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Title: Callista : a Tale of the Third Century
Author: Newman, John Henry, 1801-1890
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                                 CALLISTA

                       A TALE OF THE THIRD CENTURY



                                CALLISTA

                      A TALE OF THE THIRD CENTURY


                                   BY

                        JOHN HENRY CARDINAL NEWMAN


            “Love thy God, and love Him only,
            And thy breast will ne’er be lonely.
            In that One Great Spirit meet
            All things mighty, grave, and sweet.
            Vainly strives the soul to mingle
            With a being of our kind;
            Vainly hearts with hearts are twined:
            For the deepest still is single.
            An impalpable resistance
            Holds like natures still at distance.
            Mortal: love that Holy One,
                          DE VERE


_NEW IMPRESSION_


LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK AND BOMBAY
1904

_All rights reserved_



                                   _To_

                       _HENRY WILLIAM WILBERFORCE._

_To you alone, who have known me so long, and who love me so well, could I
venture to offer a trifle like this. But you will recognise the author in
his work, and take pleasure in the recognition._

                                                                _J. H. N._



                              ADVERTISEMENT.



It is hardly necessary to say that the following Tale is a simple fiction
from beginning to end. It has little in it of actual history, and not much
claim to antiquarian research; yet it has required more reading than may
appear at first sight.

It is an attempt to imagine and express, from a Catholic point of view,
the feelings and mutual relations of Christians and heathens at the period
to which it belongs, and it has been undertaken as the nearest approach
which the Author could make to a more important work suggested to him from
a high ecclesiastical quarter.

_September 13, 1855._



                      POSTSCRIPTS TO LATER EDITIONS.


_February 8, 1856._—Since the volume has been in print, the Author finds
that his name has got abroad. This gives him reason to add, that he wrote
great part of Chapters I., IV., and V., and sketched the character and
fortunes of Juba, in the early spring of 1848. He did no more till the end
of last July, when he suddenly resumed the thread of his tale, and has
been successful so far as this, that he has brought it to an end.

Without being able to lay his finger upon instances in point, he has some
misgiving lest, from a confusion between ancient histories and modern
travels, there should be inaccuracies, antiquarian or geographical, in
certain of his minor statements, which carry with them authority when they
cease to be anonymous.



_February 2, 1881.—October, 1888._—In a tale such as this, which professes
in the very first sentence of its Advertisement to be simple fiction from
beginning to end, details may be allowably filled up by the writer’s
imagination and coloured by his personal opinions and beliefs, the only
rule binding on him being this—that he has no right to contravene
acknowledged historical facts. Thus it is that Walter Scott exercises a
poet’s licence in drawing his Queen Elizabeth and his Claverhouse, and the
author of “Romola” has no misgivings in even imputing hypothetical motives
and intentions to Savonarola. Who, again, would quarrel with Mr. Lockhart,
writing in Scotland, for excluding Pope, or Bishops, or sacrificial rites
from his interesting Tale of Valerius?

Such was the understanding, as to what I might do and what I might not,
with which I wrote this story; and to make it clearer, I added in the
later editions of this Advertisement, that it was written “from a Catholic
point of view;” while in the earlier, bearing in mind the interests of
historical truth, and the anachronism which I had ventured on at page 82
in the date of Arnobius and Lactantius, I said that I had not “admitted
any actual interference with known facts without notice,” questions of
religious controversy, when I said it, not even coming into my thoughts. I
did not consider my Tale to be in any sense controversial, but to be
specially addressed to Catholic readers, and for their edification.

This being so, it was with no little surprise I found myself lately
accused of want of truth, because I have followed great authorities in
attributing to Christians of the middle of the third century what is
certainly to be found in the fourth,—devotions, representations, and
doctrines, declaratory of the high dignity of the Blessed Virgin. If I had
left out all mention of these, I should have been simply untrue to my idea
and apprehension of Primitive Christianity. To what positive and certain
facts do I run counter in so doing, even granting that I am indulging my
imagination? But I have allowed myself no such indulgence; I gave good
reasons long ago, in my “Letter to Dr. Pusey” (pp. 53–76), for what I
believe on this matter and for what I have in “Callista” described.



                                CONTENTS.


   CHAP.                                                          PAGE
      I.   SICCA VENERIA                                             1
     II.   CHRISTIANITY IN SICCA                                    14
    III.   AGELLIUS IN HIS COTTAGE                                  25
     IV.   JUBA                                                     30
      V.   JUCUNDUS AT SUPPER                                       39
     VI.   GOTHS AND CHRISTIANS                                     51
    VII.   PERSECUTION IN THE OFFING                                64
   VIII.   THE NEW GENERATION                                       80
     IX.   JUCUNDUS BAITS HIS TRAP                                  92
      X.   THE DIVINE CALLISTA                                     111
     XI.   CALLISTA’S PREACHING, AND WHAT CAME OF IT               122
    XII.   A DEATH                                                 135
   XIII.   AND RESURRECTION                                        145
    XIV.   A SMALL CLOUD                                           159
     XV.   A VISITATION                                            168
    XVI.   WORSE AND WORSE                                         178
   XVII.   CHRISTIANOS AD LEONES                                   189
  XVIII.   AGELLIUS FLITS                                          199
    XIX.   A PASSAGE OF ARMS                                       212
     XX.   HE SHALL NOT LOSE HIS REWARD                            226
    XXI.   STARTLING RUMOURS                                       235
   XXII.   JUCUNDUS PROPOUNDS HIS VIEW OF THE SITUATION            239
  XXIII.   GURTA                                                   256
   XXIV.   A MOTHER’S BLESSING                                     266
    XXV.   CALLISTA IN DURANCE                                     274
   XXVI.   WHAT CAN IT ALL MEAN?                                   281
  XXVII.   AM I A CHRISTIAN?                                       291
 XXVIII.   A SICK CALL                                             305
   XXIX.   CONVERSION                                              317
    XXX.   TORRES VEDRAS                                           329
   XXXI.   THE BAPTISM                                             343
  XXXII.   THE IMPERIAL RESCRIPT                                   352
 XXXIII.   A GOOD CONFESSION                                       357
  XXXIV.   THE MARTYRDOM                                           366
   XXXV.   THE CORPO SANTO                                         371
  XXXVI.   LUX PERPETUA SANCTIS TUIS, DOMINE                       377



                                CALLISTA;


                       A TALE OF THE THIRD CENTURY.



                                CHAPTER I.


                              SICCA VENERIA.


In no province of the vast Roman empire, as it existed in the middle of
the third century, did Nature wear a richer or a more joyous garb than she
displayed in Proconsular Africa, a territory of which Carthage was the
metropolis, and Sicca might be considered the centre. The latter city,
which was the seat of a Roman colony, lay upon a precipitous or steep
bank, which led up along a chain of hills to a mountainous track in the
direction of the north and east. In striking contrast with this wild and
barren region was the view presented by the west and south, where for many
miles stretched a smiling champaign, exuberantly wooded, and varied with a
thousand hues, till it was terminated at length by the successive tiers of
the Atlas, and the dim and fantastic forms of the Numidian mountains. The
immediate neighbourhood of the city was occupied by gardens, vineyards,
corn-fields, and meadows, crossed or encircled here by noble avenues of
trees or the remains of primeval forests, there by the clustering groves
which wealth and luxury had created. This spacious plain, though level
when compared with the northern heights by which the city was backed, and
the peaks and crags which skirted the southern and western horizon, was
discovered, as light and shadow travelled with the sun, to be diversified
with hill and dale, upland and hollow; while orange gardens, orchards,
olive and palm plantations held their appropriate sites on the slopes or
the bottoms. Through the mass of green, which extended still more thickly
from the west round to the north, might be seen at intervals two solid
causeways tracking their persevering course to the Mediterranean coast,
the one to the ancient rival of Rome, the other to Hippo Regius in
Numidia. Tourists might have complained of the absence of water from the
scene; but the native peasant would have explained to them that the eye
alone had reason to be discontented, and that the thick foliage and the
uneven surface did but conceal what mother earth with no niggard bounty
supplied. The Bagradas, issuing from the spurs of the Atlas, made up in
depth what it wanted in breadth of bed, and ploughed the rich and yielding
mould with its rapid stream, till, after passing Sicca in its way, it fell
into the sea near Carthage. It was but the largest of a multitude of
others, most of them tributaries to it, deepening as much as they
increased it. While channels had been cut from the larger rills for the
irrigation of the open land, brooks, which sprang up in the gravel which
lay against the hills, had been artificially banked with cut stones or
paved with pebbles; and where neither springs nor rivulets were to be
found, wells had been dug, sometimes to the vast depth of as much as 200
fathoms, with such effect that the spurting column of water had in some
instances drowned the zealous workmen who had been the first to reach it.
And, while such were the resources of less favoured localities or seasons,
profuse rains descended over the whole region for one half of the year,
and the thick summer dews compensated by night for the daily tribute
extorted by an African sun.

At various distances over the undulating surface, and through the woods,
were seen the villas and the hamlets of that happy land. It was an age
when the pride of architecture had been indulged to the full; edifices,
public and private, mansions and temples, ran off far away from each
market-town or borough, as from a centre, some of stone or marble, but
most of them of that composite of fine earth, rammed tight by means of
frames, for which the Saracens were afterwards famous, and of which
specimens remain to this day, as hard in surface, as sharp at the angles,
as when they first were finished. Every here and there, on hill or crag,
crowned with basilicas and temples, radiant in the sun, might be seen the
cities of the province or of its neighbourhood, Thibursicumber, Thugga,
Laribus, Siguessa, Sufetula, and many others; while in the far distance,
on an elevated table-land under the Atlas, might be discerned the Colonia
Scillitana, famous about fifty years before the date of which we write for
the martyrdom of Speratus and his companions, who were beheaded at the
order of the proconsul for refusing to swear by the genius of Rome and the
emperor.

If the spectator now takes his stand, not in Sicca itself, but about a
quarter of a mile to the south-east, on the hill or knoll on which was
placed the cottage of Agellius, the city itself will enter into the
picture. Its name, Sicca Veneria, if it be derived (as some suppose) from
the Succoth benoth, or “tents of the daughters,” mentioned by the inspired
writer as an object of pagan worship in Samaria, shows that it owed its
foundation to the Phœnician colonists of the country. At any rate, the
Punic deities retained their hold upon the place; the temples of the
Tyrian Hercules and of Saturn, the scene of annual human sacrifices, were
conspicuous in its outline, though these and all other religious buildings
in it looked small beside the mysterious antique shrine devoted to the
sensual rites of the Syrian Astarte. Public baths and a theatre, a
capitol, imitative of Rome, a gymnasium, the long outline of a portico, an
equestrian statue in brass of the Emperor Severus, were grouped together
above the streets of a city, which, narrow and winding, ran up and down
across the hill. In its centre an extraordinary spring threw up
incessantly several tons of water every minute, and was inclosed by the
superstitious gratitude of the inhabitants with the peristylium of a
sacred place. At the extreme back, towards the north, which could not be
seen from the point of view where we last stationed ourselves, there was a
sheer descent of rock, bestowing on the city, when it was seen at a
distance on the Mediterranean side, the same bold and striking appearance
which attaches to Castro Giovanni, the ancient Enna, in the heart of
Sicily.

And now, withdrawing our eyes from the panorama, whether in its distant or
nearer objects, if we would at length contemplate the spot itself from
which we have been last surveying it, we shall find almost as much to
repay attention, and to elicit admiration. We stand in the midst of a farm
of some wealthy proprietor, consisting of a number of fields and gardens,
separated from each other by hedges of cactus or the aloe. At the foot of
the hill, which sloped down on the side furthest from Sicca to one of the
tributaries of the rich and turbid river of which we have spoken, a large
yard or garden, intersected with a hundred artificial rills, was devoted
to the cultivation of the beautiful and odoriferous _khennah_. A thick
grove of palms seemed to triumph in the refreshment of the water’s side,
and lifted up their thankful boughs towards heaven. The barley harvest in
the fields which lay higher up the hill was over, or at least was
finishing; and all that remained of the crop was the incessant and
importunate chirping of the _cicadæ_, and the rude booths of reeds and
bulrushes, now left to wither, in which the peasant boys found shelter
from the sun, while in an earlier month they frightened from the grain the
myriads of linnets, goldfinches, and other small birds who, as in other
countries, contested with the human proprietor the possession of it. On
the south-western slope lies a neat and carefully dressed vineyard, the
vine-stakes of which, dwarfish as they are, already cast long shadows on
the eastern side. Slaves are scattered over it, testifying to the
scorching power of the sun by their broad _petasus_, and to its oppressive
heat by the scanty _subligarium_, which reached from the belt or girdle to
the knees. They are engaged in cutting off useless twigs to which the last
showers of spring have given birth, and are twisting those which promise
fruit into positions where they will be safe both from the breeze and from
the sun. Everything gives token of that gracious and happy season which
the great Latin poets have hymned in their beautiful but heathen strains;
when, after the heavy rains, and raw mists, and piercing winds, and fitful
sun-gleams of a long six months, the mighty mother manifests herself anew,
and pours out the resources of her innermost being for the life and
enjoyment of every portion of the vast whole;—or, to apply the lines of a
modern bard—

          “When the bare earth, till now
  Desert and bare, unsightly, unadorned,
  Brings forth the tender grass, whose verdure clads
  Her universal face with pleasant green;
  Then herbs of every leaf, that sudden flower,
  Opening their various colours, and make gay
  Her bosom, swelling sweet; and, these scarce blown,
  Forth flourishes the clustering vine, forth creeps
  The swelling gourd, up stands the corny reed
  Embattled in her fields, and the humble shrub,
  And bush with frizzled hair implicit; last
  Rise, as in dance, the stately trees, and spread
  Their branches hung with copious fruit, or gem
  Their blossoms; with high woods the hills are crowned
  With tufts the valleys, and each fountain side
  With borders long the rivers; that earth now
  Seems like to heaven, a seat where gods might dwell,
  Or wander with delight, and love to haunt
  Her sacred shades.”

A snatch from some old Greek chant, with something of plaintiveness in the
tone, issues from the thicket just across the mule-path, cut deep in the
earth, which reaches from the city gate to the streamlet; and a youth, who
had the appearance of the assistant bailiff or _procurator_ of the farm,
leaped from it, and went over to the labourers, who were busy with the
vines. His eyes and hair and the cast of his features spoke of Europe; his
manner had something of shyness and reserve, rather than of rusticity; and
he wore a simple red tunic with half sleeves, descending to the knee, and
tightened round him by a belt. His legs and feet were protected by boots
which came half up his calf. He addressed one of the slaves, and his voice
was gentle and cheerful.

“Ah, Sansar!” he cried, “I don’t like your way of managing these branches
so well as my own; but it is a difficult thing to move an old fellow like
you. You never fasten together the shoots which you don’t cut off, they
are flying about quite wild, and the first ox that passes through the
field next month for the ploughing will break them off.”

He spoke in Latin; the man understood it, and answered him in the same
language, though with deviations from purity of accent and syntax, not
without parallel in the _talkee-talkee_ of the West Indian negro.

“Ay, ay, master,” he said, “ay, ay; but it’s all a mistake to use the
plough at all. The fork does the work much better, and no fear for the
grape. I hide the tendril under the leaf against the sun, which is the
only enemy we have to consider.”

“Ah! but the fork does not raise so much dust as the plough and the heavy
cattle which draw it,” returned Agellius; “and the said dust does more for
the protection of the tendril than the shade of the leaf.”

“But those huge beasts,” retorted the slave, “turn up great ridges, and
destroy the yard.”

“It’s no good arguing with an old vinedresser, who had formed his theory
before I was born,” said Agellius good-humouredly; and he passed on into a
garden beyond.

Here were other indications of the happy month through which the year was
now travelling. The garden, so to call it, was a space of several acres in
extent; it was one large bed of roses, and preparation was making for
extracting their essence, for which various parts of that country are to
this day celebrated. Here was another set of labourers, and a man of
middle age was surveying them at his leisure. His business-like, severe,
and off-hand manner bespoke the _villicus_ or bailiff himself.

“Always here,” said he, “as if you were a slave, not a Roman, my good
fellow; yet slaves have their Saturnalia; always serving, not worshipping
the all-bounteous and all-blessed. Why are you not taking holiday in the
town?”

“Why should I, sir?” asked Agellius; “don’t you recollect old Hiempsal’s
saying about ‘one foot in the slipper, and one in the shoe.’ Nothing would
be done well if I were a town-goer. You engaged me, I suppose, to be here,
not there.”

“Ah!” answered he, “but at this season the empire, the genius of Rome, the
customs of the country, demand it, and above all the great goddess Astarte
and her genial, jocund month. ‘Parturit almus ager;’ you know the verse;
do not be out of tune with Nature, nor clash and jar with the great system
of the universe.”

A cloud of confusion, or of distress, passed over Agellius’s face. He
seemed as if he wished to speak; at length he merely said, “It’s a fault
on the right side in a servant, I suppose.”

“I know the way of your people,” Vitricus replied, “Corybantians,
Phrygians, Jews, what do you call yourselves? There are so many fantastic
religions now-a-days. Hang yourself outright at your house-door, if you
are tired of living—and you are a sensible fellow. How can any man, whose
head sits right upon his shoulders, say that life is worth having, and not
worth enjoying?”

“I am a quiet being,” answered Agellius, “I like the country, which you
think so tame, and care little for the flaunting town. Tastes differ.”

“Town! you need not go to Sicca,” answered the bailiff, “all Sicca is out
of town. It has poured into the fields, and groves, and river side. Lift
up your eyes, man alive, open your ears, and let pleasure flow in. Be
passive under the sweet breath of the goddess, and she will fill you with
ecstasy.”

It was as Vitricus had said; the solemn feast-days of Astarte were in
course of celebration; of Astarte, the well-known divinity of Carthage and
its dependent cities, whom Heliogabalus had lately introduced to Rome, who
in her different aspects was at once Urania, Juno, and Aphrodite,
according as she embodied the idea of the philosopher, the statesman, or
the vulgar; lofty and intellectual as Urania, majestic and commanding as
Juno, seductive as the goddess of sensuality and excess.

“There goes the son of as good and frank a soldier as ever brandished
pilum,” said Vitricus to himself, “till in his last years some infernal
god took umbrage at him, and saddled him and his with one of those absurd
superstitions which are as plentiful here as serpents. He indeed was too
old himself to get much harm from it; but it shows its sour nature in
these young shoots. A good servant, but the plague’s in his bones, and he
will rot.”

His subordinate’s reflections were of a different character: “The very air
breathes sin to-day,” he cried; “oh that I did not find the taint of the
city in these works of God! Alas! sweet Nature, the child of the Almighty,
is made to do the fiend’s work, and does it better than the town. O ye
beautiful trees and fair flowers, O bright sun and balmy air, what a
bondage ye are in, and how do ye groan till you are redeemed from it! Ye
are bond-slaves, but not willingly, as man is; but how will you ever be
turned to nobler purpose? How is this vast, this solid establishment of
error, the incubus of many thousand years, ever to have an end? You
yourselves, dear ones, will come to nought first. Anyhow, the public way
is no place for me this evening. They’ll soon be back from their accursed
revelry.”

A sound of horns and voices had been heard from time to time through the
woods, as if proceeding from parties dispersed through them; and in the
growing twilight might be seen lights, glancing and wandering through the
foliage. The cottage in which Agellius dwelt was on the other side of the
hollow bridle-way which crossed the hill. To make for home he had first to
walk some little distance along it; and scarcely had he descended into it
for that purpose, when he found himself in the front of a band of
revellers, who were returning from some scene of impious festivity. They
were arrayed in holiday guise, as far as they studied dress at all; the
symbols of idolatry were on their foreheads and arms; some of them were
intoxicated, and most of them were women.

“Why have you not been worshipping, young fellow?” said one.

“Comely built,” said another, “but struck by the furies. I know the cut of
him.”

“By Astarte,” said a third, “he’s one of those sly Gnostics! I have seen
the chap before, with his hangdog look. He is one of Pluto’s whelps, first
cousin to Cerberus, and his name’s Channibal.”

On which they all began to shout out, “I say, Channibal, Channibal, here’s
a lad that knows you. Old fellow, come along with us;” and the speaker
made a dash at him.

On this Agellius, who was slowly making his way past them on the broken
and steep path, leapt up in two or three steps to the ridge, and went away
in security; when one woman cried out, “O the toad, I know him now; he is
a wizard; he eats little children; didn’t you see him make that sign? it’s
a charm. My sister did it; the fool left me to be one of them. She was
ever doing so” (mimicking the sign of the cross). “He’s a Christian,
blight him! he’ll turn us into beasts.”

“Cerberus, bite him!” said another, “he sucks blood;” and taking up a
stone, she made it whiz past his ear as he disappeared from view. A
general scream of contempt and hatred followed. “Where’s the ass’s head?
put out the lights, put out the lights! gibbet him! that’s why he has not
been with honest people down in the vale.” And then they struck up a
blasphemous song, the sentiments of which we are not going even to
conceive, much less to attempt in words.



                               CHAPTER II.


                          CHRISTIANITY IN SICCA.


The revellers went on their way; Agellius went on his, and made for his
lowly and lonely cottage. He was the elder of the two sons of a Roman
legionary of the Secunda Italica, who had settled with them in Sicca,
where he lost their mother, and died, having in his old age become a
Christian. The fortitude of some confessors at Carthage in the persecution
of Severus had been the initial cause of his conversion. He had been
posted as one of their guards, and had attended them to the scene of their
martyrdom, in addition to the civil force, to whom in the proconsulate the
administration of the law was committed. Therefore, happily for him, it
could not fall to his duty to be their executioner, a function which,
however revolting to his feelings, he might not have had courage to
decline. He remained a pagan, though he could not shake off the impression
which the martyrs had made upon him; and, after completing his time of
service, he retired to the protection of some great friends in Sicca, his
brother’s home already. Here he took a second wife of the old Numidian
stock, and supported himself by the produce of a small piece of land which
had been given to him for life by the imperial government. If trial were
necessary in order to keep alive the good seed which had been sown in his
heart, he found a never-failing supply of that article in the companion of
his declining years. In the hey-day of her youth she might have been
fitted to throw a sort of sunshine, or rather torchlight, on a military
carouse; but now, when poor Strabo, a man well to do in the world, looking
for peace, had fallen under her arts, he found he had surrendered his
freedom to a malignant, profligate woman, whose passions made her better
company for evil spirits than for an invalided soldier. Indeed, as time
went on, the popular belief, which she rather encouraged, went to the
extent that she actually did hold an intercourse with the unseen world;
and certainly she matured in a hatred towards God and man, which would
naturally follow, and not unnaturally betoken, such intercourse. The more,
then, she inflicted on him her proficiency in these amiable
characteristics, the more he looked out for some consolation elsewhere;
and the more she involved herself in the guilt or the repute of unlawful
arts, the more was he drawn to that religion, where alone to commune with
the invisible is to hold intercourse with heaven, not with hell. Whether
so great a trial supplied a more human inducement for looking towards
Christianity, it is impossible to say. Most men, certainly Roman soldiers,
may be considered to act on mixed motives; but so it was in fact, that, on
his becoming in his last years a Christian, he found, perhaps discovered,
to his great satisfaction, that the Church did not oblige him to continue
or renew a tie which bound him to so much misery, and that he might end
his days in a tranquillity which his past life required, and his wife’s
presence would have precluded. He made a good end; he had been allowed to
take the blessed sacrament from the altar to his own home on the last time
he had been able to attend a _synaxis_ of the faithful, and thus had
communicated at least six months within his decease; and the priest who
anointed him at the beginning of his last illness also took his
confession. He died, begging forgiveness of all whom he had injured, and
giving large alms to the poor. This was about the year 236, in the midst
of that long peace of the Church, which was broken at length by the Decian
persecution.

This peace of well-nigh fifty years had necessarily a peculiar, and not a
happy effect upon the Christians of the proconsulate. They multiplied in
the greater and the maritime cities, and made their way into positions of
importance, whether in trade or the governmental departments; they
extended their family connections, and were on good terms with the
heathen. Whatever jealousy might be still cherished against the Christian
name, nevertheless, individual Christians were treated with civility, and
recognised as citizens; though among the populace there would be
occasions, at the time of the more solemn pagan feasts, when accidental
outbursts might be expected of the antipathy latent in the community, as
we have been recording in the foregoing chapter. Men of sense, however,
began to understand them better, and to be more just to the reasonableness
of their faith. This would lead them to scorn Christianity less, but it
would lead them to fear it more. It was no longer a matter merely for the
populace to insult, but for government deliberately to put down. The
prevailing and still growing unbelief among the lower classes of the
population did but make a religion more formidable, which, as heathen
statesmen felt, was able to wield the weapons of enthusiasm and zeal with
a force and success unknown even to the most fortunate impostors among the
Oriental or Egyptian hierophants. The philosophical schools were impressed
with similar apprehensions, and had now for fifty years been employed in
creating and systematising a new intellectual basis for the received
paganism.

But, while the signs of the times led to the anticipation that a struggle
was impending between the heads of the state religion and of the new
worship which was taking its place, the great body of Christians, laymen
and ecclesiastics, were on better and better terms, individually, with the
members of society, or what is now called the public; and without losing
their faith or those embers of charity which favourable circumstances
would promptly rekindle, were, it must be confessed, in a state of
considerable relaxation; they often were on the brink of deplorable sins,
and sometimes fell over the brink. And many would join the Church on
inferior motives as soon as no great temporal disadvantage attached to the
act; or the families of Christian parents might grow up with so little of
moral or religious education as to make it difficult to say why they
called themselves members of a divine religion. Mixed marriages would
increase both the scandal and the confusion.

“A long repose,” says St. Cyprian, speaking of this very period, “had
corrupted the discipline which had come down to us. Every one was applying
himself to the increase of wealth; and, forgetting both the conduct of the
faithful under the Apostles, and what ought to be their conduct in every
age, with insatiable eagerness for gain devoted himself to the multiplying
of possessions. The priests were wanting in religious devotedness, the
ministers in entireness of faith; there was no mercy in works, no
discipline in manners. Men wore their beards disfigured, and woman dyed
their faces. Their eyes were changed from what God made them, and a lying
colour was passed upon the hair. The hearts of the simple were misled by
treacherous artifices, and brethren became entangled in seductive snares.
Ties of marriage were formed with unbelievers; members of Christ abandoned
to the heathen. Not only rash swearing was heard, but even false; persons
in high place were swollen with contemptuousness; poisoned reproaches fell
from their mouths, and men were sundered by unabating quarrels. Numerous
bishops, who ought to be an encouragement and example to others, despising
their sacred calling, engaged themselves in secular vocations,
relinquished their sees, deserted their people, strayed among foreign
provinces, hunted the markets for mercantile profits, and tried to amass
large sums of money, while they had brethren starving within the Church;
took possession of estates by fraudulent proceedings, and multiplied their
gains by accumulated usuries.”(1)

The relaxation which would extend the profession of Christianity in the
larger cities would contract or extinguish it in remote or country places.
There would be little zeal to keep up Churches, which could not be served
without an effort or without secular loss. Carthage, Utica, Hippo,
Milevis, or Curubis, was a more attractive residence than the towns with
uncouth African names, which amaze the ecclesiastical student in the Acts
of the Councils. Vocations became scarce; sees remained vacant;
congregations died out. This was pretty much the case with the Church and
see of Sicca. At the time of which we write, history preserves no record
of any bishop as exercising his pastoral functions in that city. In matter
of fact there was none. The last bishop, an amiable old man, had in the
course of years acquired a considerable extent of arable land, and
employed himself principally, for lack of more spiritual occupation, in
reaping, stacking, selling, and sending off his wheat for the Roman
market. His deacon had been celebrated in early youth for his boldness in
the chase, and took part in the capture of lions and panthers (an act of
charity towards the peasants round Sicca) for the Roman amphitheatre. No
priests were to be found, and the bishop became _parochus_ till his death.
Afterwards infants and catechumens lost baptism; parents lost faith, or at
least love; wanderers lost repentance and conversion. For a while there
was a flourishing meeting-house of Tertullianists, who had scared more
humble minds by pronouncing the eternal perdition of every Catholic; there
had also been various descriptions of Gnostics, who had carried off the
clever youths and restless speculators; and then there had been the lapse
of time, gradually consuming the generation which had survived the
flourishing old days of the African Church. And the result was, that in
the year 250 it was difficult to say of whom the Church of Sicca
consisted. There was no bishop, no priest, no deacon. There was the old
_mansionarius_ or sacristan; there were two or three pious women, married
or single, who owed their religion to good mothers; there were some slaves
who kept to their faith, no one knew how or why; there were a vast many
persons who ought to be Catholics, but were heretics, or nothing at all,
or all but pagans, and sure to become pagans on the asking; there were
Agellius and his brother Juba, and how far these two had a claim to the
Christian name we now proceed to explain.

They were about the ages of seven and eight when their father died, and
they fell under the guardianship of their uncle, whose residence at Sicca
had been one of the reasons which determined Strabo to settle there. This
man, being possessed of some capital, drove a thriving trade in idols,
large and small, amulets, and the like instruments of the established
superstition. His father had come to Carthage in the service of one of the
assessors of the proconsul of the day; and his son, finding competition
ran too high to give him prospect of remuneration in the metropolis, had
opened his statue-shop in Sicca. Those modern arts which enable an English
town in this day to be so fertile in the production of ware of this
description for the markets of the pagan East, were then unknown; and
Jucundus depended on certain artists whom he imported, especially on two
Greeks, brother and sister, who came from some isle on the Asian coast,
for the supply of his trade. He was a good-natured man, self-indulgent,
positive, and warmly attached to the reigning paganism, both as being the
law of the land and the vital principle of the state; and, while he was
really kind to his orphan nephews, he simply abominated, as in duty bound,
the idiotic cant and impudent fee-fa-fum, to which, in his infallible
judgment, poor old Strabo had betrayed his children. He would have
restored them, you may be quite sure, to their country and to their
country’s gods, had they acquiesced in the restoration: but in different
ways these little chaps, and he shook his head as he said it, were
difficult to deal with. Agellius had a very positive opinion of his own on
the matter; and as for Juba, though he had no opinion at all, yet he had
an equally positive aversion to have thrust on him by another any opinion
at all, even in favour of paganism. He had remained in his catechumen
state since he grew up, because he found himself in it; and though nothing
would make him go forward in his profession of Christianity, no earthly
power would be able to make him go back. So there he was, like a mule,
struck fast in the door of the Church, and feeling a gratification in his
independence of mind. However, whatever his profession might be, still, as
time went on, he plainly took after his step-mother, renewed his
intercourse with her after his father’s death, and at length went so far
as to avow that he believed in nothing but the devil, if even he believed
in him. It was scarcely safe, however, to affirm that the senses of this
hopeful lad were his own.

Agellius, on the other hand, when a boy of six years old, had insisted on
receiving baptism; had perplexed his father by a manifestation of zeal to
which the old man was a stranger; and had made the good bishop lose the
corn-fleet which was starting for Italy from his importunity to learn the
Catechism. Baptized he was, confirmed, communicated; but a boy’s nature is
variable, and by the time Agellius had reached adolescence, the gracious
impulses of his childhood had in some measure faded away, though he still
retained his faith in its first keenness and vigour. But he had no one to
keep him up to his duty; no exhortations, no example, no sympathy. His
father’s friends had taken him up so far as this, that by an extraordinary
favour they had got him a lease for some years of the property which
Strabo, a veteran soldier, had held of the imperial government. The care
of this small property fell upon him, and another and more serious charge
was added to it. The long prosperity of the province had increased the
opulence and enlarged the upper class of Sicca. Officials, contractors,
and servants of the government had made fortunes, and raised villas in the
neighbourhood of the city. Natives of the place, returning from Rome, or
from provincial service elsewhere, had invested their gains in long leases
of state lands, or of the farms belonging to the imperial _res privata_ or
privy purse, and had become virtual proprietors of the rich fields or
beautiful gardens in which they had played as children. One of such
persons, who had had a place in the _officium_ of the quæstor, or rather
procurator, as he began to be called, was the employer of Agellius. His
property adjoined the cottage of the latter; and, having first employed
the youth from recollection of his father, he confided to him the place of
under-bailiff from the talents he showed for farm-business.

Such was his position at the early age of twenty-two; but honourable as it
was in itself, and from the mode in which it was obtained, no one would
consider it adapted, under the circumstances, to counteract the religious
languor and coldness which had grown upon him. And in truth he did not
know where he stood further than that he was firm in faith, as we have
said, and had shrunk from a boy upwards, from the vice and immorality
which was the very atmosphere of Sicca. He might any day be betrayed into
some fatal inconsistency, which would either lead him into sin, or oblige
him abruptly to retrace his steps, and find a truer and safer position. He
was not generally known to be a Christian, at least for certain, though he
was seen to keep clear of the established religion. It was not that he
hid, so much as that the world did not care to know, what he believed. In
that day there were many rites and worships which kept to themselves—many
forms of moroseness or misanthropy, as they were considered, which
withdrew their votaries from the public ceremonial. The Catholic faith
seemed to the multitude to be one of these; it was only in critical times,
when some idolatrous act was insisted on by the magistrate, that the
specific nature of Christianity was tested and detected. Then at length it
was seen to differ from all other religious varieties by that irrational
and disgusting obstinacy, as it was felt to be, which had rather suffer
torments and lose life than submit to some graceful, or touching, or at
least trifling observance which the tradition of ages had sanctioned.



                               CHAPTER III.


                         AGELLIUS IN HIS COTTAGE.


The cottage for which Agellius was making, when last we had sight of him,
was a small brick house consisting of one room, with a loft over it, and a
kitchen on the side, not very unlike that holy habitation which once
contained the Eternal Word in human form with His Virgin Mother, and
Joseph, their guardian. It was situated on the declivity of the hill, and,
unlike the gardens of Italy, the space before it was ornamented with a
plot of turf. A noble palm on one side, in spite of its distance from the
water, and a group of orange-trees on the other, formed a foreground to
the rich landscape which was described in our opening chapter. The borders
and beds were gay with the lily, the bacchar, amber-coloured and purple,
the golden abrotomus, the red chelidonium, and the variegated iris.
Against the wall of the house were trained pomegranates, with their
crimson blossoms, the star-like pothos or jessamine, and the symbolical
passionflower, which well became a Christian dwelling.

And it was an intimation of what would be found within; for on one side of
the room was rudely painted a red cross, with doves about it, as is found
in early Christian shrines to this day. So long had been the peace of the
Church, that the tradition of persecution seemed to have been lost; and
Christians allowed themselves in the profession of their faith at home,
cautious as they might be in public places; as freely as now in England,
where we do not scruple to raise crucifixes within our churches and
houses, though we shrink from doing so within sight of the hundred cabs
and omnibuses which rattle past them. Under the cross were two or three
pictures, or rather sketches. In the centre stood the Blessed Virgin with
hands spread out in prayer, attended by the holy Apostles Peter and Paul
on her right and left. Under this representation was rudely scratched upon
the wall the word, “Advocata,” a title which the earliest antiquity
bestows upon her. On a small shelf was placed a case with two or three
rolls or sheets of parchment in it. The appearance of them spoke of use
indeed, but of reverential treatment. These were the Psalms, the Gospel
according to St. Luke, and St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, in the old
Latin version, The Gospel was handsomely covered, and ornamented with
gold.

The apartment was otherwise furnished with such implements and materials
as might be expected in the cottage of a countryman: one or two stools and
benches for sitting, a table, and in one corner a heap of dried leaves and
rushes, with a large crimson coverlet, for rest at night. Elsewhere were
two millstones fixed in a frame, with a handle attached to the rim of one
of them, for grinding corn. Then again, garden tools; boxes of seeds; a
vessel containing syrup for assuaging the sting of the scorpion; the
_asir-rese_ or _anagallis_, a potent medicine of the class of poisons,
which was taken in wine for the same mischance. It hung from the beams,
with a large bunch of _atsirtiphua_, a sort of camomile, smaller in the
flower and more fragrant than our own, which was used as a febrifuge.
Thence, too, hung a plentiful gathering of dried grapes, of the kind
called _duracinæ_; and near the door a bough of the green _bargut_ or
_psyllium_, to drive away the smaller insects.

Poor Agellius felt the contrast between the ungodly turmoil from which he
had escaped, and the deep stillness into which he now had entered; but
neither satisfied him quite. There was no repose out of doors, and no
relief within. He was lonely at home, lonely in the crowd. He needed the
sympathy of his kind; hearts which might beat with his heart; friends with
whom he might share his joys and griefs; advisers whom he might consult;
minds like his own, who would understand him—minds unlike his own, who
would succour and respond to him. A very great trial certainly this, in
which the soul is flung back upon itself; and that especially in the case
of the young, for whom memory and experience do so little, and wayward and
excited feelings do so much. Great gain had it been for Agellius, even in
its natural effect, putting aside higher benefits, to have been able to
recur to sacramental confession; but to confession he had never been,
though once or twice he had attended the public _homologesis_ of the
Church. Shall we wonder that the poor youth began to be despondent and
impatient under his trial? Shall we not feel for him, though we may be
sorry for him, should it turn out that he was looking restlessly into
every corner of the small world of acquaintance in which his lot lay, for
those with whom he could converse easily, and interchange speculation,
argument, aspiration, and affection?

“No one cares for me,” he said, as he sat down on his rustic bench. “I am
nothing to any one; I am a hermit, like Elias or John, without the call to
be one. Yet even Elias felt the burden of being one against many; even
John asked at length in expostulation, ‘Art Thou He that shall come?’ Am I
for ever to have the knowledge, without the consolation, of the truth? am
I for ever to belong to a great divine society, yet never see the face of
any of its members?”

He paused in his thoughts, as if drinking in the full taste and measure of
his unhappiness. And then his reflections took a turn, and he said,
suddenly, “Why do I not leave Sicca? What binds me to my father’s farm? I
am young, and my interest in it will soon expire. What keeps me from
Carthage, Hippo, Cirtha, where Christians are so many?” But here he
stopped as suddenly as he had begun; and a strange feeling, half pang,
half thrill, went through his heart. And he felt unwilling to pursue his
thought, or to answer the question which he had asked; and he settled into
a dull, stagnant condition of mind, in which he seemed hardly to think at
all.

Be of good cheer, solitary one, though thou art not a hero yet! There is
One that cares for thee, and loves thee, more than thou canst feel, love,
or care for thyself. Cast all thy care upon Him. He sees thee, and is
watching thee; He is hanging over thee, and smiles in compassion at thy
troubles. His angel, who is thine, is whispering good thoughts to thee. He
knows thy weakness; He foresees thy errors; but He holds thee by thy right
hand, and thou shalt not, canst not escape Him. By thy faith, which thou
hast so simply, resolutely retained in the midst of idolatry; by thy
purity, which, like some fair flower, thou hast cherished in the midst of
pollution, He will remember thee in thy evil hour, and thine enemy shall
not prevail against thee!

What means that smile upon Agellius’s face? It is the response of the
child to the loving parent. He knows not why, but the cloud is past. He
signs himself with the holy cross, and sweet reviving thoughts enliven
him. He names the sacred Name, and it is like ointment poured out upon his
soul. He rises; he kneels down under the dread symbol of his salvation;
and he begins his evening prayer.



                               CHAPTER IV.


                                  JUBA.


There was more of heart, less of effort, less of mechanical habit, in
Agellius’s prayers that night, than there had been for a long while
before. He got up, struck a light, and communicated it to his small
earthen lamp. Its pale rays feebly searched the room and discovered at the
other end of it Juba, who had silently opened the door, and sat down near
it, while his brother was employed upon his devotions. The countenance of
the latter fell, for he was not to go to sleep with the resignation and
peace which had just before been poured into his breast. Yet why should he
complain? we receive consolation in this world for the very purpose of
preparing us against trouble to come. Juba was a tall, swarthy,
wild-looking youth. He was holding his head on one side as he sat, and his
face towards the roof; he nodded obliquely, arched his eyebrows, pursed up
his lips, and crossed his arms, while he gave utterance to a strange,
half-whispered laugh.

“He, he, he!” he cried; “so you are on your knees, Agellius.”

“Why shouldn’t I be at this hour,” answered Agellius, “and before I go to
bed?”

“O, every one to his taste, of course,” said Juba; “but to an unprejudiced
mind there is something unworthy in the act.”

“Why, Juba?” said his brother somewhat sharply; “don’t you profess any
religion at all?”

“Perhaps I do, and perhaps I don’t,” answered Juba; “but never shall it be
a bowing and scraping, crawling and cringing religion. You may take your
oath of that.”

“What ails you to come here at this time of night?” asked Agellius; “who
asked for your company?”

“I will come just when I please,” said the other, “and go when I please. I
won’t give an account of my actions to any one, God or man, devil or
priest, much less to you. What right have you to ask me?”

“Then,” said Agellius, “you’ll never get peace or comfort as long as you
live, that I can tell you, let alone the life to come.”

Juba kept silent for awhile, and bit his nails with a smile on his face,
and his eyes looking askance upon the ground. “I want no more than I have;
I am well content,” he said.

“Contented with yourself,” retorted Agellius.

“Of course,” Juba replied; “whom ought one to wish rather to content?”

“I suppose, your Creator.”

“Creator,” answered Juba, tossing back his head with an air of
superiority; “Creator;—that, I consider, is an assumption.”

“O, my dear brother,” cried Agellius, “don’t go on in that dreadful way!”

“ ‘Go on!’ who began? Is one man to lay down the law, and not the other
too? Is it so generally received, this belief of a Creator? Who have
brought in the belief? The Christians. ’Tis the Christians that began it.
The world went on very well without it before their rise. And now, who
began the dispute but you?”

“Well, if I did,” answered Agellius; “but I didn’t. You began in coming
here; what in the world are you come for? by what right do you disturb me
at this hour?”

There was no appearance of anger in Juba; he seemed as free from feeling
of every kind, from what is called _heart_, as if he had been a stone. In
answer to his brother’s question, he quietly said, “I have been down
there,” pointing in the direction of the woods.

An expression of sharp anguish passed over his brother’s face, and for a
moment he was silent. At length he said, “You don’t mean to say you have
been down to poor mother?”

“I do,” said Juba.

There was again a silence for a little while; then Agellius renewed the
conversation. “You have fallen off sadly, Juba, in the course of the last
several years.”

Juba tossed his head, and crossed his legs.

“At one time I thought you would have been baptized,” his brother
continued.

“That was my weakness,” answered Juba; “it was a weak moment: it was just
after the old bishop’s death. He had been kind to me as a child; and he
said some womanish words to me, and it was excusable in me.”

“Oh that you had yielded to your wish!” cried Agellius.

Juba looked superior. “The fit passed,” he said. “I have come to a juster
view of things. It is not every one who has the strength of mind. I
consider that a logical head comes to a very different conclusion;” and he
began wagging his own, to the right and left, as if it were coming to a
great many.

“Well,” said Agellius, gaping, and desiring at least to come to a
conclusion of the altercation, “what brings you here so late?”

“I was on my way to Jucundus,” he answered, “and have been delayed by the
Succoth-benoth in the grove across the river.”

Here they were thrown back upon their controversy. Agellius turned quite
white. “My poor fellow,” he said, “what were you there for?”

“To see the world,” answered Juba; “it’s unmanly not to see it. Why
shouldn’t I see it? It was good fun. I despise them all, fools and idiots.
There they were, scampering about, or lying like hogs, all in liquor. Apes
and swine! However, I will do as others do, if I please. I will be as
drunk as they, when I see good. I am my own master, and it would be no
kind of harm.”

“No harm! why, is it no harm to become an ape or a hog?”

“You don’t take just views of human nature,” answered Juba, with a
self-satisfied air. “Our first duty is to seek our own happiness. If a man
thinks it happier to be a hog, why, let him be a hog,” and he laughed.
“This is where you are narrow-minded. I shall seek my own happiness, and
try this way, if I please.”

“Happiness!” cried Agellius; “where have you been picking up all this
stuff? Can you call such detestable filth happiness?”

“What do you know about such matters?” asked Juba. “Did you ever see them?
Did you ever try them? You would be twice the man you are if you had. You
will not be a man till you do. You are carried off your legs in your own
way. I’d rather get drunk every day than fall down on all fours as you do,
crawling on your stomach like a worm, and whining like a hound that has
been beaten.”

“Now, as I live, you shan’t stop here one instant longer!” cried out
Agellius, starting up. “Be off with you! get away! what do you come here
to blaspheme for? who wants you? who asked for you? Go! go, I say! take
yourself off! Why don’t you go? Keep your ribaldry for others.”

“I am as good as you any day,” said Juba.

“I don’t set myself up,” answered Agellius, “but it’s impossible to
confound Christian and unbeliever as you do.”

“Christian and unbeliever!” said Juba, slowly. “I suppose, when they are
a-courting each other, they _are_ confounded.” He looked hard at Agellius,
as if he thought he had hit a blot. Then he continued, “If I _were_ a
Christian, I’d be so in earnest: else I’d be an honest heathen.”

Agellius coloured somewhat, and sat down, as if under embarrassment.

“I despise you,” said Juba; “you have not the pluck to be a Christian. Be
consistent, and fizz upon a stake; but you’re not made of that stuff.
You’re even afraid of uncle. Nay, you can be caught by those painted
wares, about which, when it suits your purpose, you can be so grave. I
despise you,” he continued, “I despise you, and the whole kit of you.
What’s the difference between you and another? Your people say, ‘Earth’s a
vanity, life’s a dream, riches a deceit, pleasure a snare. Fratres
charissimi, the time is short;’ but who love earth and life and riches and
pleasure better than they? You are all of you as fond of the world, as set
upon gain, as chary of reputation, as ambitious of power, as the jolly old
heathen, who, you say, is going the way of the pit.”

“It is one thing to have a conscience,” answered Agellius; “another thing
to act upon it. The conscience of these poor people is darkened. You had a
conscience once.”

“Conscience, conscience,” said Juba. “Yes, certainly, once I had a
conscience. Yes, and once I had a bad chill, and went about chattering and
shivering; and once I had a game leg, and then I went limping; and so, you
see, I once on a time had a conscience. O yes, I have had many consciences
before now—white, black, yellow, and green; they were all bad; but they
are all gone, and now I have none.”

Agellius said nothing; his one wish, as may be supposed, was to get rid of
so unwelcome a visitor.

“The truth is,” continued Juba, with the air of a teacher—“the truth is,
that religion was a fashion with me, which is now gone by. It was the
complexion of a particular stage of my life. I was neither the better nor
the worse for it. It was an accident, like the bloom on my face, which
soon,” he said, spreading his fingers over his dirty-coloured cheeks, and
stroking them, “which soon will disappear. I acted according to the
feeling, while it lasted; but I can no more recall it than my first teeth,
or the down on my chin. It’s among the things that were.”

Agellius still keeping silence from weariness and disgust, he looked at
him in a significant way, and said, slowly, “I see how it is; I have
penetration enough to perceive that you don’t believe a bit more about
religion than I do.”

“You must not say that under my roof,” cried Agellius, feeling he must not
let his brother’s charge pass without a protest. “Many are my sins, but
unbelief is not one of them.”

Juba tossed his head. “I think I can see through a stone slab as well as
any one,” he said. “It is as I have said; but you’re too proud to confess
it. It’s part of your hypocrisy.”

“Well,” said Agellius coldly, “let’s have done. It’s getting late, Juba;
you’ll be missed at home. Jucundus will be inquiring for you, and some of
those revelling friends of yours may do you a mischief by the way. Why, my
good fellow,” he continued, in surprise, “you have no leggings. The
scorpions will catch hold of you to a certainty in the dark. Come, let me
tie some straw wisps about you.”

“No fear of scorpions for me,” answered Juba; “I have some real good
amulets for the occasion, which even _boola-kog_ and _uffah_ will
respect.”

Saying this, he passed out of the room as unceremoniously as he had
entered it, and took the direction of the city, talking to himself, and
singing snatches of wild airs as he went along, throwing back and shaking
his head, and now and then uttering a sharp internal laugh. Disdaining to
follow the ordinary path, he dived down into the thick and wet grass, and
scrambled through the ravine, which the public road crossed before it
ascended the hill. Meanwhile he accompanied his quickened pace with a
louder strain, and it ran as follows:—

  “The little black Moor is the mate for me,
  When the night is dark, and the earth is free,
  Under the limbs of the broad yew-tree.

  “’Twas Father Cham that planted that yew,
  And he fed it fat with the bloody dew
  Of a score of brats, as his lineage grew.

  “Footing and flaunting it, all in the night,
  Each lock flings fire, each heel strikes light;
  No lamps need they, whose breath is bright.”

Here he was interrupted by a sudden growl, which sounded almost under his
feet, and some wild animal was seen to slink away. Juba showed no
surprise; he had taken out a small metal idol, and whispering some words
to it, had presented it to the animal. He clambered up the bank, gained
the city gate, and made his way for his uncle’s dwelling, which was near
the temple of Astarte.



                                CHAPTER V.


                           JUCUNDUS AT SUPPER.


The house of Jucundus was closed for the night when Juba reached it, or
you would see, were you his companion, that it was one of the most showy
shops in Sicca. It was the image-store of the place, and set out for sale,
not articles of statuary alone, but of metal, of mosaic work, and of
jewellery, as far as they were dedicated to the service of paganism. It
was bright with the many colours adopted in the embellishment of images,
and the many lights which silver and gold, brass and ivory, alabaster,
gypsum, talc, and glass reflected. Shelves and cabinets were laden with
wares; both the precious material, and the elaborated trinket. All tastes
were suited, the popular and the refined, the fashion of the day and the
love of the antique, the classical and the barbarian devotion. There you
might see the rude symbols of invisible powers, which, originating in
deficiency of art, had been perpetuated by reverence for the past: the
mysterious cube of marble sacred among the Arabs, the pillar which was the
emblem of Mercury or Bacchus, the broad-based cone of Heliogabalus, the
pyramid of Paphos, and the tile or brick of Juno.

There, too, were the unmeaning blocks of stone with human heads, which
were to be dressed out in rich robes, and to simulate the human form.
There were other articles besides, as portable as these were unmanageable:
little Junos, Mercuries, Dianas, and Fortunas, for the bosom or the
girdle. Household gods were there, and the objects of personal devotion:
Minerva or Vesta, with handsome niches or shrines in which they might
reside. There, too, were the brass crowns, or _nimbi_ which were intended
to protect the heads of the gods from bats and birds. There you might buy,
were you a heathen, rings with heads on them of Jupiter, Mars, the Sun,
Serapis, and above all Astarte. You would find there the rings and signets
of the Basilidians; amulets too of wood or ivory: figures of demons,
preternaturally ugly; little skeletons, and other superstitious devices.
It would be hard, indeed, if you could not be pleased, whatever your
religious denomination—unless indeed you were determined to reject all the
appliances and objects of idolatry indiscriminately—and in that case you
would rejoice that it was night when you arrived there, and, in
particular, that darkness swallowed up other appliances and objects of
pagan worship, which to darkness were due by a particular title, and by
darkness were best shrouded, till the coming of that day when all things,
good and evil, shall be made light.

The shop, as we have said, was closed, concealed from view by large
lumbering shutters, and made secure by heavy bars of wood. So we must
enter by the passage or vestibule on the right side, and that will conduct
us into a modest _atrium_, with an _impluvium_ on one side, and on the
other the _triclinium_ or supper-room, backing the shop. Jucundus had been
pleasantly engaged in a small supper-party; and, mindful that a
_symposium_ should lie within the number of the Graces and of the Muses,
he had confined his guests to two, the young Greek Aristo, who was one of
his principal artists, and Cornelius the son of a freedman of a Roman of
distinction, who had lately got a place in one of the _scrinia_ of the
proconsular _officium_, and had migrated into the province from the
imperial city where he had spent his best days.

The dinner had not been altogether suitable to modern ideas of good
living. The grapes from Tacape, and the dates from the lake Tritonis, the
white and black figs, the nectarines and peaches, and the watermelons,
address themselves to the imagination of an Englishman, as well as of an
African of the third century. So also might the liquor derived from the
sap or honey of the Getulian palm, and the sweet wine, called _melilotus_,
made from the poetical fruit found upon the coast of the Syrtis. He would
have been struck, too, with the sweetness of the mutton; but he would have
asked what the sheep’s tails were before he tasted them, and found how
like marrow the firm substance ate of which they consisted. He would have
felt he ought to admire the roes of mullets, pressed and dried, from
Mauritania; but he would have thought twice before he tried the lion
cutlets though they had the flavour of veal, and the additional _goût_ of
being imperial property, and poached from a preserve. But when he saw the
indigenous dish, the very haggis and cock-a-leekie of Africa, in the shape
of—(alas! alas! it _must_ be said, with whatever apology for its
introduction)—in shape, then, of a delicate puppy, served up with
tomatoes, with its head between its fore-paws, we consider he would have
risen from the unholy table, and thought he had fallen upon the
hospitality of some sorceress of the neighbouring forest. However, to that
festive board our Briton was not invited, for he had some previous
engagement that evening, either of painting himself with woad, or of
hiding himself to the chin in the fens; so that nothing occurred to
disturb the harmony of the party, and the good humour and easy
conversation which was the effect of such excellent cheer.

Cornelius had been present at the Secular Games in the foregoing year, and
was full of them, of Rome, and of himself in connection with it, as became
so genuine a cockney of the imperial period. He was full of the high
patriotic thoughts which so solemn a celebration had kindled within him.
“O great Rome!” he said, “thou art first, and there is no second. In that
wonderful pageant which these eyes saw last year was embodied her majesty,
was promised her eternity. We die, she lives. I say, _let_ a man die. It’s
well for him to take hemlock, or open a vein, after having seen the
Secular Games. What was there to live for? I felt it; life was gone; its
best gifts flat and insipid after that great day. Excellent—Tauromenian, I
suppose? We know it in Rome. Fill up my cup. I drink to the genius of the
emperor.”

He was full of his subject, and soon resumed it. “Fancy the Campus Martius
lighted up from one end to the other. It was the finest thing in the
world. A large plain, covered, not with streets, not with woods, but
broken and crossed with superb buildings in the midst of groves, avenues
of trees, and green grass, down to the water’s edge. There’s nothing that
isn’t there. Do you want the grandest temples in the world, the most
spacious porticoes, the longest racecourses? there they are. Do you want
_gymnasia_? there they are. Do you want arches, statues, obelisks? you
find them there. There you have at one end the stupendous mausoleum of
Augustus, cased with white marble, and just across the river the huge
towering mound of Hadrian. At the other end you have the noble Pantheon of
Agrippa, with its splendid Syracusan columns, and its dome glittering with
silver tiles. Hard by are the baths of Alexander, with their beautiful
groves. Ah! my good friend! I shall have no time to drink if I go on.
Beyond are the numerous chapels and fanes which fringe the base of the
Capitoline hill; the tall column of Antoninus comes next, with its
adjacent basilica, where is kept the authentic list of the provinces of
the empire, and of the governors, each a king in power and dominion, who
are sent out to them. Well, I am now only beginning. Fancy, I say, this
magnificent region all lighted up; every temple to and fro, every bath,
every grove, gleaming with innumerable lamps and torches. No, not even the
gods of Olympus have anything that comes near it. Rome is the greatest of
all divinities. In the dead of night all was alive; then it was, when
nature sleeps exhausted, Rome began the solemn sacrifices to commemorate
her thousand years. On the banks of the Tiber, which had seen Æneas land,
and Romulus ascend to the gods, the clear red flame shot up as the victims
burned. The music of ten thousand horns and flutes burst forth, and the
sacred dances began upon the greensward. I am too old to dance; but, I
protest, even I stood up and threw off. We danced through three nights,
dancing the old millenary out, dancing the new millenary in. We were all
Romans, no strangers, no slaves. It was a solemn family feast, the feast
of all the Romans.”

