VINICIUS did not lie down that night. Some time after the departure o_etronius, when the groans of his flogged slaves could allay neither his rag_or his pain, he collected a crowd of other servants, and, though the nigh_as far advanced, rushed forth at the head of these to look for Lygia. H_isited the district of the Esquiline, then the Subura, Vicus Sceleratus, an_ll the adjoining alleys. Passing next around the Capitol, he went to th_sland over the bridge of Fabricius; after that he passed through a part o_he TransTiber. But that was a pursuit without object, for he himself had n_ope of finding Lygia, and if he sought her it was mainly to fill out wit_omething a terrible night. In fact he returned home about daybreak, when th_arts and mules of dealers in vegetables began to appear in the city, and whe_akers were opening their shops.
On returning he gave command to put away Gubo's corpse, which no one ha_entured to touch. The slaves from whom Lygia had been taken he sent to rura_risons, — a punishment almost more dreadful than death. Throwing himself a_ast on a couch in the atrium, he began to think confusedly of how he was t_ind and seize Lygia.
To resign her, to lose her, not to see her again, seemed to him impossible; and at this thought alone frenzy took hold of him. For the first time in lif_he imperious nature of the youthful soldier met resistance, met anothe_nbending will, and he could not understand simply how any one could have th_aring to thwart his wishes. Vinicius would have chosen to see the world an_he city sink in ruins rather than fail of his purpose. The cup of delight ha_een snatched from before his lips almost; hence it seemed to him tha_omething unheard of had happened, something crying to divine and human law_or vengeance.
But, first of all, he was unwilling and unable to be reconciled with fate, fo_ever in life had he so desired anything as Lygia. It seemed to him that h_ould not exist without her. He could not tell himself what he was to d_ithout her on the morrow, how he was to survive the days following. A_oments he was transported by a rage against her, which approached madness. H_anted to have her, to beat her, to drag her by the hair to the cubiculum, an_loat over her; then, again, he was carried away by a terrible yearning fo_er voice, her form, her eyes, and he felt that he would be ready to lie a_er feet. He called to her, gnawed his fingers, clasped his head with hi_ands. He strove with all his might to think calmly about searching for her, — and was unable. A thousand methods and means flew through his head, but on_ilder than another. At last the thought flashed on him that no one else ha_ntercepted her but Aulus, that in every case Aulus must know where she wa_iding. And he sprang up to run to the house of Aulus.
If they will not yield her to him, if they have no fear of his threats, h_ill go to Caesar, accuse the old general of disobedience, and obtain _entence of death against him; but before that, he will gain from them _onfession of where Lygia is. If they give her, even willingly, he will b_evenged. They received him, it is true, in their house and nursed him, — bu_hat is nothing! With this one injustice they have freed him from every deb_f gratitude. Here his vengeful and stubborn soul began to take pleasure a_he despair of Pomponia Gr~ecina, when the centurion would bring the deat_entence to old Aulus. He was almost certain that he would get it. Petroniu_ould assist him. Moreover, Caesar never denies anything to his intimates, th_ugustians, unless personal dislike or desire enjoins a refusal.
Suddenly his heart almost died within him, under the influence of thi_errible supposition, — "But if Caesar himself has taken Lygia?"
All knew that Nero from tedium sought recreation in night attacks. Eve_etronius took part in these amusements. Their main object was to seize wome_nd toss each on a soldier's mantle till she fainted. Even Nero himself o_ccasions called these expeditions "pearl hunts," for it happened that in th_epth of districts occupied by a numerous and needy population they caught _eal pearl of youth and beauty sometimes. Then the "sagatio," as they terme_he tossing, was changed into a genuine carrying away, and the pearl was sen_ither to the Palatine or to one of Caesar's numberless villas, or finall_aesar yielded itto one of his intimates. So might it happen also with Lygia.
Caesar had seen her during the feast; and Vinicius doubted not for an instan_hat she must have seemed to him the most beautiful woman he had seen yet. Ho_ould it be otherwise? It is true that Lygia had been in Nero's own house o_he Palatine, and he might have kept her openly. But, as Petronius said truly, Caesar had no courage in crime, and, with power to act openly, he chose to ac_lways in secret. This time fear of Poppaera might incline him also t_ecrecy. It occurred now to the young soldier that Aulus would not have dared, perhaps, to carry off forcibly a girl given him, Vinicius, by Caesar. Besides, who would dare? Would that gigantic blue-eyed Lygian, who had the courage t_nter the triclinium and carry her from the feast on his arm? But where coul_e hide with her; whither could he take her? No! a slave would not hav_entured that far. Hence no one had done the deed except Caesar.
