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Title: Perpetua. A Tale of Nimes in A.D. 213
Author: Baring-Gould, S. (Sabine)
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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                                PERPETUA

                      A TALE OF NIMES IN A.D. 213


                                 BY THE
                        REV. S. BARING‐GOULD, M.A.



NEW YORK
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
31 WEST TWENTY‐THIRD STREET
1897



                           COPYRIGHT, 1897, BY
                          E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY



                                 CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                          PAGE
     I.   EST                                       1
    II.   ÆMILIUS                                  14
   III.   BAUDILLAS, THE DEACON                    22
    IV.   THE UTRICULARES                          33
     V.   THE LAGOONS                              45
    VI.   THE PASSAGE INTO LIFE                    57
   VII.   OBLATIONS                                68
  VIII.   THE VOICE AT MIDNIGHT                    81
    IX.   STARS IN WATER                           93
     X.   LOCUTUS EST!                            105
    XI.   PALANQUINS                              117
   XII.   REUS                                    128
  XIII.   AD FINES                                140
   XIV.   TO THE LOWEST DEPTH                     152
    XV.   “REVEALED UNTO BABES”                   165
   XVI.   DOUBTS AND DIFFICULTIES                 177
  XVII.   PEDO                                    189
 XVIII.   IN THE CITRON‐HOUSE                     204
   XIX.   MARCIANUS                               218
    XX.   IN THE BASILICA                         230
   XXI.   A MANUMISSION                           242
  XXII.   THE ARENA                               256
 XXIII.   THE CLOUD‐BREAK                         270
  XXIV.   CREDO                                   287



                                 PERPETUA

                       A TALE OF NÎMES IN A.D. 213



                                CHAPTER I

                                   EST


The Kalends (first) of March.

A brilliant day in the town of Nemausus—the modern Nîmes—in the Province
of Gallia Narbonensis, that arrogated to itself the title of being _the_
province, a title that has continued in use to the present day, as
distinguishing the olive‐growing, rose‐producing, ruin‐strewn portion of
Southern France, whose fringe is kissed by the blue Mediterranean.

Not a cloud in the nemophyla‐blue sky. The sun streamed down, with a heat
that was unabsorbed, and with rays unshorn by any intervenient vapor, as
in our northern clime. Yet a cool air from the distant snowy Alps touched,
as with the kiss of a vestal, every heated brow, and refreshed it.

The Alps, though invisible from Nemausus, make themselves felt, now in
refreshing breezes, then as raging icy blasts.

The anemones were in bloom, and the roses were budding. Tulips spangled
the vineyards, and under the olives and in the most arid soil, there
appeared the grape hyacinth and the star of Bethlehem.

At the back of the white city stands a rock, the extreme limit of a spur
of the Cebennæ, forming an amphitheatre, the stones scrambled over by blue
and white periwinkle, and the crags heavy with syringa and flowering
thorns.

In the midst of this circus of rock welled up a river of transparent
bottle‐green water, that filled a reservoir, in which circled white swans.

On account of the incessant agitation of the water, that rose in bells,
and broke in rhythmic waves against the containing breastwork, neither
were the swans mirrored in the surface, nor did the white temple of
Nemausus reflect its peristyle of channeled pillars in the green flood.

This temple occupied one side of the basin; on the other, a little
removed, were the baths, named after Augustus, to which some of the water
was conducted, after it had passed beyond the precinct within which it was
regarded as sacred.

It would be hard to find a more beautiful scene, or see such a gay
gathering as that assembled near the Holy Fountain on this first day of
March.

Hardly less white than the swans that dreamily swam in spirals, was the
balustrade of limestone that surrounded the sheet of heaving water. At
intervals on this breasting stood pedestals, each supporting a statue in
Carrara marble. Here was Diana in buskins, holding a bow in her hand, in
the attitude of running, her right hand turned to draw an arrow from the
quiver at her back. There was the Gallic god Camulus, in harness, holding
up a six‐rayed wheel, all gilt, to signify the sun. There was a nymph
pouring water from her urn; again appeared Diana contemplating her
favorite flower, the white poppy.

But in the place of honor, in the midst of the public walk before the
fountain, surrounded by acacias and pink‐blossomed Judas trees, stood the
god Nemausus, who was at once the presiding deity over the fountain, and
the reputed founder of the city. He was represented as a youth, of
graceful form, almost feminine, and though he bore some military insignia,
yet seemed too girl‐like and timid to appear in war.

The fountain had, in very truth, created the city. This marvelous upheaval
of a limpid river out of the heart of the earth had early attracted
settlers to it, who had built their rude cabins beside the stream and who
paid to the fountain divine honors. Around it they set up a circle of rude
stones, and called the place _Nemet_—that is to say, the Sacred Place.
After a while came Greek settlers, and they introduced a new civilization
and new ideas. They at once erected an image of the deity of the fountain,
and called this deity Nemausios. The spring had been female to the Gaulish
occupants of the settlement; it now became male, but in its aspect the
deity still bore indications of feminine origin. Lastly the place became a
Roman town. Now beautiful statuary had taken the place of the monoliths of
unhewn stone that had at one time bounded the sacred spring.

On this first day of March the inhabitants of Nemausus were congregated
near the fountain, all in holiday costume.

Among them ran and laughed numerous young girls, all with wreaths of white
hyacinths or of narcissus on their heads, and their clear musical voices
rang as bells in the fresh air.

Yet, jocund as the scene was, to such as looked closer there was
observable an under‐current of alarm that found expression in the faces of
the elder men and women of the throng, at least in those of such persons
as had their daughters flower‐crowned.

Many a parent held the child with convulsive clasp, and the eyes of
fathers and mothers alike followed their darlings with a greed, as though
desirous of not losing one glimpse, not missing one word, of the little
creature on whom so many kisses were bestowed, and in whom so much love
was centered.

For this day was specially dedicated to the founder and patron of the
town, who supplied it with water from his unfailing urn, and once in every
seven years on this day a human victim was offered in sacrifice to the god
Nemausus, to ensure the continuance of his favor, by a constant efflux of
water, pure, cool and salubrious.

The victim was chosen from among the daughters of the old Gaulish families
of the town, and the victim was selected from among girls between the ages
of seven and seventeen. Seven times seven were bound to appear on this day
before the sacred spring, clothed in white and crowned with spring
flowers. None knew which would be chosen and which rejected. The selection
was not made by either the priests or the priestesses attached to the
temple. Nor was it made by the magistrates of Nemausus. No parent might
redeem his child. Chance or destiny alone determined who was to be chosen
out of the forty‐nine who appeared before the god.

Suddenly from the temple sounded a blast of horns, and immediately the
peristyle (colonnade) filled with priests and priestesses in white, the
former with wreaths of silvered olive leaves around their heads, the
latter crowned with oak leaves of gold foil.

The trumpeters descended the steps. The crowd fell back, and a procession
advanced. First came players on the double flute, or syrinx, with red
bands round their hair. Then followed dancing girls performing graceful
movements about the silver image of the god that was borne on the
shoulders of four maidens covered with spangled veils of the finest
oriental texture. On both sides paced priests with brazen trumpets.

Before and behind the image were boys bearing censers that diffused
aromatic smoke, which rose and spread in all directions, wafted by the
soft air that spun above the cold waters of the fountain.

Behind the image and the dancing girls marched the priests and
priestesses, singing alternately a hymn to the god.

  “Hail, holy fountain, limpid and eternal,
  Green as the sapphire, infinite, abundant,
  Sweet, unpolluted, cold and clear as crystal,
            Father Nemausus.

  Hail, thou Archegos, founder of the city,
  Crowned with oak leaves, cherishing the olive,
  Grapes with thy water annually flushing,
            Father Nemausus.

  Thou to the thirsty givest cool refreshment,
  Thou to the herdsman yieldeth yearly increase,
  Thou from the harvest wardest off diseases,
            Father Nemausus.

  Seven are the hills on which old Rome is founded,
  Seven are the hills engirdling thy fountain,
  Seven are the planets set in heaven ruling,
            Father Nemausus.

  Thou, the perennial, lovest tender virgins,
  Do thou accept the sacrifice we offer;
  May thy selection be the best and fittest,
            Father Nemausus.”

Then the priests and priestesses drew up in lines between the people and
the fountain, and the ædile of the city, standing forth, read out from a
roll the names of seven times seven maidens; and as each name was called,
a white‐robed, flower‐crowned child fluttered from among the crowd and was
received by the priestly band.

When all forty‐nine were gathered together, then they were formed into a
ring, holding hands, and round this ring passed the bearers of the silver
image.

Now again rose the hymn:

  “Hail, holy fountain, limpid and eternal,
  Green as the sapphire, infinite, abundant,
  Sweet, unpolluted, cold and clear as crystal,
            Father Nemausus.”

And as the bearers carried the image round the circle, suddenly a golden
apple held by the god, fell and touched a graceful girl who stood in the
ring.

“Come forth, Lucilla,” said the chief priestess. “It is the will of the
god that thou speak the words. Begin.”

Then the damsel loosed her hands from those she held, stepped into the
midst of the circle and raised the golden pippin. At once the entire ring
of children began to revolve, like a dance of white butterflies in early
spring; and as they swung from right to left, the girl began to recite at
a rapid pace a jingle of words in a Gallic dialect, that ran thus:

      “One and two
      Drops of dew,
      Three and four
      Shut the door.”

As she spoke she indicated a child at each numeral,

      “Five and six
      Pick up sticks,
      Seven and eight
      Thou must wait.”

Now there passed a thrill through the crowd, and the children whirled
quicker.

      “Nine and ten
      Pass again.
  Golden pippin, lo! I cast,
  Thou, Alcmene, touched at last.”

At the word “last” she threw the apple and struck a girl, and at once left
the ring, cast her coronet of narcissus into the fountain and ran into the
crowd. With a gasp of relief she was caught in the arms of her mother, who
held her to her heart, and sobbed with joy that her child was spared. For
her, the risk was past, as she would be over age when the next septennial
sacrifice came round.

Now it was the turn of Alcmene.

She held the ball, paused a moment, looking about her, and then, as the
troop of children revolved, she rattled the rhyme, and threw the pippin at
a damsel named Tertiola. Whereupon she in turn cast her garland, that was
of white violets, into the fountain, and withdrew.

Again the wreath of children circled and Tertiola repeated the jingle till
she came to “Touched at last,” when a girl named Ælia was selected, and
came into the middle. This was a child of seven, who was shy and clung to
her mother. The mother fondled her, and said, “My Ælia! Rejoice that thou
art not the fated victim. The god has surrendered thee to me. Be speedy
with the verse, and I will give thee _crustulæ_ that are in my basket.”

So encouraged, the frightened child rattled out some lines, then halted;
her memory had failed, and she had to be reminded of the rest. At last she
also was free, ran to her mother’s bosom and was comforted with cakes.

A young man with folded arms stood lounging near the great basin. He
occasionally addressed a shorter man, a client apparently, from his
cringing manner and the set smile he wore when addressing or addressed by
the other.

“By Hercules!” said the first. “Or let me rather swear by Venus and her
wayward son, the Bow‐bearer, that is a handsome girl yonder, she who is
the tallest, and methinks the eldest of all. What is her name, my
Callipodius?”

“She that looks so scared, O supremity of excellent youths, Æmilius
Lentulus Varo! I believe that she is the daughter and only child of the
widow Quincta, who lost her husband two years ago, and has refused
marriage since. They whisper strange things concerning her.”

“What things, thou tittle‐tattle bearer?”

“Nay, I bear but what is desired of me. Didst thou not inquire of me who
the maiden was? I have a mind to make no answer. But who can deny anything
to thee?”

“By the genius of Augustus,” exclaimed the patron, “thou makest me turn
away my head at thy unctuous flattery. The peasants do all their cooking
in oil, and when their meals be set on the table the appetite is taken
away, there is too much oil. It is so with thy conversation. Come, thy
news.”

“I speak but what I feel. But see how the circle is shrunk. As to the
scandal thou wouldst hear, it is this. The report goes that the widow and
her daughter are infected with a foreign superstition, and worship an
ass’s head.”

“An ass’s head hast thou to hold and repeat such lies. Look at the virgin.
Didst ever see one more modest, one who more bears the stamp of sound
reason and of virtue on her brow. The next thou wilt say is——”

“That these Christians devour young children.”

“This is slander, not scandal. By Jupiter Camulus! the circle is reduced
to four, and she, that fair maid, is still in it. There is Quinctilla, the
daughter of Largus; look at him, how he eyes her with agony in his face!
There is Vestilia Patercola. I would to the gods that the fair—what is her
name?”

“Perpetua, daughter of Aulus Har——”

“Ah!” interrupted the patron, uneasily. “Quinctilla is out.”

“Her father, Aulus Harpinius——”

“See, see!” again burst in the youth Æmilius, “there are but two left;
that little brown girl, and she whom thou namest——”

“Perpetua.”

Now arrived the supreme moment—that of the final selection. The choosing
girl, in whose hand was the apple, stood before those who alone remained.
She began:

      “One, two
      Drops of dew.”

Although there was so vast a concourse present, not a sound could be
heard, save the voice of the girl repeating the jingle, and the rush of
the holy water over the weir. Every breath was held.

      “Nine and ten,
      Pass again.
  Golden pippin, now I cast,
  Thou, Portumna, touched at last.”

At once the brown girl skipped to the basin, cast in her garland, and the
high priestess, raising her hand, stepped forward, pointed to Perpetua,
and cried, “Est.”



                               CHAPTER II

                                 ÆMILIUS


When the lot had fallen, then a cry rang from among the spectators, and a
woman, wearing the white cloak of widowhood, would have fallen, had she
not been caught and sustained by a man in a brown tunic and _lacerna_
(short cloak).

“Be not overcome, lady,” said this man in a low tone. “What thou losest is
lent to the Lord.”

“Baudillas,” sobbed the woman, “she is my only child, and is to be
sacrificed to devils.”

“The devil hath no part in her. She is the Lord’s, and the Lord will
preserve His own.”

“Will He give her back to me? Will He deliver her from the hands of His
enemies?”

“The Lord is mighty even to do this. But I say not that it will be done as
thou desirest. Put thy trust in Him. Did Abraham withhold his son, his
only son, when God demanded him?”

“But this is not God, it is Nemausus.”

“Nemausus is naught but a creature, a fountain, fed by God’s rains. It is
the Lord’s doing that the lot has fallen thus. It is done to try thy
faith, as of old the faith of Abraham was tried.”

The poor mother clasped her arms, and buried her head in them.

Then the girl thrust aside such as interposed and essayed to reach her
mother. The priestesses laid hands on her, to stay her, but she said:

“Suffer me to kiss my mother, and to comfort her. Do not doubt that I will
preserve a smiling countenance.”

“I cannot permit it,” said the high priestess. “There will be resistance
and tears.”

“And therefore,” said the girl, “you put drops of oil or water into the
ears of oxen brought to the altars, that they may nod their heads, and so
seem to express consent. Let me console my mother, so shall I be able to
go gladly to death. Otherwise I may weep, and thereby mar thy sacrifice.”

Then, with firmness, she thrust through the belt of priestesses, and
clasped the almost fainting and despairing mother to her heart.

“Be of good courage,” she said. “Be like unto Felicitas, who sent her
sons, one by one, to receive the crown, and who—blessed mother that she
was—encouraged them in their torments to play the man for Christ.”

“But thou art my only child.”

“And she offered them all to God.”

“I am a widow, and alone.”

“And such was she.”

Then said the brown‐habited man whom the lady had called Baudillas:

“Quincta, remember that she is taken from an evil world, in which are
snares, and that God may have chosen to deliver her by this means from
some great peril to her soul, against which thou wouldst have been
powerless to protect her.”

“I cannot bear it,” gasped the heart‐broken woman. “I have lived only for
her. She is my all.”

Then Perpetua gently unclasped the arms of her mother, who was lapsing
into unconsciousness, kissed her, and said:

“The God of all strength and comfort be to thee a strong tower of
defence.” And hastily returned to the basin.

The young man who before had noticed Perpetua, turned with quivering lip
to his companion, and said:

“I would forswear Nemausus—that he should exact such a price. Look at her
face, Callipodius. Is it the sun that lightens it? By Hercules, I could
swear that it streamed with effulgence from within—as though she were one
of the gods.”

“The more beautiful and innocent she be, the more grateful is she to the
august Archegos!”

“Pshaw!” scoffed the young man; his hand clutched the marble balustrade
convulsively, and the blood suffused his brow and cheeks and throat. “I
believe naught concerning these deities. My father was a shrewd man, and
he ever said that the ignorant people created their own gods out of
heroes, or the things of Nature, which they understood not, being beasts.”

“But tell me, Æmilius—and thou art a profundity of wisdom, unsounded as is
this spring—what is this Nemausus?”

“The fountain.”

“And how comes the fountain to ever heave with water, and never to fail.
Verily it lives. See—it is as a thing that hath life and movement. If not
a deity, then what is it?”

“Nay—I cannot say. But it is subject to destiny.”

“In what way?”

“Ruled to flow.”

“But who imposed the rule?”

“Silence! I can think of naught save the innocent virgin thus sacrificed
to besotted ignorance.”

“Thou canst not prevent it. Therefore look on, as at a show.”

“I cannot prevent it. I marvel at the magistrates—that they endure it.
They would not do so were it to touch at all those of the upper town.
Besides, did not the god Claudius——”

“They are binding her.”

“She refuses to be bound.”

Shrieks now rang from the frantic mother, and she made desperate efforts
to reach her daughter. She was deaf to the consolations of Baudillas, and
to the remonstrances and entreaties of the people around her, who pitied
and yet could not help her. Then said the ædile to his police, “Remove the
woman!”

The chief priest made a sign, and at once the trumpeters began to bray
through their brazen tubes, making such a noise as to drown the cries of
the mother.

“I would to the gods I could save her,” said Æmilius between his teeth. He
clenched his hands, and his eyes flashed. Then, without well knowing what
he did, he unloosed his toga, at the same time that the priestesses
divested Perpetua of her girded stole, and revealed her graceful young
form in the tunic bordered with purple indicative of the nobility of the
house to which she belonged.

The priest had bound her hands; but Perpetua smiled, and shook off the
bonds at her feet. “Let be,” she said, “I shall not resist.”

On her head she still wore a crown of white narcissus. Not more fresh and
pure were these flowers than her delicate face, which the blood had left.
Ever and anon she turned her eyes in the direction of her mother, but she
could no longer see her, as the attendants formed a ring so compact that
none could break through.

“Elect of the god, bride of Nemausus!” said the chief priestess, “ascend
the balustrade of the holy perennial fountain.”

Without shrinking, the girl obeyed.

She fixed her eyes steadily on the sky, and then made the sacred sign on
her brow.

“What doest thou?” asked the priestess. “Some witchcraft I trow.”

“No witchcraft, indeed,” answered the girl. “I do but invoke the Father of
Lights with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

“Ah, Apollo!—he is not so great a god as our Nemausus.”

Then at a sign, the trumpeters blew a furious bellow and as suddenly
ceased. Whereupon to the strains of flutes and the tinkling of triangles,
the choir broke forth into the last verse of the hymn:

  “Thou, the perennial, loving tender virgins,
  Do thou accept the sacrifice we offer;
  May thy selection be the best and fittest,
            Father Nemausus.”

As they chanted, and a cloud of incense mounted around her, Perpetua
looked down into the water. It was green as glacier ice, and so full of
bubbles in places as to be there semi‐opaque. The depth seemed infinite.
No bottom was visible. No fish darted through it. An immense volume boiled
up unceasingly from unknown, unfathomed depths. The wavelets lapped the
marble breasting as though licking it with greed expecting their victim.

The water, after brimming the basin, flowed away over a sluice under a
bridge as a considerable stream. Then it lost its sanctity and was
employed for profane uses.

Perpetua heard the song of the ministers of the god, but gave no heed to
it, for her lips moved in prayer, and her soul was already unfurling its
pure wings to soar into that Presence before which, as she surely
expected, she was about to appear.

When the chorus had reached the line:

  “May thy selection be the best and fittest,
            Father Nemausus!”

then she was thrust by three priestesses from the balustrade and
precipitated into the basin. She uttered no cry, but from all present a
gasp of breath was audible.

For a moment she disappeared in the vitreous waters, and her white garland
alone remained floating on the surface.

Then her dress glimmered, next her arm, as the surging spring threw her
up.

Suddenly from the entire concourse rose a cry of astonishment and dismay.

The young man, Æmilius Lentulus Varo, had leaped into the holy basin.

Why had he so leaped? Why?



                               CHAPTER III

                          BAUDILLAS, THE DEACON


The chain of priests and priestesses could not restrain the mob, that
thrust forward to the great basin, to see the result.

Exclamations of every description rose from the throng.

“He fell in!”

“Nay, he cast himself in. The god will withdraw the holy waters. It was
impious. The fountain is polluted.”

“Was it not defiled when a dead tom‐cat was found in it? Yet the fountain
ceased not to flow.”

“The maiden floats!”

“Why should the god pick out the handsomest girl? His blood is ice‐cold.
She is not a morsel for him,” scoffed a red‐faced senator.

“He rises! He is swimming.”

“He has grappled the damsel.”

“He is striking out! Bene! Bene!”

“Encourage not the sacrilegious one! Thou makest thyself partaker in his
impiety!”

“What will the magistrates do?”

“Do! Coil up like wood‐lice, and uncurl only when all is forgotten.”

“He is a Christian.”

“His father was a philosopher. He swears by the gods.”

“He is an atheist.”

“See! See! He is sustaining her head.”

“She is not dead; she gasps.”

“Body of Bacchus! how the water boils. The god is wroth.”

“Bah! It boils no more now than it did yesterday.”

In the ice‐green water could be seen the young man with nervous arms
striking out. He held up the girl with one arm. The swell of the rising
volumes of water greatly facilitated his efforts. Indeed the upsurging
flood had such force, that to die by drowning in it was a death by inches,
for as often as a body went beneath the surface, it was again propelled
upwards.

In a minute he was at the breastwork, had one hand on it, then called:
“Help, some one, to lift her out!”

Thereupon the man clothed in brown wool put down his arms, clasped the
half‐conscious girl and raised her from the water. Callipodius assisted,
and between them she was lifted out of the basin. The priests and
priestesses remonstrated with loud cries. But some of the spectators
cheered. A considerable portion of the men ranged themselves beside the
two who had the girl in their arms, and prevented the ministers of
Nemausus from recovering Perpetua from the hands of her rescuers.

The men of the upper town—Greek colonists, or their descendants—looked
superciliously and incredulously on the cult of the Gallic deity of the
fountain. It was tolerated, but laughed at, as something that belonged to
a class of citizens that was below them in standing.

In another moment Æmilius Lentulus had thrown himself upon the balustrade,
and stood facing the crowd, dripping from every limb, but with a laughing
countenance.

Seeing that the mob was swayed by differing currents of feeling and
opinion, knowing the people with whom he had to do, he stooped, whispered
something into the ear of Callipodius; then, folding his arms, he looked
smilingly around at the tossing crowd, and no sooner did he see his
opportunity than, unclasping his arms, he assumed the attitude of an
orator, and cried:

“Men and brethren of the good city of Nemausus! I marvel at ye, that ye
dare to set at naught the laws of imperial and eternal Rome. Are ye not
aware that the god Claudius issued an edict with special application to
Gaul, that forever forbade human sacrifices? Has that edict been
withdrawn? I have myself seen and read it graven in brass on the steps of
the Capitoline Hill at Rome. So long as that law stands unrepealed ye are
transgressors.”

“The edict has fallen into desuetude, and desuetude abrogates a law!”
called one man.

“Is it so? How many have suffered under Nero, under Caius, because they
transgressed laws long forgotten? Let some one inform against the
priesthood of Nemausus and carry the case to Rome.”

A stillness fell on the assembly. The priests looked at one another.

“But see!” continued Æmilius, “I call you to witness this day. The god
himself rejects such illegal offerings. Did you not perceive how he
spurned the virgin from him when ye did impiously cast her into his holy
urn? Does he not sustain life with his waters, and not destroy it? Had he
desired the sacrifice then would he have gulped it down, and you would
have seen the maiden no more. Not so! He rejected her; with his watery
arms he repelled her. Every crystal wave he cast up was a rejection. I saw
it, and I leaped in to deliver the god from the mortal flesh that he
refused. I appeal to you all again. To whom did the silver image cast the
apple? Was it to the maiden destined to die? Nay, verily, it was to her
who was to live. The golden pippin was a fruit of life, whereby he
designated such as he willed to live. Therefore, I say that the god loveth
life and not death. Friends and citizens of Nemausus, ye have transgressed
the law, and ye have violated the will of the divine Archegos who founded
our city and by whose largess of water we live.”

Then one in the crowd shouted: “There is a virgin cast yearly from the
bridge over the Rhodanus at Avenio.”

“Aye! and much doth that advantage the bridge and the city. Did not the
floods last November carry away an arch and inundate an entire quarter of
the town? Was the divine river forgetful that he had received his
obligation, or was he ungrateful for the favor? Naught that is godlike can
be either.”

“He demanded another life.”

“Nay! He was indignant that the fools of Avenio should continue to treat
him as though he were a wild beast that had to be glutted, and not as a
god. All you parents that fear for your children! Some of you have already
lost your daughters, and have trembled for them; combine, and with one
voice proclaim that you will no more suffer this. Look to the urn of the
divine Nemausus. See how evenly the ripples run. Dip your fingers in the
water and feel how passionless it is. Has he blown forth a blast of
seething water and steam like the hot springs of Aquæ Sextiæ? Has his
fountain clouded with anger? Was the god powerless to avenge the act when
I plunged in? If he had desired the death of the maiden would he have
suffered me, a mortal, to pluck her from his gelid lips? Make room on
Olympus, O ye gods, and prepare a throne for Common Sense, and let her
have domain over the minds of men.”

“There is no such god,” called one in the crowd.

“Ye know her not, so besotted are ye.”

“He blasphemes, he mocks the holy and immortal ones.”

“It is ye who mock them when ye make of them as great clowns as
yourselves. The true eternal gods laugh to hear me speak the truth. Look
at the sun. Look at the water, with its many twinkling smiles. The gods
approve.”

Whilst the young man thus harangued and amused the populace, Baudillas and
Quincta, assisted by two female slaves of the latter, removed the
drenched, dripping, and half‐drowned girl. They bore her with the utmost
dispatch out of the crowd down a sidewalk of the city gardens to a bench,
on which they laid her, till she had sufficiently recovered to open her
eyes and recognize those who surrounded her.

Then said the widow to one of the servants: “Run, Petronella, and bid the
steward send porters with a litter. We must convey Perpetua as speedily as
possible from hence, lest there be a riot, and the ministers of the devil
stir up the people to insist upon again casting her into the water.”

“By your leave, lady,” said Baudillas, “I would advise that, at first, she
should not be conveyed to your house, but to mine. It is probable, should
that happen which you fear, that the populace may make a rush to your
dwelling, in their attempt to get hold of the lady, your daughter. It were
well that she remained for a while concealed in my house. Send for the
porters to bring the litter later, when falls the night.”

“You are right,” said Quincta. “It shall be so.”

“As in the Acts of the Blessed Apostles it is related that the craftsmen
who lived by making silver shrines for Diana stirred up the people of
Ephesus, so may it be now. There are many who get their living by the old
religion, many whose position and influence depend on its maintenance, and
such will not lightly allow a slight to be cast on their superstitions
like as has been offered this day. But by evenfall we shall know the humor
of the people. Young lady, lean on my arm and let me conduct thee to my
lodging. Thou canst there abide till it is safe for thee to depart.”

Then the brown‐habited man took the maiden’s arm.

Baudillas was a deacon of the Church in Nemausus—a man somewhat advanced
in life. His humility, and, perhaps, also his lack of scholarship,
prevented his aspiring to a higher office; moreover, he was an admirable
minister of the Church as deacon, at a period when the office was mainly
one of keeping the registers of the sick and poor, and of distributing
alms among such as were in need.

The deacon was the treasurer of the Church, and he was a man selected for
his business habits and practical turn of mind. By his office he was more
concerned with the material than the spiritual distresses of men.
Nevertheless, he was of the utmost value to the bishops and presbyters,
for he was their feeler, groping among the poorest, entering into the
worst haunts of misery and vice, quick to detect tokens of desire for
better things, and ready to make use of every opening for giving
rudimentary instruction.

Those who occupied the higher grades in the Church, even at this early
period, were, for the most part, selected from the cultured and noble
classes; not that the Church had respect of persons, but because of the
need there was of possessing men who could penetrate into the best houses,
and who, being related to the governing classes, might influence the upper
strata of society, as well as that which was below. The great houses with
their families of slaves in the city, and of servile laborers on their
estates, possessed vast influence for good or evil. A believing master
could flood a whole population that depended on him with light, and was
certain to treat his slaves with Christian humanity. On the other hand, it
occasionally happened that it was through a poor slave that the truth
reached the heart of a master or mistress.

Baudillas led the girl, now shivering with cold, from the garden, and
speedily reached a narrow street. Here the houses on each side were lofty,
unadorned, and had windows only in the upper stories, arched with brick
and unglazed. In cold weather they were closed with shutters.

The pavement of the street was of cobble‐stones and rough. No one was
visible; no sound issued from the houses, save only from one whence came
the rattle of a loom; and a dog chained at a door barked furiously as the
little party went by.

“This is the house,” said Baudillas, and he struck against a door.

After some waiting a bar was withdrawn within, and the door, that
consisted of two valves, was opened by an old, slightly lame slave.

“Pedo,” said the deacon, “has all been well?”

“All is well, master,” answered the man.

“Enter, ladies,” said Baudillas. “My house is humble and out of repair,
but it was once notable. Enter and rest you awhile. I will bid Pedo search
for a change of garments for Perpetua.”

“Hark,” exclaimed Quincta, “I hear a sound like the roar of the sea.”

“It is the voice of the people. It is a roar like that for blood, that
goes up from the amphitheater.”



                               CHAPTER IV

                             THE UTRICULARES


The singular transformation that had taken place in the presiding deity of
the fountain, from being a nymph into a male god, had not been
sufficiently complete to alter the worship of the deity. As in the days of
Druidism, the sacred source was under the charge of priestesses, and
although, with the change of sex of the deity, priests had been appointed
to the temple, yet they were few, and occupied a position of subordination
to the chief priestess. She was a woman of sagacity and knowledge of human
nature. She perceived immediately how critical was the situation. If
Æmilius Lentulus were allowed to proceed with his speech he would draw to
him the excitable Southern minds, and it was quite possible might provoke
a tumult in which the temple would be wrecked. At the least, his words
would serve to chill popular devotion.

The period when Christianity began to radiate through the Roman world was
one when the traditional paganism with its associated rights, that had
contented a simpler age, had lost its hold on the thoughtful and cultured.
Those who were esteemed the leaders of society mocked at religion, and
although they conformed to its ceremonial, did so with ill‐disguised
contempt. At their tables, before their slaves, they laughed at the sacred
myths related of the gods, as absurd and indecent, and the slaves thought
it became them to affect the same incredulity as their masters. Sober
thinkers endeavored to save some form of religion by explaining away the
monstrous legends, and attributing them to the wayward imagination of
poets. The existence of the gods they admitted, but argued that the gods
were the unintelligent and blind forces of nature; or that, if rational,
they stood apart in cold exclusiveness and cared naught for mankind. Many
threw themselves into a position of agnosticism. They professed to believe
in nothing but what their senses assured them did exist, and asserted that
as there was no evidence to warrant them in declaring that there were
gods, they could not believe in them; that moreover, as there was no
revelation of a moral law, there existed no distinction between right and
wrong. Therefore, the only workable maxim on which to rule life was: “Let
us eat and drink, for to‐morrow we may die.”

Over all men hung the threatening cloud of death. All must undergo the
waning of the vital powers, the failure of health, the withering of
beauty, the loss of appetite for the pleasure of life, or if not the loss
of appetite, at least the faculty for enjoyment.

There was no shaking off the oppressive burden, no escape from the
gathering shadow. Yet, just as those on the edge of a precipice throw
themselves over, through giddiness, so did men rush on self‐destruction in
startling numbers and with levity, because weary of life, and these were
precisely such as had enjoyed wealth to the full and had run through the
whole gamut of pleasures.

What happened after death? Was there any continuance of existence?

Men craved to know. They felt that life was too brief altogether for the
satisfaction of the aspirations of their souls. They ran from one pleasure
to another without filling the void within.

Consequently, having lost faith in the traditional religion—it was not a
creed—itself a composite out of some Latin, some Etruscan, and some Greek
myth and cult, they looked elsewhere for what they required. Consciences,
agonized by remorse, sought expiation in secret mysteries, only to find
that they afforded no relief at all. Minds craving after faith plunged
into philosophic speculations that led to nothing but unsolved eternal
query. Souls hungering, thirsting after God the Ideal of all that is Holy
and pure and lovable, adopted the strange religions imported from the East
and South; some became votaries of the Egyptian Isis and Serapis, others
of the Persian Mithras—all to find that they had pursued bubbles.

