NEXT morning he woke up weak, but with a cool head and free of fever. I_eemed to him that a whispered conversation had roused him; but when he opene_is eyes, Lygia was not there. Ursus, stooping before the chimney, was rakin_part 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 _lacksmith. Vinicius, remembering how that man had crushed Croton the da_efore, examined with attention befitting a lover of the arena his giganti_ack, 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. "B_ollux! if the other Lygians are like this one, the Danubian legions will hav_eavy work some time!"
But aloud he said, "Hei, slave!"
Ursus drew his head out of the chimney, and, smiling in a manner almos_riendly, said, — "God give thee a good day, lord, and good health; but I am _ree man, not a slave."
On Vinicius. who wished to question Ursus touching Lygia's birthplace, thes_ords produced a certain pleasant impression; for discourse with a free thoug_ common man was less disagreeable to his Roman and patrician pride, than wit_ 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 ha_laced some wood. When he had finished, he took it out and said, — "With u_here are no slaves."
"Where is Lygia?" inquired Vinicius.
"She has gone out, and I am to cook food for thee. She watched over thee th_hole night."
"Why didst thou not relieve her?"
"Because she wished to watch, and it is for me to obey." Here his eyes gre_loomy, 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 hi_ands, which had remained pagan evidently, though his soul had accepted th_ross. Then be put a pot on the crane, and fixed his thoughtful eyes on th_ire.
"That was thy fault, lord," said he at last. "Why didst thou raise thy han_gainst her, a king's daughter?"
Pride boiled up, at the first moment, in Vinicius, because a common man and _arbarian had not merely dared to speak to him thus familiarly, but to blam_im in addition. To those uncommon and improbable things which had met hi_ince yesterday, was added another. But being weak and without his slaves, h_estrained himself, especially since a wish to learn some details of Lygia'_ife gained the upper hand in him.
When he had calmed himself, therefore, he inquired about the war of th_ygians against Vannius and the Suevi. Ursus was glad to converse, but coul_ot add much that was new to what in his time Aulus Plautius had told. Ursu_ad not been in battle, for he had attended the hostages to the camp o_telius Hister. He knew only that the Lygians had beaten the Suevi and th_azygi, but that their leader and king had fallen from the arrows of th_azygi. Immediately after they received news that the Semnones had set fire t_orests on their boundaries, they returned in haste to avenge the wrong, an_he hostages remained with Atelius, who ordered at first to give them kingl_onors. Afterward Lygia's mother died. The Roman commander knew not what to d_ith the child. Ursus wished to return with her to their own country, but th_oad was unsafe because of wild beasts and wild tribes. When news came that a_mbassy of Lygians had visited Pomponius, offering him aid against th_arcomani, Hister sent him with Lygia to Pomponius. When they came to him the_earned, however, that no ambassadors had been there, and in that way the_emained in the camp; whence Pomponius took them to Rome, and at th_onclusion of his triumph he gave the king's daughter to Pomponia Graecina.
Though only certain small details of this narrative had been unknown t_inicius, he listened with pleasure, for his enormous pride of family wa_leased that an eye-witness had confirmed Lygia's royal descent. As a king'_aughter she might occupy a position at Caesar's court equal to the daughter_f the very first families, all the more since the nation whose ruler he_ather had been, had not warred with Rome so far, and, though barbarian, i_ight become terrible; for, according to Atelius Hister himself, it possesse_n immense force of warriors. Ursus, moreover, confirmed this completely.
"We live in the woods," said he, in answer to Vinicius, "but we have so muc_and 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; fo_hat the Semnones, the Marcomani, the Vandals, and the Quadi plunder throug_he world, we take from them. They dare not come to us; but when the win_lows from their side, they burn our forests. We fear neither them nor th_oman Caesar."
"The gods gave Rome dominion over the earth," said Vinicius severely.
"The gods are evil spirits," replied Ursus, with simplicity, "and where ther_re no Romans, there is no supremacy."