“Then we came in for the feast,” said Aristo; “for Caracalla gave Roman
citizenship to all freemen all over the world. We are all of us Romans,
recollect, Cornelius.”

“Ah! that was another matter—a condescension,” answered Cornelius. “Yes,
in a certain sense, I grant it; but it was a political act.”

“I warrant you,” retorted Aristo, “most political. We were to be fleeced,
do you see? so your imperial government made us Romans, that we might have
the taxes of Romans, and that in addition to our own. You’ve taxed us
double; and as for the privilege of citizenship, much it is, by Hercules,
when every snob has it who can wear a _pileus_ or cherish his hair.”

“Ah! but you should have seen the procession from the Capitol,” continued
Cornelius, “on, I think, the second day; from the Capitol to the Circus,
all down the Via Sacra. Hosts of strangers there, and provincials from the
four corners of the earth, but not in the procession. There you saw, all
in one _coup-d’œil_, the real good blood of Rome, the young blood of the
new generation, and promise of the future; the sons of patrician and
consular families, of imperators, orators, conquerors, statesmen. They
rode at the head of the procession, fine young fellows, six abreast; and
still more of them on foot. Then came the running horses and the chariots,
the boxers, the wrestlers, and other combatants, all ready for the
competition. The whole school of gladiators then turned out, boys and all,
with their masters, dressed in red tunics, and splendidly armed. They
formed three bands, and they went forward gaily, dancing and singing the
Pyrrhic. By-the-bye, a thousand pair of gladiators fought during the
games—a round thousand, and such clean-made, well-built fellows, and they
came against each other so gallantly! You should have see it; _I_ can’t go
through it. There was a lot of satyrs, jumping and frisking, in burlesque
of the martial dances which preceded them. There was a crowd of trumpeters
and horn-blowers; ministers of the sacrifices with their victims, bulls
and rams, dressed up with gay wreaths; drivers, butchers, haruspices,
heralds; images of gods with their cars of ivory or silver, drawn by tame
lions and elephants. I can’t recollect the order. O! but the grandest
thing of all was the Carmen, sung by twenty-seven noble youths, and as
many noble maidens, taken for the purpose from the bosoms of their
families to propitiate the gods of Rome. The flamens, augurs, colleges of
priests, it was endless. Last of all came the emperor himself.”

“That’s the late man,” observed Jucundus, “Philip; no bad riddance his
death, if all’s true that’s said of him.”

“All emperors are good in their time and way,” answered Cornelius; “Philip
was good then, and Decius is good now;—whom the gods preserve!”

“True,” said Aristo, “I understand; an emperor cannot do wrong, except in
dying, and then everything goes wrong with him. His death is his first bad
deed; he ought to be ashamed of it; it somehow turns all his great virtues
into vices.”

“Ah! no one was so good an emperor as our man, Gordianus,” said Jucundus,
“a princely old man, living and dead; patron of trade and of the arts;
such villas! he had enormous revenues. Poor old gentleman! and his son
too. I never shall forget the day when the news came that he was gone. Let
me see, it was shortly after that old fool Strabo’s death—I mean my
brother; a good thirteen years ago. All Africa was in tears; there was no
one like Gordianus.”

“That’s old world philosophy,” said Aristo; “Jucundus, you must go to
school. Don’t you see that all that is, is right; and all that was, is
wrong? ‘Te nos facimus, Fortuna, deam,’ says your poet; well, I drink ‘to
the fortunes of Rome,’—while it lasts.”

“You’re a young man,” answered Cornelius, “a very young man, and a Greek.
Greeks never understand Rome. It’s most difficult to understand us. It’s a
science. Look at this medal, young gentleman; it was one of those struck
at the games. Is it not grand? ‘Novum sæculum,’ and on the reverse,
‘Æternitati.’ Always changing, always imperishable. Emperors rise and
fall; Rome remains. The eternal city! Isn’t this good philosophy?”

“Truly, a most beautiful medal,” said Aristo, examining it, and handing it
on to his host. “You might make an amulet of it, Jucundus. But as to
eternity, why, that is a very great word; and, if I mistake not, other
states have been eternal before Rome. Ten centuries is a very respectable
eternity; be content, Rome is eternal already, and may die without
prejudice to the medal.”

“Blaspheme not,” replied Cornelius: “Rome is healthier, more full of life,
and promises more, than at any former time, you may rely upon it. ‘Novum
sæculum!’ she has the age of the eagle, and will but cast her feathers to
begin a fresh thousand.”

“But Egypt,” interposed Aristo, “if old Herodotus speaks true, scarcely
had a beginning. Up and up, the higher you go, the more dynasties of
Egyptian kings do you find. And we hear strange reports of the nations in
the far east, beyond the Ganges.”

“But I tell you, man,” rejoined Cornelius, “Rome is a city of kings. That
one city, in this one year, has as many kings at once as those of all the
kings of all the dynasties of Egypt put together. Sesostris, and the rest
of them, what are they to imperators, prefects, proconsuls, _vicarii_, and
_rationales_? Look back at Lucullus, Cæsar, Pompey, Sylla, Titus, Trajan.
What’s old Cheops’ pyramid to the Flavian amphitheatre? What is the
many-gated Thebes to Nero’s golden house, while it was? What the grandest
palace of Sesostris or Ptolemy but a second-rate villa of any one of ten
thousand Roman citizens? Our houses stand on acres of ground, they ascend
as high as the Tower of Babylon; they swarm with columns like a forest;
they pullulate into statues and pictures. The walls, pavements, and
ceilings are dazzling from the lustre of the rarest marble, red and
yellow, green and mottled. Fountains of perfumed water shoot aloft from
the floor, and fish swim in rocky channels round about the room, waiting
to be caught and killed for the banquet. We dine; and we feast on the head
of the ostrich, the brains of the peacock, the liver of the bream, the
milk of the murena, and the tongue of the flamingo. A flight of doves,
nightingales, beccaficoes are concentrated into one dish. On great
occasions we eat a phœnix. Our saucepans are of silver, our dishes of
gold, our vases of onyx, and our cups of precious stones. Hangings and
carpets of Tyrian purple are around us and beneath us, and we lie on ivory
couches. The choicest wines of Greece and Italy crown our goblets, and
exotic flowers crown our heads. In come troops of dancers from Lydia, or
pantomimes from Alexandria, to entertain both eye and mind; or our noble
dames and maidens take a place at our tables; they wash in asses’ milk,
they dress by mirrors as large as fish-ponds, and they glitter from head
to foot with combs, brooches, necklaces, collars, ear-rings, armlets,
bracelets, finger-rings, girdles, stomachers, and anklets, all of diamond
and emerald. Our slaves may be counted by thousands, and they come from
all parts of the world. Everything rare and precious is brought to Rome:
the gum of Arabia, the nard of Assyria, the papyrus of Egypt, the
citron-wood of Mauretania, the bronze of Ægina, the pearls of Britain, the
cloth of gold of Phrygia, the fine webs of Cos, the embroidery of Babylon,
the silks of Persia, the lion-skins of Getulia, the wool of Miletus, the
plaids of Gaul. Thus we live, an imperial people, who do nothing but enjoy
themselves and keep festival the whole year; and at length we die—and then
we burn: we burn—in stacks of cinnamon and cassia, and in shrouds of
_asbestos_, making emphatically a good end of it. Such are we Romans, a
great people. Why, we are honoured wherever we go. There’s my master,
there’s myself; as we came here from Italy, I protest we were nearly
worshipped as demi-gods.”

“And perhaps some fine morning,” said Aristo, “Rome herself will burn in
cinnamon and cassia, and in all her burnished Corinthian brass and scarlet
bravery, the old mother following her children to the funeral pyre. One
has heard something of Babylon, and its drained moat, and the soldiers of
the Persian.”

A pause occurred in the conversation as one of Jucundus’s slaves entered
with fresh wine, larger goblets, and a vase of snow from the Atlas.



                               CHAPTER VI.


                          GOTHS AND CHRISTIANS.


Cornelius was full of his subject, and did not attend to the Greek. “The
wild-beasts hunts,” he continued, “ah, those hunts during the games,
Aristo! they were a spectacle for the gods. Twenty-two elephants, ten
panthers, ten hyænas (by-the-bye, a new beast, not strange, however, to
you here, I suppose), ten camelopards, a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros—I
can’t go through the list. Fancy the circus planted throughout for the
occasion, and turned into a park, and then another set of wild animals,
Getes and Sarmatians, Celts and Goths, sent in against them, to hunt down,
capture and kill them, or to be killed themselves.”

“Ah, the Goths!” answered Aristo; “those fellows give you trouble, though,
now and then. Perhaps they will give you more. There is a report in the
prætorium to-day that they have crossed the Danube.”

“Yes, they _will_ give us trouble,” said Cornelius, drily; “they _have_
given us trouble, and they will give us more. The Samnites gave us
trouble, and our friends of Carthage here, and Jugurtha, and Mithridates;
trouble, yes, that is the long and the short of it; they will give us
trouble. Is trouble a new thing to Rome?” he asked, stretching out his
arm, as if he were making a speech after dinner, and giving a toast.

“The Goths give trouble, and take a bribe,” retorted Aristo; “this is what
trouble means in their case: it’s a troublesome fellow who hammers at our
door till we pay his reckoning. It is troublesome to raise the means to
buy them off. And the example of these troublesome savages is catching; it
was lately rumoured that the Carpians had been asking the same terms for
keeping quiet.”

“It would ill become the majesty of Rome to soil her fingers with the
blood of such vermin,” said Cornelius; “she ignores them.”

“And therefore she most majestically bleeds us instead,” answered Aristo,
“that she may have treasure to give them. We are not so troublesome as
they; the more’s the pity. No offence to you, however, or to the emperor,
or to great Rome, Cornelius. We are over our cups; it’s only a game of
politics, you know, like chess or the _cottabus_. Maro bids you ‘parcere
subjectis, et debellare superbos;’ but you have changed your manners. You
coax the Goths and bully the poor African.”

“Africa can show fight, too,” interposed Jucundus, who had been calmly
listening and enjoying his own wine; “witness Thysdrus. That was giving
every rapacious Quæstor a lesson that he may go too far, and find a dagger
when he demands a purse.”

He was alluding to the revolt of Africa, which led to the downfall of the
tyrant Maximin and the exaltation of the Gordians, when the native
landlords armed their peasantry, killed the imperial officer, and raised
the standard of rebellion in the neighbouring town from impatience of
exactions under which they suffered.

“No offence, I say, Cornelius, no offence to eternal Rome,” said Aristo,
“but you have explained to us why you weigh so heavy on us. I’ve always
heard it was a fortune at Rome for a man to have found out a new tax.
Vespasian did his best; but now you tax our smoke, and our very shadow;
and Pescennius threatened to tax the air we breathe. We’ll play at
riddles, and you shall solve the following:—Say who is she that eats her
own limbs, and grows eternal upon them? Ah, the Goths will take the
measure of her eternity!”

“The Goths!” said Jucundus, who was warming into conversational life, “the
Goths! no fear of the Goths; but,” and he nodded significantly, “look at
home; we have more to fear indoors than abroad.”

“He means the prætorians,” said Cornelius to Aristo, condescendingly; “I
grant you that there have been several untoward affairs; we have had our
problem, but it’s a thing of the past, it never can come again. I venture
to say that the power of the prætorians is at an end. That murder of the
two emperors the other day was the worst job they ever did; it has turned
the public opinion of the whole world against them. I have no fear of the
prætorians.”

“I don’t mean prætorians more than Goths,” said Jucundus; “no, give me the
old weapons, the old maxims of Rome, and I defy the scythe of Saturn. Do
the soldiers march under the old ensign? do they swear by the old gods? do
they interchange the good old signals and watchwords? do they worship the
fortune of Rome; then I say we are safe. But do we take to new ways? do we
trifle with religion? do we make light of Jupiter, Mars, Romulus, the
augurs, and the ancilia? then I say, not all our shows and games, our
elephants, hyænas, and hippopotamuses, will do us any good. It was not the
best thing, no, not the best thing that the soldiers did, when they
invested that Philip with the purple. But he is dead and gone.” And he sat
up and leant on his elbow.

“Ah! but it will be all set right now,” said Cornelius, “_you’ll_ see.”

“He’d be a reformer, that Philip,” continued Jucundus, “and put down an
enormity. Well, they call it an enormity; let it be an enormity. He’d put
it down; but why? there’s the point; why? It’s no secret at all,” and his
voice grew angry, “that that hoary-headed Atheist Fabian was at the bottom
of it; Fabian, the Christian. I hate reforms.”

“Well, we had long wished to do it,” answered Cornelius, “but could not
manage it. Alexander attempted it near twenty years ago. It’s what
philosophers have always aimed at.”

“The gods consume philosophers and the Christians together!” said Jucundus
devoutly. “There’s little to choose between them, except that the
Christians are the filthier animal of the two. But both are ruining the
most glorious political structure that the world ever saw. I am not
over-fond of Alexander either.”

“Thank you in the name of philosophy,” said the Greek.

“And thank you in the name of the Christians,” chimed in Juba.

“That’s good!” cried Jucundus; “the first word that hopeful youth has
spoken since he came in, and he takes on him to call himself a Christian.”

“I’ve a right to do so, if I choose,” said Juba; “I’ve a right to be a
Christian.”

“Right! O yes, right! ha, ha!” answered Jucundus, “right! Jove help the
lad! by all manner of means. Of course, you have a right to go _in malam
rem_ in whatever way you please.”

“I am my own master,” said Juba; “my father was a Christian. I suppose it
depends on myself to follow him or not, according to my fancy, and as long
as I think fit.”

“Fancy! think fit!” answered Jucundus, “you pompous little mule! Yes, go
and be a Christian, my dear child, as your doting father went. Go, like
him, to the priest of their mysteries; be spit on, stripped, dipped; feed
on little boys’ marrow and brains; worship the ass; and learn all the foul
magic of the sect. And then be delated and taken up, and torn to shreds on
the rack, or thrown to the lions and so go to Tartarus, if Tartarus there
be, in the way you think fit. You’ll harm none but yourself, my boy. I
don’t fear such as you, but the deeper heads.”

Juba stood up with a look of offended dignity, and, as on former
occasions, tossed the head which had been by implication disparaged. “I
despise you,” he said.

“Well, but you are hard on the Christians,” said Aristo. “I have heard
them maintain that their superstition, if adopted, would be the salvation
of Rome. They maintain that the old religion is gone or going out; that
something new is wanted to keep the empire together; and that their
worship is just fitted to the times.”

“All I say to the vipers,” said Jucundus, “is, ‘Let well alone. We did
well enough without you; we did well enough till you sprang up.’ A plague
on their insolence; as if Jew or Egyptian could do aught for us when Numa
and the Sibyl fail. That is what I say, Let Rome be true to herself and
nothing can harm her; let her shift her foundation, and I would not buy
her for this water-melon,” he said, taking a suck at it. “Rome alone can
harm Rome. Recollect old Horace, ‘Suis et ipsa Roma viribus ruit.’ He was
a prophet. If she falls, it is by her own hand.”

“I agree,” said Cornelius; “certainly, to set up any new worship is
treason; not a doubt of it. The gods keep us from such ingratitude! We
have grown great by means of them, and they are part and parcel of the law
of Rome. But there is no great chance of our forgetting this; Decius
won’t; that’s a fact. You will see. Time will show; perhaps to-morrow,
perhaps next day,” he added, mysteriously.

“Why in the world should you have this frantic dread of these poor
scarecrows of Christians,” said Aristo, “all because they hold an opinion?
Why are you not afraid of the bats and the moles? It’s an opinion: there
have been other opinions before them, and there will be other opinions
after. Let them alone and they’ll die away; make a hubbub about them and
they’ll spread.”

“Spread?” cried Jucundus, who was under the twofold excitement of personal
feeling and of wine, “spread, they’ll spread? yes, they’ll spread. Yes,
grow, like scorpions, twenty at a birth. The country already swarms with
them; they are as many as frogs or grasshoppers; they start up everywhere
under one’s nose, when one least expects them. The air breeds them like
plague-flies; the wind drifts them like locusts. No one’s safe; any one
may be a Christian; it’s an epidemic. Great Jove! _I_ may be a Christian
before I know where I am. Heaven and earth! is it not monstrous?” he
continued, with increasing fierceness. “Yes, Jucundus, my poor man, you
may wake and find yourself a Christian, without knowing it, against your
will. Ah! my friends, pity me! I may find myself a beast, and obliged to
suck blood and live among the tombs as if I liked it, without power to
tell you how I loathe it, all through their sorcery. By the genius of Rome
something must be done. I say, no one is safe. You call on your friend; he
is sitting in the dark, unwashed, uncombed, undressed. What is the matter?
Ah! his son has turned Christian. Your wedding-day is fixed, you are
expecting your bride; she does not come; why? she will not have you; she
has become a Christian. Where’s young Nomentanus? Who has seen Nomentanus?
in the forum, or the campus, in the circus, in the bath? Has he caught the
plague or got a sunstroke? Nothing of the kind; the Christians have caught
hold of him. Young and old, rich and poor, my lady in her litter and her
slave, modest maid and Lydia at the Thermæ, nothing comes amiss to them.
All confidence is gone; there’s no one we can reckon on. I go to my
tailor’s: ‘Nergal,’ I say to him, ‘Nergal, I want a new tunic,’ The
wretched hypocrite bows, and runs to and fro, and unpacks his stuffs and
cloths, like another man. A word in your ear. The man’s a Christian,
dressed up like a tailor. They have no dress of their own. If I were
emperor, I’d make the sneaking curs wear a badge, I would; a dog’s collar,
a fox’s tail, or a pair of ass’s ears. Then we should know friends from
foes when we meet them.”

“We should think that dangerous,” said Cornelius; “however, you are taking
it too much to heart; you are making too much of them, my good friend.
They have not even got the present, and you are giving them the future,
which is just what they want.”

“If Jucundus will listen to me,” said Aristo, “I could satisfy him that
the Christians are actually falling off. They once were numerous in this
very place; now there are hardly any. They have been declining for these
fifty years; the danger from them is past. Do you want to know how to
revive them? Put out an imperial edict, forbid them, denounce them. Do you
want them to drop away like autumn leaves? Take no notice of them.”

“I can’t deny that in Italy they _have_ grown,” said Cornelius; “they
_have_ grown in numbers and in wealth, and they intermarry with us. Thus
the upper class becomes to a certain extent infected. We may find it
necessary to repress them; but, as you would repress vermin, without
fearing them.”

“The worshippers of the gods are the many, and the Christians are the
few,” persisted Aristo; “if the two parties intermarry, the weaker will
get the worst of it. You will find the statues of the gods gradually
creeping back into the Christian chapel; and a man must be an honest
fellow who buys our images, eh, Jucundus?”

“Well, Aristo,” said the paterfamilias, whose violence never lasted long,
“if your sister’s bright eyes win back my poor Agellius you will have
something more to say for yourself than, at present, I grant.”

“I see,” said Cornelius, gravely, “I begin to understand it. I could not
make out why our good host had such great fear for the stability of Rome.
But it is one of those things which the experience of life has taught me.
I have often seen it in the imperial city itself. Whenever you find a man
show special earnestness against these fanatics, depend on it there is
something that touches him personally in the matter. There was a very
great man, the present Flamen Dialis, for whom I have unbounded respect;
for a long time I was at a loss to conceive why a person of his weight,
sound, sensible, well-judging, should have such a fear of the Christians.
One day he made an oration against them in the senate-house; he wanted to
send them to the rack. But the secret came out; the good man was on the
rack himself about his daughter, who persisted in calling herself a
Christian, and refused to paint her face or go to the amphitheatre. To be
sure, a most trying affair this for the old gentleman. The venerable Pater
Patratus, too, what suppers he gave! a fine specimen of the Lucullus type;
yet he was always advocating the lictor and the _commentariensis_ in the
instance of the Christian. No wonder; his wife and son were disgracing him
in the eyes of the whole world by frequenting the meetings of these
Christians. However, I agree with Decius, they must be put down. They are
not formidable, but they are an eyesore.”

Here the rushing of the water-clock which measured time in the
neighbouring square, ceased, signifying thereby that the night was getting
on. Juba had already crept into the dark closet which served him for a
sleeping-place; had taken off his sandals, and loosened his belt; had
wrapt the serpent he had about him round his neck, and was breathing
heavily. Jucundus made the parting libation, and Cornelius took his leave.
Aristo rose too; and Jucundus, accompanying them to the entrance, paid the
not uncommon penalty of his potations, for the wine mounted to his head,
and he returned into the room, and sat him down again with an impression
that Aristo was still at table.

“My dear boy,” he said, “Agellius is but a wet Christian; that’s all, not
obstinate, like his brother there. ’Twas his father; the less we say about
him the better; he’s gone. The Furies make his bed for him! an odious set!
Their priests, little ugly men. I saw one when I was a boy at Carthage. So
unlike your noble Roman Saliares, or your fine portly priest of Isis, clad
in white, breathing odours like spring flowers; men who enjoyed this life,
not like that sour hypocrite. He was as black as an Ethiopian, and as
withered as a Saracen, and he never looked you in the face. And, after
all, the fellow must die for his religion, rather than put a few grains of
golden incense on the altar of great Jove. Jove’s the god for me; a
glorious, handsome, curly god—but they are all good, all the gods are
good. There’s Bacchus, he’s a good, comfortable god, though a sly,
treacherous fellow—a treacherous fellow. There’s Ceres, too; Pomona; the
Muses; Astarte, too, as they call her here; all good;—and Apollo, though
he’s somewhat too hot in this season, and too free with his bow. He gave
me a bad fever once. Ah! life’s precious, most precious; so I felt it
then, when I was all but gone to Pluto. Life never returns, it’s like
water spilt; you can’t gather it up. It is dispersed into the elements, to
the four winds. Ah! there’s something more there than I can tell; more
than all your philosophers can determine.”

He seemed to think awhile, and began again: “Enjoyment’s the great rule;
ask yourself, ‘Have I made the most of things?’ that’s what I say to the
rising generation. Many and many’s the time when I have not turned them to
the best account. Oh, if I had now to begin life again, how many things
should I correct! I might have done better this evening. Those abominable
pears! I might have known they would not be worth the eating. Mutton, that
was all well; doves, good again; crane, kid; well, I don’t see that I
could have done much better.”

After a few minutes he got up half asleep, and put out all the lights but
one small lamp, with which he made his way into his own bed-closet. “All
is vanity,” he continued, with a slow, grave utterance, “all is vanity but
eating and drinking. It does not pay to serve the gods except for this.
What’s fame? what’s glory? what’s power? smoke. I’ve often thought the hog
is the only really wise animal. We should be happier if we were all hogs.
Hogs keep the end of life steadily in view; that’s why those toads of
Christians will not eat them, lest they should get like them. Quiet,
respectable, sensible enjoyment; not riot, or revel, or excess, or
quarrelling. Life is short.” And with this undeniable sentiment he fell
asleep.



                               CHAPTER VII.


                        PERSECUTION IN THE OFFING.


Next morning, as Jucundus was dusting and polishing his statues and other
articles of taste and devotion, supplying the gaps in their ranks, and
grouping a number of new ones which had come in from his workmen, Juba
strutted into the shop, and indulged himself from time to time in an
inward laugh or snigger at the various specimens of idolatry which grinned
or frowned or frisked or languished on all sides of him.

“Don’t sneer at that Anubis,” said his uncle; “it is the work of the
divine Callista.”

“That, I suppose, is why she brings into existence so many demons,”
answered Juba; “nothing more can be done in the divine line; like the
queen who fell in love with a baboon.”

“Now I come to think,” retorted Jucundus, “that god of hers is something
like _you_. She must be in love with you, Juba.”

The youth, as was usual with him, tossed his head with an air of lofty
displeasure; at length he said, “And why should she not fall in love with
me, pray?”

“Why, because you are too good or too bad to need her plastic hand. She
could not make anything out of you. ‘Non ex quovis ligno.’ But she’d be
doing a good work if she wiled back your brother.”

“_He_ does not want wiling any more than I,” said Juba, “_I_ dare say!
he’s no Christian.”

“What’s that?” said his uncle, looking round at him in surprise; “Agellius
no Christian?”

“Not a bit of it,” answered Juba; “rest assured. I taxed him with it only
last night; let him alone, _he’ll_ come round. He’s too proud to change,
that’s all. Preach to him, entreat him, worry him, try to turn him, work
at the bit, whip him, and he will turn restive, start aside, or run away;
but let him have his head, pretend not to look, seem indifferent to the
whole matter, and he will quietly sit down in the midst of your images
there. Callista has an easy task; she’ll bribe him to do what he would
else do for nothing.”

“The very best news I have heard since your silly old father died,” cried
Jucundus; “the very best—if true. Juba, I’ll give you an handsome present
the first sow your brother sacrifices to Ceres. Ha, ha, what fine fun to
see the young farmer over his cups at the Nundinæ! Ha, ha, no Christian!
bravo, Juba! ha, ha, I’ll make you a present, I say, an Apollo to teach
you manners, or a Mercury to give you wit.”

“It’s quite true,” said Juba; “he would not be thinking of Callista, if he
were thinking of his saints and angels.”

“Ha, ha! to be sure!” returned Jucundus; “to be sure! yet why shouldn’t he
worship a handsome Greek girl as well as any of those mummies and death’s
heads and bogies of his, which I should blush to put up here alongside
even of Anubis, or a scarabæus?”

“Mother thinks she is not altogether the girl you take her for,” said his
nephew.

“No matter, no matter,” answered Jucundus, “no matter at all; she may be a
Lais or Phryne for me; the surer to make a man of him.”

“Why,” said Juba, “mother thinks her head is turning in the opposite way.
D’you see? Strange, isn’t it?” he added, annoyed himself yet not unwilling
to annoy his uncle.

“Hm!” exclaimed Jucundus, making a wry face and looking round at him, as
if to say, “What on earth is going to turn up now?”

“To tell the truth,” said Juba, gloomily, “I did once think of her myself.
I don’t see why I have not as much right to do so as Agellius, if I
please. So I thought old mother might do something for me; and I asked her
for a charm or love potion, which would bring her from her brother down to
the forest yonder. Gurta took to it kindly, for she has a mortal hatred of
Callista, because of her good looks, though she won’t say so, and because
she’s a Greek! and she liked the notion of humbling the haughty minx. So
she began one of the most tremendous spells,” he shrieked out with a
laugh, “one of the most tremendous spells in her whole budget. All and
everything in the most exact religious way: wine, milk, blood, meal, wax,
old rags, gods, Numidian as well as Punic; such names; one must be
barbarian to boot, as well as witch, to pronounce them: a score of things
there were besides. And then to see the old woman, with her streaming grey
hair, twinkling eyes, and grim look, twirl about as some flute girl at a
banquet; it was enough to dance down, not only the moon, but the whole
milky way. But it did not dance down Callista; at which mother got savage,
and protested that Callista was a Christian.”

Jucundus looked much perplexed. “Medius fidius!” he said, “why, unless we
look sharp, she will be converting him the wrong way;” and he began pacing
up and down the small room.

Juba on his part began singing—

  “Gurta the witch would have part in the jest;
  Though lame as a gull, by his highness possessed,
  She shouldered her crutch, and danced with the rest.

  “Sporting and snorting, deep in the night,
  Their beards flashing fire, and their hoofs striking light,
  And their tails whisking round in the heat of their flight.”

By this time Jucundus had recovered from the qualm which Juba’s
intelligence had caused him, and he cried out, “Cease your rubbish; old
Gurta’s jealous; I know her spite; Christian is the most blackguard word
in her vocabulary, its Barbar for toad or adder. I see it all; no,
Callista, the divine Callista, must take in hand this piece of wax, sing a
charm, and mould him into a Vertumnus. She’ll show herself the more potent
witch of the two. The new emperor too will help the incantation.”

“What! something is coming?” asked Juba, with a grin.

“Coming, boy? yes, I warrant you,” answered his uncle. “_We’ll_ make them
squeak. If gentle means don’t do, then we’ll just throw in another
ingredient or two: an axe, or a wild cat, or a firebrand.”

“Take care what you are about, if you deal with Agellius,” said Juba.
“He’s a sawney, but you must not drive him to bay. Don’t threaten; keep to
the other line; he’s weak-hearted.”

“Only as a background to bring out the painting; the Muse singing, all in
light, relieved by sardix or sepia. It _must_ come; but perhaps Agellius
will come first.”



It was indeed as Jucundus had hinted; a new policy, a new era was coming
upon Christianity, together with the new emperor. Christians had hitherto
been for the most part the objects of popular fury rather than of imperial
jealousy. Nero, indeed, from his very love of cruelty, had taken pleasure
in torturing them: but statesmen and philosophers, though at times
perplexed and inconsistent, yet on the whole had despised them; and the
superstition of priests and people, with their “Christianos ad leones,”
had been the most formidable enemy of the faith. Accordingly, atrocious as
the persecution had been at times, it had been conducted on no plan, and
had been local and fitful. But even this trial had been suspended, with
but few interruptions, during the last thirty, nay, fifty years. So
favourable a state of things had been more or less brought about by a
succession of emperors, who had shown an actual leaning to Christianity.
While the vigorous rule of the five good emperors, as they are called, had
had many passages in its history of an adverse character, those who
followed after, being untaught in the traditions, and strangers to the
spirit of old Rome, foreigners, or adventurers, or sensualists, were
protectors of the new religion. The favourite mistress of Commodus is even
said to have been a Christian; so is the nurse of Caracalla. The wretched
Heliogabalus, by his taste for Oriental superstitions, both weakened the
influence of the established hierarchy, and encouraged the toleration of a
faith which came from Palestine. The virtuous Alexander, who followed him,
was a philosopher more than a statesman; and, in pursuance of the
syncretism which he had adopted, placed the images of Abraham and our Lord
among the objects of devotion which his private chapel contained. What is
told us of the Emperor Philip is still more to the point: the gravest
authorities report that he was actually a Christian; and, since it cannot
be doubted that Christians were persuaded of the fact, the leaning of his
government must have been emphatically in their favour to account for such
a belief. In consequence, Christians showed themselves without fear; they
emerged from the catacombs, and built churches in public view; and, though
in certain localities, as in the instance of Africa, they had suffered
from the contact of the world, they spread far and wide, and faith became
the instrument at least of political power, even where it was wanting in
charity, or momentarily disowned by cowardice. In a word, though Celsus a
hundred years before had pronounced “a man weak who should hope to unite
the three portions of the earth in a common religion,” that common
Catholic faith had been found, and a principle of empire was created which
had never before existed. The phenomenon could not be mistaken; and the
Roman statesman saw he had to deal with a rival. Nor must we suppose,
because on the surface of the history we read so much of the vicissitudes
of imperial power, and of the profligacy of its possessors, that the
fabric of government was not sustained by traditions of the strongest
temper, and by officials of the highest sagacity. It was the age of
lawyers and politicians; and they saw more and more clearly that if
Christianity was not to revolutionize the empire, they must follow out the
line of action which Trajan and Antoninus had pointed out.

Decius then had scarcely assumed the purple, when he commenced that new
policy against the Church which was reserved to Diocletian, fifty years
later, to carry out to its own final refutation. He entered on his power
at the end of the year 249; and on the January 20th following, the day on
which the Church still celebrates the event, St. Fabian, Bishop of Rome,
obtained the crown of martyrdom. He had been pope for the unusually long
space of fourteen years, having been elected in consequence of one of
those remarkable interpositions of Divine Providence of which we now and
then read in the first centuries of the Church. He had come up to Rome
from the country, in order to be present at the election of a successor to
Pope Anteros. A dove was seen to settle on his head, and the assembly rose
up and forced him, to his surprise, upon the episcopal throne. After
bringing back the relics of St. Pontian, his martyred predecessor, from
Sardinia, and having become the apostle of great part of Gaul, he seemed
destined to end his history in the same happy quiet and obscurity in which
he had lived; but it did not become a pope of that primitive time to die
upon his bed, and he was reserved at length to inaugurate in his own
person, as chief pastor of the Church, a fresh company of martyrs.

Suddenly an edict appeared for the extermination of the name and religion
of Christ. It was addressed to the proconsuls and other governors of
provinces; and alleged or implied that the emperors, Decius and his son,
being determined to give peace to their subjects, found the Christians
alone an impediment to the fulfilment of their purpose; and that, by
reason of the enmity which those sectaries entertained towards the gods of
Rome,—an enmity which was bringing down upon the world multiplied
misfortunes. Desirous, then, above all things, of appeasing the divine
anger, they made an irrevocable ordinance that every Christian, without
exception of rank, sex, or age, should be obliged to sacrifice. Those who
refused were to be thrown into prison, and in the first instance submitted
to moderate punishments. If they conformed to the established religion,
they were to be rewarded; if not, they were to be drowned, burned alive,
exposed to the beasts, hung upon the trees, or otherwise put to death.
This edict was read in the camp of the prætorians, posted up in the
Capitol, and sent over the empire by government couriers. The authorities
in each province were themselves threatened with heavy penalties, if they
did not succeed in frightening or tormenting the Christians into the
profession of paganism.

St. Fabian, as we have said, was the first-fruits of the persecution, and
eighteen months passed before his successor could be appointed. In the
course of the next two months St. Pionius was burned alive at Smyrna, and
St. Nestor crucified in Pamphylia. At Carthage some perplexity and delay
were occasioned by the absence of the proconsul. St. Cyprian, its bishop,
took advantage of the delay, and retired into a place of concealment. The
populace had joined with the imperial government in seeking his life, and
had cried out furiously in the circus, demanding him “ad leonem,” for the
lion. A panic seized the Christian body, and for a while there were far
more persons found to compromise their faith than to confess it. It seemed
as if Aristo’s anticipation was justified, that Christianity was losing
its hold upon the mind of its subjects, and that nothing more was needed
for those who had feared it, than to let it die a natural death. And at
Sicca the Roman officials, as far as ever they dared, seemed to act on
this view. Here Christians did no harm, they made no show, and there was
little or nothing in the place to provoke the anger of the mob or to
necessitate the interference of the magistrate. The proconsul’s absence
from Carthage was both an encouragement and an excuse for delay; and hence
it was that, though we are towards the middle of the year 250, and the
edict was published at Rome at its commencement, the good people of Sicca
had, as we have said, little knowledge of what was taking place in the
political world, and whispered about vague presages of an intended
measure, which had been in some places in operation for many months.
Communication with the seat of government was not so very frequent or
rapid in those days, and public curiosity had not been stimulated by the
facilities of gratifying it. And thus we must account for a phenomenon,
which we uphold to be a fact in the instance of Sicca, in the early summer
of A.D. 250, even though it prove unaccountable, and history has nothing
to say about it, and in spite of the _Acta Diurna_.

The case, indeed, is different now. In these times, newspapers, railroads,
and magnetic telegraphs make us independent of government messengers. The
proceedings at Rome would have been generally and accurately known in a
few seconds; and then, by way of urging forward the magistracy, a question
of course would have been asked in the parliament of Carthage by the
member for Sicca, or Laribus, or Thugga, or by some one of the pagani, or
country party, whether the popular report was true, that an edict had been
promulgated at Rome against the Christians, and what steps had been taken
by the local authorities throughout the proconsulate to carry out its
provisions. And then the “Colonia Siccensis” would have presented some
good or bad reason for the delay: that it arose from the absence of the
proconsul from the seat of government, or from the unaccountable loss of
the despatch on its way from the coast; or, perhaps, on the other hand,
the under-secretary would have maintained, amid the cheers of his
supporters, that the edict had been promulgated and carried out at Sicca
to the full, that crowds of Christians had at once sacrificed, and that,
in short, there was no one to punish; assertions which at that moment were
too likely to be verified by the event.

In truth, there were many reasons to make the magistrates, both Roman and
native, unwilling to proceed in the matter, till they were obliged. No
doubt they one and all detested Christianity, and would have put it down,
if they could; but the question was, when they came to the point, _what_
they should put down. If, indeed, they could have got hold of the
ringleaders, the bishops of the Church, they would have tortured and
smashed them _con amore_, as you would kill a wasp; and with the greater
warmth and satisfaction, just because it was so difficult to get at them.
Those bishops were a set of fellows as mischievous as they were cowardly;
they would not come out and be killed, but they skulked in the desert, and
hid in masquerade. But why should gentlemen in office, opulent and happy,
set about worrying a handful of idiots, old, or poor, or boys, or women,
or obscure, or amiable and well-meaning men, who were but a remnant of a
former generation, and as little connected with the fanatics of Carthage,
Alexandria, or Rome, as the English freemasons may seem to be with their
namesakes on the continent? True, Christianity was a secret society, and
an illegal religion; but would it cease to be so when those harmless or
respectable inhabitants of the place had been mounted on the rack or the
gibbet?

And then, too, it was a most dangerous thing to open the door to popular
excitement;—who would be able to shut it? Once rouse the populace, and it
was all over with the place. It could not be denied that the bigoted and
ignorant majority, not only of the common people, but of the better
classes, was steeped in a bitter prejudice, and an intense, though latent,
hatred of Christianity. Besides the antipathy which arose from the
extremely different views of life and duty taken by pagans and Christians,
which would give a natural impulse to persecution in the hearts of the
former, there were the many persons who wished to curry favour at Rome
with the government, and had an eye to preferment or reward. There was the
pagan interest, extended and powerful, of that numerous class which was
attached to the established religions by habit, position, interest, or the
prospect of advantage. There were all the great institutions or
establishments of the place; the law courts, the schools of grammar and
rhetoric, the philosophic _exedræ_ and lecture-rooms, the theatre, the
amphitheatre, the market—all were, for one reason or another, opposed to
Christianity; and who could tell where they would stop in their onward
course, if they were set in motion? “Quieta non movenda” was the motto of
the local government, native and imperial, and that the more, because it
was an age of revolutions, and they might be most unpleasantly compromised
or embarrassed by the direction which the movement took. Besides, Decius
was not immortal; in the last twelve years eight emperors had been cut
off, six of them in a few months; and who could tell but the successor of
the present might revert to the policy of Philip, and feel no thanks to
those who had suddenly left it for a policy of blood.

In this cautious course they would be powerfully supported by the
influence of personal considerations. The Roman _officia_, the city
magistrates, the heads of the established religions, the lawyers, and the
philosophers, all would have punished the Christians, if they could; but
they could not agree whom to punish. They would have agreed with great
satisfaction, as we have said, to inflict condign and capital punishment
upon the heads of the sect; and they would have had no objection, if
driven to do something, to get hold of some strangers or slaves, who might
be a sort of scapegoats for the rest; but it was impossible, when they
once began to persecute, to make distinctions, and not a few of them had
relations who were Christians, or at least were on that border-land which
the mob might mistake for the domain of Christianity—Marcionites,
Tertullianists, Montanists, or Gnostics. When once the cry of “the gods of
Rome” was fairly up, it would apply to tolerated religions as well as to
illicit, and an unhappy votary of Isis or Mithras might suffer, merely
because there were few Christians forthcoming. A duumvir of the place had
a daughter whom he had turned out of his house for receiving baptism, and
who had taken refuge at Vacca. Several of the decurions, the _tabularius_
of the district, the _scriba_, one of the exactors, who lived in Sicca,
various of the retired gentry, whom we spoke of in a former chapter, and
various _attachés_ of the prætorium, were in not dissimilar circumstances.
Nay, the priest of Esculapius had a wife, whom he was very fond of, who,
though she promised to keep quiet, if things continued as they were,
nevertheless had the madness to vow that, if there were any severe
proceedings instituted against her people, she would at once come forward,
confess herself a Christian, and throw water, instead of incense, upon the
sacrificial flame. Not to speak of the venerable man’s tenderness for her,
such an exposure would seriously compromise his respectability, and, as he
was infirm and apoplectic, it was a question whether Esculapius himself
could save him from the shock which would be the consequence.

The same sort of feeling operated with our good friend Jucundus. He was
attached to his nephew; but, be it said without disrespect to him, he was
more attached to his own reputation; and, while he would have been
seriously annoyed at seeing Agellius exposed to one of the panthers of the
neighbouring forest, or hung up by the feet, with the blood streaming from
his nose and mouth, as one of the dogs or kids of the market, he would
have disliked the _éclat_ of the thing still more. He felt both anger and
alarm at the prospect; he was conscious he did not understand his nephew,
or (to use a common phrase) know where to find him; he was aware that a
great deal of tact was necessary to manage him; and he had an instinctive
feeling that Juba was right in saying that it would not do to threaten him
with the utmost severity of the law. He considered Callista’s hold on him
was the most promising quarter of the horizon; so he came to a resolution
to do as little as he could personally, but to hold Agellius’s head, as
far as he could, steadily in the direction of that lady, and to see what
came of it. As to Juba’s assurance that Agellius was not a Christian at
heart, it was too good news to be true; but still it might be only an
anticipation of what would be, when the sun of Greece shone out upon him,
and dispersed the remaining mists of Oriental superstition.

In this state of mind the old gentleman determined one afternoon to leave
his shop to the care of a slave, and to walk down to his nephew, to judge
for himself of his state of mind; to bait his hook with Callista, and to
see if Agellius bit. There was no time to be lost, for the publication of
the edict might be made any day; and then disasters might ensue which no
skill could remedy.



                              CHAPTER VIII.


                           THE NEW GENERATION.


Jucundus, then, set out to see how the land lay with his nephew, and to do
what he could to prosper the tillage. His way led him by the temple of
Mercury, which at that time subserved the purpose of a boy’s school, and
was connected with some academical buildings, the property of the city,
which lay beyond it. It cannot be said that our friend was any warm patron
of literature or education, though he had not neglected the schooling of
his nephews. Letters seemed to him in fact to unsettle the mind; and he
had never known much good come of them. Rhetoricians and philosophers did
not know where they stood, or what were their bearings. They did not know
what they held, and what they did not. He knew his own position perfectly
well, and, though the words “belief” or “knowledge” did not come into his
religious vocabulary, he could at once, without hesitation, state what he
professed and maintained. He stood upon the established order of things,
on the traditions of Rome, and the laws of the empire; but as to Greek
sophists and declaimers, he thought very much as old Cato did about them.
The Greeks were a very clever people, unrivalled in the fine arts; let
them keep to their strong point; they were inimitable with the chisel, the
brush, the trowel, and the fingers; but he was not prepared to think much
of their _calamus_ or _stylus_, poetry excepted. What did they ever do but
subvert received principles without substituting any others? And then they
were so likely to take some odd turn themselves; you never could be sure
of them. Socrates, their patriarch, what was he after all but a culprit, a
convict, who had been obliged to drink hemlock, dying under the hands of
justice? Was this a reputable end, a respectable commencement of the
philosophic family? It was very well for Plato or Xenophon to throw a veil
of romance over the transaction, but this was the plain matter of fact.
Then Anaxagoras had been driven out of Athens for his revolutionary
notions; and Diogenes had been accused, like the Christians, of atheism.
The case had been the same in more recent times. There had been that
madman, Apollonius, roaming about the world; Apuleius, too, their
neighbour, fifty years before, a man of respectable station, a gentleman,
but a follower of the Greek philosophy, a dabbler in magic, and a
pretender to miracles. And so, in fact, of letters generally; as in their
own country Minucius, a contemporary of Apuleius, became a Christian.
Such, too, had been his friend Octavius; such Cæcilius, who even became
one of the priests of the sect, and seduced others from the religion he
had left. One of them had been the public talk for several years, and he
too originally a rhetorician, Thascius Cyprianus of Carthage. It was the
one thing which gave him some misgiving about that little Callista, that
she was a Greek.

As he passed the temple, the metal plate was sounding as a signal for the
termination of the school, and on looking towards the portico with an
ill-natured curiosity, he saw a young acquaintance of his, a youth of
about twenty, coming out of it, leading a boy of about half that age, with
his satchel thrown over his shoulder.

“Well, Arnobius,”(2) he cried, “how does rhetoric proceed? are we to take
the law line, or turn professor? Who’s the boy? some younger brother?”

“I’ve taken pity on the little fool,” answered Arnobius; “these
schoolmasters are a savage lot. I suffered enough from them myself, and
‘miseris succurrere disco.’ So I took him from under the roof of friend
Rupilius, and he’s under my tutelage. How did he treat thee, boy?”

“He treated me like a slave or a Christian,” answered he.

“He deserved it, I’ll warrant,” said Jucundus; “a pert, forward imp. ’Twas
Gete against Briton. Much good comes of schooling! He’s a wicked one
already. Ah, the new generation! I don’t know where the world’s going.”

“Tell the gentleman,” said Arnobius, “what he did first to you, my boy.”

“As the good gentleman says,” answered the boy, “first I did something to
him, and then he did something to me.”

“I told you so,” said Jucundus; “a sensible boy, after all; but the
schoolmaster had the best of it, I’ll wager.”

“First,” answered he, “I grinned in his face, and he took off his wooden
shoe, and knocked out one of my teeth.”

“Good,” said Jucundus, “the justice of Pythagoras. Zaleuchus could not
have done better. The mouth sins, and the mouth suffers.”

“Next,” continued he, “I talked in school-time to my chum; and Rupilius
put a gag in my jaws, and kept them open for an hour.”

“The very Rhadamanthus of schoolmasters!” cried Jucundus: “and thereupon
you struck up a chant, divine though inarticulate, like the statue of
Memnon.”

“Then,” said the boy, “I could not say my Virgil, and he tore the shirt
from off my back, and gave it me with the leather.”

“Ay,” answered Jucundus, “ ‘arma virumque’ branded on your hide.”

“Afterwards I ate his dinner for him,” continued the boy, “and then he
screwed my head, and kept me without food for two days.”

“Your throat, you mean,” said Jucundus; “a cautious man! lest you should
steal a draught or two of good strong air.”

“And lastly,” said he, “I did not bring my pence, and then he tied my
hands to a gibbet, and hung me up _in terrorem_.”

“There I came in,” said Arnobius; “he seemed a pretty boy, so I cut him
down, paid his æra, and took him home.”

“And now he is your pupil?” asked Jucundus.

“Not yet,” answered Arnobius; “he is still a day-scholar of the old
wolf’s; one is like another; he could not change for the better: but I am
his bully, and shall tutorize him some day. He’s a sharp lad, isn’t he,
Firmian?” turning to the boy; “a great hand at composition for his years;
better than I am, who never shall write Latin decently. Yet what can I do?
I must profess and teach, for Rome is the only place for the law, and
these city professorships are not to be despised.”

“Whom are you attending here?” asked Jucundus, drily.

“You are the only man in Sicca who needs to ask the question. What! not
know the great Polemo of Rhodes, the friend of Plotinus, the pupil of
Theagenes, the disciple of Thrasyllus, the hearer of Nicomachus, who was
of the school of Secundus, the doctor of the new Pythagoreans? Not feel
the presence in Sicca of Polemo, the most celebrated, the most intolerable
of men? That, however, is not his title, but the ‘godlike,’ or the
‘oracular,’ or the ‘portentous,’ or something else as impressive. Every
one goes to him. He is the rage. I should not have a chance of success if
I could not say that I had attended his lectures; though I’d be bound our
little Firmian here would deliver as good. He’s the very cariophyllus of
human nature. He comes to the schools in a litter of cedar, ornamented
with silver and covered with a lion’s skin, slaves carrying him, and a
crowd of friends attending, with the state of a proconsul. He is dressed
in the most exact style; his pallium is of the finest wool, white, picked
out with purple; his tresses flow with unguent, his fingers glitter with
rings, and he smells like Idalium. As soon as he puts foot on earth, a
great hubbub of congratulation and homage breaks forth. He takes no
notice; his favourite pupils form a circle round him, and conduct him into
one of the _exedræ_, till the dial shows the time for lecture. Here he
sits in silence, looking at nothing, or at the wall opposite him, talking
to himself, a hum of admiration filling the room. Presently one of his
pupils, as if he were præco to the duumvir, cries out, ‘Hush, gentlemen,
hush! the godlike’—no, it is not that. I’ve not got it. What _is_ his
title? ‘the Bottomless,’ that’s it—‘the Bottomless speaks.’ A dead silence
ensues; a clear voice and a measured elocution are the sure token that it
is the outpouring of the oracle. ‘Pray,’ says the little man, ‘pray, which
existed first, the egg or the chick? Did the chick lay the egg, or the egg
hatch the chick?’ Then there ensues a whispering, a disputing, and after a
while a dead silence. At the end of a quarter of an hour or so, our præco
speaks again, and this time to the oracle. ‘Bottomless man,’ he says, ‘I
have to represent to you that no one of the present company finds himself
equal to answer the question, which your condescension has proposed to our
consideration!’ On this there is a fresh silence, and at length a fresh
_effatum_ from the hierophant: ‘Which comes first, the egg or the chick?
The egg comes first in relation to the causativity of the chick, and the
chick comes first in relation to the causativity of the egg,’ on which
there is a burst of applause; the ring of adorers is broken through, and
the shrinking professor is carried in the arms or on the shoulders of the
literary crowd to his chair in the lecture-room.”

Much as there was in Arnobius’s description which gratified Jucundus’s
prejudices, he had suspicions of his young acquaintance, and was not in
the humour to be pleased unreservedly with those who satirized anything
whatever that was established, or was appointed by government, even
affectation and pretence. He said something about the wisdom of ages, the
reverence due to authority, the institutions of Rome, and the magistrates
of Sicca. “Do not go after novelties,” he said to Arnobius; “make a daily
libation to Jove, the preserver, and to the genius of the emperor, and
then let other things take their course.”

“But you don’t mean I must believe all this man says, because the
decurions have put him here?” cried Arnobius. “Here is this Polemo saying
that Proteus is matter, and that minerals and vegetables are his flock;
that Proserpine is the vital influence, and Ceres the efficacy of the
heavenly bodies; that there are mundane spirits, and supramundane; and
then his doctrine about triads, monads, and progressions of the celestial
gods?”

“Hm!” said Jucundus; “they did not say so when I went to school; but keep
to my rule, my boy, and swear by the genius of Rome and the emperor.”

“I don’t believe in god or goddess, emperor or Rome, or in any philosophy,
or in any religion at all,” said Arnobius.

“What!” cried Jucundus, “you’re not going to desert the gods of your
ancestors?”

“Ancestors?” said Arnobius; “I’ve no ancestors. I’m not African certainly,
not Punic, not Libophœnician, not Canaanite, not Numidian, not Gætulian.
I’m half Greek, but what the other half is I don’t know. My good old
gaffer, you’re one of the old world. I believe nothing. Who can? There is
such a racket and whirl of religions on all sides of me that I am sick of
the subject.”

“Ah, the rising generation!” groaned Jucundus; “you young men! I cannot
prophesy what you will become, when we old fellows are removed from the
scene. Perhaps you’re a Christian?”

Arnobius laughed. “At least I can give you comfort on that head, old
grandfather. A pretty Christian _I_ should make, indeed! seeing visions,
to be sure, and rejoicing in the rack and dungeon! I wish to enjoy life; I
see wealth, power, rank, and pleasure to be worth living for, and I see
nothing else.”

“Well said, my lad,” cried Jucundus, “well said; stick to that. I declare
you frightened me. Give up all visions, speculations, conjectures,
fancies, novelties, discoveries; nothing comes of them but confusion.”

“No, no,” answered the youth; “I’m not so wild as you seem to think,
Jucundus. It is true I don’t believe one single word about the gods; but
in their worship was I born, and in their worship I will die.”

“Admirable!” cried Jucundus in a transport; “well, I’m surprised; you have
taken me by surprise. You’re a fine fellow; you are a boy after my heart.
I’ve a good mind to adopt you.”

“You see I can’t believe one syllable of all the priests’ trash,” said
Arnobius; “who does? not they. I don’t believe in Jupiter or Juno, or in
Astarte or in Isis; but where shall I go for anything better? or why need
I seek anything good or bad in that line? Nothing’s known anywhere, and
life would go while I attempted what is impossible. No, better stay where
I am; I may go further, and gain a loss for my pains. So you see I am for
myself, and for the genius of Rome.”

“That’s the true principle,” answered the delighted Jucundus. “Why,
really, for so young a man, surprising! Where _did_ you get so much good
sense, my dear fellow? _I’ve_ seen very little of you. Well, this I’ll
say, you are a youth of most mature mind. To be sure! Well! Such youths
are rare now-a-days. I congratulate you with all my heart on your strong
sense and your admirable wisdom. Who’d have thought it? I’ve always, to
tell the truth, had a little suspicion of you; but you’ve come out nobly.
Capital! I don’t wish you to believe in the gods if you can’t; but it’s
your duty, dear boy, your duty to Rome to maintain them, and to rally
round them when attacked.” Then with a changed voice, he added, “Ah, that
a young friend of mine had your view of the matter!” and then, fearing he
had said too much, he stopped abruptly.

“You mean Agellius,” said Arnobius. “You’ve heard, by-the-bye,” he
continued in a lower tone, “what’s the talk in the Capitol, that at Rome
they are proceeding on a new plan against the Christians with great
success. They don’t put to death, at least at once; they keep in prison,
and threaten the torture. It’s surprising how many come over.”

“The Furies seize them!” exclaimed Jucundus: “they deserve everything bad,
always excepting my poor boy. So they are cheating the hangman by giving
up their atheism, the vile reptiles, giving in to a threat. However,” he
added gravely, “I wish threats would answer with Agellius; but I greatly
fear that menace would only make him stubborn. That stubbornness of a
Christian! O Arnobius!” he said, shaking his head and looking solemn,
“it’s a visitation from the gods, a sort of _nympholepsia_.”

“It’s going out,” said Arnobius, “mark my words; the frenzy is dying. It’s
only wonderful it should have lasted for three centuries. The report runs
that in some places, when the edict was published, the Christians did not
wait for a summons, but swept up to the temples to sacrifice, like a shoal
of tunnies. The magistrates were obliged to take so many a day; and, as
the days went on, none so eager to bring over the rest as those who have
already become honest men. Nay, not a few of their mystic or esoteric
class have conformed.”

“If so, unless Agellius looks sharp,” said Jucundus, “his sect will give
him up before he gives up his sect. Christianity will be converted before
him.”

“Oh, don’t fear for him!” said Arnobius; “I knew him at school. Boys
differ; some are bold and open. They like to be men, and to dare the deeds
of men; they talk freely, and take their swing in broad day. Others are
shy, reserved, bashful, and are afraid to do what they love quite as much
as the others. Agellius never could rub off this shame, and it has taken
this turn. He’s sure to outgrow it in a year or two. I should not wonder
if, when once he had got over it, he went into the opposite fault. You’ll
find him a drinker and a swaggerer and a spendthrift before many years are
over.”

“Well, that’s good news,” said Jucundus; “I mean, I am glad you think he
will shake off these fancies. I don’t believe they sit very close to him
myself.”

He walked on for a while in silence; then he said, “That seems a sharp
child, Arnobius. Could he do me a service if I wanted it? Does he know
Agellius?”

“Know him?” answered the other; “yes, and his farm too. He has rambled
round Sicca, many is the mile. And he knows the short cuts, and the blind
ways, and safe circuits.”

“What’s the boy’s name?” asked Jucundus.