In the midst of this general disturbance of old ideas, in the midst of a
widespread despair, Christianity flashed forth and offered what was
desired by the earnest, the thoughtful, the down‐trodden and the
conscience‐stricken—a revelation made by the Father of Spirits as to what
is the destiny of man, what is the law of right and wrong, what is in
store for those who obey the law; how also pardon might be obtained for
transgression, and grace to restore fallen humanity.

Christianity meeting a wide‐felt want spread rapidly, not only among the
poor and oppressed, but extensively among the cultured and the noble. All
connected by interest, or prejudiced by association with the dominant and
established paganism, were uneasy and alarmed. The traditional religion
was honeycombed and tottering to its fall, and how it was to be revived
they knew not. That it would be supplanted by the new faith in Christ was
what they feared.

The chief priestess of Nemausus knew that in the then condition of minds
an act of overt defiance might lead to a very general apostasy. It was to
her of sovereign importance to arrest the movement at once, to silence
Æmilius, to have him punished for his act of sacrilege, and to recover
possession of Perpetua.

She snatched the golden apple from the hand of the image, and, giving it
to an attendant, said: “Run everywhere; touch and summon the Cultores
Nemausi.”

The girl did as commanded. She sped among the crowd, and, with the pippin,
touched one, then another, calling: “Worshippers of Nemausus, to the aid
of the god!”

The result was manifest at once. It was as though an electrical shock had
passed through the multitude. Those touched and those who had heard the
summons at once disengaged themselves from the crush, drew together, and
ceased to express their individual opinions. Indeed, such as had
previously applauded the sentiments of Æmilius, now assumed an attitude of
disapprobation.

Rapidly men rallied about the white‐robed priestesses, who surrounded the
silver image.

To understand what was taking place it is necessary that a few words
should be given in explanation.

The Roman population of the towns—not in Italy only, but in all the
Romanized provinces, banded itself in colleges or societies very much like
our benefit clubs. Those guilds were very generally under the invocation
of some god or goddess, and those who belonged to them were entitled
“Cultores” or worshippers of such or such a deity. These clubs had their
secretaries and treasurers, their places of meeting, their common chests,
their feasts, and their several constitutions. Each society made provision
for its members in time of sickness, and furnished a dignified funeral in
the club Columbarium, after which all sat down to a funeral banquet in the
supper room attached to the cemetery. These colleges or guilds enjoyed
great privileges, and were protected by the law.

At a time when a political career was closed to all but such as belonged
to the governing class, the affairs of these clubs engrossed the attention
of the members and evoked great rivalry and controversies. One admirable
effect of the clubs was the development of a spirit of fellowship among
the members, and another was that it tended in a measure to break down
class exclusiveness. Men of rank and wealth, aware of the power exercised
by these guilds, eagerly accepted the offices of patron to them, though
the clubs might be those of cord‐wainers, armorers or sailmakers. And
those who were ordinary members of a guild regarded their patrons with
affection and loyalty. Now that the signal had been sent round to rally
the Cultores Nemausi, every member forgot his private feeling, sank his
individual opinion, and fell into rank with his fellows, united in one
common object—the maintenance by every available man, and at every
sacrifice, of the respect due to the god.

These Cultores Nemausi at once formed into organized bodies under their
several officers, in face of a confused crowd that drifted hither and
thither without purpose and without cohesion.

Æmilius found himself no longer hearkened to. To him this was a matter of
no concern. He had sought to engage attention only so as to withdraw it
from Perpetua and leave opportunity for her friends to remove her.

Now that this object was attained, he laughingly leaped from the
balustrade and made as though he was about to return home.

But at once the chief priestess saw his object, and cried: “Seize him! He
blasphemes the god, founder of the city. He would destroy the college. Let
him be conveyed into the temple, that the Holy One may there deal with him
as he wills.”

The Prefect of Police, whose duty it was to keep order, now advanced with
the few men he had deemed necessary to bring with him, and he said in
peremptory tone:

“We can suffer no violence. If he has transgressed the law, let him be
impeached.”

“Sir,” answered the priestess, “we will use no violence. He has insulted
the majesty of the god. He has snatched from him his destined and devoted
victim. Yet we meditate no severe reprisals. All I seek is that he may be
brought into the presence of the god in the adytum, where is a table
spread with cakes. Let him there sprinkle incense on the fire and eat of
the cakes. Then he shall go free. If the god be wroth, he will manifest
his indignation. But if, as I doubt not, he be placable, then shall this
man depart unmolested.”

“Against this I have naught to advance,” said the prefect.

But one standing by whispered him: “Those cakes are not to be trusted. I
have heard of one who ate and fell down in convulsions after eating.”

“That is a matter between the god and Æmilius Varo. I have done my duty.”

Then the confraternity of the Cultores Nemausi spread itself so as to
encircle the place and include Æmilius, barring every passage. He might,
doubtless, have escaped had he taken to his heels at the first summons of
the club to congregate, but he had desired to occupy the attention of the
people as long as possible, and it did not comport with his self‐respect
to run from danger.

Throwing over him the toga which he had cast aside when he leaped into the
pond, he thrust one hand into his bosom and leisurely strode through the
crowd, waving them aside with the other hand, till he stopped by the
living barrier of the worshippers of Nemausus.

“You cannot pass, sir,” said the captain of that party which intercepted
his exit. “The chief priestess hath ordered that thou appear before the
god in his cella and then do worship and submit thyself to his will.”

“And how is that will to be declared?” asked the young man, jestingly.

“Sir! thou must eat one of the dedicated placenta.”

“I have heard of these same cakes and have no stomach for them.”

“Nevertheless eat thou must.”

“What if I will not?”

“Then constraint will be used. The prefect has given his consent. Who is
to deliver thee?”

“Who! Here come my deliverers!”

A tramp of feet was audible.

Instantly Æmilius ran back to the balustrade, leaped upon it, and, waving
his arm, shouted:

“To my aid, Utriculares! But use no violence.”

Instantly with a shout a dense body of men that had rolled into the
gardens dashed itself against the ring of Cultores Nemausi. They
brandished marlin spikes and oars to which were attached inflated goat‐
skins and bladders. These they whirled around their heads and with them
they smote to the left and to the right. The distended skins clashed
against such as stood in opposition, and sent them reeling backward;
whereat the lusty men wielding the wind‐bags thrust their way as a wedge
through their ranks. The worshippers of Nemausus swore, screamed,
remonstrated, but were unable to withstand the onslaught. They were beaten
back and dispersed by the whirling bladders.

The general mob roared with laughter and cheered the boatmen who formed
the attacking party. Cries of “Well done, Utriculares! That is a fine
delivery, Wind‐bag‐men! Ha, ha! A hundred to five on the Utriculares! You
are come in the nick of time, afore your patron was made to nibble the
poisoned cakes.”

The men armed with air‐distended skins did harm to none. Their weapons
were calculated to alarm and not to injure. To be banged in the face with
a bladder was almost as disconcerting as to be smitten with a cudgel, but
it left no bruise, it broke no bone, and the man sent staggering by a
wind‐bag was received in the arms of those in rear with jibe or laugh and
elicited no compassion.

The Utriculares speedily reached Æmilius, gave vent to a cheer; they
lifted him on their shoulders, and, swinging the inflated skins and
shouting, marched off, out of the gardens, through the Forum, down the
main street of the lower town unmolested, under the conduct of
Callipodius.



                                CHAPTER V

                               THE LAGOONS


The men who carried and surrounded Æmilius proceeded in rapid march,
chanting a rhythmic song, through the town till they emerged on a sort of
quay beside a wide‐spreading shallow lagoon. Here were moored numerous
rafts.

“Now, sir,” said one of the men, as Æmilius leaped to the ground, “if you
will take my advice, you will allow us to convey you at once to Arelate.
This is hardly a safe place for you at present.”

“I must thank you all, my gallant fellows, for your timely aid. But for
you I should have been forced to eat of the dedicated cakes, and such as
are out of favor with the god—or, rather, with the priesthood that lives
by him, as cockroaches and black beetles by the baker—such are liable to
get stomach aches, which same stomach aches convey into the land where are
no aches and pains. I thank you all.”

“Nay, sir, we did our duty. Are not you patron of the Utriculares?”

“I am your patron assuredly, as you did me the honor to elect me. If I
have lacked zeal to do you service in time past, henceforward be well
assured I will devote my best energies to your cause.”

“We are beholden to you, sir.”

“I to you—the rather.”

Perhaps the reader will desire to understand who the wind‐bag men were who
had hurried to the rescue of Æmilius. For the comprehension of this
particular, something must be said relative to the physical character of
the country.

The mighty Rhône that receives the melted snows of the southern slope of
the Bernese Oberland and the northern incline of the opposed Pennine Alps
receives also the drain of the western side of the Jura, as well as that
of the Graian and Cottian Alps. The Durance pours in its auxiliary flood
below Avignon.

After a rapid thaw of snow, or the breaking of charged rain clouds on the
mountains, these rivers increase in volume, and as the banks of the Rhône
below the junction of the Durance and St. Raphael are low, it overflows
and spreads through the flat alluvial delta. It would be more exact to say
that it was wont to overflow, rather than that it does so now. For at
present, owing to the embankments thrown up and maintained at enormous
cost, the Rhône can only occasionally submerge the low‐lying land, whereas
anciently such floods were periodical and as surely expected as those of
the Nile.

The overflowing Rhône formed a vast region of lagoons that extended from
Tarascon and Beaucaire to the Gulf of Lyons, and spread laterally over the
Crau on one side to Nîmes on the other. Nîmes itself stood on its own
river, the Vistre, but this fed marshes and “broads” that were connected
with the tangle of lagoons formed by the Rhône.

Arelate, the great emporium of the trade between Gaul and Italy, occupied
a rocky islet in the midst of water that extended as far as the eye could
reach. This tract of submerged land was some sixty miles in breadth by
forty in depth, was sown with islets of more or less elevation and extent.
Some were bold, rocky eminences, others were mere rubble and sand‐banks
formed by the river. Arelate or Arles was accessible by vessels up and
down the river or by rafts that plied the lagoons, and by the canal
constructed by Marius, that traversed them from Fossoe Marino. As the
canal was not deep, and as the current of the river was strong, ships were
often unable to ascend to the city through these arteries, and had to
discharge their merchandise on the coast upon rafts that conveyed it to
the great town, and when the floods permitted, carried much to Nemausus.

As the sheets of water were in places and at periods shallow, the rafts
were made buoyant, though heavily laden, by means of inflated skins and
bladders placed beneath them.

As the conveyance of merchandise engaged a prodigious number of persons,
the raftsmen had organized themselves into the guild of Utriculares, or
Wind‐bag men, and as they became not infrequently involved in contests
with those whose interests they crossed, and on whose privileges they
infringed, they enlisted the aid of lawyers to act as their patrons, to
bully their enemies, and to fight their battles against assailants. Among
the numerous classic monumental inscriptions that remain in Provence,
there are many in which a man of position is proud to have it recorded
that he was an honorary member of the club of the inflated‐skin men.

Nemausus owed much of its prosperity to the fact that it was the trade
center for wool and for skins. The Cevennes and the great limestone
plateaux that abut upon them nourished countless herds of goats and flocks
of sheep, and the dress of everyone at the period being of wool the demand
for fleeces was great; consequently vast quantities of wool were brought
from the mountains of Nîmes, whence it was floated away on rafts sustained
by the skins that came from the same quarter.

The archipelago that studded the fresh‐water sea was inhabited by
fishermen, and these engaged in the raft‐carriage. The district presented
a singular contrast of high culture and barbarism. In Arles, Nîmes,
Narbonne there was a Greek element. There was here and there an infusion
of Phœnician blood. The main body of the people consisted of the dusky
Ligurians, who had almost entirely lost their language, and had adopted
that of their Gaulish conquerors, the Volex. These latter were
distinguished by their fair hair, their clear complexions, their stalwart
frames. Another element in the composite mass was that of the colonists.
After the battle of Actium, Augustus had rewarded his Egypto‐Greek
auxiliaries by planting them at Nemausus, and giving them half the estates
of the Gaulish nobility. To these Greeks were added Roman merchants,
round‐headed, matter‐of‐fact looking men, destitute of imagination, but
full of practical sense.

These incongruous elements that in the lapse of centuries have been fused,
were, at the time of this tale, fairly distinct.

“You are in the right, my friends,” said Æmilius. “The kiln is heated too
hot for comfort. It would roast me. I will go even to Arelate, if you will
be good enough to convey me thither.”

“With the greatest of pleasure, sir.”

Æmilius had an office at Arles. He was a lawyer, but his headquarters were
at Nemausus, to which town he belonged by birth. He represented a good
family, and was descended from one of the colonists under Agrippa and
Augustus. His father was dead, and though he was not wealthy, he was well
off, and possessed a villa and estates on the mountain sides, at some
distance from the town. In the heats of summer he retired to his villa.

On this day of March there had been a considerable gathering of raftsmen
at Nemausus, who had utilized the swollen waters in the lagoons for the
conveyance of merchandise.

Æmilius stepped upon a raft that seemed to be poised on bubbles, so light
was it on the surface of the water, and the men at once thrust from land
with their poles.

The bottom was everywhere visible, owing to the whiteness of the limestone
pebbles and the sand that composed it, and through the water darted
innumerable fish. The liquid element was clear. Neither the Vistre nor the
stream from the fountain brought down any mud, and the turbid Rhône had
deposited all its sediment before its waters reached and mingled with
those that flowed from the Cebennæ. There was no perceptible current. The
weeds under water were still, and the only thing in motion were the
darting fish.

The raftmen were small, nimble fellows, with dark hair, dark eyes and
pleasant faces. They laughed and chatted with each other over the incident
of the rescue of their patron, but it was in their own dialect,
unintelligible to Æmilius, to whom they spoke in broken Latin, in which
were mingled Greek words.

Now and then they burst simultaneously into a wailing chant, and then
interrupted their song to laugh and gesticulate and mimic those who had
been knocked over by their wind‐bags.

As Æmilius did not understand their conversation and their antics did not
amuse him, he lay on the raft upon a wolfskin that had been spread over
the timber, looking dreamily into the water and at the white golden
flowers of the floating weeds through which the raft was impelled. The
ripples caused by the displacement of the water caught and flashed the sun
in his eyes like lightning.

His mind reverted to what had taken place, but unlike the raftmen he did
not consider it from its humorous side. He wondered at himself for the
active part he had taken. He wondered at himself for having acted without
premeditation. Why had he interfered to save the life of a girl whom he
had not known even by name? Why had he been so indiscreet as to involve
himself in a quarrel with his fellow‐citizens in a matter in no way
concerning him? What had impelled him so rashly to bring down on himself
the resentment of an influential and powerful body?

The youth of Rome and of the Romanized provinces was at the time of the
empire very blasé. It enjoyed life early, and wearied rapidly of pleasure.
It became skeptical as to virtue, and looked on the world of men with
cynical contempt. It was selfish, sensual, cruel. But in Æmilius there was
something nobler than what existed in most; the perception of what was
good and true was not dead in him; it had slept. And now the face of
Perpetua looked up at him out of the water. Was it her beauty that had so
attracted him as to make him for a moment mad and cast his cynicism aside,
as the butterfly throws away the chrysalis from which it breaks? No,
beautiful indeed she was, but there was in her face something
inexpressible, undefinable, even mentally; something conceivable in a
goddess, an aura from another world, an emanation from Olympus. It was
nothing that was subject to the rule. It was not due to proportion; it
could be seized by neither painter nor sculptor. What was it? That puzzled
him. He had been fascinated, lifted out of his base and selfish self to
risk his life to do a generous, a noble act. He was incapable of
explaining to himself what had wrought this sudden change in him.

He thought over all that had taken place. How marvelous had been the
serenity with which Perpetua had faced death! How ready she was to cast
away life when life was in its prime and the world with all its pleasures
was opening before her! He could not understand this. He had seen men die
in the arena, but never thus. What had given the girl that look, as though
a light within shone through her features? What was there in her that made
him feel that to think of her, save with reverence, was to commit a
sacrilege?

In the heart of Æmilius there was, though he knew it not, something of
that same spirit which pervaded the best of men and the deepest thinkers
in that decaying, corrupt old world. All had acquired a disbelief in
virtue because they nowhere encountered it, and yet all were animated with
a passionate longing for it as the ideal, perhaps the unattainable, but
that which alone could make life really happy.

It was this which disturbed the dainty epicureanism of Horace, which gave
verjuice to the cynicism of Juvenal, which roused the savage bitterness of
Perseus. More markedly still, the craving after this better life, on what
based, he could not conjecture, filled the pastoral mind of Virgil, and
almost with a prophet’s fire, certainly with an aching desire, he sang of
the coming time when the vestiges of ancient fraud would be swept away and
the light of a better day, a day of truth and goodness would break on the
tear‐ and blood‐stained world.

And now this dim groping after what was better than he had seen; this
inarticulate yearning after something higher than the sordid round of
pleasure; this innate assurance that to man there is an ideal of spiritual
loveliness and perfection to which he can attain if shown the way—all this
now had found expression in the almost involuntary plunge into the
Nemausean pool. He had seen the ideal, and he had broken with the regnant
paganism to reach and rescue it.

“What, my Æmilius! like Narcissus adoring thine incomparable self in the
water!”

The young lawyer started, and an expression of annoyance swept over his
face. The voice was that of Callipodius.

“Oh, my good friend,” answered Æmilius, “I was otherwise engaged with my
thoughts than in thinking of my poor self.”

“Poor! with so many hides of land, vineyards and sheep‐walks and olive
groves! Aye, and with a flourishing business, and the possession of a
matchless country residence at Ad Fines.”

“Callipodius,” said the patron, “thou art a worthy creature, and lackest
but one thing to make thee excellent.”

“And what is that?”

“Bread made without salt is insipid, and conversation seasoned with
flattery nauseates. I have heard of a slave who was smeared with honey and
exposed on a cross to wasps. When thou addressest me I seem to feel as
though thou wast dabbing honey over me.”

“My Æmilius! But where would you find wasps to sting you?”

“Oh! they are ready and eager—and I am flying them—all the votaries of
Nemausus thou hast seen this day. As thou lovest me, leave me to myself,
to rest. I am heavy with sleep, and the sun is hot.”

“Ah! dreamer that thou art. I know that thou art thinking of the fair
Perpetua, that worshiper of an——”

“Cease; I will not hear this.” Æmilius made an angry gesture. Then he
started up and struck at his brow. “By Hercules! I am a coward, flying,
flying, when she is in extreme peril. Where is she now? Maybe those
savages, those fools, are hunting after her to cast her again into the
basin, or to thrust poisoned cakes into her mouth. By the Sacred Twins! I
am doing that which is unworthy of me—that for which I could never
condone. I am leaving the feeble and the helpless, unassisted, unprotected
in extremity of danger. Thrust back, my good men! Thrust back! I cannot to
Arelate. I must again to Nemausus!”



                               CHAPTER VI

                          THE PASSAGE INTO LIFE


Æmilius had sprung to his feet and called to the men to cease punting.
They rested on their poles, awaiting further instructions, and the impetus
given to the raft carried it among some yellow flags and rushes.

Callipodius said: “I mostly admire the splendor of your intellect, that
shines forth with solar effulgence. But there are seasons when the sun is
eclipsed or obscured, and such is this with thee. Surely thou dost not
contemplate a return to Nemausus to risk thy life without being in any way
able to assist the damsel. Consider, moreover—is it worth it—for a girl?”

“Callipodius,” said the young lawyer in a tone of vehemence, “I cannot fly
and place myself in security and leave her exposed to the most dreadful
danger. I did my work by half only. What I did was unpremeditated, but
that done must be made a complete whole. When I undertake anything it is
my way to carry it out to a fair issue.”

“That is true enough and worthy of your excellent qualities of heart and
mind. But you know nothing of this wench, and be she all that you imagine,
what is a woman that for her you should jeopardize your little finger?
Besides, her mother and kinsfolk will hardly desire your aid, will
certainly not invoke it.”

“Why not?”

Callipodius shrugged his shoulders. “You are a man of the world—a votary
of pleasure, and these people are Christians. They will do their utmost
for her. They hang together as a swarm of bees.”

“Who and what are these people—this mother and her kinsfolk?”

“I know little about them. They occupy a house in the lower town, and that
tells its own tale. They do not belong to the quality to which you belong.
The girl has been reputed beautiful, and many light fellows have sought to
see and have words with her. But she is so zealously guarded, and is
herself so retiring and modest that they have encountered only rebuff and
disappointment.”

“I must return. I will know for certain that she is in safety. Methinks no
sooner were they balked of me than they would direct all their efforts to
secure her.”

“You shall not go back to Nemausus. You would but jeopardize your own
valuable life without the possibility of assisting her; nay, rather
wouldst thou direct attention to her. Leave the matter with me and trust
my devotion to thine interests.”

“I must learn tidings of her. I shall not rest till assured that she is
out of danger. By the infernal gods, Callipodius, I know not what is come
upon me, but I feel that if ill befall her, I could throw myself on a
sword and welcome death, life having lost to me all value.”

“Then I tell thee this, most resolute of men,” said Callipodius, “I will
return to the town. My nothingness will pass unquestioned. Thou shalt
tarry at the house of Flavillus yonder on the promontory. He is a timber
merchant, and the place is clean. The woman bears a good name, and, what
is better, can cook well. The house is poor and undeserving of the honor
of receiving so distinguished a person as thyself; but if thou wilt
condescend——”

“Enough. I will do as thou advisest. And, oh, friend, be speedy, relieve
my anxiety and be true as thou dost value my esteem.”

Then Æmilius signed to the raftmen to put him ashore at the landing place
to the timber yard of Flavillus.

Having landed he mounted a slight ascent to a cottage that was surrounded
by piles of wood—of oak, chestnut, pine and olive. Flavillus was a
merchant on a small scale, but a man of energy and industry. He dealt with
the natives of the Cebennæ, and bought the timber they felled, conveyed it
to his stores, whence it was distributed to the towns in the neighborhood;
and supplies were furnished to the shipbuilders at Arelate.

The merchant was now away, but his wife received Æmilius with deference.
She had heard his name from the raftmen, and was acquainted with
Callipodius, a word from whom sufficed as an introduction.

She apologized because her house was small, as also because her mother,
then with her, was at the point of death from old age, not from any fever
or other disorder. If Æmilius Lentulus, under the circumstances, would
pardon imperfection in attendance, she would gladly extend to him such
hospitality as she could offer. Æmilius would have gone elsewhere, but
that the only other house he could think of that was near was a tavern,
then crowded by Utriculares, who occupied every corner. He was sorry to
inconvenience the woman, yet accepted her offer. The period was not one in
which much consideration was shown to those in a lower grade. The citizens
and nobles held that their inferiors existed for their convenience only.
Æmilius shared in the ideas of his time and class, but he had sufficient
natural delicacy to make him reluctant to intrude where his presence was
necessarily irksome. Nevertheless, as there was no other place to which he
could go, he put aside this feeling of hesitation.

The house was small, and was constructed of wood upon a stone basement.
The partitions between the rooms were of split planks, and the joints were
in places open, and knots had come out, so that what passed in one
apartment was audible, and, to some extent, visible in another. A bedroom
in a Roman house was a mere closet, furnished with a bed only. All washing
was done at the baths, not in the house. The room had no window, only a
door over which hung a curtain.

Æmilius divested himself of his wet garment and gave it to his hostess to
dry, then wrapped himself in his toga and awaited supper.

The meal was prepared as speedily as might be. It consisted of eggs, eels,
with melon, and apples of last year. Wine was abundant, and so was oil.

When he had eaten and was refreshed, moved by a kindly thought Æmilius
asked if he might see the sick mother. His hostess at once conducted him
to her apartment, and he stood by the old woman’s bed. The evening sun
shone in at the door, where stood the daughter holding back the curtain,
and lighted the face of the aged woman. It was thin, white and drawn. The
eyes were large and lustrous.

“I am an intruder,” said the young man, “yet I would not sleep the night
in this house without paying my respects to the mother of my kind hostess.
Alas! thou art one I learn who is unable to escape that which befalls all
mortals. It is a lot evaded only by the gods, if there be any truth in the
tales told concerning them. It must be a satisfaction to you to
contemplate the many pleasures enjoyed in a long life, just as after an
excellent meal we can in mind revert to it and retaste in imagination
every course—as indeed I do with the supper so daintily furnished by my
hostess.”

“Ah, sir,” said the old woman, “on the couch of death one looks not back
but forward.”

“And that also is true,” remarked Æmilius. “What is before you but
everything that can console the mind and gratify the ambition. With your
excellent daughter and the timber‐yard hard by, you may calculate on a
really handsome funeral pyre—plenty of olive wood and fragrant pine logs
from the Cebennæ. I myself will be glad to contribute a handful of
oriental spices to throw into the flames.”

“Sir, I think not of that.”

“And the numbers who will attend and the orations that will be made
lauding your many virtues! It has struck me that one thing only is wanting
in a funeral to make it perfectly satisfactory, and that is that the
person consigned to the flames should be able to see the pomp and hear the
good things said of him.”

“Oh, sir, I regard not that!”

“No, like a wise woman, you look beyond.”

“Aye! aye!” she folded her hands and a light came into her eyes. “I look
beyond.”

“To the mausoleum and the cenotaph. Unquestionably the worthy Flavillus
will give you a monument as handsome as his means will permit, and for
many centuries your name will be memorialized thereon.”

“Oh, sir! my poor name! what care I for that? I ask Flavillus to spend no
money over my remains; and may my name be enshrined in the heart of my
daughter. But—it is written elsewhere—even in Heaven.”

“I hardly comprehend.”

“As to what happens to the body—that is of little concern to me. I desire
but one thing—to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.”

“Ah!—so—with Christ!”

Æmilius rubbed his chin.

“He is my Hope. He is my Salvation. In Him I shall live. Death is
swallowed up in Victory.”

“She rambles in her talk,” said he, turning to the daughter.

“Nay, sir, she is clear in her mind and dwells on the thoughts that
comfort her.”

“And that is not that she will have an expensive funeral?”

“Oh, no, sir!”

“Nor that she will have a commemorative cenotaph belauding her virtues?”

Then the dying woman said: “I shall live—live forevermore. I have passed
from death unto life.”

Æmilius shook his head. If this was not the raving of a disordered mind,
what could it be?

He retired to his apartment.

He was tired. He had nothing to occupy him, so he cast himself on his bed.

Shortly he heard the voice of a man. He started and listened in the hopes
that Callipodius had returned, but as the tones were strange to him he lay
down again.

Presently a light struck through a knot in the boards that divided his
room from that of the dying woman. Then he heard the strange voice say:
“Peace be to this house and to all that dwell therein.”

“It is the physician,” said Æmilius to himself. “Pshaw! what can he do?
She is dying of old age.”

At first the newcomer did inquire concerning the health of the patient,
but then rapidly passed to other matters, and these strange to the ear of
the young lawyer. He had gathered that the old woman was a Christian; but
of Christians he knew no more than that they were reported to worship the
head of an ass, to devour little children, and to indulge in debauchery at
their evening banquets.

The strange man spoke to the dying woman—not of funeral and cenotaph as
things to look forward to, but to life and immortality, to joy and rest
from labor.

“My daughter,” said the stranger, “indicate by sign that thou hearest me.
Fortified by the most precious gift thou wilt pass out of darkness into
light, out of sorrow into joy, from tears to gladness of heart, from where
thou seest through a glass darkly to where thou shalt look on the face of
Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. Though thou steppest down into the
river, yet His cross shall be thy stay and His staff shall comfort thee.
He goeth before to be thy guide. He standeth to be thy defence. The
spirits of evil cannot hurt thee. The Good Shepherd will gather thee into
His fold. The True Physician will heal all thine infirmities. As the
second Joshua, He will lead thee out of the wilderness into the land of
Promise. The angels of God surround thee. The light of the heavenly city
streams over thee. Rejoice, rejoice! The night is done and the day is at
hand. For all thy labors thou shalt be recompensed double. For all thy
sorrows He will comfort thee. He will wipe away thy tears. He will cleanse
thee from thy stains. He will feed thee with all thy desire. Old things
are passed away; all things are made new. Thy heart shall laugh and
sing—Pax!”

Æmilius, looking through a chink, saw the stranger lay his hand on the
woman’s brow. He saw how the next moment he withdrew it, and how, turning
to her daughter, he said:

“Do not lament for her. She has passed from death unto life. She sees Him,
in whom she has believed, in whom she has hoped, whom she has loved.”

And the daughter wiped her eyes.

“Well,” said Æmilius to himself, “now I begin to see how these people are
led to face death without fear. It is a pity that it should be delusion
and mere talk. Where is the evidence that it is other? Where is the
foundation for all this that is said?”



                               CHAPTER VII

                                OBLATIONS


The house into which the widow lady and her daughter entered was that used
by the Christians of Nemausus as their church. A passage led into the
_atrium_, a quadrangular court in the midst of the house into which most
of the rooms opened, and in the center of which was a small basin of
water. On the marble breasting of this tank stood, in a heathen household,
the altar to the _lares et penates_, the tutelary gods of the dwelling.
This court was open above for the admission of light and air, and to allow
the smoke to escape. Originally this had been the central chamber of the
Roman house, but eventually it became a court. It was the focus of family
life, and the altar in it represented the primitive family hearth in times
before civilization had developed the house out of the cabin.

Whoever entered a pagan household was expected, as token of respect, to
strew a few grains of incense on the ever‐burning hearth, or to dip his
fingers in the water basin and flip a few drops over the images. But in a
Christian household no such altar and images of gods were to be found. A
Christian gave great offense by refusing to comply with the generally
received customs, and his disregard on this point of etiquette was held to
be as indicative of boorishness and lack of graceful courtesy, as would be
the conduct nowadays of a man who walked into a drawing‐room wearing his
hat.

Immediately opposite the entrance into the _atrium_, on the further side
of the tank, and beyond the altar to the _lares et penates_, elevated
above the floor of the court by two or three white‐marble steps, was a
semicircular chamber, with elaborate mosaic floor, and the walls richly
painted. This was the _tablinum_. The paintings represented scenes from
heathen mythology in such houses as belonged to pagans, but in the
dwelling of Baudillas, the deacon, the pictures that had originally
decorated it had been plastered over, and upon this coating green vines
had been somewhat rudely drawn, with birds of various descriptions playing
among the foliage and pecking at the grapes.

Around the wall were seats; and here, in a pagan house, the master
received his guests. His seat was at the extremity of the apse, and was of
white marble. When such a house was employed for Christian worship, the
clergy occupied the seat against the wall and the bishop that of the
master in the center. In the chord of the apse above the steps stood the
altar, now no longer smoking nor dedicated to the _Lar pater_, but devoted
to Him who is the Father of Spirits. But this altar was in itself
different wholly from that which had stood by the water tank. Instead of
being a block of marble, with a hearth on top, it consisted of a table on
three, sometimes four, bronze legs, the slab sometimes of stone, more
generally of wood.(1)

The _tablinum_ was shut off from the hall or court, except when used for
the reception of guests, by rich curtains running on rings upon a rod.
These curtains were drawn back or forward during the celebration of the
liturgy, and this has continued to form a portion of the furniture of an
Oriental church, whether Greek, Armenian, or Syrian.

In like manner the _tablinum_, with its conch‐shape termination, gave the
type to the absidal chancel, so general everywhere except in England.

On the right side of the court was the _triclinium_ or dining‐room, and
this was employed by the early Christians for their love‐feasts.

Owing to the protection extended by law to the colleges or clubs, the
Christians sought to screen themselves from persecution by representing
themselves as forming one of these clubs, and affecting their usages. Even
on their tombstones they so designated themselves, “Cultores Dei,” and
they were able to carry on their worship under the appearance of
frequenting guild meetings. One of the notable features of such secular or
semi‐religious societies was the convivial supper for the members,
attended by all. The Church adopted this supper, called it Agape, but of
course gave to it a special signification. It was made to be a symbol of
that unity among Christians which was supposed to exist between all
members. The supper was also a convenient means whereby the rich could
contribute to the necessities of the poor, and was regarded as a
fulfilment of the Lord’s command: “When thou makest a feast, call the
poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.”

Already, in the third century, the believers who belonged to the superior
classes had withdrawn from them, and alleged as their excuse the command:
“When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy
brethren, neither thy kinsman, nor thy rich neighbors.” Their actual
reason was, however, distaste for associating with such as belonged to the
lower orders, and from being present at scenes that were not always
edifying.

The house of Baudillas had once been of consequence, and his family one of
position; but that had been in the early days of the colony before the
indigenous Gaulish nobility had been ousted from every place of authority,
and the means for enriching themselves had been drawn away by the greed of
the conquerors. The quarter of the town in which was his mansion had
declined in respectability. Many of the houses of the old Volcian gentry
had been sold and converted into lodgings for artisans. In this case the
ancestral dwelling remained in the possession of the last representative
of the family, but it was out of repair, and the owner was poor.

