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,