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Chapter 26

  • 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."