“I hardly know what should be done,” said Baudillas to himself, rather
than to the ladies he was escorting. “The Church has been enjoined to
assemble this afternoon for the Agape, and our bishop, Castor, is absent
at this critical juncture. He has gone on a pastoral round, taking
advantage of the floods to visit, in boat, some of the outlying hamlets
and villages where there are believers. It seems to me hardly prudent for
us to assemble when there is such agitation of spirits. Ladies, allow my
house‐keeper—she was my nurse—to conduct you where you can repose after
the fatigue and distress you have undergone. She will provide dry garments
for Perpetua, and hot water for her feet. The baths are the proper place,
but it would be dangerous for her to adventure herself in public.”

Baudillas paced the court in anxiety of mind. He did not know what course
to adopt. He was not a man of initiative. He was devoted to his duty and
discharged whatever he was commanded to do with punctilious nicety; but he
was thrown into helpless incapacity when undirected by a superior mind, or
not controlled by a dominant will.

It would be difficult to communicate with the brethren. He had but one
male servant, Pedo, who had a stiff hip‐joint. He could not send him round
to give notice of a postponement, and Baudillas was not the man to take
such a step without orders. Probably, said he to himself, the commotion
would abate before evening. There would be much feasting in the town that
afternoon. The Cultores Nemausi had their club dinner; and the families of
Volcian descent made it a point of honor to entertain on that day,
dedicated to their Gallic founder and hero‐god. It was precisely for this
reason that the Agape had been appointed to be celebrated on the first of
March. When all the lower town was holding debauch, the harmless reunion
of the Christians would pass unregarded.

“What shall I do?” said the deacon. “Castor, our bishop, should not have
absented himself at such a time, but then how could he have foreseen what
has taken place? I will take care that the ladies be provided with
whatever they may need, and then will sally forth and ascertain what
temper our fellow‐citizens are in. We southerners blaze up like a fire of
straw, and as soon does our flame expire. If I meet some of the brethren,
I will consult with them what is to be done. As it is we have postponed
the Agape till set of sun, when we deemed that all the town would be
indoors merry‐making.”

An hour later, a slave of the lady Quincta arrived to say that her house
was watched, and that the servants did not deem it advisable to leave with
the litter, lest some attempt should be made to track them to the house
where their mistress was concealed, in which case the rabble might even
try to get possession of Perpetua.

Quincta was greatly alarmed at the tidings, and bade that the litter
should on no account be sent. When those watching her door had been
withdrawn, then a faithful slave was to announce the fact, and she and her
daughter would steal home afoot. Thus passed the time, with anxiety
contracting the hearts of all. Quincta was a timid woman, Baudillas, as
already said, irresolute. In the afternoon, gifts began to arrive for the
love‐feast. Slaves brought hampers of bread, quails, field‐fare stuffed
with truffles; brown pots containing honey were also deposited by them in
the passage. Others brought branches of dried raisins, apples, eggs,
flasks of oil, and bouquets of spring flowers.(2)

Baudillas was relieved when the stream of oblations began to flow in, as
it decided for him the matter of the Agape. It must take place—it could
not be deferred, as some of the food sent was perishable.

A slave arrived laden with an _amphora_—a red earthenware bottle, pointed
below, so that to maintain it upright it had to be planted in sand or
ashes. On the side was a seal with the sacred symbol, showing that it
contained wine set apart for religious usage.(3)

“Sir!” said the bearer, “happy is the man who tastes of this wine from
Ambrussum (near Lunel).(4) It is of the color of amber, it is old, and
runs like oil. The heat of the Provence sun is gathered and stored in it,
to break forth and glow in the veins, to mount into and fire the brain,
and to make and kindle a furnace in the heart.”

“It shall be used with discretion, Tarsius,” said the deacon.

“By Bacchus!—I ask your pardon, deacon! Old habits are not easily laid
aside. What was I saying? Oh—you remarked something about discretion. For
my part I consider that my master has exercised none in sending this to
your love‐feast. Bah! it is casting pearls before swine to pour out this
precious essence into the cups of such a beggarly, vagabond set as
assemble here. The quality folk are becoming weary of these banquets and
hold aloof.”

“That is sadly true,” observed Baudillas, “and the effect of this
withdrawal is that it aggravates the difficulties of myself and my
brethren.”

“The choice liquor is thrown away on such as you have as congregation. How
can they relish the Ambrussian if they have not had their palates educated
to know good liquor from bad? On my faith as a Christian! were I master
instead of slave, I would send you the wine of the year when Sosius Falco
and Julius Clarus were consuls—then the grapes mildewed in the bunch, and
the wine is naught but vinegar, no color, no bouquet, no substance.
Gentlemen and slaves can’t drink it. But I reckon that my master thinks to
condone his absence by sending one of his choicest flasks.”

“You are somewhat free of tongue, Tarsius.”

“I am a frank man though enslaved. Thoughts are free, and my tongue is not
enchained. I shall attend the banquet this evening. The master and
mistress remain at home that we, believing members of the family, may be
present at the Agape. I will trouble you, when pouring out the Ambrussian
wine, not to forget that I had to sweat under the flask, to your house.”

“I think, Tarsius, I cannot do better than place the bottle under your
charge. You know its value, and the force of the wine. Distribute as you
see fit.”

“Aye; I know who will appreciate it, and who are unworthy of a drop. I
accept the responsibility. You do wisely, deacon, in trusting me—a knowing
one,” and he slapped his breast and pursed up his mouth.

Then another servant appeared with a basket.

“Here, sir!” said he to the deacon. “I bring you honey‐cakes. The lady
Lampridia sends them. She is infirm and unable to leave her house, but she
would fain do something for the poor, the almoners of Christ. She sends
you these and also garments that she has made for children. She desires
that you will distribute them among such parents as have occasion for
them.”

Next came a man of equestrian rank, and drew the deacon aside.

“Where is Castor?” he inquired in an agitated voice. “I cannot appear this
evening. The whole town is in effervescence. Inquisition may be made for
us Christians. There will be a tumult. When they persecute you in one
city—fly to another! That is the divine command, and I shall obey it to
the letter. I have sent forward servants and mules—and shall escape with
my wife and children to my villa.”

“The bishop is away. He will be back this evening. I have not known what
to do, whether or not to postpone the Agape to another day.”

“No harm will come of it if you hold the feast. None will attend save the
poor and such as are on the books of the Church, the widows and those to
whom a good meal is a boon. The authorities will not trouble themselves
about the like of them. I don’t relish the aspect of affairs, and shall be
off before the storm breaks.” Then the knight added hastily, “Here is
money, distribute it, and bid the recipients pray for me and mine, that no
harm befall us.”

Baudillas saw that the man was quaking with apprehension. “Verily,” said
he to himself, “It is a true saying, ‘How hardly shall they that have
riches enter into the kingdom of Heaven.’ I wonder now, whether I have
acted judiciously in entrusting that old Ambrussian to Tarsius? If the
bishop had been here, I could have consulted him.”

So a weak, but good man, may even do a thing fraught with greater mischief
than can be done with evil intent by an adversary.



                              CHAPTER VIII

                          THE VOICE AT MIDNIGHT


As soon as dusk began to veil the sky, Christians in parties of three and
four came to the house of Baudillas. They belonged for the most part to
the lowest classes. None were admitted till they had given the pass‐word.

An _ostiarius_ or porter kept the door, and as each tapped, he said in
Greek: “Beloved, let us love one another.” Whereupon the applicant for
admission replied in the same tongue, “For love is of God.”

Owing to the Greek element in the province, large at Massilia, Arelate and
Narbo, but not less considerable at Nemausus, the Hellenic tongue, though
not generally spoken, was more or less comprehended by all in the towns.
The Scriptures were read in Greek; there was, as yet, no Italic version,
and the prayers were recited, sometimes in Greek, sometimes in Latin. In
preaching, the bishops and presbyters employed the vernacular—this was a
conglomerate of many tongues and was in incessant decomposition, flux, and
recomposition. It was different in every town, and varied from year to
year.

In the sub‐apostolic church it was customary for a banquet to be held in
commemoration of the Paschal Supper, early in the afternoon, lasting all
night, previous to the celebration of the new Eucharistic rite, which took
place at dawn. The night was spent in hymn singing, in discourses, and in
prayer.

But even in the Apostolic age, as we learn from St. Paul’s first Epistle
to the Corinthians, great abuses had manifested themselves, and very
speedily a change was made. The Agape was dissociated from the Eucharist
and was relegated to the evening after the celebration of the Sacrament.
It was not abolished altogether, because it was a symbol of unity, and
because, when under control, it was unobjectionable. Moreover, as already
intimated, it served a convenient purpose to the Christians by making
their meetings resemble those of the benefit clubs that were under legal
protection.

It may be conjectured that where the bulk of the members were newly
converted, and were ignorant, there would speedily manifest itself among
them a tendency to revert to their pagan customs, and a revolt against the
restraints of Christian sobriety. And this actually took place, causing
much embarrassment to the clergy, and giving some handle to the heathen to
deride these meetings as scenes of gross disorder.

No sooner did persecution cease, and the reason for holding love‐feasts no
longer held, than they were everywhere put down and by the end of the
fourth century had absolutely ceased.

In the third century Tertullian, in his “Apology” addressed to the
heathen, gave a rose‐colored description of the institution; but in his
“Treatise on Fasting” addressed to the faithful, he was constrained to
admit that it was a nursery of abuses. But this, indeed, common sense and
a knowledge of human nature would lead us to suspect.

We are prone to imagine that the first ages of the Church saw only saints
within the fold, and sinners without. But we have only to read the
writings of the early Fathers to see that this was not the case. If we
consider our mission stations at the present day, and consult our
evangelists among the heathen, we shall discover that the newly converted
on entering the Church, bring with them much of their past: their
prejudices, their superstitions, their ignorance, and their passions. The
most vigilant care has to be exercised in watching against relapse in the
individual, and deterioration of the general tone. The converts in the
first ages were not made of other flesh and blood than those now
introduced into the sheepfold, and the difficulties now encountered by
missionaries beset the first pastors of Christ fifteen and sixteen hundred
years ago.

In an honest attempt to portray the condition of the Church at the opening
of the third century, we must describe things as they were, and not as we
should wish them to have been.

The _atrium_ or courtyard was not lighted; there was sufficient
illumination from above. The curtains of the _tablinum_ were close drawn,
as the reception chamber was not to be put in requisition that night. The
_triclinium_ or dining‐room that received light through the doorway only
would have been dark had not a lamp or two been kindled there.

About thirty persons were present, male and female, but no children. Some
were slaves from believing households; there were a few freedmen. Some
were poor artisans, weavers, bakers, and men who sold charcoal, a porter,
and a besom‐maker.

Quincta and Perpetua were the highest in social position of those present.
A second deacon, named Marcianus, was there, a handsome man, peremptory in
manner, quick in movement; in every point a contrast with his timid,
hesitating brother in the ministry.

The bishop had not arrived when the Agape began, and the blessing was
spoken by an aged and feeble presbyter. The tables were spread with
viands, and the deacons and deaconesses ministered to those who reclined
at them. There was not room for all in the dining‐chamber, and a table and
couches had been spread in the court for such as could not be accommodated
within.

The proceedings were marked by the strictest propriety, the eating and
drinking were in moderation, conversation was edifying, and general
harmony prevailed. During the meal, a knocking was heard at the outer
gate, and when the porter asked the name of the applicant for admission,
the password was given, and he was admitted.

All rose to receive Castor, the bishop.

“Recline again, my friends,” said he. “I have come from the house of
Flavillus, the timber merchant on the _stagna_; his wife’s mother has
endured that which is human. She sleeps, and her spirit is with the Lord.
I have been delayed. I was doing the work of my Master. One, a stranger to
the faith, questioned me, and I tarried to converse with him, and disclose
to his dark mind some ray of light. If the supper be ended, I will offer
thanks.”

Then, standing at one of the tables, he made prayer to God, and thanked
Him who had caused the corn to spring out of the earth, and had gathered
the many grains into one bread; who had watered the vine from heaven, and
had flushed the several grapes with generous juice, uniting the many into
one bunch.

The thanksgiving ended, lights were introduced in considerable numbers.
There is no twilight in southern climes; when night falls, it falls
darkly. Now all who had eaten went to the _impluvium_, dipped their hands,
and washed their lips, then wiped them on towels held by the deaconesses.

The tables were quickly removed, and the benches ranged in the
_triclinium_, so as to accommodate all.

No sooner was the whole congregation assembled, than the president,
Castor, invited all such as had a psalm, an interpretation, a vision, or
an edifying narrative, to relate or recite it.

Then up started a little man, who held a lyre.

“Sir,” said he, “I have composed a poem in honor of Andeolus, the martyr
of Gentibus.”

He struck a chord on his instrument, and sang. The composition was devoid
of poetry, the meter halting, the Latin full of provincialisms, and the
place of poetic imagery was filled with extravagances of expression. When
he had concluded, he perhaps inadvertently wound up with the words,
“Generous audience, grant me your applause!”—the usual method of
conclusion on the stage.

And the request met with favor—hands were clapped.

Then Bishop Castor rose, and with a grave face, said:

“We have listened to Lartius Garrulus with interest and with edification.
It is well to glorify the memories of the holy ones who have witnessed a
good confession, who have fought the fight, and have shed their blood as a
testimony. But a poet in treating of such subjects, should restrain his
too exuberant fancy, and not assert as facts matters of mere conjecture,
nor should he use expressions that, though perhaps endurable in poetry,
cannot be addressed to the martyrs in sober prose. The ignorant are too
ready to employ words without considering their meaning with nicety, and
to quote poets as licensing them to do that which their pastors would
forbid.”

“But,” said the deacon Marcianus, “what if this be uttered by
inspiration?”

“The Spirit of God,” answered Castor, “never inspires the mind to import
into religion anything that is not true.” Turning round, he said: “I call
on Turgellius to interpret a portion of the Epistle of the Blessed Paul,
the Apostle to the Romans, translating it into the vulgar tongue, as there
be those present who comprehend Greek with difficulty.”

This done, one rose, and said:

“Sir, suffer me to disclose a revelation. I was asleep on my bed, three
nights agone, and I had a dream, or vision, from on high. I beheld a snow‐
white flock pasturing on a mountain; there was abundance of herbage, and
the sky was serene. The shepherd stood regarding them, leaning on his
staff, and the watch‐dog slept at his feet in the grass. Then, suddenly,
the heavens became obscured, lightning flashed, thunder rolled: the flock
was terrified and scattered. Thereupon came wolves, leaping among the
sheep, and rending them; and I beheld now that some which I had taken to
be sheep, cast their skins, and disclosed themselves to be ravening
beasts. What may be signified by the vision, I know not, but I greatly
fear that it portends an evil time to the Church.”

“That is like enough,” said Baudillas, “after what has occurred this day.
If the bishop has not heard, I will relate all to him in order.”

“I have been informed of everything,” said Castor.

“It is well that there should be a sifting of the wheat from the chaff,”
said Marcianus. “Too long have we had wolves masquerading among us clothed
in sheepskins. See!” He threw back his mantle, and extended his hand. “On
my way hither, I passed by the fountain of Nemausus, and none were there.
Then my soul was wrath within me at the idolatry and worship of devils
that goes on in the temple and about the basin. So I took up a stone, and
I climbed upon the pedestal, and I beat till I had broken this off.” Then
he rolled an alabaster sculptured head on the floor. With a contemptuous
kick, he sent it spinning. “This is their god Nemausus. A deacon of
Christ’s Church, with a bit of stone, is able to break his neck, and carry
off his head!” Then he laughed. But none laughed in response.

A thrill of dismay ran through the assembly.

A woman fell into hysterics and screamed. Some called out that she
prophesied, others that she spake with tongues. Baudillas appeased the
excitement. “The tongue she speaks,” said he, “is the Ligurian of the
Cebennæ, and all she says is that she wishes she were safe with her
children in the mountains, and had never come into the town. Now, indeed,
it seems that the evil days foreseen by Pantilius Narbo will come on the
Church. The people might forget that the god was robbed of his victim, but
not that his image has been defaced.”

“Well done, I say!” shouted a man, thrusting himself forward. His face was
inflamed and his eyes dazed. “I—I, Tarsius the slave, and Marcianus, the
deacon, are the only Christians with any pluck about us. Cowards that ye
all are, quaking at the moment of danger—hares, ye are, hares afraid of
the whistling of the wind in the grass. I—I——”

“Remove that man,” said the bishop. “He has been drinking.”

“I—I drinking. I have supped the precious Ambrussian wine, too good for
the rag‐tag. Dost think I would pour out to him who binds brooms? Or to
her—a washerwoman from the mountains? Ambrussian wine for such as
appreciate good things—gold as amber, thick as oil, sweet as honey.”

“Remove him,” said the bishop firmly.

Hands were laid on the fellow.

Then turning to Marcianus, Castor said sternly, “You have acted
inconsiderately and wrongly, against the decrees of the Fathers.”

“Aye!—of men who were timorous, and forbade others doing that from which
they shrank themselves. I have not so learned Christ.”

“Thou thyself mayest be strong,” said Castor, “but thine act will bring
the tempest upon the Church, and it will fall upon the weak and young.”

“Such as cannot stand against the storm are good for naught,” said
Marcianus. “But the storm is none of my brewing. It had arisen before I
intervened. The escape of the lady Perpetua from the fountain—that was the
beginning, I have but added the final stroke.”

“Thou hast acted very wrongly,” said the bishop. “May God, the God of all
comfort, strengthen us to stand in the evil day. In very truth, the powers
of darkness will combine against the Church. The lightnings will indeed
flash, the sheep be scattered, and those revealed whom we have esteemed to
be true disciples of Christ, but who are far from Him in heart. Many that
are first shall be last, and the last first. It is ever so in the Kingdom
of Christ—hark!”

Suddenly a strange, a terrible sound was heard—a loud, hoarse note, like a
blast blown through a triton’s shell, but far louder; it seemed to pass in
the air over the house, and set the tiles quivering. Every wall vibrated
to it, and every heart thrilled as well. Men rushed into the _atrium_ and
looked up at the night sky. Stars twinkled. Nothing extraordinary was
visible. But those who looked expected to see some fire‐breathing monster
flying athwart the dark, heavenly vault, braying; and others again cried
out that this was the trumpet of the archangel, and that the end of all
things was come.

Then said Marcianus, “It is the voice of the devil Nemausus! He has thus
shouted before.”



                               CHAPTER IX

                              STARS IN WATER


As an excuse for not appearing in time at the Agape, Castor had asserted
that he had been engaged on his Master’s work elsewhere. That was true. He
had been at the house of the timber merchant as we have seen, and he had
been detained by Æmilius as he left it. This latter had been lying on his
bed resting, whilst his garments were being dried.

He had overheard what had passed in the room of the dying woman.

When the bishop went forth, then Æmilius rose from his bed, cast the ample
toga about him, and walked forth. He caught Castor as he descended to the
water’s edge to be paddled away.

After a short salutation, the young lawyer said: “A word with you, sir, if
your time is as generously to be disposed of to a stranger as it is
lavished on the poor and sick.”

“I am at your service,” answered the bishop.

“My name,” said the young man, “is Æmilius Lentulus Varo. My profession is
the law. I am not, I believe, unknown in Nemausus, or at Arelate, where
also I have an office. But you, sir, may not have heard of me—we have
assuredly never met. Your age and gravity of demeanor belong to a social
group other than mine. You mix with the wise, the philosophers, and not
with such butterflies as myself, who am a ridiculous pleasure
seeker—seeking and never finding. If I am not in error, you are Castor
Lepidus Villoneos, of an ancient magisterial family in Nemausus and the
reputed head of the Christian sect.”

“I am he,” answered the bishop.

“It may appear to you a piece of idle curiosity,” said the young man, “if
I put to you certain questions, and esteem it an impertinence, and so send
me away empty. But I pray you to afford me—if thy courtesy will suffer
it—some information concerning a matter on which I am eager to obtain
light. I have been in the apartment adjoining that in which the mother of
the hostess lay, and I chanced—the partition being but of plank—to
overhear what was said. I confess that I am inquisitive to know something
more certain of this philosophy or superstition, than what is commonly
reported among the people. On this account, I venture to detain you, as
one qualified to satisfy my greed for knowledge.”

“My time is at your disposal.”

“You spoke to the dying woman as though she were about to pass into a new
life. Was that a poetic fancy or a philosophic speculation?”

“It was neither, it was a religious conviction. I spoke of what I knew to
be true.”

“Knew to be true!” laughed Æmilius. “How so? Have you traveled into the
world of spirits, visited the _manes_, and returned posted up in all
particulars concerning them?”

“No. I receive the testimony from One I can trust.”

“One! All men are liars. I knew a fellow who related that he had fallen
into an epileptic fit, and that during the fit his spirit had crossed the
Styx. But as he had no penny wherewith to pay the fare, I did not believe
him. Moreover, he never told the story twice alike, and in other matters
was an arrant liar.”

“Whom would you believe?”

“None, nothing save my own experience.”

“Not Him who made and who sustains your existence, my good sir?”

“Yes, if I knew Him and were assured He spoke.”

“That is the assurance I have.”

Æmilius shook his head. “When, how, where, and by whom did He declare to
men that there is a life beyond the tomb?”

“The _when_ was in the principate of Tiberius Cæsar, the _how_ was by the
mouth of His only‐begotten Son, the _where_ was in Palestine.”

The young lawyer laughed. “There is not a greater rogue and liar on the
face of the earth than a Jew. I cannot believe in a revelation made
elsewhere than at the center of the world, in the city of Rome.”

“Rome is the center of the world to you—but is it so to the infinite God?”

Æmilius shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. “I am a lawyer. I ask for
evidence. And I would not trust the word of a Jew against that of a common
Gaulish peasant.”

“Nor need you. The witness is in yourself.”

“I do not understand you.”

“Have not all men, at all times and everywhere desired to know what is to
be their condition after death? Does not every barbarous people harbor the
conviction that there is a future life? Do not you civilized Romans,
though you have no evidence, act as though there were such a life, and
testify thereto on your monumental cenotaphs?”

“I allow all that. But what of it?”

“How comes it that there should be such a conviction based on no grounds
whatever, but a vague longing, unless there were such a reality provided
for those who have this desire in them? Would the Creator of man mock him?
Would He put this hunger into him unless it were to be satisfied? You have
eyes that crave for the light, and the light exists that satisfies this
longing! You have ears that desire sounds, and the world is full of voices
that meet this desire. Where there is a craving there is ever a reality
that corresponds with and gives repose to that desire. Look,” said the
bishop, and pointed to the water in which were reflected the stars that
now began to glitter in the sky. “Do you see all those twinkling points in
the still water? They correspond to the living luminaries set above in the
vault. You in your soul have these reflections—sometimes seen, sometimes
obscured, but ever returning. They answer to realities in the celestial
world overhead. The reflections could not be in your nature unless they
existed in substance above.”

“There is a score of other things we long after in vain here.”

“What things? I believe I know. Purity, perfection, justice. Well, you do
not find them here entire—only in broken glints. But these glints assure
you that in their integrity they do exist.”

A boat was propelled through the water. It broke the reflections, that
disappeared or were resolved into a very dust of sparkles. As the wavelets
subsided, however, the reflections reformed.

Castor walked up and down beside Æmilius in silence for a few turns, then
said:—

“The world is full of inequalities and injustices. One man suffers
privation, another is gorged. One riots in luxury at the expense of the
weak. Is there to be no righting of wrongs? no justice to be ever done? If
there be a God over all, He must, if just—and who can conceive of God,
save as perfectly just?—He must, I say, deal righteous judgment and smooth
out all these creases; and how can he do so, unless there be a condition
of existence after death in which the wrongs may be redressed, the evil‐
doers be punished, and tears be wiped away?”

“There is philosophy in this.”

“Have you not in your conscience a sense of right as distinct from
wrong—obscured often, but ever returning—like the reflection of the stars
in the water? How comes it there unless there be the verities above?
Unless your Maker so made you as to reflect them in your spirit?”

Æmilius said nothing.

“Have you not in you a sense of the sacredness of Truth, and a loathing
for falsehood? How comes that, unless implanted in you by your Creator,
who is Truth itself?”

“But we know not—in what is of supreme interest to us—in matters connected
with the gods, what our duties, what our destiny—what is the Truth.”

“Young man,” said the bishop, “thou art a seeker after the kingdom of
Heaven. One word further, and I must leave thee. Granted there are these
scintillations within—”

“Yes, I grant this.”

“And that they be reflections of verities above.”

“Possibly.”

“Whence else come they?”

Æmilius did not, could not answer.

“Then,” said Castor, “is it not antecedently probable that the God who
made man, and put into his nature this desire after truth, virtue,
holiness, justice, aye, and this hunger after immortality, should reveal
to man that without which man is unable to direct his life aright, attain
to the perfection of his being, and look beyond death with confidence?”

“If there were but such a revelation!”

“I say—is it conceivable that the Creator should not make it?”

“Thou givest me much food for thought,” said the lawyer.

“Digest it—looking at the reflection of the stars in the water—aye! and
recall what is told by Aristotle of Xenophanes, how that casting his eyes
upward at the immensity of heaven, he declared _The One_ is God. That
conviction, at which the philosopher arrived at the summit of his
research, is the starting point of the Christian child. Farewell. We shall
meet again. I commend thee to Him who set the stars in heaven above, and
the lights in thine own dim soul.”

Then the bishop sought a boat, and was rowed in the direction of the town.

Æmilius remained by the lagoon.

Words such as these he had heard were novel. The thoughts given him to
meditate on were so deep and strange that he could not receive them at
once.

The night was now quite dark, and the stars shone with a brilliancy to
which we are unaccustomed in the North, save on frosty winter nights.

The Milky Way formed a sort of crescent to the north, and enveloped
Cassiopeia’s Chair in its nebulous light. To the west blazed Castor and
Pollux, and the changing iridescent fire of Algol reflected its varying
colors in the water.

Æmilius looked up. What those points of light were, none could say. How
was it that they maintained their order of rising and setting? None could
answer. Who ruled the planets? That they obeyed a law, was obvious, but by
whom was that law imposed?

Æmilius paced quicker, with folded arms and bowed head, looking into the
water. The heavens were an unsolved riddle. The earth also was a riddle,
without interpretation. Man himself was an enigma, to which there was no
solution. Was all in heaven, in earth, to remain thus locked up,
unexplained?

How was it that planets and constellations fulfilled the law imposed on
them without deviation, and man knew not a law, lived in the midst of a
cobweb of guesses, entangling himself in the meshes of vain speculations,
and was not shown the commandment he must obey? Why had the Creator
implanted in his soul such noble germs, if they were not to fructify—if
only to languish for lack of light?

Again he lifted his eyes to the starry vault, and repeated what had been
said of Xenophanes, “Gazing on the immensity of heaven, he declared that
the One was God.” And then, immediately looking down into the depths of
his own heart, he added: “And He is reflected here. Would that I knew
Him.”

Yet how was he to attain the desired knowledge? On all sides were
religious quacks offering their nostrums. What guarantee did Christianity
offer, that it was other than the wild and empty speculations that
swarmed, engaged and disappointed the minds of inquirers?

Unconscious how time passed, Æmilius paced the bank. Then he stood still,
looking dreamily over the calm water. A couple of months more and the air
would be alive with fire‐flies that would cluster on every reed, that
would waver in dance above the surface of the lagoon, tens of thousands of
drifting stars reflecting themselves in the water, and by their effulgence
disturbing the light of the stars also there mirrored.

Thinking of this, Æmilius laughed.

“So is it,” said he, “in the world of philosophic thought and religious
aspiration. The air is full of fire‐flies. They seem to be brilliant
torch‐bearers assuring us guidance, but they are only vile grubs, and they
float above the festering pool that breeds malarial fevers. Where is the
truth, where?”

From the distant city sounded a hideous din, like the bellow of a gigantic
bull.

Æmilius laughed bitterly.

“I know what that is, it is the voice of the god—so say the priestesses of
Nemausus. It is heard at rare intervals. But the mason who made my baths
at Ad Fines, explained it to me. He had been engaged on the temple and saw
how a brazen instrument like a shell of many convolutions had been
contrived in the walls and concealed, so that one woman’s breath could
sound it and produce such a bellow as would shake the city. Bah! one
religion is like another, founded on impostures. What are the stars of
heaven but fire‐flies of a higher order, of superior flight? We follow
them and stumble into the mire, and are engulfed in the slough.”



                                CHAPTER X

                               LOCUTUS EST!


Every house in Nemausus thrilled with life. Sleep was driven from the
drowsiest heads. The tipsy were sobered at once. Those banqueting desisted
from conversation. Music was hushed. Men rushed into the street. The
beasts in the amphitheater, startled by the strange note, roared and
howled. Slowly the chief magistrate rose, sent to summon an edile, and
came forth. He was not quick of movement; it took him some time to resolve
whether he or his brother magistrate was responsible for order; when he
did issue forth, then he found the streets full, and that all men in them
were talking excitedly.

The god Nemausus, the _archegos_, the divine founder and ancestor had
spoken. His voice was rarely heard. It was told that before the Cimbri and
Teutones had swept over the province, he had shouted. That had been in
ages past; of late he had been sparing in the exercise of his voice. He
was said to have cried out at the great invasion of the Helvetii, that had
been arrested by Julius Cæsar; again to have trumpeted at the outbreak of
Civilis and Julius Sabinus, which, however, had never menaced Narbonese
Gaul, though at the time the god had called the worst was anticipated. The
last time he had been heard was at the revolt of Vindex that preceded the
fall of Nero.

Some young skeptics whispered: “By Hercules, the god has a brazen throat.”

“It is his hunting horn that peals to call attention. What he will say
will be revealed to the priestess.”

“Or what the priestess wishes to have believed is his message.”

But this incredulous mood was exhibited by very few. None ventured openly
to scoff.

“The god hath spoken!” this was the cry through the streets and the forum.
Every man asked his fellow what it signified. Some cried out that the
prince—the divine Aurelius Antoninus (Caracalla)—had been assassinated,
just as he was about to start from Rome for Gaul. Others that the
privileges of the city and colony were going to be abrogated. But one said
to his fellow, “I augured ill when we heard that the god had been cheated
of his due. No marvel he is out of humor, for Perpetua is esteemed the
prettiest virgin in Nemausus.”

“I wonder that the rescue passed off without notice being taken of the
affair by the magistrates.”

“Bah! it is the turn of the Petronius Alacinus now, and he will not bestir
himself unnecessarily. So long as the public peace be not broken——”

“But it was—there was a riot, a conflict.”

“A farcical fight with wind‐bags. Not a man was hurt, not a drop of blood
flowed. The god will not endure to be balked and his sacrifice made into a
jest.”

“He is hoarse with rage.”

“What does it all mean?”

Then said a stout man: “My good friend, it means that which always happens
when the priesthood is alarmed and considers that its power is menaced—its
credit is shaken. It will ask for blood.”

“There has been a great falling off of late in the worshipers of the gods
and in attendance at the games.”

“This comes of the spread of the pestilent sect of the Christians. They
are the enemies of the human race. They eat little children. The potter
Fusius lost his son last week, aged six, and they say it was sacrificed by
these sectaries, who stuck needles into it.”

“Bah! the body was found in the channel of the stream the child had fallen
in.”

“I heard it was found half eaten,” said a third.

“Rats, rats,” explained another standing by.

“Well, these Christians refuse to venerate the images of the Augustus, and
therefore are foes to the commonwealth. They should be rooted out.”

“You are right there. As to their religious notions—who cares about them?
Let them adore what they will—onions like the Egyptians, stars like the
Chaldeans, a sword like the Scythians—that is nothing to us; but when they
refuse to swear by the Emperor and to offer sacrifice for the welfare of
the empire then, I say, they are bad citizens, and should be sent to the
lions.”

“The lions,” laughed the stout man, “seem to respond to the voice, which
sounded in their ears, ‘Dinner for you, good beasts!’ Well, may we have
good sport at the games founded by Domitius Afer. I love to lie in bed
when the _circius_ (mistral) howls and the snowflakes fly. Then one feels
snug and enjoys the contrast. So in the amphitheater one realizes the
blessedness of life when one looks on at wretches in the hug of the bear,
or being mumbled by lions, or played with by panthers.”

Perhaps the only man whom the blast did not startle was Tarsius, the
inebriated slave, who had been expelled the house of Baudillas, and who
was engrossed only with his own wrongs, and who departed swearing that he
excommunicated the Church, not the Church him. He muttered threats; he
stood haranguing on his own virtues, his piety, his generosity of spirit;
he recorded many acts of charity he had done. “And I—I to be turned out!
They are a scurvy lot. Not worthy of me. I will start a sect of my own,
see if I do not.”

Whilst reeling along, growling, boasting, confiding his wrongs to the
walls on each side, he ran against Callipodius just as the words were in
his mouth: “I am a better Christian than all of them. I don’t affect
sanctimoniousness in aspect, but I am sound, sound in my life—a plain,
straight‐walking man.”