“Firmian,” answered Arnobius. “Firmian Lactantius.”

“I say, Firmian,” said Jucundus to him, “where are you to be found of a
day, my boy?”

“At class morning and afternoon,” answered Firmian, “sleeping in the
porticoes in midday, nowhere in the evening, and roosting with Arnobius at
night.”

“And you can keep a secret, should it so happen?” asked Jucundus, “and do
an errand, if I gave you one?”

“I’ll give him the stick worse than Rupilius, if he does not,” said
Arnobius.

“A bargain,” cried Jucundus; and, waving his hand to them, he stept
through the city gate, and they returned to their afternoon amusements.



                               CHAPTER IX.


                         JUCUNDUS BAITS HIS TRAP.


Agellius is busily employed upon his farm. While the enemies of his faith
are laying their toils for him and his brethren in the imperial city, in
the proconsular _officium_, and in the municipal curia,—while Jucundus is
scheming against him personally in another way and with other
intentions,—the unconscious object of these machinations is busy about his
master’s crops, housing the corn in caves or pits, distilling the roses,
irrigating the _khennah_, and training and sheltering the vines. And he
does so, not only from a sense of duty, but the more assiduously, because
he finds in constant employment a protection against himself, against idle
thoughts, wayward wishes, discontent, and despondency. It is doubtless
very strange to the reader how any one who professed himself a Christian
in good earnest should be open to the imputation of resting his hopes and
his heart in the tents of paganism; but we do not see why Agellius has not
quite as much right to be inconsistent in one way as Christians of the
present time in another, and perhaps he has more to say for himself than
they. They have not had the trial of solitude, nor the consequent
temptation to which he has been exposed, of seeking relief from his own
thoughts in the company of unbelievers. When a boy he had received his
education at that school in the Temple of Mercury of which we heard in the
foregoing chapter; and though happily he had preserved himself from the
contagion of idolatry and sin, he had on that very account formed no
friendships with his schoolfellows. Whether there were any Christians
there besides himself he did not know; but while the worst of his
schoolfellows were what heathen boys may be supposed to be, the lightest
censure which could be passed on any was that they were greedy, or
quarrelsome, or otherwise unamiable. He had learned there enough to open
his mind, and to give him materials for thinking, and instruments for
reflecting on his own religion, and for drawing out into shape his own
reflections. He had received just that discipline which makes solitude
most pleasant to the old, and most insupportable to the young. He had got
a thousand questions which needed answers, a thousand feelings which
needed sympathy. He wanted to know whether his guesses, his perplexities,
his trials of mind, were peculiar to himself, or how far they were shared
by others, and what they were worth. He had capabilities for intellectual
enjoyment unexercised, and a thirst after knowledge unsatisfied. And the
channels of supernatural assistance were removed from him at a time when
nature was most impetuous and most clamorous.

It was under circumstances such as these that two young Greeks, brother
and sister, the brother older, the sister younger, than Agellius, came to
Sicca at the invitation of Jucundus, who wanted them for his trade. His
nephew in time got acquainted with them, and found in them what he had
sought in vain elsewhere. It is not that they were oracles of wisdom or
repositories of philosophical learning; their age and their calling
forbade it, nor did he require it. For an oracle, of course, he would have
looked in another direction; but he desiderated something more on a level
with himself, and that they abundantly supplied. He found, from his
conversations with them, that a great number of the questions which had
been a difficulty to him had already been agitated in the schools of
Greece. He found what solutions were possible, what the hinge was on which
questions turned, what the issue to which they led, and what the principle
which lay at the bottom of them. He began better to understand the
position of Christianity in the world of thought, and the view which was
taken of it by the advocates of other religions or philosophies. He gained
some insight into its logic, and advanced, without knowing it, in the
investigation of its evidences.

Nor was this all; he acquired by means of his new friends a great deal
also of secular knowledge as well as philosophical. He learned much of the
history of foreign countries, especially of Greece, of its heroes and
sages, its poets and its statesmen, of Alexander, of the Syro-Macedonic
empire, of the Jews, and of the series of conquests through which Rome
advanced to universal dominion.

To impart knowledge is as interesting as to acquire it; and Agellius was
called upon to give as well as to take. The brother and sister, without
showing any great religious earnestness, were curious to know about
Christianity, and listened with the more patience that they had no special
attachment to any other worship. In the debates which ensued, though there
was no agreement, there was the pleasure of mental exercise and
excitement; he found enough to tell them without touching upon the more
sacred mysteries; and while he never felt his personal faith at all
endangered by their free conversation, his charity, or at least his
good-will and his gratitude, led him to hope, or even to think, that they
were in the way of conversion themselves. In this thought he was aided by
his own innocence and simplicity; and though, on looking back afterwards
to this eventful season, he recognized many trivial occurrences which
ought to have put him on his guard, yet he had no suspicion at the time
that those who conversed so winningly, and sustained so gracefully and
happily the commerce of thought and sentiment, might in their actual
state, nay, in their governing principles, be in utter contrariety to
himself when the veil was removed from off their hearts.

Nor was it in serious matters alone, but still more on lighter occasions
of intercourse, that Aristo and Callista were attractive to the solitary
Agellius. She had a sweet thrilling voice, and accompanied herself on the
lyre. She could act the _improvisatrice_, and her expressive features were
a running commentary on the varied meaning, the sunshine and the shade, of
her ode or her epic. She could relate how the profane Pentheus and the
self-glorious Hippolytus gave a lesson to the world of the feebleness of
human virtue when it placed itself in opposition to divine power. She
could teach how the chaste Diana manifests herself to the simple shepherd
Endymion, not to the great or learned; and how Tithonus, the spouse of the
Morn, adumbrates the fate of those who revel in their youth, as if it were
to last for ever; and who, when old, do nothing but talk of the days when
they were young, wearying others with tales of “their amours or their
exploits, like grasshoppers that show their vigour only by their
chirping.”(3) The very allegories which sickened and irritated Arnobius
when spouted out by Polemo, touched the very chords of poor Agellius’s
heart when breathed forth from the lips of the beautiful Greek.

She could act also; and suddenly, when conversation flagged or suggested
it, she could throw herself into the part of Medea or Antigone, with a
force and truth which far surpassed the effect produced by the male and
masked representations of those characters at the theatre. Brother and
sister were Œdipus and Antigone, Electra and Orestes, Cassandra and the
Chorus. Once or twice they attempted a scene in Menander; but there was
something which made Agellius shrink from the comedy, beautiful as it was,
and clever as was the representation. Callista could act Thais as truly as
Iphigenia, but Agellius could not listen as composedly. There are certain
most delicate instincts and perceptions in us which act as first
principles, and which, once effaced, can never, except from some
supernatural source, be restored to the mind. When men are in a state of
nature, these are sinned against, and vanish very soon, at so early a date
in the history of the individual that perhaps he does not recollect that
he ever possessed them; and since, like other first principles, they are
but very partially capable of proof, a general scepticism prevails both as
to their existence and their truth. The Greeks, partly from the vivacity
of their intellect, partly from their passion for the beautiful, lost
these celestial adumbrations sooner than other nations. When a collision
arose on such matters between Agellius and his friends, Callista kept
silence; but Aristo was not slow to express his wonder that the young
Christian should think customs or practices wrong which, in his view of
the matter, were as unblamable and natural as eating, drinking, or
sleeping. His own face became almost satirical as Agellius’s became grave;
however, he was too companionable and good-natured to force another to be
happy in his own way; he imputed to the extravagance of his friend’s
religion what in any but a Christian he would have called moroseness and
misanthropy; and he bade his sister give over representations which,
instead of enlivening the passing hour, did but inflict pain.

This friendly intercourse had now gone on for some months, as the leisure
of both parties admitted. Once or twice brother and sister had come to the
suburban farm; but for the most part, in spite of his intense dislike of
the city, he had for their sake threaded its crowded and narrow
thoroughfares, crossed its open places, and presented himself at their
apartments. And was it very strange that a youth so utterly ignorant of
the world, and unsuspicious of evil, should not have heard the warning
voice which called him to separate himself from heathenism, even in its
most specious form? Was it very strange, under these circumstances, that a
sanguine hope, the hope of the youthful, should have led Agellius to
overlook obstacles, and beguile himself into the notion that Callista
might be converted, and make a good Christian wife? Well, we have nothing
more to say for him; if we have not already succeeded in extenuating his
offence, we must leave him to the mercy, or rather to the justice, of his
severely virtuous censors.

But all this while Jucundus had been conversing with him; and, unless we
are quick about it, we shall lose several particulars which are necessary
for those who wish to pursue without a break the thread of his history.
His uncle had brought the conversation round to the delicate point which
had occasioned his visit, and had just broken the ice. With greater tact,
and more ample poetical resources than we should have given him credit
for, he had been led from the scene before him to those prospects of a
moral and social character which ought soon to employ the thoughts of his
dear Agellius. He had spoken of vines and of their culture, _apropos_ of
the dwarf vines around him, which stood about the height of a
currant-bush. Thence he had proceeded to the subject of the more common
vine of Africa, which crept and crawled along the ground, the extremity of
each plant resting in succession on the stock of that which immediately
preceded it. And now, being well into his subject, he called to mind the
high vine of Italy, which mounts by the support of the slim tree to which
it clings. Then he quoted Horace on the subject of the marriage of the elm
and the vine. This lodged him _in medias res_; and Agellius’s heart beat
when he found his uncle proposing to him, as a thought of his own, the
very step which he had fancied was almost a secret of his own breast,
though Juba had seemed to have some suspicion of it.

“My dear Agellius,” said Jucundus, “it would be a most suitable
proceeding. I have never taken to marrying myself; it has not lain in my
way, or been to my taste. Your father did not set me an encouraging
example; but here you are living by yourself, in this odd fashion, unlike
any one else. Perhaps you may come in time and live in Sicca. We shall
find some way of employing you, and it will be pleasant to have you near
me as I get old. However, I mean it to be some time yet before Charon
makes a prize of me; not that I believe all that rubbish more than you,
Agellius, I assure you.”

“It strikes me,” Agellius began, “that perhaps you may think it
inconsistent in me taking such a step, but—”

“Ay, ay, that’s the rub,” thought Jucundus; then aloud, “Inconsistent, my
boy! who talks of inconsistency? what superfine jackanapes dares to call
it inconsistent? You seem made for each other, Agellius—she town, you
country; she so clever and attractive, and up to the world, you so fresh
and Arcadian. You’ll be quite the talk of the place.”

“That’s just what I don’t want to be,” said Agellius. “I mean to say,” he
continued, “that if I thought it inconsistent with my religion to think of
Callista—”

“Of course, of course,” interrupted his uncle, who took his cue from Juba,
and was afraid of the workings of Agellius’s human respect; “but who knows
you have been a Christian? no one knows anything about it. I’ll be bound
they all think you an honest fellow like themselves, a worshipper of the
gods, without crotchets or hobbies of any kind. I never told them to the
contrary. My opinion is, that if you were to make your libation to Jove,
and throw incense upon the imperial altar to-morrow, no one would think it
extraordinary. They would say for certain that they had seen you do it
again and again. Don’t fancy for an instant, my dear Agellius, that you
have anything whatever to get over.”

Agellius was getting awkward and mortified, as may be easily conceived,
and Jucundus saw it, but could not make out why. “My dear uncle,” said the
youth, “you are reproaching me.”

“Not a bit of it,” said Jucundus, confidently, “not a shadow of reproach;
why should I reproach you? We can’t be wise all at once; _I_ had my
follies once, as you may have had yours. It’s natural you should grow more
attached to things as they are,—things as they are, you know,—as time goes
on. Marriage, and the preparation for marriage, sobers a man. You’ve been
a little headstrong, I can’t deny, and had your fling in your own way; but
‘nuces pueris,’ as you will soon be saying yourself on a certain occasion.
Your next business is to consider what kind of a marriage you propose. I
suppose the Roman, but there is great room for choice even there.”

It is a proverb how different things are in theory and when reduced to
practice. Agellius had thought of the end more than of the means, and had
had a vision of Callista as a Christian, when the question of rites and
forms would have been answered by the decision of the Church without his
trouble. He _was_ somewhat sobered by the question, though in a different
way from what his uncle wished and intended.

Jucundus proceeded—“First, there is _matrimonium confarreationis_. You
have nothing to do with that: strictly speaking, it is obsolete; it went
out with the exclusiveness of the old patricians. I say ‘strictly
speaking’; for the ceremonies remain, waiving the formal religious rite.
Well, my dear Agellius, I don’t recommend this ceremonial to you. You’d
have to kill a porker, to take out the entrails, to put away the gall, and
to present it to Juno Pronuba. And there’s fire, too, and water, and
frankincense, and a great deal of the same kind, which I think
undesirable, and you would too; for there, I am sure, we are agreed. We
put this aside then, the religious marriage. Next comes the marriage _ex
coemptione_, a sort of mercantile transaction. In this case the parties
buy each other, and become each other’s property. Well, every man to his
taste; but for me, I don’t like to be bought and sold. I like to be my own
master, and am suspicious of anything irrevocable. Why should you commit
yourself (do you see?) for ever, _for ever_, to a girl you know so little
of? Don’t look surprised: it’s common sense. It’s very well to buy _her_;
but to be bought, that’s quite another matter. And I don’t know that you
can. Being a Roman citizen yourself, you can only make a marriage with a
citizen; now the question is whether Callista is a citizen at all. I know
perfectly well the sweeping measure some years back of Caracalla, which
made all freemen citizens of Rome, whatever might be their country; but
that measure has never been carried out in fact. You’d have very great
difficulty with the law and the customs of the country; and then, after
all, if the world were willing to gratify you, where’s your proof she is a
freewoman? My dear boy, I must speak out for your good, though you’re
offended with me. I wish you to have her, I do; but you can’t do
impossibilities—you can’t alter facts. The laws of the empire allow you to
have her in a certain definite way, and no other; and you cannot help the
law being what it is. I say all this, even on the supposition of her being
a freewoman; but it is just possible she may be in law a slave. Don’t
start in that way; the pretty thing is neither better nor worse for what
she cannot help. I say it for your good. Well, now I’m coming to my point.
There is a third kind of marriage, and that is what I should recommend for
you. It’s the _matrimonium ex usu_, or _consuetudine_; the great advantage
here is, that you have no ceremonies whatever, nothing which can in any
way startle your sensitive mind. In that case, a couple are at length man
and wife _præscriptione_. You are afraid of making a stir in Sicca; in
this case you would make none. You would simply take her home here; if, as
time went on, you got on well together, it would be a marriage; if
not,”—and he shrugged his shoulders—“no harm’s done; you are both free.”

Agellius had been sitting on a gate of one of the vineyards; he started on
his feet, threw up his arms, and made an exclamation.

“Listen, listen, my dear boy!” cried Jucundus, hastening to explain what
he considered the cause of his sudden annoyance; “listen, just one moment,
Agellius, if you can. Dear, dear, how I wish I knew where to find you!
What _is_ the matter? I’m not treating her ill, I’m not indeed. I have not
had any notion at all even of hinting that you should leave her, unless
you both wished the bargain rescinded. No, but it is a great rise for her;
you are a Roman, with property, with position in the place; she’s a
stranger, and without a dower: nobody knows whence she came, or anything
about her. She ought to have no difficulty about it, and I am confident
will have none.”

“O my good, dear uncle! O Jucundus, Jucundus!” cried Agellius, “is it
possible? do my ears hear right? What is it you ask me to do?” and he
burst into tears. “Is it conceivable,” he said, with energy, “that you are
in earnest in recommending me—I say in recommending me—a marriage which
really would be no marriage at all?”

“Here is some very great mistake,” said Jucundus, angrily; “it arises,
Agellius, from your ignorance of the world. You must be thinking I
recommend you mere _contubernium_, as the lawyers call it. Well, I confess
I did think of that for a moment, it occurred to me; I should have liked
to have mentioned it, but knowing how preposterously touchy and skittish
you are on supposed points of honour, or sentiment, or romance, or of
something or other indescribable, I said not one word about that. I have
only wished to consult for your comfort, present and future. You don’t do
me justice, Agellius. I have been attempting to smooth your way. You
_must_ act according to the received usages of society! you cannot make a
world for yourself. Here have I proposed three or four ways for your
proceeding: you will have none of them. What _will_ you have? I thought
you didn’t like ceremonies; I thought you did not like the established
ways. Go, then, do it in the old fashion; kill your sheep, knead your
meal, light your torches, sing your song, summon your flamen, if he’ll
come. Any how, take your choice; do it either with religion or without.”

“O Jucundus!” said the poor fellow, “am I then come to this?” and he could
say no more.

His distress was not greater than his uncle’s disappointment, perplexity,
and annoyance. The latter had been making everything easy for Agellius,
and he was striking, do what he would, on hidden, inexplicable
impediments, whichever way he moved. He got more and more angry the more
he thought about it. An unreasonable, irrational coxcomb! He had heard a
great deal of the portentous stubbornness of a Christian, and now he
understood what it was. It was in his blood, he saw; an offensive, sour
humour, tainting him from head to foot. A very different recompense had he
deserved. There had he come all the way from his home from purely
disinterested feelings. He had no motive whatever, but a simple desire of
his nephew’s welfare; what other motive could he have? “Let Agellius go to
the crows,” he thought, “if he will; what is it to me if he is seized for
a Christian, hung up like a dog, or thrown like a dead rat into the
_cloaca_ of the prison? What care I if he is made a hyæna’s breakfast in
the amphitheatre, all Sicca looking on, or if he is nailed on a cross for
the birds to peck at before my door? Ungrateful puppy! it is no earthly
concern of mine what becomes of him. I shall be neither better nor worse.
No one will say a word against Jucundus; he will not lose a single
customer, or be shunned by a single jolly companion, for the exposure of
his nephew. But a man can’t be saved against his will. Here am I, full of
expedients and resources for his good; there is he, throwing cold water on
everything, and making difficulties as if he loved them. It’s his
abominable pride, that’s the pith of the matter. He could not have behaved
worse though I had played the bully with him, and had reproached him with
his Christianity. But I have studiously avoided every subject which could
put his back up. He’s a very Typhon or Enceladus for pride. Here he’d give
his ears to have done with Christianity; he wants to have this Callista;
he wants to buy her at the price of his religion; but he’d rather be
burned than say, I’ve changed! Let him reap as he has sown; why should I
coax him further to be merciful to himself? Well Agellius,” he said aloud,
“I’m going back.”

Agellius, on the other hand, had his own thoughts; and the most urgent of
them at the moment was sorrow that he had hurt his uncle. He was sincerely
attached to him, in consequence of his faithful guardianship, his many
acts of kindness, the reminiscences of childhood, nay, the love he bore to
the good points of his character. To him he owed his education and his
respectable position. He could not bear his anger, and he had a fear of
his authority; but what was to be done? Jucundus, in utter insensibility
to certain instincts and rules which in Christianity are first principles,
had, without intending it, been greatly dishonouring Agellius, and his
passion, and the object of it. Uncle and nephew had been treading on each
other’s toes, and each was wincing under the mischance. It was Agellius’s
place, as the younger, to make advances, if he could, to an adjustment of
the misunderstanding; and he wished to find some middle way. And, also, it
is evident he had another inducement besides his tenderness to Jucundus to
urge him to do so. In truth, Callista exerted a tremendous sway over him.
The conversation which had just passed ought to have opened his eyes, and
made him understand that the very first step in any negotiations between
them was her _bonâ fide_ conversion. It was evident he could not, he
literally had not the power of marrying her as a heathen. Roman might
marry a Roman; but a degradation of each party in the transaction was the
only way by which a Roman could make any sort of marriage with a Greek. If
she were converted, they would be both of them under the rules of the
Catholic Church. But what prospect was there of so happy an event? What
had ever fallen from her lips which looked that way? Could not a clever
girl throw herself into the part of Alcestis, or chant the majestic verses
of Cleanthes, or extemporize a hymn upon the spring, or hold an argument
on the _pulchrum_ and _utile_, without having any leaning towards
Christianity? A calm, sweet voice, a noble air, an expressive countenance,
refined and decorous manners, were these specific indications of heavenly
grace? Ah, poor Agellius! a fascination is upon you; and so you are
thinking of some middle term, which is to reconcile your uncle and you;
and therefore you begin as follows:—

“I see by your silence, Jucundus, that you are displeased with me, you who
are always so kind. Well, it comes from my ignorance of things; it does
indeed. I ask your forgiveness for anything which seemed ungrateful in my
behaviour, though there is not ingratitude in my heart. I am too much of a
boy to see things beforehand, and to see them in all their bearings. You
took me by surprise by talking on the subject which led to our
misunderstanding. I will not conceal for an instant that I like Callista
very much; and that the more I see her, I like her the more. It strikes me
that, if you break the matter to Aristo, he and I might have some talk
together, and understand each other.”

Jucundus was hot-tempered, but easily pacified; and he really did wish to
be on confidential terms with his nephew at the present crisis; so he
caught at his apology. “Now you speak like a reasonable fellow, Agellius,”
he answered. “Certainly, I will speak to Aristo, as you wish; and on this
question of _consuetudo_ or prescription. Well, don’t begin looking queer
again. I mean I will speak to him on the whole question and its details.
He and I will talk together for our respective principals. We shall soon
come to terms, I warrant you; and then _you_ shall talk with him. Come,
show me round your fields,” he continued, “and let me see how you will be
able to present things to your bride. A very pretty property it is. I it
was who was the means of your father thinking of it. You have heard me say
so before now, and all the circumstances.

“He was at Carthage at this time, undecided what to do with himself. It so
happened that Julia Clara’s estates were just then in the market. An
enormous windfall her estates were. Old Didius was emperor just before my
time; he gave all his estates to his daughter as soon as he assumed the
purple. Poor lady! she did not enjoy them long; Severus confiscated the
whole, not, however, for the benefit of the state, but of the _res
privata_. They are so large in Africa alone, that, as you know, you are
under a special procurator. Well, they did not come into the market at
once; the existing farmers were retained. Marcus Juventius farmed a very
considerable portion of them; they were contiguous, and dovetailed into
his own lands, and accordingly, when he got into trouble, and had to sell
his leases, there were certain odds and ends about Sicca which it was
proposed to lease piecemeal. Your employer, Varius, would have given any
money for them, but I was beforehand with him. Nothing like being on the
spot; he was on business of the proconsul at Adrumetum. I sent off Hispa
instantly to Strabo; not an hour’s delay after I heard of it. The sale was
at Carthage; he went to his old commander, who used his influence, and the
thing was done.

“I venture to say there’s not such a snug little farm in all Africa; and I
am sanguine we shall get a renewal, though Varius will do his utmost to
outbid us. Ah, my dear Agellius, if there is but a suspicion you are not a
thorough-going Roman! Well, well,—here! ease me through this gate,
Agellius; I don’t know what’s come to the gate since I was here.
Indeed!—yes! you have improved this very much. That small arbour is
delicious; but you want an image, an Apollo or a Diana. Ah! do now stop
for a moment; why are you going forward at such a pace? I’ll give you an
image: it shall be one that you will really like. Well, you won’t have it?
I beg you ten thousand pardons. Ha, ha! I mean nothing. Ha, ha, ha! Oh,
what an odd world it is! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Well, I am keeping you from
your labourers. Ha, ha, ha!”

And having thus smoothed his own ruffled temper, and set things right, as
he considered, with Agellius, the old pagan took his journey homewards,
assuring Agellius that he would make all things clear for him in a very
short time, and telling him to be sure to make a call upon Aristo before
the ensuing calends.



                                CHAPTER X.


                           THE DIVINE CALLISTA.


The day came which Agellius had fixed for paying his promised visit to
Aristo. It is not to be denied that, in the interval, the difficulties of
the business which occasioned his visit had increased upon his
apprehensions. Callista was not yet a Christian, nor was there any reason
for saying that a proposal of marriage would make her one; and a strange
sort of convert she would be, if it did. He would not suffer himself to
dwell upon difficulties which he was determined never should be realized.
No; of course a heathen he could not marry, but a heathen Callista should
not be. He did not see the process, but he was convinced she would become
a Christian. Yet somehow so it was, that, if he was able to stultify his
reason, he did not quite succeed to his satisfaction with his conscience.
Every morning found him less satisfied with himself, and more disposed to
repent of having allowed his uncle to enter on the subject with Aristo.
But it was a thing done and over; he must either awkwardly back out, or he
must go on. His middle term, as he hastily had considered it, was nothing
else than siding with his uncle, and committing himself to go all lengths,
unless some difficulty rose with the other party. Yet could he really wish
that the step had not been taken? Was it not plain that if he was to put
away Callista from his affections, he must never go near her? And was he
to fall back on his drear solitude, and lose that outlet of thought and
relief of mind which he had lately found in the society of his Greek
friends?

We may easily believe that he was not very peaceful in heart when he set
out on that morning to call upon Aristo; yet he would not allow that he
was doing wrong. He recurred to the pleasant imagination that Callista
would certainly become a Christian, and dwelt pertinaciously upon it. He
could not tell on what it was founded; he knew enough of his religion not
to mean that she was too good to be a heathen; so it is to be supposed he
meant that he discerned what he hoped were traces of some supernatural
influence operating upon her mind. He had a perception, which he could not
justify by argument, that there was in Callista a promise of something
higher than anything she yet was. He felt a strange sympathy with her,
which certainly unless he utterly deceived himself, was not based on
anything merely natural or human,—a sympathy the more remarkable from the
contrariety which existed between them in matters of religious belief. And
hope having blown this large and splendid bubble, sent it sailing away,
and it rose upon the buoyant atmosphere of youth, beautiful to behold.

And yet, as Agellius ascended the long flight of marble steps which led
the foot-passenger up into that fair city, while the morning sun was
glancing across them, and surveyed the outline of the many sumptuous
buildings which crested and encircled the hill, did he not know full well
that iniquity was written on its very walls, and spoke a solemn warning to
a Christian heart to go out of it, to flee it, not to take up a home in
it, not to make alliance with anything in it? Did he not know from
experience full well that, when he got into it, his glance could no longer
be unrestrained, or his air free; but that it would be necessary for him
to keep a control upon his senses, and painfully guard himself against
what must either be a terror to him and an abhorrence, or a temptation?
Enter in imagination into a town like Sicca, and you will understand the
great Apostle’s anguish at seeing a noble and beautiful city given up to
idolatry. Enter it, and you will understand why it was that the poor
priest, of whom Jucundus spoke so bitterly, hung his head, and walked with
timid eyes and clouded brow through the joyous streets of Carthage.
Hitherto we have only been conducting heathens through it, boys or men,
Jucundus, Arnobius, and Firmian; but now a Christian enters it with a
Christian’s heart and a Christian’s hope.

Well is it for us, dear reader, that we in this age do not experience—nay,
a blessed thing that we cannot even frame to ourselves in imagination—the
actual details of evil which hung as an atmosphere over the cities of
Pagan Rome. An Apostle calls the tongue “a fire, a world of iniquity,
untameable, a restless evil, a deadly poison;” and surely what he says
applies to hideous thoughts represented to the eye, as well as when they
are made to strike upon the ear. Unfortunate Agellius! what takes you into
the city this morning? Doubtless some urgent, compulsive duty; otherwise
you would not surely be threading its lanes or taking the circuit of its
porticoes, amid sights which now shock and now allure; fearful sights—not
here and there, but on the stateliest structures and in the meanest
hovels, in public offices and private houses, in central spots and at the
corners of the streets, in bazaars and shops and house-doors, in the
rudest workmanship and in the highest art, in letters or in emblems or in
paintings—the insignia and the pomp of Satan and of Belial, of a reign of
corruption and a revel of idolatry which you can neither endure nor
escape. Wherever you go it is all the same; in the police-court on the
right, in the military station on the left, in the crowd around the
temple, in the procession with its victims and its worshippers who walk to
music, in the language of the noisy market-people; wherever you go, you
are accosted, confronted, publicly, shamelessly, now as if a precept of
religion, now as if a homage to nature, by all which, as a Christian, you
shrink from and abjure.

It is no accident of the season or of the day; it is the continuous
tradition of some thousands of years; it is the very orthodoxy of the
myriads who have lived and died there. There was a region once, in an
early age, lying upon the Eastern Sea, which is said at length to have
vomited out its inhabitants for their frightful iniquity. They, thus cast
forth, took ship, and passed over to the southern coast; and then,
gradually settling and spreading into the interior, they peopled the woody
plains and fertile slopes of Africa, and filled it with their cities.
Sicca is one of these set up in sin; and at the time of which we write
that sin was basking under the sun, and rioting and extending itself to
its amplest dimensions, like some glittering serpent or spotted pard of
the neighbourhood, without interposition from heaven or earth in
correction of so awful a degradation. In such scenes of unspeakable
pollution, our Christian forefathers perforce lived; through such a scene,
though not taking part in it, Agellius, blessed with a country home, is
unnecessarily passing.

He has reached the house, or rather the floor, to which he has been making
his way. It is at the back of the city, where the rock is steep; and it
looks out upon the plain and the mountain range to the north. Its inmates,
Aristo and Callista, are engaged in their ordinary work of moulding or
carving, painting or gilding the various articles which the temples or the
private shrines of the established religion required. Aristo has received
from Jucundus the overtures which Agellius had commissioned him to make,
and finds, as he anticipated, that they are no great news to his sister.
She perfectly understands what is going on, but does not care to speak
much upon it, till Agellius makes his appearance. As they sit at work,
Aristo speaks:—

“Agellius will make his appearance here this morning. I say, Callista,
what can he be coming for?”

“Why, if your news be true, that the Christians are coming into trouble,
of course he means to purchase, as a blessing on him, some of these bits
of gods.”

“You are sharp enough, my little sister,” answered Aristo, “to know
perfectly well who is the goddess he is desirous of purchasing.”

Callista laughed carelessly, but made no reply.

“Come, child,” Aristo continued, “don’t be cruel to him. Wreath a garland
for him by the time he comes. He’s well to do, and modest withal, and
needs encouragement.”

“He’s well enough,” said Callista.

“I say he’s a fellow too well off to be despised as a lover,” proceeded
her brother, “and it would be a merit with the gods to rid him of his
superstition.”

“Not much of a Christian,” she made answer, “if he is set upon me.”

“For whose sake has he been coming here so often, mine or yours,
Callista?”

“I am tired of such engagements,” she replied. She went on with her
painting, and several times seemed as if she would have spoken, but did
not. Then, without interrupting her work, she said calmly, “Time was, it
gratified my conceit and my feelings to have hangers on. Indeed, without
them, how should we have had means to come here? But there’s a weariness
in all things.”

“A weariness! Where is this bad humour to end?” cried Aristo; “it has been
a long fit; shake it off while you can, or it will be too much for you.
What can you mean? a weariness! You are over young to bid youth farewell.
Aching hearts for aching bones. So young and so perverse! We must take
things as the gods give them. You will ask for them in vain when you are
old. One day above, another day beneath; one while young, another while
old. Enjoy life while you have it in your hand.” He had said this as he
worked. Then he stopped, and turned round to her, with his graving-tool in
his hand. “Recollect old Lesbia, how she used to squeak out to me, with
her nodding head and trembling limbs”—here he mimicked the old crone—“ ‘My
boy, take your pleasure while you can. I can’t take pleasure—my day is
over; but I don’t reproach myself. I had a merry time of it while it
lasted. Time stops for no one, but I did my best; I don’t reproach
myself.’ There’s the true philosopher, though a slave; more outspoken than
Æsop, more practical than Epictetus.”

Callista began singing to herself:—

        “I wander by that river’s brink
          Which circles Pluto’s drear domain;
        I feel the chill night breeze, and think
          Of joys which ne’er shall be again.

        “I count the weeds that fringe the shore,
          Each sluggish wave that rolls and rolls;
        I hear the ever-splashing oar
          Of Charon, ferryman of souls.

“Heigho!” she continued, “little regret, but much dread. The young have to
fear more than the old have to mourn over. The future outweighs the past.
Life is not so sweet as death is bitter. It is hard to quit the light, the
light of heaven.”

“Callistidion!” he said, impatiently; “my girl, this is preposterous. How
long is this to go on? We must take you to Carthage; there is more trade
there, if we can get it; and it will be on the bright, far-resounding sea.
And I will turn rhetorician, and you shall feed my classes.”

“O beautiful, divine light,” she continued, “what a loss! O, to think that
one day I must lose you for ever! At home I used to lie awake at night
longing for the morning, and crying out for the god of day. It was like
choice wine to me, a cup of Chian, the first streaks of the Aurora, and I
could hardly bear his bright coming, when he came to me like Semele, for
rapture. How gloriously did he shoot over the hills! and then anon he
rested awhile on the snowy summit of Olympus, as in some luminous shrine,
gladdening the Phrygian plain. Fair, bright-haired god! thou art my
worship, if Callista worships aught: but somehow I worship nothing now. I
am weary.”

“Well,” said her brother in a soothing tone, “it is a change. That light,
elastic air, that transparent heaven, that fresh temperate breeze, that
majestic sea! Africa is not Greece; O, the difference! That’s it,
Callista; it is the _nostalgia_; you are home-sick.”

“It may be so,” she said; “I do not well know what I would have. Yes, the
poisonous dews, the heavy heat, the hideous beasts, the green
fever-gendering swamps. This vast thickly-wooded plain, like some
mysterious labyrinth, oppresses and disquiets me with its very richness.
The luxuriant foliage, the tall, rank plants, the deep, close lanes, I do
not see my way through them, and I pant for breath. I only breathe freely
on this hill. O, how unlike Greece, with the clear, soft, delicate
colouring of its mountains, and the pure azure or the purple of its
waters!”

“But, my dear Callista,” interrupted her brother, “recollect you are not
in those oppressive, gloomy forests, but in Sicca, and no one asks you to
penetrate them. And if you want mountains, I think those on the horizon
are bare enough.”

“And the race of man,” she continued, “is worse than all. Where is the
genius of our bright land? where its intelligence, playfulness, grace, and
noble bearing? Here hearts are as black as brows, and smiles as
treacherous as the adders of the wood. The natives are crafty and
remorseless; they never relax; they have no cheerfulness or mirth; their
very love is a furnace, and their sole ecstasy is revenge.”

“No country like home to any of us,” said Aristo; “yet here you are. Habit
would be a second nature if you were here long enough; your feelings would
become acclimated, and would find a new home. People get to like the
darkness of the extreme north in course of time. The painted Britons, the
Cimmerians, the Hyperboreans, are content never to see the sun at all,
which is your god. Here your own god reigns; why quarrel with him?”

“The sun of Greece is light,” answered Callista; “the sun of Africa is
fire. I am no fire-worshipper.”

“I suspect even Styx and Phlegethon are tolerable, at length,” said her
brother, “if Phlegethon and Styx there be, as the poets tell us.”

“The cold, foggy Styx is the north,” said Callista, “and the south is the
scorching, blasting Phlegethon, and Greece, clear, sweet, and sunny, is
the Elysian fields.” And she continued her improvisations:—

        “Where are the islands of the blest?
          They stud the Ægean sea;
        And where the deep Elysian rest?
        It haunts the vale where Peneus strong
        Pours his incessant stream along,
        While craggy ridge and mountain bare
        Cut keenly through the liquid air,
        And, in their own pure tints arrayed,
        Scorn earth’s green robes which change and fade,
        And stand in beauty undecayed,
          Guards of the bold and free.”

“A lower flight, if you please, just now,” said Aristo, interrupting her.
“I do really wish a serious word with you about Agellius. He’s a fellow I
can’t help liking, in spite of his misanthropy. Let me plead his cause.
Like him or not yourself, still he has a full purse; and you will do a
service to yourself and to the gods of Greece, and to him too, if you will
smile on him. Smile on him at least for a time; we will go to Carthage
when you are tired. His looks have very little in them of a Christian
left; you may blow it away with your breath.”

“One might do worse than be a Christian,” she answered slowly, “if all is
true that I have heard of them.”

Aristo started up in irritation. “By all the gods of Olympus,” he said,
“this is intolerable! If a man wants a tormentor, I commend him to a girl
like you. What has ailed thee some time past, you silly child? What have I
done to you that you should have got so cross and contrary and so hard to
please?”

“I mean,” she said, “if I were a Christian, life would be more bearable.”

“Bearable!” he echoed; “bearable! ye gods! more bearable to have Styx and
Tartarus, the Furies and their snakes, in this world as well as in the
next? to have evil within and without, to hate one’s self and to be hated
of all men! to live the life of an ass, and to die the death of a dog!
Bearable! But hark! I hear Agellius’s step on the staircase. Callista,
dear Callista, be yourself. Listen to reason.”

But Callista would not listen to reason, if her brother was its
embodiment; but went on with her singing:—

        “For what is Afric but the home
          Of burning Phlegethon?
        What the low beach and silent gloom,
        And chilling mists of that dull river,
        Along whose bank the thin ghosts shiver,
        The thin, wan ghosts that once were men,
        But Tauris, isle of moor and fen;
        Or, dimly traced by seaman’s ken,
          The pale-cliffed Albion?”

Here she stopped, looked down, and busied herself with her work.



                               CHAPTER XI.


                CALLISTA’S PREACHING, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.


It is undeniably a solemn moment, under any circumstances, and requires a
strong heart, when any one deliberately surrenders himself, soul and body,
to the keeping of another while life shall last; and this, or something
like this, reserving the supreme claim of duty to the Creator, is the
matrimonial contract. In individual cases it may be made without thought
or distress, but surveyed objectively, and as carried out into a
sufficient range of instances, it is so tremendous an undertaking that
nature seems to sink under its responsibilities. When the Christian binds
himself by vows to a religious life, he makes a surrender to Him who is
all-perfect, and whom he may unreservedly trust. Moreover, looking at that
surrender on its human side, he has the safeguard of distinct _provisos_
and regulations, and of the principles of theology, to secure him against
tyranny on the part of his superiors. But what shall be his encouragement
to make himself over, without condition or stipulation, as an absolute
property, to a fallible being, and that not for a season, but for life?
The mind shrinks from such a sacrifice, and demands that, as religion
enjoins it, religion should sanction and bless it. It instinctively
desires that either the bond should be dissoluble, or that the subjects of
it should be sacramentally strengthened to maintain it. “So help me God,”
the formula of every oath, is emphatically necessary here.

But Agellius is contemplating a superhuman engagement without superhuman
assistance; and that in a state of society in which public opinion, which
in some sense compensates for the absence of religion, supplied human
motives, not for, but against keeping it, and with one who had given no
indication that she understood what marriage meant. No wonder then, that,
in spite of his simplicity, his sanguine temperament, and his delusion,
the more he thought of the step he had taken, the more unsatisfactory he
found it, and the nearer he grew to the time when he must open the subject
with Aristo, the less he felt able to do so. In consequence he was in a
distress of mind, as he ascended the staircase which led to his friend’s
lodging, to which his anxiety, as he mounted the hill on the other side of
the city, was tranquillity itself; and, except that he was coming by
engagement, he would have turned back, and for the time at least have put
the whole subject from his thoughts. Yet even then, as often as Callista
rose in his mind’s eye, his scruples and misgivings vanished before the
beauty of that image, as mists before the sun; and when he actually stood
in her sweet presence, it seemed as if some secret emanation from her
flowed in upon his heart, and he stood breathless and giddy under the
intensity of the fascination.

However, the reader must not suppose that in the third century of our era
such negotiations as that which now seems to be on the point of coming off
between Callista and Agellius, were embellished with those transcendental
sentiments and that magnificent ceremonial with which chivalry has
invested them in these latter ages. There was little occasion then for
fine speaking or exquisite deportment; and if there had been, we, who are
the narrators of these hitherto unrecorded transactions, should have been
utterly unable to do justice to them. At that time of day the Christian
had too much simplicity, the heathen too little of real delicacy, to
indulge in the sublimities of modern love-making, at least as it is found
in novels; and in the case before us both gentleman and lady will be
thought, we consider, sadly matter-of-fact, or rather semi-barbarous, by
the votaries of what is just now called European civilization.

On Agellius’s entering the room, Aristo was pacing to and fro in some
discomposure; however, he ran up to his friend, embraced him, and, looking
at him with significance, congratulated him on his good looks. “There is
more fire in your eye,” he said, “dear Agellius, and more eloquence in the
turn of your lip, than I have ever yet seen. A new spirit is in you. So
you are determined to come out of your solitude? That you should have been
able to exist in it so long is the wonderment to me.”

Agellius had recovered himself, yet he dared not look again on Callista.
“Do not jest, Aristo,” he said; “I am come, as you know, to talk to you
about your sister. I have brought her a present of flowers; they are my
best present, or rather not mine, but the birth of the opening year, as
fair and fragrant as herself.”

“We will offer them to our Pallas Athene,” said his friend, “to whom we
artists are especially devout.” And he would have led Agellius on, and
made him place them in her niche in the opposite wall.

“I am more serious than you are,” said Agellius; “and I have brought the
best my garden contains as an offering to your sister. _She_ will not
think I bring them for any other purpose. Where are you going?” he
continued, as he saw his friend take down his broad _petasus_.

“Why,” answered Aristo, “since I am so poor an interpreter of your
meaning, you can dispense with me altogether. I will leave you to speak
for yourself, and meanwhile will go and see what old Dromo has to tell,
before the sun is too high in the heavens.”

Saying this, with a half-imploring, half-satirical look at his sister, he
set off to the barber’s at the Forum.

Agellius took up the flowers, and laid them on the table before her, as
she sat at work. “Do you accept my flowers, Callista?” he asked.

“Fair and fragrant, like myself, are they?” she made reply. “Give them to
me.” She took them, and bent over them. “The blushing rose,” she said,
gravely, “the stately lily, the royal carnation, the golden moly, the
purple amaranth, the green bryon, the diosanthos, the sertula, the sweet
modest saliunca, fit emblems of Callista. Well, in a few hours they will
have faded; yes, they will get more and more like her.”

She paused and looked him steadily in the face, and then continued:
“Agellius, I once had a slave who belonged to your religion. She had been
born in a Christian family, and came into my possession on her master’s
death. She was unlike any one I have seen before or since; she cared for
nothing, yet was not morose or peevish or hard-hearted. She died young in
my service. Shortly before her end she had a dream. She saw a company of
bright shades, clothed in white, like the hours which circle round the god
of day. They were crowned with flowers, and they said to each other,
‘_She_ ought to have a token too.’ So they took her hand, and led her to a
most beautiful lady, as stately as Juno and as sweet as Ariadne, so
radiant in countenance that they themselves suddenly looked like
Ethiopians by the side of her. She, too, was crowned with flowers, and
these so dazzling that they might be the stars of heaven or the gems of
Asia for what Chione could tell. And that fair goddess (angel you call
her) said, ‘My dear, here is something for you from my Son. He sends you
by me a red rose for your love, a white lily for your chastity, purple
violets to strew your grave, and green palms to flourish over it.’ Is this
the reason why you give me flowers, Agellius, that I may rank with Chione?
and is this their interpretation?”

“Callista,” he answered, “it is my heart’s most fervent wish, it is my
mind’s vivid anticipation, that the day may come when you will receive
such a crown, nay, a brighter one.”

“And you are come, of course, to philosophize to me, and to put me in the
way of dying like Chione,” she made answer. “I implore your pardon. You
are offering me flowers, it seems, not for a bridal wreath, but for a
funeral urn.”

“Is it wonderful,” said Agellius, “that the two wishes should have gone
together in my heart; and that while I trusted and prayed that you might
have the same Master in heaven as I have myself, I also hoped you would
have the same service, the same aims, the same home upon earth?”

“And that you should speak one word for your Master and two for yourself!”
she retorted.

“It has been by feeling how much you could be to me,” he answered, “that I
have been led to think how much my Master may be doing for you already,
and how much in time to come you might do for Him. Callista, do not urge
me with your Greek subtlety, or expect me to analyze my feelings more
precisely than I have the ability to do. May I calmly tell you the state
of my mind, as I do know it, and will you patiently listen?”

She signified her willingness, and he continued—“This only I know,” he
said, “what I have experienced ever since I first heard you converse, that
there is between you and me a unity of thought so strange that I should
have deemed it could not have been, before I found it actually to exist,
between any two persons whatever; and which, widely as we are separated in
opinion and habit, and differently as we have been brought up, is to me
inexplicable. I find it difficult to explain what I mean; we disagree
certainly on the most important subjects, yet there is an unaccountable
correspondence in the views we take of things, in our impressions, in the
line in which our minds move, and the issues to which they come, in our
judgment of what is great and little, and the manner in which objects
affect our feelings. When I speak to my uncle, when I speak to your
brother, I do not understand them, nor they me. We are moving in different
spheres, and I am solitary, however much they talk. But to my
astonishment, I find between you and me one language. Is it wonderful
that, in proportion to my astonishment, I am led to refer it to one cause,
and think that one Master Hand must have engraven those lines on the soul
of each of us? Is it wonderful that I should fancy that He who has made us
alike has made us for each other, and that the very same persuasives by
which I bring you to cast your eyes on me, may draw you also to cast
yourself in adoration at the feet of my Master?”

For an instant tears seemed about to start from Callista’s eyes, but she
repressed the emotion, if it were such, and answered with impetuosity,
“Your Master! who is your Master? what know I of your Master? what have
you ever told me of your Master? I suppose it is an esoteric doctrine
which I am not worthy to know; but so it is, here you have been again and
again, and talked freely of many things, yet I am in as much darkness
about your Master as if I had never seen you. I know He died; I know too
that Christians say He lives. In some fortunate island, I suppose; for,
when I have asked, you have got rid of the subject as best you could. You
have talked about your law and your various duties, and what you consider
right, and what is forbidden, and of some of the old writers of your sect,
and of the Jews before them; but if, as you imply, my wants and
aspirations are the same as yours, what have you done towards satisfying
them? what have you done for that Master towards whom you now propose to
lead me? No!” she continued, starting up, “you have watched those wants
and aspirations for yourself, not for Him; you have taken interest in
them, you have cherished them, as if you were the author, you the object
of them. You profess to believe in One True God, and to reject every
other; and now you are implying that the Hand, the Shadow of that God is
on my mind and heart. Who is this God? where? how? in what? O Agellius,
you have stood in the way of Him, ready to speak for yourself, using Him
as a means to an end.”

“O Callista,” said Agellius, in an agitated voice, when he could speak,
“do my ears hear aright? do you really wish to be taught who the true God
is?”

“No, mistake me not,” she cried passionately, “I have no such wish. I
could not be of your religion. Ye Gods! how have I been deceived! I
thought every Christian was like Chione. I thought there could not be a
cold Christian. Chione spoke as if a Christian’s first thoughts were
goodwill to others; as if his state were of such blessedness, that his
dearest heart’s wish was to bring others into it. Here is a man who, so
far from feeling himself blest, thinks I can bless him! comes to me—me,
Callista, a herb of the field, a poor weed, exposed to every wind of
heaven, and shrivelling before the fierce sun—to me he comes to repose his
heart upon. But as for any blessedness he has to show me, why, since he
does not feel any himself, no wonder he has none to give away. I thought a
Christian was superior to time and place; but all is hollow. Alas, alas, I
am young in life to feel the force of that saying, with which sages go out
of it, ‘Vanity and hollowness!’ Agellius, when I first heard you were a
Christian, how my heart beat! I thought of her who was gone; and at first
I thought I saw her in you, as if there had been some magical sympathy
between you and her; and I hoped that from you I might have learned more
of that strange strength which my nature needs, and which she told me she
possessed. Your words, your manner, your looks were altogether different
from others who came near me. But so it was; you came, and you went, and
came again; I thought it reserve, I thought it timidity, I thought it the
caution of a persecuted sect; but O, my disappointment, when first I saw
in you indications that you were thinking of me only as others think, and
felt towards me as others may feel; that you were aiming at me, not at
your God; that you had much to tell of yourself, but nothing of Him! Time
was I might have been led to worship you, Agellius; you have hindered it
by worshipping _me_.”

It is not often, we suppose, that such deep offence is given to a lady by
the sort of admiration of which Agellius had been guilty in the case of
Callista; however, startled as he might be, and startled and stung he was,
there was too much earnestness in her distress, too much of truth in her
representations, too much which came home to his heart and conscience, to
allow of his being affronted or irritated. She had but supplied the true
interpretation of the misgiving which had haunted him that morning, from
the time he set out till the moment of his entering the room. Jucundus
some days back had readily acquiesced in his assurance that he was not
inconsistent; but Callista had not been so indulgent, though really more
merciful. There was a pause in the conversation, or rather in her
outpouring; each had bitter thoughts, and silently devoured them. At
length, she began again:—

“So the religion of Chione is a dream; now for four years I had hoped it
was a reality. All things again are vanity; I had hoped there was
something somewhere more than I could see; but there is nothing. Here am I
a living, breathing woman, with an over-flowing heart, with keen
affections, with a yearning after some object which may possess me. I
cannot exist without something to rest upon. I cannot fall back upon that
drear, forlorn state, which philosophers call wisdom, and moralists call
virtue. I cannot enrol myself a votary of that cold Moon, whose arrows do
but freeze me. I cannot sympathize in that majestic band of sisters whom
Rome has placed under the tutelage of Vesta. I must have something to
love; love is my life. Why do you come to me, Agellius, with your
every-day gallantry. Can you compete with the noble Grecian forms which
have passed before my eyes? Is your voice more manly, are its tones more
eloquent, than those which have thrilled through my ears since I ceased to
be a child? Can you add perfume to the feast by your wit, or pour sunshine
over grot and rushing stream by your smile? _What_ can you give me? There
was one thing which I thought you _could_ have given me, better than
anything else; but it is a shadow. You have nothing to give. You have
thrown me back upon my dreary, dismal self, and the deep wounds of my
memory.... Poor, poor Agellius! but it was not his fault, it could not be
helped,” she continued, as if in thought; “it could not be helped; for, if
he had nothing to give, how could he give it? After all, he wanted
something to love, just as I did; and he could find nothing better than
me.... And they thought to persuade her to spend herself upon him, as she
had spent herself upon others. Yes, it was Jucundus and Aristo—my brother,
even my own brother. They thought not of _me_.” Here her tears gushed out
violently, and she abandoned herself to a burst of emotion. “They were
thinking of _him_. I had hoped he could lead me to what was higher; but
woe, woe!” she cried, wringing her hands, “they thought I was only fit to
bring him low. Well; after all, _is_ Callista really good for much more
than the work they have set her to do?”

She was absorbed in her own misery in an intense sense of degradation, in
a keen consciousness of the bondage of nature, in a despair of ever
finding what alone could give meaning to her existence, and an object to
her intellect and affections. And Agellius on the other hand, what
surprise, remorse, and humiliation came upon him! It was a strange
contrast, the complaint of nature unregenerate on the one hand, the
self-reproach of nature regenerate and lapsing on the other. At last he
spoke, and they were his last words.

“Callista,” he said, “whatever injury I may have unwillingly inflicted
upon you, you at least have returned me good for evil, and have made
yourself my benefactress. Certainly, I now know myself better than I did;
and He who has made use of you as His instrument of mercy towards me, will
not forget to reward you tenfold. One word will I say for myself; nay, not
for myself, but for my Master. Do not for an instant suppose that what you
thought of the Christian religion is not true. It reveals a present God,
who satisfies every affection of the heart, yet keeps it pure. I serve a
Master,” he continued, blushing from modesty and earnestness as he spoke,
“I serve a Master whose love is stronger than created love. God help my
inconsistency! but I never meant to love you as I love Him. You are
destined for His love. I commit you to Him, your true Lord, whom I never
ought to have rivalled, for whom I ought simply to have pleaded. Though I
am not worthy to approach you, I shall trace you at a distance, who knows
where? perhaps even to the prison and to the arena of those who confess
the Saviour of men, and dare to suffer and die for His name. And now,
farewell; to His keeping and that of His holy martyrs I commit you.”

He did not trust himself to look at her as he turned to the door, and left
the room.



                               CHAPTER XII.


                                 A DEATH.


The first stages of repentance are but a fever, in which there is
restlessness and thirst, hot and cold fits, vague, dreary dreams, long
darkness which seems destined never to have a morning, effort without
result, and collapse without reaction. These symptoms had already
manifested themselves in Agellius; he spoke calmly to Callista, and
sustained himself by the claims of the moment; but no sooner had he left
the room and was thrown upon himself, than his self-possession left him,
and he fell into an agony, or rather anarchy of tumultuous feelings. Then
rose up before his mind a hundred evil spectres, not less scaring and more
real than the dreams of the delirious. He thought of the singular favour
which had been shown him in his reception into the Christian fold, and
that at so early a date; of the myriads all around who continued in
heathenism as they had been born, and of his utter insensibility to his
own privilege. He felt how much would be required of him, and how little
hitherto had been forthcoming. He thought of the parable of the barren
fig-tree, and the question was whispered in his ear whether it would not
be fulfilled in him. He asked himself in what his heart and his conduct
differed from the condition of a fairly virtuous heathen. And then he
thought of Callista in contrast with himself, as having done more with the
mite which she possessed than he had done with many pounds. He felt that
Tyre and Sidon were rising up against him in her person; or rather how the
saying seemed about to be verified in her, that strangers should sit down
in the kingdom from far countries, while those who were the heirs should
be thrust out. He had been rebuked by one to whom he rather ought to have
brought self-knowledge and compunction, and she was sensitively alive to
his want of charity. She had felt bitterly that she was left in ignorance
and sin by one who had what she had not. She had accused him of being
zealous enough to win her to himself, when he had shown no zeal at all to
win her to her Maker. If she was brought to the truth at length, there
would be no thanks to him for the happy change; yet on the other hand,
though he had predicted it, alas! was it likely that it would be granted?
Had she not had her opportunity, which was lost because he had not
improved it? Yes, she had with a deliberate mind and in set words put
aside and taken leave of that which she once desired and hoped might have
been her own, sorrowfully indeed, but peremptorily, as firmly persisting
in rejecting it, as she might have persisted in maintaining it; and, if
she died in infidelity, horrible thought! would not the burden lie on him,
and was this to be the token of the love which he pretended to entertain
for her?

What was he living for? what was the work he had set himself to do? Did he
live to plant flowers, or to rear fruit, to maintain himself and to make
money? Was that a time to pride himself on vineyards and oliveyards, when,
like Eliseus, he was one among myriads who were in unbelief? Ah, the
difference between a saint and him? Of what good was he on earth; why
should not he die? why so chary of his life? why preserve his wretched
life at all? Could he not do more by giving it than by keeping it? Might
it not have been given him perchance for the very purpose that he might
sacrifice it for Him who had given it? He had been timid about making a
profession of his faith, which might have led to prison and death; but
perhaps the very object of his life in the divine purpose, the very reason
of his birth, had been that, as soon as he was grown, he should die for
the truth. He might have been cut off by disease; he was not; and why,
except that he might merit in his death, and that what, in the ordinary
course of things, was a mere suffering, might in his case be an act of
service? His death might have been the conversion of thousands, of
Callista; and the fewness of his days here would have been his claim to a
blessed eternity hereafter.

Nor Callista alone; he had natural friends, with nearer claims upon his
charity. Had he been other than he was, he might have prevailed with his
uncle; at least he might have taught him to respect the Christian Faith
and Name, and restrained him from daring to attempt, for he now saw that
it was an attempt, to seduce him into sin. He might have lodged a good
seed in his heart, which in the hour of sickness might have germinated.
And his brother again had learned to despise him; indeed he had raised in
every one who came near him the suspicion that he was not really a
Christian, that he was an apostate (he could not help uttering a cry of
anguish as he used the word), an apostate from that which was his real
life and supreme worship.

