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Chapter 33

  • 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."