“Are you so?” asked Callipodius. “Then I wish you would not festoon in
such a manner as to lurch against me. You are a Christian. Hard times are
coming for such as you.”

“Aye, aye! I am a Christian. I don’t care who knows it. I’m not the man to
lapse or buy a _libellus_,(5) though they have turned me out.”

Callipodius caught the fellow by the shoulder and shook him.

“Man,” said he. “Ah, a slave! I recognize you. You are of the family of
Julius Largus Litomarus, the wool merchant. Come with me. The games are in
a few days, and the director of the sports has been complaining that he
wanted more prisoners to cast to the beasts. I have you in the nick of
time. I heard you with these ears confess yourself to be a Christian, and
the sole worthy one in the town. You are the man for us—plump and juicy,
flushed with wine. By the heavenly twins, what a morsel you will make for
the panthers! Come with me. If you resist I will summon the crowd, then
perhaps they will elect to have you crucified. Come quietly, and it shall
be panthers, not the cross. I will conduct you direct to the magistrate
and denounce you.”

“I pray you! I beseech you! I was talking nonsense. I was enacting a part
for the theater. I am no Christian; I was, but I have been turned out,
excommunicated. My master and mistress believe, and just to please them
and to escape stripes, and get a few favors such as are not granted to the
others, I have—you understand.” The slave winked.

Beside Callipodius was a lad bearing a torch. He held it up and the flare
fell over the face of the now sobered Tarsius.

“Come with me, fellow,” said Callipodius. “Nothing will save you but
perfect obedience and compliance with what I direct. Hark! was not that
the howl of the beasts. Mehercule! they snuff you already. My good friend
Æmilius Lentulus Varo, the lawyer, will be your patron; a strong man. But
you must answer my questions. Do you know the Lady Quincta and her
daughter? Quincta is the widow of Harpinius Læto.”

“Aye, aye! the wench was fished out of the pond to‐day.”

“That is right. Where are they, do you know their house?”

“Yes, but they are not at home now.”

“Where are they then?”

“Will you denounce them?” asked the slave nervously.

“On the contrary. They are menaced. I seek to save them.”

“Oh! if that be all, I am your man. They are in the mansion of Baudillas,
yonder—that is—but mum, I say! I must not speak. They kicked me out, but I
am not ungenerous. I will denounce nobody. But if you want to save the
ladies, I will help you with alacrity. They charged me with being
drunk—not the ladies—the bishop did that—more shame to him. I but rinsed
out my mouth with the Ambrussian. Every drop clear as amber. Ah, sir! in
your cellar have you——”

A rush of people up the street shouting, “The will of the god! the will of
the god! It is being proclaimed in the forum.”

They swept round Callipodius and the slave, spinning them, as leaves are
spun in a corner by an eddy of wind, then swept forward in the direction
of the great square.

“Come aside with me, fellow,” said Callipodius, darting after the slave
who was endeavoring to slink away. “What is your name? I know only your
face marked by a scar.”

“Tarsius, at your service, sir!”

“Good Tarsius, here is money, and I undertake to furnish you with a bottle
of my best old Ambrussian for your private tipple, or to make merry
therewith with your friends. Be assured, no harm is meant. The priests of
Nemausus seek to recover possession of the lady Perpetua, and it is my aim
to smuggle her away to a place of security. Do thou watch the door, and I
will run and provide litters and porters. Do thou assure the ladies that
the litters are sent to convey them in safety to where they will not be
looked for; say thy master’s house. I will answer for the rest. Hast thou
access to them?”

“Aye! I know the pass‐word. And though I have been expelled, yet in the
confusion and alarm I may be suffered again to enter.”

“Very excellent. Thou shalt have thy flask and an ample reward. Say that
the litters are sent by thy master, Largus Litomarus.”

“Right, sir! I will do thy bidding.”

Then Callipodius hastened in the direction of the habitation of Æmilius.

Meanwhile the forum filled with people, crowding on one another, all
quivering with excitement. Above were the stars. Here and there below,
torches. Presently the chief magistrate arrived with his lictors, and a
maniple of soldiers to keep order and make a passage through the mob
between the Temple of Nemausus and the forum.

Few women were present. Such as were, belonged to the lowest of the
people. But there were boys and men, old and young, slaves, artisans,
freedmen, and citizens.

Among the ignorant and the native population the old Paganism had a strong
hold, and their interests attached a certain number of all classes to it.
But the popular Paganism was not a religion affecting the lives by the
exercise of moral control. It was devoid of any ethic code. It consisted
in a system of sacrifice to obtain a good journey, to ward off fevers, to
recover bad debts, to banish blight and mildew. The superstitious lived in
terror lest by some ill‐considered act, by some neglect, they should incur
the wrath of the jealous gods and bring catastrophe on themselves or their
town. They were easily excited by alarm, and were unreasonable in their
selfish fervor.

Ever in anticipation of some disaster, an earthquake, a murrain, fire or
pestilence, they were ready to do whatever they were commanded, so as to
avert danger from themselves. The words of the Apostle to the Hebrews
describing the Gentiles as being through fear of death all their lifetime
subject to bondage, were very true. The ignorant and superstitious may be
said to have existed on the verge of a panic, always in terror lest their
gods should hurt them, and cringing to them in abject deprecation of evil.
It was this fear for themselves and their substance that rendered them
cruel.

The procession came from the temple. Torches were borne aloft, a long
wavering line of lurid fire, and vessels were carried in which danced
lambent flames that threw out odoriferous fumes.

First came the priests; they walked with their heads bowed and their arms
folded across their breasts, and with fillets of wool around their heads.
Then followed the priestesses shrouded in sable mantles over their white
tunics. All moved in silence. A hush fell on the multitude. Nothing was
heard in the stillness save the tramp of feet in rhythm. When the
procession had reached the forum, the chief priestess ascended the
rostrum, and the flambeau‐bearers ranged themselves in a half‐circle
below. She was a tall, splendidly formed woman, with profuse dark hair, an
ivory complexion, flashing black eyes under heavy brows.

Suddenly she raised her arms and extended them, letting the black pall
drop from her shoulders, and reveal her in a woven silver robe, like a web
of moonlight, and with white bare arms. In her right she bore an ivory
silver‐bound wand with mistletoe bound about it, every berry of
translucent stone.

Then amidst dead silence she cried: “The god hath spoken, he who founded
this city, from whom are sprung its ancient patrician families, who
supplieth you with crystal water from his urn. The holy one demands that
she who hath been taken from him be surrendered to him again, and that
punishment be inflicted on the Christians who have desecrated his statue.
If this, his command, be not fulfilled, then will he withhold the waters,
and deliver over the elect city to be a desolation, the haunt of the
lizard and the owl and bat. To the lions with the Christians! _Locutus est
Divus Archegos!_”



                               CHAPTER XI

                                PALANQUINS


With the exception of the bishop, Marcianus, and a few others, all
assembled at the Agape were struck with the liveliest terror. They
entertained no doubt but that the sound that shook the walls was provoked
by the outrage on the image of the tutelary god, following on the rescue
of the victim allotted to him.

The pagan inhabitants of Nemausus were roused to exasperation. The
priesthood would employ every available means to work this resentment to a
paroxysm, and the result would be riot and murder, perhaps an organized
persecution.

It must be understood that although the Roman State recognized other
religions than the established paganism, as that of the Jews, and allowed
the votaries freedom of worship, yet Christianity was not of this number.
It was in itself illegal, and any magistrate, at his option, in any place
and at any time, might put the laws in force against the members of the
Church. Not only so, but any envious, bigoted, or resentful person might
compel a magistrate to take cognizance of the presence of Christians in
the district under his jurisdiction, and require him to capitally convict
those brought before him.

The system in the Roman Commonwealth for the maintenance of order was that
every man was empowered to act as spy upon and delate another. Any man
might accuse his neighbor, his brother, before the court; and if he could
prove his charge, the magistrate had no option—he must sentence.
Consequently the Christians depended for their safety on the favor of
their fellow‐citizens, on their own abstention from giving offence.

The sole protection against false accusations in the Roman Commonwealth
lay in the penalties to which an accuser was subject should he fail to
establish his charge. But as on conviction a portion of the estate of the
guilty person was handed over to the accuser, there was an inducement to
delation.

Under the Julian and Claudian Cæsars the system had worked terribly. An
entire class of men made denunciation their trade. They grew rich on the
spoils of their victims, they spared none, and the judges themselves lived
in fear of them. The evil became so intolerable that measures were taken
to accentuate the risk to the accusers. If the Christians were not oftener
denounced, the reason was that in the event of one lapsing, and through
terror or pain abjuring Christ, then immediately the tables were turned,
and the accuser was placed in danger of his life.

When an Emperor issued an edict against the Christians he enacted no new
law; he merely required that the existing laws should be put in force
against them, and all risk to delators was removed in that no delation was
exacted. On such an occasion every citizen and householder was required to
appear before the court and offer a few grains of incense on an altar to
the genius of the empire or of the prince. Should any one refuse to do
this, then he was convicted of high treason and delivered over to the
executioner to be either tortured or put to death off‐hand. When the
magistrate deemed it important to obtain a recantation, then he had
recourse to the rack, iron hooks, torches, thumbscrews as means of forcing
the prisoner through pain to abjure Christ.

The Christians in Nemausus had lived in complete tranquillity. There had
been no persecution. They had multiplied.

The peace enjoyed by the Church had been to it of a mixed advantage. Many
had been included whose conversion was due to questionable motives. Some
had joined through sincere conviction; more from conviction seasoned with
expectation of advantage. The poor had soon learned that a very rich and
abundant stream of charity flowed in the Church, that in it the sick and
feeble were cared for and their necessities were supplied, whereas in the
established paganism no regard was paid to the needy and suffering. Among
the higher classes there were adherents who attached themselves to the
Church rather because they disbelieved in heathenism than that they held
to the Gospel. Some accepted the truth with the head, but their hearts
remained untouched.

None had given freer expression to his conviction that there were weak‐
kneed and unworthy members than Marcianus the deacon. He had remonstrated
with the bishop, he had scolded, repelled, but without effect. And now he
had taken a daring step, the consequence of which would be that the
members of the community would indeed be put to the test whether they were
for Christ or Mammon. The conviction that a time of trial was come broke
on the community like a thundercloud, and produced a panic. Many doubted
their constancy, all shrank from being brought to a trial of their faith.
The congregation in the house of Baudillas, when it had recovered from the
first shock, resolved itself into groups agitated by various passions.
Some launched into recrimination against Marcianus, who had brought them
into jeopardy; some consulted in whispers how to escape the danger; a few
fell into complete stupefaction of mind, unable to decide on any course.
Others, again, abandoned themselves to despair and shrieked forth
hysterical lamentations. Some crowded around Castor, clung to his garments
and entreated him to save them. Others endeavored to escape from a place
and association that would compromise them, by the back entrance to the
servants’ portion of the house.

A few, a very few maintained their composure, and extending their arms
fell to prayer.

Baudillas hurried from one party to another uttering words of reassurance,
but his face was blanched, his voice quivered, and he was obviously
employing formal expressions that conveyed no strength to his own heart.
Marcianus, with folded arms, looked at him scornfully, and as he passed,
said, “The bishop should not have ordained such an unstable and quaking
being as thyself to serve in the sacred ministry.”

“Ah, brother,” sighed Baudillas, “it is with me as with Peter. The spirit
truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

“That was spoken of him,” answered Marcianus, “before Pentecost and the
outpouring of the spirit of strength. Such timidity, such feebleness are
unworthy of a Christian.”

“Pray for me that my faith fail not,” said Baudillas, and passed on. By
action he deadened his fears. Now came in Pedo, the old servant of the
house, who had been sent forth to reconnoiter. His report was not
reassuring. The mob was sweeping through the streets, and insisting on
every household producing an image at its doors and placing a light before
it. There were fuglemen who directed the crowd, which had been divided
into bands to perambulate every division of the town and make inquisition
of every house. The mob had begun by breaking into such dwellings as were
not protected by an image, and wrecking them. But after one or two of such
acts of violence, the magistrates had interfered, and although they
suffered the people to assemble before the houses and to clamor for the
production of an image and a light, yet they sent _vigiles_ (_i.e._, the
watch) to guard such dwellings as remained undecorated. When the master of
the house refused obedience to the mandate of the mob, then an officer
ordered him to open the door, and he summoned him to appear next day in
court and there do sacrifice. By this means the mob was satisfied and
passed on without violence.

But as the crowd marched down the streets it arrested every man and woman
that was encountered, and insisted on their swearing by the gods and
blaspheming Christ.

Castor ordered the congregation to depart by twos and by threes, to take
side alleys, and to avoid the main thoroughfares. This was possible, as
the _posticum_, a back door, communicated with a mean street that had the
city wall for one side.

“My sons and daughters in Christ,” said the bishop with composure,
“remember that greater is He that is with us than those that be against
us. When the servant of Elisha feared, then the Lord opened his eyes that
he might behold the angels with chariots and horses of fire prepared to
defend His servant. Avoid danger, but if it cannot be avoided stand firm.
Remember His words, ‘He that confesseth me before men, him will I also
confess before my Father which is in heaven.’”

As soon as all had departed, but not till then, did Castor leave.
Marcianus turned with a sneer to his fellow‐deacon and said, “Fly! you
have full license from the bishop; and he sets the example himself.”

“I must tarry in my own house,” answered Baudillas. “I have the ladies
Quincta and Perpetua under my protection. They cannot return to their home
until they be fetched.”

“So! they lean on a broken reed such as thee!”

“Alack! they have none other to trust to.”

“The mob is descending our street,” cried the slave, Pedo, limping in.

“What are we to do?” asked Quincta trembling. “If they discover me and my
daughter here we are undone. They will tear her from my arms.”

The deacon Baudillas clasped his hands to his head. Then his slave said:
“Master, Tarsius is at the door with litters and bearers. He saith he hath
been sent for the lady Perpetua.”

“And for me?” asked Quincta eagerly.

“And for thee also, lady. It is said that guards are observing thy house
and that, therefore, thy slaves cannot venture hither. Therefore, so says
Tarsius, his master, the wool‐merchant, Julius Largus, hath sent his
litters and porters.”

“But his house will be visited!”

“The bearers have instructions as to what shall be done.”

“This is strange,” said Quincta. “I did not suppose that Largus Litomarus
would have shown such consideration. We are not acquainted—indeed we
belong to different classes——”

“Yet are ye one in Christ,” said the deacon. “Call in Tarsius, he shall
explain the matter. But let him be speedy or the rabble will be on us.”

“They are at the head of the street,” said the slave, “and visit the door
of Terentius Cominius.”

“He believes.”

“And he has set out a figure of the Good Shepherd before his door with a
lamp. The crowd regards it as a Mercury and has cheered and gone on to the
next door.”

Tarsius, thoroughly recovered from his intoxication, was now admitted. He
looked none in the face, and stumbled through his tale. Julius Largus
Litomarus had bidden him offer his litters; there were curtains closing
them, and his servants would convey the ladies to a place of security.

Quincta was too frightened, too impatient to be off, to question the man,
nor was the deacon more nice in inquiry, for he also was in a condition of
nervous unrest.

The shouts of the mob could be heard.

“I do not wholly trust this man,” said Baudillas. “He was expelled for
misconduct. Yet, what can we do? Time presses! Hark!—in a brief space the
rabble will be here. Next house is a common lodging and will not detain
them. Would that Marcianus had remained. He could have advised us. Madam,
act as you think best.”

“The mob is on the move,” said Pedo. “They have been satisfied at the
house of Dulcius Liber, and now Septimus Philadelphus is bringing out
half‐a‐dozen gods. Master—there is not a moment to be lost.”

“Let us fly—quick!” gasped Quincta.

She plucked her daughter’s arm, and fairly dragged her along the passage
out of the house.

In the street they saw a flare. The rabble, held in control by some
directing spirit, was furnished with torches. It was roaring outside a
house, impatient because no statue was produced, and proceeded to throw
stones and batter the door.

“That house is empty,” whispered Pedo. “The master was bankrupt and
everything sold. There is not a person in it.”

Quincta mounted the _lectica_ or palanquin that was offered, without
looking whether her daughter were safe, and allowed the bearers, nay urged
them, to start at a trot.

Tarsius remained behind. He handed Perpetua into the second closed litter,
then gave the word, and ran beside it, holding the curtains together with
one hand.

Baudillas trembling for himself was now left alone.



                               CHAPTER XII

                                   REUS


“Master!” said the old slave, moving uneasily on his stiff joint, before
the even more nervously agitated master, “Master, there is the freedwoman
Glyceria below, who comes in charing. She has brought an idol of Tarranus
under her cloak, and offers to set that with a lamp before the door. She
is not a believer, she worships devils, but is a good soul and would save
us. She awaits your permission.”

The deacon was profoundly moved.

“It must not be! It may not be! I—I am a deacon of the Church. This is
known to be a Christian household. The Church is in my house, and here the
divine mysteries are celebrated. If she had not asked my leave, and
had—if—but no, I cannot sanction this. God strengthen me, I am distracted
and weak.” The slave remained. He expected that his master in the end
would yield.

“And yet,” stammered Baudillas, “He hath compassion on the infirm and
feeble. He forgave Peter. May He not pardon me if—? Glyceria is a heathen
woman. She does not belong to my family. I did not propose this. I am not
responsible for her acts. But no—it would be a betrayal of the truth, a
dishonor to the Church. He that confesseth me before men—no, no, Pedo, it
may not be.”

“And now it is too late,” said the slave. “They are at the door.”

Blows resounded through the house, and the roar of voices from the street
surged up over the roof, and poured in through the opening over the
_impluvium_. It was as though a mighty sea were thundering against the
house and the waves curled over it and plunged in through the gap above
the court.

“You must open, Pedo. I will run upstairs for a moment and compose myself.
Then—if it must be—but do not suffer the rabble to enter. If a prefect be
there, or his underling and soldiers, let them keep the door. Say I shall
be down directly. Yet stay—is the _posticum_ available for escape?”

“Sir—the mob have detailed a party to go to the backs of the houses and
watch every way of exit.”

“Then it is God’s will that I be taken. I cannot help myself. I am glad I
said No to the offer of Glyceria.”

The deacon ascended a flight of limestone steps to the upper story. The
slabs were worn and cracked, and had not been repaired owing to his
poverty. He entered a room that looked out on the street, and went to the
window.

The street above his doorway was dense with people, below it was
completely empty. Torches threw up a glare illumining the white façades of
the houses. He saw a sea of heads below. He heard the growl of voices
breaking into a foam of coarse laughter. Curses uttered against the
Christians, blasphemies against Christ, words of foulness, threats, brutal
jests, formed the matter of the hubbub below. A man bearing a white wand
with a sprig of artificial mistletoe at the end, gave directions to the
people where to go, where to stop, what to do. He was the head of the
branch of the guild of the Cultores Nemausi for that portion of the town.

Someone in the mob lifting his face, looked up and saw the deacon at the
window, and at once shouted, “There! there he is! Baudillas Macer, come
down, sacrilegious one! That is he who carried the maiden away.”

Then rose hoots and yells, and a boy putting his hands together and
blowing produced an unearthly scream.

“He is one of them! He is a ringleader! He has an ass’s head in the house
to which he sacrifices our little ones. He it was who stuck needles into
the child of the potter Fusius, and then gnawed off the cheeks and
fingers. He can inform where is the daughter of Aulus Harpinius who was
snatched from the basin of the god. Let us avenge on him the great
sacrilege that has been committed. It was he who struck off the head of
the god.”

Then one flung a stone that crashed into the room, and had not Baudillas
drawn back, it would have struck and thrown him down stunned.

“Let the house be ransacked!” yelled the mob. “We will seek in it for the
bones of the murdered children. Break open the door if he will not
unfasten. Bring a ladder, we will enter by the windows. Someone ascend to
the roof and drop into the _atrium_.”

Then ensued a rush against the valves, but they were too solid to yield;
and the bars held them firm, run as they were into their sockets in the
solid wall.

The slave Pedo now knocked on the inside. This was the signal that he was
about to open.

The soldiers drew up across the entrance, and when the door was opened,
suffered none to enter the house save the deputy of the prefect with four
of his police, and some of the leaders of the Cultores Nemausi. And now a
strange calm fell on the hitherto troubled spirit of Baudillas. He was
aware that no effort he could make would enable him to escape. His knees,
indeed, shook under him as he went to the stairs to descend, and
forgetting that the tenth step was broken, he stumbled at it and was
nearly precipitated to the bottom. Yet all wavering, all hesitation in his
mind was at an end.

He saw the men in the court running about, calling to each other, peering
into every room, cubicle, and closet; one called that the cellar was the
place in which the infamous rites of the Christians were performed and
that there would be found amphoræ filled with human blood. Then one
shouted that in the _tablinum_ there was naught save a small table.
Immediately after a howl rose from those who had penetrated to the
_triclinium_, and next moment they came rushing forth in such excitement
that they dragged down the curtain that hung before the door and entangled
their feet in it. One, not staying to disengage himself, held up his hands
and exhibited the broken head of the statue, that had been brought there
by Marcianus, and by him left on the floor.

“It is he who has done it! The sacrilegious one! The defacer of the holy
image!” howled the men, and fell upon the deacon with their fists. Some
plucked at his hair; one spat in his face. Others kicked him, and tripping
him up, cast him his length on the ground, where they would have beaten
and trampled the life out of him, had not the deputy of the ædile
interfered, rescued him from the hands of his assailants and thrust him
into a chamber at the side of the hall, saying: “He shall be brought
before the magistrate. It is not for you to take into your hands the
execution of criminals untried and uncondemned.”

Then one of the officers of the club ran to the doorway of the house, and
cried: “Citizens of Nemausus, hearken. The author of the egregious impiety
has been discovered. It is Cneius Baudillas Macer, who belongs to an
ancient, though decayed, family of this town. He who should have been the
last to dishonor the divine founder has raised his parricidal hand against
him. He stands convicted. The head of the god has been found in the house;
it is that recently broken off from the statue by the baths. Eheu! Eheu!
Woe be to the city, unless this indignity be purged away.”

A yell of indignation rose as an answer.

The slave Pedo was suffered to enter the bedroom, on the floor of which
lay his master bruised and with his face bleeding; for some of his front
teeth had been broken and his lips were cut.

“Oh master! dear master! What is to be done?” asked the faithful creature,
sobbing in his distress.

“I wonder greatly, Pedo, how I have endured so much. My fear is lest in
the end I fall away. I enjoin you—there is naught else you can do for
me—seek the bishop, and ask that the prayers of the Church may go up to
the Throne of Grace for me. I am feeble and frail. I was a frightened shy
lad in old times. If I were to fall, it would be a shame to the Church of
God in this town, this Church that has so many more worthy than myself in
it.”

“Can I bring thee aught, master? Water and a towel?”

“Nay, nothing, Pedo! Do as I bid. It is all that I now desire.”

The soldiers entered, raised the deacon, and made him walk between them. A
man was placed in front, another behind to protect him against the people.
As Baudillas was conveyed down the _ostium_, the passage to the door, he
could see faces glowering in at him; he heard angry voices howling at him;
an involuntary shrinking came over him, but he was irresistibly drawn
forward by the soldiers. On being thrust through the doorway before all,
then a great roar broke forth, fists and sticks were shaken at him, but
none ventured to cast stones lest the soldiers should be struck.

One portion of the mob now detached itself from the main body, so as to
follow and surround the deacon and assure itself that he did not escape
before he was consigned to the prison.

The city of Nemausus, capital of the Volcæ Arecomici, though included
geographically in the province of Narbonese Gaul, was in fact an
independent republic, not subject to the proconsul, but under Roman
suzerainty. With twenty‐four _comæ_ or townships under it, it governed
itself by popular election, and enjoyed the _lex Italica_. This little
republic was free from land tax, and it was governed by four
functionaries, the Quatuor‐viri, two of whom looked after the finances,
and two, like the _duum‐viri_ elsewhere, were for the purpose of
maintaining order, and the criminal jurisdiction was in their hands. Their
title in full was _duum viri juri dicendo_, and they were annually elected
by the senate. Their function was much that in small of the Roman consuls,
and they were sometimes in joke entitled consuls. They presided over the
senate and had the government of the town and state in their hands during
their tenure of office. On leaving their office they petitioned for and
received the right to ride horses, and were accounted knights. They wore
the dignified _præ texta_, and were attended by two lictors.

Baudillas walked between his escort. He was in a dazed condition. The
noise, the execrations cast at him, the flashing of the torches on the
helmets and breastplates of the guard, the glittering eyes and teeth of
the faces peering at him, the pain from the contusions he had received
combined to bewilder him. In the darkness and confusion of his brain, but
one thought remained permanent and burnt like a brilliant light, his
belief in Christ, and one desire occupied his soul, to be true to his
faith. He was too distracted to pray. He could not rally his senses nor
fix his ideas, but the yearning of his humble soul rose up, like the steam
from a new turned glebe in the sun of a spring morning.

In times of persecution certain strong spirits had rushed to confession
and martyrdom in an intoxication of zeal, such as Baudillas could not
understand. He did not think of winning the crown of martyrdom, but he
trembled lest he should prove a castaway.

Thrust forward, dragged along, now stumbling, then righted by the soldiers
sustaining him, Baudillas was conveyed to the forum and to the basilica
where the magistrate was seated.

On account of the disturbance, the Duum‐vir—we will so term him though he
was actually one of the Quatuor‐viri—he whose turn it was to maintain
order and administer justice, had taken his place in the court, so as to
be able to consign to custody such as were brought in by the guard on
suspicion of being implicated in the outrage; he was there as well for the
purpose of being ready to take measures promptly should the mob become
unmanageable. So long as it was under control, he did not object to its
action, but he had no thought of letting it get the upper hand. Rioters,
like children, have a liking for fire, and if they were suffered to apply
their torches to the houses of Christians might produce a general
conflagration.

Although the magistrates were chosen by popular election, it was not those
who constituted the rabble who had votes, and had to be humored, but the
citizen householders, who viewed the upheaval of the masses with jealous
suspicion.

That the proceedings should be conducted in an orderly manner,
instructions had been issued that no arrest was to be made without there
being someone forthcoming to act as accuser, and the soldiers were
enjoined to protect whosoever was menaced against whom no one was prepared
to formulate a charge which he would sustain in court.

In the case of Baudillas there would be no difficulty. The man—he was the
treasurer of the guild—who had found the mutilated head was ready to
appear against him.

The court into which the deacon was brought rapidly filled with a crowd,
directly he had been placed in what we should now call the dock. Then the
accuser stood up and gave his name. The magistrate accepted the
accusation. Whereupon the accuser made oath that he acted from no private
motive of hostility to the accused, and that he was not bribed by a third
person to delate him. This done, he proceeded to narrate how he had
entered the house of Baudillas, surnamed Macer, who was generally believed
to be a minister of the sect of the Christians; how that in searching the
house he had lighted on a mutilated head on the pavement of the
_triclinium_. He further stated that he well knew the statue of the god
Nemausus that stood by the fountain which supplied the lower town, and
that he was firmly convinced that the head which he now produced had
belonged to the statue, which statue had that very night been wantonly and
impiously defaced. He therefore concluded that the owner of the house,
Baudillas Macer, was either directly or indirectly guilty of the act of
sacrilege, and he demanded his punishment in accordance with the law.

This sufficed as preliminary.

Baudillas was now _reus_, and as such was ordered to be conveyed to
prison, there to be confined until the morning, when the interrogation
would take place.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                                 AD FINES


Perpetua was carried along at a swinging trot in the closed litter, till
the end of the street had been reached, and then, after a corner had been
turned, the bearers relaxed their pace. It was too dark for her to see
what were the buildings past which she was taken, even had she withdrawn
the curtains that shut in the litter; but to withdraw these curtains would
have required her to exert some force, as they were held together in the
grasp of Tarsius, running and striding at the side. But, indeed, she did
not suppose it necessary to observe the direction in which she was being
conveyed. She had accepted in good faith the assurance that the _lectica_
had been sent by the rich Christian wool merchant, Largus Litomarus, and
had acquiesced in her mother’s readiness to accept the offer, without a
shadow of suspicion.

God had delivered her from a watery death, and she regarded the gift as
one to be respected; her life thus granted her was not to be wilfully
thrown away or unnecessarily jeopardized. Unless she escaped from the
house of the deacon, she would fall into the hands of the rabble, and this
was a prospect more terrifying than any other. If called upon again to
witness a good confession, she would do so, God helping her, but she was
glad to be spared the ordeal.

It was not till the porters halted, and knocked at a door, and she had
descended from the palanquin, that some suspicion crossed her mind that
all was not right. She looked about her, and inquired for her mother. Then
one whom she had not hitherto noticed drew nigh, bowing, and said: “Lady,
your youthful and still beautiful mother will be here presently. The
slaves who carry her have gone about another way so as to divert attention
from your priceless self, should any of the mob have set off in pursuit.”

The tone of the address surprised the girl. Her mother was not young, and
although in her eyes that mother was lovely, yet Quincta was not usually
approached with expressions of admiration for her beauty.

Again Perpetua accepted what was said, as the reason given was plausible,
and entered the house. The first thing she observed, by the torch glare,
was a statue of Apollo. She was surprised, and inquired, hesitatingly, “Is
this the house of Julius Largus Litomarus?”

“Admirable is your ladyship’s perspicuity. Even in the dark those more‐
than‐Argus eyes discern the truth. The worthy citizen Largus belongs to
the sect. He is menaced as well as other excellent citizens by the
unreasoning and irrational vulgar. He has therefore instructed that you
should be conveyed to the dwelling of a friend, only deploring that it
should be unworthy of your presence.”

“May I ask your name, sir?”

“Septimus Callipodius, at your service.”

“I do not remember to have heard the name, but,” she added with courtesy,
“that is due to my ignorance as a young girl, or to my defective memory.”

“It is a name that has not deserved to be harbored in the treasury of such
a mind.”

The girl was uneasy. The fulsome compliment and the obsequious bow of the
speaker were not merely repugnant to her good taste, but filled her with
vague misgivings. It was true that exaggeration and flattery in address
were common enough at the period, but not among Christians, who abstained
from such extravagance. The mode of speaking adopted by Callipodius
stamped him as not being one of the faithful.

“I will summon a female slave to attend on your ladyship,” said he; “and
she will conduct you to the women’s apartments. Ask for whatever you
desire. The entire contents of the house are at your disposal.”

“I prefer to remain here in the court till my mother shall arrive.”

“Alas! adorable lady! it is possible that you may have to endure her
absence for some time. Owing to the disturbed condition of the streets, it
is to be feared that her carriage has been stopped; it is not unlikely
that she may have been compelled to take refuge elsewhere; but, under no
circumstances short of being absolutely prevented from joining you, will
she fail to meet you to‐morrow in the villa Ad Fines.”

“Whose villa?”

“The villa to which, for security, you and your mother the Lady Quincta
are to be conveyed till the disturbances are over, and the excitement in
men’s minds has abated. By Hercules! one might say that the drama of the
quest of Proserpine by Ceres were being rehearsed, were it not that the
daughter is seeking the mother as well as the latter her incomparable
child.”

“I cannot go to Ad Fines without her.”

“Lady, in all humility, as unworthy to advise you in anything, I would
venture to suggest that your safety depends on accepting the means of
escape that are offered. The high priestess has declared that nothing will
satisfy the incensed god but that you should be surrendered to her, and
what mercy you would be likely to encounter at her hands, after what has
taken place, your penetrating mind will readily perceive. Such being the
case, I dare recommend that you snatch at the opportunity offered, fly the
city and hide in the villa of a friend who will die rather than surrender
you. None will suspect that you are there.”

“What friend? Largus Litomarus is scarcely to be termed an acquaintance of
my mother.”

“Danger draws close all generous ties,” said Callipodius.

“But my mother?”

“Your mother, gifted with vast prudence, may have judged that her presence
along with you would increase the danger to yourself. I do not say so. But
it may so happen that her absence at this moment may be due to her good
judgment. On the other hand, it may also have chanced, as I already
intimated, that her litter has been stayed, and she has been constrained
to sacrifice.”

“That she will never do.”

“In that case, I shudder at the consequences. But why suppose the worst?
She has been delayed. And now, lady, suffer me to withdraw—it is an
eclipse of my light to be beyond the radiance of your eyes. I depart,
however, animated by the conviction, and winging my steps, that I go to
perform your dearest wish—to obtain information relative to your lady
mother, and to learn when and where she will rejoin you. Be ready to start
at dawn—as soon as the city gates are opened, and that will be in another
hour.”

Then Perpetua resigned herself to the female servants, who led her into
the inner and more private portions of the house, reached by means of a
passage called “the Jaws” (_fauces_).

Perpetua was aware that she was in a difficult situation, one in which she
was unable to know how she was placed, and from which she could not
extricate herself. She was young and inexperienced, and, on the whole,
inclined to trust what she was told.

