarking at coast towns for rest, or exhibitions in theatres. He
remained between ten and twenty days in Minturna, and even thought to
return to Naples and wait there for spring, which was earlier than
usual, and warm. During all this time Vinicius lived shut up in his
house, thinking of Lygia, and all those new things which occupied his
soul, and brought to it ideas and feelings foreign to it thus far. He
saw, from time to time, only Glaucus the physician, every one of whose
visits delightcd him, for he could converse with the man about Lygia.
Glaucus knew not, it is true, where she had found refuge, but he gave
assurance that the elders were protecting her with watchful care. Once
too, when moved by the sadness of Vinicius, he told him that Peter had
blamed Crispus for reproaching Lygia with her love. The young
patrician, hearing this, grew pale from emotion. He had thought more
than once that Lygia was not indifferent to him, but he fell into
frequent doubt and uncertainty. Now for the first time he heard the
confirmation of his desires and hopes from strange lips, and, besides,
those of a Christian. At the first moment of gratitude he wished to run
to Peter. When he learned, however, that he was not in the city, but
teaching in the neighborhood, he implored Glaucus to accompany him
thither, promising to make liberal gifts to the poor community. It
seemed to him, too, that if Lygia loved him, all obstacles were thereby
set aside, as he was ready at any moment to honor Christ. Glaucus,
though he urged him persistently to receive baptism, would not venture
to assure him that he would gain Lygia at once, and said that it was
necessary to desire the religion for its own sake, through love of
Christ, not for other objects. "One must have a Christian soul, too,"
said he. And Vinicius, though every obstacle angered him, had begun to
understand that Glaucus, as a Christian, said what he ought to say. He
had not become clearly conscious that one of the deepest changes in his
nature was this,--that formerly he had measured people and things only
by his own selfishness, but now he was accustoming himself gradually to
the thought that other eyes might see differently, other hearts feel
differently, and that justice did not mean always the same as personal
He wished often to see Paul of Tarsus, whose discourse made him curious
and disturbed him. He arranged in his mind arguments to overthrow his
teaching, he resisted him in thought; still he wished to see him and to
hear him. Paul, however, had gone to Aricium, and, since the visits of
Glaucus had become rarer, Vinicius was in perfect solitude. He began
again to run through back streets adjoining the Subura, and narrow lanes
of the Trans-Tiber, in the hope that even from a distance he might see
Lygia. When even that hope failed him, weariness and impatience began
to rise in his heart. At last the time came when his former nature was
felt again mightily, like that onrush of a wave to the shore from which
it had receded. It seemed to him that he had been a fool to no purpose,
that he had stuffed his head with things which brought sadness, that he
ought to accept from life what it gives. He resolved to forget Lygia,
or at least to seek pleasure and the use of things aside from her. He
felt that this trial, however, was the last, and he threw himself into
it with all the blind energy of impulse peculiar to him. Life itself
seemed to urge him to this course.
THE APPIAN WAY. From the painting by G. Boulanger.
The city, torpid and depopulated by winter, began to revive with hope of
the near coming of Cęsar. A solemn reception was in waiting for him.
Meanwhile spring was there; the snow on the Alban Hills had vanished
under the breath of winds from Africa. Grass-plots in the gardens were
covered with violets. The Forums and the Campus Martius were filled
with people warmed by a sun of growing heat. Along the Appian Way, the
usual place for drives outside the city, a movement of richly ornamented
chariots had begun. Excursions were made to the Alban Hills. Youthful
women, under pretext of worshipping Juno in Lanuvium, or Diana in
Aricia, left home to seek adventures, society, meetings, and pleasure
beyond the city. Here Vinicius saw one day among lordly chariots the
splendid car of Chrysothemis, preceded by two Molossian dogs; it was
surrounded by a crowd of young men and by old senators, whose position
detained them in the city. Chrysothemis, driving four Corsican ponies
herself, scattered smiles round about, and light strokes of a golden
whip; but when she saw Vinicius she reined in her horses, took him into
her car, and then to a feast at her house, which lasted all night. At
that feast Vinicius drank so much that he did not remember when they
took him home; he recollected, however, that when Chrysothemis mentioned
Lygia he was offended, and, being drunk, emptied a goblet of Falernian
on her head. When he thought of this in soberness, he was angrier
still. But a day later Chrysothemis, forgetting evidently the injury,
visited him at his house, and took him to the Appian Way a second time.
