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Title: A Thorny Path — Complete
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Thorny Path — Complete" ***

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A THORNY PATH

By Georg Ebers

Volume 1.



CHAPTER I.

The green screen slowly rose, covering the lower portion of the broad
studio window where Heron, the gem-cutter, was at work. It was Melissa,
the artist’s daughter, who had pulled it up, with bended knees and
outstretched arms, panting for breath.

“That is enough!” cried her father’s impatient voice. He glanced up at
the flood of light which the blinding sun of Alexandria was pouring into
the room, as it did every autumn afternoon; but as soon as the shadow
fell on his work-table the old man’s busy fingers were at work again,
and he heeded his daughter no more.

An hour later Melissa again, and without any bidding, pulled up the
screen as before, but it was so much too heavy for her that the effort
brought the blood into her calm, fair face, as the deep, rough “That is
enough” was again heard from the work-table.

Then silence reigned once more. Only the artist’s low whistling as
he worked, or the patter and pipe of the birds in their cages by the
window, broke the stillness of the spacious room, till the voice and
step of a man were presently heard in the anteroom.

Heron laid by his graver and Melissa her gold embroidery, and the eyes
of father and daughter met for the first time for some hours. The very
birds seemed excited, and a starling, which had sat moping since the
screen had shut the sun out, now cried out, “Olympias!” Melissa rose,
and after a swift glance round the room she went to the door, come who
might.

Ay, even if the brother she was expecting should bring a companion, or
a patron of art who desired her father’s work, the room need not fear a
critical eye; and she was so well assured of the faultless neatness of
her own person, that she only passed a hand over her brown hair, and
with an involuntary movement pulled her simple white robe more tightly
through her girdle.

Heron’s studio was as clean and as simple as his daughter’s attire,
though it seemed larger than enough for the purpose it served, for only
a very small part of it was occupied by the artist, who sat as if in
exile behind the work-table on which his belongings were laid out: a set
of small instruments in a case, a tray filled with shells and bits
of onyx and other agates, a yellow ball of Cyrenian modeling-wax,
pumice-stone, bottles, boxes, and bowls.

Melissa had no sooner crossed the threshold, than the sculptor drew up
his broad shoulders and brawny person, and raised his hand to fling away
the slender stylus he had been using; however, he thought better of
it, and laid it carefully aside with the other tools. But this act of
self-control must have cost the hot-headed, powerful man a great effort;
for he shot a fierce look at the instrument which had had so narrow an
escape, and gave it a push of vexation with the back of his hand.

Then he turned towards the door, his sunburnt face looking surly enough,
in its frame of tangled gray hair and beard; and, as he waited for the
visitor whom Melissa was greeting outside, he tossed back his big head,
and threw out his broad, deep chest, as though preparing to wrestle.

Melissa presently returned, and the youth whose hand she still held was,
as might be seen in every feature, none other than the sculptor’s son.
Both were dark-eyed, with noble and splendid heads, and in stature
perfectly equal; but while the son’s countenance beamed with hearty
enjoyment, and seemed by its peculiar attractiveness to be made--and
to be accustomed--to charm men and women alike, his father’s face was
expressive of disgust and misanthropy. It seemed, indeed, as though
the newcomer had roused his ire, for Heron answered his son’s cheerful
greeting with no word but a reproachful “At last!” and paid no heed to
the hand the youth held out to him.

Alexander was no doubt inured to such a reception; he did not disturb
himself about the old man’s ill-humor, but slapped him on the shoulder
with rough geniality, went up to the work-table with easy composure,
took up the vice which held the nearly finished gem, and, after holding
it to the light and examining it carefully, exclaimed: “Well done,
father! You have done nothing better than that for a long time.”

“Poor stuff!” said his father. But his son laughed.

“If you will have it so. But I will give one of my eyes to see the man
in Alexandria who can do the like!”

At this the old man broke out, and shaking his fist he cried: “Because
the man who can find anything worth doing, takes good care not to waste
his time here, making divine art a mere mockery by such trifling with
toys! By Sirius! I should like to fling all those pebbles into the
fire, the onyx and shells and jasper and what not, and smash all those
wretched tools with these fists, which were certainly made for other
work than this.”

The youth laid an arm round his father’s stalwart neck, and gayly
interrupted his wrath. “Oh yes, Father Heron, Philip and I have felt
often enough that they know how to hit hard.”

“Not nearly often enough,” growled the artist, and the young man went
on:

“That I grant, though every blow from you was equal to a dozen from the
hand of any other father in Alexandria. But that those mighty fists on
human arms should have evoked the bewitching smile on the sweet lips of
this Psyche, if it is not a miracle of art, is--”

“The degradation of art,” the old man put in; but Alexander hastily
added:

“The victory of the exquisite over the coarse.”

“A victory!” exclaimed Heron, with a scornful flourish of his hand.
“I know, boy, why you are trying to garland the oppressive yoke with
flowers of flattery. So long as your surly old father sits over the
vice, he only whistles a song and spares you his complaints. And then,
there is the money his work brings in!”

He laughed bitterly, and as Melissa looked anxiously up at him, her
brother exclaimed:

“If I did not know you well, master, and if it would not be too great
a pity, I would throw that lovely Psyche to the ostrich in Scopas’s
court-yard; for, by Herakles! he would swallow your gem more easily than
we can swallow such cruel taunts. We do indeed bless the Muses that work
brings you some surcease of gloomy thoughts. But for the rest--I hate to
speak the word gold. We want it no more than you, who, when the coffer
is full, bury it or hide it with the rest. Apollodorus forced a whole
talent of the yellow curse upon me for painting his men’s room. The
sailor’s cap, into which I tossed it with the rest, will burst when
Seleukus pays me for the portrait of his daughter; and if a thief robs
you, and me too, we need not fret over it. My brush and your stylus
will earn us more in no time. And what are our needs? We do not bet on
quail-fights; we do not run races; I always had a loathing for purchased
love; we do not want to wear a heap of garments bought merely because
they take our fancy--indeed, I am too hot as it is under this scorching
sun. The house is your own. The rent paid by Glaukias, for the work-room
and garden you inherited from your father, pays for half at least of
what we and the birds and the slaves eat. As for Philip, he lives on air
and philosophy; and, besides, he is fed out of the great breadbasket of
the Museum.”

At this point the starling interrupted the youth’s vehement speech with
the appropriate cry, “My strength! my strength!” The brother and sister
looked at each other, and Alexander went on with genuine enthusiasm:

“But it is not in you to believe us capable of such meanness. Dedicate
your next finished work to Isis or Serapis. Let your masterpiece grace
the goddess’s head-gear, or the god’s robe. We shall be quite content,
and perhaps the immortals may restore your joy in life as a reward.”

The bird repeated its lamentable cry, “My strength!” and the youth
proceeded with increased vehemence:

“It would really be better that you should throw your vice and your
graver and your burnisher, and all that heap of dainty tools, into the
sea, and carve an Atlas such as we have heard you talk about ever since
we could first speak Greek. Come, set to work on a colossus! You have
but to speak the word, and the finest clay shall be ready on your
modeling-table by to-morrow, either here or in Glaukias’s work-room,
which is indeed your own. I know where the best is to be found, and can
bring it to you in any quantity. Scopas will lend me his wagon. I can
see it now, and you valiantly struggling with it till your mighty arms
ache. You will not whistle and hum over that, but sing out with all
your might, as you used when my mother was alive, when you and your
apprentices joined Dionysus’s drunken rout. Then your brow will grow
smooth again; and if the model is a success, and you want to buy marble,
or pay the founder, then out with your gold, out of the coffer and its
hiding-place! Then you can make use of all your strength, and your dream
of producing an Atlas such as the world has not seen--your beautiful
dream-will become a reality!”

Heron had listened eagerly to his son’s rhapsody, but he now cast a
timid glance at the table where the wax and tools lay, pushed the rough
hair from his brow, and broke in with a bitter laugh: “My dream, do you
say--my dream? As if I did not know too well that I am no longer the man
to create an Atlas! As if I did not feel, without your words, that my
strength for it is a thing of the past!”

“Nay, father,” exclaimed the painter. “Is it right to cast away the
sword before the battle? And even if you did not succeed--”

“You would be all the better pleased,” the sculptor put in. “What surer
way could there be to teach the old simpleton, once for all, that the
time when he could do great work is over and gone?”

“That is unjust, father; that is unworthy of you,” the young man
interrupted in great excitement; but his father went on, raising his
voice; “Silence, boy! One thing at any rate is left to me, as you
know--my keen eyes; and they did not fail me when you two looked at each
other as the starling cried, ‘My strength!’ Ay, the bird is in the right
when he bewails what was once so great and is now a mere laughing-stock.
But you--you ought to reverence the man to whom you owe your existence
and all you know; you allow yourself to shrug your shoulders over
your own father’s humbler art, since your first pictures were fairly
successful.--How puffed up he is, since, by my devoted care, he has been
a painter! How he looks down on the poor wretch who, by the pinch of
necessity, has come down from being a sculptor of the highest promise to
being a mere gem-cutter! In the depths of your soul--and I know it--you
regard my laborious art as half a handicraft. Well, perhaps it deserves
no better name; but that you--both of you--should make common cause with
a bird, and mock the sacred fire which still burns in an old man, and
moves him to serve true and noble art and to mold something great--an
Atlas such as the world has never seen on a heroic scale; that--”

He covered his face with his hands and sobbed aloud. And the strong
man’s passionate grief cut his children to the heart, though, since
their mother’s death, their father’s rage and discontent had many a time
ere now broken down into childish lamentation.

To-day no doubt the old man was in worse spirits than usual, for it was
the day of the Nekysia--the feast of the dead kept every autumn; and he
had that morning visited his wife’s grave, accompanied by his daughter,
and had anointed the tombstone and decked it with flowers. The young
people tried to comfort him; and when at last he was more composed and
had dried his tears, he said, in so melancholy and subdued a tone that
the angry blusterer was scarcely recognizable: “There--leave me alone;
it will soon be over. I will finish this gem to-morrow, and then I must
do the Serapis I promised Theophilus, the high-priest. Nothing can come
of the Atlas. Perhaps you meant it in all sincerity, Alexander; but
since your mother left me, children, since then--my arms are no weaker
than they were; but in here--what it was that shriveled, broke, leaked
away--I can not find words for it. If you care for me--and I know you
do--you must not be vexed with me if my gall rises now and then; there
is too much bitterness in my soul. I can not reach the goal I strive
after and was meant to win; I have lost what I loved best, and where am
I to find comfort or compensation?”

His children tenderly assured him of their affection, and he allowed
Melissa to kiss him, and stroked Alexander’s hair.

Then he inquired for Philip, his eldest son and his favorite; and on
learning that he, the only person who, as he believed, could understand
him, would not come to see him this day above all others, he again broke
out in wrath, abusing the degeneracy of the age and the ingratitude of
the young.

“Is it a visit which detains him again?” he inquired, and when Alexander
thought not, he exclaimed contemptuously: “Then it is some war of words
at the Museum. And for such poor stuff as that a son can forget his duty
to his father and mother!”

“But you, too, used to enjoy these conflicts of intellect,” his daughter
humbly remarked; but the old man broke in:

“Only because they help a miserable world to forget the torments of
existence, and the hideous certainty of having been born only to die
some horrible death. But what can you know of this?”

“By my mother’s death-bed,” replied the girl, “we, too, had a glimpse
into the terrible mystery.” And Alexander gravely added, “And since
we last met, father, I may certainly account myself as one of the
initiated.”

“You have painted a dead body?” asked his father.

“Yes, father,” replied the lad with a deep breath. “I warned you,” said
Heron, in a tone of superior experience.

And then, as Melissa rearranged the folds of his blue robe, he said
he should go for a walk. He sighed as he spoke, and his children
knew whither he would go. It was to the grave to which Melissa had
accompanied him that morning; and he would visit it alone, to meditate
undisturbed on the wife he had lost.



CHAPTER II.

The brother and sister were left together. Melissa sighed deeply; but
her brother went up to her, laid his arm round her shoulder, and said:
“Poor child! you have indeed a hard time of it. Eighteen years old, and
as pretty as you are, to be kept locked up as if in prison! No one would
envy you, even if your fellow-captive and keeper were younger and less
gloomy than your father is! But we know what it all means. His grief
eats into his soul, and it does him as much good to storm and scold, as
it does us to laugh.”

“If only the world could know how kind his heart really is!” said the
girl.

“He is not the same to his friends as to us,” said Alexander; but
Melissa shook her head, and said sadly: “He broke out yesterday against
Apion, the dealer, and it was dreadful. For the fiftieth time he had
waited supper for you two in vain, and in the twilight, when he had
done work, his grief overcame him, and to see him weep is quite
heartbreaking! The Syrian dealer came in and found him all tearful, and
being so bold as to jest about it in his flippant way--”

“The old man would give him his answer, I know!” cried her brother with
a hearty laugh. “He will not again be in a hurry to stir up a wounded
lion.”

“That is the very word,” said Melissa, and her large eyes sparkled. “At
the fight in the Circus, I could not help thinking of my father, when
the huge king of the desert lay with a broken spear in his loins,
whining loudly, and burying his maned head between his great paws. The
gods are pitiless!”

“Indeed they are,” replied the youth, with deep conviction; but his
sister looked up at him in surprise.

“Do you say so, Alexander? Yes, indeed--you looked just now as I never
saw you before. Has misfortune overtaken you too?”

“Misfortune?” he repeated, and he gently stroked her hair. “No, not
exactly; and you know my woes sit lightly enough on me. The immortals
have indeed shown me very plainly that it is their will sometimes to
spoil the feast of life with a right bitter draught. But, like the moon
itself, all it shines on is doomed to change--happily! Many things here
below seem strangely ordered. Like ears and eyes, hands and feet, many
things are by nature double, and misfortunes, as they say, commonly come
in couples yoked like oxen.”

“Then you have had some twofold blow?” asked Melissa, clasping her hands
over her anxiously throbbing bosom.

“I, child! No, indeed. Nothing has befallen your father’s younger son;
and if I were a philosopher, like Philip, I should be moved to wonder
why a man can only be wet when the rain falls on him, and yet can be so
wretched when disaster falls on another. But do not look at me with such
terror in your great eyes. I swear to you that, as a man and an artist,
I never felt better, and so I ought properly to be in my usual frame
of mind. But the skeleton at life’s festival has been shown to me. What
sort of thing is that? It is an image--the image of a dead man which
was carried round by the Egyptians, and is to this day by the Romans,
to remind the feasters that they should fill every hour with enjoyment,
since enjoyment is all too soon at an end. Such an image, child--”

“You are thinking of the dead girl--Seleukus’s daughter--whose portrait
you are painting?” asked Melissa.

Alexander nodded, sat down on the bench by his sister, and, taking up
her needlework, exclaimed “Give us some light, child. I want to see your
pretty face. I want to be sure that Diodorus did not perjure himself
when, at the ‘Crane,’ the other day, he swore that it had not its match
in Alexandria. Besides, I hate the darkness.”

When Melissa returned with the lighted lamp, she found her brother, who
was not wont to keep still, sitting in the place where she had left him.
But he sprang up as she entered, and prevented her further greeting by
exclaiming:

“Patience! patience! You shall be told all. Only I did not want to
worry you on the day of the festival of the dead. And besides, to-morrow
perhaps he will be in a better frame of mind, and next day--”

Melissa became urgent. “If Philip is ill--” she put in.

“Not exactly ill,” said he. “He has no fever, no ague-fit, no aches and
pains. He is not in bed, and has no bitter draughts to swallow. Yet is
he not well, any more than I, though but just now, in the dining-hall at
the Elephant, I ate like a starving wolf, and could at this moment jump
over this table. Shall I prove it?”

“No, no,” said his sister, in growing distress. “But, if you love me,
tell me at once and plainly--”

“At once and plainly,” sighed the painter. “That, in any case, will not
be easy. But I will do my best. You knew Korinna?”

“Seleukus’s daughter?”

“She herself--the maiden from whose corpse I am painting her portrait.”

“No. But you wanted--”

“I wanted to be brief, but I care even more to be understood; and if you
have never seen with your own eyes, if you do not yourself know what a
miracle of beauty the gods wrought when they molded that maiden, you
are indeed justified in regarding me as a fool and Philip as a
madman--which, thank the gods, he certainly is not yet.”

“Then he too has seen the dead maiden?”

“No, no. And yet--perhaps. That at present remains a mystery. I hardly
know what happened even to myself. I succeeded in controlling myself in
my father’s presence; but now, when it all rises up before me, before my
very eyes, so distinct, so real, so tangible, now--by Sirius! Melissa,
if you interrupt me again--”

“Begin again. I will be silent,” she cried. “I can easily picture your
Korinna as a divinely beautiful creature.”

Alexander raised his hands to heaven, exclaiming with passionate
vehemence: “Oh, how would I praise and glorify the gods, who formed
that marvel of their art, and my mouth should be full of their grace and
mercy, if they had but allowed the world to sun itself in the charm of
that glorious creature, and to worship their everlasting beauty in
her who was their image! But they have wantonly destroyed their own
masterpiece, have crushed the scarce-opened bud, have darkened the star
ere it has risen! If a man had done it, Melissa, a man what would his
doom have been! If he--”

Here the youth hid his face in his hands in passionate emotion; but,
feeling his sister’s arm round his shoulder, he recovered himself, and
went on more calmly: “Well, you heard that she was dead. She was of just
your age; she is dead at eighteen, and her father commissioned me to
paint her in death.--Pour me out some water; then I will proceed as
coldly as a man crying the description of a runaway slave.” He drank
a deep draught, and wandered restlessly up and down in front of his
sister, while he told her all that had happened to him during the last
few days.

The day before yesterday, at noon, he had left the inn where he had been
carousing with friends, gay and careless, and had obeyed the call of
Seleukus. Just before raising the knocker he had been singing cheerfully
to himself. Never had he felt more fully content--the gayest of the gay.
One of the first men in the town, and a connoisseur, had honored him
with a fine commission, and the prospect of painting something dead had
pleased him. His old master had often admired the exquisite delicacy of
the flesh-tones of a recently deceased body. As his glance fell on the
implements that his slave carried after him, he had drawn himself up
with the proud feeling of having before him a noble task, to which he
felt equal. Then the porter, a gray-bearded Gaul, had opened the door
to him, and as he looked into his care-worn face and received from him a
silent permission to step in, he had already become more serious.

He had heard marvels of the magnificence of the house that he now
entered; and the lofty vestibule into which he was admitted, the mosaic
floor that he trod; the marble statues and high reliefs round the upper
hart of the walls, were well worth careful observation; yet he, whose
eyes usually carried away so vivid an impression of what he had once
seen that he could draw it from memory, gave no attention to any
particular thing among the various objects worthy of admiration. For
already in the anteroom a peculiar sensation had come over him. The
large halls, which were filled with odors of ambergris and incense, were
as still as the grave. And it seemed to him that even the sun, which had
been shining brilliantly a few minutes before in a cloudless sky, had
disappeared behind clouds, for a strange twilight, unlike anything he
had ever seen, surrounded him. Then he perceived that it came in through
the black velarium with which they had closed the open roof of the room
through which he was passing.

In the anteroom a young freedman had hurried silently past him--had
vanished like a shadow through the dusky rooms. His duty must have been
to announce the artist’s arrival to the mother of the dead girl; for,
before Alexander had found time to feast his gaze on the luxurious mass
of flowering plants that surrounded the fountain in the middle of the
impluvium, a tall matron, in flowing mourning garments, came towards
him--Korinna’s mother.

Without lifting the black veil which enveloped her from head to foot,
she speechlessly signed him to follow her. Till this moment not even a
whisper had met his ear from any human lips in this house of death and
mourning; and the stillness was so oppressive to the light-hearted young
painter, that, merely to hear the sound of his own voice, he ex-plained
to the lady who he was and wherefore he had come. But the only answer
was a dumb assenting bow of the head.

He had not far to go with his stately guide; their walk ended in a
spacious room. It had been made a perfect flower-garden with hundreds
of magnificent plants; piles of garlands strewed the floor, and in the
midst stood the couch on which lay the dead girl. In this hall,
too, reigned the same gloomy twilight which had startled him in the
vestibule.

The dim, shrouded form lying motionless on the couch before him, with a
heavy wreath of lotus-flowers and white roses encircling it from head
to foot, was the subject for his brush. He was to paint here, where he
could scarcely distinguish one plant from another, or make out the form
of the vases which stood round the bed of death. The white blossoms
alone gleamed like pale lights in the gloom, and with a sister radiance
something smooth and round which lay on the couch--the bare arm of the
dead maiden.

His heart began to throb; the artist’s love of his art had awaked within
him; he had collected his wits, and explained to the matron that to
paint in the darkness was impossible.

Again she bowed in reply, but at a signal two waiting women, who were
squatting on the floor behind the couch, started up in the twilight, as
if they had sprung from the earth, and approached their mistress.

A fresh shock chilled the painter’s blood, for at the same moment the
lady’s voice was suddenly audible close to his ear, almost as deep as a
man’s but not unmelodious, ordering the girls to draw back the curtain
as far as the painter should desire.

Now, he felt, the spell was broken; curiosity and eagerness took
the place of reverence for death. He quietly gave his orders for the
necessary arrangements, lent the women the help of his stronger arm,
took out his painting implements, and then requested the matron to
unveil the dead girl, that he might see from which side it would be best
to take the portrait. But then again he was near losing his composure,
for the lady raised her veil, and measured him with a glance as though
he had asked something strange and audacious indeed.

Never had he met so piercing a glance from any woman’s eyes; and yet
they were red with weeping and full of tears. Bitter grief spoke in
every line of her still youthful features, and their stern, majestic
beauty was in keeping with the deep tones of her speech. Oh that he had
been so happy as to see this woman in the bloom of youthful loveliness!
She did not heed his admiring surprise; before acceding to his demand,
her regal form trembled from head to foot, and she sighed as she lifted
the shroud from her daughter’s face. Then, with a groan, she dropped
on her knees by the couch and laid her cheek against that of the dead
maiden. At last she rose, and murmured to the painter that if he were
successful in his task her gratitude would be beyond expression.

“What more she said,” Alexander went on, “I could but half understand,
for she wept all the time, and I could not collect my thoughts. It
was not till afterward that I learned from her waiting-woman--a
Christian--that she meant to tell me that the relations and wailing
women were to come to-morrow morning. I could paint on till nightfall,
but no longer. I had been chosen for the task because Seleukus had heard
from my old teacher, Bion, that I should get a faithful likeness of the
original more quickly than any one else. She may have said more, but
I heard nothing; I only saw. For when the veil no longer hid that face
from my gaze, I felt as though the gods had revealed a mystery to me
which till now only the immortals had been permitted to know. Never was
my soul so steeped in devotion, never had my heart beat in such solemn
uplifting as at that moment. What I was gazing at and had to represent
was a thing neither human nor divine; it was beauty itself--that beauty
of which I have often dreamed in blissful rapture.

“And yet--do not misapprehend me--I never thought of bewailing the
maiden, or grieving over her early death. She was but sleeping--I could
fancy: I watched one I loved in her slumbers. My heart beat high! Ay,
child, and the work I did was pure joy, such joy as only the gods on
Olympus know at their golden board. Every feature, every line was of
such perfection as only the artist’s soul can conceive of, nay,
even dream of. The ecstasy remained, but my unrest gave way to an
indescribable and wordless bliss. I drew with the red chalk, and mixed
the colors with the grinder, and all the while I could not feel the
painful sense of painting a corpse. If she were slumbering, she had
fallen asleep with bright images in her memory. I even fancied again
and again that her lips moved her exquisitely chiseled mouth, and that a
faint breath played with her abundant, waving, shining brown hair, as it
does with yours.

“The Muse sped my hand and the portrait--Bion and the rest will praise
it, I think, though it is no more like the unapproachable original than
that lamp is like the evening star yonder.”

“And shall we be allowed to see it?” asked Melissa, who had been
listening breathlessly to her brother’s narrative.

The words seemed to have snatched the artist from a dream. He had to
pause and consider where he was and to whom he was speaking. He hastily
pushed the curling hair off his damp brow, and said:

“I do not understand. What is it you ask?”

“I only asked whether we should be allowed to see the portrait,” she
answered timidly. “I was wrong to interrupt you. But how hot your head
is! Drink again before you go on. Had you really finished by sundown?”

Alexander shook his head, drank, and then went on more calmly: “No, no!
It is a pity you spoke. In fancy I was painting her still. There is the
moon rising already. I must make haste. I have told you all this for
Philip’s sake, not for my own.”

“I will not interrupt you again, I assure you,” said Melissa. “Well,
well,” said her brother. “There is not much that is pleasant left to
tell. Where was I?”

“Painting, so long as it was light--”

“To be sure--I remember. It began to grow dark. Then lamps were
brought in, large ones, and as many as I wished for. Just before sunset
Seleukus, Korinna’s father, came in to look upon his daughter once more.
He bore his grief with dignified composure; yet by his child’s bier he
found it hard to be calm. But you can imagine all that. He invited me to
eat, and the food they brought might have tempted a full man to excess,
but I could only swallow a few mouthfuls. Berenike--the mother--did not
even moisten her lips, but Seleukus did duty for us both, and this I
could see displeased his wife. During supper the merchant made many
inquiries about me and my father; for he had heard Philip’s praises from
his brother Theophilus, the high-priest. I learned from him that Korinna
had caught her sickness from a slave girl she had nursed, and had died
of the fever in three days. But while I sat listening to him, as he
talked and ate, I could not keep my eyes off his wife who reclined
opposite to me silent and motionless, for the gods had created Korinna
in her very image. The lady Berenike’s eyes indeed sparkle with a
lurid, I might almost say an alarming, fire, but they are shaped like
Korinna’s. I said so, and asked whether they were of the same color;
I wanted to know for my portrait. On this Seleukus referred me to a
picture painted by old Sosibius, who has lately gone to Rome to work in
Caesar’s new baths. He last year painted the wall of a room in the mer
chant’s country house at Kanopus. In the center of the picture stands
Galatea, and I know it now to be a good and true likeness.

“The picture I finished that evening is to be placed at the head of
the young girl’s sarcophagus; but I am to keep it two days longer, to
reproduce a second likeness more at my leisure, with the help of the
Galatea, which is to remain in Seleukus’s town house.

“Then he left me alone with his wife.

“What a delightful commission! I set to work with renewed pleasure,
and more composure than at first. I had no need to hurry, for the first
picture is to be hidden in the tomb, and I could give all my care to the
second. Besides, Korinna’s features were indelibly impressed on my eye.

“I generally can not paint at all by lamp-light; but this time I found
no difficulty, and I soon recovered that blissful, solemn mood which I
had felt in the presence of the dead. Only now and then it was clouded
by a sigh, or a faint moan from Berenike: ‘Gone, gone! There is no
comfort--none, none!’

“And what could I answer? When did Death ever give back what he has
snatched away?

“’ I can not even picture her as she was,’ she murmured sadly to
herself--but this I might remedy by the help of my art, so I painted on
with increasing zeal; and at last her lamentations ceased to trouble
me, for she fell asleep, and her handsome head sank on her breast. The
watchers, too, had dropped asleep, and only their deep breathing broke
the stillness.

“Suddenly it flashed upon me that I was alone with Korinna, and the
feeling grew stronger and stronger; I fancied her lovely lips had moved,
that a smile gently parted them, inviting me to kiss them. As often as
I looked at them--and they bewitched me--I saw and felt the same, and at
last every impulse within me drove me toward her, and I could no longer
resist: my lips pressed hers in a kiss!”

Melissa softly sighed, but the artist did not hear; he went on: “And
in that kiss I became hers; she took the heart and soul of me. I can no
longer escape from her; awake or asleep, her image is before my eyes,
and my spirit is in her power.”

Again he drank, emptying the cup at one deep gulp. Then he went on: “So
be it! Who sees a god, they say, must die. And it is well, for he has
known something more glorious than other men. Our brother Philip, too,
lives with his heart in bonds to that one alone, unless a demon has
cheated his senses. I am troubled about him, and you must help me.”

He sprang up, pacing the room again with long strides, but his sister
clung to his arm and besought him to shake off the bewitching vision.
How earnest was her prayer, what eager tenderness rang in her every
word, as she entreated him to tell her when and where her elder brother,
too, had met the daughter of Seleukus!

The artist’s soft heart was easily moved. Stroking the hair of
the loving creature at his side--so helpful as a rule, but now
bewildered--he tried to calm her by affecting a lighter mood than he
really felt, assuring her that he should soon recover his usual good
spirits. She knew full well, he said, that his living loves changed in
frequent succession, and it would be strange indeed if a dead one could
bind him any longer. And his adventure, so far as it concerned the house
of Seleukus, ended with that kiss; for the lady Berenike had presently
waked, and urged him to finish the portrait at his own house.

Next morning he had completed it with the help of the Galatea in the
villa at Kanopus, and he had heard a great deal about the dead maiden.
A young woman who was left in charge of the villa had supplied him with
whatever he needed. Her pretty face was swollen with weeping, and it was
in a voice choked with tears that she had told him that her husband, who
was a centurion in Caesar’s pretorian guard, would arrive to-morrow or
next day at Alexandria, with his imperial master. She had not seen him
for a long time, and had an infant to show him which he had not yet
seen; and yet she could not be glad, for her young mistress’s death had
extinguished all her joy.

“The affection which breathed in every word of the centurion’s wife,”
 Alexander said, “helped me in my work. I could be satisfied with the
result.

“The picture is so successful that I finished that for Seleukus in all
confidence, and for the sarcophagus I will copy it as well or as ill as
time will allow. It will hardly be seen in the half-dark tomb, and how
few will ever go to see it! None but a Seleukus can afford to employ
so costly a brush as your brother’s is--thank the Muses! But the second
portrait is quite another thing, for that may chance to be hung next a
picture by Apelles; and it must restore to the parents so much of their
lost child as it lies in my power to give them. So, on my way, I made up
my mind to begin the copy at once by lamp-light, for it must be ready by
to-morrow night at latest.

“I hurried to my work-room, and my slave placed the picture on an easel,
while I welcomed my brother Philip who had come to see me, and who had
lighted a lamp, and of course had brought a book. He was so absorbed in
it that he did not observe that I had come in till I addressed him. Then
I told him whence I came and what had happened, and he thought it all
very strange and interesting.

“He was as usual rather hurried and hesitating, not quite clear,
but understanding it all. Then he began telling me something about a
philosopher who has just come to the front, a porter by trade, from whom
he had heard sundry wonders, and it was not till Syrus brought me in
a supper of oysters--for I could still eat nothing more solid--that he
asked to see the portrait.

“I pointed to the easel, and watched him; for the harder he is to
please, the more I value his opinion. This time I felt confident of
praise, or even of some admiration, if only for the beauty of the model.

“He threw off the veil from the picture with a hasty movement, but,
instead of gazing at it calmly, as he is wont, and snapping out his
sharp criticisms, he staggered backward, as though the noonday sun had
dazzled his sight. Then, bending forward, he stared at the painting,
panting as he might after racing for a wager. He stood in perfect
silence, for I know not how long, as though it were Medusa he was gazing
on, and when at last he clasped his hand to his brow, I called him by
name. He made no reply, but an impatient ‘Leave me alone!’ and then
he still gazed at the face as though to devour it with his eyes, and
without a sound.

“I did not disturb him; for, thought I, he too is bewitched by the
exquisite beauty of those virgin features. So we were both silent, till
he asked, in a choked voice: ‘And did you paint that? Is that, do you
say, the daughter that Seleukus has just lost?’

“Of course I said ‘Yes’; but then he turned on me in a rage, and
reproached me bitterly for deceiving and cheating him, and jesting with
things that to him were sacred, though I might think them a subject for
sport.

“I assured him that my answer was as earnest as it was accurate, and
that every word of my story was true.

“This only made him more furious. I, too, began to get angry, and as
he, evidently deeply agitated, still persisted in saying that my picture
could not have been painted from the dead Korinna, I swore to him
solemnly, with the most sacred oath I could think of, that it was really
so.

“On this he declared to me in words so tender and touching as I never
before heard from his lips, that if I were deceiving him his peace of
mind would be forever destroyed-nay, that he feared for his reason; and
when I had repeatedly assured him, by the memory of our departed mother,
that I had never dreamed of playing a trick upon him, he shook his head,
grasped his brow, and turned to leave the room without another word.”

“And you let him go?” cried Melissa, in anxious alarm.

“Certainly not,” replied the painter. “On the contrary, I stood in his
way, and asked him whether he had known Korinna, and what all this might
mean. But he would make no reply, and tried to pass me and get away. It
must have been a strange scene, for we two big men struggled as if
we were at a wrestling-match. I got him down with one hand behind his
knees, and so he had to remain; and when I had promised to let him go,
he confessed that he had seen Korinna at the house of her uncle, the
high-priest, without knowing who she was or even speaking a word to her.
And he, who usually flees from every creature wearing a woman’s robe,
had never forgotten that maiden and her noble beauty; and, though he did
not say so, it was obvious, from every word, that he was madly in love.
Her eyes had followed him wherever he went, and this he deemed a great
misfortune, for it had disturbed his power of thought. A month since he
went across Lake Mareotis to Polybius to visit Andreas, and while, on
his return, he was standing on the shore, he saw her again, with an old
man in white robes. But the last time he saw her was on the morning of
the very day when all this happened; and if he is to be believed, he not
only saw her but touched her hand. That, again, was by the lake; she was
just stepping out of the ferry-boat. The obolus she had ready to pay the
oarsman dropped on the ground, and Philip picked it up and returned
it to her. Then his fingers touched hers. He could feel it still, he
declared, and yet she had then ceased to walk among the living.

“Then it was my turn to doubt his word; but he maintained that his story
was true in every detail; he would hear nothing said about some one
resembling her, or anything of the kind, and spoke of daimons showing
him false visions, to cheat him and hinder him from working out his
investigations of the real nature of things to a successful issue. But
this is in direct antagonism to his views of daimons; and when at
last he rushed out of the house, he looked like one possessed of evil
spirits.

“I hurried after him, but he disappeared down a dark alley. Then I
had enough to do to finish my copy, and yesterday I carried it home to
Seleukus.

“Then I had time to look for Philip, but I could hear nothing of him,
either in his own lodgings or at the Museum. To-day I have been hunting
for him since early in the morning. I even forgot to lay any flowers
on my mother’s grave, as usual on the day of the Nekysia, because I was
thinking only of him. But he no doubt is gone to the city of the dead;
for, on my way hither, as I was ordering a garland in the flower-market,
pretty little Doxion showed me two beauties which she had woven for him,
and which he is presently to fetch. So he must now be in the Nekropolis;
and I know for whom he intends the second; for the door-keeper at
Seleukus’s house told me that a man, who said he was my brother, had
twice called, and had eagerly inquired whether my picture had yet been
attached to Korinna’s sarcophagus. The old man told him it had not,
because, of course, the embalming could not be complete as yet. But the
picture was to be displayed to-day, as being the feast of the dead, in
the hall of the embalmers. That was the plan, I know. So, now, child,
set your wise little woman’s head to work, and devise something by
which he may be brought to his senses, and released from these crazy
imaginings.”

“The first thing to be done,” Melissa exclaimed, “is to follow him
and talk to him.-Wait a moment; I must speak a word to the slaves. My
father’s night-draught can be mixed in a minute. He might perhaps return
home before us, and I must leave his couch--I will be with you in a
minute.”



CHAPTER III.

The brother and sister had walked some distance. The roads were full of
people, and the nearer they came to the Nekropolis the denser was the
throng.

As they skirted the town walls they took counsel together.

Being perfectly agreed that the girl who had touched Philip’s hand
could certainly be no daimon who had assumed Korinna’s form, they were
inclined to accept the view that a strong resemblance had deceived their
brother. They finally decided that Alexander should try to discover the
maiden who so strangely resembled the dead; and the artist was ready for
the task, for he could only work when his heart was light, and had
never felt such a weight on it before. The hope of meeting with a living
creature who resembled that fair dead maiden, combined with his wish to
rescue his brother from the disorder of mind which threatened him; and
Melissa perceived with glad surprise how quickly this new object in life
restored the youth’s happy temper.

It was she who spoke most, and Alexander, whom nothing escaped that had
any form of beauty, feasted his ear on the pearly ring of her voice.

“And her face is to match,” thought he as they went on in the darkness;
“and may the Charites who have endowed her with every charm, forgive my
father for burying her as he does his gold.”

It was not in his nature to keep anything that stirred him deeply to
himself, when he was in the society of another, so he murmured to his
sister: “It is just as well that the Macedonian youths of this
city should not be able to see what a jewel our old man’s house
contains.--Look how brightly Selene shines on us, and how gloriously the
stars burn! Nowhere do the heavens blaze more brilliantly than here. As
soon as we come out of the shadow that the great walls cast on the road
we shall be in broad light. There is the Serapeum rising out of the
darkness. They are rehearsing the great illumination which is to dazzle
the eyes of Caesar when he comes. But they must show too, that to-night,
at least, the gods of the nether world and death are all awake. You can
never have been in the Nekropolis at so late an hour before.”

“How should I?” replied the girl. And he expressed the pleasure that it
gave him to be able to show her for the first time the wonderful night
scene of such a festival. And when he heard the deep-drawn “Ah!” with
which she hailed the sight of the greatest temple of all, blazing in the
midst of the darkness with tar-pans, torches, and lamps innumerable,
he replied with as much pride and satisfaction as though she owed the
display to him, “Ay, what do you think of that?”

Above the huge stone edifice which was thus lighted up, the dome of the
Serapeum rose high into the air, its summit appearing to touch the sky.
Never had the gigantic structure seemed so beautiful to the girl, who
had only seen it by daylight; for under the illumination, arranged by a
master-hand, every line stood out more clearly than in the sunlight; and
in the presence of this wonderful sight Melissa’s impressionable young
soul forgot the trouble that had weighed on it, and her heart beat
higher.

Her lonely life with her father had hitherto fully satisfied her, and
she had, never yet dreamed of anything better in the future than a
quiet and modest existence, caring for him and her brothers; but now she
thankfully experienced the pleasure of seeing for once something really
grand and fine, and rejoiced at having escaped for a while from the
monotony of each day and hour.

Once, too, she had been with her brothers and Diodoros, Alexander’s
greatest friend, to see a wild-beast fight, followed by a combat of
gladiators; but she had come home frightened and sorrowful, for what
she had seen had horrified more than it had interested her. Some of the
killed and tortured beings haunted her mind; and, besides, sitting in
the lowest and best seats belonging to Diodoros’s wealthy father, she
had been stared at so boldly and defiantly whenever she raised her eyes,
by a young gallant opposite, that she had felt vexed and insulted; nay,
had wished above all things to get home as soon as possible. And yet
she had loved Diodoros from her childhood, and she would have enjoyed
sitting quietly by his side more than looking on at the show.

But on this occasion her curiosity was gratified, and the hope of being
able to help one who was dear to her filled her with quiet gladness.
It was a comfort to her, too, to find herself once more by her mother’s
grave with Alexander, who was her especial friend. She could never come
here often enough, and the blessing which emanated from it--of that she
was convinced--must surely fall on her brother also, and avert from him
all that grieved his heart.

As they walked on between the Serapeum on one hand, towering high above
all else, and the Stadium on the other, the throng was dense; on the
bridge over the canal it was difficult to make any progress. Now, as
the full moon rose, the sacrifices and games in honor of the gods of
the under world were beginning, and now the workshops and factories had
emptied themselves into the streets already astir for the festival of
the dead, so every moment the road became more crowded.

Such a tumult was generally odious to her retiring nature; but to-night
she felt herself merely one drop in the great, flowing river, of which
every other drop felt the same impulse which was carrying her forward
to her destination. The desire to show the dead that they were not
forgotten, that their favor was courted and hoped for, animated men and
women, old and young alike.

There were few indeed who had not a wreath or a posy in their hands, or
carried behind them by a slave. In front of the brother and sister was
a large family of children. A black nurse carried the youngest on her
shoulder, and an ass bore a basket in which were flowers for the tomb,
with a wineflask and eatables. A memorial banquet was to be held at the
grave of their ancestors; and the little one, whose golden head rose
above the black, woolly poll of the negress, nodded gayly in response to
Melissa’s smiles. The children were enchanted at the prospect of a meal
at such an unusual hour, and their parents rejoiced in them and in the
solemn pleasure they anticipated.

Many a one in this night of remembrance only cared to recall the happy
hours spent in the society of the beloved dead; others hoped to leave
their grief and pain behind them, and find fresh courage and contentment
in the City of the Dead; for tonight the gates of the nether world stood
open, and now, if ever, the gods that reigned there would accept the
offerings and hear the prayers of the devout.

Those lean Egyptians, who pushed past in silence and haranging
their heads, were no doubt bent on carrying offerings to Osiris and
Anubis--for the festival of the gods of death and resurrection coincided
with the Nekysia--and on winning their favors by magical formulas and
spells.

Everything was plainly visible, for the desert tract of the Nekropolis,
where at this hour utter darkness and silence usually reigned, was
brightly lighted up. Still, the blaze failed to banish entirely the
thrill of fear which pervaded the spot at night; for the unwonted glare
dazzled and bewildered the bats and night-birds, and they fluttered
about over the heads of the intruders in dark, ghostly flight. Many a
one believed them to be the unresting souls of condemned sinners, and
looked up at them with awe.

Melissa drew her veil closer and clung more tightly to her brother, for
a sound of singing and wild cries, which she had heard behind her for
some time, was now coming closer. They were no longer treading the paved
street, but the hard-beaten soil of the desert. The crush was over, for
here the crowd could spread abroad; but the uproarious troop, which she
did not even dare to look at, came rushing past quite close to them.
They were Greeks, of all ages and of both sexes. The men flourished
torches, and were shouting a song with unbridled vehemence; the women,
wearing garlands, kept up with them. What they carried in the baskets
on their heads could not be seen, nor did Alexander know; for so many
religious brotherhoods and mystic societies existed here that it was
impossible to guess to which this noisy troop might belong.

The pair had presently overtaken a little train of white-robed men
moving forward at a solemn pace, whom the painter recognized as the
philosophical and religious fraternity of the Neo-Pythagoreans, when a
small knot of men and women in the greatest excitement came rushing past
as if they were mad. The men wore the loose red caps of their Phrygian
land; the women carried bowls full of fruits. Some beat small drums,
others clanged cymbals, and each hauled his neighbor along with
deafening cries, faster and faster, till the dust hid them from sight
and a new din drowned the last, for the votaries of Dionysus were
already close upon them, and vied with the Phrygians in uproariousness.
But this wild troop remained behind; for one of the light-colored oxen,
covered with decorations, which was being driven in the procession by
a party of men and boys, to be presently sacrificed, had broken away,
maddened by the lights and the shouting, and had to be caught and led
again.

At last they reached the graveyard. But even now they could not make
their way to the long row of houses where the embalmers dwelt, for an
impenetrable mass of human beings stood pent up in front of them, and
Melissa begged her brother to give her a moment’s breathing space.

All she had seen and heard on the way had excited her greatly; but she
had scarcely for a moment forgotten what it was that had brought her out
so late, who it was that she sought, or that it would need her utmost
endeavor to free him from the delusion that had fooled him. In this
dense throng and deafening tumult it was scarcely possible to recover
that collected calm which she had found in the morning at her mother’s
tomb. In that, doubt had had no part, and the delightful feeling of
freedom which had shone on her soul, now shrank deep into the shade
before a growing curiosity and the longing for her usual repose.

If her father were to find her here! When she saw a tall figure
resembling his cross the torchlight, all clouded as it was by the dust,
she drew her brother away behind the stall of a seller of drinks and
other refreshments. The father, at any rate, must be spared the distress
she felt about Philip, who was his favorite. Besides, she knew full well
that, if he met her here, he would at once take her home.

The question now was where Philip might be found.

They were standing close to the booths where itinerant dealers sold
food and liquors of every description, flowers and wreaths, amulets and
papyrus-leaves, with strange charms written on them to secure health for
the living and salvation for the souls of the dead. An astrologer, who
foretold the course of a man’s life from the position of the planets,
had erected a high platform with large tables displayed to view, and the
instrument wherewith he aimed at the stars as it were with a bow;
and his Syrian slave, accompanying himself on a gayly-painted drum,
proclaimed his master’s powers. There were closed tents in which magical
remedies were to be obtained, though their open sale was forbidden by
the authorities, from love-philters to the wondrous fluid which, if
rightly applied, would turn lead, copper, or silver to gold. Here, old
women invited the passer-by to try Thracian and other spells; there,
magicians stalked to and fro in painted caps and flowing, gaudy robes,
most of them calling themselves priests of some god of the abyss. Men
of every race and tongue that dwelt in the north of Africa, or on the
shores of the Mediterranean, were packed in a noisy throng.

The greatest press was behind the houses of the men who buried the dead.
Here sacrifices were offered on the altars of Serapis, Isis, and Anubis;
here the sacred sistrum of Isis might be kissed; here hundreds of
priests performed solemn ceremonies, and half of those who came hither
for the festival of the dead collected about them. The mysteries
were also performed here, beginning before midnight; and a dramatic
representation might be seen of the woes of Isis, and the resurrection
of her husband Osiris. But neither here, nor at the stalls, nor among
the graves, where many families were feasting by torchlight and pouring
libations in the sand for the souls of the dead, did Alexander expect
to find his brother. Nor would Philip be attending the mysterious
solemnities of any of the fraternities. He had witnessed them often
enough with his friend Diodoros, who never missed the procession to
Eleusis, because, as he declared, the mysteries of Demeter alone could
assure a man of the immortality of the soul. The wild ceremonies of the
Syrians, who maimed themselves in their mad ecstasy, repelled him as
being coarse and barbarous.

As she made her way through this medley of cults, this worship of gods
so different that they were in some cases hostile, but more often merged
into each other, Melissa wondered to which she ought to turn in her
present need. Her mother had best loved to sacrifice to Serapis and
Isis. But since, in her last sickness, Melissa had offered everything
she possessed to these divinities of healing, and all in vain, and since
she had heard things in the Serapeum itself which even now brought
a blush to her cheek, she had turned away from the great god of the
Alexandrians. Though he who had offended her by such base proposals was
but a priest of the lower grade--and indeed, though she knew it not, was
since dead--she feared meeting him again, and had avoided the sanctuary
where he officiated.

She was a thorough Alexandrian, and had been accustomed from childhood
to listen to the philosophical disputations of the men about her. So she
perfectly understood her brother Philip, the skeptic, when he said that
he by no means denied the existence of the immortals, but that, on the
other hand, he could not believe in it; that thought brought him no
conviction; that man, in short, could be sure of nothing, and so could
know nothing whatever of the divinity. He had even denied, on logical
grounds, the goodness and omnipotence of the gods, the wisdom and
fitness of the ordering of the universe, and Melissa was proud of her
brother’s acumen; but what appeals to the brain only, and not to
the heart, can not move a woman to anything great--least of all to a
decisive change of life or feeling. So the girl had remained constant to
her mother’s faith in some mighty powers outside herself, which guided
the life of Nature and of human beings. Only she did not feel that she
had found the true god, either in Serapis or Isis, and so she had sought
others. Thus she had formulated a worship of ancestors, which, as she
had learned from the slave-woman of her friend Ino, was not unfamiliar
to the Egyptians.

In Alexandria there were altars to every god, and worship in every form.
Hers, however, was not among them, for the genius of her creed was the
enfranchised soul of her mother, who had cast off the burden of this
perishable body. Nothing had ever come from her that was not good and
lovely; and she knew that if her mother were permitted, even in some
other than human form, she would never cease to watch over her with
tender care.

And those initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, as Diodoros had told
her, desired the immortality of the soul, to the end that they might
continue to participate in the life of those whom they had left behind.
What was it that brought such multitudes at this time out to the
Nekropolis, with their hands full of offerings, but the consciousness
of their nearness to the dead, and of being cared for by them so long as
they were not forgotten? And even if the glorified spirit of her mother
were not permitted to hear her prayers, she need not therefore cease to
turn to her; for it comforted her unspeakably to be with her in spirit,
and to confide to her all that moved her soul. And so her mother’s tomb
had become her favorite place of rest. Here, if anywhere, she now hoped
once more to find comfort, some happy suggestion, and perhaps some
definite assistance.

She begged Alexander to take her thither, and he consented, though he
was of opinion that Philip would be found in the mortuary chamber, in
the presence of Korinna’s portrait.

It was not easy to force their way through the thousands who had come
out to the great show this night; however, most of the visitors were
attracted by the mysteries far away from the Macedonian burial-ground,
and there was little to disturb the silence near the fine marble
monument which Alexander, to gratify his father, had erected with his
first large earnings. It was hung with various garlands, and Melissa,
before she prayed and anointed the stone, examined them with eye and
hand.

Those which she and her father had placed there she recognized at once.
That humble garland of reeds with two lotus-flowers was the gift of
their old slave Argutis and his wife Dido. This beautiful wreath of
choice flowers had come from the garden of a neighbor who had loved her
mother well; and that splendid basketful of lovely roses, which had not
been there this morning, had been placed here by Andreas, steward to the
father of her young friend Diodoros, although he was of the Christian
sect. And these were all. Philip had not been here then, though it was
now past midnight.

For the first time in his life he had let this day pass by without a
thought for their dead. How bitterly this grieved Melissa, and even
added to her anxiety for him!

It was with a heavy heart that she and Alexander anointed the tombstone;
and while Melissa uplifted her hands in prayer, the painter stood in
silence, his eyes fixed on the ground. But no sooner had she let them
fall, than he exclaimed:

“He is here, I am sure, and in the house of the embalmers. That he
ordered two wreaths is perfectly certain; and if he meant one for
Korinna’s picture, he surely intended the other for our mother. If he
has offered both to the young girl--”

“No, no!” Melissa put in. “He will bring his gift. Let us wait here a
little while, and do you, too, pray to the manes of our mother. Do it to
please me.”

But her brother interrupted her eagerly: “I think of her wherever I may
be; for those we truly love always live for us. Not a day passes, nor
if I come in sober, not a night, when I do not see her dear face, either
waking or dreaming. Of all things sacred, the thought of her is the
highest; and if she had been raised to divine honors like the dead
Caesars who have brought so many curses on the world--”

“Hush--don’t speak so loud!” said Melissa, seriously, for men were
moving to and fro among the tombs, and Roman guards kept watch over the
populace.

But the rash youth went on in the same tone:

“I would worship her gladly, though I have forgotten how to pray. For
who can tell here--unless he follows the herd and worships Serapis--who
can tell to which god of them all he shall turn when he happens to be at
his wits’ end? While my mother lived, I, like you, could gladly worship
and sacrifice to the immortals; but Philip has spoiled me for all that.
As to the divine Caesars, every one thinks as I do. My mother would
sooner have entered a pesthouse than the banqueting-hall where they
feast, on Olympus. Caracalla among the gods! Why, Father Zeus cast his
son Hephaistos on earth from the height of Olympus, and only broke his
leg; but our Caesar accomplished a more powerful throw, for he cast his
brother through the earth into the nether world--an imperial thrust--and
not merely lamed him but killed him.”

“Well done!” said a deep voice, interrupting the young artist. “Is that
you, Alexander? Hear what new titles to fame Heron’s son can find for
the imperial guest who is to arrive to-morrow.”

“Pray hush!” Melissa besought him, looking up at the bearded man who had
laid his arm on Alexander’s shoulder. It was Glaukias the sculptor, her
father’s tenant; for his work-room stood on the plot of ground by
the garden of Hermes, which the gem-cutter had inherited from his
father-in-law.

The man’s bold, manly features were flushed with wine and revelry; his
twinkling eyes sparkled, and the ivy-leaves still clinging to his curly
hair showed that he had been one in the Dionysiac revellers; but
the Greek blood which ran in his veins preserved his grace even in
drunkenness. He bowed gayly to the young girl, and exclaimed to his
companions:

“The youngest pearl in Alexandria’s crown of beauties!” while Bion,
Alexander’s now gray-haired master, clapped the youth on the arm,
and added: “Yes, indeed, see what the little thing has grown! Do
you remember, pretty one, how you once--how many years ago, I
wonder?--spotted your little white garments all over with red dots! I
can see you now, your tiny finger plunged into the pot of paint, and
then carefully printing off the round pattern all over the white linen.
Why, the little painter has become a Hebe, a Charis, or, better still, a
sweetly dreaming Psyche.”

“Ay, ay!” said Glaukias again. “My worthy landlord has a charming model.
He has not far to seek for a head for his best gems. His son, a Helios,
or the great Macedonian whose name he bears; his daughter--you are
right, Bion--the maid beloved of Eros. Now, if you can make verses, my
young friend of the Muses, give us an epigram in a line or two which we
may bear in mind as a compliment to our imperial visitor.”

“But not here--not in the burial-ground,” Melissa urged once more.

Among Glaukias’s companions was Argeios, a vain and handsome young poet,
with scented locks betraying him from afar, who was fain to display the
promptness of his poetical powers; and, even while the elder artist
was speaking, he had run Alexander’s satirical remarks into the mold
of rhythm. Not to save his life could he have suppressed the hastily
conceived distich, or have let slip such a justifiable claim to
applause. So, without heeding Melissa’s remonstrance, he flung his
sky-blue mantle about him in fresh folds, and declaimed with comical
emphasis:

  “Down to earth did the god cast his son: but with mightier hand
   Through it, to Hades, Caesar flung his brother the dwarf.”

The versifier was rewarded by a shout of laughter, and, spurred by the
approval of his friends, he declared he had hit on the mode to which to
sing his lines, as he did in a fine, full voice.

But there was another poet, Mentor, also of the party, and as he
could not be happy under his rival’s triumph, he exclaimed: “The great
dyer--for you know he uses blood instead of the Tyrian shell--has
nothing of Father Zeus about him that I can see, but far more of the
great Alexander, whose mausoleum he is to visit to-morrow. And if you
would like to know wherein the son of Severus resembles the giant of
Macedon, you shall hear.”

He thrummed his thyrsus as though he struck the strings of a lyre, and,
having ended the dumb prelude, he sang:

     “Wherein hath the knave Caracalla outdone Alexander?
     He killed a brother, the hero a friend, in his rage.”

These lines, however, met with no applause; for they were not so lightly
improvised as the former distich, and it was clumsy and tasteless, as
well as dangerous thus to name, in connection with such a jest, the
potentate at whom it was aimed. And the fears of the jovial party were
only too well founded, for a tall, lean Egyptian suddenly stood among
the Greeks as if he had sprung from the earth. They were sobered at
once, and, like a swarm of pigeons on which a hawk swoops down, they
dispersed in all directions.

Melissa beckoned to her brother to follow her; but the Egyptian intruder
snatched the mantle, quick as lightning, from Alexander’s shoulders, and
ran off with it to the nearest pine-torch. The young man hurried after
the thief, as he supposed him to be, but there the spy flung the cloak
back to him, saying, in a tone of command, though not loud, for there
were still many persons among the graves:

“Hands off, son of Heron, unless you want me to call the watch! I have
seen your face by the light, and that is enough for this time. Now we
know each other, and we shall meet again in another place!”

With these words he vanished in the darkness, and Melissa asked, in
great alarm:

“In the name of all the gods, who was that?”

“Some rascally carpenter, or scribe, probably, who is in the service of
the night-watch as a spy. At least those sort of folks are often built
askew, as that scoundrel was,” replied Alexander, lightly. But he knew
the man only too well. It was Zminis, the chief of the spies to the
night patrol; a man who was particularly inimical to Heron, and whose
hatred included the son, by whom he had been befooled and misled in more
than one wild ploy with his boon companions. This spy, whose cruelty and
cunning were universally feared, might do him a serious mischief, and he
therefore did not tell his sister, to whom the name of Zminis was well
known, who the listener was.

He cut short all further questioning by desiring her to come at once to
the mortuary hall.

“And if we do not find him there,” she said, “let us go home at once; I
am so frightened.”

“Yes, yes,” said her brother, vaguely. “If only we could meet some one
you could join.”

“No, we will keep together,” replied Melissa, decisively; and simply
assenting, with a brief “All right,” the painter drew her arm through
his, and they made their way through the now thinning crowd.



CHAPTER IV.

The houses of the embalmers, which earlier in the evening had shone
brightly out of the darkness, now made a less splendid display. The dust
kicked up by the crowd dimmed the few lamps and torches which had not by
this time burned out or been extinguished, and an oppressive atmosphere
of balsamic resin and spices met the brother and sister on the very
threshold. The vast hall which they now entered was one of a long row
of buildings of unburned bricks; but the Greeks insisted on some
ornamentation of the simplest structure, if it served a public purpose,
and the embalming-houses had a colonnade along their front, and their
walls were covered with stucco, painted in gaudy colors, here in the
Egyptian and there in the Greek taste. There were scenes from the
Egyptian realm of the dead, and others from the Hellenic myths; for
the painters had been enjoined to satisfy the requirements and views of
visitors of every race. The chief attraction, however, this night
was within; for the men whose duties were exercised on the dead had
displayed the finest and best of what they had to offer to their
customers.

The ancient Greek practice of burning the dead had died out under the
Antonines. Of old, the objects used to deck the pyre had also been
on show here; now there was nothing to be seen but what related to
interment or entombment.

Side by side with the marble sarcophagus, or those of coarser stone,
were wooden coffins and mummy-cases, with a place at the head for the
portrait of the deceased. Vases and jars of every kind, amulets of
various forms, spices and balsams in vials and boxes, little images in
burned clay of the gods and of men, of which none but the Egyptians knew
the allegorical meaning, stood in long rows on low wooden shelves. On
the higher shelves were mummy bands and shrouds, some coarse, others of
the very finest texture, wigs for the bald heads of shaven corpses, or
woolen fillets, and simply or elaborately embroidered ribbons for the
Greek dead.

Nothing was lacking of the various things in use for decking the corpse
of an Alexandrian, whatever his race or faith.

Some mummy-cases, too, were there, ready to be packed off to other
towns. The most costly were covered with fine red linen, wound about
with strings of beads and gold ornaments, and with the name of the
dead painted on the upper side. In a long, narrow room apart hung the
portraits, waiting to be attached to the upper end of the mummy-cases of
those lately deceased, and still in the hands of embalmers. Here, too,
most of the lamps were out, and the upper end of the room was already
dark. Only in the middle, where the best pictures were on show, the
lights had been renewed.

The portraits were painted on thin panels of sycamore or of cypress,
and in most of them the execution betrayed that their destiny was to be
hidden in the gloom of a tomb.

Alexander’s portrait of Korinna was in the middle of the gallery, in
a good light, and stood out from the paintings on each side of it as
a genuine emerald amid green glass. It was constantly surrounded by a
crowd of the curious and connoisseurs. They pointed out the beautiful
work to each other; but, though most of them acknowledged the skill
of the master who had painted it, many ascribed its superiority to
the magical charm of the model. One could see in those wonderfully
harmonious features that Aristotle was right when he discerned beauty
in order and proportion; while another declared that he found there
the evidence of Plato’s doctrine of the identity of the good and the
beautiful--for this face was so lovely because it was the mirror of a
soul which had been disembodied in the plenitude of maiden purity
and virtue, unjarred by any discord; and this gave rise to a vehement
discussion as to the essential nature of beauty and of virtue.

Others longed to know more about the early-dead original of this
enchanting portrait. Korinna’s wealthy father and his brothers were
among the best-known men of the city. The elder, Timotheus, was
high-priest of the Temple of Serapis; and Zeno, the younger, had set
the whole world talking when he, who in his youth had been notoriously
dissipated, had retired from any concern in the corn-trade carried on
by his family, the greatest business of the kind in the world, perhaps,
and--for this was an open secret--had been baptized.

The body of the maiden, when embalmed and graced with her portrait, was
to be transported to the family tomb in the district of Arsinoe, where
they had large possessions, and the gossip of the embalmer was eagerly
swallowed as he expatiated on the splendor with which her liberal father
proposed to escort her thither.

Alexander and Melissa had entered the portrait-gallery before the
beginning of this narrative, and listened to it, standing behind several
rows of gazers who were between them and the portrait.

As the speaker ceased, the little crowd broke up, and when Melissa could
at last see her brother’s work at her ease, she stood speechless for
some time; and then she turned to the artist, and exclaimed, from the
depths of her heart, “Beauty is perhaps the noblest thing in the world!”

“It is,” replied Alexander, with perfect assurance. And he, bewitched
once more by the spell which had held him by Korinna’s couch, gazed into
the dark eyes in his own picture, whose living glance his had never met,
and which he nevertheless had faithfully reproduced, giving them a look
of the longing of a pure soul for all that is lovely and worthy.

Melissa, an artist’s daughter, as she looked at this portrait,
understood what it was that had so deeply stirred her brother while he
painted it; but this was not the place to tell him so. She soon tore
herself away, to look about for Philip once more and then to be taken
home.

Alexander, too, was seeking Philip; but, sharp as the artist’s eyes
were, Melissa’s seemed to be keener, for, just as they were giving it up
and turning to go, she pointed to a dark corner and said softly, “There
he is.”

And there, in fact, her brother was, sitting with two men, one very tall
and the other a little man, his brow resting on his hand in the deep
shadow of a sarcophagus, between the wall and a mummy-case set on end,
which till now had hidden him from Alexander and Melissa.

Who could the man be who had kept the young philosopher, somewhat
inaccessible in his pride of learning, so long in talk in that half-dark
corner? He was not one of the learned society at the Museum; Alexander
knew them all. Besides, he was not dressed like them, in the Greek
fashion, but in the flowing robe of a Magian. And the stranger was a man
of consequence, for he wore his splendid garment with a superior air,
and as Alexander approached him he remembered having somewhere seen this
tall, bearded figure, with the powerful head garnished with flowing and
carefully oiled black curls. Such handsome and well-chiseled features,
such fine eyes, and such a lordly, waving beard were not easily
forgotten; his memory suddenly awoke and threw a light on the man as he
sat in the gloom, and on the surroundings in which he had met him for
the first time.

It was at the feast of Dionysus. Among a drunken crowd, which was
rushing wildly along the streets, and which Alexander had joined,
himself one of the wildest, this man had marched, sober and dignified
as he was at this moment, in the same flowing raiment. This had provoked
the feasters, who, being full of wine and of the god, would have nothing
that could remind them of the serious side of life. Such sullen reserve
on a day of rejoicing was an insult to the jolly giver of the fruits
of the earth, and to wine itself, the care-killer; and the mad troop of
artists, disguised as Silenus, satyrs, and fauns, had crowded round the
stranger to compel him to join their rout and empty the wine-jar which a
burly Silenus was carrying before him on his ass.

At first the man had paid no heed to the youths’ light mockery; but as
they grew bolder, he suddenly stood still, seized the tall faun, who
was trying to force the wine-jar on him, by both arms, and, holding him
firmly, fixed his grave, dark eyes on those of the youth. Alexander had
not forgotten the half-comical, half-threatening incident, but what he
remembered most clearly was the strange scene that followed: for, after
the Magian had released his enemy, he bade him take the jar back to
Silenus, and proceed on his way, like the ass, on all-fours. And the
tall faun, a headstrong, irascible Lesbian, had actually obeyed the
stately despot, and crept along on his hands and feet by the side of the
donkey. No threats nor mockery of his companions could persuade him to
rise. The high spirits of the boisterous crew were quite broken, and
before they could turn on the magician he had vanished.

Alexander had afterward learned that he was Serapion, the star-gazer and
thaumaturgist, whom all the spirits of heaven and earth obeyed.

When, at the time, the painter had told the story to Philip, the
philosopher had laughed at him, though Alexander had reminded him that
Plato even had spoken of the daimons as being the guardian spirits of
men; that in Alexandria, great and small alike believed in them as a
fact to be reckoned with; and that he--Philip himself--had told him that
they played a prominent part in the newest systems of philosophy.

But to the skeptic nothing was sure: and if he would deny the existence
of the Divinity, he naturally must disbelieve that of any beings in a
sphere between the supersensual immortals and sentient human creatures.
That a man, the weaker nature, could have any power over daimons, who,
as having a nearer affinity to the gods, must, if they existed, be the
stronger, he could refute with convincing arguments; and when he saw
others nibbling whitethorn-leaves, or daubing their thresholds with
pitch to preserve themselves and the house from evil spirits, he
shrugged his shoulders contemptuously, though his father often did such
things.

Here was Philip, deep in conversation with the man he had mocked at,
and Alexander was flattered by seeing that wise and famous Serapion,
in whose powers he himself believed, was talking almost humbly to his
brother, as though to a superior. The magician was standing, while the
philosopher, as though it were his right, remained seated.

Of what could they be conversing?

Alexander himself was anxious to be going, and only his desire to hear
at any rate a few sentences of the talk of two such men detained him
longer.

As he expected, it bore on Serapion’s magical powers; but the bearded
man spoke in a very low tone, and if the painter ventured any nearer he
would be seen. He could only catch a few incoherent words, till Philip
exclaimed in a louder voice: “All that is well-reasoned. But you will be
able to write an enduring inscription on the shifting wave sooner than
you will shake my conviction that for our spirit, such as Nature has
made it, there is nothing infallible or certain.”

The painter was familiar with this postulate, and was curious to hear
the Magian’s reply; but he could not follow his argument till he
ended by saying, rather more emphatically: “You, even, do not deny the
physical connection of things; but I know the power that causes it. It
is the magical sympathy which displays itself more powerfully in the
universe, and among human beings, than any other force.”

“That is just what remains to be proved,” was the reply. But as
the other declared in all confidence, “And I can prove it,” and was
proceeding to do so, Serapion’s companion, a stunted, sharp-featured
little Syrian, caught sight of Alexander. The discourse was interrupted,
and Alexander, pointing to Melissa, begged his brother to grant them a
few minutes’ speech with him. Philip, however, scarcely spared a moment
for greeting his brother and sister; and when, in answer to his request
that they be brief in what they had to say, they replied that a few
words would not suffice, Philip was for putting them off till the
morrow, as he did not choose to be disturbed just now.

At this Melissa took courage; she turned to Serapion and modestly
addressed him:

“You, sir, look like a grave, kind man, and seem to have a regard for my
brother. You, then, will help us, no doubt, to cure him of an illusion
which troubles us. A dead girl, he says, met him, and he touched her
hand.”

“And do you, sweet child, think that impossible?” the Magian asked with
gentle gravity. “Have the thousands who bring not merely fruit and wine
and money for their dead, but who even burn a black sheep for them--you,
perhaps, have done the same--have they, I ask, done this so long in
vain? I can not believe it. Nay, I know from the ghosts themselves that
this gives them pleasure; so they must have the organs of sense.”

“That we may rejoice departed souls by food and drink,” said Melissa,
eagerly, “and that daimons at times mingle with the living, every one
of course, believes; but who ever heard that warm blood stirred in them?
And how can it be possible that they should remunerate a service with
money, which certainly was not coined in their airy realm, but in the
mint here?”

“Not too fast, fair maid,” replied the Magian, raising a warning hand.
“There is no form which these intermediate beings can not assume. They
have the control of all and everything which mortals may use, so the
soul of Korinna revisiting these scenes may quite well have paid the
ferryman with an obolus.”

“Then you know of it?” asked Melissa in surprise; but the Magian broke
in, saying:

“Few such things remain hidden from him who knows, not even the
smallest, if he strives after such knowledge.”

As he spoke he gave the girl such a look as made her eyelids fall, and
he went on with greater warmth: “There would be fewer tears shed by
death-beds, my child, if we could but show the world the means by which
the initiated hold converse with the souls of the dead.”

Melissa shook her pretty head sadly, and the Magian kindly stroked her
waving hair; then, looking her straight in the eyes, he said: “The dead
live. What once has been can never cease to be, any more than out
of nothing can anything come. It is so simple; and so, too, are the
workings of magic, which amaze you so much. What you call magic, when I
practice it, Eros, the great god of love, has wrought a thousand times
in your breast. When your heart leaps at your brother’s caress, when
the god’s arrow pierces you, and the glance of a lover fills you with
gladness, when the sweet harmonies of fine music wrap your soul above
this earth, or the wail of a child moves you to compassion, you have
felt the magic power stirring in your own soul. You feel it when some
mysterious power, without any will of your own, prompts you to some act,
be it what it may. And, besides all this, if a leaf flutters off the
table without being touched by any visible hand, you do not doubt that
a draught of air, which you can neither hear nor see, has swept through
the room. If at noon the world is suddenly darkened, you know, without
looking up at the sky, that it is overcast by a cloud. In the very same
way you can feel the nearness of a soul that was dear to you without
being able to see it. All that is necessary is to strengthen the faculty
which knows its presence, and give it the proper training, and then you
will see and hear them. The Magians have the key which unlocks the door
of the world of spirits to the human senses. Your noble brother, in whom
the claims of the spirit have long since triumphed over those of sense,
has found this key without seeking it, since he has been permitted to
see Korinna’s soul. And if he follows a competent guide he will see her
again.”

“But why? What good will it do him?” asked Melissa, with a reproachful
and anxious look at the man whose influence, as she divined would be
pernicious to her brother, in spite of his knowledge. The Magian gave
a compassionate shrug, and in the look he cast at the philosopher, the
question was legible, “What have such as these to do with the highest
things?”

Philip nodded in impatient assent, and, without paying any further heed
to his brother and sister, besought his friend to give him the proofs
of the theory that the physical causation of things is weaker than the
sympathy which connects them. Melissa knew full well that any attempt
now to separate Philip from Serapion would be futile; however, she would
not leave the last chance untried, and asked him gravely whether he had
forgotten his mother’s tomb.

He hastily assured her that he fully intended to visit it presently.
Fruit and fragrant oil could be had here at any hour of the night.

“And your two wreaths?” she said, in mild reproach, for she had observed
them both below the portrait of Korinna.

“I had another use for them,” he said, evasively; and then he added,
apologetically: “You have brought flowers enough, I know. If I can find
time, I will go to-morrow to see my father.” He nodded to them both,
turned to the Magian, and went on eagerly:

“Then that magical sympathy--”

They did not wait to hear the discussion; Alexander signed to his sister
to follow him.

He, too, knew that his brother’s ear was deaf now to anything he could
say. What Serapion had said had riveted even his attention, and the
question whether it might indeed be vouchsafed to living mortals to see
the souls of the departed, and hear their voices, exercised his mind so
greatly that he could not forbear asking his sister’s opinion on such
matters.

But Melissa’s good sense had felt that there was something not quite
sound in the Magian’s argument--nor did she conceal her conviction that
Philip, who was always hard to convince, had accepted Serapion’s views,
not because he yielded to the weight of his reasons, but because he--and
Alexander, too, for that matter--hoped by his mediation to see the
beautiful Korinna again.

This the artist admitted; but when he jested of the danger of a jealous
quarrel between him and his brother, for the sake of a dead girl, there
was something hard in his tone, and very unlike him, which Melissa did
not like.

They breathed more freely as they got out into the open air, and
her efforts to change the subject of their conversation were happily
seconded; for at the door they met the family of their neighbor Skopas,
the owner of a stone-quarry, whose grave-plot adjoined theirs, and
Melissa was happy again as she heard her brother laughing as gayly as
ever with Skopas’s pretty daughter. The mania had not taken such deep
hold of the light-hearted young painter as of Philip, the poring and
gloomy philosopher; and she was glad as she heard her friend Ino call
Alexander a faithless butterfly, while her sister Helena declared that
he was a godless scoffer.



CHAPTER V.

The crowds on the road were now homeward bound, and they were all in
such wild, high spirits that, from what was to be seen and heard, it
could never have been supposed that they had come from so mournful a
scene. They took the road by the sea leading from the Nekropolis to
Eleusis, wandering on in the glowing moonlight.

A great procession of Greeks had been to Eleusis, to celebrate the
mysteries after the manner of the Greek Eleusis, on which that of
Alexandria was modeled. The newly initiated, and the elder adepts, whose
duty it was to superintend their reception, had remained in the temple;
but the other mystics now swelled the train of those who were coming
from the city of the dead.

Here, indeed, Serapis took the place of Pluto, and much that was Greek
had assumed strange and Egyptian forms: even the order of the ceremonies
had been entirely changed; still, on the African, as on the Attic shore,
the Greek cry went up, “To the sea, O mystics!” and the bidding to
Iakchos: “Be with us, O Iakchos!”

It could be heard from afar, but the voices of the shouters were already
weary, and most of the torches had burned low. The wreaths of ivy and
myrtle in their hair were limp; the singers of the hymn no longer
kept their ranks; and even Iambe, whose jests had cheered the mourning
Demeter, and whose lips at Eleusis had overflowed with witticisms, was
exhausted and silent. She still held in her hand the jar from which she
had given the bereaved goddess a reviving draught, but it was empty
and she longed for a drink. She was indeed a he: for it was a youth
in woman’s dress who played the rollicking part of Iambe, and it was
Alexander’s friend and comrade Diodoros who had represented the daughter
of Pan and Echo, who, the legend said, had acted as slave in the house
of Metaneira, the Eleusinian queen, when Demeter took refuge there.
His sturdy legs had good reason to be as weary as his tongue, which had
known no rest for five hours.

But he caught sight of the large vehicle drawn by four horses, in
which the vast corn-measure, the kalathos, which Serapis wore as his
distinguishing head-gear, had been conveyed to Eleusis. It was empty
now, for the contents had been offered to the god, and the four black
horses had an easy task with the great wagon. No one had as yet thought
of using it as a conveyance back to the town; but Diodoros, who was both
ingenious and tired, ran after it and leaped up. Several now wanted to
follow his example, but he pushed them off, even thrusting at them
with a newly lighted torch, for he could not be quiet in spite of his
fatigue. In the midst of the skirmishing he perceived his friend and
Melissa.

His heart had been given to the gentle girl ever since they had been
playmates in his father’s garden, and when he saw her, walking along
downcast, while her brother sported with his neighbor’s daughters, he
beckoned to her, and, as she refused to accompany him in the wagon, he
nimbly sprang off, lifted her up in his arms, made strong by exercise in
the Palaestra, and gently deposited her, in spite of her struggles, on
the flat floor of the car, by the side of the empty kalathos.

“The rape of Persephone!” he cried. “The second performance in one.
night!”

Then the old reckless spirit seized Alexander too.

With as much gay audacity--as though he were free of every care and
grief, and had signed a compact with Fortune, he picked up pretty Ino,
lifted her into the wagon, as Diodoros had done with his sister, and
exclaiming, “The third performance!” seated himself by her side.

His bold example found immediate imitators. “A fourth!” “A fifth!” cried
one and another, shouting and laughing, with loud calls on Iakchos.

The horses found it hard work, for all along the edge of the car, and
round the kalathos of the great Serapis, sat the merry young couples in
close array. Alexander and Melissa soon were wreathed with myrtle and
ivy. In the vehicle and among the crowd there were none but radiant and
frolicsome faces, and no sound but triumphant revelry.

Fatigue was forgotten; it might have been supposed that the sinister
sisters, Care and Sorrow, had been banished from earth.

There was a smile even on Melissa’s sweet, calm face. At first her
old friend’s audacious jest had offended her maidenly coyness; but if
Diodoros had always loved her, so had she always loved him; and as other
well-conducted girls had been content to have the like done to them, and
her companion so confidently and roguishly sued for pardon, she gave him
a smile which filled his heart with rapture, and said more than words.

It was a comfort, too, to sit still and rest.

She spoke but little, but even she forgot what troubled her when she
felt her friend’s hand on hers, and he whispered to her that this was
the most delightful night he had ever known, and that, of all the sweets
the gods had created, she was to him the sweetest?

The blue sea spread before them, the full moon mirrored on its scarcely
heaving surface like a tremulous column of pure and shining silver. The
murmur of the ripples came up from the strand as soothing and inviting
as the song of the Nereids; and if a white crest of foam rose on a wave,
she could fancy it was the arm of Thetis or Galatea. There, where the
blue was deepest, the sea-god Glaukos must dwell, and his heart be
gladdened by the merry doings on shore.

Nature is so great; and as the thought came to her that her heart was
not too small to take its greatness in, even to the farthest horizon, it
filled her with glad surprise.

And Nature was bountiful too. Melissa could see the happy and gracious
face of a divinity in everything she looked upon. The immortals who had
afflicted her, and whom she had often bitterly accused, could be kind
and merciful too. The sea, on whose shining surface the blue vault of
heaven with the moon and stars rocked and twinkled, the soft breeze
which fanned her brow, the new delicious longing which filled her
heart-all she felt and was conscious of, was a divinity or an emanation
of the divine. Mighty Poseidon and majestic Zeus, gentle Selene, and the
sportive children of the god of winds, seemed to be strangely near her
as she rode along. And it was the omnipotent son of Kypris, no doubt,
who stirred her heart to beat higher than it had ever done before.

Her visit to her mother’s grave, too, her prayer and her offerings
there, had perhaps moved the spirit of the beloved dead to hover near
her now as a guardian genius.

Still, now and again the memory of something terrible passed over her
soul like a sweeping shadow; but what it was which threatened her and
those dear to her she did not see, and would not now inquire. What the
morrow might bring should not cloud the enchantment of this hour. For
oh, how fair the world was, and how blessed might mortals be!

“Iakchos! Iakchos!” the voices about her shouted, and it sounded as
gleeful as though the breasts of the revelers were overflowing with
gladness; and as the scented curls of Diodoros bent over her head, as
his hand closed on hers, and his whispered words of love were in her
ear, she murmured: “Alexander is right; the world is a banqueting-hall,
and life is fair.”

“So fair!” echoed the youth, pensively. Then he shouted aloud to his
companions: “The world is a banqueting-hall! Bring roses, bring wine,
that we may sacrifice to Eros, and pour libations to Dionysus. Light
the flaming torches! Iakchos! come, Iakchos, and sanctify our glad
festival!”

“Come, Iakchos, come!” cried one and another, and soon the enthusiastic
youth’s cry was taken up on all sides. But wine-skin and jar were long
since emptied.

Hard by, below the cliff, and close to the sea, was a tavern, at the
sign of the Cock. Here cool drink was to be had; here the horses might
rest-for the drivers had been grumbling bitterly at the heavy load added
to the car over the deep sand--and here there was a level plot, under
the shade of a spreading sycamore, which had often before now served as
a floor for the choric dance.

The vehicle soon drew up in front of the whitewashed inn, surrounded
on three sides by a trellised arbor, overgrown with figs and vine. The
young couples sprang to the ground; and, while the host and his slave
dragged up a huge wine-jar with two ears, full of the red juice of the
grape, fresh torches were lighted and stuck on poles or fastened to the
branches of the sycamore, the youths took their places eager for the
dance, and suddenly the festal song went up from their clear throats
unbidden, and as though inspired by some mysterious power:

        Iakchos, come! oh, come, Iakchos!
        Hither come, to the scene of our revel,
          The gladsome band of the faithful.
        Shake the fragrant, berried garland,
        Myrtle-twined, that crowns thy love-locks,
          Shedding its odors!
        Tread the measure, with fearless stamp,
        Of this our reckless, rapturous dance,
          In holy rejoicing!
        Hand in hand, thrice beatified,
        Lo we thread the rhythmic, fanciful,
          Mystical mazes!

And the dance begins. Youths and maidens advance to meet each other with
graceful movements. Every step must be a thing of beauty, every bend and
rising, while the double flutes play faster and faster, and the measured
rhythm becomes a wild whirl. They all know the dance, and the music is a
guide to the feeling to be expressed; the dancing must be suited to
it. Every gesture is a stroke of color which may beautify or mar the
picture. Body and spirit are in perfect harmony, combining to represent
the feelings that stir the soul. It is a work of art, the art of the
arms and feet. Even when passion is at the highest the guiding law is
observed. Nay, when the dancers fly wildly apart, they, not merely come
together again with unerring certainty, but form in new combination
another delightful and perfectly harmonious picture.

