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Chapter 47

  • THE Apostle's words put confidence in the souls of the Christians. The end o_he world seemed ever near to them, but they began to think that the day o_udgment would not come immediately, that first they would see the end o_ero's reign, which they looked on as the reign of Satan, and the punishmen_f God for Caesar's crimes, which were crying for vengeance. Strengthened i_eart, they dispersed, after the prayer, to their temporary dwellings, an_ven to the Trans-Tiber; for news had come that the fire, set there in _umber of places, had, with the change of wind, turned back toward the river, and, after devouring what it could here and there, had ceased to extend.
  • The Apostle, with Vinicius and Chilo, who followed him, left the excavatio_lso. The young tribune did not venture to interrupt his prayers; hence h_alked on in silence, merely imploring pity with his eyes, and trembling fro_larm. Many approached to kiss Peter's hands, and the hem of his mantle; mothers held out their children to him; some knelt in the dark, long passage, and, holding up tapers, begged a blessing; others, going alongside, sang: s_here was no chance for question or answer. Thus it was in the narrow passage.
  • Only when they came out to broader spaces, from which the burning city was i_iew, did the Apostle bless them three times, and say, turning to Vinicius, —
  • "Fear not. The hut of the quarryman is near; in it we shall find Linus, an_ygia, with her faithful servant. Christ, who predestined her to thee, ha_reserved her."
  • Vinicius tottered, and placed his hand against the cliff. The road fro_ntium, the events at the wall, the search for Lygia amidst burning houses, sleeplessness, and his terrible alarm had exhausted him; and the news that th_earest person in the world was near by, and that soon he would see her, too_he remnant of his strength from him. So great a weakness possessed him on _udden that he dropped to the Apostle's feet, and, embracing his knees, remained thus, without power to say a word.
  • "Not to me, not to me, but to Christ," said the Apostle, who warded off thank_nd honor.
  • "What a good God!" said the voice of Chilo from behind, "but what shall I d_ith the mules that are waiting down here?"
  • "Rise and come with me," said Peter to the young man.
  • Vinicius rose. By the light of the burning, tears were visible on his face, which was pale from emotion. His lips moved, as if in prayer.
  • "Let us go," said he.
  • But Chilo repeated again: "Lord, what shall I do with the mules that ar_aiting? Perhaps this worthy prophet prefers riding to walking."
  • Vinicius did not know himself what to answer; but hearing from Peter that th_uarryman's hut was near by, he said, —
  • "Take the mules to Macrinus."
  • "Pardon me, lord, if I mention the house in Ameriola. In view of such an awfu_ire, it is easy to forget a thing so paltry."
  • "Thou wilt get it."
  • "O grandson of Numa Pompilius, I have always been sure, but now, when thi_agnaninious prophet also has heard the promise, I will not remind thee eve_f this, that thou hast promised me a vineyard. Fax vobiscum. I shall fin_hee, lord. Fax vobiscurn."
  • They answered, "And peace with thee."
  • Then both turned to the right toward the hills. Along the road Vinicius said,—
  • "Lord, wash me with the water of baptism, so that I may call myself a rea_onfessor of Christ, for I love Him with all the power of my soul. Wash m_uickly, for I am ready in heart. And what thou commandest I will do, but tel_e, so that I may do it in addition."
  • "Love men as thy own brothers," answered the Apostle, "for only with lov_ayst thou serve Him."
  • "Yes, I understand and feel that. When a child I believed in the Roman gods, though I did not love them. But I so love Him the One God that I would give m_ife for Him gladly." And he looked toward the sky, repeating with exaltation:
  • "For He is one, for He alone is kind and merciful; hence, let not only thi_ity perish, but the whole world, Him alone will I confess and recognize."
  • "And He will bless thee and thy house," concluded the Apostle.
  • Meanwhile they turned into another ravine, at the end of which a faint ligh_as visible. Peter pointed to it and said, —
  • "There is the hut of the quarryman who gave us a refuge when, on the way fro_strianum with the sick Linus, we could not go to the Trans-Tiber."
  • After a while they arrived. The hut was rather a cave rounded Out in a_ndentation of the hill, and was faced outside with a wall made of reeds. Th_oor was closed, but through an opening, which served for a window, th_nterior was visible, lighted by a fire. Some dark giant figure rose up t_eet them, and inquired, — "Who are ye?"
  • "Servants of Christ," answered Peter. "Peace be with thee, Ursus."
  • Ursus bent to the Apostle's feet; then, recognizing Vinicius, seized his han_y the wrist, and raised it to his lips.
  • "And thou, lord," said he. "Blessed be the name of the Lamb, for the joy whic_hou wilt bring to Callina."
  • He opened the door rhaen, and entered. Linus was lying on a bundle of straw, with an emaciated face and a forehead as yellow as ivory Near the fire sa_ygia with a string of small fish, intended evidently for supper. Occupied i_emoving the fish from the string, and thuiiking that it was Ursus who ha_ntered, she did not raise her eyes. But Vinicius approached, and, pronouncin_er name, stretched his hand to her. She sprang up quickly then; a flash o_stonishment and delight shot across her face. Without a word, like a chil_ho after days of fear and sorrow had found father or mother, she thre_erself into his open arms.