Why did he not at once go into the Basilica or the Gymnasium, and proclaim
himself a Christian? There were rumours abroad that the new emperor was
beginning a new policy towards his religion; let him inaugurate it in
Agellius. Might he not thus perchance wash out his sin? He would be led
into the amphitheatre, as his betters had been led before him; the crowds
would yell, and the lion would be let loose upon him. He would confront
the edict, tear it down, be seized by the apparitor, and hurried to the
rack or the slow fire. Callista would hear of it, and would learn at
length he was not quite the craven and the recreant which she thought him.

Then his thoughts took a turn. Callista! what was Callista to him? Why
should he think of her, when she was girding him to martyrdom? Was she to
be the motive which was to animate him, and her praise his reward? Alas,
alas! could he gain heaven by pleasing a heathen? “But to whom then,” he
continued, “am I to look up? who is to give me sympathy? who is to
encourage, to advise me? O my Father, pity me! a feeble child, a poor,
outcast, wandering sheep, away from the fold, torn by the briars and
thorns, and no one to bind his wounds and retrace his steps for him. Why
am I thus alone in the world? why am I without a pastor and guide? Ah, was
not this my fault in remaining in Sicca? I have no tie here; let me go to
Carthage, or to Tagaste, or to Madaura, or to Hippo. I am not fit to walk
the world by myself; I am too simple, and am no match for its artifices.”

Here another thought took possession of him, which had as yet but crossed
his mind, and it made him colour up with confusion and terror. “They were
laying a plot for me,” he said, “my uncle and Aristo; and it is Callista
who has defeated it.” And as he spoke, he felt how much he owed to her,
and how dangerous too it was to think of his debt. Yet it would not be
wrong to pray for her; she had marred the device of which she was to have
been the agent. “Laqueus contritus est, et nos liberati sumus:” the net
was broken and he was delivered. She had refused his devotion, that he
might give it to his God; and now he would only think of her, and whisper
her name, when he was kneeling before the Blessed Mary, his advocate. O
that that second and better Eve, who brought salvation into the world, as
our first mother brought death, O that she might bear Callista’s name in
remembrance, and get it written in the Book of life!

It was high noon; and all this time Agellius was walking in his present
excited mood, without covering to his head, under the burning rays of the
sun, not knowing which way he went, and retracing his steps, as he
wandered about at random, with a vague notion he was going homewards. The
few persons whom he met, creeping about under the shadow of the lofty
houses, or under the porticoes of the temples, looked at him with wonder,
and thought him furious or deranged. The shafts of the sun were not so hot
as his own thoughts, or as the blood which shot to and fro so fiercely in
his veins; but they were working fearfully on his physical frame, though
they could not increase the fever of his mind. He had come to the Forum;
the market people were crouching under their booths or the shelter of
their baskets. The riffraff of the city, who lived by their wits, or by
odd jobs, or on the windfalls of the market; lazy fellows who did nothing,
who did not move till hunger urged them, like the brute; half-idiotic
chewers of opium, ragged or rather naked children, the butcher boys and
scavengers of the temples, lay at their length at the mouth of the caverns
formed by the precipitous rock, or under the Arch of Triumph, or amid the
columns of the Gymnasium and the Heracleum, or in the doorways of the
shops. A scattering of beggars were lying, poor creatures, on their backs
in the blazing sun, reckless of the awful maladies, the fits, the
seizures, and the sudden death, which might be the consequence.

Numbers out of this mixed multitude were asleep; some were looking with
dull listless eyes at the still scene, or at any accidental movements
which might vary it. They saw a figure coming nearer and nearer and wildly
passing by. Just then Agellius was diverted from his painful meditations
by hearing one of these fellows say to another, as he roused from a sort
of doze, “That’s one of them. We know them all, but very poor pickings can
be got out of them; but he has more than most. They’re a low set in
Sicca.” And then the man cried out, “Look sharp, young chap! the Furies
are at your heels, and the Fates are going before you. Look there at the
emperor; he is looking at you, as grim and sour as you could wish him.” He
spoke of the equestrian statue of Severus before the Basilica on the
right; and, attracted by his words, Agellius went up to a board which was
fixed to its base. It was an imperial edict, and it ran as follows:—

“Cneius Trajanus Decius, Augustus; and Quintus Herennius Etruscus Decius,
Cæsar; Emperors, unconquerable and pious; by united council these:—

“Whereas we have experienced the benefits and the gifts of the gods, and
do also enjoy the victory which they have given us over our enemies, and
moreover salubrity of seasons, and abundance in the fruits of the earth;

“Therefore, acknowledging the aforesaid as our benefactors and the
providers of those things which are necessary for the commonwealth, we
make this our decree, that every class of the state, freemen and slaves,
the army and civilians, offer to the gods expiatory sacrifices, falling
down in supplication before them;

“And if any one shall presume to disobey this our divine command, which we
unite in promulgating, we order that man to be thrown into chains, and to
be subjected to various tortures;

“And should he thereupon be persuaded to reverse his disobedience, he
shall receive from us no slight honours;

“But should he hold out in opposition, first he shall have many tortures,
and then shall be executed by the sword, or thrown into the deep sea, or
given as a prey to birds and dogs;

“And more than all if such a person be a professor of the Christian
religion.

“Farewell, and live happy.”

The old man in the fable called on Death, and Death made his appearance.
We are very far indeed from meaning that Agellius uttered random words, or
spoke impatiently, when he just now expressed a wish to have the
opportunity of dying for the Faith. Nevertheless, what now met his eyes
and was transmitted through them, sentence by sentence, into his mind, was
not certainly of a nature to calm the tumult which was busy in breast and
brain; a sickness came over him, and he staggered away. The words of the
edict still met his eyes, and were of a bright red colour. The sun was
right before him, but the letters were in the sun, and the sun in his
brain. He reeled and fell heavily on the pavement. No notice was taken of
the occurrence by the spectators around him. They lazily or curiously
looked on, and waited to see if he would recover.

How long he lay there he could not tell, when he came to himself; if it
could really be said to be coming to himself to have the power of motion,
and an instinct that he must move, and move in one direction. He managed
to rise and lean against the pedestal of the statue, and its shade by this
time protected him. Then an intense desire came upon him to get home, and
that desire gave him a temporary preternatural strength. It came upon him
as a duty to leave Sicca for his cottage, and he set off. He had a
confused notion that he must do his duty, and go straight forward, and
turn neither to the right, nor the left, and stop nowhere, but move on
steadily for his true home. But next an impression came upon him that he
was running away from persecution, and that this ought not to be, and that
he ought to face the enemy, or at least not to hide from him, but meekly
wait for him.

As he went along the narrow streets which led down the hill towards the
city gate this thought came so powerfully upon him that at length he sat
down on a stone which projected from an open shop, and thought of
surrendering himself. He felt the benefit of the rest, and this he fancied
to be the calm of conscience consequent upon self-surrender and
resignation. It was a fruiterer’s stall, and the owner, seeing his
exhaustion, offered him some slices of a water-melon for his refreshment.
He ate one of them, and then again a vague feeling came on him that he was
in danger of idolatry, and must protest against idolatry, and that he
ought not to remain in the neighbourhood of temptation. So, throwing down
the small coin which was sufficient for payment, he continued his journey.
The rest and the refreshment of the fruit, and the continued shade which
the narrow street allowed him, allayed the fever, and for the time
recruited him, and he moved on languidly. The sun, however, was still high
in heaven, and when he got beyond the city beat down upon his head from a
cloudless sky. He painfully toiled up the ascent which led to his cottage.
He had nearly gained the gate of his homestead; he saw his old household
slave, born in his father’s house, a Christian like himself, coming to
meet him. A dizziness came over him, he lost his senses, and fell down
helplessly upon the bank.



                              CHAPTER XIII.


                            AND RESURRECTION.


Jucundus was quite as much amused as provoked at the result of the
delicate negotiation in which he had entangled his nephew. It was a
gratification to him to find that its ill success had been owing in no
respect to any fault on the side of Agellius. He had done his part without
shrinking, and the view which he, Jucundus, had taken of his state of
mind, was satisfactorily confirmed. He had nothing to fear from Agellius,
and though he had failed in securing the guarantee which he had hoped for
his attachment to things as they were, yet in the process of failure it
had been proved that his nephew might be trusted without it. And it was a
question, whether a girl so full of whims and caprices as Callista might
after all have done him any permanent good. The absurd notion, indeed, of
her having a leaning for Christianity had been refuted by her conduct on
the occasion; still, who could rely on a clever and accomplished Greek?
There were secret societies and conspiracies in abundance, and she might
have involved so weak and innocent a fellow in some plans against the
government, now or at a future time; or might have alienated him from his
uncle, or in some way or other made a fool of him, if she had consented to
have him for her slave. Why she had rejected so eligible a suitor it was
now useless and idle to inquire; it might be that the haughty or greedy
Greek had required him to bid higher for her favourable notice. If the
negotiation had taken such a turn, then indeed there was still more
gratifying evidence of Agellius having broken from his fantastic and
peevish superstition.

Still, however, he was not without anxiety, now that the severe measures
directed against the Christians were in progress. No overt act, indeed,
beyond the publication of the edict, had been taken in Sicca—probably
would be taken at all. The worst was, that something must be done to make
a show; he could have wished that some of the multitude of townspeople,
half suspected of Christianity, had stood firm, and suffered themselves to
be tortured and executed. One or two would have been enough; but the
magistracy got no credit with the central government for zeal and activity
if no Christians were made an example of. Yet still it was a question
whether the strong acts at Carthage and elsewhere would not suffice,
though the lesser towns did nothing. At least, while the populace was
quiet, there was nothing to press for severity. There were no rich
Christians in Sicca to tempt the cupidity of the informer or of the
magistrate; no political partisans among them, who had made enemies with
this or that class of the community. But, supposing a bad feeling to rise
in the populace, supposing the magistrates to have ill-wishers and
rivals—and what men in power had not?—who might be glad to catch them
tripping, and make a case against them at Rome, why, it must be confessed
that Agellius was nearly the only victim who could be pitched upon. He
wished Callista no harm, but, if a Christian must be found and held up _in
terrorem_, he would rather it was a person like her, without connections
and home, than the member of any decent family of Sicca, whose fair fame
would be compromised by a catastrophe. However, she was _not_ a Christian,
and Agellius _was_, at least by profession; and his fear was lest Juba
should be right in his estimate of his brother’s character. Juba had said
that Agellius could be as obstinate as he was ordinarily indolent and
yielding, and Jucundus dreaded lest, if he were rudely charged with
Christianity, and bidden to renounce it under pain of punishment, he would
rebel against the tyrannical order, and go to prison and to death out of
sheer perverseness or sense of honour.

With these perplexities before him, he could find nothing better than the
following plan of action, which had been in his mind for some time. While
the edict remained inoperative, he would do nothing at all, and let
Agellius go on with his country occupations, which would keep him out of
the way. But if any disposition appeared of a popular commotion, or a
movement on the part of the magistracy, he determined to get possession of
Agellius, and forcibly confine him in his own house in Sicca. He hoped
that in the case of one so young, so uncommitted, he should have influence
with the municipal authorities, or at the prætorium, or in the camp (for
the camp and the prætorium were under different jurisdictions in the
proconsulate), to shelter Agellius from a public inquiry into his
religious tenets, or if this could not be, to smuggle him out of the city.
He was ready to affirm solemnly that his nephew was no Christian, though
he was touched in the head, and, from an affection parallel to
hydrophobia, to which the disciples of Galen ought to turn their
attention, was sent into convulsions on the sight of an altar. His father,
indeed, was a malignant old atheist—there was no harm in being angry with
the dead—but it was very hard the son should suffer for his father’s
offence. If he must be judged of by his parents, let him rather have the
advantage of the thorough loyalty and religiousness of his mother, a most
zealous old lady, in high repute in the neighbourhood of Sicca for her
theurgic knowledge, a staunch friend of the imperial government, which had
before now been indebted to her for important information, and as staunch
a hater of the Christians. Such was the plan of proceedings resolved on by
Jucundus before he received the news of his nephew’s serious malady. It
did not reach him till many days after; and then he did not go to see him,
first, lest he should be supposed to be in communication with him, next,
as having no respect for that romantic sort of generosity which risks the
chances of contagion for the absurd ceremony of paying a compliment.

It was thus that Jucundus addressed himself to the present state of
affairs, and anticipated the chances of the future. As to Aristo, he had
very little personal interest in the matter. His sister might have
thwarted him in affairs which lay nearer his heart than the moral
emancipation of Agellius; and as she generally complied with his
suggestions and wishes, whatever they were, he did not grudge her her
liberty of action in this instance. Nor had the occurrence which had taken
place any great visible effect upon Callista herself. She had lost her
right to be indignant with her brother, and she resigned or rather
abandoned herself to her destiny. Her better feelings had been brought out
for the moment in her conversation with Agellius; but they were not
ordinary ones. True, she was tired, but she was the slave of the world;
and Agellius had only made her more sceptical than before that there was
any service better. So at least she said to herself; she said it was
fantastic to go elsewhere for good, and that, if life was short, then, as
her brother said, it was necessary to make the most of it.



And meanwhile, what of Agellius himself? Why, it will be some little time
before Agellius will be in a condition to moralize upon anything. His
faithful slave half-carried, half-drew him into the cottage, and stretched
him upon his bed. Then, having sufficient skill for the ordinary illnesses
of the country, though this was more than an ordinary fever, he drew blood
from him, gave him a draught of herbs, and left him to the slow but safe
processes of nature to restore him. It could not be affirmed that he was
not in considerable danger of life, yet youth carries hope with it, and
his attendant had little to fear for his recovery. For some days certainly
Agellius had no apprehension of anything, except of restlessness and
distress, of sleepless nights, or dreary, miserable dreams. At length one
morning, as he was lying on his back with his eyes shut, it came into his
mind to ask himself whether Sunday would ever come. He had been accustomed
upon the first day of the week to say some particular prayers and psalms,
and unite himself in spirit with his brethren beyond seas. And then he
tried to remember the last Sunday; and the more he thought, the less he
could remember it, till he began to think that months had gone without a
Sunday. This he was certain of, that he had lost reckoning, for he had
made no notches for the days for a long while past, and unless his slave
Asper knew, there was no one to tell him. Here he got so puzzled, that it
was like one of the bad dreams which had worried him. He felt it affect
his head, and he was obliged to give up the inquiry.

From this time his sleep was better and more refreshing for several days;
he was more collected when he was awake, and was able to ask himself why
he lay there, and what had happened to him. Then gradually his memory
began to return like the dawning of the day; the cause and the
circumstances of his recent visit to the city, point after point came up,
and he felt first wonder, and then certainty. He recollected the Forum,
and then the edict; a solemn, overpowering emotion here seized him, and
for a while he dared not think more. When he recovered, and tried to
pursue the events of the day, he found himself unequal to the task; all
was dark, except that he had some vague remembrance of thirsting, and some
one giving him to drink, and then his saying with the Psalmist,
“Transivimus per ignem et aquam.”

He opened his eyes and looked about him. He was at home. There was some
one at the bed-head whom he could not see hanging over him, and he was too
weak to raise himself and so command a view of him. He waited patiently,
being too feeble to have any great anxiety on the subject. Presently a
voice addressed him: “You are recovering, my son,” it said.

“Who are _you_?” said Agellius abruptly. The person spoken to applied his
mouth to Agellius’s ear, and uttered lowly several sacred names.

Agellius would have started up had he been strong enough; he could but
sink down upon his rushes in agitation.

“Be content to know no more at present,” said the stranger, “praise God,
as I do. You know enough for your present strength. It is your act of
obedience for the day.”

It was a deep, clear, peaceful, authoritative voice. In his present state,
as we have said, it cost Agellius no great effort to mortify curiosity;
and the accents of that voice soothed him, and the mystery employed his
mind, and had something pleasing and attractive in it. Moreover, about the
main point there was no mystery, and could be no mistake, that he was in
the hands of a Christian ecclesiastic.

The stranger occupied himself for a time with a book of prayers which he
carried about him, and then again with the duties of a sick-bed. He
sprinkled vinegar over Agellius’s face and about the room, and supplied
him with the refreshment of cooling fruit. He kept the flies from
tormenting him, and did his best so to arrange his posture that he might
suffer least from his long lying. In the morning and evening he let in the
air, and he excluded the sultry noon. In these various occupations he was
from time to time removed to a distance from the patient, who thus had an
opportunity of observing him. The stranger was of middle height, upright,
and well proportioned; he was dressed in a peasant’s or slave’s dark
tunic. His face was rather round than long; his hair black, yet with the
promise of greyness, with what might be baldness in the crown, or a
priest’s tonsure. His short beard curled round his chin; his complexion
was very clear. But the most striking point about him was his eyes; they
were of a light or greyish blue, transparent, and shining like precious
stones.

From the day that they first interchanged words, the priest said some
short prayers from time to time with Agellius—the Lord’s Prayer, and
portions of the Psalms. Afterwards, when he was well enough to converse,
Agellius was struck with the inexpressible peculiarity of his manner. It
was self-collected, serene, gentle, tender, unobtrusive, unstudied. It
enabled him to say things severe and even stern, without startling,
offending, or repelling the hearer. He spoke very little about himself,
though from time to time points of detail were elicited of his history in
the course of conversation. He said that his name was Cæcilius. Asper,
when he entered the room, would kneel down and offer to kiss the
stranger’s sandal, though the latter generally managed to prevent it.

Cæcilius did not speak much about himself; but Agellius, on the other
hand, found it a relief to tell out his own history, and reflect upon and
describe his own feelings. As he lay on his bed, he half soliloquized,
half addressed himself to the stranger. Sometimes he required an answer;
sometimes he seemed to require none. Once he asked suddenly, after a long
silence, whether a man could be baptized twice; and when the priest
answered distinctly in the negative, Agellius replied that if so, he
thought it would be best never to be baptized till the hour of death. It
was a question, he said, which had perplexed him a good deal, but he never
had had any one to converse with on the subject.

Cæcilius answered, “But how could you promise yourself that you would be
able to obtain the sacrament at the last moment? The water and the
administrator might come just too late; and then where would you be, my
son? And then again, how do you know you would wish it? Is your will
simply in your own power? ‘Carpe diem;’ take God’s gift while you can.”

“The benefit is so immense,” answered Agellius, “that one would wish, if
one could, to enter into the unseen world without losing its fulness. This
cannot be, if a long time elapses between baptism and death.”

“You are, then, of the number of those,” said Cæcilius, “who would cheat
their Maker of His claim on their life, provided they could (as it is
said) in their last moment cheat the devil.”

Agellius continuing silent, Cæcilius added, “You want to enjoy this world,
and to inherit the next; is it so?”

“I am puzzled, my head is weak, father; I do not see my way to speak.”
Presently he said, “Sin after baptism is so awful a matter; there is no
second laver for sin; and then again, to sin against baptism is so great a
sin.”

The priest said, “In baptism God becomes your Father; your own God; your
worship; your love—can you give up this great gift all through your life?
Would you live ‘without God in this world’?”

Tears came into Agellius’s eyes, and his throat became oppressed. At last
he said, distinctly and tenderly, “No.”

After a while the priest said, “I suppose what you fear is the fire of
judgment, and the prison; not lest you should fall away and be lost.”

“I know, my dear father,” answered the sick youth, “that I have no right
to reckon on anything, or promise myself anything; yet somehow I have
never feared hell—though I ought, I know I ought; but I have not. I
deserve the worst, but somehow I have thought that God would lead me on.
He ever has done so.”

“Then you fear the fire of judgment,” said Cæcilius; “you’d put off
baptism for fear of that fire.”

“I did not say I _would_,” answered Agellius; “I wanted _you_ to explain
the thing to me.”

“Which would you rather, Agellius, be without God here, or suffer the fire
there?”

Agellius smiled; he said faintly, “I take Him for my portion here _and_
there: _He_ will be in the fire with me.”

Agellius lay quiet for some hours, and seemed asleep. Suddenly he began
again, “I was baptized when I was only six years old. I’m glad you do not
think it was wilful in me, and wrong. I cannot tell what took me,” he
presently continued. “It was a fervour; I have had nothing of the kind
since. What does our Lord say? I can’t remember: ‘Novissima pejora
prioribus.’ ”

He continued the train of thought another day, or rather the course of his
argument; for on the thought itself his mind seemed ever to be working.
“My spring is gone,” he said, “and I have no summer. Nay, I have had no
spring; it was a day, not a season. It came, and it went; where am I now?
Can spring ever return? I wish to begin again in right earnest.”

“Thank God, my son, for this great mercy,” said Cæcilius, “that, though
you have relaxed, you have never severed yourself from the peace of the
Church, you have not denied your God.”

Agellius sighed bitterly. “O my father,” he said, “ ‘Erravi, sicut ovis
quæ periit.’ I have been very near denying Him, at least by outward act.
You do not know me; you cannot know what has come on me lately. And I dare
not look back on it, my heart is so weak. My father, how am I to repent of
what is past, when I dare not think of it? To think of it is to renew the
sin.”

“ ‘Puer meus, noli timere,’ ” answered the priest; “ ‘si transieris per
ignem, odor ejus non erit in te.’ In penance, the grace of God carries you
without harm through thoughts and words which _would_ harm you apart from
it.”

“Ah, penance!” said Agellius; “I recollect the catechism. What is it,
father? a new grace, I know; a plank after baptism. May I have it?”

“You are not strong enough yet to think of these things, Agellius,”
answered Cæcilius. “Please God, you shall get well. Then you shall review
all your life, and bring it out in order before Him; and He, through me,
will wipe away all that has been amiss. Praise Him who has spared you for
this.”

It was too much for the patient in his weak state; he could but shed happy
tears.

Another day he had sat up in bed. He looked at his hands, from which the
skin was peeling; he felt his lips, and it was with them the same; and his
hair seemed coming off also. He smiled and said, “Renovabitur, ut aquila,
juventus mea.”

Cæcilius responded, as before, with sacred words which were new to
Agellius: “ ‘Qui sperant in Domino mutabunt fortitudinem; assument pennas,
sicut aquilæ,’ ‘Sursum corda!’ you must soar, Agellius.”

“ ‘Sursum corda!’ ” answered he; “I know those words. They are old
friends; where have I heard them? I can’t recollect; but they are in my
earliest memories. Ah! but, my father, my heart is below, not above. I
want to tell you all. I want to tell you about one who has enthralled my
heart; who has divided it with my True Love. But I daren’t speak of her,
as I have said; I dare not speak, lest I be carried away. O, I blush to
say it; she is a heathen! May God save her soul! Will He come to me, and
not to her? ‘Investigabiles viæ ejus.’ ”

He remained silent for some time; then he said, “Father, I mean to
dedicate myself to God, simply, absolutely, with His grace. I will be His,
and He shall be mine. No one shall come between us. But O this weak
heart!”

“Keep your good resolves till you are stronger,” said the priest. “It is
easy to make them on a sick-bed. You must first reckon the charges.”

Agellius smiled. “I know the passage, father,” he said, and he repeated
the sacred words: “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father and
mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his
own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”

Another time Agellius said: “The Martyrs; surely the old bishop used to
say something about the Martyrs. He spoke of a second baptism, and called
it a baptism of blood; and said, ‘Might his soul be with the Martyrs!’
Father, would not this wash out every thing, as the first?”

It was now Cæcilius who smiled, and his eyes shone like the sapphires of
the Holy City; and he seemed the ideal of him who, when

            “Called upon to face
  Some awful moment to which heaven has joined
  Great issues, good or bad for humankind,
  Is happy as a lover, and attired
  With sudden brightness, like a man inspired.”

However, he soon controlled himself, and said, “Quo ego vado, non potes me
modo sequi; sequeris autem postea.”



                               CHAPTER XIV.


                              A SMALL CLOUD.


This sort of intercourse, growing in frequency and fulness, went on for
about a week, till Agellius was able to walk with support, and to leave
the cottage. The priest and his own slave took him between them, and
seated him one evening in sight of the glorious prospect, traversed by the
long shadow of the far mountains, behind which the sun was making its way.
The air was filled with a thousand odours; the brilliant colouring of the
western heavens was contrasted with the more sober but varied tints of the
rich country. The wheat and barley harvest was over; but the beans were
late, and still stood in the fields. The olives and chestnut-trees were
full of fruit; the early fig was supplying the markets with food; and the
numerous vineyards were patiently awaiting the suns of the next month
slowly to perfect their present promise. The beautiful scene had a moral
dignity, from its associations with human sustenance and well-being. The
inexpressible calmness of evening was flung, like a robe, over it. Its
sweetness was too much for one who had been confined to the monotony of a
sick-room, and was still an invalid. He sat silent, and in tears. It was
life from the dead; and he felt he had risen to a different life. And thus
he came out evening after evening convalescent, gradually and surely
advancing to perfect restoration of his health.

One evening he said, after feeding his eyes and thoughts for some time
with the prospect, “ ‘Mansueti hereditabunt terram.’ They alone have real
enjoyment of this earth who believe in its Maker. Every breath of air
seems to whisper how good He is to me.”

Cæcilius answered, “These sights are the shadows of that fairer Paradise
which is our home, where there is no beast of prey, no venomous reptile,
no sin. My child, should _I_ not feel this more than you? Those who are
shut up in crowded cities see but the work of man, which is evil. It is
the compensation of my flight from Carthage that I am brought before the
face of God.”

“The heathen worship all this, as if God Himself,” said Agellius; “how
strange it seems to me that any one can forget the Creator in His works!”

Cæcilius was silent for a moment, and sighed; he then said, “You have ever
been a Christian, Agellius.”

“And you have not, my father?” answered he; “well, you have earned that
grace which came to me freely.”

“Agellius,” said the priest, “it comes freely to all; and is only merited
when it has already prevailed. Yet I think you earned it too, else why the
difference between you and your brother?”

“What do you know of us?” asked Agellius quickly.

“Not a great deal,” answered he, “yet something. Three or four years back
an effort was made to rekindle the Christian spirit in these parts, and to
do something for the churches of the proconsulate, and to fill up the
vacant sees. Nothing has come of it as yet; but steps were taken towards
it: one was to obtain a recovery of the Christians who remained in them. I
was sent here for that purpose, and in this way heard of you and your
brother. When my life was threatened by the persecution, and I had to
flee, I thought of your cottage. I was obliged to act secretly, as we did
not know friends from foes.”

“You were led here for other purposes towards _me_, my father,” said
Agellius; “yet you cannot have a safer refuge. There is nothing to
disturb, nothing to cause suspicion here. In this harvest time numbers of
strangers pour in from the mountains, of various races; there is nothing
to distinguish you from one of them, and my brother is away convoying some
grain to Carthage. Persecution drove you hither, but you have not been
suffered to be idle, my father, you have brought home a wanderer.” He
added, after a pause, “I am well enough to go to confession to you now.
May it be this evening?”

“It will be well,” answered Cæcilius; “how long I shall still be here, I
cannot tell. I am expecting my trusty messenger with despatches. It is now
three days since he was here. However, this I say without misgiving, we do
not part for long. What do you here longer? you must come to me. I must
prepare you, and send you back to Sicca, to collect and restore this
scattered flock.”

Agellius turned, and leaned against the priest’s shoulder, and laughed. “I
am laughing,” he said, “not from lightness of mind, but from the depth of
surprise and of joy that you should so think of me. It was a dream which
once I had; but impossible! you do not think that I, weak I, shall ever be
able to do more than save my own soul?”

“You will save your own soul by saving the souls of others,” said
Cæcilius; “my child, I could tell you more things if I thought it good for
you.”

“But, my father, I have so weak, so soft a heart,” cried Agellius; “what
am I to do with myself? I am not of the temper of which heroes are made.”

“ ‘Virtus in infirmitate perficitur,’ ” said the priest. “What! are you to
do _any_ thing of yourself? or are you to be simply the instrument of
Another? We shall have the same termination, you and myself, but you long
after me.”

“Ah, father, because _you_ will burn out so much more quickly!” said
Agellius.

“I think,” said Cæcilius, “I see my messenger; there is some one who has
made his way by stealth into the garden, or at least not by the beaten
way.”

There _was_ a visitor, as Cæcilius had said; however, it was not his
messenger, but Juba, who approached, looking with great curiosity at
Cæcilius, and absorbed in the sight. Cæcilius in turn regarded him
steadfastly, and then said to Agellius, “It is your brother.”

“What brings you here, Juba?” said the latter.

“I have been away on a distant errand,” said Juba; “and find you have been
ill. Is this your nurse?” he eyed him almost sternly, and added, “’Tis a
Christian priest.”

“Has Agellius no acquaintance but Christians?” asked Cæcilius.

“Acquaintance! O surely!” answered Juba; “agreeable, innocent, sweet
acquaintance of another sort; myself to begin with. My lad,” he continued,
“you did not rise to their price, but you did your best.”

“Juba,” said his brother, “if you have any business here, say it, and have
done. I am not strong enough to hold any altercation with you.”

“Business!” said Juba, “I can find quite business enough here, if I
choose. This is a priest of the Christians. I am sure of it.”

Cæcilius looked at him with such calmness and benevolence, that at length
Juba turned away his eyes with something of irritation. He said, “If I
_am_ a priest, I am here to claim you as one of my children.”

Juba winced, but said scornfully, “You are mistaken there, father; speak
to those who own you. I am a free man.”

“My son,” Cæcilius answered, “you have been under instruction; it is your
duty to go forward, not back.”

“What do you know about me?” said Juba; “he has been telling.”

“Your face, your manner, your voice, tells a tale; I need no information
from others. I have heard of you years ago; now I see you.”

“What do you see in me?” said Juba.

“I see pride in bodily shape, treading down faith and conviction,” said
Cæcilius.

Juba neighed rather than laughed, so fierce and scornful was its
expression. “What you slaves call pride,” he said, “I call dignity.”

“You believe in a God, Creator of heaven and earth, as certainly as I do,”
said the priest, “but you deliberately set yourself against Him.”

Juba smiled. “I am as free,” he said, “in _my_ place, as He in His.”

“You mean,” answered Cæcilius, “free to do wrong, and free to suffer for
it.”

“You may call it wrong, and call it suffering,” replied Juba; “but for me,
_I_ do not call wrong what He calls wrong; and if He puts me to pain, it
is because He is the stronger.”

The priest stopped awhile; there was no emotion on either side. It was
strange to see them so passionless, so antagonistic, like St. Michael and
his adversary.

“There is that within you,” said Cæcilius, “which speaks as I speak. That
inward voice takes the part of the Creator, and condemns you.”

“_He_ put it there,” said Juba; “and _I_ will take care to put it out.”

“Then He will have justice as well as power on His side,” said the priest.

“I will never fawn or crouch,” said Juba; “I will be lord and master in my
own soul. Every faculty shall be mine; there shall be no divided
allegiance.”

Cæcilius paused again; he said at length, “My son, my soul tells me, or
rather my Maker tells me, and your Maker, that some heavy judgment is
impending over you. Do penance while you may.”

“Tell your forebodings to women and children,” said Juba; “I am prepared
for anything. I will not be crushed.”

Agellius was not strong enough to bear a part in such a scene. “Father,”
he said, “it is his way, but don’t believe him. He has better thoughts.
Away with you, Juba, you are not wanted here.”

“Agellius,” said the priest, “such words are not strange to me. I am not
young, and have seen much of the world; and my very office and position
elicits blasphemies from others from time to time. I knew a man who
carried out his bad thoughts and words into act. Abjuring his Maker, he
abandoned himself to the service of the evil one. He betrayed his brethren
to death. He lived on year after year, and became old. He was smitten with
illness; then I first saw him. I made him contemplate a picture; it was
the picture of the Good Shepherd. I dwelt on the vain efforts of the poor
sheep to get out of the fold; its irrational aversion to its home, and its
desperate resolution to force a way through the prickly fence. It was
pierced and torn with the sharp aloe; at last it lay imprisoned in its
stern embrace, motionless and bleeding. Then the Shepherd, though He had
to wound His own hands in the work, disengaged it, and brought it back.
God has His own times; His power went along with the picture, and the man
was moved. I said, ‘_This_ is His return for your enmity: He is determined
to have you, cost Him what it will.’ I need not go through the many things
that followed, but the issue may be told in few words. He came back; he
lived a life of penance at the Church’s door; he received the peace of the
Church in immediate prospect of the persecution, and has within the last
ten days died a martyr’s death.”

Juba had listened as if he was constrained against his will. When the
priest stopped he started, and began to speak impetuously, and unlike his
ordinary tone. He placed his hands violently against his ears. “Stop!” he
said, “no more. _I_ will not betray them; no: I _need_ not betray them;”
he laughed; “the black moor does the work himself. Look,” he cried,
seizing the priest’s arm, and pointing to a part of the forest, which
happened to be to windward. “You are in their number, priest, who can
foretell the destinies of others, and are blind to their own. Read there,
the task is not hard, your coming fortunes.”

His finger was directed to a spot where, amid the thick foliage, the gleam
of a pool or of a marsh was visible. The various waters round about
issuing from the gravel, or drained from the nightly damps, had run into a
hollow, filled with the decaying vegetation of former years, and were
languidly filtered out into a brook, more healthy than the vast reservoir
itself. Its banks were bordered with a deep, broad layer of mud, a
transition substance between the rich vegetable matter which it once had
been, and the multitudinous world of insect life which it was becoming. A
cloud or mist at this time was hanging over it, high in air. A harsh and
shrill sound, a whizzing or a chirping, proceeded from that cloud to the
ear of the attentive listener. What these indications portended was plain.
“There,” said Juba, “is what will tell more against you than imperial
edict, informer, or proconsular apparitor; and no work of mine.”

He turned down the bank and disappeared. Agellius and his guest looked at
each other in dismay. “It is the locusts,” they whispered to each other,
as they went back into the cottage.



                               CHAPTER XV.


                              A VISITATION.


The plague of locusts, one of the most awful visitations to which the
countries included in the Roman empire were exposed, extended from the
Atlantic to Ethiopia, from Arabia to India, and from the Nile and Red Sea
to Greece and the north of Asia Minor. Instances are recorded in history
of clouds of the devastating insect crossing the Black Sea to Poland, and
the Mediterranean to Lombardy. It is as numerous in its species as it is
wide in its range of territory. Brood follows brood, with a sort of family
likeness, yet with distinct attributes, as we read in the prophets of the
Old Testament, from whom Bochart tells us it is possible to enumerate as
many as ten kinds. It wakens into existence and activity as early as the
month of March; but instances are not wanting, as in our present history,
of its appearance as late as June. Even one flight comprises myriads upon
myriads passing imagination, to which the drops of rain or the sands of
the sea are the only fit comparison; and hence it is almost a proverbial
mode of expression in the East (as may be illustrated by the sacred pages
to which we just now referred), by way of describing a vast invading army,
to liken it to the locusts. So dense are they, when upon the wing, that it
is no exaggeration to say that they hide the sun, from which circumstance
indeed their name in Arabic is derived. And so ubiquitous are they when
they have alighted on the earth, that they simply cover or clothe its
surface.

This last characteristic is stated in the sacred account of the plagues of
Egypt, where their faculty of devastation is also mentioned. The
corrupting fly and the bruising and prostrating hail had preceded them in
that series of visitations, but _they_ came to do the work of ruin more
thoroughly. For not only the crops and fruits, but the foliage of the
forest itself, nay, the small twigs and the bark of the trees are the
victims of their curious and energetic rapacity. They have been known even
to gnaw the door-posts of the houses. Nor do they execute their task in so
slovenly a way, that, as they have succeeded other plagues so they may
have successors themselves. They take pains to spoil what they leave. Like
the Harpies, they smear every thing that they touch with a miserable
slime, which has the effect of a virus in corroding, or, as some say, in
scorching and burning it. And then, as if all this were little, when they
can do nothing else, they die;—as if out of sheer malevolence to man, for
the poisonous elements of their nature are then let loose, and dispersed
abroad, and create a pestilence; and they manage to destroy many more by
their death than in their life.

Such are the locusts,—whose existence the ancient heretics brought forward
as their palmary proof that there was an evil creator, and of whom an
Arabian writer shows his national horror, when he says that they have the
head of a horse, the eyes of an elephant, the neck of a bull, the horns of
a stag, the breast of a lion, the belly of a scorpion, the wings of an
eagle, the legs of a camel, the feet of an ostrich, and the tail of a
serpent.

And now they are rushing upon a considerable tract of that beautiful
region of which we have spoken with such admiration. The swarm to which
Juba pointed grew and grew till it became a compact body, as much as a
furlong square; yet it was but the vanguard of a series of similar hosts,
formed one after another out of the hot mould or sand, rising into the air
like clouds, enlarging into a dusky canopy, and then discharged against
the fruitful plain. At length the huge innumerous mass was put into
motion, and began its career, darkening the face of day. As became an
instrument of divine power, it seemed to have no volition of its own; it
was set off, it drifted, with the wind, and thus made northwards, straight
for Sicca. Thus they advanced, host after host, for a time wafted on the
air, and gradually declining to the earth, while fresh broods were carried
over the first, and neared the earth, after a longer flight, in their
turn. For twelve miles did they extend from front to rear, and their
whizzing and hissing could be heard for six miles on every side of them.
The bright sun, though hidden by them, illumined their bodies, and was
reflected from their quivering wings; and as they heavily fell earthward,
they seemed like the innumerable flakes of a yellow-coloured snow. And
like snow did they descend, a living carpet, or rather pall, upon fields,
crops, gardens, copses, groves, orchards, vineyards, olive woods,
orangeries, palm plantations, and the deep forests, sparing nothing within
their reach, and where there was nothing to devour, lying helpless in
drifts, or crawling forward obstinately, as they best might, with the hope
of prey. They could spare their hundred thousand soldiers twice or thrice
over, and not miss them; their masses filled the bottoms of the ravines
and hollow ways, impeding the traveller as he rode forward on his journey,
and trampled by thousands under his horse-hoofs. In vain was all this
overthrow and waste by the road-side; in vain their loss in river, pool,
and watercourse. The poor peasants hastily dug pits and trenches as their
enemy came on; in vain they filled them from the wells or with lighted
stubble. Heavily and thickly did the locusts fall: they were lavish of
their lives; they choked the flame and the water, which destroyed them the
while, and the vast living hostile armament still moved on.

They moved right on like soldiers in their ranks, stopping at nothing, and
straggling for nothing: they carried a broad furrow or wheal all across
the country, black and loathsome, while it was as green and smiling on
each side of them and in front, as it had been before they came. Before
them, in the language of prophets, was a paradise; and behind them a
desert. They are daunted by nothing; they surmount walls and hedges, and
enter enclosed gardens or inhabited houses. A rare and experimental
vineyard has been planted in a sheltered grove. The high winds of Africa
will not commonly allow the light trellis or the slim pole; but here the
lofty poplar of Campania has been possible, on which the vine plant mounts
so many yards into the air, that the poor grape-gatherers bargain for a
funeral pile and a tomb as one of the conditions of their engagement. The
locusts have done what the winds and lightning could not do, and the whole
promise of the vintage, leaves and all, is gone, and the slender stems are
left bare. There is another yard, less uncommon, but still tended with
more than common care; each plant is kept within due bounds by a circular
trench round it, and by upright canes on which it is to trail; in an hour
the solicitude and long toil of the vine-dresser are lost, and his pride
humbled. There is a smiling farm; another sort of vine, of remarkable
character, is found against the farm-house. This vine springs from one
root, and has clothed and matted with its many branches the four walls;
the whole of it is covered thick with long clusters, which another month
will ripen:—on every grape and leaf there is a locust. Into the dry caves
and pits, carefully strewed with straw, the harvest-men have (safely, as
they thought just now) been lodging the far-famed African wheat. One grain
or root shoots up into ten, twenty, fifty, eighty, nay, three or four
hundred stalks: sometimes the stalks have two ears apiece, and these again
shoot into a number of lesser ones. These stores are intended for the
Roman populace, but the locusts have been beforehand with them. The small
patches of ground belonging to the poor peasants up and down the country,
for raising the turnips, garlic, barley, watermelons, on which they live,
are the prey of these glutton invaders as much as the choicest vines and
olives. Nor have they any reverence for the villa of the civic decurion or
the Roman official. The neatly arranged kitchen-garden, with its cherries,
plums, peaches, and apricots, is a waste; as the slaves sit round, in the
kitchen in the first court, at their coarse evening meal, the room is
filled with the invading force, and news comes to them that the enemy has
fallen upon the apples and pears in the basement, and is at the same time
plundering and sacking the preserves of quince and pomegranate, and
revelling in the jars of precious oil of Cyprus and Mendes in the
store-rooms.

They come up to the walls of Sicca, and are flung against them into the
ditch. Not a moment’s hesitation or delay; they recover their footing,
they climb up the wood or stucco, they surmount the parapet, or they have
entered in at the windows, filling the apartments, and the most private
and luxurious chambers, not one or two, like stragglers at forage or
rioters after a victory, but in order of battle, and with the array of an
army. Choice plants or flowers about the _impluvia_ and _xysti_, for
ornament or refreshment, myrtles, oranges, pomegranates, the rose and the
carnation, have disappeared. They dim the bright marbles of the walls and
the gilding of the ceilings. They enter the triclinium in the midst of the
banquet; they crawl over the viands and spoil what they do not devour.
Unrelaxed by success and by enjoyment, onward they go; a secret mysterious
instinct keeps them together, as if they had a king over them. They move
along the floor in so strange an order that they seem to be a tesselated
pavement themselves, and to be the artificial embellishment of the place;
so true are their lines, and so perfect is the pattern they describe.
Onward they go, to the market, to the temple sacrifices, to the baker’s
stores, to the cook-shops, to the confectioner’s, to the druggists;
nothing comes amiss to them; wherever man has aught to eat or drink, there
are they, reckless of death, strong of appetite, certain of conquest.

They have passed on; the men of Sicca sadly congratulate themselves, and
begin to look about them, and to sum up their losses. Being the
proprietors of the neighbouring districts, or the purchasers of its
produce, they lament over the devastation, not because the fair country is
disfigured, but because income is becoming scanty, and prices are becoming
high. How is a population of many thousands to be fed? where is the grain,
where the melons, the figs, the dates, the gourds, the beans, the grapes,
to sustain and solace the multitudes in their lanes, caverns, and garrets?
This is another weighty consideration for the class well-to-do in the
world. The taxes, too, and contributions, the capitation tax, the
percentage upon corn, the various articles of revenues due to Rome, how
are they to be paid? How are cattle to be provided for the sacrifices and
for the tables of the wealthy? One-half, at least, of the supply of Sicca
is cut off. No longer slaves are seen coming into the city from the
country in troops with their baskets on their shoulders, or beating
forward the horse, or mule, or ox, overladen with its burden, or driving
in the dangerous cow, or the unresisting sheep. The animation of the place
is gone; a gloom hangs over the Forum; and if its frequenters are still
merry there is something of sullenness and recklessness in their mirth.
The gods have given the city up; something or other has angered them.
Locusts, indeed, are no uncommon visitation, but at an earlier season.
Perhaps some temple has been polluted, or some unholy rite practised, or
some secret conspiracy has spread.

Another and a still worse calamity. The invaders, as we have already
intimated, could be more terrible still in their overthrow than in their
ravages. The inhabitants of the country had attempted, where they could,
to destroy them by fire and water. It would seem as if the malignant
animals had resolved that the sufferers should have the benefit of this
policy to the full; for they had not got more than twenty miles beyond
Sicca when they suddenly sickened and died. Thus after they had done all
the mischief they could by their living, when they had made their foul
maws the grave of every living thing, then they died themselves, and made
the desolated land their own grave. They took from it its hundred forms
and varieties of beautiful life, and left it their own fetid and poisonous
carcases in payment. It was a sudden catastrophe; they seemed making for
the Mediterranean, as if, like other great conquerors, they had other
worlds to subdue beyond it; but whether they were overgorged, or struck by
some atmospheric change, or that their time was come and they paid the
debt of nature, so it was that suddenly they fell, and their glory came to
nought, and all was vanity to them as to others, and “their stench rose
up, and their corruption rose up, because they had done proudly.”

The hideous swarms lay dead in the moist steaming underwoods, in the green
swamps, in the sheltered valleys, in the ditches and furrows of the
fields, amid the monuments of their own prowess, the ruined crops and the
dishonoured vineyards. A poisonous element, issuing from their remains,
mingled with the atmosphere, and corrupted it. The dismayed peasant found
that a pestilence had begun; a new visitation, not confined to the
territory which the enemy had made its own, but extending far and wide, as
the atmosphere extends, in all directions. Their daily toil, no longer
claimed by the produce of the earth, which has ceased to exist, is now
devoted to the object of ridding themselves of the deadly legacy which
they have received in its stead. In vain; it is their last toil; they are
digging pits, they are raising piles, for their own corpses, as well as
for the bodies of their enemies. Invader and victim lie in the same grave,
burn in the same heap; they sicken while they work, and the pestilence
spreads. A new invasion is menacing Sicca, in the shape of companies of
peasants and slaves, (the panic having broken the bonds of discipline,)
with their employers and overseers, nay the farmers themselves and
proprietors, rushing thither from famine and infection as to a place of
safety. The inhabitants of the city are as frightened as they, and more
energetic. They determine to keep them at a distance; the gates are
closed; a strict _cordon_ is drawn; however, by the continued pressure,
numbers contrive to make an entrance, as water into a vessel, or light
through the closed shutters, and anyhow the air cannot be put into
quarantine; so the pestilence has the better of it, and at last appears in
the alleys, and in the cellars of Sicca.



                               CHAPTER XVI.


                             WORSE AND WORSE.


“O wretched minds of men! O blind hearts!” truly cries out a great heathen
poet, but on grounds far other than the true ones. The true ground of such
a lamentation is, that men do not interpret the signs of the times and of
the world as He intends who has placed these signs in the heavens; that
when Mane, Thecel, Phares, is written upon the ethereal wall, they have no
inward faculty to read them withal; and that when they go elsewhere for
one learned in tongues, instead of taking Daniel, who is used to converse
with Angels, they rely on Magi or Chaldeans, who know only the languages
of earth. So it was with the miserable population of Sicca now; half
famished, seized with a pestilence which was sure to rage before it
assuaged, perplexed and oppressed by the recoil upon them of the
population whom they had from time to time sent out into the surrounding
territory, or from whom they had supplied their markets, they never
fancied that the real cause of the visitation which we have been
describing was their own iniquity in their Maker’s sight, that His arm
inflicted it, and that its natural and direct interpretation was, “Do
penance, and be converted.” On the contrary, they looked only at their own
vain idols, and at the vain rites which these idols demanded, and they
thought there was no surer escape from their misery than by upholding a
lie, and putting down all who revolted from it; and thus the visitation
which was sent to do them good turned through their wilful blindness to
their greater condemnation.

The Forum, which at all times was the resort of idleness and dissipation,
now became more and more the haunt of famine and sickness, of robust
frames without work, of slavish natures virtually and for the time
emancipated and uncontrolled, of youth and passion houseless and
shelterless. In groups and companies, in and out of the porticoes, on the
steps of the temples, and about the booths and stalls of the market, a
multitude grows day by day, from the town and from the country, and of all
the various races which town and country contain. The civil magistracy and
the civil force to which the peace of the city was committed, were not
equal to such an emergency as the present; and the _milites stationarii_,
a sort of garrison who represented the Roman power, though they were ready
to act against either magistrates or mob impartially, had no tenderness
for either, when in collision with each other. Indeed the bonds of society
were broken, and every political element was at war with every other, in a
case of such great common calamity, when every one was angry with every
one else, for want of some clearly defined object against which the common
anger might be discharged with unanimity.

They had almost given over sacrificing and consulting the flame or the
entrails; for no reversal or respite of their sufferings had followed
their most assiduous acts of deprecation. Moreover the omens were
generally considered by the priests to have been unpropitious or adverse.
A sheep had been discovered to have, instead of a liver, something very
like a gizzard; a sow had chewed and swallowed the flowers with which it
had been embellished for the sacrifice; and a calf, after receiving the
fatal blow, instead of lying down and dying, dashed into the temple,
dripping blood upon the pavement as it went, and at last fell and expired
just before the sacred _adytum_. In despair the people took to
fortune-telling and its attendant arts. Old crones were found in plenty
with their strange rites, the stranger the more welcome. Trenches were dug
in by-places for sacrifices to the infernal gods; amulets, rings,
counters, tablets, pebbles, nails, bones, feathers, Ephesian or Egyptian
legends, were in request, and raised the hopes, or beguiled and occupied
the thoughts, of those who else would have been directly dwelling on their
sufferings, present or in prospect.

Others were occupied, whether they would or no, with diversions fiercer
and more earnest. There were continual altercations between farmers, small
proprietors of land, government and city officials,—altercations so
manifold and violent, that, even were there no hubbub of voices, and no
incoherence of wrath and fear to complicate them, we should despair of
setting them before the reader. An officer from the camp was expostulating
with one of the municipal authorities that no corn had been sent thither
for the last six or seven days, and the functionary attacked had thrown
the blame on the farmer, and he in turn had protested that he could not
get cattle to bring the waggons into Sicca; those which he had set out
with had died of exhaustion on the journey. A clerk, as we now speak, in
the _Officium_ of the society of publicans or collectors of _annona_ was
threatening a number of small tenants with ejection for not sending in
their rated portion of corn for the Roman people:—the _Officium_ of the
_Notarius_, or assistant prefect, had written up to Sicca from Carthage in
violent terms; and come it must, though the locusts had eaten up every
stack and granary. A number of half-starved peasants had been summoned for
payment of their taxes, and in spite of their ignorance of Latin, they had
been made to understand that death was the stern penalty of neglecting to
bring the coin. They, on the other hand, by their fierce doggedness of
manner, seemed to signify by way of answer that death was not a penalty,
unless life was a boon.

The _villicus_ of one of the decurions, who had an estate in the
neighbourhood, was laying his miseries before the man of business of his
employer. “What are we to do?” he said. “Half the gang of slaves is dead,
and the other half is so feeble, that I can’t get through the work of the
month. We ought to be sheep-shearing; you have no chance of wool. We ought
to be swarming the bees, pressing the honey, boiling and purifying the
wax. We ought to be plucking the white leaves of the camomile, and
steeping the golden flowers in oil. We ought to be gathering the wild
grapes, sifting off the flowers, and preserving the residue in honey. We
ought to be sowing brassicum, parsley, and coriander against next spring.
We ought to be cheese-making. We ought to be baking white and red bricks
and tiles in the sun; we have no hands for the purpose. The _villicus_ is
not to blame, but the anger of the gods.” The country _employé_ of the
procurator of the imperial _Baphia_ protests that the insect cannot be
found from which the dye is extracted; and argues that the locusts must
have devoured them, or the plant on which they feed, or that they have
been carried off by the pestilence. Here is old Corbulus in agonies for
his febrifuge, and a slave of his is in high words with the
market-carrier, who tells him that Mago, who supplied it, is dead of a
worse fever than his master’s. “The rogue,” cried the slave, “my master
has contracted with him for the year, and has paid him the money in
advance.” A jeering and mocking from the crowd assailed the unfortunate
domestic, who so truly foreboded that his return without the medicine
would be the signal for his summary committal to the _pistrinum_. “Let old
Corbulus follow Mago in his passage to perdition,” said one of the rabble;
“let him take his physic with Pluto, and leave us the bread and wine on
which he’s grown gouty.” “Bread, bread!” was the response elicited by this
denunciation, and it spread into a circle larger than that of which the
slave and the carrier were part.

“Wine and bread, Ceres and Liber!” cried a young legionary, who, after a
night of revelry, was emerging still half-intoxicated from one of the low
wine-shops in the vaults which formed the basement of the _Thermæ_ or hot
baths; “make way there, you filthy slime of the earth, you half-kneaded,
half-fermented Africans, who never yet have quite been men, but have ever
smelt strong of the baboon, who are three quarters _must_, and two
vinegar, and a fifth water,—as I was saying, you are like bad liquor, and
the sight of you disagrees with the stomach and affects the eyes.”

The crowd looked sullenly, and without wincing, at his shield, which was
the only portion of his military accoutrements which he had preserved
after his carouse. The white surface, with a silver boss in the centre,
surrounded by first a white and then a red circle, and the purple border,
showed that he belonged to the Tertiani or third Italic Legion, which had
been stationed in Africa since the time of Augustus. “Vile double-tongued
mongrels,” he continued, “what are you fit for but to gather the fruits of
the earth for your owners and lords, ‘Romanos dominos rerum’? And if there
are now no fruits to reap, why your service is gone. Go home and die, and
drown yourselves, for what are you fit for now, except to take your dead
corpses away from the nostrils of a Roman, the cream of humankind? Ye
base-born apes, that’s why you catch the pestilence, because our blood
mantles and foams in our ruddy veins like new milk in the wine cup, which
is too strong for this clime, and my blood is up, and I drink a full
measure of it to great Rome; for what does old Horace say, but ‘Nunc est
bibendum’? and so get out of my way.”

To a good part of the multitude, both peasantry and town rabble, Latin was
unintelligible; but they all understood vocabulary and syntax and logic,
as soon as he drew his knuckles across one fellow’s face who refused to
move from his path, and as soon as his insult was returned by the latter
with a thrust of the dagger. A rush was made upon him, on which he made a
face at them, shook his fist, and leaping on one side, ran with great
swiftness to an open space in advance. From his quarrelsome humour rather
than from fear, he raised a cry of alarm; on which two or three
fellow-soldiers made their appearance from similar dens of intoxication
and vice, and came up to the rescue. The mob assailed them with stones,
and the cream of human nature was likely to be roughly churned, when,
seeing matters were becoming serious, they suddenly took to their heels,
and got into the Temple of Esculapius on one side of the Forum. The mob
followed, the ministers of the sacred place attempted to shut the gates, a
scuffle ensued, and a riot was in progress. Self-preservation is the first
law of man; trembling for the safety of his noble buildings, and
considering that it was a bread riot, as it really was, the priest of the
god came forward, rebuked the mob for its impiety, and showed the
absurdity of supposing that there were loaves in his enclosure to satisfy
its wants; but he reminded them that there was a baker’s shop at the other
end of the Forum, which was one of the most considerable in Sicca.

A slight impulse determines the movements of an excited multitude. Off
they went to the quarter in question, where certainly there was the very
large and handsome store of a substantial dealer in grain of all sorts,
and in other produce. The shop, however, seemed on this occasion to be but
poorly furnished; for the baker was a prudent man, and feared a display of
provisions which would be an invitation to a hungry multitude. The
assailants, however, were not to be baffled; some one cried out that the
man had withdrawn his corn from the market for his own ends, and that
great stores were accumulated within. They avail themselves of the hint;
they pour in through the open front, the baker escapes as he may, his
mills and ovens are smashed, the house is ransacked; whatever is found is
seized, thrown about, wasted, eaten, as the case may be; and the mob gains
strength and appetite for fresh exploits.

However, the rioters have no definite plan of action yet. Some of them
have penetrated into the stable behind the house in search of corn. They
find the mill-ass which ground for the baker, and bring it out. It is a
beast of more than ordinary pretensions, such as you would not often see
in a mill, showing both the wealth of the owner and the flourishing
condition of his trade. The asses of Africa are finer than those in the
north; but this is fine for an African. One fellow mounts upon it, and
sets off with the world before him, like a knight-errant, seeking an
adventure, the rabble at his tail acting as squire. He begins the circuit
of the Forum, and picks up its riff-raff as he goes along—here some rascal
boys, there some drunken women, here again a number of half-brutalized
country slaves and peasants. Partly out of curiosity, partly from
idleness, from ill temper, from hope of spoil, from a vague desire to be
doing something or other, every one who has nothing to lose by the
adventure crowds around and behind him. And on the contrary, as he
advances, and the noise and commotion increase, every one who has a
position of any sort, the confidential _vernæ_ of great families, farmers,
shopkeepers, men of business, officials, vanish from the scene of action
without delay.