“Seek and find” this dance might be called, for the first idea is to
represent the wandering of Demeter in search of her daughter Persephone,
whom Pluto has carried off to the nether world, till she finds her and
clasps her in her motherly arms once more. Thus does the earth bewail
the reaped fruit of the field, which is buried in the ground in the
winter sowing, to rise again in the spring; thus does a faithful heart
pine during absence till it is reunited to the beloved one; thus do we
mourn our dead till our soul is assured of their resurrection: and this
belief is the end and clew to the mystery.

All this grief and search, this longing and crying for the absent, this
final restoration and the bliss of new possession, is set forth by the
youths and damsels-now in slow and now in vehement action, but always
with infinite grace.

Melissa threw her whole soul into the dance while Demeter was seeking
the lost Persephone, her thoughts were with her brothers; and she
laughed as heartily as any one at the jests with which Iambe cheered the
stricken mother. And when the joy of meeting was to find expression, she
need not think of anything but the fact that the youth who held out his
hand to her loved her and cared for her. In this, for the moment, lay
the end of all her longing and seeking, the fulfillment of every wish;
and as the chorus shouted, “Iakchos!” again and again, her soul seemed
to have taken wings.

The reserve of her calm and maidenly nature broke down; in her ecstasy
she snatched from her shoulder the wreath of ivy with which Diodoros had
decked her, and waved it aloft. Her long hair had fallen loose in the
dance and flowed wildly about her, and her shout of “Iakchos!” rang
clear in the night air.

The youth she loved gazed at her with ravished eyes, as at some miracle;
she, heedless of the others, threw her arms round his neck, and, as he
kissed her, she said once more, but loud enough now to be heard from
afar, “The world is a banqueting-hall!” and again she joined in the
shout of “Iakchos!” her eyes bright with excitement. Cups filled
high with wine now circulated among the mad-cap mystics; even Melissa
refreshed herself, handing the beaker to her lover, and Diodoros raised
to his mouth that place on the rim which her lips had touched.

“O life! fount of joys!” cried Diodoros, kissing her and pressing her
closer to him. “Come, Iakchos! Behold with envy how thankfully two
mortals can bless the gift of life. But where is Alexander? To none but
to our Andreas have I ever confided the secret I have borne in my heart
since that day when we went to the circus. But now! Oh, it is so much
happiness for two hearts! My friend, too, must have part in it!”

At this Melissa clasped her hand to her brow, as though waking from a
dream. How hot she was from dancing, and the unusual strength of the
wine and water she had drunk!

The danger impending over both her brothers came back to her mind. She
had always been accustomed to think of others rather than herself, and
her festal mood dropped from her suddenly, like a mantle of which the
brooch breaks. She vehemently shook herself free of her lover’s embrace,
and her eyes glanced from one to another in rapid search.

There stood pretty Ino, who had danced the mazy measure with Alexander.
Panting for breath, she stood leaning her weary head and tangled hair
against the trunk of the tree, a wine-cup upside down in her right hand.
It must be empty; but where was he who had emptied it?

Her neighbor’s daughter would surely know. Had the reckless youth
quarreled with the girl? No, no!

One of the tavern-keeper’s slaves, Ino told her, had whispered something
to Alexander, whereupon he had instantly followed the man into the
house. Melissa knew that it could be no trivial matter which detained
him there, and hurried after him into the tavern.

The host, a Greek, and his buxom wife, affected not to know for whom she
was inquiring; but, perceiving the anxiety which spoke in every line
of the girl’s face, when she explained that she was Alexander’s sister,
they at first looked at each other doubtingly, and then the woman, who
had children of her own, who fondly loved each other, felt her heart
swell within her, and she whispered, with her finger on her lips: “Do
not be uneasy, pretty maid; my husband will see him well through.”

And then Melissa heard that the Egyptian, who had alarmed her in the
Nekropolis, was the spy Zminis, who, as her old slave Dido had once told
her, had been a rejected suitor of her mother’s before she had married
Heron, and who was therefore always glad to bring trouble on all
who belonged to her father’s house. How often had she heard of the
annoyances in which this man had involved her father and Alexander, who
were apt to be very short with the man!

This tale-bearer, who held the highest position as guardian of the peace
under the captain of the night-watch, was of all men in the city the
most hated and feared; and he had heard her brother speaking of Caesar
in a tone of mockery which was enough to bring him to prison, to the
quarries, nay, to death. Glaukias, the sculptor, had previously seen the
Egyptian on the bridge, where he had detained those who were returning
home from the city of the dead. He and his followers had already stopped
the poet Argeios on his way, but the thyrsus staves of the Dionysiac
revelers had somewhat spoiled the game for him and his satellites. He
was probably still standing on the bridge. Glaukias had immediately run
back, at any risk, to warn Alexander. He and the painter were now in
hiding, and would remain in safety, come what might, in the cellar at
the Cock, till the coast was clear again. The tavern-keeper strongly
advised no one to go meddling with his wine-skins and jars.

“Much less that Egyptian dog!” cried his wife, doubling her fist as
though the hated mischief-maker stood before her already.

“Poor, helpless lamb!” she murmured to herself, as she looked
compassionately at the fragile, town-bred girl, who stood gazing at the
ground as if she had been struck by lightning. She remembered, too,
how hard life had seemed to her in her own young days, and glanced with
pride at her brawny arms, which were able indeed to work and manage.

But what now?

The drooping flower suddenly raised her head, as if moved by a spring,
exclaiming: “Thank you heartily, thank you! But that will never do. If
Zminis searches your premises he will certainly go into the cellar; for
what can he not do in Caesar’s name? I will not part from my brother.”

“Then you, too, are a welcome guest at the Cock,” interrupted the woman,
and her husband bowed low, assuring her that the Cock was as much her
house as it was his.

But the helpless town-bred damsel declined this friendly invitation; for
her shrewd little head had devised another plan for saving her brother,
though the tavern-keepers, to whom she confided it in a whisper, laughed
and shook their heads over it. Diodoros was waiting outside in anxious
impatience; he loved her, and he was her brother’s best friend. All
that he could do to save Alexander he would gladly do, she knew. On the
estate which would some day be his, there was room and to spare to hide
the fugitives, for one of the largest gardens in the town was owned
by his father. His extensive grounds had been familiar to her from her
childhood, for her own mother and her lover’s had been friends;
and Andreas, the freedman, the overseer of Polybius’s gardens and
plantations, was dearer to her and her brothers than any one else in
Alexandria.

Nor had she deceived herself, for Diodoros made Alexander’s cause his
own, in his eager, vehement way; and the plan for his deliverance seemed
doubly admirable as proceeding from Melissa. In a few minutes Alexander
and the sculptor were released from their hiding-place, and all further
care for them was left to Diodoros.

They were both very, craftily disguised. No one would have recognized
the artists in two sailors, whose Phrygian caps completely hid their
hair, while a heavy fisherman’s apron was girt about their loins;
still less would any one have suspected from their laughing faces that
imprisonment, if nothing worse, hung over them. Their change of garb
had given rise to so much fun; and now, on hearing how they were to be
smuggled into the town, their merriment grew higher, and proved catching
to those who were taken into the secret. Only Melissa was oppressed with
anxious care, in spite of her lover’s eager consolation.

Glaukias, a man of scarcely middle height, was sure of not being
recognized, and he and his comrades looked forward to whatever might
happen as merely an amusing jest. At the same time they had to balk the
hated chief of the city guards and his menials of their immediate prey;
but they had played them a trick or two ere now. It might turn out
really badly for Alexander; still, it was only needful to keep him
concealed till Caesar should arrive; then he would be safe, for the
Emperor would certainly absorb all the thoughts and time of the captain
of the night-watch and his chief officers. In Alexandria, anything once
past was so soon forgotten! When once Caracalla was gone--and it was to
be hoped that he would not stay long--no one would ever think again of
any biting speech made before his arrival.

The morning must bring what it might, so long as the present moment was
gay!

So, refreshed and cheered by rest and wine, the party of mystics
prepared to set out again; and, as the procession started, no one who
did not know it had observed that the two artists, disguised as sailors,
were, by Melissa’s advice, hidden inside the kalathos of Serapis, which
would easily have held six, and was breast-high even for Alexander, who
was a tall man. They squatted on the floor of the huge vessel, with a
jar of wine between them, and peeped over now and then with a laugh at
the girls, who had again seated themselves on the edge of the car.

When they were fairly on their way once more, Alexander and his
companions were so daring that, whenever they could do it unobserved,
they pelted the damsels with the remains of the corn, or sprinkled them
with wine-drops. Glaukias had the art of imitating the pattering of rain
and the humming of a fly to perfection with his lips; and when the girls
complained of the tiresome insect buzzing in their faces, or declared,
when a drop fell on them, that in spite of the blue and cloudless sky it
was certainly beginning to rain, the two men had to cover their mouths
with their hands, that their laughter might not betray them.

Melissa, who had comforted Ino with the assurance that Alexander had
been called away quite unexpectedly, was now sitting by her side, and
perceived, of course, what tricks the men in the kalathos were playing;
but, instead of amusing her, they only made her anxious.

Every one about her was laughing and joking, but for her all mirth was
at an end. Fear, indeed, weighed on her like an incubus, when the car
reached the bridge and rattled across it. It was lined with soldiers and
lictors, who looked closely at each one, even at Melissa herself. But no
one spoke to her, and when the water lay behind them she breathed more
freely. But only for a moment; for she suddenly remembered that they
would presently have to pass through the gate leading past Hadrian’s
western wall into the town. If Zminis were waiting there instead of on
the bridge, and were to search the vehicle, then all would be lost, for
he had looked her, too, in the face with those strange, fixed eyes of
his; and that where he saw the sister he would also seek the brother,
seemed to her quite certain. Thus her presence was a source of peril to
Alexander, and she must at any cost avert that.

She immediately put out her hand to Diodoros, who was walking at her
side, and with his help slipped down from her seat. Then she whispered
her fears to him, and begged him to quit the party and conduct her home.

This was a surprising and delightful task for her lover. With a jesting
word he leaped on to the car, and even succeeded in murmuring to
Alexander, unobserved, that Melissa had placed herself under his
protection. When they got home, they could tell Heron and Andreas
that the youths were safe in hiding. Melissa could explain, to-morrow
morning, how everything had happened. Then he drew Melissa’s arm
through his, loudly shouted, “Iakchos!” and with a swift dance-step soon
outstripped the wagon.

Not fifty paces beyond, large pine torches sent bright flames up
skyward, and by their light the girl could see the dreaded gateway, with
the statues of Hadrian and Sabina, and in front of them, in the middle
of the road, a horseman, who, as they approached, came trotting forward
to meet them on his tall steed. His head towered above every one else in
the road; and as she looked up at him her heart almost ceased beating,
for her eyes met those of the dreaded Egyptian; their white balls showed
plainly in his brown, lean face, and their cruel, evil sparkle had
stamped them clearly on her memory.

On her right a street turned off from the road, and saying in a low
tone, “This way,” she led Diodoros, to his surprise, into the shadow.
His heart beat high. Did she, whose coy and maidenly austerity before
and after the intoxication of the dance had vouchsafed him hardly a kind
look or a clasp of the hand-did she even yearn for some tender embrace
alone and in darkness? Did the quiet, modest girl, who, since she had
ceased to be a child, had but rarely given him a few poor words, long
to tell him that which hitherto only her bright eyes and the kiss of her
pure young lips had betrayed?

He drew her more closely to him in blissful expectation; but she shyly
shrank from his touch, and before he could murmur a single word of
love she exclaimed in terror, as though the hand of the persecutor were
already laid on her: “Fly, fly! That house will give us shelter.”

And she dragged him after her into the open doorway of a large building.
Scarcely had they entered the dark vestibule when the sound of hoofs was
heard, and the glare of torches dispelled the darkness outside.

“Zminis! It is he--he is following us!” she whispered, scarcely able to
speak; and her alarm was well founded, for the Egyptian had recognized
her, and supposed her companion to be Alexander. He had ridden down the
street with his torchbearers, but where she had hidden herself his keen
eyes could not detect, for the departing sound of hoofs betrayed to the
breathless listeners that the pursuer had left their hiding-place far
behind him. Presently the pavement in front of the house which sheltered
them rang again with the tramp of the horse, till it died away at last
in the direction of Hadrian’s gate. Not till then did Melissa lift her
hand from her painfully throbbing heart.

But the Egyptian would, no doubt, have left his spies in the street, and
Diodoros went out to see if the road was clear. Melissa remained alone
in the dark entrance, and began to be anxious as to how she could
explain her presence there if the inhabitants should happen to discover
it; for in this vast building, in spite of the lateness of the hour,
there still was some one astir. She had for some minutes heard a
murmuring sound which reached her from an inner chamber; but it was only
by degrees that she collected herself so far as to listen more closely,
to ascertain whence it came and what it could mean.

A large number of persons must be assembled there, for she could
distinguish several male voices, and now and then a woman’s. A door was
opened. She shrank closer to the wall, but the seconds became minutes,
and no one appeared.

At last she fancied she heard the moving of benches or seats, and many
voices together shouting she knew not what. Then again a door creaked on
its hinges, and after that all was so still that she could have heard
a needle drop on the floor; and this alarming silence continued till
presently a deep, resonant man’s voice was audible.

The singular manner in which this voice gave every word its full and
equal value suggested to her fancy that something was being read aloud.
She could distinctly hear the sentence with which the speech or reading
began. After a short pause it was repeated somewhat more quickly, as
though the speaker had this time uttered it from his own heart.

It consisted of these six simple words, “The fullness of the time was
come”; and Melissa listened no more to the discourse which followed,
spoken as it was in a low voice, for this sentence rang in her ears as
if it were repeated by an echo.

She did not, to be sure, understand its meaning, but she felt as though
it must have some deep significance. It came back to her again and
again, like a melody which haunts the inward ear against our will; and
her meditative fancy was trying to solve its meaning, when Diodoros
returned to tell her that the street was quite empty. He knew now where
they were, and, if she liked, he could lead her by a way which would not
take them through the gate. Only Christians, Egyptians, and other common
folks dwelt in this quarter; however, since his duty as her protector
had this day begun, he would fulfill it to the best of his ability.

She went with him out into the street, and when they had gone a little
way he clasped her to him and kissed her hair.

His heart was full. He knew now that she, whom he had loved when she
walked in his father’s garden in her little child’s tunic, holding her
mother’s hand, returned his passion. Now the time was come for asking
whether she would permit him to beg her father’s leave to woo her.

He stopped in the shadow of a house near, and, while he poured out to
her all that stirred his breast, carried away by tender passion, and
describing in his vehement way how great and deep his love was, in spite
of the utter fatigue which weighed on her body and soul after so many
agitations, she felt with deep thankfulness the immense happiness of
being more precious than aught else on earth to a dear, good man. Love,
which had so long lain dormant in her as a bud, and then opened so
quickly only to close again under her alarms, unfolded once more and
blossomed for him again--not as it had done just now in passionate
ecstasy, but, as beseemed her calm, transparent nature, with moderated
joy, which, however, did not lack due warmth and winning tenderness.

Happiness beyond words possessed them both. She suffered him to seal his
vows with kisses, herself offering him her lips, as her heart swelled
with fervent thanksgiving for so much joy and such a full measure of
love.

She was indeed a precious jewel, and the passion of his stormy heart was
tempered by such genuine reverence that he gladly kept within the bounds
which her maidenly modesty prescribed. And how much they had to say to
each other in this first opening of their hearts, how many hopes for the
future found utterance in words! The minutes flew on and became hours,
till at last Melissa begged him to quit the marble seat on which they
had so long been resting, if indeed her feet could still carry her home.

Little as it pleased him, he did her bidding. But as they went on he
felt that she hung heavy on his arm and could only lift her little feet
with the greatest difficulty. The street was too dark for him to see how
pale she was; and yet he never took his eyes off her dear but scarcely
distinguishable features. Suddenly he heard a faint whisper as in a
dream, “I can go no farther,” and at once led her back to the marble
seat.

He first carefully spread his mantle over the stone and then wrapped
her in it as tenderly as a mother might cover her shivering child, for
a cooler breeze gave warning of the coming dawn. He himself crept close
under the wall by her side, so as not to be seen, for a long train of
people, with servants carrying lanterns before them, now came out of
the house they had just left and down the street. Who these could be who
walked at so late an hour in such solemn silence neither of them knew.
They certainly sent up no joyful shout of “Iakchos!” no wild lament; no
cheerful laughter nor sounds of mourning were to be heard from the long
procession which passed along the street, two and two, at a slow pace.
As soon as they had passed the last houses, men and women alike began to
sing; no leader started them, nor lyre accompanied them, and yet their
song went up as though with one voice.

Diodoros and Melissa knew every note sung by the Greeks or Egyptians of
Alexandria, at this or any other festival, but this melody was strange
to them; and when the young man whispered to the girl, “What is it that
they are singing?” she replied, as though startled from sleep, “They are
no mere mortals!”

Diodoros shuddered; he fancied that the procession was floating above
the earth; that, if they had been indeed men of flesh and blood, their
steps would have been more distinctly audible on the pavement. Some of
them appeared to him to be taller than common mortals, and their chant
was certainly that of another world than this where he dwelt. Perhaps
these were daimons, the souls of departed Egyptians, who, after a
midnight visit to those they had left behind them, were returning to the
rock tombs, of which there were many in the stony hills to which this
street led. They were walking toward these tombs, and not toward the
gate; and Diodoros whispered his suspicion to his companion, clasping
his hand on an amulet in the semblance of an eye, which his Egyptian
nurse had fastened round his neck long ago with an Anubic thread, to
protect him against the evil-eye and magic spells.

But Melissa was listening with such devout attention to the chant that
she did not hear him. The fatigue which had reached such a painful
climax had, during this peaceful rest, given way to a blissful
unconsciousness of self. It was a kind of happiness to feel no longer
the burden of exhaustion, and the song of the wanderers was like a
cradle-song, lulling her to sweet dreams. It filled her with gladness,
and yet it was not glad, not even cheerful. It went to her heart, and
yet it was not mournful-not in the least like the passionate lament of
Isis for Osiris, or that of Demeter bewailing her daughter. The emotion
it aroused in her was a sweetly sorrowful compassion, which included
herself, her brothers, her father, her lover, all who were doomed to
suffering and death, even the utter stranger, for whom she had hitherto
felt no sympathy.

And the compassion bore within it a sense of comfort which she could not
explain, or perhaps would not inquire into. It struck her, too, now and
then, that the strain had a ring as of thanksgiving. It was, no doubt,
addressed to the gods, and for that reason it appealed to her, and
she would gladly have joined in it, for she, too, was grateful to the
immortals, and above all to Eros, for the love which had been born
in her heart and had found such an ardent return. She sighed as she
listened to every note of the chant, and it worked upon her like a
healing draught.

The struggle of her will against bodily fatigue, and finally against the
mental exhaustion of so much bliss, the conviction that her heavy,
weary feet would perhaps fail to carry her home, and that she must seek
shelter somewhere for the night, had disturbed her greatly. Now she
was quite calm, and as much at ease as she was at home sitting with her
father, her stitching in her hand, while she dreamed of her mother and
her childhood in the past. The singing had fallen on her agitated soul
like the oil poured by the mariner on the sea to still the foaming
breakers. She felt it so.

She could not help thinking of the time when she could fall asleep on
her mother’s bosom in the certainty that tender love was watching over
her. The happiness of childhood, when she loved everything she knew-her
family, the slaves, her father’s birds, the flowers in the little
garden, the altar of the goddess to whom she made offering, the very
stars in the sky-seemed to come over her, and there she sat in dreamy
lassitude, her head on her lover’s shoulder, till the last stragglers of
the procession, who, were women, many of them carrying little lamps in
their hands, had almost all gone past.

Then she suddenly felt an eager jerk in the shoulder on which her head
was resting.

“Look--look there!” he whispered; and as her eyes followed the direction
of his finger, she too started, and exclaimed, “Korinna!--Did you know
her?”

“She had often come to my father’s garden,” he replied, “and I saw her
portrait in Alexander’s room. These are souls from Hades that we have
seen. We must offer sacrifice, for those to whom they show themselves
they draw after them.” At this Melissa, too, shuddered, and exclaimed
in horror: “O Diodoros, not to death! We will ask the priests to-morrow
morning what sacrifice may redeem us. Anything rather than the grave
and the darkness of Hades!--Come, I am strong again now. Let us get away
from hence and go home.”

“But we must go through the gate now,” replied the youth. “It is not
well to follow in the footsteps of the dead.”

Melissa, however, insisted on going on through the street. Terrified as
she was of the nether world and the disembodied souls, she would on no
account risk falling into the hands of the horrible Egyptian, who might
compel her to betray her brother’s hiding-place; and Diodoros, who was
ashamed to show her the fears which still possessed him, did as she
desired.

But it was a comfort to him in this horror of death, which had come over
him now for the first time in his life, to kiss the maid once more, and
hold her warm hand in his as they walked on; while the strange chant of
the nocturnal procession still rang in her ears, and now and then the
words recurred to her mind which she had heard in the house where the
departed souls had gathered together:

“The fullness of the time was come.”

Did this refer to the hour when the dead came to the end of their life
on earth; or was there some great event impending on the city and its
inhabitants, for which the time had now come? Had the words anything to
do with Caesar’s visit? Had the dead come back to life to witness
the scenes which they saw approaching with eyes clearer than those of
mortals?

And then she remembered Korinna, whose fair, pale face had been
strangely lighted up by the lamp she carried; and, again, the Magian’s
assurance that the souls of the departed were endowed with every faculty
possessed by the living, and that “those who knew” could see them and
converse with them.

Then Serapion had been right in saying this; and her hand trembled
in her lover’s as she thought to herself that the danger which now
threatened Philip was estrangement from the living through intercourse
with the dead. Her own dead mother, perhaps, had floated past among
these wandering souls, and she grieved to think that she had neglected
to look for her and give her a loving greeting. Even Diodoros, who
was not generally given to silent meditation, had his own thoughts to
pursue; and so they walked on in silence till suddenly they heard a dull
murmur of voices. This startled them, and looking up they saw before
them the rocky cliffs in which the Egyptians long since, and now in
later times the Christians, had hewn caves and tombs. From the door of
one of these, only a few paces beyond where they stood, light streamed
out; and as they were about to pass it a large dog barked. Immediately
on this a man came out, and in a rough, deep voice asked them the
pass-word. Diodoros, seized with sudden terror of the dark figure, which
he believed to be a risen ghost, took to his heels, dragging Melissa
with him. The dog flew after them, barking loudly; and when the youth
stooped to pick up a stone to scare him off, the angry brute sprang on
him and dragged him down.

Melissa screamed for help, but the gruff voice angrily bade her be
silent. Far from obeying him, the girl shouted louder than ever; and
now, out of the entrance to the cave, close behind the scene of the
disaster, came a number of men with lamps and tapers. They were the
same daimons whose song she had heard in the street; she could not
be mistaken. On her knees, by the side of her lover as he lay on the
ground, she stared up at the apparitions. A stone flew at the dog to
scare him off, and a second, larger than the first, whisked past her and
hit Diodoros on the head; she heard the dull blow. At this a cold
hand seemed to clutch her heart; everything about her melted into one
whirling, colorless cloud. Pale as death, she threw up her arms to
protect herself, and then, overcome with terror and fatigue, with a
faint cry of anguish she lost consciousness.

When she opened her eyes again her head was resting in the lap of
a kind, motherly woman, while some men were just bearing away the
senseless form of Diodoros on a bier.



CHAPTER VI.

The sun had risen an hour since. Heron had betaken himself to his
workshop, whistling as he went, and in the kitchen his old slave Argutis
was standing over the hearth preparing his master’s morning meal. He
dropped a pinch of dill into the barley-porridge, and shook his gray
head solemnly.

His companion Dido, a Syrian, whose wavy white hair contrasted strangely
with her dark skin, presently came in, and, starting up, he hastily
inquired, “Not in yet?”

“No,” said the other woman, whose eyes were full of tears. “And you know
what my dream was. Some evil has come to her, I am certain; and when the
master hears of it--” Here she sobbed aloud; but the slave reproved her
for useless weeping.

“You never carried her in your arms,” whimpered the woman.

“But often enough on my shoulder,” retorted the Gaul, for Argutis was a
native of Augusta Trevirorum, on the Moselle. “Assoon as the porridge is
ready you must take it in and prepare the master.”

“That his first fury may fall on me!” said the old woman, peevishly. “I
little thought when I was young!”

“That is a very old story,” said Argutis, “and we both know what the
master’s temper is. I should have been off long ago if only you could
make his porridge to his mind. As soon as I have dished it I will go to
seek Alexander--there is nothing to prevent me--for it was with him that
she left the house.”

At this the old woman dried her tears, and cried “Yes, only go, and make
haste. I will do everything else. Great gods, if she should be brought
home dead! I know how it is; she could bear the old man’s temper and
this moping life no longer, and has thrown herself into the water.

“My dream, my dream! Here--here is the dish, and now go and find the
boy. Still, Philip is the elder.”

“He!” exclaimed the slave in a scornful tone. “Yes, if you want to know
what the flies are talking about! Alexander for me. He has his head
screwed on the right way, and he will find her if any man in Egypt can,
and bring her back, alive or dead.”

“Dead!” echoed Dido, with a fresh burst of sobs, and her tears fell
in the porridge, which Argutis, indeed, in his distress of mind had
forgotten to salt.

While this conversation was going on the gemcutter was feeding his
birds. Can this man, who stands there like any girl, tempting his
favorites to feed, with fond words and whistling, and the offer of
attractive dainties, be the stormy blusterer of last night? There is
not a coaxing name that he does not lavish on them, while he fills their
cups with fresh seed and water; and how carefully he moves his big hand
as he strews the little cages with clean sand! He would not for worlds
scare the poor little prisoners who cheer his lonely hours, and who
have long since ceased to fear him. A turtle-dove takes peas, and a
hedge-sparrow picks ants’ eggs from his lips; a white-throat perches on
his left hand to snatch a caterpillar from his right. The huge man
was in his garden soon after sunrise gathering the dewy leaves for his
feathered pets. But he talks and plays longest with the starling which
his lost wife gave him. She had bought it in secret from the Bedouin who
for many years had brought shells for sale from the Red Sea, to surprise
her husband with the gift. The clever bird had first learned to call
her name, Olympias; and then, without any teaching, had picked up his
master’s favorite lament, “My strength, my strength!”

Heron regarded this bird as a friend who understood him, and, like him,
remembered the never-to-be-forsaken dead. For three years had the gem
cutter been a widower, and he still thought more constantly and fondly
of his lost wife than of the children she had left him. Heron scratched
the bird’s knowing little head, saying in a tone which betrayed his pity
both for himself and his pet “Yes, old fellow, you would rather have a
soft white finger to stroke you down. I can hear her now, when she would
call you ‘sweet little pet,’ or ‘dear little creature.’ We shall neither
of us ever hear such gentle, loving words again. Do you remember how
she would look up with her dear sweet face--and was it not a lovely
face?--when you called her by her name ‘Olympias’? How many a time have
her rosy lips blown up your feathers, and cried, ‘Well done, little
fellow! ‘--Ay, and she would say ‘Well done’ to me too, when I had
finished a piece of work well. Ah, and what an eye she had, particularly
for art! But now well, the children give me a good word too, now that
her lips are silent!”

“Olympias!” cried the bird loudly and articulately, and the clouds that
shadowed the gem-cutter’s brow lifted a little, as with an affectionate
smile he went on:

“Yes, yes; you would be glad, too, to have her back again. You call her
now, as I did yesterday, standing by her grave--and she sends you her
love.

“Do you hear, little one? Peck away at the old man’s finger; he knows
you mean it kindly, and it does not hurt. I was all alone out there, and
Selene looked down on us in silence. There was rioting and shouting all
round, but I could hear the voice of our dead. She was very near me, and
her sad soul showed me that she still cared for me. I had taken a jar of
our best wine of Byblos under my cloak; as soon as I had poured oil on
her gravestone and shed some of the noble liquor, the earth drank it up
as though it were thirsty. Not a drop was left. Yes, little fellow, she
accepted the gift; and when I fell on my knees to meditate on her, she
vouchsafed replies to many of my questions.

“We talked together as we used--you know. And we remembered you, too; I
gave you her love.

“You understand me, little fellow, don’t you? And, I tell you, better
times are coming now.”

He turned from the bird with a sharp movement of annoyance, for the
slave-woman came in with the bowl of barley-porridge.

“You!” exclaimed Heron, in surprise. “Where is Melissa?”

“She will come presently,” said the old woman, in a low and doubtful
tone.

“Oh, thanks for the oracle!” said the artist, ironically.

“How you mock at a body!” said the old woman. “I meant--But eat
first--eat. Anger and grief are ill food for an empty stomach.”

Heron sat down to the table and began to eat his porridge, but he
presently tossed away the spoon, exclaiming:

“I do not fancy it, eating by myself.”

Then, with a puzzled glance at Dido, he asked in a tone of vexation:

“Well, why are you waiting here? And what is the meaning of all that
nipping and tugging at your dress? Have you broken another dish? No?
Then have done with that cursed head-shaking, and speak out at once!”

“Eat, eat,” repeated Dido, retreating to the door, but Heron called her
back with vehement abuse; but when she began again her usual complaint,
“I never thought, when I was young--” Heron recovered the good temper he
had been rejoicing in so lately, and retorted: “Oh! yes, I know, I have
the daughter of a great potentate to wait on me. And if it had only
occurred to Caesar, when he was in Syria, to marry your sister, I should
have had his sister-in-law in my service. But at any rate I forbid
howling. You might have learned in the course of thirty years, that I do
not eat my fellow-creatures. So, now, confess at once what is wrong in
the kitchen, and then go and fetch Melissa.” The woman was, perhaps,
wise to defer the evil moment as long as possible. Matters might soon
change for the better, and good or evil could come only from without. So
Dido clung to the literal sense of her master’s question, and something
note-worthy had actually happened in the kitchen. She drew a deep
breath, and told him that a subordinate of the night-watch had come
in and asked whether Alexander were in the house, and where his
painting-room was.

“And you gave him an exact description?” asked Heron.

But the slave shook her head; she again began to fidget with her dress,
and said, timidly:

“Argutis was there, and he says no good can come of the night-watch. He
told the man what he thought fit, and sent him about his business.”

At this Heron interrupted the old woman with such a mighty blow of his
fist on the table that the porridge jumped in the bowl, and he exclaimed
in a fury:

“That is what comes of treating slaves as our equals! They begin to
think for themselves. A stupid blunder can spoil the best day! The
captain of the night-watch, I would have you to know, is a very great
man, and very likely a friend of Seleukus’s, whose daughter Alexander
has just painted. The picture is attracting some attention.--Attention?
What am I saying? Every one who has been allowed to see it is quite
crazy about it. Everything else that was on show in the embalmers’ hall
was mere trash by comparison. Often enough have I grumbled at the boy,
who would rather be anywhere than here; but, this time, I had some
ground for being proud to be his father! And now the captain of the
watch sends his secretary, or something of the kind, no doubt, in
order to have his portrait, or his wife’s or daughter’s--if he has
one--painted by the artist who did Korinna’s; and his own father’s
slave--it drives me mad to think of it--makes a face at the messenger
and sends him all astray. I will give Argutis a lesson! But by this
time, perhaps--Just go and fetch him in.” With these words Heron again
dropped his spoon, wiped his beard, and then, seeing that Dido was still
standing before him as though spellbound, twitching her slave’s gray
gown, he repeated his order in such angry tones--though before he had
spoken to her as gently as if she were one of his own children--that
the old woman started violently and made for the door, crouching low and
whimpering bitterly.

The soft-hearted tyrant was really sorry for the faithful old servant he
had bought a generation since for the home to which he had brought
his fair young wife, and he began to speak kindly to her, as he had
previously done to the birds.

This comforted the old woman so much that again she could not help
crying; but, notwithstanding the sincerity of her tears, being
accustomed of old to take advantage of her master’s moods, she felt that
now was the time to tell her melancholy story. First of all she would at
any rate see whether Melissa had not meanwhile returned; so she humbly
kissed the hem of his robe and hurried away.

“Send Argutis to me!” Heron roared after her, and he returned to his
breakfast with renewed energy.

He thought, as he ate, of his son’s beautiful work, and the foolish
self-importance of Argutis, so faithful, and usually, it must be owned,
so shrewd. Then his eyes fell on Melissa’s vacant place opposite to him,
and he suddenly pushed away his bowl and rose to seek his daughter.

At this moment the starling called, in a clear, inviting tone,
“Olympias!” and this cheered him, reminding him of the happy hour he
had passed at his wife’s grave and the good augury he had had there.
The belief in a better time at hand, of which he had spoken to the bird,
again took possession of his sanguine soul; and, fully persuaded that
Melissa was detained in her own room or elsewhere by some trifling
matter, he went to the window and shouted her name; for hers, too,
opened on to the garden.

And it seemed as though the dear, obedient girl had come at his bidding,
for, as he turned back into the room again, Melissa was standing in the
open door.

After the pretty Greek greeting, “Joy be with you,” which she faintly
answered, he asked her, as fractiously as though he had spent hours of
anxiety, where she had been so long. But he was suddenly silent, for he
was astonished to see that she had not come from her room, but, as her
dress betrayed, from some long expedition. Her appearance, too, had none
of the exquisite neatness which it usually displayed; and then--what a
state she was in! Whence had she come so early in the day?

The girl took off the kerchief that covered her head, and with a faint
groan pushed her tangled hair off her temples, and her bosom heaved as
she panted out in a weary voice: “Here I am! But O, father, what a night
I have spent!”

Heron could not for a minute or two find words to answer her.

What had happened to the girl? What could it be which made her seem so
strange and unlike her self? He gazed at her, speechless, and alarmed by
a hundred fearful suspicions. He felt as a mother might who has kissed
her child’s fresh, healthy lips at night, and in the morning finds them
burning with fever.

Melissa had never been ill from the day of her birth; since she had
donned the dress of a full-grown maiden she had never altered; day after
day and at all hours she had been the same in her quiet, useful, patient
way, always thinking of her brothers, and caring for him rather than for
herself.

It had never entered into his head to suppose that she could alter; and
now, instead of the gentle, contented face with faintly rosy cheeks, he
saw a pallid countenance and quivering lips. What mysterious fire had
this night kindled in those calm eyes, which Alexander was fond of
comparing to those of a gazelle? They were sunk, and the dark shadows
that encircled them were a shock to his artistic eye. These were the
eyes of a girl who had raved like a maenad the night through. Had she
not slept in her quiet little room; had she been rushing with Alexander
in the wild Bacchic rout; or had something dreadful happened to his son?

Nothing could have been so great a relief to him as to rave and rage
as was his wont, and he felt strongly prompted to do so; but there was
something in her which moved him to pity or shyness, he knew not which,
and kept him quiet. He silently followed her with his eyes while she
folded her mantle and kerchief in her orderly way, and hastily gathered
together the stray, curly locks of her hair, smoothed them, and bound
them round her head.

Some one, however, must break the silence, and he gave a sigh of relief
when the girl came up to him and asked him, in a voice so husky as to
give him a fresh shock:

“Is it true that a Scythian, one of the nightwatch, has been here
already?”

Then he broke out, and it really did him good to give vent to his
repressed feelings in an angry speech:

“There again--the wisdom of slaves! The so-called Scythian brought a
message from his master.

“The captain of the night-watch--you will see--wishes to honor Alexander
with a commission.”

“No, no,” interrupted the girl. “They are hunting my brother down.
I thank the gods that the Scythian should have come; it shows that
Alexander is still free.”

The gem-cutter clasped his bushy hair in both hands, for it seemed to
him that the room was whirling round. But his old habits still got the
better of him; he roared out with all the power of his mighty lungs:
“What is that? What do you say? What has Alexander done? Where have
you--both of you-been?” With two long strides the angry man came close
up to the terrified girl; the birds fluttered in their cages, and the
starling repeated his cries in melancholy tones. Heron stood still,
pushing his fingers through his thick gray hair, and with a sharp laugh
exclaimed: “I came away from her grave full of fresh hopes for better
days, and this is how they are fulfilled! I looked for fame, and I find
disgrace! And you, hussy! where have you spent this night--where have
you come from? I ask you once more!”

He raised his fist and shook it close in front of Melissa’s eyes.

She stood before him as pale as death, and with wide-open eyes, from
which the heavy tears dropped slowly, one by one, trickling down her
cheeks as if they were tired. Heron saw them, and his rage melted. He
staggered to a seat like a drunken man, and, hiding his face in his
hands, moaned aloud, “Wretch, wretch that I am!” But his child’s soft
hand was laid on his head; warm, girlish lips kissed his brow; and
Melissa whispered beseechingly: “Peace, father, peace. All may yet be
well. I have something to tell you that will make you glad too; yes, I
am sure it will make you glad.”

Her father shrugged his shoulders incredulously, but wanted to know
immediately what the miracle was that could smooth his brow. Melissa,
however, would not tell him till it came in its place in her story. So
he had to submit; he drew his seat up to the table, and took up a lump
of modeling-wax to keep his restless fingers employed while he listened.
She, too, sat down; she could scarcely stand.

At first he listened calmly to her narrative; and when she told him
of Alexander’s jest at Caesar’s expense his face brightened. His
Alexandrian blood and his relish for a biting speech got the upper hand;
he gave a sounding slap on his mighty leg, and exclaimed: “A cursed good
thought! But the boy forgot that when Zeus only lamed his son it was
because he is immortal; while Caesar’s brother was as feeble a mortal as
Caracalla himself is said to be at this day.”

He laughed noisily; but it was for the last time that morning; for
hardly had he heard the name of Zminis, and learned that it was he who
had over heard Alexander, than he threw down the wax and started to his
feet in horror, crying:

“That dog, who dared to cast his eyes on your mother, and persecuted her
long after she had shown him the door! That sly mischief-maker! Many
a time has he set snares in our path. If he succeeds in tightening the
noose into which the boy has so heedlessly thrust his head--But first
tell me, has he caught him already, or is Alexander still at liberty?”

But no one, not even Argutis, who was still out on the search, could
tell him this; and he was now so greatly disturbed that, during the rest
of Melissa’s narrative, he perpetually paced the room, interrupting her
now and then with questions or with outbursts of indignation. And
then it occurred to him that he ought himself to seek his son, and he
occupied himself with getting ready to go out.

Even when she spoke of the Magian, and his conviction that those
who know are able to hold intercourse with the souls of the dead, he
shrugged his shoulders incredulously, and went on lacing his sandals.
But when Melissa assured him that not she alone, but Diodoros with her,
had seen the wandering soul of the departed Korinna in the train of
ghosts, he dropped the straps he had bound round his ankle, and asked
her who this Magian was, and where he might be found. However, she knew
no more than that his name was Serapion, and she briefly described his
dignified presence.

Heron had already seen the man, and he seemed still to be thinking of
him, when Melissa, with a blush and downcast eyes, confessed that, as
soon as he was well again, Diodoros was coming to her father to ask her
of him in marriage.

It was a long story before she came at last to her own concerns, but it
was always her way not to think of herself till every one else had had
his due.

But what about her father? Had she spoken inaudibly, or was he really
unable to-day to be glad? or what ailed him, that he paid no heed to the
news which, even for him, was not without its importance, but, without a
word of consent or disapproval, merely bade her go on with her story?

Melissa called him by name, as if to wake a man from sleep, and asked
whether it were indeed possible that he really felt no pleasure in the
happy prospect that lay before her, and that she had confessed to him.
And now Heron lent an ear, and gave her to understand the satisfaction
of his fatherly heart by kissing her. This news, in fact, made up for
much that was evil, for Diodoros was a son-in-law after his own heart,
and not merely because he was rich, or because his mother had been
so great a friend of Olympias’s. No, the young man’s father was, like
himself, one of the old Macedonian stock; he had seen his daughter’s
lover grow to manhood, and there was not in the city a youth he could
more heartily welcome. This he freely admitted; he only regretted that
when she should set up house with her husband on the other side of the
lake, he (Heron) would be left as lonely as a statue on its pedestal.
His sons had already begun to avoid him like a leper!

Then, when he heard of what had befallen Diodoros, and Melissa went
on to say that the people who had thrown the stone at the dog were
Christians, and that they had carried the wounded youth into a large,
clean dwelling, where he was being carefully attended when she had
left him, Heron broke out into violent abuse. They were unpatriotic
worshipers of a crucified Jew, who multiplied like vermin, and only
wanted to turn the good old order of things upside down. But this time
they should see--the hypocrites, who pretended to so much humanity, and
then set ferocious dogs on peaceful folk!--they should learn that they
could not fall on a Macedonian citizen without paying for it.

He indignantly refused to hear Melissa’s assurance that none of the
Christians had set the dog on her lover; she, however, maintained
stoutly that it was merely by an unfortunate accident that the stone had
hit Diodoros and cut his head so badly. She would not have quitted her
lover but that she feared lest her prolonged absence should have alarmed
her father.

Heron at last stood still for a minute or two, lost in thought, and then
brought out of his chest a casket, from which he took a few engraved
gems. He held them carefully up to the light, and asked his daughter:
“If I learn from Polybius, to whom I am now going, that they have
already caught Alexander, should I venture now, do you think, to offer
a couple of choice gems to Titianus, the prefect, to set him free again?
He knows what is good, and the captain of the watch is his subordinate.”

But Melissa besought him to give up the idea of seeking out Alexander in
his hiding-place; for Heron, the gem-cutter, was known to every one,
and if a man-at-arms should see him he would certainly follow him. As
regarded the prefect, he would not apprehend any one this day, for,
as her father knew, Caesar was to arrive at Alexandria at noon, and
Titianus must be on the spot to meet him with all his train.

“But if you want to be out of doors and doing,” she added, “go to see
Philip. Bring him to reason, and discuss with him what is to be done.”

She spoke with firm decision, and Heron looked with amazement at the
giver of this counsel. Melissa had hitherto cared for his comfort in
silence, without expressing any opinions of her own, and submitting to
be the lightning-conductor for all his evil tempers. He did not rate her
girlish beauty very high, for there were no ugly faces in his family
nor in that of his deceased Olympias. And all the other consolations she
offered him he took as a matter of course--nay, he sometimes made them a
ground of complaint; for he would occasionally fancy that she wanted to
assume the place of his beloved lost wife, and he regarded it as a duty
to her to show his daughter, and often very harshly and unkindly, how
far she was from filling her mother’s place.

Thus she had accustomed herself to do her duty as a daughter, with quiet
and wordless exactitude, looking for no thanks; while he thought he was
doing her a kindness merely by suffering her constant presence. That he
should ever exchange ideas with his daughter, or ask her opinion, would
have seemed to Heron absolutely impossible; yet it had come to this,
and for the second time this morning he looked in her face with utter
amazement.

He could not but approve her warning not to betray Alexander’s
hiding-place, and her suggestion that he should go to see his eldest
son coincided with an unspoken desire which had been lurking in his mind
ever since she had told him of her having seen a disembodied soul. The
possibility of seeing her once more, whose memory was dearer to him than
all else on earth, had such a charm, that it moved him more deeply than
the danger of his son, who was, nevertheless, very dear to his strangely
tempered heart.

So he answered Melissa coolly, as if he were telling her of a decision
already formed:

“Of course! I meant to see Philip too; only”--and he paused, for anxiety
about Alexander again came to the front--“I can not bear to remain in
such uncertainty about the boy.”

At this instant the door opened. The new-comer was Andreas, the man to
whom Diodoros had advised Alexander to apply for protection and counsel;
and Melissa greeted him with filial affection.

He was a freedman in her lover’s family, and was the steward and manager
of his master’s extensive gardens and lands, which were under his
absolute control. No one could have imagined that this man had ever been
a slave; his face was swarthy, but his fine black eyes lighted it up
with a glance of firm self reliance and fiery energy. It was the look
of a man who might be the moving spirit of one of those rebellions which
were frequent in Alexandria; there was an imperious ring in his voice,
and decision in the swift gestures of his hardened but shapely hands.

For twenty years, indeed, he had ruled over the numerous slaves of
Polybius, who was an easy-going master, and an invalid from gout in his
feet. He was at this time a victim to a fresh attack, and had therefore
sent his confidential steward into the town to tell Heron that he
approved of his son’s choice, and that he would protect Alexander from
pursuit.

All this Andreas communicated in few and business-like words; but he
then turned to Melissa, and said, in a tone of kindly and affectionate
familiarity: “Polybius also wishes to know how your lover is being cared
for by the Christians, and from hence I am going on to see our sick
boy.”

“Then ask your friends,” the gem-cutter broke in, “to keep less
ferocious dogs for the future.”

“That,” replied the freedman, “will be unnecessary, for it is not likely
that the fierce brute belongs to the community whose friendship I am
proud to claim; and, if it does, they will be as much grieved over the
matter as we can be.”

“A Christian would never do another an ill turn!” said Heron, with a
shrug.

“Never, so far as justice permits,” replied Andreas, decisively. Then he
inquired whether Heron had any message or news to send to his son; and
when the gem-cutter replied that he had not, the freedman was about to
go. Melissa, however, detained him, saying:

“I will go with you if you will allow me.”

“And I?” said Heron, irritably. “It seems to me that children
are learning to care less and less what their fathers’ views and
requirements may be. I have to go to Philip. Who knows what may happen
in my absence? Besides--no offense to you, Andreas--what concern has my
daughter among the Christians?”

“To visit her lover,” replied Andreas, sharply. And he added, more
quietly: “It will be a pleasure to me to escort her; and your Argutis is
a faithful fellow, and in case of need would be of more use here than an
inexperienced girl. I see no reasonable ground for detaining her, Heron.
I should like afterwards to take her home with me, across the lake; it
would be a comfort to Polybius and soothe his pain to have his favorite
with him, his future daughter.--Get ready, my child.”

The artist had listened with growing anger, and a swift surge of rage
made him long to give the freedman a sharp lesson. But when his glaring
eye met the Christian’s steady, grave gaze, he controlled himself, and
only said, with a shrug which sufficiently expressed his feeling that
he was surrendering his veto against his better judgment, addressing
himself to Melissa and ignoring Andreas:

“You are betrothed, and of age. Go, for aught I care, in obedience to
him whose wishes evidently outweigh mine. Polybius’s son is your master
henceforth.”

He folded his mantle, and when the girl hastened to help him he allowed
her to do it; but he went on, to the freedman: “And for aught I care,
you may take her across the lake, too. It is natural that Polybius
should wish to see his future daughter. But one thing I may ask for
myself: You have slaves and to spare; if anything happens to Alexander,
let me hear of it at once.”

He kissed Melissa on the head, nodded patronizingly to Andreas, and left
the house.

His soft-hearted devotion to a vision had weakened his combativeness;
still, he would have yielded less readily to a man who had once been a
slave, but that the invitation to Melissa released him of her presence
for a while.

He was not, indeed, afraid of his daughter; but she need not know that
he wanted Philip to make him acquainted with Serapion, and that through
his mediation he hoped at least to see the spirit of the wife he
mourned. When he was fairly out of the house he smiled with satisfaction
like a school-boy who had escaped his master.



CHAPTER VII.

Melissa, too, had a sense of freedom when she found herself walking by
the side of Andreas.

In the garden of Hermes, where her father’s house stood, there were
few signs of the excitement with which the citizens awaited Caesar’s
arrival. Most of those who were out and about were going in the opposite
direction; they meant to await the grand reception of Caracalla at the
eastern end of the city, on his way from the Kanopic Gate to the Gate
of the Sun. Still, a good many--men, women and children--were, like
themselves, walking westward, for it was known that Caesar would alight
at the Serapeum.

They had scarcely left the house when Andreas asked the girl whether
she had a kerchief or a veil in the basket the slave was carrying
behind her; and on her replying in the affirmative, he expressed
his satisfaction; for Caracalla’s soldiery, in consequence of the
sovereign’s weakened discipline and reckless liberality, were little
better than an unbridled rabble.

“Then let us keep out of their way,” urged Melissa.

“Certainly, as much as possible,” said her companion. “At any rate, let
us hurry, so as to get back to the lake before the crowd stops the way.

“You have passed an eventful and anxious night, my child, and are tired,
no doubt.”

“Oh, no!” said she, calmly; “I had some wine to refresh me, and some
food with the Christians.”

“Then they received you kindly?”

“The only woman there nursed Diodoros like a mother; and the men were
considerate and careful. My father does not know them; and yet--Well,
you know how much he dislikes them.”

“He follows the multitude,” returned Andreas, “the common herd, who hate
everything exceptional, everything that disturbs their round of life, or
startles them out of the quietude of their dull dreams. Woe to those who
call by its true name what those blind souls call pleasure and enjoyment
as serving to hasten the flight of time--not too long at the most; woe
to those who dare raise even a finger against it!”

The man’s deep, subdued tones were strongly expressive of the wrath
within him; and the girl, who kept close to his side, asked with eager
anxiety, “Then my father was right when he said that you are a member of
the Christian body?”

“Yes,” he replied, emphatically; and when Melissa curiously inquired
whether it were true that the followers of the crucified God had
renounced their love for home and country, which yet ought to be dear
to every true man, Andreas answered with a superior smile, that even the
founder of the Stoa had required not only of his fellow-Greeks but of
all human beings, that they should regulate their existence by the same
laws, since they were brethren in reason and sense.

“He was right,” added Andreas, more earnestly, “and I tell you, child,
the time is not far off when men shall no longer speak of Roman and
Greek, of Egyptian and Syrian, of free men and slaves; when there shall
be but one native land, but one class of life for all. Yea, the day is
beginning to dawn even now. The fullness of the time is come!”

Melissa looked up at him in amazement, exclaiming: “How strange! I have
heard those words once to-day already, and can not get them out of my
head. Nay, when you confirmed my father’s report, I made up my mind to
ask you to explain them.”

“What words?” asked Andreas, in surprise. “The fullness of the time is
come.”

“And where did you hear them?”

“In the house where Diodoros and I took refuge from Zminis.”

“A Christian meeting-house,” replied Andreas, and his expressive face
darkened. “But those who assemble there are aliens to me; they follow
evil heresies. But never mind--they also call themselves Christians, and
the words which led you to ponder, stand to me at the very gate of the
doctrine of our divine master, like the obelisks before the door of an
Egyptian temple. Paul, the great preacher of the faith, wrote them to
the Galatians. They are easy to understand; nay, any one who looks about
him with his eyes open, or searches his own soul, can scarcely fail to
see their meaning, if only the desire is roused in him for something
better than what these cursed times can give us who live in them.”

“Then it means that we are on the eve of great changes?”

“Yes!” cried Andreas, “only the word you use is too feeble. The old dull
sun must set, to rise again with greater glory.”

Ill at ease, and by no means convinced, Melissa looked her excited
companion in the face as she replied:

“Of course I know, Andreas, that you speak figuratively, for the sun
which lights the day seems to me bright enough; and is not everything
flourishing in this gay, busy city? Are not its citizens under the
protection of the law? Were the gods ever more zealously worshiped? Is
my father wrong when he says that it is a proud thing to belong to the
mightiest realm on earth, before whose power barbarians tremble; a great
thing to feel and call yourself a Roman citizen?”

So far Andreas had listened to her with composure, but he here
interrupted, in a tone of scorn “Oh, yes! Caesar has made your father,
and your neighbor Skopas, and every free man in the country a Roman
citizen; but it is a pity that, while he gave each man his patent of
citizenship, he should have filched the money out of his purse.”

“Apion, the dealer, was saying something to that effect the other
day, and I dare say it is true. But I can not be persuaded against
the evidence of my own eyes, and they light on many good and pleasant
things. If only you had been with us to the Nekropolis yesterday! Every
man was honoring the gods after his own manner. Some, indeed, were grave
enough; still, cheerfulness won the day among the people. Most of them
were full of the god. I myself, who generally live so quietly, was
infected as the mystics came back from Eleusis, and we joined their
ranks.”

“‘Till the spy Zminis spoiled your happiness and imperiled your
brother’s life for a careless speech.”

“Very true!”

“And what your brother heedlessly proclaimed,” Andreas went on, with
flashing eyes, “the very sparrows twitter on the house-tops. It is the
truth. The sovereign of the Roman Empire is a thousand times a murderer.
Some he sent to precede his own brother, and they were followed by
all--twenty thousand, it is said--who were attached to the hapless Geta,
or who even spoke his name. This is the lord and master to whom we owe
obedience whom God has set over us for our sins. And when this wretch in
the purple shall close his eyes, he, like the rest of the criminals
who have preceded him on the throne, will be proclaimed a god! A noble
company! When your beloved mother died I heard you, even you, revile the
gods for their cruelty; others call them kind. It is only a question of
how they accept the blood of the sacrificed beasts, their own creatures,
which you shed in their honor. If Serapis does not grant some fool the
thing he asks, then he turns to the altar of Isis, of Anubis, of Zeus,
of Demeter. At last he cries to Sabazios, or one of the new deities of
Olympus, who owe their existence to the decisions of the Roman Senate,
and who are for the most part scoundrels and villains. There certainly
never were more gods than there are now; and among those of whom the
myths tell us things strange enough to bring those who worship them into
contempt, or to the gallows, is the countless swarm of good and evil
daimons. Away with your Olympians! They ought to reward virtue and
punish vice; and they are no better than corruptible judges; for you
know beforehand just what and how much will avail to purchase their
favors.”

“You paint with dark colors,” the girl broke in. “I have learned from
Philip that the Pythagoreans teach that not the sacrifice, but the
spirit of the offering, is what really matters.”

“Quite right. He was thinking, no doubt, of the miracle-monger of Tyana,
Apollonius, who certainly had heard of the doctrine of the Redeemer. But
among the thousand nine hundred and ninety, who here bring beasts to the
altar, who ever remembers this? Quite lately I heard one of our garden
laborers ask how much a day he ought to sacrifice to the sun, his god.
I told him a keration--for that is what the poor creature earns for a
whole day’s work. He thought that too much, for he must live; so the god
must be content with a tithe, for the taxes to the State on his earnings
were hardly more.”

“The divinity ought no doubt to be above all else to us,” Melissa
observed. “But when your laborer worships the sun, and looks for its
benefits, what is the difference between him and you, or me, or any of
us, though we call the sun Helios or Serapis, or what not?”

“Yes, yes,” replied Andreas. “The sun is adored here under many
different names and forms, and your Serapis has swallowed up not only
Zeus and Pluto, but Phoebus Apollo and the Egyptian Osiris and Ammon,
and Ra, to swell his own importance. But to be serious, child, our
fathers made to themselves many gods indeed, of the sublime phenomena
and powers of Nature, and worshiped them admiringly; but to us only the
names remain, and those who offer to Apollo never think of the sun.
With my laborer, who is an Arab, it is different. He believes the
light-giving globe itself to be a god; and you, I perceive, do not
think him wholly wrong. But when you see a youth throw the discus with
splendid strength, do you praise the discus, or the thrower?”

“The thrower,” replied Melissa. “But Phoebus Apollo himself guides his
chariot with his divine hands.”

“And astronomers,” the Christian went on, “can calculate for years to
come exactly where his steeds will be at each minute of the time. So no
one can be more completely a slave than he to whom so many mortals pray
that he will, of his own free-will, guide circumstances to suit them.
I, therefore, regard the sun as a star, like any other star; and worship
should be given, not to those rolling spheres moving across the sky in
prescribed paths, but to Him who created them and guides them by fixed
laws. I really pity your Apollo and the whole host of the Olympian gods,
since the world has become possessed by the mad idea that the gods
and daimons may be moved, or even compelled, by forms of prayer and
sacrifices and magic arts, to grant to each worshiper the particular
thing on which he may have set his covetous and changeable fancy.”

“And yet,” exclaimed Melissa, “you yourself told me that you prayed
for my mother when the leech saw no further hope. Every one hopes for
a miracle from the immortals when his own power has come to an end!
Thousands think so. And in our city the people have never been more
religious than they are now. The singer of the Ialemos at the feast of
Adonis particularly praised us for it.”

“Because they have never been more fervently addicted to pleasure, and
therefore have never more deeply dreaded the terrors of hades. The great
and splendid Zeus of the Greeks has been transformed into Serapis here,
on the banks of the Nile, and has become a god of the nether world. Most
of the ceremonies and mysteries to which the people crowd are connected
with death. They hope that the folly over which they waste so many
hours will smooth their way to the fields of the blest, and yet they
themselves close the road by the pleasures they indulge in. But the
fullness of time is now come; the straight road lies open to all
mankind, called as they are to a higher life in a new world, and he who
follows it may await death as gladly as the bride awaits the bridegroom
on her marriage day. Yes, I prayed to my God for your dying mother, the
sweetest and best of women. But what I asked for her was not that her
life might be preserved, or that she might be permitted to linger longer
among us, but that the next world might be opened to her in all its
glory.”

At this point the speaker was interrupted by an armed troop which thrust
the crowd aside to make way for the steers which were to be slaughtered
in the Temple of Serapis at the approach of Caesar. There were several
hundred of them, each with a garland about its neck, and the handsomest
which led the train had its horns gilded.

When the road was clear again, Andreas pointed to the beasts, and
whispered to his companion “Their blood will be shed in honor of the
future god Caracalla. He once killed a hundred bears in the arena with
his own hand. But I tell you, child, when the fullness of time is come,
innocent blood shall no more be shed. You were speaking with enthusiasm
of the splendor of the Roman Empire. But, like certain fruit-trees in
our garden which we manure with blood, it has grown great on blood, on
the life-juice of its victims. The mightiest realm on earth owes its
power to murder and rapine; but now sudden destruction is coming on the
insatiate city, and visitation for her sins.”

“And if you are right--if the barbarians should indeed destroy the
armies of Caesar,” asked Melissa, looking up in some alarm at the
enthusiast, “what then?”

“Then we may thank those who help to demolish the crumbling house!”
 cried Andreas, with flashing eyes.

“And if it should be so,” said the girl, with tremulous anxiety, “what
universal ruin! What is there on earth that could fill its place? If
the empire falls into the power of the barbarians, Rome will be made
desolate, and all the provinces laid waste which thrive under her
protection.”

“Then,” said Andreas, “will the kingdom of the Spirit arise, in which
peace and love shall reign instead of hatred and murder and wars. There
shall be one fold and one Shepherd, and the least shall be equal with
the greatest.”

“Then there will be no more slaves?” asked Melissa, in growing
amazement.

“Not one,” replied her companion, and a gleam of inspiration seemed to
light up his stern features. “All shall be free, and all united in love
by the grace of Him who hath redeemed us.”

But Melissa shook her head, and Andreas, understanding what was passing
in her mind, tried to catch her eye as he went on:

“You think that these are the impossible wishes of one who has himself
been a slave, or that it is the remembrance of past suffering and
unutterable wrong which speaks in me? For what right-minded man would
not desire to preserve others from the misery which once crushed him
to earth with its bitter burden?--But you are mistaken. Thousands of
free-born men and women think as I do, for to them, too, a higher Power
has revealed that the fullness of time is now come. He, the Greatest and
Best, who made all the woes of the world His own, has chosen the poor
rather than the rich, the suffering rather than the happy, the babes
rather than the wise and prudent; and in his kingdom the last shall be
first--yea, the least of the last, the poorest of the poor; and they,
child, are the slaves.”

He ended his diatribe with a deep sigh, but Melissa pressed the hand
which held hers as they walked along the raised pathway, and said: “Poor
Andreas! How much you must have gone through before Polybius set you
free!”

He only nodded, and they both remained silent till they found themselves
in a quiet side street. Then the girl looked up at him inquiringly, and
began again:

“And now you hope for a second Spartacus? Or will you yourself lead a
rebellion of the slaves? You are the man for it, and I can be secret.”

“If it has to be, why not?” he replied, and his eyes sparkled with a
strange fire. But seeing that she shrank from him, a smile passed over
his countenance, and he added in a soothing tone: “Do not be alarmed,
my child; what must come will come, without another Spartacus, or
bloodshed, or turmoil. And you, with your clear eyes and your kind
heart, would you find it difficult to distinguish right from wrong, and
to feel for the sorrows of others--? Yes, perhaps! For what will not
custom excuse and sanctify? You can pity the bird which is shut into a
cage too small for it, or the mule which breaks down under too heavy a
load, and the cruelty which hurts them rouses your indignation. But for
the man whom a terrible fate has robbed of his freedom, often through
the fault of another, whose soul endures even greater torments than his
despised body, you have no better comfort than the advice which might
indeed serve a philosopher, but which to him is bitter mockery: to
bear his woes with patience. He is only a slave, bought, or perhaps
inherited. Which of you ever thinks of asking who gave you, who are
free, the right to enslave half of all the inhabitants of the Roman
Empire, and to rob them of the highest prerogative of humanity? I know
that many philosophers have spoken of slavery as an injustice done
by the strong to the weak: but they shrugged their shoulders over it
nevertheless, and excused it as an inevitable evil; for, thought they,
who will serve me if my slave is regarded as my equal? You only smile
at this confusion of the meditative recluses, but you forget”--and a
sinister fire glowed in his eyes--“that the slave, too, has a soul, in
which the same feelings stir as in your own. You never think how a
proud man may feel whose arm you brand, and whose very breath of life is
indignity; or what a slave thinks who is spurned by his master’s foot,
though noble blood may run in his veins. All living things, even the
plants in the garden, have a right to happiness, and only develop fully
in freedom, and under loving care; and yet one half of mankind robs the
other half of this right. The sum total of suffering and sorrow to which
Fate had doomed the race is recklessly multiplied and increased by the
guilt of men themselves. But the cry of the poor and wretched has gone
up to heaven, and now that the fullness of time is come, ‘Thus far, and
no farther,’ is the word. No wild revolutionary has been endowed with
a giant’s strength to burst the bonds of the victims asunder. No, the
Creator and Preserver of the world sent his Son to redeem the poor in
spirit, and, above all, the brethren and the sisters who are weary and
heavy laden. The magical word which shall break the bars of the prisons
where the chains of the slaves are heard is Love.... But you, Melissa,
can but half comprehend all this,” he added, interrupting the ardent
flow of his enthusiastic speech. “You can not understand it all. For
you, too, child, the fullness of time is coming; for you, too, freeborn
though you are, are, I know, one of the heavy laden who patiently suffer
the burden laid upon you. You too--But keep close to me; we shall find
it difficult to get through this throng.”

It was, in fact, no easy matter to get across the crowd which was
pouring noisily down the street of Hermes, into which this narrow way
led. How ever, they achieved it, and when Melissa had recovered her
breath in a quiet lane in Rhakotis, she turned to her companion again
with the question, “And when do you suppose that your predictions will
be fulfilled?”

“As soon as the breeze blows which shall shake the overripe fruit
from the tree. It may be tomorrow, or not yet, according to the
long-suffering of the Most High. But the entire collapse of the world in
which we have been living is as certain to come as that you are walking
here with me!”

Melissa walked on with a quaking heart, as she heard her friend’s tone
of conviction; he, however, was aware that the inmost meaning of his
words was sealed to her. To his inquiry, whether she could not rejoice
in the coming of the glorious time in store for redeemed humanity, she
answered, tremulously:

“All you hope for is glorious, no doubt, but what shall lead to it must
be a terror to all. Were you told of the kingdom of which you speak by
an oracle, or is it only a picture drawn by your imagination, a vision,
and the offspring of your soul’s desire?”

“Neither,” said Andreas, decidedly; and he went on in a louder voice:
“I know it by revelation. Believe me, child, it is as certainly true as
that the sun will set this night. The gates of the heavenly Jerusalem
stand open, and if you, too, would fain be blessed--But more of this
later. Here we are at our journey’s end.”

They entered the Christian home, where they found Diodoros, on a
comfortable couch, in a spacious, shady room, and in the care of a
friendly matron.

But he was in an evil case. The surgeon thought his wound a serious one;
for the heavy stone which had hit him had injured the skull, and the
unhappy youth was trembling with fever. His head was burning, and it
was with difficulty that he spoke a few coherent words. But his eyes
betrayed that he recognized Melissa, and that it was a joy to him to
see her again; and when he was told that Alexander had so far escaped,
a bright look lighted up his countenance. It was evidently a comfort
to him to gaze on Melissa’s pretty face; her hand lay in his, and he
understood her when she greeted him from her father, and spoke to him of
various matters; but the lids ere long closed over his aching eyes.

Melissa felt that she must leave him to rest. She gently released his
hand from her grasp and laid it across his breast, and moved no more,
excepting to wipe the drops from his brow. Solemn stillness had reigned
for some time in the large, clean house, faintly smelling of lavender;
but, on a sudden, doors opened and shut; steps were heard in the
anteroom, seats were moved, and a loud confusion of men’s voices became
audible, among them that of Andreas.

Melissa listened anxiously to the heated discussion which had already
become a vehement quarrel. She longed to implore the excited wranglers
to moderate their tones, for she could see by her lover’s quivering lips
that the noise hurt him; but she could not leave him.

The dispute meanwhile grew louder and louder. The names of Montanus and
Tertullian, Clemens and Origen, fell on her ear, and at last she heard
Andreas exclaim in high wrath: “You are like the guests at a richly
furnished banquet who ask, after they have well eaten, when the meat
will be brought in. Paraclete is come, and yet you look for another.”

He was not allowed to proceed; fierce and scornful contradiction checked
his speech, till a voice of thunder was heard above the rest:

“The heavenly Jerusalem is at hand. He who denies and doubts the calling
of Montanus is worse than the heathen, and I, for one, cast him off as
neither a brother nor a Christian!”

This furious denunciation was drowned in uproar; the anxious girl heard
seats overturned, and the yells and shouts of furious combatants; the
suffering youth meanwhile moaned with anguish, and an expression of
acute pain was stamped on his handsome features. Melissa could bear it
no longer; she had risen to go and entreat the men to make less noise,
when suddenly all was still.

Diodoros immediately became calmer, and looked up at the girl as
gratefully as though the soothing silence were owing to her. She could
now hear the deep tones of the head of the Church of Alexandria,
and understood that the matter in hand was the readmission into this
congregation of a man who had been turned out by some other sect. Some
would have him rejected, and commended him to the mercy of God; others,
less rigid, were willing to receive him, since he was ready to submit to
any penance.

Then the quarrel began again. High above every other voice rose the
shrill tones of a man who had just arrived from Carthage, and who
boasted of personal friendship with the venerable Tertullian. The
listening girl could no longer follow the connection of the discussion,
but the same names again met her ear; and, though she understood nothing
of the matter, it annoyed her, because the turmoil disturbed her lover’s
rest.

It was not till the sick-nurse came back that the tumult was appeased;
for, as soon as she learned how seriously the loud disputes of her
fellow-believers were disturbing the sick man’s rest, she interfered so
effectually, that the house was as silent as before.

The deaconess Katharine was the name by which she was known, and in a
few minutes she returned to her patient’s bedside.

Andreas followed her, with the leech, a man of middle height, whose
shrewd and well-formed head, bald but for a little hair at the sides,
was set on a somewhat ungainly body. His sharp eyes looked hither and
thither, and there was something jerky in his quick movements; still,
their grave decisiveness made up for the lack of grace. He paid no heed
to the bystanders, but threw himself forward rather than bent over the
patient, felt him, and with a light hand renewed his bandages; and
then he looked round the room, examining it as curiously as though he
proposed to take up his abode there, ending by fixing his prominent,
round eyes on Melissa. There was something so ruthlessly inquisitive in
that look that it might, under other circumstances, have angered her.
However, as it was, she submitted to it, for she saw that it was shrewd,
and she would have called the wisest physician on earth to her lover’s
bedside if she had had the power.

When Ptolemaeus--for so he was called--had, in reply to the question,
“who is that?” learned who she was, he hastily murmured: “Then she can
do nothing but harm here. A man in a fever wants but one thing, and that
is perfect quiet.”

And he beckoned Andreas to the window, and asked him shortly, “Has the
girl any sense?”

“Plenty,” replied the freedman, decisively.

“As much, at any rate, as she can have at her age,” the other retorted.
“Then it is to be hoped that she will go without any leave-taking or
tears. That fine lad is in a bad way. I have known all along what might
do him good, but I dare not attempt it alone, and there is no one in
Alexandria.... But Galen has come to join Caesar. If he, old as
he is--But it is not for the likes of us to intrude into Caesar’s
quarters--Still--”

He paused, laying his hand on his brow, and rubbing it thoughtfully with
his short middle finger. Then he suddenly exclaimed: “The old man would
never come here. But the Serapeum, where the sick lie awaiting divine
or diabolical counsel in dreams--Galen will go there. If only we could
carry the boy thither.”

“His nurse here would hardly allow that,” said Andreas, doubtfully.

“He is a heathen.” replied the leech, hotly. “Besides, what has faith to
do with the injury to the body? How many Caesars have employed Egyptian
and Jewish physicians? The lad would get the treatment he needs, and,
Christian as I am, I would, if necessary, convey him to the Serapeum,
though it is of all heathen temples the most heathen. I will find out by
hook or by crook at what time Galen is to visit the cubicles. To-morrow,
or next day at latest; and to-night, or, better still, to-morrow morning
before sunrise, I will have the youth carried there. If the deaconess
refuses--”

“And she will,” Andreas put in.

“Very well.--Come here, maiden,” he beckoned to Melissa, and went on
loud enough for the deaconess to hear: “If we can get your betrothed
to the Serapeum early to-morrow, he may probably be cured; otherwise I
refuse to be responsible. Tell your friends and his that I will be here
before sunrise to-morrow, and that they must provide a covered litter
and good bearers.”

He then turned to the deaconess, who had followed him in silence, with
her hands clasped like a deserter, laid his broad, square hand on her
shoulder, and added:

“So it must be, Widow Katharine, Love endures and suffers all things,
and to save a neighbor’s life, it is well to suffer in silence even
things that displease us. I will explain it all to you afterwards.
Quiet, only perfect quiet--No melancholy leave-taking, child! The sooner
you are out of the house the better.”

He went back again to the bed, laid his hand for a moment on the sick
man’s forehead, and then left the room.

Diodoros lay still and indifferent on the couch. Melissa kissed him on
the brow, and withdrew without his observing it, her eyes full of tears.



CHAPTER VIII.

The sun had passed the meridian when Melissa and Andreas left the house.
They walked on in silence through the deserted streets, the girl with
her eyes sadly fixed on the ground; for an inward voice warned her that
her lover’s life was in danger. She did not sob, but more than once she
wiped away a large tear.

Andreas, too, was lost in his own thoughts. To win a soul to the Saviour
was surely a good work. He knew Melissa’s sober, thoughtful nature,
and the retired, joyless life she led with her surly old father. So his
knowledge of human nature led him to think that she, if any one, might
easily be won over to the faith in which he found his chief happiness.
Baptism had given such sanctification to his life that he longed to lead
the daughter of the only woman for whom his heart had ever beat a shade
faster, to the baptismal font. In the heat of summer Olympias had often
been the guest for weeks together of Polybius’s wife, now likewise
dead. Then she had taken a little house of her own for herself and her
children, and when his master’s wife died, the lonely widower had known
no greater pleasure than that of receiving her on his estate for as long
as Heron would allow her to remain; he himself never left his work
for long. Thus Andreas had become the great ally of the gem-cutter’s
children, and, as they could learn nothing from him that was not good
and worth knowing, Olympias had gladly allowed them to remain in his
society, and herself found a teacher and friend in the worthy steward.
She knew that Andreas had joined the Christians; she had made him tell
her much about his faith; still, as the daughter and wife of artists,
she was firmly attached to the old gods, and could only regard the
Christian doctrine as a new system of philosophy in which many things
attracted her, but many, on the other hand, repelled her. At that time
his passion for Melissa’s mother had possessed him so wholly that
his life was a constant struggle against the temptation to covet his
neighbor’s wife. And he had conquered, doing severe penance for every
glance which might for an instant betray to her the weakness of his
soul. She had loved flowers, and he knew the plant-world so well, and
was so absolutely master over everything which grew and bloomed in
the gardens of which he had charge, that he could often intrust his
speechless favorites to tell her things which lips and eyes might not
reveal. Now she was no more, and the culture of plants had lost half its
charm since her eyes could no longer watch their thriving. He now left
the gardens for the most part to his men, while he devoted himself to
other cares with double diligence, and to the strictest exercises of his
faith.

But, as many a man adores the children of the woman he might not marry,
Alexander and Melissa daily grew dearer to Andreas. He took a father’s
interest in their welfare, and, needing little himself, he carefully
hoarded his ample income to promote the cause of Christianity and
encourage good works; but he had paid Alexander’s debts when his time of
apprenticeship was over, for they were so considerable that the reckless
youth had not dared confess the sum to his stern father.

Very soon after this, Alexander had become one of the most popular
painters of the town; and when he proposed to repay his friend the money
he had lent him, Andreas accepted it; but he added it to a capital of
which the purpose was his secret, but which, if his prayers were heard,
might return once more to benefit Alexander. Diodoros, too, was as dear
to the freedman as a son of his own could have been, though he was a
heathen. In the gymnasium and the race-course, or in the practice of the
mysteries, the good seed which he sowed in the lad’s heart was trodden
down. Polybius, too, was an utter heathen; indeed, he was one of the
priests of Dionysus and Demeter, as his wealth and position in the
senate required.

Then, Diodoros had confessed to him that he hoped to win Melissa for his
wife, and this had been adverse to Andreas’s hope and purpose of making
a Christian of the girl; for he knew by experience how easily married
happiness was wrecked when man and wife worship different gods. But when
the freedman had again seen the gem-cutter’s brutality and the girl’s
filial patience, an inward voice had called to him that this gentle,
gifted creature was one of those elect from among whom the Lord chose
the martyrs for the faith; and that it was his part to lead her into the
fold of the Redeemer. He had begun the work of converting her with the
zeal he put into everything. But fresh doubts had come upon him on the
threshold of the sick-room, after seeing the lad who was so dear to him,
and whose eye had met his with such a trustful, suffering look. Could it
be right to sow the seed of discord between him and his future wife? And
supposing Diodoros, too, should be converted by Melissa, could he thus
alienate from his father the son and heir of Polybius--his benefactor
and master?

Then, he remembered, too, to what a position he had risen through that
master’s confidence in him. Polybius knew nothing of the concerns of his
house but from the reports laid before him by Andreas; for the steward
controlled not merely the estate but the fortune of the family, and for
years had been at the head of the bank which he himself had founded to
increase the already vast income of the man to whom he owed his freedom.
Polybius paid him a considerable portion of each year’s profits, and had
said one day at a banquet, with the epigrammatic wit of an Alexandrian,
that his freedman, Andreas, served his interests as only one other man
could do--namely, himself--but with the industry of ten. The Christian
greatly appreciated his confidence; and as he walked on by the side of
Melissa, he told himself again and again that it would be dishonorable
to betray it.

If only the sweet girl might find the way alone! If she were chosen to
salvation, the Lord himself would lead and guide her. Had he indeed
not beckoned her already by impressing on her heart those words, “The
fullness of the time is now come?”

That he was justified in keeping this remembrance alive he had no doubt;
and he was about to speak of it again, when she prevented him by raising
her large eyes beseechingly to his, and asking him:

“Is Diodoros in real danger? Tell me the truth. I would rather endure
the worst than this dreadful anxiety.”

So Andreas acknowledged that the youth was in a bad way, but that
Ptolemaeus, himself well-skilled, hoped to cure him if his greater
colleague Galenus would aid him.

“And it is to secure his assistance, then,” Melissa went on, “that the
leech would have him carried to the Serapeum?”

“Yes, my child. For he is in Caesar’s train, and it would be vain to try
to speak with him to-day or to-morrow.”

“But the journey through the town will do the sufferer a mischief.”

“He will be carried in a litter.”

“But even that is not good for him. Perfect quiet, Ptolemaeus said, was
the best medicine.”

“But Galenus has even better remedies at hand,” was the reply.

Melissa seemed satisfied with this assurance, for she walked on for some
time in silence. But when the uproar of the crowd in the vicinity of the
Serapeum became more audible as they advanced, she suddenly stood still,
and said:

“Come what may, I will find my way to the great physician’s presence
and crave his help.” “You?” cried the freedman; and when she firmly
reiterated her purpose, the strong man turned pale.

“You know not what you say!” he exclaimed, in deep concern. “The men who
guard the approaches to Caracalla are ruthless profligates, devoid of
courtesy or conscience. But, you may rely upon it, you will not even get
into the antechamber.”

“Perhaps. Nevertheless, it is my duty, and I will try.”

How firmly and decisively she spoke! And what strength of will sparkled
in the quiet, modest maiden’s eyes! And the closely set lips, which
usually were slightly parted, and hardly covered two of her pearly white
teeth, gave her a look of such determination, that Andreas could see
that no obstacle would check her.

Still, love and duty alike required him to use every means in his power
to keep her from taking such a step. He lavished all his eloquence; but
she adhered to her purpose with steadfast persistency, and none of the
reasons he could adduce to prove the impossibility of the undertaking
convinced her. The only point which staggered her was the information
that the great leech was an old man, who walked with difficulty; and
that Galen, as a heathen and a disciple of Aristotle, would never be
induced to enter a Christian dwelling. Both these facts might be a
serious hindrance to her scheme; yet she would not now stop to reflect.
They had got back to the great street of Hermes, leading from the temple
of that god to the Serapeum, and must cross it to reach the lake, their
immediate destination. As in all the principal streets of Alexandria, a
colonnade bordered the street in front of the houses on each side of the
wide and handsome roadway. Under these arcades the foot-passengers were
closely packed, awaiting Caesar’s passage. He must soon be coming, for
the reception, first at the Kanopic Gate, and then at the Gate of the
Sun, was long since over; and, even if he had carried out his purpose
of halting at the tomb of Alexander the Great, he could not be detained
much longer. The distance hither down the Kanopic Way was not great, and
swift horses would quickly bring him down the Aspendia street to that
of Hermes, leading straight to the Serapeum. His train was not to follow
him to the Soma, the mausoleum of the founder of the city, but to turn
off to the southward by the Paneum, and make a round into the street of
Hermes.

The praetorians, the German body-guard, the imperial Macedonian phalanx,
and some mounted standard-bearers had by this time reached the spot
where Melissa was proceeding up the street holding Andreas’s hand.
Close by them came also a train of slaves, carrying baskets full of
palm-leaves and fresh branches of ivy, myrtle, poplar, and pine, from
the gardens of the Paneum, to be carried to the Serapeum. They were
escorted by lictors, endeavoring with their axes and fasces to make a
way for them through the living wall which barred their way.

By the help of the mounted troops, who kept the main road clear, space
was made for them; and Andreas, who knew one of the overseers of the
garden-slaves, begged him as a favor to allow Melissa and himself to
walk among his people. This was willingly granted to so well-known a
man; and the way was quite free for the moment, because the imperial
cartage had not followed immediately on the soldiers who had now all
marched past. Thus, among the flower-bearers, they reached the middle of
the street; and while the slaves proceeded on their way to the Serapeum,
the freedman tried to cross the road, and reach the continuation of the
street they had come by, and which led to the lake. But the attempt was
frustrated, for some Roman lictors who had just come up stood in their
way, and sent them to the southern side of the street of Hermes, to
mingle with the gaping crowd under the arcade.

They were, of course, but ill received by these, since they naturally
found themselves in front of the foremost rank; but the stalwart frame
and determined face of Andreas, and the exceptional beauty of his young
companion, over whose pretty head most of the gazers could easily see,
protected her from rough treatment.

Andreas spoke a few words of apology to those standing nearest to them,
and a young goldsmith at once courteously made way, so that Melissa, who
had taken a place behind a column, might see better.

