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Chapter 14

  • FOR a number of days after the interview, Chilo did not show himself anywhere.
  • Vinicius, since he had learned from Acte that Lygia loved him, was a hundre_imes more eager to find her, and began himself to search. He was unwilling, and also unable, to ask aid of Caesar, who was in great fear because of th_llness of the infant Augusta.
  • Sacrifices in the temples did not help, neither did prayers and offerings, no_he art of physicians, nor all the means of enchantment to which they turne_inally. In a week the child died. Mourning fell upon the court and Rome.
  • Caesar, who at the birth of the infant was wild with delight, was wild no_rom despair, and, confining himself in his apartments, refused food for tw_ays; and though the palace was swarming with senators and Augustians, wh_astened with marks of sorrow and sympathy, he denied audience to every one.
  • The senate assembled in an extraordinary session, at which the dead child wa_ronounced divine. It was decided to rear to her a temple and appoint _pecial priest to her service. New sacrifices were offered in other temples i_onor of the deceased; statues of her were cast from precious metals; and he_uneral was one immense solemnity, during which the people wondered at th_nrestrained marks of grief which Caesar exhibited; they wept with him, stretched out their hands for gifts, and above all amused themselves with th_nparalleled spectacle.
  • That death alarmed Petronius. All knew in Rome that Poppae ascribed it t_nchantment. The physicians, who were thus enabled to explain the vanity o_heir efforts, supported her; the priests, whose sacrifices proved powerless, did the same, as well as the sorcerers, who were trembling for their lives, and also the people. Petronius was glad now that Lygia had fled; for he wishe_o evil to Aulus and Pomponia, and he wished good to himself and Vinicius; therefore when the cypress, set out before the Palatine as a sign of mourning, was removed, he went to the reception appointed for the senators an_ugustians to learn how far Nero had lent ear to reports of spells, and t_eutralize results which might come from his belief.
  • Knowing Nero, he thought, too, that though he did not believe in charms, h_ould feign belief, so as to magnify his own suffering, and take vengeance o_ome one, finally, to escape the suspicion that the gods had begun to punis_im for crimes. Petronius did not think that Caesar could love really an_eeply even his own child; though he loved her passionately, he felt certain, however, that he would exaggerate his suffering. He was not mistaken. Ner_istened, with stony face and fixed eyes, to the consolation offered b_nights and senators. It was evident that, even if he suffered, he wa_hinking of this: What impression would his suffering make upon others? He wa_osing as a Niobe, and giving an exhibition of parental sorrow, as an acto_ould give it on the stage. He had not the power even then to endure in hi_ilent and as it were petrified sorrow, for at moments he made a gesture as i_o cast the dust of the earth on his head, and at moments he groaned deeply; but seeing Petronius, he sprang up and cried in a tragic voice, so that al_resent could hear him, — "Eheu! And thou art guilty of her death! At th_dvice the evil spirit entered these walls, — the evil spirit which, with on_ook, drew the life from her breast! Woe is me! Would that my eyes had no_een the light of Helios! Woe is me! Eheu! eheu!"
  • And raising his voice still more, he passed into a despairing shout; bu_etronius resolved at that moment to put everything on one cast of the dice; hence, stretching out his hand, he seized the silk kerchief which Nero wor_round his neck always, and, placing it on the mouth of the Imperator, sai_olemnly, — "Lord, Rome and the world are benumbed with pain; but do tho_reserve thy voice for us!"
  • Those present were amazed; Nero himself was amazed for a moment. Petroniu_lone was unmoved; he knew too well what he was doing. He remembered, besides, that Terpnos and Diodorus had a direct order to close Caesar's mouth wheneve_e raised his voice too much and exposed it to danger.
  • "O Caesar!" continued he, with the same seriousness and sorrow, "we hav_uffered an immeasurable loss; let even this treasure of consolation remain t_s!"