In pagan Rome, it was not customary for girls to be allowed the liberty
that alone could give them self‐confidence. Perhaps the condition of that
evil world was such that this would not have been possible. When the
foulest vice flaunted in public without a blush, when even religion
demoralized, then a Roman parent held that the only security for the
innocence of a daughter lay in keeping her closely guarded from every
corrupting sight and sound. She was separated from her brothers and from
all men; she associated with her mother and with female slaves only. She
was hardly allowed in the street or road, except in a litter with curtains
close drawn, unless it were at some religious festival or public ceremony,
when she was attended by her relatives and not allowed out of their sight.

This was due not merely to the fact that evil was rampant, but also to the
conviction in the hearts of parents that innocence could be preserved only
by ignorance. They were unable to supply a child with any moral principle,
to give it any law for the government of life, which would plant the best
guardian of virtue within, in the heart.

Augustus, knowing of no divine law, elevated sentimental admiration for
the simplicity of the ancients into a principle—only to discover that it
was inadequate to bear the strain put on it; that the young failed to
comprehend why they should control their passions and deny themselves
pleasures out of antiquarian pedantry. Marcus Aurelius had sought in
philosophy a law that would keep life pure and noble, but his son Commodus
cast philosophy to the winds as a bubble blown by the breath of man, and
became a monster of vice. Public opinion was an unstable guide. It did
worse than fluctuate, it sank. Much was tolerated under the Empire that
was abhorrent to the conscience under the Republic. It allowed to‐day what
it had condemned yesterday. It was a nose of wax molded by the vicious
governing classes, accommodated to their license.

Although a Christian maiden was supplied with that which the most exalted
philosophy could not furnish—a revealed moral code, descending from the
Creator of man for the governance of man, yet Christian parents could not
expose their children to contamination of mind by allowing them the wide
freedom given at this day to an English or American girl. Moreover, the
customs of social life had to be complied with, and could not be broken
through. Christian girls were accordingly still under some restraint, were
kept dependent on their parents, and were not allowed those opportunities
for free action which alone develop individuality and give independence of
character. Nevertheless, in times of persecution, when many of these
maidens thus closely watched were brought to the proof of their faith,
they proved as strong as men—so mighty was the grace of God, so stubborn
was faith.

Although Perpetua was greatly exhausted by the strain to which she had
been exposed during the day, she could not rest when left to herself in a
quiet room, so alarmed was she at the absence of her mother.

An hour passed, then a second. Finally, steps sounded in the corridor
before her chamber, and she knew that she must rise from the couch on
which she had cast herself and continue her flight.

A slave presented herself to inform Perpetua that Callipodius had returned
with the tidings that her mother was unable at once to rejoin her, that
she was well and safe, and had preceded her to Ad Fines; that she desired
her daughter to follow with the utmost expedition, and that she was
impatient to embrace her. The slave woman added that the streets were now
quiet, the city gates were open, and that the litter was at the door in
readiness.

“I will follow you with all speed. Leave me to myself.”

Then, when the slave had withdrawn, Perpetua hastily arranged her ruffled
hair, extended her arms, and turning to the east, invoked the protection
of the God who had promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

On descending to the _atrium_, Perpetua knelt by the water‐tank and bathed
her face and neck. Then she mounted the litter that awaited her outside
the house. The bearers at once started at a run, nor did they desist till
they had passed through the city gate on the road that led to the mountain
range of the Cebennæ. This was no military way, but it led into the
pleasant country where the citizens of Nemausus and some of the rich
merchants of Narbo had their summer quarters.

The gray dawn had appeared. Market people from the country were coming
into the town with their produce in baskets and carts.

The bearers jogged along till the road ascended with sufficient rapidity
to make them short of breath. The morning was cold. A streak of light lay
in the east, and the wind blew fresh from the same quarter. The colorless
white dawn overflowed the plain of the Rhodanus, thickly strewn with
olives, whose gray foliage was much of the same tint as the sky overhead.
To the south and southeast the olive plantations were broken by tracts of
water, some permanent lagoons, others due to recent inundations. To the
right, straight as an arrow, white as snow, ran the high road from Italy
to Spain, that crossed the Rhodanus at Ugernum, the modern Beaucaire, and
came from Italy by Tegulata, the scene of the victory of Marius over the
Cimbri, and by Aquæ Sextiæ and its hot springs.

The journey was long; the light grew. Presently the sun rose and flushed
all with light and heat. The chill that had penetrated to the marrow of
the drowsy girl gave way. She had refused food before starting; now, when
the bearers halted at a little wayside tavern for refreshment and rest,
she accepted some cakes and spiced wine from the fresh open‐faced hostess
with kindly eyes and a pleasant smile, and felt her spirits revive. Was
she not to rejoin her dear mother? Had she not escaped with her life from
extreme peril? Was she not going to a place where she would be free from
pursuit?

She continued her journey with a less anxious heart. The scenery improved,
the heights were wooded, there were juniper bushes, here and there tufts
of pale helebore.

Then the litter was borne on to a terrace before a mass of limestone crag
and forest that rose in the rear. A slave came to the side of the
palanquin and drew back the curtain. Perpetua saw a bright pretty villa,
with pillars before it forming a peristyle. On the terrace was a fountain
plashing in a basin.

“Lady,” said the slave, “this is Ad Fines. The master salutes you humbly,
and requests that you will enter.”

“The master? What master?”

“Æmilius Lentulus Varo.”



                               CHAPTER XIV

                           TO THE LOWEST DEPTH


Baudillas found that there were already many in the prison, who had been
swept together by the mob and the soldiers, either for having refused to
produce an image, or for having declined to sacrifice. To his no small
surprise he saw among them the wool‐merchant Julius Largus Litomarus. The
crowd had surrounded his house, and as he had not complied with their
demands, they had sent him to the duumvir,(6) Petronius Atacinus, who had
consigned him to prison till, at his leisure, he could investigate the
charge against him.

The two magistrates who sat in court and gave sentence were Petronius
Atacinus and Vibius Fuscianus, and they took it in turns to sit, each
being the acting magistrate for a month, when he was succeeded by the
other. Atacinus was a humane man, easy‐going, related to the best families
in the place, and acquainted with such as he was not allied with by blood
or marriage. His position, in face of the commotion relative to the
mutilation of the image and the rescue of Perpetua, was not an easy one.

In Rome and in every other important city, the _flamen_, or chief priest,
occupied a post of considerable importance and influence. He sat in the
seat at the games and in the theater next to the chief magistrates, and
took precedence over every other officer in the town. Nemausus had such a
_flamen_, and he was not only the official religious head in the place,
but was also the _flamen Augustalis_, the pontiff connected with the
worship of Augustus, which had become the predominant cult in Narbonese
Gaul, and also head of the College of the Augustals, that comprised the
very powerful body of freedmen. The priestess of the divine founder and
giver of the fountain shared his dignity and authority. Between them they
could exercise a preponderating power in the town, and it would be in vain
for Petronius Atacinus, however easy‐going he might be, and disinclined to
shed blood, to pass over what had been done without affording satisfaction
to the pagan party moved and held together by the priesthood.

Yet the duumvir judged that it would be eminently unadvisable for him to
proceed with too great severity, and to punish too many persons.
Christianity had many adherents in the place, and some of these belonged
to the noble, others to the mercantile, families. The general wish among
the well‐to‐do was that there should be no systematic persecution. An
inquisitorial search after Christians would break up families, rouse angry
passions, and, above all, disturb business.

Petronius had already resolved on his course. He had used every sort of
evasion that could be practiced. He had knowingly abstained from enjoining
on the keepers of the city gates the requisition of a passport from such
as left the town. The more who fled and concealed themselves, the better
pleased would he be.

Nevertheless, he had no thought of allowing the mutilation of the statue
to pass unpunished, and he was resolved on satisfying the priesthood by
restoring Perpetua to them. If he were obliged to put any to death, he
would shed the blood only of such as were inconsiderable and friendless.

There was another element that entered into the matter, and which helped
to render Atacinus inclined to leniency. The Cæsar at the time was M.
Aurelius Antoninus, commonly known as Caracalla. He had been brought up
from infancy by a Christian nurse, and was thought to harbor a lurking
regard for the members of the religion of Christ. At any rate, he
displayed no intolerance towards those who professed it. He was, himself,
a ferocious tyrant, as capricious as he was cruel. He had murdered his
brother Geta in a fit of jealousy, and his conscience, tortured by
remorse, drove him to seek relief by prying into the mysteries of strange
religions.

The duumvir Atacinus was alive to the inclinations and the temper of the
prince, and was the more afraid of offending him by persecution of the
Christians, as the Emperor was about shortly to visit Gaul, and might even
pass through Nemausus.

If in such a condition of affairs the Christians were exposed to danger,
it may well be inferred that, where it was less favorable, their situation
was surrounded with danger. They were at all times liable to fall victims
to popular tumults, occasioned sometimes by panic produced by an
earthquake, by resentment at an accidental conflagration which the vulgar
insisted on referring to the Christians, sometimes by distress at the
breaking out of an epidemic. On such occasions the unreasoning rabble
clamored that the gods were incensed at the spread of the new atheism, and
that the Christians must be cast to the lions.

When Baudillas saw the wool merchant in the prison, he went to him
immediately. Litomarus was sitting disconsolately on a stone bench with
his back against the prison wall.

“I did not go to the Agape,” said he; “I was afraid to do so. But I might
as well. The people bellowed under my windows like bulls of Bashan.”

“And you did not exhibit an image?”

“No, I could not do that. Then the _viatores_ of the ædiles took me in
charge. I was hustled about, and was dragged off here. My wife fell down
in a faint. I do not think she will recover the shock. She has been in a
weak condition ever since the death of our little Cordula. We loved that
child. We were wrapped up in her. Marcianus said that we made of the
little creature an earthly idol, and that it was right she should be taken
away. I do not know. She had such winning ways. One could not help loving
her. She made such droll remarks, and screwed up her little eyes——”

“But before you were arrested, you thought considerately of Perpetua and
her mother Quincta.”

“I do not understand to what you refer.”

“To the sending of litters for them.”

“I sent no litters.”

“Your slave Tarsius came to my house to announce that you had been pleased
to remember the ladies there taking refuge, and that you had placed your
two palanquins at their disposal.”

“Tarsius said this?”

“Even Tarsius.”

“Tarsius is a slippery rascal. He was very fond of our little Cordula, and
was wont to carry her on his shoulder, so we have liked him because of
that. Nevertheless, he is—well, not trustworthy.”

“May God avert that a trap has been laid to ensnare the virgin and her
mother. Tarsius was expelled the Church for inebriety.”

“I know nothing about the palanquins. I have but one. After the death of
little Cordula, I did not care to keep a second. I always carry about with
me a lock cut from her head after death. It is like floss silk.”

The wool merchant was too greatly absorbed in his own troubles to give
attention to the matter that had been broached by the deacon. Baudillas
withdrew to another part of the prison in serious concern.

When day broke, Litomarus was released. His brother was a pagan and had
easily satisfied the magistrate. This brother was in the firm, and
traveled for it, buying fleeces from the shepherds on the limestone
plateaux of Niger and Larsacus. He had been away the day before, but on
his return in the morning, on learning that Julius was arrested, he spoke
with the duumvir, presented him with a ripe ewe’s milk cheese just brought
by him from Larsacus, and obtained the discharge of Julius without further
difficulty.

Baudillas remained in prison that morning, and it was not till the
afternoon that he was conducted into court. By this time the duumvir was
tired and irritable. The _flamen_ had arrived and had spoken with
Atacinus, and complained that no example had been made, that the
Christians were being released, and that, unless some sharp punishments
were administered, the people, incensed at the leniency that had been
exhibited, would break out in uproar again. Petronius Atacinus, angry,
tired out, hungry and peevish, at once sent for the deacon.

The head of the god had been found in his house, and he had been seen
conveying the rescued virgin from the fountain, and must certainly know
where she was concealed.

It was noticeable that nothing had been said about the punishing of
Æmilius. Even the god, as interpreted by the priestess, had made no demand
that he should be dealt with; in fact, had not mentioned him. The duumvir
perfectly understood this reticence. Æmilius Lentulus belonged to a good
family in the upper town, and to that most powerful and dreaded of all
professions—the law. Even the divine founder shrank from attacking a
member of the long robe, and a citizen of the upper town.

When Baudillas appeared in court, the magistrate demanded an explanation
of the fact of the broken head being found in his house, and further asked
of him where Perpetua was concealed.

Baudillas would offer no explanation on the first head; he could not do so
without incriminating his brother in the ministry. He denied that he had
committed the act of violence, but not that he knew who had perpetrated
the outrage. As to where Perpetua was, that he could not say, because he
did not know. His profession of ignorance was not believed. He was
threatened with torture, but in vain. Thereupon the duumvir sentenced him
to be committed to the _robur_, and consigned to the lowest depth thereof,
there to remain till such time as he chose to reveal the required
information.

Then Petronius Atacinus turned and looked at the _flamen_ with a smile,
and the latter responded with a well‐satisfied nod.

A Roman prison consisted of several parts, and the degree of severity
exercised was marked by the portion of the _carcer_ to which the prisoner
was consigned. Roman law knew nothing of imprisonment for a term as a
punishment. The _carcer_ was employed either as a place for temporary
detention till trial, or else it was one for execution.

The most tolerable portion of the jail consisted of the outer court, with
its cells, and a hall for shelter in cold and wet weather. This was in
fact the common _atrium_ on an enlarged scale and without its luxuries.
But there was another part of the prison entitled the _robur_, after the
Tullian prison at Rome. This consisted of one large vaulted chamber devoid
of window, accessible only by the door, through the interstices of which
alone light and air could enter. It derived its name from oak beams
planted against the walls, to which were attached chains, by means of
which prisoners were fastened to them. In the center of the floor was a
round hole, with or without a low breastwork, and this hole communicated
with an abyss sometimes given the Greek name of _barathrum_, with conical
dome, the opening being in the center. This pit was deep in mire. Into it
flowed the sewage of the prison, and the outfall was secured by a
grating.(7) The title of _barathrum_ sometimes accorded to this lower
portion of the dungeon was derived from a swamp near Athens, in which
certain malefactors were smothered.

When Jeremiah was accused before King Zedekiah of inciting the people to
come to terms with the Chaldeans, he was put into such a place as this.

“Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah, that
was in the court of the prison, and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And
in the dungeon there was no water, but mire; so Jeremiah sunk in the
mire.”

When Paul and Silas were at Philippi, they were imprisoned in the superior
portion of the _robur_, where were the stocks, whereas the other prisoners
were in the outer portion, that was more comfortable, and where they had
some freedom of movement.

Baudillas turned gray with horror at the thought of being consigned to the
awful abyss. His courage failed him and he lost power in his knees, so
that he was unable to sustain himself, and the jailer’s assistants were
constrained to carry him.

As he was conveyed through the outer court, those who were awaiting their
trial crowded around him, to clasp and kiss his hand, to encourage him to
play the man for Christ, and to salute him reverently as a martyr.

“I am no martyr, good brethren,” said the deacon in a feeble voice. “I am
not called to suffer for the faith, I have not been asked to sacrifice; I
am to be thrown down into the pit, because I cannot reveal what I do not
know.”

One man, turning to his fellow, said, in a low tone: “If I were given my
choice, I would die by fire rather than linger in the pit.”

“Will he die there of starvation?” asked another, “or will he smother in
the mire?”

“If he be sentenced to be retained there till he tells what he does not
know, he must die there, it matters not how.”

“God deliver me from such a trial of my faith! I might win the crown
through the sword, but a passage to everlasting life through that foul
abyss—that would be past endurance.”

As Baudillas was supported through the doorway into the inner prison, he
turned his head and looked at the brilliant sky above the yard wall. Then
the door was shut and barred behind him. All, however, was not absolutely
dark, for there was a gap, through which two fingers could be thrust,
under the door, and the sun lay on the threshold and sent a faint
reflection through the chamber.

Nevertheless, on entering from the glare of the sun, it seemed to
Baudillas at first as though he were plunged in darkness, and it was not
for some moments that he could distinguish the ledge that surrounded the
well‐like opening. The jailer now proceeded to strike a light, and after
some trouble and curses, as he grazed his knuckles, he succeeded in
kindling a lamp. He now produced a rope, and made a loop at one end about
a short crosspole.

“Sit astride on that,” said he curtly.

Baudillas complied, and with his hands grasped the cord.

Then slowly he was lowered into the pitch blackness below. Down—down—down
he descended, till he plashed into the mire.

The jailer holding the lamp, looked down and called to him to release the
rope. The deacon obeyed. There he stood, looking up, watching the dancing
pole as it mounted, then saw the spark of the lamp withdrawn; heard the
retreating steps of the jailer, then a clash like thunder. The door of the
_robur_ was shut. He was alone at the bottom of this fetid abyss.

Then he said, and tears coursed down his cheeks as he said it: “Thou hast
laid me in the lowest pit—in the place of darkness and in the grave.”



                               CHAPTER XV

                          “REVEALED UNTO BABES”


On account of the death in the family of the timber merchant, Æmilius left
the house and took a room and engaged attendance in the cottage of a
cordwainer a little way off. The house was clean, and the good woman was
able to cook him a meal not drowned in oil nor rank with garlic.

He was uneasy because Callipodius did not return, and he obtained no
tidings concerning Perpetua. The image of this maiden, with a face of
transparent purity, out of which shone the radiance of a beautiful soul,
haunted his imagination and fluttered his heart. He walked by the side of
the flooded tract of land, noticed that the water was falling, and looked,
at every turn he took, in the direction of Nemausus, expecting the arrival
of his client, but always in vain.

He did at length see a boat approach, towards evening, and he paced the
little landing‐place with quick strides till it ran up against it; and
then only, to his disappointment, did he see that Callipodius was not
there. Castor disembarked.

On the strength of his slight acquaintance Æmilius greeted the bishop. The
suspense was become unendurable. He asked to be granted a few words in
private. To this Castor gladly consented.

He, the head of the Christian community, had remained unmolested. He
belonged to a senatorial family in the town, and had relations among the
most important officials. The duumvir would undoubtedly leave him alone
unless absolutely obliged to lay hands on him. Nemausus was divided into
two towns, the Upper and the Lower, each with its own water‐supply, its
own baths, and each distinct in social composition.

The lower town, the old Gallic city, that venerated the hero‐founder of
the same name as the town, was occupied by the old Volcian population and
by a vast number of emancipated slaves of every nationality, many engaged
in trade and very rich. These freedmen were fused into one “order,” as it
was termed, that of the _Liberti_.

The upper town contained the finest houses, and was inhabited by the Roman
colonists, by some descendants of the first Phocean settlers, and by such
of the old Gaulish nobility as had most completely identified themselves
with their conquerors. These had retained their estates and had enriched
themselves by taking Government contracts.

Such scions of the old Gaulish houses had become fused by marriage and
community of interest with the families of the first colonists, and they
affected contempt for the pure‐blooded old aristocracy who had sunk into
poverty and insignificance in their decayed mansions in Lower Nemausus.

Of late years, slowly yet surely, the freedmen who had amassed wealth had
begun to invade superior Nemausus, had built themselves houses of greater
magnificence and maintained an ostentatious splendor that excited the envy
and provoked the resentment of the old senatorial and knightly citizens.

The great natural fountain supplied the lower town with water, but was
situated at too low a level for the convenience of the gentry of Upper
Nemausus, who had therefore conveyed the spring water of Ura from a great
distance by tunneling mountains and bridging valleys, and thus had
furnished themselves with an unfailing supply of the liquid as necessary
to a Roman as was the air he breathed. Thus rendered independent of the
natural fountain at the foot of the rocks in Lower Nemausus, those living
in the higher town affected the cult of the nymph Ura, and spoke
disparagingly of the god of the old town; whereas the inferior part of the
city clung tenaciously to the divine Nemausus, whose basin, full of
unfailing water, was presented to their very lips and had not to be
brought to them from a distance by the engineering skill of men and at a
great cost.

Devotion to the god of the fountain in Lower Nemausus was confined
entirely to the inhabitants of the old town, and was actually a relic of
the old Volcian religion before the advent of the colonists, Greek and
Roman. It had maintained itself and its barbarous sacrifice intact,
undisturbed.

No victim was exacted from a family of superior Nemausus. The contribution
was drawn from among the families of the native nobility, and it was on
this account solely that the continuance of the septennial sacrifice had
been tolerated.

Already, however, the priesthood was becoming aware that a strong feeling
was present that was averse to it. The bulk of the well‐to‐do population
had no traditional reverence for the Gaulish founder‐god, and many openly
spoke of the devotion of a virgin to death as a rite that deserved to be
abolished.

From the cordwainer Æmilius had heard of the mutilation of the statue and
of the commotion it had caused. This, he conjectured, accounted for the
delay of Callipodius. It had interfered with his action; he had been
unable to learn what had become of the damsel, and was waiting till he had
definite tidings to bring before he returned. Æmilius was indignant at the
wanton act of injury done to a beautiful work of art that decorated one of
the loveliest natural scenes in the world. But this indignation was
rendered acute by personal feeling. The disturbance caused by the rescue
of the virgin might easily have been allayed; not so one provoked by such
an act of sacrilege as the defacing of the image of the divine founder.
This would exasperate passions and vastly enhance the danger to Perpetua
and make her escape more difficult.

As Æmilius walked up from the jetty with the bishop, he inquired of him
how matters stood with the Christians in the town and received a general
answer. This did not satisfy the young lawyer, and, as the color suffused
his face, he asked particularly after Perpetua, daughter of the deceased
Harpinius Læto.

The bishop turned and fixed his searching eyes on the young man.

“Why make you this inquiry?” he asked.

“Surely,” answered Æmilius, “I may be allowed to feel interest in one whom
I was the means of rescuing from death. In sooth, I am vastly concerned to
learn that she is safe. It were indeed untoward if she fell once more into
the hands of the priesthood or into those of the populace. The ignorant
would grip as hard as the interested.”

“She is not in the power of either,” answered Castor. “But where she is,
that God knows, not I. Her mother is distracted, but we trust the maiden
has found a refuge among the brethren, and for her security is kept
closely concealed. The fewer who know where she is the better will it be,
lest torture be employed to extort the secret. The Lady Quincta believes
what we have cause to hope and consider probable. This is certain: if she
had been discovered and given up to the magistrate the fact would be known
at once to all in the place.”

“To break the image of the god was a wicked and a wanton act,” said
Æmilius irritably. “Is such conduct part of your religion?”

“The act was that of a rash and hot‐headed member of our body. It was
contrary to my will, done without my knowledge, and opposed to the
teaching of our holy fathers, who have ever dissuaded from such acts. But
in all bodies of men there are hot‐heads and impulsive spirits that will
not endure control.”

“Your own teaching is at fault,” said Æmilius peevishly. “You denounce the
gods, and yet express regret if one of you put your doctrine in practice.”

“If images were ornaments only,” said the bishop, “then they would be
endurable; but when they receive adoration, when libations are poured at
their feet, then we forbid our brethren to take part in such homage, for
it is idolatry, a giving to wood and stone the worship due to God alone.
But we do not approve of insult offered to any man’s religion. No,” said
Castor emphatically; “Christianity is not another name for brutality, and
that is brutality which insults the religious sentiment of the people, who
may be ignorant but are sincere.”

They had reached the rope‐walk. The cordwainer was absent.

“Let us take a turn,” said the bishop; and then he halted and smiled and
extended his palm to a little child that ran up to him and put its hand
within his with innocent confidence.

“This,” said Castor, “is the son of the timber merchant.” Then to the boy:
“Little man, walk with us, but do not interrupt our talk. Speak only when
spoken to.” He again addressed the lawyer: “My friend, if I may so call
thee, thou art vastly distressed at the mutilation of the image. Why so?”

“Because it is a work of art, and that particular statue was the finest
example of the sculpture of a native artist. It was a gift to his native
town of the god Marcus Antoninus (the Emperor Antoninus Pius).”

“Sir,” said Castor, “you are in the right to be incensed. Now tell me
this. If the thought of the destruction of a statue made by man and the
gift of a Cæsar rouse indignation in your mind, should you not be more
moved to see the destruction of living men, as in the shows of the
arena—the slaughter of men, the work of God’s hands?”

“That is for our entertainment,” said Æmilius, yet with hesitation in his
voice.

“Does that condone the act of the mutilator of the image, that he did it
out of sport, to amuse a few atheists and the vulgar? See you how from his
mother’s womb the child has been nurtured, how his limbs have grown in
suppleness and grace and strength; how his intelligence has developed, how
his faculties have expanded. Who made the babe that has become a man? Who
protected him from infancy? Who builds up this little tenement of an
immortal and bright spirit?” He led forward and indicated the child of
Flavillus. “Was it not God? And for a holiday pastime you send men into
the arena to be lacerated by wild beasts or butchered by gladiators! Do
you not suppose that God, the maker of man, must be incensed at this
wanton destruction of His fairest creation?”

“What you say applies to the tree we fell, to the ox and the sheep we
slaughter.”

“Not so,” answered the bishop. “The tree is essential to man. Without it
he cannot build himself a house nor construct a ship. The use of the tree
is essential to his progress from barbarism. Nay, even in barbarism he
requires it to serve him as fuel, and to employ timber demands the fall of
the tree. As to the beast, man is so constituted by his Creator that he
needs animal food. Therefore is he justified in slaying beasts for his
nourishment.”

“According to your teaching death sentences are condemned, as also are
wars.”

“Not so. The criminal may forfeit his right to a life which he is given to
enjoy upon condition that he conduce to the welfare of his fellows. If,
instead thereof, he be a scourge to mankind, he loses his rights. As to
the matter of war: we must guard the civilization we have built up by
centuries of hard labor and study after improvement. We must protect our
frontiers against the incursions of the barbarians. Unless they be rolled
back, they will overwhelm us. Self‐preservation is an instinct lodged in
every breast, justifying man in defending his life and his acquisitions.”

“Your philosophy is humane.”

“It is not a philosophy. It is a revelation.”

“In what consists the difference?”

“A philosophy is a groping upwards. A revelation is a light falling from
above. A philosophy is reached only after the intellect is ripe and
experienced, attained to when man’s mind is fully developed. A revelation
comes to the child as his mind and conscience are opening and shows him
his way. Here, little one! stand on that _cippus_ and answer me.”

Castor took the child in his arms and lifted him to a marble pedestal.

“Little child,” said he, “answer me a few simple questions. Who made you?”

“God,” answered the boy readily.

“And why did He make you?”

“To love and serve Him.”

“And how can you serve Him?”

“By loving all men.”

“What did the Great Master say was the law by which we are to direct our
lives?”

“‘He that loveth God, let him love his brother also.’”

“Little child, what is after death?”

“Eternity.”

“And in eternity where will men be?”

“Those that have done good shall be called to life everlasting, and those
that have done evil will be cast forth into darkness, where is weeping and
gnashing of teeth.”

The bishop took the child from the pedestal, and set him again on the
ground.

Then, with a smile on his face, he said to Æmilius, “Do we desire to know
our way _after_ we have erred or _before_ we start? What was hidden from
the wise and prudent is revealed unto babes. Where philosophy ends, there
our religion begins.”



                               CHAPTER XVI

                         DOUBTS AND DIFFICULTIES


Æmilius paced the rope‐walk in deep thought. He did not speak during
several turns, and the bishop respected his meditation and kept silence as
well.

Presently the young man burst forth with: “This is fairly put, plausible
and attractive doctrine. But what we lawyers demand is evidence. When was
the revelation made? In the reign of the god Tiberius? That was two
centuries ago. What proof is there that this be not a cleverly elaborated
philosophy—as you say, a groping upwards—pretending to be, and showing off
itself as, a lightening downwards?”

“The evidence is manifold,” answered Castor. “In the first place, the
sayings and the acts of the Divine Revealer were recorded by evangelists
who lived at the time, knew Him, heard Him, or were with those who had
daily companied with Him.”

“Of what value is such evidence when we cannot put the men who gave it in
the witness‐box and cross‐question them? I do not say that their evidence
is naught, but that it is disputable.”

“There is other evidence, ever‐living, ever‐present.”

“What is that?”

“Your own reason and conscience. You, Æmilius Lentulus, have these
witnesses in yourself. He who made you seated a conscience in your soul to
show you that there is such a thing as a law of right and wrong, though,
as far as you know, unwritten. Directly I spoke to you of the _sin_ of
murdering men to make pastime, your color changed; you _knew_ that I was
right. Your conscience assented to my words.”

“I allow that.”

“My friend, let me go further. When your mind is not obscured by passion
or warped by prejudice, then you perceive that there is a sphere of
holiness, of virtue, of purity, to which men have not yet attained, and
which, for all you see, is unattainable situated as you are, but one into
which, if man could mount, then he would be something nobler than even the
poets have conceived. You have flashes of summer lightning in your dark
sky. You reject the monstrous fables of the gods as inconsistent with what
your reason and conscience tell you comport with divinity. Has any of your
gods manifested himself and left such a record of his appearance as is
fairly certain? If he appeared, or was fabled to have appeared, did he
tell men anything about the nature of God, His will, and the destiny of
man? A revelation must be in agreement with the highest aspirations of
man. It must be such as will regulate his life, and conduce to his
perfection and the advantage of the community. It must be such as will
supply him with a motive for rejecting what is base, but pleasing to his
coarse nature, and striving after that which is according to the luminous
ideal that floats before him. Now the Christian revelation answers these
conditions, and is therefore probably true. It supplies man with a reason
why he should contend against all that is gross in his nature; should be
gentle, courteous, kindly, merciful, pure. It does more. It assures him
that the Creator made man in order that he might strive after this ideal,
and in so doing attain to serenity and happiness. No other religion that I
know of makes such claims; no other professes to have been revealed to man
as the law of his being by Him who made man. No other is so completely in
accordance on the one hand with what we conceive is in agreement with the
nature of God, and on the other so completely accords with our highest
aspirations.”

“I can say nothing to that. I do not know it.”

“Yes, you do know it. The babe declared it; gave you the marrow and kernel
of the gospel: Love God and man.”

“To fear God is what I can understand; but to love Him is more than I can
compass.”

“Because you do not know God.”

“I do not, indeed.”

“God is love.”

“A charming sentiment; a rhetorical flourish. What evidence can you adduce
that God is love?”

“Creation.”

“The earth is full of suffering; violence prevails; wrong overmasters
right. There is more of misery than of happiness, saving only to the rich
and noble; they are at any rate supposed to be exempt, but, by Hercules,
they seem to me to be sick of pleasure, and every delight gluts and leaves
a bad taste in the mouth.”

“That is true; but why is there all this wretchedness? Because the world
is trying to get along without God. Look!” The bishop stooped and took up
a green‐backed beetle. “If I cast this insect into the water it will
suffer and die. If I fling it into the fire it will writhe and perish in
agony. Neither water nor fire is the element for which it was created—in
which to exist and be happy. The divine law is the atmosphere in which man
is made to live. Because there is deflection from that, and man seeks
other ends than that for which he was made, therefore comes wretchedness.
The law of God is the law man must know, and knowing, pursue to be
perfectly happy and to become a perfect being.”

“Now I have you!” exclaimed Æmilius, with a laugh. “There are no men more
wretched than Christians who possess, and, I presume, keep this law. They
abstain from our merry‐makings, from the spectacles; they are liable to
torture and to death.”

“We abstain from nothing that is wholesome and partaken in moderation; but
from drunkenness, surfeiting, and what is repugnant to the clean mind. As
to the persecution we suffer, the powers of evil rebel against God, and
stir up bad men to resist the truth. But let me say something further—if I
do not weary you.”

“Not at all; you astonish me too much to weary me.”

“You are dropped suddenly—cast up by the sea on a strange shore. You find
yourself where you have never been before. You know not where to go—how to
conduct yourself among the natives; what fruits you may eat as wholesome,
and must reject as poisonous. You do not know what course to pursue to
reach your home, and fear at every step to get further from it. You cry
out for a chart to show you where you are, and in what direction you
should direct your steps. Every child born into this world is in a like
predicament. It wants a chart, and to know its bearings. This is not the
case with any animal. Every bird, fish, beast, knows what to do to fulfill
the objects of its existence. Man alone does not. He has aspirations,
glimmerings, a law of nature traced, but not filled in. He has lived by
that natural law—you live under it, and you experience its inadequacy.
That is why your conscience, all mankind, with inarticulate longing
desires something further. Now I ask you, as I did once before, is it
conceivable that the Creator of man, who put in man’s heart that
aspiration, that longing to know the law of his being, without which his
life is but a miserable shipwreck—is it conceivable that He should
withhold from him the chart by which he can find his way?”

“You have given me food for thought. Yet, my doubts still remain.”

“I cannot give you faith. That lightens down from above. It is the gift of
God. Follow the law of your conscience and He may grant it you. I cannot
say when or how, and what means he may employ—but if you are sincere and
not a trifler with the truth—He will not deny it you. But see—here comes
some one who desires to speak with you.”