“Africa, Africa!” is now the cry; the signal in that country, as an
ancient writer tells us, that the parties raising it have something new in
hand, and have a mind to do it.

Suddenly, as they march on, a low and awful growl is heard. It comes from
the booth of a servant of the imperial court. He is employed as a
transporter of wild beasts from the interior to the coast, where they are
shipped for Rome; and he has charge at present of a noble lion, who is
sitting majestically, looking through the bars of his cage at the rabble,
who now begin to look at him. In demeanour and in mental endowments he has
the advantage of them. It was at this moment, while they were closing,
hustling each other, staring at the beast, and hoping to provoke him, that
a shrill voice cried out, “Christianos ad leones, Christianos ad leones!”
the Christians to the lions! A sudden and dead silence ensued, as if the
words had struck the breath out of the promiscuous throng. An interval
passed; and then the same voice was heard again, “Christianos ad leones!”
This time the whole Forum took it up from one end to the other. The fate
of the day, the direction of the movement, was decided; a distinct object
was obtained, and the only wonder was that the multitude had been so long
to seek and so slow to find so obvious a cause of their misfortunes, so
adequate a subject of their vengeance. “Christianos ad leones!” was
shouted out by town and country, priests and people. “Long live the
emperor! long live Decius! he told us this long ago. There’s the edict; it
never has been obeyed. Death to the magistrates! To the Christians! to the
Christians! Up with great Jove, down with the atheists!”

They were commencing their march when the ass caught their eye. “The
Christians’ god!” they shouted out; “the god of the Christians!” Their
first impulse was to give the poor beast to the lion, their next to
sacrifice it, but they did not know to whom. Then they said they would
make the Christians worship it; and dressing it up in tawdry finery, they
retained it at the head of their procession.



                              CHAPTER XVII.


                          CHRISTIANOS AD LEONES.


By the time that they had got round again to the unlucky baker’s, the mob
had been swollen to a size which even the area of the Forum would not
contain, and it filled the adjacent streets. And by the same time it had
come home to its leaders, and, indeed, to every one who used his reason at
all, that it was very far from certain that there were any Christians in
Sicca, and if so, still very far from easy to say where they were. And the
difficulty was of so practical a character as to keep them inactive for
the space of several hours. Meanwhile their passions were excited to the
boiling point by the very presence of the difficulty, as men go mad of
thirst when water is denied them. At length, after a long season of such
violent commotion, such restless pain, such curses, shrieks, and
blasphemies, such bootless gesticulations, such aimless contests with each
other, that they seemed to be already inmates of the prison beneath, they
set off in a blind way to make the circuit of the city as before they had
paraded round the Forum, still in the knight-errant line, looking out for
what might turn up where they were sure of nothing, and relieving the
intense irritation of their passions by locomotion, if nothing more
substantial was offered to them.

It was an awful day for the respectable inhabitants of the place; worse
than anything that even the most timid of them had anticipated, when they
had showed their jealousy of a popular movement against the proscribed
religion; for the stimulus of famine and pestilence was added to hatred of
Christianity, in that unreasoning multitude. The magistrates shut
themselves up in dismay; the small body of Roman soldiery reserved their
strength for the defence of themselves; and the poor wretches, not a few,
who had fallen from the faith, and offered sacrifice, hung out from their
doors sinful heathen symbols, to avert a storm against which apostasy was
no sufficient safeguard. In this conduct the Gnostics and other sectaries
imitated them, while the Tertullianists took a more manly part, from
principle or pride.

It would require the brazen voice which Homer speaks of, or the magic pen
of Sir Walter, to catalogue and to picture, as far as it is lawful to do
either, the figures and groups of that most miserable procession. As it
went forward it gained a variety and strength, which the circuit of the
Forum could not furnish. The more respectable religious establishments
shut their gates, and would have nothing to do with it. The priests of
Jupiter, the educational establishments of the Temple of Mercury, the
Temple of the Genius of Rome near the Capitol, the hierophants of Isis,
the Minerva, the Juno, the Esculapius, viewed the popular rising with
terror and disgust; but these were not the popular worships. The vast
homestead of Astarte, which in the number and vowed profligacy of its
inhabitants rivalled the vaults upon the Forum; the old rites, many and
diversified, if separately obscure, which came from Punic times; the new
importations from Syria and Phrygia, and a number of other haunts and
schools of depravity and crime, did their part in swelling or giving
character to the concourse. The hungry and idle rabble, the filthy beggars
who fed on the offal of the sacrifices, the drivers and slaughterers of
the beasts sacrificed; the tumblers and mountebanks who amused the gaping
market-people; dancers, singers, pipers from low taverns and
drinking-houses; infamous creatures, young and old, men and boys, half
naked and not half sober; brutal blacks, the aboriginal race of the Atlas,
with their appetites written on their skulls and features; Canaanites, as
they called themselves, from the coast; the wild beast-keepers from the
amphitheatre; troops of labourers from the fields, to whom the epidemic
was a time of Saturnalia; and the degraded company, alas! how numerous and
how pitiable, who took their nightly stand in long succession at the doors
of their several cells in the deep galleries under the Thermæ; all these,
and many others, had their part and place in the procession. There you
might see the devilish emblems of idolatry borne aloft by wretches from
the great Punic Temple, while frantic forms, ragged and famished, wasted
and shameless, leapt and pranced around them. There too was a choir of
Bacchanals, ready at a moment with songs as noisy as they were
unutterable. And there was the priest of the Punic Saturn, the
child-devourer, a sort of Moloch, to whom the martyrdom of Christians was
a sacred rite; he and all his attendants in fiery-coloured garments, as
became a sanguinary religion. And there, moreover, was a band of fanatics,
devotees of Cybele or of the Syrian goddess, if indeed the two rites were
distinct. They were bedizened with ribbons and rags of various colours,
and smeared over with paint. They had long hair like women, and turbans on
their heads. They pushed their way to the head of the procession, being
quite worthy of the post of honour, and, seizing the baker’s ass, put
their goddess on the back of it. Some of them were playing the fife,
others clashing cymbals, others danced, others yelled, others rolled their
heads, and others flogged themselves. Such was the character of the
frenzied host, which progressed slowly through the streets, while every
now and then, when there was an interval in the hubbub, the words
“Christianos ad leones” were thundered out by some ruffian voice, and a
thousand others fiercely responded.

Still no Christian was forthcoming; and it was plain that the rage of the
multitude must be discharged in other quarters, if the difficulty
continued in satisfying it. At length some one recollected the site of the
Christian chapel, when it existed; thither went the multitude, and
effected an entrance without delay. It had long been turned to other
purposes, and was now a store of casks and leather bottles. The miserable
sacristan had long given up any practical observance of his faith, and
remained on the spot a keeper of the premises for the trader who owned
them. They found him, and dragged him into the street, and brought him
forward to the ass, and to the idol on its back, and bade him worship the
one and the other. The poor wretch obeyed; he worshipped the ass, he
worshipped the idol, and he worshipped the genius of the emperor; but his
persecutors wanted blood; they would not submit to be cheated of their
draught; so when they had made him do whatever they exacted, they flung
him under the feet of the multitude, who, as they passed on, soon trod all
life and breath out of him, and sent him to the powers below, to whom he
had just before been making his profession.

Their next adventure was with a Tertullianist, who stationed himself at
his shop-door, displayed the sign of the cross, and walking leisurely
forward, seized the idol on the ass’s back, broke it over his knee, and
flung the portions into the crowd. For a few minutes they stared on him
with astonishment, then some women fell upon him with their nails and
teeth, and tore the poor fanatic till he fell bleeding and lifeless upon
the ground.

In the higher and better part of the city, which they now approached,
lived the widow of a Duumvir, who in his day had made a bold profession of
Christianity. The well connected lady was a Christian also, and was
sheltered by her great friends from the persecution. She was bringing up a
family in great privacy, and with straitened means, and with as much
religious strictness as was possible under the circumstances of the place.
She kept them from all bad sights and bad company, was careful as to the
character of the slaves she placed about them, and taught them all she
knew of her religion, which was quite sufficient for their salvation. They
had all been baptized, some by herself in default of the proper minister,
and, as far as they could show at their tender ages, which lay between
thirteen and seven, the three girls and the two boys were advancing in the
love of truth and sanctity. Her husband, some years back, when presiding
in the Forum, had punished with just severity an act of ungrateful fraud;
and the perpetrator had always cherished a malignant hatred of him and
his. The moment of gratifying it had now arrived, and he pointed out to
the infuriated rabble the secluded mansion where the Christian household
dwelt. He could not offer to them a more acceptable service, and the
lady’s modest apartment was soon swarming with enemies of her God and His
followers. In spite of her heartrending cries and supplications, her
children were seized, and when the youngest boy clung to her, the mother
was thrown senseless upon the pavement. The whole five were carried off in
triumph; it was the greatest success of the day. There was some hesitation
how to dispose of them; at last the girls were handed over to the
priestesses of Astarte, and the boys to the loathsome votaries of Cybele.

Revenge upon Christians was the motive principle of the riot; but the
prospect of plunder stimulated numbers, and here Christians could not
minister to their desires. They began the day by the attack upon the
provision-shop, and now they had reached the aristocratic quarter of the
city, and they gazed with envy and cupidity at the noble mansions which
occupied it. They began to shout out, “Bread, bread!” while they uttered
threats against the Christians; they violently beat at the closed gates,
and looked about for means of scaling the high walls which defended them
in front. The cravings of famished men soon take form and organization;
they began to ask relief from house to house. Nothing came amiss; and
loaves, figs, grapes, wine, found their way into the hands and mouths of
those who were the least exhausted and the least enfeebled. A second line
of fierce supplicants succeeded to the first; and it was plain that,
unless some diversion were effected, the respectable quarter of Sicca had
found a worse enemy than the locust.

The houses of the government _susceptor_, or tax collector, of the
_tabularius_ or registrar, of the _defensor_ or city counsel, and one or
two others, had already been the scene of collisions between the domestic
slaves and the multitude, when a demand was made upon the household of
another of the Curia, who held the office of Flamen Dialis. He was a
wealthy, easy-going man, generally popular, with no appetite for
persecution at all, but still no desire to be persecuted. He had more than
tolerated the Christians, and had at this time a Christian among his
slaves. This was a Greek, a splendid cook and perfumer, and he would not
have lost him for a large sum of money. However, life and limb were nearer
to him even than his dinner, and a Jonah must be cast overboard to save
the ship. In trepidation, yet with greater satisfaction, his
fellow-domestics thrust the poor helpless man out of the house, and
secured the door behind him. He was a man of middle age, of a grave
aspect, and he looked silently and calmly upon the infuriated and yelling
multitude, who were swarming up the hill about him, and swelling the
number of his persecutors. What had been his prospects, had he remained in
his earthly master’s service? his fill of meat and drink while he was
strong and skilful, the stocks or scourge if he ever failed to please him,
and the old age and death of the worn-out hack who once has caracoled in
the procession, or snorted at the coming fight. What are his prospects
now? a moment’s agony, a martyr’s death, and the everlasting beatific
vision of Him for whom he died. The multitude cry out, “To the ass or to
the lion!” worship the ass, or fight the lion. He was dragged to the ass’s
head and commanded to kneel down before the irrational beast. In the
course of a minute he had lifted up his eyes to heaven, had signed himself
with the cross, had confessed his Saviour, and had been torn to pieces by
the multitude. They anticipated the lion of the amphitheatre.

A lull followed, sure to be succeeded by a fresh storm. Not every
household had a Christian cook to make a victim of. Plunder, riot, and
outrage were becoming the order of the day; successive messengers were
sent up in breathless haste to the capitol and the camp for aid, but the
Romans returned for answer that they had enough to do in defending the
government buildings and offices. They suggested measures, however, for
putting the mob on a false scent, or involving them in some difficult or
tedious enterprise, which would give the authorities time for
deliberation, and for taking the rioters at disadvantage. If the
magistrates could get them out of the city, it would be a great point;
they could then shut the gates upon them, and deal with them as they
would. In that case, too, the insurgents would straggle, and divide, and
then they might be disposed of in detail. They were showing symptoms of
returning fury, when a voice suddenly cried out, “Agellius the Christian!
Agellius the sorcerer! Agellius to the lions! To the farm of Varius—to the
cottage of Agellius—to the south-west gate!” A sudden yell burst forth
from the vast multitude when the voice ceased. The impulse had been given
as at the first; the tide of human beings ebbed and retreated, and,
licking the base of the hill, rushed vehemently on one side, and roared
like a torrent towards the south-west. Juba, thy prophecy is soon to be
fulfilled! The locusts will bring more harm on thy brother’s home than
imperial edict or local magistrate. The decline of day will hardly prevent
the visitation.



                              CHAPTER XVIII.


                             AGELLIUS FLITS.


A change had passed over the fair face of Nature, as seen from the cottage
of Agellius, since that evening on which our story opened; and it is so
painful to contemplate waste, decay, and disappointment, that we mean to
say little about it. There was the same cloudless sky as then; and the sun
travelled in its silent and certain course, with even a more intense
desire than then to ripen grain and fruit for the use of man; but its
occupation was gone, for fruit and grain were not, nor man to collect and
to enjoy them. A dark broad shadow passed across the beautiful prospect
and disfigured it. When you looked more closely, it was as if a fire had
burned up the whole surface included under that shadow, and had stripped
the earth of its clothing. Nothing had escaped; not a head of khennah, not
a rose or carnation, not an orange or an orange blossom, not a _boccone_,
not a cluster of unripe grapes, not a berry of the olive, not a blade of
grass. Gardens, meadows, vineyards, orchards, copses, instead of rejoicing
in the rich variety of hue which lately was their characteristic, were now
reduced to one dreary cinder-colour. The smoke of fires was actually
rising from many points, where the spoilt and poisonous vegetation was
burning in heaps, or the countless corpses of the invading foe, or of the
cattle, or of the human beings whom the pestilence had carried off. The
most furious inroad of savage hordes, of Vandals, or of Saracens, who were
destined at successive eras to come and waste that country, could not have
spread such thorough desolation. The slaves of the farm of Varius were
sorrowfully turning to a new employment, that of clearing away the wreck
and disappointment of the bright spring from flower-bed, vineyard, and
field.

It was on the forenoon of the eventful day whose course we have been
tracing in the preceding Chapters, that a sharp-looking boy presented
himself to Agellius, who was directing his labourers in their work. “I am
come from Jucundus,” he said; “he has instant need of you. You are to go
with me, and by my way; and this is the proof I tell you truth. He sends
you this note, and wishes you in a bad time the best gifts of Bacchus and
Ceres.”

Agellius took the tablets, and went with them across the road to the place
where Cæcilius was at work, in appearance a slave. The letter ran
thus:—“Jucundus to Agellius. I trust you are well enough to move; you are
not safe for many days in your cottage; there is a rising this morning
against the Christians, and you may be visited. Unless you are ambitious
of Styx and Tartarus, follow the boy without questioning.” Agellius showed
the letter to the priest.

“We are no longer safe here, my father,” he said; “whither shall we go?
Let us go together. Can you take me to Carthage?”

“Carthage is quite as dangerous,” answered Cæcilius, “and Sicca is more
central. We can but leap into the sea at Carthage; here there are many
lines to retreat upon. I am known there, I am not known here. Here, too, I
hear all that goes on through the proconsulate and Numidia.”

“But what can we do?” asked Agellius; “here we cannot remain, and you at
least cannot venture into the city. Somewhither we must go, and where is
that?”

The priest thought. “We must separate,” he said. The tears came into
Agellius’s eyes.

“Though I am a stranger,” continued Cæcilius, “I know more of the
neighbourhood of Sicca than you who are a native. There is a famous
Christian retreat on the north of the city, and by this time, I doubt not,
or rather I know, it is full of refugees. The fury of the enemy is
extending on all hands, and our brethren, from as far as Cirtha round to
Curubis, are falling back upon it. The only difficulty is how to get round
to it without going through Sicca.”

“Let us go together,” said Agellius.

Cæcilius showed signs of perplexity, and his mind retired into itself. He
seemed for the moment to be simply absent from the scene about him, but
soon his intelligence returned. “No,” he said, “we must separate,—for the
time; it will not be for long. That is, I suppose, your uncle will take
good care of you, and he has influence. We are safest just now when most
independent of each other. It is only for a while. We shall meet again
soon; I tell you so. Did we keep together just now, it would be the worse
for each of us. You go with the boy; I will go off to the place I
mentioned.”

“O my father,” said the youth, “how will you get there? What shall I
suffer from my fears about you?”

“Fear not,” answered Cæcilius, “mind, I tell you so. It will be a trying
time, but my hour is not yet come. I am good for years yet; so are you,
for many more than mine. He will protect and rescue me, though I know not
how. Go, leave me to myself, Agellius!”

“O my father, my only stay upon earth, whom God sent me in my extreme
need, to whom I owe myself, must I then quit you; must a layman desert a
priest; the young the old?... Ah! it is I really, not you, who am without
protection. Angels surround you, father; but I am a poor wanderer. Give me
your blessing that evil may not touch me. I go.”

“Do not kneel,” said the priest; “they will see you. Stop, I have got to
tell you how and where to find me.” He then proceeded to give him the
necessary instructions. “Walk out,” he said, “along the road to
Thibursicumbur to the third milestone, you will come to a country road;
pursue it; walk a thousand steps; then again for the space of seven
_paternosters_; and then speak to the man upon your right hand. And now
away with you, God speed you, we shall not long be parted,” and he made
the sign of the cross over him.

“That old chap gives himself airs,” said the boy, when Agellius joined
him; “what may he be? one of your slaves, Agellius?”

“You’re a pert boy,” answered he, “for asking me the question.”

“They say the Christians brought the locusts,” said Firmian, “by their
enchantments; and there’s a jolly row beginning in the Forum just now. The
report goes that you are a Christian.”

“That’s because your people have nothing better to do than talk against
their neighbours.”

“Because you are so soft, rather,” said the boy. “Another man would have
knocked me down for saying it; but you are lackadaisical folk, who bear
insults tamely. Arnobius says your father was a Christian.”

“Father and son are not always the same religion now-a-days,” said
Agellius.

“Ay, ay,” answered Firmian, “but the Christians came from Egypt: and as
cook there is the son of cook, and soldier is son of soldier, so
Christian, take my word for it, is the son of a Christian.”

“Christians boast, I believe,” answered Agellius, “that they are of no one
race or country, but are members of a large unpatriotic family, whose home
is in the sky.”

“Christians,” answered the boy, “would never have framed the great Roman
empire; that was the work of heroes. Great Cæsar, Marius, Marcus Brutus,
Camillus, Cicero, Sylla, Lucullus, Scipio, could never have been
Christians. Arnobius says they are a skulking set of fellows.”

“I suppose you wish to be a hero,” said Agellius.

“I am to be a pleader,” answered Firmian; “I should like to be a great
orator like Cicero, and every one listening to me.”

They were walking along the top of a mud wall, which separated Varius’s
farm from his neighbour’s, when suddenly Firmian, who led the way, leapt
down into a copse, which reached as far as the ravine in which the knoll
terminated towards Sicca. The boy still went forward by devious paths,
till they had mounted as high as the city wall.

“You are bringing me where there is no entrance,” said Agellius.

The boy laughed. “Jucundus told me to bring you by a blind way,” he said.
“You know best why. This is one of our ways in and out.”

There was an aperture in the wall, and the bricks and stones about it were
loose, and admitted of removal. It was such a private way of passage as
schoolboys know of. On getting through, Agellius found himself in a
neglected garden or small close. Everything was silent about them, as if
the inhabitants were away; there was a great noise in the distance, as if
something unusual were going on in the heart of the town. The boy told him
to follow him as fast as he could without exciting remark; and, leading
him by lanes and alleys unknown to Agellius, at last brought him close
upon the scene of riot. At this time the expedition in search of
Christians had just commenced; to cross the Forum was to shorten his
journey, and perhaps was safer than to risk meeting the mob in the
streets. Firmian took the step; and while their attention was directed
elsewhere, brought Agellius safely through it. They then proceeded
cautiously as before, till they stood before the back door of the house of
Jucundus.

“Say a good word for me to your uncle,” said the boy, “I have done my job.
He must remember me handsomely at the Augustalia,” and he ran away.



Meanwhile Cæcilius had been anxiously considering the course which it was
safest for him to pursue. He must move, but he must wait till dusk, when
the ways were clear, and the light uncertain. Till then he must keep close
in-doors. There was a remarkable cavern in the mountains above Sicca,
which had been used as a place of refuge for Christians from the very time
they had first suffered persecution in Roman Africa. No spot in its whole
territory seemed more fit for what is called a base of operations, from
which the soldiers of the Cross might advance, or to which they might
retire, according as the fury of their enemy grew or diminished. While it
was in the midst of a wilderness difficult of access, and feared as the
resort of ghosts and evil influences, it was not far from a city near to
which the high roads met from Hippo and from Carthage. A branch of the
Bagradas, navigable for boats, opened a way from it through the woods,
where flight and concealment were easy on a surprise, as far as Madaura,
Vacca, and other places; at the same time it commanded the vast plain on
the south which extended to the roots of the Atlas. Just now, the
persecution growing, many deacons, other ecclesiastics, and prominent
laymen from all parts of the country had fallen back upon this cavern or
grotto; and in no place could Cæcilius have better means than here of
learning the general state of affairs, and of communicating with countries
beyond the seas. He was indeed on his way thither, when the illness of
Agellius made it a duty for him to stop and restore him, and attend to his
spiritual needs; and he had received an inward intimation, on which he
implicitly relied, to do so.

The problem at this moment was how to reach the refuge in question. His
direct road lay through Sicca; this being impracticable at present, he had
to descend into the ravine which lay between him and the city, and,
turning to the left, to traverse the broad plain, the Campus Martius of
Sicca, into which it opened. Here the mountain would rise abruptly on his
right with those steep cliffs which we have already described as rounding
the north side of Sicca. He must traverse many miles before he could reach
the point at which the rock lost its precipitous character, and changed
into a declivity allowing the traveller to ascend. It was a bold
undertaking; for all this he had to accomplish in the dark before the
morning broke, a stranger too to the locality, and directing his movements
only by the information of others, which, however accurate and distinct,
could scarcely be followed, even if without risk of error, at least
without misgiving. However, could he master this point before the morning
he was comparatively safe; he then had to strike into the solitary
mountains, and to retrace his steps for a while towards Sicca along the
road, till he came to a place where he knew that Christian scouts or
_videttes_ (as they may be called) were always stationed.

This being his plan, and there being no way of mending it, our confessor
retired into the cottage, and devoted the intervening hours to intercourse
with that world from which his succour must come. He set himself to
intercede for the Holy Catholic Church throughout the world, now for the
most part under persecution, and for the Roman Empire, not yet holy, which
was the instrument of the evil powers against her. He had to pray for the
proconsulate, for Numidia, Mauretania, and the whole of Africa; for the
Christian communities throughout it, for the cessation of the trial then
present, and for the fortitude and perseverance of all who were tried. He
had to pray for his own personal friends, his penitents, converts,
enemies; for children, catechumens, neophytes; for those who were
approaching the Church, for those who had fallen away, or were falling
away from her; for all heretics, for all troublers of unity, that they
might be reclaimed. He had to confess, bewail and deprecate the many sins
and offences which he knew of, foreboded, or saw in prospect as to come.
Scarcely had he entered on his charge at Carthage four years before, when
he had had to denounce one portentous scandal in which a sacred order of
the ministry was implicated. What internal laxity did not that scandal
imply! And then again what a low standard of religion, what niggardly
faith, and what worn-out, used-up sanctity in the community at large, was
revealed in the fact of those frequent apostasies of individuals which
then were occurring! He prayed fervently that both from the bright pattern
of martyrs, and from the warning afforded by the lapsed, the Christian
body might be edified and invigorated. He saw with great anxiety two
schisms in prospect, when the persecution should come to an end, one from
the perverseness of those who were too rigid, the other from those who
were too indulgent towards the fallen; and in proportion to his gift of
prescience was the earnestness of his intercession that the wounds of the
Church might be healed with the least possible delay. He then turned to
the thought of his own correspondence then in progress with the Holy Roman
Church, which had lately lost its bishop by martyrdom. This indeed was no
unusual event with the see of Peter, in which the successors of Peter
followed Peter’s steps, as Peter had been bidden to follow the King and
Exemplar of Martyrs. But the special trouble was, that months had passed,
full five, since the vacancy occurred, and it had not yet been supplied.
Then he thought of Fabian, who made the vacancy, and who had already
passed through that trial which was to bring to so many Christians life or
condemnation, and he commended himself to his prayers against the hour of
his own combat. He thought of Fabian’s work, and went on to intercede for
the remnant of the seven apostles whom that Pope had sent into Gaul, and
some of whom had already obtained the martyr’s crown. He prayed that the
day might come, when not the cities only of that fair country, but its
rich champaigns and sunny slopes should hear the voice of the missionary.
He prayed in like manner for Britain, that the successful work of another
Pope, St. Eleutherius, might be extended even to its four seas. And then
he prayed for the neighbouring island on the west, still in heathen
darkness, and for the endless expanse of Germany on the east, that there
too the one saving name and glorious Faith might be known and accepted.

His thoughts then travelled back to Rome and Italy, and to the martyrdoms
which had followed that of St. Fabian. Two Persians had already suffered
in the imperial city; Maximus had lost his life, and Felix had been
imprisoned, at Nola. Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt had already afforded
victims to the persecution, and cried aloud to all Christians for their
most earnest prayers and for repeated Masses in behalf of those who
remained under the trial. Babylas, Bishop of Antioch, the third see in
Christendom, was already martyred in that city. Here again Cæcilius had a
strong call on him for intercession, for a subtle form of freethinking was
there manifesting itself, the issue of which was as uncertain as it might
be frightful. The Bishop of Alexandria, that second of the large divisions
or patriarchates of the Church, the great Dionysius, the pupil of Origen,
was an exile from his see, like himself. The messenger who brought this
news to Carthage had heard at Alexandria a report from Neocæsarea, that
Gregory, another pupil of Origen’s, the Apostle of Pontus, had also been
obliged to conceal himself from the persecution. As for Origen himself,
the aged, laborious, gifted, zealous teacher of his time, he was just then
engaged in answering the works of an Epicurean called Celsus, and on him
too the persecution was likely to fall; and Cæcilius prayed earnestly that
so great a soul might be kept from such high untrue speculations as were
threatening evil at Antioch, and from every deceit and snare which might
endanger his inheriting that bright crown which ought to be his portion in
heaven. Another remarkable report had come, viz., that some young men of
Egypt had retired to the deserts up the country under the stress of the
persecution,—Paul was the name of one of them,—and that they were there
living in the practice of mortification and prayer so singular, and had
combats with the powers of darkness and visitations from above so special,
as to open quite a new era in the spiritual history of the Church.

And then his thoughts came back to his poor Agellius, and all those
hundred private matters of anxiety which the foes of the Church, occupied
only with her external aspect, little suspected. For Agellius, he prayed,
and for his; for the strange wayward Juba, for Jucundus, for Callista; ah!
that Callista might be brought on to that glorious consummation, for which
she seemed marked out! But the ways of the Most High are not as our ways,
and those who to us seem nearest are often furthest from Him; and so our
holy priest left the whole matter in the hands of Him to whom he prayed,
satisfied that he had done his part in praying.

This was the course of thought which occupied him for many hours, after
(as we have said) he had closed the door upon him, and knelt down before
the cross. Not merely before the symbol of redemption did he kneel; for he
opened his tunic at the neck, and drew thence a small golden pyx which was
there suspended. In that carefully fastened case he possessed the Holiest,
his Lord and his God. That Everlasting Presence was his stay and guide
amid his weary wanderings, his joy and consolation amid his overpowering
anxieties. Behold the secret of his sweet serenity, and his clear
unclouded determination. He had placed it upon the small table at which he
knelt, and was soon absorbed in meditation and intercession.



                               CHAPTER XIX.


                            A PASSAGE OF ARMS.


How many hours passed while Cæcilius was thus employed, he did not know.
The sun was declining when he was roused by a noise at the door. He
hastily restored the sacred treasure to its hiding-place in his breast,
and rose up from his knees. The door was thrown back, and a female form
presented itself at the opening. She looked in at the priest, and said,
“Then Agellius is not here?”

The woman was young, tall, and graceful in person. She was clad in a
yellow cotton tunic, reaching to her feet, on which were shoes. The clasps
at her shoulders, partly visible under the short cloak or shawl which was
thrown over them, and which might, if necessary, be drawn over her head,
seemed to serve the purpose, not only of fastening her dress, but of
providing her with sharp prongs or minute stilettos for her defence, in
case she fell in with ruffians by the way; and though the expression of
her face was most feminine, there was that about it which implied she
could use them for that purpose on an emergency. That face was clear in
complexion, regular in outline, and at the present time pale, whatever
might be its ordinary tint. Its charm was a noble and majestic calm. There
is the calm of divine peace and joy; there is the calm of heartlessness;
there is the calm of reckless desperation; there is the calm of death.
None of these was the calm which breathed from the features of the
stranger who intruded upon the solitude of Cæcilius. It was the calm of
Greek sculpture; it imaged a soul nourished upon the visions of genius,
and subdued and attuned by the power of a strong will. There was no
appearance of timidity in her manner; very little of modesty. The evening
sun gleamed across her amber robe, and lit it up till it glowed like fire,
as if she were invested in the marriage _flammeum_, and was to be claimed
that evening as the bride of her own bright god of day.

She looked at Cæcilius, first with surprise, then with anxiety; and her
words were, “You, I fear, are of his people. If so, make the most of these
hours. The foe may be on you to-morrow morning. Fly while you can.”

“If I am a Christian,” answered Cæcilius, “what are you who are so careful
of us? Have you come all the way from Sicca to give the alarm to mere
atheists and magic-mongers?”

“Stranger,” she said, “if you had seen what I have seen, what I have heard
of to-day, you would not wonder at my wish to save from a like fate the
vilest being on earth. A hideous mob is rioting in the city, thirsting for
the blood of Christians; an accident may turn it in the direction of
Agellius. He is gone; where is he? Murderous outrages have already been
perpetrated; you remain.”

“She who is so tender of Christians,” answered the priest, “must herself
have some sparks of the Christian flame in her own breast.”

Callista sat down half unconsciously upon the bench or stool near the
door; but she at once suddenly started up again, and said, “Away, fly!
perhaps they are coming; where is he?”

“Fear not,” said Cæcilius; “Agellius has been conveyed away to a safe
hiding-place; for me, I shall be taken care of; there is no need for
hurry; sit down again. But you,” he continued, “you must not be found
here.”

“They know _me_,” she said; “I am well known here. I work for the temples.
I have nothing to fear. I am no Christian;” and, as if from an
inexplicable overruling influence, she sat down again.

“Not a Christian yet, you mean,” answered Cæcilius.

“A person must be born a Christian, sir,” she replied, “in order to take
up the religion. It is a very beautiful idea, as far as I have heard
anything about it; but one must suck it in with one’s mother’s milk.”

“If so, it never could have come into the world,” said the priest.

She paused for a while. “It is true,” she answered at length; “but a new
religion begins by appealing to what is peculiar in the minds of a few.
The doctrine, floating on the winds, finds its own; it takes possession of
their minds; they answer its call; they are brought together by that
common influence; they are strong in each other’s sympathy; they create
and throw around them an external form, and thus they found a religion.
The sons are brought up in their fathers’ faith; and what was the idea of
a few becomes at length the profession of a race. Such is Judaism; such
the religion of Zoroaster, or of the Egyptians.”

“You will find,” said the priest, “that the greater number of African
Christians at this moment, for of them I speak confidently, are converts
in manhood, not the sons of Christians. On the other hand, if there be
those who have left the faith, and gone up to the capitol to sacrifice,
these were Christians by hereditary profession. Such is my experience, and
I think the case is the same elsewhere.”

She seemed to be speaking more for the sake of getting answers than of
objecting arguments. She paused again, and thought; then she said,
“Mankind is made up of classes of very various mental complexion, as
distinct from each other as the colours which meet the eye. Red and blue
are incommensurable; and in like manner, a Magian never can become a
Greek, nor a Greek a Cœlicolist. They do but make themselves fools when
they attempt it.”

“Perhaps the most deeply convinced, the most tranquil-minded in the
Christian body,” answered Cæcilius, “will tell you, on the contrary, that
there was a time when they hated Christianity, and despised and
ill-treated its professors.”

“_I_ never did any such thing,” cried Callista, “since the day I first
heard of it. I am not its enemy, but I cannot believe in it. I am sure I
never could; I never, never should be able.”

“What is it you cannot believe?” asked the priest.

“It seems too beautiful,” she said, “to be anything else than a dream. It
is a thing to talk about, but when you come near its professors you see it
is impossible. A most beautiful imagination, _that_ is what it is. Most
beautiful its precepts, as far as I have heard of them; so beautiful, that
in idea there is no difficulty. The mind runs along with them, as if it
could accomplish them without an effort. Well, its maxims are too
beautiful to be realized; and then on the other hand, its dogmas are too
dismal, too shocking, too odious to be believed. They revolt me.”

“Such as what?” asked Cæcilius.

“Such as this,” answered Callista. “Nothing will ever make me believe that
all my people have gone and will go to an eternal Tartarus.”

“Had we not better confine ourselves to something more specific, more
tangible?” asked Cæcilius, gravely. “I suppose if one individual may have
that terrible lot, another may—both may, many may. Suppose I understand
you to say that you never will believe that _you_ will go to an eternal
Tartarus.”

Callista gave a slight start, and showed some uneasiness or displeasure.

“Is it not likely,” continued he, “that you are better able to speak of
yourself, and to form a judgment about yourself, than about others?
Perhaps if you could first speak confidently about yourself, you would be
in a better position to speak about others also.”

“Do you mean,” she said, in a calm tone, “that my place, after this life,
is an everlasting Tartarus?”

“Are you happy?” he asked in turn.

She paused, looked down, and in a deep clear voice said, “No.” There was a
silence.

The priest began again: “Perhaps you have been growing in unhappiness for
years; is it so? you assent. You have a heavy burden at your heart, you
don’t well know what. And the chance is, that you _will_ grow in
unhappiness for the next ten years to come. You will be more and more
unhappy the longer you live. Did you live till you were an old woman, you
would not know how to bear your existence.”

Callista cried out as if in bodily pain, “It is true, sir, whoever told
you. But how can you have the heart to say it, to insult and mock me!”

“God forbid!” exclaimed Cæcilius, “but let me go on. Listen, my child. Be
brave, and dare to look at things as they are. Every day adds to your
burden. This is a law of your present being, somewhat more certain than
the assertion which you just now so confidently made, the impossibility of
your believing in that law. You cannot refuse to accept what is not an
opinion, but a fact. I say this burden which I speak of is not simply a
dogma of our creed, it is an undeniable fact of nature. You cannot change
it by wishing; if you were to live on earth two hundred years, it would
not be reversed, it would be more and more true. At the end of two hundred
years you would be too miserable even for your worst enemy to rejoice in
it.”

Cæcilius spoke, as if half in soliloquy or meditation, though he was
looking towards Callista. The contrast between them was singular: he thus
abstracted; she too, utterly forgetful of self, but absorbed in him, and
showing it by her eager eyes, her hushed breath, her anxious attitude. At
last she said impatiently, “Father, you are speaking to yourself; you
despise me.”

The priest looked straight at her with an open, untroubled smile, and
said, “Callista, do not doubt me, my poor child; you are in my heart. I
was praying for you shortly before you appeared. No; but, in so serious a
matter as attempting to save a soul, I like to speak to you in my Lord’s
sight. I am speaking to you, indeed I am, my child; but I am also pleading
with you on His behalf, and before His throne.”

His voice trembled as he spoke, but he soon recovered himself. “Suffer
me,” he said. “I was saying that if you lived five hundred years on earth,
you would but have a heavier load on you as time went on. But you will not
live, you will die. Perhaps you will tell me that you will then cease to
be. I don’t believe you think so. I may take for granted that you think
with me, and with the multitude of men, that you will still live, that you
will still be _you_. You will still be the same being, but deprived of
those outward stays and reliefs and solaces, which, such as they are, you
now enjoy. You will be yourself, shut up in yourself. I have heard that
people go mad at length when placed in solitary confinement. If, then, on
passing hence, you are cut off from what you had here, and have only the
company of yourself, I think your burden will be, so far, greater, not
less than it is now.

“Suppose, for instance, you had still your love of conversing, and could
not converse; your love of the poets of your race, and no means of
recalling them; your love of music, and no instrument to play upon; your
love of knowledge, and nothing to learn; your desire of sympathy, and no
one to love: would not that be still greater misery?

“Let me proceed a step further: supposing you were among those whom you
actually did _not_ love; supposing you did _not_ like them, nor their
occupations, and could not understand their aims; suppose there be, as
Christians say, one Almighty God, and you did not like Him, and had no
taste for thinking of Him, and no interest in what He was and what He did;
and supposing you found that there was nothing else anywhere but He, whom
you did not love and whom you wished away: would you not be still more
wretched?

“And if this went on for ever, would you not be in great inexpressible
pain for ever?

“Assuming then, first, that the soul always needs external objects to rest
upon; next, that it has no prospect of any such when it leaves this
visible scene; and thirdly, that the hunger and thirst, the gnawing of the
heart, where it occurs, is as keen and piercing as a flame; it will follow
there is nothing irrational in the notion of an eternal Tartarus.”

“I cannot answer you, sir,” said Callista, “but I do not believe the dogma
on that account a whit the more. My mind revolts from the notion. There
_must_ be some way out of it.”

“If, on the other hand,” continued Cæcilius, not noticing her
interruption, “if all your thoughts go one way; if you have needs,
desires, aims, aspirations, all of which demand an Object, and imply, by
their very existence, that such an Object does exist also; and if nothing
here does satisfy them, and if there be a message which professes to come
from that Object, of whom you already have the presentiment, and to teach
you about Him, and to bring the remedy you crave; and if those who try
that remedy say with one voice that the remedy answers; are you not bound,
Callista, at least to look that way, to inquire into what you hear about
it, and to ask for His help, if He be, to enable you to believe in Him?”

“This is what a slave of mine used to say,” cried Callista, abruptly; “...
and another, Agellius, hinted the same thing.... What is your remedy, what
your Object, what your love, O Christian teacher? Why are you all so
mysterious, so reserved in your communications?”

Cæcilius was silent for a moment, and seemed at a loss for an answer. At
length he said, “Every man is in that state which you confess of yourself.
We have no love for Him who alone lasts. We love those things which do not
last, but come to an end. Things being thus, He whom we ought to love has
determined to win us back to Him. With this object He has come into His
own world, in the form of one of us men. And in that human form He opens
His arms and woos us to return to Him, our Maker. This is our Worship,
this is our Love, Callista.”

“You talk as Chione,” Callista answered; “only that she felt, and you
teach. She could not speak of her Master without blushing for joy.... And
Agellius, when he said one word about his Master, he too began to
blush....”

It was plain that the priest could hardly command his feelings, and they
sat for a short while in silence. Then Callista began, as if musing on
what she had heard.

“A loved One,” she said, “yet ideal; a passion so potent, so fresh, so
innocent, so absorbing, so expulsive of other loves, so enduring, yet of
One never beheld;—mysterious! It is our own notion of the First and only
Fair, yet embodied in a substance, yet dissolving again into a sort of
imagination.... It is beyond me.”

“There is but one Lover of souls,” cried Cæcilius, “and He loves each one
of us, as though there were no one else to love. He died for each one of
us, as if there were no one else to die for. He died on the shameful
cross. ‘Amor meus crucifixus est.’ The love which he inspires lasts, for
it is the love of the Unchangeable. It satisfies, for He is inexhaustible.
The nearer we draw to Him, the more triumphantly does He enter into us;
the longer He dwells in us, the more intimately have we possession of Him.
It is an espousal for eternity. This is why it is so easy for us to die
for our faith, at which the world marvels.”

Presently he said, “Why will not _you_ approach Him? why will not you
leave the creature for the Creator?”

Callista seldom lost her self-possession; for a moment she lost it now;
tears gushed from her eyes. “Impossible!” she said, “what, I? you do not
know me, father!” She paused, and then resumed in a different tone, “No!
_my_ lot is one way, yours another. I am a child of Greece, and have no
happiness but that, such as it is, which my own bright land, my own
glorious race, give me. I may well be content, I may well be resigned, I
may well be proud, if I possess _that_ happiness. I must live and die
where I have been born. I am a tree which will not bear transplanting. The
Assyrians, the Jews, the Egyptians, have their own mystical teaching. They
follow their happiness in their own way; mine is a different one. The
pride of mind, the revel of the intellect, the voice and eyes of genius,
and the fond beating heart, I cannot do without them. I cannot do without
what you, Christian, call sin. Let me alone; such as nature made me I will
be. I cannot change.”

This sudden revulsion of her feelings quite overcame Cæcilius; yet, while
the disappointment thrilled through him, he felt a most strange sympathy
for the poor lost girl, and his reply was full of emotion. “Am _I_ a Jew?”
he exclaimed; “am _I_ an Egyptian, or an Assyrian? Have I from my youth
believed and possessed what now is my Life, my Hope, and my Love? Child,
_what_ was once my life? Am not _I_ too a brand plucked out of the fire?
Do _I_ deserve anything but evil? Is it not the Power, the Mighty Power of
the only Strong, the only Merciful, the grace of Emmanuel, which has
changed and won me? If He can change me, an old man, could He not change a
child like you? I, a proud, stern Roman; I, a lover of pleasure, a man of
letters, of political station, with formed habits, and life-long
associations, and complicated relations; was it _I_ who wrought this great
change in me, who gained for myself the power of hating what I once loved,
of unlearning what I once knew, nay, of even forgetting what once I was?
Who has made you and me to differ, but He who can, when He will, make us
to agree? It is His same Omnipotence which will transform _you_, if you
will but come to be transformed.”

But a reaction had come over the proud and sensitive mind of the Greek
girl. “So after all, priest,” she said, “you are but a man like others; a
frail, guilty person like myself. I can find plenty of persons who do as I
do; I want some one who does not; I want some one to worship. I thought
there was something in you special and extraordinary. There was a
gentleness and tenderness mingled with your strength which was new to me.
I said, Here is at last a god. My own gods are earthly, sensual; I have no
respect for them, no faith in them. But there is nothing better anywhere
else.... Alas!...” She started up, and said with vehemence, “I thought you
sinless; you confess to crime.... Ah! how do I know,” she continued with a
shudder, “that you are better than those base hypocrites, priests of Isis
or Mithras, whose lustrations, initiations, new birth, white robes, and
laurel crowns, are but the instrument and cloak of their intense
depravity?” And she felt for the clasp upon her shoulder.

Here her speech was interrupted by a hoarse sound, borne upon the wind as
of many voices blended into one and softened by the distance, but which,
under the circumstances, neither of the parties to the above conversation
had any difficulty in assigning to its real cause. “Dear father,” she
said, “the enemy is upon you.”



                               CHAPTER XX.


                      HE SHALL NOT LOSE HIS REWARD.


There was no room for doubt or for delay. “What is to become of you,
Callista?” he said; “they will tear you to pieces.”

“Fear nothing for me, father,” she answered; “I am one of them. They know
me. Alas, _I_ am no Christian! _I_ have not abjured their rites! but you,
lose not a moment.”

“They are still at some distance,” he said, “though the wind gives us
merciful warning of their coming.” He looked about the room, and took up
the books of Holy Scripture which were on the shelf. “There is nothing
else,” he said, “of special value here. Agellius could not take them.
Here, my child, I am going to show you a great confidence. To few persons
not Christians would I show it. Take this blessed parchment; it contains
the earthly history of our Divine Master. Here you will see whom we
Christians love. Read it; keep it safely; surrender it, when you have the
opportunity, into Christian keeping. My mind tells me I am not wrong in
lending it to you.” He handed to her the Gospel of St. Luke, while he put
the two other volumes into the folds of his own tunic.

“One word more,” she said; “your name, should I want you.”

He took up a piece of chalk from the shelf, and wrote upon the wall in
distinct characters,

  “Thascius Cæcilius Cyprianus, Bishop of Carthage.”

Hardly had she read the inscription when the voices of several men were
heard in the very neighbourhood of the cottage; and hoping to effect a
diversion in favour of Cæcilius, and being at once unsuspicious of danger
to herself, and careless of her life, she ran quickly forward to meet
them. Cæcilius ought to have taken to flight without a moment’s delay, but
a last sacred duty detained him. He knelt down and took the pyx from his
bosom. He had eaten nothing that day; but even if otherwise, it was a
crisis which allowed him to consume the sacred species without fasting. He
hastily opened the golden case, adored the blessed sacrament, and consumed
it, purifying its receptacle, and restoring it to its hiding-place. Then
he rose at once and left the cottage.

He looked about; Callista was nowhere to be seen. She was gone; so much
was certain, no enemy was in sight; it only remained for him to make off
too. In the confusion he turned in the wrong direction; instead of making
off at the back of the cottage from which the voices had scared him, he
ran across the garden into the hollow way. It was all over with him in an
instant; he fell at once into the hands of the vanguard of the mob.

Many mouths were opened upon him all at once. “The sorcerer!” cried one;
“tear him to shreds; _we’ll_ teach him to brew his spells against the
city.” “Give us back our grapes and corn,” said a second. “Have a guard,”
said a third; “he can turn you into swine or asses while there is breath
in him,” “Then be the quicker with him,” said a fourth, who was lifting up
a crowbar to discharge upon his head. “Hold!” said a tall swarthy youth,
who had already warded off several blows from him, “hold, will you? don’t
you see, if you kill him he can’t undo the spell. Make him first reverse
it all; make him take the curse off us. Bring him along; take him to
Astarte, Hercules, or old Saturn. We’ll broil him on a gridiron till he
turns all these canes into vines, and makes olive berries of the pebbles,
and turns the dust of the earth into fine flour for our eating. When he
has done all this he shall dance a jig with a wild cow, and sit down to
supper with an hyena.”

A loud scream of exultation broke forth from the drunken and frantic
multitude. “Along with him!” continued the same speaker in a jeering tone.
“Here, put him on the ass and tie his hands behind his back. He shall go
back in triumph to the city which he loves. Mind, and don’t touch him
before the time. If you kill him, you’ll never get the curse off. Come
here, you priests of Cybele,” he added, “and be his body-guard.” And he
continued to keep a vigilant eye and hand over the old man, in spite of
them.

The ass, though naturally a good-tempered beast, had been most sadly tried
through the day. He had been fed, indeed, out of mockery, as being the
Christians’ god; but he did not understand the shouts and caprices of the
crowd, and he only waited for an opportunity to show that he by no means
acquiesced in the proceedings of the day. And now the difficulty was to
move at all. The people kept crowding up the hollow road, and blocked the
passage, and though the greater part of the rioters had either been left
behind exhausted in Sicca itself, or had poured over the fields on each
side of Agellius’s cottage, or gone right over the hill down into the
valley beyond, yet still it was some time before the ass could move a
step, and a time of nervous suspense it was both to Cæcilius and the youth
who befriended him. At length what remained of the procession was
persuaded to turn about and make for Sicca, but in a reversed order. It
could not be brought round in so confined a space, so its rear went first
and the ass and its burden came last. As they descended the hill back
again, Cæcilius, who was mounted upon the linen and silk which had adorned
the Dea Syra before the Tertullianist had destroyed the idol, saw before
him the whole line of march. In front were flaunted the dreadful emblems
of idolatry, so far as their bearers were able still to raise them.
Drunken women, ragged boys mounted on men’s shoulders, ruffians and
bullies, savage-looking Getulians, half-human monsters from the Atlas,
monkeys and curs jabbering and howling, mummers, bacchanals, satyrs, and
gesticulators, formed the staple of the procession. Midway between the
hill which he was descending and the city lay the ravine, of which we have
several times spoken, widening out into the plain or Campus Martius, which
reached round to the steep cliffs on the north. The bridle-path, along
which he was moving, crossed it just where it was opening and became
level, so as to present no abrupt descent and ascent at the place where
the path was lowest. On the left every vestige of the ravine soon ceased,
and a free passage extended to the plain.

The youth who had placed Cæcilius on the ass still kept close to him and
sung at the pitch of his voice, in imitation of the rest—

  “Sporting and snorting in shades of the night,
  His ears pricking up, and his hoofs striking light,
  And his tail whisking round, in the speed of his flight.”

“Old man,” he continued to Cæcilius in a low voice, and in Latin, “your
curse has not worked on me yet.”

“My son,” answered the priest, “you are granted one day more for
repentance.”

“Lucky for you as well as for me,” was the reply: and he continued his
song:—

  “Gurta, the witch, was out with the rest;
  Though as lame as a gull, by his highness possessed,
  She shouldered her crutch, and danced with the best.

  “She stamped and she twirled in the shade of the yew,
  Till her gossips and chums of the city danced too;
  They never are slack when there’s mischief to do.

  “She danced and she coaxed, but he was no fool;
  He’d be his own master, he’d not be her tool:
  Not the little black moor should send him to school.”

He then turned to Cæcilius and whispered, “You see, old father, that
others, besides Christians, can forgive and forget. Henceforth call me
generous Juba.” And he tossed his head.

By this time they had got to the bottom of the hill, and the deep shadows
which filled the hollow showed that the sun was rapidly sinking in the
west. Suddenly, as they were crossing the bottom as it opened into the
plain, Juba seized and broke the thong which bound Cæcilius’s arms, and
bestowing a tremendous cut with it upon the side of the ass, sent him
forward upon the plain at his greatest speed. The youth’s manœuvre was
successful to the full. The asses of Africa can do more on an occasion of
this kind than our own. Cæcilius for the moment lost his seat; but,
instantly recovering it, took care to keep the animal from flagging; and
the cries of the mob, and the howlings of the priests of Cybele cooperated
in the task. At length the gloom, increasing every minute, hid him from
their view; and even in daylight his recapture would have been a difficult
matter for a wearied-out, famished, and intoxicated rabble. Before
Cæcilius well had time to return thanks for this unexpected turn of
events, he was out of pursuit, and was ambling at a pace more suitable to
the habits of the beast of burden that carried him, over an expanse of
plain which would have been a formidable night-march to a fasting man.



We must not conclude the day without relating what was its issue to the
persecutors, as well as to their intended victim. It is almost a proverb
that punishment is slow in overtaking crime; but the present instance was
an exception to the rule. While the exiled Bishop of Carthage escaped, the
crowd, on the other hand, were caught in the trap which had been laid for
them. We have already said it was a _ruse_ on the part of the governing
authorities of the place to get the rioters out of the city, that they
might at once be relieved of them, and then deal with them just as they
might think fit. When the mob was once outside the walls, they might be
refused re-admittance, and put down with a strong hand. The Roman
garrison, who, powerless to quell the tumult in the narrow and winding
streets and multiplied alleys of the city, had been the authors of the
manœuvre, now took on themselves the stern completion of it, and
determined to do so in the sternest way. Not a single head of all those
who poured out in the afternoon should return at night. It was not to be
supposed that the soldiers had any tenderness for the Christians, but they
abominated and despised the rabble of the town. They were indignant at
their rising, thought it a personal insult to themselves, and resolved
they should never do so again. The gates were commonly in the custody of
the city guard, but the Porta Septimiana, by which the mob passed out, was
on this occasion claimed by the Romans. It was most suitably circumstanced
for the use they intended to make of it. Immediately outside of it was a
large court of the same level as the ground inside, bordered on the right
and left by substantial walls, which after a time were drawn to meet each
other, and contracted the space to the usual breadth of a road. The walls
continued to run along this road for some distance, till they joined the
way which led to the Campus Martius, and from this point the ground was
open till it reached the head of the ravine. The soldiers drew up at the
gate, and as the worn-out and disappointed, brutalized and half-idiotic
multitudes returned towards it from the country, those who were behind
pushed on between the border walls those who were in front, and, while
they jammed together their ranks, also made escape impossible. It was now
that the Roman soldiers began their barbarous, not to say cowardly,
assault upon them. With heavy maces, with the pike, with iron gauntlets,
with stones and bricks, with clubs, with scourge, with the sword, with the
helmet, with whatever came to hand, they commenced the massacre of that
large concourse of human beings, who did not offer one blow in return.
They slaughtered them like sheep; they trampled them down; they threw the
bodies of the wounded over the walls. Attempting to run back, numbers of
the poor wretches came into conflict with the ranks behind them, and an
additional scene of confusion and overthrow took place; many of them
straggled over to the open country or woods, and perished, either from the
weather, or from hunger, or even from the wild beasts. Others, weakened by
excess and famine, fell a prey to the pestilence that was raging. After
some days a remnant of them was allowed silently and timidly to steal back
into the city as best they could. It was a long day before the Plebs
Siccensis ventured to have any opinion of its own upon the subject of
Christianity, or any other political, social, or ecclesiastical topic
whatever.



                               CHAPTER XXI.


                            STARTLING RUMOURS.


When Jucundus rose next morning, and heard the news, he considered it to
be more satisfactory than he could have supposed possible. He was a
zealous imperialist, and a lover of tranquillity, a despiser of the
natives and a hater of the Christians. The Christians had suffered enough
to vindicate the Roman name, to deter those who were playing at
Christianity, and to show that the people of Sicca had their eyes about
them. And the mob had received a severe lesson too; and the cause of
public order had triumphed, and civic peace was re-established. His
anxiety, too, about Agellius had terminated, or was terminating. He had
privately denounced him to the government, come to an understanding with
the military authorities, and obtained the custody of him. He had met him
at the very door to which the boy Firmian brought him, with an apparitor
of the military staff (or what answered to it), and had clapped him into
prison in an underground cellar in which he kept damaged images, and those
which had gone out of fashion, and were otherwise unsaleable. He was not
at all sorry, by some suffering, and by some fright, to aid the more
potent incantation which Callista was singing in his ears. He did not,
however, at all forget Juba’s hint, and was careful not to overdo the
rack-and-gridiron dodge, if we may so designate it; yet he thought just a
flavour or a thought of the inconveniences which the profession of
Christianity involved might be a salutary reflection in the midst of the
persuasives which the voice and eyes of Callista would kindle in his
heart. There was nothing glorious or heroic in being confined in a lumber
cellar, no one knowing anything about it; and he did not mean to keep him
there for ever.