And in a few minutes--there was that to see which made every one forget
the intruders. Vehicles and outriders, litters swung between mules, and
a long train of imperial footmen, in red tunics embroidered with
gold, huntsmen with leashes of noble dogs, baggage-wagons and loaded
elephants, came trooping down toward the Serapeum; while suddenly,
from the Aspendia into the Hermes Way, the Numidian horse rushed out,
followed by a troop of mounted lictors, who galloped up the street,
shouting their orders in loud tones to the imperial train, in a mixture
of Latin and Greek, of which Melissa understood only the words “Caesar!”
 and “Make way to the right!”

The command was instantly obeyed. Vehicles, foot-passengers, and riders
alike crowded to the southern or left-hand side of the road, and the
many-headed throng, of which Andreas and Melissa formed a part, drew as
far back as possible under the colonnade; for on the edge of the footway
there was the risk of being trampled on by a horse or crushed by a
wheel. The back rows of the populace, who had collected under the
arcades, were severely squeezed by this fresh pressure from without, and
their outcries were loud of anger, alarm; or pain; while on the other
side of the street arose shouts of delight and triumph, or, when
anything singular came into view, loud laughter at the wit and irony of
some jester. Added to these there were the clatter of hoofs and the roll
of wheels, the whinnying of horses, the shouts of command, the rattle of
drums, the blare of trumpets, and the shrill pipe of flutes, without
a moment’s pause. It was a wild and ear-splitting tumult; to Melissa,
however, neither painful nor pleasing, for the one idea, that she must
speak with the great physician, silenced every other. But suddenly there
came up from the east, from the rising of the sun, whose course Caesar
had followed, such a tremendous roar that she involuntarily clutched her
companion’s hand.

Every instant the storm of noise increased, rolling on with irresistible
vehemence, gathering force as it came on, receiving, as it were, fresh
tributaries on its way, and rapidly swelling from the distance to the
immediate vicinity, compelling every one, as with a magic power, to
yield to the superior will of numbers and join in the cry. Even Melissa
cheered. She, too, was as a drop in the tide, a leaf on the rippling
face of the rushing torrent; her heart beat as wildly and her voice rang
as clear as that of the rest of the throng, intoxicated with they knew
not what, which crowded the colonnades by the roadway, and every window
and roof-top, waving handkerchiefs, strewing flowers on the ground, and
wiping the tears which this unwonted excitement had brought to their
eyes.

And now the shout is so tremendous that it could not possibly be louder.
It seems as though it were the union of voices innumerable rather than
the seabreeze, which flutters the pennons and flags which wave from
every house and arch, and sways the garlands hung across the street.
Melissa can see none but flushed faces, eyes swimming in tears, parted
lips, wildly waving arms and hands. Then suddenly a mysterious power
hushes the loud tones close round her; she hears only here and there the
cry of “Caesar!” “He is coming!” “Here he is!”--and the swift tramp
of hoofs and the clatter of wheels sounding like the rattle of an iron
building after a peal of thunder, above the shouts of ten thousand human
beings. Closer it comes and closer, without a pause, and followed by
fresh shouting, as a flock of daws follow an owl flying across the
twilight, swelling again to irrepressible triumph as the expected
potentate rushes past Melissa and her neighbors. They only see Caesar
as a form scarcely discerned by the eye during the space of a
lightning-flash in a dark night.

Four tawny bay horses of medium size, dappled with black, harnessed
abreast and wide apart, fly along the cleared road like hunted foxes,
the light Gallic chariot at their heels. The wheels seem scarcely to
touch the smooth flags of the Alexandrian pavement. The charioteer wears
the red-bordered toga of the highest Roman officials. He is well known
by repute, and the subject of many a sharp jest; for this is Pandion,
formerly a stableboy, and now one of “Caesar’s friends,” a praetor, and
one of the great men of the empire. But he knows his business; and
what does Caracalla care for tradition or descent, for the murmurs and
discontent of high or low?

Pandion holds the reins with elegant composure, and urges the horses to
a frantic pace by a mere whistle, without ever using the whip. But why
is it that he whirls the mighty monarch of half a world, before whose
bloodthirsty power every one quakes, so swiftly past these eager
spectators? Sunk in the cushions on one side, Bassianus Antoninus is
reclining rather than sitting in the four-wheeled open chariot of Gallic
make which sweeps past. He does not vouchsafe a glance at the jubilant
crowd, but gazes down at the road, his well-shaped brow so deeply
furrowed with gloom that he might be meditating some evil deed.

It is easy to discern that he is of middle height; that his upper lip
and cheeks are unshaven, and his chin smooth; that his hair is already
thin, though he lacks two years of thirty; and that his complexion is
pale and sallow; indeed, his aspect is familiar from statues and coins,
many of which are of base metal.

Most of those who thus beheld the man who held in his hand the fate
of each individual he passed, as of the empire at large, involuntarily
asked themselves afterward what impression he had made on them; and
Caracalla himself would have rejoiced in the answer, for he aimed not at
being attractive or admired, but only at being feared. But, indeed,
they had long since learned that there was nothing too horrible to be
expected of him; and, now that they had seen him, they were of opinion
that his appearance answered to his deeds. It would be hard to picture
a more sinister and menacing looking man than this emperor, with his
averted looks and his haughty contempt for the world and mankind; and
yet there was something about him which made it difficult to take
him seriously, especially to an Alexandrian. There was a touch of
the grotesque in the Gallic robe with a red hood in which this
ominous-looking contemner of humanity was wrapped. It was called a
‘Caracalla’, and it was from this garment that Bassianus Antoninus had
gained his nickname.

The tyrant who wore this gaudy cloak was, no doubt, devoid alike of
truth and conscience; but, as to his being a philosopher, who knew the
worthlessness of earthly things and turned his back upon the world,
those who could might believe it! He was no more than an actor, who
played the part of Timon not amiss, and who made use of his public to
work upon their fears and enjoy the sight of their anguish. There was
something lacking in him to make one of those thorough-going haters of
their kind at whose mere aspect every knee must bend. The appearance, in
short, of this false philosopher was not calculated to subdue the rash
tongues of the Alexandrians.

To this many of them agreed; still, there was no time for such
reflections till the dust had shrouded the chariot, which vanished as
quickly as it had come, till the shouting was stilled, and the crowd
had spread over the roadway again. Then they began to ask themselves why
they had joined in the acclamations, and had been so wildly excited; how
it was that they had so promptly surrendered their self-possession
and dignity for the sake of this wicked little man. Perhaps it was his
unlimited control over the weal and woe of the world, over the life
and death of millions, which raised a mortal, not otherwise formed for
greatness, so far above common humanity to a semblance of divinity.
Perhaps it was the instinctive craving to take part in the grand
impulsive expression of thousands of others that had carried away each
individual. It was beyond a doubt a mysterious force which had compelled
every one to do as his neighbors did as soon as Caesar had appeared.

Melissa had succumbed with the rest; she had shouted and waved her
kerchief, and had not heeded Andreas when he held her hand and asked her
to consider what a criminal this man was whom she so eagerly hailed. It
was not till all was still again that she recollected herself, and her
determination to get the famous physician to visit her lover revived in
renewed strength.

Fully resolved to dare all, she looked about with calm scrutiny,
considering the ways and means of achieving her purpose without any aid
from Andreas. She was in a fever of impatience, and longed to force her
way at once into the Serapeum. But that was out of the question, for
no one moved from his place. There was, however, plenty to be seen. A
complete revulsion of feeling had come over the crowd. In the place of
Expectancy, its graceless step-child, Disappointment, held sway. There
were no more shouts of joy; men’s lungs were no longer strained to the
utmost, but their tongues were all the busier. Caesar was for the most
part spoken of with contempt as Tarautas, and with the bitterness--the
grandchild of Expectancy-which comes of disappointment. Tarautas had
originally been the name of a stunted but particularly bloodthirsty
gladiator, in whom ill-will had traced some resemblance to Caesar.

The more remarkable figures in the imperial train were curiously gazed
at and discussed. A worker in mosaic, who stood near Melissa, had been
employed in the decoration of the baths of Caracalla at Rome, and had
much information to impart; he even knew the names of several of the
senators and courtiers attached to Caesar. And, with all this, time was
found to give vent to discontent.

The town had done its utmost to make itself fine enough to receive the
emperor. Statues had been erected of himself, of his father, his mother,
and even of his favorite heroes, above all of Alexander the Great;
triumphal arches without number had been constructed. The vast halls
of the Serapeum, through which he was to pass, had been magnificently
decorated; and in front of the new temple, outside the Kanopic Gate,
dedicated to his father, who now ranked among the gods, the elders of
the town had been received by Caesar, to do him homage and offer him the
gifts of the city. All this had cost many talents, a whole heap of gold;
but Alexandria was wealthy, and ready to make even greater sacrifices if
only they had been accepted with thanks and condescension. But a young
actor, who had been a spectator of the scene at the Kanopic Gate, and
had then hurried hither, declared, with dramatic indignation, that
Caesar had only replied in a few surly words to the address of the
senate, and even while he accepted the gift had looked as if he were
being ill-used. The delegates had retired as though they had been
condemned to death. To none but Timotheus, the high-priest of Serapis,
had he spoken graciously.

Others confirmed this report; and dissatisfaction found expression in
muttered abuse or satirical remarks and bitter witticisms.

“Why did he drive past so quickly?” asked a tailor’s wife; and some one
replied:

“Because the Eumenides, who haunt him for murdering his brother, lash
him on with their whips of snakes!”

A spice-merchant; who was not less indignant but more cautious, hearing
a neighbor inquire why Tarautas drove panther-spotted horses, replied
that such beasts of prey had spotted skins, and that like to like was
a common rule. A cynical philosopher, who proclaimed his sect by his
ragged garment, unkempt hair, and rough mode of speech, declared that
Caesar had a senator to guide his chariot because he had long since
succeeded in turning the senate-house into a stable.

To all this, however, Melissa turned a deaf ear, for the thought of the
great Roman leech possessed her mind entirely. She listened earnestly
to the mosaic-worker, who had come close up to her, and officiously
mentioned the names of the most important personages as they went past.
Caesar’s train seemed endless. It included not merely horse and
foot soldiers, but numberless baggage-wagons, cars, elephants--which
Caracalla especially affected, because Alexander the Great had been
fond of these huge beasts--horses, mules, and asses, loaded with bales,
cases, tents, and camp and kitchen furniture. Mingling with these
came sutlers, attendants, pages, heralds, musicians, and slaves of the
imperial household, in knots and parties, looking boldly about them at
the bystanders. When they caught sight of a young and pretty woman on
the edge of the path, they would wave a greeting; and many expressed
their admiration of Melissa in a very insolent manner. Woolly-headed
negroes and swarthy natives of north Africa mixed with the fairer
dwellers on the Mediterranean and the yellow or red haired sons of
northern Europe. Roman lictors, and Scythian, Thracian, or Keltic
men-at-arms kept every one out of the way who did not belong to the
imperial train, with relentless determination. Only the Magians,
wonder-workers, and street wenches were suffered to push their way in
among the horses, asses, elephants, dogs, vehicles, and mounted troops.

Each time that one of the unwieldy traveling-carriages, drawn by several
horses, came in sight, in which the wealthy Roman was wont to take his
ease on a long journey, or whenever a particularly splendid litter was
borne past, Melissa asked the mosaic-worker for information. In some
few instances Andreas could satisfy her curiosity, for he had spent some
months at Antioch on a matter of business, and had there come to know by
sight some of Caesar’s most illustrious companions.

So far the great Galenus was not of the number; for Caracalla, who was
ailing, had but lately commanded his presence. The famous physician had
sailed for Pelusium, in spite of his advanced age, and had only just
joined the sovereign’s suite. The old man’s chariot had been pointed
out to the mosaic-worker at the Kanopic Gate, and he was certain that
he could not mistake it for any other; it was one of the largest and
handsomest; the side doors of it were decorated with the AEsculapius
staff and the cup of Hygeia in silver, and on the top were statuettes in
wood of Minerva and of AEsculapius. On hearing all this, Melissa’s face
beamed with happy and hopeful anticipation. With one hand pressed to
her throbbing bosom, she watched each vehicle as it drove past with such
intense expectancy that she paid no heed to Andreas’s hint that they
might now be able to make their way through the crowd.

Now--and the freedman had called her once more--here was another
monstrous conveyance, belonging to Julius Paulinus, the former consul,
whose keen face, with its bright, merry eyes, looked out between the
silken curtains by the side of the grave, unsympathetic countenance of
Dion Cassius the senator and historian.

The consul, her informant told her--and Andreas confirmed the
statement--had displeased Severus, Caracalla’s father, by some biting
jest, but, on being threatened with death, disarmed his wrath by saying,
“You can indeed have my head cut off, but neither you nor I can keep it
steady.”

Those of the populace who stood near enough to the speaker to hear this
anecdote broke out in loud cheers, in which they were joined by others
who had no idea of what had given rise to them.

The consul’s chariot was followed by a crowd of clients, domestic
officials, and slaves, in litters, on horses or mules, or on foot; and
behind these again came another vehicle, for some time concealed from
sight by dust. But when at last the ten fine horses which drew it had
gone past Melissa, and the top of the vehicle became visible, the color
mounted to her cheeks, for on the corners of the front she recognized
the figures of AEsculapius and Minerva, which, if the mosaic-worker were
right, distinguished the chariot of Galenus. She listened breathlessly
to the roll of the wheels of this coach, and she soon perceived the
silver AEsculapius staff and bowl on the wide door of this house on
wheels, which was painted blue. At an open window by the door a kindly
old face was visible, framed in long, gray hair.

Melissa started at hearing the order to halt shouted from the Serapeum,
far down the road, and again, close at hand, “Halt!” The procession came
to a standstill, the riders drew rein, the blue wheels ceased to turn,
the coach was immovable but a few steps in front of her, and her eyes
met those of the old man. The thought flashed through her brain that
Fate itself had brought about this pause just at this spot; and when she
heard the mosaic-worker exclaim, “The great Roman physician!” horses,
coach, and everything swam before her eyes; she snatched her hand away
from that of Andreas, and stepped out on the roadway. In an instant she
was standing face to face with the venerable leech.

She heard the warning voice of her companion, she saw the crowd staring
at her, she had, no doubt, a brief struggle with her maidenly shyness,
but she carried out her purpose. The thought that the gods themselves
were helping her to appeal to the only man who could save her lover,
encouraged her to defy every obstacle.

She was standing by the vehicle; and scarcely had she raised her sweet,
innocent, blushing face with pathetic and touching entreaty to the
white-haired Roman, her large, tear-filled eyes meeting his, when he
beckoned her to him, and in pleasant, sympathetic tones desired to know
what she wanted. Then she made bold to ask whether he were the great
Roman physician, and he replied with a flattered and kindly smile that
he was sometimes so called. Her thankful glance to heaven revealed what
a comfort his words were, and now her rosy lips moved freely, and she
hurriedly, but with growing courage, gave him to understand that her
betrothed, the son of a respected Roman citizen of Alexandria, was
lying badly wounded in the head by a stone, and that the leech who was
treating him had said that none but he, the great Galenus, could save
the young man’s life. She also explained that Ptolemaeus, though he had
said that Diodoros needed quiet above all things, had proposed to carry
him to the Serapeum, and to commend him there to the care of his greater
colleague, but that she feared the worst results from the move. She
glanced pleadingly into the Roman’s eyes, and added that he looked so
kind that she hoped that he would go instead to see the sufferer, who
had, quite by chance, been taken into a Christian house not very far
from the Serapeum, where he was being taken good care of, and--as a
matter of course--cure her lover.

The old man had only interrupted her tale with a few sly questions as
to her love-affair and her religion; for when she had told him that
Diodoros was under the care of Christians, it had occurred to him that
this simply but not poorly dressed girl, with her modest ways and sweet,
calm face, might herself be a Christian. He was almost surprised when
she denied it, and yet he seemed pleased, and promised to grant her
request. It was not fitting that a girl so young should enter any house
where Caesar and his train took up their abode; he would wait for her,
“there”--and he pointed to a small, round temple to Aphrodite, on
the left-hand side of the street of Hermes, where the road was rather
wider--for the coach had meanwhile slowly moved on.

Next day, at three hours after the rising of the fierce African sun--for
he could not bear its meridian heat--he would go thither in his litter.
“And be sure you are there in good time!” he added, shaking his finger
at her.

“If you come an hour too soon, you will find me waiting!” she cried.

He laughed, and said, “What pretty maid, indeed, would dare to be late
for an appointment under the very eyes of the goddess of Love!” He bade
her a friendly farewell, and lay back in the chariot.

Melissa, radiant with happiness, looked about her for the place where
she had left her companion. However, in spite of the lictors, Andreas
had followed her; he drew her hand under his arm, and led her through
the now-thinning crowd into a sidelane which led to the lake, opening
out of the colonnaded street opposite the little temple.

Melissa’s steps were winged. Her joy at having gained her end so quickly
and so easily was uppermost in her mind, and as they threaded their way
among the people she tried to tell Andreas what the great physician had
promised. But the noise drowned her speech, for at this moment Caesar’s
tame lion, named the “Sword of Persia” was being led through the street
by some Numidian slaves.

Every one was looking at the splendid beast; and, as she too turned to
gaze, her eye met the ardent glance of a tall, bearded man standing at
the window of a house just behind the round temple to Aphrodite. She at
once recognized Serapion, the Magian, and whispered his name to Andreas;
he, however, without looking round, only drew her along more quickly,
and did not breathe easily till they found themselves in the narrow,
deserted alley.

The Magian had observed her while she stood by the Roman’s chariot, and
his conversation with a Syrian of middle age in his company had been
of her. His companion’s appearance was as insignificant as his own was
stately and commanding. Nothing distinguished the Syrian from a thousand
of his fellows but the cunning stamped on his sharply-cut features;
still, the great Magian seemed to hold him in some esteem, for he
readily replied to the little man’s questions and remarks.

At this moment the Syrian waved his hand in the air with a gesture
common to men of his race when displaying their own superior knowledge,
as he said “What did I spend ten years in Rome for, if I do not know
Serenus Samonicus? He is the greatest book-collector in the empire. And
he regards himself as a second AEsculapius, and has written a book on
medicine in verse, which Geta, Caesar’s murdered brother, always had
about him, for he regarded the physicians here as mere bunglers. He is
as rich as the Alabarch, and riding in his coach is Galenus, for whom
Caesar sent. What can that girl want of him?”

“H’m!” muttered the other, stroking his beard with thoughtful dignity.
“She is a modest maiden; it can only be something urgent and important
which has prompted her to address the Roman.”

“Your Castor will be able to find out,” replied the Syrian Annianus.
“That omniscient rascal can get through a key-hole, and by to-morrow
will be the best friend of the Roman’s people, if you care to know.”

“We will see,” said Serapion. “Her brother, perhaps, to-morrow evening,
will tell me what is going on.”

“The philosopher?” said the other, with a contemptuous flourish. “You
are a great sage, Serapion, as the people hold; but you often sew with
needles too fine for me. Why, just now, when Caesar is here, and
gain and honor be in the streets for such a one as you only to stoop
for--why, I say, you should waste precious time on that poring fellow
from the Museum, I can not understand.”

A superior smile parted the Magian’s lips; he stepped back into the
room, followed by Annianus, and replied:

“You know how many who call themselves Magians will crowd round Caesar,
and the fame of Sosibius, Hananja, and Kaimis, is not much behind mine.
Each plies his art by his own formulas, though he may call himself a
Pythagorean or what not. None dare claim to belong to any recognized
school, since the philosophers of the guild pride themselves on
condemning the miracle-mongers. Now, in his youth, Caracalla went
through his courses of philosophy. He detests Aristotle, and has always
attached himself to Plato and the Pythagoreans. You yourself told me
that by his desire Philostratus is writing a life of Apollonius of
Tyana; and, though he may turn up his nose at the hair-splitting and
frittering of the sages of the Museum, it is in his blood to look
for marvels from those privileged philosophers. His mother has made
courtiers of them again; and he, who looks for everything from the magic
arts, has never yet met a Magian who could have been one of them.”

At this the Syrian clapped his hands, exclaiming: “And you propose to
use Philip as your signbearer to talk to the emperor of a thaumaturgist
who is hand in hand with all the learning of the Museum? A cursed good
idea! But the gem-cutter’s son does not look like a simpleton; and he is
a skeptic into the bargain, and believes in nothing. If you catch him, I
shall really and truly believe in your miraculous powers.”

“There are harder things than catching him,” said the Magian.

“You mean to break his will,” said the Syrian, looking down at the
ground, “by your eye and the laying on of hands, as you did mine and
Triphis’s two years ago?”

“That, no doubt, formed the first bond between us,” said Serapion. “I
now need only your ventriloquism. Philip himself will come half-way to
meet me on the main point.”

“And what is that?”

“You called him a skeptic, and he does, in fact, pride himself on going
further than the old masters of the school. Diligent study has brought
him to the point of regarding nothing as certain, but, on the other
hand, everything as possible. The last result he can arrive at is the
probability--since certainty there is none--that it is impossible ever
to know anything, be it what it may. He is always ready to listen with
sympathetic attention to the arguments for the reappearance of the souls
of the dead in the earthly form they have quitted, to visit and converse
with the living. He considers it a fallacy to say that anything is
impossible; and my arguments are substantial. Korinna will appear to
him. Castor has discovered a girl who is her very image. Your arts will
convince him that it is she who speaks to him, for he never heard her
voice in life, and all this must rouse his desire to see her again
and again. And thus the skeptic will be convinced, in spite of his own
doctrine. In this, as in every other case, it is the passionate wish
that gives rise to the belief.”

“And when you have succeeded in getting him to this point?” asked the
Syrian, anxiously.

“Then,” replied the Magian, “he will help me, with his triumphant
dialectics, to win Caesar over to the same conviction; and then we shall
be able to satisfy the emperor’s desire to hold intercourse with the
dead; and for that I count on your power of making voices proceed from
any person present.”

He said no more. The little man looked up at him approvingly, and said,
modestly: “You are indeed wise, Serapion, and I will do my best to help
you. The next thing to be done is to seek representatives of the
great Alexander, of Apollonius of Tyana, and of Caesar’s brother,
father-in-law, and wife.”

“Not forgetting Papinian, the noblest of his victims,” added the Magian.
“Back again already, Castor?”

These words were addressed to a tall and apparently elderly man in a
long white robe, who had slipped in without a sound. His demeanor was
so grave and dignified that he looked precisely like a Christian priest
impressed with the sanctity of his office; but hardly had he got into
the room, and greeted the Magian with much unction, than he pulled the
white garment off over his head, rubbed from his cheeks the lines which
gave him twenty added years, stretched his lithe limbs, and exclaimed
with delight:

“I have got her! Old Dorothea will bring her to your theatre!”--and the
young fellow’s mobile face beamed with the happy radiance of success.

It almost seemed as though fermenting wine flowed in the man’s veins
instead of blood; for, when he had made his report to the Magian, and
had been rewarded with a handful of gold-pieces, he tossed the coins
in the air, caught them like flies in the hollow of his hand, and then
pitched wheel fashion over head and heels from one end of the room
to the other. Then, when he stood on his feet once more, he went on,
without a sign of breathlessness:

“Forgive me, my lord! Nature asserts her rights. To play the pious for
three whole hours! Eternal gods, that is a hard task, and a man must--”

“I know all about it,” Serapion broke in with a smile and a threatening
finger. “Now go and stretch your limbs, and then share your lightly
earned gains with some pretty flute-player. But I want you again this
evening; so, if you feel weak, I shall lock you up.”

“Do,” said Castor, as earnestly as if he had been promised some
pleasure. “What a merry, good-for-nothing set they are!-Dorothea will
bring the girl at the appointed hour. Everything is arranged.”

Whereupon he danced out of the room, singing a tune.

“An invaluable creature!” said the Syrian, with an admiring glance.

“A better one spoiled,” said Serapion. “He has the very highest gifts,
but is utterly devoid of conscience to set a limit to his excesses.
How should he have one? His father was one of a troupe of Ephesian
pantomimists, and his mother a golden-haired Cyprian dancer. But he
knows every corner of Alexandria--and then, what a memory! What an actor
he would have made! Without even a change of dress, merely by a grimace,
he at once becomes an old man, an idiot, or a philosopher.”

“And what a genius for intrigue!” Annianus went on enthusiastically.
“As soon as he saw the portrait of Korinna he knew that he had seen her
double among the Christians on the other side of the lake. This morning
he tracked her out, and now she is caught in the snare. And how sharp of
him to make Dorothea bring her here!”

“I told him to do that, and use the name of Bishop Demetrius,” observed
the Magian. “She would not have come with a stranger, and Dorothea must
be known to her in the meetings of their congregation.”



CHAPTER IX.

While this conversation was taking place, Melissa and her companion had
reached the shore of the lake, the large inland sea which washed the
southern side of the city and afforded anchorage for the Nile-boats. The
ferry-boat which would convey them to the gardens of Polybius started
from the Agathodaemon Canal, an enlarged branch of the Nile, which
connected the lake with the royal harbor and the Mediterranean; they
had, therefore, to walk some distance along the shore.

The setting sun shot slanting rays on the glittering surface of the
glassy waters in which the numberless masts of the Nile-boats were
mirrored.

Vessels large and small, with white or gayly-painted lateen sails
gleaming in the evening glow, large galleys, light skiffs, and restless,
skimming pleasure-boats, were flitting to and fro; and among them, like
loaded wagons among chariots and horsemen, the low corn-barges scarcely
seemed to move, piled as they were with pyramids of straw and grain as
high as a house.

The bustle on the quay was less conspicuous than usual, for all who
were free to follow their curiosity had gone into the city. There were,
however, many slaves, and Caesar’s visit no more affected their day’s
toil than it did the course of the sun. To-day, as every other day, they
had to pack and unload; and though few ships were sailing, numbers were
arriving from the south, and throwing out the landing-bridges which
connected them with the shore.

The number of pleasure-boats, on the other hand, was greater than usual;
for business was suspended, and many who hated the crowd found pleasure
in rowing in their own boats. Others had come to see the imperial barge,
which had been newly furnished up, and which was splendid enough to
attract even the luxurious Alexandrians. Gold and ivory, purple sails,
bronze and marble statues at the prow and stern, and in the little
shrines on the after-deck, combined in a gorgeous display, made all the
more brilliant by the low sun, which added vividness to every hue.

It was pleasant to linger on the strand at this hour. Spreading
sycamores and plumed palms cast a pleasant shade; the heat of the day
had abated, and a light air, which always blew in from the lake, fanned
Melissa’s brow. There was no crushing mob, and no dust came up from the
well-watered roadway, and yet the girl had lost her cheerful looks,
in spite of the success of her bold venture; and Andreas walked by her
side, silent and ill-pleased.

She could not understand him; for, as long as she could remember, his
grave looks had always brightened at anything that had brought gladness
to her or to her mother. Besides, her success with the Roman would be
to the advantage of Diodoros, and the freedman was devoted to him.
Every now and then she perceived that his eye rested on her with a
compassionate expression, and when she inquired whether he were anxious
about the sufferer, he gave her some evasive answer, quite unlike his
usual decisive speech. This added to her alarm. At last his dissatisfied
and unsatisfactory replies vexed the usually patient girl, and she told
him so; for she could not suspect how painfully her triumph in her hasty
deed jarred on her truth-loving friend. He knew that it was not to
the great Galenus, but to the wealthy Serenus Samonicus, that she had
spoken; for the physician’s noble and thoughtful features were familiar
to him from medals, statues, and busts. He had seen Samonicus, too, at
Antioch, and held his medical lore, as expressed in verse, very cheap.
How worthless would this man’s help be! In spite of his promise,
Diodoros would after all have to be conveyed to the Serapeum; and yet
Andreas could not bear to crush his darling’s hopes.

He had hitherto known her as a patient, dutiful child; to-day he had
seen with what unhesitating determination she could carry out a purpose;
and he feared that, if he told her the truth, she would at once make her
way into Caesar’s quarters, in defiance of every obstacle, to crave the
assistance of the true Galen. He must leave her in error, and yet
he could not bear to do so, for there was no art in which he was so
inexpert as that of deceit. How hard it was to find the right answer,
when she asked him whether he did not hope everything from the great
physician’s intervention, or when she inquired what were the works to
which Galen owed his chief fame!

As they came near to the landing-stage whence the ferry started, she
wanted to know how old he should suppose the Roman leech to be; and
again he avoided answering, for Galen was above eighty, and Serenus
scarcely seventy.

She looked up at him with large, mournful eyes, saying, “Have I offended
you, or is there something you are concealing from me?”

“What could you do to offend me?” he replied; “life is full of sorrows,
my child. You must learn to have patience.”

“Patience!” echoed Melissa, sadly. “That is the only knowledge I have
ever mastered. When my father is more sullen than you are, for a week at
a time, I scarcely heed it. But when you look like that, Andreas, it is
not without cause, and that is why I am anxious.”

“One we love is very sick, child,” he said, soothingly; but she was not
to be put off so, and exclaimed with conviction:

“No, no, it is not that. We have learned nothing fresh about
Diodoro--and you were ready enough to answer me when we came away from
the Christian’s house. Nothing but good has happened to us since, and
yet you look as if the locusts had come down on your garden.”

They had reached a spot on the shore where a ship was being unloaded
of its cargo of granite blocks from Syene. Black and brown slaves were
dragging them to land. An old blind man was piping a dismal tune on
a small reed flute to encourage them in their work, while two men of
fairer hue, whose burden had been too heavy for them, had let the end
of the column they were carrying sink on the ground, and were being
mercilessly flogged by the overseer to make them once more attempt the
impossible.

Andreas had watched the scene; a surge of fury had brought the blood to
his face, and, stirred by great and genuine emotion, he broke out:

“There--there you see the locusts which destroy my garden--the
hail which ruins my crops! It falls on all that bears the name of
humanity--on me and you. Happy, girl? None of us can ever be happy till
the Kingdom shall arise for which the fullness of the time is come.”

“But they dropped the column; I saw them myself,” urged Melissa.

“Did you, indeed?” said Andreas. “Well, well, the whip, no doubt, can
revive exhausted powers. And that is how you look upon such deeds!--you,
who would not crush a worm in the garden, think this is right and just!”

It suddenly struck Melissa that Andreas, too, had once been a slave,
and the feeling that she had hurt him grieved her to the heart. She had
often heard him speak sternly and gravely, but never in scorn as he did
now, and that, too, distressed her; and as she could not think of the
right thing to say in atonement for the wrong she had done, she could
only look up with tearful entreaty and murmur, “Forgive me!”

“I have nothing to forgive,” he replied in an altered tone. “You have
grown up among the unjust who are now in power. How should you see more
clearly than they, who all walk in darkness? But if the light should
be shown to you by one to whom it hath been revealed, it would not be
extinguished again.--Does it not seem a beautiful thing to you to live
among none but brethren and sisters, instead of among oppressors and
their scourged victims; or is there no place in a woman’s soul for the
holy wrath that came upon Moses the Hebrew? But who would ever have
spoken his great name to you?”

Melissa was about to interrupt his vehement speech, for, in a town where
there were so many Jews, alike among the citizens and the slaves, even
she had heard that Moses had been their lawgiver; but he prevented her,
by adding hastily: “This only, child, I would have you remember--for
here is the ferry--the worst ills that man ever inflicts on his
fellow-man are the outcome of self-interest; and, of all the good he may
do, the best is the result of his achieving self-forgetfulness to secure
the happiness and welfare of others.”

He said no more, for the ferry-boat was about to put off, and they had
to take their places as quickly as possible.

The large flat barge was almost unoccupied; for the multitude still
lingered in the town, and more than one seat was empty for the weary
girl to rest on. Andreas paced to and fro, for he was restless; but
when Melissa beckoned to him he came close to her, and, while he leaned
against the little cabin, received her assurance that she now quite
understood his desire to see all slaves made free. He, if any one, must
know what the feelings of those unhappy creatures were.

“Do I not know!” he exclaimed, with a shake of the head. Then, glancing
round at the few persons who were sitting at the other end of the boat,
he went on sadly: “To know that, a man must himself have been branded
with the marks of his humiliation.” He showed her his arm, which was
usually hidden by the long sleeve of his tunic, and Melissa exclaimed in
sorrowful surprise: “But you were free-born! and none of our slaves bear
such a brand. You must have fallen into the hands of Syrian pirates.”

He nodded, and added, “I and my father.”

“But he,” the girl eagerly put in, “was a great man.”

“Till Fate overtook him,” Andreas said.

Melissa’s tearful eyes showed the warm sympathy she felt, as she asked:

“But how could it have happened that you were not ransomed by your
relations? Your father was, no doubt, a Roman citizen; and the law--”

“The law forbids that such a one should be sold into slavery,” Andreas
broke in, “and yet the authorities of Rome left him in misery--left--”

At this, her large, gentle eyes flashed with indignation, and, stirred
to the depths of her nature, she exclaimed:

“How was such horrible injustice possible? Oh, let me hear. You know how
truly I love you, and no one can hear you.”

The wind had risen, the waves splashed noisily against the broad boat,
and the song of the slaves, as they plied their oars, would have drowned
a stronger voice than the freedman’s; so he sat down by her side to do
her bidding.

And the tale he had to tell was sad indeed.

His father had been of knightly rank, and in the reign of Marcus
Aurelius he had been in the service of Avidius Cassius, his
fellow-countryman, the illustrious governor of Asia as ‘procurator ab
epistolis’. As holding this high post, he found himself involved in the
conspiracy of Avidius against the emperor. After the assassination
of his patron, who had already been proclaimed emperor by the troops,
Andreas’s father had been deprived of his offices, his citizenship, and
his honors; his possessions were confiscated, and he was exiled to the
island of Anaphe. It was to Caesar’s clemency that he owed his life.

On their voyage into exile the father and son fell into the hands of
Syrian pirates, and were sold in the slave-market of Alexandria to two
separate masters. Andreas was bought by a tavern-keeper; the procurator,
whose name as a slave was Smaragdus, by the father of Polybius; and
this worthy man soon learned to value his servant so highly, that he
purchased the son also, and restored him to his father. Thus they were
once more united.

Every attempt of the man who had once held so proud a position to get
his release, by an act of the senate, proved vain. It was with a broken
heart and enfeebled health that he did his duty to his master and to his
only child. He pined in torments of melancholy, till Christianity opened
new happiness to him, and revived hope brought him back from the very
brink of despair; and, even as a slave, he found the highest of all
dignities--that, namely, which a Christian derives from his faith.

At this point Melissa interrupted her friend’s narrative, exclaiming, as
she pointed across the waters:

“There! there! look! In that boat--I am sure that is Alexander! And he
is making for the town.”

Andreas started up, and after convincing himself that she was indeed
right, for the youth himself had recognized his sister, who waved her
hand to him, he wrathfully exclaimed:

“Madman!” and by intelligible and commanding signs he ordered the
reckless young artist to turn his little skiff, and follow in the wake
of the ferry-boat, which was by this time nearing land.

But Alexander signaled a negative, and, after gayly blowing a kiss to
Melissa, plied his oars again with as much speed and energy as though he
were rowing for a wager. How swiftly and steadily the keel of his little
boat cut through the crisply foaming waves on which it rose and fell!
The daring youth did not lack strength, that was certain, and the couple
who watched him with so much uneasiness soon understood that he was
striving to overtake another and larger bark which was at some distance
in front of him. It was being pulled by slaves, whose stalwart arms made
the pace a good one, and under the linen awning which shaded the middle
part of it two women were seated.

The rays of the sun, whose fiery globe was now sinking behind the
palm-groves on the western shore, flooded the sky with ruby light,
and tinged the white robes of these women, the light canopy over their
heads, and the whole face of the lake, with a rosy hue; but neither
Andreas nor his companion heeded the glorious farewell of departing day.

Melissa pointed out to her friend the strangeness of her brother’s
attire, and the hood which, in the evening light, seemed to be bordered
with gold. He had on, in fact, a Gallic mantle, such as that which had
gained Caesar the nickname of Caracalla, and there was in this disguise
something to reassure them; for, if Alexander pulled the hood low
enough, it would hide the greater part of his face, and make it
difficult to recognize him. Whence he had procured this garment was not
hard to divine, for imperial servants had distributed them in numbers
among the crowd. Caesar was anxious to bring them into fashion, and it
might safely be expected that those Alexandrians who had held out their
hands to accept them would appear in them on the morrow, as no order
required that they should be worn. Alexander could not do better than
wear one, if only by such means he could escape Zminis and his men.

But who were the women he was pursuing? Before Melissa could ask the
question, Andreas pointed to the foremost boat, and said:

“Those are Christian women, and the bark they are in belongs to Zeno,
the brother of Seleukus and of the high-priest of Serapis. That is his
landing-creek. He lives with his family, and those of the faith to whom
he affords refuge, in the long, white house you can just see there among
the palm-trees. Those vineyards, too, are his. If I am not mistaken, one
of the ladies in that boat is his daughter, Agatha.”

“But what can Alexander want of two Christian women?” asked Melissa.

Andreas fired up, and a vein started on his high forehead as he retorted
angrily:

“What should he not want! He and those who are like him--the
blind--think nothing so precious as what satisfies the eye.--There! the
brightness has vanished which turned the lake and the shore to gold.
Such is beauty!--a vain show, which only glitters to disappear, and is
to fools, nevertheless, the supreme object of adoration!”

“Then, is Zeno’s daughter fair?” asked the girl.

“She is said to be,” replied the other; and after a moment’s pause he
added: “Yes, Agatha is a rarely accomplished woman; but I know better
things of her than that. It stirs my gall to think that her sacred
purity can arouse unholy thoughts. I love your brother dearly; for
your mother’s sake I can forgive him much; but if he tries to ensnare
Agatha--”

“Have no fear,” said Melissa, interrupting his wrathful speech.
“Alexander is indeed a butterfly, fluttering from flower to flower,
and apt to be frivolous over serious matters, but at this moment he
is enslaved by a vision--that of a dead girl; and only last night, I
believe, he pledged himself to Ino, the pretty daughter of our neighbor
Skopas. Beauty is to him the highest thing in life; and how should it be
otherwise, for he is an artist! For the sake of beauty he defies
every danger. If you saw rightly, he is no doubt in pursuit of Zeno’s
daughter, but most likely not to pay court to her, but for some other
season.”

“No praiseworthy reason, you may be sure,” said Andreas. “Here we are.
Now take your kerchief out of the basket. It is damp and cool after
sundown, especially over there where I am draining the bog. The land
we are reclaiming by this means will bring your future husband a fine
income some day.”

They disembarked, and ere long reached the little haven belonging to
Polybius’s estate. There were boats moored there, large and small, and
Andreas hailed the man who kept them, and who sat eating his supper, to
ask him whether he had unmoored the green skiff for Alexander.

At this the old fellow laughed, and said: “The jolly painter and his
friend, the sculptor, met Zeno’s daughter just as she was getting into
her boat with Mariamne. Down they came, running as if they had gone mad.
The girl must have turned their heads. My lord Alexander would have it
that he had seen the spirit of one who was dead, and he would gladly
give his life to see her once again.”

It was now dark, or it would have alarmed Melissa to see the ominous
gravity with which Andreas listened to this tale; but she herself was
sufficiently startled, for she knew her brother well, and that no risk,
however great, would stop him if his artistic fancy were fired. He, whom
she had believed to be in safety, had gone straight into the hands of
the pursuers; and with him caution and reflection were flown to the
winds when passion held sway. She had hoped that her friend Ino had at
last captured the flutterer, and that he would begin to live a settled
life with her, as master of a house of his own; and now, for a
pretty face, he had thrown everything to the winds, even the duty of
self-preservation. Andreas had good reason to be angry, and he spoke no
more till they reached their destination, a country house of handsome
and important aspect.

No father could have received his future daughter more heartily than did
old Polybius. The fiend gout racked his big toes, stabbing, burning, and
nipping them. The slightest movement was torture, and yet he held out
his arms to her for a loving embrace, and, though it made him shut his
eyes and groan, he drew her pretty head down, and kissed her cheeks and
hair. He was now a heavy man, of almost shapeless stoutness, but in
his youth he must have resembled his handsome son. Silvery locks flowed
round his well-formed head, but a habit of drinking wine, which, in
spite of the gout, he could not bring himself to give up, had flushed
his naturally good features, and tinged them of a coppery red, which
contrasted strangely with his snowy hair and beard. But a kind heart,
benevolence, and a love of good living, beamed in every look.

His heavy limbs moved but slowly, and if ever full lips deserved to be
called sensual, they were those of this man, who was a priest of two
divinities.

How well his household understood the art of catering for his love
of high living, was evident in the meal which was served soon after
Melissa’s arrival, and to eat which the old man made her recline on the
couch by his side.

Andreas also shared the supper; and not the attendant slaves only, but
Dame Praxilla, the sister of their host, whose house she managed, paid
him particular honor. She was a widow and childless, and, even during
the lifetime of Diodoros’s mother, she had given her heart, no longer
young, to the freedman, without finding her love returned or even
observed. For his sake she would have become a Christian, though she
regarded herself as so indispensable to her brother that she had rarely
left him to hold intercourse with other Christians. Nor did Andreas
encourage her; he doubted her vocation. Whatever happened in the house,
the excitable woman made it her own concern; and, although she had known
Melissa from childhood, and was as fond of her as she could be of
the child of “strangers,” the news that Diodoros was to marry the
gem-cutter’s daughter was displeasing to her. A second woman in the
house might interfere with her supremacy; and, as an excuse for her
annoyance, she had represented to her brother that Diodoros might
look higher for a wife. Agatha, the beautiful daughter of their rich
Christian neighbor Zeno, was the right bride for the boy.

But Polybius had rated her sharply, declaring that he hoped for no
sweeter daughter than Melissa, who was quite pretty enough, and in whose
veins as pure Macedonian blood flowed as in his own. His son need look
for no wealth, he added with a laugh, since he would some day inherit
his aunt’s.

In fact, Praxilla owned a fine fortune, increasing daily under the care
of Andreas, and she replied:

“If the young couple behave so well that I do not rather choose to
bestow my pittance on worthier heirs.”

But the implied threat had not disturbed Polybius, for he knew his
sister’s ways. The shriveled, irritable old lady often spoke words hard
to be forgiven, but she had not a bad heart; and when she learned that
Diodoros was in danger, she felt only how much she loved him, and her
proposal to go to the town next morning to nurse him was sincerely
meant.

But when her brother retorted: “Go, by all means; I do not prevent you!”
 she started up, exclaiming:

“And you, and your aches and pains! How you get on when once my back is
turned, we know by experience. My presence alone is medicine to you.”
 “And a bitter dose it is very often,” replied the old man, with a laugh;
but Praxilla promptly retorted: “Like all effectual remedies. There is
your ingratitude again!”

The last words were accompanied by a whimper, so Polybius, who could not
bear to see any but cheerful faces, raised his cup and drank her health
with kindly words. Then refilling the tankard, he poured a libation, and
was about to empty it to Melissa’s health, but Praxilla’s lean frame was
standing by his side as quickly as though a serpent had stung her. She
was drawing a stick of asparagus between her teeth, but she hastily
dropped it on her plate, and with both hands snatched the cup from her
brother, exclaiming:

“It is the fourth; and if I allow you to empty it, you are a dead man!”

“Death is not so swift,” replied Polybius, signing to a slave to bring
him back the cup. But he drank only half of it, and, at his sister’s
pathetic entreaties, had more water mixed with the wine. And while
Praxilla carefully prepared his crayfish--for gout had crippled even his
fingers--he beckoned to his white-haired body-slave, and with a cunning
smile made him add more wine to the washy fluid. He fixed his twinkling
glance on Melissa, to invite her sympathy in his successful trick, but
her appearance startled him. How pale the child was--how dejected and
weary her sweet face, with the usually bright, expressive eyes!

It needed not the intuition of his kind heart to tell him that she was
completely exhausted, and he desired his sister to take her away to bed.
But Melissa was already sound asleep, and Praxilla would not wake her.
She gently placed a pillow under her head, laid her feet easily on the
couch, and covered them with a wrap. Polybius feasted his eyes on the
fair sleeper; and, indeed, nothing purer and more tender can be imagined
than the girl’s face as she lay in dreamless slumber.

The conversation was now carried on in subdued tones, so as not to
disturb her, and Andreas completed the history of the day by informing
them that Melissa had, by mistake, engaged the assistance not of the
great Galen but of another Roman practiced in the healing art, but of
less illustrious proficiency. He must, therefore, still have Diodoros
conveyed to the Serapeum, and this could be done very easily in the
morning, before the populace should again besiege the temple. He must
forthwith go back to make the necessary arrangements. Praxilla whispered
tenderly:

“Devoted man that you are, you do not even get your night’s rest.” But
Andreas turned away to discuss some further matters with Polybius;
and, in spite of pain, the old man could express his views clearly and
intelligently.

At last he took his leave; and now Praxilla had to direct the slaves who
were to carry her brother to bed. She carefully arranged the cushions
on his couch, and gave him his medicine and night-draught. Then she
returned to Melissa, and the sight of the sleeping girl touched her
heart. She stood gazing at her for some time in silence, and then bent
over her to wake her with a kiss. She had at last made up her mind to
regard the gem-cutter’s daughter as her niece, so, determined to treat
her as a child of her own, she called Melissa by name.

This awoke the sleeper, and when she had realized that she was still in
Polybius’s eating-room, she asked for Andreas.

“He has gone back to the town, my child,” replied Praxilla. “He was
anxious about your betrothed.”

“Is he worse, then?” asked Melissa, in alarm. “No, no,” said the widow,
soothingly. “It is only--I assure you we have heard nothing new--”

“But what then?” Melissa inquired. “The great Galen is to see him early
to-morrow.” Praxilla tried to divert her thoughts. But as the girl would
take no answer to her declaration that Galen himself had promised to
see Diodoros, Praxilla, who was little used to self-command, and who was
offended by her persistency, betrayed the fact that Melissa had spoken
to the wrong man, and that Andreas was gone to remove Diodoros to the
Serapeum.

At this, Melissa suddenly understood why Andreas had not rejoiced with
her, and at the same time she said to herself that her lover must on no
account be exposed to so great a danger without her presence. She must
lend her aid in transporting him to the Serapeum; and when she firmly
expressed her views to the widow, Praxilla was shocked, and sincerely
repented of having lost her self-control. It was far too late, and when
the housekeeper came into the room and gladly volunteered to accompany
Melissa to the town, Praxilla threatened to rouse her brother, that he
might insist on their remaining at home; but at last she relented, for
the girl, she saw, would take her own way against any opposition.

The housekeeper had been nurse to Diodoros, and had been longing to
help in tending him. When she left the house with Melissa, her eyes were
moist with tears of joy and thankfulness.



CHAPTER X.

The Nubian boat-keeper and his boy had soon ferried them across the
lake. Melissa and her companion then turned off from the shore into
a street which must surely lead into that where the Christians dwelt.
Still, even as she went on, she began to be doubtful whether she had
taken the right one; and when she came out by a small temple, which she
certainly had not seen before, she knew not which way to go, for the
streets here crossed each other in a perfect labyrinth, and she was soon
obliged to confess to her companion that she had lost her road. In the
morning she had trusted herself to Andreas’s knowledge of the town, and
while talking eagerly to him had paid no heed to anything else.

What was to be done? She stood meditating; and then she remembered the
spot where she had seen Caesar drive past. This she thought she could
certainly recognize, and from thence make her way to the street she
sought.

It was quite easy to find the street of Hermes, for the noise of the
revelers, who were to-night even more numerous than usual in this busy
highway, could be heard at a considerable distance. They must follow its
guidance till they should come to the little temple of Aphrodite; and
that was a bold enterprise, for the crowd of men who haunted the spot at
this hour might possibly hinder and annoy two unescorted women. However,
the elder woman was sturdy and determined, and sixty years of age; while
Melissa feared nothing, and thought herself sufficiently protected when
she had arranged her kerchief so as to hide her face from curious eyes.

As she made her way to the wide street with a throbbing heart, but
quite resolved to find the house she sought at any cost, she heard men’s
voices on a side street; however, she paid no heed to them, for how,
indeed, could she guess that what they were saying could nearly concern
her?

The conversation was between a woman and a man in the white robe of a
Christian priest. They were standing at the door of a large house; and
close to the wall, in the shadow of the porch of a building opposite,
stood a youth, his hair covered by the hood of a long caracalla,
listening with breathless attention.

This was Alexander.

He had been standing here for some time already, waiting for the return
of Agatha, the fair Christian whom he had followed across the lake, and
who had vanished into that house under the guidance of a deaconess.
The door had not long closed on them when several men had also been
admitted, whom he could not distinguish in the darkness, for the street
was narrow and the moon still low.

It was sheer folly--and yet he fancied that one of them was his father,
for his deep, loud voice was precisely like that of Heron; and, what was
even more strange, that of the man who answered him seemed to proceed
from his brother Philip. But, at such an hour, he could more easily have
supposed them to be on the top of Mount Etna than in this quarter of the
town.

The impatient painter was very tired of waiting, so, seating himself on
a feeding-manger for asses which stood in front of the adjoining house,
he presently fell asleep. He was tired from the sleepless night he had
last spent, and when he opened his eyes once more and looked down the
street into which the moon was now shining, he did not know how long
he had been slumbering. Perhaps the damsel he wanted to see had already
left the house, and he must see her again, cost him what it might; for
she was so amazingly like the dead Korinna whom he had painted, that
he could not shake off the notion that perhaps--for, after Serapion’s
discourse, it seemed quite likely--perhaps he had seen the spirit of the
departed girl.

He had had some difficulty in persuading Glaukias, who had come
across the lake with him, to allow him to follow up the fair vision
unaccompanied; and his entreaties and prohibitions would probably alike
have proved vain, but that Glaukias held taken it into his head to show
his latest work, which a slave was carrying, to some friends over a jar
of wine. It was a caricature of Caesar, whom he had seen at the Kanopic
Gate, modeled while he was in the house of Polybius, with a few happy
touches.

When Alexander woke, he crept into the shadow of the porch opposite to
the house into which Korinna’s double had disappeared, and he now had no
lack of entertainment. A man came out of the tall white house and looked
into the street, and the moonlight enabled the artist to see all that
took place.

The tall youth who had come to the door wore the robe of a Christian
priest. Still, it struck Alexander that he was too young for such a
calling; and he soon detected that he was certainly not what he seemed,
but that there was some treachery in the wind; for no sooner had a woman
joined him, whom he evidently expected, than she blamed him for his want
of caution. To this he laughingly replied that he was too hot in his
disguise, and, pulling out a false beard, he showed it to the woman, who
was dressed as a Christian deaconess, exclaiming, “That will do it!”

He went on to tell her, in a quick, low tone, much of which escaped
the listener, that Serapion had dared much that day, and that the
performance had ended badly, for that the Christian girl he had so
cleverly persuaded to come from the other side of the lake had taken
fright, and had insisted on knowing where she was.

At this the deaconess seemed somewhat dismayed, and poured out endless
questions in a low voice. He, however, cast all the blame on the
philosopher, whom his master had got hold of the day before. Then, as
the woman desired more particular information, he briefly told her the
story.

The fair Agatha, he said, after being invited by him, at noon, in the
name of Bishop Demetrius, to a meeting that evening, had reached the
ferryhouse at about sunset. She had been told that many things of
immediate importance were to be announced to the maidens of the
Christian congregation; more especially, a discussion was to be held as
to the order issued by the prefect for their taking part in a procession
in Caesar’s honor when he should quit Alexandria. Old Dorothea had met
the girl at the ferry-house, and had brought her hither. The woman who
had attended her across the lake was certainly none of the wisest, for
Dorothea had easily persuaded her to remain in her house during the
meeting.

“Once there,” the sham priest went on, “the girl’s waiting-woman must
have had some dose in wine or sirup and water, for she is fast asleep
at this moment in the ferry-house, or wherever Dorothea took her, as she
could not be allowed to wake under Dorothea’s roof.

“Thus every one was out of the way who could make any mischief; and when
the Syrian, dressed as a Christian priest, had explained to Agatha what
the patriarch required of his maidens, I led her on to the stage, on
which the spectators were to see the ghosts through a small opening.

“The Syrian had desired her to put up so many and such prayers for the
congregation in its peril from Caesar; and, by Aphrodite! she was as
docile as a lamb. She fell on her knees, and with hands and eyes to
heaven entreated her god. But hark!

“Did you hear anything? Something is stirring within. Well, I have
nearly done.

“The philosopher was to see her thus, and when he had gazed at her as
if bewitched for some little time through the small window, he suddenly
cried out, ‘Korinna! Korinna!’ and all sorts of nonsense, although
Serapion had strictly forbidden him to utter a sound. Of course, the
curtain instantly dropped. But Agatha had heard him call, and in a great
fright she wanted to know where she was, and asked to go home.--Serapion
was really grand. You should have heard how the fox soothed the dove,
and at the same time whispered to me what you now are to do!”

“I?” said the woman, with some annoyance. “If he thinks that I will risk
my good name in the congregation for the sake of his long beard--”

“Just be quiet,” said Castor, in a pacifying tone. “The master’s beard
has nothing to do with the case, but something much more substantial.
Ten solidi, full weight, shall be yours if you will take Agatha home
with you, or safe across the lake again, and pretend to have saved her
from mystics or magicians who have decoyed her to some evil end. She
knows you as a Christian deaconess, and will go with you at once. If you
restore her to her father, he is rich, and will not send you empty away.
Tell him that you heard her voice out in the street, and with the help
of a worthy old man--that am I--rescued her from any peril you may
invent. If he asks you where the heroic deed was done, name any house
you please, only not this. Your best plan is to lay it all on the
shoulders of Hananja, the thaumaturgist; we have owed him a grudge this
many a day. However, I was not to teach you any lesson, for your wits
are at least a match for ours.”

“Flattery will not win me,” the woman broke in. “Where is the gold?”

Castor handed her the solidi wrapped in a papyrus leaf, and then added:

“Stay one moment! I must remove this white robe. The girl must on no
account recognize me. I am going to force my way into the house with
you--you found me in the street, an old man, a total stranger, and
appealed to me for help. No harm is done, nothing lost but Dorothea’s
credit among the Christians. We may have to get her safe out of the
town. I must escort you and Agatha, for nothing unpleasant must happen
to her on the way home. The master is imperative on that point, and so
much beauty will certainly not get through the crowded streets without
remark. And for my part, I, of course, am thinking of yours.”

Here Castor laughed aloud, and rolled the white robe into a bundle.
Alexander peeped out of his nook and shook his head in amazement, for
the supple youth, who a moment before stood stalwart and upright, had
assumed, with a bent attitude and a long, white beard hastily placed on
his chin, the aspect of a weary, poor old man.

“I will give you a lesson!” muttered Alexander to himself, and he shook
his fist at the intriguing rascal as he vanished into the house with the
false deaconess.

So Serapion was a cheat! And the supposed ghost of Korinna was a
Christian maiden who was being shamefully deluded. But he would keep
watch over her, and bring that laughing villain to account. The first
aim of his life was not to lose sight of Agatha. His whole happiness,
he felt, depended on that. The gods had, as it were, raised her from the
dead for him; in her, everything that he most admired was united; she
was the embodiment of everything he cared for and prized; every feeling
sank into the shade beside the one desire to make her his. She was,
at this moment, the universe to him; and all else--the pursuers at his
heels, his father, his sister, pretty Ino, to whom he had vowed his love
only the night before--had ceased to exist for him.

Possessed wholly by the thought of her, he never took his eyes off the
door opposite; and when at last the maiden came out with the deaconess,
whom she called Elizabeth, and with Castor, Alexander followed the
ill-matched trio; and he had to be brisk, for at first they hurried
through the streets as though they feared to be overtaken. He carefully
kept close to the houses on the shady side, and when they presently
stopped, so did he.

The deaconess inquired of Agatha whither she would be taken. But when
the girl replied that she must go back to her own boat, waiting at
the ferry, and return home, the deaconess represented that this was
impossible by reason of the drunken seamen, who at this hour made the
strand unsafe; she could only advise Agatha to come home with her and
remain till daybreak. “This kind old man,” and she pointed to Castor,
“would no doubt go and tell the oarsmen that they were not to be uneasy
at her absence.”

The two women stood talking in the broad moonlight, and the pale
beams fell on Agatha’s beautiful unveiled features, giving them that
unearthly, corpse-like whiteness which Alexander had tried to represent
in his picture of Korinna. Again the thought that she was risen from the
dead sent a chill through his blood--that she would make him follow her,
perhaps to the tomb she had quitted. He cared not! If his senses had
cheated him--if,--in spite of what he had heard, that pale, unspeakably
lovely image were indeed a lamia, a goblin shape from Hecate’s dark
abode, yet would he follow wherever she might lead, as to a festival,
only to be with her.

Agatha thanked the deaconess, and as she spoke raised her eyes to the
woman’s face; and they were two large, dark orbs sparkling through
tears, and as unlike as possible to the eyes which a ghost might snatch
from their sockets to fling like balls or stones in the face of a
pursuer. Oh, if only those eyes might look into his own as warmly and
gratefully as they now gazed into the face of that treacherous woman!

He had a hard struggle with himself to subdue the impulse to put an
end, now and here, to the fiendish tricks which guile was playing on the
purest innocence; but the street was deserted, and if he had to struggle
with the bent old man, whose powerful and supple limbs he had already
seen, and if the villain should plant a knife in his ribs--for as
a wrestler he felt himself his match--Agatha would be bereft of a
protector and wholly in the deceiver’s power.

This, at any rate, must not be, and he even controlled himself when
he heard the music of her words, and saw her grasp the hand of the
pretended graybeard, who, with an assumption of paternal kindness, dared
to kiss her hair, and then helped her to draw her kerchief over her
face. The street of Hermes, he explained, where the deaconess dwelt,
was full of people, and the divine gift of beauty, wherewith Heaven had
blessed her, would attract the baser kind, as a flame attracts bats and
moths. The hypocrite’s voice was full of unction; the deaconess spoke
with pious gravity. He could see that she was a woman of middle age, and
he asked himself with rising fury whether the gods were not guilty who
had lent mean wretches like these such winning graces as to enable
them to lay traps for the guileless? For, in fact, the woman’s face was
well-favored, gentle, and attractive.

Alexander never took his gaze off Agatha, and his artist-eye reveled
in her elastic step and her slender, shapely form. Above all, he was
bewitched by the way her head was set, with a little forward bend; and
as long as the way led through the silent lanes he was never weary of
comparing her with lovely images-with a poppy, whose flower bows the
stem; with a willow, whose head leans over the water; with the huntress
Artemis, who, chasing in the moonlight, bends to mark the game.

Thus, unwearied and unseen, he had followed them as far as the street of
Hermes; there his task became more difficult, for the road was swarming
with people. The older men were walking in groups of five or six, going
to or coming from some evening assembly, and talking as they walked; or
priests and temple servants on their way home, tired from night services
and ceremonies; but the greater number were young men and boys, some
wearing wreaths, and all more or less intoxicated, with street-wenches
on the lookout for a companion or surrounded by suitors, and trying to
attract a favorite or dismiss the less fortunate.

The flare of the torches which illuminated the street was mirrored in
eager eyes glowing with wine and passion, and in the glittering weapons
of the Roman soldiery. Most of these were attached to Caesar’s train. As
in the field, so in the peaceful town, they aimed at conquest, and many
a Greek sulkily resigned his claims to some fickle beauty in favor of an
irresistible tribune or centurion. Where the courteous Alexandrians
made way, they pushed in or thrust aside whatever came in their
path, securely confident of being Caesar’s favorite protectors, and
unassailable while he was near. Their coarse, barbaric tones shook the
air, and reduced the Greeks to silence; for, even in his drunken and
most reckless moods, the Greek never lost his subtle refinement. The
warriors rarely met a friendly glance from the eye of a native; still,
the gold of these lavish revelers was as welcome to the women as that of
a fellow-countryman.

The blaze of light shone, too, on many a fray, such as flared up in
an instant whenever Greek and Roman came into contact. The lictors and
townwatch could generally succeed in parting the combatants, for the
orders of the authorities were that they should in every case side with
the Romans.

The shouts and squabbling of men, the laughing and singing of women,
mingled with the word of command. Flutes and lyres, cymbals and drums,
were heard from the trellised tavern arbors and cook-shops along the
way; and from the little temple to Aphrodite, where Melissa had promised
to meet the Roman physician next morning, came the laughter and song of
unbridled lovers. As a rule, the Kanopic Way was the busiest and gayest
street in the town; but on this night the street of Hermes had been the
most popular, for it led to the Serapeum, where Caesar was lodged; and
from the temple poured a tide of pleasure-seekers, mingling with the
flood of humanity which streamed on to catch a glimpse of imperial
splendor, or to look at the troops encamped on the space in front of the
Serapeum. The whole street was like a crowded fair; and Alexander had
several times to follow Agatha and her escort out into the roadway,
quitting the shelter of the arcade, to escape a party of rioters or the
impertinent addresses of strangers.

The sham old man, however, was so clever at making way for the damsel,
whose face and form were effectually screened by her kerchief from the
passers-by, that Alexander had no opportunity for offering her his aid,
or proving his devotion by some gallant act. That it was his duty to
save her from the perils of spending a whole night under the protection
of this venal deceiver and her worthless colleague, he had long since
convinced himself; still, the fear of bringing her into a more painful
position by attracting the attention of the crowd if he were to attack
her escort, kept him back.

They had now stopped again under the colonnade, on the left-hand side
of the road. Castor had taken the girl’s hand, and, as he bade her
good-night, promised, in emphatic tones, to be with her again very early
and escort her to the lake. Agatha thanked him warmly. At this a storm
of rage blew Alexander’s self-command to the four winds, and, before he
knew what he was doing; he stood between the rascal and the Christian
damsel, snatched their hands asunder, gripping Castor’s wrist with
his strong right hand, while he held Agatha’s firmly in his left, and
exclaimed:

“You are being foully tricked, fair maid; the woman, even, is deceiving
you. This fellow is a base villain!”

And, releasing the arm which Castor was desperately but vainly trying to
free from his clutch, he snatched off the false beard.

Agatha, who had also been endeavoring to escape from his grasp, gave
a shriek of terror and indignation. The unmasked rogue, with a swift
movement, snatched the hood of the caracalla off Alexander’s head, flew
at his throat with the fury and agility of a panther, and with much
presence of mind called for help. And Castor was strong too while
Alexander tried to keep him off with his right hand, holding on to
Agatha with his left, the shouts of the deaconess and her accomplice
soon collected a crowd. They were instantly surrounded by an inquisitive
mob, laughing or scolding the combatants, and urging them to fight or
beseeching them to separate. But just as the artist had succeeded in
twisting his opponent’s wrist so effectually as to bring him to his
knees, a loud voice of malignant triumph, just behind him, exclaimed:

“Now we have snared our scoffer! The fox should not stop to kill the
hare when the hunters are at his heels!”

“Zminis!” gasped Alexander. He understood in a flash that life and
liberty were at stake.

Like a stag hemmed in by dogs, he turned his head to this side and that,
seeking a way of escape; and when he looked again where his antagonist
had stood, the spot was clear; the nimble rascal had taken to his heels
and vanished among the throng. But a pair of eyes met the painter’s
gaze, which at once restored him to self-possession, and reminded him
that he must collect his wits and presence of mind. They were those of
his sister Melissa, who, as she made her way onward with her companion,
had recognized her brother’s voice. In spite of the old woman’s earnest
advice not to mix in the crowd, she had pushed her way through, and, as
the men-at-arms dispersed the mob, she came nearer to her favorite but
too reckless brother.

Alexander still held Agatha’s hand. The poor girl herself, trembling
with terror, did not know what had befallen her. Her venerable escort
was a young man--a liar. What was she to think of the deaconess, who
was his confederate; what of this handsome youth who had unmasked the
deceiver, and saved her perhaps from some fearful fate?

As in a thunder-storm flash follows flash, so, in this dreadful night,
one horror had followed another, to bewilder the brain of a maiden who
had always lived a quiet life among good and quiet men and women. And
now the guardians of the peace had laid hands on the man who had so
bravely taken her part, and whose bright eyes had looked into her own
with such truth and devotion. He was to be dragged to prison; so he,
too, no doubt, was a criminal. At this thought she tried to release her
hand, but he would not let it go; for the deaconess had come close to
Agatha, and, in a tone of sanctimonious wrath, desired her to quit this
scene.

What was she to do? Terrified and undecided, with deceit on one hand and
on the other peril and perhaps disaster, she looked first at Elizabeth
and then at Alexander, who, in spite of the threats of the man-at-arms,
gazed in turns at her and at the spot where his sister had stood.

The lictors who were keeping off the mob had stopped Melissa too; but
while Alexander had been gazing into Agatha’s imploring eyes, feeling
as though all his blood had rushed to his heart and face, Melissa had
contrived to creep up close to him. And again the sight of her gave him
the composure he so greatly needed. He knew, indeed, that the hand
which still held Agatha’s would in a moment be fettered, for Zminis
had ordered his slaves to bring fresh ropes and chains, since they had
already found use for those they had first brought out. It was to this
circumstance alone that he owed it that he still was free. And, above
all things, he must warn Agatha against the deaconess, who would fain
persuade her to go with her.

It struck his alert wit that Agatha would trust his sister rather than
himself, whom the Egyptian had several times abused as a criminal;
and seeing the old woman of Polybius’s household making her way up to
Melissa, out of breath, indeed, and with disordered hair, he felt light
dawn on his soul, for this worthy woman was a fresh instrument to his
hand. She must know Agatha well, if the girl were indeed the daughter of
Zeno.

He lost not an instant. With swift decision, while Zminis and his men
were disputing as to whither they should conduct the traitor as soon as
the fetters were brought, he released the maiden’s hand, placing it in
Melissa’s, and exclaiming:

“This is my sister, the betrothed of Diodoros, Polybius’s son--your
neighbor, if you are the daughter of Zeno. She will take care of you.”
 Agatha had at once recognized the old nurse, and when she confirmed
Alexander’s statement, and the Christian looked in Melissa’s face, she
saw beyond the possibility of doubt an innocent woman, whose heart she
might fully trust.

She threw her arm round Melissa, as if to lean on her, and the deaconess
turned away with well-curbed wrath and vanished into an open door.

All this had occupied but a very few minutes; and when Alexander saw
the two beings he most loved in each other’s embrace, and Agatha rescued
from the deceiver and in safe keeping, he drew a deep breath, saying to
his sister, as if relieved from a heavy burden:

“Her name is Agatha, and to her, the image of the dead Korinna, my life
henceforth is given. Tell her this, Melissa.”

His impassioned glance sought that of the Christian; and when she
returned it, blushing, but with grateful candor, his mirthful features
beamed with the old reckless jollity, and he glanced again at the crowd
about him.

What did he see there? Melissa observed that his whole face was suddenly
lighted up; and when Zminis signed to the man who was making his way to
the spot holding up the rope, Alexander began to sing the first words
of a familiar song. In an instant it was taken up by several voices, and
then, as if from an echo, by the whole populace.

It was the chant by which the lads in the Gymnasium of Timagetes were
wont to call on each other for help when they had a fray with those
of the Gymnasium of the Dioscuri, with whom they had a chronic feud.
Alexander had caught sight of his friends Jason and Pappus, of the
sculptor Glaukias, and of several other fellow-artists; they understood
the appeal, and, before the night-watch could use the rope on their
captive, the troop of young men had forced their way through the circle
of armed men under the leadership of Glaukias, had surrounded Alexander,
and run off with him in their midst, singing and shouting.

“Follow him! Catch him! Stop him!--living or dead, bring him back! A
price is on his head--a splendid price to any one who will take him!”
 cried the Egyptian, foaming with rage and setting the example. But the
youth of the town, many of whom knew the artist, and who were at all
times ready to spoil sport for the sycophants and spies, crowded up
between the fugitive and his pursuers and barred the way.

The lictors and their underlings did indeed, at last, get through the
solid wall of shouting and scolding men and women; but by that time the
troop of artists had disappeared down a side street.



CHAPTER XI.

Melissa, too, would probably have found herself a prisoner, but that
Zminis, seeing himself balked of a triumph, and beside himself with
rage, rushed after the fugitive with the rest. She had no further
occasion to seek the house where her lover was lying, for Agatha knew it
well. Its owner, Proterius, was an illustrious member of the Christian
community, and she had often been to see him with her father.

On their way the girls confided to each other what had brought them out
into the streets at so unusual an hour; and when Melissa spoke of
her companion’s extraordinary resemblance to the dead daughter of
Seleukus--which, no doubt, had been Alexander’s inducement to follow
her--Agatha told her that she had constantly been mistaken for her
uncle’s daughter, so early lost. She herself had not seen her cousin
for some few years, for Seleukus had quarreled with his brother’s family
when they had embraced Christianity. The third brother, Timotheus, the
high-priest of Serapis, had proved more placable, and his wife Euryale
was of all women the one she loved best. And presently it appeared that
Agatha, too, had lost her mother, and this drew the girls so closely
together, that they clasped hands and walked on like sisters or old and
dear friends.

They were not kept long waiting outside the house of Proterius, for
Andreas was in the vestibule arranging the litter for the conveyance of
Diodoros, with the willing help of Ptolemaeus. The freedman was indeed
amazed when he heard Melissa’s voice, and blamed her for this fresh
adventure. However, he was glad to see her, for, although it seemed
almost beyond the bounds of possibility, he had already fancied more
than once, as steps had approached and passed, that she must surely be
coming to lend him a helping hand.

It was easy to hear in his tone of voice that her bold venture was at
least as praiseworthy as it was blameworthy in his eyes, and the grave
man was as cheerful as he commonly was only when among his flowers.
Never before had Melissa heard a word of compliment from his lips, but
as Agatha stood with one arm round Melissa’s shoulders, he said to the
physician, as he pointed to the pair, “Like two roses on one stem!”

He had good reason, indeed, to be content. Diodoros was no worse, and
Galen was certainly expected to visit the sick in the Serapeum. He
regarded it, too, as a dispensation from Heaven that Agatha and Melissa
should have happened to meet, and Alexander’s happy escape had taken a
weight from his mind. He willingly acceded to Melissa’s request that he
would take her and Agatha to see the sick man; but he granted them only
a short time to gaze at the sleeper, and then requested the deaconess to
find a room for the two damsels, who needed rest.

The worthy woman rose at once; but Melissa urgently entreated to be
allowed to remain by her lover’s side, and glanced anxiously at the keys
in the matron’s hand.

At this Andreas whispered to her: “You are afraid lest I should prevent
your coming with us? But it is not so; and, indeed, of what use would it
be? You made your way past the guards to the senator’s coach; you came
across the lake, and through the darkness and the drunken rabble in the
streets; if I were to lock you in, you would be brave enough to jump
out of the window. No, no; I confess you have conquered my
objections--indeed, if you should now refuse your assistance, I should
be obliged to crave it. But Ptolemaeus wishes to leave Diodoros quite
undisturbed till daybreak. He is now gone to the Serapeum to find a good
place for him. You, too, need rest, and you shall be waked in good
time. Go, now, with Dame Katharine.--As to your relations,” he added, to
Agatha, “do not be uneasy. A boy is already on his way to your father,
to tell him where you are for the night.”

The deaconess led the two girls to a room where there was a large double
bed. Here the new friends stretched their weary limbs; but, tired as
they were, neither of them seemed disposed to sleep; they were so happy
to have found each other, and had so much to ask and tell each other!
As soon as Katharine had lighted a three-branched lamp she left them to
themselves, and then their talk began.

Agatha, clinging to her new friend, laid her head on Melissa’s shoulder;
and as Melissa looked on the beautiful face, and remembered the fond
passion which her heedless brother had conceived for its twin image, or
as now and again the Christian girl’s loving words appealed to her more
especially, she stroked the long, flowing tresses of her brown hair.

It needed, indeed, no more than a common feeling, an experience gone
through together, an hour of confidential solitude, to join the hearts
of the two maidens; and as they awaited the day, shoulder to shoulder
in uninterrupted chat, they felt as though they had shared every joy and
sorrow from the cradle. Agatha’s weaker nature found a support in the
calm strength of will which was evident in many things Melissa said; and
when the Christian opened her tender and pitying heart to Melissa with
touching candor, it was like a view into a new but most inviting world.

Agatha’s extreme beauty, too, struck the artist’s daughter as something
divine, and her eye often rested admiringly on her new friend’s pure and
regular features.

When Agatha inquired of her about her father, Melissa briefly replied,
that since her mother’s death he was often moody and rough, but that he
had a good, kind heart. The Christian girl, on the contrary, spoke with
enthusiasm of the warm, human loving-kindness of the man to whom she
owed her being; and the picture she drew of her home life was so fair,
that the little heathen could hardly believe in its truth. Her father,
Agatha said, lived in constant warfare with the misery and suffering of
his fellow-creatures, and he was, in fact, able to make those about him
happy and prosperous. The poorest were dearest to his loving heart, and
on his estate across the lake he had collected none but the sick and
wretched. The care of the children was left to her, and the little ones
clung to her as if she were their mother. She had neither brother nor
sister.--And so the conversation turned on Alexander, of whom Agatha
could never hear enough.

And how proud was Melissa to speak of the bright young artist, who till
now had been the sun of her joyless life! There was much that was good
to be said about him: for the best masters rated his talent highly in
spite of his youth; his comrades were faithful; and none knew so well as
he how to cheer his father’s dark moods. Then, there were many amiable
and generous traits of which she had been told, or had herself known.
With his very first savings, he had had the Genius with a reversed
torch cast in bronze to grace his mother’s grave, and give his father
pleasure. Once he had been brought home half dead after saving a woman
and child from drowning, and vainly endeavoring to rescue another child.
He might be wild and reckless, but he had always been faithful to his
art and to his love for his family.

Agatha’s eyes opened widely when Melissa told her anything good about
her brother, and she clung in terror to her new friend as she heard of
her excited orgy with her lover.

Scared as though some imminent horror threatened herself, she clasped
Melissa’s hand as she listened to the tale of the dangers Alexander had
so narrowly escaped.

Such things had never before reached the ears of the girl in her retired
Christian home beyond the lake; they sounded to her as the tales of some
bold seafarer to the peaceful husbandman on whose shores the storm has
wrecked him.

“And do you know,” she exclaimed, “all this seems delightful to me,
though my father, I am sure, would judge it hardly! When your brother
risks his life, it is always for others, and that is right--that is the
highest life. I think of him as an angel with a flaming sword. But you
do not know our sacred scriptures.”

Then Melissa would hear more of this book, of which Andreas had
frequently spoken; but there was a knock at the door, and she sprang out
of bed.

Agatha did the same; and when a slave-girl had brought in fresh, cold
water, she insisted on handing her friend the towels, on plaiting her
long hair, pinning her peplos in its place, and arranging its folds. She
had so often longed for a sister, and she felt as though she had found
one in Melissa! While she helped her to dress she kissed her preserver’s
sister on the eyes and lips, and entreated her with affectionate urgency
to come to see her, as soon as she had done all she could for her lover.
She must be made acquainted with her father, and Agatha longed to show
her her poor children, her dogs, and her pigeons. And she would go to
see Melissa, when she was staying with Polybius.

“And there,” Melissa put in, “you will see my brother, too.”

On which the Christian girl exclaimed: “You must bring him to our house.
My father will be glad to thank him--” Here she paused, and then added,
“Only he must not again risk his life so rashly.”

“He will be well hidden at the house of Polybius,” replied Melissa,
consolingly. “And Andreas has him fast by this time.”

She once more kissed Agatha, and went to the door, but her friend held
her back, and whispered “In my father’s grounds there is a famous hiding
place, where no one would ever find him. It has often been a refuge
for weeks and months for persecuted members of our faith. When he is
seriously threatened, bring him to us. We will gladly provide for his
safety, and all else. Only think, if they should catch him! It would be
for my sake, and I should never be happy again. Promise me that you will
bring him.”

“Yes, certainly,” cried Melissa, as she hurried out into the vestibule,
where Andreas and the leech were waiting for her.

They had done well to enlist the girl’s services, for, since nursing her
mother, she knew, as few did, how to handle the sick. It was not till
they had fairly set out that Melissa observed that Dame Katharine was
of the party; she had no doubt become reconciled to the idea of the sick
man’s removal to the Serapeum, for she had the same look of kindly calm
which had so much attracted the girl at their first meeting.

The streets along which they passed in the pale morning light were now
deserted, and a film of mist, behind which glowed the golden light of
the newly risen sun, shrouded the horizon. The fresh air of morning was
delicious, and at this early hour there was no one to avoid--only the
peasants and their wives carrying the produce of their gardens and
fields to market on asses, or wagons drawn by oxen. The black slaves
of the town were sweeping the roadway. Here there were parties of men,
women, and children on their way to work in factories, which were at
rest but for a few hours in the bustling town. The bakers and
other provision-dealers were opening their shops; the cobblers and
metalworkers were already busy or lighting fires in their open stalls;
and Andreas nodded to a file of slave-girls who had come across from
the farm and gardens of Polybius, and who now walked up the street with
large milk-jars and baskets of vegetables poised on their heads and
supported with one gracefully raised arm.

They presently crossed the Aspendia Canal, where the fog hung over the
water like white smoke, hiding the figure of the tutelary goddess of the
town on the parapet of the bridge from those who crossed by the roadway.
The leaves of the mimosa-trees by the quay--nay, the very stones of the
houses and the statues, wet with the morning dew--looked revived and
newly washed; and a light breeze brought up from the Serapeum broken
tones of the chant, sung there every morning by a choir of priests, to
hail the triumph of light over darkness.

The crisp morning air was as invigorating to Melissa as her cold bath
had been, after a night which had brought her so little rest. She felt
as though she, and all Nature with her, had just crossed the threshold
of a new day, bidding her to fresh life and labor. Now and then a flame
from Lucifer’s torch swallowed up a stretch of morning mist, while the
Hours escorted Phoebus Apollo, whose radiant diadem of beams was just
rising above the haze; Melissa could have declared she saw them dancing
forth before him and strewing the path of the sun with flowers. All
this was beautiful--as beautiful as the priest’s chant, the aromatic
sweetness of the air, and the works of art in cast bronze or hewn marble
which were to be seen on the bridge, on the temple to Isis and Anubis to
the right of the street, under the colonnades of the handsomest houses,
on the public fountains--in short, wherever the eye might turn. Her
lover, borne before her in a litter, was on the way to the physician in
whose hands lay the power to cure him. She felt as though Hope led the
way.

Since love had blossomed in her breast her quiet life had become an
eventful one. Most of what she had gone through had indeed filled her
with alarms. Serious questions to which she had never given a thought
had been brought before her; and yet, in this brief period of anxiety
she had gained the precious sense of youthfulness and of capacity
for action when she had to depend on herself. The last few hours had
revealed to her the possession of powers which only yesterday she had
never suspected. She, who had willingly yielded to every caprice of her
father’s, and who, for love of her brothers, had always unresistingly
done their bidding, now knew that she had a will of her own and strength
enough to assert it; and this, again, added to her contentment this
morning.

Alexander had told her, and old Dido, and Diodoros, that she was fair to
look upon--but these all saw her with the eyes of affection; so she had
always believed that she was a well-looking girl enough, but by no means
highly gifted in any respect--a girl whose future would be to bloom
and fade unknown in her father’s service. But now she knew that she was
indeed beautiful; not only because she had heard it repeatedly in
the crowd of yesterday, or even because Agatha had declared it while
braiding her hair--an inward voice affirmed it, and for her lover’s sake
she was happy to believe it.

As a rule, she would have been ready to drop with fatigue after so many
sleepless hours and such severe exertions; but to-day she felt as fresh
as the birds in the trees by the roadside, which greeted the sun with
cheerful twitterings.