At this thought it grew dark in his eyes, and drops of sweat covered hi_orehead. In that case Lygia was lost to him forever. It was possible to wres_er from the hands of any one else, but not from the hands of Caesar. Now, with greater truth than ever, could he exclaim, "Vaqe misere mihi!" Hi_magination represented Lygia in Nero's arms, and, for the first time in life, he understood that there are thoughts which are simply beyond man's endurance.
He knew then, for the first time, how he loved her. As his whole life flashe_hrough the memory of a drowning man, so Lygia began to pass through his. Fl_aw her, heard every word of hers, — saw her at the fountain, saw her at th_ouse of Aulus, and at the feast; felt her near him, felt the odor of he_air, the warmth of her body, the delight of the kisses which at the feast h_ad pressed on her innocent lips. She seemed to him a hundred times sweeter, more beautiful, more desired than ever, — a hundred times more the only one, the one chosen from among all mortals and divinities. And when he thought tha_ll this which had become so fixed in his heart, which had become his bloo_nd life, might be possessed by Nero, a pain seized him, which was purel_hysical, and so piercing that he wanted to beat his head against the wall o_he atrium, until he should break it. He felt that he might go mad; and h_ould have gone mad beyond doubt, had not vengealice remained to him. But a_itherto he had thought that he could not live unless he got Lygia, he though_ow that he would not die till he had avenged her. This gave him a certai_ind of comfort. '~I will be thy Cassius Chaerea!"' said he to himself i_hinking of Nero. After a while, seizing earth in his hands from the flowe_ases surrounding the impluvium, he made a dreadful vow to Erebus, Hecate, an_is own household lares, that he would have vengeance.
And he received a sort of consolation. He had at least something to live fo_nd something with which to fill his nights and days. Then, dropping his ide_f visiting Aulus, he gave command to bear him to the Palatine. Along the wa_e concluded that if they would not admit him to Caesar, or if they should tr_o find weapons on his person, it would be a proof that Caesar had take_ygia. He had no weapons with him. He had lost presence of mind in general; but as is usual with persons possessed by a single idea, he preserved it i_hat which concerned his revenge. He did not wish his desire of revenge t_all away prematurely. He wished above all to see Acte, for he expected t_earn the truth from her. At moments the hope flashed on him that he might se_ygia also, and at that thought he began to tremble. For if Caesar had carrie_er away without knowledge of whom he was taking, he might return her tha_ay. But after a while he cast aside this supposition. Had there been a wis_o return her to him, she would have been sent yesterday. Acte was the onl_erson who could explain everything, and there was need to see her befor_thers.
Convinced of this, he commanded the slaves to hasten; and along the road h_hought without order, now of Lygia, now of revenge. He had heard tha_gyptian priests of the goddess Pasht could bring disease on whomever the_ished, and he determined to learn the means of doing this. In the Orient the_ad told him, too, that Jews have certain invocations by which they cove_heir enemies' bodies with ulcers. He had a number of Jews among his domesti_laves; hence he promised himself to torture them on his return till the_ivulged the secret. He found most delight, however, in thinking of the shor_oman sword which lets out a stream of blood such as had gushed from Caiu_aligula and made ineffaceable stains on the columns of the portico. He wa_eady to exterminate all Rome; and had vengeful gods promised that all peopl_hould die except him and Lygia, he would have accepted the promise.
In front of the arch he regained presence of mind, and thought when he saw th_retorian guard, "If they make the least difficulty in admitting me, they wil_rove that Lygia is in the palace by the will of Caesar."
But the chief centurion smiled at him in a friendly manner, then advanced _umber of steps, and said, — "A greeting, noble tribune. If thou desire t_ive an obeisance to Caesar, thou hast found an unfortunate moment. I do no_hink that thou wilt be able to see him."
"What has happened?" inquired Vinicius.
"The infant Augusta fell ill yesterday on a sudden. Caesar and the augus_oppsea are attending her, with physicians whom they have summoned from th_hole city."
This was an important event. When that daughter was born to him, Caesar wa_imply wild from delight, and received her with extra humanism gaudium.
Previously the senate had committed the womb of Poppae to the gods with th_tmost solemnity. A votive offering was made at Antium, where the deliver_ook place; splendid games were celebrated, and besides a temple was erecte_o the two Fortunes. Nero, unable to be moderate in anything, loved the infan_eyond measure; to Poppae the child was dear also, even for this, that i_trengthened her position and made her influence irresistible.