Then she supped at his house, and confessed that not only Petronius, but
his lute-player, had grown tedious to her long since, and that her heart
was free now. They appeared together for a week, but the relation did
not promise permanence. After the Falernian incident, however, Lygia's
name was never mentioned, but Vinicius could not free himself from
thoughts of her. He had the feeling always that her eyes were looking
at his face, and that feeling filled him, as it were, with fear. He
suffered, and could not escape the thought that he was saddening Lygia,
or the regret which that thought roused in him. After the first scene
of jealousy which Chrysothemis made because of two Syrian damsels whom
he purchased, he let her go in rude fashion. He did not cease at once
from pleasure and license, it is true, but he followed them out of
spite, as it were, toward Lygia. At last he saw that the thought of her
did not leave him for an instant; that she was the one cause of his evil
activity as well as his good; and that really nothing in the world
occupied him except her. Disgust, and then weariness, mastered him.
Pleasure had grown loathsome, and left mere reproaches. It seemed to
him that he was wretched, and this last feeling filled him with
measureless astonishment, for formerly he recognized as good everything
which pleased him. Finally, he lost freedom, self-confidence, and fell
into perfect torpidity, from which even the news of Cęsar's coming could
not rouse him. Nothing touched him, and he did not visit Petronius till
the latter sent an invitation and his litter.
On seeing his uncle, though greeted with gladness, he replied to his
questions unwillingly; but his feelings and thoughts, repressed for a
long time, burst forth at last, and flowed from his mouth in a torrent
of words. Once more he told in detail the history of his search for
Lygia, his life among the Christians, everything which he had heard and
seen there, everything which had passed through his head and heart; and
finally he complained that he had fallen into a chaos, in which were
lost composure and the gift of distinguishing and judging. Nothing, he
said, attracted him, nothing was pleasing; he did not know what to hold
to, nor how to act. He was ready both to honor and persecute Christ; he
understood the loftiness of His teaching, but he felt also an
irresistible repugnance to it. He understood that, even should he
possess Lygia, he would not possess her completely, for he would have to
share her with Christ. Finally, he was living as if not living,--
without hope, without a morrow, without belief in happiness; around him
was darkness in which he was groping for an exit, and could not find it.
Petronius, during this narrative, looked at his changed face, at his
hands, which while speaking he stretched forth in a strange manner, as
if actually seeking a road in the darkness, and he fell to thinking.
All at once he rose, and, approaching Vinicius, caught with his fingers
the hair above his ear.
"Dost know," asked he, "that thou hast gray hairs on thy temple?"
"Perhaps I have," answered Vinicius; "I should not be astonished were
all my hair to grow white soon."
Silence followed. Petronius was a man of sense, and more than once he
meditated on the soul of man and on life. In general, life, in the
society in which they both lived, might be happy or unhappy externally,
but internally it was at rest. Just as a thunderbolt or an earthquake
might overturn a temple, so might misfortune crush a life. In itself,
however, it was composed of simple and harmonious lines, free of
complication. But there was something else in the words of Vinicius,
and Petronius stood for the first time before a series of spiritual
snarls which no one had straightened out hitherto. He was sufficiently
a man of reason to feel their importance, but with all his quickness he
could not answer the questions put to him. After a long silence, he
said at last,--
"These must be enchantments."
"I too have thought so," answered Vinicius; "more than once it seemed to
me that we were enchanted, both of us."
"And if thou," said Petronius, "were to go, for example, to the priests
of Serapis? Among them, as among priests in general, there are many
deceivers, no doubt; but there are others who have reached wonderful
He said this, however, without conviction and with an uncertain voice,
for he himself felt how empty and even ridiculous that counsel must seem
on his lips.
Vinicius rubbed his forehead, and said: "Enchantments! I have seen
sorcerers who employed unknown and subterranean powers to their personal
profit; I have seen those who used them to the harm of their enemies.
But these Christians live in poverty, forgive their enemies, preach
submission, virtue, and mercy; what profit could they get from
enchantments, and why should they use them?"
Petronius was angry that his acuteness could find no reply; not wishing,
however, to acknowledge this, he said, so as to offer an answer of some
kind,--"That is a new sect." After a while he added: "By the divine
dweller in Paphian groves, how all that injures life! Thou wilt admire
the goodness and virtue of those people; but I tell thee that they are
bad, for they are enemies of life, as are diseases, and death itself.
