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Chapter 22

  • ONLY inside the entrance did Vinicius comprehend the whole difficulty of th_ndertaking. The house was large, of several stories, one of the kind of whic_housands were built in Rome, in view of profit from rent; hence, as a rule, they were built so hurriedly and badly that scarcely a year passed in whic_umbers of them did not fall on the heads of tenants. Real hives, too high an_oo narrow, full of chambers and little dens, in which poor people fixe_hemselves too numerously. In a city where many streets had no names, thos_ouses had no numbers; the owners committed the collection of rent to slaves, who, not obliged by the city government to give names of occupants, wer_gnorant themselves of them frequently. To find some one by inquiry in such _ouse was often very difficult, especially when there was no gate-keeper.
  • Vinicius and Croton came to a narrow, corridor-like passage walled in on fou_ides, forming a kind of common atrium for the whole house, with a fountain i_he middle whose stream fell into a stone basin fixed in the ground. At al_he walls were internal stairways, some of stone, some of wood, leading t_alleries from which there were entrances to lodgings. There were lodgings o_he ground, also; some provided with wooden doors, others separated from th_ard by woollen screens only. These, for the greater part, were worn, rent, o_atched.
  • The hour was early, and there was not a living soul in the yard. It wa_vident that all were asleep in the house except those who had returned fro_strianum.
  • "What shall we do, lord?" asked Croton, halting.
  • "Let us wait here; some one may appear," replied Vinicius. "We should not b_een in the yard."
  • At this moment, he thought Chio's counsel practical. If there were some ten_f slaves present, it would be easy to occupy the gate, which seemed the onl_xit, search all the lodgings simultaneously, and thus come to Lygia's; otherwise Christians, who surely were not lacking in that house, might giv_otice that people were seeking her. In view of this, there was risk i_nquiring of strangers. Vinicius stopped to think whether it would not b_etter to go for his slaves. Just then, from behind a screen hiding a remote_odging, came a man with a sieve in his hand, and approached the fountain.
  • At the first glance the young tribune recognized Ursus.
  • "That is the Lygian!" whispered Vinicius.
  • "Am I to break his bones now?"
  • "Wait awhile!"
  • Ursus did not notice the two men, as they were in the shadow of the entrance, and he began quietly to sink in water vegetables which filled the sieve. I_as evident that, after a whole night spent in the cemetery, he in-tended t_repare a meal. After a while the washing was finished; he took the wet siev_nd disappeared behind the screen. Croton and Vinicius followed him, thinkin_hat they would come directly to Lygia's lodgings. Their astonishment wa_reat when they saw that the screen divided from the court, not lodgings, bu_nother dark corridor, at the end of which was a little garden containing _ew cypresses, some myrtle bushes, and a small house fixed to the windowles_tone wall of another stone building.
  • Both understood at once that this was for them a favoring circumstance. In th_ourtyard all the tenants might assemble; the seclusion of the little hous_acilitated the enterprise. They would set aside defenders, or rather Ursus, quickly, and would reach the street just as quickly with the captured Lygia; and there they would help themselves. It was likely that no one would attac_hem; if attacked, they would say that a hostage was fleeing from Caesar.
  • Vinicius would declare himself then to the guards, and summon thei_ssistance.
  • Ursus was almost entering the little house, when the sound of steps attracte_is attention; he halted, and, seeing two persons, put his sieve on th_alustrade and turned to them.
  • "What do ye want here?" asked he.
  • "Thee!" said Vinicius.
  • Then, turning to Croton, he said in a low, hurried voice:
  • "Kill!"
  • Croton rushed at him like a tiger, and in one moment, before the Lygian wa_ble to think or to recognize his enemies, Crown had caught him in his arms o_teel.
  • Vinicius was too confident in the man's preternatural strength to wait for th_nd of the struggle. He passed the two, sprang to the door of the littl_ouse, pushed it open and found himself in a room a trifle dark, lighted, however, by a fire burning in the chimney. A gleam of this fire fell o_ygia's face directly. A second person, sitting at the fire, was that old ma_ho had accompanied the young girl and Ursus on the road from Ostrianum.
  • Vinicius rushed in so suddenly that before Lygia could recognize him he ha_eized her by the waist, and, raising her, rushed toward the door again. Th_ld man barred the way, it is true; but pressing the girl with one arm to hi_reast, Vinicius pushed him aside with the other, which was free. The hoo_ell from his head, and at sight of that face, which was known to her an_hich at that moment was terrible, the blood grew cold in Lygia from fright, and the voice died in her throat. She wished to summon aid, but had not th_ower. Equally vain was her wish to grasp the door, to resist. Her finger_lipped along the stone, and she would have fainted but for the terribl_icture which struck her eyes when Vinicius rushed into the garden.
  • Ursus was holding in his arms some man doubled back completely, with hangin_ead and mouth filled with blood. When he saw them, he struck the head onc_ore with his fist, and in the twinkle of an eye sprang toward Vinicius like _aging wild beast.
  • "Death!" thought the young patrician.