Here he fixed the fire, and said, as if to himself, — "When Caesar too_allina to the palace, and I thought that harm might meet her, I wanted to g_o the forest and bring Lygians to help the king's daughter. And Lygians woul_ave moved toward the Danube, for they are virtuous people though pagan. Ther_ should have given them 'good tidings.' But as it is, if ever Callina return_o Pomponia Gra~cina I will bow down to her for permission to go to them; fo_hristus was born far away, and they have not even heard of Him. He kne_etter than I where He should be born; but if He had come to the world wit_s, 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 shoul_e want for game, mushrooms, beaver-skins, or amber. And what we plundere_rom the Suevi and the Marcomani we would have given Him, so that He migh_ave comfort and plenty."
Thus speaking, he put near the fire the vessel with food for Vinicius, and wa_ilent. His thoughts wandered evidently, for a time yet, through the Lygia_ildernesses, till the liquid began to boil; then he poured it into a shallo_late, and, cooling it properly, said, — "Glaucus advises thee, lord, to mov_ven thy sound arm as little as possible; Callina has commanded me to giv_hee food."
Lygia commanded! There was no answer to that. It did not even come t_inicius's head to oppose her will, just as if she had been the daughter o_irsar or a goddess. He uttered not a word, therefore; and Ursus, sitting nea_is bed, took out the liquid with a small cup, and put it to his mouth. He di_his so carefully, and with such a kindly smile, that Vinicius could no_elieve his own eyes, could not think him the same terrible Titan who the da_efore had crushed Croton, and, rushing on him like a storm, would have tor_im to pieces but for Lygia's pity. The young patrician, for the first time i_ife, began to ponder over this: What can take place in the breast of a simpl_an, a barbarian, and a servant?
But Ursus proved to be a nurse as awkward as painstaking; the cup was los_mong his herculean fingers so completely that there was no place left for th_outh of the sick man. After a few fruitless efforts the giant was trouble_reatly, and said, — "Li! it would be easier to lead an aurochs out of _nare." The anxiety of the Lygian amused Vinicius, but his remark did no_nterest
hit-n less. He had seen in circuses the terrible urus, brought fro_ildernesses of the north, against which the most daring bestiarii went wit_read, and which yielded only to elephants in size and strength.
"Hast thou tried to take such beasts by the horns?" inquired he, wit_stonishment.
"Till the twentieth winter passed over me, I was afraid," answered Ursus; "bu_fter that it happened."
And he began to feed Vinicius still more awkwardly than before.
"1 must ask Miriam or Nazarius," said he.
But now Lygia's pale face appeared from behind the curtaiil.
"I will assist directly," said she. And after a while she came from th_ubiculum, in which she had been preparing to sleep, as it seemed, for she wa_n a single close tunic, called by the ancients capitium, covering the breas_ompletely, and her hair was unbound. Vinicius, whose heart beat with mor_uickness 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 wil_ake the place of Ursus."
She took the cup, and, sitting on the edge of the bed, began to give food t_inicius, who felt at once overcome and delighted. When she inclined towar_im, the warmth of her body struck him, and her unbound hair fell on hi_reast. He grew pale from the impression; but in the confusion and impulse o_esires he felt also that that was a head dear above all and magnified abov_ll, in comparison with which the whole world was nothing. At first he ha_esired her; now he began to love her with a full breast. Before that, a_enerally in life and in feeling, he had been, like all people of that time, _lind, unconditional egotist, who thought only of himself; at present he bega_o think of her.
After a while, therefore, he refused further nourishment; and though he foun_nexhaustible 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 t_ear such words."
She smiled at him, however, and said that sleep had fled from her, that sh_elt no toil, that she would not go to rest till Glaucus came. He listened t_er words as to music; his heart rose with increasing delight, increasin_ratitude, 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 Graecina, and be assured that in future no hand will b_aised against thee."
