VINICIUS went directly to the house in which Miriam lived. Before the gate h_et Nazarius, who was confused at sight of him; but greeting the la_ordially, he asked to be conducted to his mother's lodgings.
Besides Miriam, Vinicius found Peter, Glaucus, Crispus, and Paul of Tarsus,
who had returned recently from Fregellae. At sight of the young tribune,
astonishment was reflected on all faces; but he said, — "I greet you in th_ame of Christ, whom ye honor." "May His name be glorified forever!" answere_hey.
"I have seen your virtue and experienced your kindness, hence I come as _riend."
"And we greet thee as a friend," answered Peter. "Sit down, lord, and partak_f our refreshment, as a guest."
"I will sit down and share your repast; but first listen to me, thou Peter,
and thou Paul of Tarsus, so that ye may know my sincerity. I know where Lygi_s. I have returned from before the house of Linus, which is near thi_welling. I have a right to her given me by Caesar. I have at my houses in th_ity nearly five hundred slaves. I might surround her hiding-place and seiz_er; still I have not done so, and will not."
"For this reason the blessing of the Lord will be upon thee, and thy hear_ill be purified," said Peter.
"I thank thee. But listen to me further: I have not done so, though I a_iving in suffering and sadness. Before I knew you, I should have taken he_ndoubtedly, and held her by force; but your virtue and your religion. thoug_ do not profess it, have changed something in my soul, so that I do no_enture on violence. I know not myself why this is so, but it is so; hence _ome to you, for ye take the place of Lygia's father and mother, and I say t_ou: Give her to me as wife, and I swear that not only will I not forbid he_o confess Christ, but I will begin myself to learn His religion."
He spoke with head erect and decisively; but still hc was moved, and his leg_rembled beneath his mantle. When silence followed his words, he continued, a_f wishing to anticipate an unfavorable answer, — "I know what obstacle_xist, but I love her as my own eyes; and though I am not a Christian yet, _m neither your enemy nor Christ's. I wish to be sincere, so that you ma_rust me. At this moment it is a question of life with me, still I tell yo_he truth. Another might say, Baptize me; I say, Enlighten me. I believe tha_hrist rose from the dead, for people say so who love the truth, and who sa_im after death. I believe, for I have seen myself, that your religio_roduces virtue, justice, and mercy, — not crime, which is laid to you_harge. I have not known your religion much so far. A little from you, _ittle from your works, a little from Lygia, a little from conversations wit_ou. Still I repeat that it has made some change in me. Formerly I held m_ervants with an iron hand; I cannot do so now. I knew no pity; I know it now.
I was fond of pleasure; the other night I fled from the pond of Agrippa, fo_he breath was taken from m~ through disgust. Formerly I believed in superio_orce; now I have abandoned it. Know ye that I do not recognize myself. I a_isgusted by feasts, wine, singing, cithar~, garlands, the court of Caesar,
naked bodies, and every crime. When I think that Lygia is like snow in th_ountains, I love her the more; and when I think that she is what she i_hrough your religion, I love and desire that religion. But since I understan_t not, since I know not whether I shall be able to live according to it, no_hether my nature can endure it, I am in uncertainty and suffering, as if _ere in prison."
Here his brows met in wrinkle of pain, and a flush appeared on his cheeks;
after that he spoke on with growing haste and greater emotion, — "As ye see, _m tortured from love and uncertainty. Men tell me that in your religion ther_s no place for life, or human joy, or happiness, or law, or order, o_uthority, or Roman dominion. Is this true? Men tell me that ye are madmen;
but tell me yourselves what ye bring. Is it a sin to love, a sin to feel joy,
a sin to want happiness? Are ye enemies of life? Must a Christian be wretched?
Must I renounce Lygia? What is truth in your view? Your deeds and words ar_ike transparent water, but what is under that water? Ye see that I a_incere. Scatter the darkness. Men say this to me also: Greece created beaut_nd wisdom, Rome created power; but they — what do they bring? Tell, then,
what ye bring. If there is brightness beyond your doors, open them."
"We bring love," said Peter.
And Paul of Tarsus added, — "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I am become sounding brass."
But the heart of the old Apostle was stirred by that soul in suffering, which,
like a bird in a cage, was struggling toward air and the sun; hence,
stretching his hand to Vinicius, he said, — "Whoso knocketh, to him will b_pened. The favor and grace of God is upon thee; for this reason I bless thee,
thy soul and thy love, in the name of the Redeemer of mankind."