  • Then he heard, as through a dream, the scream of Lygia, "Kill not!" He fel_hat something, as it were a thunderbolt, opened the arms with which he hel_ygia; then the earth turned round with him, and the light of day died in hi_yes…  …  …  …  …  …  … . .
  • Chilo, hidden behind the angle of the corner house, was waiting for what woul_appen, since curiosity was struggling with fear in him. He thought that i_hey succeeded in carrying off Lygia, he would fare well near Vinicius. H_eared Urban no longer, for he also felt certain that Croton would kill him.
  • And he calculated that in case a gathering should begin on the streets, whic_o far were empty, — if Christians, or people of any kind, should offe_esistance, — he, Chio, would speak to them as one representing authority, a_n executor of Caesar's will, and if need came, call the guards to aid th_oung patrician against the street rabble — thus winning to himself fres_avor. In his soul he judged yet that the young tribune's method was unwise; considering, however, Croton's terrible strength, he admitted that it migh_ucceed, and thought, "If it go hard with him, Vinicius can carry the girl, and Croton clear the way." Delay grew wearisome, however; the silence of th_ntrance which he watched alarmed him.
  • "If they do not hit upon her hiding-place, and make an uproar, they wil_righten her."
  • But this thought was not disagreeable; for Chilo understood that in that even_e would be necessary again to Vinicius, and could squeeze afresh a goodl_umber of sestertia from the tribune.
  • "Whatever they do," said he to himself, "they will work for me, though no on_ivines that. O gods! O gods! only permit me—"
  • And he stopped suddenly, for it seemed to him that some one was bendin_orward through the entrance; then, squeezing up to the wall, he began t_ook, holding the breath in his breast.
  • And he had not deceived himself, for a head thrust itself half out of th_ntrance and looked around. After a while, however, it vanished.
  • "That is Vinicius, or Croton," thought Chilo; "but if they have taken th_irl, why does she not scream, and why are they looking out to the street?
  • They must meet people anyhow, for before they reach the Carmn~ there will b_ovement in the city — What is that? By the immortal gods!"
  • And suddenly the remnant of his hair stood on end.
  • In the door appeared Ursus, with the body of Croton hanging on his arm, an_ooking around once more, he began to run, bearing it along the empty stree_oward the river.
  • Chilo made himself as flat against the wall as a bit of mud.
  • "I am lost if he sees me!" thought he.
  • But Ursus ran past the corner quickly, and disappeared beyond the neighborin_ouse. Chio, without further waiting, his teeth chattering from terror, ra_long the cross street with a speed which even in a young man might hav_oused admiration.
  • "If he sees mc from a distance when he is returning, he will catch and kil_e," said he to himself. "Save me, Zeus; save me, Apollo; save me, Hermes; save me, O God of the Christians! I will leave Rome, I will return t_esembria, but save me from the hands of that demon!"
  • And that Lygian who had killed Croton seemed to him at that moment som_uperhuman being. While running, he thought that lie might be some god who ha_aken the form of a barbarian. At that moment he believed in all the gods o_he world, and in all myths, at which he jeered usually. It flew through hi_ead, too, that it might be the God of the Christians who had killed Croton; and his hair stood on end again at the thought that he was in conflict wit_uch a power.
  • Only when he had run through a number of alleys, and saw some workmen comin_oward him from a distance, was he calmed somewhat. Breath failed in hi_reast; so he sat on the threshold of a house and began to wipe, with a corne_f his mantle, his sweat-covered forehead.
  • "I am old, and need calm," said he.
  • The people coming toward him turned into some little side street, and agai_he place round about was empty. The city was sleeping yet. In the mornin_ovement began earlier in the wealthier parts of the city, where the slaves o_ich houses were forced to rise before daylight; in portions inhabited by _ree population, supported at the cost of the State, hence unoccupied, the_oke rather late, especially in winter. Chio, after he had sat some time o_he threshold, felt a piercing cold; so he rose, and, convincing himself tha_e had not lost the purse received from Vinicius, turned toward the river wit_ step now much slower.
  • "I may see Croton's body somewhere," said he to himself. "O gods! that Lygian, if he is a man, might make millions of sestertia in the course of one year; for if he choked Croton, like a whelp, who can resist him? They would give fo_is every appearance in the arena as much gold as he himself weighs. He guard_hat maiden better than Cerberus does Hades. But may Hades swallow him, fo_ll that! I will have nothing to do with him. He is too bony. But where shal_ begin in this case? A dreadful thing has happened. If he has broken th_ones of such a man as Croton, beyond a doubt the soul of Vinicius is pulin_bove that cursed house now, awaiting his burial. By Castor! but he is _atrician, a friend of Caesar, a relative of Petronius, a man known in al_ome, a military tribune. His death cannot pass without punishment. Suppose _ere to go to the pretorian camp, or the guards of the city, for instance?"
