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Chapter 11

  • 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!"