“Yes, the world is indeed fair!” thought she; but at that very moment
Andreas’s grave voice was heard ordering the bearers to turn down a dark
side alley which led into the street of Hermes, a few hundred paces from
the Rhakotis Canal.

How anxious the good man looked! Her world was not the world of the
Christian freedman; that she plainly understood when the litter in which
Diodoros lay was carried into one of the houses in the side street.

It was a large, plain building, with only a few windows, and those
high up-in fact, as Melissa was presently informed, it was a Christian
church. Before she could express her surprise, Andreas begged her to
have a few minutes’ patience; the daemons of sickness were here to be
exorcised and driven out of the sufferer. He pointed to a seat in the
vestibule to the church, a wide but shallow room. Then, at a sign from
Andreas, the slaves carried the litter into a long, low hall with a flat
roof.

From where she sat, Melissa could now see that a Christian in priest’s
robes, whom they called the exorcist, spoke various invocations over
the sick man, the others listening so attentively that even she began to
hope for some good effect from these incomprehensible formulas; and
at the same time she remembered that her old slave-woman Dido, who
worshiped many gods, wore round her neck, besides a variety of heathen
amulets, a little cross which had been given her by a Christian woman.
To her question why she, a heathen, wore this about her, the old woman
replied, “You can never tell what may help you some day.” So perhaps
these exorcisms might not be without some effect on her lover,
particularly as the God of the Christians must be powerful and good.

She herself strove to uplift her soul in prayer to the manes of her lost
mother; but the scene going on around her in the vestibule distracted
her mind with horror. Men, young and old, were slashing themselves with
vehement scourgings on their backs. One white-haired old man, indeed,
handed his whip of hippopotamus-hide to a stalwart lad whose shoulders
were streaming with blood, and begged him as a brother, as fervently
as though it were the greatest favor, to let him feel the lash. But the
younger man refused, and she saw the weak old fellow trying to apply it
to his own back.

All this was quite beyond her comprehension, and struck her as,
disgusting; and how haggard and hideous were the limbs of these people
who thus sinned against their own bodies--the noble temples of the
Divine Spirit!

When, a few minutes later, the litter was borne out of the church
again, the sun had triumphed over the mists and was rising with blinding
splendor in the cloudless sky. Everything was bathed in light; but the
dreadful sight of the penitents had cast a gloom over the clear gladness
she had been so full of but just now. It was with a sense of oppression
that she took leave of the deaconess, who left her with cheerful
contentment in the street of Hermes, and followed the litter to the open
square in front of the Serapeum.

Here every thought of gloom vanished from her mind as at the touch of a
magician, for before her stood the vast Temple of Serapis, founded,
as it were, for eternity, on a substructure of rock and closely fitted
masonry, the noblest building on earth of any dedicated to the gods.
The great cupola rose to the blue sky as though it fain would greet the
sister vault above with its own splendor, and the copper-plating which
covered it shone as dazzling as a second sun. From the wide front of the
temple, every being to whom the prayers and worship of mortals could be
offered looked down on her, hewn in marble or cast in bronze; for on
the roof, on brackets or on pedestals; in niches or as supporting the
parapets and balconies, were statues of all the guests at the Olympian
banquet, with images or busts of every hero or king, philosopher, poet,
or artist whose deeds or works had earned him immortality.

From infancy Melissa had looked up at this temple with admiration
and pride, for here every art had done its utmost to make it without
parallel on earth. It was the work of her beloved native city, and her
mother had often taken her into the Serapeum, where she herself had
found comfort in many a sorrow and disappointment, and had taught the
child to love it. That it had afterward been spoiled for her she forgot
in her present mood.

Never had she seen the great temple surrounded by so much gay and busy
life. The front of the building, toward the square, had in the early
hours of the morning been decked with garlands and heavy wreaths of
flowers, by a swarm of slaves standing on ladders and planks and benches
let down from the roof by ropes. The inclined ways, by which vehicles
drove up to the great door, were still deserted, and on the broad steps
in the middle no one was to be seen as yet but a few priests in gala
robes, and court officials; but the immense open space in front of the
sanctuary was one great camp, where, among the hastily pitched canvas
tents, horses were being dressed and weapons polished. Several maniples
of the praetorians and of the Macedonian phalanx were already drawn
up in compact ranks, to relieve guard at the gate of the imperial
residence, and stand at Caesar’s orders.

But more attractive to the girl than all this display were a number of
altars which had been erected at the extreme edge of the great square,
and on each of which a fire was burning. Heavy clouds of smoke went up
from them in the still, pure atmosphere, like aerial columns, while the
flames, paling in the beams of the morning sun, flew up through the reek
as though striving to rise above it, with wan and changeful gleams of
red and yellow, now curling down, and now writhing upward like snakes.
Of all these fires there was not one from which the smoke did not mount
straight to heaven, though each burned to a different god; and Melissa
regarded it as a happy sign that none spread or failed to rise. The
embers were stirred from time to time by the priests and augurs of every
god of the East and West, who also superintended the sacrifices, while
warriors of every province of the empire stood round in prayer.

Melissa passed by all these unwonted and soul-stirring sights without a
regret; her hope for the cure soon to be wrought on her lover cast all
else into the shade. Still, while she looked around at the thousands who
were encamped here, and gazed up at the temple where so many men were
busied, like ants, it struck her that in fact all this belonged to
one and was done for one alone. Those legions followed him as the dust
follows the wind, the whole world trembled at his nod, and in his hand
lay the life and happiness of the millions he governed. And it was at
this omnipotent being, this god in human form, that her brother had
mocked; and the pursuers were at his heels. This recollection troubled
her joy, and when she looked in the freedman’s grave and anxious face
her heart began to beat heavily again.



CHAPTER XII.

Melissa had supposed that, according to custom, the litter would be
carried up the incline or the steps, and into the Serapeum by the great
door; but in consequence of the emperor’s visit this could not be. The
sick man was borne round the eastern side of the huge building, which
covered a space on which a whole village might have stood. The door at
the back, to the south, through which he was finally admitted, opened
into a gallery passing by the great quadrangle where sacrifice was made,
and leading to the inner rooms of the temple, to the cubicles among
others.

In these it was revealed to the sick in dreams by what means or remedies
they might hope to be healed: and there was no lack of priests to
interpret the visions, nor of physicians who came hither to watch
peculiar cases, to explain to the sufferers the purport of the counsel
of the gods--often very dark--or to give them the benefit of their own.

One of these, a friend of Ptolemaeus, who, though he had been secretly
baptized, still was one of the pastophori of the temple, was awaiting
the little party, and led the way as guide.

The bellowing of beasts met them on the very threshold. These were to be
slaughtered at this early hour by the special command of Caracalla; and,
as Caesar himself had promised to be present at the sacrificial
rites, none but the priests or “Caesar’s friends” were admitted to the
court-yard. The litter was therefore carried up a staircase and through
a long hall forming part of the library, with large windows looking
down on the open place where the beasts were killed and the entrails
examined. Diodoros saw and heard nothing, for the injury to the skull
had deprived him of all consciousness; Ptolemaeus, however, to soothe
Melissa, assured her that he was sleeping soundly.

As they mounted the stairs she had kept close to her lover’s side; but
on this assurance she lingered behind and looked about her.

As the little procession entered the gallery, in which the rolls of
manuscript lay in stone or wooden cases on long rows of shelves, the
shout was heard of “Hail, Caesar!” mingling with a solemn chant, and
announcing the sovereign’s approach.

At this the physician pointed to the court-yard, and said to the girl,
whose beauty had greatly attracted him: “Look down there if you want to
see Caesar. We must wait here, at any rate, till the crowd has gone past
in the corridor beyond that door.” And Melissa, whose feminine curiosity
had already tempted her to the window, looked down into the quadrangle
and on to the steps down which a maniple of the praetorian guard were
marching, with noble Romans in togas or the uniform of legates, augurs
wearing wreaths, and priests of various orders. Then for a few minutes
the steps were deserted, and Melissa thought she could hear her own
heart beating, when suddenly the cry: “Hail, Caesar!” was again heard,
loud trumpets rang out and echoed from the high stone walls which
surrounded the inclosure, and Caracalla appeared on the broad marble
steps which led down into the court of sacrifice.

Melissa’s eyes were riveted as if spell-bound on this figure, which was
neither handsome nor dignified, and which nevertheless had a strange
attraction for her, she knew not why. What was it in this man, who
was short rather than tall, and feeble rather than majestic, which so
imperatively forbade all confident advances? The noble lion which walked
by his side, and in whose mane his left hand was buried, was not more
unapproachable than he. He called this terrible creature, which he
treated with as much familiarity as if it were a lapdog, his “Persian
sword”; and as Melissa looked she remembered what fate might be in store
for her brother through this man, and all the crimes of which he was
accused by the world--the murders of his brother, of his wife, and of
thousands besides.

For the first time in her life she felt that she could hate; she longed
to bring down every evil on that man’s head. The blood mounted to her
cheeks, and her little fists were clinched, but she never took her eyes
off him; for everything in his person impressed her, if not as fine,
still as exceptional--if not as great, still as noteworthy.

She knew that he was not yet thirty, but yesterday, as he drove past
her, he had looked like a surly misanthropist of more than middle age.
To-day how young he seemed! Did he owe it to the laurel crown which
rested on his head, or to the white toga which fell about him in ample
folds, leaving only the sinewy arm bare by which he led the lion?

From where she stood she could only see his side-face as he came down
the steps, and indeed it was not ill-favored; brow, nose, and chin were
finely and nobly formed; his beard was thin, and a mustache curled over
his lips. His eyes, deeply set under the brows, were not visible to her,
but she had not forgotten since yesterday their sinister and terrible
scowl.

At this moment the lion crept closer to his master.

If only the brute should spring on that more blood-stained and terrible
beast of prey who could kill not only with claws and teeth but with a
word from his lips, a wave of his hand!--the world would be rid of the
ferocious curse. Ay, his eye, which had yesterday scorned to look at the
multitudes who had hailed his advent, was that of a cruel tyrant.

And then--she felt as if he must have guessed her thoughts--while he
patted the lion and gently pushed him aside he turned his face full on
her, and she knew not whether to be pleased or angry, for the odious,
squinting eyes were not now terrible or contemptuous; nay, they had
looked kindly on the beast, and with a somewhat suffering expression.
The dreadful face of the murderer was not hideous now, but engaging--the
face of a youth enduring torments of soul or of body.

She was not mistaken. On the very next step Caracalla stood still,
pressed his right hand to his temples, and set his lips as if to control
some acute pain. Then he sadly shook his head and gazed up at the walls
of the court, which had been decorated in his honor with hangings and
garlands of flowers. First he studied the frieze and the festal display
on his right, and when he turned his head to look at the side where
Melissa stood, an inward voice bade her withdraw, that the gaze of this
monster might not blight her. But an irresistible attraction held her
fast; then suddenly she felt as if the ground were sinking from under
her feet, and, as a shipwrecked wretch snatches at a floating spar, she
clung to the little column at the left of the window, clutching it with
her hand; for the dreadful thing had happened-Caracalla’s eye had met
hers and had even rested on her for a while! And that gaze had nothing
bloodthirsty in it, nor the vile leer which had sparkled in the eyes
of the drunken rioters she had met last night in the streets; he only
looked astonished as at some wonderful thing which he had not expected
to see in this place. But presently a fresh attack of pain apparently
made him turn away, for his features betrayed acute suffering, as he
slowly set his foot on the next step below.

Again, and more closely, he pressed his hand to his brow, and then
beckoned to a tall, well-built man with flowing hair, who walked behind
him, and accepted the support of his offered arm.

“Theocritus, formerly an actor and dancer,” the priest whispered to
Melissa. “Caesar’s whim made the mimic a senator, a legate, and a
favorite.”

But Melissa only knew that he was speaking, and did not take in the
purport of his speech; for this man, slowly descending the steps,
absorbed her whole sympathy. She knew well the look of those who suffer
and conceal it from the eyes of the world; and some cruel disease was
certainly consuming this youth, who ruled the earth, but whose purple
robes would be snatched at soon enough by greedy hands if he should
cease to seem strong and able. And now, again, he looked old and
worn--poor wretch, who yet was so young and born to be so abundantly
happy! He was, to be sure, a base and blood-stained tyrant, but not the
less a miserable and unhappy man. The more severe the pain he had to
endure, the harder must he find it to hide it from the crowd who were
constantly about him. There is but one antidote to hatred, and that is
pity; it was with the eager compassion of a woman’s heart that
Melissa marked every movement of the imperial murderer, as soon as she
recognized his sufferings, and when their eyes had met. Nothing now
escaped her keen glance which could add to her sympathy for the man she
had loathed but a minute before. She noticed a slight limp in his
gait and a convulsive twitching of his eyelids; his slender, almost
transparent hand, she reflected, was that of a sick man, and pain and
fever, no doubt, had thinned his hair, which had left many places bald.

And when the high--priest of Serapis and the augurs met him at the
bottom of the steps and Caesar’s eye again put on the cruel scowl of
yesterday, she would not doubt that it was stern self-command which gave
him that threatening glare, to seem terrible, in spite of his anguish,
to those whose obedience he required. He had really needed his
companion’s support as they descended the stair, that she could plainly
see; and she had observed, too, how carefully his guide had striven to
conceal the fact that he was upholding him; but the courtier was too
tall to achieve the task he had set himself. Now, she was much shorter
than Caesar, and she was strong, too. Her arm would have afforded him a
much better support.

But how could she think of such a thing?--she, the sister of Alexander,
the betrothed of Diodoros, whom she truly loved!

Caesar mingled with the priests, and her guide told her that the
corridor was now free. She peeped into the litter, and, seeing that
Diodoros still slept, she followed him, lost in thought, and giving
short and heedless answers to Andreas and the physicians She had not
listened to the priest’s information, and scarcely turned her head to
look out, when a tall, thin man with a bullet-head and deeply wrinkled
brow was pointed out to her as Macrinus, the prefect of the body-guard,
the most powerful man in Rome next to Caesar; and then the “friends” of
Caracalla, whom she had seen yesterday, and the historian Dion Cassius,
with other senators and members of the imperial train.

Now, as they made their way through halls and passages where the foot of
the uninitiated rarely intruded, she looked about her with more interest
when the priest drew her attention to some particularly fine statue
or picture, or some symbolical presentment. Even now, however, though
association with her brothers had made her particularly alive to
everything that was beautiful or curious, she glanced round with less
interest than she otherwise might have done, for she had much else to
think of. In the first place, of the benefits Diodoros was to derive
from the great Galen; then of her father, who this day must dispense
with her assistance; and, finally, of the state of mind of her grave
brother Philip. He and Alexander, who usually were such united friends,
now both were in love with Agatha, and what could come of that? And from
time to time her thoughts flew back to Caesar, and she felt as though
some tie, she knew not what, linked them together.

As soon as the litter had to be carried up or down steps, she kept an
eye on the bearers, and gave such help as was needed when the sleeper’s
position was changed. Whenever she looked in his handsome face, flushed
as it was by fever and framed in tumbled curls, her heart swelled, and
she felt that she had much to thank the gods for, seeing that her
lover was so full of splendid youth and in no respect resembled the
prematurely decrepit and sickly wearer of the purple. Nevertheless, she
thought a good deal of Caracalla, and it even occurred to her once that
if it were he who was being carried instead of Diodoros, she would tend
him no less carefully than her betrothed. Caesar, who had been as far
out of her ken as a god, and of whose overwhelming power she had heard,
had suddenly come down to her. She involuntarily thought of him as one
of those few with whom she had come into personal contact, and in
whose weal or woe she had some sympathetic interest. He could not be
altogether evil and hardened. If he could only know what pain it caused
her to see him suffer, he would surely command Zminis to abandon the
pursuit of her brother.

Just as they were reaching the end of their walk, the trumpets rang out
once more, reminding her that she was under the same roof with him. She
was so close to him--and yet how far he was from guessing the desires of
a heart which beat with compassion for him!

Several sick persons, eager for some communication from the gods, and
some who, without being sick, had slept in the Serapeum, had by this
time left their beds, and were taking counsel in the great hall with
interpreters and physicians. The bustle was like that of a market-place,
and there was one old man with unkempt hair and fiery eyes who repeated
again and again in a loud voice, “It was the god himself who appeared to
me, and his three-headed dog licked my cheeks.” And presently a hideous
old woman plucked at Melissa’s robe, whispering: “A healing draught for
your lover; tears from the eyes of the infant Horus. I have them from
Isis herself. The effect is rapid and certain. Come to Hezron, the
dealer in balsams in the street of the Nekropolis. Your lover’s
recovery--for five drachmae.”

But Melissa, who was no stranger here since her mother’s last sickness,
went on without pausing, following the litter down the long hall full
of beds, a room with a stone roof resting on two rows of tall columns.
Familiar to her too was the aromatic scent of kyphi,--[incense]--which
filled the hall, although fresh air was constantly pouring in from
outside through the high windows. Red and green curtains hung in
front of them, and the subdued light which came through fell in tinted
twilight on the colored pictures in relief of the history of the gods,
which covered the walls. Speech was forbidden here, and their steps fell
noiseless on the thick, heavy mats.

Most of the beds were already empty; only those between the long wall
and the nearest row of columns were still for the most part occupied by
the sick who sought the help of the god. On one of these Diodoros was
laid, Melissa helping in silence, and with such skill as delighted even
the physicians. Still, this did not wake him, though on the next bed lay
a man who never ceased speaking, because in his dream he had been bidden
to repeat the name of Serapis as many times as there were drops in a cup
of water filled from the Agathodaemon Canal.

“A long stay in this strong perfume will be bad for him,” whispered
Ptolemaeus to the freedman. “Galenus sent word that he would visit the
sick early to-day; but he is not here yet. He is an old man, and in
Rome, they say, it is the custom to sleep late.”

He was interrupted by a stir in the long hall, which broke in on the
silence, no one knew from whence; and immediately after, officious hands
threw open the great double doors with a loud noise.

“He is coming,” whispered their priestly guide; and the instant after
an old man crossed the threshold, followed by a troop of pastophori, as
obsequious as the courtiers at the heels of a prince.

“Gently, brothers,” murmured the greatest physician of his age in a low
voice, as, leaning on a staff, he went toward the row of couches. It
was easy to see the traces of his eighty years, but his fine eyes still
gleamed with youthful light.

Melissa blushed to think that she could have mistaken Serenus Samonicus
for this noble old man. He must once have been a tall man; his back
was bent and his large head was bowed as though he were forever seeking
something. His face was pale and colorless, with a well-formed nose
and mouth, but not of classic mold. Blue veins showed through the clear
white skin, and the long, silky, silvery hair still flowed in unthinned
waves round his massive head, bald only on the crown. A snowy beard fell
over his breast. His aged form was wrapped in a long and ample robe
of costly white woolen stuff, and his whole appearance would have been
striking for its peculiar refinement, even if the eyes had not sparkled
with such vivid and piercing keenness from under the thick brows, and if
the high, smooth, slightly prominent forehead had not borne witness to
the power and profundity of his mind. Melissa knew of no one with whom
to compare him; he reminded Andreas of the picture of John as an old
man, which a wealthy fellow-Christian had presented to the church of
Saint Mark.

If this man could do nothing, there was no help on earth. And how
dignified and self-possessed were the movements of this bent old man as
he leaned on his staff! He, a stranger here, seemed to be showing the
others the way, a guide in his own realm. Melissa had heard that the
strong scent of the kyphi might prove injurious to Diodoros, and her one
thought now was the desire that Galenus might soon approach his couch.
He did not, in fact, begin with the sick nearest to the door, but stood
awhile in the middle of the hall, leaning against a column and surveying
the place and the beds.

When his searching glance rested on that where Diodoros was lying, an
answering look met his with reverent entreaty from a pair of beautiful,
large, innocent eyes. A smile parted his bearded lips, and going up to
the girl he said: “Where beauty bids, even age must obey. Your lover,
child, or your brother?”

“My betrothed,” Melissa hastened to reply; and the maidenly
embarrassment which flushed her cheek became her so well that he added:

“He must have much to recommend him if I allow him to carry you off,
fair maid.”

With these words he went up to the couch, and looking at Diodoros as he
lay, he murmured, as if speaking to himself and without paying any heed
to the younger men who crowded round him:

“There are no true Greeks left here; but the beauty of the ancestral
race is not easily stamped out, and is still to be seen in their
descendants. What a head, what features, and what hair!”

Then he felt the lad’s breast, shoulders, and arms, exclaiming in honest
admiration, “What a godlike form!”

He laid his delicate old hand, with its network of blue veins, on the
sick man’s forehead, again glanced round the room, and listened to
Ptolemaeus, who gave him a brief and technical report of the case; then,
sniffing the heavy scent that filled the hall, he said, as the Christian
leech ceased speaking:

“We will try; but not here--in a room less full of incense. This perfume
brings dreams, but no less surely induces fever. Have you no other room
at hand where the air is purer?”

An eager “Yes,” in many voices was the reply; and Diodoros was forthwith
transferred into a small cubicle adjoining.

While he was being moved, Galenus went from bed to bed, questioning the
chief physician and the patients. He seemed to have forgotten Diodoros
and Melissa; but after hastily glancing at some and carefully examining
others, and giving advice where it was needful, he desired to see the
fair Alexandrian’s lover once more.

As he entered the room he nodded kindly to the girl. How gladly would
she have followed him! But she said to herself that if he had wished
her to be present he would certainly have called her; so she modestly
awaited his return. She had to wait a long time, and the minutes seemed
hours while she heard the voices of men through the closed door, the
moaning and sighing of the sufferer, the splashing of water, and the
clatter of metal instruments; and her lively imagination made her fancy
that something almost unendurable was being done to her lover.

At last the physician came out. His whole appearance betokened perfect
satisfaction. The younger men, who followed him, whispered among
themselves, shaking their heads as though some miracle had been
performed; and every eye that looked on him was radiant with
enthusiastic veneration. Melissa knew, as soon as his eyes met hers,
that all was well, and as she grasped the old man’s hand she concluded
from its cool moisture that he had but just washed it, and had done with
his own hand all that Ptolemaeus had expected of his skill. Her eyes
were dim with grateful emotion, and though Galenus strove to hinder
her from pressing her lips to his hand she succeeded in doing so;
he, however, kissed her brow with fatherly delight in her warmhearted
sweetness, and said:

“Now go home happy, my child. That stone had hit your lover’s brain-roof
a hard blow; the pressure of the broken beam--I mean a piece of
bone--had robbed him of his consciousness of what a sweet bride the gods
have bestowed on him. But the knife has done its work; the beam is in
its place again; the splinters which were not needed have been taken
out; the roof is mended, and the pressure removed. Your friend has
recovered consciousness, and I will wager that at this moment he is
thinking of you and wishes you were with him. But for the present you
had better defer the meeting. For forty-eight hours he must remain in
that little room, for any movement would only delay his recovery.”

“Then I shall stay here to nurse him,” cried Melissa, eagerly. But
Galenus replied, decisively:

“That must not be if he is to get well. The presence of a woman for whom
the sufferer’s heart is on fire is as certain to aggravate the fever as
the scent of incense. Besides, child, this is no place for such as you.”

Her head drooped sadly, but he nodded to her cheeringly as he added:

“Ptolemaeus, who is worthy of your entire confidence, speaks of you as
a girl of much sense, and you will surely not do anything to spoil
my work, which was not easy. However, I must say farewell; other sick
require my care.”

He held out his hand, but, seeing her eyes fixed on his and glittering
through tears, he asked her name and family. It seemed to him of good
augury for the long hours before him which he must devote to Caesar,
that he should, so early in the day, have met so pure and fair a flower
of girlhood.

When she had told him her own name and her father’s, and also mentioned
her brothers, Philip the philosopher, and Alexander the painter, who
was already one of the chief masters of his art here, Galenus answered
heartily:

“All honor to his genius, then, for he is the one-eyed king in the land
of the blind. Like the old gods, who can scarce make themselves heard
for the new, the Muses too have been silenced. The many really
beautiful things to be seen here are not new; and the new, alas! are
not beautiful. But your brother’s work,” he added, kindly, “may be the
exception.”

“You should only see his portraits!” cried Melissa.

“Yours, perhaps, among them?” said the old man, with interest. “That is
a reminder I would gladly take back to Rome with me.”

Alexander had indeed painted his sister not long before, and how glad
she was to be able to offer the picture to the reverend man to whom she
owed so much! So she promised with a blush to send it him as soon as she
should be at home again.

The unexpected gift was accepted with pleasure, and when he thanked
her eagerly and with simple heartiness, she interrupted him with the
assurance that in Alexandria art was not yet being borne to the grave.
Her brother’s career, it was true, threatened to come to an untimely
end, for he stood in imminent danger. On this the old man--who had taken
his seat on a bench which the attendant physicians of the temple had
brought forward-desired to know the state of the case, and Melissa
briefly recounted Alexander’s misdemeanor, and how near he had been,
yesterday, to falling into the hands of his pursuers. Then she looked
up at the old man beseechingly; and as he had praised her beauty, so
now--she herself knew not how she had such courage--the praises of his
fame, his greatness and goodness, flowed from her lips. And her bold
entreaties ended with a prayer that he would urge Caesar, who doubtless
revered him as a father, to cease from prosecuting her brother.

The old man’s face had grown graver and graver; he had several times
stroked his white beard with an uneasy gesture; and when, as she spoke
the last words, she ventured to raise her timidly downcast eyes to his,
he rose stiffly and said in regretful tones:

“How can I be vexed with a sister who knocks at any door to save a
brother’s life? But I would have given a great deal that it had not been
at mine. It is hard to refuse when I would so gladly accede, and yet
so it must be; for, though Claudius Galenus does his best for Bassianus
Antoninus as a patient, as he does for any other, Bassianus the man and
the emperor is as far from him as fire from water; and so it must ever
be during the short space of time which may yet be granted to him and me
under the light of the sun.”

The last words were spoken in a bitter, repellent tone, and yet
Melissa felt that it pained the old man to refuse her. So she earnestly
exclaimed:

“Oh, forgive me! How could I guess--” She suddenly paused and added,
“Then you really think that Caesar has not long to live?”

She spoke with the most anxious excitement, and her question offended
Galenus. He mistook their purport, and his voice was wrathful as he
replied, “Long enough yet to punish an insult!”

Melissa turned pale. She fancied that she apprehended the meaning
of these stern words, and, prompted by an earnest desire not to be
misunderstood by this man, she eagerly exclaimed:

“I do not wish him dead--no, indeed not; not even for my brother’s
sake! But just now I saw him near, and I thought I could see that he
was suffering great pain. Why, we pity a brute creature when it is in
anguish. He is still so young, and it must be so hard to die!”

Galenus nodded approvingly, and replied:

“I thank you, in the name of my imperial patient.--Well, send me your
portrait; but let it be soon, for I embark before sunset. I shall like
to remember you. As to Caesar’s sufferings, they are so severe, your
tender soul would not wish your worst enemy to know such pain. My art
has few means of mitigating them, and the immortals are little inclined
to lighten the load they have laid on this man. Of the millions who
tremble before him, not one prays or offers sacrifice of his own
free-will for the prosperity of the monarch.”

A flash of enthusiasm sparkled in Melissa’s eye, but Galenus did not
heed it; he briefly bade her farewell and turned away to devote himself
to other patients.

“There is one, at any rate,” thought she, as she looked after the
physician, “who will pray and sacrifice for that unhappy man. Diodoros
will not forbid it, I am sure.”

She turned to Andreas and desired him to take her to her lover. Diodoros
was now really sleeping, and did not feel the kiss she breathed on his
fore head. He had all her love; the suffering criminal she only pitied.

When they had quitted the temple she pressed her hand to her bosom and
drew a deep breath as if she had just been freed from prison.

“My head is quite confused,” she said, “by the heavy perfume and so much
anxiety and alarm; but O Andreas, my heart never beat with such joy and
gratitude! Now I must collect my thoughts, and get home to do what is
needful for Philip. And merciful gods! that good-natured old Roman,
Samonicus, will soon be expecting me at the Temple of Aphrodite; see how
high the sun is already. Let us walk faster, for, to keep him waiting--”

Andreas here interrupted her, saying, “If I am not greatly mistaken,
there is the Roman, in that open chariot, coming down the incline.”

He was right; a few minutes later the chariot drew up close to Melissa,
and she managed to tell Samonicus all that had happened in so courteous
and graceful a manner that, far from being offended, he could wish every
success to the cure his great friend had begun. And indeed his promise
had somewhat weighed upon his mind, for to carry out two undertakings
in one day was too much, at his age, and he had to be present in the
evening at a banquet to which Caesar had invited himself in the house of
Seleukus the merchant.

“The high-priest’s brother?” asked Melissa, in surprise, for death had
but just bereft that house of the only daughter.

“The same,” said the Roman, gayly. Then he gave her his hand, with the
assurance that the thought of her would make it a pleasure to remember
Alexandria.

As she clasped his hand, Andreas came up, bowed gravely, and asked
whether it would be overbold in him, as a faithful retainer of the
maiden’s family, to crave a favor, in her name, of Caesar’s illustrious
and familiar friend.

The Roman eyed Andreas keenly, and the manly dignity, nay, the defiant
self-possession of the freedman--the very embodiment of all he had
expected to find in a genuine Alexandrian--so far won his confidence
that he bade him speak without fear. He hoped to hear something
sufficiently characteristic of the manners of the provincial capital to
make an anecdote for Caesar’s table. Then, when he understood that
the matter concerned Melissa’s brother, and a distinguished artist, he
smiled expectantly. Even when he learned that Alexander was being hunted
down for some heedless jest against the emperor, he only threatened
Melissa sportively with his finger; but on being told that this jest
dealt with the murder of Geta, he seemed startled, and the tone of his
voice betrayed serious displeasure as he replied to the petitioner, “Do
you suppose that I have three heads, like the Cerberus at the feet of
your god, that you ask me to lay one on the block for the smile of a
pretty girl?”

He signed to his charioteer, and the horses whirled the light vehicle
across the square and down the street of Hermes.

Andreas gazed after him, and muttered, with a shrug

“My first petition to a great man, and assuredly my last.”

“The coward!” cried Melissa; but Andreas said, with a superior smile.

“Let us take a lesson from this, my child. Those who reckon on the
help of man are badly off indeed. We must all trust in God, and each in
himself.”



CHAPTER XIII.

Andreas, who had so much on his shoulders, had lost much time, and was
urgently required at home. After gratifying Melissa’s wish by describing
how Diodoros had immediately recovered consciousness on the completion
of the operation performed by Galen, and painting the deep amazement
that had fallen on all the other physicians at the skill of this fine
old man, he had done all he could for the present to be of use to the
girl. He was glad, therefore, when in the street of Hermes, now swarming
again with citizens, soldiers, and horsemen, he met the old nurse, who,
after conducting Agatha home to her father, had been sent back to the
town to remain in attendance, if necessary, on Diodoros. The freedman
left it to her to escort Melissa to her own home, and went back to
report to Polybius--in the first place, as to his son’s state.

It was decided that Melissa should for the present remain with her
father; but, as soon as Diodoros should be allowed to leave the
Serapeum, she was to go across the lake to receive the convalescent on
his return home.

The old woman assured her, as they walked on, that Diodoros had always
been born to good luck; and it was clear that this had never been truer
than now, when Galenus had come in the nick of time to restore him to
life and health, and when he had won such a bride as Melissa. Then she
sang the praises of Agatha, of her beauty and goodness, and told her
that the Christian damsel had made many inquiries concerning Alexander.
She, the speaker, had not been chary of her praise of the youth, and,
unless she was much mistaken, the arrow of Eros had this time pierced
Agatha’s heart, though till now she had been as a child--an innocent
child--as she herself could say, who had seen her grow up from the
cradle. Her faith need not trouble either Melissa or Alexander, for
gentler and more modest wives than the Christian women were not to be
found among the Greeks--and she had known many.

Melissa rarely interrupted the garrulous old woman; but, while she
listened, pleasant pictures of the future rose before her fancy. She
saw herself and Diodoros ruling over Polybius’s household, and, close
at hand, on Zeno’s estate, Alexander with his beautiful and adored wife.
There, under Zeno’s watchful eye, the wild youth would become a noble
man. Her father would often come to visit them, and in their happiness
would learn to find pleasure in life again. Only now and then the
thought of the sacrifice which the vehement Philip must make for his
younger brother, and of the danger which still threatened Alexander,
disturbed the cheerful contentment of her soul, rich as it was in glad
hopes.

The nearer they got to her own home, the more lightly her heart beat.
She had none but good news to report there. The old woman, panting for
breath, was obliged to beg her to consider her sixty years and moderate
her pace.

Melissa willingly checked her steps; and when, at the end of the street
of Hermes, they reached the temple of the god from whom it was named
and turned off to the right, the good woman parted from her, for in this
quiet neighborhood she could safely be trusted to take care of herself.

Melissa was now alone. On her left lay the gardens of Hermes, where, on
the southern side, stood her father’s house and that of their neighbor
Skopas. Though the old nurse had indeed talked of nothing that was not
pleasant, it was a comfort not to have to listen to her, but to be free
to follow her own thoughts. Nor did she meet with anything to distract
them, for at this hour the great public garden was left almost entirely
to children and their attendants, or to the inhabitants of the immediate
neighborhood who frequented the temples of Hermes or Artemis, or the
little shrine of Asklepios, which stood in a grove of mimosas on the
skirt of the park, and to which Melissa herself felt attracted. It had
been a familiar spot at the time when her mother was at the worst. How
often had she flown hither from her home near at hand to pour oil on
the altar of the god of healing--to make some small offering and find
comfort in prayer!

The day was now hot, she was tired, and, when she saw the white marble
columns gleaming among the greenery, she yielded to the impulse to enjoy
a few minutes’ rest in the cool cella and accomplish the vow she had
taken an hour or two since. She longed, indeed, to get home, that her
father might share the happiness which uplifted her heart; but then she
reflected that she would not soon have the opportunity of carrying out,
unobserved, the purpose she had in her mind. Now, if ever, was the time
to offer sacrifice for Caesar and for the mitigation of his sufferings.
The thought that Galenus perhaps was right, and that of Caracalla’s
myriad subjects she might be the only one who would do so much for his
sake, strengthened her resolve.

The chief temple of Asklepios, whom the Egyptians called Imhotep, was
at the Serapeum. Imhotep was the son of Ptah, who, at Alexandria, was
merged in Serapis. There he was worshiped, conjointly with Serapis and
Isis, by Egyptians, Greeks, and Syrians alike. The little sanctuary
near her father’s house was the resort of none but Greeks. Ptolemaeus
Philadelphus, the second Macedonian King of Egypt, had built it as an
appendage to the Temple of Artemis, after the recovery from sickness of
his wife Arsinoe.

It was small, but a masterpiece of Greek art, and the statues of Sleep
and of A Dream, at the entrance, with the marble group behind the altar,
representing Asklepios with his sister Hygeia and his wife Epione the
Soother, was reckoned by connoisseurs as among the noblest and most
noteworthy works of art in Alexandria.

The dignity and benevolence of the god were admirably expressed in the
features of the divinity, somewhat resembling the Olympian Zeus, who
leaned on his serpent staff; and the graceful, inviting sweetness of
Hygeia, holding out her cup as though she were offering health to the
sufferer, was well adapted to revive the hopes of the despondent. The
god’s waving locks were bound with a folded scarf, and at his feet was a
dog, gazing up at his lord as if in entreaty.

The sacred snakes lay coiled in a cage by the altar; they were believed
to have the power of restoring themselves, and this was regarded as a
promise to the sick that they should cast off their disease as a serpent
casts its skin. The swift power of the reptile over life and death, was
an emblem to the votaries of the power of the god to postpone the death
of man or to shorten his days.

The inside of the little sanctuary was a cool and still retreat. Tablets
hung on the white marble walls, inscribed with the thanksgivings or vows
of those who had been healed. On several, the remedies were recorded
which had availed in certain cases; and on the left of the little hall,
behind a heavy hanging, a small recess contained the archives of the
temple, recipes, records of gifts, and documents referring to the
history of the sanctuary.

In this deserted, shady spot, between these thick marble walls, it was
much cooler than outside. Melissa lifted her hands in prayer before the
statue of the god. She was alone, with the exception of the priest
in charge. The temple-servant was absent, and the priest was asleep,
breathing heavily, in an arm-chair in a dark nook behind the marble
group. Thus she was free to follow the impulse of her heart, and pray,
first for her sick lover, and then for the sufferer to whom the whole
subservient world belonged.

For Diodoros, indeed, as she knew, other hands and hearts were uplifted
in loving sympathy. But who besides herself was praying for the hated
sovereign who had at his command the costliest and rarest gifts of
fortune, all poisoned by bitter anguish of mind and body? The world
thought only of the sufferings he had inflicted on others; no one
dreamed of the pangs he had to endure--no one but herself, to whom
Galenus had spoken of them. And had not his features and his look
betrayed to her that pain was gnawing at his vitals like the vulture
at those of Prometheus? Hapless, pitiable youth, born to the highest
fortune, and now a decrepit old man in the flower of his age! To pray
and sacrifice for him must be a pious deed, pleasing to the gods.
Melissa besought the marble images over the altar from the very bottom
of her heart, never even asking herself why she was bestowing on this
stranger, this cruel tryant, in whose name her own brother was in danger
of the law, an emotion which nothing but her care for those dearest to
her had ever stirred. But she did not feel that he was a stranger, and
never thought how far apart they were. Her prayers came easily, too, in
this spot; the bonds that linked her to these beautiful marble beings
were familiar and dear to her. While she gazed up into the face of
Asklepios, imploring him to be gracious to the imperial youth, and
release him from the pain but for which he might have been humane and
beneficent, the stony features seemed to live before her eyes, and the
majesty and dignity that beamed on the brow assured her that the god’s
power and wisdom were great enough to heal every disease. The tender
smile which played on his features filled her soul with the certainty
that he would vouchsafe to be gracious; nay, she could believe that he
moved those marble lips and promised to grant her prayer. And when she
turned to the statue of Hygeia she fancied the beautiful, kind face
nodded to her with a pledge of fulfillment.

She raised her beseeching arms higher still, and addressed her
sculptured friends aloud, as though they could hear her:

“I know that nothing is hidden from you, eternal gods,” she began, “and
when it was your will that my mother should be taken from me my foolish
heart rebelled. But I was then a child without understanding, and my
soul lay as it were asleep. Now it is different. You know that I have
learned to love a man; and many things, and, the certainty that the gods
are good, have come to me with that love. Forgive the maid the sins of
the child, and make my lover whole, as he lies under the protection and
in the sanctuary of the great Serapis, still needing your aid too. He
is mending, and the greatest of thy ministers, O Asklepios, says he will
recover, so it must be true. Yet without thee even the skill of Galenus
is of little avail; wherefore I beseech you both, Heal Diodoros, whom
I love!--But I would fain entreat you for another. You will wonder,
perhaps--for it is Bassianus Antoninus, whom they call Caracalla and
Caesar.

“Thou, Asklepios, dost look in amazement, and great Hygeia shakes her
head. And it is hard to say what moves me, who love another, to pray for
the blood-stained murderer for whom not another soul in his empire would
say a word to you. Nay, and I know not what it is. Perhaps it is but
pity; for he, who ought to be the happiest, is surely the most wretched
man under the sun. O great Asklepios, O bountiful and gracious Hygeia,
ease his sufferings, which are indeed beyond endurance! Nor shall
you lack an offering. I will dedicate a cock to you; and as the cock
announces a new day, so perchance shall you grant to Caracalla the dawn
of a new existence in better health.

“Alas, gracious god! but thou art grave, as though the offering were too
small. How gladly would I bring a goat, but I know not whether my money
will suffice, for it is only what I have saved. By and by, when the
youth I love is my husband, I will prove my gratitude; for he is as rich
as he is handsome and kind, and will, I know, refuse me nothing. And
thou, sweet goddess, dost not look down upon me as graciously as before;
I fear thou art angry. Yet think not”--and she gave a low laugh--“that
I pray for Caracalla because I care for him, or am in love with him. No,
no, no, no! my heart is wholly given to Diodoros, and not the smallest
part of it to any other. It is Caesar’s misery alone that brings me
hither. Sooner would I kiss one of those serpents or a thorny hedgehog
than him, the fratricide in the purple. Believe me, it is true, strange
as it must seem.

“First and last, I pray and offer sacrifice indeed for Diodoros and
his recovery. My brother Alexander, too, who is in danger, I would fain
commend to you; but he is well in body, and your remedies are of no
effect against the perils which threaten him.”

Here she ceased, and gazed into the faces of the statues, but they would
not look so friendly as before. It was, no doubt, the smallness of
her offering that had offended them. She anxiously drew out her little
money-bag and counted the contents. But when, after waking the priest,
she had asked how much a goat might cost for sacrifice, her countenance
cleared, for her savings were enough to pay for it and for a young cock
as well. All she had she left with the old man, to the last sesterce;
but she could only wait to see the cock sacrificed, for she felt she
must go home.

As soon as the blood of the bird had besprinkled the altar, and she had
told the divinities that a goat was also to be killed, she fancied that
they looked at her more kindly; and she was turning to the door, as
light and gay as if she had happily done some difficult task, when the
curtain screening off the library of archives was lifted, and a man came
out calling her by name. She turned round; but as soon as she saw that
he was a Roman, and, as his white toga told her, of the upper class,
she took fright. She hastily exclaimed that she was in a hurry, and flew
down the steps, through the garden, and into the road. Once there, she
reproached herself for foolish shyness of a stranger who was scarcely
younger than her own father; but by the time she had gone a few steps
she had forgotten the incident, and was rehearsing in her mind all she
had to tell Heron. She soon saw the tops of the palms and sycamores in
their own garden, her faithful old dog Melas barked with delight, and
the happiness which the meeting with the stranger had for a moment
interrupted revived with unchecked glow.

She was weary, and where could she rest so well as at home? She had
escaped many perils, and where could she feel so safe as under her
father’s roof? Glad as she was at the prospect of her new and handsome
home on the other side of the lake, and of all the delights promised
her by Diodoros’s affection, her heart still clung fondly to the pretty,
neat little dwelling whose low roof now gleamed in front of her. In
the garden, whose shell-strewn paths she now trod, she had played as a
child; that window belonged to the room where her mother had died. And
then, coming home was in itself a joy, when she had so much to tell that
was pleasant.

The dog leaped along by her side with vehement affection, jumping round
her and on her, and she heard the starling’s cry, first “Olympias!” and
then “My strength!”

A happy smile parted her rosy lips as she glanced at the work-room; but
the two white teeth which always gleamed when she was gay were presently
hidden, for her father, it would seem, was out. He was certainly not at
work, for the wide window was unscreened, and it was now nearly noon.
He was almost always within at this hour, and it would spoil half her
gladness not to find him there.

But what was this? What could this mean? The dog had announced her
approach, and old Dido’s gray head peeped out of the house-door, to
vanish again at once. How strangely she had looked at her--exactly
as she had looked that day when the physician had told the faithful
creature that her mistress’s last hour was at hand!

Melissa’s contentment was gone. Before she even crossed the threshold,
where the friendly word “Rejoice” greeted her in brown mosaic, she
called the old woman by name. No answer.

She went into the kitchen to find Dido; for she, according to her
invariable habit of postponing evil as long as possible, had fled to the
hearth. There she stood, though the fire was out, weeping bitterly, and
covering her wrinkled face with her hands, as though she quailed before
the eyes of the girl she must so deeply grieve. One glance at the woman,
and the tears which trickled through her fingers and down her lean
arms told Melissa that something dreadful had happened. Very pale, and
clasping her hand to her heaving bosom, she desired to be told all; but
for some time Dido was quite unable to speak intelligibly. And before
she could make up her mind to it, she looked anxiously for Argutis, whom
she held to be the wisest of mankind, and who, she knew, would reveal
the dreadful thing that must be told more judiciously than she could.
But the Gaul was not to be seen; so Dido, interrupted by sobs, began the
melancholy tale.

Heron had come home between midnight and sunrise and had gone to bed.
Next morning, while he was feeding the birds, Zminis, the captain of the
night-watch, had come in with some men-at-arms, and had tried to take
the artist prisoner in Caesar’s name. On this, Heron had raved like
a bull, had appealed to his Macedonian birth, his rights as a Roman
citizen, and much besides, and demanded to know of what he was accused.
He was then informed that he was to be held in captivity by the special
orders of the head of the police, till his son Alexander, who was guilty
of high-treason, should surrender to the authorities. But her master,
said Dido, sobbing, had knocked down the man who had tried to bind him
with a mighty blow of his fist. At last there was a fearful uproar, and
in fact a bloody fight. The starling shouted his cry through it all, the
birds fluttered and piped with terror, and it was like the abode of the
damned in the nether world; and strangers came crowding about the house,
till Skopas arrived and advised Heron to go with the Egyptian.

“But even at the door,” Dido added, “he called out to me that you,
Melissa, could remain with Polybius till he should recover his liberty.
Philip was to appeal for help to the prefect Titianus, and offer him the
gems--you know them, he said. And, last of all,” and again she began to
cry, “he especially commended to my care the tomb--and the birds; and
the starling wants some fresh mealworms.” Melissa heard with dismay; the
color had faded from her cheeks, and as Dido ended she asked gloomily:

“And Philip--and Alexander?”

“We have thought of everything,” replied the old woman. “As soon as we
were alone we held a council, Argutis and I. He went to find Alexander,
and I went to Philip. I found him in his rooms. He had come home very
late, the porter said, and I saw him in bed, and I had trouble enough to
wake him. Then I told him all, and he went on in such mad talk--it
will be no wonder if the gods punish him. He wanted to rush off to the
prefect, with his hair uncombed, just as he was. I had to bring him to
his senses; and then, while I was oiling his hair and helping him into
his best new mantle, he changed his mind, for he declared he would come
home first, to talk with you and Argutis. Argutis was at home again, but
he had not found Alexander, for the poor youth has to hide himself as if
he were a murderer.” And again she sobbed; nor was it till Melissa had
soothed her with kind speeches that she could go on with her story.

Philip had learned yesterday where Alexander was concealed, so he
undertook to go across the lake and inform him of what had occurred.
But Argutis, faithful and prudent, had hindered him, representing that
Alexander, who was easily moved, as soon as he heard that his father
was a prisoner would unhesitatingly give himself up to his enemies as a
hostage, and rush headlong into danger. Alexander must remain in hiding
so long as Caesar was in Alexandria. He (Argutis) would go instead of
Philip, who, for his part, might call on the prefect later. He would
cross the lake and warn Melissa not to return home, and to tell
Alexander what he might think necessary. The watch might possibly follow
Argutis; but he knew every lane and alley, and could mislead and avoid
them. Philip had listened to reason. The slave went, and must now soon
be back again.

Of how different a home-coming had Melissa dreamed! What new and
terrible griefs were these! Still, though distressed at the thought of
her vehement father in prison, she shed no tears, but told herself
that matters could only be mended by rational action on behalf of the
victims, and not by lamentations. She must be alone, to collect her
strength and consider the situation. So she desired Dido, to her great
amazement, to prepare some food, and bring her wine and water. Then,
seating herself, with a melancholy glance at her embroidery where it lay
folded together, she rested her elbow on the table and her head in her
hand, considering to whom she could appeal to save her father.

First she thought of Caesar himself, whose eye had met hers, and for
whom she had prayed and offered sacrifice. But the blood fired her
cheeks at the thought, and she repelled it at once. Yet her mind would
linger at the Serapeum, where her lover, too, still rested his fevered
head. She knew that the high-priests’ spacious lodgings there, with
their splendid rooms and banqueting halls, had been prepared for the
emperor; and she remembered various things which her brother had
told her of Timotheus, who was at the head not only of the heathen
priesthood, but also of the museum. He was said to be a philosopher, and
Philip had more than once been distinguished by him, and invited to his
house. Her brother must apply to him. He, who was in a way Caracalla’s
host, would easily succeed in obtaining her father’s release, from his
imperial guest.

Her grave face brightened at this thought, and, while she ate and
drank, another idea struck her. Alexander, too, must be known to the
high-priest; for Timotheus was the brother of Seleukus, whose daughter
the artist had just painted, and Timotheus had seen the portrait and
praised it highly. Thus it was not improbable that the generous man
would, if Philip besought him, intercede for Alexander. So all might
turn out better than she had ventured to hope.

Firmly convinced that it was her part to rescue her family, she once
more reviewed in her mind every acquaintance to whom she might look
for aid; but even during her meditations her tired frame asserted its
rights, and when Dido came in to remove the remains of the meal and the
empty wine-cup, she found Melissa sunk in sleep.

Shaking her head, and saying to herself that it served the old man right
for his cruel treatment of a dutiful child--though, for Alexander’s
sake, she might have tried to keep awake--the faithful soul pushed a
cushion under the girl’s head, drew the screen across the window, and
stood waving off the flies which buzzed about her darling’s flushed
face, till presently the dog barked, and an energetic knock shook the
house-door. Melissa started from her slumbers, the old woman threw aside
the fan, and, as she hurried to admit the vehement visitor, cried out to
Melissa:

“Be easy, dear child--be easy. It is nothing; depend upon that. I know
the knock; it is only Philip.”



CHAPTER XIV.

Dido was right. Heron’s eldest son had returned from his errand. Tired,
disappointed, and with fierce indignation in his eyes, he staggered
in like a drunken man who has been insulted in his cups; and, without
greeting her--as his mother had taught her children to greet even their
slaves--he merely asked in hoarse tones, “Is Melissa come in?”

“Yes, yes,” replied Dido, laying her finger to her lips. “You roused her
from a nap. And what a state you are in! You must not let her see you
so! It is very clear what news you bring. The prefect will not help us?”

“Help us!” echoed Philip, wrathfully. “In Alexandria a man may drown
rather than another will risk wetting his feet.”

“Nay, it is not so bad as that,” said the old woman. “Alexander himself
has burned his fingers for others many a time. Wait a minute. I will
fetch you a draught of wine. There is some still in the kitchen; for if
you appear before your sister in that plight--”

But Melissa had recognized her brother’s voice, and, although Philip had
smoothed his hair a little with his hands, one glance at his face showed
her that his efforts had been vain.

“Poor boy!” she said, when, in answer to her question as to what his
news was, he had answered gloomily, “As bad as possible.”

She took his hand and led him into the work-room. There she reminded him
that she was giving him a new brother in Diodoros; and he embraced her
fondly, and wished her and her betrothed every happiness. She thanked
him out of a full heart, while he swallowed his wine, and then she
begged him to tell her all he had done.

He began, and, as she gazed at him, it struck her how little he
resembled his father and brother, though he was no less tall, and his
head was shaped like theirs. But his frame, instead of showing their
stalwart build, was lean and weakly. His spine did not seem strong
enough for his long body, and he never held himself upright. His head
was always bent forward, as if he were watching or seeking something;
and even when he had seated himself in his father’s place at the
work-table to tell his tale, his hands and feet, even the muscles of his
well-formed but colorless face, were in constant movement. He would jump
up, or throw back his head to shake his long hair off his face, and his
fine, large, dark eyes glowed with wrathful fires.

“I received my first repulse from the prefect,” he began, and as he
spoke, his arms, on whose graceful use the Greeks so strongly insisted,
flew up in the air as though by their own impulse rather than by the
speaker’s will.

“Titianus affects the philosopher, because when he was young--long ago,
that is very certain--his feet trod the Stoa.”

“Your master, Xanthos, said that he was a very sound philosopher,”
 Melissa put in.

“Such praise is to be had cheap,” said Philip, “by the most influential
man in the town. But his methods are old-fashioned. He crawls after
Zeno; he submits to authority, and requires more independent spirits to
do the same. To him the divinity is the Great First Cause. In this world
of ours he can discern the working of a purposeful will, and confuses
his mind with windy, worn-out ideals. Virtue, he says--but to what end
repeat such stale old stuff?”

“We have no time for it,” said Melissa, who saw that Philip was on the
point of losing himself in a philosophical dissertation, for he had
begun to enjoy the sound of his own voice, which was, in fact, unusually
musical.

“Why not?” he exclaimed, shrugging his shoulders, and with a bitter
smile. “When he has shot away all his arrows, the bowman may rest; and,
as you will soon hear, our quiver is empty--as empty as this cup which I
have drained.”

“No, no!” exclaimed Melissa, eagerly. “If this first attempt has failed,
that is the very reason for planning another. I, too, can use figures of
speech. The archer who is really eager to hit the object on which he has
spent his arrows, does not retire from the fight, but fetches more; and
if he can find none, he fights with his bow, or falls on the enemy with
stones, fists, and teeth.”

Philip looked at her in astonishment, and exclaimed in pleased surprise,
without any of the supercilious scorn which he commonly infused into his
tone when addressing his humble sister:

“Listen to our little girl! Where did those gentle eyes get that
determined flash? From misfortune--from misfortune! They rob the gentle
dove of her young--I mean her splendid Alexander--and lo, she becomes
a valiant falcon! I expected to find you a heart-broken lamb, over your
tear-stained stitching, and behold it is you who try to fire me. Well,
then, tell me what arrows we have left, when you have heard me out. But,
before I proceed, is Argutis at home again? No? He must go across again,
to take various things to Alexander--linen, garments, and the like. I
met Glaukias the sculptor, and he begged me not to forget it; for he
knows where the lad is hidden, and was on the point of going over to
see him. The man had made himself perfectly unrecognizable. He is a true
friend, if such a thing there be! And how grieved he was to hear of my
father’s ill fortune! I believe he is envious of Diodoros.”

Melissa shook a finger at him; but she turned pale, and curiously
inquired whether her brother had remembered to warn Glaukias on no
account to tell Alexander that it was in his power to release his
father.

Philip struck his brow, and, with a helpless fall of the mouth, which
was usually so firmly set and ready to sneer, he exclaimed, like a boy
caught in mischief: “That, that--I can not imagine how I forgot it, but
I did not mention it. What strange absence of mind! But I can remedy it
at once on the spot. Argutis--nay, I will go myself.”

He sprang up, and was on the point of carrying out his sudden purpose,
but Melissa detained him. With a decisiveness which again amazed him,
she desired him to remain; and while he paced the workroom with rapid
strides, heaping abuse on himself, now striking his breast, and now
pushing his fingers through his disordered hair, she made it clear to
him that he could not reach Alexander in time to prevent his knowing
all, and that the only result of his visit would be to put the watch on
the track. Instead of raving and lamenting, he would do better to tell
her whither he had been.

First, he hastily began, he had gone to the prefect Titianus, who was
an elderly man of a noble family, many of whose members had ere now
occupied the official residence of the prefect in Alexandria, and in
other towns of Egypt. He had often met Philip at the disputations he
was wont to attend in the Museum, and had a great regard for him. But
of late Titianus had been out of health, and had kept his house. He
had undergone some serious operation shortly before Caesar’s arrival at
Alexandria had been announced, and this had made it impossible for him
to be present at the grand reception, or even to pay his respects to
Caracalla.

When Philip had sent in his name, Titianus had been very ready to
receive him; but while the philosopher was still waiting in the
anteroom, wondering to find it so empty--for it was usually crowded with
the clients, petitioners, and friends of the most important man in
the province--a bustle had arisen behind him, and a tall man had been
ushered in past him, whom he recognized as the senator on whose arm
Caracalla had leaned in the morning. This was the actor, whom the priest
of Serapis had pointed out to Melissa as one of Caesar’s most powerful
favorites. From being a mere dancer he had risen in the course of a few
years to the highest dignities. His name was Theocritus, and although he
was distinguished by great personal beauty and exceptional cleverness,
his unbridled greed had made him hated, and he had proved equally
incompetent as a statesman and a general.

As this man marched through the anteroom, he had glanced haughtily about
him, and the look of contempt which fell on the philosopher probably
reflected on the small number of persons present, for at that hour the
anterooms of Romans of rank were commonly thronged. Most visitors had
been dismissed, by reason of the prefect’s illness, and many of the
acquaintances and supplicants who were generally to be found here were
assembled in the imperial quarters, or in the rooms of the praetorian
prefect and other powerful dignitaries in Caracalla’s train. Titianus
had failed to be present at the emperor’s arrival, and keen courtier
noses smelled a fall, and judged it wise to keep out of the way of a
tottering power.

Besides all this, the prefect’s honesty was well known, and it was
strongly suspected that he, as steward of all the taxes of this wealthy
province, had been bold enough to reject a proposal made by Theocritus
to embezzle the whole freight of a fleet loaded with corn for Rome, and
charge it to the account of army munitions. It was a fact that this base
proposal had been made and rejected only the evening before, and the
scene of which Philip became the witness was the result of this refusal.

Theocritus, to whom an audience was always indispensable, carefully
left the curtains apart which divided the prefect’s sick-room from
the antechamber, and thus Philip was witness of the proceedings he now
described to his sister.

Titianus received his visitor, lying down, and yet his demeanor revealed
the self-possessed dignity of a high-born Roman, and the calm of a Stoic
philosopher. He listened unmoved to the courtier, who, after the usual
formal greetings, took upon himself to overwhelm the older man with the
bitterest accusations and reproaches. People allowed themselves to
take strange liberties with Caesar in this town, Theocritus burst out;
insolent jests passed from lip to lip. An epigram against his sacred
person had found its way into the Serapeum, his present residence--an
insult worthy of any punishment, even of death and crucifixion.

When the prefect, with evident annoyance, but still quite calmly,
desired to know what this extraordinary insult might be, Theocritus
showed that even in his high position he had preserved the accurate
memory of the mime, and, half angry, but yet anxious to give full effect
to the lines by voice and gesture, he explained that “some wretch had
fastened a rope to one of the doors of the sanctuary, and had written
below it the blasphemous words:

  ‘Hail! For so welcome a guest never came to the sovereign of Hades.
   Who ever peopled his realm, Caesar, more freely than thou?
   Laurels refuse to grow green in the darksome abode of Serapis;
   Take, then, this rope for a gift, never more richly deserved.’”

“It is disgraceful!” exclaimed the prefect.

“Your indignation is well founded. But the biting tongue of the
frivolous mixed races dwelling in this city is well known. They have
tried it on me; and if, in this instance, any one is to blame, it is not
I, the imprisoned prefect, but the chief and captain of the night-watch,
whose business it is to guard Caesar’s residence more strictly.”

At this Theocritus was furious, and poured out a flood of words,
expatiating on the duties of a prefect as Caesar’s representative in
the provinces. “His eye must be as omniscient as that of the all-seeing
Deity. The better he knew the uproarious rabble over whom he ruled,
the more evidently was it his duty to watch over Caesar’s person as
anxiously as a mother over her child, as a miser over his treasure.”

The high-sounding words flowed with dramatic emphasis, the sentimental
speaker adding to their impressiveness by the action of his hands, till
it was more than the invalid could bear. With a pinched smile, he raised
himself with difficulty, and interrupted Theocritus with the impatient
exclamation, “Still the actor!”

“Yes, still!” retorted the favorite, in a hard voice. “You, however,
have been even longer--what you have, indeed, been too long--Prefect
of Egypt!” With an angry fling he threw the corner of his toga over his
shoulder, and, though his hand shook with rage, the pliant drapery fell
in graceful folds over his athletic limbs. He turned his back on the
prefect, and, with the air of a general who has just been crowned with
laurels, he stalked through the anteroom and past Philip once more.

The philosopher had told his sister all this in a few sentences. He now
paused in his walk to and fro to answer Melissa’s question as to whether
this upstart’s influence were really great enough to turn so noble and
worthy a man out of his office.

“Can you ask?” said Philip. “Titianus had no doubts from the first;
and what I heard in the Serapeum--but all in good time. The prefect was
sorry for my father and Alexander, but ended by saying that he
himself needed an intercessor; for, if it were not to-day, at any
rate to-morrow, the actor would inveigle Caesar into signing his
death-warrant.”

“Impossible!” cried the girl, spreading out her hands in horror; but
Philip dropped into a seat, saying:

“Listen to the end. There was evidently nothing to be hoped for from
Titianus. He is, no doubt, a brave man, but there is a touch of the
actor in him too. He is a Stoic; and where would be the point of that,
if a man could not appear to look on approaching death as calmly as on
taking a bath?

“Titianus plays his part well. However, I next went to the Serapeum--it
is a long way, and it was very hot in the sun--to ask for help from my
old patron, the high-priest. Caesar is now his guest; and the prefect,
too, had advised me to place my father’s cause in his hands.”

Here Philip sprang up again, and rushed up and down, sometimes stopping
for a moment in front of his sister while he went on with his story.

Theocritus had long since reached the Serapeum in his swift chariot when
the philosopher at last arrived there on foot. He was well known as a
frequent visitor, and was shown at once into the hall of that part of
his abode which Timotheus had reserved for himself when he had given up
all the best rooms to his imperial visitor.

The anteroom was crowded, and before he got any farther he heard that
the favorite’s accusations had already led to serious results, and
rumors were rife concerning the luckless witticisms of some heedless
youth, which would bring grief upon the peaceable citizens. But before
he could ask what was meant, he was admitted to the high-priest’s room.

This was a marked favor on such a day as this, and the benevolence with
which he was received by the head of the priesthood of the whole city
filled him with good hopes of a successful issue. But hardly had Philip
begun to speak of his brother’s misdemeanor, than Timotheus laid his
hand on his bearded lips, as a hint to be cautious, and whispered in his
ear, “Speak quickly and low, if you love your life!”

When Philip had hastily explained that Zminis had imprisoned his father,
the old man started to his feet with a promptitude to which his majestic
person was unaccustomed, and pointed to a curtained doorway on one side
of the room.

“Through that door,” he whispered, “you will reach the western steps,
and the passage leading out of the precincts to the stadium. You are
known to the Romans in the anteroom. It is not the god to whom this
building is dedicated who now rules within these walls. Your brother’s
rash words are repeated everywhere, and have even come to Caesar’s
knowledge; and he has been told that it was the same traitor--who has
for the moment escaped Zminis and his men--who nailed a rope on one of
our doors, and with it an audacious inscription. To speak a single word
in behalf of Alexander or your father would be to fling myself into the
fire without putting it out. You do not know how fiercely it is burning.
Theocritus is feeding the flame, for he needs it to destroy the prefect.
Now, not another word; and, come what may, so long as the Roman visitors
dwell under this roof, beware of it!”

And the high-priest opened the door with his own hand.

“I hurried home,” Philip added, “and if I forgot, in my dismay at this
fresh disaster, to warn Glaukias to be careful--But, no, no! It is
unpardonable!--Alexander is by this time crossing the lake, perhaps. I
am like Caracalla--my brother’s murderer!”

But Melissa laid her arm on his shoulder and besought the poor fellow
to be comforted; and her loving words of excuse seemed to have some good
effect. But why was he always so reserved? Why could not Philip be as
frank with her as Alexander was? She had never been very near to him;
and now he was concealing from her something which moved him deeply.

She turned away sadly, for she could not even comfort him. But then
again Philip sighed from the bottom of his heart, and she could contain
her self no longer. More tenderly than she had ever addressed him
before, she besought her brother to open his heart to her. She would
gladly help him to endure what oppressed him; and she could understand,
for she herself had learned what the joys and sorrows of love were.

She had found the right clew. Philip nodded, and answered gloomily:

“Well, then, listen. It may do me good to speak.” And thereupon he began
to tell her what she had already heard from Alexander; and, covering her
tingling cheeks with her hands, she listened with breathless attention,
not missing a word, though the question rose to her mind again and again
whether she should tell him the whole truth, which he as yet could not
know, or whether it would be better to spare his already burdened soul.

He described his love in glowing colors. Korinna’s heart, he said, must
have gone forth to him; for, at their last meeting on the northern shore
of the lake, her hand had rested in his while he helped her out of the
boat; he could still feel the touch of her fingers. Nor had the meeting
been pure accident, for he had since seen and recognized the presence on
earth of her departed soul in her apparently living form. And she, too,
with the subtle senses of a disembodied spirit, must have had a yearning
towards him, for she had perceived all the depth and fervor of his
passion. Alexander had given him this certainty; for when he had seen
Korinna by the lake, her soul had long since abandoned its earthly
tenement. Before that, her mortal part was already beyond his reach; and
yet he was happy, for the spirit was not lost to him. Only last night
magic forces had brought her before him--his father, too, had been
present, and no deception was possible. He had gone to bed in rapturous
excitement, full of delicious hopes, and Korinna had at once appeared
to him in a dream, so lovely, so kind, and at the same time so subtle a
vision, ready to follow him in his thoughts and strivings. But just as
he had heard a full assurance of her love from her own lips, and was
asking her by what name he should call her when the craving to see her
again should wax strong in him, old Dido had waked him, to cast him out
of elysium into the deepest earthly woes.

But, he added--and he drew himself up proudly--he should soon possess
the Magian’s art, for there was no kind of learning he could not master;
even as a boy he had proved that to his teachers. He, whose knowledge
had but yesterday culminated in the assurance that it was impossible to
know anything, could now assert with positive conviction, that the human
soul could exist apart from the matter it had animated. He had thus
gained that fixed footing outside the earth which Archimedes had
demanded to enable him to move it; and he should soon be able to exert
his power over departed souls, whose nature he now understood as well
as--ay, and better than--Serapion. Korinna’s obedient spirit would help
him, and when once he should succeed in commanding the souls of the
dead, as their master, and in keeping them at hand among the living, a
new era of happiness would begin, not only for him and his father, but
for every one who had lost one dear to him by death.

But here Melissa interrupted his eager and confident speech. She had
listened with increasing uneasiness to the youth who, as she knew, had
been cheated. At first she thought it would be cruel to destroy his
bright illusions. He should at least in this be happy, till the anguish
of having thoughtlessly betrayed his brother to ruin should be a thing
of the past! But when she perceived that he purposed involving his
father in the Magian’s snares by calling up his mother’s Manes, she
could no longer be silent, and she broke out with indignant warning:
“Leave my father alone, Philip! For all you saw at the Magian’s was mere
trickery.”

“Gently, child,” said the philosopher, in a superior tone. “I was of
exactly the same opinion till after sundown yesterday. You know that the
tendency of the school of philosophy to which I belong insists, above
all, on a suspension of judgment; but if there is one thing which may be
asserted with any dogmatic certainty--”

But Melissa would hear no more. She briefly but clearly explained to him
who the maiden was whose hand he had held by the lake, and whom he had
seen again at Serapion’s house; and as she went on his interruptions
became fewer. She did her utmost, with growing zeal, to destroy his
luckless dream; but when the blood faded altogether from his colorless
cheeks, and he clasped his hand over his brow as if to control some
physical suffering, she recovered her self-command; the beautiful fear
of a woman’s heart of ever giving useless pain, made her withhold from
Philip what remained to be told of Agatha’s meeting with Alexander.

But, without this further revelation, Philip sat staring at the ground
as if he were overwhelmed; and what hurt him so deeply was less the
painful sense of having been cheated by such coarse cunning, than
the annihilation of the treasured hopes which he had founded on the
experiences of the past night. He felt as though a brutal foot had
trampled down the promise of future joys on which he had counted; his
sister’s revelations had spoiled not merely his life on earth, but all
eternity beyond the grave. Where hope ends despair steps in; and Philip,
with reckless vehemence, flung himself, as it were, into its arms. His
was an excitable nature; he had never thought of any one but himself,
but labored with egotistical zeal to cultivate his own mind and outdo
his fellows in the competition for learning. The sullen words in which
he called himself the most wretched man on earth, and the victim of the
blackest ill-fortune, fell from his lips like stones. He rudely repelled
his sister’s encouraging words, like a sick child whose pain is the
greater for being pitied, till at last she appealed to his sense of
duty, reminding him that something must be done to rescue her father and
Alexander.

“They also! They also!” he cried. “It falls on us all. Blind Fate drives
us all, innocent as we are, to death and despair, like the Tantalides.
What sin have you committed, gentle, patient child; or our father, or
our happy-hearted and gifted brother; or I--I myself? Have those whom
we call the rulers of the universe the right to punish me because I make
use of the inquiring spirit they have bestowed on me? Ah, and how well
they know how to torture us! They hate me for my learning, and so they
turn my little errors to account to allow me to be cheated like a fool!
They are said to be just, and they behave like a father who disinherits
his son because, as a man, he notes his parent’s weakness. With tears
and anguish have I striven for truth and knowledge. There is not a
province of thought whose deepest depths I have not tried to fathom;
and when I recognized that it is not given to mortals to apprehend the
essence of the divinity because the organs bestowed on us are too small
and feeble; when I refused to pronounce whether that which I can not
apprehend exists or not, was that my fault, or theirs? There may be
divine forces which created and govern the universe; but never talk to
me of their goodness, and reasonableness, and care for human creatures!
Can a reasonable being, who cares for the happiness of another, strew
the place assigned to him to dwell in with snares and traps, or implant
in his breast a hundred impulses of which the gratification only drags
him into an abyss? Is that Being my friend, who suffers me to be born
and to grow up, and leaves me tied to the martyr’s stake, with very few
real joys, and finally kills me, innocent or guilty, as surely as I am
born? If the divinity which is supposed to bestow on us a portion of the
divine essence in the form of reason were constituted as the crowd
are taught to believe, there could be nothing on earth but wisdom and
goodness; but the majority are fools or wicked, and the good are like
tall trees, which the lightning blasts rather than the creeping weed.
Titianus falls before the dancer Theocritus, the noble Papinian before
the murderer Caracalla, our splendid Alexander before such a wretch as
Zminis; and divine reason lets it all happen, and allows human reason
to proclaim the law. Happiness is for fools and knaves; for those
who cherish and uphold reason--ay, reason, which is a part of the
divinity--persecution, misery, and despair.”

“Have done!” Melissa exclaimed. “Have the judgments of the immortals not
fallen hardly enough on us? Would you provoke them to discharge their
fury in some more dreadful manner?”

At this the skeptic struck his breast with defiant pride, exclaiming:
“I do not fear them, and dare to proclaim openly the conclusions of
my thoughts. There are no gods! There is no rational guidance of the
universe. It has arisen self-evolved, by chance; and if a god created
it, he laid down eternal laws and has left them to govern its course
without mercy or grace, and without troubling himself about the puling
of men who creep about on the face of the earth like the ants on that of
a pumpkin. And well for us that it should be so! Better a thousand times
is it to be the servant of an iron law, than the slave of a capricious
master who takes a malignant and envious pleasure in destroying the
best!”

“And this, you say, is the final outcome of your thoughts?” asked
Melissa, shaking her head sadly. “Do you not perceive that such an
outbreak of mad despair is simply unworthy of your own wisdom, of
which the end and aim should be a passionless, calm, and immovable
moderation?”

“And do they show such moderation,” Philip gasped out, “who pour the
poison of misfortune in floods on one tortured heart?”

“Then you can accuse those whose existence you disbelieve in?” retorted
Melissa with angry zeal. “Is this your much-belauded logic? What becomes
of your dogmas, in the face of the first misfortune--dogmas which enjoin
a reserve of decisive judgment, that you may preserve your equanimity,
and not overburden your soul, in addition to the misfortune itself, with
the conviction that something monstrous has befallen you? I remember how
much that pleased me the first time I heard it. For your own sake--for
the sake of us all--cease this foolish raving, and do not merely call
yourself a skeptic--be one; control the passion that is rending you. For
love of me--for love of us all--”

And as she spoke she laid her hand on his shoulder, for he had sat down
again; and although he pushed her away with some petulance, she went on
in a tone of gentle entreaty: “If we are not to be altogether too late
in the field, let us consider the situation calmly. I am but a girl, and
this fresh disaster will fall more hardly on me than on you; for what
would become of me without my father?”

“Life with him has at any rate taught you patient endurance,” her
brother broke in with a sullen shrug.

“Yes, life,” she replied, firmly: “life, which shows us the right way
better than all your books. Who can tell what may have detained Argutis?
I wilt wait no longer. The sun will have set before long, and this
evening Caesar is to sup with Seleukus, the father of Korinna. I happen
to know it from Samonicus, who is one of the guests. Seleukus and his
wife have a great regard for Alexander, and will do for him all that
lies in their power. The lady Berenike, he told me, is a noble dame. It
should be your part to entreat her help for our father and brother; but
you must not venture where Caesar is. So I will go, and I shall have no
rest till Korinna’s mother listens to me and promises to aid us.”

At this Philip exclaimed, in horror: “What! you will dare to enter the
house where Caracalla is feasting with the rabble he calls his friends?
You, an inexperienced girl, young, beautiful, whose mere appearance
is enough to stir their evil passions? Sooner than allow that, I will
myself find my way into the house of Seleukus, and among the spies who
surround the tyrant.”

“That my father may lose another son, and I my only remaining brother?”
 Melissa observed, with grave composure. “Say no more, Philip. I am
going, and you must wait for me here.”

The philosopher broke out at this in despotic wrath:

“What has come over you, that you have suddenly forgotten how to obey?
But I insist; and rather than allow you to bring on us not trouble
merely, but shame and disgrace, I will lock you into your room!”

He seized her hand to drag her into the adjoining room. She struggled
with all her might; but he was the stronger, and he had got her as far
as the door, when the Gaul Argutis rushed, panting and breathless,
into the work-room through the anteroom, calling out to the struggling
couple:

“What are you doing? By all the gods, you have chosen the wrong time for
a quarrel! Zminis is on the way hither to take you both prisoners; he
will be here in a minute! Fly into the kitchen, girl! Dido will hide you
in the wood-store behind the hearth.-You, Philip, must squeeze into the
henhouse. Only be quick, or it will be too late!”

“Go!” cried Melissa to her brother. “Out through the kitchen window you
can get into the poultry-yard!”

She threw herself weeping into his arms, kissed him, and added,
hastily: “Whatever happens to us, I shall risk all to save my father and
Alexander. Farewell! The gods preserve us!”

She now seized Philip’s wrist, as he had before grasped hers, to drag
him away; but he freed himself, saying, with an indifference which
terrified her: “Then let the worst come. Ruin may take its course. Death
rather than dishonor!”

“Madman!” the slave could not help exclaiming; and the faithful fellow,
though wont to obey, threw his arms round his master’s son to drag him
away into the kitchen, while Philip pushed him off, saying:

“I will not hide, like a frightened woman!”

But the Gaul heard the approach of marching men, so, paying no further
heed to the brother, he dragged Melissa into the kitchen, where old Dido
undertook to hide her.

Philip stood panting in the studio. Through the open window he could see
the pursuers coming nearer, and the instinct of self-preservation, which
asserts itself even in the strongest, prompted him to follow the slave’s
advice. But before he could reach the door, in fancy he saw himself
joining the party of philosophers airing themselves under the arcades in
the great court of the Museum; he heard their laughter and their bitter
jests at the skeptic, the independent thinker, who had sought refuge
among the fowls, who had been hauled out of the hen-house; and this
picture confirmed his determination to yield to force rather than bring
on himself the curse of ridicule. But at the same time other reasons
for submitting to his fate suggested themselves unbidden--reasons more
worthy of his position, of the whole course and aim of his thoughts, and
of the sorrow which weighed upon his soul. It beseemed him as a skeptic
to endure the worst with equanimity; under all circumstances he liked
to be in the right, and he would fain have called out to his sister that
the cruel powers whose enmity he had incurred still persisted in driving
him on to despair and death, worthy as he was of a better fate.

A few minutes later Zminis came in, and put out his long lean arms to
apprehend him in Caesar’s name. Philip submitted, and not a muscle of
his face moved. Once, indeed, a smile lighted it up, as he reflected
that they would hardly have carried him off to prison if Alexander were
already in their power; but the smile gave way only too soon to gloomy
gravity when Zminis informed him that his brother, the traitor, had just
given himself up to the chief of the night-watch, and was now safe under
lock and ward. But his crime was so great that, according to the law of
Egypt, his nearest relations were to be seized and punished with him.
Only his sister was now missing, but they would know how to find her.

“Possibly,” Philip replied, coldly. “As justice is blind, Injustice has
no doubt all the sharper eyes.”

“Well said,” laughed the Egyptian. “A pinch of the salt which they give
you at the Museum with your porridge--for nothing.”

Argutis had witnessed this scene; and when, half an hour later,
the men-at-arms had left the house without discovering Melissa’s
hiding-place, he informed her that Alexander had, as they feared, given
himself up of his own free-will to procure Heron’s release; but the
villains had kept the son, without liberating the father. Both were
now in prison, loaded with chains. The slave had ended his tale some
minutes, and Melissa still stood, pale and tearless, gazing on the
ground as though she were turned to stone; but suddenly she shivered, as
if with the chill of fever, and looked up, out through the windows into
the garden, now dim in the twilight. The sun had set, night was falling,
and again the words of the Christian preacher recurred to her mind: “The
fullness of the time is come.”

To her and hers a portion of life had come to an end, and a new one must
grow out of it. Should the free-born race of Heron perish in captivity
and death?

The evening star blazed out on the distant horizon, seeming to her as
a sign from the gods; and she told herself that it must be her part,
as the last of the family who remained free, to guard the others from
destruction in this new life.

The heavens were soon blazing with stars. The banquet in Seleukus’s
house, at which Caesar was to appear, would begin in an hour.
Irresolution and delay would ruin all; so she drew herself up resolutely
and called to Argutis, who had watched her with faithful sympathy:

“Take my father’s blue cloak, Argutis, to make you more dignified; and
disguise yourself, for you must escort me, and we may be followed. You,
Dido, come and help me. Take my new dress, that I wore at the Feast
of Adonis, out of my trunk; and with it you will see my mother’s blue
fillet with the gems. My father used to say I should first wear it at my
wedding, but--Well, you must bind my hair with it to-night. I am going
to a grand house, where no one will be admitted who does not look worthy
of people of mark. But take off the jewel; a supplicant should make no
display.”



CHAPTER XV.

Nothing delighted old Dido more than to dress the daughter of her
beloved mistress in all her best, for she had helped to bring her up;
but to-day it was a cruel task; tears dimmed her old eyes. It was not
till she had put the finishing touches to braiding the girl’s abundant
brown hair, pinned her peplos on the shoulders with brooches, and set
the girdle straight, that her face cleared, as she looked at the result.
Never had she seen her darling look so fair. Nothing, indeed, remained
of the child-like timidity and patient submissiveness which had touched
Dido only two days since, as she plaited Melissa’s hair. The maiden’s
brow was grave and thoughtful, the lips firmly set; but she seemed to
Dido to have grown, and to have gained something of her mother’s mature
dignity. She looked, the old woman told her, like the image of Pallas
Athene; adding, to make her smile, that if she wanted an owl, she,
Dido, could fill the part. Jesting had never been the old woman’s strong
point, and to-day it was less easy than ever; for, if the worst befell,
and she were sent in her old age to a strange house--and Argutis, no
doubt, to another--she would have to turn the handmill for the rest of
her days.

But it was a hard task which the motherless--and now fatherless--girl
had set herself, and she must try to cheer her darling. While she was
dressing her, she never ceased praying to all the gods and goddesses she
could think of to come to the maiden’s aid and move the souls of those
who could help her. And though she was, as a rule, ready to expect the
worst, this time she hoped for the best; for Seleukus’s wife must have a
heart of stone if she could close it to such innocence, such beauty, and
the pathetic glance of those large, imploring eyes.

When at length Melissa quitted the house, deeply veiled, with Argutis to
escort her, she took his arm; and he, wearing his master’s mantle, and
exempted long since from keeping his hair cropped, was so proud of this
that he walked with all the dignity of a freeman, and no one could have
guessed that he was a slave. Melissa’s face was completely hidden,
and she, like her companion, was safe from recognition. Argutis,
nevertheless, led her through the quietest and darkest lanes to the
Kanopic way. Both were silent, and looked straight before them. Melissa,
as she walked on, could not think with her usual calm. Like a suffering
man who goes to the physician’s house to die or be cured by the knife,
she felt that she was on her way to something terrible in itself,
to remedy, if possible, something still more dreadful. Her
father--Alexander, so reckless and so good-hearted--Philip, whom she
pitied--and her sick lover, came in turn before her fancy. But she could
not control her mind to dwell on either for long. Nor could she, as
usual, when she had any serious purpose in hand, put up a prayer to her
mother’s manes or the immortals; and all the while an inner voice made
itself heard, confidently promising her that Caesar, for whom she
had sacrificed, and who might be kinder and more merciful than others
fancied, would at once grant all she should ask. But she would not
listen; and when she nevertheless ventured to consider how she could
make her way into Caesar’s presence, a cold shiver ran down her back,
and again Philip’s last words sounded in her ears, “Death rather than
dishonor!”