  • Nero's face quivered, and after a while tears came from his eyes. All at onc_e rested his hands on Petronius's shoulders, and, dropping his head on hi_reast, began to repeat, amid sobs,— "Thou alone of all thought of this, — thou alone, O Petronius! thou alone!" Tigellinus grew yellow from envy; bu_etronius continued, — "Go to Antium! there she came to the world, there jo_lowed in on thee, there solace will come to thee. Let the sea air freshen th_ivine throat; let thy breast breathe the salt dampness. We, thy devoted ones, will follow thee everywhere; and when we assuage thy pain with friendship, thou wilt comfort us with song.
  • "True!" answered Nero, sadly, "I will write a hymn in her honor, and compos_usic for it."
  • "And then thou wilt find the warm sun in Bai~."
  • "And afterward — forgetfulness in Greece."
  • "In the birthplace of poetry and song."
  • And his stony, gloomy state of mind passed away gradually, as clouds pass tha_re covering the sun; and then a conversation began which, though full o_adness, yet was full of plans for the future, — touching a journey, artisti_xhibitions, and even the receptions required at the promised coming o_iridates, King of Armenia. Tigellinus tried, it is true, to bring forwar_gain the enchantment; but Petronius, sure now of victory, took up th_hallenge directly.
  • "Tigellinus," said he, "dost thou think that enchantments can injure th_ods?"
  • "Caesar himself has mentioned them," answered the courtier.
  • "Pain was speaking, not Caesar; but thou — what is thy opinion of the matter?"
  • "The gods are too mighty to be subject to charms."
  • "Then wouldst thou deny divinity to Caesar and his family?"
  • "Peractum est!" muttered Eprius Marcellus, standing near, repeating that shou_hich the people gave always when a gladiator in the arena received such _low that he needed no other.
  • Tigellinus gnawed his own anger. Between him and Petronius there had lon_xisted a rivalry touching Nero. Tigellinus had this superiority, that Ner_cted with less ceremony, or rather with none whatever in his presence; whil_hus far Petronius overcame Tigellinus at every encounter with wit an_ntellect.
  • So it happened now. Tigellinus was silent, and simply recorded in his memor_hose senators and knights who, when Petronius withdrew to the depth of th_hamber, surrounded him straightway, supposing that after this incident h_ould surely be Casar's first favorite.
  • Petronius, on leaving the palace, betook himself to Vinicius, and describe_is encounter with Caesar and Tigellinus.
  • "Not only have I turned away danger," said he, "from Aulus Plautius, Pomponia, and us, but even from Lygia, whom they will not seek, even for this reason, that I have persuaded Bronzebeard, the monkey, to go to Antium, and thence t_aples or Bai~ and he will go. I know that he has not ventured yet to appea_n the theatre publicly; I have known this long time that he intends to do s_t Naples. He is dreaming, moreover, of Greece, where he wants to sing in al_he more prominent cities, and then make a triumphal entry into Rome, with al_he crowns which the 'Gruculi' will bestow on him. During that time we shal_e able to seek Lygia unhindered and secrete her in safety. But has not ou_oble philosopher been here yet?"
  • "Thy noble philosopher is a cheat. No; he has not shown himself, and he wil_ot show himself again!"
  • "But I have a better understanding, if not of his honesty, of his wit. He r_as drawn blood once from thy purse, and will come even for this, to draw it _econd time."
  • "Let him beware lest I draw his own blood."
  • "Draw it not; have patience till thou art convinced surely of his deceit. D_ot give him more money, but promise a liberal reward if he brings the_ertain information. Wilt thou thyself undertake something?"
  • "My two freedmen, Nymphidius and Demas, are searching for her with sixty men.
  • Freedom is promised the slave who finds her. Besides I have sent out specia_ersons by all roads leading from Rome to inquire at every inn for the Lygia_nd the maiden. I course through the city myself day and night, counting on _hance meeting."
  • "Whenever thou hast tidings let me know, for I must go to Antium."
  • "I will do so."
  • "And if thou wake up some morning and say, 'It is not worth while to tormen_yself for one girl, and take so much trouble because of her,' come to Antium.
  • There will be no lack of women there, or amusement."
  • Vinicius began to walk with quick steps. Petronius looked f or some time a_im, and said at last, — "Tell me sincerely, not as a mad head, who talk_omething into his brain and excites himself, but as a man of ~udgmcnt who i_nswering a friend: Art thou concerned as much as ever about this Lygia?"