Her face became sad on a sudden. "I should be happy," answered she, "could _ook at her, even from a distance; but I cannot return to her now."
"Why?" inquired Vinicius, with astonishment.
"We Christians know, through Acte, what is done on the Palatine. Hast thou no_eard that Caesar, soon after my flight and before his departure for Naples, summoned Aulus and Pomponia, and, thinking that they had helped me, threatene_hem 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 no_elp her to escape, and we do not know, as thou dost not, what has happened t_er.' Caesar believed, and afterward forgot. By the advice of the elders _ave never written to mother where I am, so that she might take an oath boldl_t 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 questio_nvolving life. Such is the religion on which we fashion our hearts; therefor_ have not seen Pomponia from the hour when I left her house. From time t_ime 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 sh_almed 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 understan_hat."
"Look at us! For us there are no partings, no pains, no sufferings; or if the_ome they are turned into pleasure. And death itself, which for you is the en_f life, is for us merely its beginning, — the exchange of a lower for _igher happiness, a happiness less calm for one calmer and eternal. Conside_hat must a religion be which enjoins on us love even for our enemies, forbid_alsehood, purifies our souls from hatred, and promises happines_nexhaustible after death."
"I heard those teachings in Ostrianum, and I have seen how ye acted with m_nd with Chilo; when I remember your deeds, they are like a dream, and i_eems to me that I ought not to believe my ears or eyes. But answer me thi_uestion: Art thou happy?"
"I am," answered Lygia. "One who confesses Christ cannot be unhappy." Viniciu_ooked at her, as though what she said passed every measure of huma_nderstanding.
"And hast thou no wish to return to Pomponia?"
"I should like, from my whole soul, to return to her; and shall return, i_uch be God's will."
"I say to thee, therefore, return; and I swear by my lares that I will no_aise a hand against thee."
Lygia thought for a moment, and answered, — "No, I cannot expose those near m_o danger. Caesar does not like the Plautiuses. Should I return — thou knowes_ow every news is spread throughout Rome by slaves — my return would be noise_bout in the city. Nero would hear of it surely through his slaves, and punis_ulus 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 forgo_hee, 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 mc and I coul_ive thee back to them."
"Vinicius, wouldst thou see me again on the Palatine?" inquired Lygia. He se_is teeth, and answered, — "No. Thou art right. I spoke like a fool! No!" An_ll 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 powe_f that world to which he belonged was a madman whose will and malignity i_as impossible to foresee. Only such people as the Christians might cease t_eckon with Nero or fear him, — people for whom this whole world, with it_eparations and sufferings, was as nothing; people for whom death itself wa_s nothing. All others had to tremble before him. The terrors of the time i_hich they lived showed themselves to Vinicius in all their monstrous extent.
He could not return Lygia to Aulus and Pomponia, then, through fear that th_onster would remember her, and turn on her his anger; for the very sam_eason, if he should take her as wife, he might expose her, himself, an_ulus. A moment of ill-humor was enough to ruin all. Vinicius felt, for th_irst time in life, that either the world must change and be transformed, o_ife would become impossible altogether. He understood also this, which _oment before had been dark to him, that in such times only Christians coul_e happy.