The fate of the whole empire might depend on the health and life of the infan_ugusta; but Vinicius was so occupied with himself, his own case and his love, that without paying attention to the news of the centurion he answered, "_nly wish to see Acte." And he passed in.
But Acte was occupied also near the child, and he had to wait a long time t_ee her. She came only about midday, with a face pale and wearied, which gre_aler still at sight of Vinicius.
"Acre!" cried Vinicius, seizing her hand and drawing her to the middle of th_trium, "where is Lygia?"
"I wanted to ask thee touching that," answered she, looking him in the eye_ith reproach.
But though he had promised himself to inquire of her calmly, he pressed hi_ead with his hands again, and said, with a face distorted by pain and anger, — "She is gone. She was taken from me on the way!"
After a while, however, he recovered, and thrusting his face up to Acte's, said through his set teeth, — "Acte! If life be dear to thee, if thou wish no_o cause misfortunes which
thou are unable even to imagine, answer me truly. Did Caesar take her?"
"Caesar did not leave the palace yesterday."
"By the shade of thy mother, by all the gods, is she not in the palace?"
"By the shade of my mother, Marcus, she is not in the palace, and Caesar di_ot intercept her. The infant Augusta is ill since yesterday, and Nero has no_eft her cradle."
Vinicius drew breath. That which had seemed the most terrible ceased t_hreaten him.
"Ah, then," said he, sitting on the bench and clinching his fists, "Aulu_ntercepted her, and in that case woe to him!"
"Aulus Plautius was here this morning. He could not see me, for I was occupie_ith the child; but he inquired of Epaphroditus, and others of Caesar'_ervants, touching Lygia, and told them that he would come again to see me."
"He wished to turn suspicion from himself. If he knew not what happened, h_ould have come to seek Lygia in my house."
"He left a few words on a tablet, from which thou wilt see that, knowing Lygi_o have been taken from his house by Caesar, at thy request and that o_etronius, he expected that she would be sent to thee, and this morning earl_e was at thy house, where they told him what had happened."
When she had said this, she went to the cubiculum and returned soon with th_ablet which Aulus had left.
Vinicius read the tablet, and was silent; Acte seemed to read the thoughts o_is gloomy face, for she said after a while, — "No, Marcus. That has happene_hich Lygia herself wished." "It was known to thee that she wished to flee!"
burst out Vinicius. "I knew that she would not become thy concubine." And sh_ooked at him with her misty eyes almost sternly. "And thou, — what hast tho_een all thy life?" "I was a slave, first of all."
But Vinicius did not cease to be enraged. Caesar had given him Lygia; hence h_ad no need to inquire what she had been before. He would find her, even unde_he earth, and he would do what he liked with her. He would indeed! She shoul_e his concubine. He would give command to flog her as often as he pleased. I_he grew distasteful to him, he would give her to the lowest of his slaves, o_e would command her to turn a handmill on his lands in Africa. He would see_er out now, and find her only to bend her, to trample on her, and conque_er.
And, growing more and more excited, he lost every sense of measure, to th_egree that even Acte saw that he was promising more than he could execute; that he was talking because of pain and anger. She might have had eve_ompassion on him, but his extravagance exhausted her patience, and at las_he inquired why he had come to her.
Vinieius did not find an answer immediately. He had come to her because h_ished to come, because he judged that she would give him information; bu_eally he had come to Caesar, and, not being able to see him, he came to her.
Lygia, by fleeing, opposed the will of Caesar; hence he would implore him t_ive an order to search for her throughout the city and the empire, even if i_ame to using for that purpose all the legions, and to ransacking in tur_very house within Roman dominion. Petronius would support his prayer, and th_earch would begin from that day.
"Have a care," answered Acte, "lest thou lose her forever the moment she i_ound, at command of Ciesar."
Vinicius wrinkled his brows. "What does that mean?" inquired he.
"Listen to me, Marcus. Yesterday Lygia and I were in the gardens here, and w_et Popp~ra, with the infant Augusta, borne by an African woman, Liith. In th_vening the child fell ill, and Liith insists that she was bewitched; tha_hat foreign woman whom they met in the garden bewitched her. Should the chil_ecover, they will forget this, but in the opposite case Poppae will be th_irst to accuse Lygia of witchcraft, and wherever she is found there will b_o rescue for her."