Æmilius looked in the direction indicated, and saw Callipodius coming up
from the water‐side, waving his hand to him. So engrossed had he been in
conversation with Castor, that he had not observed the arrival of a boat
at the landing‐place.

At once the young lawyer sped to meet his client, manifesting the utmost
impatience.

“What tidings—what news?” was his breathless question.

“As good as may be,” answered Callipodius. “The gods work to fulfill thy
desire. It is as if thou wert a constraining destiny, or as though it were
a pleasure to them to satisfy the wishes of their favorite.”

“I pray, lay aside this flattery, and speak plain words.”

“Resplendent genius that thou art! thou needest no flattery any more than
the sun requires burnishing.”

“Let me entreat—the news!”

“In two words——”

“Confine thyself to two words.”

“She is safe.”

“Where? How?”

“Now must I relax my tongue. In two words I cannot satisfy thy eagerness.”

“Then, Body of Bacchus! go on in thine own fashion.”

“The account may be crushed into narrow compass. When I left your radiant
presence, then I betook myself to the town and found the place in
turmoil—the statue of the god had been broken, and the deity was braying
like a washerwoman’s jackass. The populace was roused and incensed by the
outrage, and frightened by the voice of the god. All had quieted down
previously, but this worked up the people to a condition of frantic rage
and panic. I hurried about in quest of the Lady Perpetua; and as I learned
that she had been conveyed from the pool by Baudillas Macer, I went into
the part of the town where he lives; noble once, now slums. Then, lo! thy
genius attending and befriending me, whom should I stumble against but a
fellow named Tarsius, a slave of a wool merchant to whom I owe moneys,
which I haven’t yet paid. I knew the fellow from a gash he had received at
one time across nose and cheek. He was drunk and angry because he had been
expelled the Christian society which was holding its orgies. I warrant
thee I frightened the poor wretch with promises of the little horse, the
panthers, and the cross, till he became pliant and obliging. Then I wormed
out of him all I required, and made him my tool to obtain possession of
the pretty maid. I learned from him that the Lady Quincta and her daughter
were at the house of Baudillas, afraid to return home because their door
was observed by some of the Cultores Nemausi. Then I suborned the rascal
to act a part for me. From thy house I dispatched two litters and
carriers, and sent that tippling rogue with them to the dwelling of Macer,
to say that he was commissioned by his master, Litomarus, to conduct them
to his country house for their security. They walked into the snare like
fieldfare after juniper berries. Then the porters conveyed the girl to thy
house.”

“To my house!” Æmilius started.

“Next, she was hurried off as soon as ever the gates were opened, to your
villa at Ad Fines.”

“And she is there now, with her mother?”

“With her mother! I know better than to do that. I bade the porters convey
the old lady in her palanquin to the goose and truffle market and deposit
her there. No need to be encumbered with her.”

“The Lady Quincta not with her daughter?”

“You were not desirous for further acquaintance with the venerable widow,
I presume.”

“But,” said Æmilius, “this is a grave matter. You have offered, as from
me, an insult most wounding to a young lady, and to a respectable matron.”

“Generous man! how was it possible for me to understand the niceties that
trouble your perspicuous mind? But be at ease. Serious sickness demands
strong medicines. Great dangers excuse bold measures. The priestess has
demanded the restoration of the virgin. The _flamen Augustalis_ is backing
her up. So are all the _Seviri_. The religious corporation feel touched in
their credit and insist on the restitution. They will heap on fuel, and
keep Nemausus in a boil. By no possibility could the damsel have remained
hidden in the town. I saw that it was imperiously necessary for me to
remove her. I could think of no other place into which to put her than Ad
Fines. I managed the matter in admirable fashion; though it is I who say
it. But really, by Jupiter Capitolinus, I believe that your genius
attended me, and assisted in the execution of the design, which was
carried out without a hitch.”

Æmilius knitted his arms behind his back, and took short turns, in great
perturbation of mind.

“By Hercules!” said he, “you have committed an actionable offense.”

“Of course, you look on it from a legal point of view,” said Callipodius,
a little nettled. “I tell you it was a matter of life or death.”

“I do not complain of your having conveyed the young lady to Ad Fines, but
of your not having taken her mother there along with her. You have put me
in a very awkward predicament.”

“How was I to judge that the old woman was to be deported as well?”

“You might have judged that I would cut off my right hand rather than do
aught that might cause people to speak lightly of Perpetua.”

The client shrugged his shoulders. “You seem to breed new scruples.”

“I thank you,” said Æmilius, “that you have shown so good a will, and have
been so successful in your enterprise. I am, perhaps, over hasty and
exacting. I desired you to do a thing more perfectly than perhaps you were
able to perform it. Leave me now. I must clear my mind and discover what
is now to be done.”

“There is no pleasing some folk,” said Callipodius moodily.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                                   PEDO


Baudillas had been lowered into the pit of the _robur_, and he sank in the
slime half‐way up his calves. He waded with extended arms, groping for
something to which to cling. He knew not whether the bottom were even, or
fell into deep holes, into which he might stumble. He knew not whether he
were in a narrow well or in a spacious chamber.

Cautiously, in obscurity, he groped, uncertain even whether he went
straight or was describing a curve. But presently he touched the wall and
immediately discovered a bench, and seated himself thereon. Then he drew
up his feet out of the mire, and cast himself in a reclining position on
the stone seat.

He looked up, but could not distinguish the opening by which he had been
let down into the horrible cess‐pit. He was unable to judge to what depth
he had been lowered, nor could he estimate the extent of the dungeon in
which he was confined.

The bench on which he reposed was slimy, the walls trickled with moisture,
were unctuous, and draped with a fungous growth in long folds. The whole
place was foul and cold.

How long would his confinement last? Would food, pure water be lowered to
him? Or was he condemned to waste away in this pit, from starvation, or in
the delirium of famine to roll off from his shelf and smother in the mire?

After a while his eyes became accustomed to the dark and sensitive to the
smallest gradations in it; and then he became aware of a feeble glowworm
light over the surface of the ooze at one point. Was it that some fungoid
growth there was phosphorescent? Or was it that a ray of daylight
penetrated there by some tortuous course?

After long consideration it seemed to him probable that the light he
distinguished might enter by a series of reflections through the outfall.
He thought of examining the opening, but to do so he would be constrained
to wade. He postponed the exploration till later. Of one thing he was
confident, that although a little sickly light might be able to struggle
into this horrible dungeon, yet no means of egress for the person would be
left. Precautions against escape by this means would certainly have been
taken.

The time passed heavily. At times Baudillas sank into a condition of
stupor, then was roused to thought again, again to lapse into a comatose
condition. His cut lip was sore, his bruises ached. He had passed his
tongue over his broken teeth till they had fretted his tongue raw.

The feeble light at the surface became fainter, and this was finally
extinguished. The day was certainly at an end. The sun had set in the
west, an auroral glow hung over the place of its decline. Stars were
beginning to twinkle; the syringa was pouring forth its fragrance, the
flowering thorns their too heavy odor. Dew was falling gently and cool.

The deacon raised his heart to God, and from this terrible pit his prayer
mounted to heaven; a prayer not for deliverance from death, but for grace
to endure the last trial, and if again put to the test, to withstand
temptation. Then he recited the evening prayer of the Church, in Greek: “O
God, who art without beginning and without end, the Maker of the world by
Thy Christ, and the sustainer thereof, God and Father, Lord of the spirit,
King of all things that have reason and life! Thou who hast made the day
for the works of light, and the night for the refreshment of our
infirmity, for the day is Thine, the night is Thine: Thou hast prepared
the light and the sun—do Thou now, O Lord, lover of mankind, fountain of
all good, mercifully accept this our evening thanksgiving. Thou who hast
brought us through the length of the day, and hast conducted us to the
threshold of night, preserve us by Thy Christ, afford us a peaceful
evening, and a sinless night, and in the end everlasting life by Thy
Christ, through whom be glory, honor and worship in the Holy Spirit, for
ever, amen.”(8) After this prayer Baudillas had been wont in the church to
say, “Depart in peace!” and to dismiss the faithful. Now he said, “Into
Thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Out of that fetid abyss and its horrible darkness rose the prayer to God,
winged with faith, inspired by fervor sweet with humility, higher than the
soaring lark, higher than the faint cloud that caught the last rays of the
set sun, higher than the remotest star.

Presently a confused sound from above reached the prisoner, and a spot of
orange light fell on the water below. Then came a voice ringing hollow
down the depth, and echoed by the walls, “Thy food!” A slender rope was
sent down, to which was attached a basket that contained bread and a
pitcher of water. Baudillas stepped into the ooze and took the loaf and
the water vessel.

Then the jailer called again: “To‐morrow morning—if more be needed—I will
bring a second supply. Send up the empty jar when I lower that which is
full, if thou art in a condition to require it.” He laughed, and the laugh
resounded as a bellow in the vaulted chamber.

Few were the words spoken, and they ungracious. Yet was the deacon
sensible of pleasure at hearing even a jailer’s voice breaking the
dreadful silence. He waded back to his ledge, ate the dry bread and drank
some of the water. Then he laid himself down again. Again the door
clashed, sending thunders below, and once more he was alone.

As his hand traveled along the wall it encountered a hard round knot. He
drew his hand away precipitately, but then, moved by curiosity, groped for
it again. Then he discovered that this seeming excrescence was a huge
snail, there hibernating. He dislodged it, threw it from him and it
plashed into the mire.

Time dragged. Not a sound could be heard save the monotonous drip of some
leak above. Baudillas counted the falling drops, then wearied of counting,
and abandoned the self‐imposed task.

Now he heard a far‐away rushing sound, then came a blast of hot vapor
blowing in his face. He started into a sitting posture, and clung to his
bench. In another moment he heard the roar of water that plunged from
above; and a hot steam enveloped him. What was the signification of this?
Was the pit to be flooded with scalding water and he drowned in it? In a
moment he had found the explanation. The water was being let off from the
public baths. There would be no more bathers this night. The tide of tepid
water rose nearly level with the ledge on which he was crouching, and then
ebbed away and rolled forth at the vent through which by day a pale halo
had entered.

Half suffocated, part stupefied by the warm vapor, Baudillas sank into a
condition without thought, his eyes looking into the blackness above, his
ears hearing without noting the dribble from the drain through which the
flood had spurted. Presently he was roused by a sense of irritation in
every nerve, and putting his hand to his face plucked away some hundred‐
legged creature, clammy and yet hard, that was creeping over him. It was
some time before his tingling nerves recovered. Then gradually torpor
stole over him, and he was perhaps unconscious for a couple of hours, when
again he was roused by a sharp pain in his finger, and starting, he heard
a splash, a rush and squeals. At once he knew that a swarm of rats had
invaded the place. He had been bitten by one; his start had disconcerted
the creatures momentarily, and they had scampered away.

Baudillas remained motionless, save that he trembled; he was sick at
heart. In this awful prison he dared not sleep, lest he should be devoured
alive.

Was this to be his end—to be kept awake by horror of the small foes till
he could endure the tension no longer, and then sink down in dead
weariness and blank indifference on his bench, and at once be assailed
from all sides, to feel the teeth, perhaps to attempt an ineffectual
battle, then to be overcome and to be picked to his bones?

As he sat still, hardly breathing, he felt the rats again. They were
rallying, some swimming, some swarming up on to the shelf. They rushed at
him with the audacity given by hunger, with the confidence of experience,
and the knowledge of their power when attacking in numbers.

He cried out, beat with his hands, kicked out with his feet, swept his
assailants off him by the score; yet such as could clung to his garment by
their teeth and, not discomfited, quickly returned. To escape them he
leaped into the mire; he plunged this way, then that; he returned to the
wall; he attempted to scramble up it beyond their reach, but in vain.

Wherever he went, they swam after him. He was unarmed, he could kill none
of his assailants; if he could but decimate the horde it would be
something. Then he remembered the pitcher and felt for that. By this time
he had lost his bearings wholly. He knew not where he had left the vessel.
But by creeping round the circumference of his prison, he must eventually
reach the spot where he had previously been seated, and with the
earthenware vessel he would defend himself as long as he was able.

Whilst thus wading, he was aware of a cold draught blowing in his face,
and he knew that he had reached the opening of the sewer that served as
outfall. He stooped and touched stout iron bars forming part of a grating.
He tested them, and assured himself that they were so thick set that it
was not possible for him to thrust even his head between them.

All at once the rats ceased to molest him. They had retreated, whither he
could not guess, and he knew as little why. Possibly, they were shrewd
enough to know that they had but to exercise patience, and he must
inevitably fall a prey to their teeth.

Almost immediately, however, he was aware of a little glow, like that of a
spark, and of a sound of splashing. He was too frightened, too giddy, to
collect his thoughts, so as to discover whence the light proceeded, and
what produced the noise.

Clinging to the grating, Baudillas gazed stupidly at the light, that grew
in brightness, and presently irradiated a face. This he saw, but he was
uncertain whether he actually did see, or whether he were a prey to an
illusion.

Then the light flashed over him, and his eyes after a moment recognized
the face of his old slave, Pedo. A hand on the further side grasped one of
the stanchions, and the deacon heard the question, “Master, are you safe?”

“Oh, Pedo, how have you come into this place?”

“Hush, master. Speak only in a whisper. I have waded up the sewer
(_cloaca_), and have brought with me two stout files. Take this one, and
work at the bar on thy side. I will rasp on the other. In time we shall
cut through the iron, and then thou wilt be able to escape. When I heard
whither thou hadst been cast, then I saw my way to making an effort to
save thee.”

“Pedo! I will give thee thy liberty!”

“Master! it is I who must first manumit thee.”

Then the slave began to file, and as he filed he muttered, “What is
liberty to me? At one time, indeed! Ah, at one time, when I was young, and
so was Blanda! But now I am old and lame. I am well treated by a good
master. Well, well! Sir! work at the bar where I indicate with my finger.
That is a transversal stanchion and sustains the others.”

Hope of life returned. The heart of Baudillas was no longer chilled with
fear and his brain stunned with despair. He worked hard, animated by
eagerness to escape. There was a spring of energy in the little flame of
the lamp, an inspiring force in the presence of his slave. The bar was
thick, but happily the moisture of the place and the sour exhalations had
corroded it, so that thick flakes of rust fell off under the tool.

“Yesterday, nothing could have been done for you, sir,” said Pedo, “for
the inundation was so extensive that the sewer was closed with water that
had risen a foot above the opening into the river. But, thanks be to God,
the flood has fallen. Those who know the sky declare that we shall have a
blast of the _circius_ (the mistral) on us suddenly, and bitter weather.
The early heat has dissolved the snows over‐rapidly and sent the water
inundating all the low land. Now with cold, the snows will not melt.”

“Pedo,” said the deacon, “hadst thou not come, the rats would have
devoured me. They hunted me as a pack of wolves pursue a deer in the
Cebennæ.”

“I heard them, master, as I came up the sewer. There are legions of them.
But they fear the light, and as long as the lamp burns will keep their
distance.”

“Pedo,” whispered Baudillas again, after a pause, whilst both worked at
the bar. “I know not how it was that when I stood before the duumvir, I
did not betray my Heavenly Master. I was so frightened. I was as in a
dream. They may have thought me firm, but I was in reality very weak.
Another moment, or one more turn of the rack and I would have fallen.”

“Master! God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.”

“Yes, it is so. I myself am a poor nothing. Oh, that I had the manhood of
Marcianus!”

“Press against the bar, master. With a little force it will yield.”

Pedo removed the lamp that he had suspended by a hook from the crossbar.
Baudillas threw himself with his full weight against the grating, and the
stanchion did actually snap under the impact, at the place where filed.

“That is well,” said the slave. “Thy side of the bar is also nearly rasped
through. Then we must saw across this upright staff of iron. To my
thinking it is not fastened below.”

“It is not. I have thrust my foot between it and the paving. Methinks it
ends in a spike and barbs.”

“If it please God that we remove the grating, then thou must follow me,
bending low.”

“Is the distance great?”

“Sixty‐four paces of thine; of mine, more, as I do but hobble.”

“Hah! this is ill‐luck.”

With the energy of filing, and owing to the loosened condition of the bar,
the lamp had been displaced, and it fell from where it had been suspended
and was extinguished in the water.

Both were now plunged in darkness as of Erebus, and were moreover exposed
to danger from the rats. But perhaps the grating of the files, or the
whispers of the one man to the other, alarmed the suspicious beasts, and
they did not venture to approach.

“Press, master! I will pull,” said the slave. His voice quivered with
excitement.

Baudillas applied his shoulder to the grating, and Pedo jerked at it
sharply.

With a crack it yielded; with a plash it fell into the water.

“Quick, my master—lay hold of my belt and follow. Bow your head low or you
will strike the roof. We must get forth as speedily as may be.”

“Pedo! the jailer said that if alive I was to give a sign on the morrow.
He believes that during the night I will be devoured by rats, as doubtless
have been others.”

“Those executed in the prison are cast down there.”

“Perhaps,” said Baudillas, “if he meet with no response in the morning he
will conclude that I am dead, and I do not think he will care to descend
and discover whether it be so.”

After a short course through the arched passage, both stood upright; they
were to their breasts in water, but the water was fresh and pure. Above
their heads was the vault of heaven, not now spangled with stars but
crossed by scudding drifts of vapor.

Both men scrambled out of the river to the bank, and then Baudillas
extended his arms, and said, with face turned to the sky:

“I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me, and heard my
calling. He hath brought me also out of the horrible pit, out of the mire
and clay, and hath set my feet upon the rock. And He hath put a new song
in my mouth, even a thanksgiving unto our God.”(9)



                              CHAPTER XVIII

                           IN THE CITRON‐HOUSE


Perpetua, at Ad Fines, was a prey to unrest. She was in alarm for the
safety of her mother, and she was disconcerted at having been smuggled off
to the house of a man who was a stranger, though to him she owed her life.

The villa was in a lovely situation, with a wide outstretch of landscape
before it to the Rhône, and beyond to the blue and cloudlike spurs of the
Alps; and the garden was in the freshness of its first spring beauty. But
she was in too great trouble to concern herself about scenery and flowers.
Her thoughts turned incessantly to her mother. In the embarrassing
situation in which she was—and one that was liable to become far more
embarrassing—she needed the support and counsel of her mother.

Far rather would she have been in prison at Nemausus, awaiting a hearing
before the magistrate, and perhaps condemnation to death, than be as at
present in a charming country house, attended by obsequious servants,
provided with every comfort, yet ignorant why she had been brought there,
and what the trials were to which she would be subjected.

The weather had changed with a suddenness not infrequent in the province.
The warm days were succeeded by some of raging wind and icy rains. In
fact, the mistral had begun to blow. As the heated air rose from the stony
plains, its place was supplied by that which was cold from the snowy
surfaces of the Alps, and the downrush was like that to which we nowadays
give the term of blizzard. So violent is the blast on these occasions that
the tillers of the soil have to hedge round their fields with funereal
cypresses, to form a living screen against a wind that was said, or
fabled, to have blown the cow out of one pasture into that of another
farmer, but which, without fable, was known to upset ricks and carry away
the roofs of houses.

To a cloudless sky, traversed by a sun of almost summer brilliancy,
succeeded a heaven dark, iron‐gray, with whirling vapors that had no
contour, and which hung low, trailing their dripping skirts over the
shivering landscape.

Trees clashed their boughs. The wood behind the villa roared like a
cataract. In the split ledges and prongs of limestone, among the box‐
bushes and junipers, the wind hissed and screamed. Birds fled for refuge
to the eaves of houses or to holes in the cliffs. Cattle were brought
under shelter. Sheep crouched dense packed on the lee side of a stone
wall. The very ponds and lagoons were whipped and their surfaces flayed by
the blast. Stones were dislodged on the mountain slopes, and flung down;
pebbles rolled along the plains, as though lashed forward by whips. The
penetrating cold necessitated the closing of every shutter, and the
heating of the hypocaust under the house. In towns, in the houses of the
better classes, the windows were glazed with thin flakes of mica (_lapis
specularis_), a transparent stone brought from Spain and Cappadocia, but
in the country this costly luxury was dispensed with, as the villas were
occupied only in the heat of summer, when there was no need to exclude the
air. The window openings were closed with shutters. Rooms were not warmed
by fireplaces, with wood fires on hearths, but by an arrangement beneath
the mosaic and cement floor, where a furnace was kindled, and the smoke
and heated air were carried by numerous pipes up the walls on all sides,
thus producing a summer heat within when all was winter without.

In the fever of her mind, Perpetua neither felt the asperity of the
weather nor noticed the comfort of the heated rooms. She was incessantly
restless, was ever running to the window or the door, as often to be
disappointed, in anticipation of meeting her mother. She was perplexed as
to the purpose for which she had been conveyed to Ad Fines. The slave
woman, Blanda, who attended her, was unable or unwilling to give her
information. All she pretended to know was that orders had been issued by
Callipodius, friend and client of Æmilius Lentulus, her master, that the
young lady was to be made comfortable, was to be supplied with whatever
she required, and was on no account to be suffered to leave the grounds.
The family was strictly enjoined not to mention to any one her presence in
the villa, under pain of severe chastisement.

Blanda was kind and considerate, and had less of the fawning dog in her
manner than was customary among slaves. It was never possible, even for
masters, to trust the word of their servants; consequently Perpetua, who
knew what slaves were, placed little reliance on the asseverations of
ignorance that fell from the lips of Blanda. There was, in the
conversation of Blanda, that which the woman intended to reassure, but
which actually heightened the uneasiness of the girl—this was the way in
which the woman harped continually on the good looks, amiability and
wealth of her master, who, as she insisted, belonged to the Voltinian
tribe, and was therefore one of the best connected and highest placed in
the colony.

The knowledge that she had been removed to Ad Fines to insure her safety
did not satisfy Perpetua; and she was by no means assured that she had
thus been carried off with the approbation and knowledge of her mother, or
of the bishop and principal Christians of her acquaintance in Nemausus. Of
Æmilius Varo she really knew nothing save that he was a man of pleasure
and a lawyer.

Adjoining the house was a conservatory. Citron trees and oleanders in
large green‐painted boxes were employed in summer to decorate the terrace
and gardens. They were allowed to be out in mild winters, but directly the
mistral began to howl, the men‐servants of the house had hurriedly
conveyed them within doors into the conservatory, as the gale would strip
them of their fruit, bruise the leaves and injure the flowers.

In her trouble of mind, unable to go abroad in the bitter weather,
impatient of quiet, Perpetua entered the citron‐house and walked among the
trees in their green tubs, now praying for help, then wiping the drops
from her eyes and brow.

As she thus paced, she heard a stir in the house, the opening of doors,
the rush of wind driving through it, the banging of valves and rattle of
shutters. Then she heard voices, and among them one that was imperious. A
moment later, Blanda ran to Perpetua, and after making a low obeisance
said: “The master is come. He desires permission to speak with you, lady,
when he hath had his bath and hath assumed a change of raiment. For by the
mother goddesses, no one can be many moments without and not be drenched
to the bone. And this exhibits the master’s regard for thee, lady; his
extreme devotion to your person and regard for your comfort, that he has
exposed himself to cold and rain and wind so as to come hither to inquire
if you are well, and if there be aught you desire that he can perform to
content you.”

What was Perpetua to do? She plucked some citron blossoms in her nervous
agitation, unknowing what she did, then answered timidly: “I am in the
house of the noble Æmilius. Let him speak with me here when it suits his
convenience. Yet stay, Blanda! Inquire at once, whether he brings me
tidings of my dear mother.”

The slave hasted away, and returned directly to inform Perpetua that her
master was grieved to relate that he was unable to give her the desired
information, but that he only awaited instructions from Perpetua to take
measures to satisfy her.

Then the girl was left alone, and in greater agitation than before. She
walked among the evergreens, putting the citron flowers to her nose,
plucking off the leaves, pressing her hand to her brow, and wiping her
distilling eyes.

The conservatory was unglazed. It was furnished with shutters in which
were small openings like those in fiddles. Consequently a twilight reigned
in the place; what light entered was colorless, and without brilliancy.
Through the openings could be seen the whirling vapors; through them also
the rain spluttered in, and the wind sighed a plaintive strain, now and
then rising to a scream.

Perpetua still held the little bunch of citron in her hand; she was as
unaware that she held it as that she had plucked it. Her mind was
otherwise engaged, and her nervous fingers must needs clasp something.

As she thus walked, fearing the appearance of Æmilius, and yet desirous of
having a term put to her suspense, she heard steps, and in another moment
the young lawyer stood before her. He bowed with hands extended, and with
courtly consideration would not draw near. Aware that she was shy or
frightened, he said: “I have to ask your pardon, young lady, for this
intrusion on your privacy, above all for your abduction to this house of
mine. It was done without my having been consulted, but was done with good
intent, by a friend, to place you out of danger. I had no part in the
matter; nevertheless I rejoice that my house has had the honor of serving
you as a refuge from such as seek your destruction.”

“I thank you,” answered the girl constrainedly. “I owe you a word of
acknowledgment of my lively gratitude for having rescued me from the
fountain, and another for affording me shelter here. But if I may be
allowed to ask a favor, it is that my mother be restored to me, or me to
my mother.”

“Alas, lady,” said Æmilius, “I have no knowledge where she is. I myself
have been in concealment—for the rabble has been incensed against me for
what I was privileged to do, at the Nemausean basin, unworthy that I was.
I have not since ventured into the town; not that I believe the rabble
would dare attempt violence against me, but I do not think it wise to
allow them the chance. I sent my good, blundering friend Callipodius to
inquire what had become of you, as I was anxious lest you should again be
in peril of your life; and he—Callipodius—seeing what a ferment there was
in the town, and how determined the priesthood was to get you once more
into its power, he consulted his mother wit, and had you conveyed to my
country house. Believe me, lady, he was actuated by a sincere wish to do
you service. If he had but taken the Lady Quincta away as well, and lodged
her here along with you, I would not have a word of reproach for him, nor
entertain a feeling of guilt in your eyes.”

“My mother was in the first litter.”

“That litter did not pass out of the gates of Nemausus. Callipodius was
concerned for your safety, as he knew that it was you who were menaced and
not your mother.”

“But it is painful for me to be away from my mother.”

“Lady! you are safer separated from her. If she be, as I presume, still in
the town, then those who pursue you will prowl about where she is, little
supposing that you are elsewhere, and the secret of your hiding‐place
cannot be wrung from her if she does not herself know it.”

“I concern myself little about my life,” said Perpetua. “But, to be alone
here, away from her, from every relation, in a strange house——”

“I know what you would say, or rather what you feel and do not like to
say. I have a proposal to make to you which will relieve your difficulty
if it commends itself to you. It will secure your union with your mother,
and prevent anything being spoken as to your having been concealed here
that may offend your honorable feelings.”

Perpetua said nothing. She plucked at the petals of the citron flower and
strewed them on the marble pavement.

“You have been brought to this house, and happily none know that you are
here, save my client, Callipodius, and myself. But what I desire to say is
this. Give me a right to make this your refuge, and me a right to protect
you. If I be not distasteful to you, permit this. I place myself
unreservedly in your hands. I love you, but my respect for you equals my
love. I am rich and enjoy a good position. I have nothing I can wish for
but to be authorized by you to be your defender against every enemy. Be my
wife, and not all the fools and _flamines_ of the province can touch a
hair of your head.”

The tears welled into Perpetua’s eyes. She looked at the young man, who
stood before her with such dignity and gentleness of demeanor. He seemed
to her to be as noble, as good as a heathen well could be. He felt for her
delicate position; he had risked his life and fortunes to save her. He had
roused the powerful religious faction of his native city against him, and
he was now extending his protection over her against the priesthood and
the mob of Nemausus.

“I know,” pursued Æmilius, “that I am not worthy of one such as yourself.
I offer myself because I see no other certain means of making you secure,
save by your suffering me to be your legitimate defender. If your mother
will consent, and I am so happy as to have yours, then we will hurry on
the rites which shall make us one, and not a tongue can stir against you
and not a hand be lifted to pluck you from my side.”

Perpetua dropped the flower, now petalless. She could not speak. He
respected her emotions, and continued to address her.

“I am confident that I can appease the excitement among the people and the
priests, and those attached to the worship of the divine ancestor. They
will not dare to push matters to extremities. The sacrifice has been
illegal all along, but winked at by the magistrates because a custom
handed down with the sanction of antiquity. But a resolute protest made—if
need be an appeal to Cæsar—and the priesthood are paralyzed. Consider also
that as my wife they could no longer demand you. Their hold on you would
be done for, as none but an unmarried maid may be sacrificed. The very
utmost they can require in their anger and disappointment will be that you
should publicly sprinkle a few grains of incense on the altar of
Nemausus.”

“I cannot do that. I am a Christian.”

“Believe what you will. Laugh at the gods as do I and many another. A few
crumbs of frankincense, a little puff of smoke that is soon sped.”

“It may not be.”

“Remain a Christian, adhere to its philosophy or revelation, as Castor
calls it. Attend its orgies, and be the protectress of your fellow‐
believers.”

“None the less, I cannot do it.”

“But why not?”

“I cannot be false to Christ.”

“What falsehood is there in this?”

“It is a denial of Him.”

“Bah! He died two hundred years ago.”

“He lives, He is ever present, He sees and knows all.”

“Well, then He will not look harshly on a girl who acts thus to save her
life.”

“I should be false to myself as well as to Him.”

“I cannot understand this——”

“No, because you do not know and love Him.”

“Love Him!” echoed Æmilius, “He is dead. You never saw Him at any time. It
is impossible for any one to love one invisible, unseen, a mere historical
character. See, we have all over Gallia Narbonensis thousands of
Augustals; they form a sect, if you will. All their worship is of Augustus
Cæsar, who died before your Christ. Do you suppose that one among those
thousands loves him whom they worship, and after whom they are named, and
who is their bond of connection? No—it is impossible. It cannot be.”

“But with us, to know is to love. Christ is the power of God, and we love
Him because He first loved us.”

“Riddles, riddles!” said Æmilius, shaking his head.

“It is a riddle that may be solved to you some day. I would give my life
that it were.”

“You would?”

“Aye, and with joy. You risked your life for me. I would give mine to win
for you——”

“What?”

“Faith. Having that you would know how to love.”



                               CHAPTER XIX

                                MARCIANUS


When the deacon Baudillas and his faithful Pedo emerged from the river,
and stood on the bank, they were aware how icy was the blast that blew,
for it pierced their sodden garments and froze the marrow in their bones.

“Master,” said Pedo, “this is the beginning of a storm that will last for
a week; you must get under shelter, and I will give you certain garments I
have provided and have concealed hard by in a kiln. The gates of the town
are shut. I have no need to inform you that we are without the city
walls.”

Pedo guided the deacon to the place where he had hidden a bundle of
garments, and which was not a bowshot distant from the mouth of the sewer.
The kiln was small; it had happily been in recent use, for it was still
warm, and the radiation was grateful to Baudillas, whose teeth were
chattering in his head.

“I have put here bread and meat, and a small skin of wine,” said the
slave. “I advise you, master, to make a meal; you will relish your food
better here than in the black‐hole. Whilst we eat we consume time
likewise; but the dawn is returning, and with it the gates will be opened
and we shall slip in among the market people. But, tell me, whither will
you go?”

“I would desire, were it advisable, to revisit my own house,” said the
deacon doubtfully.

“And I would advise you to keep clear of it,” said the slave. “Should the
jailer discover that you have escaped, then at once search will be made
for you, and, to a certainty it will begin at your habitation.” Then, with
a dry laugh, he added, “And if it be found that I have assisted in your
evasion, then there will be one more likely to give sport to the people at
the forthcoming show. Grant me the wild beasts and not the cross.”

“I will not bring thee into danger, faithful friend.”

“I cannot run away on my lame legs,” said Pedo. “Ah! as to those shows.
They are to wind up with a water‐fight—such is the announcement. There
will be gladiators from Arelate sent over to contend in boats against a
fleet of our Nemausean ruffians. On the previous day there will be sport
with wild beasts. I am told that there have been wolves trapped during the
winter in the Cebennæ, and sent down here, where they are retained
fasting. I have heard their howls at night and they have disturbed my
sleep—their howls and the aches in my thigh. I knew the weather would
change by the pains in my joint. There is a man named Amphilochius, a
manumitted slave, who broke into and robbed the villa of the master who
had freed him. He is a Greek of Iconium, and the public are promised that
he shall be cast to the beasts; but whether to the panthers, or the
wolves, or bear, or given to be gored by a bull, that I know not. Then
there is a taverner from somewhere on the way to Ugernum, who for years
has murdered such of his guests as he esteemed well furnished with money,
and has thrown their carcasses into the river. He will fight the beasts.
There is a bear from Larsacus; but they tell me he is dull, has not yet
shaken off his winter sleep, and the people fear they will get small
entertainment out of him.”

“You speak of these scenes with relish.”