As the next day wore on towards evening, rumour brought a piece of news
which he was at first utterly unable to credit, and which for the moment
seemed likely to spoil the appetite which promised so well for his evening
repast. He could hardly believe his ears when he was told that Callista
was in arrest on a charge of Christianity, and at first it made him look
as black as some of those Egyptian gods which he had on one shelf of his
shop. However, he rallied, and was very much amused at the report. The
imprisonment indeed was a fact, account for it as one could; but who
_could_ account for it? “Varium et mutabile:” who could answer for the
whims and fancies of womankind? If she had fallen in love with the owl of
Minerva, or cut off her auburn tresses, or turned rope-dancer, there might
have been some shrugging of shoulders, but no one would have tried to
analyze the motive; but so much his profound sagacity enabled him to see,
that, if there was one thing more than another likely to sicken Agellius
of Christianity, it was to find one who was so precious to him suffering
from the suspicion of it. It was bad enough to have suffered one’s self in
such a cause; still he could conceive, he was large-minded enough to
grant, that Agellius might have some secret satisfaction in the antagonist
feeling of resentment and obstinacy which that suffering might engender:
but it was carrying matters too far, and no comfort in any point of view,
to find Callista, his beloved, the object of a similar punishment. It was
all very well to profess Christianity as a matter of sentiment, mystery,
and singularity; but when it was found to compromise the life or limbs of
another, and that other Callista, why it was plain that Agellius would be
the very first to try and entreat the wayward girl to keep her good looks
for him, and to be loyal to the gods of her country; and he chuckled over
the thought, as others have done in other states of society, of a
love-scene or a marriage being the termination of so much high romance and
fine acting.

However, the next day Aristo came down to him himself, and gave him an
account at once more authentic and more extended on the matter which
interested him. Callista had been called up before the tribunal, and had
not been discharged, but remanded. The meaning of it was as obscure as
ever; Aristo could give no account of it; it almost led him to believe in
the evil eye; some unholy practices, some spells such as only potent
wizards know, some deplorable delusion or hallucination, had for the time
got the mastery of his sister’s mind. No one seemed quite to know how she
had found her way into the hands of the officers; but there she was, and
the problem was how to get her out of them.

However, whatever mystery, whatever anxiety, attached to the case, it was
only still more urgent to bring the matter home to Agellius without delay.
If time went on before the parties were brought together, she might grow
more obstinate, and kindle a like spirit in him. Oh that boys and girls
_would_ be giving old people, who wish them well, so much trouble!
However, it was no good thinking of that just then. He considered that, at
the present moment, they would not be able to bear the sight of each other
in suffering and peril; that mutual tenderness would make them plead with
each other in each other’s behalf, and that each would be obliged to set
the example to each of a concession, to which each exhorted each; and on
this fine philosophical view he proceeded to act.



                              CHAPTER XXII.


              JUCUNDUS PROPOUNDS HIS VIEW OF THE SITUATION.


For thirty-six hours Agellius had been confined in his underground
receptacle, light being almost excluded, a bench and a rug being his means
of repose, and a full measure of bread, wine, and olives being his dole.
The shrieks and yells of the rioters could be distinctly heard in his
prison, as the day of his seizure went on, and they passed by the temple
of Astarte; but what happened at his farm, and how it fared with Cæcilius,
he had no means of conjecturing; nor indeed how it was to fare with
himself, for on the face of the transaction, as was in form the fact, he
was in the hands of the law, and only indulged with the house of a
relative for his prison. On the second night he was released by his
uncle’s confidential slave, who brought him up to a small back closet on
the ground floor, which was lighted from the roof, and next morning, being
the second day after the riot, Jucundus came in to have his confidential
conversation with him.

His uncle began by telling him that he was a government prisoner, but that
he hoped by his influence in high places to get him off and out of Sicca
without any prejudice to his honour. He told him that he had managed it
privately, and if he had treated him with apparent harshness up to the
evening before, it was in order to save appearances with the apparitors
who had attended him. He then went on to inform him that the mob had
visited his cottage, and had caught some man there; he supposed some
accomplice or ally of his nephew’s. They had seized him, and were bringing
him off, but the fellow had been clever enough to effect his escape. He
did not know more than this, but it had happened very fortunately, for the
general belief in the place was, that it was Agellius who had been taken,
and who had managed to give them the slip. Since it could not any longer
be safely denied that he was a Christian, though he (Jucundus) did not
think so himself, he had encouraged or rather had given his confirmation
to the report; and when some persons who had means of knowing had asserted
that the culprit was double the age of his nephew and more, and not at all
of his make or description, but a sort of slave, or rather that he was the
slave of Agellius who had belonged to his father Strabo, Jucundus had
boldly asserted that Agellius, in the emergency, had availed himself of
some of the remarkably powerful charms which Christians were known to
possess, and had made himself seem what he really was not, in order to
escape detection. It had not indeed answered the purpose entirely, for he
had actually been taken; but no blame in the charm, which perhaps, after
all, had enabled him to escape. However, Agellius was gone, he told
people, and a good riddance, and he hoped never to see him again. “But you
see, my dear boy,” he concluded, “this was all talk for the occasion, for
I hope you will live here many years in respectability and credit. I
intend you should close my eyes when my time comes, and inherit whatever I
have to leave you; for as to that fellow Juba, he inspires me with no
confidence in him at all.”

Agellius thanked his uncle with all his heart for his kind and successful
efforts on his behalf; he did not think there was a word he had said, in
the future he had sketched for him, which he could have wished altered.
But he thought Jucundus over-sanguine; much as he should like to live with
him and tend him in his old age, he did not think he should ever be
permitted to return to Sicca. He was a Christian, and must seek some
remote corner of the world, or at least some city where he was unknown.
Every one in Sicca would point at him as the Christian; he would
experience a thousand rubs and collisions, even if the mob did not rise
against him, without corresponding advantage; on the other hand, he would
have no influence. But were he in the midst of a powerful and
widely-extended community of Christians, he might in his place do work,
and might extend the faith as one of a number, unknown himself, and strong
in his brethren. He therefore proposed as soon as possible to sell his
effects and stock, and retire from the sight of men, at least for a time.

“You think this persecution, then, will be soon at an end?” asked
Jucundus.

“I judge by the past,” answered Agellius; “there have been times of trial
and of rest hitherto, and I suppose it will be so again. And one place has
hitherto been exempt from the violence of our enemies, when another has
been the scene of it.”

“A new time is coming, trust me,” said Jucundus, gravely. “Those popular
commotions are all over. What happened two days ago is a sample of what
will come of them; they have received their _coup-de-grâce_. The State is
taking up the matter, Rome itself, thank the gods! a tougher sort of
customer than these villain ratcatchers and offal-eaters, whom you had to
do with two days since. Great Rome is now at length in earnest, my boy,
which she ought to have been a long time back, before you were born; and
then you know,” and he nodded, “you would have had no choice; you wouldn’t
have had the temptation to make a fool of yourself.”

“Well, then,” answered Agellius, “if a new time is really coming, there is
less chance than ever of my continuing here.”

“Now be a sensible fellow, as you are when you choose,” said his uncle;
“look the matter in the face, do. You cannot wrestle with impossibilities,
you cannot make facts to pattern. There are lawful religions, there are
illicit. Christianity is illicit; it is not tolerated; that’s not your
fault; you cannot help it; you would, if you could; you can’t. Now you
have observed your point of honour; you have shown you can stand up like a
man, and suffer for your own fancy. Still Rome does not give way; and you
must make the best of it. You must give in, and you are far too good (I
don’t compliment, I speak my mind), far too amiable, excellent, sweet a
boy for so rascally a superstition.”

“There is something stronger than Rome,” said the nephew almost sternly.

Jucundus cut him short. “Agellius!” he said, “you must not say that in
this house. You shall not use that language under my roof. I’ll not put up
with it, I tell you. Take your treason elsewhere.... This accursed
obstinacy!” he said to himself; “but I must take care what I am doing;”
then aloud, “Well, we both of us have been railing; no good comes of
railing; railing is not argument. But now, I say, do be sensible, if you
can. Is not the imperial government in earnest now? better late than
never, but it is now in earnest. And now mark my words, by this day five
years, five years at the utmost,—I say by this day five years there will
not be a single ragamuffin Christian in the whole Roman world.” And he
looked fierce. “Ye gods! Rome, Rome has swept from the earth by her very
breath conspiracies, confederacies, plots against her, without ever
failing; she will do so now with this contemptible, Jew-begotten foe.”

“In what are we enemies to Rome, Jucundus?” said Agellius; “why will you
always take it for granted?”

“Take it for granted!” answered he, “is it not on the face of the matter?
I suppose _they_ are enemies to a state, whom the state _calls_ its
enemies. Besides, why a pother of words? Swear by the genius of the
emperor, invoke the Dea Roma, sacrifice to Jove; no, not a bit of it, not
a whisper, not a sign, not a grain of incense. You go out of your way to
insult us; and then you come with a grave face, and say you are loyal. You
kick our shins, and you wish us to kiss you on both cheeks for it. A few
harmless ceremonies; we are not entrapping you; we are not using your
words against yourselves; we tell you the meaning beforehand, the whole
meaning of them. It is not as if we tied you to the belief of the nursery:
we don’t say, ‘If you burn incense, you profess to believe that old
Jupiter is shivering atop of Olympus;’ we don’t say, ‘You swear by the
genius of Cæsar, therefore he has a genius, black, or white, or piebald,’
No, we give you the meaning of the act; it is a mere expression of loyalty
to the empire. If then you won’t do it, you confess yourself _ipso facto_
disloyal. It is incomprehensible.” And he had become quite red.

“My dear uncle,” said Agellius, “I give you my solemn word, that the
people whom you so detest do pray for the welfare of the imperial power
continually, as a matter of duty and as a matter of interest.”

“Pray! pray! fudge and nonsense!” cried Jucundus, almost mimicking him in
his indignation; “pray! who thanks you for your prayers? what’s the good
of prayers? Prayers, indeed! ha, ha! A little loyalty is worth all the
praying in the world. I’ll tell you what, Agellius; you are, I am sorry to
say it, but you are hand and glove with a set of traitors, who shall and
will be smoked out like a nest of wasps. _You_ don’t know; _you_ are not
in the secret, nor the wretched slave, poor beast, who was pulled to
pieces yesterday (ah! you don’t know of him) at the Flamen’s, nor a
multitude of other idiots. But, d’ye see,” and he chucked up his head
significantly, “there are puppets, and there are wires. Few know what is
going on. They won’t have done (unless we put them down; but we will) till
they have toppled down the state. But Rome will put them down. Come, be
sensible, listen to reason; now I am going to put facts before my poor,
dear, well-meaning boy. Oh that you saw things as I do! What a trouble you
are to me! Here am I”——

“My dearest uncle, Jucundus,” cried Agellius, “I assure you, it is the
most intense pain to me”——

“Very well, very well,” interrupted the uncle in turn, “I believe it, of
course I believe it; but listen, listen. Every now and then,” he continued
in a more measured and lower tone, “every now and then the secret is
blabbed—blabbed. There was that Tertullianus of Carthage, some fifty years
since. He wrote books; books have done a great deal of harm before now;
but _read_ his books—read and ponder. The fellow has the insolence to tell
the proconsul that he and the whole government, the whole city and
province, the whole Roman world, the emperors, all but the pitiful
_clique_ to which he belongs, are destined, after death, to flames for
ever and ever. There’s loyalty! but the absurdity is greater than the
malevolence. Rightly are the fellows called atheists and men-haters. Our
soldiers, our statesmen, our magistrates, and judges, and senators, and
the whole community, all worshippers of the gods, every one who crowns his
head, every one who loves a joke, and all our great historic names,
heroes, and worthies,—the Scipios, the Decii, Brutus, Cæsar, Cato, Titus,
Trajan, Antoninus,—are inmates, not of the Elysian fields, if Elysian
fields there be, but of Tartarus, and will never find a way out of it.”

“That man, Tertullianus, is nothing to us, uncle,” answered Agellius; “a
man of great ability, but he quarrelled with us, and left us.”

“_I_ can’t draw nice distinctions,” said Jucundus. “Your people have
quarrelled among themselves perhaps on an understanding; we can’t split
hairs. It’s the same with your present hierophant at Carthage, Cyprianus.
Nothing can exaggerate, I am told, the foulness of his attack upon the
gods of Rome, upon Romulus, the Augurs, the Ancilia, the consuls, and
whatever a Roman is proud of. As to the imperial city itself, there’s
hardly one of their high priests that has not died under the hands of the
executioner, as a convict. The precious fellows take the title of Pontifex
Maximus; bless their impudence! Well, my boy, this is what I say; be, if
you will, so preternaturally sour and morose as to misconceive and mislike
the innocent, graceful, humanising, time-honoured usages of society; be
so, for what I care, if this is all; but it isn’t all. Such misanthropy is
wisdom, absolute wisdom, compared with the Titanic presumption and
audacity of challenging to single combat the sovereign of the world. Go
and kick down Mount Atlas first.”

“You have it all your own way, Jucundus,” answered his nephew, “and so you
must move in your own circle, round and round. There is no touching you,
if you first assume your premisses, and then prove them by means of your
conclusion.”

“My dear Agellius,” said his uncle, giving his head a very solemn shake,
“take the advice of an old man. When you are older than you are, you will
see better who is right and who is wrong. You’ll be sorry you despised me,
a true, a prudent, an experienced friend; you will. Shake yourself, come
do. Why should you link your fortunes, in the morning of life, with
desperate men, only because your father, in his last feeble days, was
entrapped into doing so? I really will not believe that you are going to
throw away hope and life on so bad a bargain. Can’t you speak a word? Here
you’ve let me speak, and won’t say one syllable for yourself. I don’t
think it kind of you.”

Thus adjured, Agellius began. “Well,” he said, “it’s a long history; you
see, we start, my dear uncle, from different points. How am I possibly to
join issue with you? I can only tell you my conclusion. Hope and life, you
say. Why, my only hope, my only life, my only joy, desire, consolation,
and treasure is that I am a Christian.”

“Hope and life!” interrupted Jucundus, “immortal gods! life and hope in
being a Christian! do I hear aright? Why, man, a prison brings despair,
not hope; and the sword brings death, not life. By Esculapius! life and
hope! you choke me, Agellius. Life and hope! you are beyond three
Anticyras. Life and hope! if you were old, if you were diseased, if you
were given over, and had but one puff of life left in you, then you might
be what you would, for me; but your hair is black, your cheek is round,
your limbs are strong, your voice is full; and you are going to make all
these a sacrifice to Hecate! has your good genius fed that plump frame,
ripened those goods looks, nerved your arm, bestowed that breadth of
chest, that strength of loins, that straightness of spine, that vigour of
step, only that you may feed the crows? or to be torn on the rack,
scorched in the flame, or hung on the gibbet? is this your gratitude to
nature? What has been your price? for what have you sold yourself? Speak,
man, speak. Are you dumb as well as dement? Are you dumb, I say, are you
dumb?”

“O Jucundus,” cried Agellius, irritated at his own inability to express
himself or hold an argument, “if you did but know what it was to have the
Truth! The Christian has found the Truth, the eternal Truth, in a world of
error. That is his bargain, that is his hire; can there be a greater? Can
I give up the Truth? But all this is Punic or Barbar to you.”

It certainly did pose Jucundus for half a minute, as if he was trying to
take in, not so much the sense, as the words of his nephew’s speech. He
looked bewildered, and though he began to answer him at once, it took
several sentences to bring him into his usual flow of language. After one
or two exclamations, “The truth!” he cried, “_this_ is what I understand
you to say,—the truth. The _truth_ is your bargain; I think I’m right, the
truth; Hm; what is truth? What in heaven and earth do you mean by truth?
where did you get that cant? What oriental tomfoolery is bamboozling you?
The truth!” he cried, staring at him with eyes, half of triumph, half of
impatience, “the truth! Jove help the boy!—the truth! can truth pour me
out a cup of melilotus? can truth crown me with flowers? can it sing to
me? can it bring Glyceris to me? drop gold into my girdle? or cool my
brows when fever visits me? Can truth give me a handsome suburban with
some five hundred slaves, or raise me to the duumvirate? Let it do this,
and I will worship it; it shall be my god; it shall be more to me than
Fortune, Fate, Rome, or any other goddess on the list. But _I_ like to
see, and touch, and feel, and handle, and weigh, and measure what is
promised me. I wish to have a sample and an instalment. I am too old for
chaff. Eat, drink, and be merry, that’s my philosophy, that’s my religion;
and I know no better. To-day is ours, to-morrow is our children’s.”

After a pause, he added, bitterly, “If truth could get Callista out of
prison, instead of getting her into it, I should have something to say to
truth.”

“Callista in prison!” cried Agellius with surprise and distress, “what do
you mean, Jucundus?”

“Yes, it’s a fact; Callista _is_ in prison,” answered he, “and on
suspicion of Christianity.”

“Callista! Christianity!” said Agellius, bewildered, “do I hear aright?
She a Christian! oh, impossible, uncle! you don’t mean to say that she is
in prison. Tell me, tell me, my dear, dear Jucundus, what this wonderful
news means.”

“You ought to know more about it than I,” answered he, “if there is any
meaning in it. But if you want my opinion, here it is. I don’t believe she
is more a Christian than I am; but I think she is over head and ears in
love with you, and she has some notion that she is paying you a
compliment, or interesting you in her, or sharing your fate—(_I_ can’t
pretend to unravel the vagaries and tantarums of the female mind)—by
saying that she is what she is _not_. If not, perhaps she has done it out
of spite and contradiction. You can never answer for a woman.”

“Whom should she spite? whom contradict?” cried Agellius, thrown for the
moment off his balance. “O Callista! Callista in prison for Christianity!
Oh if it’s true that she is a Christian! but what if she is not?” he added
with great terror, “what if she’s not, and yet in prison, as if she were?
How are we to get her out, uncle? Impossible! no, she’s not a
Christian—she is not at all. She ought not to be there! Yet how
wonderful!”

“Well, I am sure of it, too,” said Jucundus; “I’d stake the best image in
my shop that she’s not a Christian; but what if she is perverse enough to
say she _is_? and such things are not uncommon. Then, I say, what in the
world is to be done? If she says she is, why she is. There you are; and
what can you do?”

“You don’t mean to say,” exclaimed Agellius, “that that sweet delicate
child is in that horrible hole; impossible!” and he nearly shrieked at the
thought. “What is the meaning of it all? dear, dear uncle, do tell me
something more about it. Why did you not tell me before? What _can_ be
done?”

Jucundus thought he now had him in his hand. “Why, it’s plain,” he
answered, “what can be _done_. She’s no Christian, we both agree. It’s
certain, too, that she chooses to say she is, or something like it.
There’s just one person who has influence with her, to make her tell the
truth.”

“Ha!” cried Agellius, starting as if an asp had bitten him.

Jucundus kept silence, and let the poison of the said asp work awhile in
his nephew’s blood.

Agellius put his hands before his eyes; and with his elbows on his knees,
began moving to and fro, as if in intense pain.

“I repeat what I have said,” Jucundus observed at length; “I do really
think that she imagines a certain young gentleman is likely to be in
trouble, and that she is determined to share the trouble with him.”

“But it isn’t true,” cried Agellius with great vehemence; “it’s not
true.... If she really is not a Christian, O my dear Lord, surely they
won’t put her to death as if she was?”

“But if she has made up her mind to be in the same boat with you, and
_will_ be a Christian while you are a Christian, what on earth can we do,
Agellius?” asked Jucundus. “You have the whole matter in a nutshell.”

“She does not love me,” cried Agellius; “no, she has given me no reason to
think so. I am sure she does not. She’s nothing to me. That cannot be the
reason of her conduct. _I_ have no power over her; _I_ could not persuade
her. What, what _does_ all this mean? and I shut up here?” and he began
walking about the little room, as if such locomotion tended to bring him
out of it.

“Well,” answered Jucundus, “it is easy to ascertain. I suppose you _could_
be let out to see her.”

But he was going on too fast; Agellius did not attend to him. “Poor, sweet
Callista,” he exclaimed, “she’s innocent, she’s innocent; I mean she’s not
a Christian. Ah!” he screamed out in great agony, as the whole state of
the case unrolled itself to his apprehension, “she will die though not a
Christian; she will die without faith, without love; she will die in her
sins. She will die, done to death by false report of accepting that, by
which alone she could be carried safely through death unto life. O my
Lord, spare me!” and he sank upon the ground in a collapse of misery.

Jucundus was touched, and still more alarmed. “Come, come, my boy,” he
said, “you will rouse the whole neighbourhood. Give over; be a man; all
will be right. If she’s not a Christian (and she’s not), she shall not die
a Christian’s death; something will turn up. She’s not in any hole at all,
but in a decent lodging. And you shall see her, and console her, and all
will be right.”

“Yes, I will see her,” said Agellius, in a sort of musing manner; “she is
either a Christian, or she is not. If she is a Christian ...” and his
voice faltered; “but if she is not, she shall live till she is.”

“Well said!” answered Jucundus, “_till_ she is. She shall live _till_ she
is. Yes, I can get you to see her. You shall bring her out of prison; a
smile, a whisper from you, and all her fretfulness and ill-humour will
vanish, like a mist before the powerful burning sun. And we shall all be
as happy as the immortal gods.”

“O my uncle!” said Agellius, gravely. The language of Jucundus had shocked
him, and brought him to a better mind. He turned away from Jucundus, and
leant his face against the wall. Then he turned round again, and said, “If
she _is_ a Christian, I ought to rejoice, and I do rejoice; God be
praised. If she is not a Christian, I ought at once to make her one. If
she has already the penalty of a Christian, she is surely destined for the
privilege. And how should I go,” he said, half speaking to himself, “how
should I go to tell her that she is not yet a Christian, and bid her swear
by Jupiter, because that is her god, in order that she may escape
imprisonment and death? Am I to do the part of a heathen priest or infidel
sophist? O Cæcilius, how am I forgetting your lessons! No; I will go on no
such errand. Go, I will, if I may, Jucundus, but I will go on no
conditions of yours. I go on no promise to try to get her out of prison
anyhow, poor child. I will not go to make her sacrifice to a false god; I
go to persuade her to stay in prison, by deserving to stay. Perhaps I am
not the best person to go; but if I go, I go free. I go willing to die
myself for my Lord; glad to make her die for Him.”

Agellius said this in so determined a way, so calmly, with such a grasp of
the existing posture of affairs, and of the whole circumstances of the
case, that it was now Jucundus’s turn to feel surprise and annoyance. For
a time he did not take in what Agellius meant, nor could he to the last
follow his train of feeling. When he saw what may be called the upshot of
the matter, he became very angry, and spoke with great violence. By
degrees he calmed; and then the strong feeling came on him again that it
was impossible, if a meeting took place between the two, that it could end
in any way but one. He defied any two young people who loved each other,
to come to any but one conclusion. Agellius’s mood was too excited, too
tragic to last. The sight of Callista in that dreadful prison, perhaps in
chains, waiting, in order to be free, for ability to say the words, “I am
not a Christian;” and that ability waiting for the same words from
himself, would bring the affair to a very speedy issue. As if he could
love a fancy better than he loved Callista! Agellius, too, had already
expressed a misgiving himself on that head; so far they were agreed. And,
to tell the truth, it was a very difficult transaction for a young man;
and giving our poor Agellius all credit for pure intention and firm
resolve, we really should have been very sorry to see him involved in a
trial, which would have demanded of him a most heroic faith and the
detachment of a saint. We, therefore, are not sorry that in matter of fact
he gained the merit of so virtuous a determination, without being called
on to execute it. For it so happened, that a most unexpected event
occurred to him not many hours afterwards, which will oblige us to take up
here rather abruptly the history of one of our other personages.



                              CHAPTER XXIII.


                                  GURTA.


In the bosom of the woods which stretched for many miles from the
immediate environs of Sicca, and placed on a gravel slope reaching down to
a brook, which ran in a bottom close by, was a small, rude hut, of a kind
peculiar to Africa, and commonly ascribed to the wandering tribes, who
neither cared, nor had leisure for a more stable habitation. Some might
have called it a tent, from the goat’s-hair cloth with which it was
covered; but it looked, as to shape, like nothing else than an inverted
boat, or the roof of a house set upon the ground. Inside it was seen to be
constructed of the branches of trees, twisted together or wattled, the
interstices, or rather the whole surface, being covered with clay. Being
thus stoutly built, lined, and covered, it was proof against the
tremendous rains, to which the climate, for which it was made, was
subject. Along the centre ridge or backbone, which varied in height from
six to ten feet from the ground, it was supported by three posts or
pillars; at one end it rose conically to an open aperture, which served
for chimney, for sky-light, and for ventilator. Hooks were suspended from
the roof for baskets, articles of clothing, weapons, and implements of
various kinds; and a second cone, excavated in the ground with the vertex
downward, served as a storehouse for grain. The door was so low, that an
ordinary person must bend double to pass through it.

However, it was in the winter months only, when the rains were profuse,
that the owner of this respectable mansion condescended to creep into it.
In summer she had a drawing-room, as it may be called, of nature’s own
creation, in which she lived, and in one quarter of which she had her
lair. Close above the hut was a high plot of level turf, surrounded by old
oaks, and fringed beneath with thick underwood. In the centre of this
green rose a yew-tree of primeval character. Indeed, the whole forest
spoke of the very beginnings of the world, as if it had been the immediate
creation of that Voice which bade the earth clothe itself with green life.
But the place no longer spoke exclusively of its Maker. Upon the trees
hung the emblems and objects of idolatry, and the turf was traced with
magical characters. Littered about were human bones, horns of wild
animals, wax figures, spermaceti taken from vaults, large nails, to which
portions of flesh adhered, as if they had had to do with malefactors,
metal plates engraved with strange characters, bottled blood, hair of
young persons, and old rags. The reader must not suppose any incantation
is about to follow, or that the place we are describing will have a
prominent place in what remains of our tale; but even if it be the scene
of only one conversation, and one event, there is no harm in describing
it, as it appeared on that occasion.

The old crone, who was seated in this bower of delight, had an expression
of countenance in keeping, not with the place, but with the furniture with
which it was adorned; that furniture told her trade. Whether the root of
superstition might be traced deeper still, and the woman and her traps
were really and directly connected with the powers beneath the earth, it
is impossible to determine; it is certain she had the will, it is certain
that that will was from their inspiration; nay, it is certain that she
thought she really possessed the communications which she desired; it is
certain, too, she so far deceived herself as to fancy that what she
learned by mere natural means came to her from a diabolical source. She
kept up an active correspondence with Sicca. She was consulted by numbers;
she was up with the public news, the social gossip, and the private and
secret transactions of the hour; and had, before now, even interfered in
matters of state, and had been courted by rival political parties. But in
the high cares and occupations of this interesting person, we are not here
concerned; but with a conversation which took place between her and Juba,
about the same hour of the evening as that of Cæcilius’s escape, but on
the day after it, while the sun was gleaming almost horizontally through
the tall trunks of the trees of the forest.

“Well, my precious boy,” said the old woman, “the choicest gifts of great
Cham be your portion! You had excellent sport yesterday, I’ll warrant. The
rats squeaked, eh? and you beat the life out of them. That scoundrel
sacristan, I suppose, has taken up his quarters below.”

“You may say it,” answered Juba. “The reptile! he turned right about, and
would have made himself an honest fellow, when it couldn’t be helped.”

“Good, good!” returned Gurta, as if she had got something very pleasant in
her mouth; “ah! that is good! but he did not escape on that score, I do
trust.”

“They pulled him to pieces all the more cheerfully,” said Juba.

“Pulled him to pieces, limb by limb, joint by joint, eh?” answered Gurta.
“Did they skin him?—did they do anything to his eyes, or his tongue?
Anyhow, it was too quickly, Juba. Slowly, leisurely, gradually. Yes, it’s
like a glutton to be quick about it. Taste him, handle him, play with
him,—that’s luxury! but to bolt him,—faugh!”

“Cæso’s slave made a good end,” said Juba: “he stood up for his views, and
died like a man.”

“The gods smite him! but he has gone up—up:” and she laughed. “Up to what
they call bliss and glory;—such glory! but he’s out of our domain, you
know. But he did not die easy?”

“The boys worried him a good deal,” answered Juba: “but it’s not quite in
my line, mother, all this. I think you drink a pint of blood morning and
evening, and thrive on it, old woman. It makes you merry; but it’s too
much for my stomach.”

“Ha, ha, my boy!” cried Gurta; “you’ll improve in time, though you make
wry faces, now that you’re young. Well, and have you brought me any news
from the capitol? Is any one getting a rise in the world, or a downfall?
How blows the wind? Are there changes in the camp? This Decius, I suspect,
will not last long.”

“They all seem desperately frightened,” said Juba, “lest they should not
smite your friends hard enough, Gurta. Root and branch is the word.
They’ll have to make a few Christians for the occasion, in order to kill
them: and I almost think they’re about it,” he added, thoughtfully. “They
have to show that they are not surpassed by the rabble. ’Tis a pity
Christians are so few, isn’t it, mother?”

“Yes, yes,” she said, “but we must crush them, grind them, many or few:
and we shall, we shall! Callista’s to come.”

“I don’t see they are worse than other people,” said Juba; “not at all,
except that they are commonly sneaks. If Callista turns, why should not I
turn too, mother, to keep her company, and keep your hand in?”

“No, no, my boy,” returned the witch, “you must serve _my_ master. You are
having your fling just now, but you will buckle to in good time. You must
one day take some work with my merry men. Come here, child,” said the fond
mother, “and let me kiss you.”

“Keep your kisses for your monkeys and goats and cats,” answered Juba;
“they’re not to my taste, old dame. Master! my master! I won’t have a
master! I’ll be nobody’s servant. I’ll never stand to be hired, nor cringe
to a bully, nor quake before a rod. Please yourself, Gurta; I am a free
man. You’re my mother by courtesy only.”

Gurta looked at him savagely. “Why, you’re not going to be pious and
virtuous, Juba? A choice saint you’ll make! You shall be drawn for a
picture.”

“Why shouldn’t I, if I choose?” said Juba. “If I must take service, willy
nilly, I’d any day prefer the other’s to that of your friend. I’ve not
left the master to take the man.”

“Blaspheme not the great gods,” she answered, “or they’ll do you a
mischief yet.”

“I say again,” insisted Juba, “if I must lick the earth, it shall not be
where your friend has trod. It shall be in my brother’s fashion, rather
than in yours, Gurta.”

“Agellius!” she shrieked out with such disgust, that it is wonderful she
uttered the name at all. “Ah! you have not told me about him, boy. Well,
is he safe in the pit, or in the stomach of an hyena?”

“He’s alive,” said Juba; “but he has not got it in him to be a Christian.
Yes, he’s safe with his uncle.”

“Ah! Jucundus must ruin him, debauch him, and then we must make away with
him. We must not be in a hurry,” said Gurta, “it must be body and soul.”

“No one shall touch him, craven as he is,” answered Juba. “I despise him,
but let him alone.”

“Don’t come across me,” said Gurta, sullenly; “I’ll have my way. Why, you
know I could smite you to the dust, as well as him, if I chose.”

“But you have not asked me about Callista,” answered Juba. “It is really a
capital joke, but she has got into prison for certain, for being a
Christian. Fancy it! they caught her in the streets, and put her in the
guard-house, and have had her up for examination. You see they want a
Christian for the nonce: it would not do to have none such in prison; so
they will flourish with her till Decius bolts from the scene.”

“The Furies have her!” cried Gurta: “she _is_ a Christian, my boy: I told
you so, long ago!”

“Callista a Christian!” answered Juba, “ha! ha! She and Agellius are going
to make a match of it, of some sort or other. They’re thinking of other
things than paradise.”

“She and the old priest, more likely, more likely,” said Gurta. “He’s in
prison with her—in the pit, as I trust.”

“Your master has cheated you for once, old woman,” said Juba.

Gurta looked at him fiercely, and seemed waiting for his explanation. He
began singing,—

  “She wheedled and coaxed, but he was no fool;
  He’d be his own master, he’d not be her tool;
  Not the little black moor should send him to school.

  “She foamed and she cursed—’twas the same thing to him;
  She laid well her trap; but he carried his whim;—
  The priest scuffled off, safe in life and in limb.”

Gurta was almost suffocated with passion. “Cyprianus has not escaped,
boy?” she asked at length.

“I got him off,” said Juba, undauntedly.

A shade, as of Erebus, passed over the witch’s face; but she remained
quite silent.

“Mother, I am my own master,” he continued, “I must break your assumption
of superiority. I’m not a boy, though you call me so. I’ll have my own
way. Yes, I saved Cyprianus. You’re a bloodthirsty old hag! Yes, _I’ve_
seen your secret doings. Did not I catch you the other day, practising on
that little child? You had nailed him up by hands and feet against the
tree, and were cutting him to pieces at your leisure, as he quivered and
shrieked the while. You were examining or using his liver for some of your
black purposes. It’s not in my line; but you gloated over it; and when he
wailed, you wailed in mimicry. You were panting with pleasure.”

Gurta was still silent, and had an expression on her face, awful from the
intensity of its malignity. She had uttered a low piercing whistle.

“Yes!” continued Juba, “you revelled in it. You chattered to the poor babe
when it screamed, as a nurse to an infant. You called it pretty names, and
squeaked out your satisfaction each time you stuck it. You old hag! I’m
not of your breed, though they call us of kin. _I_ don’t fear you,” he
said, observing the expression of her countenance, “I don’t fear the
immortal devil!” And he continued his song—

  “She beckoned the moon, and the moon came down;
  The green earth shrivelled beneath her frown;
  But a man’s strong will can keep his own.”

While he was talking and singing, her call had been answered from the hut.
An animal of some wonderful species had crept out of it, and proceeded to
creep and crawl, moeing and twisting as it went, along the trees and
shrubs which rounded the grass plot. When it came up to the old woman, it
crouched at her feet, and then rose up upon its hind legs and begged. She
took hold of the uncouth beast and began to fondle it in her arms,
muttering something in its ear. At length, when Juba stopped for a moment
in his song, she suddenly flung it right at him, with great force, saying,
“Take that!” She then gave utterance to a low inward laugh, and leaned
herself back against the trunk of the tree upon which she was sitting,
with her knees drawn up almost to her chin.

The blow seemed to act on Juba as a shock on his nervous system, both from
its violence and its strangeness. He stood still for a moment, and then,
without saying a word, he turned away, and walked slowly down the hill, as
if in a maze. Then he sat down....

In an instant up he started again with a great cry, and began running at
the top of his speed. He thought he heard a voice speaking in him; and,
however fast he ran, the voice, or whatever it was, kept up with him. He
rushed through the underwood, trampling and crushing it under his feet,
and scaring the birds and small game which lodged there. At last,
exhausted, he stood still for breath, when he heard it say loudly and
deeply, as if speaking with his own organs, “You cannot escape from
yourself!” Then a terror seized him; he fell down and fainted away.



                              CHAPTER XXIV.


                           A MOTHER’S BLESSING.


When his senses returned, his first impression was of something in him not
himself. He felt it in his breathing; he tasted it in his mouth. The brook
which ran by Gurta’s encampment had by this time become a streamlet,
though still shallow. He plunged into it; a feeling came upon him as if he
ought to drown himself, had it been deeper. He rolled about in it, in
spite of its flinty and rocky bed. When he came out of it, his tunic
sticking to him, he tore it off his shoulders, and let it hang round his
girdle in shreds, as it might. The shock of the water, however, acted as a
sedative upon him, and the coolness of the night refreshed him. He walked
on for a while in silence.

Suddenly the power within him began uttering, by means of his organs of
speech, the most fearful blasphemies, words embodying conceptions which,
had they come into his mind, he might indeed have borne with patience
before this, or uttered in bravado, but which now filled him with
inexpressible loathing, and a terror to which he had hitherto been quite a
stranger. He had always in his heart believed in a God, but he now
believed with a reality and intensity utterly new to him. He felt it as if
he saw Him; he felt there was a world of good and evil beings. He did not
love the good, or hate the evil; but he shrank from the one, and he was
terrified at the other; and he felt himself carried away, against his
will, as the prey of some dreadful, mysterious power, which tyrannised
over him.

The day had closed—the moon had risen. He plunged into the thickest wood,
and the trees seemed to him to make way for him. Still they seemed to moan
and to creak as they moved out of their place. Soon he began to see that
they were looking at him, and exulting over his misery. They, of an
inferior nature, had had no gift which they could abuse and lose; and they
remained in that honour and perfection in which they were created. Birds
of the night flew out of them, reptiles slunk away; yet soon he began to
be surrounded, wherever he went, by a circle of owls, bats, ravens, crows,
snakes, wild cats, and apes, which were always looking at him, but somehow
made way, retreating before him, and yet forming again, and in order, as
he marched along.

He had passed through the wing of the forest which he had entered, and
penetrated into the more mountainous country. He ascended the heights; he
was a taller, stronger man than he had been; he went forward with a
preternatural vigour, and flourished his arms with the excitement of some
vinous or gaseous intoxication. He heard the roar of the wild beasts
echoed along the woody ravines which were cut into the solid mountain
rock, with a reckless feeling, as if he could cope with them. As he passed
the dens of the lion, leopard, hyena, jackal, wild boar, and wolf, there
he saw them sitting at the entrance, or stopping suddenly as they prowled
along, and eyeing him, but not daring to approach. He strode along from
rock to rock, and over precipices, with the certainty and ease of some
giant in Eastern fable. Suddenly a beast of prey came across him; in a
moment he had torn up by the roots the stump of a wild vine plant, which
was near him; had thrown himself upon his foe before it could act on the
aggressive, had flung it upon its back, forced the weapon into its mouth,
and was stamping on its chest. He knocked the life out of the furious
animal; and crying “Take that,” tore its flesh, and, applying his mouth to
the wound, sucked a draught of its blood.

He has passed over the mountain, and has descended its side. Bristling
shrubs, swamps, precipitous banks, rushing torrents, are no obstacle to
his course. He has reached the brow of a hill, with a deep placid river at
the foot of it, just as the dawn begins to break. It is a lovely prospect,
which every step he takes is becoming more definite and more various in
the daylight. Masses of oleander, of great beauty, with their red
blossoms, fringed the river, and tracked out its course into the distance.
The bank of the hill below him, and on the right and left, was a maze of
fruit-trees, about which nature, if it were not the hand of man, had had
no thought except that they should be all together there. The wild olive,
the pomegranate, the citron, the date, the mulberry, the peach, the apple,
and the walnut, formed a sort of spontaneous orchard. Across the water,
groves of palm-trees waved their long and graceful branches in the morning
breeze. The stately and solemn ilex, marshalled into long avenues, showed
the way to substantial granges or luxurious villas. The green turf or
grass was spread out beneath, and here and there flocks and herds were
emerging out of the twilight, and growing distinct upon the eye. Elsewhere
the ground rose up into sudden eminences crowned with chesnut woods, or
with plantations of cedar and acacia, or wildernesses of the cork-tree,
the turpentine, the carooba, the white poplar, and the Phenician juniper,
while overhead ascended the clinging tendrils of the hop, and an underwood
of myrtle clothed their stems and roots. A profusion of wild flowers
carpeted the ground far and near.

Juba stood and gazed till the sun rose opposite to him, envying, repining,
hating, like Satan looking in upon Paradise. The wild mountains, or the
locust-smitten track would have better suited the tumult of his mind. It
would have been a relief to him to have retreated from so fair a scene,
and to have retraced his steps, but he was not his own master, and was
hurried on. Sorely against his determined strong resolve and will, crying
out and protesting and shuddering, the youth was forced along into the
fulness of beauty and blessing with which he was so little in tune. With
rage and terror he recognised that he had no part in his own movements,
but was a mere slave. In spite of himself he must go forward and behold a
peace and sweetness which witnessed against him. He dashed down through
the thick grass, plunged into the water, and without rest or respite began
a second course of aimless toil and travail through the day.

The savage dogs of the villages howled and fled from him as he passed by;
beasts of burden, on their way to market, which he overtook or met, stood
still, foamed and trembled; the bright birds, the blue jay and golden
oriole, hid themselves under the leaves and grass; the storks, a religious
and domestic bird, stopped their sharp clattering note from the high tree
or farmhouse turret, where they had placed their nests; the very reptiles
skulked away from his shadow, as if it were poisonous. The boors who were
at their labour in the fields suspended it, to look at one whom the Furies
were lashing and whirling on. Hour passed after hour, the sun attained its
zenith, and then declined, but this dreadful compulsory race continued.
Oh, what would he have given for one five minutes of oblivion, of slumber,
of relief from the burning thirst which now consumed him! but the master
within him ruled his muscles and his joints, and the intense pain of
weariness had no concomitant prostration of strength. Suddenly he began to
laugh hideously; and he went forward dancing and singing loud, and playing
antics. He entered a hovel, made faces at the children, till one of them
fell into convulsions, and he ran away with another; and when some country
people pursued him, he flung the child in their faces, saying, “Take
that,” and said he was Pentheus, king of Thebes, of whom he had never
heard, about to solemnise the orgies of Bacchus, and he began to spout a
chorus of Greek, a language he had never learnt or heard spoken.

Now it is evening again, and he has come up to a village grove, where the
rustics were holding a feast in honour of Pan. The hideous brutal god,
with yawning mouth, horned head, and goat’s feet, was placed in a rude
shed, and a slaughtered lamb, decked with flowers, lay at his feet. The
peasants were frisking before him, boys and women, when they were startled
by the sight of a gaunt, wild, mysterious figure, which began to dance
too. He flung and capered about with such vigour that they ceased their
sport to look on, half with awe and half as a diversion. Suddenly he began
to groan and to shriek, as if contending with himself, and willing and not
willing some new act; and the struggle ended in his falling on his hands
and knees, and crawling like a quadruped towards the idol. When he got
near, his attitude was still more servile; still groaning and shuddering,
he laid himself flat on the ground, and wriggled to the idol as a worm,
and lapped up with his tongue the mingled blood and dust which lay about
the sacrifice. And then again, as if nature had successfully asserted her
own dignity, he jumped up high in the air, and, falling on the god, broke
him to pieces, and scampered away out of pursuit, before the lookers-on
recovered from their surprise.

Another restless, fearful night amid the open country; ... but it seemed
as if the worst had passed, and, though still under the heavy chastisement
of his pride, there was now more in Juba of human action and of effectual
will. The day broke, and he found himself on the road to Sicca. The
beautiful outline of the city was right before him. He passed his
brother’s cottage and garden; it was a wreck. The trees torn up, the
fences broken down, and the room pillaged of the little that could be
found there. He went on to the city, crying out “Agellius;” the gate was
open, and he entered. He went on to the Forum; he crossed to the house of
Jucundus; few people as yet were stirring in the place. He looked up at
the wall. Suddenly, by the help of projections, and other irregularities
of the brickwork, he mounted up upon the flat roof, and dropped down along
the tiles, through the _impluvium_ into the middle of the house. He went
softly into Agellius’s closet, where he was asleep, he roused him with the
name of Callista, threw his tunic upon him, which was by his side, put his
boots into his hands, and silently beckoned him to follow him. When he
hesitated, he still whispered to him “Callista,” and at length seized him
and led him on. He unbarred the street door, and with a movement of his
arm, more like a blow than a farewell, thrust him into the street. Then he
barred again the door upon him, and lay down himself upon the bed which
Agellius had left. His good Angel, we may suppose, had gained a point in
his favour, for he lay quiet, and fell into a heavy sleep.



                               CHAPTER XXV.


                           CALLISTA IN DURANCE.


We will hope that the reader, as well as Agellius, is attracted by the
word Callista, and wishes to know something about her fate; nay, perhaps
finds fault with us as having suffered him so long to content himself with
the chance and second-hand information which Jucundus or Juba has
supplied. If we have been wanting in due consideration for him, we now
trust to make up for it.

When Callista, then, had so boldly left the cottage to stop the intruders,
she had in one important point reckoned without her host. She spoke Latin
fluently, herself, and could converse with the townspeople, most of whom
could do the same; but it was otherwise with the inhabitants of the
country, numbers of whom, as we have said, were in Sicca on the day of the
outbreak. The two fellows, whom she went out to withstand, knew neither
her nor the Latin tongue. They were of a race which called itself
Canaanite, and really was so; huge, gigantic men, who looked like the sons
of Enac, described in Holy Writ. They knew nothing of roads or fences, and
had scrambled up the hill as they could, the shortest way, and, being free
from the crowd, with far more expedition than had they followed the beaten
track. She and they could not understand each other’s speech; but her
appearance spoke for her, and, in consequence, they seized on her as their
share of the booty, and without more ado, carried her off towards Sicca.
As they came up by a route of their own, so they returned, and entered the
city by a gate more to the south, not the Septimian; a happy circumstance,
as otherwise she would have stood every chance of being destroyed in that
wholesale massacre which the soldiery inflicted on the crowd as it
returned.

These giants, then, got possession of Callista, and she entered Sicca upon
the shoulder of one of them, who danced in with no greater inconvenience
than if he was carrying on it a basket of flowers, or a box of millinery.
Here the party met with the city police, who were stationed at the gate.

“Down with your live luggage, you rascals,” they said, in their harsh
Punic; “what have you to do with plunder of this kind? and how came you by
her?”

“She’s one of those Christian rats, your worship,” answered the fellow,
who, strong as he was, did not relish a contest with some dozen of armed
men. “Long live the Emperor! We’ll teach her to eat asses’ heads another
time, and brew fevers. I found her with a party of Christians. She’s
nothing but a witch, and she knows the consequences.”

“Let her go, you drunken animal!” said the constable, still keeping his
distance. “I’ll never believe any woman is a Christian, let alone so young
a one. And now I look at her, so far as I can see by this light, I think
she’s priestess of one of the great temples up there.”

“She can turn herself into anything,” said the other of her capturers,
“young or old. I saw her one night near Madaura, a month ago, in the tombs
in the shape of a black cat.”

“Away with you both, in the name of the Suffetes of Sicca and all the
magistracy!” cried the official. “Give up your prisoner to the authorities
of the place, and let the law take its course.”

But the Canaanites did not seem disposed to give her up, and neither party
liking to attack the other, a compromise took place. “Well,” said the
guardian of the night, “the law must be vindicated, and the peace
preserved. My friends, you must submit to the magistrates. But since she
happens to be on your shoulder, my man, let her even remain there, and we
depute you, as a beast of burden, to carry her for us, thereby to save us
the trouble. Here, child,” he continued, “you’re our prisoner; so you
shall plead your own cause in the _popina_ there. Long live Decius, pious
and fortunate! Long live this ancient city, colony and municipium! Cheer
up, my lass, and sing us a stave or two, as we go; for I’ll pledge a
_cyathus_ of unmixed, that, if you choose, you can warble notes as sweet
as the manna gum.”

Callista was silent, but she was perfectly collected, and ready to avail
herself of any opportunity to better her condition. They went on towards
the Forum, where a police-office, as we now speak, was situated, but did
not reach it without an adventure. The Roman military force at Sicca was
not more than a century of men; the greater number were at this moment at
the great gate, waiting for the mob; a few, in parties of three and four,
were patrolling the city. Several of these were at the entrance of the
Forum when the party came up to it; and it happened that a superior
officer, who was an assistant to what may be called the military resident
of the place, a young man, on whom much of the duty of the day had
devolved, was with the soldiers. She had known him as a friend of her
brother’s, and recognised him in the gloom, and at once took advantage of
the meeting.

“Help,” she said, “gentlemen! help, Calphurnius! these rascals are
carrying me off to some den of their own.”

The tribune at once knew her voice. “What!” he cried, with great
astonishment, “what, my pretty Greek! You most base, infamous, and
unmannerly scoundrels, down with her this instant! What have you to do
with that young lady? You villains, unless you would have me crack your
African skulls with the hilt of my sword, down with her, I say!”

There was no resisting a Roman voice, but prompt obedience is a rarity,
and the ruffians began to parley. “My noble master,” said the constable,
“she’s our prisoner. Jove preserve you, and Bacchus and Ceres bless you,
my lord tribune! and long life to the Emperor Decius in these bad times.
But she is a rioter, my lord, one of the ringleaders, and a Christian and
a witch to boot.”

“Cease your vile gutturals, you animal!” cried the officer, “or I will ram
them down your throat with my pike to digest them. Put down the lady,
beast. Are you thinking twice about it? Go, Lucius,” he said to a private,
“kick him away, and bring the woman here.”

Callista was surrendered, but the fellow, sullen at the usage he had met
with, and spiteful against Calphurnius, as the cause of it, cried out
maliciously, “Mind what you are at, noble sir, it’s not our affair; you
can fry your own garlic. But an Emperor is an Emperor, and an Edict is an
Edict, and a Christian is a Christian; and I don’t know what high places
will say to it, but it’s your affair. Take notice,” he continued, as he
got to a safer distance, raising his voice still higher, that the soldiers
might hear, “yon girl is a Christian priestess, caught in a Christian
assembly, sacrificing asses and eating children for the overthrow of the
Emperor, and the ruin of his loyal city of Sicca, and I have been
interrupted in the discharge of my duty—I, a constable of the place. See
whether Calphurnius will not bring again upon us the plague, the murrain,
the locusts, and all manner of _larvæ_ and _maniæ_ before the end of the
story.”

This speech perplexed Calphurnius, as it was intended. It was impossible
he could dispose of Callista as he wished, with such a charge formally
uttered in the presence of his men. He knew how serious the question of
Christianity was at that moment, and how determined the Imperial
Government was on the eradication of its professors; he was a good
soldier, devoted to head-quarters, and had no wish to compromise himself
with his superiors, or to give bystanders an advantage over him, by
setting a prisoner at liberty without inquiry, who had been taken in a
Christian’s house. He muttered an oath, and said to the soldiers, “Well,
my lads, to the Triumviri with her, since it must be so. Cheer up, my star
of the morning, bright beam of Hellas, it is only as a matter of form, and
you will be set at liberty as soon as they look on you.” And with these
words he led the way to the _Officium_.

But the presiding genius of the _Officium_ was less accommodating than he
had anticipated. It might be that he was jealous of the soldiery, or of
their particular interference, or indignant at the butchery at the great
gate, of which the news had just come, or out of humour with the day’s
work, and especially with the Christians; at any rate, Calphurnius found
he had better have taken a bolder step, and have carried her as a prisoner
to the camp. However, nothing was now left for him but to depart; and
Callista fell again into the hands of the city, though of the superior
functionaries, who procured her a lodging for the night, and settled to
bring her up for examination next morning.

The morning came, and she was had up. What passed did not transpire; but
the issue was that she was remanded for a further hearing, and was told
she might send to her brother, and acquaint him where she was. He was
allowed one interview with her, and he came away almost out of his senses,
saying she was bewitched, and fancied herself a Christian. What precisely
she had said to him, which gave this impression, he could hardly say; but
it was plain there must be something wrong, or there would not be that
public process and formal examination which was fixed for the third day
afterwards.



                              CHAPTER XXVI.


                          WHAT CAN IT ALL MEAN?


Were the origin of Juba’s madness (or whatever the world would call it) of
a character which admitted of light writing about it, much might be said
on the surprise of the clear-headed, narrow-minded, positive, and
easy-going Jucundus, when he found one nephew substituted for another, and
had to give over his wonder at Agellius, in order to commence a series of
acts of amazement and consternation at Juba. He summoned Jupiter and Juno,
Bacchus, Ceres, Pomona, Neptune, Mercury, Minerva, and great Rome, to
witness the marvellous occurrence; and then he had recourse to the
infernal gods, Pluto and Proserpine, down to Cerberus, if he be one of
them; but, after all, there the portent was, in spite of all the deities
which Olympus, or Arcadia, or Latium ever bred; and at length it had a
nervous effect upon the old gentleman’s system, and, for the first evening
after it, he put all his good things from him, and went to bed supperless
and songless. What had been Juba’s motive in the exploit which so
unpleasantly affected his uncle, it is of course quite impossible to say.
Whether his mention of Callista’s name was intended to be for the benefit
of her soul, or the ruin of Agellius’s, must be left in the obscurity in
which the above narrative presents it to us; so far alone is certain,
though it does not seem to throw light on the question, that, on his
leaving his uncle’s house in the course of the forenoon, which he did,
without being pressed to stay, he was discovered prancing and
gesticulating in the neighbourhood of Callista’s prison, so as to excite
the attention of the _apparitor_, or constable, who guarded the entrance,
and who, alarmed at his wildness, sent for some of his fellows, and, with
their assistance, repelled the intruder, who, thereupon, scudding out at
the eastern gate, was soon lost in the passes of the mountain.

To one thing, however, we may pledge ourselves, that Juba had no intention
of shaking, even for one evening, the nerves of Jucundus; yet shaken they
were till about the same time twenty-four hours afterwards. And when in
that depressed state, he saw nothing but misery on all sides of him. Juba
was lost; Agellius worse. Of course, he had joined himself to his sect,
and he should never see him again; and how should he ever hold up his
head? Well, he only hoped Agellius would not be boiled in a caldron, or
roasted at a slow fire. If this were done, he positively must leave Sicca,
and the most thriving trade which any man had in the whole of the
Proconsulate. And then that little Callista! Ah!—what a real calamity was
there! Anyhow he had lost her, and what should he do for a finisher of his
fine work in marble, or metal? She was a treasure in herself. Altogether
the heavens were very dark; and it was scarcely possible for any one who
knew well his jovial cast of countenance, to keep from laughing, whatever
his real sympathy, at the unusual length and blankness which were suddenly
imposed upon it.

While he sat thus at his shop window, which, as it were, framed him for
the contemplation of passers-by, on the day of the escape of Agellius, and
the day before Callista’s public examination, Aristo rushed in upon him in
a state of far more passionate and more reasonable grief. He had called,
indeed, the day before, but he found a pleasure in expending his distress
upon others, and he came again to get rid of its insupportable weight by
discharging it in a torrent of tears and exclamations. However, at first
the words of both “moved slow,” as the poet says, and went off in a sort
of dropping fire.

“Well,” said Jucundus, in a depressed tone; “he’s not come to _you_, of
course?”

“Who?”

“Agellius.”

“Oh! Agellius! No, he’s not with me.” Then, after a pause, Aristo added,
“Why should he be?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I thought he might be. He’s been gone since early
morning.”

“Indeed! No, I don’t know where he is. How came he with you?”

“I told you yesterday; but you have forgotten. I was sheltering him; but
he’s gone for ever.”

“Indeed!”

“And his brother’s mad!—horribly mad!” and he slapped his hand against his
thigh.

“I always thought it,” answered Aristo.

“Did you? Yes, so it is; but it’s very different from what it ever was.
The furies have got hold of him with a vengeance! He’s frantic! Oh, if you
had seen him! Two boys, both mad! It’s all the father!”

“I thought you’d like to hear something about dear, sweet Callista,” said
her brother.

“Yes, I should indeed!” answered Jucundus. “By Esculapius! they’re all mad
together!”

“Well, it is like madness!” cried Aristo, with great vehemence.

“The world’s going mad!” answered Jucundus, who was picking up, since he
began to talk, an exercise which was decidedly good for him. “We are _all_
going mad! _I_ shall get crazed. The townspeople are crazed already. What
an abominable, brutal piece of business was that three days ago! I put up
my shutters. Did it come near you?—all on account of one or two beggarly
Christians, and my poor boy. What harm could two or three, toads and
vipers though they be, do here? They might have been trodden down easily.
It’s another thing at Carthage. Catch the ringleaders, I say; make
examples. The foxes escape, and our poor ganders suffer!”

Aristo, pierced with his own misery, had no heart or head to enter into
the semi-political ideas of Jucundus, who continued,—

“Yes, it’s no good. The empire’s coming to pieces, mark my words! I told
you so, if those beasts were let alone. They _have_ been let alone.
Remedies are too late. Decius will do no good. No one’s safe! Farewell, my
friends! I am going. Like poor dear Callista, I shall be in prison, and,
like her, find myself dumb!... Ah! yes, Callista; how did you find her?”

“O dear, sweet, suffering girl!” cried her brother.