As things are, we have enough of these enemies; we do not need the
Christians in addition. Just count them: diseases, Cęsar, Tigellinus,
Cęsar's poetry, cobblers who govern the descendants of ancient Quirites,
freedmen who sit in the Senate. By Castor! there is enough of this.
That is a destructive and disgusting sect. Hast thou tried to shake
thyself out of this sadness, and make some little use of life?"
"I have tried," answered Vinicins.
"Ah, traitor!" said Petronius, laughing; "news spreads quickly through
slaves; thou hast seduced from me Chrysothemis!"
Vinicius waved his hand in disgust.
"In every case I thank thee," said Petronius. "I will send her a pair
of slippers embroidered with pearls. In my language of a lover that
means, 'Walk away.' I owe thee a double gratitude,--first, thou didst
not accept Eunice; second, thou hast freed me from Chrysothemis. Listen
to me! Thou seest before thee a man who has risen early, bathed,
feasted, possessed Chrysothemis, written satires, and even at times
interwoven prose with verses, but who has been as wearied as Cęsar, and
often unable to unfetter himself from gloomy thoughts. And dost thou
know why that was so? It was because I sought at a distance that which
was near. A beautiful woman is worth her weight always in gold; but if
she loves in addition, she has simply no price. Such a one thou wilt
not buy with the riches of Verres. I say now to myself as follows: I
will fill my life with happiness, as a goblet with the foremost wine
which the earth has produced, and I will drink till my hand becomes
powerless and my lips grow pale. What will come, I care not; and this
is my latest philosophy."
"Thou hast proclaimed it always; there is nothing new in it."
"There is substance, which was lacking."
When he had said this, he called Eunice, who entered dressed in white
drapery,--the former slave no longer, but as it were a goddess of love
Petronius opened his arms to her, and said,--"Come."
At this she ran up to him, and, sitting on his knee, surrounded his neck
with her arms, and placed her head on his breast. Vinicius saw how a
reflection of purple began to cover her cheeks, how her eyes melted
gradually in mist. They formed a wonderful group of love and happiness.
Petronius stretched his hand to a flat vase standing at one side on a
table, and, taking a whole handful of violets, covered with them the
head, bosom, and robe of Eunice; then he pushed the tunic from her arms,
"Happy he who, like me, has found love enclosed in such a form! At
times it seems to me that we are a pair of gods. Look thyself! Has
Praxiteles, or Miron, or Skopas, or Lysias even, created more wonderful
lines? Or does there exist in Paros or in Pentelicus such marble as
this,--warm, rosy, and full of love? There are people who kiss off the
edges of vases, but I prefer to look for pleasure where it may be found
He began to pass his lips along her shoulders and neck. She was
penetrated with a quivering; her eyes now closed, now opened, with an
expression of unspeakable delight. Petronius after a while raised her
exquisite head, and said, turning to Vinicius,--"But think now, what are
thy gloomy Christians in comparison with this? And if thou understand
not the difference, go thy way to them. But this sight will cure thee."
Vinicius distended his nostrils, through which entered the odor of
violets, which filled the whole chamber, and he grew pale; for he
thought that if he could have passed his lips along Lygia's shoulders in
that way, it would have been a kind of sacrilegious delight so great
that let the world vanish afterward! But accustomed now to a quick
perception of that which took place in him, he noticed that at that
moment he was thinking of Lygia, and of her only.
"Eunice," said Petronius, "give command, thou divine one, to prepare
garlands for our heads and a meal."
When she had gone out he turned to Vinicius.
"I offered to make her free, but knowest thou what she answered?--'I
would rather be thy slave than Cęsar's wife!' And she would not
consent. I freed her then without her knowledge. The pretor favored me
by not requiring her presence. But she does not know that she is free,
as also she does not know that this house and all my jewels, excepting
the gems, will belong to her in case of my death." He rose and walked
through the room, and said: "Love changes some more, others less, but it
has changed even me. Once I loved the odor of verbenas; but as Eunice
prefers violets, I like them now beyond all other flowers, and since
spring came we breathe only violets."
Here he stopped before Vinicius and inquired,--"But as to thee, dost
thou keep always to nard?"
"Give me peace!" answered the young man.
"I wished thee to see Eunice, and I mentioned her to thee, because thou,
perhaps, art seeking also at a distance that which is near. Maybe for
thee too is beating, somewhere in the chambers of thy slaves, a true and
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