  • He embraced her, pressed her to his bosom for some time with such ecstasy a_f she had been saved by a miracle. Then, withdrawing his arms, he took he_emples between his hands, kissed her forehead and her eyes, embraced he_gain, repeated her name, bent to her knees, to her palms, greeted her, di_er homage, honored her. His delight had no bounds; neither had his love an_appiness.
  • At last he told her how he had rushed in from Antium; had searched for her a_he walls, in the smoke at the house of Linus; how he had suffered and wa_errified; how much he had endured before the Apostle had shown him he_etreat.
  • "But now," said he, "that I have found thee, I will not leave thee near fir_nd raging crowds. People are slaying one another under the walls, slaves ar_evolting and plundering. God alone knows what miseries may fall yet on Rome.
  • But I will save thee and all of you. Oh, my dear, let us go to Antium; we wil_ake a ship there and sail to Sicily. My land is thy land, my houses are th_ouses. Listen to me! In Sicily we shall find Aulus. I will give thee back t_omponia, and take thee from her hands afterward. But, O carissima, have n_urther fear of me. Christ has not washed me yet, but ask Peter if on the wa_ither I have not told him my wish to be a real confessor of Christ, an_egged him to baptize me, even in this hut of a quarryman. Believe, and le_ll believe me."
  • Lygia heard these words with radiant face. The Christians formerly, because o_ewish persecutions, and then because of the fire and disturbance caused b_he disaster, lived in fear and uncertainty. A journey to quiet Sicily woul_ut an end to all danger, and open a new epoch of happiness in their lives. I_inicius had wished to take only Lygia, she would have resisted the temptatio_urely, as she did not wish to leave Peter and Linus; but Vinicius said t_hem, "Come with me; my lands are your lands, my houses your houses." At thi_ygia inclined to kiss his hand, in sign of obedience, and said, —
  • "Where thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia."
  • Then confused that she had spoken words which by Roman custom were repeate_nly at marriage, she blushed deeply, and stood in the light of the fire, wit_rooping head, in doubt lest he might take them ill of her. But in his fac_oundless homage alone was depicted. He turned then to Peter, and continued, —
  • "Rome is burning at command of Caesar. In Antium he complained that he ha_ever seen a great fire. And if he has not hesitated at such a crime, thin_hat may happen yet. Who knows that he may not bring in troops, and command _laughter? Who knows what proscriptions may come; who knows whether after th_ire, civil war, murder, and famine may not come?
  • Hide yourselves, therefore, and let us hide Lygia. There ye can wait till th_torm passes, and when it is over return to sow your grain anew."
  • Outside, from the direction of the Vatican Field, as if to confirm his fears, distant cries were heard full of rage and terror. At that moment the quarryma_ntered, the master of the hut, and, shutting the door hastily, he cried, —
  • "People are killing one another near the Circus of Nero. Slaves and gladiator_ave attacked the citizens."
  • "Do ye hear?" said Vinicius.
  • "The measure is full," said the Apostle; "and disasters will come, like _oundless sea." Then he turned, and, pointing to Lygia, said, "Take th_aiden, whom God has predestined to thee, and save her, and let Linus, who i_ick, and Ursus go with you."
  • But Vinicius, who had come to love the Apostle with all the power of hi_mpetuous soul, exclaimed: "I swear, my teacher, that I will not leave the_ere to destruction."
  • "The Lord bless thee for thy wish," answered Peter; "but hast thou not hear_hat Christ rcpcatcd thricc on the lake to me, 'Feed my lambs'?"
  • Vinicius was silent.
  • "If thou, to whom no one has confided care over me, sayest that thou wilt no_eave me to destruction, how canst thou wish me to leave my flock in the da_f disaster? When there was a storm on the lake, and we were terrified i_eart, He did not desert us; why should I, a servant, not follow my Master'_xample?"
  • Then Linus raised his emaciated face and inquired, —
  • "O vicegerent of the Lord, why should I not follow thy example?"
  • Vinicius began to pass his hand over his head, as if struggling with himsel_r fighting with his thoughts; then, seizing Lygia by the hand, he said, in _oice in which the energy of a Roman soldier was quivering, —
  • "Hear me, Peter, Linus, and thou, Lygia! I spoke as my human reason dictated; but ye have another reason, which regards, not your own danger, but th_ommands of the Redeemer. True, I did not understand this, and I erred, fo_he beam is not taken from my eyes yet, and the former nature is heard in me.
  • But since I love Christ, and wish to be His servant, though it is a questio_or me of something more than my own life, I kneel here before thee, and swea_hat I will accomplish the command of love, and will not leave my brethren i_he day of trouble."
  • Then he knelt, and enthusiasm possessed him; raising his hands and eyes, h_ried: "Do I understand Thee, O Christ? Am I worthy of Thee?"
  • His hands trembled; his eyes glistened with tears; his body trembled wit_aith and love. Peter took an earthen vessel with water, and, bringing it nea_im, said with solemnity, —
  • "Behold, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen."
  • Then a religious ecstasy seized all present. They thought that some light fro_eyond this world had filled the hut, that they heard some superhuman music, that the cliffs had opened above their heads, that choirs of angels wer_loating down from heaven, and far up there they saw a cross, and pierce_ands blessing them.
  • Meanwhile the shouts of fighting were heard outside, and the roar of flames i_he burning city.