Other thoughts and feelings filled the slave’s soul. He, who had always
watched over his master’s children with far more anxious care than
Heron himself, had not said a word to dissuade Melissa from her perilous
expedition. Her plan had, indeed, seemed to him the only one which
promised any success. He was a man of sixty years, and a shrewd fellow,
who might easily have found a better master than Heron had been; but
he gave not a thought to his own prospects--only to Melissa’s, whom
he loved as a child of his own. She had placed herself under his
protection, and he felt responsible for her fate. Thus he regarded it as
great good fortune that he could be of use in procuring her admission
to the house of Seleukus, for the door-keeper was a fellow-countryman
of his, whom Fate had brought hither from the banks of the Moselle. At
every festival, which secured a few hours’ liberty to all the slaves,
they had for years been boon companions, and Argutis knew that his
friend would do for him and his young mistress all that lay in his
power. It would, of course, be difficult to get an audience of the
mistress of a house where Caesar was a guest, but the door-keeper was
clever and ingenious, and would do anything short of the impossible.

So he walked with his head high and his heart full of pride, and it
confirmed his courage when one of Zminis’s men, whom they passed in
the brightly illuminated Kanopic street, and who had helped to secure
Philip, looked at him without recognizing him.

There was a great stir in this, the handsomest road through the city.
The people were waiting for Caesar; but stricter order was observed than
on the occasion of his arrival. The guard prohibited all traffic on the
southern side of the way, and only allowed the citizens to walk up and
down the footpath, shaded by trees, between the two roadways paved with
granite flags, and the arcades in front of the houses on either side.
The free inhabitants, unaccustomed to such restrictions, revenged
themselves by cutting witticisms at Caesar’s expense, “for clearing the
streets of Alexandria by his men-at-arms as he did those of Rome by the
executioner. He seemed to have forgotten, as he kept the two roads
open, that he only needed one, now that he had murdered his brother and
partner.”

Melissa and her companion were ordered to join the crowd on the footway;
but Argutis managed to convince a man on guard that they were two of the
mimes who were to perform before Caesar--the door-keeper at the house of
Seleukus would confirm the fact--and the official himself made way for
them into the vestibule of this splendid dwelling.

But Melissa was as little in the humor to admire all the lavish
magnificence which surrounded her as Alexander had been a few days
since. Still veiled, she modestly took a place among the choir who stood
on each side of the hall ready to welcome Caesar with singing and
music. Argutis stopped to speak with his friend. She dimly felt that the
whispering and giggling all about her was at her expense; and when an
elderly, man, the choir-master, asked her what she wanted, and desired
her to remove her veil, she obeyed at once, saying: “Pray let me stand
here, the Lady Berenike will send for me.”

“Very well,” replied the musician; and he silenced the singers, who were
hazarding various impertinent guesses as to the arrival of so pretty a
girl just when Caesar was expected.

As Melissa dropped her veil the splendor of the scene, lighted up by
numberless tapers and lamps, forced itself on her attention. She now
perceived that the porphyry columns of the great hall were wreathed with
flowers, and that garlands swung in graceful curves from the open roof;
while at the farther end, statues had been placed of Septimus Severus
and Julia Domna, Caracalla’s parents. On each side of these works of
art stood bowers of plants, in which gay-plumaged birds were fluttering
about, excited by the lights. But all these glories swam before her
eyes, and the first question which the artist’s daughter was wont to ask
herself, “is it really beautiful or no?” never occurred to her mind. She
did not even notice the smell of incense, until some fresh powder was
thrown on, and it became oppressive.

She was fully conscious only of two facts, when at last Argutis
returned: that she was the object of much curious examination and that
every one was wondering what detained Caesar so long.

At last, after she had waited many long minutes, the door-keeper
approached her with a young woman in a rich but simple dress, in whom
she recognized Johanna, the Christian waiting-maid of whom Alexander had
spoken. She did not speak, but beckoned her to come.

Breathing anxiously, and bending her head low, Melissa, following her
guide, reached a handsome impluvium, where a fountain played in the
midst of a bed of roses. Here the moon and starlight mingled with that
of lamps without number, and the ruddy glare of a blaze; for all round
the basin, from which the playing waters danced skyward, stood marble
genii, carrying in their hands or on their heads silver dishes, in which
the leaping flames consumed cedar chips and aromatic resins.

At the back of this court, where it was as light as day, at the top of
three steps, stood the statues of Alexander the Great and Caracalla.
They were of equal size; and the artist, who had wrought the second in
great haste out of the slightest materials, had been enjoined to make
Caesar as like as possible in every respect to the hero he most revered.
Thus they looked like brothers. The figures were lighted up by the fires
which burned on two altars of ivory and gold. Beautiful boys, dressed as
armed Erotes, fed the flames.

The whole effect was magical and bewildering; but, as she followed her
guide, Melissa only felt that she was in the midst of a new world, such
as she might perhaps have seen in a dream; till, as they passed the
fountain, the cool drops sprinkled her face.

Then she suddenly remembered what had brought her hither. In a
minute she must appear as a supplicant in the presence of Korinna’s
mother--perhaps even in that of Caesar himself--and the fate of all dear
to her depended on her demeanor. The sense of fulfilling a serious duty
was uppermost in her mind. She drew herself up, and replaced a stray
lock of hair; and her heart beat almost to bursting as she saw a number
of, men standing on the platform at the top of the steps, round a lady
who had just risen from her ivory seat. Giving her hand to a Roman
senator, distinguished by the purple edge to his toga, she descended the
steps, and advanced to meet Melissa.

This dignified matron, who was awaiting the ruler of the world and yet
could condescend to come forward to meet a humble artist’s daughter,
was taller by half a head than her illustrious companion; and the few
minutes during which Berenike was coming toward her were enough to fill
Melissa with thankfulness, confidence, and admiration. And even in that
short time, as she gazed at the magnificent dress of blue brocade shot
with gold and sparkling with precious stones which draped the lady’s
majestic figure, she thought how keen a pang it must cost the mother,
so lately bereft of her only child, to maintain a kindly, nay, a genial
aspect, in the midst of this display, toward Caesar and a troop of noisy
guests.

The sincerest pity for this woman, rich and preeminent as she was,
filled the soul of the girl, who herself was so much to be pitied. But
when the lady had come up to her, and asked, in her deep voice, what
was the danger that threatened her brother, Melissa, with unembarrassed
grace, and although it was the first time she had ever addressed a lady
of such high degree, answered simply, with a full sense of the business
in hand:

“My name is Melissa; I am the sister of Alexander the painter. I know
it is overbold to venture into your presence just now, when you have
so much else to think of; but I saw no other way of saving my brother’s
life, which is in peril.”

At this Berenike seemed surprised. She turned to her companion, who was
her sister’s husband, and the first Egyptian who had been admitted to
the Roman Senate, and said, in a tone of gentle reproach:

“Did not I say so, Coeranus? Nothing but the most urgent need would have
brought Alexander’s sister to speak with me at such an hour.”

And the senator, whose black eyes had rested with pleasure on Melissa’s
rare beauty, promptly replied, “And if she had come for the veriest
trifle she would be no less welcome to me.”

“Let me hear no more of such speeches,” Berenike exclaimed with some
annoyance.--“Now, my child, be quick. What about your brother?”

Melissa briefly and truthfully reported Alexander’s heedless crime and
the results to her father and Philip. She ended by beseeching the noble
lady with fervent pathos to intercede for her father and brothers.

Meanwhile the senator’s keen face had darkened, and the lady Berenike’s
large eyes, too, were downcast. She evidently found it hard to come to
a decision; and for the moment she was relieved of the necessity, for
runners came hurrying up, and the senator hastily desired Melissa to
stand aside.

He whispered to his sister-in-law:

“It will never do to spoil Caesar’s good-humor under your roof for the
sake of such people,” and Berenike had only time to reply, “I am not
afraid of him,” when the messenger explained to her that Caesar himself
was prevented from coming, but that his representatives, charged with
his apologies, were close at hand.

On this Coeranus exclaimed, with a sour smile: “Admit that I am a true
prophet! You have to put up with the same treatment that we senators
have often suffered under.”

But the matron scarcely heard him. She cast her eyes up to heaven with
sincere thanksgiving as she murmured with a sigh of relief, “For this
mercy the gods be praised!”

She unclasped her hands from her heaving bosom, and said to the steward
who had followed the messengers:

“Caesar will not be present. Inform your lord, but so that no one else
may hear. He must come here and receive the imperial representatives
with me. Then have my couch quietly removed and the banquet served at
once. O Coeranus, you can not imagine the misery I am thus spared!”

“Berenike!” said the senator, in a warning voice, and he laid his finger
on his lips. Then turning to the young supplicant, he said to her in a
tone of regret: “So your walk is for nothing, fair maid. If you are as
sensible as you are pretty, you will understand that it is too much to
ask any one to stand between the lion and the prey which has roused his
ire.”

The lady, however, did not heed the caution which her brother-in-law
intended to convey. As Melissa’s imploring eyes met her own, she said,
with clear decision:

“Wait here. We shall see who it is that Caesar sends. I know better than
my lord here what it is to see those dear to us in peril. How old are
you, child?”

“Eighteen,” replied Melissa.

“Eighteen?” repeated Berenike, as if the word were a pain to her, for
her daughter had been just of that age. Then she said, louder and with
encouraging kindness:

“All that lies in my power shall be done for you and yours.--And you,
Coeranus, must help me.”

“If I can,” he replied, “with all the zeal of my reverence for you and
my admiration for beauty. But here come the envoys. The elder, I see, is
our learned Philostratus, whose works are known to you; the younger is
Theocritus, the favorite of fortune of whom I was telling you. If the
charm of that face might but conquer the omnipotent youth--”

“Coeranus!” she exclaimed, with stern reproof; but she failed to hear
the senator’s excuses, for her husband, Seleukus, followed her down the
steps, and with a hasty sign to her, advanced to meet his guests.

Theocritus was spokesman, and notwithstanding the mourning toga which
wrapped him in fine folds, his gestures did not belie his origin as an
actor and dancer. When Seleukus presented him to his wife, Theocritus
assured her that when, but an hour since, his sovereign lord, who was
already dressed and wreathed for the banquet, had learned that the gods
had bereft of their only child the couple whose hospitality had promised
him such a delightful evening, he had been equally shocked and grieved.
Caesar was deeply distressed at the unfortunate circumstance that he
should have happened in his ignorance to intrude on the seclusion which
was the prerogative of grief. He begged to assure her and her husband of
the high favor of the ruler of the world. As for himself, Theocritus,
he would not fail to describe the splendor with which they had decorated
their princely residence in Caesar’s honor. His imperial master would be
touched, indeed, to hear that even the bereaved mother, who, like Niobe,
mourned for her offspring, had broken the stony spell which held her to
Sipylos, and had decked herself to receive the greatest of all earthly
guests as radiant as Juno at the golden table of the gods.

The lady succeeded in controlling herself and listening to the end of
these pompous phrases without interrupting the speaker. Every word which
flowed so glibly from his tongue fell on her ear as bitter mockery; and
he himself was so repugnant to her, that she felt it a release when,
after exchanging a few words with the master of the house, he begged
leave to retire, as important business called him away. And this,
indeed, was the truth. For no consideration would he have left this duty
to another, for it was to communicate to Titianus, who had offended him,
the intelligence that Caesar had deprived him of the office of prefect,
and intended to examine into certain complaints of his administration.

The second envoy, however, remained, though he refused Seleukus’s
invitation to fill his place at the banquet. He exchanged a few words
with the lady Berenike, and presently found himself taken aside by
the senator, and, after a short explanation, led up to Melissa,
whom Coeranus desired to appeal for help to Philostratus, the famous
philosopher, who enjoyed Caesar’s closest confidence.

Coeranus then obeyed a sign from Berenike, who wished to know whether
he would be answerable for introducing this rarely pretty girl, who had
placed herself under their protection--and whom she, for her part, meant
to protect--to a courtier of whom she knew nothing but that he was a
writer of taste.

The question seemed to amuse Coeranus, but, seeing that his
sister-in-law was very much in earnest, he dropped his flippant tone
and admitted that Philostratus, as a young man, had been one of the
last with whom he would trust a girl. His far-famed letters sufficiently
proved that the witty philosopher had been a devoted and successful
courtier of women. But that was all a thing of the past. He still, no
doubt, did homage to female beauty, but he led a regular life, and had
become one of the most ardent and earnest upholders of religion and
virtue. He was one of the learned circle which gathered round Julia
Domna, and it was by her desire that he had accompanied Caracalla, to
keep his mad passions in check when it might be possible.

The conversation between Melissa and the philosopher had meanwhile taken
an unexpected turn. At his very first address the reply had died on her
lips, for in Caesar’s representative she had recognized the Roman whom
she had seen in the Temple of Asklepios, and who had perhaps overheard
her there. Philostratus, too, seemed to remember the meeting; for his
shrewd face--a pleasing mixture of grave and gay--lighted up at once
with a subtle smile as he said:

“If I am not mistaken, I owe the same pleasure this evening to divine
Caesar as to great Asklepios this morning?”

At this, Melissa cast a meaning glance at Coeranus and the lady, and,
although surprise and alarm sealed her lips, her uplifted hands and
whole gesture sufficiently expressed her entreaty that he would not
betray her. He understood and obeyed. It pleased him to share a secret
with this fair child. He had, in fact, overheard her, and understood
with amazement that she was praying fervently for Caesar.

This stirred his curiosity to the highest pitch. So he said, in an
undertone:

“All that I saw and heard in the temple is our secret, sweet maid. But
what on earth can have prompted you to pray so urgently for Caesar? Has
he done you or yours any great benefit?”

Melissa shook her head, and Philostratus went on with increased
curiosity:

“Then are you one of those whose heart Eros can fire at the sight of an
image, or the mere aspect of a man?”

To this she answered hastily:

“What an idea! No, no. Certainly not.”

“No?” said her new friend, with greater surprise. “Then perhaps your
hopeful young soul expects that, being still but a youth, he may, by the
help of the gods, become, like Titus, a benefactor to the whole world?”

Melissa looked timidly at the matron, who was still talking with her
brother-in-law, and hastily replied:

“They all call him a murderer! But I know for certain that he suffers
fearful torments of mind and body; and one who knows many things told
me that there was not one among all the millions whom Caesar governs who
ever prays for him; and I was so sorry--I can not tell you--”

“And so,” interrupted the philosopher, “you thought it praiseworthy and
pleasing to the gods that you should be the first and only one to offer
sacrifice for him, in secret, and of your own free will? That was how it
came about? Well, child, you need not be ashamed of it.”

But then suddenly his face clouded, and he asked, in a grave and altered
voice:

“Are you a Christian?”

“No,” she replied, firmly. “We are Greeks. How could I have offered a
sacrifice of blood to Asklepios if I had believed in the crucified god?”

“Then,” said Philostratus, and his eyes flashed brightly, “I may
promise you, in the name of the gods, that your prayer and offering were
pleasing in their eyes. I myself, noble girl, owe you a rare pleasure.
But, tell me--how did you feel as you left the sanctuary?”

“Light-hearted, my lord, and content,” she answered, with a frank,
glad look in her fine eyes. “I could have sung as I went down the road,
though there were people about.”

“I should have liked to hear you,” he said, kindly, and he still
held her hand, which he had grasped with the amiable geniality that
characterized him, when they were joined by the senator and his
sister-in-law.

“Has she won your good offices?” asked Coeranus; and Philostratus
replied, quickly, “Anything that it lies in my power to do for her shall
certainly be done.”

Berenike bade them both to join her in her own rooms, for everything
that had to do with the banquet was odious to her; and as they went,
Melissa told her new friend her brother’s story. She ended it in the
quiet sitting-room of the mistress of the house, an artistic but not
splendid apartment, adorned only with the choicest works of early
Alexandrian art. Philostratus listened attentively, but, before she
could put her petition for help into words, he exclaimed:

“Then what we have to do is, to move Caesar to mercy, and that--Child,
you know not what you ask!”

They were interrupted by a message from Seleukus, desiring Coeranus to
join the other guests, and as soon as he had left them Berenike withdrew
to take off the splendor she hated. She promised to return immediately
and join their discussion, and Philostratus sat for a while lost in
thought. Then he turned to Melissa and asked her:

“Would you for their sakes be able to make up your mind to face bitter
humiliation, nay, perhaps imminent danger?”

“Anything! I would give my life for them!” replied the girl, with
spirit, and her eyes gleamed with such enthusiastic self-sacrifice that
his heart, though no longer young, warmed under their glow, and the
principle to which he had sternly adhered since he had been near the
imperial person, never to address a word to the sovereign but in reply,
was blown to the winds.

Holding her hand in his, with a keen look into her eyes, he went on:

“And if you were required to do a thing from which many a man even would
recoil--you would venture?”

And again the answer was a ready “Yes.” Philostratus released her hand,
and said:

“Then we will dare the worst. I will smooth the way for you, and
to-morrow--do not start--tomorrow you yourself, under my protection,
shall appeal to Caesar.”

The color faded from the girl’s cheeks, which had been flushed with
fresh hopes, and her counselor had just expressed his wish to talk the
matter over with the lady Berenike, when she came into the room. She was
now dressed in mourning, and her pale, beautiful face showed the traces
of the tears she had just shed. The dark shadows which, when they
surround a woman’s eyes, betray past storms of grief, as the halo round
the moon--the eye of night--gives warning of storms to come, were deeper
than ever; and when her sorrowful gaze fell on Melissa, the girl felt an
almost irresistible longing to throw herself into her arms and weep on
her motherly bosom.

Philostratus, too, was deeply touched by the appearance of this mother,
who possessed so much, but for whom everything dearest to a woman’s
heart had been destroyed by a cruel stroke of Fate. He was glad to be
able to tell her that he hoped to soften Caesar. Still, his plan was a
bold one; Caracalla had been deeply offended by the scornful tone of the
attacks on him, and Melissa’s brother was perhaps the only one of the
scoffers who had been taken. The crime of the Alexandrian wits could not
be left unpunished. For such a desperate case only desperate remedies
could avail; he therefore ventured to propose to conduct Melissa into
Caesar’s presence, that she might appeal to his clemency.

The matron started as though a scorpion had stung her. In great
agitation, she threw her arm round the girl as if to shelter her from
imminent danger, and Melissa, seeking help, laid her head on that kind
breast. Berenike was reminded, by the scent that rose up from the girl’s
hair, of the hours when her own child had thus fondly clung to her.
Her motherly heart had found a new object to love, and exclaiming,
“Impossible!” she clasped Melissa more closely.

But Philostratus begged to be heard. Any plea urged by a third person he
declared would only be the ruin of the rash mediator.

“Caracalla,” he went on, looking at Melissa, “is terrible in his
passions, no one can deny that; but of late severe suffering has made
him irritably sensitive, and he insists on the strictest virtue in all
who are about his person. He pays no heed to female beauty, and this
sweet child, at any rate, will find many protectors. He shall know that
the high-priest’s wife, one of the best of women, keeps an anxious eye
on Melissa’s fate; and I myself, his mother’s friend, shall be at hand.
His passion for revenge, on the other hand, is boundless--no one living
can control it; and not even the noble Julia can shield those who
provoke it from a cruel end. If you do not know it, child, I can tell
you that he had his brother Geta killed, though he took refuge in the
arms of the mother who bore them both. You must understand the worst;
and again I ask you, are you ready to risk all for those you love? Have
you the courage to venture into the lion’s den?”

Melissa clung more closely to the motherly woman, and her pale lips
answered faintly but firmly, “I am ready, and he will grant my prayer.”

“Child, child,” cried Berenike in horror, “you know not what lies before
you! You are dazzled by the happy confidence of inexperienced youth. I
know what life is. I can see you, in your heart’s blood, as red and pure
as the blood of a lamb! I see--Ah, child! you do not know death and its
terrible reality.”

“I know it!” Melissa broke in with feverish excitement. “My dearest--my
mother--I saw her die with these eyes. What did I not bury in her grave!
And yet hope still lived in my heart; and though Caracalla may be a
reckless murderer, he will do nothing to me, precisely because I am so
feeble. And, lady, what am I? Of what account is my life if I lose my
father, and my brothers, who are both on the high-road to greatness?”

“But you are betrothed,” Berenike eagerly put in. “And your lover, you
told me, is dear to you. What of him? He no doubt loves you, and, if you
come to harm, sorrow will mar his young life.”

At this Melissa clasped her hands over her face and sobbed aloud. “Show
me, then, any other way--any! I will face the worst. But there is
none; and if Diodoros were here he would not stop me; for what my heart
prompts me to do is right, is my duty. But he is lying sick and with a
clouded mind, and I can not ask him. O noble lady, kindness looks out of
your eyes; cease to rub salt into my wounds! The task before me is
hard enough already. But I would do it, and try to get speech with that
terrible man, even if I had no one to protect me.”

The lady had listened with varying feelings to this outpouring of the
young girl’s heart. Every instinct rebelled against the thought of
sacrificing this pure, sweet creature to the fury of the tyrant whose
wickedness was as unlimited as his power, and yet she saw no other
chance of saving the artist, whom she held in affectionate regard. Her
own noble heart understood the girl’s resolve to purchase the life of
those she loved, even with her blood; she, in the same place, would have
done the same thing; and she thought to herself that it would have made
her happy to see such a spirit in her own child. Her resistance melted
away, and almost involuntarily she exclaimed, “Well, do what you feel to
be right.”

Melissa flew into her arms again with a grateful sense of release from
a load, and Berenike did all she could to smooth the thorny way for her.
She discussed every point with Philostratus as thoroughly as though for
a child of her own; and, while the tumult came up from the banquet in
the men’s rooms, they settled that Berenike herself should conduct the
girl to the wife of the high-priest of Serapis, the brother of Seleukus,
and there await Melissa’s return. Philostratus named the hour and other
details, and then made further inquiries concerning the young artist
whose mocking spirit had brought so much trouble on his family.

On this the lady led him into an adjoining room, where the portrait of
her adored daughter was hanging. It was surrounded by a thick wreath
of violets, the dead girl’s favorite flower. The beautiful picture was
lighted up by two three-branched lamps on high stands; and Philostratus,
a connoisseur who had described many paintings with great taste and
vividness, gazed in absorbed silence at the lovely features, which
were represented with rare mastery and the inspired devotion of loving
admiration. At last he turned to the mother, exclaiming:

“Happy artist, to have such a subject! It is a work worthy of the early,
best period, and of a master of the time of Apelies. The daughter who
has been snatched from you, noble lady, was indeed matchless, and no
sorrow is too deep to do her justice. But the divinity who has taken her
knows also how to give; and this portrait has preserved for you a part
of what you loved. This picture, too, may influence Melissa’s fate; for
Caesar has a fine taste in art, and one of the wants of our time which
has helped to embitter him is the paralyzed state of the imitative arts.
It will be easier to win his favor for the painter who did this portrait
than for a man of noble birth. He needs such painters as this Alexander
for the Pinakothek in the splendid baths he has built at Rome. If you
would but lend me this treasure to-morrow--”

But she interrupted him with a decisive “Never!” and laid her hand on
the frame as if to protect it. Philostratus, however, was not to be put
off; he went on in a tone of the deepest disappointment: “This portrait
is yours, and no one can wonder at your refusal. We must, therefore,
consider how to attain our end without this important ally.” Berenike’s
gaze had lingered calmly on the sweet face while he spoke, looking more
and more deeply into the beautiful, expressive features. All was silent.

At last she slowly turned to Melissa, who stood gazing sadly at the
ground, and said in a low voice: “She resembled you in many ways. The
gods had formed her to shed joy and light around her. Where she could
wipe away a tear she always did so. Her portrait is speechless, and yet
it tells me to act as she herself would have acted. If this work can
indeed move Caracalla to clemency, then--You, Philostratus, really think
so?”

“Yes,” he replied, decisively. “There can be no better mediator for
Alexander than this work.” Berenike drew herself up, and said:

“Well, then, to-morrow morning early, I will send it to you at the
Serapeum. The portrait of the dead may perish if it may but save the
life of him who wrought it so lovingly.” She turned away her face as she
gave the philosopher her hand, and then hastily left the room.

Melissa flew after her and, with overflowing gratitude, besought the
sobbing lady not to weep.

“I know something that will bring you greater comfort than my brother’s
picture: I mean the living image of your Korinna--a young girl; she is
here in Alexandria.”

“Zeno’s daughter Agatha?” said Berenike; and when Melissa said yes,
it was she, the lady went on with a deep sigh: “Thanks for your kind
thought, my child; but she, too, is lost to me.”

And as she spoke she sank on a couch, saying, in a low voice, “I would
rather be alone.”

Melissa modestly withdrew into the adjoining room, and Philostratus, who
had been lost in the contemplation of the picture, took his leave.

He did not make use of the imperial chariot in waiting for him, but
returned to his lodgings on foot, in such good spirits, and so well
satisfied with himself, as he had not been before since leaving Rome.

When Berenike had rested in solitude for some little time she recalled
Melissa, and took as much care of her young guest as though she were her
lost darling, restored to her after a brief absence. First she allowed
the girl to send for Argutis; and when she had assured the faithful
slave that all promised well, she dismissed him with instructions to
await at home his young mistress’s orders, for that Melissa would for
the present find shelter under her roof.

When the Gaul had departed, she desired her waiting-woman, Johanna, to
fetch her brother. During her absence the lady explained to Melissa
that they both were Christians. They were freeborn, the children of a
freedman of Berenike’s house. Johannes had at an early age shown so
much intelligence that they had acceded to his wish to be educated as a
lawyer. He was now one of the most successful pleaders in the city;
but he always used his eloquence, which he had perfected not only at
Alexandria but also at Carthage, by preference in the service of accused
Christians. In his leisure hours he would visit the condemned in prison,
speak comfort to them, and give them presents out of the fine profits he
derived from his business among the wealthy. He was the very man to
go and see her father and brothers; he would revive their spirits, and
carry them her greeting.

When, presently, the Christian arrived he expressed himself as very
ready to undertake this commission. His sister was already busied in
packing wine and other comforts for the captives-more, no doubt, as
Johannes told Berenike, than the three men could possibly consume,
even if their imprisonment should be a long one. His smile showed how
confidently he counted on the lady’s liberality, and Melissa quickly
put her faith in the young Christian, who would have reminded her of
her brother Philip, but that his slight figure was more upright, and
his long hair quite smooth, without a wave or curl. His eyes, above all,
were unlike Philip’s; for they looked out on the world with a gaze as
mild as Philip’s were keen and inquiring.

Melissa gave him many messages for her father and brothers, and when the
lady Berenike begged him to take care that the portrait of her daughter
was safely carried to the Serapeum, where it was to contribute to
mollify Caesar in the painter’s favor, he praised her determination,
and modestly added: “For how long may we call our own any of these
perishable joys? A day, perhaps a year, at most a lustrum. But eternity
is long, and those who, for its sake, forget time and set all their
hopes on eternity--which is indeed time to the soul--soon cease to
bewail the loss of any transitory treasure, were it the noblest
and dearest. Oh, would that I could lead you to place your hopes on
eternity, best of women and most true-hearted mother! Eternity, which
not the wisest brain can conceive of!--I tell you, lady, for you are
a philosopher--that is the hardest and therefore the grandest idea for
human thought to compass. Fix your eye on that, and in its infinite
realm, which must be your future home, you will meet her again whom you
have lost--not her image returned to you, but herself.”

“Cease,” interrupted the matron, with impatient sharpness. “I know what
you are aiming at. But to conceive of eternity is the prerogative of the
immortals; our intellect is wrecked in the attempt. Our wings melt like
those of Ikarus, and we fall into the ocean--the ocean of madness, to
which I have often been near enough. You Christians fancy you know all
about eternity, and if you are right in that--But I will not reopen that
old discussion. Give me back my child for a year, a month, a day even,
as she was before murderous disease laid hands on her, and I will
make you a free gift of your cuckoo-cloud-land of eternity, and of the
remainder of my own life on earth into the bargain.”

The vehement woman trembled with renewed sorrow, as if shivering with
ague; but as soon as she had recovered her self-command enough to speak
calmly, she exclaimed to the lawyer:

“I do not really wish to vex you, Johannes. I esteem you, and you are
dear to me. But if you wish our friendship to continue, give up these
foolish attempts to teach tortoises to fly. Do all you can for the poor
prisoners; and if you--”

“By daybreak to-morrow I will be with them,” Johannes said, and he
hastily took leave.

As soon as they were alone Berenike observed “There he goes, quite
offended, as if I had done him a wrong. That is the way with all these
Christians. They think it their duty to force on others what they
themselves think right, and any one who turns a deaf ear to their
questionable truths they at once set down as narrow-minded, or as
hostile to what is good. Agatha, of whom you were just now speaking, and
Zeno her father, my husband’s brother, are Christians. I had hoped that
Korinna’s death would have brought the child back to us; I have longed
to see her, and have heard much that is sweet about her: but a common
sorrow, which so often brings divided hearts together, has only widened
the gulf between my husband and his brother. The fault is not on our
side. Nay, I was rejoiced when, a few hours after the worst was over, a
letter from Zeno informed me that he and his daughter would come to
see us the same evening. But the letter itself”--and her voice began
to quiver with indignation--“compelled us to beg him not to come. It is
scarcely credible--and I should do better not to pour fresh oil on my
wrath--but he bade us ‘rejoice’; three, four, five times he repeated the
cruel words. And he wrote in a pompous strain of the bliss and rapture
which awaited our lost child--and this to a mother whose heart had been
utterly broken but a few hours before by a fearful stroke of Fate! He
would meet the bereaved, grieving, lonely mourner with a smile on
his lips! Rejoice! This climax of cruelty or aberration has parted us
forever. Why, our black gardener, whose god is a tree-stump that bears
only the faintest likeness to humanity, melted into tears at the news;
and Zeno, our brother, the uncle of that broken dower, could be glad and
bid us rejoice! My husband thinks that hatred and the long-standing
feud prompted his pen. For my part, I believe it was only this Christian
frenzy which made him suggest that I should sink lower than the brutes,
who defend their young with their lives. Seleukus has long since
forgiven him for his conduct in withdrawing his share of the capital
from the business when he became a Christian, to squander it on the
baser sort; but this ‘Rejoice’ neither he nor I can forgive, though
things which pierce me to the heart often slide off him like water off
grease.”

Her black hair had come down as she delivered this vehement speech, and,
when she ceased, her flushed cheeks and the fiery glow of her eyes gave
the majestic woman in her dark robes an aspect which terrified Melissa.

She, too, thought this “Rejoice,” under such circumstances, unseemly and
insulting; but she kept her opinion to herself, partly out of modesty
and partly because she did not wish to encourage the estrangement
between this unhappy lady and the niece whose mere presence would have
been so great a comfort to her.

When Johanna returned to lead her to a bedroom, she gave a sigh of
relief; but the lady expressed a wish to keep Melissa near her, and in
a low voice desired the waiting-woman to prepare a bed for her in
the adjoining room, by the side of Korinna’s, which was never to be
disturbed. Then, still greatly excited, she invited Melissa into her
daughter’s pretty room.

There she showed her everything that Korinna had especially cared for.
Her bird hung in the same place; her lap-dog was sleeping in a basket,
on the cushion which Berenike had embroidered for her child. Melissa had
to admire the dead girl’s lute, and her first piece of weaving, and the
elegant loom of ebony and ivory in which she had woven it. And Berenike
repeated to the girl the verses which Korinna had composed, in imitation
of Catullus, on the death of a favorite bird. And although Melissa’s
eyes were almost closing with fatigue, she forced herself to attend to
it all, for she saw now how much her sympathy pleased her kind friend.

Meanwhile the voices of the men, who had done eating and were now
drinking, came louder and louder into the women’s apartments. When the
merriment of her guests rose to a higher pitch than usual, or something
amusing gave rise to a shout of laughter, Berenike shrank, and either
muttered some unintelligible threat or besought the forgiveness of her
daughter’s manes.

It seemed to be a relief to her to rush from one mood to the other; but
neither in her grief, nor when her motherly feeling led her to talk, nor
yet in her wrath, did she lose her perfect dignity. All Melissa saw and
heard moved her to pity or to horror. And meanwhile she was worn out
with anxiety for her family, and with increasing fatigue.

At last, however, she was released. A gay chorus of women’s voices and
flutes came up from the banqueting-hall. With a haughty mien and dilated
nostrils Berenike listened to the first few bars. That such a song
should be heard in her house of woe was too much; with her own hand she
closed the shutters over the window next her; then she bade her young
guest go to bed.

Oh, how glad was the overtired girl to stretch herself on the soft
couch! As usual, before going to sleep, she told her mother in the
spirit all the history of the day. Then she prayed to the manes of the
departed to lend her aid in the heavy task before her; but in the midst
of her prayer sleep overcame her, and her young bosom was already rising
and falling in regular breathing when she was roused by a visit from the
lady Berenike.

Melissa suddenly beheld her at the head of the bed, in a flowing white
night-dress, with her hair unpinned, and holding a silver lamp in
her hand; and the girl involuntarily put up her arms as if to protect
herself, for she fancied that the daemon of madness stared out of those
large black eyes. But the unhappy woman’s expression changed, and she
looked down kindly on Melissa. She quietly set the lamp on the table,
and then, as the cool nightbreeze blew in through the open window,
to which there was no shutter, she tenderly wrapped the white woolen
blanket round Melissa, and muttered to herself, “She liked it so.”

Then she knelt down by the side of the bed, pressed her lips on the brow
of the girl, now fully awake, and said:

“And you, too, are fair to look upon. He will grant your prayer!”

Then she asked Melissa about her lover, her father, her mother, and at
last she, unexpectedly, asked her in a whisper:

“Your brother Alexander, the painter--My daughter, though in death,
inspired his soul with love. Yes, Korinna was dear to him. Her image is
living in his soul. Am I right? Tell me the truth!”

On this Melissa confessed how deeply the painter had been impressed by
the dead girl’s beauty, and that he had given her his heart and soul
with a fervor of devotion of which she had never imagined him capable.
And the poor mother smiled as she heard it, and murmured, “I was sure of
it.”

But then she shook her head, sadly, and said “Fool that I am!”

At last she bade Melissa good-night, and went back to her own bedroom.
There Johanna was awaiting her, and while she was plaiting her
mistress’s hair the matron said, threateningly:

“If the wretch should not spare even her”--She was interrupted by loud
shouts of mirth from the banqueting-hall, and among the laughing voices
she fancied that she recognized her husband’s. She started up with a
vehement movement, and exclaimed, in angry excitement:

“Seleukus might have prevented such an outrage! Oh, I know that
sorrowing father’s heart! Fear, vanity, ambition, love of pleasure--”

“But consider,” Johanna broke in, “to cross Caesar’s wish is to forfeit
life!”

“Then he should have died!” replied the matron, with stern decision.



CHAPTER XVI.

Before sunrise the wind changed. Heavy clouds bore down from the north,
darkening the clear sky of Alexandria. By the time the market was
filling it was raining in torrents, and a cold breeze blew over the town
from the lake. Philostratus had only allowed himself a short time for
sleep, sitting till long after midnight over his history of Apolonius
of Tyana. His aim was to prove, by the example of this man, that a
character not less worthy of imitation than that of the lord of the
Christians might be formed in the faith of the ancients, and nourished
by doctrines produced by the many-branched tree of Greek religion
and philosophy. Julia Domna, Caracalla’s mother, had encouraged the
philosopher in this task, which was to show her passionate and criminal
son the dignity of moderation and virtue. The book was also to bring
home to Caesar the religion of his forefathers and his country in all
its beauty and elevating power; for hitherto he had vacillated from
one form to another, had not even rejected Christianity, with which his
nurse had tried to inoculate him as a child, and had devoted himself to
every superstition of his time in a way which had disgusted those about
him. It had been particularly interesting to the writer, with a view
to the purpose of this work, to meet with a girl who practiced all the
virtues the Christians most highly prized, without belonging to that
sect, who were always boasting of the constraining power of their
religion in conducing to pure morality.

In his work the day before he had taken occasion to regret the small
recognition his hero had met with among those nearest to him. In this,
as in other respects, he seemed to have shared the fate of Jesus Christ,
whose name, however, Philostratus purposely avoided mentioning. Now,
to-night, he reflected on the sacrifice offered by Melissa for Caesar
whom she knew not, and he wrote the following words as though proceeding
from the pen of Apollonius himself: “I know well how good a thing it is
to regard all the world as my home, and all mankind as my brethren
and friends; for we are all of the same divine race, and have all one
Father.”

Then, looking up from the papyrus, he murmured to himself: “From such
a point of view as this Melissa might see in Caracalla a friend and a
brother. If only now it were possible to rouse the conscience of that
imperial criminal!”

He took up the written sheet on which he had begun a dissertation as to
what conscience is, as exerting a choice between good and evil. He had
written: “Understanding governs what we purpose; consciousness governs
what our understanding resolves upon. Hence, if our understanding choose
the good, consciousness is satisfied.”

How flat it sounded! It could have no effect in that form.

Melissa had confessed with far greater warmth what her feelings had been
after she had sacrificed for the suffering sinner. Every one, no doubt,
would feel the same who, when called on to choose between good and evil,
should prefer the good; so he altered and expanded the last words: “Thus
consciousness sends a man with song and gladness into the sanctuaries
and groves, into the roads, and wherever mortals live. Even in sleep the
song makes itself heard, and a happy choir from the land of dreams lift
up their voices about his bed.”

That was better! This pleasing picture might perhaps leave some
impression on the soul of the young criminal, in whom a preference for
good could still, though rarely, be fanned to a flame. Caesar read what
Philostratus wrote, because he took pleasure in the form of his work;
and this sentence would not have been written in vain if only it should
prompt Caracalla in some cases, however few, to choose the good.

The philosopher was fully determined to do his utmost for Melissa and
her brothers. He had often brought pictures under Caesar’s notice, for
he was the first living authority as a connoisseur of painting, and as
having written many descriptions of pictures. He built some hopes, too,
on Melissa’s innocence; and so the worthy man, when he retired to rest,
looked forward with confidence to the work of mediation, which was by no
means devoid of danger.

But next morning it presented itself in a less promising light. The
clouded sky, the storm, and rain might have a fatal effect on Caesar’s
temper; and when he heard that old Galen, after examining his patient
and prescribing certain remedies, had yesterday evening taken ship,
leaving Caracalla in a frenzy of rage which had culminated in slight
convulsions, he almost repented of his promise. However, he felt himself
pledged; so as early as possible he went to Caesar’s rooms, prepared for
the worst.

His gloomy anticipations were aggravated by the scene which met his
eyes.

In the anteroom he found the chief men of the city and some
representative members of the Alexandrian Senate, who were anxious for
an audience of their imperial visitor. They had been commanded to
attend at an unusually early hour, and had already been kept a long time
waiting.

When Philostratus--who was always free to enter Caesar’s presence--made
his appearance, Caracalla was seating himself on the throne which had
been placed for him in the splendidly fitted audience-chamber. He had
come from his bath, and was wrapped in the comfortable white woolen
robe which he wore on leaving it. His “friends” as they were called,
senators, and other men of mark, stood round in considerable numbers,
among them the high-priest of Serapis. Pandion, Caesar’s charioteer, was
occupied, under the sovereign’s instructions, in fastening the lion’s
chain to the ring fixed for the purpose in the floor by the side of the
throne; and as the beast, whose collar had been drawn too tight, uttered
a low, complaining growl, Caracalla scolded the favorite. As soon as he
caught sight of Philostratus, he signed to him to approach:

“Do you see nothing strange in me?” he whispered. “Your Phoebus Apollo
appeared to me in a dream. He laid his hand on my shoulder toward
morning; indeed, I saw only horrible faces.” Then he pointed out of the
window, exclaiming:

“The god hides his face to-day. Gloomy days have often brought me good
fortune; but this is a strange experience of the eternal sunshine of
Egypt! Men and sky have given me the same kind welcome; gray, gray, and
always gray-without and within--and my poor soldiers out on the square!
Macrinus tells me they are complaining. But my father’s advice was
sound: ‘Keep them content, and never mind anything else.’ The heads of
the town are waiting outside; they must give up their palaces to the
bodyguard; if they murmur, let them try for themselves how they like
sleeping on the soaking ground under dripping tents. It may cool their
hot blood, and perhaps dilute the salt of their wit.--Show them in,
Theocritus.”

He signed to the actor, and when he humbly asked whether Caesar had
forgotten to exchange his morning wrapper for another dress, Caracalla
laughed contemptuously, and replied:

“Why, an empty corn-sack over my shoulders would be dress enough for
this rabble of traders!” He stretched his small but muscular frame out
at full length, resting his head on his hand, and his comely face, which
had lost the suffering look it had worn the day before, suddenly changed
in expression. As was his habit when he wished to inspire awe or fear,
he knit his brows in deep furrows, set his teeth tightly, and assumed a
suspicious and sinister scowl.

The deputation entered, bowing low, headed by the exegetes, the head of
the city, and Timotheus, the chief-priest of Serapis. After these
came the civic authorities, the members of the senate, and then, as
representing the large Jewish colony in the city, their alabarch
or head-man. It was easy to see in each one as he came in, that the
presence of the lion, who had raised his head at their approach, was far
from encouraging; and a faint, scornful smile parted Caracalla’s lips as
he noted the cowering knees of these gorgeously habited courtiers. The
high-priest alone, who, as Caesar’s host, had gone up to the side of the
throne, and two or three others, among them the governor of the town, a
tall, elderly man of Macedonian descent, paid no heed to the brute. The
Macedonian bowed to his sovereign with calm dignity, and in the name of
the municipally hoped he had rested well. He then informed Caesar what
shows and performances were prepared in his honor, and finally named
the considerable sum which had been voted by the town of Alexandria to
express to him their joy at his visit. Caracalla waved his hand, and
said, carelessly:

“The priest of Alexander, as idiologos, will receive the gold with the
temple tribute. We can find use for it. We knew that you were rich. But
what do you want for your money? What have you to ask?”

“Nothing, noble Caesar,” replied the governor. “Thy gracious presence--”

Caracalla interrupted him with a long-drawn “Indeed!” Then, leaning
forward, he gave him a keen, oblique look. “No one but the gods has
nothing to wish for; so it must be that you are afraid to ask. What can
that avail, unless to teach me that you look for nothing but evil from
me; that you are suspicious of me? And if that is so, you fear me; and
if you fear, you hate me. The insults I have received in this house
sufficiently prove the fact. And if you hate me,” and he sprang up and
shook his fist, “I must protect myself!”

“Great Caesar,” the exegetes began, in humble deprecation, but Caracalla
went on, wrathfully:

“I know when I have to protect myself, and from whom. It is not well to
trifle with me! An insolent tongue is easily hidden behind the lips; but
heads are less easy to hide, and I shall be content with them. Tell that
to your Alexandrian wits! Macrinus will inform you of all else. You may
go.”

During this speech the lion, excited by his master’s furious gestures,
had risen on his feet and showed his terrible teeth to the delegates. At
this their courage sank. Some laid their hands on their bent knees, as
if to shield them; others had gradually sidled to the door before Caesar
had uttered the last word. Then, in spite of the efforts of the governor
and the alabarch to detain them, in the hope of pacifying the potentate,
as soon as they heard the word “go,” they hurried out; and, for better
or for worse, the few bolder spirits had to follow.

As soon as the door was closed upon them, Caesar’s features lost their
cruel look. He patted the lion with soothing words of praise, and
exclaimed, contemptuously:

“These are the descendants of the Macedonians, with whom the greatest of
heroes conquered the world! Who was that fat old fellow who shrank into
himself so miserably, and made for the door while I was yet speaking?”

“Kimon, the chief of the night-watch and guardian of the peace of the
city,” replied the high-priest of Alexander, who as a Roman had kept his
place by the throne; and Theocritus put in:

“The people must sleep badly under the ward of such a coward. Let him
follow the prefect, noble Caesar.”

“Send him his dismissal at once,” said Caracalla; “but see that his
successor is a man.”

He then turned to the high-priest, and politely requested him to assist
Theocritus in choosing a new head for the town-guard, and Timotheus and
the favorite quitted the room together.

Philostratus took ingenious advantage of the incident, by at once
informing the emperor that it had come to his knowledge that this
coward, so worthily dismissed from office, had, on the merest suspicion,
cast into prison a painter who was undoubtedly one of the first of
living artists, and with him his guiltless relations.

“I will not have it!” Caesar broke out. “Nothing but blood will do any
good here, and petty aggravations will only stir their bile and increase
their insolence. Is the painter of whom you speak an Alexandrian?--I
pine for the open air, but the wind blows the rain against the windows.”

“In the field,” the philosopher remarked, “you have faced the weather
heroically enough. Here, in the city, enjoy what is placed before you.
Only yesterday I still believed that the art of Apelles was utterly
degenerate. But since then I have changed my opinion, for I have seen a
portrait which would be an ornament to the Pinakothek in your baths.
The northern windows are closed, or, in this land of inundations, and in
such weather as this, we might find ourselves afloat even under cover
of a roof; so it is too dark here to judge of a painting, but your
dressing-room is more favorably situated, and the large window there
will serve our purpose. May I be allowed the pleasure of showing you
there the work of the imprisoned artist?”

Caesar nodded, and led the way, accompanied by his lion and followed by
the philosopher, who desired an attendant to bring in the picture.

In this room it was much lighter than in the audience-chamber, and while
Caracalla awaited, with Philostratus, the arrival of the painting,
his Indian body-slave, a gift from the Parthian king, silently and
skillfully dressed his thin hair. The sovereign sighed deeply, and
pressed his hand to his brow as though in pain. The philosopher ventured
to approach him, and there was warm sympathy in his tone as he asked:

“What ails you, Bassianus? Just now you bore all the appearance of a
healthy, nay, and of a terrible man!”

“It is better again already,” replied the sovereign. “And yet--!”

He groaned again, and then confessed that only yesterday he had in the
same way been tortured with pain.

“The attack came on in the morning, as you know,” he went on, “and
when it was past I went down into the court of sacrifice; my feet would
scarcely carry me. Curiosity--and they were waiting for me; and some
great sign might be shown! Besides, some excitement helps me through
this torment. But there was nothing--nothing! Heart, lungs, liver, all
in their right place.--And then, Galenus--What I like is bad for
me, what I loathe is wholesome. And again and again the same foolish
question, ‘Do you wish to escape an early death?’ And all with an air as
though Death were a slave at his command--He can, no doubt, do more than
others, and has preserved his own life I know not how long. Well, and it
is his duty to prolong mine.

“I am Caesar. I had a right to insist on his remaining here. I did so;
for he knows my malady, and describes it as if he felt it himself. I
ordered him--nay, I entreated him. But he adhered to his own way. He
went--he is gone!”

“But he may be of use to you, even at a distance,” Philostratus said.

“Did he do anything for my father, or for me in Rome, where he saw me
every day?” retorted Caesar. “He can mitigate and relieve the suffering,
but that is all; and of all the others, is there one fit to hand him a
cup of water? Perhaps he would be willing to cure me, but he can not;
for I tell you, Philostratus, the gods will not have it so. You know
what sacrifices I have offered, what gifts I have brought. I have
prayed, I have abased myself before them, but none will hear. One or
another of the gods, indeed, appears to me not infrequently as Apollo
did last night. But is it because he favors me? First, he laid his hand
on my shoulder, as my father used to do; but his was so heavy, that the
weight pressed me down till I fell on my knees, crushed. This is no good
sign, you think? I see it in your face. I do not myself think so. And
how loudly I have called on him, of all the gods! The whole empire,
they say, men and women alike, besought the immortals unbidden for
the welfare of Titus. I, too, am their lord; but”--and he laughed
bitterly--“who has ever raised a hand in prayer for me of his own
impulse? My own mother always named my brother first. He has paid for
it,--But the rest!”

“They fear rather than love you,” replied the philosopher. “He to
whom Phoebus Apollo appears may always expect some good to follow. And
yesterday--a happy omen, too--I overheard by chance a young Greek girl,
who believed herself unobserved, who of her own prompting fervently
entreated Asklepios to heal you. Nay, she collected all the coins in her
little purse, and had a goat and a cock sacrificed in your behalf.”

“And you expect me to believe that!” said Caracalla, with a scornful
laugh.

But Philostratus eagerly replied:

“It is the pure truth. I went to the little temple because it was said
that Apollonius had left some documents there. Every word from his
pen is, as you know, of value to me in writing his history. The little
library was screened off from the cella by a curtain, and while I was
hunting through the manuscripts I heard a woman’s voice.”

“It spoke for some other Bassianus, Antoninus, Tarautus, or whatever
they choose to call me,” Caesar broke in.

“Nay, my lord, not so. She prayed for you, the son of Severus. I spoke
to her afterwards. She had seen you yesterday morning, and fancied she
had noted how great and severe your sufferings were. This had gone to
her heart. So she went thither to pray and sacrifice for you, although
she knew that you were prosecuting her brother, the very painter of whom
I spoke. I would you too could have heard how fervently she addressed
the god, and then Hygeia!”

“A Greek, you say?” Caracalla remarked. “And she really did not know
you, or dream that you could hear her?”

“No, my lord; assuredly not. She is a sweet maid, and if you would care
to see her--”

Caesar had listened to the tale with great attention and evident
expectancy; but suddenly his face clouded, and, heedless of the slaves
who, under the guidance of his chamberlain Adventus, had now brought in
the portrait, he sprang up, went close to Philostratus, and stormed out:

“Woe to you if you lie to me! You want to get the brother out of prison,
and then, by chance, you come across the sister who is praying for me! A
fable to cheat a child with!”

“I am speaking the truth,” replied Philostratus, coolly, though the
rapid winking of Caesar’s eyelids warned him that his blood was boiling
with wrath.

“It was from the sister, whom I overheard in the temple, that I learned
of her brother’s peril, and I afterward saw that portrait.”

Caracalla stared at the floor for a moment in silence; then he looked
up, and said, in a tone husky with agitation:

“I only long for anything which may bring me nearer to the perverse race
over whom I rule, be it what it may. You offer it me. You are the
only man who never asked me for anything. I have believed you to be as
righteous as all other men are not. And now if you, if this time--”

He lowered his tones, which had become somewhat threatening, and went
on very earnestly: “By all you hold most sacred on earth, I ask you, Did
the girl pray for me, and of her own free impulse, not knowing that any
one could hear her?”

“I swear it, by the head of my mother!” replied Philostratus, solemnly.

“Your mother?” echoed Caesar, and his brow began to clear. But suddenly
the gleam of satisfaction, which for a moment had embellished his
features, vanished, and with a sharp laugh he added: “And my mother! Do
you suppose that I do not know what she requires of you? It is solely
to please her that you, a free man, remain with me. For her sake you are
bold enough to try now and then to quell the stormy sea of my passions.
You do it with a grace, so I submit. And now my hand is raised to
strike a wretch who mocks at me; he is a painter, of some talent, so,
of course, you take him under your protection. Then, in a moment,
your inventive genius devises a praying sister. Well, there is in that
something which might indeed mollify me. But you would betray Bassianus
ten times over to save an artist. And then, how my mother would fly
to show her gratitude to the man who could quell her furious son! Your
mother!--But I only squint when it suits me. My eye must become dimmer
than it yet is before I fail to see the connection of ideas which led
you to swear by your mother. You were thinking of mine when you spoke.
To please her, you would deceive her son. But as soon as he touches the
lie it vanishes into thin air, for it has no more substance than a soap
bubble!” The last words were at once sad, angry, and scornful; but the
philosopher, who had listened at first with astonishment and then with
indignation, could no longer contain himself.

“Enough!” he cried to the angry potentate, in an imperious tone. Then,
drawing himself up, he went on with offended dignity:

“I know what the end has been of so many who have aroused your wrath,
and yet I have courage enough to tell you to your face, that to
injustice, the outcome of distrust, you add the most senseless insult.
Or do you really think that a just man--for so you have called me more
than once--would outrage the manes of the beloved woman who bore him to
please the mother of another man, even though she be Caesar’s? What I
swear to by the head of my mother, friend and foe alike must believe;
and he who does not, must hold me to be the vilest wretch on earth;
my presence can only be an offense to him. So I beg you to allow me to
return to Rome.”

The words were manly and spoken firmly, and they pleased Caracalla; for
the joy of believing in the philosopher’s statement outweighed every
other feeling. And since he regarded Philostratus as the incarnation
of goodness--though he had lost faith in that--his threat of leaving
disturbed him greatly. He laid his hand on his brave adviser’s arm, and
assured him that he was only too happy to believe a thing so incredible.

Any witness of the scene would have supposed this ruthless fatricide,
this tyrant--whose intercourse with the visions of a crazed and
unbridled fancy made him capable of any folly, and who loved to assume
the aspect of a cruel misanthrope--to be a docile disciple, who cared
for nothing but to recover the favor and forgiveness of his master. And
Philostratus, knowing this man, and the human heart, did not make it too
easy for him to achieve his end. When he at last gave up his purpose of
returning to Rome, and had more fully explained to Caesar how and where
he had met Melissa, and what he had heard about her brother the painter,
he lifted the wrapper from Korinna’s portrait, placed it in a good
light, and pointed out to Caracalla the particular beauties of the
purely Greek features.

It was with sincere enthusiasm that he expatiated on the skill with
which the artist had reproduced in color the noble lines which Caracalla
so much admired in the sculpture of the great Greek masters; how warm
and tender the flesh was; how radiant the light of those glorious eyes;
how living the waving hair, as though it still breathed of the scented
oil! And when Philostratus explained that though Alexander had no doubt
spoken some rash and treasonable words, he could not in any case be the
author of the insulting verses which had been found at the Serapeum with
the rope, Caracalla echoed his praises of the picture, and desired to
see both the painter and his sister.

That morning, as he rose from his bed, he had been informed that the
planets which had been seen during the past night from the observatory
of the Serapeum, promised him fortune and happiness in the immediate
future. He was himself a practiced star-reader, and the chief astrologer
of the temple had pointed out to him how peculiarly favorable the
constellation was whence he had deduced his prediction. Then, Phoebus
Apollo had appeared to him in a dream; the auguries from the
morning’s sacrifices had all been favorable; and, before he dispatched
Philostratus to fetch Melissa, he added:

“It is strange! The best fortune has always come to me from a gloomy
sky. How brightly the sun shone on my marriage with the odious
Plautilla! It has rained, on the contrary, on almost all my victories;
and it was under a heavy storm that the oracle assured me the soul of
Alexander the Great had selected this tortured frame in which to live
out his too early ended years on earth. Can such coincidence be mere
chance? Phoebus Apollo, your favorite divinity--and that, too, of the
sage of Tyana--may perhaps have been angry with me. He who purified
himself from blood-guiltiness after killing the Python is the god of
expiation. I will address myself to him, like the noble hero of your
book. This morning the god visited me again; so I will have such
sacrifice slain before him as never yet was offered. Will that satisfy
you, O philosopher hard to be appeased?”

“More than satisfy me, my Bassianus,” replied Philostratus. “Yet
remember that, according to Apollonius, the sacrifice is effective only
through the spirit in which it is offered.”

“Always a ‘but’ and an ‘if’!” exclaimed Caracalla, as his friend left
the room to call Melissa from the high-priest’s quarters, where she was
waiting.

For the first time for some days Caesar found himself alone. Leading
the lion by the collar, he went to the window. The rain had ceased, but
black clouds still covered the heavens. Below him lay the opening of the
street of Hermes into the great square, swarming with human life, and
covered with the now drenched tents of the soldiery; and his eyes fell
on that of a centurion, a native of Alexandria, just then receiving a
visit from his family, to whom the varied fortunes of a warrior’s life
had brought him back once more.

The bearded hero held an infant in his arms--assuredly his own--while
a girl and boy clung to him, gazing up in his face with wondering black
eyes; and another child, of about three, paying no heed to the others,
was crowing as it splashed through a puddle with its little bare feet.
Two women, one young and one elderly, the man’s mother and his wife, no
doubt, seemed to hang on his lips as he recounted perhaps some deed of
valor.

The tuba sounded to arms. He kissed the infant, and carefully laid it
on its mother’s bosom; then he took up the boy and the girl, laughingly
caught the little one, and pressed his bearded lips to each rosy mouth
in turn. Last of all he clasped the young wife to his breast, gently
stroked her hair, and whispered something in her ear at which she smiled
up at him through her tears and then blushingly looked down. His mother
patted him fondly on the shoulder, and, as they parted, he kissed her
too on her wrinkled brow.

Caracalla had remarked this centurion once before; his name was
Martialis, and he was a simple, commonplace, but well-conducted
creature, who had often distinguished himself by his contempt for death.
The imperial visit to Alexandria had meant for him a return home and
the greatest joy in life. How many arms had opened to receive the common
soldier; how many hearts had beat high at his coming! Not a day, it was
certain, had passed since his arrival without prayers going up to Heaven
for his preservation, from his mother, his wife, and his children. And
he, the ruler of the world, had thought it impossible that one, even one
of his millions of subjects, should have prayed for him. Who awaited him
with a longing heart? Where was his home?

He had first seen the light in Gaul. His father was an African; his
mother was born in Syria. The palace at Rome, his residence, he did not
care to remember. He traveled about the empire, leaving as wide a space
as possible between himself and that house of doom, from which he could
never wipe out the stain of his brother’s blood.

And his mother? She feared--perhaps she hated him--her first-born son,
since he had killed her younger darling. What did she care for him, so
long as she had her philosophers to argue with, who knew how to ply her
with delicate flattery?

Then Plautilla, his wife? His father had compelled him to marry her,
the richest heiress in the world, whose dowry had been larger than the
collected treasure of a dozen queens; and as he thought of the sharp
features of that insignificant, sour-faced, and unspeakably pretentious
creature, he shuddered with aversion.

He had banished her, and then had her murdered. Others had done the
deed, and it did not strike him that he was responsible for the crime
committed in his service; but her loveless heart, without a care for
him--her bird-sharp face, looking out like a well-made mask from her
abundant hair--and her red, pinched lips, were very present to him. What
cutting words those lips could speak; what senseless demands they had
uttered; and nothing more insolent could be imagined than her way of
pursing them up if at any time he had suggested a kiss!

His child? One had been born to him, but it had followed its mother into
exile and to the grave. The little thing, which he had scarcely known,
was so inseparable from its detested mother that he had mourned it no
more than her. It was well that the assassins, without any orders from
him, should have cut short that wretched life. He could not long for the
embraces of the monster which should have united Plautilla’s vices and
his own.

Among the men about his person, there was not one for whom other hearts
beat warmer; no creature that loved him excepting his lion; no spot
on earth where he was looked for with gladness. He waited, as for some
marvel, to see the one human being who had spontaneously entreated the
gods for him. The girl must probably be a poor, tearful creature, as
weak of brain as she was soft-hearted.

There stood the centurion at the head of his maniple, and raised his
staff. Enviable man! How content he looked; how clearly he spoke the
word of command! And how healthy the vulgar creature must be--while he,
Caesar, was suffering that acute headache again! He gnashed his teeth,
and felt a strong impulse to spoil the happiness of that shameless
upstart. If he were sent packing to Spain, now, or to Pontus, there
would be an end of his gladness. The centurion should know what it was
to be a solitary soul.

Acting on this malignant impulse, he had raised his hand to his mouth to
shout the cruel order to a tribune, when suddenly the clouds parted, and
the glorious sun of Africa appeared in a blue island amid the ocean of
gray, cheering the earth with glowing sheaves of rays. The beams were
blinding as they came reflected from the armor and weapons of the men,
reminding Caesar of the god to whom he had just vowed an unparalleled
sacrifice.

Philostratus had often praised Phoebus Apollo above all gods, because
wherever he appeared there was light, irradiating not the earth alone
but men’s souls; and because, as the lord of music and harmony, he aided
men to arrive at that morally pure and equable frame of mind which was
accordant and pleasing to his glorious nature. Apollo had conquered the
dark heralds of the storm, and Caracalla looked up. Before this radiant
witness he was ashamed to carry out his dark purpose, and he said,
addressing the sun:

“For thy sake, Phoebus Apollo, I spare the man.” Then, pleased with
himself, he looked down again. The restraint he had laid upon himself
struck him as in fact a great and noble effort, accustomed as he was
to yield to every impulse. But at the same time he observed that the
clouds, which had so often brought him good fortune, were dispersing,
and this gave him fresh uneasiness. Dazzled by the flood of sunshine
which poured in at the window, he withdrew discontentedly into the room.
If this bright day were to bring disaster? If the god disdained his
offering?

But was not Apollo, perhaps, like the rest of the immortals, an idol
of the fancy, living only in the imagination of men who had devised it?
Stern thinkers and pious folks, like the skeptics and the Christians,
laughed the whole tribe of the Olympians to scorn. Still, the hand of
Phoebus Apollo had rested heavily on his shoulders in his dream.
His power, after all, might be great. The god must have the promised
sacrifice, come what might. Bitter wrath rose up in his soul at this
thought, as it had often done before, with the immortals, against whom
he, the all-powerful, was impotent. If only for an hour they could
be his subjects, he would make them rue the sufferings by which they
spoiled his existence.

“He is called Martialis. I will remember that name,” he thought, as he
cast a last envious look at the centurion.

How long Philostratus was gone! Solitude weighed on him, and he looked
about him wildly, as though seeking some support. An attendant at this
moment announced the philosopher, and Caracalla, much relieved, went
into the tablinum to meet him. There he sat down on a seat in front of
the writing-table strewn with tablets and papyrus-rolls, rearranged
the end of the purple toga for which he had exchanged his bathing-robe,
rested one foot on the lion’s neck and his head on his hand. He would
receive this wonderful girl in the character of an anxious sovereign
meditating on the welfare of his people.



CHAPTER XVII.

The philosopher announced the visitor to Caesar, and as some little
time elapsed before Melissa came in, Caracalla forgot his theatrical
assumption, and sat with a drooping head; for, in consequence, no doubt,
of the sunshine which beat on the top of his head, the pain had suddenly
become almost unendurably violent.

Without vouchsafing a glance at Melissa, he swallowed one of the
alleviating pills left him by Galenus, and hid his face in his hands.
The girl came forward, fearless of the lion, for Philostratos had
assured her that he was tamed, and most animals were willing to let her
touch them. Nor was she afraid of Caesar himself, for she saw that he
was in pain, and the alarm with which she had crossed the threshold
gave way to pity. Philostratus kept at her side, and anxiously watched
Caracalla.

The courage the simple girl showed in the presence of the ferocious
brute, and the not less terrible man, struck him favorably, and his
hopes rose as a sunbeam fell on her shining hair, which the lady
Berenike had arranged with her own hand, twining it with strands of
white Bombyx. She must appear, even to this ruthless profligate, as the
very type of pure and innocent grace.

Her long robe and peplos, of the finest white wool, also gave her an air
of distinction which suited the circumstances. It was a costly garment,
which Berenike had had made for Korinna, and she had chosen it from
among many instead of the plainer robe in which old Dido had dressed
her young mistress. With admirable taste the matron had aimed at giving
Melissa a simple, dignified aspect, unadorned and almost priestess-like
in its severity. Nothing should suggest the desire to attract, and
everything must exclude the idea of a petitioner of the poorer and
commoner sort.

Philostratus saw that her appearance had been judiciously cared for; but
Caesar’s long silence, of which he knew the reason, began to cause him
some uneasiness: for, though pain sometimes softened the despot’s mood,
it more often prompted him to revenge himself, as it were, for his own
sufferings, by brutal attacks on the comfort and happiness of others.
And, at last, even Melissa seemed to be losing the presence of mind
he had admired, for he saw her bosom heave faster and higher, her lips
quivered, and her large eyes sparkled through tears.

Caesar’s countenance presently cleared a little. He raised his head,
and as his eye met Melissa’s she pronounced in a low, sweet voice the
pleasant Greek greeting, “Rejoice!”

At this moment the philosopher was seized with a panic of anxiety; he
felt for the first time the weight of responsibility he had taken on
himself. Never had he thought her so lovely, so enchantingly bewitching
as now, when she looked up at Caracalla in sweet confusion and timidity,
but wholly possessed by her desire to win the favor of the man who, with
a word, could make her so happy or so wretched. If this slave of his
passions, whom a mere whim perhaps had moved to insist on the strictest
morality in his court, should take a fancy to this delightful young
creature, she was doomed to ruin. He turned pale, and his heart throbbed
painfully as he watched the development of the catastrophe for which he
had himself prepared the way.

But, once more, the unexpected upset the philosopher’s anticipations.
Caracalla gazed at the girl in amazement, utterly discomposed, as though
some miracle had happened, or a ghost had started from the ground
before him. Springing up, while he clutched the back of his chair, he
exclaimed:

“What is this? Do my senses deceive me, or is it some base trickery? No,
no! My eyes and my memory are good. This girl--”

“What ails thee, Caesar?” Philostratus broke in, with increasing
anxiety.

“Something--something which will silence your foolish doubts--” Caesar
panted out. “Patience--wait. Only a minute, and you shall see.--But,
first”--and he turned to Melissa--“what is your name, girl?”

“Melissa,” she replied, in a low and tremulous voice.

“And your father’s and your mother’s?”

“Heron is my father’s name, and my mother--she is dead--was called
Olympias, the daughter of Philip.”

“And you are of Macedonian race?”

“Yes, my lord. My father and mother both were of pure Macedonian
descent.”

The emperor glanced triumphantly at Philostratus, and briefly
exclaiming, “That will do, I think,” he clapped his hands, and instantly
his old chamberlain, Adventus, hurried in from the adjoining room,
followed by the whole band of “Caesar’s friends.” Caracalla, however,
only said to them:

“You can wait till I call you.--You, Adventus! I want the gem with the
marriage of Alexander.” The freedman took the gem out of an ebony
casket standing on Caesar’s writing-table, and Caracalla, holding the
philosopher by the arm, said, with excited emphasis:

“That gem I inherited from my father, the divine Severus. It was
engraved before that child came into the world. Now you shall see it,
and if you then say that it is an illusion--But why should you doubt it?
Pythagoras and your hero Apollonius both knew whose body their souls had
inhabited in a former existence. Mine--though my mother has laughed at
my belief, and others have dared to do the same-mine, five hundred years
ago, dwelt in the greatest of heroes, Alexander the Macedonian--a right
royal tabernacle!”

He snatched the gem from the chamberlain’s hand, and while he devoured
it with his eyes, looking from time to time into Melissa’s face, he
eagerly ran on:

“It is she. None but a blind man, a fool, a malignant idiot, could
doubt it! Any who henceforth shall dare mock at my conviction that I was
brought into the world to fulfill the life-span of that great hero, will
learn to rue it! Here--it is but natural--here, in the city he founded
and which bears his name, I have found positive proof that the bond
which unites the son of Philip with the son of Severus is something
more than a mere fancy. This maiden--look at her closely--is the
re-embodiment of the soul of Roxana, as I am of that of her husband.
Even you must see now how naturally it came about that she should uplift
her heart and hands in prayer for me. Her soul, when it once dwelt in
Roxana, was fondly linked with that of the hero; and now, in the bosom
of this simple maiden, it is drawn to the unforgotten fellow-soul which
has found its home in my breast.”

He spoke with enthusiastic and firm conviction of the truth of his
strange imagining, as though he were delivering a revelation from the
gods. He bade Philostratus approach and compare the features of Roxana,
as carved in the onyx, with those of the young supplicant.

The fair Persian stood facing Alexander; they were clasping each other’s
hands in pledge of marriage, and a winged Hymen fluttered above their
heads with his flaming torch.

Philostratus was, in fact, startled as he looked at the gem, and
expressed his surprise in the liveliest terms, for the features of
Roxana as carved in the cameo, no larger than a man’s palm, were, line
for line, those of the daughter of Heron. And this sport of chance could
not but be amazing to any one who did not know--as neither of the three
who were examining the gem knew--that it was a work of Heron’s youth,
and that he had given Roxana the features of his bride Olympias, whose
living image her daughter Melissa had grown to be.

“And how long have you had this work of art?” asked Philostratus.

“I inherited it, as I tell you, from my father,” replied Caracalla.
“Severus sometimes wore it.--But wait. After the battle of Issos, in
his triumph over Pescennius Niger--I can see him now--he wore it on his
shoulder, and that was--”

“Two-and-twenty years ago,” the philosopher put in; and Caracalla,
turning to Melissa, asked her:

“How old are you, child?”

“Eighteen, my lord.” And the reply delighted Caesar; he laughed aloud,
and looked triumphantly at Philostratus.

The philosopher willingly admitted that there was something strange in
the incident, and he congratulated Caesar on having met with such strong
confirmation of his inward conviction. The soul of Alexander might now
do great things through him.

During this conversation the alarm which had come over Melissa at
Caesar’s silence had entirely disappeared. The despot whose suffering
had appealed to her sympathetic soul, now struck her as singular rather
than terrible. The idea that she, the humble artist’s daughter, could
harbor the soul of a Persian princess, amused her; and when the lion
lifted his head and lashed the floor with his tail at her approach, she
felt that she had won his approbation. Moved by a sudden impulse, she
laid her hand on his head and boldly stroked it. The light, warm touch
soothed the fettered prince of the desert, and, rubbing his brow against
Melissa’s round arm, he muttered a low, contented growl.

At this Caesar was enchanted; it was to him a further proof of his
strange fancy. The “Sword of Persia” was rarely so friendly to any one;
and Theocritus owed much of the favor shown him by Caracalla to the fact
that at their first meeting the lion had been on particularly good
terms with him. Still, the brute had never shown so much liking for any
stranger as for this young girl, and never responded with such eager
swinging of his tail excepting to Caesar’s own endearments. It must be
instinct which had revealed to the beast the old and singular bond which
linked his master and this new acquaintance. Caracalla, who, in all that
happened to him, traced the hand of a superior power, pointed this out
to Philostratus, and asked him whether, perhaps, the attack of pain he
had just suffered might not have yielded so quickly to the presence of
the revived Roxana rather than to Galen’s pills.

Philostratus thought it wise not to dispute this assumption, and
soon diverted the conversation to the subject of Melissa’s imprisoned
relations. He quietly represented to Caracalla that his noblest task
must be to satisfy the spirit of her who had been so dear to the hero
whose life he was to fulfill; and Caesar, who was delighted that the
philosopher should recognize as a fact the illusion which flattered him,
at once agreed. He questioned Melissa about her brother Alexander with a
gentleness of which few would have thought him capable; and the sound
of her voice, as she answered him modestly but frankly and with sisterly
affection, pleased him so well that he allowed her to speak without
interruption longer than was his wont. Finally, he promised her that he
would question the painter, and, if possible, be gracious to him.

He again clapped his hands, and ordered a freedman named Epagathos, who
was one of his favorite body-servants, to send immediately for Alexander
from the prison.

As before, when Adventus had been summoned, a crowd followed Epagathos,
and, as Caesar did not dismiss them, Melissa was about to withdraw; the
despot, however, desired her to wait.

Blushing, and confused with shyness, she remained standing by Caesar’s
seat; and though she only ventured to raise her eyes now and then for a
stolen look, she felt herself the object of a hundred curious, defiant,
bold, or contemptuous glances.

How gladly would she have escaped, or have sunk into the earth! But
there she had to stand, her teeth set, while her lips trembled, to check
the tears which would rise.

Caesar, meanwhile, took no further notice of her. He was longing to
relate at full length, to his friends and companions, the wonderful and
important thing that had happened; but he would not approach the subject
while they took their places in his presence. Foremost of them, with
Theocritus, came the high-priest of Serapis, and Caracalla immediately
desired them to introduce the newly appointed head-guardian of the
peace. But the election was not yet final. The choice lay, Theocritus
explained, between two equally good men. One, Aristides, was a Greek of
high repute, and the other was only an Egyptian, but so distinguished
for zealous severity that, for his part, he should vote for him.

At this the high-priest broke in, saying that the man favored by
Theocritus did in fact possess the qualities for which he was commended,
but in such a measure that he was utterly hated by the Greek population;
and in Alexandria more could be achieved by justice and mercy than by
defiant severity.

But at this the favorite laughed, and said that he was convinced of the
contrary. A populace which could dare to mock at the divine Caesar, the
guest of their city, with such gross audacity, must be made to smart
under the power of Rome and its ruler. The deposed magistrate had lost
his place for the absurd measures he had proposed, and Aristides was in
danger of following in his footsteps.

“By no means,” the high-priest said, with calm dignity. “The Greek,
whom I would propose, is a worthy and determined man. Now, Zminis the
Egyptian, the right hand of the man who has been turned out, is, it must
be said, a wretch without ruth or conscience.”

But here the discussion was interrupted. Melissa, whose ears had tingled
as she listened, had started with horror as she heard that Zminis, the
in former, was to be appointed to the command of the whole watch of
the city. If this should happen, her brothers and father were certainly
lost. This must be prevented. As the high-priest ceased speaking, she
laid her hand on Caesar’s, and, when he looked up at her in surprise,
she whispered to him, so low and so quickly that hardly any one observed
it “Not Zminis; he is our mortal enemy!”

Caracalla scarcely glanced at the face of the daring girl, but he saw
how pale she had turned. The delicate color in her cheeks, and the
dimple he had seen while she stroked the lion had struck him as
particularly fascinating. This had helped to make her so like the Roxana
on the gem, and the change in her roused his pity. She must smile
again; and so, accustomed as he was to visit his annoyance on others, he
angrily exclaimed to his “Friends”:

“Can I be everywhere at once? Can not the simplest matter be settled
without me? It was the praetorian prefect’s business to report to me
concerning the two candidates, if you could not agree; but I have not
seen him since last evening. The man who has to be sought when I need
him neglects his duty! Macrinus usually knows his. Does any one know
what has detained him?”

The question was asked in an angry, nay, in an ominous tone, but the
praetorian prefect was a powerful personage, whose importance made him
almost invulnerable. Yet the praetor Lucius Priscillianus was ready with
an answer. He was the most malicious and ill-natured scandal-monger at
court; and he hated the prefect, for he himself had coveted the post,
which was the highest in the state next to Caesar’s. He had always some
slaves set to spy upon Macrinus, and he now said, with a contemptuous
shrug:

“It is a marvel to me that so zealous a man--though he is already
beginning to break down under his heavy duties--should be so late.
However, he here spends his evenings and nights in special occupations,
which must of course be far from beneficial to the health and peace of
mind which his office demands.”

“What can those be?” asked Caracalla; but the praetor added without a
pause:

“Merciful gods! Who would not crave to glance into the future?”

“And it is that which makes him late?” said Caesar, with more curiosity
than anger.

“Hardly by broad daylight,” replied Priscillianus. “The spirits he would
fain evoke shun the light of day, it is said. But he may be weary with
late watching and painful agitations.”

“Then he calls up spirits at night?”

“Undoubtedly, great Caesar. But, in this capital of philosophy, spirits
are illogical it would seem. How can Macrinus interpret the prophecy
that he, who is already on the highest step attainable to us lower
mortals, shall rise yet higher?”

“We will ask him,” said Caesar, indifferently. “But you--guard your
tongue. It has already cost some men their heads, whom I would gladly
see yet among the living. Wishes can not be punished. Who does not wish
to stand on the step next above his own? You, my friend, would like that
of Macrinus.--But deeds! You know me! I am safe from them, so long as
each of you so sincerely grudges his neighbor every promotion. You, my
Lucius, have again proved how keen your sight is, and, if it were not
too great an honor for this refractory city to have a Roman in the toga
praetexta at the head of its administration, I should like to make you
the guardian of the peace here. You see me,” he went on, “in an elated
mood to-day.--Cilo, you know this gem which came tome from my father.
Look at it, and at this maiden.--Come nearer, priest of the divine
Alexander; and you too consider the marvel, Theocritus, Antigonus, Dio,
Pandion, Paulinus. Compare the face of the female figure with this girl
by my side. The master carved this Roxana long before she was born.
You are surprised? As Alexander’s soul dwells in me, so she is Roxana,
restored to life. It has been proved by irrefragable evidence in the
presence of Philostratus.”

The priest of Alexander here exclaimed, in a tone of firm conviction:

“A marvel indeed! We bow down to the noble vessel of the soul of
Alexander. I, the priest of that hero, attest that great Caesar has
found that in which Roxana’s soul now exists.” And as he spoke he
pressed his hand to his heart, bowing low before Caesar; the rest
imitated his example. Even Julius Paulinus, the satirist, followed
the Roman priest’s lead; but he whispered in the ear of Cassius Dio
“Alexander’s soul was inquisitive, and wanted to see how it could live
in the body which, of all mortal tenements on earth, least resembles his
own.”

A mocking word was on the ex-consul’s lips as to the amiable frame of
mind which had so suddenly come over Caesar; but he preferred to watch
and listen, as Caracalla beckoned Theocritus to him and begged him to
give up the appointment of Zminis, though, as a rule, he indulged
the favorite’s every whim. He could not bear, he said, to intrust the
defense of his own person and of the city of Alexander to an Egyptian,
so long as a Greek could be found capable of the duty. He proposed
presently to have the two candidates brought before him, and to decide
between them in the presence of the prefect of the praetorians. Then,
turning to those of his captains who stood around him, he said:

“Greet my soldiers from me. I could not show myself to them yesterday.
I saw just now, with deep regret, how the rain has drenched them in
this luxurious city. I will no longer endure it. The praetorians and the
Macedonian legion shall be housed in quarters of which they will tell
wonders for a long time to come. I would rather see them sleeping in
white wool and eating off silver than these vile traders. Tell them
that.”

He was here interrupted, for Epagathos announced a deputation from
the Museum, and, at the same time, the painter Alexander, who had been
brought from prison. At this Caracalla exclaimed with disgust:

“Spare me the hair-splitting logicians!--Do you, Philostratus, receive
them in my name. If they make any impudent demands, you may tell them
my opinion of them and their Museum. Go, but come back quickly. Bring
in the painter. I will speak with him alone.--You, my friends, withdraw
with our idiologos, the priest of Alexander, who is well known here, and
visit the city. I shall not require you at present.”

The whole troop hastened to obey. Caracalla now turned to Melissa once
more, and his eye brightened as he again discerned the dimple in her
cheeks, which had recovered their roses. Her imploring eyes met his,
and the happy expectation of seeing her brother lent them a light which
brought joy to the friendless sovereign. During his last speech he
had looked at her from time to time; but in the presence of so many
strangers she had avoided meeting his gaze. Now she thought that she
might freely show him that his favor was a happiness to her. Her soul,
as Roxana, must of course feel drawn to his; in that he firmly believed.
Her prayer and sacrifice for him sufficiently proved it--as he told
himself once more.

When Alexander was brought in, it did not anger him to see that the
brother, who held out his arms to Melissa in his habitual eager way, had
to be reminded by her of the imperial presence. Every homage was due
to this fair being, and he was, besides, much struck by Alexander’s
splendid appearance. It was long since any youthful figure had so
vividly reminded him of the marble statues of the great Athenian
masters. Melissa’s brother stood before him, the very embodiment of the
ideal of Greek strength and manly beauty. His mantle had been taken from
him in prison, and he wore only the short chiton, which also left bare
his powerful but softly modeled arms. He had been allowed no time to
arrange and anoint his hair, and the light-brown curls were tossed in
disorderly abundance about his shapely head. This favorite of the gods
appeared in Caesar’s eyes as an Olympic victor, who had come to claim
the wreath with all the traces of the struggle upon him.

