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Chapter 39

  • Unsus was taking water from a cistern, and while drawing up a double amphora,
  • with a rope, was singing a strange Lygian song in an undertone, lookin_eanwhile with delighted eyes at Lygia and Vinicius, who, among the cypresse_n Linus's garden, seemed as white as two statues. Their clothing was no_oved by the least hreeze. A golden and lily-colored twilight was sinking o_he world while they were conversing in the calm of evening, each holding th_ther by the hand.
  • "May not some evil meet thee, Marcus, because thou hast left Antium withou_aesar's knowledge?" asked Lygia.
  • "No, my dear," answered Vinieius. "Caesar announced that he would shut himsel_n for two days with Terpnos, and compose new songs. He acts thus frequently,
  • and at such times neither knows nor remembers aught else. Moreover, what i_aesar to me since I am near thee and am looking at thee? I have yearned to_such already, and these last nights sleep has left inc. More than once, whe_ dozed from weariness, I woke on a sudden, with a feeling that danger wa_anging over thee; at times I dreamed that the relays of horses which were t_ear me from Antium to Rome were stolen, — hources with which I passed tha_oad more swiftly than any of Caesar's couriers. Besides, I could not liv_onger without thee; I love thee too much for that, my dearest."
  • "I knew that thou wert consing. Twice Ursus ran out, at my request, to th_arinai, and inquired for thee at thy house. Linus laughed at me, and Ursu_lso."
  • It was, indeed, evident that she had expected him; for instead of her usua_ark dress, she wore a soft white stola, out of whose heautiful folds her arm_nd head emerged like primroses out of snow. A few ruddy anemones ornamente_er hair.
  • Vinicius pressed his lips to her hands; then they sat on the stone benc_midst wild grape-vines, and inclining toward each other, were silent, lookin_t the twilight whose last gleams were reflected in their eyes.
  • The eharos of the quiet evening niastered them completely.
  • "How calm it is here, and how beautiful the world is," said Vinicius, in _owered voice. "The night is wonderfully still. I feel happier than ever i_ife before. Tell me, Lygia, what is this? Never have I thought that ther_ould be such love. I thought that lnve was merely fire in the blood an_esire; but now for the first time I see that it is possible to love wit_very drop of one's blood and every breath, and feel therewith suds sweet an_mmeasurable calm as if Sleep and Death had put the soul to rest. For me thi_s something new. I look on this calmness of the trees, and it seems to b_ithin me. Now I understand for the first time that there isiay be happines_f which people have not known thus far, Now I begin to understand why tho_nd Pomponia Gra~eina have such peace. Yes! Christ gives it."
  • At that moment Lygia placed her beautiful face on his shoulder and said, — "M_ear Marcus —" But she was unable to continue. Joy, gratitude, and the feelin_hat at last slse was free to hove deprived her of voice, and her eyes wer_illed with tears of emotion.
  • , embracing her slender form with his arm, drew her toward him and said,—
  • "Lygia! May the moment be blessed in which I heard His name for the firs_inne."
  • "I love thee, Marcus," said she then in a low voice.
  • Both were silent again, unable to bring words from their overcharged breasts.
  • The last lily reflections had died on the cypresses, and the garden began t_e silver-like from the crescent of the moon. After a while Vinicius said,— "_now. Barely had I entered here, barely had I kissed thy dear hands, when _ead in thy eyes the question whether I had received the divine doctrine t_hich thou art attached, and whether I was baptized. No, I am not baptize_et; but knowest thou, my flower, why? Paul said to me: 'I have convinced the_hat God came into the world and gave Himself to he crucified for it_alvation; but let Peter wash thee in the fountain of grace, he who firs_tretched his hands over thee and blessed thee.' And I, my dearest, wish the_o witness nsy baptism, and I wish Pomponia to be my godmother. This is why _ns not baptized yet, thou?h I believe in the Saviour and in flis teachtng.
  • Paul has convinced me, has converted me; and could it be otherwise? flow was _ot to believe that Christ came into the world, since he, who was Hi_isciple, says so, and Paul, to whom He appeared? How was I not to believ_hat He was God, since He rose from the dead? Others saw Him in the city an_n the lake and on the mountain; people saw Him whose lips have not known _ie. I began to believe this the first time I heard Peter in Ostrianum, for _aid to myself even then! In the whole world any other man might lie rathe_han this one who says, 'I saw.' But I feared thy religion. It seemed to m_hat thy religion would take thee from me. I thought that there was neithe_isdom nor beauty nor happiness in it. But to-day, when know it, what kind o_an should I be were I not to wish truth to rule the world instead o_ahehood, love instead of hatred, virtue instead of crime, faithfulnes_nstead of unfaithfulness, mercy instead of vengeance? What sort of man woul_e be who would not choose and wish the same? But your religion teaches this.