But above all, sorrow seized him, for he understood, too, that it was he wh_ad so involved his own life and Lygia's that out of the complication ther_as scarcely an outcome. And under the influence of that sorrow he began t_peak:
"Dost thou know that thou art happier than I? Thou art in poverty, arid i_his 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 _oof 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 no_leep. Had it not been for the hope of finding thee, I should have cast mysel_n a sword. But I fear death, for if dead I could not see thee. I speak th_ure truth in saying that I shall not be able to live without thee. I hav_ived so far only in the hope of finding and beholding thee. Dost tho_emember our conversations at the house of Aulus? Once thou didst draw a fis_or me on the sand, and I knew not what its meaning was. Dost thou remembe_ow we played ball? I loved thee then above life, and thou had5t begun alread_o divine that I loved thee. Aulus came, frightened us with Libitina, an_nterrupted 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 wa_hy God and hers. Let Him give thee to me and I will love Him, though He seem_o me a god of slaves, foreigners, and beggars. Thou sittest near me, an_hinkest of Him only. Think of me too, or I shall hate Him. For me thou alon_rt a divinity. Blessed be thy father and mother; blessed the land whic_roduced thee! I should wish to embrace thy feet and pray to thee, give the_onor, homage, offerings, thou thrice divine! Thou knowest not, or canst no_now, 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, lik_ man who, having lost self-control, has no wish to observe any measure i_ords or feelings. But he spoke from the depth of his soul, and sincerely. I_as to be felt that the pain, ecstasy, desire, and homage accumulated in hi_reast had burst forth at last in an irresistible torrent of words. To Lygi_is words appeared blasphemous, but still her heart began to beat as if i_ould tear the tunic enclosing her bosom. She could not resist pity for hi_nd his suffering. She was moved by the homage with which he spoke to her. Sh_elt beloved and deified without bounds; she felt that that unbending an_angerous man belonged to her now, soul and body, like a slave; and tha_eeling of his submission and her own power filled her with happiness. He_ecollections revived in one moment. He was for her again that splendi_inicius, beautiful as a pagan god; he, who in the house of Aulus had spoke_o her of love, and roused as if from sleep her heart half childlike at tha_ime; he from whose embraces Ursus had wrested her on the Palatine, as h_ight have wrested her from flames. But at present, with ecstasy, and at th_ame time with pain in his eagle face, with pale forehead and imploring eyes, — wounded, broken by love, loving, full of homage and submissive, — he seeme_o her such as she would have wished him, and such as she would have love_ith 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 woul_eize her and bear her away, as a whirlwind; and when she felt this, she ha_he same impression that he had a moment before, — that she was standing o_he 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 sh_ad hidden so long in wretched parts of the city? Who was that Vinicius? A_ugustian, a soldier, a courtier of Nero! Moreover he took part in hi_rofligacy and madness, as was shown by that feast, which she could no_orget; and he went with others to the temples, and made offerings to vil_ods, in whom he did not believe, perhaps, but still he gave them officia_onor. Still more he had pursued her to make her his slave and mistress, an_t 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 seeme_hanged, it is true, but still he had just said to her that if she would thin_ore of Christ than of him, he was ready to hate Christ. It seemed to Lygi_hat the very idea of any other love than the love of Christ was a sin agains_im and against religion. When she saw then that other feelings and desire_ight be roused in the depth of her soul, she was seized by alarm for her ow_uture and her own heart.
At this moment of internal struggle appeared Glaucus, who had come to care fo_he patient and study his health. In the twinkle of an eye, anger an_mpatience were reflected on the face of Vinicius. He was angry that hi_onversation with Lygia had been interrupted; and when Glaucus questioned him, he answered with contempt almost. It is true that he moderated himsel_uickly; but if Lygia had any illusions as to this, — that what he had hear_n Ostrianum might have acted on his unyielding nature, — those illusions mus_anish. He had changed only for her; but beyond that single feeling ther_emained in his breast the former harsh and selfish heart, truly Roman an_olfish, incapable not only of the sweet sentiment of Christian teaching bu_ven of gratitude.
She went away at last filled with internal care and anxiety. Formerly in he_rayers she had offered to Christ a heart calm, and really pure as a tear. No_hat calmness was disturbed. To the interior of the flower a poisonous insec_ad come and began to buzz. Even sleep, in spite of the two nights passe_ithout sleep, brought her no relief. She dreamed that at Ostrianum Nero, a_he head of a whole band of Augustians, bacchantes, corybantes, an_ladiators, was trampling crowds of Christians with his chariot wreathed i_oses; and Vinicius seized her by the arm, drew her to the quadriga, and, pressing her to his bosom, whispered "Come with us."