A moment of silence followed; then Vinicius said, — "But perhaps she di_ewitch her, and has bewitched me."
"Lilith repeats that the child began to cry the moment she carried her pas_s. And really the child did begin to cry. It is certain that she was sic_hen they took her out of the garden. Marcus, seek for Lygia whenever it ma_lease thee, but till the infant Augusta recovers, speak not of her to Caesar, or thou wilt bring on her Poppaea's vengeance. Her eyes have wept enoug_ecause of thee already, and may all the gods guard her poor head."
"Dost thou love her, Acte?" inquired Vinicius, gloomily.
"Yes, I love her." And tears glittered in the eyes of the freedwoman.
"Thou lovest her because she has not repaid thee with hatred, as she has me."
Acre looked at him for a time as if hesitating, or as if wishing to learn i_e spoke sincerely; then she said, — "O blind and passionate man — she love_hee." Vinicius sprang up under the influence of those words, as if possessed.
"It is not true."
She hated him. How could Acte know? Would Lygia make a confession to her afte_ne day's acquaintance? What love is that which prefers wandering, th_isgrace of poverty, the uncertainty of to-morrow, or a shameful death even, to a wreath-bedecked house, in which a lover is waiting with a feast? It i_etter for him not to hear such things, for he is ready to go mad. He woul_ot have given that girl for all Caesar's treasures, and she fled. What kin_f love is that which dreads delight and gives pain? Who can understand it?
Who can fathom it? Were it not for the hope that he should find her, he woul_ink a sword in himself. Love surrenders; it does not take away. There wer_oments at the house of Aulus when he himself believed in near happiness, bu_ow he knows that she hated him, that she hates him, and will die with hatre_n her heart.
But Acte, usually mild and timid, burst forth in her turn with indignation.
How had he tried to win Lygia? Instead of bowing before Aulus and Pomponia t_et her, he took the child away from her parents by stratagem. He wanted t_ake, not a wife, but a concubine of her, the foster daughter of an honorabl_ouse, and the daughter of a king. He had her brought to this abode of crim_nd infamy; he defiled her innocent eyes with the sight of a shameful feast; he acted with her as with a wanton. Had he forgotten the house of Aulus an_omponia Graecina, who had reared Lygia? Had he not sense enough to understan_hat there are women different from Nigidia or Calvia Crispinilla or Poppae, and from all those whom he meets in Caesar's house? Did he not understand a_nce on seeing Lygia that she is an honest maiden, who prefers death t_nfamy? Whence does he know what kind of gods she worships, and whether the_re not purer and better than the wanton Venus, or than Isis, worshipped b_he profligate women of Rome? No! Lygia had made no confession to her, but sh_ad said that she looked for rescue to him, to Vinicius: she had hoped that h_ould obtain for her permission from Caesar to return home, that he woul_estore her to Pomponia. And while speaking of this, Lygia blushed like _aiden who loves and trusts. Lygia's heart beat for him; but he, Vinicius, ha_errified and offended her; had made her indignant; let him seek her now wit_he aid of Caesar's soldiers, but let him know that should Poppaea's chil_ie, suspicion will fall on Lygia, whose destruction will then be inevitable.
Emotion began to force its way through the anger and pain of Vinicius. Th_nformation that he was loved by Lygia shook him to the depth of his soul. H_emembered her in Aulus's garden, when she was listening to his words wit_lushes on her face and her eyes full of light. It seemed to him ~hen that sh_ad begun to love him; and all at once, at that thought, a feeling of certai_appiness embraced him, a hundred times greater than that which he desired. H_hought that he might have won her gradually, and besides as one loving him.
She would have wreathed his door, rubbed it with wolf's fat, and then sat a_is wife by his hearth on the sheepskin. He would have heard from her mout_he sacramental: "Where thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia." And she would hav_een his forever. Why did he not act thus? True, he had been ready so to act.
But now she is gone, and it may be impossible to find her; and should he fin_er, perhaps he will cause her death, and should he not cause her death, neither she nor Aulus nor Pomponia Graecina will favor him. Here anger raise_he hair on his head again; but his anger turned now, not against the house o_ulus, or Lygia, but against Petronius. Petronius was to blame for everything.
Had it not been for him Lygia would not have been forced to wander; she woul_e his betrothed, and no danger would be hanging over her dear head. But no_ll is past, and it is too late to correct the evil which will not yield t_orrection.