  • Vinicius stopped a moment, and looked at Petronius as if he had not seen hi_efore; then he began to walk again. It was evident that he was restraining a_utburst. At last, from a feeling of helplessness, sorrow, anger, an_nvincible yearning, two tears gathered in his eyes, which spoke with greate_ower to Petronius than the most eloquent words.
  • Then, meditating for a moment, he said, — "It is not Atlas who carries th_orld on his shoulders, but woman; and sometimes she plays with it as with _ail."
  • "True," said Vinicius.
  • And they began to take farewell of each other. But at that moment a slav_nnounced that Chilo Chilonides was waiting in the antechamber, and begged t_e admitted to the presence of the lord.
  • Vinicius gave command to admit him immediately, and Petronius said, — "Ha!
  • have I not told thee? By Hercules! keep thy calmness; or he will command thee, not thou him."
  • "A greeting and honor to the noble tribune of the army, and to thee, lord,"
  • said Chio, entering. "May your happiness be equal to your fame, and may you_ame course through the world from the pillars of Hercules to the boundarie_f the Arsacid~e."
  • "A greeting, O lawgiver of virtue and wisdom," answered Petronius. Bu_inicius inquired with affected calmness, "What dost thou bring?" "The firs_ime 1 came I brought thee hope, O lord; at present, I bring certainty tha_he maiden will be found."
  • "That means that thou hast not found her yet?"
  • "Yes, lord; but I have found what that sign means which she made. I know wh_he people are who rescued her, and I know the God among whose worshippers t_eek her."
  • Vinicius wished to spring from the chair in which he was sitting; bu_etronius placed his hand on his shoulder, and turning to Chio said, — "Spea_n!"
  • "Art thou perfectly certain, lord, that she drew a fish on the sand?" "Yes,"
  • burst out Vinicius.
  • "Then she is a Christian and Christians carried her away." A moment of silenc_ollowed.
  • "Listen, Chilo," said Petronius. "My relative has predestined to thee _onsiderable sum of money for finding the girl, but a no less considerabl_umber of rods if thou deceive him. In the first case thou wilt purchase no_ne, but three scribes; in the second, the philosophy of all the seven sages, with the addition of thy own, will not suffice to get thee ointment."
  • "The maiden is a Christian, lord," cried the Greek.
  • "Stop, Chilo. Thou art not a dull man. We know that Junia and Calvi_rispinilla accused Pomponia Graecina of confessing the Christia_uperstition; but we know too, that a domestic court acquitted her. Woulds_hou raise this again? Wouldst thou persuade us that Pomponia, and with he_ygia, could belong to the enemies of the human race, to the poisoners of ~ ells and fountains, to the worshippers of an ass's head, to people who murde_nfants and give themselves up to the foulest license? Think, Chilo, if tha_hesis which thou art announcing to us will not rebound as an antithesis o_hy own back."
  • Chilo spread out his arms in sign that that was not his fault, and then said,—
  • "Lord, utter in Greek the following sentence: Jesus Christ, Son of God,
  • Saviour." [[2]](footnotes.xml#footnote_2) "Well, I have uttered it. What come_f that?" "Now take the first letters of each of those words and put them int_ne word." "Fish!" said Petronius wit_stonishment.[[3]](footnotes.xml#footnote_3) "There, that is why fish ha_ecome the watchword of the Christians," answered Chio, proudly. A moment o_ilence followed. But there was something so striking in the conclusions o_he Greek that the two friends could not guard them.. selves from amazement.
  • "Vinicius, art thou not mistaken?" asked Petronius. "Did Lygia really draw _ish for thee?" "By all the infernal gods, one might go mad!" cried the youn_an, with excitement. "If she had drawn a bird for me, I should have said _ird." "Therefore she is a Christian," repeated Chio. "This signifies," sai_etronius, "that Pomponia and Lygia poison wells, murder children caught o_he street, and give themselves up to dissoluteness! Folly! Thou, Vinicius, wert at their house for a time, I was there a little while; but I kno_omponia and Aulus enough, I know even Lygia enough, to say monstrous an_oolish! If a fish is the symbol of the Christians, which it is difficul_eally to deny, and if those women are Christians, then, by Proserpina!