  • Here he stopped and began to think, but said after a while, — "Woe is me! Wh_ook him to that house if not I? His freedmen and his slaves know that I cam_o his house, and some of them know with what object. What will happen if the_uspect me of having pointed out to him purposely the house in which his deat_et him? Though it appear afterward, in the court, that I did not wish hi_eath, they will say that I was the cause of it. Besides, he is a patrician; hence in no event can I avoid punishment. But if I leave Rome in silence, an_o far away somewhere, I shall place myself under still greater suspicion."
  • It was bad in every case. The only question was to choose the less evil. Rom_as immense; still Chilo felt that it might become too small for him. An_ther man might go directly to the prefect of the city guards and tell wha_ad happened, and, though some suspicion might fall on him, await the issu_almly. But Chilo's whole past was of such character that every close_cquaintance with the prefect of the city or the prefect of the guard mus_ause him very serious trouble, and confirm also every suspicion which migh_nter the heads of officials.
  • On the other hand, to flee would be to confirm Petronius in the opinion tha_inicius had been betrayed and murdered through conspiracy. Petronius was _owerful man, who could command the police of the whole Empire, and who beyon_oubt would try to find the guilty parties even at the ends of the earth.
  • Still, Chilo thought to go straight to him, and tell what had happened. Yes; that was the best plan. Petronius was calm, and Chilo might be sure of this, at least, that he would hear him to the end. Petronius, who knew the affai_rom its inception, would believe in Chio's innocence more easily than woul_he prefects.
  • But to go to him, it was needful to know with certainty what had happened t_inicius. Chilo did not know that. He had seen, it is true, the Lygia_tealing with Crown's body to the river, but nothing more. Vinicius might b_illed; but he might be wounded or detained. Now it occurred to Chilo for th_irst time, that surely the Christians would not dare to kill a man s_owerful, — a friend of Caesar, and a high military official, — for that kin_f act might draw on them a general persecution. It was more likely that the_ad detained him by superior force, to give Lygia means to hide herself _econd time.
  • This thought filled Chilo with hope.
  • "If that Lygian dragon has not torn him to pieces at the first attack, he i_live, and if he is alive he himself will testify that I have not betraye_im; and then not only does nothing threaten me, but —O Hermes, count again o_wo heifers — a fresh field is opening. I can inform one of the freedmen wher_o seek his lord; and whether he goes to the prefect or not is his affair, th_nly point being that I should not go. Also, I can go to Petronius, and coun_n a reward. I have found Lygia; now I shall find Vinicius, and then agai_ygia. It is needful to know first whether Vinicius is dead or living."
  • Here it occurred to him that he might go in the night to the baker Deinas an_nquire about Ursus. But he rejected that thought immediately. He preferred t_ave nothing to do with Ursus. He might suppose, justly, that if Ursus had no_illed Glaucus he had been warned, evidently, by the Christian elder to who_e had confessed his design, — warned that the affair was an unclean one, t_hich some traitor had persuaded him. in every case, at the mere recollectio_f Ursus, a shiver ran through Chio's whole body. But he thought that in th_vening he would send Euricius for news to that house in which the thing ha_appened. Meanwhile he needed refreshment, a bath, and rest. The sleeples_ight, the journey to Ostrianum, the flight from the Trans-Tiber, had wearie_im exceedingly.
  • One thing gave him permanent comfort: he had on his person two purses, — tha_hich Vinicius had given him at home, and that which he had thrown him on th_ay from the cemetery. In view of this happy circumstance, and of all th_xcitement through which he had passed, he resolved to eat abundantly, an_rink better wine than he drank usually.
  • When the hour for opening the wine-shop came at last, he did so in such _arked measure that he forgot the bath; he wished to sleep, above all, an_rowsiness overcame his strength so that he returned with tottering step t_is dwelling in the Subura, where a slave woman, purchased with money obtaine_rom Vinicius, was waiting for him.
  • When he had entered a sleeping-room, as dark as the den of a fox, be thre_imself on the bed, and fell asleep in one instant. He woke only in th_vening, or rather he was roused by the slave woman, who called him to rise, for some one was inquiring, and wished to see him on urgent business.
  • The watchful Chilo came to himself in one moment, threw on his hooded mantl_astily, and, commanding the slave woman to stand aside, looked ou_autiously.
  • And he was benumbed! for he saw before the door of the sleeping-room th_igantic form of Ursus.
  • At that sight he felt his feet and head grow icy-cold, the heart ceased t_eat in his bosom, and shivers were creeping along his back. For a time he wa_nable to speak; then with chattering teeth he said, or rather groaned, —
  • "Syra — I am not at home — I don't know that — good man—"
  • "I told him that thou wert at home, but asleep, lord," answered the girl; "h_sked to rouse thee."
  • "O gods! I will command that thou —"
  • But Ursus, as if impatient of delay, approached the door of the sleeping-room, and, bending, thrust in his head.
  • "O Chilo Chilonides!" said he.
  • "Pax tecum! pax! pax!" answered Chio. "O best of Christians! Yes, I am Chilo; but this is a mistake, — I do not know thee!"
  • "Chilo Chilonides," repeated Ursus, "thy lord, Vinicius, summons thee to g_ith me to him."