"Too late!" And it seemed to him that a gulf had opened before his feet. H_id not know what to begin, how to proceed, whither to betake himself. Act_epeated as an echo the words, "Too late," which from another's mouth sounde_ike a death sentence. He understood one thing, however, that he must fin_ygia, or something evil would happen to him.
And wrapping himself mechanically in his toga, he was about to depart withou_aking farewell even of Acte, when suddenly the curtain separating th_ntrance from the atrium was pushed aside, and he saw before him the pensiv_igure of Pomponia Gnecina.
Evidently she too had heard of the disappearance of Lygia, and, judging tha_he could see Acte more easily than Aulus, had conic for news to her.
But, seeing Vinicius, she turned her pale, delicate face to him, and said, after a pause, — "May God forgive thee the wrong, Marcus, which thou hast don_o us and to Lygia."
He stood with drooping head, with a feeling of misfortune and guilt, no_nderstanding what God was to forgive him or could forgive him. Pomponia ha_o cause to mention forgiveness; she ought to have spoken of revenge.
At last he went out with a head devoid of counsel, full of grievous thoughts, immense care, and amazement.
In the court and under the gallery were crowds of anxious people. Among slave_f the palace were knights and senators who had come to inquire about th_ealth of the infant, and at the same time to show themselves in the palace, and exhibit a proof of their anxiety, even in presence of Nero's slaves. New_f the illness of the "divine" had spread quickly it was evident, for ne_orms appeared in the gateway every moment, and through the opening of th_rcade whole crowds were visible. Some of the newly arrived, seeing tha_inicius was coming from the palace, attacked him for news; but he hurried o_ithout answering their questions, till Petronius, who had come for news too, almost struck his breast and stopped him.
Beyond doubt Vinicius would have become enraged at sight of Petronius, and le_imself do some lawless act in Caesar's palace, had it not been that when h_ad left Acte he was so crushed, so weighed down and exhausted, that for th_oment even his innate irascibility had left him. He pushed Petronius asid_nd wished to pass; but the other detained him, by force almost.
"How is the divine infant?" asked he.
But this constraint angered Vinicius a second time, and roused his indignatio_n an instant.
"May Hades swallow her and all this house!" said he, gritting his teeth.
"Silence, hapless man!" said Petronius, and looking around he added hurriedly, — "If thou wish to know something of Lygia, come with me; I will tell nothin_ere! Come with me; I will tell my thoughts in the litter."
And putting his arm around the young tribune, he conducted him from the palac_s quickly as possible. That was his main concern, for he had no new_hatever; but being a man of resources, and having, in spite of hi_ndignation of yesterday, much sympathy for Vinicius, and finally feelin_esponsible for all that had happened, he had undertaken something already, and when they entered the litter he said, — "I have commanded my slaves t_atch at every gate. I gave them an accurate description of the girl, and tha_iant who bore her from the feast at Caesar's, — for he is the man, beyon_oubt, who intercepted her. Listen to me: Perhaps Aulus and Pomponia wish t_ecrete her in some estate of theirs; in that case we shall learn th_irection in which they took her. If my slaves do not see her at some gate, w_hall know that she is in the city yet, and shall begin this very day t_earch in Rome for her."
"Aulus does not know where she is," answered Vinicius. "Art thou sure o_hat?"
"I saw Pomponia. She too is looking for her."
"She could not leave the city yesterday, for the gates are closed at night.
Two of my people are watching at each gate. One is to follow Lygia and th_iant, the other to return at once and inform me. If she is in the city, w_hall find her, for that Lygian is easily recognized, even by his stature an_is shoulders. Thou art lucky that it was not C~zsar who took her, and I ca_ssure thee that he did not, for there are no secrets from me on th_alatine."
But Vinicius burst forth in sorrow still more than in anger, and in a voic_roken by emotion told Petronius what he had heard from Acte, and what ne_angers were threatening Lygia, — dangers so dreadful that because of the_here would be need to hide her from Poppaea most carefully, in case the_iscovered her. Then he reproached Petroruus bitterly for his counsel. Had i_ot been for him, everything would have gone differently. Lygia would hav_een at the house of Aulus, and he, Vinicius, might have seen her every day, and he would have been happier at that moment than Caesar. And carried away a_e went on with his narrative, he yielded more and more to emotion, till a_ast tears of sorrow and rage began to fall from his eyes.
Petronius, who had not even thought that the young man could love and desir_o such a degree, when he saw the tears of despair said to himself, with _ertain astonishment, — "O mighty Lady of Cyprus, thou alone art ruler of god_nd men!"