No sign of fear, either of Caesar or his lion, marred this impression.
His bow, as he approached the potentate, was neither abject nor awkward,
and Caesar felt bitter wrath at the thought that this splendid youth,
of all men, should have selected him as the butt of his irony. He would
have regarded it as a peculiar gift of fortune if this man--such a
brother of such a sister--could but love him, and, with the eye of an
artist, discern in the despot the great qualities which, in spite of his
many crimes, he believed he could detect in himself. And he hoped, with
an admixture of anxiety such as he had never known before, that the
painter’s demeanor would be such as should allow him to show mercy.

When Alexander besought him with a trustful mien to consider his youth,
and the Alexandrian manners which he had inherited both from his parents
and his grandparents, if indeed his tongue had wagged too boldly in
speaking of the all-powerful Caesar, and to remember the fable of the
lion and the mouse, the scowl he had put on to impress the youth with
his awfulness and power vanished from Caesar’s brow. The idea that this
great artist, whose sharp eye could so surely distinguish the hideous
from the beautiful, should regard him as ill-favored, was odious to him.
He had listened to him in silence; but suddenly he inquired of Alexander
whether it was indeed he, whom he had never injured, who had written the
horrible epigram nailed with the rope to the door of the Serapeum and
when the painter emphatically denied it, Caesar breathed as though a
burden had fallen from his soul. He nevertheless insisted on hearing
from the youth’s own lips what it was that he had actually dared to say.
After some hesitation, during which Melissa besought Caesar in vain to
spare her and her brother this confession, Alexander exclaimed:

“Then the hunted creature must walk into the net, and, unless your
clemency interferes, on to death! What I said referred partly to the
wonderful strength that you, my lord, have so often displayed in the
field and in the circus; and also to another thing, which I myself now
truly repent of having alluded to. It is said that my lord killed his
brother.”

“That--ah! that was it!” said Caesar, and his face, involuntarily this
time, grew dark.

“Yes, my lord,” Alexander went on, breathing hard. “To deny it would be
to add a second crime to the former one, and I am one of those who would
rather jump into cold water both feet at once, when it has to be done.
All the world knows what your strength is; and I said that it was
greater than that of Father Zeus; for that he had cast his son
Hephaestos only on the earth, and your strong fist had cast your brother
through the earth into the depths of Hades. That was all. I have not
added nor concealed anything.”

Melissa had listened in terror to this bold confession. Papinian, the
brave praetorian prefect, one of the most learned lawyers of his time,
had incurred Caracalla’s fury by refusing to say that the murder of
Geta was not without excuse; and his noble answer, that it was easier to
commit fratricide than to defend it, cost him his life.

So long as Caesar had been kind to her, Melissa had felt repelled by
him; but now, when he was angry, she was once more attracted to him.

As the wounds of a murdered man are said to bleed afresh when the
murderer approaches, Caracalla’s irritable soul was wont to break out
in a frenzy of rage when any one was so rash as to allude to this,
his foulest crime. This reference to his brother’s death had as usual
stirred his wrath, but he controlled it; for as a torrent of rain
extinguishes the fire which a lightning-flash has kindled, the homage to
his strength, in Alexander’s satire, had modified his indignation. The
irony which made the artist’s contemptuous words truly witty, would not
have escaped Caracalla’s notice if they had applied to any one else;
but he either did not feel it, or would not remark it, for the sake
of leaving Melissa in the belief that his physical strength was really
wonderful. Besides, he thus could indulge his wish to avoid pronouncing
sentence of death on this youth; he only measured him with a severe eye,
and said in threatening tones, to repay mockery in kind and to remind
the criminal of the fate imperial clemency should spare him:

“I might be tempted to try my strength on you, but that it is worse to
try a fall with a vaporing wag, the sport of the winds, than with the
son of Caesar. And if I do not condescend to the struggle, it is
because you are too light for such an arm as this.” And as he spoke he
boastfully grasped the muscles which constant practice had made thick
and firm. “But my hand reaches far. Every man-at-arms is one of its
fingers, and there are thousands of them. You have made acquaintance
already, I fancy, with those which clutched you.”

“Not so,” replied Alexander, with a faint smile, as he bowed humbly. “I
should not dare resist your great strength, but the watch-dogs of the
law tried in vain to track me. I gave myself up.”

“Of your own accord?”

“To procure my father’s release, as he had been put in prison.”

“Most magnanimous!” said Caesar, ironically. “Such a deed sounds well,
but is apt to cost a man his life. You seem to have overlooked that.”

“No, great Caesar; I expected to die.”

“Then you are a philosopher, a contemner of life.”

“Neither. I value life above all else; for, if it is taken from me,
there is an end of enjoying its best gifts.”

“Best gifts!” echoed Caesar. “I should like to know which you honor with
the epithet.”

“Love and art.”

“Indeed?” said Caracalla, with a swift glance at Melissa. Then, in an
altered voice, he added, “And revenge?”

“That,” said the artist, boldly, “is a pleasure I have not yet tasted.
No one ever did me a real injury till the villain Zminis robbed my
guiltless father of his liberty; and he is not worthy to do such
mischief, as a finger of your imperial hand.”

At this, Caesar looked at him suspiciously, and said in stern tones:

“But you have now the opportunity of trying the fine flavor of
vengeance. If I were timid--since the Egyptian acted only as my
instrument--I should have cause to protect myself against you.”

“By no means,” said the painter, with an engaging smile, “it lies in
your power to do me the greatest benefit. Do it, Caesar! It would be a
joy to me to show that, though I have been reckless beyond measure, I am
nevertheless a grateful man.”

“Grateful?” repeated Caracalla, with a cruel laugh. Then he rose slowly,
and looked keenly at Alexander, exclaiming:

“I should almost like to try you.”

“And I will answer for it that you will never regret it!” Melissa put
in. “Greatly as he has erred, he is worthy of your clemency.”

“Is he?” said Caesar, looking down at her kindly. “What Roxana’s soul
affirms by those rosy lips I can not but believe.”

Then again he paused, studying Alexander with a searching eye, and
added:

“You think me strong; but you will change that opinion--which I
value--if I forgive you like a poor-spirited girl. You are in my power.
You risked your life. If I give it you, I must have a gift in return,
that I may not be cheated.”

“Set my father free, and he will do whatever you may require of him,”
 Melissa broke out. But Caracalla stopped her, saying: “No one makes
conditions with Caesar. Stand back, girl.”

Melissa hung her head and obeyed; but she stood watching the eager
discussion between these two dissimilar men, at first with anxiety and
then with surprise.

Alexander seemed to resist Caesar’s demands; but presently the despot
must have proposed something which pleased the artist, for Melissa
heard the low, musical laugh which had often cheered her in moments of
sadness. Then the conversation was more serious, and Caracalla said, so
loud that Melissa could hear him:

“Do not forget to whom you speak. If my word is not enough, you can go
back to prison.” Then again she trembled for her brother; but some soft
word of his mollified the fury of the terrible man, who was never the
same for two minutes together. The lion, too, which lay unchained by his
master’s seat, gave her a fright now and then; for if Caesar raised his
voice in anger, he growled and stood up.

How fearful were this beast and his lord! Rather would she spend her
whole life on a ship’s deck, tossed to and fro by the surges, than share
this man’s fate. And yet there was in him something which attracted her;
nay, and it nettled her that he should forget her presence.

At last Alexander humbly asked Caracalla whether he might not tell
Melissa to what he had pledged his word.

“That shall be my business,” replied Caesar. “You think that a mere girl
is a better witness than none at all. Perhaps you are right. Then let it
be understood: whatever you may have to report to me, my wrath shall not
turn against you. This fellow--why should you not be told, child?--is
going into the town to collect all the jests and witty epigrams which
have been uttered in my honor.”

“Alexander!” cried Melissa, clasping her hands and turning pale with
horror. But Caracalla laughed to himself, and went on cheerfully:

“Yes, it is dangerous work, no doubt; and for that reason I pledged my
word as Caesar not to require him to pay for the sins of others. On the
contrary, he is free, if the posy he culls for me is sufficient.”

“Ay,” said Alexander, on whom his sister’s white face and warning looks
were having effect. “But you made me another promise on which I lay
great stress. You will not compel me to tell you, nor try to discover
through any other man, who may have spoken or written any particular
satire.”

“Enough!” said Caracalla, impatiently; but Alexander was not to be
checked. He went on vehemently: “I have not forgotten that you said
conditions were not to be made with Caesar; but, in spite of my
impotence, I maintain the right of returning to my prison and there
awaiting my doom, unless you once more assure me, in this girl’s
presence, that you will neither inquire as to the names of the authors
of any gibes I may happen to have heard, nor compel me by any means
whatever to give up the names of the writers of epigrams. Why should I
not satisfy your curiosity and your relish of a sharp jest? But rather
than do the smallest thing which might savor of treachery--ten times
rather the axe or the gallows!”

And Caracalla replied with a dark frown, loudly and briefly:

“I promise.”

“And if your rage is too much for you?” wailed Melissa, raising her
hands in entreaty; but the despot replied, sternly:

“There is no passion which can betray Caesar into perjury.”

At this moment Philostratus came in again, with Epagathos, who announced
the praetorian prefect. Melissa, encouraged by the presence of her kind
protector, went on:

“But, great Caesar, you will release my father and my other brother?”

“Perhaps,” replied Caracalla. “First we will see how this one carries
out his task.”

“You will be satisfied, my lord,” said the young man, looking quite
happy again, for he was delighted at the prospect of saying audacious
things to the face of the tyrant whom all were bent on flattering, and
holding up the mirror to him without, as he firmly believed, bringing
any danger on himself or others.

He bowed to go. Melissa did the same, saying, as airily as though she
were free to come and go here:

“Accept my thanks, great Caesar. Oh, how fervently will I pray for you
all my life, if only you show mercy to my father and brothers!”

“That means that you are leaving me?” asked Caracalla.

“How can it be otherwise?” said Melissa, timidly. “I am but a girl, and
the men whom you expect--”

“But when they are gone?” Caesar insisted.

“Even then you can not want me,” she murmured.

“You mean,” said Caracalla, bitterly, “that you are afraid to come back.
You mean that you would rather keep out of the way of the man you prayed
for, so long as he is well. And if the pain which first aroused your
sympathy attacks him again, even then will you leave the irascible
sovereign to himself or the care of the gods?”

“Not so, not so,” said Melissa, humbly, looking into his eyes with an
expression that pierced him to the heart, so that he added, with gentle
entreaty:

“Then show that you are she whom I believe you to be. I do not compel
you. Go whither you will, stay away even if I send for you; but”--and
here his brow clouded again--“why should I try to be merciful to her
from whom I looked for sympathy and kindliness, when she flees from me
like the rest?”

“O my lord!” Melissa sighed distressfully. “Go!” Caesar went on. “I do
not need you.”

“No, no,” the girl cried, in great trouble. “Call me, and I will come.
Only shelter me from the others, and from their looks of scorn; only--O
immortal gods!--If you need me, I will serve you, and willingly, with
all my heart. But if you really care for me, if you desire my presence,
why let me suffer the worst?” Here a sudden flood of tears choked her
utterance. A smile of triumph passed over Caesar’s features, and drawing
Melissa’s hands away from her tearful face, he said, kindly:

“Alexander’s soul pines for Roxana’s; that is what makes your presence
so dear to me. Never shall you have cause to rue coming at my call.
I swear it by the manes of my divine father--you, Philostratus, are
witness.”

The philosopher, who thought he knew Caracalla, gave a sigh of relief;
and Alexander gladly reflected that the danger he had feared for his
sister was averted. This craze about Roxana, of which Caracalla had just
now spoken to him as a certain fact, he regarded as a monstrous illusion
of this strange man’s, which would, however, be a better safeguard for
Melissa than pledges and oaths.

He clasped her hand, and said with cheerful confidence: “Only send for
her when you are ill, my lord, as long as you remain here. I know from
your own lips that there is no passion which can betray Caesar into
perjury. Will you permit her to come with me for the present?”

“No,” said Caracalla, sharply, and he bade him go about the business
he had in hand. Then, turning to Philostratus, he begged him to conduct
Melissa to Euryale, the high-priest’s noble wife, for she had been a
kind and never-forgotten friend of his mother’s.

The philosopher gladly escorted the young girl to the matron, who had
long been anxiously awaiting her return.



CHAPTER XVIII.

The statue of Serapis, a figure of colossal size, carved by the
master-hand of Bryaxis, out of ivory overlaid with gold, sat enthroned
in the inner chamber of the great Temple of Serapis, with the kalathos
crowning his bearded face, and the three-headed Cerberus at his feet,
gazing down in supreme silence on the scene around. He did not lack for
pious votaries and enthusiastic admirers, for, so long as Caesar was
his guest, the curtain was withdrawn which usually hid his majestic form
from their eyes. But his most devoted worshipers thought that the god’s
noble, benevolent, grave countenance had a wrathful look; for, though
nothing had been altered in this, the finest pillared hall in the world;
though the beautiful pictures in relief on the walls and ceiling, the
statues and altars of marble, bronze, and precious metals between the
columns, and the costly mosaic-work of many colors which decked the
floor in regular patterns, were the same as of yore, this splendid
pavement was trodden to-day by thousands of feet which had no concern
with the service of the god.

Before Caesar’s visit, solemn silence had ever reigned in this worthy
home of the deity, fragrant with the scarcely visible fumes of kyphi;
and the worshipers gathered without a sound round the foot of his
statue, and before the numerous altars and the smaller images of the
divinities allied to him or the votive tablets recording the gifts and
services instituted in honor of Serapis by pious kings or citizens. On
feast-days, and during daily worship, the chant of priestly choirs might
be heard, or the murmur of prayer; and the eye might watch the stolists
who crowned the statues with flowers and ribbons, as required by the
ritual, or the processions of priests in their various rank. Carrying
sacred relics and figures of the gods on trays or boats, with emblematic
standards, scepters, and cymbals, they moved about the sacred precinct
in prescribed order, and most of them fulfilled their duties with
devotion and edification.

But Caesar’s presence seemed to have banished these solemn feelings.
From morning till night the great temple swarmed with visitors, but
their appearance and demeanor were more befitting the market-place or
public bath than the sanctuary. It was now no more than the anteroom to
Caesar’s audience-chamber, and thronged with Roman senators, legates,
tribunes, and other men of rank, and the clients and “friends” of
Caesar, mingled with soldiers of inferior grades, scribes, freedmen,
and slaves, who had followed in Caracalla’s train. There were, too,
many Alexandrians who expected to gain some benefit, promotion, or
distinction through the emperor’s favorites. Most of these kept close to
his friends and intimates, to make what profit they could out of them.
Some were corn and wine dealers, or armorers, who wished to obtain
contracts for supplying the army; others were usurers, who had money to
lend on the costly objects which warriors often acquired as booty; and
here, as everywhere, bedizened and painted women were crowding round the
free-handed strangers. There were Magians, astrologers, and magicians
by the dozen, who considered this sacred spot the most suitable place
in which to offer their services to the Romans, always inquisitive
for signs and charms. They knew how highly Egyptian magic was esteemed
throughout the empire; though their arts were in fact prohibited, each
outdid the other in urgency, and not less in a style of dress which
should excite curiosity and expectancy.

Serapion held aloof. Excepting that he wore a beard and robe, his
appearance even had nothing in common with them; and his talar was not
like theirs, embroidered with hieroglyphics, tongues, and flames, but of
plain white stuff, which gave him the aspect of a learned and priestly
sage.

As Alexander, on his way through the temple to fulfill Caesar’s
commission, went past the Magian, Castor, his supple accomplice, stole
up behind a statue, and, when the artist disappeared in the crowd,
whispered to his master:

“The rascally painter is at liberty!”

“Till further notice!” was the reply, and Serapion was about to give his
satellite some instructions, when a hand was laid on his shoulder, and
Zminis said in a low voice:

“I am glad to have found you here. Accusations are multiplying against
you, my friend; and though I have kept my eyes shut till now, that
cannot last much longer.”

“Let us hope you are mistaken,” replied the Magian, firmly. And then
he went on in a hurried whisper: “I know what your ambition is, and my
support may be of use to you. But we must not be seen together. We will
meet again in the instrument-room, to the left of the first stairs up to
the observatory. You will find me there.”

“At once, then,” said the other. “I am to be in Caesar’s presence in a
quarter of an hour.”

The Magian, as being one of the most skillful makers of astronomical
instruments, and attached to the sanctuary, had a key of the room he
had designated. Zminis found him there, and their business was quickly
settled. They knew each other well, and each knew things of the other
which inspired them with mutual fear. However, as time pressed, they set
aside all useless antagonisms, to unite against the common foe.

The Magian knew already that Zminis had been named to Caesar as a
possible successor to the chief of the night-watch, and that he had a
powerful rival. By the help of the Syrian, whose ventriloquism was so
perfect that he never failed to produce the illusion that his feigned
voice proceeded from any desired person or thing, Serapion had enmeshed
the praetorian prefect, the greatest magnate in the empire next to
Caesar himself, and in the course of the past night had gained a firm
hold over him.

Macrinus, a man of humble birth, who owed his promotion to Severus, the
father of Caracalla, had, the day before, been praying in the Pantheon
to the statue of his deceased patron. A voice had proceeded from the
image, telling him that the divine Severus needed him for a great work.
A pious seer was charged to tell him more exactly what this was; and
he would meet him if he went at about sunset to the shrine of Isis,
and called three times on the name of Severus before the altar of the
goddess.

The Syrian ventriloquist had, by Serapion’s orders, hidden behind a
pillar and spoken to the prefect from the statue; and Macrinus had, of
course, obeyed his instructions. He had met the Magian in the Temple
of Isis, and what he had seen, heard, and felt during the night had so
deeply affected him that he had promised to revisit Serapion the next
evening. What means he had used to enslave so powerful a man the Magian
did not tell his ally; but he declared that Macrinus was as wax in
his hands, and he came to an agreement with the Egyptian that if he,
Serapion, should bring about the promotion for which Zminis sighed,
Zminis, on his part, should give him a free hand, and commend his arts
to Caesar.

It needed but a few minutes to conclude this compact; but then the
Magian proceeded to insist that Alexander’s father and brother should be
made away with.

“Impossible,” replied Zminis. “I should be only too glad to wring the
necks of the whole brood; but, as it is, I am represented to Caesar as
too stern and ruthless. And a pretty little slut, old Heron’s daughter,
has entangled him in her toils.”

“No,” said Serapion, positively. “I have seen the girl, and she is as
innocent as a child. But I know the force of contrast: when depravity
meets purity--”

“Come, no philosophizing!” interrupted the other. “We have better things
to attend to, and one or the other may turn to your advantage.”

And he told him that Caesar, whose whim it was to spare Alexander’s
life, regarded Melissa as an incarnation of Roxana.

“That is worth considering,” said the Magian, stroking his beard
meditatively; then he suddenly exclaimed:

“By the law, as you know, all the relatives of a state criminal are sent
to the quarries or the mines. Dispatch Heron and his philosopher son
forthwith. Whither?--that is your concern; only, for the next few days
they must be out of reach.”

“Good!” said the Egyptian, and an odious smile overspread his thin brown
face. “They may go as galley-slaves and row themselves to the Sardinian
mines. A good idea!”

“I have even better ideas than that to serve a friend,” replied
Serapion. “Only get the philosopher out of the way. If Caesar lends an
ear to his ready tongue, I shall never see you guardian of the peace.
The painter is less dangerous.”

“He shall share their fate,” cried the spy, and he licked his thick lips
as if tasting some dainty morsel. He waved an adieu to the Magian, and
hastened back to the great hall. There he strictly instructed one of his
subordinates to take care that the gem-cutter and his son Philip found
places on board a galley bound for Sardinia.

At the great door he again met Serapion, with the Syrian at his heels,
and the Magian said:

“My friend here has just seen a clay figure, molded by some practiced
hand. It represents Caesar as a defiant warrior, but in the shape of a
deformed dwarf. It is hideously like him; you can see it at the Elephant
tavern.”

The Egyptian pressed his hand, with an eager “That will serve,” and
hastily went out.

Two hours slipped by, and Zminis was still waiting in Caesar’s anteroom.
The Greek, Aristides, shared his fate, the captain hitherto of the
armed guard; while Zminis had been the head of the spies, intrusted
with communicating written reports to the chief of the night-watch. The
Greek’s noble, soldierly figure looked strikingly fine by the slovenly,
lank frame of the tall Egyptian. They both knew that within an hour or
so one would be supreme over the other; but of this they thought it best
to say nothing. Zminis, as was his custom when he wished to assume an
appearance of respect which he did not feel, was alternately abject
and pressingly confidential; while Aristides calmly accepted his
hypocritical servility, and answered it with dignified condescension.
Nor had they any lack of subjects, for their interests were the same,
and they both had the satisfaction of reflecting what injury must ensue
to public safety through their long and useless detention here.

But when two full hours had elapsed without their being bidden to
Caesar’s presence, or taken any notice of by their supporters, Zminis
grew wroth, and the Greek frowned in displeasure. Meanwhile the anteroom
was every moment more crowded, and neither chose to give vent to his
anger. Still, when the door to the inner chambers was opened for a
moment, and loud laughter and the ring of wine-cups fell on their ears,
Aristides shrugged his shoulders, and the Egyptian’s eyes showed an
ominous white ring glaring out of his brown face.

Caracalla had meanwhile received the praetorian prefect; he had forgiven
him his long delay, when Macrinus, of his own accord, had told him of
the wonderful things Serapion had made known to him. The prefect’s son,
too, had been invited to the banquet of Seleukus; and when Caracalla
heard from him and others of the splendor of the feast, he had begun to
feel hungry. Even with regard to food, Caesar acted only on the impulse
of the moment; and though, in the field, he would, to please his
soldiers, be content with a morsel of bread and a little porridge, at
home he highly appreciated the pleasures of the table. Whenever he gave
the word, an abundant meal must at once be ready. It was all the same
to him what was kept waiting or postponed, so long as something to his
taste was set before him. Macrinus, indeed, humbly reminded him that
the guardians of the peace were awaiting him; but he only waved his hand
with contempt, and proceeded to the dining-room, which was soon filled
with a large number of guests. Within a few minutes the first dish was
set before his couch, and, as plenty of good stories were told, and an
admirable band of flute-playing and singing girls filled up the pauses
in the conversation, he enjoyed his meal. In spite, too, of the warning
which Galenus had impressed on his Roman physician, he drank freely of
the fine wine which had been brought out for him from the airy lofts
of the Serapeum, and those about him were surprised at their master’s
unwonted good spirits.

He was especially gracious to the high-priest, whom he bade to a place
by his side; and he even accepted his arm as a support, when, the meal
being over, they returned to the tablinum.

‘There he flung himself on a couch, with a burning head, and began
feeding the lion, without paying any heed to his company. It was a
pleasure to him to see the huge brute rend a young lamb. When the
remains of this introductory morsel had been removed and the pavement
washed, he gave the “Sword of Persia” pieces of raw flesh, teasing
the beast by snatching the daintiest bits out of his mouth, and then
offering them to him again, till the satiated brute stretched himself
yawning at his feet. During this entertainment, he had a letter read
to him from the senate, and dictated a reply to a secretary. His eyes
twinkled with a tipsy leer in his flushed face, and yet he was perfectly
competent; and his instructions to the senate, though imperious indeed,
were neither more nor less rational than in his soberest moods.

Then, after washing his hands in a golden basin, he acted on Macrinus’s
suggestion, and the two candidates who had so long been waiting were
at last admitted. The prefect of the praetorians had, by the Magian’s
desire, recommended the Egyptian; but Caesar wished to see for himself,
and then to decide. Both the applicants had received hints from their
supporters: the Egyptian, to moderate his rigor; the Greek, to express
himself in the severest terms. And this was made easy for him, for the
annoyance which had been pent up during his three hours’ waiting was
sufficient to lend his handsome face a stern look. Zminis strove to
appear mild by assuming servile humility; but this so ill became his
cunning features that Caracalla saw with secret satisfaction that
he could accede to Melissa’s wishes, and confirm the choice of the
high-priest, in whose god he had placed his hopes.

Still, his own safety was more precious to him than the wishes of any
living mortal; so he began by pouring out, on both, the vials of his
wrath at the bad management of the town. Their blundering tools had
not even succeeded in capturing the most guileless of men, the painter
Alexander. The report that the men-at-arms had seized him had been a
fabrication to deceive, for the artist had given himself up. Nor had
he as yet heard of any other traitor whom they had succeeded in laying
hands on, though the town was flooded with insolent epigrams directed
against the imperial person. And, as he spoke, he glared with fury at
the two candidates before him.

The Greek bowed his head in silence, as if conscious of his
short-comings; the Egyptian’s eyes flashed, and, with an amazingly
low bend of his supple spine, he announced that, more than three
hours since, he had discovered a most abominable caricature in clay,
representing Caesar as a soldier in a horrible pygmy form.

“And the perpetrator,” snarled Caracalla, listening with a scowl for the
reply.

Zminis explained that great Caesar himself had commanded his attendance
just as he hoped to find the traces of the criminal, and that, while
he was waiting, more than three precious hours had been lost. At this
Caracalla broke out in a fury:

“Catch the villain! And let me see his insolent rubbish. Where are your
eyes? You bungling louts ought to protect me against the foul brood
that peoples this city, and their venomous jests. Past grievances are
forgotten. Set the painter’s father and brother at liberty. They have
had a warning. Now I want something new. Something new, I say; and,
above all, let me see the ringleaders in chains; the man who nailed
up the rope, and the caricaturists. We must have them, to serve as an
example to the others.”

Aristides thought that the moment had now come for displaying his
severity, and he respectfully but decidedly represented to Caesar
that he would advise that the gem-cutter and his son should be kept in
custody. They were well-known persons, and too great clemency would only
aggravate the virulence of audacious tongues. The painter was free,
and if his relatives were also let out of prison, there was nothing to
prevent their going off to the other end of the world. Alexandria was
a seaport, and a ship would carry off the criminals before a man could
turn round.

At this the emperor wrathfully asked him whether his opinion had been
invited; and the cunning Egyptian said to himself that Caracalla was
anxious to spare the father and his sons for the daughter’s sake. And
yet Caesar would surely wish to keep them in safety, to have some hold
over the girl; so he lied with a bold face, affirming that, in obedience
to the law of the land, he had removed Heron and Philip, at any rate for
the moment, beyond the reach of Caesar’s mercy. They had in the course
of the night been placed on board a galley and were now on the way to
Sardinia. But a swift vessel should presently be sent to overtake it and
bring them back.

And the informer was right, for Caesar’s countenance brightened. He did,
indeed, blame the Egyptian’s overhasty action; but he gave no orders for
following up the galley.

Then, after reflecting for a short time, he said:

“I do not find in either of you what I require; but at a pinch we are
fain to eat moldy bread, so I must need choose between you two. The one
who first brings me that clay figure, and the man who modeled it, in
chains and bonds, shall be appointed chief of the night-watch.”

Meanwhile Alexander had entered the room. As soon as Caracalla saw him,
he beckoned to him, and the artist informed him that he had made good
use of his time and had much to communicate. Then he humbly inquired as
to the clay figure of which Caesar was speaking, and Caracalla referred
him to Zminis. The Egyptian repeated what the Magian had told him.

Alexander listened calmly; but when Zminis ceased speaking, the artist
took a deep breath, drew himself up, and pointing a contemptuous finger
at the spy, as if his presence poisoned the air, he said: “It is that
fellow’s fault, great Caesar, if the citizens of my native town dare
commit such crimes. He torments and persecutes them in your name. How
many a felony has been committed here, merely to scoff at him and his
creatures, and to keep them on the alert! We are a light-headed race.
Like children, we love to do the forbidden thing, so long as it is no
stain on our honor. But that wretch treats all laughter and the most
innocent fun as a crime, or so interprets it that it seems so. From
this malignant delight in the woes of others, and in the hope of rising
higher in office, that wicked man has brought misery on hundreds. It has
all been done in thy great name, O Caesar! No man has raised you up
more foes than this wretch, who undermines your security instead of
protecting it.”

Here Zminis, whose swarthy face had become of ashy paleness, broke out
in a hoarse tone: “I will teach you, and the whole rabble of traitors at
your back--”

But Caesar wrathfully commanded him to be silent, and Alexander quietly
went on: “You can threaten, and you will array all your slanderous
arts against us, I know you. But here sits a sovereign who protects the
innocent--and I and mine are innocent. He will set his heel on your head
when he knows you--the curse of this city--for the adder that you are!
He is deceiving you now in small things, great Caesar, and later he will
deceive you in greater ones. Listen now how he has lied to you. He says
he discovered a caricature of your illustrious person in the guise of
a soldier. Why, then, did he not bring it away from the place where it
could only excite disaffection, and might even mislead those who should
see it into the belief that your noble person was that of a dwarf?
The answer is self-evident. He left it to betray others into further
mockery, to bring them to ruin.”

Caesar had listened with approval, and now sternly asked the Egyptian:

“Did you see the image?”

“In the Elephant tavern!” yelled the man.

But Alexander shook his head doubtfully, and begged permission to ask
the Egyptian a question. This was granted, and the artist inquired
whether the soldier stood alone.

“So far as I remember, yes,” replied Zminis, almost beside himself.

“Then your memory is as false as your soul!” Alexander shouted in his
face, “for there was another figure by the soldier’s side. The clay,
still wet, clung to the same board as the figure of the soldier, modeled
by the same hand. No, no, my crafty fellow, you will not catch the
workman; for, being warned, he is already on the high-seas.”

“It is false!” shrieked Zminis.

“That remains to be proved,” said Alexander, scornfully.--“Allow me
now, great Caesar, to show you the figures. They have been brought by my
orders, and are in the anteroom-carefully covered up, of course, for the
fewer the persons who see them the better.”

Caracalla nodded his consent, and Alexander hurried away; the despot
heaping abuse on Zminis, and demanding why he had not at once had the
images removed. The Egyptian now confessed that he had only heard of the
caricature from a friend, and declared that if he had seen it he should
have destroyed it on the spot. Macrinus here tried to excuse the spy, by
remarking that this zealous official had only tried to set his services
in a favorable light. The falsehood could not be approved, but was
excusable. But he had scarcely finished speaking, when his opponent, the
praetor, Lucius Priscillianus, observed, with a gravity he but rarely
displayed:

“I should have thought that it was the first duty of the man who ought
to be Caesar’s mainstay and representative here, to let his sovereign
hear nothing but the undistorted truth. Nothing, it seems to me, can be
less excusable than a lie told to divine Caesar’s face!”

A few courtiers, who were out of the prefect’s favor, as well as the
high-priest of Serapis, agreed with the speaker. Caracalla, however,
paid no heed to them, but sat with his eyes fixed on the door, deeply
wounded in his vanity by the mere existence of such a caricature.

He had not long to wait. But when the wrapper was taken off the clay
figures, he uttered a low snarl, and his flushed face turned pale.
Sounds of indignation broke from the bystanders; the blood rose to his
cheeks again, and, shaking his fist, he muttered unintelligible threats,
while his eyes wandered again and again to the caricatures. They
attracted his attention more than all else, and as in an April day the
sky is alternately dark and bright, so red and white alternated in his
face. Then, while Alexander replied to a few questions, and assured
him that the host of the “Elephant” had been very angry, and had gladly
handed them over to him to be destroyed, Caracalla seemed to become
accustomed to them, for he gazed at them more calmly, and tried to
affect indifference. He inquired of Philostratus, as though he wished
to be informed, whether he did not think that the artist who had modeled
these figures must be a very clever follow; and when the philosopher
assented conditionally, he declared that he saw some resemblance to
himself--in the features of the apple-dealer. And then he pointed to his
own straight legs, only slightly disfigured by an injury to the ankle,
to show how shamefully unfair it was to compare them with the lower
limbs of a misshapen dwarf. Finally, the figure of the apple-dealer--a
hideous pygmy form, with the head of an old man, like enough to his
own--roused his curiosity. What was the point of this image? What
peculiarity was it intended to satirize? The basket which hung about the
neck of the figure was full of fruit, and the object he held in his hand
might be an apple, or might be anything else.

With eager and constrained cheerfulness, he inquired the opinion of his
“friends,” treating as sheer flattery a suggestion from his favorite,
Theocritus, that this was not an apple-dealer, but a human figure, who,
though but a dwarf in comparison with the gods, nevertheless endowed the
world with the gifts of the immortals.

Alexander and Philostratus could offer no explanation; but when the
proconsul, Julius Paulinus, observed that the figure was offering
the apples for money, as Caesar offered the Roman citizenship to the
provincials, he knew for what, Caracalla nodded agreement.

He then provisionally appointed Aristides to the coveted office. The
Egyptian should be informed as to his fate. When the prefect was about
to remove the figures, Caesar hastily forbade it, and ordered the
bystanders to withdraw. Alexander alone was commanded to remain. As soon
as they were together, Caesar sprang up and vehemently demanded to
know what news he had brought. But the young man hesitated to begin his
report. Caracalla, of his own accord, pledged his word once more to
keep his oath, and then Alexander assured him that he knew no more than
Caesar who were the authors of the epigrams which he had picked up here
and there; and, though the satire they contained was venomous in some
cases, still he, the sovereign of the world, stood so high that he could
laugh them to scorn, as Socrates had laughed when Aristophanes placed
him on the stage.

Caesar declared that he scorned these flies, but that their buzzing
annoyed him.

Alexander rejoiced at this, and only expressed his regret that most of
the epigrams he had collected turned on the death of Caesar’s brother
Geta. He knew now that it was rash to condemn a deed which--

Here Caesar interrupted him, for he could not long remain quiet, saying
sternly:

“The deed was needful, not for me, but for the empire, which is dearer
to me than father, mother, or a hundred brothers, and a thousand times
dearer than men’s opinions. Let me hear in what form the witty natives
of this city express their disapproval.”

This sounded so dignified and gracious that Alexander ventured to repeat
a distich which he had heard at the public baths, whither he had first
directed his steps. It did not, however, refer to the murder of Geta,
but to the mantle-like garment to which Caesar owed the nickname of
Caracalla. It ran thus:

     “Why should my lord Caracalla affect a garment so ample?
     ‘Tis that the deeds are many of evil he needs to conceal.”

At this Caesar laughed, saying: “Who is there that has nothing to
conceal? The lines are not amiss. Hand me your tablets; if the others
are no worse--”

“But they are,” Alexander exclaimed, anxiously, “and I only regret that
I should be the instrument of your tormenting yourself--”

“Tormenting?” echoed Caesar, disdainfully. “The verses amuse me, and I
find them most edifying. That is all. Hand me the tablets.”

The command was so positive, that Alexander drew out the little diptych,
with the remark that painters wrote badly, and that what he had noted
down was only intended to aid his memory. The idea that Caesar should
hear a few home-truths through him had struck him as pleasant, but now
the greatness of the risk was clear to him. He glanced at the scrawled
characters, and it occurred to him that he had intended to change
the word dwarf in one line to Caesar, and to keep the third and most
trenchant epigram from the emperor. The fourth and last was very
innocent, and he had meant to read it last, to mollify him. So he did
not wish to show the tablets. But, as he was about to take them back,
Caracalla snatched them from his hand and read with some difficulty:

          “Fraternal love was once esteemed
          A virtue even in the great,

          And Philadelphos then was deemed
          A name to grace a potentate.
          But now the dwarf upon the throne,
          By murder of his mother’s son,
          As Misadelphos must be known.”

“Indeed!” murmured Caesar, with a pale face, and then he went on in
a low, sullen tone: “Always the same story--my brother, and my small
stature. In this town they follow the example of the barbarians, it
would seem, who choose the tallest and broadest of their race to be
king. If the third epigram has nothing else in it, the shallow wit
of your fellow-citizens is simply tedious.--Now, what have we next?
Trochaics! Hardly anything new, I fear!--There is the water-jar. I will
drink; fill the cup.” But Alexander did not immediately obey the command
so hastily given; assuring Caesar that he could not possibly read the
writing, he was about to take up the tablets. But Caesar laid his hand
on them, and said, imperiously: “Drink! Give me the cup.”

He fixed his eyes on the wax, and with difficulty deciphered the clumsy
scrawl in which Alexander had noted down the following lines, which he
had heard at the “Elephant”:

       “Since on earth our days are numbered,
        Ask me not what deeds of horror
        Stain the hands of fell Tarautas.
        Ask me of his noble actions,
        And with one short word I answer,
        ‘None!’-replying to your question
        With no waste of precious hours.”

Alexander meanwhile had done Caracalla’s bidding, and when he had
replaced the jar on its stand and returned to Caesar, he was horrified;
for the emperor’s head and arms were shaking and struggling to and fro,
and at his feet lay the two halves of the wax tablets which he had torn
apart when the convulsion came on. He foamed at the mouth, with low
moans, and, before Alexander could prevent him, racked with pain and
seeking for some support, he had set his teeth in the arm of the seat
off which he was slipping. Greatly shocked, and full of sincere pity,
Alexander tried to raise him; but the lion, who perhaps suspected the
artist of having been the cause of this sudden attack, rose on his feet
with a roar, and the young man would have had no chance of his life if
the beast had not happily been chained down after his meal. With much
presence of mind, Alexander sprang behind the chair and dragged it,
with the unconscious man who served him as a shield, away from the angry
brute.

Galen had urged Caesar to avoid excess in wine and violent emotions, and
the wisdom of the warning was sufficiently proved by the attack which
had seized him with such fearful violence, just when Caracalla had
neglected it in both particulars. Alexander had to exert all the
strength of his muscles, practised in the wrestling-school, to hold the
sufferer on his seat, for his strength, which was not small, was doubled
by the demons of epilepsy. In an instant the whole Court had rushed
to the spot on hearing the lion’s roar of rage, which grew louder and
louder, and could be heard at no small distance, and then Alexander’s
shout for help. But the private physician and Epagathos, the
chamberlain, would allow no one to enter the room; only old Adventus,
who was half blind, was permitted to assist them in succoring the
sufferer. He had been raised by Caracalla from the humble office of
letter-carrier to the highest dignities and the office of his private
chamberlain; but the leech availed himself by preference of the
assistance of this experienced and quiet man, and between them they soon
brought Caesar to his senses. Caesar then lay pale and exhausted on
a couch which had hastily been arranged, his eyes fixed on vacancy,
scarcely able to move a finger. Alexander held his trembling hand, and
when the physician, a stout man of middle age, took the artist’s place
and bade him retire, Caracalla, in a low voice, desired him to remain.

As soon as Caesar’s suspended faculties were fully awake again, he
turned to the cause of his attack. With a look of pain and entreaty
he desired Alexander to give him the tablets once more; but the artist
assured him--and Caracalla seemed not sorry to believe--that he had
crushed the wax in his convulsion. The sick man himself no doubt felt
that such food was too strong for him. After he had remained staring at
nothing in silence for some time, he began again to speak of the gibes
of the Alexandrians. Surrounded as he was by servile favorites, whose
superior he was in gifts and intellect, what had here come under his
notice seemed to interest him above measure.

He desired to know where and from whom the painter had got these
epigrams. But again Alexander declared that he did not know the names of
the authors; that he had found one at the public baths, the second in
a tavern, and the third at a hairdresser’s shop. Caesar looked sadly at
the youth’s abundant brown curls which had been freshly oiled, and said:
“Hair is like the other good gifts of life. It remains fine only with
the healthy. You, happy rascal, hardly know what sickness means!” Then
again he sat staring in silence, till he suddenly started up and asked
Alexander, as Philostratus had yesterday asked Melissa:

“Do you and your sister belong to the Christians?”

When he vehemently denied it, Caracalla went on: “And yet these epigrams
show plainly enough how the Alexandrians feel toward me. Melissa, too,
is a daughter of this town, and when I remember that she could bring
herself to pray for me, then--My nurse, who was the best of women, was
a Christian. I learned from her the doctrine of loving our enemies and
praying for those who despitefully treat us. I always regarded it as
impossible; but now--your sister--What I was saying just now about the
hair and good health reminds me of another speech of the Crucified one
which my nurse often repeated--how long ago!--‘To him that hath shall
be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he
hath.’ How cruel and yet how wise, how terribly striking and true! A
healthy man! What more can he want, and what abundant gifts that best of
all gifts will gain for him! If he is visited by infirmity--only look at
me!--how much misery I have suffered from this curse, terrible enough in
itself, and tainting everything with the bitterness of wormwood!”

He laughed softly but scornfully, and continued: “But I! I am the
sovereign of the universe. I have so much--oh yes, so much!--and for
that reason more shall be given to me, and my wildest wishes shall be
satisfied!”

“Yes, my liege!” interrupted Alexander, eagerly. “After pain comes
pleasure!

       ‘Live, love, drink, and rejoice,
        And wreath thyself with me!’

sings Sappho, and it is not a bad plan to follow Anakreon’s advice,
even at the present day. Think of the short suffering which now and
then embitters for you the sweet cup of life, as being the ring of
Polykrates, with which you appease the envy of the gods who have given
you so much. In your place, eternal gods! how I would enjoy the happy
hours of health, and show the immortals and mortals alike how much true
and real pleasure power and riches can procure!”

The emperor’s weary eyes brightened, and with the cry--

“So will I! I am still young, and I have the power!” he started suddenly
to his feet. But he sank back again directly on the couch, shaking his
head as if to say, “There, you see what a state I am in!” The fate of
this unhappy man touched Alexander’s heart even more deeply than before.

His youthful mind, which easily received fresh impressions, forgot the
deeds of blood and shame which stained the soul of this pitiable wretch.
His artistic mind was accustomed to apprehend what he saw with his whole
soul and without secondary considerations, as if it stood there to be
painted; and the man that lay before him was to him at that moment only
a victim whom a cruel fate had defrauded of the greatest pleasures in
life. He also remembered how shamelessly he and others had mocked at
Caesar. Perhaps Caracalla had really spilled most of the blood to serve
the welfare and unity of the empire.

He, Alexander, was not his judge.

If Glaukias had seen the object of his derision lying thus, it certainly
would never have occurred to him to represent him as a pygmy monster.
No, no! Alexander’s artistic eye knew the difference well between the
beautiful and the ugly--and the exhausted man lying on the divan, was no
hideous dwarf. A dreamy languor spread over his nobly chiselled features
An expression of pain but rarely passed over them, and Caesar’s whole
appearance reminded the painter of the fine Ephesian gladiator hallistos
as he lay on the sand, severely wounded after his last fight, awaiting
the death-stroke. He would have liked to hasten home and fetch his
materials to paint the likeness of the misjudged man, and to show it to
the scoffers.

He stood silent, absorbed in studying the quiet face so finely formed
by Nature and so pathetic to look at. No thoroughly depraved miscreant
could look like that. Yet it was like a peaceful sea: when the hurricane
should break loose, what a boiling whirl of gray, hissing, tossing,
foaming waves would disfigure the peaceful, smooth, glittering surface!

And suddenly the emperor’s features began to show signs of animation.
His eye, but now so dull, shone more brightly, and he cried out, as if
the long silence had scarcely broken the thread of his ideas, but in a
still husky voice:

“I should like to get up and go with you, but I am still too weak. Do
you go now, my friend, and bring me back fresh news.”

Alexander then begged him to consider how dangerous every excitement
would be for him; yet Caracalla exclaimed, eagerly:

“It will strengthen me and dome good! Everything that surrounds me is so
hollow, so insipid, so contemptible--what I hear is so small. A strong,
highly spiced word, even if it is sharp, refreshes me--When you have
finished a picture, do you like to hear nothing but how well your
friends can flatter?”

The artist thought he understood Caesar. True to his nature, always
hoping for the best, he thought that, as the severe judgment of the
envious had often done him (Alexander) good, so the sharp satire of
the Alexandrians would lead Caracalla to introspection and greater
moderation; he only resolved to tell the sufferer nothing further that
was merely insulting.

When he bade him farewell, Caracalla glanced up at him with such a look
of pain that the artist longed to give him his hand, and speak to
him with real affection. The tormenting headache which followed each
convulsion had again come on, and Caesar submitted without resistance to
what the physician prescribed.

Alexander asked old Adventus at the door if he did not think that the
terrible attack had been brought on by annoyance at the Alexandrians’
satire, and if it would not be advisable in the future not to allow
such things to reach the emperor’s ear; but the man, looking at him
in surprise with his half-blind eyes, replied with a brutal want of
sympathy that disgusted the youth: “Drinking brought on the attack. What
makes him ill are stronger things than words. If you yourself, young
man, do not suffer for Alexandrian wit, it will certainly not hurt
Caesar!”

Alexander turned his back indignantly on the chamberlain, and he became
so absorbed in wondering how it was possible that the emperor, who was
cultivated and appreciated what was beautiful, could have dragged out of
the dust and kept near him two such miserable ‘creatures as Theocritus
and this old man, that Philostratus, who met him in the next room, had
almost to shout at him.

Philostratus informed him that Melissa was staying with the chief
priest’s wife; but just as he was about to inquire curiously what had
passed between the audacious painter and Caesar--for even Philostratus
was a courtier--he was called away to Caracalla.



CHAPTER XIX.

In one of the few rooms of his vast palace which the chief priest had
reserved for the accommodation of the members of his own household, the
youth was received by Melissa, Timotheus’s wife Euryale, and the lady
Berenike.

This lady was pleased to see the artist again to whom she was indebted
for the portrait of her daughter. She had it now in her possession once
more, for Philostratus had had it taken back to her house while the
emperor was at his meal.

She rested on a sofa, quite worn out. She had passed through hours of
torment; for her concern about Melissa, who had become very dear to
her, had given her much more anxiety than even the loss of her
beloved picture. Besides, the young girl was to her for the moment the
representative of her sex, and the danger of seeing this pure, sweet
creature exposed to the will of a licentious tyrant drove her out of
her senses, and her lively fancy had resulted in violent outbreaks of
indignation. She now proposed all sorts of schemes, of which Euryale,
the more prudent but not less warm-hearted wife of the chief priest,
demonstrated the impossibility.

Like Berenike, a tender-hearted woman, whose smooth, brown hair had
already begun to turn gray, she had also lost her only child. But years
had passed since then, and she had accustomed herself to seek comfort in
the care of the sick and wretched. She was regarded all over the city as
the providence of all in need, whatever their condition and faith. Where
charity was to be bestowed on a large scale--if hospitals or almshouses
were to be erected or endowed--she was appealed to first, and if she
promised her quiet but valuable assistance, the result was at once
secured. For, besides her own and her husband’s great riches, this lady
of high position, who was honored by all, had the purses of all
the heathens and Christians in the city at her disposal; both alike
considered that she belonged to them; and the latter, although she only
held with them in secret, had the better right.

At home, the society of distinguished men afforded her the greatest
pleasure. Her husband allowed her complete freedom; although he, as the
chief Greek priest of the city, would have preferred that she should
not also have had among her most constant visitors so many learned
Christians. But the god whom he served united in his own person most of
the others; and the mysteries which he superintended taught that
even Serapis was only a symbolical embodiment of the universal soul,
fulfilling its eternal existence by perpetually re-creating itself under
constant and immutable laws. A portion of that soul, which dwelt in
all created things, had its abode in each human being, to return to
the divine source after death. Timotheus firmly clung to this pantheist
creed; still, he held the honorable post of head of the Museum--in the
place of the Roman priest of Alexander, a man of less learning--and was
familiar not only with the tenets of his heathen predecessors, but with
the sacred scriptures of the Jews and Christians; and in the ethics of
these last he found much which met his views.

He, who, at the Museum, was counted among the skeptics, liked biblical
sentences, such as “All is vanity,” and “We know but in part.” The
command to love your neighbor, to seek peace, to thirst after truth, the
injunction to judge the tree by its fruit, and to fear more for the soul
than the body, were quite to his mind.

He was so rich that the gifts of the visitors to the temple, which his
predecessors had insisted on, were of no importance to him. Thus he
mingled a great deal that was Christian with the faith of which he was
chief minister and guardian. Only the conviction with which men like
Clemens and Origen, who were friends of his wife, declared that the
doctrine to which they adhered was the only right one--was, in fact, the
truth itself--seemed to the skeptic “foolishness.”

His wife’s friends had converted his brother Zeno to Christianity; but
he had no need to fear lest Euryale should follow them. She loved him
too much, and was too quiet and sensible, to be baptized, and thus
expose him, the heathen high-priest, to the danger of being deprived of
the power which she knew to be necessary to his happiness.

Every Alexandrian was free to belong to any other than the heathen
creeds, and no one had taken offence at his skeptical writings. When
Euryale acted like the best of the Christian women, he could not take
it amiss; and he would have scorned to blame her preference for the
teaching of the crucified God.

As to Caesar’s character he had not yet made up his mind.

He had expected to find him a half-crazy villain, and his rage after
he had heard the epigram against himself, left with the rope, had
strengthened the chief priest’s opinion. But since then he had heard of
much that was good in him; and Timotheus felt sure that his judgment
was unbiased by the high esteem Caesar showed to him, while he treated
others like slaves. His improved opinion had been raised by the
intercourse he had held with Caesar. The much-abused man had on these
occasions shown that he was not only well educated but also thoughtful;
and yesterday evening, before Caracalla had gone to rest exhausted, the
high-priest, with his wise experience, had received exactly the same
impressions as the easily influenced artist; for Caesar had bewailed his
sad fate in pathetic terms, and confessed himself indeed deeply guilty,
but declared that he had intended to act for the best, had sacrificed
fortune, peace of mind, and comfort to the welfare of the state. His
keen eye had marked the evils of the time, and he had acknowledged that
his efforts to extirpate the old maladies in order to make room for
better things had been a failure, and that, instead of earning thanks,
he had drawn down on himself the hatred of millions.

It was for this reason that Timotheus, on rejoining his household,
had assured them that, as he thought over this interview, he expected
something good--yes, perhaps the best--from the young criminal in the
purple.

But the lady Berenike had declared with scornful decision that Caracalla
had deceived her brother-in-law; and when Alexander likewise tried to
say a word for the sufferer, she got into a rage and accused him of
foolish credulity.

Melissa, who had already spoken in favor of the emperor, agreed,
in spite of the matron, with her brother. Yes, Caracalla had sinned
greatly, and his conviction that Alexander’s soul lived in him and
Roxana’s in her was foolish enough; but the marvelous likeness to her
of the portrait on the gem would astonish any one. That good and noble
impulses stirred his soul she was certain. But Berenike only shrugged
her shoulders contemptuously; and when the chief priest remarked that
yesterday evening Caracalla had in fact not been in a position to attend
a feast, and that a portion, at least, of his other offenses might
certainly be put down to the charge of his severe suffering, the lady
exclaimed:

“And is it also his bodily condition that causes him to fill a house of
mourning with festive uproar? I am indifferent as to what makes him a
malefactor. For my part, I would sooner abandon this dear child to the
care of a criminal than to that of a madman.”

But the chief priest and the brother and sister both declared Caesar’s
mind to be as sound and sharp as any one’s; and Timotheus asked who,
at the present time, was without superstition, and the desire of
communicating with departed souls. Still the matron would not allow
herself to be persuaded, and after the chief priest had been called away
to the service of the god, Euryale reproved her sister-in-law for her
too great zeal. When the wisdom of hoary old age and impetuous youth
agree in one opinion, it is commonly the right one.

“And I maintain,” cried Berenike--and her large eyes flamed angrily--“it
is criminal to ignore my advice. Fate has robbed you as well as me of a
dear child. I will not also lose this one, who is as precious to me as a
daughter.”

Melissa bent over the lady’s hands and kissed them gratefully,
exclaiming with tearful eyes, “But he has been very good to me, and has
assured me-”

“Assured!” repeated Berenike disdainfully. She then drew the young girl
impetuously toward her, kissed her on her forehead, placed her hands
on her head as if to protect her, and turned to the artist as she
continued:

“I stand by what I recommended before. This very night Melissa must get
far away from here. You, Alexander, must accompany her. My own ship, the
‘Berenike and Korinna’--Seleukus gave it to me and my daughter--is ready
to start. My sister lives in Carthage. Her husband, the first man in
the city, is my friend. You will find protection and shelter in their
house.”

“And how about our father and Philip?” interrupted Alexander. “If we
follow your advice, it is certain death to them!”

The matron laughed scornfully.

“And that is what you expect from this good, this great and noble
sovereign!”

“He proves himself full of favors to his friends,” answered Alexander,
“but woe betide those who offend him!”

Berenike looked thoughtfully at the ground, and added, more quietly:

“Then try first to release your people, and afterward embark on my ship.
It shall be ready for you. Melissa will use it, I know.--My veil, child!
The chariot waits for me at the Temple of Isis.--You will accompany
me there, Alexander, and we will drive to the harbor. There I will
introduce you to the captain. It will be wise. Your father and brother
are dearer to you than your sister; she is more important to me. If only
I could go away myself--away from here, from the desolate house, and
take her with me!”

And she raised her arm, as if she would throw a stone into the distance.

She impetuously embraced the young girl, took leave of her
sister-in-law, and left the room with Alexander.

Directly Euryale was alone with Melissa, she comforted the girl in her
kind, composed manner; for the unhappy matron’s gloomy presentiments had
filled Melissa with fresh anxieties.

And what had she not gone through during the day!

Soon after her perilous interview with Caracalla, Timotheus, with
the chief of the astrologers from the Serapeum, and the emperor’s
astronomer, had come to her, to ask her on what day and at what hour she
was born. They also inquired concerning the birthdays of her parents,
and other events of her life. Timotheus had informed her that the
emperor had ordered them to cast her nativity.

Soon after dinner she had gone, accompanied by the lady Berenike, who
had found her at the chief priest’s house, to visit her lover in the
sick-rooms of the Serapeum. Thankful and happy, she had found him
with fully recovered consciousness, but the physician and the freedman
Andreas, whom she met at the door of the chamber, had impressed on her
the importance of avoiding all excitement. So it had not been possible
for her to tell him what had happened to her people, or of the perilous
step she had taken in order to save them. But Diodoros had talked of
their wedding, and Andreas could confirm the fact that Polybius wished
to see it celebrated as soon as possible.

Several pleasant subjects were discussed; but between whiles Melissa
had to dissemble and give evasive answers to Diodoros’s questions as to
whether she had already arranged with her brother and friends who should
be the youths and maidens to form the wedding procession, and sing the
hymeneal song.

As the two whispered to one another and looked tenderly at each
other--for Diodoros had insisted on her allowing him to kiss not only
her hands but also her sweet red lips--Berenike had pictured her dead
daughter in Melissa’s place. What a couple they would have been! How
proudly and gladly she would have led them to the lovely villa at
Kanopus, which her husband and she had rebuilt and decorated with the
idea that some day Korinna, her husband, and--if the gods should grant
it--their children, might inhabit it! But even Melissa and Diodoros made
a fine couple, and she tried with all her heart not to grudge her all
the happiness that she had wished for her own child.

When it was time to depart, she joined the hands of the betrothed pair,
and called down a blessing from the gods.

Diodoros accepted this gratefully.

He only knew that this majestic lady had made Melissa’s acquaintance
through Alexander, and had won her affection, and he encouraged the
impression that this woman, whose Juno-like beauty haunted him, had
visited him on his bed of sickness in the place of his long-lost mother.

Outside the sick-room Andreas again met Melissa, and, after she had
told him of her visit to the emperor, he impressed on her eagerly on no
account to obey the tyrant’s call again. Then he had promised to hide
her securely, either on Zeno’s estate or else in the house of another
friend, which was difficult of access. When Dame Berenike had again, and
with particular eagerness, suggested her ship, Andreas had exclaimed:

“In the garden, on the ship, under the earth--only not back to Caesar!”

The last question of the freedman’s, as to whether she had meditated
further on his discourse, had reminded her of the sentence, “The
fullness of the time is come”; and afterward the thought occurred to
her, again and again, that in the course of the next few hours some
decisive event would happen to her, “fulfilling the time,” as Andreas
expressed it.

When, therefore, somewhat later, she was alone with the chief priest’s
wife, who had concluded her comforting, pious exhortations, Melissa
asked the lady Euryale whether she had ever heard the sentence, “When
the fullness of the time is come.”

At this the lady cried, gazing at the girl with surprised inquiry:

“Are you, then, after all, connected with the Christians?”

“Certainly not,” answered the young girl, firmly. “I heard it
accidentally, and Andreas, Polybius’s freedman, explained it to me.”

“A good interpreter,” replied the elder lady. “I am only an ignorant
woman; yet, child, even I have experienced that a day, an hour, comes to
every man in the course of his life in which he afterward sees that the
time was fulfilled. As the drops become mingled with the stream, so at
that moment the things we have done and thought unite to carry us on a
new current, either to salvation or perdition. Any moment may bring the
crisis; for that reason the Christians are right when they call on one
another to watch. You also must keep your eyes open. When the time--who
knows how soon?--is fulfilled for you, it will determine the good or
evil of your whole life.”

“An inward voice tells me that also,” answered Melissa, pressing her
hands on her panting bosom. “Just feel how my heart beats!”

Euryale, smiling, complied with this wish, and as she did so she
shuddered. How pure and lovable was this young creature; and Melissa
looked to her like a lamb that stood ready to hasten trustfully to meet
the wolf!

At last she led her guest into the room where supper was prepared.

The master of the house would not be able to share it, and while the
two women sat opposite one another, saying little, and scarcely touching
either food or drink, Philostratus was announced.

He came as messenger from Caracalla, who wished to speak to Melissa.

“At this hour? Never, never! It is impossible!” exclaimed Euryale,
who was usually so calm; but Philostratus declared, nevertheless, that
denial was useless. The emperor was suffering particularly severely,
and begged to remind Melissa of her promise to serve him gladly if he
required her. Her presence, he assured Euryale, would do the sick man
good, and he guaranteed that, so long as Caesar was tormented by this
unbearable pain, the young woman had nothing to fear.

Melissa, who had risen from her seat when the philosopher had entered,
exclaimed:

“I am not afraid, and will go with you gladly--”

“Quite right, child,” answered Philostratus, affectionately. Euryale,
however, found it difficult to keep back her tears while she stroked the
girl’s hair and arranged the folds of her garment. When at last she
said good-by to Melissa and was embracing her, she was reminded of the
farewell she had taken, many years ago, of a Christian friend before
she was led away by the lictors to martyrdom in the circus. Finally, she
whispered something in the philosopher’s ear, and received from him the
promise to return with Melissa as soon as possible.

Philostratus was, in fact, quite easy. Just before, Caracalla’s helpless
glance had met his sympathizing gaze, and the suffering Caesar had said
nothing to him but:

“O Philostratus, I am in such pain!” and these words still rang in the
ears of this warm-hearted man.

While he was endeavoring to comfort the emperor, Caesar’s eyes had
fallen on the gem, and he asked to see it. He gazed at it attentively
for some time, and when he returned it to the philosopher he had ordered
him to fetch the prototype of Roxana.

Closely enveloped in the veil which Euryale had placed on her head,
Melissa passed from room to room, keeping near to the philosopher.

Wherever she appeared she heard murmuring and whispering that troubled
her, and tittering followed her from several of the rooms as she left
them; even from the large hall where the emperor’s friends awaited his
orders in numbers, she heard a loud laugh that frightened and annoyed
her.

She no longer felt as unconstrained as she had been that morning when
she had come before Caesar. She knew that she would have to be on her
guard; that anything, even the worst, might be expected from him. But as
Philostratus described to her, on the way, how terribly the unfortunate
man suffered, her tender heart was again drawn to him, to whom--as she
now felt--she was bound by an indefinable tie. She, if any one, as she
repeated to herself, was able to help him; and her desire to put the
truth of this conviction to the proof--for she could only regard it
as too amazing to be grounded in fact--was seconded by the less
disinterested hope that, while attending on the sufferer, she might find
an opportunity of effecting the release of her father and brother.

Philostratus went on to announce her arrival, and she, while waiting,
tried to pray to the manes of her mother; but, before she could
sufficiently collect her thoughts, the door opened. Philostratus
silently beckoned to her, and she stepped into the tablinum, which was
but dimly lighted by a few lamps.

Caracalla was still resting here; for every movement increased the pain
that tormented him.

How quiet it was! She thought she could hear her own heart beating.

Philostratus remained standing by the door, but she went on tiptoe
toward the couch, fearing her light footsteps might disturb the emperor.
Yet before she had reached the divan she stopped still, and then she
heard the plaintive rattle in the sufferer’s throat, and from the
background of the room the easy breathing of the burly physician and
of old Adventus, both of whom had fallen asleep; and then a peculiar
tapping. The lion beat the floor with his tail with pleasure at
recognizing her.

This noise attracted the invalid’s attention, and when he opened
his closed eyes and saw Melissa, who was anxiously watching all his
movements, he called to her lightly with his hand on his brow:

“The animal has a good memory, and greets you in my name. You were sure
to come--, I knew it!”

The young girl stepped nearer to him, and answered, kindly, “Since you
needed me, I gladly followed Philostratus.”

“Because I needed you?” asked the emperor.

“Yes,” she replied, “because you require nursing.”

“Then, to keep you, I shall wish to be ill often,” he answered, quickly;
but he added, sadly, “only not so dreadfully ill as I have been to-day.”

One could hear how laborious talking was to him, and the few words he
had sought and found, in order to say something kind to Melissa, had so
hurt his shattered nerves and head that he sank back, gasping, on the
cushions.

Then for some time all was quiet, until Caracalla took his hand from his
forehead and continued, as if in excuse:

“No one seems to know what it is. And if I talk ever so softly, every
word vibrates through my brain.”

“Then you must not speak,” interrupted Melissa, eagerly. “If you want
anything, only make signs. I shall understand you without words, and the
quieter it is here the better.”

“No, no; you must speak,” begged the invalid. “When the others talk,
they make the beating in my head ten times worse, and excite me; but I
like to hear your voice.”

“The beating?” interrupted Melissa, in whom this word awoke old
memories. “Perhaps you feel as if a hammer was hitting you over the left
eye?

“If you move rapidly, does it not pierce your skull, and do you not feel
as sick as if you were on the rocking sea?”

“Then you also know this torment?” asked Caracalla, surprised; but
she answered, quietly, that her mother had suffered several times from
similar headaches, and had described them to her.

Caesar sank back again on the pillows, moved his dry lips, and glanced
toward the drink which Galen had prescribed for him; and Melissa,
who almost as a child had long nursed a dear invalid, guessed what he
wanted, brought him the goblet, and gave him a draught.

Caracalla rewarded her with a grateful look. But the physic only seemed
to increase the pain. He lay there panting and motionless, until, trying
to find a new position, he groaned, lightly:

“It is as if iron was being hammered here. One would think others might
hear it.”

At the same time he seized the girl’s hand and placed it on his burning
brow.

Melissa felt the pulse in the sufferer’s temple throbbing hard and short
against her fingers, as she had her mother’s when she laid her cool hand
on her aching forehead; and then, moved by the wish to comfort and heal,
she let her right hand rest over the sick man’s eyes. As soon as she
felt one hand was hot, she put the other in its place; and it must have
relieved the patient, for his moans ceased by degrees, and he finally
said, gratefully:

“What good that does me! You are--I knew you would help me. It is
already quite quiet in my brain. Once more your hand, dear girl!”

Melissa willingly obeyed him, and as he breathed more and more easily,
she remembered that her mother’s headache had often been relieved when
she had placed her hand on her forehead. Caesar, now opening his eyes
wide, and looking her full in the face, asked why she had not allowed
him sooner to reap the benefit of this remedy.

Melissa slowly withdrew her hand, and with drooping eyes answered
gently:

“You are the emperor, a man... and I...” But Caracalla interrupted her
eagerly, and with a clear voice:

“Not so, Melissa! Do not you feel, like me, that something else draws us
to one another, like what binds a man to his wife?--There lies the
gem. Look at it once again--No, child, no! This resemblance is not
mere accident. The short-sighted, might call it superstition or a vain
illusion; I know better. At least a portion of Alexander’s soul lives in
this breast. A hundred signs--I will tell you about it later--make it
a certainty to me. And yesterday morning.... I see it all again before
me.... You stood above me, on the left, at a window.... I looked up;...
our eyes met, and I felt in the depths of my heart a strange emotion....
I asked myself, silently, where I had seen that lovely face before. And
the answer rang, you have already often met her; you know her!”

“My face reminded you of the gem,” interrupted Melissa, disquieted.

“No, no,” continued Caesar. “It was some thing else. Why had none of
my many gems ever reminded me before of living people? Why did your
picture, I know not how often, recur to my mind? And you? Only recollect
what you have done for me. How marvelously we were brought together! And
all this in the course of a single, short day. And you also.... I ask
you, by all that is holy to you... Did you, after you saw me in the
court of sacrifice, not think of me so often and so vividly that it
astonished you?”

“You are Caesar,” answered Melissa, with increasing anxiety.

“So you thought of my purple robes?” asked Caracalla, and his face
clouded over; “or perhaps only of my power that might be fatal to your
family? I will know. Speak the truth, girl, by the head of your father!”

Then Melissa poured forth this confession from her oppressed heart:

“Yes, I could not help remembering you constantly,... and I never saw
you in purple, but just as you had stood there on the steps;... and
then--ah! I have told you already how sorry I was for your sufferings.
I felt as if... but how can I describe it truly?--as if you stood much
nearer to me than the ruler of the world could to a poor, humble girl.
It was... eternal gods!...”

She stopped short; for she suddenly recollected anxiously that this
confession might prove fatal to her. The sentence about the time which
should be fulfilled for each was ringing in her ears, and it seemed to
her that she heard for the second time the lady Berenike’s warning.

But Caracalla allowed her no time to think; for he interrupted her,
greatly pleased, with the cry:

“It is true, then! The immortals have wrought as great a miracle in you
as in me. We both owe them thanks, and I will show them how grateful
I can be by rich sacrifices. Our souls, which destiny had already once
united, have met again. That portion of the universal soul which of yore
dwelt in Roxana, and now in you, Melissa, has also vanquished the pain
which has embittered my life... You have proved it!--And now... it is
beginning to throb again more violently--now--beloved and restored one,
help me once more!”

Melissa perceived anxiously how the emperor’s face had flushed again
during this last vehement speech, and at the same time the pain had
again contracted his forehead and eyes. And she obeyed his command, but
this time only in shy submission. When she found that he became quieter,
and the movement of her hand once more did him good, she recovered her
presence of mind. She remembered how often the quiet application of her
hand had helped her mother to sleep.

She therefore explained to Caracalla, in a low whisper directly he began
to speak again, that her desire to give him relief would be vain if he
did not keep his eyes and lips closed. And Caracalla yielded, while her
hand moved as lightly over the brow of the terrible man as when years
ago it had soothed her mother to sleep.

When the sufferer, after a little time, murmured, with closed eyes

“Perhaps I could sleep,” she felt as if great happiness had befallen
her.

She listened attentively to every breath, and looked as if spell-bound
into his face, until she was quite sure that sleep had completely
overcome Caesar.

She then crept gently on tiptoe to Philostratus, who had looked on in
silent surprise at all that had passed between his sovereign and the
girl. He, who was always inclined to believe in any miraculous cure, of
which so many had been wrought by his hero Apollonius, thought he had
actually witnessed one, and gazed with an admiration bordering on awe
at the young creature who appeared to him to be a gracious instrument of
the gods.

“Let me go now,” Melissa whispered to her friend. “He sleeps, and will
not wake for some time.”

“At your command,” answered the philosopher, respectfully. At the
same moment a loud voice was heard from the next room, which Melissa
recognized as her brother Alexander’s, who impetuously insisted on his
right of--being allowed at any time to see the emperor.

“He will wake him,” murmured the philosopher, anxiously; but Melissa
with prompt determination threw her veil over her head and went into the
adjoining room.

Philostratus at first heard violent language issuing from the mouth of
Theocritus and the other courtiers, and the artist’s answers were not
less passionate. Then he recognized Melissa’s voice; and when quiet
suddenly reigned on that side of the door, the young girl again crossed
the threshold.

She glanced toward Caracalla to see if he still slept, and then, with a
sigh of relief, beckoned to her friend, and begged him in a whisper to
escort her past the staring men. Alexander followed them.

Anger and surprise were depicted on his countenance, which was usually
so happy. He had come with a report which might very likely induce
Caesar to order the release of his father and brother, and his heart had
stood still with fear and astonishment when the favorite Theocritus had
told him in the anteroom, in a way that made the blood rush into his
face, that his sister had been for some time endeavoring to comfort the
suffering emperor--and it was nearly midnight.

Quite beside himself, he wished to force his way into Caesar’s presence,
but Melissa had at that moment come out and stood in his way, and had
desired him and the noble Romans, in such a decided and commanding tone,
to lower their voices, that they and her brother were speechless.

What had happened to his modest sister during the last few days? Melissa
giving him orders which he feebly obeyed! It seemed impossible! But
there was something reassuring in her manner. She must certainly have
thought it right to act thus, and it must have been worthy of her, or
she would not have carried her charming head so high, or looked him so
freely and calmly in the face.

But how had she dared to come between him and his duty to his father and
brother?

While he followed her closely and silently through the imperial rooms,
the implicit obedience he had shown her became more and more difficult
to comprehend; and when at last they stood in the empty corridor
which divided Caesar’s quarters from those of the high-priest, and
Philostratus had returned to his post at the side of his sovereign, he
could hold out no longer, and cried to her indignantly:

“So far, I have followed you like a boy; I do not myself know why. But
it is not yet too late to turn round; and I ask you, what gave you the
right to prevent my doing my best for our people?”

“Your loud talking, that threatened to wake Caesar,” she replied,
seriously. “His sleeping could alone save me from watching by him the
whole night.”

Alexander then felt sorry he had been so foolishly turbulent, and after
Melissa had told him in a few words what she had gone through in the
last few hours he informed her of what had brought him to visit the
emperor so late.

Johannes the lawyer, Berenike’s Christian freedman, he began, had
visited their father in prison and had heard the order given to place
Heron and Philip as state prisoners and oarsmen on board a galley.

This had taken place in the afternoon, and the Christian had further
learned that the prisoners would be led to the harbor two hours before
sunset. This was the truth, and yet the infamous Zminis had assured the
emperor, at noon, that their father and Philip were already far on their
way to Sardinia. The worthless Egyptian had, then, lied to the emperor;
and it would most likely cost the scoundrel his neck. But for this,
there would have been time enough next day. What had brought him there
at so late an hour was the desire to prevent the departure of the
galley; for John had heard, from the Christian harbor-watch that the
anchor was not yet weighed. The ship could therefore only get out to sea
at sunrise; the chain that closed the harbor would not be opened till
then. If the order to stop the galley came much after daybreak, she
would certainly be by that time well under way, and their father and
Philip might have succumbed to the hard rowing before a swift trireme
could overtake and release them.

Melissa had listened to this information with mixed feelings. She had
perhaps precipitated her father and brother into misery in order to save
herself; for a terrible fate awaited the state-prisoners at the oars.
And what could she do, an ignorant child, who was of so little use?

Andreas had told her that it was the duty of a Christian and of every
good man, if his neighbor’s welfare were concerned, to sacrifice his own
fortunes; and for the happiness and lives of those dearest to her--for
they, of all others, were her “neighbors”--she felt that she could do
so. Perhaps she might yet succeed in repairing the mischief she had done
when she had allowed the emperor to sleep without giving one thought to
her father. Instead of waking him, she had misused her new power over
her brother, and, by preventing his speaking, had perhaps frustrated the
rescue of her people.

But idle lamenting was of as little use here as at any other time; so
she resolutely drew her veil closer round her head and called to her
brother, “Wait here till I return!”

“What are you going to do?” asked Alexander, startled.

“I am going back to the invalid,” she explained, decisively.

On this her brother seized her arm, and, wildly excited, forbade this
step in the name of his father.

But at his vehement shout, “I will not allow it!” she struggled to free
herself, and cried out to him:

“And you? Did not you, whose life is a thousand times more important
than mine, of your own free-will go into captivity and to death in order
to save our father?”

“It was for my sake that he had been robbed of his freedom,” interrupted
Alexander; but she added, quickly:

“And if I had not thought only of myself, the command to release him and
Philip would by this time have been at the harbor. I am going.”

Alexander then took his hand from her arm, and exclaimed, as if urged by
some internal force, “Well, then, go!”

“And you,” continued Melissa, hastily, “go and seek the lady Euryale.
She is expecting me. Tell her all, and beg her in my name to go to
rest. Also tell her I remembered the sentence about the time, which was
fulfilled. ... Mark the words. If I am running again into danger, tell
her that I do it because a voice says to me that it is right. And it is
right, believe me, Alexander!”

The artist drew his sister to him and kissed her; yet she hardly
understood his anxious good wishes; for his voice was choked by emotion.

He had taken it for granted that he should accompany her as far as the
emperor’s room, but she would not allow it. His reappearance would only
lead to fresh quarrels.

He also gave in to this; but he insisted on returning here to wait for
her.

After Melissa had vanished into Caesar’s quarters he immediately
carried out his sister’s wish, and told the lady Euryale of all that had
happened.

Encouraged by the matron, who was not less shocked than he had been at
Melissa’s daring, he returned to the anteroom, where, at first, greatly
excited, he walked up and down, and then sank on a marble seat to wait
for his sister. He was frequently overpowered by sleep. The things that
cast a shadow on his sunny mind vanished from him, and a pleasing dream
showed him, instead of the alarming picture which haunted him before
sleeping, the beautiful Christian Agatha.



CHAPTER XX.

The waiting-room was empty when Melissa crossed it for the second time.
Most of the emperor’s friends had retired to rest or into the city when
they had heard that Caesar slept; and the few who had remained behaved
quietly when she appeared, for Philostratus had told them that the
emperor held her in high esteem, as the only person who was able to
give him comfort in his suffering by her peculiar and wonderful healing
power.

In the tablinum, which had been converted into a sick-room, nothing was
heard but the breathing and gentle snoring of the sleeping man. Even
Philostratus was asleep on an arm-chair at the back of the room.

When the philosopher had returned, Caracalla had noticed him, and
dozing, or perhaps in his dreams, he had ordered him to remain by him.
So the learned man felt bound to spend the night there.

Epagathos, the freedman, was lying on a mattress from the dining-room;
the corpulent physician slept soundly, and if he snored too loudly, old
Adventus poked him and quietly spoke a word of warning to him. This
man, who had formerly been a post messenger, was the only person who was
conscious of Melissa’s entrance; but he only blinked at her through
his dim eyes, and, after he had silently considered why the young girl
should have returned, he turned over in order to sleep himself; for he
had come to the conclusion that this young, active creature would be
awake and at hand if his master required anything.

His wondering as to why Melissa had returned, had led to many guesses,
and had proved fruitless. “You can know nothing of women,” was the end
of his reflections, “if you do not know that what seems most improbable
is what is most likely to be true. This maid is certainly not one of the
flute-players or the like. Who knows what incomprehensible whim or freak
may have brought her here? At any rate, it will be easier for her to
keep her eyes open than it is for me.”

He then signed to her and asked her quietly to fetch his cloak out
of the next room, for his old body needed warmth; and Melissa gladly
complied, and laid the caracalla over the old mans cold feet with
obliging care.

She then returned to the side of the sick-bed, to wait for the emperor’s
awaking. He slept soundly; his regular breathing indicated this. The
others also slept, and Adventus’s light snore, mingling with the louder
snoring of the physician, showed that he too had ceased to watch. The
slumbering Philostratus now and then murmured incomprehensible words to
himself; and the lion, who perhaps was dreaming of his freedom in his
sandy home, whined low in his sleep.

She watched alone.

It seemed to her as if she were in the habitation of sleep, and as if
phantoms and dreams were floating around her on the unfamiliar noises.

She was afraid, and the thought of being the only woman among so many
men caused her extreme uneasiness.

She could not sit still.

Inaudibly as a shadow she approached the head of the sleeping emperor,
holding her breath to listen to him. How soundly he slept! And she had
come that she might talk to him. If his sleep lasted till sunrise, the
pardon for her people would be too late, and her father and Philip,
chained to a hard bench, would have to ply heavy oars as galley slaves
by the side of robbers and murderers. How terribly then would
her father’s wish to use his strength be granted! Was Philip, the
narrow-chested philosopher, capable of bearing the strain which had so
often proved fatal to stronger men?

She must wake the dreaded man, the only man who could possibly help her.

She now raised her hand to lay it on his shoulder, but she half withdrew
it.

It seemed to her as if it was not much less wicked to rob a sleeping man
of his rest, his best cure, than to take the life of a living being. It
was not too late yet, for the harbor-chain would not be opened till the
October sun had risen. He might enjoy his slumbers a little longer.

With this conclusion she once more sank down and listened to the noises
which broke the stillness of the night.

How hideous they were, how revolting they sounded! The vulgarest of the
sleepers, old Adventus, absolutely sawed the air with his snoring.

The emperor’s breathing was scarcely perceptible, and how nobly cut was
the profile which she could see, the other side of his face leaning on
the pillow! Had she any real reason to fear his awakening? Perhaps he
was quite unlike what Berenike thought him to be. She remembered the
sympathy she had felt for him when they had first met, and, in spite of
all the trouble she had experienced since, she no longer felt afraid. A
thought then occurred to her which was sufficient excuse for disturbing
the sick man’s sleep. If she delayed it, she would be making him guilty
of a fresh crime by allowing two blameless men to perish in misery.
But she would first convince herself whether the time was pressing.
She looked out through the open window at the stars and across the open
place lying at her feet. The third hour after midnight was past, and the
sun would rise before long.

Down below all was quiet. Macrinus, the praetorian prefect, on hearing
that the emperor had fallen into a refreshing sleep, in order that he
might not be disturbed, had forbidden all loud signals, and ordered the
camp to be closed to all the inhabitants of the city; so the girl heard
nothing but the regular footsteps of the sentries and the shrieks of the
owls returning to their nests in the roof of the Serapeum. The wind from
the sea drove the clouds before it across the sky, and the plain covered
with tents resembled a sea tossed into high white waves. The camp had
been reduced during the afternoon; for Caracalla had carried out his
threat of that morning by quartering a portion of the picked troops in
the houses of the richest Alexandrians.

Melissa, bending far out, looked toward the north. The sea-breeze blew
her hair into her face. Perhaps on the ocean whence it came the high
waves would, in a few hours, be tossing the ship on which her father and
brother, seated at the oar, would be toiling as disgraced galley-slaves.
That must not, could not be!

Hark! what was that?

She heard a light whisper. In spite of strict orders, a loving couple
were passing below. The wife of the centurion Martialis, who had been
separated for some time from her husband, had at his entreaty come
secretly from Ranopus, where she had charge of Seleukus’s villa, to see
him, as his services prevented his going so far away. They now stood
whispering and making love in the shadow of the temple. Melissa could
not hear what they said, yet it reminded her of the sacred night
hour when she confessed her love to Diodoros. She felt as if she were
standing by his bedside, and his faithful eyes met hers. She would not,
for all that was best in the world, have awakened him yesterday at the
Christian’s house, though the awakening would have brought her fresh
promises of love; and yet she was on the point of robbing another of his
only cure, the sleep the gods had sent him. But then she loved Diodoros,
and what was Caesar to her? It had been a matter of life and death with
her lover, while disturbing Caracalla would only postpone his recovery
a few hours at the utmost. It was she who had procured the imperial
sleeper his rest, which she could certainly restore to him even if she
now woke him. Just now she had vowed for the future not to care
about her own welfare, and that had at first made her doubtful about
Caracalla; but had it not really been exceedingly selfish to lose
the time which could bring freedom to her father and brother, only to
protect her own soul from the reproach of an easily forgiven wrong? With
the question:

“What is your duty?” all doubts left her, and no longer on tiptoe, but
with a firm, determined tread, she walked toward the slumberer’s couch,
and the outrage which she shrank from committing would, she saw, be
a deed of kindness; for she found the emperor with perspiring brow
groaning and frightened by a severe nightmare. He cried with the dull,
toneless voice of one talking in his sleep, as if he saw her close by:

“Away, mother, I say! He or I! Out of the way! You will not? But I,
I--If you--”

At the same he threw up his hands and gave a dull, painful cry.