  • Others desire justice also; but thy religion is the only one which makes man'_eart just, and besides makes it pure, like thine and Pomponia's, makes i_aitlsful, like thine and Pomponia's. I should be blind were 1 not to se_his, But if in addition Christ God has promised eternal life, and ha_romised happiness as immeasurable as the all-might of God can give, what mor_an one wish? Were I to ask Seneca why he enjoins virtue, if wickedness bring_ore happiness, he would not be able to say anything sensible. But I know no_hat I ought to be virtuous, because virtue and love flow from Christ, an_ecause, when death closes my eyes, I shall find life and happiness, I shal_ind myself and thee. Why not love and accept a religion which both speaks th_ruth and destroys death? Who would not prefer good to evil? I thought th_eligion opposed to happiness; meanwhile Paul has convinced me that not onl_oes it not take away, but that it gives. All this hardly finds a place in m_ead; but I feel that it is true, for I have never been so happy, neithe_ould I be, had I taken thee by force and possessed thee in my house. Jus_ee, thou hast said a moment since, 'I love thee,' and I could not have wo_hese words from thy lips with all the might of Rome. O Lygia! Reason declare_his religion divine, and the best; the heart feels it, and who can resist tw_uch forces?"
  • Lygia listened, fixing on him her blue eyes, which in the light of the moo_ere like mystic flowers, and bedcwcd like flowers.
  • "Yes, Marcus, that is true!" said she, nestling her head more closely to hi_houlder.
  • And at that moment they felt immensely happy, for they understood that beside_ove they were united by another power, at once sweet and irresistible, b_hich love itself becomes endless, not subject to change, deceit, treason, o_ven death. Their hearts were filled with perfect certainty that, no matte_hat might happen, they would not cease to love and belong to each other. Fo_hat reason an unspeakable repose flowed in on their souls. Vinicius felt,
  • besides, that that love was not merely profound and pusc, but altogether new,
  • — such as the world had not known and could not give. In his head all wa_ombined in this love, — Lygia, the teaching of Christ, the light of the moo_esting calmly on the cypresses, and the still night, — so that to him th_hole universe seemed filled with it.
  • After a while he said with a lowered arid quivering voice: "Thou wilt be th_oul of my soul, and the dearest in the world to me. Our hearts will hea_ogether, we shall have one prayer and one gratitude to Christ. O my dear! T_ive together, to honor together the sweet God, and to know that when deat_omes our eyes will open again, as after a pleasant sleep, to a new light, —
  • what better could be imagined? I only marvel that I did not understand this a_irst. And knowest thou what occurs to me now? That no one can resist thi_eligion. In two hundred or three hundred years the whole world will accep_t. People will forget Jupiter, and there will be no God except Christ, and n_ther temples but Christian. Who would not wish his own happiness? Ah! but _eard Paul's conversation with Petronius and dost thou know what Petroniu_aid at the end? 'That is not for me'; but he could give no other answer."
  • "Repeat Paul's words to me," said Lygia.
  • "It was at my house one evening. Petronius began to speak playfully and t_anter, as he does usually, whereupon Paul said to him: 'How canst thou deny,
  • O wise Petronius, that Christ existed and rose from the dead, since thou wer_ot in the world at that time, but Peter and John saw Him, and I saw Him o_he road to Damascus? Let thy wisdom show, first of all, then, that we ar_iars, and then only deny our testimony.' Petronius answered that he had n_hought of denying, for he knew that many incomprehensible things were done,
  • which trustworthy people affirmed. 'But the discovery of some new foreign go_s one thing,' said he, 'and the reception of his teaching another. I have n_ish to know anything which' may deform life and mar its beauty. Never min_hether our gods are true or not; they are beautiful, their rule is pleasan_or us, and we live without care.' 'Thou art willing to reject the religion o_ove, justice, and mercy through dread of the cares of life,' replied Paul;
  • 'but think, Petronius, is thy life really free from anxieties? Behold, neithe_hou nor any man among the richest and most powerful knows when he fall_sleep at night that he may not wake to a death sentence. But tell me, i_2esar professed this religion, which enjoins love and justice, would not th_appiness be more assured? Thou art alarmed about thy delight, but would no_ife be more joyous then? As to life's beauty and ornaments, if ye have reare_o many beautiful temples and statues to evil, revengeful, adulterous, an_aithless divinities, what would ye not do in honor of one God of truth an_ercy? Thou art ready to praise thy lot, because thou art wealthy and livin_n luxury; but it was possible even in thy case to be poor and deserted,
  • though coming of a great house, and then in truth it would have been bette_or thee if people confessed Christ. In Rome even wealthy parents, unwillin_o toil at rearing children, cast them out of the house frequently; thos_hildren are called alumni. And chance might have made thee an alumnus, lik_ne of those. But if parents live according to our religion, this canno_appen. And hadst thou, at manhood's years, married a woman of thy love, th_ish would be to see her faithful till death. Meanwhile look around, wha_appens among you, what vileness, what shame, what bartering in the faith o_ives! Nay, ye yourselves are astonished when a woman appears whom ye call
  • "univira" (of one husband). But I tell thee that those women who carry Chris_n their hearts will not break faith with their husbands, just as Christia_usbands will keep faith with their wives. But ye are neither sure of ruler_or fathers nor wives nor children nor servants. The whole world is tremblin_efore you, and ye are trembling before your own slaves, for ye know that an_our may raise an awful war against your oppression, such a war as has bee_aised more than once. Though rich, thou art not sure that the command may no_ome to thee to-morrow to leave thy wealth; thou art young, but to-morrow i_ay be necessary for thee to die. Thou lovest, but treason is in wait fo_hee; thou art enamoured of villas and statues, but to-morrow power may thrus_hee forth into the empty places of the Pandataria; thou hast thousands o_ervants, but to-morrow these servants may let thy blood flow. And if that b_he case, how canst thou be calm and happy, how canst thou live in delight?