“Yes, indeed!” answered Jucundus; “yes!” meditatively. “She _is_ a dear,
sweet, suffering girl! I thought he might perhaps have taken her off—that
was my hope. He was so set upon hearing where she was, whether she could
be got out. It struck me he had made the best of his way to _her_. She
could do anything with him. And she loved him, she did!—I’m convinced of
it!—nothing shall convince me otherwise! ‘Bring them together,’ I said,
‘and they will rush into each other’s arms.’ But they’re bewitched!—The
whole world’s bewitched! Mark my words,—I have an idea who is at the
bottom of this.”

“Oh!” groaned out Aristo; “I care not for top or bottom!—I care not for
the whole world, or for anything at all but Callista! If you could have
seen the dear, patient sufferer!” and the poor fellow burst into a flood
of tears.

“Bear up! bear up!” said Jucundus, who by this time was considerably
better; “show yourself a man, my dear Aristo. These things must be;—they
are the lot of human nature. You remember what the tragedian says: stay!
no!—it’s the comedian,—it’s Menander”——

“To Orcus and Erebus with all the tragedy and comedy that ever was
spouted!” exclaimed Aristo. “Can you do nothing for me? Can’t you give me
a crumb of consolation or sympathy, encouragement or suggestion? I am a
stranger in the country, and so is this dear sister of mine, whom I was so
proud of; and who has been so good, and kind, and gentle, and sweet. She
loved me so much, she never grudged me anything; she let me do just what I
would with her. Come here, go there,—it was just as I would. There we
were, two orphans together, ten years since, when I was double her age.
She wished to stay in Greece; but she came to this detestable Africa all
for me. She would be gay and bright when I would have her so. She had no
will of her own; and she set her heart upon nothing, and was pleased
anywhere. She had not an enemy in the world. I protest she is worth all
the gods and goddesses that ever were hatched! And here, in this
ill-omened Africa, the evil eye has looked at her, and she thinks herself
a Christian, when she is just as much a hippogriff, or a chimæra.”

“Well, but, Aristo,” said Jucundus, “I was going to tell you who is at the
bottom of it all. Callista’s mad; Agellius is mad; Juba is mad; and Strabo
was mad;—but it was his wife, old Gurta, that drove him mad;—and there, I
think, is the beginning of our troubles.——Come in! come in, Cornelius!” he
cried, seeing his Roman friend outside, and relapsing for the moment into
his lugubrious tone; “Come in, Cornelius, and give us some comfort, if you
can. Well, this is like a friend! I know if you can help me, you will.”

Cornelius answered that he was going back to Carthage in a day or two, and
came to embrace him, and had hoped to have a parting supper before he
went.

“That’s kind!” answered Jucundus: “but first tell me all about this
dreadful affair; for you are in the secrets of the Capitol. Have they any
clue what has become of my poor Agellius?”

Cornelius had not heard of the young man’s troubles, and was full of
consternation at the news.

“What! Agellius really a Christian?” he said, “and at such a moment? Why,
I thought you talked of some young lady who was to keep him in order?”

“She’s a Christian too,” replied Jucundus; and a silence ensued. “It’s a
bad world!” he continued. “She’s imprisoned by the Triumviri. What will be
the end of it?”

Cornelius shook his head, and looked mysterious.

“You don’t mean it?” said Jucundus. “Not anything so dreadful, I do trust,
Cornelius. Not the stake?”

Cornelius still looked gloomy and pompous.

“Nothing in the way of torture?” he went on; “not the rack, or the
pitchfork?”

“It’s a bad business, on your own showing,” said Cornelius: “it’s a bad
business!”

“Can you do nothing for us, Cornelius?” cried Aristo. “The great people in
Carthage are your friends. O Cornelius! I’d do anything for you!—I’d be
your slave! She’s no more a Christian than great Jove. She has nothing
about her of the cut;—not a shred of her garment, or a turn of her hair.
She’s a Greek from head to foot—within and without. She’s as bright as the
day! Ah! we have no friends here. Dear Callista! you will be lost because
you are a foreigner!” and the passionate youth began to tear his hair. “O
Cornelius!” he continued, “if you can do anything for us! Oh! she shall
sing and dance to you; she shall come and kneel down to you, and embrace
your knees, and kiss your feet, as I do, Cornelius!” and he knelt down,
and would have taken hold of Cornelius’s beard.

Cornelius had never been addressed with so poetical a ceremonial, which
nevertheless he received with awkwardness indeed, but with satisfaction.
“I hear from you,” he said with pomposity, “that your sister is in prison
on suspicion of Christianity. The case is a simple one. Let her swear by
the genius of the Emperor, and she is free; let her refuse it, and the law
must take its course,” and he made a slight bow.

“Well, but she is under a delusion,” persisted Aristo, “which cannot last
long. She says distinctly that she is _not_ a Christian, is not that
decisive? but then she won’t burn incense; she won’t swear by Rome. She
tells me she does not _believe_ in Jupiter, nor I; can anything be more
senseless? It is the act of a mad woman. I say, ‘My girl, the question is,
Are you to be brought to shame? are you to die by the public sword? die in
torments?’ Oh, I shall go mad as well as she!” he screamed out. “She was
so clever, so witty, so sprightly, so imaginative, so versatile! why,
there’s nothing she couldn’t do. She could model, paint, play on the lyre,
sing, act. She could work with the needle, she could embroider. She made
this girdle for me. It’s all that Agellius, it’s Agellius. I beg your
pardon, Jucundus; but it is;” and he threw himself on the ground, and
rolled in the dust.

“I have been telling our young friend,” said Jucundus to Cornelius, “to
exert self-control, and to recollect Menander, ‘Ne quid nimis.’ Grieving
does no good; but these young fellows, it’s no use at all speaking to
them. Do you think you could do anything for us, Cornelius?”

“Why,” answered Cornelius, “since I have been here, I have fallen in with
a very sensible man, and a man of remarkably sound political opinions. He
has a great reputation, he is called Polemo, and is one of the professors
at the Mercury. He seems to me to go to the root of these subjects, and
I’m surprised how well we agreed. He’s a Greek, as well as this young
gentleman’s sister. I should recommend him to go to Polemo; if any one
could disabuse her mind, it is he.”

“True, true,” cried Aristo, starting up, “but, no, _you_ can do it better;
you have power with the government. The Proconsul will listen to you. The
magistrates here are afraid of _him_; _they_ don’t wish to touch the poor
girl, not they. But there’s such a noise everywhere, and so much ill
blood, and so many spies and informers, and so much mistrust—but why
should it come upon _Callista_? Why should _she_ be a sacrifice? But you’d
oblige the Duumvirs as much as me in getting her out of the scrape. But
what good would it do, if they _took_ her dear life? Only get us the
respite of a month; the delusion would vanish in a month. Get two months,
if you can; or as long as you can, you know. Perhaps they would let us
steal out of the country, and no one the wiser; and no harm to any one. It
was a bad job our coming here.”

“We know nothing at Rome of feelings and intentions, and motives and
distinctions,” said Cornelius; “and we know nothing of understandings,
connivances, and evasions. We go by facts; Rome goes by facts. The
question is, What is the fact? Does she burn incense, or does she not?
Does she worship the ass, or does she not? However, we’ll see what can be
done.” And so he went on, informing the pair of mourners that, as far as
his influence extended, he would do something in behalf both of Agellius
and Callista.



                              CHAPTER XXVII.


                            AM I A CHRISTIAN?


The sun had now descended for the last time before the solemn day which
was charged with the fate of Callista, and what was the state of mind of
one who excited such keen interest in the narrow circle within which she
was known? And how does it differ from what it was some weeks before, when
Agellius last saw her? She would have been unable to say herself. “So is
the kingdom of God: as if a man should cast seed into the earth, and
should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow
up, whilst he knoweth not.” She might, indeed, have been able afterwards,
on looking back, to say many things of herself; and she would have
recognised that while she was continually differing from herself, in that
she was changing, yet it was not a change which involved contrariety, but
one which expanded itself in (as it were) concentric circles, and only
fulfilled, as time went on, the promise of its beginning. Every day, as it
came, was, so to say, the child of the preceding, the parent of that which
followed; and the end to which she tended could not get beyond the aim
with which she set out. Yet, had she been asked, at the time of which we
speak, where was her principle and her consistency, what was her logic, or
whether she acted on reason, or on impulse, or on feeling, or in fancy, or
in passion, she would have been reduced to silence. What did she know
about herself, but that, to her surprise, the more she thought over what
she heard of Christianity, the more she was drawn to it, and the more it
approved itself to her whole soul, and the more it seemed to respond to
all her needs and aspirations, and the more intimate was her presentiment
that it was true? The longer it remained on her mind as an object, the
more it seemed (unlike the mythology or the philosophy of her country, or
the political religion of Rome) to have an external reality and substance,
which deprived objections to it of their power, and showed them to be at
best but difficulties and perplexities.

But then again, if she had been asked, what was Christianity, she would
have been puzzled to give an answer. She would have been able to mention
some particular truths which it taught, but neither to give them their
definite and distinct shape, nor to describe the mode in which they were
realised. She would have said, “I believe what has been told me, as from
heaven, by Chione, Agellius, and Cæcilius:” and it was clear she could say
nothing else. What the three told her in common and in concord was at once
the measure of her creed and the ground of her acceptance of it. It was
that wonderful unity of sentiment and belief in persons so dissimilar from
each other, so distinct in their circumstances, so independent in their
testimony, which recommended to her the doctrine which they were so
unanimous in teaching. She had long given up any belief in the religion of
her country. As to philosophy, it dwelt only in conjecture and opinion;
whereas the very essence of religion was, as she felt, a recognition of
the worshippers on the part of the Object of it. Religion could not be
without hope. To worship a being who did not speak to us, recognise us,
love us, was not religion. It might be a duty, it might be a merit; but
her instinctive notion of religion was the soul’s response to a God who
had taken notice of the soul. It was loving intercourse, or it was a name.
Now the three witnesses who had addressed her about Christianity had each
of them made it to consist in the intimate Divine Presence in the heart.
It was the friendship or mutual love of person with person. Here was the
very teaching which already was so urgently demanded both by her reason
and her heart, which she found nowhere else; which she found existing one
and the same in a female slave, in a country youth, in a learned priest.

This was the broad impression which they made upon her mind. When she
turned to consider more in detail what it was they taught, or what was
implied in that idea of religion which so much approved itself to her, she
understood them to say that the Creator of heaven and earth, Almighty,
All-good, clothed in all the attributes which philosophy gives Him, the
Infinite, had loved the soul of man so much, and her soul in particular,
that He had come upon earth in the form of a man, and in that form had
gone through sufferings, in order to unite all souls to Him; that He
desired to love, and to be loved; that He had said so; that He had called
on man to love Him, and did actually bring to pass this loving intercourse
of Him and man in those souls who surrendered themselves to Him. She did
not go much further than this; but as much as this was before her mind
morning, noon, and night. It pleaded in her; it importuned her; it would
not be rebuffed. It did not mind her moods, or disgusts, or doubts, or
denials, or dismissals, but came again and again. It rose before her, in
spite of the contempt, reproach, and persecution which the profession of
it involved. It smiled upon her; it made promises to her; it opened
eternal views to her; and it grew upon her convictions in clearness of
perception, in congruity, and in persuasiveness.

Moreover, the more she thought of Chione, of Agellius, and of Cæcilius the
more surely did she discern that this teaching wrought in them a something
which she had not. They had about them a simplicity, a truthfulness, a
decision, an elevation, a calmness, and a sanctity to which she was a
stranger, which spoke to her heart and absolutely overcame her. The image
of Cæcilius, in particular, came out prominently and eloquently in her
memory,—not in his words so much as in his manner. In spite of what she
had injuriously said to him, she really felt drawn to worship him, as if
he were the shrine and the home of that Presence to which he bore such
solemn witness.

O the change, when, as if in punishment for her wild words against him,
she found herself actually in the hands of lawless men, who were as far
below her in sentiment as he was above her! O the change, when she was
dizzied by their brutal vociferations and rapid motion, and that breath
and atmosphere of evil which steamed up from the rankness of their
impiety! O the thankfulness which rose up in her heart, though but vaguely
directed to an object, when she found the repose and quiet, though it was
that of a prison! for young as she was, she had become tired of all things
that were seen, and had no strong desire, except for meditation on the
great truths which she did not know.

One day passes and then another; and now the morning and the hour is come
when she must appear before the magistrates of Sicca. With dread, with
agitation, she looks forward to the moment. She has not yet a peace within
her. Her peace is the stillness of the room in which she is imprisoned.
She knows it will pass away when she leaves it; she knows that again she
must be in the hands of cruel, godless men, with whom she has no sympathy;
but she has no stay whereon to lean in the terrible trial. Her brother
comes to her: he affects to forget her perverseness or delusion. He comes
to her with a smile, and throws his arms around her; and Callista repels,
from some indescribable feeling, his ardent caress, as if she were no
longer his. He has come to accompany her to court, by an indulgence which
he had obtained; to support her there,—to carry her through, and to take
her back in triumph home. My sister,—why that strange, piteous look upon
thy countenance?—why that paleness of thy cheek?—why that whisper of thy
lips?—why those wistful, gentle pleadings of thine eyes? Sweet eyes, and
brow, and cheek, in which I have ever prided myself! Why so backward?—why
so distant and unfriendly? Am I not come to rescue thee from a place where
thou never shouldst have been?—where thou ne’er shalt be again? Callista,
what is this mystery?—speak!

Such as this was the mute expostulation conveyed in Aristo’s look, and in
the fond grasp of his hand; while treading down forcibly within him his
memory and his fears of her great change, he determined she should be to
him still all that she had ever been. But how altered was that look, and
how relaxed that grasp, when at length her misery found words, and she
said to him in agitation, “My time is short: I want some Christian, a
Christian priest!”

It was as though she had never shown any tendency before to the proscribed
religion. The words came to him with the intensity of something new and
unimagined hitherto. He clasped his hands in emotion, turned white, and
could but say, “Callista!” If she had made confession of the most heinous
of crimes,—if she had spoken of murder, or some black treachery against
himself,—of some enormity too great for words, it might have been; but his
sister!—his pride and delight, after all and certainly a Christian! Better
far had she said she was leaving him for ever, to abandon herself to the
degrading service of the temples; better had she said she had taken
hemlock, or had an asp in her bosom, than that she should choose to go out
of the world with the tortures, the ignominy, the malediction of the
religion of slaves.

Time waits for no man, nor does the court of justice, nor the _subsellia_
of the magistrate. The examination is to be held in the Basilica at the
Forum, and it requires from us a few words of explanation beforehand. The
local magistrates then could only try the lesser offences, and decide
civil suits; cases of suspected Christianity were reserved for the Roman
authorities. Still, preliminary examinations were not unfrequently
conducted by the city Duumvirs, or even in what may be called the police
courts. And this may have especially been the case in the Proconsulates.
Proprætors and Presidents were in the appointment of the Emperor, and
joined in their persons the supreme civil and military authority. Such
provinces, perhaps, were better administered; but there would be more of
arbitrariness in their rule, and it would not be so acceptable to the
ruled. The Proconsuls, on the other hand, were representatives of the
Senate, and had not the military force directly in their hands. The
natural tendency of this arrangement was to create, on the one hand, a
rivalry between the civil and military establishments; and, on the other,
to create a friendly feeling between the Proconsul and the local
magistracy. Thus, not long before the date of this history, we read of
Gordian, the Proconsul, enjoying a remarkable popularity in his African
province; and when the people rose against the exactions of the imperial
Procurator, as referred to in a former page, they chose and supported
Gordian against him. But however this might be in general, so it was at
this time at Sicca, that the Proconsular _Officium_ and the city
magistrates were on a good understanding with each other, whereas there
was some collision between the latter and the military. Not much depends
in the conduct of our story upon this circumstance; but it must be taken
to account for the examination of Callista in the Forum, and for some
other details which may follow before we come to the end of it.

The populace was collected about the gates and within the ample space of
the Basilica, but they gave expression to no strong feeling on the subject
of a Christian delinquent. The famine, the sickness, and, above all, the
lesson which they had received so lately from the soldiers, had both
diminished their numbers and cowed their spirit. They were sullen, too,
and resentful; and, with the changeableness proverbial in a multitude, had
rather have witnessed the beheading of a magistrate, or the burning of a
tribune, than the torture and death of a dozen of wretched Christians.
Besides, they had had a glut of Christian blood; a reaction of feeling had
taken place, and, in spite of the suspicion of witchcraft, the youth and
the beauty of Callista recommended her to their compassion.

The magistrates were seated on the _subsellia_, one of the Duumvirs
presiding, in his white robe bordered with purple; his lictors, with
staves, not fasces, standing behind him. In the vestibule of the court, to
confront the prisoner on her first entrance, were the usual instruments of
torture. The charge was one which can only be compared, in the estimation
of both state and people in that day, to that of witchcraft, poisoning,
parricide, or other monstrous iniquity in Christian times. There were the
heavy _boiæ_, a yoke for the neck, of iron, or of wood; the fetters; the
_nervi_, or stocks, in which hands and feet were inserted, at distances
from each other which strained or dislocated the joints. There, too, were
the _virgæ_, or rods with thorns in them; the _flagra_, _lori_, and
_plumbati_, whips and thongs, cutting with iron or bruising with lead; the
heavy clubs; the hook for digging into the flesh; the _ungula_, said to
have been a pair of scissors; the _scorpio_, and _pecten_, iron combs or
rakes for tearing. And there was the wheel, fringed with spikes, on which
the culprit was stretched; and there was the fire ready lighted, with the
water hissing and groaning in the large caldrons which were placed upon
it. Callista had lost for ever that noble intellectual composure of which
we have several times spoken; she shuddered at what she saw, and almost
fainted, and, while waiting for her summons, leaned heavily against the
merciless _cornicularius_ at her side.



At length the judge began—“Let the servant from the _Officium_ stand
forth.” The _officialis_ answered that he had brought a prisoner charged
with Christianity; she had been brought to him by the military on the
night of the riot.

The _scriba_ then read out the deposition of one of the _stationarii_, to
the effect that he and his fellow-soldiers had received her from the hands
of the civic force on the night in question, and had brought her to the
office of the Triumvirs.

“Bring forward the prisoner,” said the judge; she was brought forward.

“Here she is,” answered the _officialis_, according to the prescribed
form.

“What is your name?” said the judge.

She answered, “Callista.”

The judge then asked if she was a freewoman or a slave.

She answered, “Free; the daughter of Orsilochus, lapidary, of
Proconnesus.”

Some conversation then went on among the magistrates as to her advocate or
_defensor_. Aristo presented himself, but the question arose whether he
was _togatus_. He was known, however, to several magistrates, and was
admitted to stand by his sister.

Then the _scriba_ read the charge—viz., that Callista was a Christian, and
refused to sacrifice to the gods.

It was a plain question of fact, which required neither witnesses nor
speeches. At a sign from the Duumvir in came two priests, bringing in
between them the small altar of Jupiter; the charcoal was ready lighted,
the incense at the side, and the judge called to the prisoner to sprinkle
it upon the flame for the good fortune of Decius and his son. All eyes
were turned upon her.

“I am not a Christian,” she said; “I told you so before. I have never been
to a Christian place of worship, nor taken any Christian oath, nor joined
in any Christian sacrifice. And I should lie did I say that I was in any
sense a Christian.”

There was a silence; then the judge said, “Prove your words; there is the
altar, the flame, and the incense; sacrifice to the genius of the
Emperor.”

She said, “What can I do? I am not a Christian.” The judges looked at each
other, as much as to say, “It is the old story; it is that inexplicable,
hateful obstinacy, which will neither yield to reason, common sense,
expediency, or fear.”

The Duumvir only repeated the single word, “Sacrifice.”

She stopped awhile; then she came forward with a hurried step. “O my
fate!” she cried, “why was I born? why am I in this strait? I have no god.
What can I do? I am abandoned; why should I not do it?” She stopped; then
she went right on to the altar; she took the incense: suddenly she looked
up to heaven and started, and threw it away. “I cannot! I dare not!” she
cried out. There was a great sensation in court. “Evidently insane,” said
some of the more merciful of the Decurions; “poor thing, poor thing!” Her
brother ran up to her; talked to her, conjured her, fell down on his knees
to her; took her hand violently, and would have forced her to offer. In
vain; all he could get from her was, “I am not a Christian; indeed, I am
not a Christian. I have nothing to do with them. O the misery!”

“She is mad!” cried Aristo; “my lord judges, listen to me. She was seized
by brutal ruffians during the riot, and the fright and shock have overcome
her. Give her time, oh! give her time, and she will get right. She’s a
good religious girl; she has done more work for the temples than any girl
in Sicca; half the statues in the city are her finishing. Many of you, my
lords, have her handiwork. She works with me. Do not add to my anguish in
seeing her deranged, by punishing her as a criminal, a Christian: do not
take her from me. Sentence her, and you end the whole matter; give her a
chance, and she will certainly be restored to the gods and to me. Will you
put her to death because she is mad?”

What was to be done? The court was obsequious to the Proconsul, afraid of
Rome; jealous that the mob should have been more forward than the
magistracy. Had the city moved sooner, as soon as the edict came, there
would have been no rising, no riot. Already they had been called on for a
report about that riot and an explanation; if ever they had need to look
sharp what they were doing, it was now. On the other hand, Callista and
her brother had friends among the judges, as we have said, and their plea
was at once obvious and reasonable. “If she persists, she persists, and
nothing can be said; we don’t wish to be disloyal, or careless of the
emperor’s commands. If she is obstinate, she must die; but she dies quite
as usefully to us, with quite as much effect, a month hence as now. Not
that we ask you to define a time on your own authority; simply do this,
write to Carthage for advice. The government can answer within an hour, if
it chooses. Merely say, ‘Here is a young woman, who has ever been
religious and well conducted, of great accomplishments, and known
especially for her taste and skill in religious art, who since the day of
the riot has suddenly refused to take the test. She can give no reason for
her refusal, and protests she is not a Christian. Her friends say that the
fright has turned her brain, but that if kindly treated and kept quiet,
she will come round, and do all that is required of her. What are we to
do?’ ”

At last Callista’s friends prevailed. It was decided that the judges
should pass over this examination altogether, as if it had been rendered
informal by Callista’s conduct. Had they recognised it as a proper legal
process, they must have sentenced and executed her. Such a decision was of
this further advantage to her, that nothing was altered as to her place of
confinement. Instead of being handed over to the state prison, she
remained in her former lodging, though in custody, and was allowed to see
her friends. There had been very little chance of her recovery, supposing
she was mad, or of ever coming out, if she had once gone into the
formidable _Carcer_. Meanwhile the magistrates sent to Carthage for
instructions.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII.


                               A SICK CALL.


Aristo was not a fellow to have very long distresses; he never would have
died of love or of envy, for honour or for loss of property; but his
present calamity was one of the greatest he could ever have, and weighed
upon him as long as ever any one could. His love for his sister was real,
but it would not do to look too closely into the grounds of it; if we are
obliged to do so, we must confess to a suspicion that it lay rather in
certain outward, nay, accidental attributes of Callista, than in Callista
herself. Did she lose her good looks, or her amiable unresisting
submission to his wishes, whatever they were, she would also lose her hold
upon his affections. This is not to make any severe charge against him,
considering how it is with the common run of brothers and sisters,
husbands and wives; at the same time, most people certainly are haunted by
the memory of the past, and love for “Auld lang syne,” and this Aristo
might indeed have had, and perhaps had not. He loved chiefly for the
present, and by the hour.

However, at the present time he was in a state of acute suffering, and,
under its paroxysm, he bethought him again of Cornelius’s advice, which he
had rejected, to betake himself to Polemo. He had a distant acquaintance
with him, sufficient for his purpose, and he called on him at the Mercury
after the latter’s lecture. Polemo was no fool, though steeped in
affectation and self-conceit, and Aristo fancied that his sister might be
more moved by a philosophical compatriot than any one else. Polemo’s
astonishment, however, when the matter was proposed to him surpassed
words, and it showed how utterly Aristo was absorbed in his own misery,
that the possibility of such a reception should not have occurred to him.
What, he, the friend of Plotinus, of Rogatian, and the other noble men and
women who were his fellow-disciples at Rome; he, a member of the
intellectual aristocracy of the metropolis of the world; what, he to visit
a felon in prison! and when he found the felon was a Christian, he fully
thought that Aristo had come to insult him, and was on the point of
bidding him leave him to himself. Aristo, however, persisted; and his
evident anguish, and some particulars which came out, softened him.
Callista was a Greek; a literate, or blue stocking. She had never indeed
worn the philosophic pallium (as some Christian martyrs afterwards, if not
before, have done—St. Catherine and St. Euphemia), but there was no reason
why she should not do so. Polemo recollected having heard of her at the
Capitol, and in the triclinium of one of the Decurions, as a lady of
singular genius and attainments; and he lately had made an attempt to form
a female class of hearers, and it would be a feather in his cap to make a
convert of her. So, not many days after, one evening, accompanied by
Aristo, he set out in his litter to the lodging where she was in custody;
not, however, without much misgiving when it came to the point, some
shame, and a consequent visible awkwardness and stiffness in his manner.
All the perfumes he had about him could not hinder the disgust of such a
visit rising up into his nostrils.

Callista’s room was very well for a prison; it was on the ground-floor of
a house of many stories, close to the _Officium_ of the Triumvirate.
Though not any longer under their strict jurisdiction, she was allowed to
remain where she had first been lodged. She was in one of the rooms
belonging to an apparitor of that _Officium_, and, as he had a wife, or at
least a partner, to take care of her, she might consider herself very well
off. However, the reader must recollect that we are in Africa, in the
month of July, and our young Greek was little used to heats, which made
the whole city nothing less than one vast oven through the greater part of
the twenty-four hours. In lofty spacious apartments the resource adopted
is to exclude the external air, and to live as Greenlanders, with closed
windows and doors; this was both impossible, and would have been
unsuccessful, if attempted in the small apartment of Callista. But fever
of mind is even worse than the heat of the sky; and it is undeniable that
her health, and her strength, and her appearance are affected by both the
physical and the moral enemy. The beauty, which was her brother’s delight,
is waning away; and the shadows, if not the rudiments of a diviner
loveliness, which is of expression, not of feature, which inspires not
human passion, but diffuses chaste thoughts and aspirations, are taking
its place. Aristo sees the change with no kind of satisfaction. The room
has a bench, two or three stools, and a bed of rushes in one corner. A
staple is firmly fixed in the wall; and an iron chain, light, however, and
long, if the two ideas can be reconciled, reaches to her slender arm, and
is joined to it by an iron ring.

On Polemo’s entering the room, his first exclamation was to complain of
its closeness; but he had to do a work, so he began it without delay.
Callista, on her part, started; she had no wish for his presence. She was
reclining on her couch, and she sat up. She was not equal to a
controversy, nor did she mean to have one, whatever might be the case with
_him_.

“Callista, my life and joy, dear Callista,” said her brother, “I have
brought the greatest man in Sicca to see you.”

Callista cast upon him an earnest look, which soon subsided into
indifference. He had a rose of Cyrene in his hand, whose perfume he
diffused about the small room.

“It is Polemo,” continued Aristo, “the friend of the great Plotinus, who
knows all philosophies and all philosophers. He has come out of kindness
to you.”

Callista acknowledged his presence; it was certainly, she said, a great
kindness for any one to visit her, and there.

Polemo replied by a compliment; he said it was Socrates visiting Aspasia.
There had always been women above the standard of their sex, and they had
ever held an intellectual converse with men of mind. He saw one such
before him.

Callista felt it would be plunging her soul still deeper into shadows,
when she sought realities, if she must take part in such an argument. She
remained silent.

“Your sister has not the fit upon her?” asked Polemo of Aristo aside,
neither liking her reception of him, nor knowing what to say. “Not at all,
dear thing,” answered Aristo; “she is all attention for you to begin.”

“Natives of Greece,” at length said he, “natives of Greece should know
each other; they deserve to know each other; there is a secret sympathy
between them. Like that mysterious influence which unites magnet to
magnet; or like the echo which is a repercussion of the original voice.
So, in like manner, Greeks are what none but they can be,” and he smelt at
his rose and bowed.

She smiled faintly when he mentioned Greece. “Yes,” she said, “I am fonder
of Greece than of Africa.”

“Each has its advantages,” said Polemo; “there is a pleasure in imparting
knowledge, in lighting flame from flame. It would be selfish did we not
leave Greece to communicate what they have not here. But you,” he added,
“lady, neither can learn in Greece nor teach in Africa, while you are in
this vestibule of Orcus. I understand, however, it is your own choice; can
that be possible?”

“Well, I wish to get out, if I could, most learned Polemo,” said Callista
sadly.

“May Polemo of Rhodes speak frankly to Callista of Proconnesus?” asked
Polemo. “I would not speak to every one. If so, let me ask, what keeps you
here?”

“The magistrates of Sicca and this iron chain,” answered Callista. “I
would I could be elsewhere; I would I were not what I am.”

“What could you wish to be more than you are?” answered Polemo; “more
gifted, accomplished, beautiful than any daughter of Africa.”

“Go to the point, Polemo,” said Aristo, nervously, though respectfully;
“she wants home-thrusts.”

“I see my brother wants you to ask how far it depends on me that I am
here,” said Callista, wishing to hasten his movements; “it is because I
will not burn incense upon the altar of Jupiter.”

“A most insufficient reason, lady,” said Polemo.

Callista was silent.

“What does that action mean?” said Polemo; “it proposes to mean nothing
else than that you are loyal to the Roman power. You are not of those
Greeks, I presume, who dream of a national insurrection at this time? then
you are loyal to Rome. Did I believe a Leonidas could now arise, an
Harmodius, a Miltiades, a Themistocles, a Pericles, an Epaminondas, I
should be as ready to take the sword as another; but it is hopeless.
Greece, then, makes no claim on you just now. Nor will I believe, though
you were to tell me so yourself, that you are leagued with any obscure,
fanatic sect who desire Rome’s downfall. Consider what Rome is;” and now
he had got into the magnificent commonplace, out of his last panegyrical
oration with which he had primed himself before he set out. “I am a
Greek,” he said, “I love Greece, but I love truth better; and I look at
facts. I grasp them, and I confess to them. The wide earth, through untold
centuries, has at length grown into the imperial dominion of One. It has
converged and coalesced in all its various parts into one Rome. This,
which we see, is the last, the perfect state of human society. The course
of things, the force of natural powers, as is well understood by all great
lawyers and philosophers, cannot go further. Unity has come at length, and
unity is eternity. It will be for ever, because it is a whole. The
principle of dissolution is eliminated. We have reached the _apotelesma_
of the world. Greece, Egypt, Assyria, Libya, Etruria, Lydia, have all had
their share in the result. Each of them, in its own day, has striven in
vain to stop the course of fate, and has been hurried onwards at its
wheels as its victim or its instrument. And shall Judæa do what profound
Egypt and subtle Greece have tried in vain? If even the freedom of
thought, the liberal scepticism, nay, the revolutionary theories of Hellas
have proved unequal to the task of splitting up the Roman power, if the
pomp and luxury of the East have failed, shall the mysticism of Syria
succeed?”

“Well, dear Callista, are you listening?” cried Aristo, not over-confident
of the fact, though Polemo looked round at him with astonishment.

“Ten centuries,” he continued, “ten centuries have just been completed
since Rome began her victorious career. For ten centuries she has been
fulfilling her high mission in the dispositions of Destiny, and perfecting
her maxims of policy and rules of government. For ten centuries she has
pursued one track with an ever-growing intensity of zeal, and an
ever-widening extent of territory. What can she not do? just one thing;
and that one thing which she has not presumed to do, you are attempting.
She has maintained her own religion, as was fitting; but she has never
thrown contempt on the religion of others. This you are doing. Observe,
Callista, Rome herself, in spite of her great power, has yielded to that
necessity which is greater. She does not meddle with the religions of the
peoples. She has opened no war against their diversities of rite. The
conquering power found, especially in the East, innumerable traditions,
customs, prejudices, principles, superstitions, matted together in one
hopeless mass; she left them as they were; she recognised them; it would
have been the worse for her if she had done otherwise. All she said to the
peoples, all she dared say to them, was, ‘You bear with me, and I will
bear with you.’ Yet this you will not do; you Christians, who have no
pretence to any territory, who are not even the smallest of the peoples,
who are not even a people at all, you have the fanaticism to denounce all
other rites but your own, nay, the religion of great Rome. Who are you?
upstarts and vagabonds of yesterday. Older religions than yours, more
intellectual, more beautiful religions, which have had a position, and a
history, and a political influence, have come to nought; and shall you
prevail, you, a _congeries_, a hotch-potch of the leavings, and scraps,
and broken meat of the great peoples of the East and West? Blush, blush,
Grecian Callista, you with a glorious nationality of your own to go shares
with some hundred peasants, slaves, thieves, beggars, hucksters, tinkers,
cobblers, and fishermen! A lady of high character, of brilliant
accomplishments, to be the associate of the outcasts of society!”

Polemo’s speech, though cumbrous, did execution, at least the termination
of it, upon minds constituted like the Grecian. Aristo jumped up, swore an
oath, and looked round triumphantly at Callista, who felt its force also.
After all, what did she know of Christians?—at best she was leaving the
known for the unknown: she was sure to be embracing certain evil for
contingent good. She said to herself, “No, I never can be a Christian.”
Then she said aloud, “My Lord Polemo, I am not a Christian;—I never said I
was.”

“That is her absurdity!” cried Aristo. “She is neither one thing nor the
other. She won’t say she’s a Christian, and she won’t sacrifice!”

“It is my misfortune,” she said, “I know. I am losing both what I see, and
what I don’t see. It is most inconsistent: yet what can I do?”

Polemo had said what he considered enough. He was one of those who sold
his words. He had already been over-generous, and was disposed to give
away no more.

After a time, Callista said, “Polemo, do you believe in one God?”

“Certainly,” he answered; “I believe in one eternal, self-existing
something.”

“Well,” she said, “I feel that God within my heart. I feel myself in His
presence. He says to me, ‘Do this: don’t do that,’ You may tell me that
this dictate is a mere law of my nature, as is to joy or to grieve. I
cannot understand this. No, it is the echo of a person speaking to me.
Nothing shall persuade me that it does not ultimately proceed from a
person external to me. It carries with it its proof of its divine origin.
My nature feels towards it as towards a person. When I obey it, I feel a
satisfaction; when I disobey, a soreness—just like that which I feel in
pleasing or offending some revered friend. So you see, Polemo, I believe
in what is more than a mere ‘something.’ I believe in what is more real to
me than sun, moon, stars, and the fair earth, and the voice of friends.
You will say, Who is He? Has He ever told you anything about Himself?
Alas! no!—the more’s the pity! But I will not give up what I have, because
I have not more. An echo implies a voice; a voice a speaker. That speaker
I love and I fear.”

Here she was exhausted, and overcome too, poor Callista! with her own
emotions.

“O that I could find Him!” she exclaimed, passionately. “On the right hand
and on the left I grope, but touch Him not. Why dost Thou fight against
me?—why dost Thou scare and perplex me, O First and Only Fair? I have Thee
not, and I need Thee.” She added, “I am no Christian, you see, or I should
have found Him; or at least I should say I had found Him.”

“It is hopeless,” said Polemo to Aristo, in much disgust, and with some
hauteur of manner: “she is too far gone. You should not have brought me to
this place.”

Aristo groaned.

“Shall I,” she continued, “worship any but Him? Shall I say that He whom I
see not, whom I seek, is our Jupiter, or Cæsar, or the goddess Rome? They
are none of them images of this inward guide of mine. I sacrifice to Him
alone.”

The two men looked at each other in amazement: one of them in anger.

“It’s like the demon of Socrates,” said Aristo, timidly.

“I will acknowledge Cæsar in every fitting way,” she repeated; “but I will
not make him my God.”

Presently she added, “Polemo, will not that invisible Monitor have
something to say to all of us,—to you,—at some future day?”

“Spare me! spare me, Callista!” cried Polemo, starting up with a violence
unsuited to his station and profession. “Spare my ears, unhappy
woman!—such words have never hitherto entered them. I did not come to be
insulted. Poor, blind, hapless, perverse spirit—I separate myself from you
for ever! Desert, if you will, the majestic, bright, beneficent traditions
of your forefathers, and live in this frightful superstition! Farewell!”

He did not seem better pleased with Aristo than with Callista, though
Aristo helped him into his litter, walked by his side, and did what he
could to propitiate him.



                              CHAPTER XXIX.


                               CONVERSION.


If there is a state of mind utterly forlorn, it is that in which we left
the poor prisoner after Polemo had departed. She was neither a Christian,
nor was she not. She was in the midway region of inquiry, which as surely
takes time to pass over, except there be some almost miraculous
interference, as it takes time to walk from place to place. You see a
person coming towards you, and you say, impatiently, “Why don’t you come
faster?—why are you not here already?” Why?—because it takes time. To see
that heathenism is false,—to see that Christianity is true,—are two acts,
and involve two processes. They may indeed be united, and the truth may
supplant the error; but they may not. Callista obeyed, as far as truth was
brought home to her. She saw the vanity of idols before she had faith in
Him who came to destroy them. She could safely say, “I discard Jupiter:”
she could not say, “I am a Christian.” Besides, what did she know of
Christians? How did she know that they would admit her, if she wished it?
They were a secret society, with an election, an initiation, and
oaths;—not a mere philosophical school, or a profession of opinion, open
to any individual. If they were the good people that she fancied them to
be,—and if they were not, she would not think of them at all,—they were
not likely to accept of her.

Still, though we may account for her conduct, its issue was not, on that
account, the less painful. She had neither the promise of this world, nor
of the next, and was losing earth without gaining heaven. Our Lord is
reported to have said, “Be ye good money-changers.” Poor Callista did not
know how to turn herself to account. It had been so all through her short
life. She had ardent affections, and keen sensibilities, and high
aspirations; but she was not fortunate in the application of them. She had
put herself into her brother’s hands, and had let him direct her course.
It could not be expected that he would be very different from the world.
We are cautioned against “rejoicing in our youth.” Aristo rejoiced in his
without restraint; and he made his sister rejoice in hers, if enjoyment it
was. He himself found in the pleasures he pointed out a banquet of
fruits:—she dust and ashes. And so she went on; not changing her life,
from habit, from the captivity of nature, but weary, disappointed,
fastidious, hungry, yet not knowing what she would have; yearning after
something, she did not well know what. And as heretofore she had cast her
lot with the world, yet had received no price for her adhesion, so now she
had bid it farewell; yet had nothing to take in its place.

As to her brother, after the visit of Polemo, he got more and more
annoyed—angry rather than distressed, and angry with her. One more
opportunity occurred of her release, and it was the last effort he made to
move her. Cornelius, in spite of his pomposity, had acted the part of a
real friend. He wrote from Carthage, that he had happily succeeded in his
application to government, and, difficult and unusual as was the grace,
had obtained her release. He sent the formal documents for carrying it
through the court, and gained the eager benediction of the excitable
Aristo. He rushed with the parchments to the magistrates, who recognised
them as sufficient, and got an order for admission to her room.

“Joy, my dearest,” he cried; “you are free! We will leave this loathsome
country by the first vessel. I have seen the magistrates already.”

The colour came into her wan face, she clasped her hands together, and
looked earnestly at Aristo. He proceeded to explain the process of
liberation. She would not be called on to sacrifice, but must sign a
writing to the effect that she had done so, and there would be an end of
the whole matter. On the first statement she saw no difficulty in the
proposal, and started up in animation. Presently her countenance fell; how
could she say that she had done what it was treason to her inward Guide to
do? What was the difference between acknowledging a blasphemy by a
signature or by incense? She smiled sorrowfully at him, shook her head,
and lay down again upon her rushes. She had anticipated the Church’s
judgment on the case of the _Libellatici_.

Aristo could not at first believe he heard aright, that she refused to be
saved by what seemed to him a matter of legal form; and his anger grew so
high as to eclipse and to shake his affection. “Lost girl,” he cried, “I
abandon you to the Furies!” and he shook his clenched hand at her. He
turned away, and said he would never see her again, and he kept his word.
He never came again. He took refuge, with less restraint than was usual to
him, in such pleasures as the city could supply, and strove to drive his
sister from his mind by dissipation. He mixed in the games of the Campus
Martius under the shadow of the mountain; took part with the revellers in
the Forum, and ended the evening at the Thermæ. Sometimes the image of
dear Callista, as once she looked, would rush into his mind with a force
which would not be denied, and he would weep for a whole night.

At length he determined to destroy himself, after the example of so many
great men. He gave a sumptuous entertainment, expending his means upon it,
and invited his friends to partake of it. It passed off with great gaiety;
nothing was wanting to make it equal to an occasion so special and
singular. He disclosed to his guests his purpose, and they applauded; the
last libations were made—the revellers departed—the lights were
extinguished. Aristo disappeared that night: Sicca never saw him again.
After some time it was found that he was at Carthage, and he had been
provident enough to take with him some of his best working tools, and some
specimens of his own and poor Callista’s skill.

Strange to say, Jucundus proved a truer friend to the poor girl than her
brother. In spite of his selfishness and hatred of Christians, he was
considerably affected as her case got more and more serious, and it became
evident that only one answer could be returned to the magistrates from
Carthage. He was quite easy about Agellius, who had, as he considered,
successfully made off with himself, and he was reconciled to the thought
of never seeing him again. Had it not been for this, one might have
fancied that some lurking anxiety about the fate of his nephew might have
kept alive the fidget which Callista’s dismal situation gave him, for the
philosopher tells us, that pity always has something in it of self; but,
under the circumstances, it would be rash judgment to have any such
suspicion of his motives. He was not a cruel man: even the “hoary-headed
Fabian,” or Cyprian, or others whom he so roundly abused, would have
found, when it came to the point, that his bluster was his worst weapon
against them; at any rate he had enough of the “milk of human kindness” to
feel considerable distress about that idiotic Callista.

Yet what could he do? He might as well stop the passage of the sun, as the
movements of mighty Rome, and a rescript would be coming to a certainty in
due time from Carthage, and would just say one thing, which would
forthwith be passing into the region of fact. He had no one to consult,
and to tell the truth, Callista’s fate was more than acquiesced in by the
public of Sicca. Her death seemed a solution of various perplexities and
troubles into which the edict had brought them; it would be purchasing the
praise of loyalty cheaply. Moreover, there were sets of men actually
hostile to her and her brother; the companies of statuaries, lapidaries,
and goldsmiths, were jealous of foreign artists like them, who showed
contempt for Africa, and who were acquainted, or rather intimate, with
many of the higher classes, and even high personages in the place. Well,
but could not some of those great people help her now? His mind glanced
towards Calphurnius, whom he had heard of as in some way or other
protecting her on the evening of the riot, and to him he determined to
betake himself.

Calphurnius and the soldiery were still in high dudgeon with the populace
of Sicca, displeased with the magistrates, and full of sympathy for
Callista. Jucundus opened his mind fully to the tribune, and persuaded him
to take him to Septimius, his military superior, and in the presence of
the latter many good words were uttered both by Calphurnius and Jucundus.
Jucundus gave it as his opinion that it was a very great mistake to strike
at any but the leaders of the Christian sect; he quoted the story of King
Tarquin and the poppies, and assured the great man that it was what he had
always said and always prophesied, and that, depend upon it, it was a
great mistake not to catch Cyprianus.

“The strong arm of the law,” he said, “should not, on the other hand, be
put forth against such butterflies as this Callista, a girl who, he knew
from her brother, had not yet seen eighteen summers. What harm could such
a poor helpless thing possibly do? She could not even defend herself, much
less attack anybody else. No,” he continued, “your proper policy with
these absurd people is a smiling face and an open hand. Recollect the
fable of the sun and the wind; which made the traveller lay aside his
cloak? Do you fall in with some sour-visaged, stiff-backed worshipper of
the Furies? fill his cup for him, crown his head with flowers, bring in
the flute-women. Observe him—he relaxes; a smile spreads on his
countenance; he laughs at a jest; ‘captus est; habet:’ he pours a
libation. Great Jove has conquered! he is loyal to Rome; what can you
desire more? But beat him, kick him, starve him, turn him out of doors;
and you have a natural enemy to do you a mischief whenever he can.”

Calphurnius took his own line, and a simple one. “If it was some vile
slave or scoundrel African,” he said, “no harm would have been done; but,
by Jupiter Tonans, it’s a Greek girl, who sings like a Muse, dances like a
Grace, and spouts verses like Minerva. ’Twould be sacrilege to touch a
hair of her head; and we forsooth are to let these cowardly dogs of
magistrates entrap Fortunianus at Carthage into this solecism.”

Septimius said nothing, as became a man in office; but he came to an
understanding with his visitors. It was plain that the Duumvirs of Sicca
had no legal custody of Callista; in a criminal matter she might seem to
fall under the jurisdiction of the military; and Calphurnius gained leave
to claim his right at the proper moment. The rest of his plan the tribune
kept to himself, nor did Septimius wish to know it. He intended to march a
guard into the prison shortly before Callista was brought out for
execution, and then to make it believed that she had died under the
horrors of the Barathrum. The corpse of another woman could without
difficulty be found to be her representative, and she herself would be
carried off to the camp.



Meanwhile, to return to the prisoner herself, what was the consolation,
what the occupation of Callista in this waiting time, ere the Proconsul
had sent his answer? Strange to say, and, we suppose, from a sinful
waywardness in her, she had, up to this moment, neglected to avail herself
of a treasure, which by a rare favour had been put into her possession. A
small parchment, carefully written, elaborately adorned, lay in her bosom,
which might already have been the remedy of many a perplexity, many a woe.
It is difficult to say under what feelings she had been reluctant to open
the Holy Gospel, which Cæcilius had intrusted to her care. Whether she was
so low and despondent that she could not make the effort, or whether she
feared to convince herself further, or whether she professed to be waiting
for some calmer time, as if that were possible, or whether her
unwillingness was that which makes sick people so averse to eating, or to
remedies which they know would be useful to them, cannot well be
determined; but there are many of us who may be able, from parallel
instances of infirmity, to enter into that state of mind, which led her at
least to procrastinate what she might do any minute. However, now left
absolutely to herself, Aristo gone, and the answer of the government to
the magistracy not having yet come, she recurred to the parchment, and to
the Bishop’s words, which ran, “Here you will see who it is we love,” or
language to that effect. It was tightly lodged under her girdle, and so
had escaped in the confusion of that terrible evening. She opened it at
length and read.

It was the writing of a provincial Greek; elegant, however, and marked
with that simplicity which was to her taste the elementary idea of a
classic author. It was addressed to one Theophilus, and professed to be a
carefully digested and verified account of events which had been already
attempted by others. She read a few paragraphs, and became interested, and
in no long time she was absorbed in the volume. When she had once taken it
up, she did not lay it down. Even at other times she would have prized it,
but now, when she was so desolate and lonely, it was simply a gift from an
unseen world. It opened a view of a new state and community of beings,
which only seemed too beautiful to be possible. But not into a new state
of things alone, but into the presence of One who was simply distinct and
removed from anything that she had, in her most imaginative moments, ever
depicted to her mind as ideal perfection. Here was that to which her
intellect tended, though that intellect could not frame it. It could
approve and acknowledge, when set before it, what it could not originate.
Here was He who spoke to her in her conscience; whose Voice she heard,
whose Person she was seeking for. Here was He who kindled a warmth on the
cheek of both Chione and Agellius. That image sank deep into her; she felt
it to be a reality. She said to herself, “This is no poet’s dream; it is
the delineation of a real individual. There is too much truth and nature,
and life and exactness about it, to be anything else.” Yet she shrank from
it; it made her feel her own difference from it, and a feeling of
humiliation came upon her mind, such as she never had had before. She
began to despise herself more thoroughly day by day; yet she recollected
various passages in the history which reassured her amid her
self-abasement, especially that of His tenderness and love for the poor
girl at the feast, who would anoint His feet; and the full tears stood in
her eyes, and she fancied she was that sinful child, and that He did not
repel her.

O what a new world of thought she had entered! it occupied her mind from
its very novelty. Everything looked dull and dim by the side of it; her
brother had ever been dinning into her ears that maxim of the heathen,
“Enjoy the present, trust nothing to the future.” She indeed could not
enjoy the present with that relish which he wished, and she had not any
trust in the future either; but this volume spoke a different doctrine.
There she learned the very opposite to what Aristo taught—viz., that the
present must be sacrificed for the future; that what is seen must give way
to what is believed. Nay, more, she drank in the teaching which at first
seemed so paradoxical, that even present happiness and present greatness
lie in relinquishing what at first sight seems to promise them; that the
way to true pleasure is, not through self-indulgence, but through
mortification; that the way to power is weakness, the way to success
failure, the way to wisdom foolishness, the way to glory dishonour. She
saw that there was a higher beauty than that which the order and harmony
of the natural world revealed, and a deeper peace and calm than that which
the exercise, whether of the intellect or of the purest human affection,
can supply. She now began to understand that strange, unearthly composure,
which had struck her in Chione, Agellius, and Cæcilius; she understood
that they were detached from the world, not because they had not the
possession, nor the natural love of its gifts, but because they possessed
a higher blessing already, which they loved above everything else. Thus,
by degrees, Callista came to walk by a new philosophy; and had ideas, and
principles, and a sense of relations and aims, and a susceptibility of
arguments, to which before she was an utter stranger. Life and death,
action and suffering, fortunes and abilities, all had now a new meaning
and application. As the skies speak differently to the philosopher and the
peasant, as a book of poems to the imaginative and to the cold and narrow
intellect, so now she saw her being, her history, her present condition,
her future, in a new light, which no one else could share with her. But
the ruling sovereign thought of the whole was He, who exemplified all this
wonderful philosophy in Himself.



                               CHAPTER XXX.


                              TORRES VEDRAS.


There were those, however, whom Callista could understand, and who could
understand her; there were those who, while Aristo, Cornelius, Jucundus,
and Polemo were moving in her behalf, were interesting themselves also in
her, and in a more effectual way. Agellius had joined Cæcilius, and, if in
no other way, by his mouth came to the latter and his companions the news
of her imprisonment. On the morning that Agellius had been so strangely
let out of confinement by his brother, and found himself seated at the
street-door, with his tunic on his arm and his boots on the ground before
him, his first business was to recollect where he was, and to dispose of
those articles of dress according to their respective uses. What should he
do with himself, was of course his second thought. He could not stay there
long without encountering the early risers of Sicca, the gates being
already open. To attempt to find out where Callista was, and then to see
her or rescue her, would have ended at once in his own capture. To go to
his own farm would have been nearly as dangerous, and would have had less
meaning. Cæcilius too had said, that they were not long to be separated,
and had given him directions for finding him.

Immediately then he made his way to one of the eastern gates, which led to
Thibursicumbur. There was indeed no time to be lost, as he soon had
indications; he met several men who knew him by sight, and one of the
apparitors of the Duumviri, who happily did not. An apostate Christian,
whose zeal for the government was notorious, passed him and looked back
after him. However, he would soon be out of pursuit, if he had the start
of them until the sun got round the mountains he was seeking. He walked on
through a series of rocky and barren hills, till he got some way past the
second milestone. Before he had reached the third he had entered a defile
in the mountains. Perpendicular rocks rose on each side of him, and the
level road, reaching from rock to rock, was not above thirty feet across.
He felt that if he was pursued here, there was no escape. The third
milestone passed, he came to the country road; he pursued it, counting out
his thousand steps, as Cæcilius had instructed him. By this time it had
left the stony bottom, and was rising up the side of the precipice.
Brushwood and dwarf pines covered it, mingled with a few olives and
caroubas. He said out his seven pater nosters as he walked, and then
looked around. He had just passed a goatherd, and they looked hard at each
other. Agellius wished him good morning.

“You are wishing a kid for Bacchus, sir,” said the man to him as he was
running his eye over the goats. On Agellius answering in the negative, he
said in a clownish way, “He who does not sacrifice to Bacchus does not
sacrifice goats.”

Agellius, bearing in mind Cæcilius’s directions, saw of course there was
something in the words which did not meet the ear, and answered
carelessly, “He who does not sacrifice, does not sacrifice to Bacchus.”

“True,” said the man, “but perhaps you prefer a lamb for a sacrifice.”

Agellius replied, “If it is the right one; but the one I mean was slain
long since.”

The man, without any change of manner, went on to say that there was an
acquaintance of his not far up the rock, who could perhaps satisfy him on
the point. He said, “Follow those wild olives, though the path seems
broken, and you will come to him at the nineteenth.”

Agellius set out, and never was path so untrue to its own threats. It
seemed ending in abrupt cliffs every turn, but never fulfilled the
anticipation; that is, while he kept to the olive-trees. After ascending
what was rather a flight of marble steps, washed and polished by the
winter torrents, than a series of crags, he fulfilled the number of trees,
and looked round at the man sitting under it. O the joy and surprise! it
was his old servant Aspar.

“You are safe, then, Aspar,” he said, “and I find you here. O what a
tender Providence!”

“I have taken my stand here, master,” returned Aspar, “day after day,
since I got here, in hopes of seeing you. I could not get back to you from
Jucundus’s that dreadful morning, and so I made my way here. Your uncle
sent for you in my presence, but at the time I did not know what it meant.
I was able to escape.”

“And now for Cæcilius,” said Agellius.

Behind the olive-tree a torrent’s bed descended; the descent being so
easy, and yet so natural, that art had evidently interfered with nature,
yet concealed its interference. After tracing it some yards, they came to
a chasm on the opposite side; and, passing through it, Agellius soon found
himself, to his surprise, on a bleak open hill, to which the huge mountain
formed merely a sort of _façade_. Its surface was half rock, half moor,
and it was surrounded by precipices. It was such a place as some hermit of
the middle ages might have chosen for his solitude. The two walked briskly
across it, and at length came to a low, broad yawning opening, branching
out into several passages which, if pursued, would have been found to end
in nothing. Aspar, however, made straight for what appeared a dead wall of
rock, in which, on his making a signal, a door, skilfully hidden, was
opened from within, and was shut behind them by the porter. They now stood
in a gallery running into the mountain. It was very long, and a stream of
cold air came along it. Aspar told him that at the extremity of it they
should find Cæcilius.

Agellius was indeed in the vestibule of a remarkable specimen of those
caves which had been used for religious purposes, first by the aborigines
of the country, then by the Phœnician colonists, and in the centuries
which had just passed, for the concealment of the Christians. The passage
along which they were proceeding might itself be fitly called a cave, but
still it was only one of several natural subterraneans, of different
shapes, and opening into each other. Some of them lay along the face of a
ravine, from which they received light and air; and here in one place
there were indications of a fortified front. They were perfectly dry,
though the water had at some remote period filtered through the roof, and
had formed pendants and pillars of semi-transparent stalactite, of great
beauty. It was another and singular advantage that a particular spot in
one of the caverns, which bordered on the ravine, was the focus of an
immense ear or whispering-gallery, such, that whatever took place in the
public road in which the ravine terminated, could be distinctly heard
there, and thus they were always kept on guard against the attack of an
enemy, if expected. Had either Agellius or Aspar been curious about such a
matter, the latter might have pointed out the place where a Punic altar
once had been discovered, with a sort of _tumulus_ of bones of mice near
at hand, that animal coming into the list of victims in the Phœnician
worship.