  • evidently Christians are not what we hold them to be." "Thou speakest lik_ocrates, lord," answered Chilo. "Who has ever examined a Christian? Who ha_earned their religion? When I was travelling three years ago from Naple_ither to Rome (oh, why did I not stay in Naples!), a man joined me, whos_ame was Glaucus, of whom people said that he was a Christian; but in spite o_hat I convinced myself that he was a good and virtuous man." "Was it not fro_hat virtuous man that thou hast learned now what the fish means?"
  • "Unfortunately, lord, on the way, at an inn, some one thrust a knife into tha_onorable old man; and his wife and child were carried away by slave-dealers.
  • I lost in their defence these two fingers; since, as people say, there is n_ack among Christians of miracles, I hope that the fingers will grow out on m_and again." "How is that? Hast thou become a Christian?" "Since yesterday, lord, since yesterday! The fish made me a Christian. But see what a powe_here is in it. For some days I shall be the most zealous of the zealous, S_hat they may admit me to all their secrets; and when they admit me to thei_ecrets, I shall know where the maiden is hiding. Perhaps then my Christianit_ill pay me better than my philosophy. I have made a vow also to Mercury, tha_f he helps me to find the maiden, I will sacrifice to him two heifers of th_ame size and color and will gild their horns." "Then thy Christianity o_esterday and thy philosophy of long standing permit thee to believe i_ercury?" "1 believe always in that in which I need to believe; that is m_hilosophy, which ought to please Mercury. Unfortunately (ye know, worth_ords, what a suspicious god he is), he does not trust the promises even o_lameless philosophers, and prefers the heifers in advance; meanwhile thi_utlay is immense. Not every one is a Seneca, and I cannot afford th_acrifice; should the noble Vinicius, however, wish to give something, o_ccount of that sum which he promised —" "Not an obolus, Chilo!" sai_etronius, "not an obolus. The bounty of Vinicius will surpass th_xpectations, but only when Lygia is found, — that is, when thou shal_ndicate to us her hiding-place. Mercury must trust thee for the two heifers, though I am not astonished at him for not wishing to do so; in this _ecognize his acuteness." "Listen to me, worthy lords. The discovery which _ave made is great; for though I have not found the maiden yet, I have foun_he way in which I must seek her. Ye have sent freedmen and slaves throughou_he city and into the country; has any one given you a clew? No! I alone hav_iven one. I tell you more. Among your slaves there may be Christians, of who_e have no knowledge, for this superstition has spread everywhere; and they, instead of aiding, will betray you. It is unfortunate that they see me here; do thou therefore, noble Petronius, enjoin silence on Eunice; and thou too, noble Vinicius, spread a report that I sell thee an ointment which insure_ictory in the Circus to horses rubbed with it. I alone will search for her, and single-handed I will find the fugitives; and do ye trust in me, and kno_hat whatever I receive in advance will be for me simply an encouragement, fo_ shall hope always for more, and shall feel the greater certainty that th_romised reward will not fail me. Ah, it is true! As a philosopher I despis_oney, though neither Seneca, nor even Musonius, nor Cornutus despises it, though they have not lost fingers in any one's defence, and are abl_hemselves to write and leave their names to posterity. But, aside from th_lave, whom I intend to buy, and besides Mercury, to whom I have promised th_eifers, — and ye know how dear cattle have become in these times, — th_earching itself involves much outlay. Only listen to me patiently. Well, fo_he last few days my feet are wounded from continual walking. I have gone t_ine-shops to talk with people, to bakeries, to butcher-shops, to dealers i_live oil, and to fishermen. I have run through every street and alley; I hav_een in the hiding-places of fugitive slaves; I have lost money, nearly _undred ases, in playing mora; I have been in laundries, in drying-sheds, i_heap kitchens; I have seen mule-drivers and carvers; I have seen people wh_ure bladder complaints and pull teeth; I have talked with dealers in drie_igs; I have been at cemeteries; and do ye know why? This is why; so as t_utline a fish everywhere, look people in the eyes, and hear what they woul_ay of that sign. For a long time I was unable to learn anything, till at las_ saw an old slave at a fountain. He was drawing water with a bucket, an_eeping. Approaching him, I asked the cause of his tears. When we had sat dow_n the steps of the fountain, he answered that all his life he had bee_ollecting sestertium after sestertium, to redeem his beloved son; but hi_aster, a certain Pansa, when the money was delivered to him, took it, bu_ept the son in slavery. 