“He is dreaming of his brother’s murder,” rushed through Melissa’s mind,
and in the same instant she laid her hand on his arm and with urgent
entreaty cried in his ear: “Wake up, Caesar, I implore you! Great
Caesar, awake!”

Then he opened his eyes, and a low, prolonged “Ah!” rang from his
tortured breast.

He then, with a deep breath and perplexed glance, looked round him; and
as his eyes fell on the young girl his features brightened, and soon
wore a happy expression, as if he experienced a great joy.

“You?” he asked, with pleased surprise. “You, maiden, still here!
It must be nearly dawn? I slept well till just now. But then at the
last--Oh, it was fearful!--Adventus!”

Melissa, however, interrupted this cry, exhorting the emperor to be
quiet by putting her finger to her lips; and he understood her and
willingly obeyed, especially as she had guessed what he required from
the chamberlain, Adventus. She handed him the cloth that lay on the
table for him to wipe his streaming forehead. She then brought him
drink, and after Caracalla had sat up refreshed, and felt that the pain,
which, after a sharp attack, lasted sometimes for days, had now already
left him, he said, quite gently, mindful of her sign:

“How much better I feel already; and for this I thank you, Roxana; yes,
you know. I like to feel like Alexander, but usually--It is certainly a
pleasant thing to be ruler of the universe, for if we wish to punish or
reward, no one can limit us. You, child, shall learn that it is Caesar
whom you have laid under such obligations. Ask what you will, and I will
grant it you.”

She whispered eagerly to him:

“Release my father and brother.”

“Always the same thing,” answered Caracalla, peevishly. “Do you know of
nothing better to wish for?”

“No, my lord, no!” cried Melissa, with importunate warmth. “If you will
give me what I most care for--”

“I will, yes, I will,” interrupted the emperor in a softer voice; but
suddenly shrugging his shoulders, he continued, regretfully: “But you
must have patience; for, by the Egyptian’s orders, your people have been
for some time afloat and at sea.”

“No!” the girl assured him. “They are still here. Zminis has shamefully
deceived you;” and then she informed him of what she had learned from
her brother.

Caracalla, in obedience to a softer impulse, had wished to show himself
grateful to Melissa. But her demand displeased him; for the sculptor and
his son, the philosopher, were the security that should keep Melissa
and the painter attached to him. But though his distrust was so strong,
offended dignity and the tormenting sense of being deceived caused him
to forget everything else; he flew into a rage, and called loudly the
names of Epagathos and Adventus.

His voice, quavering with fury, awakened the others also out of their
sleep; and after he had shortly and severely rebuked them for their
laziness, he commissioned Epagathos to give the prefect, Macrinus,
immediate orders not to allow the ship on which Heron and Philip were,
to leave the harbor; to set the captives at liberty; and to throw
Zminis, the Egyptian, into prison, heavily chained.

When the freedman remarked, humbly, that the prefect was not likely
to be found, as he had purposed to be present again that night at the
exorcisms of the magician, Serapion, Caesar commanded that Macrinus
should be called away from the miracle-monger’s house, and the orders
given him.

“And if I can not find him?” asked Epagathos.

“Then, once more, events will prove how badly I am served,” answered the
emperor. “In any case you can act the prefect, and see that my orders
are carried out.”

The freedman left hastily, and Caracalla sank back exhausted on the
pillows.

Melissa let him rest a little while; then she approached him, thanked
him profusely, and begged him to keep quiet, lest the pain should return
and spoil the approaching day.

He then asked the time, and when Philostratus, who had walked to the
window, explained that the fifth hour after midnight was past, Caracalla
bade him prepare a bath.

The physician sanctioned this wish, and Caesar then gave his hand to the
girl, saying, feebly and in a gentle voice: “The pain still keeps away.
I should be better if I could moderate my impatience. An early bath
often does me good after a bad night. Only go. The sleep that you know
so well how to give to others, you scarcely allow to visit you. I only
beg that you will be at hand. We shall both, I think, feel strengthened
when next I call you.”

Melissa then bade him a grateful farewell; but as she was approaching
the doorway he called again after her, and asked her with an altered
voice, shortly and sternly:

“You will agree with your father if he abuses me?”

“What an idea!” she answered, energetically. “He knows who robbed him of
his liberty, and from me shall he learn who has restored it to him.”

“Good!” murmured the emperor. “Yet remember this also: I need your
assistance and that of your brother’s, the painter. If your father
attempts to alienate you--”

Here he suddenly let fall his arm, which he had raised threateningly,
and continued in a confidential whisper: “But how can I ever show
you anything but kindness? Is it not so? You already feel the secret
tie--You know? Am I mistaken when I fancy that it grieves you to be
separated from me?”

“Certainly not,” she replied, gently, and bowed her head.

“Then go,” he continued, kindly. “The day will come yet when you will
feel that I am as necessary to your soul as you are to mine. But you do
not yet know how impatient I can be. I must be able to think of you with
pleasure--always with pleasure--always.”

Thereupon he nodded to her, and his eyelids remained for some time in
spasmodic movement. Philostratus was prepared to accompany the young
girl, but Caracalla prevented him by calling:

“Lead me to my bath. If it does me good, as I trust it will, I have many
things to talk over with you.”

Melissa did not hear the last words. Gladly and quickly she hurried
through the empty, dimly lighted rooms, and found Alexander in a sitting
position, half asleep and half awake, with closed eyes. Then she drew
near to him on tiptoe, and, as his nodding head fell on his breast, she
laughed and woke him with a kiss.

The lamps were not yet burned out, and, as he looked into her face with
surprise, his also brightened, and jumping up quickly he exclaimed:

“All’s well; we have you back again, and you have succeeded! Our
father-I see it in your face--and Philip also, are at liberty!”

“Yes, yes, yes,” she answered, gladly; “and now we will go together and
fetch them ourselves from the harbor.”

Alexander raised his eyes and arms to heaven in rapture, and Melissa
imitated him; and thus, without words, though with fervent devotion,
they with one accord thanked the gods for their merciful ruling.

They then set out together, and Alexander said: “I feel as if nothing
but gratitude flowed through all my veins. At any rate, I have learned
for the first time what fear is. That evil guest certainly haunts this
place. Let us go now. On the way you shall tell me everything.”

“Only one moment’s patience,” she begged, cheerfully, and hurried into
the chief priest’s rooms. The lady Euryale was still expecting her, and
as she kissed her she looked with sincere pleasure into her bright but
tearful eyes.

At first she was bent on making Melissa rest; for she would yet require
all her strength. But she saw that the girl’s wish to go and meet
her father was justifiable; she placed her own mantle over her
shoulders--for the air was cool before sunrise--and at last accompanied
her into the anteroom. Directly the girl had disappeared, she turned to
her sister-in-law’s slave, who had waited there the whole night by order
of his mistress, and desired him to go and report to her what he had
learned about Melissa.

The brother and sister met the slave Argutis outside the Serapeum. He
had heard at Seleukus’s house where his young mistress was staying, and
had made friends with the chief priest’s servants.

When, late in the evening, he heard that Melissa was still with Caesar,
he had become so uneasy that he had waited the whole night through,
first on the steps of a staircase, then walking up and down outside the
Serapeum. With a light heart he now accompanied the couple as far as the
Aspendia quarter of the town, and he then only parted from them in
order that he might inform poor old Dido of his good news, and make
preparations for the reception of the home-comers.

After that Melissa hurried along, arm in arm with her brother, through
the quiet streets.

Youth, to whom the present belongs entirely, only cares to know the
bright side of the future; and even Melissa in her joy at being able to
restore liberty to her beloved relations, hardly thought at all of the
fact that, when this was done and Caesar should send for her again,
there would be new dangers to surmount.

Delighted with her grand success, she first told her brother what her
experiences had been with the suffering emperor. Then she started on the
recollections of her visit to her lover, and when Alexander opened his
heart to her and assured her with fiery ardor that he would not rest
till he had won the heart of the lovely Christian, Agatha, she gladly
allowed him to talk and promised him her assistance. At last they
deliberated how the favor of Caesar--who, Melissa assured him, was
cruelly misunderstood--was to be won for their father and Philip; and
finally they both imagined the surprise of the old man if he should be
the first to meet them after being set at liberty.

The way was far, and when they reached the sea, by the Caesareum in
the Bruchium, the palatial quarter of the town, the first glimmer of
approaching dawn was showing behind the peninsula of Lochias. The sea
was rough, and tossed with heavy, oily waves on the Choma that ran out
into the sea like a finger, and on the walls of the Timoneum at its
point, where Antonius had hidden his disgrace after the battle of
Actium.

Alexander stopped by the pillared temple of Poseidon, which stood close
on the shore, between the Choma and the theatre, and, looking toward the
flat, horseshoe-shaped coast of the opposite island which still lay in
darkness, he asked:

“Do you still remember when we went with our mother over to Antirhodos,
and how she allowed us to gather shells in the little harbor? If she
were alive to-day, what more could we wish for?”

“That the emperor was gone,” exclaimed the girl from the depths of her
heart; “that Diodoros were well again; that father could use his hands
as he used, and that I might stay with him until Diodoros came to fetch
me, and then... oh, if only something could happen to the empire that
Caesar might go away-far away, to the farthest hyperborean land!”

“That will soon happen now,” answered Alexander. “Philostratus says that
the Romans will remain at the utmost a week longer.”

“So long?” asked Melissa, startled; but Alexander soon pacified her with
the assurance that seven days flew speedily by, and when one looked back
on them they seemed to shrink into only as many hours.

“But do not,” he continued, cheerfully, “look into the future! We will
rejoice, for everything is going so well now!”

He stopped here suddenly and gazed anxiously at the sea, which was no
longer completely obscured by the vanishing shadows of night. Melissa
looked in the direction of his pointing hand, and when he cried with
great excitement, “That is no little boat, it is a ship, and a large
one, too!” Melissa added, eagerly, “It is already near the Diabathra. It
will reach the Alveus Steganus in a moment, and pass the pharos.”

“But yonder is the morning star in the heavens, and the fire is still
blazing on the tower,” interrupted her brother. “Not till it has been
extinguished will they open the outside chain. And yet that ship is
steering in a northwesterly direction. It certainly comes out of the
royal harbor.” He then drew his sister on faster, and when, in a few
minutes, they reached the harbor gate, he cried out, much relieved:

“Look there! The chain is still across the entrance. I see it clearly.”

“And so do I,” said Melissa, decidedly; and while her brother knocked at
the gate-house of the little harbor, she continued, eagerly:

“No ships dare go out before sunrise, on account of the rocks--Epagathos
said so just now--and that one near the pharos--”

But there was no time to put her thoughts into words; for the broad
harbor gate was thrown noisily open, and a troop of Roman soldiers
streamed out, followed by several Alexandrian men-at-arms. After
them came a prisoner loaded with chains, with whom a leading Roman in
warrior’s dress was conversing. Both were tall and haggard, and when
they approached the brother and sister they recognized in them Macrinus
the praetorian prefect, while the prisoner was Zminis the informer.

But the Egyptian also noticed the artist and his companion. His eyes
sparkled brightly, and with triumphant scorn he pointed out to sea.

The magician Serapion had persuaded the prefect to let the Egyptian go
free. Nothing was yet known in the harbor of Zminis’s disgrace, and he
had been promptly obeyed as usual, when, spurred on by the magician
and his old hatred, he gave the order for the galley which carried the
sculptor and his son on board to weigh anchor in spite of the early
hour.

Heron and Philip, with chains on their feet, were now rowing on the
same bench with the worst criminals; and the old artist’s two remaining
children stood gazing after the ship that carried away their father and
brother into the distance. Melissa stood mute, with tearful eyes, while
Alexander, quite beside himself, tried to relieve his rage and grief by
empty threats.

Soon, however, his sister’s remonstrances caused him to restrain
himself, and make inquiry as to whether Macrinus, in obedience to the
emperor’s orders, had sent a State ship after the galley.

This had been done, and comforted, though sadly disappointed, they
started on their way home.

The sun in the mean time had risen, and the streets were filling with
people.

They met the old sculptor Lysander, who had been a friend of their
father’s, outside the magnificent pile of buildings of the Caesareum.
The old man took a deep interest in Heron’s fate; and, when Alexander
asked him modestly what he was doing at that early hour, he pointed
to the interior of the building, where the statues of the emperors and
empresses stood in a wide circle surrounding a large court-yard, and
invited them to come in with him. He had not been able to complete his
work--a marble statue of Julia Domna, Caracalla’s mother--before the
arrival of the emperor. It had been placed here yesterday evening. He
had come to see how it looked in its new position.

Melissa had often seen the portrait of Julia on coins and in various
pictures, but to-day she was far more strongly attracted than she had
ever been before to look in the face of the mother of the man who had so
powerfully influenced her own existence and that of her people.

The old master had seen Julia many years ago in her own home at Emesa,
as the daughter of Bassianus the high-priest of the Sun in that town;
and later, after she had become empress, he had been commanded to take
her portrait for her husband, Septimus Severus. While Melissa gazed
on the countenance of the beautiful statue, the old artist related how
Caracalla’s mother had in her youth won all hearts by her wealth of
intellect, and the extraordinary knowledge which she had easily acquired
and continually added to, through intercourse with learned men. They
learned from him that his heart had not remained undisturbed by the
charms of his royal model, and Melissa became more and more absorbed in
her contemplation of this beautiful work of art.

Lysander had represented the imperial widow standing in flowing
draperies, which fell to her feet. She held her charming, youthful head
bent slightly on one side, and her right hand held aside the veil which
covered the back of her head and fell lightly on her shoulders, a little
open over the throat. Her face looked out from under it as if she were
listening to a fine song or an interesting speech. Her thick, slightly
waving hair framed the lovely oval of her face under the veil, and
Alexander agreed with his sister when she expressed the wish that she
might but once see this rarely beautiful creature. But the sculptor
assured them that they would be disappointed, for time had treated her
cruelly.

“I have shown her,” he continued, “as she charmed me a generation ago.
What you see standing before you is the young girl Julia; I was not
capable of representing her as matron or mother. The thought of her son
would have spoiled everything.”

“He is capable of better emotions,” Alexander declared.

“May be,” answered the old man--“I do not know them. May your father and
brother be restored to you soon!--I must get to work!”



CHAPTER XXI.

The high-priest of Serapis presided over the sacrifices to be offered
this morning. Caesar had given beasts in abundance to do honor to the
god; still, the priest had gone but ill-disposed to fulfill his part;
for the imperial command that the citizens’ houses should be filled with
the troops, who were also authorized to make unheard-of demands on their
hosts, had roused his ire against the tyrant, who, in the morning, after
his bath, had appeared to him unhappy indeed, but at the same time a
gifted and conscientious ruler, capable of the highest and grandest
enterprise.

Melissa, in obedience to the lady Euryale, had taken an hour’s rest,
and then refreshed herself by bathing. She now was breakfasting with her
venerated friend, and Philostratus had joined them. He was able to tell
them that a swift State galley was already on its way to overtake and
release her father and brother; and when he saw how glad she was to hear
it, how beautiful, fresh, and pure she was, he thought to himself with
anxiety that it would be a wonder if the imperial slave to his own
passions should not desire to possess this lovely creature.

Euryale also feared this, and Melissa realized what filled them
with anxiety; yet she by no means shared the feeling, and the happy
confidence with which she tried to comfort her old friends, at the same
time pacified and alarmed them. It seemed to her quite foolish and vain
to suppose that the emperor, the mighty ruler of the world, should fall
in love with her, the humble, obscure gem-cutter’s child, who aspired to
one suitor alone. It was merely as a patient wishes for the
physician, she assured herself, that the emperor wished for her
presence--Philostratus had understood that. During the night she had
certainly been seized with great fears, but, as she now thought, without
any cause. What she really had to dread was that she might be falsely
judged by his followers; still, she cared nothing about all these
Romans. However, she would beg Euryale to see Diodoros, and to tell him
what forced her to obey the emperor’s summons, if he should send for
her. It was highly probable that the sick man had been informed of her
interview with Caracalla, and, as her betrothed, he must be told how she
felt toward Caesar; for this was his right, and jealous agitation might
injure him.

Her face so expressed the hope and confidence of a pure heart that when,
after a little time, she withdrew, Euryale said to the philosopher:

“We must not alarm her more! Her trustful innocence perhaps may protect
her better than anxious precautions.”

And Philostratus agreed, and assured her that in any case he expected
good results for Melissa, for she was one of those who were the elect
of the gods and whom they chose to be their instruments. And then he
related what wonderful influence she had over Caesar’s sufferings, and
praised her with his usual enthusiastic warmth.

When Melissa returned, Philostratus had left the matron. She was again
alone with Euryale, who reminded her of the lesson conveyed in the
Christian words that she had explained to her yesterday. Every deed,
every thought, had some influence on the way in which the fulfillment
of time would come for each one; and when the hour of death was over,
no regrets, repentance, or efforts could then alter the past. A single
moment, as her own young experience had taught her, was often sufficient
to brand the name of an estimable man. Till now, her way through life
had led along level paths, through meadows and gardens, and others had
kept their eyes open for her; now she was drawing near to the edge of
a precipice, and at every turning, even at the smallest step, she must
never forget the threatening danger. The best will and the greatest
prudence could not save her if she did not trust to a higher guidance;
and then she asked the girl to whom she raised her heart when she
prayed; and Melissa named Isis and other gods, and lastly the manes of
her dead mother.

During this confession, old Adventus appeared, to summon the girl to his
sovereign. Melissa promised to follow him immediately; and, when the old
man had gone, the matron said:

“Few here pray to the same gods, and he whose worship my husband leads
is not mine. I, with several others, know that there is a Father in
heaven who loves us men, his creatures, and guards us as his children.
You do not yet know him, and therefore you can not hope for anything
from him; but if you will follow the advice of a friend, who was also
once young, think in the future that your right hand is held firmly by
the invisible, beloved hand of your mother. Persuade yourself that she
is by you, and take care that every word, yes, every glance, meets with
her approval. Then she will be there, and will protect you whenever you
require her aid.”

Melissa sank on the breast of her kind friend, embracing her as closely
and kissing her as sincerely as if she had been the beloved mother to
whose care Euryale had commended her.

The counsels of this true friend agreed with those of her own heart, and
so they must be right. When at last they had to part, Euryale wished to
send for one of the gentlemen of the court, whom she knew, that he might
escort her through the troops of Caesar’s attendants and friends who
were waiting, and of the visitors and petitioners; but Melissa felt so
happy and so well protected by Adventus, that she followed him without
further delay. In fact, the old man had a friendly feeling for her,
since she had covered his feet so carefully the day before; she knew it
by the tone of his voice and by the troubled look in his dim eyes.

Even now she did not believe in the dangers at which her friends
trembled for her, and she walked calmly across the lofty marble halls,
the anteroom, and the other vast rooms of the imperial dwelling. The
attendants accompanied her respectfully from door to door, in obedience
to the emperor’s commands, and she went on with a firm step, looking
straight in front of her, without noticing the inquisitive, approving,
or scornful glances which were aimed at her.

In the first rooms she needed an escort, for they were crowded with
Romans and Alexandrians who were waiting for a sign from Caesar to
appeal for his pardon or his verdict, or perhaps only wishing to see
his countenance. The emperor’s “friends” sat at breakfast, of which
Caracalla did not partake. The generals, and the members of his court
not immediately attached to his person, stood together in the various
rooms, while the principal people of Alexandria--several senators and
rich and important citizens of the town--as well as the envoys of the
Egyptian provinces, in magnificent garments and rich gold ornaments,
held aloof from the Romans, and waited in groups for the call of the
usher.

Melissa saw no one, nor did she observe the costly woven hangings on the
walls, the friezes decorated with rare works of art and high reliefs,
nor the mosaic floors over which she passed. She did not notice the hum
and murmur of the numerous voices which surrounded her; nor could she
indeed have understood a single coherent sentence; for, excepting the
ushers and the emperor’s immediate attendants, at the reception-hour no
one was allowed to raise his voice. Expectancy and servility seemed here
to stifle every lively impulse; and when, now and then, the loud call of
one of the ushers rang above the murmur, one of those who were waiting
spontaneously bowed low, or another started up, as if ready to obey any
command. The sensation, shared by many, of waiting in the vicinity of
a high, almost godlike power, in whose hands lay their well-being or
misery, gave rise to a sense of solemnity. Every movement was subdued;
anxious, nay, fearful expectation was written on many faces, and on
others impatience and disappointment. After a little while it was
whispered from ear to ear that the emperor would only grant a few more
audiences; and how many had already waited in vain yesterday, for hours,
in the same place!

Without delay Melissa went on till she had reached the heavy curtain
which, as she already knew, shut off Caesar’s inner apartments.

The usher obligingly drew it back, even before she had mentioned her
name, and while a deputation of the town senators, who had been received
by Caracalla, passed out, she was followed by Alexandrian citizens, the
chiefs of great merchant-houses, whose request for an audience he
had sanctioned. They were for the most part elderly men, and Melissa
recognized among them Seleukus, Berenike’s husband.

Melissa bowed to him, but he did not notice her, and passed by without a
word. Perhaps he was considering the enormous sum to be expended on the
show at night which he, with a few friends, intended to arrange at the
circus in Caesar’s honor.

All was quite still in the large hall which separated the emperor’s
reception-room from the anteroom. Melissa observed only two soldiers,
who were looking out of window, and whose bodies were shaking as though
they were convulsed with profound merriment.

It happened that she had to wait here some time; for the usher begged
her to have patience until the merchants’ audience was over. They were
the last who would be received that day. He invited her to rest on the
couch on which was spread a bright giraffe’s skin, but she preferred
to walk up and down, for her heart was beating violently. And while the
usher vanished from the room, one of the warriors turned his head to
look about him, and directly he caught sight of Melissa he gave his
comrade a push, and said to him, loud enough for Melissa to hear:

“A wonder! Apollonaris, by Eros and all the Erotes, a precious wonder!”

The next moment they both stepped back from the window and stared at the
girl, who stood blushing and embarrassed, and gazed at the floor when
she found with whom she had been left alone.

They were two tribunes of the praetorians, but, notwithstanding their
high grade, they were only young men of about twenty. Twin brothers
of the honorable house of the Aurelia, they had entered the army as
centurions, but had soon been placed at the head of a thousand men, and
appointed tribunes in Caesar’s body-guard. They resembled one another
exactly; and this likeness, which procured them much amusement, they
greatly enhanced by arranging their coal-black beards and hair in
exactly the same way, and by dressing alike down to the rings on their
fingers. One was called Apollonaris, the other Nemesianus Aurelius. They
were of the same height, and equally well grown, and no one could say
which had the finest black eyes, which mouth the haughtiest smile, or
to which of them the thick short beard and the artistically shaved
spot between the under lip and chin was most becoming. The beautifully
embossed ornaments on their breast-plates and shirts of mail, and on the
belt of the short sword, showed that they grudged no expense; in fact,
they thought only of enjoyment, and it was merely for the honor of it
that they were serving for a few years in the imperial guard. By and
by they would rest, after all the hardships of the campaign, in their
palace at Rome, or in the villas on the various estates that they had
inherited from their father and mother, and then, for a change, hold
honorary positions in the public service. Their friends knew that they
also contemplated being married on the same day, when the game of war
should be a thing of the past.

In the mean time they desired nothing in the world but honor and
pleasure; and such pleasure as well-bred, healthy, and genial youths,
with amiability, strength, and money to spend, can always command, they
enjoyed to the full, without carrying it to reckless extravagance. Two
merrier, happier, more popular comrades probably did not exist in the
whole army. They did their duty in the field bravely; during peace, and
in a town like Alexandria, they appeared, on the contrary, like mere
effeminate men of fashion. At least, they spent a large part of their
time in having their black hair crimped; they gave ridiculous sums to
have it anointed with the most delicate perfumes; and it was difficult
to imagine how effectively their carefully kept hands could draw a
sword, and, if necessary, handle the hatchet or spade.

To-day Nemesianus was in the emperor’s anteroom by command, and
Apollonaris, of his own freewill, had taken the place of another
tribune, that he might bear his brother company. They had caroused
through half the night, and had begun the new day by a visit to the
flower market, for love of the pretty saleswomen. Each had a half-opened
rose stuck in between his cuirass and shirt of mail on the left breast,
plucked, as the charming Daphnion had assured them, from a bush which
had been introduced from Persia only the year before. The brothers, at
any rate, had never seen any like them.

While they were looking out of the window they had passed the time by
examining every girl or woman who went by, intending to fling one rose
at the first whose perfect beauty should claim it, and the other flower
at the second; but during the half-hour none had appeared who was worthy
of such a gift. All the beauties in Alexandria were walking in the
streets in the cool hour before sunset, and really there was no lack of
handsome girls. The brothers had even heard that Caesar, who seemed to
have renounced the pleasures of love, had yielded to the charms of a
lovely Greek.

Directly they saw Melissa they were convinced that they had met the
beautiful plaything of the imperial fancy, and each with the same action
offered her his rose, as if moved by the same invisible power.

Apollonaris, who had come into the world a little sooner than his
brother, and who, by right of birth, had therefore a more audacious
manner, stepped boldly up to Melissa and presented his, while Nemesianus
at the same instant bowed to her, and begged her to give his the
preference.

Though their speeches were flattering and well-worded, Melissa repulsed
them by remarking sharply that she did not want their flowers.

“We can easily believe that,” answered Apollonaris, “for are you not
yourself a lovely, blooming rose?”

“Vain flattery,” replied Melissa; “and I certainly do not bloom for
you.”

“That is both cruel and unjust,” sighed Nemesianus, “for that which
you refuse to us poor fellows you grant to another, who can obtain
everything that other mortals yearn for.”

“But we,” interrupted his brother, “are modest, nay, and pious warriors.
We had intended offering up these roses to Aphrodite, but lo! the
goddess has met us in person.”

“Her image at any rate,” added the other.

“And you should thank the foam-born goddess,” continued Apollonaris;
“for she has lent you, in spite of the danger of seeing herself
eclipsed, her own divine charms. Do you think she will be displeased if
we withdraw the flowers and offer them to you?”

“I think nothing,” answered Melissa, “excepting that your honeyed
remarks annoy me. Do what you like with your roses, I will not accept
them.”

“How dare you,” asked Apollonaris, approaching her--“you, to whom the
mother of love has given such wonderfully fresh lips--misuse them by
refusing so sternly the humble petition of her faithful worshipers? If
you would not have Aphrodite enraged with you, hasten to atone for this
transgression. One kiss, my beauty, for her votary, and she will forgive
you.”

Here Apollonaris stretched out his hand toward the girl to draw her to
him, but she motioned him back indignantly, declaring that it would be
reprehensible and cowardly in a soldier to use violence toward a modest
maid.

At this the two brothers laughed heartily, and Nemesianus exclaimed,
“You do not belong to the Temple of Vesta, most lovely of roses, and
yet you are well protected by such sharp thorns that it requires a great
deal of courage to venture to attack you.”

“More,” added Apollonaris, “than to storm a fortress. But what camp or
stronghold contains booty so well worth capturing?”

Thereupon he threw his arm round Melissa and drew her to him.

Neither he nor his brother had ever conducted themselves badly towards
an honorable woman; and if Melissa had been but the daughter of a simple
craftsman, her reproachful remarks would have sufficed to keep them at
a distance. But such immunity was not to be granted to the emperor’s
sweetheart, who could so audaciously reject two brothers accustomed to
easy conquests; her demure severity could hardly be meant seriously.
Apollonaris therefore took no notice of her violent resistance, but held
her hands forcibly, and, though he could not succeed in kissing her for
her struggling, he pressed his lips to her cheek, while she endeavored
to free herself and pushed him off, breathless with real indignation.

‘Till now, the brothers had taken the matter as a joke; but when
Apollonaris seized the girl again, and she, beside herself with fear,
cried for help, he at once set her free.

It was too late; for the curtains of the audience-room were already
withdrawn, and Caracalla approached. His countenance was red and
distorted; he trembled with rage, and his angry glance fell like a flash
of lightning on the luckless brothers. Close by his side was the prefect
Macrinus, who feared lest he should be attacked by a fresh fit; and
Melissa shared his fears, as Caracalla cried to Apollonaris in an angry
voice, “Scoundrel that you are, you shall repent of this!”

Still, Aurelius had, by various wanton jokes, incurred the emperor’s
wrath before now, and he was accustomed to disarm it by some insinuating
confession, so he answered him with a roguish smile, while raising his
eyes to him humbly:

“Forgive me, great Caesar! Our poor strength, as you well know, is
easily defeated in conflicts against overpowering beauty. Dainties are
sweet, not only for children. Long ago Mars was drawn to Venus; and if
I--”

He had spoken these words in Latin, which Melissa did not understand;
but the color left the emperor’s face, and, pale with excitement, he
stammered out laboriously:

“You have--you have dared--”

“For this rose,” began the youth again, “I begged a hasty kiss from the
beauty, which certainly blooms for all, and she--” He raised his hands
and eyes imploringly to the despot; but Caracalla had already snatched
Macrinus’s sword from its sheath, and before Aurelius could defend
himself he was struck first on the head with the flat of the blade, and
then received a series of sharp cuts on his brow and face.

Streaming with blood from the gaping wounds which the victim, trembling
with fear and rage, covered with his hands, he surrendered himself to
the care of his startled brother, while Caesar overwhelmed them both
with a flood of furious reproaches.

When Nemesianus began to bind up his wounded brother’s head with a
handkerchief handed to him by Melissa, and Caracalla saw the gaping
wounds he had inflicted, he became quieter, and said:

“I think those lips will not try to steal kisses again for some time
from honorable maidens. You and Nemesianus have forfeited your lives;
how ever, the beseeching look of those all-powerful eyes has saved
you--you are spared. Take your brother away, Nemesianus. You are not to
leave your quarters until further orders.”

With this he turned his back on the twins, but on the threshold he again
addressed them and said:

“You were mistaken about this maiden. She is not less pure and noble
than your own sister.”

The merchants were dismissed from the tablinum more hastily than was due
to the importance of their business, in which, until this interruption,
the sovereign had shown a sympathetic interest and intelligence which
surprised them; and they left Caesar’s presence disappointed, but with
the promise that they should be received again in the evening.

As soon as they had retired, Caracalla threw himself again on the couch.

The bath had done him good. Still somewhat exhausted, though his head
was clear, he would not be hindered from receiving the deputation for
which he had important matters to decide; but this fresh attack of rage
revenged itself by a painful headache. Pale, and with slightly quivering
limbs, he dismissed the prefect and his other friends, and desired
Epagathos to call Melissa.

He needed rest, and again the girl’s little hand, which had yesterday
done him good, proved its healing power. The throbbing in his head
yielded to her gentle touch, and by degrees exhaustion gave way to the
comfortable languor of convalesence.

To-day, as yesterday, he expressed his thanks to Melissa, but he
found her changed. She looked timidly and anxiously down into her lap
excepting when she replied to a direct question; and yet he had done
everything to please her. Her relations would soon be free and in
Alexandria once more, and Zminis was in prison, chained hand and foot.
This he told her; and, though she was glad, it was not enough to restore
the calm cheerfulness he had loved to see in her.

He urged her, with warm insistence, to tell him what it was that weighed
on her, and at last, with eyes full of tears, she forced herself to say:

“You yourself have seen what they take me for.”

“And you have seen,” he quickly replied, “how I punish those who forget
the respect they owe to you.”

“But you are so dreadful in your wrath!” The words broke from her lips.
“Where others blame, you can destroy; and you do it, too, when passion
carries you away. I am bound to obey your call, and here I am. But I
fancy myself like the little dog--you may see him any day--which in the
beast-garden of the Panaeum, shares a cage with a royal tiger. The huge
brute puts up with a great deal from his small companion, but woe betide
the dog if the tiger once pats him with his heavy, murderous paw--and he
might, out of sheer forgetfulness!”

“But this hand,” Caesar broke in, raising his delicate hand covered with
rings, “will never forget, any more than my heart, how much it owes to
you.”

“Until I, in some unforeseen way--perhaps quite unconsciously--excite
your anger,” sighed Melissa. “Then you will be carried away by passion,
and I shall share the common fate.”

Caracalla was about to reply indignantly, but just then Adventus entered
the room, announcing the chief astrologer of the Temple of Serapis.
Caracalla refused to receive him just then, but he anxiously asked
whether he had any signs to report. The reply was in the affirmative,
and in a few minutes Caesar had in his hand a wax tablet covered with
words and figures. He studied it eagerly, and his countenance cleared;
still holding the tablets, he exclaimed to Melissa:

“You, daughter of Heron, have nothing to fear from me, you of all the
world! In some quiet hour I will explain to you how my planet yearns to
yours, and yours--that is, yourself--to mine. The gods have created us
for each other, child; I am already under your influence, but your heart
still hesitates, and I know why; it is because you distrust me.”

Melissa raised her large eyes to his face in astonishment, and he went
on, pensively:

“The past must stand; it is like a scar which no water will wash
out. What have you not heard of my past? What did they feel, in their
self-conscious virtue, when they talked of my crimes? Did it ever occur
to any one, I wonder, that with the purple I assumed the sword, to
protect my empire and throne? And when I have used the blade, how
eagerly have fingers pointed at me, how gladly slanderous tongues have
wagged! Who has ever thought of asking what compulsion led me to shed
blood, or how much it cost me to do it? You, fair child--and the stars
confirm it--you were sent by fate to share the burden that oppresses
me, and to you I will ease my heart, to you I will confide all, unasked,
because my heart prompts me to do so. But first you must tell me with
what tales they taught you to hate the man to whom, as you yourself
confessed, you nevertheless felt drawn.”

At this Melissa raised her hands in entreaty and remonstrance, and
Caesar went on:

“I will spare you the pains. They say that I am ever athirst for fresh
bloodshed if only some one is rash enough to suggest it to me. You were
told that Caesar murdered his brother Geta, with many more who did but
speak his victim’s name. My father-in-law, and his daughter Plautilla,
my wife, were, it is said, the victims of my fury. I killed Papinian,
the lawyer and prefect, and Cilo--whom you saw yesterday--nearly shared
the same fate. What did they conceal? Nothing. Your nod confesses
it--well, and why should they, since speaking ill of others is their
greatest delight? It is all true, and I should never think of denying
it. But did it ever occur to you, or did any one ever suggest to you, to
inquire how it came to pass that I perpetrated such horrors; I--who
was brought up in the fear of the gods and the law, like you and other
people?”

“No, my lord, never,” replied Melissa, in distress. “But I beg you, I
beseech you, say no more about such dreadful things. I know full well
that you are not wicked; that you are much better than people think.”

“And for that very reason,” cried Caesar, whose cheeks were flushed with
pleasure in the hard task he had set himself, “you must hear me. I am
Caesar. There is no judge over me; I need give account to none for my
actions. Nor do I. Who, besides yourself, is more to me than the flies
on that cup?”

“And your conscience?” she timidly put in.

“It raises hideous questions from time to time,” he replied, gloomily.
“It can be obtrusive, but we can teach ourselves not to answer--besides,
what you call conscience knows the motives for every action, and,
remembering them, judges leniently. You, child, should do the same; for
you--”

“O my lord, what can my poor judgment matter?” Melissa panted out; but
Caracalla exclaimed, as if the question pained him:

“Must I explain all that? The stars, as you know, proclaim to you, as
to me, that a higher power has joined us as light and warmth are joined.
Have you forgotten how we both felt only yesterday? Or am I mistaken?
Has not Roxana’s soul entered into that divinely lovely form because it
longed for its lost companion spirit?”

He spoke vehemently, with a quivering of his eyelids; but feeling her
hand tremble in his own, he collected himself, and went on in a lower
tone, but with urgent emphasis:

“I will let you glance into this bosom, closed to every other eye; for
my desolate heart is inspired by you to fresh energy and life; I am as
grateful to you as a drowning man to his deliverer. I shall suffocate
and die if I repress the impulse to open my heart to you!”

What change was this that had come over this mysterious being? Melissa
felt as though she was gazing on the face of a stranger, for, though his
eyelids still quivered, his eyes were bright with ecstatic fire and his
features looked more youthful. On that noble brow the laurel wreath
he wore looked well. Also, as she now observed, he was magnificently
attired; he wore a close-fitting tunic, or breast-plate made of thick
woolen stuff, and over it a purple mantle, while from his bare throat
hung a precious medallion, shield-shaped, and set in gold and gems, the
center formed by a large head of Medusa, with beautiful though terrible
features. The lion-heads of gold attached to each corner of the short
cloak he wore over the sham coat of mail, were exquisite works of art,
and sandals embroidered with gold and gems covered his feet and ankles.
He was dressed to-day like the heir of a lordly house, anxious to charm;
nay, indeed, like an emperor, as he was; and with what care had his
body-slave arranged his thin curls!

He passed his hand over his brow and cast a glance at a silver mirror on
the low table at the head of his couch. When he turned to her again his
amorous eyes met Melissa’s.

She looked down in startled alarm. Was it for her sake that Caesar
had thus decked himself and looked in the mirror? It seemed scarcely
possible, and yet it flattered and pleased her. But in the next instant
she longed more fervently than she ever had before for a magic charm
by which she might vanish and be borne far, far away from this dreadful
man. In fancy she saw the vessel which the lady Berenike had in
readiness. She would, she must fly hence, even if it should part her for
a time from Diodoros.

Did Caracalla read her thought? Nay, he could not see through her; so
she endured his gaze, tempting him to speak; and his heart beat high
with hope as he fancied he saw that she was beginning to be affected by
his intense agitation. At this moment he felt convinced, as he often
had been, that the most atrocious of his crimes had been necessary and
inevitable. There was something grand and vast in his deeds of blood,
and that--for he flattered himself he knew the female heart--must win
her admiration, besides the awe and love she already felt.

During the night, at his waking, and in his bath, he had felt that
she was as necessary to him as the breath of life and hope. What he
experienced was love as the poets had sung it. How often had he laughed
it to scorn, and boasted that he was armed against the arrows of Eros!
Now, for the first time, he was aware of the anxious rapture, the ardent
longing of which he had read in so many songs. There stood the object of
his passion. She must hear him, must be his--not by compulsion, not by
imperial command, but of the free impulse of her heart.

His confession would help to this end.

With a swift gesture, as if to throw off the last trace of fatigue, he
sat up and began in a firm voice, with a light in his eyes:

“Yes, I killed my brother Geta. You shudder. And yet, if at this day,
when I know all the results of the deed, the state of affairs were the
same as then, I would do it again! That shocks you. But only listen, and
then you will say with me that it was Fate which compelled me to act so,
and not otherwise.”

He paused, and then mistaking the anxiety which was visible in Melissa’s
face for sympathetic attention, he began his story, confident of her
interest:

“When I was born, my father had not yet assumed the purple, but he
already aimed at the sovereignty. Augury had promised it to him; my
mother knew this, and shared his ambition. While I was still at my
nurse’s breast he was made consul; four years later he seized the
throne. Pertinax was killed, the wretched Didius Julianus bought the
empire, and this brought my father to Rome from Pannonia. Meanwhile he
had sent us children, my brother Geta and me, away from the city; nor
was it till he had quelled the last resistance on the Tiber that he
recalled us.

“I was then but a child of five, and yet one day of that time I remember
vividly. My father was going through Rome in solemn procession. His
first object was to do due honor to the corpse of Pertinax. Rich
hangings floated from every window and balcony in the city. Garlands of
flowers and laurel wreaths adorned the houses, and pleasant odors were
wafted to us as we went. The jubilation of the people was mixed with the
trumpet-call of the soldiers; handkerchiefs were waved and acclamations
rang out. This was in honor of my father, and of me also, the future
Caesar. My little heart was almost bursting with pride; it seemed to
me that I had grown several heads taller, not only than other boys, but
than the people that surrounded me.

“When the funeral procession began, my mother wished me to go with her
into the arcade where seats had been placed for the ladies to view, but
I refused to follow her. My father became angry. But when he heard me
declare that I was a man and the future Emperor, that I would rather see
nothing than show myself to the people among the women, he smiled. He
ordered Cilo, who was then the prefect of Rome, to lead me to the seats
of the past consuls and the old senators. I was delighted at this; but
when he allowed my younger brother Geta to follow me, my pleasure was
entirely spoiled.”

“And you were then five years old?” asked Melissa, astonished.

“That surprises you!” smiled Caracalla. “But I had already traveled
through half the empire, and had experienced more than other boys
of twice my age. I was, at any rate, still child enough to forget
everything else in the brilliant spectacle that unfolded before my eyes.
I remember to this day the colored wax statue which represented Pertinax
so exactly that it might have been himself risen from the grave. And the
procession! It seemed to have no end; one new thing followed another.
All walked past in mourning robes, even the choir of singing boys and
men. Cilo explained to me who had made the statues of the Romans who had
served their country, who the artists and scholars were, whose statues
and busts were carried by. Then came bronze groups of the people of
every nation in the empire, in their costumes. Cilo told me what they
were called, and where they lived; he then added that one day they would
all belong to me; that I must learn the art of fighting, in case they
resisted me, and should require suppressing. Also, when they carried
the flags of the guilds past, when the horse and foot soldiers, the
race-horses from the circus and several other things came by, he
continued to explain them. I only remember it now because it made me so
happy. The old man spoke to me alone; he regarded me alone as the future
sovereign. He left Geta to eat the sweets which his aunts had given him,
and when I too wanted some my brother refused to let me have any. Then
Cilo stroked my hair, and said: ‘leave him his toys. When you are a man
you shall have the whole Roman Empire for your own, and all the nations
I told you of.’ Geta meanwhile had thought better of it, and pushed some
of the sweetmeats toward me. I would not have them, and, when he tried
to make me take them, I threw them into the road.”

“And you remember all that?” said Melissa.

“More things than these are indelibly stamped on my mind from that day,”
 said Caesar. “I can see before me now the pile on which Pertinax was to
be burned. It was splendidly decorated, and on the top stood the gilt
chariot in which he had loved to ride. Before the consuls fired the logs
of Indian wood, my father led us to the image of Pertinax, that we might
kiss it. He held me by the hand. Wherever we went, the senate and people
hailed us with acclamations. My mother carried Geta in her arms.
This delighted the populace. They shouted for her and my brother as
enthusiastically as for us, and I recollect to this day how that went to
my heart. He might have the sweets and welcome, but what the people had
to offer was due only to my father and me, not to my brother. At that
moment I first fully understood that Severus was the present and I the
future Caesar. Geta had only to obey, like every one else.

“After kissing the image, I stood, still holding my father’s hand, to
watch the flames. I can see them now, crackling and writhing as they
gained on the wood, licking it and fawning, as it were, till it caught
and sent up a rush of sparks and fire. At last the whole pile was one
huge blaze. Then, suddenly, out of the heart of the flames an eagle
rose. The creature flapped its broad wings in the air, which was golden
with sunshine and quivering with heat, soaring above the smoke and
fire, this way and that. But it soon took flight, away from the furnace
beneath. I shouted with delight, and cried to my father: ‘Look at the
bird! Where is he flying?’ And he eagerly answered: ‘Well done! If
you desire to preserve the power I have conquered for you always
undiminished, you must keep your eyes open. Let no sign pass unnoticed,
no opportunity neglected.’

“He himself acted on this rule. To him obstacles existed only to be
removed, and he taught me, too, to give myself neither peace nor rest,
and not to spare the life of a foe.--That festival secured my father the
suffrages of the Romans. Meanwhile Pescennius Niger rose up in the East
with a large army and took the field against Severus. But my father
was not the man to hesitate. Within a few months of the obsequies of
Pertinax his opponent was a headless corpse.

“There was yet another obstacle to be removed. You have heard of Clodius
Albinus. My father had adopted him and raised him to share his throne.
But Severus could not divide the rule with any man.

“When I was nine years old I saw, after the battle of Lugdunum, the dead
face of Albinus’s head; it was set up in front of the Curia on a lance.

“I now was the second personage in the empire, next to my father; the
first among the youth of the whole world, and the future emperor. When
I was eleven the soldiers hailed me as Augustus; that was in the war
against the Parthians, before Ktesiphon. But they did the same to Geta.
This was like wormwood in the sweet draught; and if then--But what can a
girl care about the state, and the fate of rulers and nations?”

“Yes, go on,” said Melissa. “I see already what you are coming to. You
disliked the idea of sharing your power with another.”

“Nay,” cried Caracalla, vehemently, “I not only disliked it, it was
intolerable, impossible! What I want you to see is that I did not grudge
my brother his share of my father’s inheritance, like any petty trader.
The world--that is the point--the world itself was too small for two of
us. It was not I, but Fate, which had doomed Geta to die. I am certain
of this, and so must you be. Yes, it was Fate. Fate prompted the child’s
little hand to attempt its brother’s life. And that was long before
my brain could form a thought or my baby-lips could stammer his hated
name.”

“Then you tried to kill your brother even in infancy?” asked Melissa,
and her large eyes dilated with horror as she gazed at the terrible
narrator. But Caracalla went on, in an apologetic tone:

“I was then but two years old. It was at Mediolanum, soon after Geta’s
birth. An egg was found in the court of the palace; a hen had laid it
close to a pillar. It was of a purple hue-red all over like the imperial
mantle, and this indicated that the newly born infant was destined to
sovereignty. Great was the rejoicing. The purple marvel was shown even
to me who could but just walk. I, like a naughty boy, flung it down; the
shell cracked, and the contents poured out on the pavement. My mother
saw it, and her exclamation, ‘Wicked child, you have murdered your
brother!’ was often repeated to me in after-years. It never struck me as
particularly motherly.”

Here he paused, gazing meditatively into vacancy, and then asked the
girl, who had listened intently:

“Were you never haunted by a word so that you could not be rid of it?”

“Oh, yes,” cried Melissa; “a striking rhythm in a song, or a line of
poetry--”

Caracalla nodded agreement, and went on more vehemently: “That is what
I experienced at the words, ‘You have murdered your brother!’ I not only
heard them now and then with my inward ear, but incessantly, like the
dreary hum of the flies in my camp-tent, for hours at a time, by day
and by night. No fanning could drive these away. The diabolical voice
whispered loudest when Geta had done anything to vex me; or if things
had been given him which I did not wish him to have. And how often that
happened! For I--I was only Bassianus to my mother; but her youngest was
her dear little Geta.

“So the years passed. We had, while still quite young, our own teams
in the circus. One day, when we were driving for a wager-we were still
boys, and I was ahead of the other lads--the horses of my chariot shied
to one side. I was thrown some distance on the course. Geta saw this. He
turned his horses to the right where I lay. He drove over his brother as
he would over straw and apple-parings in the dust; and his wheel
broke my thigh. Who knows what else it crushed in me? One thing is
certain--from that date the most painful of my sufferings originated.
And he, the mean scoundrel, had done it intentionally. He had sharp
eyes. He knew how to guide his steeds. He had never driven his wheel
over a hazel-nut in the sand of the arena against his will; and I was
lying some distance from the driving course.”

Caesar’s eyelids blinked spasmodically as he uttered this accusation,
and his very glance revealed the raging fire that was burning in his
soul. Melissa’s sad cry of:

“What terrible suspicion!” he answered with a short, scornful laugh and
the furious assertion:

“Oh, there were friends enough who informed me what hope Geta had
founded on this act of treachery. The disappointment made him irritable
and listless, when Galenus had succeeded in curing me so far that I was
able to throw away my Crutch; and my limp--at least so they tell me--is
hardly perceptible.”

“Not at all, most certainly not at all,” Melissa sympathetically assured
him. He, however, went on:

“Yet what I endured meanwhile!--and while I passed so many long weeks of
pain and impatience on a couch, the words my mother had said about the
brother whom I murdered rang constantly in my ears as though a reciter
were engaged by day and night to reiterate them.

“But even this passed away. With the pain, which had spoiled many
good hours for me, the quiet had brought me something more to the
purpose-thoughts and plans. Yes, during those peaceful weeks the things
my father and tutor had taught me became clear and real for the first
time. I realized that I must become energetic if I meant ever to be a
thorough sovereign. As soon as I could use my foot again I became an
industrious and docile pupil under Cilo. From a child up to the time of
this cruel experience, my youthful heart had clung to my nurse. She was
a Christian from my father’s African home--I knew she loved me best
on earth. My mother knew of no higher destiny than that of being the
Domna,--[Domna, lady or mistress, in corrupt Latin. Hence her name of
Julia Domna] the lady of the soldiers, the mother of the camp, and the
lady philosopher among the sages. What she gave me in the way of love
was but copper alms. She threw golden solidi of love into Geta’s lap in
lavish abundance. And her sister and her nieces, who often lived with
us, treated me exactly as she did. They were distantly civil, or
they shunned me; but my brother was their spoiled plaything. I was as
incapable as Geta was master of the art of stealing hearts; but in my
childhood I needed none of them: for, if I wished for a kind word, a
sweet kiss, or the love of a woman, my nurse’s arms were open to me. Nor
was she an ordinary woman. As the widow of a tribune who had fallen in
my father’s service, she had undertaken to attend on me. She loved me
as no one else ever did. She was also the only person whom I would
willingly obey. I came into the world full of wild instincts, but she
knew how to tame them kindly. My aversion to my brother was the one
thing she checked but feebly, for he was a thorn in her side too. I
learned this when she, who was so gentle, explained to me, with asperity
in her tone, that there was but one God in heaven, and on earth but
one emperor, who should govern the world in his name. She also imparted
these convictions to others, and this turned to her disadvantage. My
mother parted us, and sent her back to her African home. She died soon
after.” He was silent, and gazed pensively into vacancy; soon, however,
he collected his thoughts and said, lightly:

“Well, I became Cilo’s diligent pupil.”

“But,” asked Melissa, “did you not say that at one time you attempted
his life?”

“I did so,” replied Caracalla darkly; “for a moment arrived when I
cursed his teaching, and yet it was certainly wise and well meant. You
see, child, all of you who go through life humbly and without power are
trained to submit obediently to the will of Heaven. Cilo taught me to
place my own power, and the greatness of the realm which it would be
incumbent on me to reign over, above everything, even above the gods. It
was impressed upon you and yours to hold the life of another sacred; to
us, our duty as the sovereign transcends this law. Even the blood of a
brother must flow if it is for the good of the state intrusted to us. My
nurse had taught me that being good meant doing unto others as we would
be done by; Cilo cried to me: ‘Strike down, that you may not be struck
down--away with mercy, if the welfare of the state is threatened!’ And
how many hands are raised against Rome, the universal empire, which
I rule over! It needs a strong hand to keep its antagonistic parts
together. Otherwise it would fall apart like a bundle of arrows when the
string that bound them is broken. And I, even as a boy, had sworn to my
father, by the Terminus stone in the Capitol, never to abandon a single
inch of his ground without fighting for it. He, Severus, was the wisest
of the rulers. Only the blind love for his second son, encouraged by the
women, caused him to forget his moderation and prudence. My brother Geta
was to reign together with me over the empire, which ought to have
been mine alone as the first-born. Every year festivals were kept, with
prayers and sacrifices, to the ‘love of the brothers.’ You have perhaps
seen the coins, which show us hand in hand, and have on them the
inscription, ‘Eternal union’!

“I in union--I hand in hand with the man I most hated under the sun! It
almost maddened me only to hear his voice. I would have liked best of
all to spring at his throat when I saw him with his learned fellows
squandering their time. Do you know what they did? They invented the
names by which the voices of different animals were to be known. Once
I snatched the pencil out of the hand of the freedman as he was writing
the sentences, ‘The horse neighs, the pig grunts, the goat bleats, the
cow lows, the sheep baas.’ ‘He, himself,’ I added, ‘croaks like a hoarse
jay.’

“That I should share the government with this miserable, faint-hearted,
poisonous nobody could never be,--this enemy, who, when I said ‘Yes,’
cried ‘No!’ Who frustrated all my measures,--it was impossible! It would
have caused the destruction of the state, as certainly as it was the
unfairest and unwisest of the deeds of Severus, to place the younger
brother as co-regent with the first-born, the rightful heir to the
throne. I, whom my father had taught to watch for signs, was reminded
every hour that this unbearable position must come to an end.

“After the death of Severus, we lived at first close to one another in
separate parts of the same palace like two lions in a cage across which
a partition has been erected, so that they may not reciprocally mangle
each other.

“We used to meet at my mother’s.

“That morning my mastiff had bitten Geta’s wolfhound and killed him, and
they had found a black liver in the beast he had sent for sacrifice.
I had been informed of this. Destiny was on my side. This indolent
inactivity must be brought to a close. I myself do not know how I felt
as I mounted the steps to my mother’s rooms. I only remember distinctly
that a demon cried continually in my ear, ‘You have murdered your
brother!’ Then I suddenly found myself face to face with him. It was in
the empress’s reception-room. And when I saw the hated flat-shaped head
so close to me, when his beardless mouth with its thick underlip smiled
at me so sweetly and at the same time so falsely, I felt as if I again
heard the cry with which he had cheered on his horse. And I felt ... I
even felt the pain-as if he broke my thigh again with his wheel. And at
the same time a fiend whispered in my ear: ‘Destroy him, or he will kill
you, and through him Rome will perish!’

“Then I seized my sword. In his odious, peevish voice he said
something--I forget what nonsense--to me. Then it appeared to me as
if all the sheep and goats over which he had squandered his time were
bleating at me. The blood rushed to my head. The room spun round me in a
circle. Black spots on a red ground danced before my eyes.

“And then--What flashed in my right hand was my own naked sword! I
neither heard nor said anything further. Nor had I planned, nor ever
thought of, what then occurred.... But suddenly I felt as if a mountain
of oppressive lead had fallen from my breast. How easily I could breathe
again! All that had just before turned round me in a mad, whirling dance
stood still. The sun shone brightly in the large room; a shaft of light,
showing dancing dust, fell on Geta. He sank on his knees close to me,
with my sword in his breast. My mother made a fruitless effort to shield
him. His blood trickled over her hand. I can still see every ring on
those slender, white fingers. I also remember distinctly how, when I
raised my sword against him, my mother rushed in between us to protect
her favorite. The sharp blade, as she tried to seize it, accidentally
grazed her hand--I know not how--only the skin was slightly cut. Yet
what a scream she gave over the wound which the son had given his
mother! Julia Maesa, her daughter Mammara, and the other women, rushed
in. How they exaggerated! They made a river out of every drop of blood.

“So the dreadful deed was done; and yet, had I let the wretch live, I
should have been a traitor to Rome, to myself, and to my father’s life’s
work. That day, for the first time, I was ruler of the world. Those who
accuse me of fratricide no doubt believe themselves to be right. But
they certainly are not. I know better. You also know now with me that
destiny, and not I, struck Geta out from among the living.”

Here he sat for some time in breathless silence. Then he asked Melissa:

“You understand now how I came to shed my brother’s blood?”

She started, and repeated gently after him: “Yes, I understand it.”

Deep compassion filled her heart, and yet she felt she dare not sanction
what she had heard and deplored. Torn by deep and conflicting feelings
she threw back her head, brushed her hair off her face, and cried: “Let
me go now; I can bear it no longer!”

“So soft-hearted?” asked he, and shook his head disapprovingly. “Life
rages more wildly round the throne than in an artist’s home. You will
have to learn to swim through the roaring torrent with me. Believe me,
even enormities can become quite commonplace. And, besides, why does it
still shock you when you yourself know that it was indispensable?”

“I am only a weak girl, and I feel as if I had witnessed these fearful
deeds, and had to bear the terrible blood-guiltiness with you!” broke
from her lips.

“That is what you must and shall do! It is to that end that I have
confided to you what no one else has ever heard from my mouth!” cried
Caracalla, his eyes flashing more brightly. She felt as though this cry
called her from her slumbers and revealed the precipice to which she had
strayed in her sleepwalking.

When Caracalla had begun telling her of his youth, she had only listened
with half an ear; for she could not forget Berenike’s rescuing ship. But
soon his confessions completely attracted her attention, and the lament
of this powerful man on whom so many injuries and wrongs had fallen, who
even in childhood had been deprived of the happiness of a mother’s love,
had touched her tender heart. That which was afterward told to her she
had identified with her own humble life; she heard with a shudder that
it was to the malice of his brother that this unhappy being owed the
injury which, like a poisonous blight, had marred for him all the joys
of existence, while she owed all that was loveliest and best in her
young life to a brother’s love.

The grounds on which Caracalla had based the assertion that destiny had
compelled him to murder Geta appeared to her young and inexperienced
mind as indisputable. He was only the pitiable victim of his birth and
of a cruel fate. Besides, the humblest and most sober-minded can not
resist the charm of majesty; and this hapless man, who had honored
Melissa with his confidence, and who had assured her so earnestly that
she was of such importance to him and could do so much for him, was the
ruler of the universe.

She had also felt, after Caesar’s confession, that she had a right to
be proud, since he had thought her worthy to take an interest in the
tragedy in the imperial palace, as if she had been a member of the
court. In her lively imagination she had witnessed the ghastly act to
which he--as she had certainly believed, even when she had replied to
his question--had been forced by fate.

But the demand which had followed her answer now recurred to her. The
picture of Diodoros, which had completely vanished from her thoughts
while she had been listening, suddenly appeared to her, and, as she
fancied, he looked at her reproachfully.

Had she, then, transgressed against her betrothed?

No, no, indeed she had not!

She loved him, and only him; and for that very reason, her upright
judgment told her now, that it would be sinning against her lover to
carry out Caracalla’s wish, as if she had become his fellow-culprit,
or certainly the advocate of the bloody outrage. She could think of
no answer to his “That is what you must and shall do!” that would not
awaken his wrath. Cautiously, and with sincere thanks for his confidence
in her, she begged him once more to allow her to leave him, because she
needed rest after such a shock to her mind. And it would also do him
good to grant himself a short rest. But he assured her he knew that
he could only rest when he had fulfilled his duty as a sovereign. His
father had said, a few minutes before he drew his last breath:

“If there is anything more to be done, give it me to do,” and he, the
son, would do likewise.

“Moreover,” he concluded, “it has done me good to bring to light that
which I had for so long kept sealed within me. To gaze in your face at
the same time was, perhaps, even better physic.”

At this he rose and, seizing the startled girl by both hands, he cried:

“You, child, can satisfy the insatiable! The love which I offer you
resembles a full bunch of grapes, and yet I am quite content if you will
give me back but one berry.”

At the very commencement, this declaration was drowned by a loud shout
which rang through the room in waves of sound.

Caracalla started, but, before he could reach the window, old Adventus
rushed in breathless; and he was followed, though in a more dignified
manner, with a not less hasty step and every sign of excitement, by
Macrinus, the prefect of the praetorians, with his handsome young son
and a few of Caesar’s friends.

“This is how I rest!” exclaimed Caracalla, bitterly, as he released
Melissa’s hand and turned inquiringly to the intruders.

The news had spread among the praetorians and the Macedonian legions,
that the emperor, who, contrary to his custom, had not shown himself
for two days, was seriously ill, and at the point of death. Feeling
extremely anxious about one who had showered gold on them, and given
them such a degree of freedom as no other imperator had ever allowed
them, they had collected before the Serapeum and demanded to see Caesar.
Caracalla’s eyes lighted up at this information, and, excitedly pleased,
he cried:

“They only are really faithful!”

He asked for his sword and helmet, and sent for the ‘paludamentum’,
the general’s cloak of purple, embroidered with gold, which he never
otherwise wore except on the field. The soldiers should see that he
intended leading in future battles.

While they waited, he conversed quietly with Macrinus and the others;
when, however, the costly garment covered his shoulders, and when his
favorite, Theocritus, who had known best how to support him during his
illness, offered him an arm, he answered imperiously that he required no
assistance.

“Nevertheless, you should, after so serious an attack--” the physician
in ordinary ventured to exhort him; but he interrupted him scornfully,
and, glancing toward Melissa, exclaimed:

“Those little hands there contain more healing power than yours and the
great Galenus’s put together.”

Thereupon he beckoned to the young girl, and when she once more besought
his permission to go, he left the room with the commanding cry, “You are
to wait!”

He had rather far to go and some steps to mount in order to reach the
balcony which ran round the base of the cupola of the Pantheon which his
father had joined to the Serapeum, yet he undertook this willingly, as
thence he could best be seen and heard.

A few hours earlier it would have been impossible for him to reach this
point, and Epagathos had arranged that a sedan-chair and strong bearers
should be waiting at the foot of the steps; but he refused it, for he
felt entirely restored, and the shouts of his warriors intoxicated him
like sparkling wine.

Meanwhile Melissa remained behind in the audience-chamber. She must obey
Caesar’s command. Yet it frightened her; and, besides, she was woman
enough to feel it as an offense that the man who had assured her so
sincerely of his gratitude, and who even feigned to love her, should
have refused so harshly her desire to rest. She foresaw that, as long as
he remained in Alexandria, she would have to be his constant companion.
She trembled at the idea; yet, if she tried to fly from him, all she
loved would be lost. No, this must not be thought of! She must remain.

She threw herself on a divan, lost in thought, and as she realized the
confidence of which the unapproachable, proud emperor had thought
her worthy, a secret voice whispered to her that it was certainly a
delightful thing to share the overwhelming agitations of the highest
and greatest. And was he then really bad, he who felt the necessity of
vindicating himself before a simple girl, and to whom it appeared so
intolerable to be misjudged and condemned even by her? Besides being
the emperor and a suffering man, Caracalla had also become her wooer.
It never once entered her mind to accept him; but still it flattered her
extremely that the greatest of men should declare his love for her. Why,
then, need she fear him? She was so important to him, she could do so
much for him, that he would surely take care not to insult or offend
her. This modest child, who till quite lately had trembled before her
own father’s temper, now, in the consciousness of Caesar’s favor,
felt herself strong to triumph over the wrath and passions of the most
powerful and most terrible of men. In the mean time she dared not risk
confessing to him that she was another’s bride, for that might determine
him to let Diodoros feel his power. The thought that the emperor could
care about her good opinion greatly pleased her; it even had the effect
of raising the hope in her inexperienced mind that Caracalla would
moderate his passion for her sake--when old Adventus came into the room.

He was in a hurry; for preparations had to be made in the dining-hall
for the reception of the ambassadors. But when at his appearance Melissa
rose from the divan he begged her good-naturedly to continue resting.
No one could tell what humor Caracalla might be in when he returned. She
had often seen how rapidly that chameleon could change color. Who that
had seen him just now, going to meet his soldiers, would believe that
he had a few hours before sent away, with hard words, the widow of the
Egyptian governor, who had come to beg mercy for her husband?

“So that wretch, Theocritus, has really carried out his intention of
ruining the honest Titianus?” asked Melissa, horrified.

“Not only of ruining him,” answered the chamberlain; “Titianus is by
this time beheaded.”

The old man bowed and left the room; but Melissa remained behind,
feeling as if the floor had opened in front of her. He, whose ardent
assurance she had just now believed, that he had been forced to shed the
blood of an impious wretch, in obedience to an overpowering fate, was
capable of allowing the noblest of men to be beheaded, unjudged, merely
to please a mercenary favorite! His confession, then, had been nothing
but a revolting piece of acting! He had endeavored to vanquish the
disgust she felt for him merely to ensnare her and her healing hand more
surely--as his plaything, his physic, his sleeping draught. And she
had entered the trap, and acquitted him of the most horrible
blood-guiltiness.

He had that very day rejected, without pity, a noble Roman lady who
petitioned for her husband’s life, and with the same breath he had
afterwards befooled her!

She started up, indignant and deeply wounded. Was it not ignominious
even to wait here like a prisoner in obedience to the command of this
wretch? And she had dared for one moment to compare this monster with
Diodoros, the handsomest, the best, and most amiable of youths!

It seemed to her inconceivable. If only he had not the power to destroy
all that was dearest to her heart, what pleasure it would have been to
shout in his face:

“I detest you, murderer, and I am the betrothed of another, who is as
good and beautiful as you are vile and odious!”

Then the question occurred to her whether it was only for the sake of
her healing hands that he had felt attracted to her, and had made her an
avowal as if she were his equal.

The blood mounted to her face at this thought, and with a burning brow
she walked to the open window.

A crowd of presentiments rushed into her innocent and, till then,
unsuspecting heart, and they were all so alarming that it was a relief
to her when a shout of joy from the panoplied breasts of several
thousand armed men rent the air. Mingling with this overpowering
demonstration of united rejoicing from such huge masses, came the blare
of the trumpets and horns of the assembled legions. What a maddening
noise!

Before her lay the square, filled with many legions of warriors who
surrounded the Serapeum in their shining armor, with their eagles and
vexilla. The praetorians stood by the picked men of the Macedonian
phalanx, and with these were all the troops who had escorted the
imperial general hither, and the garrisons of the city of Alexander who
hoped to be called out in the next war.

On the balcony, decorated with statues which surrounded the colonnade
of the Pantheon on which the cupola rested, she saw Caracalla, and at
a respectful distance a superb escort of his friends, in red and white
togas, bordered with purple stripes, and wearing armor. Having taken off
his gold helmet, the imperial general bowed to his people, and at every
nod of his head, and each more vigorous movement, the enthusiastic
cheers were renewed more loudly than ever.

Macrinus then stepped up to Caesar’s side, and the lictors who followed
him, by lowering their fasces, signaled to the warriors to keep silence.

Instantly the ear-splitting din changed to a speechless lull.

At first she still heard the lances and shields, which several of the
warriors had waved in enthusiastic joy, ringing against the ground, and
the clatter of the swords being put back in their sheaths; then this
also ceased, and finally, although only the superior officers had
arrived on horseback, the stamping of hoofs, the snorting of the horses,
and the rattle of the chains at their bits, were the only sounds.

Melissa listened breathlessly, looking first at the square and the
soldiers below, then at the balcony where the emperor stood. In spite
of the aversion she felt, her heart beat quicker. It was as if this
immeasurable army had only one voice; as if an irresistible force drew
all these thousands of eyes toward one point--the one little man up
there on the Pantheon.

Directly he began to speak, Melissa’s glance was also fixed on
Caracalla.

She only heard the closing sentence, as, with raised voice, he shouted
to the soldiers; and from it she gathered that he thanked his companions
in arms for their anxiety, but that he still felt strong enough to share
all their difficulties with them. Severe exertions lay behind them. The
rest in this luxurious city would do them all good. There was still much
to be conquered in the rich East, and to add to what they had already
won, before they could return to Rome to celebrate a well-earned
triumph. The weary should make themselves comfortable here. The wealthy
merchants in whose houses he had quartered them had been told to attend
to their wants, and if they neglected to do so every single warrior
was man enough to show them what a soldier needed for his comfort.
The people here looked askance at him and his soldiers, but too much
moderation would be misplaced.

There certainly were some things even here which the host was not bound
to supply to his military; he, Caesar, would provide them with these,
and for that purpose he had put aside two million denarii out of his own
poverty to distribute among them.

This speech had several times been interrupted by applause, but now such
a tremendous shout of joy went up that it would have drowned the loudest
thunder. The number of voices as well as their power seemed to have
doubled.

Caracalla had added another link to the golden chain which already
bound him to these faithful people; and, as he smiled and nodded to the
delighted crowd from the balcony, he looked like a happy, light-hearted
youth who had prepared a great treat for himself and several beloved
friends.

What he said further was lost in the confusion of voices in the square.
The ranks were broken up, and the cuirasses, helmets, and arms of the
moving warriors caught the sun and sent bright beams of light crossing
one another over the wide space surrounded with dazzling white marble
statues.

When Caracalla left the balcony, Melissa drew back from the window.

The compassionate impulse to lighten the lot of a sufferer, which had
before drawn her so strongly to Caracalla, had now lost its sense and
meaning for this healthy, high-spirited man. She considered herself
cheated, as if she had been fooled by sham suffering into giving
excessively large alms to an artful beggar.

Besides, she loved her native town, and Caracalla’s advice to the
soldiers to force the citizens to provide luxurious living for them,
had made her considerably more rebellious. If he ever put her again in
a position to speak her mind freely to him, she would tell him all
undisguisedly; but instantly it again rushed into her mind that she must
keep guard over her tongue before the easily unchained wrath of this
despot, until her father and brothers were in safety once more.

Before the emperor returned, the room was filled with people, of whom
she knew none, excepting her old friend the white-haired, learned
Samonicus. She was the aim and center of all eyes, and when even the
kindly old man greeted her from a distance, and so contemptuously, that
the blood rushed to her face, she begged Adventus to take her into the
next room.

The Chamberlain did as she wished, but before he left her he whispered
to her: “Innocence is trusting; but it is not of much avail here. Take
care, child! They say there are sand-banks in the Nile which, like soft
pillows, entice one to rest. But if you use them they become alive,
and a crocodile creeps out, with open jaws. I am talking already in
metaphor, like an Alexandrian, but you will understand me.”

Melissa bowed acknowledgment to him, and the old man went on:

“He may perhaps forget you; for many things had accumulated during his
illness. If the mass of business, as it comes in, is not settled for
twenty four hours, it swells like a mill-stream that has the sluice
down. But when work is begun, it quite carries him away. He forgets then
to eat and drink. Ambassadors have arrived also from the Empress-mother,
from Armenia, and Parthia. If he does not ask for you in half an hour,
it will be suppertime, and I will let you out through that door.”

“Do so at once,” begged Melissa, with raised, petitioning hands; but the
old man replied: “I should then reward you but ill for having warmed
my feet for me. Remember the crocodile under the sand! Patience, child!
There is Caesar’s zithern. If you can play, amuse yourself with that.
The door shuts closely and the curtains are thick. My old ears just now
were listening to no purpose.”

But Caracalla was so far from forgetting Melissa that although he had
attended to the communication brought to him by the ambassadors, and the
various dispatches from the senate, he asked for her even at the door
of the tablinum. He had seen her from the balcony looking out on the
square; so she had witnessed the reception his soldiers had given him.
The magnificent spectacle must have impressed her and filled her with
joy. He was anxious to hear all this from her own lips, before he
settled down to work.

Adverntus whispered to him where he had taken her, to avoid the
persecuting glances of the numerous strangers, and Caracalla nodded to
him approvingly and went into the next room.

She sat there with the zithern, letting her fingers glide gently over
the strings.

On his entering, she drew back hastily; but he cried to her brightly:
“Do not disturb yourself. I love that instrument. I am having a statue
erected to Mesomedes, the great zithern-player--you perhaps know his
songs. This evening, when the feast and the press of work are over, I
will hear how you play. I will also playa few airs to you.”

Melissa then plucked up courage and said, decidedly: “No, my lord; I am
about to bid you farewell for to-day.”

“That sounds very determined,” he answered, half surprised and half
amused. “But may I be allowed to know what has made you decide on this
step?”

“There is a great deal of work waiting for you,” she replied, quietly.

“That is my affair, not yours,” was the crushing answer.

“It is also mine,” she said, endeavoring to keep calm; “for you have
not yet completely recovered, and, should you require my help again this
evening, I could not attend to your call.”

“No?” he asked, wrathfully, and his eyelids began to twitch.

“No, my lord; for it would not be seemly in a maiden to visit you by
night, unless you were ill and needed nursing. As it is, I shall meet
your friends--my heart stands still only to think of it--”

“I will teach them what is due to you!” Caracalla bellowed out, and his
brow was knit once more.

“But you can not compel me,” she replied, firmly, “to change my mind
as to what is seemly,” and the courage which failed her if she met a
spider, but which stood by her in serious danger as a faithful ally,
made her perfectly steadfast as she eagerly added: “Not an hour since
you promised me that so long as I remained with you I should need no
other protector, and might count on your gratitude. But those were mere
words, for, when I besought you to grant me some repose, you scorned my
very reasonable request, and roughly ordered me to remain and attend on
you.”

At this Caesar laughed aloud.

“Just so! You are a woman, and like all the rest. You are sweet and
gentle only so long as you have your own way.”

“No, indeed,” cried Melissa, and her eyes filled with tears. “I only
look further than from one hour to the next. If I should sacrifice what
I think right, merely to come and go at my own will, I should soon be
not only miserable myself, but the object of your contempt.”

Overcome by irresistible distress, she broke into loud sobs; but
Caracalla, with a furious stamp of his foot, exclaimed:

“No tears! I can not, I will not see you weep. Can any harm come to you?
Nothing but good; nothing but the best of happiness do I propose for
you. By Apollo and Zeus, that is the truth! Till now you have been
unlike other women, but when you behave like them, you shall--I swear
it--you shall feel which of us two is the stronger!”

He roughly snatched her hand away from her face and thereby achieved his
end, for her indignation at being thus touched by a man’s brutal hand
gave Melissa strength to suppress her sobs. Only her wet cheeks showed
what a flood of tears she had shed, as, almost beside herself with
anger, she exclaimed:

“Let my hand go! Shame on the man who insults a defenseless girl! You
swear! Then I, too, may take an oath, and, by the head of my mother,
you shall never see me again excepting as a corpse, if you ever attempt
violence! You are Caesar--you are the stronger. Who ever doubted it? But
you will never compel me to a vile action, not if you could inflict a
thousand deaths on me instead of one!”

Caracalla, without a word, had released her hand and was staring at her
in amazement.

A woman, and so gentle a woman, defying him as no man would have dared
to do!

She stood before him, her hand raised, her bosom heaving; a flame of
anger sparkled in her eyes through their tears, and he had never before
thought her so fair. What majesty there was in this girl, whose simple
grace had made him more than once address her as “child”! She was like a
queen, an empress; perhaps she might become one. The idea struck him for
the first time. And that little hand which now fell--what soothing power
it had, how much he owed to it! How fervently he had wished but just now
to be understood by her, and to be thought better of by her than by
the rest! And this wish still possessed him. Nay, he was more strongly
attracted than ever to this creature, worthy as she was of the highest
in the land, and made doubly bewitching by her proud willfulness. That
he should see her for the last time seemed to him as impossible as that
he should never again see daylight; and yet her whole aspect announced
that her threat was serious.

His aggrieved pride and offended sense of absolute power struggled with
his love, repentance, and fear of losing her healing presence; but the
struggle was brief, especially as a mass of business to be attended to
lay before him like a steep hill to climb, and haste was imperative.

He went up to her, shaking his head, and said in the superior tone of a
sage rebuking thoughtlessness:

“Like all the rest of them--I repeat it. My demands had no object in
view but to make you happy and derive comfort from you. How hot must the
blood be which boils and foams at the contact of a spark! Only too like
my own; and, since I understand you, I find it easy to forgive you.
Indeed, I must finally express myself grateful; for I was in danger of
neglecting my duties as a sovereign for the sake of pleasing my heart.
Go, then, and rest, while I devote myself to business.”

At this, Melissa forced herself to smile, and said, still somewhat
tearfully: “How grateful I am! And you will not again require me to
remain, will you, when I assure you that it is not fitting?”

“Unluckily, I am not in the habit of yielding to a girl’s whims.”

“I have no whims,” she eagerly declared. “But you will keep your word
now, and allow me to withdraw? I implore you to let me go!”

With a deep sigh and an amount of self-control of which he would
yesterday have thought himself incapable, he let go her hand, and she
with a shudder thought that she had found the answer to the question he
had asked her. His eyes, not his words, had betrayed it; for a woman can
see in a suitor’s look what color his wishes take, while a woman’s eyes
only tell her lover whether or no she reciprocates his feelings.

“I am going,” she said, but he remarked the deadly paleness which
overspread her features, and her colorless cheeks encouraged him in the
belief that, after a sleepless night and the agitations of the last few
hours, it was only physical exhaustion which made Melissa so suddenly
anxious to escape from him. So, saying kindly:

“‘Till to-morrow, then,” he dismissed her.

But when she had almost left the room, he added: “One thing more!
To-morrow we will try our zitherns together. After my bath is the time
I like best for such pleasant things; Adventus will fetch you. I am
curious to hear you play and sing. Of all sounds, that of the human
voice is the sweetest. Even the shouting of my legions is pleasing to
the ear and heart. Do you not think so, and does not the acclamation of
so many thousands stir your soul?”

“Certainly,” she replied hastily; and she longed to reproach him for
the injustice he was doing the populace of Alexandria to benefit his
warriors, but she felt that the time was ill chosen, and everything gave
way to her longing to be gone out of the dreadful man’s sight.

In the next room she met Philostratus, and begged him to conduct her to
the lady Euryale; for all the anterooms were now thronged, and she had
lost the calm confidence in which she had come thither.



CHAPTER XXII.

As Melissa made her way with the philosopher through the crowd,
Philostratus said to her: “It is for your sake, child, that these
hundreds have had so long to wait to-day, and many hopes will be
disappointed. To satisfy all is a giant’s task. But Caracalla must do
it, well or ill.”

“Then he will forget me!” replied Melissa, with a sigh of relief.

“Hardly,” answered the philosopher. He was sorry for the terrified
girl, and in his wish to lighten her woes as far as he could, he said,
gravely: “You called him terrible, and he can be more terrible than
any man living. But he has been kind to you so far, and, if you take my
advice, you will always seem to expect nothing from him that is not good
and noble.”

“Then I must be a hypocrite,” replied Melissa. “Only to-day he has
murdered the noble Titianus.”

“That is an affair of state which does not concern you,” replied
Philostratus. “Read my description of Achilles. I represent him among
other heroes such as Caracalla might be. Try, on your part, to see him
in that light. I know that it is sometimes a pleasure to him to justify
the good opinion of others. Encourage your imagination to think the best
of him. I shall tell him that you regard him as magnanimous and noble.”

“No, no!” cried Melissa; “that would make everything worse.”

But the philosopher interrupted her.

“Trust my riper experience. I know him. If you let him know your true
opinion of him, I will answer for nothing. My Achilles reveals the good
qualities with which he came into the world; and if you look closely you
may still find sparks among the ashes.”

He here took his leave, for they had reached the vestibule leading
to the high-priest’s lodgings, and a few minutes later Melissa found
herself with Euryale, to whom she related all that she had seen and
felt. When she told her older friend what Philostratus had advised,
the lady stroked her hair, and said: “Try to follow the advice of so
experienced a man. It can not be very difficult. When a woman’s heart
has once been attached to a man--and pity is one of the strongest of
human ties--the bond may be strained and worn, but a few threads must
always remain.”

But Melissa hastily broke in:

“There is not a spider’s thread left which binds me to that cruel man.
The murder of Titianus has snapped them all.”

“Not so,” replied the lady, confidently. “Pity is the only form of love
which even the worst crime can not eradicate from a kind heart. You
prayed for Caesar before you knew him, and that was out of pure human
charity. Exercise now a wider compassion, and reflect that Fate has
called you to take care of a hapless creature raving in fever and
hard to deal with. How many Christian women, especially such as call
themselves deaconesses, voluntarily assume such duties! and good
is good, right is right for all, whether they pray to one God or to
several. If you keep your heart pure, and constantly think of the
time which shall be fulfilled for each of us, to our ruin or to our
salvation, you will pass unharmed through this great peril. I know it, I
feel it.”

“But you do not know him,” exclaimed Melissa, “and how terrible he can
be! And Diodoros! When he is well again, if he hears that I am with
Caesar, in obedience to his call whenever he sends for me, and if evil
tongues tell him dreadful things about me, he, too, will condemn me!”

“No, no,” the matron declared, kissing her brow and eyes. “If he loves
you truly, he will trust you.”

“He loves me,” sobbed Melissa; “but, even if he does not desert me when
I am thus branded, his father will come between us.”