But the two Christians were engaged, as they first halted, and then walked
along the corridor, in other thoughts, than in asking and answering
questions about the history of the place of refuge in which they found
themselves. We have already remarked on the central position of Sicca for
the purpose of missionary work and of retreat in persecution; such a
dwelling in the rocks did but increase its advantageousness, and in
consequence at this moment many Christians had availed themselves of it.
It is an English proverb that three removes are as bad as a fire; and so
great were the perils and the hardships of flight in those times, that it
was a question, in a merely earthly point of view, whether the risk of
being apprehended at home was not a far less evil than the evils which
were certain upon leaving it. There was nothing, then, ungenerous in the
ecclesiastical rule that they alone should flee, in persecution, who were
marked out for death, if they stayed. The laity, private families, and the
priests, on whose ministrations they depended, remained; bishops, deacons,
and what may be called the staff of the episcopate, notaries, messengers,
seminarists, and ascetics, would disappear from the scene of persecution.

Agellius learned from his slave that the cave had been known to him from
the time he was a boy, and that it was one of the secrets which all who
shared it religiously observed. Holy men, it seemed, had had intimations
of the present trial for several years past; and it was the full
persuasion of the heads of the Church, that, though it might blow over for
a short time, it would recur at intervals for many years, ending in a
visitation so heavy and long, that the times of Antichrist would seem to
have arrived. However, the impression upon their minds was, that then
would come a millennium, or, in some sort, a reign of the saints upon the
earth. That, however, was a date which even Agellius himself, young as he
was, would not be likely to reach; indeed, who could expect to escape, who
might not hope to gain, a Martyr’s death, in the interval, in the series
of assaults, between which Christianity had to run the gauntlet? Aspar
said, moreover, that some martyrs lay in the chapels within, and that
various confessors had ended their days there. At the present time there
were representatives, there collected, of a large portion of the Churches
of the Proconsulate. A post, so to call it, went between them and Carthage
every week, and his friend and father, the bishop of that city, was
especially busy in correspondence.

Moreover, Agellius learned from him that they had many partisans,
well-wishers, and sympathizers, about the country, whom no one suspected;
the families of parents who had conformed to the established worship, nay,
sometimes the apostates themselves, and that this was the case in Sicca as
well as elsewhere. For himself, old and ignorant as he was, the
persecution had proved to him an education. He had been brought near great
men, and some who, he was confident, would be martyrs in the event. He had
learned a great deal about his religion which he did not know before, and
had drunk in the spirit of Christianity, with a fulness which he trusted
would not turn to his ultimate condemnation. He now too had a
consciousness of the size and populousness of the Church, of her
diffusion, of the promises made to her, of the essential necessity of what
seemed to be misfortune, of the episcopal regimen, and of the power and
solidity of the see of Peter afar off in Rome, all which knowledge had
made him quite another being. We have put all this into finer language
than the good old man used himself, and we have grouped it more exactly,
but this is what his words would come to, when explained.

Coming down to sublunary matters, Aspar said the cave was well
provisioned; they had bread, oil, figs, dried grapes, and wine. They had
vessels and vestments for the Holy Sacrifice. Their serious want was a
dearth of water at that season, but they relied on Divine Providence to
give them by miracle, if in no other way, a supply. The place was
piercingly cold too in the winter.

By this time they had gained the end of the long gallery, and passed
through a second apartment, when suddenly the sounds of the ecclesiastical
chant burst on the ear of Agellius. How strange, how transporting to him!
he was almost for the first time coming home to his father’s house, though
he had been a Christian from a child, and never, as he trusted, to leave
it, now that it was found. He did not know how to behave himself, nor
indeed where to go. Aspar conducted him into the seats set apart for the
faithful; he knelt down and burst into tears.

It was approaching the third hour, the hour at which the Paraclete
originally descended upon the Apostles, and which, when times of
persecution were passed, was appointed in the West for the solemn mass of
the day. In that early age, indeed, the time of the solemnity was
generally midnight, in order to elude observation; but even then such an
hour was considered of but temporary arrangement. Pope Telesphorus is said
to have prescribed the hour, afterwards in use, as early even as the
second century; and in a place of such quiet and security as the cavern in
which we just now find ourselves, there was no reason why it should not be
selected. At the lower end of the chapel was a rail extending across it,
and open in the middle, where its two portions turned up at right angles
on each side towards the altar. The enclosure thus made was the place
proper for the faithful, into which Agellius had been introduced, and
about fifty persons were collected about him. Where the two side-rails
which ran up the chapel ceased, there was a broad step; and upon it two
pulpits, one on each side. Then came a second elevation, carrying the eye
on to the extremity of the upper end.

In the middle of the wall at that upper end is a recess, occupied by a
tomb. On the front of it is written the name of some glorious champion of
the faith who lies there. It is one of the first bishops of Sicca, and the
inscription attests that he slept in the Lord under the Emperor Antoninus.
Over the sacred relics is a slab, and on the slab the Divine Mysteries are
now to be celebrated. At the back is a painting on the wall, very similar
to that in Agellius’s cottage. The ever-blessed immaculate Mother of God
is exercising her office as the Advocate of sinners, standing by the
sacrifice as she stood at the cross itself, and offering up and applying
its infinite merits and incommunicable virtue in union with priest and
people. So instinctive in the Christian mind is the principle of
decoration, as it may be called, that even in times of suffering, and
places of banishment, we see it brought into exercise. Not only is the
arch which overspans the altar ornamented with an arabesque pattern, but
the roof or vault is coloured with paintings. Our Lord is in the centre,
with two figures of Moses on each side, on the right unloosing his
sandals, on the left striking the rock. Between the centre figure and the
altar may be seen the raising of Lazarus; in the opposite partition the
healing of the paralytic; at the four angles are men and women alternately
in the attitude of prayer.

At this time the altar-stone was covered with a rich crimson silk, with
figures of St. Peter and St. Paul worked in gold upon it, the gift of a
pious lady of Carthage. Beyond the altar, but not touching it, was a
cross; and on one side of the altar a sort of basin or _piscina_ cut in
the rock, with a linen cloth hanging up against it. There were no candles
upon the altar itself, but wax lights fixed into silver stands were placed
at intervals along the edge of the presbytery or elevation.

The mass was in behalf of the confessors for the faith then in prison in
Carthage; and the sacred ministers, some half-hour after Agellius’s
entrance, made their appearance. Their vestments already varied somewhat
from the ordinary garments of the day, and bespoke antiquity; and, though
not so simply _sui generis_ as they are now, they were so far special,
that they were never used on any other occasion, but were reserved for the
sacred service. The neck was bare, the amice being as yet unknown; instead
of the stole was what was called the _orarium_, a sort of handkerchief
resting on the shoulders, and falling down on each side. The alb had been
the inner garment, or _camisium_, which in civil use was retained at night
when the other garments were thrown off; and, as at the present day, it
was confined round the waist by a zone or girdle. The maniple was a
napkin, supplying the place of a handkerchief; and the chasuble was an
ample _pænula_, such as was worn by the judges, a cloak enveloping the
whole person round, when spread out, with an opening in the centre,
through which the head might pass. The deacon’s dalmatic was much longer
than it is now, and the subdeacon’s tunicle resembled the alb. All the
vestments were of the purest white.

The mass began by the bishop giving his blessing; and then the Lector, a
man of venerable age, taking the roll called _Lectionarium_, and
proceeding to a pulpit, read the Prophets to the people, much in the way
observed among ourselves still on holy Saturday and the vigil of
Pentecost. These being finished, the people chanted the first verse of the
_Gloria Patri_, after which the clergy alternated with the people the
_Kyrie_, pretty much as the custom is now.

Here a fresh roll was brought to the Lector, then or afterwards called
_Apostolus_, from which he read one of the canonical epistles. A psalm
followed, which was sung by the people; and, after this, the Lector
received the _Evangeliarium_, and read a portion of the Gospel, at which
lights were lighted, and the people stood. When he had finished, the
Lector opened the roll wide, and, turning round, presented it to bishop,
clergy, and people to kiss.

The deacon then cried out, “Ite in pace, catechumeni,” “Depart in peace,
catechumens;” and then the kiss of peace was passed round, and the people
began to sing some psalms or hymns. While they were so engaged, the deacon
received from the acolyte the _sindon_, or corporal, which was of the
length of the altar, and perhaps of greater breadth, and spread it upon
the sacred table. Next was placed on the _sindon_ the _oblata_, that is,
the small loaves, according to the number of communicants, with the paten,
which was large, and a gold chalice, duly prepared. And then the _sindon_,
or corporal, was turned back over them, to cover them as a pall.

The celebrant then advanced: he stood at the further side of the altar,
where the candles are now, with his face to the people, and then began the
holy sacrifice. First he incensed the _oblata_, that is, the loaves and
chalice, as an acknowledgment of God’s sovereign dominion, and as a token
of uplifted prayer to Him. Then the roll of prayers was brought him, while
the deacon began what is sometimes called the bidding prayer, being a
catalogue of the various subjects for which intercession is to be made,
after the manner of the _Oremus dilectissimi_, now used on Good Friday.
This catalogue included all conditions of men, the conversion of the
world, the exaltation of Holy Church, the maintenance of the Roman empire,
the due ripening and gathering of the fruits of the earth, and other
spiritual and temporal blessings,—subjects very much the same as those
which are now called the Pope’s intentions. The prayers ended with a
special reference to those present, that they might persevere in the Lord
even to the end. And then the priest began the _Sursum corda_, and said
the _Sanctus_.

The Canon or _Actio_ seems to have run, in all but a few words, as it does
now, and the solemn words of consecration were said secretly. Great stress
was laid on the Lord’s prayer, which in one sense terminated the function.
It was said aloud by the people, and when they said, “Forgive us our
trespasses,” they beat their breasts.

It is not wonderful that Agellius, assisting for almost the first time at
this wonderful solemnity, should have noted everything as it occurred; and
we must be considered as giving our account of it from his mouth.

It needs not to enlarge on the joy of the meeting which followed between
Cæcilius and his young penitent. “O my father,” he said, “I come to thee,
never to leave thee, to be thy dutiful servant, and to be trained by thee
after the pattern of Him who made thee what thou art. Wonderful things
have happened; Callista is in prison on the charge of Christianity; I was
in a sort of prison myself, or what was worse for my soul; and Juba, my
brother, in the strangest of ways, has this morning let me out. Shall she
not be saved, my father, in God’s own way, as well as I? At least we can
all pray for her; but surely we can do more—so precious a soul must not be
left to herself and the world. If she has the trials, she may claim the
blessings of a Christian. Is she to go back to heathenism? Is she, alas!
to suffer without baptism? Shall we not hazard death to bestow on her that
grace?”



                              CHAPTER XXXI.


                               THE BAPTISM.


We have already had occasion to mention that there were many secret
well-wishers, or at least protectors, of Christians, as in the world at
large, so also in Sicca. There were many persons who had received benefits
from their charity, and had experience of the scandalous falsehood of the
charges now circulated against them. Others would feel a generosity
towards a cruelly persecuted body; others, utterly dead to the subject of
religion, or rather believing all religions to be impostures, would not
allow it to be assumed that only one was worthy of bad treatment. Others
liked what they heard of the religion itself, and thought there was truth
in it, though it had no claim to a monopoly of truth. Others felt it to be
true, but shrank from the consequences of openly embracing it. Others, who
had apostatised through fear of the executioner, intended to come back to
it at the last. It must be added that in the African Church confessors in
prison had, or were considered to have, the remarkable privilege of
gaining the public forgiveness of the Church for those who had lapsed; it
was an object, then, for all those who, being in that miserable case,
wished some day to be restored, to gain their promise of assistance, or
their good-will. To these reasons was added, in Callista’s case, the
interest which naturally attached to a woman, young and defenceless.

The burning sun of Africa is at the height of its power. The population is
prostrated by heat, by scarcity, by pestilence, and by the decimation
which their riot brought upon them. They care neither for Christianity,
nor for anything else just now. They lie in the porticoes, in the caverns
under the city, in the baths. They are more alive at night. The
_apparitor_, in whose dwelling Callista was lodged, who was himself once a
Christian, lies in the shade of the great doorway, into which his rooms
open, asleep, or stupefied. Two men make their appearance about two hours
before sunset, and demand admittance to Callista. The jailor asks if they
are not the two Greeks, her brother and the rhetorician, who had visited
her before. The junior of the strangers drops a purse heavy with coin into
his lap, and passes on with his companion. When the mind is intent on
great subjects or aims, heat and cold, hunger and thirst, lose their power
of enfeebling it; thus perhaps we must account for the energy now
displayed both by the two ecclesiastics and by Callista herself.

She too thought it was the unwelcome philosopher come again; she gave a
start and a cry of delight when she saw it was Cæcilius. “My father,” she
said, “I want to be a Christian, if I may; He came to save the lost sheep.
I have learnt such things from this book—let me give it you while I can. I
am not long for this world. Give me Him who spoke so kindly to that woman.
Take from me my load of sin, and then I will gladly go.” She knelt at his
feet, and gave the roll of parchment into his hand.

“Rise and sit,” he answered. “Let us think calmly over the matter.”

“I am ready,” she insisted. “Deny me not my wish, when time is so
urgent—if I may have it.”

“Sit down calmly,” he said again; “I am not refusing you, but I wish to
know about you.” He could hardly keep from tears, of pain, or of joy, or
of both, when he saw the great change which trial had wrought in her. What
touched him most was the utter disappearance of that majesty of mien,
which once was hers, a gift, so beautiful, so unsuitable to fallen man.
There was instead of it a frank humility, a simplicity without
concealment, an unresisting meekness, which seemed as if it would enable
her, if trampled on, to smile and to kiss the feet that insulted her. She
had lost every vestige of what the world worships under the titles of
proper pride and self-respect. Callista was now living, not in the thought
of herself, but of Another.

“God has been very good to you,” he continued; “but in the volume you have
returned to me He bids us ‘reckon the charges.’ Can you drink of His
chalice? Recollect what is before you.”

She still continued kneeling, with a touching earnestness of face and
demeanour, and with her hands crossed upon her breast.

“I _have_ reckoned,” she replied; “heaven and hell: I prefer heaven.”

“You are on earth,” said Cæcilius; “not in heaven or hell. You must bear
the pangs of earth before you drink the blessedness of heaven.”

“He has given me the firm purpose,” she said, “to gain heaven, to escape
hell; and He will give me too the power.”

“Ah, Callista!” he answered, in a voice broken with distress, “you know
not what you will have to bear, if you join yourself to Him.”

“He has done great things for me already; I am wonderfully changed; I am
not what I was. He will do more still.”

“Alas, my child!” said Cæcilius, “that feeble frame, ah! how will it bear
the strong iron, or the keen flame, or the ruthless beast? My child, what
do _I_ feel, who am free, thus handing you over to be the sport of the
evil one?”

“Father, I have chosen Him,” she answered, “not hastily, but on
deliberation. I believe Him most absolutely. Keep me not from Him; give
Him to me, if I may ask it; give me my Love.”

Presently she added, “I have never forgotten those words of yours since
you used them; ‘Amor meus crucifixus est.’ ”

She began again, “I will be a Christian; give me my place among them. Give
me my place at the feet of Jesus, Son of Mary, my God. I wish to love Him.
I think I can love Him. Make me His.”

“He has loved you from eternity,” said Cæcilius, “and, therefore, you are
now beginning to love Him.”

She covered her eyes with her hands, and remained in profound meditation.
“I am very ignorant—very sinful,” she said at length; “but one thing I
know, that there is but One to love in the whole world, and I wish to love
him. I surrender myself to Him, if He will take me; and He shall teach me
about Himself.”

“The angry multitude, their fierce voices, the brutal executioner, the
prison, the torture, the slow, painful death.” He was speaking, not to
her, but to himself. She was calm, in spite of her fervour; but he could
not contain himself. His heart melted within him; he felt like Abraham,
lifting up his hand to slay his child.

“Time passes,” she said; “what may happen? you may be discovered. But,
perhaps,” she added, suddenly changing her tone, “it is a matter of long
initiation. Woe is me!”

“We must gird ourselves to the work, Victor,” he said to his deacon who
was with him. Cæcilius fell back and sat down, and Victor came forward. He
formally instructed her so far as the circumstances allowed. Not for
baptism only, but for confirmation, and Holy Eucharist; for Cæcilius
determined to give her all three sacraments at once.

It was a sight for angels to look down upon, and they did; when the poor
child, rich in this world’s gifts, but poor in those of eternity, knelt
down to receive that sacred stream upon her brow, which fell upon her with
almost sensible sweetness, and suddenly produced a serenity different in
kind from anything she had ever before even had the power of conceiving.

The bishop gave her confirmation, and then the Holy Eucharist. It was her
first and last communion; in a few days she renewed it, or rather
completed it, under the very Face and Form of Him whom she now believed
without seeing.

“Farewell, my dearest of children,” said Cæcilius, “till the hour when we
both meet before the throne of God. A few sharp pangs which you can count
and measure, and all will be well. You will be carried through joyously,
and like a conqueror. I know it. You could face the prospect before you
were a Christian, and you will be equal to the actual trial, now that you
are.”

“Never fear me, father,” she said in a clear, low voice. The bishop and
his deacon left the prison.



The sun had all but set, when Cæcilius and Victor passed the city gate;
and it was more than twilight as they crossed the wild hills leading to
the precipitous pass. Evil men were not their only peril in this work of
charity. They were also in danger from wild beasts in these lone wastes,
and, the heathen would have added, from bad spirits. Bad spirits Cæcilius
recognised too; but he would not have granted that they were perilous. The
two went forward, saying prayers lowly, and singing psalms, when a sudden
cry was heard, and a strong tall form rushed past them. It might be some
robber of the wild, or dangerous outcast, or savage fanatic, who knew and
hated their religion; however, while they stopped and looked, he had come,
and he was gone. But he came again, more slowly; and from his remarkable
shape Cæcilius saw that it was the brother of Agellius. He said, “Juba;”
Juba started back, and stood at a distance. Cæcilius held out his hand,
and called him on, again mentioning his name. The poor fellow came nearer:
Cæcilius’s day’s work was not at an end.

Since we last heard of him, Juba had dwelt in the mountainous tract over
which the two Christians were now passing; roaming to and fro, or beating
himself in idle fury against the adamantine rocks, and fighting with the
stern necessity of the elements. How he was sustained can hardly be
guessed, unless the impulse, which led him on the first accession of his
fearful malady, to fly upon the beasts of the desert, served him here
also. Roots too and fruits were scattered over the wild; and still more so
in the ravines, wherever any quantity of soil had been accumulated. Alas!
had the daylight lasted, in him too, as well as in Callista, Cæcilius
would have found changes, but of a very different nature; yet even in him
he would have seen a change for the better, for that old awful expression
of pride and defiance was gone. What was the use of parading a self-will,
which every moment of his life belied? His actions, his words, his hands,
his lips, his feet, his place of abode, his daily course, were in the
dominion of another, who inexorably ruled him. It was not the gentle
influence which draws and persuades; it was not the power which can be
propitiated by prayer; it was a tyranny which acted without reaction,
energetic as mind, and impenetrable as matter.

“Juba,” said Cæcilius a third time. The maniac came nearer, and then again
suddenly retreated. He stood at a short distance from Cæcilius, as if
afraid to come on, and cried out, tossing his hands wildly, “Away, black
hypocrite, come not near me! Away! hound of a priest, cross not my path,
lest I tear you to shreds!” Such visitations were no novelties to
Cæcilius; he raised his hand and made the sign of the cross, then he said,
“Come.” Juba advanced, shrieked, and used some terrible words, and rushed
upon Cæcilius, as if he would treat him as he had treated the savage wolf.
“Come?” he cried, “yes, I come!” and Victor ran up, fearing his teeth
would be in Cæcilius’s throat, if he delayed longer. The latter stood his
ground, quailing neither in eye nor in limb; he made the sign of the cross
a second time; and in spite of a manifest antagonism within him, the
stricken youth, with horrid cries, came dancing after him.

Thus they proceeded, with some signs of insurrection from time to time on
Juba’s part, but with a successful reduction of it as often on the part of
Cæcilius, till they got to the ascent by the olive-trees, where careful
walking was necessary. Then Cæcilius turned round, and beckoned him. He
came. He said, “Kneel down.” He knelt down. Cæcilius put his hand on his
head, saying to him, “Follow me close and without any disturbance.” The
three pursued their journey, and all arrived safe at the cavern. There
Cæcilius gave Juba in charge to Romanus, who had been intrusted with the
_energumens_ at Carthage.



                              CHAPTER XXXII.


                          THE IMPERIAL RESCRIPT.


Had the imperial edict been acted on by the magistrates of Sicca, without
a reference to Carthage, it is not easy to suppose that Callista would
have persevered in her refusal to commit the act of idolatry required of
her. But, to speak of second causes, the hesitation of her judges was her
salvation. Once baptised, there was no reason she should desire any
further delay of her conflict. Come it must, and come it did. While
Cæcilius was placing her beyond danger, the rescript of the Proconsul had
been received at the office of the Duumvirs.

The absence of the Proconsul from Carthage had been the cause of the
delay; and then, some investigation was needed to understand the relation
of Callista’s seizure to the riot on the one hand, and to the strong act
of the military on the other, in quelling it. It was thought that
something or other might come to light to account for the anomalous and
unaccountable position which she had taken up. The imperial government
considered it had now a clear view of her case, and its orders were
distinct and peremptory. Christianity was to cease to be. It was a subtle
foe, sapping the vitals of the state. Rome must perish, or this illegal
association. Such evasions as Callista had used were but instances of its
craft. Its treason lay, not in its being Christianity, but in its not
sacrificing to the gods of Rome. Callista was but throwing dust in their
eyes. There had been no blow struck against the treason in inland Africa.
Women had often been the most dangerous of conspirators. As she was a
stranger, there was more probability of her connection with secret
societies, and also less inconvenience in her execution. Whatever
happened, she was to be got rid of; but first her resolution was to be
broken, for the sake of the example. First, let her be brought before the
tribunal and threatened: then thrust into the Tullianum; then put upon the
rack, and returned to prison; then scorched over a slow fire; last of all,
beheaded, and left for beasts of prey. She would sacrifice ere the last
stage was reached. When she had given way, let her be given up to the
gladiators. The message ended by saying that the Proconsular Procurator,
who came by the same carriages, would preside at the process.

O wisdom of the world! and strength of the world! what are you when
matched beside the foolishness and the weakness of the Christian? You are
great in resources, manifold in methods, hopeful in prospects; but one
thing you have not,—and that is peace. You are always tumultuous,
restless, apprehensive. You have nothing you can rely upon. You have no
rock under your feet. But the humblest, feeblest Christian has that which
is impossible to you. Callista had once felt the misery of maladies akin
to yours. She had passed through doubt, anxiety, perplexity, despondency,
passion; but now she was in peace. Now she feared the torture or the flame
as little as the breeze which arose at nightfall, or the busy chatter of
the grasshoppers at the noonday. Nay, rather, she did not think of torture
and death at all, but was possessed by a peace which bore her up, as if
bodily, on its mighty wings. For hours she remained on her knees, after
Cæcilius left her: then she lay down on her rushes and slept her last
sleep.

She slept sound; she dreamed. She thought she was no longer in Africa, but
in her own Greece, more sunny and bright than before; but the inhabitants
were gone. Its majestic mountains, its rich plains, its expanse of waters,
all silent: no one to converse with, no one to sympathize with. And, as
she wandered on and wondered, suddenly its face changed, and its colours
were illuminated tenfold by a heavenly glory, and each hue upon the scene
was of a beauty she had never known, and seemed strangely to affect all
her senses at once, being fragrance and music, as well as light. And there
came out of the grottoes and glens and woods, and out of the seas, myriads
of bright images, whose forms she could not discern; and these came all
around her, and became a sort of scene or landscape, which she could not
have described in words, as if it were a world of spirits, not of matter.
And as she gazed, she thought she saw before her a well-known face, only
glorified. She, who had been a slave, now was arrayed more brilliantly
than an oriental queen; and she looked at Callista with a smile so sweet,
that Callista felt she could but dance to it.

And as she looked more earnestly, doubting whether she should begin or
not, the face changed, and now was more marvellous still. It had an
innocence in its look, and also a tenderness, which bespoke both Maid and
Mother, and so transported Callista, that she must needs advance towards
her, out of love and reverence. And the lady seemed to make signs of
encouragement: so she began a solemn measure, unlike all dances of earth,
with hands and feet, serenely moving on towards what she heard some of
them call a great action and a glorious consummation, though she did not
know what they meant. At length she was fain to sing as well as dance; and
her words were, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost;” on which another said, “A good beginning of the sacrifice.”
And when she had come close to this gracious figure, there was a fresh
change. The face, the features were the same; but the light of Divinity
now seemed to beam through them, and the hair parted, and hung down long
on each side of the forehead; and there was a crown of another fashion
than the Lady’s round about it, made of what looked like thorns. And the
palms of the hands were spread out as if towards her, and there were marks
of wounds in them. And the vestment had fallen, and there was a deep
opening in the side. And as she stood entranced before Him, and
motionless, she felt a consciousness that her own palms were pierced like
His, and her feet also. And she looked round, and saw the likeness of His
face and of His wounds upon all that company. And now they were suddenly
moving on, and bearing something or some one, heavenwards; and they too
began to sing, and their words seemed to be, “Rejoice with Me, for I have
found My sheep,” ever repeated. They went up through an avenue or long
grotto, with torches of diamonds, and amethysts, and sapphires, which lit
up its spars and made them sparkle. And she tried to look, but could not
discover what they were carrying, till she heard a very piercing cry,
which awoke her.



                             CHAPTER XXXIII.


                            A GOOD CONFESSION.


The cry came from the keeper’s wife, whom we have described as kindly
disposed to her. She was a Lybo-Phœnician, and spoke a broken Latin; but
the language of sympathy is universal, in spite of Babel. “Callista,” she
exclaimed; “girl, they have sent for you; you are to die. O frightful!
worse than a runaway slave,—the torture! Give in. What’s the harm? you are
so young: those terrible men with the pincers and hot bars!”

Callista sat up, and passed from her vision to her prison. She smiled and
said, “I am ready; I am going home.” The woman looked almost frightened,
and with some shade of disgust and disappointment. She, as others, might
have thought it impossible, as it was unaccountable, that when it came to
the point Callista would hold out. “She’s crazed,” she said. “I am ready,
mother,” Callista said, and she got up. “You have been very good to me,”
she continued; “I have been saying many prayers for you, while my prayers
were of no good, for then He was not mine. But now I have espoused Him,
and am going to be married to-day, and He will hear me.” The woman stared
at her stupidly, as much as to make it evident that if afterwards a change
took place in her, as in Callista, that change too, though in so different
a soul, must come of something beyond nature. She had something in her
hand, and said, “It’s useless to give a mad woman like her the packet,
which my man has brought me.”

Callista took the packet, which was directed to her, and broke the seal.
It was from her brother. The little roll of worn parchment opened; a
dagger fell out. Some lines were written on the parchment; they were dated
Carthage, and ran as follows:—

“Aristo to his dearest Callista. I write through Cornelius. You have not
had it in your power to kill me, but you have taken away half my life. For
me, I will cherish the other half, for I love life better than death. But
you love annihilation; yet, if so, die not like a slave. Die nobly,
mindful of your country; I send you the means.”

Callista was beyond reflecting on anything around her, except as in a sort
of dream. As common men think and speak of heaven, so she now thought and
spoke of earth. “I wish _Him_ to kill me, not myself,” she said. “I am His
victim. My brother! I have no brother, except One, who is calling me.”

She was carried to court, and the examination followed. We have already
given a specimen of such a process; here it will be sufficient to make use
of two documents, different in kind, as far as they go, which have come
down to us. The first is an alto-relief, which once was coloured, not
first-rate in art or execution, and of the date of the Emperor
Constantius, about a century later. It was lately discovered in the course
of excavations made at El Kaf, the modern Sicca, on the ruins of a church
or Roman basilica, for the building in question seems to have served each
purpose successively. In this sculpture the prætorium is represented, and
the tribunal of the president in it. The tribunal is a high throne, with
wings curving round on each side, making the whole construction extend to
almost a semicircle, and it is ascended by steps between the wings. The
curule chair is at the top of the steps; and in the middle and above it
are purple curtains, reaching down to the platform, drawn back on each
side, and when drawn close together running behind the chair, and
constituting what was called the _secretarium_. On one side of the
tribunal is a table covered with carpeting, and looking something like a
modern ottoman, only higher, and not level at top; and it has upon it the
Book of Mandates, the sign of jurisdiction. The sword too is represented
in the sculpture, to show a criminal case is proceeding. The procurator is
seated on the chair; he is in purple, and has a gold chain of triple
thread. We can also distinguish his lawyers, whether assessors or
_consiliarii_; also his lictors and soldiers. There, too, are the notaries
in a line below him; they are writing down the judge’s questions and the
prisoner’s answers: and one of them is turning round to her, as if to make
her speak more loudly. She herself is mounted upon a sort of platform,
called _catasta_, like that on which slaves were put up for sale. Two
soldiers are by her, who appear to have been dragging her forwards. The
executioners are also delineated, naked to the waist, with instruments of
torture in their hands.



The second document is a fragment of the _Acta Proconsularia_ of her
Passion. If, indeed, it could be trusted to the letter, as containing
Callista’s answers word for word, it would have a distinctly sacred
character, in consequence of our Lord’s words, “It shall be given you in
that hour what to speak.” However, we attach no such special value to this
document, since it comes to us through heathen notaries, who may not have
been accurate reporters; not to say that before we did so we ought to look
very carefully into its genuineness. As it is, we believe it to be as true
as any part of our narrative, and not truer. It runs as follows:—



“Cneius Messius Decius Augustus II., and Gratus, Consuls, on the seventh
before the Calends of August, in Sicca Veneria, a colony, in the Secretary
at the Tribunal, Martianus, procurator, sitting; Callista, a maker of
images, was brought up by the Commentariensis on a charge of Christianity,
and when she was placed,

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: This folly has been too long; you have
made images, and now you will not worship them.

“CALLISTA answered: For I have found my true Love, whom before I knew not.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: Your true love is, I ween, your last
love; for all were true in their time.

“CALLISTA said: I worship my true Love, who is the Only True; and He is
the Son of God, and I know none but Him.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: You will not worship the gods, but you
are willing to love their sons.

“CALLISTA said: He is the true Son of the True God; and I am His, and He
is mine.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: Let alone your loves, and swear by the
genius of the emperor.

“CALLISTA said: I have but one Lord, the King of kings, the Ruler of all.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, turned to the lictor and said: This folly is
madness; take her hand, put incense in it, and hold it over the flame.

“CALLISTA said: You may compel me by your great strength, but my own true
Lord and Love is stronger.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: You are bewitched; but we must undo the
spell. Take her to the Lignum (the prison for criminals).

“CALLISTA said: He has been there before me, and He will come to me there.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: The jailer will see to that. Let her be
brought up to-morrow.

“On the day following, Martianus, the procurator, sitting at the tribunal,
called up Callista. He said: Honour our lord, and sacrifice to the gods.

“CALLISTA said: Let me alone; I am content with my One and only Lord.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: What? did he come to you in prison, as
you hoped?

“CALLISTA said: He came to me amid much pain; and the pain was pleasant,
for He came in it.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: You have got worn and yellow, and he
will leave you.

“CALLISTA said: He loves me the more, for I am beautiful when I am black.

“MARTIANUS, the procurator, said: Throw her into the Tullianum; perhaps
she will find her god there also.

“Then the procurator entered into the Secretary, and drew the veil; and
dictated the sentence for the tabella. Then he came out, and the præco
read it:—Callista, a senseless and reprobate woman, is hereby sentenced to
be thrown into the Tullianum; then to be stretched on the equuleus; then
to be placed on a slow fire; lastly, to be beheaded, and left to the dogs
and birds.

“CALLISTA said: Thanks to my Lord and King.”



Here the Acta end: and though they seem to want their conclusion, yet they
supply nearly every thing which is necessary for our purpose. The one
subject on which a comment is needed, is the state prison, which, though
so little is said of it in the above Report, is in fact the real _medium_,
as we may call it, for appreciating its information; a few words will
suffice for our purpose.

The state prison, then, was arranged on pretty much one and the same plan
through the Roman empire, nay, we may say, throughout the ancient world.
It was commonly attached to the government buildings, and consisted of two
parts. The first was the vestibule, or outward prison, which was a hall,
approached from the prætorium, and surrounded by cells, opening into it.
The prisoners, who were confined in these cells, had the benefit of the
air and light, which the hall admitted. Such was the place of confinement
allotted to St. Paul at Cæsarea, which is said to be the “prætorium of
Herod.” And hence, perhaps, it is that, in the touching Passion of St.
Perpetua and St. Felicitas, St. Perpetua tells us that, when permitted to
have her child, though she was in the inner portion, which will next be
described, “suddenly the prison seemed to her like the prætorium.”

From this vestibule there was a passage into the interior prison, called
Robur or Lignum, from the beams of wood, which were the instruments of
confinement, or from the character of its floor. It had no window or
outlet, except this door, which, when closed, absolutely shut out light
and air. Air, indeed, and coolness might be obtained for it by the
_barathrum_, presently to be spoken of, but of what nature we shall then
see. The apartment, called Lignum, was the place into which St. Paul and
St. Silas were cast at Philippi, before it was known that they were
Romans. After scourging them severely, the magistrates, who nevertheless
were but the local authorities, and had no proper jurisdiction in criminal
cases, “put them in prison, bidding the jailer to keep them carefully;
who, on receiving such a command, put them in the inner prison, and
fastened them in the lignum.” And in the Acts of the Scillitane Martyrs we
read of the Proconsul giving sentence, “Let them be thrown into prison,
let them be put into the Lignum, till to-morrow.”

The utter darkness, the heat, and the stench of this miserable place, in
which the inmates were confined day and night, is often dwelt upon by the
martyrs and their biographers. “After a few days,” says St. Perpetua, “we
were taken to the prison, and I was frightened, for I never had known such
darkness. O bitter day! the heat was excessive by reason of the crowd
there.” In the Acts of St. Pionius, and others of Smyrna, we read that the
jailers “shut them up in the inner part of the prison, so that, bereaved
of all comfort and light, they were forced to sustain extreme torment,
from the darkness and stench of the prison.” And, in like manner, other
martyrs of Africa, about the time of St. Cyprian’s martyrdom, that is,
eight or ten years later than the date of this story, say, “We were not
frightened at the foul darkness of that place; for soon that murky prison
was radiant with the brightness of the Spirit. What days, what nights we
passed there no words can describe. The torments of that prison no
statement can equal.”

Yet there was a place of confinement even worse than this. In the floor of
this inner prison was a sort of trap-door, or hole, opening into the
_barathrum_, or pit, and called, from the original prison at Rome, the
Tullianum. Sometimes prisoners were confined here, sometimes despatched by
being cast headlong into it through the opening. It was into this pit at
Rome that St. Chrysanthus was cast; and there, and probably in other
cities, it was nothing short of the public cesspool.

It may be noticed that the Prophet Jeremiah seems to have had personal
acquaintance with Vestibule, Robur, and Barathrum. We read in one place of
his being shut up in the “atrium,” that is, the vestibule, “of the prison,
which was in the house of the king.” At another time he is in the
“ergastulum,” which would seem to be the inner prison. Lastly his enemies
let him down by ropes into the lacus or pit, in which “there was no water,
but mud.”

As to Callista, then, after the first day’s examination, she was thrown
for nearly twenty-four hours into the stifling Robur, or inner prison.
After the sentence, on the second day, she was let down, as the
commencement of her punishment, that is, of her martyrdom, into the
loathsome Barathrum, lacus, or pit, called Tullianum, there to lie for
another twenty hours before she was brought out to the equuleus or rack.



                              CHAPTER XXXIV.


                              THE MARTYRDOM.


Callista had sighed for the bright and clear atmosphere of Greece, and she
was thrown into the Robur and plunged into the Barathrum of Sicca. But in
reality, though she called it Greece, she was panting after a better
country and a more lasting home, and this country and home she had found.
She was now setting out for it.

It was, indeed, no slight marvel that she was not already there. She had
been lowered into that pit of death before noon on the day of her second
examination, and, excepting some unwholesome bread and water, according to
the custom of the prison, had had no food since she came into the custody
of the _commentariensis_ the day before. The order came from the
magistrates to bring her out earlier in the morning than was intended, or
the prison might have really effected that death which Calphurnius had
purposed to pretend. When the apparitors attempted to raise her, she
neither spoke or moved, nor could well be seen. “Black as Orcus,” said one
of the fellows, “another torch there! I can’t see where she nestles.”
“There she is, like a bundle of clothes,” said another. “Madam gets up
late this morning,” said a third. “She’s used to softer couches,” said a
fourth. “Ha! ha! ’tis a spoiler of beauty, this hole,” said a fifth. “She
is the demon of stubbornness, and must be crushed,” said the jailer; “she
likes it, or she would not choose it.” “The plague take the witch,” said
another; “we shall have better seasons when a few like her are ferreted
out.”

They got her out like a corpse, and put her on the ground outside the
prison. When she still did not move, two of them took her between them on
their shoulders and arms, and began to move forward, the instrument of
torture preceding her. The fresh air of the morning revived her; she soon
sat up. She seemed to drink in life again, and became conscious. “O
beautiful Light!” she whispered, “O lovely Light, my light and my life! O
my Light and my Life, receive me!” Gradually she became fully alive to all
that was going on. She was going to death, and that rather than deny Him
who had bought her by His own death. He had suffered for her, and she was
to suffer for Him. He had been racked on the Cross, she too was to have
her limbs dislocated after His pattern. She scarcely rested on the men’s
shoulders; and they vowed afterwards that they thought she was going to
fly away, vile witch as she was.

“The witch, the witch,” the mob screamed out, for she had now come to the
place of her conflict. “_We’ll_ pay you off for blight and pestilence!
Where’s our bread, where’s the maize and barley, where are the grapes?”
And they uttered fierce yells of execration, and seemed disposed to break
through the line of apparitors, and to tear her to pieces. Yet, after all,
it was not a very hearty uproar, but got up for the occasion. The populace
had spent their force, not to say their lives, in the riot in which she
was apprehended. The priests and priestesses of the temples had sent the
poor wretches and paid them.

The place of execution was on the north-east of the city, outside the
walls, and towards the mountain. It was where slaves were buried, and it
was as hideous as such spots usually were. The neighbourhood was wild,
open to the beasts of prey, who at night used to descend and feast upon
the corpses. As Callista approached to the scene of her suffering, the
expression of her countenance had so altered that a friend would scarce
have known it. There was a tenderness in it and a modesty which never had
been there in that old time. Her cheek had upon it a blush, as when the
rising sun suddenly touches some grey rock or tower yet it was white and
glistening too, so much so that others might have said it was like silver.
Her eyes were larger than they had been, and gazed steadfastly, as if at
what the multitude did not see. Her lips spoke of sweet peace and deep
composure. When at length she came close upon the rabble, who had been
screaming and yelling so fiercely, men, women, and boys suddenly held
their peace. It was first from curiosity, then from amazement, then from
awe. At length a fear smote through them, and a strange pity and
reverence. They almost seemed inclined to worship what stirred them so
much, they knew not how; a new idea had visited those poor ignorant souls.

A few minutes sufficed to put the rack into working order. She was laid
down upon its board in her poor bedimmed tunic, which once flashed so
bright in the sun,—she who had been ever so delicate in her apparel. Her
wrists and ankles were seized, extended, fastened to the moveable blocks
at the extremities of the plank. She spoke her last word, “For Thee, my
Lord and Love, for Thee!... Accept me, O my Love, upon this bed of pain!
And come to me, O my Love, make haste and come!” The men turned round the
wheels rapidly to and fro; the joints were drawn out of their sockets, and
then snapped in again. She had fainted. They waited for her coming-to;
they still waited; they got impatient.

“Dash some water on her,” said one. “Spit in her face, and it will do,”
said a second. “Prick her with your spike,” said a third. “Hold your wild
talk,” said a fourth; “she’s gone to the shades.” They gathered round, and
looked at her attentively. They could not bring her back. So it was: she
had gone to her Lord and her Love.

“Lay her out for the wolves and vultures,” said the _cornicularius_, and
he was going to appoint guards till nightfall, when up came the
_stationarii_ and Calphurnius in high wrath.

“You dogs!” he cried, “what trick have you been practising against the
soldiers of Rome?” However, expostulation and reproach were bootless; nor
would it answer here to go into the quarrel which ensued over the dead
body. The magistrates, having got scent of Calphurnius’s scheme, had
outwitted the tribune by assigning an earlier hour than was usual for the
execution. Life could not be recalled; nor did the soldiers of course dare
publicly to disobey the Proconsul’s order for the exposure of the corpse.
All that could be done, they did. They took her down with rude reverence
from the rack, and placed her on the sand; and then they set guards to
keep off the rabble, and to avail themselves of any opportunity which
might occur to show consideration towards her.



                              CHAPTER XXXV.


                             THE CORPO SANTO.


The sun of Africa has passed over the heavens, but has not dared with one
of his fierce rays to profane the sacred relics which lie out before him.
The mists of evening rise up, and the heavy dews fall, but they neither
bring the poison of decay to that gracious body, nor receive it thence.
The beasts of the wild are roaming and roaring at a distance, or nigh at
hand: not any one of them presumes to touch her. No vultures may promise
themselves a morning meal from such a victim, as they watch through the
night upon the high crags which overlook her. The stars have come out on
high, and, they too look down upon Callista, as if they were funeral
lights in her honour. Next the moon rises up to see what has been going
on, and edges the black hangings of the night with silver. Yet mourning
and dirge are but of formal observance, when a brave champion has died for
her God. The world of ghosts has as little power over such an one as the
world of nature. No evil spirit has aught to say to her, who has gone in
her baptismal white before the Throne. No penal fire shall be her robe,
who has been carried in her bright _flammeum_ to the Bridal Chamber of the
Lamb. A divine odour fills the air, issuing from that senseless,
motionless, broken frame. A circle of light gleams round her brow, and,
even when the daylight comes again, it there is faintly seen. Her features
have reassumed their former majesty, but with an expression of childlike
innocence and heavenly peace. The thongs have drawn blood at the wrists
and ankles, which has run and soaked into the sand; but angels received
the body from the soldiers when they took it off the rack, and it lies,
sweetly and modestly composed, upon the ground.

Passers-by stand still and gaze; idlers gather round. The report spreads
in Sicca that neither sun by day, nor moon by night, nor moist atmosphere,
nor beast of prey, has power over the wonderful corpse. Nay, that they
cannot come near it without falling under some strange influence, which
makes them calm and grave, expels bad passions, and allays commotion of
mind. Many come again and again, for the mysterious and soothing effect
she exerts upon them. They cannot talk freely about it to each other, and
are seized with a sacred fear when they attempt to do so. Those who have
merely heard their report without seeing her, say that these men have been
in a grove of the Eumenides, or have suddenly encountered the wolf. The
popular sensation continues and extends; some say it is magical, others
that it is from the great gods. Day sinks again into evening, evening
becomes night; the night wears out, and morning is coming again.

It begins to dawn: a glimmer is faintly spread abroad, and, mixing with
the dark, makes twilight, which gradually brightens, and the outlines of
nature rise dimly out of the night. Gradually the sacred body comes to
sight; and, as the light grows stronger around it, gradually too the forms
of five men emerge, who had not been there the night before. One is in
front; the rest behind with a sort of bier or litter. They stand on the
mountain side of her, and must have come from the country. It has been a
bold enterprise theirs, to expose themselves to the nightly beasts, and
now again to the rabble and the soldiers. The soldiers are at some little
distance, silent and watchful; such of the rabble as have passed the night
there have had some superstitious object in their stay. They have thought
to get portions of the flesh for magical purposes; a finger, or a tooth,
or some hair, or a portion of her tunic, or the blood-stained rope which
was twisted round her wrist and ankle.

As the light makes her at length quite visible to the youth on the other
side, who stands by himself with clasped hands and tearful eyes, he
shrinks from the sight. He turns round to his companions who are provided
with a large winding-sheet or pall, and with the help of one of them, to
the surprise of the populace, he spreads it all over the body. And having
done this, he stands again trembling, just for a few seconds, absorbed in
his meditations, praying and weeping, and nerving himself for what is to
follow. Ah, poor Agellius! you have not risen yet to the pitch of triumph;
and other thoughts must be let to range through your breast, other
emotions must spend themselves, before you are prepared simply to rejoice,
exult, and glory in the lifeless form which lies before you. You are upon
a brave work, but your heart is torn while you set hand to it, and you
linger before you begin.

It was in the pride of her earthly beauty and the full vigour and
elevation of her mind, that he last had seen her. It seemed an age since
that morning, as if a chasm ran between the now and the then, when she so
fascinated him with her presence, and so majestically rebuked him for
bowing to that fascination. Yet on his memory every incident of that
interview was fixed, and was indelible. O why should the great Creator
shatter one of His most admirable works! If the order of the sun and stars
is adorable, if the laws by which earth and sea are kept together mark the
Hand of supreme Wisdom and Power, how much nobler perfection of beauty is
manifested in man! And of human nature itself here was the supereminent
crown, a soul full of gifts, full of greatness, full of intellect, placed
in an outward form, equally surpassing in its kind, and still more
surpassingly excellent from its intimate union and subordination to the
soul, so as almost to be its simple expression; yet this choicest, rarest
specimen of Almighty skill, the Almighty had pitilessly shattered, in
order that it might inherit a higher, an eternal perfection. O mystery of
mysteries, that heaven should not be possibly obtained without such
grinding down and breaking up of our original nature! O mysterious, that
principle in us, whatever it is, and however it came there, which is so
antagonistic to God, which has so spoilt what seems so good, that all must
be undone, and must begin anew! “An enemy hath done this;” and, knowing as
much as this, and no more, we must leave the awful mystery to that day
when all things shall be made light.

Agellius has not been idle while these thoughts pass through his mind. He
has stooped down and scooped up such portions of the sand as are moistened
with her blood, and has committed them to a small bag which he has taken
out of his bosom. Then without delay, looking round to his attendants, and
signing to them, with two of the party he resolutely crossed over to the
other side of the corpse, covering it from attack, while his two
assistants who were left proceeded quickly to lay hold of it. They had
raised it, laid it on the bier, and were setting off by an unusual track
across the waste, while Agellius, Aspar, and the third were grappling with
some ruffians who had rushed upon them. Few, however, were there as yet to
take part against them, but their cries of alarm were bringing others up,
and the Christians were in growing danger of being worsted and carried
off, when suddenly the soldiers interfered. Under pretence of keeping the
peace, they laid about them with their heavy maces; and so it was, the
blows took effect on the heads and shoulders of the rabble, with but
slight injury to Agellius and his companions. The latter took instant
advantage of the diversion, and vanished out of view by the same
misleading track which their comrades had already chosen. If they, or the
party who had preceded them, came within the range of sight of any
goatherds upon the mountains, we must suppose that angels held those
heathen eyes that they should not recognise them.



                              CHAPTER XXXVI.


                    LUX PERPETUA SANCTIS TUIS, DOMINE.


The bier and its bearers, and its protectors, have reached the cave in
safety, and pace down the gallery, preceded by its Christian hosts, with
lighted tapers, singing psalms. They place the sacred body before the
altar, and the mass begins. St. Cyprian celebrates, and after the Gospel,
he adds a few words of his own.

He said that they were engaged in praising, blessing, and exalting the
adorable Grace of God, which had snatched so marvellously a brand out of
the furnace. Benedicamus Patrem et Filium cum Sancto Spiritu. Benedictus,
et laudabilis, et gloriosus, et superexaltatus in sæcula. Every day doing
marvels and exceeding all that seemed possible in power and love, by new
and still newer manifestations. A Greek had come to Africa to embellish
the shrines of heathenism, to minister to the usurpation of the evil one,
and to strengthen the old ties which connected genius with sin; and she
had suddenly found salvation. But yesterday a poor child of earth, and
to-day an inhabitant of the heavens. But yesterday without God and without
hope; and to-day a martyr with a green palm and golden vestment,
worshipping before the Throne. But yesterday the slave of Satan, and
spending herself on the vanities of time; and to-day drinking of the
never-cloying torrents of bliss everlasting. But yesterday one of a
number, a grain of a vast heap, destined indiscriminately for the flame;
to-day one of the elect souls, written from eternity in the book of life,
and predestined to glory. But yesterday, hungry and thirsty, and restless
for some object worthy an immortal spirit; to-day enjoying the ineffable
ecstasy of the Marriage Feast and the espousals of Emmanuel. But yesterday
tossed about on a sea of opinion; and to-day entranced in the vision of
infallible truth and immutable sanctity. And yet what was she but only one
instance out of ten thousand, of the Almighty and All-manifold Grace of
the Redeemer? And who was there of all of them, there assembled, from the
most heroic down to the humblest beginner, from the authoritative preacher
down to the slave or peasant, but was equally, though in his own way, a
miracle of mercy, and a vessel, once of wrath, if now of glory? Only might
he and all who heard him persevere as they had begun, so that if (as was
so probable) their trial was to be like hers, its issue might be like hers
also.

St. Cyprian ceased; and, while the deacon opened the _sindon_ for the
offertory, the faithful took up alternately the verses of a hymn, which we
here insert in a most unworthy translation:—

  “The number of Thine own complete,
    Sum up and make an end;
  Sift clean the chaff, and house the wheat,—
    And then, O Lord, descend.

  “Descend, and solve by that descent,
    This mystery of life;
  Where good and ill, together blent,
    Wage an undying strife.

  “For rivers twain are gushing still,
    And pour a mingled flood;
  Good in the very depths of ill—
    Ill in the heart of good.

  “The last are first, the first are last,
    As angel eyes behold;
  These from the sheepcote sternly cast,
    Those welcomed to the fold.

  “No Christian home, no pastor’s eye,
    No preacher’s vocal zeal,
  Moved Thy dear martyr to defy
    The prison and the wheel.

  “Forth from the heathen ranks she stepped
    The forfeit throne to claim
  Of Christian souls who had not kept
    Their birthright and their name.

  “Grace formed her out of sinful dust;
    She knelt a soul defiled;
  She rose in all the faith and trust
    And sweetness of a child.

  “And in the freshness of that love
    She preached by word and deed,
  The mysteries of the world above—
    Her new-found glorious creed.

  “And running, in a little hour,
    Of life the course complete,
  She reached the throne of endless power,
    And sits at Jesus’ feet.

  “Her spirit there, her body here,
    Make one the earth and sky;
  We use her name, we touch her bier,
    We know her God is nigh.”

The last sentiment of the yet unfinished hymn was receiving an answer
while they sang it. Juba had been brought into the chapel in the hands of
his brother and the exorcists. Since he had been under their care, he had
been, on the whole, calm and manageable, with intervals of wild tempest
and mad terror. He spoke, at times, of an awful incubus weighing on his
chest, which he could not throw off, and said he hoped that they would not
think all the blasphemies he uttered were his own. On this occasion, he
struggled most violently, and shook with distress; and, as they brought
him towards the sacred relics, a thick, cold dew stood upon his brow, and
his features shrank and collapsed. He held back, and exerted himself with
all his might to escape, foaming at the mouth, and from time to time
uttering loud shrieks and horrible words, which disturbed, though they
could not interrupt, the hymn. His bearers persevered; they brought him
close to Callista, and made him touch her feet with his hands. Immediately
he screamed fearfully, and was sent up into the air with such force that
he seemed discharged from some engine of war: then he fell back upon the
earth apparently lifeless.

The long prayer was ended; the _Sursum corda_ was uttered. Juba raised
himself from the ground. When the words of consecration had been said, he
adored with the faithful. After the mass, his attendants came to him; he
was quite changed; he was quiet, harmless, and silent: the evil spirit had
gone out; but he was an idiot.

This wonderful deliverance was but the beginning of the miracles which
followed the martyrdom of St. Callista. It may be said to have been the
resurrection of the Church at Sicca. In not many months Decius was killed,
and the persecution ceased there. Castus was appointed bishop, and numbers
began to pour into the fold. The lapsed asked for peace, or at least such
blessings as they could have. Heathens sought to be received. When asked
for their reason, they could only say that Callista’s history and death
had affected them with constraining force, and that they could not help
following her steps. Increasing in boldness, as well as numbers, the
Christians cowed both magistrates and mob. The spirit of the populace had
been already broken; and the continual change of masters, and measures
with them, in the imperial government, inflicted a chronic timidity on the
magistracy. A handsome church was soon built, to which Callista’s body was
brought, and which remained till the time of the Diocletian persecution.

Juba attached himself to this church; and, though he could not be taught
even to sweep the sacred pavement, still he never was troublesome or
mischievous. He continued in this state for about ten years. At the end of
that time, one morning, after mass, which he always attended in the church
porch, he suddenly went to the bishop, and asked for baptism. He said that
Callista had appeared to him, and had restored to him his mind. On
conversing with him, the holy Castus found that his recovery was beyond
all doubt: and not knowing how long his lucid state would last, he had no
hesitation, with such instruction as the time admitted, in administering
the sacred rite, as Juba wished. After receiving it, he proceeded to the
tomb, within which lay St. Callista, and remained on his knees before his
benefactress till nightfall. Not even then was he disposed to rise; and so
he was left there for the night. Next morning he was found still in the
attitude of prayer, but lifeless. He had been taken away in his baptismal
robe.

As to Agellius, if he be the bishop of that name who suffered at Sicca in
his old age, in the persecution of Diocletian, we are possessed in this
circumstance of a most interesting fact to terminate his history withal.
What makes this more likely is, that this bishop is recorded to have
removed the body of St. Callista from its original position, and placed it
under the high altar, at which he said mass daily. After his own
martyrdom, St. Agellius was placed under the high altar also.


                                 THE END.


                  THE ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY PRESS LIMITED



                                FOOTNOTES


_    1 Vide_ Oxford transl. of St. Cyprian.

    2 Here is an anachronism, as regards Arnobius and Lactantius of some
      twenty or thirty years.

    3 Bacon.



                            TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE


The author’s footnotes have been moved to the end of the volume.

The following typographical errors were corrected:

      page 10, single quote changed to double quote after “pilum,”
      page 34, “off?” changed to “off!”
      page 42, “tomatos” changed to “tomatoes”
      page 69, comma removed after “spirit”
      page 135, “lees” changed to “less”
      page 137, “do!” changed to “do?”
      page 157, single quote changed to double quote after “stronger,”
      page 181, “aud” changed to “and”
      page 201, period changed to question mark after “Carthage”
      page 207, “throughont” changed to “throughout”
      page 228, “Saturu” changed to “Saturn”
      page 230, period added after “best”
      page 232, period added after “again”
      page 239, “ou” changed to “on”
      page 240, “be” changed to “he”
      page 248, “you” changed to “your”
      page 255, “to” changed to “too”
      page 256, “n” changed to “in”
      page 263, period changed to comma after “said”
      page 278, period changed to question mark after “it”
      page 300, period added after “gods”
      page 303, single quote added after “do?”
      page 310, quote removed before “If”, added before “it”
      page 313, comma changed to period after “was”
      page 333, “corrider” changed to “corridor”
      page 347, comma changed to period after “initiation”
      page 348, period added after “voice”
      page 379, “Jesu’s” changed to “Jesus’”

Variations in spelling (like “jailer” and “jailor”, “Asper” and “Aspar”,
“Phenician” and “Phœnician”, “Thibursicumber” and “Thibursicumbur”) and
hyphenation (e.g. “farm-house” and “farmhouse”, “goodwill” and
“good-will”) were not changed.





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