'And so I am weeping,' said the old man, 'for thoug_ repeat, Let the will of God be done, I, poor sinner, am not able to kee_own my tears.' Then, as if penetrated by a forewarning, I moistened my finge_n the water and drew a fish for him. To this he answered, 'My hope, too, i_n Christ.' I asked him then, 'Hast thou confessed to me by that sign?' '_ave,' said he; 'and peace be with thee.' I began then to draw him out, an_he honest old man told me everything. His master, that Pansa, is himself _reedman of the great Pansa; and he brings stones by the Tiber to Rome, wher_laves and hired persons unload them from the boats, and carry them t_uildings in the night time, so as not to obstruct movement in the street_uring daylight. Among these people many Christians work, and also his son; a_he work is beyond his son's strength, he wished to redeem him. But Pans_referred to keep both the money and the slave. While telling me this, h_egan again to weep; and I mingled my tears with his, — tears came to m_asily because of my kind heart, and the pain in my feet, which I got fro_alking excessively. I began also to lament that as I had come from Naple_nly a few days since, I knew no one of the brotherhood, and did not kno_here they assembled for prayer. He wondered that Christians in Naples had no_iven me letters to their brethren in Rome; but I explained to him that th_etters were stolen from me on the road. Then he told me to come to the rive_t night, and he would acquaint me with brethren who would conduct me t_ouses of prayer and to elders who govern the Christian cornmunity. When _eard this, I was so delighted that I gave him the sum needed to redeem hi_on, in the hope that the lordly Vinicius would return it to me twofold."
  • "Chilo," interrupted Petronius, "in thy narrative falsehood appears on th_urface of truth, as oil does on water. Thou hart brought importan_nformation; I do not deny that. I assert, even, that a great step is mad_oward finding Lygia; but do not cover thy news with falsehood. What is th_ame of that old man from whom thou hart learned that the Christians recogniz_ach other through the sign of a fish?" "Euricius. A poor, unfortunate ol_an! He reminded me of Glaucus, whom I defended from murderers, and he touche_e mainly by this." "I believe that thou didst discover him, and wilt be abl_o make use of the acquaintance; but thou hast given him no money. Thou has_ot given him an as; dost understand me? Thou hast not given anything." "But _elped him to lift the bucket, and I spoke of his son with the greates_ympathy. Yes, lord, what can hide before the penetration of Petronius? Well, I did not give him money, or rather, I gave it to him, but only in spirit, i_ntention, which, had he been a real philosopher, should have sufficed him. _ave it to him because I saw that such an act was indispensable and useful; for think, lord, how this act has won all the Christians at once to me, wha_ccess to them it has opened, and what confidence it has roused in them."
  • "True," said Petronius, "and it was thy duty to do it." "For this very reaso_ have come to get the means to do it." Petronius turned to Vinicius, — "Giv_ommand to count out to him five thousand sestertia, but in spirit, i_ntention." "I will give thee a young man," said Vinicius, "who will take th_um necessary; thou wilt say to Euricius that the youth is thy slave, and tho_ilt count out to the old man, in the youth's presence, this money. Since tho_ast brought important tidings, thou wilt rece.ive the same amount fo_hyself. Come for the youth and the money this evening." "Thou art a rea_aesar!" said Chilo. "Permit i-ne, lord, to dedicate my work to thee; bu_ermit also that this evening I come only for the money, since Euricius tol_e that all the boats had been unloaded, and that new ones would come fro_stia only after some days. Peace be with you! Thus do Christians tak_arewell of one another. I will buy myself a slave woman, — that is, I wante_o say a slave man. Fish are caught with a bait, and Christians with fish. Fa_obiscum! pax! pax! pax!"