Vinicius, who had spoken with enthusiasm already, sprang toward Peter o_earing this blessing, and an uncommon thing happened. That descendant o_uirites, who till recently had not recognized humanity in a foreigner, seize_he hand of the old Gahilean, and pressed it in gratitude to his lips.
Peter was pleased; for he understood that his sowing had fallen on a_dditional field, that his fishing-net had gathered in a new soul.
Those present, not less pleased by that evident expression of honor for th_postle of God, exclaimed in one voice, — "Praise to the Lord in the highest!"
Vinicius rose with a radiant face, and began, — "I see that happiness ma_well among you, for I feel happy, and I think that ye can convince me o_ther things in the same way. But I will add that this cannot happen in Rome.
Caesar is goin to Antium and I must go with him, for I have the order. Ye kno_hat not to obey is death. But if I have found favor in your eyes, go with m_o teach your truth. It will be safer for you than for roe. Even in that grea_hrong of people, ye can announce your truth in the very court of Caesar. The_ay that Acte is a Christian; and there are Christians among pretorians even,
for I myself have seen soldiers kneeling before thee, Peter, at the Nomenta_ate. In Antium I have a villa where we shall assemble to hear your teaching,
at the side of Nero. Glaucus told me that ye are ready to go to the end of th_arth for one soul; so do for me what ye have done for those for whose sake y_ave come from Judea, — do it, arid desert not my soul."
Hearing this, they began to take counsel, thinking with delight of the victor_f their religion, and of the significance for the pagan world which th_onversion of an Augustian, and a descendant of one of the oldest Roma_amilies, would have. They were ready, indeed, to wander to the end of th_arth for one human soul, and since the death of the Master they had, in fact,
done nothing else; hence a negative answer did not even come to their minds.
Peter was at that moment the pastor of a whole multitude, hence he could no_o; but Paul of Tarsus, who had been in Aricium and Fregellae not long before,
and who was preparing for a long journey to the East to visit churches ther_nd freshen them with a new spirit of zeal, consented to accompany the youn_ribune to Antium. It was easy to find a ship there going to Grecian waters.
Vinicius, though sad because Peter, to whom he owed so much, could not visi_ntium, thanked him with gratitude, and then turned to the old Apostle wit_is last request, — "Knowing Lygia's dwelling," said he, "I might have gone t_er and asked, as is proper, whether she would take me as husband should m_oul become Christian, but I prefer to ask thee, O Apostle! Permit me to se_er, or take me thyself to her. I know not how long I shall be in Antium; an_emember that near Caesar no one is sure of to-morrow. Petronius himself tol_e that I should not be altogether safe there. Let me see her before I go; le_e delight my eyes with her; and let me ask her if she will forget my evil an_eturn good."
Peter smiled kindly and said, — "But who could refuse thee a proper joy, m_on?"
Vinicius stooped again to Peter's hands, for he could not in any way restrai_is overflowing heart. The Apostle took him by the temples and said,— "Have n_ear of Caesar, for I tell thee that a hair will not fall from thy head."
He sent Miriam for Lygia, telling her not to say who was with them, so as t_ive the maiden more delight.
It was not far; so after a short time those in the chamber saw among th_yrtles of the garden Miriam leading Lygia by the hand.
Vinicius wished to run forth to meet her; but at sight of that beloved for_appiness took his strength, and he stood with beating heart, breathless,
barely able to keep his feet, a hundred times more excited than when for th_irst time in life he heard the Parthian arrows whizzing round his head.
She ran in, unsuspecting; but at sight of him she halted as if fixed to th_arth. Her face flushed, and then became very pale; she looked with astonishe_nd frightened eyes on those present.
But round about she saw clear glances, full of kindness. The Apostle Pete_pproached her and asked, — "Lygia, dost thou love him as ever?"
A moment of silence followed. Her lips began to quiver like those of a chil_ho is preparing to cry, who feels that it is guilty, but sees that it mus_onfess the guilt.
"Answer," said the Apostle.
Then, with humility, obedience, and fear in her voice, she whispered, kneelin_t the knees of Peter, — "I do."
In one moment Vinicius knelt at her side. Peter placed his hands on thei_eads, and said, — "Love each other in the Lord and to His glory, for there i_o sin in your love."