“Ah! master, before I was regenerate I dearly loved the spectacles. But
the contest with bulls! That discovers the agility of a man. Falerius
Volupius Servilianus placed rosettes between their horns and gave a prize
to any who would pluck them away. That was open to be contested for by all
the youths of Nemausus. There was little danger to life or limb, and it
taught them to be quick of eye and nimble in movement. But it was because
none were gored that the spectators wearied of these innocent sports and
clamored for the butchery of criminals and the contests of gladiators.
There was a fine Numidian lion brought by a shipmaster to Agatha; a big
price was asked, and the citizens of Narbo outbid us, so we lost that fine
fellow.”

“Ah, Pedo! please God that none of the brethren be exposed to the beasts.”

“I think there will not be many. The Quatuor‐viri are slow to condemn, and
Petronius Atacinus most unwilling of all. There are real criminals in the
prison sufficient to satisfy an ordinary appetite for blood. But, see! we
are discussing the amphitheater and not considering whither thou wilt
betake thyself.”

“I have been turning the matter over, and I think that I will go first to
Marcianus, my brother‐deacon, and report myself to be alive and free, that
he may inform the bishop; and I will take his advice as to my future
conduct, and where I shall bestow myself.”

“He has remained unmolested,” said the slave, “and that is to me passing
strange, for I have been told that certain of the brethren, when
questioned relative to the mutilation of the statue, have accused him by
name. Yet, so far, nothing has been done. Yet I think his house is
watched; I have noticed one Burrhus hanging about it; and Tarsius, they
say, has turned informer. See, master! the darkness is passing away;
already there is a wan light in the east.”

“Had the mouth of the kiln been turned to the setting in place of the
rising sun, we should not have felt the wind so greatly. Well, Pedo, we
will be on the move. Market people from the country will be at the gates.
I will consult with Marcianus before I do aught.”

An hour later, Baudillas and his attendant were at the gate of Augustus,
and passed in unchallenged. Owing to the furious mistral, accompanied by
driving rain, the guards muffled themselves in their cloaks and paid
little attention to the peasants bringing in their poultry, fish and
vegetables for sale. The deacon and his slave entered unnoticed along with
a party of these. In the street leading to the forum was a knot of people
about an angry potter whose stall had been blown over by the wind. He had
set boards on trestles, and laid out basins, pitchers, lamps, urns on the
planks; over all he had stretched sail‐cloth. The wind had caught the
awning and beaten it down, upsetting and crushing his ware. The potter was
swearing that he was ruined, and that his disaster was due to the
Christians, who had exasperated the gods by their crimes and impieties.

Some looking on laughed and asked, shouting, whether the gods did not blow
as strong blasts out of their lungs every year about the same time, and
whether they did so because annually insulted.

“But they don’t break my crocks,” stormed the potter.

“Charge double for what remain unfractured,” joked an onlooker.

“Come, master,” said Pedo, plucking Baudillas by the sleeve. “If that
angry fellow recognize you, you are lost. Hold my cloak and turn down the
lane, then we are at the _posticum_, at the back of the house. I know some
of the family, and they will admit us.”

Near by was a shop for flowers. Over the shop front was the inscription,
“Non vendo nisi amantibus coronas” (“I sell garlands to lovers only”).(10)
The woman in charge of the bunches and crowns of spring flowers looked
questioningly at Baudillas. Her wares were such as invited only when the
sun shone. The poor flowers had a draggled and desponding appearance. No
lovers came to buy in the bitter mistral.

“Come, master, we shall be recognized,” said Pedo.

In another moment they had passed out of the huffle of the wind and the
drift of the rain into the shelter and warmth of a dwelling.

Pedo bade a slave go to Marcianus and tell the deacon that someone below
desired a word with him. Almost immediately the man returned with orders
to conduct the visitor to the presence of the master.

Baudillas was led along a narrow passage into a chamber in the inner part
of the house, away from the apartments for the reception of guests.

The room was warmed. It was small, and had a glazed window; that is to
say, the opening was closed by a sheet of stalagmite from one of the caves
of Larsacus, cut thin.

In this chamber, seated on an easy couch, with a roll in his hand, which
he was studying, was Marcianus. His countenance was hard and haughty.

“You!” he exclaimed, starting with surprise. “What brings you here? I
heard that you had been before the magistrate and had confessed. But, bah!
of such as you martyrs are not made. You have betrayed us and got off
clear yourself.”

“You mistake, brother,” answered Baudillas, modestly. “In one thing are
you right—I am not of the stuff out of which martyrs and confessors are
fashioned. But I betrayed no one. Not that there is any merit due to me
for that. I was in such a dire and paralyzing fright that I could not
speak.”

“How then come you here?”

“As we read that the Lord sent His angel to deliver Peter from prison, so
has it been with me.”

“You lie!” said Marcianus angrily. “No miracle was wrought for you—for
such as you who shiver and quake and lose power of speech! Bah! Come, give
me a more rational explanation of your escape.”

“My slave was the angel who delivered me.”

“So you ran away! Could not endure martyrdom, saw the crown shining, and
turned tail and used your legs. I can well believe it. Coward! Unworthy of
the name of a Christian, undeserving of the cross marked on thy brow,
unbecoming of the ministry.”

“I know that surely enough,” said Baudillas; “I am of timorous stuff, and
from childhood feared pain. But I have not denied Christ.”

“What has brought you here?” asked Marcianus curtly.

“I have come to thee for counsel.”

“The counsel I give thou wilt not take. What saith the Scripture: ‘He that
putteth his hand to the plough and turneth back is not fit for the kingdom
of God.’ Thou wast called to a glorious confession, and looked back and
ran away.”

“And thy counsel?”

“Return and surrender, and win the crown and palm. But it is waste of
breath to say such words to thee. I know thee. Wast thou subjected to
torture?”

“No, brother.”

“No; not the rack, nor the torches, nor the hooks, nor the thumbscrews.
Oh, none of these!”

“No, brother. It is true, I was scarce tried at all. Indeed, it was good
luck—God forgive me!—it was through His mercy that I was saved from
denying the faith. I was not even asked to sacrifice.”

“Well; go thy ways. I cannot advise thee.”

“Stay,” said Baudillas. “I saw in the outer prison some of the faithful,
but was in too great fear to recognize any. Who have been taken?”

“The last secured has been the widow Quincta. The pontiff and the _flamen_
Augustalis and the priestess of Nemausus swear that she shall be put on
the rack and tortured till she reveals where her daughter is concealed,
and that amiable drone, the acting magistrate, has given consent. Dost
thou know where the damsel Perpetua is concealed?”

“Indeed, Marcianus, I know not. But tell me: hast thou not been inquired
for? I have been told how that some have accused thee.”

“Me! Who said that?”

Marcianus started, and his face worked. “Bah! they dare not touch me. I
belong to the Falerii; we have had magistrates in our family, and one
clothed with the pro‐consulship. They will not venture to lay hands on
me.”

“But what if they know, and it is known through the town, that it was thou
who didst mutilate the statue of the founder?”

“They do not know it.”

“Nay, thou deceivest thyself. It is known. Some of those who were at the
Agape have spoken.”

“It was thou—dog that thou art!”

“Nay, it was not I.”

Marcianus rose and strode up and down the room, biting his nails. Then,
contemptuously, he said: “My family will stand between me and mob or
magistrate. I fear not. But get thee gone. Thou compromisest me by thy
presence, thou runagate and jail‐breaker.”

“I came here but to notify my escape and to ask counsel of thee.”

“Get thee gone. Fly out of Nemausus, or thy chattering tongue will be set
going and reveal everything that ought to be kept secret.” Then taking a
turn he added to himself, “I belong to the Falerii.”

Baudillas left; and, as he went from the door, Pedo whispered in his ear:
“Let us escape to Ad Fines. We can do so in this detestable weather. I
have an old friend there, named Blanda. In my youth I loved—ah! welladay!
that was long ago—and we were the chattels of different masters, so it
came to naught. She is still a slave, but she may be able to assist us. I
can be sure of that; for the remembrance of our old affection, she will do
what lies in her power to secrete us.”

He suddenly checked himself, plucked the deacon back, and drew him against
the wall.

An ædile, attended by a body of the city police, armed like soldiers,
advanced and silently surrounded the house of Marcianus.

Then the officer struck the door thrice, and called: “By the authority of
Petronius Atacinus and Vibius Fuscianus, Quatuor‐viri juridicundo, and in
the name of the Imperator Cæsar Augustus, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, I
arrest Cneius Falerius Marcianus, on the atrocious charge of sacrilege.”



                               CHAPTER XX

                             IN THE BASILICA


The Quatuorvir Petronius Atacinus, who was on duty, occupied his chair in
the stately Plotinian Basilica, or court of justice, that had been erected
by Hadrian, in honor of the lady to whose ingenious and unscrupulous
maneuvers he owed his elevation to the throne of the Cæsars. Of this
magnificent structure nothing remains at present save some scraps of the
frieze in the museum.

When the weather permitted, Petronius or his colleagues liked to hear a
case in the open air, from a tribune in the forum. But this was impossible
to‐day, in the howling wind and lashing rain. The court itself was
comparatively deserted. A very few had assembled to hear the trials. None
who had a warmed home that day left it uncalled for. Some market women set
their baskets in the doorway and stepped inside, but it was rather because
they were wet and out of breath than because they were interested in the
proceedings. Beside the magistrate sat the chief _pontifex_ who was also
Augustal _flamen_. Of _pontifices_ there were three in the city, but one
of these was a woman, the priestess of Nemausus.

Throughout the south of Gaul the worship of Augustus had become
predominant, and had displaced most of the ancestral cults. The temples
dedicated to Augustus exceeded in richness all others, and were crowded
when the rest were deserted.

Jupiter was only not forgotten because he had borrowed some of the
attributes of the Gallic solar deity, and he flourished the golden wheel
in one hand and brandished the lightnings in the other. Juno had lent her
name to a whole series of familiar spirits of the mountains and of the
household, closely allied to the _Proxumes_, a set of domestic Brownies or
Kobolds, who were chiefly adored and propitiated by the women, and who had
no other temple than the hearth. At Tarasconum, the Phœnician goddess
Britomartis reigned supreme, and her worship was stimulated by a grand
annual procession and dramatic representation of her conquest over a
dragon. At Nemausus the corresponding god of war was called Mars
Britovius. But the Volcæ Arecomici were a peaceably‐disposed people, and
paid little devotion to the god of battles. The cult of the founder
Nemausus did not flag, but that of Augustus was in the ascendant. All the
freedmen were united in one great sodality under his invocation, and this
guild represented an important political factor in the land. It had its
religious officers, its _flamines_ and _seviri_, attended by lictors, and
the latter had charge of all the altars at the crossroads, and sat next to
the civic functionaries in the courts, at banquets, in the theater. Rich
citizens bequeathed large sums to the town and to the sodalities to be
expended in public feasts, in largesses, and in gladiatorial shows. The
charge of these bequests, as also their distribution, was in the hands of
the _flamines_ and _seviri_. The priesthood was, therefore, provided with
the most powerful of all means for gaining and moving the multitude, which
desired nothing better than bread and games.

“Have that door shut!” called the magistrate. “It bangs in this evil wind,
and I cannot even hear what my excellent friend Lucius Smerius is saying
in my ear; how then can I catch what is said in court?” Then, turning to
the pontiff, he said: “I detest this weather. Last year, about this time,
I was struck with an evil blast, and lost all sense of smell and taste for
nine months. I had pains in my loins and an ache in all my bones. I doubt
if even the jests of Baubo could have made me laugh; I was in lower dumps
than even Ceres. Even now, when seated far too long in this marble chair,
I get an ache across my back that assures me I am no longer young. But I
could endure that if my sense of taste had been fully restored. I do not
relish good wine as of old, and that is piteous, and I really at times
think of suicide.”

“It was the work of enchantment,” said the pontiff. “These Christians, in
their orgies, stick pins into images to produce pains in those the figures
represent.”

“How do you know this? Have you been initiated into their mysteries?”

“I——! The Immortals preserve me therefrom.”

“Then, by Pluto, you speak what you have heard of the gossips—old wives’
babble. I will tell you what my opinion is, Smerius. If you were to thrust
your nose into the mysteries of the Bona Dea you would find—what? No more
than did Clodius—nothing at all. My wife, she attends them, and comes home
with her noddle full of all the tittle‐tattle of Nemausus. It is so with
the Christian orgies. I would not give a snap of the fingers for all the
secrets confided to the initiated—neither in Eleusis nor in the Serapium,
nor among the Christians.”

“These men are not like others; they are unsociable, brutish, arrogant.”

“Unsociable I allow. Brutish! The word is inapt; for, on the contrary, I
find them very simple, soft‐headed, pulp‐hearted folk. They abstain from
all that is boisterous and cruel. Arrogant they may be. There I am at one
with you. ‘Live and let live’ is my maxim. We have a score of gods, home
made and foreign, and they all rub and tumble together without squabbling.
Of late we have had Madame Isis over from Egypt, and the White Ladies,(11)
and the Proxumes, Victoria Augusta, Venus, and Minerva, make room for her
without even a frown on their divine faces. And imperial Rome sanctions
all these devotions. Why, did not the god Augustus build a temple here to
Nemausus and pay him divine honors, though he had never heard him named
before? Now this Christian sect is exclusive. It will suffer no gods to
stand beside Him whom they adore. He must reign alone. That I call
illiberal, narrow‐minded, against the spirit of the age and the principle
of Roman policy. That is the reason why I dislike these Christians.”

“Here come the prisoners. My good friend, do not be too easy with them. It
will not do. The temper of the people is up. The sodality of Augustus
swear that they will not decree you a statue, and will oppose your
nomination to the knighthood. They have joined hands with the Cultores
Nemausi, and insist that proper retribution be administered to the
transgressors, and that the girl be surrendered.”

“It shall be done; it shall be so,” said the Quatuorvir. Then, raising his
hand to his mouth, and speaking behind it—not that in the roar of the wind
such a precaution was necessary—he said to the pontiff: “My dear man, a
magistrate has other matters to consider than pleasing the clubs. There is
the prince over all, and he is on the way to Narbonese Gaul. It is
whispered that he is favorably disposed towards this Nazarene sect.”

“The Augustus would not desire to have the laws set at naught, and the
sodalities are rich enough to pay to get access to him and make their
complaint.”

“Well, well, well! I cannot please all. I have to steer my course among
shoals and rocks. Keep the question of Christianity in the background and
charge on other grounds. That is my line. I will do my best to please all
parties. We must have sport for the games. The rabble desire to have some
one punished for spoiling their pet image. But, by the Twins, could not
the poor god hold his own head on his shoulders? If he had been worth an
as, he would have done so. But there, I nettle you. You shall be satisfied
along with the rest. Bring up the prisoners: Quincta, widow of Aulus
Harpinius Læto, first of all.”

The mother of Perpetua was led forward in a condition of terror that
rendered her almost unconscious, and unable to sustain herself.

“Quincta,” said the magistrate, “have no fear for yourself. I have no
desire to deal sharply with you; if you will inform us where is your
daughter, you shall be dismissed forthwith.”

“I do not know——” The poor woman could say no more.

“Give her a seat,” ordered Petronius. Then to the prisoner: “Compose
yourself. No doubt that, as a mother, you desire to screen your daughter,
supposing that her life is menaced. No such thing, madame. I have spoken
with the priestess, and with my good friend here, Lucius Smerius, chief
pontiff, Augustal _flamen_, and public haruspex.” He bowed to the priest
at his side. “I am assured that the god, when he spoke, made no demand for
a sacrifice. That is commuted. All he desires is that the young virgin
should pass into his service, and be numbered among his priestesses.”

“She will not consent,” gasped Quincta.

“I hardly need to point out the honor and advantage offered her. The
priestesses enjoy great favor with the people, have seats of honor at the
theater, take a high position in all public ceremonies, and are maintained
by rich endowments.”

“She will never consent,” repeated the mother.

“Of that we shall judge for ourselves. Where is the girl?”

“I do not know.”

“How so?”

“She has been carried away from me; I know not whither.”

“When the old ewe baas the lamb will bleat,” said the Quatuorvir. “We
shall find the means to make you produce her. Lady Quincta, my duty
compels me to send you back to prison. You shall be allowed two days’
respite. Unless, by the end of that time, you are able and willing to give
us the requisite information, you will be put to the question, and I doubt
not that a turn of the rack will refresh your memory and relax your
tongue.”

“I cannot tell what I do not know.”

“Remove the woman.”

The magistrate leaned back, and turning his head to the pontiff, said:
“Did not your worthy father, Spurius, die of a surfeit of octopus? I had a
supper off the legs last night, and they made me sleep badly; they are no
better than marine leather.” Then to the _vigiles_: “Bring forward
Falerius Marcianus.”

The deacon was conducted before the magistrate. He was pale, and his lips
ashen and compressed. His dark eyes turned in every direction. He was
looking for kinsmen and patron.

“You are charged, Falerius, with having broken the image of the god whom
Nemausus delights to honor, and who is the reputed founder of the city.
You conveyed his head to the house of Baudillas, and several witnesses
have deposed that you made boast that you had committed the sacrilegious
act of defacing the statue. What answer make you to this?”

Marcianus replied in a low voice.

“Speak up,” said the magistrate; “I cannot hear thee, the wind blusters
and bellows so loud.” Aside to the pontiff Smerius he added: “And ever
since that evil blast you wot of, I have suffered from a singing in my
ears.”

“I did it,” said the deacon. Again he looked about him, but saw none to
support him.

“Then,” said the magistrate, “we shall at once conclude this matter. The
outrage is too gross to be condoned or lightly punished. Even thy friends
and kinsfolk have not appeared to speak for thee. Thy family has been one
of dignity and authority in Nemausus. There have been members who have
been clothed with the Quatuorvirate _de aerario_ and have been accorded
the use of a horse at public charge. Several have been decurions wearing
the white toga and the purple stripe. This aggravates the impiety of your
act. I sentence Cneius Falerius Marcianus, son of Marius Audolatius, of
the Voltinian tribe, to be thrown to the beasts in the approaching show,
and that his goods be confiscated, and that out of his property
restitution be made, by which a new statue to the god Nemausus be
provided, to be set up in the place of that injured by the same Cneius
Falerius Marcianus.”

The deacon made an attempt to speak. He seemed overwhelmed with
astonishment and dismay at the sentence, so utterly unexpected in its
severity. He gesticulated and cried out, but the Quatuorvir was cold and
weary. He had pronounced a sentence that would startle all the town, and
he thought he had done enough.

“Remove him at once,” said he.

Then Petronius turned to the pontiff and said: “Now, my Smerius, what say
you to this? Will not this content you and all the noisy rag‐tag at your
back?”

Next he commanded the rest of the prisoners to be brought forward
together. This was a mixed number of poor persons, some women, some old
men, boys, slaves and freedmen; none belonged to the upper class or even
to that of the manufacturers and tradesmen.

“You are all dismissed,” said the magistrate. “The imprisonment you have
undergone will serve as a warning to you not to associate with image‐
breakers, not to enter into sodalities which have not received the
sanction of Cæsar, and which are not compatible with the well‐being and
quiet of the city and are an element of disturbance in the empire. Let us
hear no more of this pestilent nonsense. Go—worship what god ye will—only
not Christos.”

Then the lictors gathered around the Quatuorvir and the pontiff, who also
rose, and extended his hand to assist the magistrate, who made wry faces
as rheumatic twinges nipped his back.

“Come with me, Smerius,” said the Quatuorvir, “I have done the best for
you that lay in my power. I hate unnecessary harshness. But this fellow,
Falerius Marcianus, has deserved the worst. If the old woman be put on the
rack and squeak out, and Marcianus be devoured by beasts, the people will
have their amusement, and none can say that I have acted with excessive
rigor—and, my dear man—not a word has been said about Christianity. The
cases have been tried on other counts, do you see?” he winked. “Will you
breakfast with me? There are mullets from the Satera, stewed in white
wine—confound those octopi!—I feel them still.”



                               CHAPTER XXI

                              A MANUMISSION


“Blanda, what shall I do?”

Æmilius had withdrawn immediately after the interview in the citron‐house,
and Perpetua was left a prey to even greater distress of mind than before.

Accustomed to lean on her mother, she was now without support. She drew
towards the female slave, who had a patient, gentle face, marked with
suffering.

“Blanda, what shall I do?”

“Mistress, how can I advise? If you had been graciously pleased to take
counsel of my master, he would have instructed you.”

“Alack! what I desire is to find my mother. If, as I suppose, she is in
concealment in Nemausus, he will be unable to discover her. No clue will
be put into his hand. He will be regarded with suspicion. He will search;
I do not doubt his good will, but he will not find. Those who know where
my mother is will look on him with suspicion. O Blanda, is there none in
this house who believes, whom I could send to some of the Church?”

“Lady,” answered the slave, “there be no Christians here. There is a Jew,
but he entertains a deadly hate of such as profess to belong to this sect.
To the rest one religion is as indifferent as another. Some swear by the
White Ladies, some by Serapis, and there is one who talks much of Mithras,
but who this god is I know not.”

“If I am to obtain information it must be through some one who is to be
trusted.”

“Lady,” said the woman‐slave, “the master has given strict orders that
none shall speak of you as having found a shelter here. Yet when slaves
get together, by the Juno of the oaks, I believe men chatter and are
greater magpies than we women; their tongues run away with them,
especially when they taste wine. If one of the family were sent on this
commission into the town, ten _sesterces_ to an _as_, he would tell that
you are here, and would return as owlish and ignorant as when he went
forth. Men’s minds are cudgels, not awls. If thou desirest to find out a
thing, trust a woman, not a man.”

“I cannot rest till I have news.”

“There has been a great search made after Christians, and doubtless she
is, as thou sayest, in concealment, surely among friends. Have patience.”

“But, Blanda, she is in an agony of mind as to what has become of me.”

The slave‐woman considered for awhile, and then said:

“There is a man who might help; he certainly can be relied on. He is of
the strange sect I know, and he would do anything for me, and would betray
no secrets.”

“Who is that?”

“His name is Pedo, and he is the slave to Baudillas Macer, son of Carisius
Adgonna, who has a house in the lower town.”

“O Blanda!” exclaimed Perpetua, “it was from the house of Baudillas that I
was enticed away.” Then, after some hesitation, she added: “That house, I
believe, was invaded by the mob; but I think my mother had first escaped.”

“Lady, I have heard that Baudillas has been taken before the magistrate,
and has been cast into the _robur_, because that in his house was found
the head of the god; and it was supposed that he was guilty of the
sacrilege, either directly or indirectly. He that harbors a thief is
guilty as the thief. I heard that yesterday. No news has since been
received. I mistrust my power of reaching the town, of standing against
the gale. Moreover, as the master has been imprisoned, it is not likely
that the slave will be in the empty house. Yet, if thou wilt tarry till
the gale be somewhat abated and the rain cease to fall in such a rush, I
will do my utmost to assist thee. I will go to the town myself, and
communicate with Pedo, if I can find him. He will trust me, poor fellow!”

“I cannot require thee to go forth in this furious wind,” said Perpetua.

“And, lady, thou must answer to my master for me. Say that I went at thine
express commands; otherwise I shall be badly beaten.”

“Is thy master so harsh?”

“Oh, I am a slave. Who thinks of a slave any more than of an ass or a
lapdog? It was through a severe scourging with the cat that I was brought
to know Pedo.”

“Tell me, how was that?”

“Does my lady care for matters that affect her slave?”

“Nay, good Blanda, we Christians know no difference between bond and free.
All are the children of one God, who made man. Our master, though Lord of
all, made Himself of no reputation, but took on Him the form of a servant;
and was made subject for us.”

“That is just how Pedo talks. We slaves have our notions of freedom and
equality, and there is much tall talk in the servants’ hall on the rights
of man. But I never heard of a master or mistress holding such opinions.”

“Nevertheless this doctrine is a principle of our religion. Listen to
this; the words are those of one of our great teachers: ‘There is neither
Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor
female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’”

“Was he a slave who said that?”

“No; he was a Roman citizen.”

“That I cannot understand. Yet perhaps he spoke it at an election time, or
when he was an advocate in the forum. It was a sentiment; very fine,
smartly put, but not to be practiced.”

“There, Blanda, you are wrong. We Christians do act upon this principle,
and it forms a bond of union between us.”

“Well, I understand it not. I have heard the slaves declaim among
themselves, saying that they were as good as, nay, better than, their
masters; but they never whispered such a thought where were their masters’
ears, or they would have been soundly whipped. In the forum, when lawyers
harangue, they say fine things of this sort; and when candidates are
standing for election, either as a sevir or as a quatuorvir, all sorts of
fine words fly about, and magnificent promises are made, but they are
intended only to tickle ears and secure votes. None believe in them save
the vastly ignorant and the very fools.”

“Come, tell me about thyself and Pedo.”

“Ah, lady, that was many years ago. I was then in the household of Helvia
Secundilla, wife of Calvius Naso. On one occasion, because I had not
brought her May‐dew wherewith to bathe her face to remove sun‐spots, she
had me cruelly beaten. There were knucklebones knotted in the cat
wherewith I was beaten. Thirty‐nine lashes I received. I could not collect
May‐dew, for the sky was overcast and the herb was dry. But she regarded
not my excuse. Tullia, my fellow‐slave, was more sly. She filled a flask
at a spring and pretended that she had gathered it off the grass, and that
her fraud might not be detected, she egged her mistress on against me. I
was chastised till my back was raw.”

“Poor Blanda!”

“Aye, my back was one bleeding wound, and yet I was compelled to put on my
garment and go forth again after May‐dew. It was then that I encountered
Pedo. I was in such pain that I walked sobbing, and my tears fell on the
arid grass. He came to me, moved by compassion, and spoke kindly, and my
heart opened, and I told him all. Then he gave me a flask filled with a
water in which elder flowers had been steeped, and bade me wash my back
therewith.”

“And it healed thee?”

“It soothed the fever of my blood and the anguish of my wounds. They
closed, and in a few days were cicatriced. But Pedo had been fellow‐slave
with a Jewish physician, and from him had learned the use of simples. My
mistress found no advantage from the spring‐water brought her as May‐dew.
Then I offered her some of the decoction given me by Pedo, and that had a
marvelous effect on her freckles. Afterwards her treatment of me was
kinder, and it was Tullia who received the whippings.”

“And did you see more of Pedo?”

Blanda colored.

“Mistress, that was the beginning of our acquaintance. He was with a good
master, Baudillas Macer, who, he said, would manumit him at any time. But,
alas! what would that avail me? I remained in bondage. Ah, lady, Pedo
regarded me with tenderness, and, indeed, I could have been happy with
none other but him.”

“He is old and lame.”

“Ah, lady, I think the way he moves on his lame hip quite beautiful. I do
not admire legs when one is of the same length as another—it gives a stiff
uniformity not to my taste.”

“And he is old?”

“Ripe, lady—full ripe as a fig in August. Sour fruit are unpleasant to
eat. Young men are prigs and think too much of themselves.”

“How long ago was it that this acquaintance began?”

“Five and twenty years. I trusted, when my master, Calvius Naso—he was so
called because he really had a long nose, and my mistress was wont to
tweak it—but there! I wander. I did think that he would have given me my
freedom. In his illness I attended to him daily, nightly. I did not sleep,
I was ever on the watch for him. As to my mistress, she was at her
looking‐glass, and using depilatory fluid on some hairs upon her chin,
expecting shortly to be a widow. She did not concern herself about the
master. He died, but left money only for the erection of a statue in the
forum. Me he utterly forgot. Then my mistress sold me to the father of my
present master. When he died also he manumitted eight slaves, but they
were all men. His monument stands beside the road to Tolosa, with eight
Phrygian caps sculptured on it, to represent the manumissions; but me—he
forgot.”

“Then, for all these five and twenty years you have cared for Pedo and
desired to be united to him!”

“Yes, I longed for it greatly for twenty years, and so did he, poor
fellow; but, after that, hope died. I have now no hope, no joy in life, no
expectation of aught. Presently will come death, and death ends all.”

“No, Blanda; that is not what we hold. We look for eternal life.”

“For masters, not for slaves.”

“For slaves as well as masters, and then God will wipe away all tears from
our eyes.”

“Alack, mistress. The power to hope is gone from me. In a wet season, when
there is little sun, then the fruit mildews on the tree and drops off.
When we were young we put forth the young fruit of hopes; but there has
been no sun. They fall off, and the tree can bear no more.”

“Blanda, if ever I have the power——”

“Oh, mistress, with my master you can do anything.”

“Blanda, I do not know that I can ask him for this—thy freedom. But, if
the opportunity offers, I certainly will not forget thee.”

A slave appeared at the door and signed to Blanda, who, with an obeisance,
asked leave to depart. The leave was given, and she left the room.

Presently she returned in great excitement, followed by Baudillas and
Pedo, both drenched with rain and battered by the gale.

Perpetua uttered an exclamation of delight, and rushed to the deacon with
extended arms.

“I pray, I pray, give me some news of my mother.”

But he drew back likewise surprised, and replied with another question:

“The Lady Perpetua! And how come you to be here?”

“That I will tell later,” answered the girl. “Now inform me as to my
mother.”

“Alas!” replied Baudillas, wiping the rain from his face, “the news is
sad. She has been taken before Petronius, and has been consigned to
prison.”

“My mother is in prison!”

The deacon desired to say no more, but he was awkward at disguising his
unwillingness to speak the whole truth. The eager eyes of the girl read
the hesitation in his face.

“I beseech you,” she urged, “conceal nothing from me.”

“I have told you, she is in jail.”

“On what charge? Who has informed against her?”

“I was not in the court when she was tried. I know very little. I was near
the town, waiting about, and I got scraps of information from some of our
people, and from Pedo, who went into the city.”

“Then you do know. Answer me truly. Tell me all.”

“I—I was in prison myself, but escaped through the aid of Pedo. I tarried
in an old kiln. He advised that I should come on here, where he had
friends. Dost thou know that Marcianus has been sentenced? He will win
that glorious crown which I have lost. I—I, unworthy, I fled, when it
might have been mine. Yet, God forgive me! I am not ungrateful to Pedo.
Marcianus said I was a coward, and unfit for the Kingdom of God; that I
should be excluded because I had turned back. God forgive me!”

Suddenly Perpetua laid hold of Baudillas by both arms, and so gripped him
that the water oozed between her fingers and dropped on the floor.

“I adjure thee, by Him in whom we both believe, answer me truly, speak
fully. Is my mother retained in prison till I am found?”

The deacon looked down nervously, uncomfortably, and shuffled from foot to
foot.

“Understand,” said he, after a long silence, “all I learned is by hearsay.
I really know nothing for certain.”

“I suffer more by your silence than were I to be told the truth, be the
truth never so painful.”

“Have I not said it? The Lady Quincta is in prison.”

“Is that all?”

Again he maintained an embarrassed silence.

“It matters not,” said Perpetua firmly. “I will my own self find out what
has taken place. I shall return to Nemausus on foot, and immediately. I
will deliver myself up to the magistrate and demand my mother’s release.”

“You must not go—the weather is terrible.”

“I shall—nothing can stay me. I shall go, and go alone, and go at once.”

“There is no need for such haste. It is not till to‐morrow that Quincta
will be put on the rack.”

“On the rack!”

“Fool that I am! I have uttered what I should have kept secret.”

“It is said. My resolve is formed. I return to Nemausus.”

“Then,” said the deacon, “I will go with thee.”

“There is no need. I will take Blanda.”

“I will go. A girl, a young girl shames me. I run away from death, and she
offers herself to the sword. Marcianus said I was a renegade. I will not
be thought to have denied my Master—to have fled from martyrdom.”

“Then,” said Perpetua, “I pray thee this—first give freedom unto Pedo.”

Baudillas administered a slight stroke on the cheek to his slave, and
said:

“Go; thou art discharged from bondage.”



                              CHAPTER XXII

                                THE ARENA


The games that were to be given in the amphitheater of Nemausus on the
nones of March were due to a bequest of Domitius Afer, the celebrated, or
rather infamous, informer and rhetorician, who had brought so many
citizens of Rome to death during the principate of Tiberius. He had run
great risk himself under Caligula, but had escaped by a piece of adroit
flattery. In dying he bequeathed a large sum out of his ill‐gotten
gains—the plunder of those whom he had destroyed, and whose families he
had ruined—to be expended in games in the amphitheater on the nones of
March, for the delectation of the citizens, and to keep his memory green
in his native city.

The games were to last two days. On the first there would be contests with
beasts, and on the second a water combat, when the arena would be flooded
and converted into a lake.

Great anxiety was entertained relative to the weather. Unless the mistral
ceased and the rain passed away, it would be impossible for the sports to
be held. It was true that the entire oval could be covered in by curtains
and mats, stretched between poles, but this contrivance was intended as
shelter against sun and not rain. Moreover, the violence of the wind had
rendered it quite impossible to extend the curtains.

The town was in the liveliest excitement. The man guilty of having
mutilated the statue had been sentenced to be cast to the beasts, and this
man was no vulgar criminal out of the slums, but belonged to one of the
superior “orders.”