  • But I proclaim love, and I proclaim a religion which commands rulers to lov_heir subjects, masters their slaves, slaves to serve with love, to do justic_nd be merciful; and at last it promises happiness boundless as a sea withou_nd. How, then, Petronius, canst thou say that that religion spoils life,
  • since it corrects, and since thou thyself wouldst be a hundred times happie_nd more secure were it to embrace the world as Rome's dominion has embrace_t?'
  • "Thus discussed Paul, and then Petronius said, 'That is not for me.' Feignin_rowsiness, he went out, and when going added: 'I prefer my Eunice, O littl_ew, but I should not wish to struggle with thee on the platform.' I listene_o Paul's words with my whole soul, and when he spoke of our women, _agnified with all my heart that religion from which thou hast sprung as _ily from a rich field in springtime. And I thought then: There is Poppaea,
  • who cast aside two husbands for Nero, there is Calvia Crispinilla, there i_igidia, there are almost all whom I know, save only Pomponia; they trafficke_ith faith and with oaths, but she and my own one will not desert, will no_eceive, and will not quench the fire, even though all in whom I place trus_hould desert and deceive me. Hence I said to thee in my soul, How can I sho_ratitude to thee, if not with love and honor? Didst thou feel that in Antiu_ spoke and conversed with thee all the time as if thou hadst been at my side?
  • I love thee a hundred times more for having escaped me from Caesar's house.
  • Neither do I care for Caesar's house any longer; I wish not its luxury an_usic, I wish only thee. Say a word, we will leave Rome to settle somewhere a_ distance."
  • Without removing her head from his shouldcr, Lygia, as if meditating, raise_er eyes to the silver tops of the cypresses, and answered, — "Very well,
  • Marcus. Thou hart written to me of Sicily, where Aulus wishes to settle in ol_ge." And Vinieius interrupted her with delight.
  • "True, my dear! Our lands are adjacent. That is a wonderful coast, where th_limate is sweeter and the nights still brighter than in Rome, odoriferous an_ransparent. There life and happiness are almost one and the same."
  • And he began then to dream of the future.
  • "There we may forget anxieties. In groves, among olive-trees, we shall wal_nd rest in the shade. O Lygia! what a life to love and cherish each other, t_ook at the sea together, to look at the sky together, to honor together _ind God, to do in peace what is just and true."
  • Both were silent, looking into the future; only he drew her more firmly towar_im, and the knight's ring on his finger glittered meanwhile in the rays o_he moon. In the pan occupied by the poor toiling people, all were sleeping;
  • no murmur broke the silence.
  • "Wilt thou permit me to see Pomponia?" asked Lygia.
  • "Yes, dear one. We will invite them to our house, or go to them ourselves. I_hou wish, we can take Peter the Apostle. Tie is bowed down with age and work.
  • Paul will visit us also, — he will convert Aulus Plautius; and as soldier_ound colonies in distant lands, so we will found a colony of Christians."
  • Lygia raised her hand and, taking his palm, wished to press it to her lips;
  • but he whispered, as if fearing to frighten happiness, — "No, Lygia, no! It i_ who honor thee and exalt thee; give me thy hands." "I love thee."
  • He had pressed his lips to her hands, white as jessamine, and for a time the_eard only the beating of their own hearts. There was not the slightes_ovement in the air; the cypresses stood as motionless as if they too wer_olding breath in their breasts.
  • All at once the silence was broken by an unexpected thunder, deep, and as i_oming from under the earth. A shiver ran through Lygia's body. Vinicius stoo_p, and said, — "Lions are roaring in the vivarium."
  • Both began to listen. Now the first thunder was answered by a second, a third,
  • a tenth, from all sides and divisions of the city. In Rome several thousan_ions were quartered at times in various arenas, and frequently in th_ight~tirne they approached the grating, and, leaning their gigantic head_gainst it, gave utterance to their yearning for freedom and the desert. Thu_hey began on this occasion, and, answering one another in the stillness o_ight, they filled the whole city with roaring. There was something s_ndescribably gloomy and terrible in those roars that Lygia, whose bright an_alm visions of the future were scattered, listened with a straitened hear_nd with wonderful fear and sadness.
  • But Vinicius encircled her with his arm, and said, — "Fear not, dear one. Th_ames are at hand, and all the vivaria are crowded."
  • Then both entered the house of Linus, accompanied by the thunder of lions,
  • growing louder and louder.