That a great social change had taken place in the province, and that the
freedmen had stepped into power and influence, to the displacement of
their former masters, was felt by the descendants of the first Ægypto‐
Greek colonists, and by the relics of the Gaulish nobility, but they
hardly endured to admit the fact in words. The exercise of the rights of
citizenship, the election of the officials, the qualification for filling
the superior secular and religious offices, belonged to the decurion or
noble families. Almost the sole office open to those below was that of the
seviri; and yet even in elections the freedmen were beginning to exhibit a
power of control.

Now, one of the old municipal families was to be humbled by a member being
subjected to the degradation of death in the arena, and none of the
Falerii ventured to raise a voice in his defence, so critical did they
perceive the situation to be. The sodality of the Augustals in conclave
had determined that an example was to be made of Marcianus, and had made
this plain to the magistrates. They had even insisted on the manner of his
execution. His death would be a plain announcement to the decurion class
that its domination was at an end. The ancient patrician and plebeian
families of Rome had been extinguished in blood, and their places filled
by a new nobility of army factors and money‐lenders. A similar revolution
had taken place in the provinces by less bloody means. There, the transfer
of power was due largely to the favor of the prince accorded to the
freedmen.

In the Augustal colleges everywhere, the Cæsar had a body of devoted
adherents, men without nationality, with no historic position, no
traditions of past independence; men, moreover, who were shrewd enough to
see that by combination they would eventually be able to wrest the control
of the municipal government from those who had hitherto exercised it.

The rumor spread rapidly that a fresh entertainment was to be provided.
The damsel who had been rescued from the basin of Nemausus had surrendered
herself in order to obtain the release of her mother; and the magistrate
in office, Petronius Atacinus, out of consideration for the good people of
the town, whom he loved, and out of reverence for the gods who had been
slighted, had determined that she should be produced in the arena, and
there obliged publicly to sacrifice, and then to be received into the
priesthood. Should she, however, prove obdurate, then she would be
tortured into compliance.

Nor was this all. Baudillas Macer, the last scion of a decayed Volcian
family, who had been cast into the pit of the _robur_, but had escaped,
was also to be brought out and executed, as having assisted in the rescue
of Perpetua from the fountain, but chiefly for having connived at the
crime of Falerius Marcianus.

To the general satisfaction, the wind fell as suddenly as it had risen,
and that on the night preceding the sports. The weather remained bitterly
cold, and the sky was dark with clouds that seemed ready to burst. Not a
ray of sunlight traveled across the arena and climbed the stages of the
amphitheater. The day might have been one in November, and the weather
that encountered on the northern plains of Germania.

The townsfolk, and the spectators from the country, came provided against
the intemperance of the weather, wrapped in their warmest mantles, which
they drew as hoods over their heads. Slaves arrived, carrying boxes with
perforated tops, that contained glowing charcoal, so that their masters
and mistresses might keep their feet warm whilst attending the games. Some
carried cushions for the seats, others wolf‐skin rugs to throw over the
knees of the well‐to‐do spectators.

The ranges of the great oval were for the most part packed with
spectators. The topmost seats were full long before the rest. The stone
benches were divided into tiers. At the bottom, near the _podium_ or
breastwork confining the arena, were those for the municipal dignitaries,
for the priests, and for certain strangers to whom seats had been granted
by decree of the town council. Here might be read, “Forty seats decreed to
the navigators of the Rhône and Saone;” at another part of the
circumference, “Twenty‐five places appointed to the navigators of the
Ardèche and the Ouvèze.”

Above the ranges of seats set apart for the officials and guests were
those belonging to the decurions and knights, the nobility and gentry of
the town and little republic. The third range was that allotted to the
freedmen and common townsfolk and peasants from the country, and the
topmost stage was abandoned to be occupied by slaves alone. At one end of
the ellipse sat the principal magistrates close to the _podium_ at one
end, and at the other the master of the games and his attendants, the
prefect of the watch and of the firemen.

Two doors, one at each end, gave access to the arena, or means of exit.
One was that of the _vivarium_, whence the gladiators and prisoners issued
from a large chamber under the seats and feet of the spectators. The other
door was that which conducted to the _libitinum_, into which were cast the
corpses of men and the carcasses of beasts that had perished in the games.

Immediately below the seat of the principal magistrates and of the
pontiffs was a little altar, on the breastwork about the arena, with a
statue of Nemausus above it; and a priest stood at the side to keep the
charcoal alight, and to serve the incense to such as desired to do homage
to the god.

It was remarked that the attendance in the reserved seats of the decurions
was meager. Such as were connected with the Falerian family by blood or
marriage made it a point to absent themselves; others stayed away because
huffed at the insolence of the freedmen, and considering that the sentence
passed on Marcianus was a slight cast on their order.

On the other hand, the freedmen crowded to the show in full force, and not
having room to accommodate themselves and their families in the zone
allotted to them, some audaciously threw themselves over the barriers of
demarcation and were followed by others, and speedily flooded the benches
of the decurions.

When the magistrates arrived, preceded by their lictors, all in the
amphitheater rose, and the Quatuor‐viri bowed to the public. Each took a
pinch from the priest, who extended a silver shell containing aromatic
gums, and cast it on the fire, some gravely, Petronius with a flippant
gesture. Then the latter turned to the Augustal _flamen_, saying: “To the
god Augustus and the divine Julia (Livia),” and he threw some more grains
on the charcoal.

“Body of Bacchus!” said he, as he took his seat, “a little fizzling spark
such as that may please the gods, but does not content me. I wish I had a
roaring fire at which, like a babe out of its bath, I could spread my ten
toes and as many fingers. Such a day as this is! With cold weather I
cannot digest my food properly. I feel a lump in me as did Saturn when his
good Rhea gave him a meal of stones. I am full of twinges. By Vulcan and
his bellows! if it had not been for duty I would have been at home adoring
the Lares and Penates. These shows are for the young and warm‐blooded. The
arms of my chair send a chill into my marrow‐bones. What comes first? Oh!
a contest with a bull. Well, I shall curl up and doze like a marmot. Wake
me, good Smerius, when the next portion of the entertainment begins.”

A bull was introduced, and a gladiator was employed to exasperate and play
with the beast. He waved a garment before its eyes, then drove a sharp
instrument into its flank, and when the beast turned, he nimbly leaped out
of the way. When pursued he ran, then turned sharply, put his hands on the
back of the bull, and leaped over it.

The people cheered, but they had seen the performance so often repeated
that they speedily tired of such poor sport. The bull was accordingly
dispatched. Horses were introduced and hooked to the carcass, which was
rapidly drawn out. Then entered attendants of the amphitheater, who
strewed sand where the blood had been spilt, bowed and retired.

Thereupon the jailer threw open the gates of the _vivarium_ and brought
forth the prisoners. These consisted of the taverner who had murdered his
guests, the manumitted slave who had robbed his master, Baudillas,
Marcianus and Perpetua.

A thrill of cruel delight ran through the concourse of spectators. Now
something was about to be shown them, harrowing to the feelings,
gratifying to the ferocity that is natural to all men, and is expelled,
not at all by civilization, but by divine grace only.

It enhanced the pleasure of the spectators that criminals should witness
the death of their fellows. Eyes scanned their features, observed whether
they turned sick and faint, whether they winced, or whether they remained
cool and callous. This gave a cruel zest to their enjoyment.

A bear was produced. Dogs were set on him, and he was worried till he
shook off his torpor and was worked into fury. Then, at a sign from the
manager of the games, the dogs were called off, and the man who had
murdered his guests was driven forward towards the incensed beast.

The fellow was sullen, and gave no token of fear. He folded his arms,
leaned against the marble _podium_, and looked contemptuously around him
at the occupants of the tiers of seats.

The bear, relieved from his aggressors, seemed indisposed to notice the
man.

Then the spectators roared to the criminal, bidding him invite the brute
against himself. It was a strange fact that often in these horrible
exhibitions a man condemned to fight with the beasts allowed himself a
brief display of vanity, and sought to elicit the applause of the
spectators by his daring conduct to the animal that was to mangle and kill
him.

But the ill‐humored fellow would not give this pleasure to the onlookers.

Then the master of the sports signed to the attendants to goad the bear.
They obeyed, and he turned and growled and struck at them, but would not
touch the man designed to be hugged by him.

After many vain attempts, amidst the hooting and roar of the people, a
sign was made. Some gladiators leaped in, and with their swords dispatched
the taverner.

The spectators were indignant. They had been shown no sport, only a common
execution. They were shivering with cold; some grumbled, and said that
this was childish stuff to witness which was not worth the discomfort of
the exposure. Then, as with one voice, rose the yell: “The wolves! send in
the wolves! Marcianus to the wolves!”

The master of the games dispatched a messenger to the Quatuorvir who was
then the acting magistrate. He nodded to what was said, waved his hand in
the direction of the master’s box, and the latter sent an attendant to the
keeper of the beasts.

The jailer‐executioner at once grasped the deacon Falerius Marcianus by
the shoulders, bade him descend some steps and enter the arena.

Marcianus was deadly white. He shrank with disgust from the spot where the
soil was drenched with the blood of the taverner, and which was not as yet
strewn over with fresh sand. He cast a furtive look at the altar, then
made an appealing gesture to the magistrate.

“Come here, Cneius Marcianus,” said Petronius. “You belong to a
respectable and ancient family. You have been guilty of an infamous deed
that has brought disgrace on your entire order. See how many absent
themselves this day on that account! Your property is confiscated, you are
sentenced to death. Yet I give you one chance. Sacrifice to the gods and
blaspheme Christ. I do not promise you life if you do this. You must
appeal to the people. If they see you offer incense, they will know that
you have renounced the Crucified. Then I will put the question to their
decision. If they hold up their thumbs you will live. Consider, it is a
chance; it depends, not on me, but on their humor. Will you sacrifice?”

Marcianus looked at the mighty hoop of faces. He saw that the vast
concourse was thrilled with expectation; a notion crossed the mind of one
of the freedmen that Marcianus was being given a means of escape, and he
shouted words that, though audible and intelligible to those near, were
not to be caught by such as were distant. But the purport of his address
was understood, and produced a deafening, a furious roar of remonstrance.

“I will not sacrifice,” said the deacon; “I am a Christian.”

Then Petronius Atacinus raised his hand, partly to assure the spectators
that he was not opposing their wishes, partly as a signal to the master of
the games.

Instantly a low door in the barrier was opened, and forth rushed a howling
pack of wolves. When they had reached the center of the arena, they stood
for a moment snuffing, and looked about them in questioning attitudes.
Some, separating from the rest, ran with their snouts against the ground
to where the recent blood had been spilt. But, all at once, a huge gray
wolf, that led the pack, uttered a howl, and made a rush and a leap
towards Marcianus; and the rest followed.

The sight was too terrible for the deacon to contemplate it unmoved. He
remained but for an instant as one frozen, and then with a cry he started
and ran round the ellipse, and the whole gray pack tore after him. Now and
then, finding that they gained on him, he turned with threatening gestures
that cowed the brutes; but this was for a moment only. Their red eyes,
their gleaming teeth filled the wretched man with fresh terror, and again
he ran.

The spectators clapped their hands—some stood up on their seats and
laughed in ecstasy of enjoyment. Once, twice he made the circuit of the
arena; and his pace, if possible, became quicker. The delight of the
spectators became an intoxication. It was exquisite. Fear in the flying
man became frantic. His breath, his strength were failing. Then suddenly
he halted, half turned, and ran to the foot of the barrier before the seat
of the Quatuor‐viri, and extended his hand: “Give me the incense! I
worship Nemausus! I adore Augustus! I renounce Christ!”

At the same moment the old monster wolf had seized him from behind. The
arms of the deacon were seen for an instant in the air. The spectators
stamped and danced and cheered—the dense gray mass of writhing, snarling
beasts closed over the spot where Marcianus had fallen!



                              CHAPTER XXIII

                             THE CLOUD‐BREAK


The acting magistrate turned to his fellow‐quatuorvir, charged with co‐
ordinate judicial authority, on the left, and said: “Your nose is leaden‐
purple in hue.”

“No marvel, in this cold. I ever suffer there with the least frost. My ear
lobes likewise are seats of chilblain.”

“In this climate! Astonishing! If it had been in Britain, or in Germany,
it might have been expected.”

“My brother‐magistrate,” said Vibius Fuscianus, “I believe that here in
the south we are more sensible to frost than are those who live under
hyperborean skies. There they expect cold, and take precautions
accordingly. Here the blasts fall on us unawares. We groan and sigh till
the sun shines out, and then forget our sufferings. Who but fools would be
here to‐day? Look above. The clouds hang low, and are so dark that we may
expect to be pelted with hail.”

“Aye,” laughed Petronius, “as big as the pebbles that strew the Crau
wherewith Hercules routed the Ligurians. Well; it is black as an eclipse.
I will give thee a hint, Vibius mine! I have made my slave line this
marble seat with hot bricks. They are comforting to the spine, the very
column of life. Presently he will be here with another supply. You see we
are not all fools. Some do make provision against the cold.”

“I wish I had thought of this before.”

“That is precisely the wish that crossed the mind of the poor wretch whom
the wolves have finished. He postponed his renunciation of Christ till
just too late.”

Then Lucius Petronius yawned, stretched himself, and signed that the
freedman who had robbed the master who had manumitted him, should be
delivered to a panther.

The wolves were with difficulty chased out of the arena, and then all was
prepared for this next exhibition. It was brief. The beast was hungry, and
the criminal exposed made little effort to resist. Next came the turn of
Baudillas.

Without raising himself in his seat, the Quatuorvir said languidly: “You
broke out of prison, you were charged with aiding and abetting sacrilege.
You refused to sacrifice to the genius of the Emperor. Well, if you will
cast a few grains of incense in the fire, I will let you depart.”

“I cannot forswear Christ,” said Baudillas with a firmness that surprised
none so much as himself. But, indeed, the fall of Marcianus, so far from
drawing him along into the same apostasy, had caused a recoil in his soul.
To hear his fellow‐ministrant deny Christ, to see him extend his hands for
the incense—that inspired him with an indignation which gave immense force
to his resolution. The Church had been dishonored, the ministry disgraced
in Marcianus. Oh, that they might not be thus humbled in himself!

“Baudillas Macer,” said the magistrate, “take advice, and be speedy in
making your election; your fellow, who has just furnished a breakfast to
the wolves, hesitated a moment too long, and so lost his life. By the time
he had resolved to act as a wise man and a good citizen, not the gods
themselves could deliver him. _Flamen_, hand the shell with the grains to
this sensible fellow.”

“I cannot offer sacrifice.”

“You are guilty of treason against Cæsar if you refuse to sacrifice to his
genius. Never mind about Nemausus, whose image is there. Say—the genius of
Cæsar, and you are quit.”

“I am his most obedient subject.”

“Then offer a libation or some frankincense.”

“I cannot. I pray daily to God for him.”

“A wilful man is like a stubborn ass. There is naught for him but the
stick. I can do no more. I shall sentence you.”

“I am ready to die for Christ.”

“Then lead him away. The sword!”

The deacon bowed. “I am unworthy of shedding my blood for Christ,” he
said, and his voice, though low, was firm.

Then he looked around and saw the Bishop Castor in the zone allotted to
the citizens and knights. Baudillas crossed his arms on his breast and
knelt on the sand, and the bishop, rising from his seat, extended his hand
in benediction.

He, Castor, had not been called to sacrifice. He had not courted death,
but he had not shrunk from it. He had not concealed himself, nevertheless
he had been passed over.

Then the deacon, with firm step, walked into the center of the arena and
knelt down.

In another moment his head was severed from the body.

The attendants immediately removed every trace of the execution, and now
arrived the moment for which all had looked with impatience.

The magistrate said: “Bring forward Perpetua, daughter of Aulus Harpinius
Læto, that has lived.”

At once Æmilius sprang into the arena and advanced before Petronius.

“Suffer me to act as her advocate,” said he in an agitated voice. “You
know me, I am Lentulus Varo.”

“I know you very well by repute, Æmilius,” answered the Quatuorvir; “but I
think there is no occasion now for your services. This is not a court of
justice in which your forensic eloquence can be heard, neither is this a
case to be adjudicated upon, and calling for defence. The virgin was
chosen by lot to be given to the god Nemausus, and was again demanded by
him speaking at midnight, after she had been rescued from his fountain, if
I mistake not, by you. Your power of interference ceased there. Now, she
is accused of nothing. She is reconsigned to the god, whose she is.”

“I appeal to Cæsar.”

“If I were to allow the appeal, would that avail thy client? But it is no
case in which an appeal is justifiable. The god is merciful. He does not
exact the life of the damsel, he asks only that she enter into his service
and be a priestess at his shrine, that she pour libations before his
altar, and strew rose leaves on his fountain. Think you that the Cæsar
will interfere in such a matter? Think you that, were it to come before
him, he would forbid this? But ask thy client if the appeal be according
to her desire.”

Perpetua shook her head.

“No, she is aware that it would be profitless. If thou desirest to serve
her, then use thy persuasion and induce her to do sacrifice.”

“Sir,” said Æmilius in great agitation, “how can she become the votary of
a god in whom she does not believe?”

“Oh, as to that,” answered the Quatuorvir, “it is a formality, nothing
more; a matter of incense and rose leaves. As to _belief_,” he turned to
his fellow‐magistrate, and said, laughing, “listen to this man. He talks
of belief, as though that were a necessary ingredient in worship! Thou,
with thy plum‐colored nose, hast thou full faith in Æsculapius to cure
thee even of a chilblain?”

Fuscianus shrugged his shoulders. “I hate all meddlers with usages that
are customary. I hate them as I do a bit of grit in my salad. I put them
away.”

The populace became impatient, shouted and stamped. Some, provided with
empty gourds, in which were pebbles, rattled them, and made a strange
sound as of a hailstorm. Others clacked together pieces of pottery. The
magistrate turned to the pontiff on his right and said: “We believe with
all our hearts in the gods when we do sacrifice! Oh, mightily, I trow.”
Then he laughed again. The priest looked grave for a moment, and then he
laughed also.

“Come now,” said Lucius Petronius to the young lawyer, “to this I limit
thy interference. Stand by the girl and induce her to yield. By the Bow‐
bearer! young men do not often fail in winning the consent of girls when
they use their best blandishments. It will be a scene for the stage. You
have plenty of spectators.”

“Suffer me also to stand beside her,” said the slave‐woman Blanda, who had
not left Perpetua.

“By all means. And if you two succeed, none will be better content than
myself. I am not one who would wish a fair virgin a worse fate than to
live and be merry and grow old. Ah me! old age!”

Again the multitude shouted and rattled pumpkins.

“We are detaining the people in the cold,” said the presiding magistrate;
“the sports move sluggishly as does our blood.” Then, aside to Fuscianus,
“My bricks are becoming sensibly chilled. I require a fresh supply.” Then
to the maiden: “Hear me, Perpetua, daughter of Harpinius Læto that was—we
and the gods, or the gods and we, are indisposed to deal harshly. Throw a
few crumbs of incense on the altar, and you shall pass at once up those
steps to the row of seats where sit the white‐robed priestesses with their
crowns. I shall be well content.”

“That is a thing I cannot do,” said Perpetua firmly.

“Then we shall have to make you,” said the magistrate in hard tones. He
was angry, vexed. “You will prove more compliant when you have been
extended on the rack. Let her be disrobed and tortured.”

Then descended into the arena two young men, who bowed to the magistrate,
solicited leave, and drew forth styles or iron pens and tablets covered
with wax. These were the scribes of the Church employed everywhere to take
down a record of the last interrogatory of a martyr. Such records were
called the “Acts.” Of them great numbers have been preserved, but
unhappily rarely unfalsified. The simplicity of the acts, the stiffness of
style, the absence of all miraculous incident, did not suit the taste of
mediæval compilers, and they systematically interpolated the earlier acts
with harrowing details and records of marvels. Nevertheless, a certain
number of these acts remain uncorrupted, and with regard to the rest it is
not difficult to separate in them that which is fictitious from that which
is genuine. Such notaries were admitted to the trials and executions with
as much indifference as would be newspaper reporters nowadays.

Again, with the sweat of anguish breaking out on his brow, Æmilius
interposed.

“I pray your mercy,” he said; “let the sentence be still further modified.
Suffer the damsel to be relieved of becoming a priestess. Let her become
my wife, and I swear that I will make over my estate of Ad Fines to the
temple of the god Nemausus, with the villa upon it, and statues and works
of art.”

“That is an offer to be entertained by the priesthood and not by me.
Boy—hot bricks! and be quick about removing those which have become almost
cold.”

A pause ensued whilst the proposal of Æmilius was discussed between the
chief priestess of the fountain and the Augustal _flamen_ and the other
pontiffs.

The populace became restless, impatient, noisy. They shouted, hooted;
called out that they were tired of seeing nothing.

“Come,” said Petronius, “I cannot further delay proceedings.”

“We consent,” said the chief pontiff.

“That is well.”

Then Æmilius approached Perpetua, and entreated her to give way. To cast a
few grains on the charcoal meant nothing; it was a mere movement of the
hand, a hardly conscious muscular act, altogether out of comparison with
the results. Such compliance would give her life, happiness, and would
place her in a position to do vast good, and he assured her that his whole
life would be devoted to her service.

“I cannot,” she said, looking Æmilius full in the face. “Do not think me
ungrateful; my heart overflows for what you have done for me, but I cannot
deny my Christ.”

Again he urged her. Let her consent and he—even he would become a
Christian.

“No,” said she, “not at that price. You would be in heart for ever
estranged from the faith.”

“To the rack! Lift her on to the little horse. Domitius Afer left his
bequest to the city in order that we should be amused, not befooled,”
howled the spectators.

“Executioners, do your duty,” said the magistrate. “But if she cry out,
let her off. She will sacrifice. Only to the first hole—mind you. If that
does not succeed, well, then, we shall try sharper means.”

And now the little horse was set up in the midst of the arena, and
braziers of glowing charcoal were planted beside it; in the fire rested
crooks and pincers to get red hot.

The “little horse” was a structure of timber. Two planks were set edgeways
with a wheel between them at each end. The structure stood on four legs,
two at each extremity, spreading at the base. Halfway down, between these
legs, at the ends, was a roller, furnished with levers that passed through
them. A rope was attached to the ankles, another to the wrists of the
person extended on the back of the “horse,” and this rope was strained
over the pulleys by means of the windlasses. The levers could be turned to
any extent, so as, if required, to wrench arms and legs from their
sockets.

And now ensued a scene that refuses description. “We are made a spectacle
unto men and angels,” said the apostle, and none could realize how true
were the words better than those who lived in times of persecution. Before
that vast concourse the modest Christian maiden was despoiled of her
raiment and was stretched upon the rack—swung between the planks.

Æmilius felt his head swim and his heart contract. What could he do? Again
he entreated, but she shook her head, yet turned at his voice and smiled.

Then the executioners threw themselves on the levers, and a hush as of
death fell on the multitude. Twenty thousand spectators looked on, twice
that number of eyes were riveted on the frail girl undergoing this agony.
Bets had been made on her constancy, bandied about, taken, and booked.
Castor stood up, with face turned to heaven, and extended arms, praying.

The creaking of the windlass was audible; then rang out a sharp cry of
pain.

Immediately the cords were relaxed and the victim lowered to the ground.
Blanda threw a mantle over her.

“She will sacrifice,” said Æmilius; “take off the cords.”

The executioners looked to the magistrate. He nodded, and they obeyed. The
bonds were rapidly removed from her hands and feet.

“Blanda, sustain her!” commanded Æmilius, and he on one side, with his arm
round the sinking, quivering form, and the slave‐woman on the other,
supported Perpetua. Her feet dragged and traced a furrow in the sand; they
were numbed and powerless through the tension of the cords that had been
knotted about the ankles. Æmilius and Blanda drew her towards the altar.

“I cannot! I will not sacrifice! I am a Christian. I believe in Christ! I
love Christ!”

“Perpetua,” said Æmilius in agitated tones, “your happiness and mine
depend on compliance. For all I have done for you, if you will not for
your own sake—consent to this. Here! I will hold your hand. Nay, it is I
who will strew the incense, and make it appear as though it were done by
you. Priest! The shell with the grains.”

“Spare me! I cannot!” gasped the girl, struggling in his arms. “I cannot
be false to my Christ—for all that He has done for me.”

“You shall. I must constrain you.” He set his teeth, knitted his brow. All
his muscles were set in desperation. He strove to force her hand to the
altar.

“Shame on thee!” sobbed she. “Thou art more cruel than the torturer, more
unjust than the judge.”

It was so. Æmilius felt that she was right. They did but insult and rack a
frail body, and he did violence to the soul within.

The people hooted and roared, and brandished their arms threateningly. “We
will not be balked! We are being treated to child’s play.”

“Take her back to the rack. Apply the fire,” ordered the Quatuorvir.

The executioners reclaimed her. She offered no resistance. Æmilius
staggered to the _podium_ and grasped the marble top with one hand.

She was again suspended on the little horse. Again the windlass creaked.
The crowd listened, held its breath, men looked in each other’s eyes, then
back to the scene of suffering. Not a sound; not a cry; no, not even a
sigh. She bore all.

“Try fire!” ordered the magistrate.

Æmilius had covered his face. He trembled. He would have shut his ears as
he did his eyes, could he have done so. Verily, the agony of his soul was
as great as the torture of her body. But there was naught to be heard—an
ominous stillness, only the groaning of the windlass, and now and then a
word from one executioner to his fellow.

At every creak of the wheel a quiver went through the frame of Æmilius. He
listened with anguish of mind for a cry. The populace held its breath; it
waited. There was none. Into her face he dared not look. But the twenty
thousand spectators stared—and saw naught save lips moving in prayer.

And now a mighty wonder occurred.

The dense cloud that filled the heavens began softly, soundlessly, to
discharge its burden. First came, scarce noticed, sailing down, a few
large white flakes like fleeces of wool. Then they came fast, faster, ever
faster. And now it was as though a white bridal veil had been let down out
of heaven to hide from the eyes of the ravening multitude the spectacle of
the agony of Christ’s martyr. None could see across the arena; soon none
could see obscurely into it. The snowflakes fell thick and dense, they
massed as a white cornice on the parapet, they dropped on every head, they
whitened the bloodstained, trampled sand. And all fled before the snow.
First went a few in twos or threes; then whole rows stood up, and through
the vomitories the multitude poured—freedmen, slaves, knights, ladies,
_flamines_, magistrates; none could stand against the descending snow.

“Cast her down!” This was the last command issued by Petronius as he rose
from his seat. The executioners were glad to escape. They relaxed the
ropes, and threw their victim on the already white ground.

Still thick and fast fell the fleeces. Blanda had cast a mantle of wool
over the prostrate girl, but out of heaven descended a pall, whiter than
fuller on earth can bleach, and buried the woolen cloak and the extended
quivering limbs. Beside her, in the snow, knelt Æmilius. He held her hand
in one of his. She looked him in the face and smiled. Then she said: “Give
to Blanda her liberty.”

He could not speak. He signed that it should be so.

Then she said: “I have prayed for thee—on the rack, in the fire—that the
light may shine into thy heart.”

She closed her eyes.

Still he held her hand, and with the other gently brushed away the
snowflakes as they fell on her pure face. Oh wondrous face! Face above the
dream of the highest Greek artist!

Thus passed an hour—thus a second.

Then suddenly the clouds parted, and the sun poured down a flood of glory
over the dazzling white oval field, in the midst of which lay a heap of
whiteness, and on a face as of alabaster, inanimate, and on a kneeling,
weeping man, still with reverent finger sweeping away the last snowflakes
from eyelash, cheek and hair, and who felt as if he could thus look, and
kneel, and weep for ever.(12)



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                                  CREDO


Many days had passed. All was calm in Nemausus. The games were over.

The day succeeding that we have described was warm and spring‐like. The
sun shone brilliantly. Every trace of the snow had disappeared, and the
water‐fight in the amphitheater had surpassed the expectations of the
people. They had enjoyed themselves heartily.

All had returned to its old order. The wool merchant took fresh commands,
and sent his travelers into the Cebennæ to secure the winter fleeces. The
woman who had the flower‐shop sold garlands as fast as she could weave
them. The potter spread out a fresh collection of his wares and did a good
business with them.

The disturbances that had taken place were no more spoken about. The
deaths of Marcianus, Baudillas and Perpetua hardly occupied any thoughts,
save only those of their relatives and the Christians.

The general public had seen a show, and the show over, they had other
concerns to occupy them.

Now both Pedo and Blanda were free, and the long tarrying was over. They
had loved when young, they came together in the autumn of their lives.

In the heart of the Church of Nemausus there was not forgetfulness of its
heroes.



If the visitor at the present day to Nîmes will look about him, he will
find two churches, both recently rebuilt, in place of, and on the site of,
very ancient places of worship, and the one bears the name of St.
Baudille. If he inquire of the sacristan, “Mais qui, donc, était‐il, ce
saint?” then the answer given him will be: “Baudillas was a native of
Nîmes, a deacon, and a martyr.”

If he ask further, “But when?” Then the sacristan will probably reply with
a shrug: “Mais, monsieur; qui sait?”

In another part of the town is a second church, glowing internally with
color from its richly painted windows, and this bears the name of Ste.
Perpetue.

Does the visitor desire to be told whether it has been erected in honor
and in commemoration of the celebrated African martyrs Felicitas and
Perpetua, or of some local virgin saint who shed her blood for Christ,
then let him again inquire of the sacristan.

What his answer will be I cannot say.



The Bishop Castor remained much in his house. He grieved that he had not
been called to witness to the faith that was in him. But he was a humble
man, and he said to himself: “Such was the will of God, and that sufficeth
me.”

One evening he was informed that a man, who would not give his name,
desired to speak with him.

He ordered that he should be introduced.

When the visitor entered, Castor recognized Æmilius, but the man was
changed. Lines of thought and of sorrow marked his face, that bore other
impress as well of the travail of his soul within him. He seemed older,
his face more refined than before, there was less of carnal beauty, and
something spiritual that shone out of his eyes.

The bishop warmly welcomed him.

Then said Æmilius in a low tone, “I am come to thee for instruction. I
know but little, yet what I know of Christ I believe. He is not dead, He
liveth; He is a power; mighty is faith, and mighty is the love that He
inspires. _Credo._”



                                FOOTNOTES


    1 So represented in paintings in the Catacombs. There were two
      distinct types: the table in the Church and the tomb at the
      Sepulcher of the Martyr.

    2 St. Clement of Alexandria complained of the dainties provided for
      the Agape: “The sauces, cakes, sugar‐plums, the drink, the
      delicacies, the games, the sweetmeats, the honey.” The hour of
      supper with the Romans was about 2 P.M.; that, therefore, was the
      time for the love‐feast to begin.

    3 In the recently‐exhumed house of Saints John and Paul, in the Cœlian
      Hill at Rome, such bottles were discovered in the cellar.

    4 Now Ambroix.

    5 Certain Christians bought substitutes to sacrifice in their room and
      receive a ticket (_libellus_) certifying that they had sacrificed.
      The Church was a little perplexed how to deal with these timorous
      members, who were termed _libellatics_.

    6 I employ the term Duumvir for convenience. As already stated, there
      were four chief magistrates, but two only had criminal jurisdiction.

    7 “Erat et robur, locus in carcere, quo præcipitabatur maleficorum
      genus, quod ante arcis robustis includebatur.”—LIV. 38, 39.

    8 The prayer is given in the “Apostolic Constitutions,” viii. 37.

    9 The casting into the lowest pit of the _robur_—sometimes termed the
      _barathrum_—was not a rare act of barbarity. Jugurtha perished in
      that of the Tullianum in Rome. “By Hercules!” said he as he was
      being lowered into it, “your bath is cold!” S. Ferreolus, of Vienne,
      was plunged into this horrible place in A.D. 304. He was young, and
      by diving or by working at the grating he managed to escape much in
      the manner described above. Thus through the sewer he reached the
      Rhône, and swam across it. He was, however, recaptured and taken
      back to Vienne, where he was decapitated. He is commemorated in the
      diocese of Vienne on September 18th, and is mentioned by Sidonius
      Apollinaris in the fifth century, and by Venantius Fortunatus in the
      sixth. S. Gregory, the illuminator, was cast into the _barathrum_ by
      Tiridates. Theodoret describes martyrs devoured by rats and mice in
      Persia (“Hist. Eccl.,” v. 39).

   10 This sign is now in the museum.

   11 Fairies, adored at Nemausus.

   12 The incident of the fall of snow occurring at the martyrdom of a
      virgin saint is no picture of the author’s imagination. It occurred
      at the passion of S. Eulalia of Merida, in A.D. 303, and is
      commemorated in the hymn on her by Prudentius.



                            TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE


Variations in hyphenation or spelling have not been changed.

Changes, which have been made to the text:

      page 55, “Nemauscan” changed to “Nemausean”
      page 117, “alloted” changed to “allotted”
      page 119, “exisiting” changed to “existing”
      page 125, comma removed after “Baudillas”
      page 278, “adsence” changed to “absence”
      page 280, quote mark added before “Executioners”





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