“God forbid!” cried Euryale. “Remain what you are, and I will always be
the same to you, come what may; and those who love you will not refuse
to listen to an old woman who has grown gray in honor.”

And Melissa believed her motherly, kind, worthy friend; and, with the
new confidence which revived in her, her longing for her lover began to
stir irresistibly. She wanted a fond glance from the eyes of the youth
who loved her, and to whom, for another man’s sake, she could not give
all his due, nay, who had perhaps a right to complain of her. This she
frankly confessed, and the matron herself conducted the impatient girl
to see Diodoros.

Melissa again found Andreas in attendance on the sufferer, and she was
surprised at the warmth with which the high-priest’s wife greeted the
Christian.

Diodoros was already able to be dressed and to sit up. He was pale
and weak, and his head was still bound up, but he welcomed the girl
affectionately, though with a mild reproach as to the rarity of her
visits.

Andreas had already informed him that Melissa was kept away by her
mediation for the prisoners, and so he was comforted by her assurance
that if her duty would allow of it she would never leave him again.
And the joy of having her there, the delight of gazing into her sweet,
lovely face, and the youthful gift of forgetting the past in favor of
the present, silenced every bitter reflection. He was soon blissfully
listening to her with a fresh color in his cheeks, and never had he seen
her so tender, so devoted, so anxious to show him the fullness of her
great love. The quiet, reserved girl was to-day the wooer, and with the
zeal called forth by her ardent wish to do him good, she expressed all
the tenderness of her warm heart so frankly and gladly that to him it
seemed as though Eros had never till now pierced her with the right
shaft.

As soon as Euryale was absorbed in conversation with Andreas, she
offered him her lips with gay audacity, as though in defiance of some
stern dragon of virtue, and he, drunk with rapture, enjoyed what she
granted him. And soon it was he who became daring, declaring that there
would be time enough to talk another day; that for the present her rosy
mouth had nothing to do but to cure him with kisses. And during this
sweet give and take, she implored him with pathetic fervor never, never
to doubt her love, whatever he might hear of her. Their older friends,
who had turned their backs on the couple and were talking busily by a
window, paid no heed to them, and the blissful conviction of being loved
as ardently as she loved flooded her whole being.

Only now and then did the thought of Caesar trouble for a moment the
rapture of that hour, like a hideous form appearing out of distant
clouds. She felt prompted indeed to tell her lover everything, but it
seemed so difficult to make him understand exactly how everything had
happened, and Diodoros must not be distressed. And, indeed, intoxicated
as he was with heated passion, he made the attempt impossible.

When he spoke it was only to assure her of his love; and when the lady
Euryale at last called her to go, and looked in the girl’s glowing face,
Melissa felt as though she were snatched from a rapturous dream.

In the anteroom they were stopped by Andreas. Euryale had indeed
relieved his worst fears, still he was anxious to lay before the girl
the question whether she would not be wise to take advantage of this
very night to make her escape. She, however, her eyes still beaming
with happiness, laid her little hand coaxingly on his bearded mouth, and
begged him not to sadden her high spirits and hopes of a better time by
warnings and dismal forecasts. Even the lady Euryale had advised her to
trust fearlessly to herself, and sitting with her lover she had acquired
the certainty that it was best so. The freedman could not bear to
disturb this happy confidence, and only impressed on Melissa that
she should send for him if ever she needed him. He would find her
a hiding-place, and the lady Euryale had undertaken to provide a
messenger. He then bade them godspeed, and they returned to the
high-priest’s dwelling.

In the vestibule they found a servant from the lady Berenike; in his
mistress’s name he desired Euryale to send Melissa to spend the night
with her.

This invitation, which would remove Melissa from the Serapeum, was
welcome to them both, and the matron herself accompanied the young girl
down a private staircase leading to a small side-door. Argutis, who
had come to inquire for his young mistress, was to be her escort and to
bring her back early next morning to the same entrance.

The old slave had much to tell her. He had been on his feet all day. He
had been to the harbor to inquire as to the return of the vessel with
the prisoners on board; to the Serapeum to inquire for her; to Dido,
to give her the news. He had met Alexander in the forenoon on the quay
where the imperial galleys were moored. When the young man learned that
the trireme could not come in before next morning at the soonest, he had
set out to cross the lake and see Zeus and his daughter. He had charged
Argutis to let Melissa know that his longing for the fair Agatha gave
him no peace.

He and old Dido disapproved of their young master’s feather-brain, which
had not been made more steady and patient even by the serious events
of this day and his sister’s peril; however, he did not allow a word
of blame to escape him. He was happy only to be allowed to walk behind
Melissa, and to hear from her own lips that all was well with her, and
that Caesar was gracious.

Alexander, indeed, had also told the old man that he and Caesar were
“good friends”; and now the slave was thinking of Pandion, Theocritus,
and the other favorites of whom he had heard; and he assured Melissa
that, as soon as her father should be free, Caracalla would be certain
to raise him to the rank of knight, to give him lands and wealth,
perhaps one of the imperial residences on the Bruchium. Then he,
Argutis, would be house steward, and show that he knew other things
besides keeping the workroom and garden in order, splitting wood, and
buying cheaply at market.

Melissa laughed and said he should be no worse off if only the first
wish of her heart were fulfilled, and she were wife to Diodoros; and
Argutis declared he would be amply content if only she allowed him to
remain with her.

But she only half listened and answered absently, for she breathed
faster as she pictured to herself how she would show Caesar, on whom she
had already proved her power, that she had ceased to tremble before him.

Thus they came to the house of Seleukus.

A large force had taken up their quarters there. In the pillared
hall beyond the vestibule bearded soldiers were sitting on benches or
squatting in groups on the ground, drinking noisily and singing, or
laughing and squabbling as they threw the dice on the costly mosaic
pavement. A riotous party were toping and reveling in the beautiful
garden of the impluvium round a fire which they had lighted on the
velvet turf. A dozen or so of officers had stretched themselves on
cushions under one of the colonnades, and, without attempting to check
the wild behavior of their men, were watching the dancing of some
Egyptian girls who had been brought into the house of their involuntary
host. Although Melissa was closely veiled and accompanied by a servant,
she did not escape rude words and insolent glances. Indeed, an audacious
young praetorian had put out his hand to pull away her veil, but an
older officer stopped him.

The lady Berenike’s rooms had so far not been intruded on; for Macrinus,
the praetorian prefect, who knew Berenike through her brother-in-law the
senator Coeranus, had given orders that the women’s apartments were to
be exempt from the encroachments of the quartermaster of the body-guard.
Breathing rapidly and with a heightened color, Melissa at last entered
the room of Seleukus’s wife.

The matron’s voice was full of bitterness as she greeted her young
visitor with the exclamation “You look as if you had fled to escape
persecution! And in my house, too! Or”--and her large eyes flashed
brightly--“or is the blood-hound on the track of his prey? My boat is
quite ready--” When Melissa denied this, and related what had happened,
Berenike exclaimed: “But you know that the panther lies still and
gathers himself up before he springs; or, if you do not, you may see it
to-morrow at the Circus. There is to be a performance in Caesar’s honor,
the like of which not even Nero ever saw. My husband bears the chief
part cf the cost, and can think of nothing else. He has even forgotten
his only child, and all to please the man who insults us, robs and
humiliates us! Now that men kiss the hands which maltreat them, it is
the part of women to defy them. You must fly, child! The harbor is now
closed, but it will be open again to-morrow morning, and, if your folks
are set free in the course of the day, then away with you at once! Or
do you really hope for any good from the tyrant who has made this house
what you now see it?”

“I know him,” replied Melissa, “and I look for nothing but the worst.”

At this the elder woman warmly grasped the girl’s hand, but she was
interrupted by the waiting woman Johanna, who said that a Roman officer
of rank, a tribune, craved to be admitted.

When Berenike refused to receive him, the maid assured her that he was a
young man, and had expressed his wish to bring an urgent request to the
lady’s notice in a becoming and modest manner.

On this the matron allowed him to be shown in to her, and Melissa
hastily obeyed her instructions to withdraw into the adjoining room.

Only a half-drawn curtain divided it from the room where Berenike
received the soldier, and without listening she could hear the loud
voice which riveted her attention as soon as she had recognized it.

The young tribune, in a tone of courteous entreaty, begged his hostess
to provide a room for his brother, who was severely wounded. The
sufferer was in a high fever, and the physician said that the noise and
rattle of vehicles in the street, on which the room where he now
lay looked out, and the perpetual coming and going of the men, might
endanger his life. He had just been told that on the side of the women’s
apartments there was a row of rooms looking out on the impluvium, and he
ventured to entreat her to spare one of them for the injured man. If she
had a brother or a child, she would forgive the boldness of his request.

So far she listened in silence; then she suddenly raised her head and
measured the petitioner’s tall figure with a lurid fire in her eye.
Then she replied, while she looked into his handsome young face with a
half-scornful, half-indignant air: “Oh, yes! I know what it is to see
one we love suffer. I had an only child; she was the joy of my heart.
Death--death snatched her from me, and a few days later the sovereign
whom you serve commanded us to prepare a feast for him. It seemed to him
something new and delightful to hold a revel in a house of mourning. At
the last moment--all the guests were assembled--he sent us word that he
himself did not intend to appear. But his friends laughed and reveled
wildly enough! They enjoyed themselves, and no doubt praised our cook
and our wine. And now--another honor we can duly appreciate!--he
sends his praetorians to turn this house of mourning into a tavern, a
wine-shop, where they call creatures in from the street to dance and
sing. The rank to which you have risen while yet so young shows that you
are of good family, so you can imagine how highly we esteem the honor of
seeing your men trampling, destroying, and burning in their camp-fires
everything which years of labor and care had produced to make our
little garden a thing of beauty. ‘Only look down on them!’ Macrinus, who
commands you, promised me, moreover, that the women’s apartments should
be respected. ‘No praetorian, whether common soldier or commander,’ and
here she raised her voice, ‘shall set foot within them!’ Here is his
writing. The prefect set the seal beneath it in Caesar’s name.”

“I know of the order, noble lady,” interrupted Nemesianus, “and should
be the last to wish to act against it. I do not demand, I only appeal
humbly to the heart of a woman and a mother.’

“A mother!” broke in Berenike, scornfully; “yes! and one whose soul your
lord has pierced with daggers--a woman whose home has been dishonored
and made hateful to her. I have enjoyed sufficient honor now, and shall
stand firmly on my rights.”

“Hear but one thing more,” began the youth, timidly; but the lady
Berenike had already turned her back upon him, and returned with a proud
and stately carriage to Melissa in the adjoining apartment.

Breathing hard, as if stunned by her words, the tribune remained
standing on the threshold where the terrible lady had vanished from
his sight, and then, striving to regain his composure, pushed back the
curling locks from his brow. But scarcely had Berenike entered the other
room than Melissa whispered to her: “The wounded man is the unfortunate
Aurelius, whose face Caracalla wounded for my sake.”

At this the lady’s eyes suddenly flashed and blazed so strangely that
the girl’s blood ran cold. But she had no time to ask the reason of this
emotion, for the next moment the queenly woman grasped the weaker one by
the wrist with her strong right hand, and with a commanding “Come with
me,” drew her back into the room they had just quitted. She called to
the tribune, whose hand was already on the door, to come back.

The young man stood still, surprised and startled to see Melissa; but
the lady Berenike said, calmly, “Now that I have learned the honor that
has been accorded to you, too, by the master whom you so faithfully
serve, the poor injured man whom you call your brother shall be made
welcome within these walls. He is my companion in suffering. A quiet,
airy chamber shall be set apart for him, and he shall not lack careful
attention, nor anything which even his own mother could offer him. Only
two things I desire of you in return: that you admit no one of your
companions-in-arms, nor any man whatever, into this dwelling, save only
the physician whom I shall send to you. Furthermore, that you do
not betray, even to your nearest friend, whom you found here besides
myself.”

Under the mortification that had wounded his brotherly heart, Aurelius
Nemesianus had lost countenance; but now he replied with a soldier’s
ready presence of mind: “It is difficult for me to find a proper answer
to you, noble lady. I know right well that I owe you my warmest thanks,
and equally so that he whom you call our master has inflicted as deep a
wrong on us as on you; but Caesar is still my military chief.”

“Still!” broke in Berenike. “But you are too youthful a tribune for me
to believe that you took up the sword as a means of livelihood.”

“We are sons of the Aurelia,” answered Nemesianus, haughtily, “and it is
very possible that this day’s work may be the cause of our deserting the
eagles we have followed in order to win glory and taste the delights of
warfare. But all that is for the future to decide. Meanwhile, I thank
you, noble lady, and also in the name of my brother, who is my second
self. On behalf of Apollinaris, too, I beg you to pardon the rudeness
which we offered to this maiden--”

“I am not angry with you any more,” cried Melissa, eagerly and frankly,
and the tribune thanked her in his own and his brother’s name.

He began trying to explain the unfortunate occurrence, but Berenike
admonished him to lose no time. The soldier withdrew, and the lady
Berenike ordered her handmaiden to call the housekeeper and other
serving-women. Then she repaired quickly to the room she had destined
for the wounded man and his brother. But neither Melissa nor the other
women could succeed in really lending her any help, for she herself put
forth all her cleverness and power of head and hand, forgetting nothing
that might be useful or agreeable in the nursing of the sick. In that
wealthy, well-ordered house everything stood ready to hand; and in less
than a quarter of an hour the tribune Nemesianus was informed that the
chamber was ready for the reception of his brother.

The lady then returned with Melissa to her own sleeping apartment,
and took various little bottles and jars from a small medicine-chest,
begging the girl at the same time to excuse her, as she intended to
undertake the nursing of the wounded man herself. Here were books, and
there Korinna’s lute. Johanna would attend to the evening meal. Tomorrow
morning they could consult further as to what was necessary to be done;
then she kissed her guest and left the room.

Left to herself, Melissa gave herself up to varying thoughts, till
Johanna brought her repast. While she hardly nibbled at it, the
Christian told her that matters looked ill with the tribune, and that
the wound in the forehead especially caused the physician much anxiety.
Many questions were needed to draw this much from the freedwoman, for
she spoke but little. When she did speak, however, it was with great
kindliness, and there lay something so simple and gentle in her whole
manner that it awakened confidence. Having satisfied her appetite,
Melissa returned to the lady Berenike’s apartment; but there her heart
grew heavy at the thought of what awaited her on the morrow. When, at
the moment of leaving, Johanna inquired whether she desired anything
further, she asked her if she knew a saying of her fellow-believers,
which ran, “The fullness of time was come.”

“Yes, surely,” returned the other; “our Lord himself spoke them, and
Paul wrote them to the Galatians.”

“Who is this Paul?” Melissa asked; and the Christian replied that of all
the teachers of her faith he was the one she most dearly loved. Then,
hesitating a little, she asked if Melissa, being a heathen, had inquired
the meaning of this saying.

“Andrew, the freedman of Polybius and the lady Euryale, explained it to
me. Did the moment ever come to you in which you felt assured that for
you the time was fulfilled?”

“Yes,” replied Johanna, with decision; “and that moment comes, sooner or
later, in every life.”

“You are a maiden like myself,” began Melissa, simply. “A heavy task
lies before me, and if you would confide to me--”

But the Christian broke in: “My life has moved in other paths than
yours, and what has happened to me, the freedwoman and the Christian,
can have no interest for you. But the saying which has stirred your
soul refers to the coming of One who is all in all to us Christians. Did
Andrew tell you nothing of His life?”

“Only a little,” answered the girl, “but I would gladly hear more of
Him.”

Then the Christian seated herself at Melissa’s side, and, clasping the
maiden’s hand in hers, told her of the birth of the Saviour, of His
loving heart, and His willing death as a sacrifice for the sins of the
whole world. The girl listened with attentive ear. With no word did she
interrupt the narrative, and the image of the Crucified One rose before
her mind’s eye, pure and noble, and worthy of all love. A thousand
questions rose to her lips, but, before she could ask one, the Christian
was called away to attend the lady Berenike, and Melissa was again
alone.

What she had already heard of the teaching of the Christians occurred
to her once more, and above all that first saying from the sacred
Scriptures which had attracted her attention, and about which she
had just asked Johanna. Perhaps for her, too, the time was already
fulfilled, when she had taken courage to defy the emperor’s commands.

She rejoiced at this action, for she felt that the strength would never
fail her now to set her will against his. She felt as though she bore a
charm against his power since she had parted from her lover, and since
the murder of the governor had opened her eyes to the true character
of him on whom she had all too willingly expended her pity. And yet she
shuddered at the thought of meeting the emperor again, and of having
to show him that she felt safe with him because she trusted to his
generosity.

Lost in deep thought, she waited for the return of the lady and the
Christian waiting-woman, but in vain. At last her eye fell upon the
scrolls which the lady Berenike had pointed out to her. They lay in
beautiful alabaster caskets on an ebony stand. If they had only been
the writings of the Christians, telling of the life and death of their
Saviour! But how should writings such as those come here? The casket
only held the works of Philostratus, and she took from it the roll
containing the story of the hero of whom he had himself spoken to her.
Full of curiosity, she smoothed out the papyrus with the ivory stick,
and her attention was soon engaged by the lively conversation between
the vintner and his Phoenician guest. She passed rapidly over the
beginning, but soon reached the part of which Philostratus had told her.
Under the form of Achilles he had striven to represent Caracalla as
he appeared to the author’s indulgent imagination. But it was no true
portrait; it described the original at most as his mother would have
wished him to be. There it was written that the vehemence flashing from
the hero’s bright eyes, even when peacefully inclined, showed how easily
his wrath could break forth. But to those who loved him he was even more
endearing during these outbursts than before. The Athenians felt toward
him as they did toward a lion; for, if the king of beasts pleased them
when he was at rest, he charmed them infinitely more when, foaming
with bloodthirsty rage, he fell upon a bull, a wild boar, or some such
ferocious animal.

Yes, indeed! Caracalla, too, fell mercilessly upon his prey! Had she not
seen him hewing down Apollinaris a few hours ago?

Furthermore, Achilles was said to have declared that he could drive away
care by fearlessly encountering the greatest dangers for the sake of his
friends. But where were Caracalla’s friends?

At best, the allusion could only refer to the Roman state, for whose
sake the emperor certainly did endure many a hardship and many a
wearisome task, and he was not the only person who had told her so.

Then she turned back a little and found the words: “But because he was
easily inclined to anger, Chiron instructed him in music; for is it not
inherent in this art to soothe violence and wrath--And Achilles acquired
without trouble the laws of harmony and sang to the lyre.”

This all corresponded with the truth, and tomorrow she was to discover
what had suggested to Philostratus the story that when Achilles begged
Calliope to endow him with the gifts of music and poetry she had given
him so much of both as he required to enliven the feast and banish
sadness. He was also said to be a poet, and devoted himself most
ardently to verse when resting from the toils of war.

To hear that man unjustly blamed on whom her heart is set, only
increases a woman’s love; but unmerited praise makes her criticise him
more sharply, and is apt to transform a fond smile into a scornful one.
Thus the picture that raised Caracalla to the level of an Achilles made
Melissa shrug her shoulders over the man she dreaded; and while she even
doubted Caesar’s musical capacities, Diodoros’s young, fresh, bell-like
voice rose doubly beautiful and true upon her memory’s ear. The image of
her lover finally drove out that of the emperor, and, while she seemed
to hear the wedding song which the youths and maidens were so soon to
sing for them both, she fell asleep.

It was late when Johanna came to admonish her to retire to rest. Shortly
before sunrise she was awakened by Berenike, who wished to take some
rest, and who told her, before seeking her couch, that Apollinaris was
doing well. The lady was still sleeping when Johanna came to inform
Melissa that the slave Argutis was waiting to see her.

The Christian undertook to convey the maiden’s farewell greetings to her
mistress.

As they entered the living-room, the gardener had just brought in fresh
flowers, among them three rose-bushes covered with full-blown flowers
and half-opened, dewy buds. Melissa asked Johanna timidly if the lady
Berenike would permit her to pluck one--there were so many; to which the
Christian replied that it would depend on the use it was to be put to.

“Only for the sick tribune,” answered Melissa, reddening. So Johanna
plucked two of the fairest blooms and gave them to the maiden--one for
the man who had injured her and one for her betrothed. Melissa kissed
her, gratefully, and begged her to present the flowers to the sick man
in her name.

Johanna carried out her wish at once; but the wounded man, gazing
mournfully at the rose, murmured to himself: “Poor, lovely, gentle
child! She will be ruined or dead before Caracalla leaves Alexandria!”



CHAPTER XXIII.

The slave Argutis was waiting for Melissa in the antechamber. It was
evident that he brought good news, for he beamed with joy as she came
toward him; and before she left the house she knew that her father and
Philip had returned and had regained their freedom.

The slave had not allowed these joyful tidings to reach his beloved
mistress’s ear, that he might have the undivided pleasure of bringing
them himself, and the delight she expressed was fully as great as he had
anticipated. Melissa even hurried back to Johanna to impart to her the
joyful intelligence that she might tell it to her mistress.

When they were in the street the slave told her that, at break of
day, the ship had cast anchor which brought back father and son. The
prisoners had received their freedom while they were still at sea, and
had been permitted to return home at once. All was well, only--he added,
hesitatingly and with tears in his eyes--things were not as they used to
be, and now the old were stronger than the young. Her father had taken
no harm from the heavy work at the oars, but Philip had returned
from the galleys very ill, and they had carried him forthwith to the
bedchamber, where Dido was now nursing him. It was a good thing that she
had not been there to hear how the master had stormed and cursed over
the infamy they had had to endure; but the meeting with his birds had
calmed him down quickly enough.

Melissa and her attendant were walking in the direction of the Serapeum,
but now she declared that she must first see the liberated prisoners.
And she insisted upon it, although Argutis assured her of her father’s
intention of seeking her at the house of the high-priest, as soon as
he had removed all traces of his captivity and his shameful work at the
galleys in the bath. Philip she would, of course, find at home, he
being too weak to leave the house. The old man had some difficulty in
following his young mistress, and she soon stepped lightly over the
“Welcome” on the threshold of her father’s house. Never had the red
mosaic inscription seemed to shine so bright and friendly, and she heard
her name called in delighted tones from the kitchen.

This joyful greeting from Dido was not to be returned from the door
only. In a moment Melissa was standing by the hearth; but the slave,
speechless with happiness, could only point with fork and spoon, first
to the pot in which a large piece of meat was being boiled down into
a strengthening soup for Philip, then to a spit on which two young
chickens were browning before the fire, and then to the pan where she
was frying the little fish of which the returned wanderer was so fond.

But the old woman’s struggle between the duty that kept her near the
fire and the love that drew her away from it was not of long duration.
In a few minutes Melissa, her hands clasping the slave’s withered arm,
was listening to the tender words of welcome that Dido had ready for
her. The slave woman declared that she scarcely dared to let her eyes
rest upon her mistress, much less touch her with the fingers that had
just been cleaning fish; for the girl was dressed as grandly as the
daughter of the high-priest. Melissa laughed at this; but the slave went
on to say that they had not been able to detain her master. His longing
to see his daughter and the desire to speak with Caesar had driven him
out of the house, and Alexander had, of course, accompanied him. Only
Philip, poor, crushed worm, was at home, and the sight of her would put
more strength into him than the strong soup and the old wine which his
father had fetched for him from the store-room, although he generally
reserved it for libations on her mother’s grave.

Melissa soon stood beside her brother’s couch, and the sight of him cast
a dark shadow over the brightness of this happy morn. As he recognized
her, a fleeting smile crossed the pale, spiritualized face, which seemed
to her to have grown ten years older in this short time; but it vanished
as quickly as it had come. Then the great eyes gazed blankly again from
the shadows that surrounded them, and a spasm of pain quivered from
time to time round the thin, tightly closed lips. Melissa could hardly
restrain her tears. Was this what he had been brought to-the youth who
only a few days ago had made them all feel conscious of the superiority
of his brilliant mind!

Her warm heart made her feel more lovingly toward her sick brother than
she had ever done when he was in health, and surely he was conscious of
the tenderness with which she strove to comfort him.

The unaccustomed, hard, and degrading work at the oars, she assured him,
would have worn out a stronger man than he; but he would soon be able to
visit the Museum again and argue as bravely as ever. With this, she bent
over him to kiss his brow, but he raised himself a little, and said,
with a contemptuous smile:

“Apathy--ataraxy--complete indifference--is the highest aim after which
the soul of the skeptic strives. That at least”--and here his eyes
flashed for a moment--“I have attained to in these cursed days. That
a thinking being could become so utterly callous to
everything--everything, be it what it may--even I could never have
believed!” He sank into silence, but his sister urged him to take
courage--surely many a glad day was before him yet.

At this he raised himself more energetically, and exclaimed:

“Glad days?--for me, and with you? That you should still be of such good
cheer would please or else astonish me if I were still capable of those
sentiments. If things were different, I should ask you now, what have
you given the imperial bloodhound in return for our freedom?”

Here Melissa exclaimed indignantly, but he continued unabashed:

“Alexander says you have found favor with our imperial master. He calls,
and you come. Naturally, it is for him to command. See how much can be
made of the child of a gem-cutter! But what says handsome Diodoros to
all this?--Why turn so pale? These, truly, are questions which I would
fling in your face were things as they used to be. Now I say in all
unconcern, do what you will!”

The blood had ebbed from Melissa’s cheeks during this attack of her
brother’s. His injurious and false accusations roused her indignation to
the utmost, but one glance at his weary, suffering face showed her
how great was the pain he endured, and in her compassionate heart
pity strove against righteous anger. The struggle was sharp, but pity
prevailed; and, instead of punishing him by a sharp retort, she forced
herself to explain to him in a few gentle words what had happened, in
order to dispel the unworthy suspicion that must surely hurt him as much
as it did her. She felt convinced that the sufferer would be cheered by
her words; but he made no attempt to show that he appreciated her kindly
moderation, nor to express any satisfaction. On the contrary, when he
spoke it was in the same tone as before.

“If that be the case,” he said, “so much the better; but were it
otherwise, it would have to be endured just the same. I can think of
nothing that could affect me now, and it is well. Only my body troubles
me still. It weighs upon me like lead, and grows heavier with every word
I utter. Therefore, I pray you, leave me to myself!”

But his sister would not obey. “No, Philip,” she cried, eagerly, “this
may not be. Let your strong spirit arise and burst asunder the bonds
that fetter and cripple it.”

At this a groan of pain escaped the philosopher, and, turning again to
the girl, he answered, with a mournful smile:

“Bid the cushion in that arm-chair do so. It will succeed better than
I!” Then crying out impatiently and as loudly as he could, “Now go--you
know not how you torture me!” he turned away from her and buried his
face in the pillows.

But Melissa, as if beside herself, laid her hands upon his shoulder,
and, shaking him gently, exclaimed: “And even if it vexes you, I will
not be driven away thus. The misfortunes that have befallen you in these
days will end by destroying you, if you will not pull yourself together.
We must have patience, and it can only come about slowly, but you must
make an effort. The least thing that pains you hurts us too, and you,
in return, may not remain indifferent to what we feel. See, Philip, our
mother and Andrew taught us often not to think only of ourselves, but of
others. We ask so little of you; but if you--”

At this the philosopher shook himself free of her hand, and cried in a
voice of anguish:

“Away, I say! Leave me alone! One word more, and I die!” With this
he hid his head in the coverlet, and Melissa could see how his limbs
quivered convulsively as if shaken by an ague.

To see a being so dear to her thus utterly broken down cut her to the
heart. Oh, that she could help him! If she did not succeed, or if he
never found strength to rouse himself, he, too, would be one of Caesar’s
victims. Corrupted and ruined lives marked the path of this terrible
being, and, with a shudder, she asked herself when her turn would come.

Her hair had become disordered, and as she smoothed it she looked in the
mirror, and could not but observe that in the simple but costly white
robe of the dead Korinna she looked like a maiden of noble birth rather
than the lowly daughter of an artist. She would have liked to tear it
off and replace it by another, but her one modest festival robe had
been left behind at the house of the lady Berenike. To appear in broad
daylight before the neighbors or to walk in the streets clad in this
fashion seemed to her impossible after her brother’s unjust suspicion,
and she bade Argutis fetch her a litter.

When they parted, Dido could see distinctly that Philip had wounded her.
And she could guess how, so she withheld any questions, that she might
not hurt her. Over the fire, however, she stabbed fiercely into the
fowl destined for the philosopher, but cooked it, nevertheless, with all
possible care.

On the way to the Serapeum, Melissa’s anxiety increased. Till now,
eagerness for the fray, fear, hope, and the joyful consciousness of
right-doing, had alternated in her mind. Now, for the first time, she
was seized with a premonition of misfortune. Fate itself had turned
against her. Even should she succeed in escaping, she could not hope to
regain her lost peace of mind.

Philip’s biting words had shown her what most of them must think of
her; and, though the ship should bear her far away, would it be right to
bring Diodoros away from his old father to follow her? She must see her
lover, and if possible tell him all. The rose, too, which the Christian
had given her for him, and which lay in her lap, she wished so much
to carry to him herself. She could not go alone to the chamber of the
convalescent, and the attendance of a slave counted for nothing in
the eyes of other people. It was even doubtful if a bondsman might be
admitted into the inner apartments of the sanctuary. However, she would,
she must see Diodoros and speak to him; and thus planning ways and means
by which to accomplish this, looking forward joyfully to the meeting
with her father, and wondering how Agatha, the Christian, had received
Alexander, she lost the feeling of deep depression which had weighed on
her when she had left the house.

The litter stopped, and Argutis helped her to descend. He was
breathless, for it had been most difficult to open a way for her through
the dense crowds that were already thronging to the Circus, where the
grand evening performance in honor of the emperor was to begin as
soon as it was dark. Just as she was entering the house, she perceived
Andreas coming toward them along the street of Hermes, and she at once
bade the slave call him. He was soon at her side, and declared himself
willing to accompany her to Diodoros.

This time, however, she did not find her lover alone in the sick-room.
Two physicians were with him, and she grew pale as she recognized in one
of them the emperor’s Roman body-physician.

But it was too late too escape detection; so she only hastened to her
lover’s side, whispered warm words of love in his ear, and, while she
gave him the rose, conjured him ever and always to have faith in her and
in her love, whatever reports he might hear.

Diodoros was up and had fully recovered. His face lighted up with joy
as he saw her; but, when she repeated the old, disquieting request, he
anxiously begged to know what she meant by it. She assured him, however,
that she had already delayed too long, and referred him to Andreas and
the lady Euryale, who would relate to him what had befallen her and
spoiled every happy hour she had. Then, thinking herself unobserved by
those present, she breathed a kiss upon his lips. But he would not let
her go, urging with passionate tenderness his rights as her betrothed,
till she tore herself away from him and hurried from the room.

As she left, she heard a ringing laugh, followed by loud, sprightly
talking. It was not her lover’s voice, and endeavoring, while she waited
for Andreas, to catch what was being said on the other side of the door,
she distinctly heard the body-physician (for no other pronounced the
Greek language in that curious, halting manner) exclaim, gayly: “By
Cerberus, young man, you are to be envied! The beauty my sovereign lord
is limping after flies unbidden into your arms!”

Then came loud laughter as before, but this time interrupted by
Diodoros’s indignant question as to what this all meant. At last
Melissa heard Andreas’s deep voice promising the young man to tell him
everything later on; and when the convalescent impatiently asked for
an immediate explanation, the Christian exhorted him to be calm,
and finally requested the physician to grant him a few moments’
conversation.

Then there was quiet for a time in the room, only broken by Diodoros’s
angry questions and the pacifying exclamations of the freedman. She felt
as if she must return to her lover and tell him herself what she had
been forced to do in these last days, but maidenly shyness restrained
her, till at last Andreas came out. The freedman’s honest face expressed
the deepest solicitude, and his voice sounded rough and hasty as he
exclaimed, “You must fly--fly this day!”

“And my father and brother, and Diodoros?” she asked, anxiously.

But he answered, urgently: “Let them get away as they may. There is
no hole or corner obscure enough to keep you hidden. Therefore take
advantage of the ship that waits for you. Follow Argutis at once to the
lady Berenike. I can not accompany you, for it lies with me to occupy
for the next few hours the attention of the body-physician, from whom
you have the most to fear. He has consented to go with me to my garden
across the water. There I promised him a delicious, real Alexandrian
feast, and you know how gladly Polybius will seize the opportunity to
share it with him. No doubt, too, some golden means may be found to bind
his tongue; for woe to you if Caracalla discovers prematurely that you
are promised to another, and woe then to your betrothed! After sundown,
when every one here has gone to the Circus, I will take Diodoros to a
place of safety. Farewell, child, and may our heavenly Father defend
you!”

He laid his right hand upon her head as if in blessing; but Melissa
cried, wringing her hands: “Oh, let me go to him once more! How can
I leave him and go far away without one word of farewell or of
forgiveness?”

But Andreas interrupted her, saying: “You can not. His life is at stake
as well as your own. I shall make it my business to look after his
safety. The wife of Seleukus will assist you in your flight.”

“And you will persuade him to trust me?” urged Melissa, clinging
convulsively to his arm.

“I will try,” answered the freedman, gloomily. Melissa, dropped his arm,
for loud, manly voices were approaching down the stairs near which they
stood.

It was Heron and Alexander, returning from their audience with the
emperor. Instantly the Christian went to meet them, and dismissed the
temple servant who accompanied them.

In the half-darkness of the corridor, Melissa threw herself weeping into
her father’s arms. But he stroked her hair lovingly, and kissed her
more tenderly on brow and eyes than he had ever clone before, whispering
gayly to her: “Dry your tears, my darling. You have been a brave maiden,
and now comes your reward. Fear and sorrow will now be changed into
happiness and power, and all the glories of the world. I have not even
told Alexander yet what promises to make our fortunes, for I know my
duty.” Then, raising his voice, he said to the freedman, “If I have
been rightly informed, we shall find the son of Polybius in one of the
apartments close at hand.”

“Quite right,” answered the freedman, gravely, and then went on to
explain to the gem-cutter that he could not see Diodoros just now, but
must instantly leave the country with his son and daughter on Berenike’s
ship. Not a moment was to be lost. Melissa would tell him all on the
way.

But Heron laughed scornfully: “That would be a pretty business! We have
plenty of time, and, with the greatness that lies before us, everything
must be done openly and in the right way. My first thought, you see, was
to come here, for I had promised the girl to Diodoros, and he must be
informed before I can consent to her betrothal to another.”

“Father!” cried Melissa, scarcely able to command her voice. But Heron
took no notice of her, and continued, composedly: “Diodoros would have
been dear to me as a son-in-law. I shall certainly tell him so. But when
Caesar, the ruler of the world, condescends to ask a plain man for
his daughter, every other consideration must naturally be put aside.
Diodoros is sensible, and is sure to see it in the right light. We all
know how Caesar treats those who are in his way; but I wish the son
of Polybius no ill, so I forbore to betray to Caesar what tie had once
bound you, my child, to the gallant youth.”

Heron had never liked the freedman. The man’s firm character had always
gone against the gemcutter’s surly, capricious nature; and it was no
little satisfaction to him to let him feel his superiority, and boast
before him of the apparent good luck that had befallen the artist’s
family.

But Andreas had already heard from the physician that Caracalla
had informed his mother’s envoys of his intended marriage with an
Alexandrian, the daughter of an artist of Macedonian extraction. This
could only refer to Melissa, and it was this news which had caused him
to urge the maiden to instant flight.

Pale, incapable of uttering a word, Melissa stood before her father; but
the freedman grasped her hand, looked Heron reproachfully in the face,
and asked, quietly, “And you would really have the heart to join this
dear child’s life to that of a bloody tyrant?”

“Certainly I have,” returned Heron with decision, and he drew his
daughter’s hand out of that of Andreas, who turned his back upon the
artist with a meaning shrug of the shoulders. But Melissa ran after him,
and, clinging to him, cried as she turned first to him and then to her
father:

“I am promised to Diodoros, and shall hold fast to him and my love; tell
him that, Andreas! Come what may, I will be his and his alone! Caesar--”

“Swear not!” broke in Heron, angrily, “for by great Serapis--”

But Alexander interposed between them, and begged his father to consider
what he was asking of the girl. Caesar’s proposals could scarcely
have been very pleasing to him, or why had he concealed till now what
Caracalla was whispering to him in the adjoining room? He might imagine
for himself what fate awaited the helpless child at the side of a
husband at whose name even men trembled. He should remember her mother,
and what she would have said to such a union. There was little, time to
escape from this terrible wooer.

Then Melissa turned to her brother and begged him earnestly: “Then you
take me to the ship Alexander; take charge of me yourself!”

“And I?” asked Heron, his eye cast gloomily on the ground.

“You must come with us!” implored the girl, clasping her hands.--“O
Andreas! say something! Tell him what I have to expect!”

“He knows that without my telling him,” replied the freedman. “I must go
now, for two lives are at stake, Heron. If I can not keep the physician
away from Caesar, your daughter, too, will be in danger. If you desire
to see your daughter forever in fear of death, give her in marriage to
Caracalla. If you have her happiness at heart, then escape with her into
a far country.”

He nodded to the brother and sister, and returned to the sick-room.

“Fly!--escape!” repeated the old man, and he waived his hand angrily.
“This Andreas--the freedman, the Christian--always in extremes. Why run
one’s head against the wall? First consider, then act; that was what she
taught us whose sacred memory you have but now invoked, Alexander.”

With this he walked out of the half-dark corridor into the open
court-yard, in front of his children. Here he looked at his daughter,
who was breathing fast, and evidently prepared to resist to the last.
And as he beheld her in Korinna’s white and costly robes, like a noble
priestess, it occurred to him that even before his captivity she had
ceased to be the humble, unquestioning instrument of his capricious
temper. Into what a haughty beauty the quiet embroideress had been
transformed!

By all the gods! Caracalla had no cause to be ashamed of such an
empress.

And, unaccustomed as he was to keep back anything whatever from his
children, he began to express these sentiments. But he did not get far,
for the hour for the morning meal being just over, the court-yard began
to fill from all sides with officials and servants of the temple.
So, father and son silently followed the maiden through the crowded
galleries and apartments, into the house of the highpriest.

Here they were received by Philostratus, who hardly gave Melissa time to
greet the lady Euryale before he informed her, but with unwonted hurry
and excitement, that the emperor was awaiting her with impatience.

The philosopher motioned to her to follow him, but she clung, as
if seeking help, to her brother, and cried: “I will not go again to
Caracalla! You are the kindest and best of them all, Philostratus, and
you will understand me. Evil will come of it if I follow you--I can not
go again to Caesar.”

But it was impossible for the courtier to yield to her, in the face
of his monarch’s direct commands; therefore, hard as it was to him, he
said, resolutely: “I well understand what holds you back; still, if you
would not ruin yourself and your family, you must submit. Besides
which, you know not what Caesar is about to offer you-fortunate, unhappy
child!”

“I know--oh, I know it!” sobbed Melissa; “but it is just that... I have
served the emperor willingly, but before I consent become the wife of
such a monster--”

“She is right,” broke in Euryale, and drew Melissa toward her. But the
philosopher took the girl’s hand and said, kindly:--“You must come
with me now, my child, and pretend that you know nothing of Caesar’s
intentions toward you. It is the only way to save you. But while you are
with the emperor, who, in any case, can devote but a short time to you
to-day, I will return here and consult with your people. There is much
to be decided, of the greatest moment, and not to you alone.” Melissa
turned with tearful eyes to Euryale, and questioned her with a look;
whereupon the lady drew the girl’s hand out of that of the philosopher,
and saying to him, “She shall be with you directly,” took her away to
her own apartment.

Here she begged Melissa to dry her eyes, and arranging the girl’s hair
and robe with her own hands, she promised to do all in her power to
facilitate her flight. She must do her part now by going into Caesar’s
presence as frankly as she had done yesterday and the day before. She
might be quite easy; her interests were being faithfully watched over.

Taking a short leave of her father, who was looking very sulky because
nobody seemed to care for his opinion, and of Alexander, who lovingly
promised her his help, she took the philosopher’s hand and walked
with him through one crowded apartment after another. They often had
difficulty in pressing through the throng of people who were waiting for
an audience, and in the antechamber, where the Aurelians had had to pay
so bitterly for their insolence yesterday, they were detained by the
blonde and red-Haired giants of the Uermanian body-guard, whose leader,
Sabinus, a Thracian of exceptional height and strength, was acquainted
with the philosopher.

Caracalla had given orders that no one was to be admitted till the
negotiations with the Parthian ambassadors, which had begun an hour ago,
were brought to a conclusion. Philostratus well knew that the emperor
would interrupt the most important business if Melissa were announced,
but there was much that he would have the maiden lay to heart before
he led her to the monarch; while she wished for nothing so earnestly as
that the door which separated her from her terrible wooer might remain
closed to the end of time. When the chamberlain Adventus looked out from
the imperial apartments, she begged him to give her a little time before
announcing her.

The old man blinked consent with his dim eyes, but the philosopher took
care that Melissa should not be left to herself and the terrors of
her heart. He employed all the eloquence at his command to make her
comprehend what it meant to be an empress and the consort of the ruler
of the world. In flaming colors he painted to her the good she might do
in such a position, and the tears she might wipe away. Then he reminded
her of the healing and soothing influence she had over Caracalla, and
that this influence came doubtless from the gods, since it passed the
bounds of nature and acted so beneficently. No one might reject such a
gift from the immortals merely to gratify an ordinary passion. The youth
whose love she must give up would be able to comfort himself with the
thought that many others had had much worse to bear, and he would find
no difficulty in getting a substitute, though not so beautiful a one.
On the other hand, she was the only one among millions whose heart,
obedient to a heaven-sent impulse, had turned in pity toward Caracalla.
If she fled, she would deprive the emperor of the only being on whose
love he felt he had some claim. If she listened to the wooing of her
noble lover, she would be able to tame this ungovernable being and
soothe his fury, and would gain in return for a sacrifice such as many
had made before her, the blissful consciousness of having rendered an
inestimable service to the whole world. For by her means and her love,
the imperial tyrant would be transformed into a beneficent ruler. The
blessing of the thousands whom she could protect and save would make the
hardest task sweet and endurable.

Here Philostratus paused, and gazed inquiringly at her; but she only
shook her head gently, and answered:

“My brain is so confused that I can scarcely hear even, but I feel
that your words are well meant and wise. What you put before me would
certainly be worth considering if there were anything left for me to
consider about. I have promised myself to another, who is more to me
than all the world--more than the gratitude and blessings of endangered
lives of which I know nothing. I am but a poor girl who only asks to be
happy. Neither gods nor men expect more of me than that I should do my
duty toward those whom I love. And, then, who can say for certain that
I should succeed in persuading Caesar to carry out my desires, whatever
they might be?”

“We were witnesses of the power you exercised over him,” replied the
philosopher; but Melissa shook her head, and continued eagerly: “No, no!
he only values in me the hand that eases his pain and want of sleep. The
love which he may feel for me makes him neither gentler nor better. Only
an hour or two before he declared that his heart was inclined to me, he
had Titianus murdered!”

“One word from you,” the philosopher assured her, “and it would never
have happened. As empress, they will obey you as much as him. Truly,
child, it is no small thing to sit, like the gods, far above the rest of
mankind.”

“No, no!” cried Melissa, shuddering. “Those heights! Only to think of
them makes everything spin round me. Only one who is free from such
giddiness dare to occupy such a place. Every one must desire to do what
he can do best. I could be a good housewife to Diodoros, but I should
be a bad empress. I was not born to greatness. And, besides--what is
happiness? I only felt happy when I did what was my duty, in peace and
quiet. Were I empress, fear would never leave me for a moment. Oh. I
know enough of the hideous terror which this awful being creates around
him; and before I would consent to let it torture me to death by day and
by night-morning, noon, and evening--far rather would I die this very
day. Therefore, I have no choice. I must flee from Caesar’s sight--away
hence--far, far, away!”

Tears nearly choked her voice, but she struggled bravely against them.
Philostratus, however, did not fail to observe it, and gazed, first
mournfully into her face and then thoughtfully on the ground. At length
he spoke with a slight sigh:

“We gather experience in life, and yet, however old we may be, we act
contrary to it. Now I have to pay for it. And yet it still lies in your
hands to make me bless the day on which I spoke on your behalf. Could
you but succeed in rising to real greatness of soul, girl--through you,
I swear it, the subjects of this mighty kingdom would be saved from
great tribulations!”

“But, my lord,” Melissa broke in, “who would ask such lofty things of
a lowly maiden? My mother taught me to be kind and helpful to others in
the house, to my friends, and fellow-citizens; my own heart tells me to
be faithful to my betrothed. But I care not greatly for the Romans, and
what to me are Gauls, Dacians, or whatever else these barbarians may be
called?”

“And yet,” said Philostratus, “you offered a sacrifice for the foreign
tyrant.”

“Because his pain excited my compassion,” rejoined Melissa, blushing.

“And would you have done the same for any masterless black slave,
covered with pitiably deep wounds?” asked the philosopher.

“No,” she answered, quickly; “him I would have helped with my own
hand. When I can do without their aid, I do not appeal to the gods.
And then--I said before, his trouble seemed doubly great because it
contrasted so sharply with all the splendor and joy that surrounded
him.”

“Aye,” said the philosopher, earnestly, “and a small thing that affects
the ruler recoils tenfold--a thousand-fold-on his subjects. Look at one
tree through a cut glass with many facets, and it be comes a forest.
Thus the merest trifle, when it affects the emperor, becomes important
for the millions over whom he rules. Caracalla’s vexation entails evil
on thousands--his anger is death and ruin. I fear me, girl, your flight
will bring down heavy misfortune on those who surround Caesar, and first
of all upon the Alexandrians, to whom you belong, and against whom he
already bears a grudge. You once said your native city was dear to you.”

“So it is,” returned Melissa, who, at his last words had grown first
red and then pale; “but Caesar can not surely be so narrow-minded as to
punish a whole great city for what the poor daughter of a gem-cutter has
done.”

“You are thinking of my Achilles,” answered the philosopher. “But I only
transferred what I saw of good in Caracalla to the figure of my hero.
Besides, you know that Caesar is not himself when he is in wrath. Has
not experience taught me that no reasons are strong enough to convince a
loving woman’s heart? Once more I entreat you, stay here! Reject not the
splendid gift which the gods offer you, that trouble may not come upon
your city as it did on hapless Troy, all for a woman’s sake.

“What says the proverb? ‘Zeus hearkens not to lovers’ vows’; but I say
that to renounce love in order to make others happy, is greater and
harder than to hold fast to it when it is menaced.”

These words reminded her of many a lesson of Andreas, and went to her
heart. In her mind’s eye she saw Caracalla, after hearing of her flight,
set his lions on Philostratus, and then, foaming with rage, give orders
to drag her father and brothers, Polybius and his son, to the place of
execution, like Titianus. And Philostratus perceived what was going on
in her mind, and with the exhortation, “Remember how many persons’ weal
or woe lies in your hands!” he rose and began a conversation with the
Thracian commander of the Germanic guard.

Melissa remained alone upon the divan. The picture changed before her,
and she saw herself in costly purple raiment, glittering with jewels,
and seated by the emperor’s side in a golden chariot. A thousand voices
shouted to her, and beside her stood a horn of plenty, running over with
golden solidi and crimson roses, and it never grew empty, however much
she took from it. Her heart was moved; and when, in the crowd which her
lively imagination had conjured up before her, she caught sight of
the wife of the blacksmith Herophilus, who had been thrown into prison
through an accusation from Zminis, she turned to Caracalla whom she
still imagined seated beside her, and cried, “Pardon!” and Caracalla
nodded a gracious consent, and the next moment Herophilus’s wife lay on
her liberated husband’s breast, while the broken fetters still clanked
upon his wrists. Their children were there, too, and stretched up their
arms to their parents, offering their happy lips first to them and then
to Melissa.

How beautiful it all was, and how it cheered her compassionate heart!

And this, said the newly awakened, meditative spirit within her, need
be no dream; no, it lay in her power to impart this happiness to herself
and many others, day by day, until the end.

Then she felt that she must arise and cry to her friend, “I will follow
your counsel and remain!” But her imagination had already begun to work
again, and showed her the widow of Titianus, as she entreated Caesar to
spare her noble, innocent husband, while he mercilessly repulsed her.
And it flashed through her mind that her petitions might share the same
fate, when at that moment the emperor’s threatening voice sounded from
the adjoining room.

How hateful its strident tones were to her ear! She dropped her eyes and
caught sight of a dark stain on the snow-white plumage of the doves in
the mosaic pavement at her feet.

That was a last trace of the blood of the young tribune, which the
attendants had been unable to remove. And this indelible mark of the
crime which she had witnessed brought the image of the wounded Aurelius
before her: just as he now lay, shaken with fever, so had she seen her
lover a few days before. His pale face rose before her inward sight;
would it not be to him a worse blow than that from the stone, when he
should learn that she had broken her faith to him in order to gain power
and greatness, and to protect others, who were strangers to her, from
the fury of the tyrant?

His heart had been hers from childhood’s hour, and it would bleed and
break if she were false to the vows in which he placed his faith. And
even if he succeeded at last in recovering from the wound she must deal
him, his peace and happiness would be destroyed for many a long day. How
could she have doubted for a moment where her real duty lay?

If she followed Philostratus’s advice--if she acceded to Caracalla’s
wishes--Diodoros would have every right to condemn and curse her. And
could she then feel so entirely blameless? A voice within her instantly
said no; for there had been moments in which her pity had grown so
strong that she felt more warmly toward the sick Caesar than was
justifiable. She could not deny it, for she could not without a
blush have described to her lover what she felt when that mysterious,
inexplicable power had drawn her to the emperor.

And now the conviction rapidly grew strong in her that she must not only
preserve her lover from further trouble, but strive to make good to him
her past errors. The idea of renouncing her love in order to intercede
for others, most likely in vain, and lighten their lot by sacrificing
herself for strangers, while rendering her own and her lover’s life
miserable, now seemed to her unnatural, criminal, impossible; and with a
sigh of relief she remembered her promise to Andreas. Now she could once
more look freely into the grave and earnest face of him who had ever
guided her in the right way.

This alone was right--this she would do!

But after the first quick step toward Philostratus, she stood still,
once more hesitating. The saying about the fulfilling of the time
recurred to her as she thought of the Christian, and she said to herself
that the critical moment which comes in every life was before her now.
The weal or woe of her whole future depended on the answer she should
give to Philostratus. The thought struck terror to her heart, but only
for a moment. Then she drew herself up proudly, and, as she approached
her friend, felt with joy that she had chosen the better part; yea, that
it would cost her but little to lay down her life for it.

Though apparently absorbed in his conversation with the Thracian,
Philostratus had not ceased to observe the girl, and his knowledge of
human nature showed him quickly to what decision she had come. Firmly
persuaded that he had won her over to Caracalla’s side, he had left her
to her own reflections. He was certain that the seed he had sown in
her mind would take root; she could now clearly picture to herself what
pleasures she would enjoy as empress, and from what she could preserve
others. For she was shrewd and capable of reasoning, and above all--and
from this he hoped the most--she was but a woman. But just because she
was a woman he could not be surprised at her disappointing him in his
expectations. For the sake of Caracalla and those who surrounded him he
would have wished it to be otherwise; but he had become too fond of her,
and had too good a heart, not to be distressed at the thought of seeing
her fettered to the unbridled young tyrant.

Before she could address him, he took his leave of the Thracian. Then,
as he led her back to the divan, he whispered: “Well, I have gained one
more experience. The next time I leave a woman to come to a decision,
I shall anticipate from the first that she will come to an opposite
conclusion to that which, as a philosopher and logical thinker, I should
expect of her. You are determined to keep faith with your betrothed and
stab the heart of this highest of all wooers--after death he will be
ranked among the gods--for such will be the effect of your flight.”

Melissa nodded gayly, and rejoined, “The blunt weapon that I carry would
surely not cost Caesar his life, even if he were no future immortal.”

“Scarcely,” answered Philostratus; “but what he may suffer through
you will drive him to turn his own all-too-sharp sword against others.
Caracalla being a man, my calculations regarding him have generally
proved right. You will see how firmly I believe in them in this case,
when I tell you that I have already taken advantage of a letter brought
by the messengers of the empress-mother to take my leave of the emperor.
For, I reasoned, if Melissa listens to the emperor, she will need no
other confederate than the boy Eros; if, however, she takes flight--then
woe betide those who are within range of the tyrant’s arm, and ten times
woe to me who brought the fugitive before his notice! Early to-morrow,
before Caracalla leaves his couch, I shall return with the messengers to
Julia; my place in the ship--”

“O my lord,” interrupted Melissa, in consternation, “if you, my kind
protector, forsake me, to whom shall I look for help?”

“You will not require it if you carry out your intentions,” said the
philosopher. “Throughout this day you will doubtless need me; and let me
impress upon you once more to behave before Caracalla in such a manner
that even his suspicious mind may not guess what you intend to do.
To-day you will still find me ready to help you. But, hark! That is
Caesar raging again. It is thus he loves to dismiss ambassadors, when
he wishes they should clearly understand that their conditions are not
agreeable to him. And one word more: When a man has grown gray, it is
doubly soothing to his heart that a lovely maiden should so frankly
regret the parting. I was ever a friend of your amiable sex, and even to
this day Eros is sometimes not unfavorably inclined to me. But you, the
more charming you are, the more deeply do I regret that I may not be
more to you than an old and friendly mentor. But pity at first kept love
from speaking, and then the old truth that every woman’s heart may be
won save that which already belongs to another.”

The elderly admirer of the fair sex spoke these words in such a
pleasant, regretful tone that Melissa gave him an affectionate glance
from her large, bright eyes, and answered, archly: “Had Eros shown
Philostratus the way to Melissa instead of Diodoros, Philostratus might
now be occupying the place in this heart which belongs to the son of
Polybius, and which must always be his in spite of Caesar!”



CHAPTER XXIV.

The door of the tablinum flew open, and through it streamed the Parthian
ambassadors, seven stately personages, wearing the gorgeous costume
of their country, and followed by an interpreter and several scribes.
Melissa noticed how one of them, a young warrior with a fair beard
framing his finely molded, heroic face, and thick, curling locks
escaping from beneath his tiara, grasped the hilt of his sword in
his sinewy hand, and how his neighbor, a cautious, elderly man, was
endeavoring to calm him.

Scarcely had they left the antechamber than Adventus called Melissa and
Philostratus to the emperor. Caracalla was seated on a raised throne of
gold and ivory, with bright scarlet cushions. As on the preceding day,
he was magnificently dressed, and wore a laurel wreath on his head. The
lion, who lay chained beside the throne, stirred as he caught sight of
the new-comers, which caused Caracalla to exclaim to Melissa: “You have
stayed away from me so long that my ‘Sword of Persia’ fails to recognize
you. Were it not more to my taste to show you how dear you are to me, I
could be angry with you, coy bird that you are!”

As Melissa bent respectfully before him, he gazed delighted into her
glowing face, saying, as he turned half to her and half to Philostratus:
“How she blushes! She is ashamed that, though I could get no sleep
during the night, and was tortured by an indescribable restlessness,
she refused to obey my call, although she very well knows that the one
remedy for her sleepless friend lies in her beautiful little hand. Hush,
hush! The high-priest has told me that you did not sleep beneath the
same roof as I. But that only turned my thoughts in the right direction.
Child, child!--See now, Philostratus--the red rose has become a white
one. And how timid she is! Not that it offends me, far from it--it
delights me.--Those flowers, Philostratus! Take them, Melissa; they add
less to your beauty than you to theirs.” He seized the splendid roses
he had ordered for her early that morning and fastened the finest in her
girdle himself. She did not forbid him, and stammered a few-low words of
thanks.

How his face glowed! His eyes rested in ecstatic delight upon his chosen
one. In this past night, after he had called for her and waited in
vain with feverish longing for her coming, it had dawned on him with
convincing force that this gentle child had awakened a new, intense
passion in him. He loved her, and he was glad of it--he who till now had
taken but a passing pleasure in beautiful women. Longing for her till it
became torture, he swore to himself to make her his, and share his all
with her, even to the purple.

It was not his habit to hesitate, and at daybreak he had sent for his
mother’s messengers that they might inform her of his resolve. No one
dared to gainsay him, and he expected it least of all from her whom he
designed to raise so high. But she felt utterly estranged from him, and
would gladly have told him to his face what she felt.

Still, it was absolutely necessary that she should restrain herself and
endure his insufferable endearments, and even force herself to speak.
And yet her tongue seemed tied, and it was only by the utmost effort of
her will that she could bring herself to express her astonishment at his
rapid return to health.

“It is like magic,” she concluded, and he heartily agreed. Attacks of
that kind generally left their effects for four days or more. But the
most astonishing thing was that in spite of being in the best of health,
he was suffering from the gravest illness in the world. “I have fallen
a victim to the fever of love, my Philostratus,” he cried, with a tender
glance at Melissa.

“Nay, Caesar,” interrupted the philosopher, “love is not a disease, but
rather not loving.”

“Prove this new assertion,” laughed the emperor; and the philosopher
rejoined, with a meaning look at the maiden, “If love is born in the
eyes, then those who do not love are blind.”

“But,” answered Caracalla, gayly, “they say that love comes not only
from what delights the eye, but the soul and the mind as well.”

“And have not the mind and the spirit eyes also?” was the reply, to
which the emperor heartily assented.

Then he turned to Melissa, and asked with gentle reproach why she, who
had proved herself so ready of wit yesterday, should be so reserved
today; but she excused her taciturnity on the score of the violent
emotions that had stormed in upon her since the morning.

Her voice broke at the end of this explanation, and Caracalla,
concluding that it was the thought of the grandeur that awaited her
through his favor which confused her and brought the delicate color to
her cheeks, seized her hand, and, obedient to an impulse of his better
nature, said:

“I understand you, child. Things are befalling you that would make a
stouter heart tremble. You have only heard hints of what must effect
such a decisive change in your future life. You know how I feel toward
you. I acknowledged to you yesterday what you already knew without
words. We both feel the mysterious power that draws us to one another.
We belong to each other. In the future, neither time nor space nor any
other thing may part us. Where I am there you must be also. You shall
be my equal in every respect. Every honor paid to me shall be offered to
you likewise. I have shown the malcontents what they have to expect.
The fate which awaits the consul Claudius Vindex and his nephew, who by
their want of respect to you offended me, will teach the others to have
a care.”

“O my lord, that aged man!” cried Melissa, clasping her hands,
imploringly.

“He shall die, and his nephew,” was the inexorable answer. “During my
conference with my mother’s messengers they had the presumption to raise
objections against you and the ardent desire of my heart in a manner
which came very near to being treason. And they must suffer for it.”

“You would punish them for my sake?” exclaimed Melissa. “But I forgive
them willingly. Grant them pardon! I beg, I entreat you.”

“Impossible! Unless I make an example, it will be long before the
slanderous tongues would hold their peace. Their sentence stands.”

But Melissa would not be appeased. With passionate eagerness she
entreated the emperor to grant a pardon, but he cut her short with the
request not to interfere in matters which he alone had to decide and
answer for.

“I owe it to you as well as to myself,” he continued, “to remove every
obstacle from the path. Were I to spare Vindex, they would never again
believe in my strength of purpose. He shall die, and his nephew with
him! To raise a structure without first securing a solid foundation
would be an act of rashness and folly. Besides, I undertake nothing
without consulting the omens. The horoscope which the priest of
this temple has drawn up for you only confirms me in my purpose. The
examination of the sacrifices this morning was favorable. It now only
remains to be seen what the stars say to my resolve. I had not yet taken
it when I last questioned the fortune-tellers of the sky. This night we
shall learn what future the planets promise to our union. From the signs
on yonder tablet it is scarcely possible that their answer should be
otherwise than favorable. But even should they warn me of misfortune at
your side, I could not let you go now. It is too late for that. I
should merely take advantage of the warning, and continue with redoubled
severity to sweep away every obstacle that threatens our union. And one
thing more--”

But he did not finish, for Epagathos here reminded him of the deputation
of Alexandrian citizens who had come to speak about the games in
the Circus. They had been waiting several hours, and had still many
arrangements to make.

“Did they send you to me?” inquired Caracalla, with irritation, and the
freedman answering in the affirmative, he cried: “The princes who wait
in my antechamber do not stir until their turn comes. These tradesmen’s
senses are confused by the dazzle of their gold! Tell them they shall be
called when we find time to attend to them.”

“The head of the night-watch too is waiting,” said the freedman; and to
the emperor’s question whether he had seen him, and if he had anything
of consequence to report, the other replied that the man was much
disquieted, but seemed to be exercising proper severity. He ventured to
remind his master of the saying that the Alexandrians must have ‘Panem
et circenses’; they did not trouble themselves much about anything else.
In these days, when there had been neither games, nor pageants, nor
distribution of corn, the Romans and Caesar had been their sole subjects
of conversation. However, there was to be something quite unusually
grand in the Circus to-night. That would distract the attention of the
impudent slanderers. The night-watchman greatly desired to speak to the
emperor himself, to prepare him for the fact that excitement ran higher
in the Circus here than even in Rome. In spite of every precaution, he
would not be able to keep the rabble in the upper rows quiet.

“Nor need they be,” broke in the emperor; “the louder they shout the
better; and I fancy they will see things which will be worth shouting
for. I have no time to see the man. Let him thoroughly realize that he
is answerable for any real breach of order.”

He signed to Epagathos to retire, but Melissa went nearer to Caesar and
begged him gently not to let the worthy citizens wait any longer on her
account.

At this Caracalla frowned ominously, and cried: “For the second time,
let me ask you not to interfere in matters that do not concern you! If
any one dares to order me--” Here he stopped short, for, as Melissa drew
back from him frightened, he was conscious of having betrayed that even
love was not strong enough to make him control himself. He was angry
with himself, and with a great effort he went on, more quietly:

“When I give an order, my child, there often lies much behind it of
which I alone know. Those who force themselves upon Caesar, as these
citizens do, must learn to have patience. And you--if you would fill the
position to which I intend to raise you--must first take care to leave
all paltry considerations and doubts behind you. However, all that will
come of itself. Softness and mercy melt on the throne like ice before
the sun. You will soon learn to scorn this tribe of beggars who come
whining round us. If I flew in a passion just now, it was partly your
fault. I had a right to expect that you would be more eager to hear me
out than to shorten the time of waiting for these miserable merchants.”

With this his voice grew rough again, but as she raised her eyes to him
and cried beseechingly, “O, my lord!” he continued, more gently:

“There was not much more to be said. You shall be mine. Should the stars
confirm their first revelations, I shall raise you to-morrow to my side,
here in the city of Alexandria, and make the people do homage to you as
their empress. The priest of Alexandria is ready to conduct the marriage
ceremonial. Philostratus will inform my mother of my determination.”

Melissa had listened to these arrangements with growing distress; her
breath came fast, and she was incapable of uttering a word; but Caesar
was delighted at the lovely confusion painted on her features, and
cried, in joyful excitement:

“How I have looked forward to this moment--and I have succeeded in
surprising her! This is what makes imperial power divine; by one wave of
the hand it can raise the lowest to the highest place!”

With this he drew Melissa toward him, kissed the trembling girl upon the
brow, and continued, in delighted tones:

“Time does not stand still, and only a few hours separate us from the
accomplishment of our desires. Let us lend them wings. We resolved
yesterday to show one another what we could do as singers and
lute-players. There lies my lyre--give it me, Philostratus. I know what
I shall begin with.”

The philosopher brought and tuned the instrument; but Melissa had some
difficulty in keeping back her tears. Caracalla’s kiss burned like a
brand of infamy on her brow. A nameless, torturing restlessness had come
over her, and she wished she could dash the lyre to the ground, when
Caracalla began to play, and called out to Philostratus:

“As you are leaving us to-morrow, I will sing the song which you honored
with a place in your heroic tale.”

He turned to Melissa, and, as she owned to having read the work of the
philosopher, he went on “You know, then, that I was the model for his
Achilles. The departed spirit of the hero is enjoying in the island of
Leuke, in the Pontus, the rest which he so richly deserves, after a
life full of heroic deeds. Now he finds time to sing to the lyre, and
Philostratus put the following verses--but they are mine--into his
mouth.--I am about to play, Adventus! Open the door!”

The freedman obeyed, and the emperor peered into the antechamber to see
for himself who was waiting there.

He required an audience when he sang. The Circus had accustomed him to
louder applause than his beloved and one skilled musician could award
him. At last he swept the strings, and began singing in a well-trained
tenor, whose sharp, hard quality, however, offended the girl’s critical
ear, the song to the echo on the shores of Pontus:

          Echo, by the rolling waters
          Bathing Pontus’ rocky shore,
          Wake, and answer to the lyre
          Swept by my inspired hand!

          Wake, and raise thy voice in numbers
          Sing to Homer, to the bard
          Who has given life immortal
          To the heroes of his lay.

          He it was from death who snatched me;
          He who gave Patroclus life;
          Rescued, in perennial glory,
          Godlike Ajax from the dead!

          His the lute to whose sweet accents,
          Ilion owes undying fame,
          And the triumph and the praises
          Which surround her deathless name.

The “Sword of Persia” seemed peculiarly affected by his master’s song,
which he accompanied by a long-drawn howl of woe; and, before the
imperial virtuoso had concluded, a discordant cry sounded for a short
time from the street, in imitation of the squeaking of young pigs. It
arose from the crowd who were waiting round the Serapeum to see Caesar
drive to the Circus; and Caracalla must have noticed it, for, when it
waxed louder, he gave a sidelong glance toward the place from which it
came, and an ominous frown gathered upon his brow.

But it soon vanished, for scarcely had he finished when stormy shouts of
applause rose from the antechamber. They proceeded from the friends of
Caesar, and the deep voices of the Germanic bodyguard, who, joining in
with the cries they had learned in the Circus, lent such impetuous force
to the applause, as even to satisfy this artist in the purple.

Therefore, when Philostratus spoke words of praise, and Melissa thanked
him with a blush, he answered with a smile: “There is something frank
and untrammeled in their manner of expressing their feelings outside.
Forced applause sounds differently. There must be something in my
singing that carries the hearers away. My Alexandrian hosts, however,
are overready to show me what they think. It did not escape me, and I
shall add it to the rest.”

Then he invited Melissa to make a return for his song by singing
Sappho’s Ode to Aphrodite. Pale, and as if obeying some strange
compulsion, she seated herself at the instrument, and the prelude
sounded clear and tuneful from her skillful fingers.

“Beautiful! Worthy of Mesomedes!” cried Caracalla, but Melissa could not
sing, for at the first note her voice was broken by stormy sobs.

“The power of the goddess whom she meant to extol!” said Philostratus,
pointing to her; and the tearful, beseeching look with which she met the
emperor’s gaze while she begged him in low tones--“Not now! I can not do
it to-day!”--confirmed Caracalla in his opinion that the passion he had
awakened in the maiden was in no way inferior to his own-perhaps
even greater. He relieved his full heart by whispering to Melissa a
passionate, “I love you,” and, desiring to show her by a favor how
kindly he felt toward her, added: “I will not let your fellow-citizens
wait outside any longer--Adventus! The deputation from the Circus!”

The chamberlain withdrew at once, and the emperor throwing himself back
on the throne, continued, with a sigh:

“I wonder how any of these rich tradesmen would like to undertake what
I have already gone through this day. First, the bath; then, while I
rested, Macrinus’s report; after that, the inspection of the sacrifices;
then a review of the troops, with a gracious word to every one. Scarcely
returned, I had to receive the ambassadors from my mother, and then
came the troublesome affair with Vindex. Then the dispatches from Rome
arrived, the letters to be examined, and each one to be decided on and
signed. Finally the settling of accounts with the idiologos, who, as
high-priest of my choosing, has to collect the tribute from all the
temples in Egypt.... Next I gave audience to several people--to your
father among the rest. He is strange, but a thorough man, and a true
Macedonian of the old stock. He repelled both greeting and presents, but
he longed to be revenged--heavily and bloodily--on Zminis, who denounced
him and brought him to the galleys.... How the old fellow must have
raged and stormed when he was a prisoner! I treated the droll old
gray-beard like my father. The giant pleases me, and what skillful
fingers he has on his powerful hands! He gave me that ring with the
portraits of Castor and Pollux.”

“My brothers were the models,” remarked Melissa, glad to find something
to say without dissembling.

Caracalla examined the stone in the gold ring more closely, and
exclaimed in admiration: “How delicate the little heads are! At the
first glance one recognizes the hand of the happily gifted artist. Your
father’s is one of the noblest and most refined of the arts. If I can
raise a statue to a lute-player, I can do so to a gem-cutter.”

Here the deputation for the arrangement of the festival was announced,
but the emperor, calling out once more, “Let them wait,” continued:

“You are a handsome race--the men powerful, the women as lovely as
Aphrodite. That is as it should be! My father before me took the wisest
and fairest woman to wife. You are the fairest--the wisest?--well, that
too, perhaps. Time will show. But Aphrodite never has a high forehead,
and, according to Philostratus, beauty and wisdom are hostile sisters
with you women.”

“Exceptions,” interposed the philosopher, as he pointed to Melissa,
“prove the rule.”

“Describe her in that manner to my mother,” said Caracalla. “I would not
let you go from me, were you not the only person who knows Melissa. I
may trust in your eloquence to represent her as she deserves. And now,”
 he continued, hurriedly, “one thing more. As soon as the deputation
is dismissed and I have received a few other persons, the feast is
to begin. You would perhaps be entertained at it. However, it will be
better to introduce you to my ‘friends’ after the marriage ceremony.
After dark, to make up for it, there is the Circus, to which you will,
of course, accompany me.”

“Oh, my lord!” exclaimed the maiden, frightened and unwilling. But
Caracalla cried, decisively: “No refusal, I must beg! I imagine that I
have proved sufficiently that I know how to shield you from what is not
fitting for a maiden. What I ask of you now is but the first step on the
new path of honor that awaits you as future empress.”

Melissa raised both voice and hands in entreaty, but in vain. Caracalla
cut her short, saying in authoritative tones:

“I have arranged everything. You will go to the Circus. Not alone with
me-that would give welcome work to scandalous tongues. Your father shall
accompany you--your brothers, too, if you wish it. I shall not join you
till after the performance has begun. Your fellow-citizens will divine
the meaning of this visit. Besides, Theocritus and the rest have orders
to acquaint the people with the distinction that awaits you and the
Alexandrians. But why so pale? Your cheeks will regain their color
in the Circus. I know I am right--you will leave it delighted
and enthralled. You have only to learn for the first time how the
acclamations of tens of thousands take hold upon the heart and
intoxicate the senses. Courage, courage, Macedonian maiden! Everything
grand and unexpected, even unforeseen happiness, is alarming and
bewildering. But we become accustomed even to the impossible. A strong
spirit like yours soon gets over anything of the kind. But the time is
running on. One word more: You must be in the Circus by sunset. In any
case, you must be in your place before I come. Adventus will see that
you have a chariot or a litter, whichever you please. Theocritus will be
waiting at the entrance to lead you to your seats.”

Melissa could restrain herself no longer, and, carried away by the wild
conflict of passions in her breast, she threw control and prudence to
the winds, and cried:

“I will not!” Then throwing back her head as if to call the heavens to
witness, she raised her great, wide-open eyes and gazed above.

But not for long. Her bold defiance had roused Caesar’s utmost fury, and
he broke out with a growl of rage:

“You will not, you say? And you think, unreasoning fool, that this
settles the matter?”

He uttered a wild laugh, pressed his hand firmly on his left eyelid,
which began to twitch convulsively, and went on in a lower but defiantly
contemptuous tone:

“I know better! You shall! And you will not only go to the Circus, but
you will do it willingly, or at least with smiling lips. You will start
at sunset! At the time appointed I shall find you in your place. If
not!--Must I begin so soon to teach you that I can be serious? Have a
care, girl! You are dear to me; yet--by the head of my father!--if you
defy me, my Numidian lion-keepers shall drag you to the place you belong
to!”

Thus far Melissa had listened to the emperor’s raging with panting bosom
and quivering nostrils, as at a performance, which must sooner or later
come to an end; and now she broke in regardless of the consequences:

“Send for them,” she cried, “and order them to throw me to the wild
beasts! It will doubtless be a welcome surprise to the lookers-on. Which
of them can say they have ever seen the daughter of a free Roman citizen
who never yet came before the law, torn to pieces in the sand of
the arena? They delight in anything new! Yes, murder me, as you did
Plautilla, although I never offended either you or your mother! Better
die a hundred deaths than parade my dishonor before the eyes of the
multitude in the open Circus!”

She ceased, incapable of further resistance, threw herself weeping on
the divan, and buried her face in the cushions.

Confounded and bewildered by such audacity, the emperor had heard her
out. The soul of a hero dwelt in the frail body of this maiden! Majestic
as all-conquering Venus she had resisted him for the second tune, and
now how touching did she appear in her tears and weakness! He loved her,
and his heart yearned to raise her in his arms, to beg her forgiveness,
and fulfill her every wish. But he was a man and a monarch, and his
desire to show Melissa to the people in the Circus as his chosen bride
had become a fixed resolve during the past sleepless night. And indeed
he was incapable of renouncing any wish or a plan, even if he felt
inclined to do so. Yet he heartily regretted having stormed at the
gentle Greek girl like some wild barbarian, and thus himself thrown
obstacles in the way of attaining his desire. His hot blood had carried
him away again. Surely some demon led him so often into excesses which
he afterward repented of. This time the fiend had been strong in him,
and he must use every gentle persuasion he knew of to bend the deeply
offended maiden to his will.

He was relieved not to meet her intense gaze as he advanced toward her
and took Philostratus’s place, who whispered to her to control herself
and not bring death and ruin upon them all.

“I Truly I meant well toward you, dearest,” he began, in altered
tones. “But we are both like overfull vessels--one drop will make them
overflow. You--confess now that you forgot yourself. And I--On the
throne we grow unaccustomed to opposition. It is fortunate that the
flame of my anger dies out so quickly. But it lies with you to prevent
it from ever breaking out; for I should always endeavor to fulfill a
kindly expressed wish, if it were possible. This time, however, I must
insist--”

Melissa turned toward the emperor, and stretching out beseeching hands,
she cried:

“Bid me do anything, however hard, and it shall be done, but do not
force me to go with you to the Circus. If my mother were only alive!
Wherever I could go with her was right. But my father, not to speak of
my madcap brother Alexander, do not know what befits a maiden, nor does
anybody expect it of them.”

“And rightly,” interposed Caracalla. “Now I understand your opposition,
and thank you for it. But it fortunately lies in my power to remove your
objection. The women have to obey me, too. I shall at once issue the
necessary orders. You shall appear in the Circus surrounded by the
noblest matrons of the city. The wives of these citizens shall accompany
you. Even my mother will be sure to approve of this arrangement.
Farewell, then, till we meet again in the Circus!”

He spoke the last words with proud satisfaction, and with the grave
demeanor that Cilo had taught him to adopt in the curia.

He then gave the order to admit the Alexandrian citizens, and the words
of entreaty died upon the lips of the unfortunate imperial bride, for
the folding doors were thrown open and the deputation advanced through
them.

Old Adventus signed to Melissa, and with drooping head she followed
him through the rooms and corridors that led to the apartments of the
highpriest.



CHAPTER XXV.

Melissa had wept her fill on the breast of the lady Euryale, who
listened to her woes with motherly sympathy, and yet she felt as if a
biting frost had broken and destroyed the blossoms which only yesterday
had so richly and hopefully decked her young heart. Diodoros’s love had
been to her like the fair and sunny summer days that turn the sour, hard
fruit into sweet and juicy grapes. And now the frost had nipped them.
The whole future, and everything round her, now looked gray, colorless,
and flat. Only two thoughts held possession of her mind: on the
one hand, that of her betrothed, from whom this visit to the Circus
threatened to separate her forever; and on the other, that of her
imperial lover, to escape whom she would have flown anywhere, even to
the grave.

Euryale remarked with concern how weary and broken Melissa looked--so
different from her usual bright self, while she listened to her
father and Alexander as they consulted with the lady as to the future.
Philostratus, who had promised his advice, did not appear; and to the
gem-cutter, no proposal could seem so unwelcome as that of leaving his
native city and his sick favorite, Philip.

He considered it senseless, and a result of the thoroughly wrong-headed
views of sentimental women, to reject the monarch of the world when
he made honorable proposals to an unpretending girl. But the lady
Euryale--of whom his late wife had always spoken with the highest
respect--and, supported by her, his son Alexander, had both represented
to him so forcibly that a union with the emperor would render Melissa
most unhappy, if it did not lead to death, that he had been reduced to
silence. Only, when they spoke of the necessity of flight, he burst
out again, declaring that the time had not yet come for such extreme
measures.

When Melissa now rejoined them, he spoke of the emperor’s behavior
toward her as being worthy of a man of honor, and endeavored to touch
her heart by representing what an old man must feel who should be forced
to leave the house where his father and grandfather had lived before
him, and even the town whose earth held all that was dearest to him.

Here the tears which so easily rose to his eyes began to flow, and,
seeing that Melissa’s tender heart was moved by his sorrow, he gained
confidence, and reproached his daughter for having kindled Caracalla’s
love, by her radiant eyes--so like her mother’s! Honestly believing that
his affection was returned, Caesar was offering her the highest honor in
his power; if she fled from him, he would have every right to complain
of having been basely deceived, and to call her a heartless wanton.

Alexander now came to his sister’s aid, and reminded him how Melissa
had hazarded life and liberty to save him and her brothers. She had been
forced to look so kindly into the tyrant’s face if only to sue for their
pardon, and it became him ill to make this a reproach to his daughter.

Melissa nodded gratefully to her brother, but Heron remained firm in
his assertion that to think of flight would be foolish, or at least
premature.

At this, Alexander repeated to him that Melissa had whispered in his
ear that she would rather die at once than live in splendor, but in
perpetual fear, by the side of an unloved husband; whereupon Heron began
to breathe hard, as he always did before an outburst of anger.

But a message, calling him to the emperor’s presence, soon calmed him.

At parting, he kissed Melissa, and murmured “Would you really drive your
old father out of our dear home, away from his work, and his birds--from
his garden, and your mother’s grave? Is it then so terrible to live as
empress, in splendor and honor? I am going to Caesar--you can not hinder
me from greeting him kindly from you?”

Without waiting for an answer, he left the room; but when he was outside
he took care to glance at himself in the mirror, arrange his beard and
hair, and place his gigantic form in a few of the dignified attitudes he
intended to adopt in the presence of the emperor.

Meanwhile Melissa had thrown off the indifference into which she had
fallen, and her old doubts raised their warning heads with renewed
force.

Alexander swore to be her faithful ally; Euryale once more assured her
of her assistance; and yet, more especially when she was moved with pity
for her father, who was to leave all he loved for her sake, she felt as
if she were being driven hither and thither, in some frail bark, at the
mercy of the waves.

Suddenly a new idea flashed through her mind. She rose quickly.

“I will go to Diodoros,” she cried, “and tell him all! He shall decide.”

“Just now?” asked Euryale, startled. “You would certainly not find
your betrothed alone, and since all the world knows of Caracalla’s
intentions, and gazes curiously after you, your visit would instantly
be reported to Caesar. Nor is it advisable for you to present yourself
before your offended lover, when you have neither Andreas nor any one
else to speak for you and take your part.”

Melissa burst into tears, but the matron drew her to her and continued
tenderly:

“You must give that up--but, Alexander, do you go to your friend, and be
your sister’s mouthpiece!”

The artist consented with all the ardor of brotherly affection, and
having received from Melissa, whose courage began to rise again, strict
injunctions as to what he was to say to her lover, he departed on his
errand.

Wholly absorbed by the stormy emotions of her heart, the maiden had
forgotten time and every external consideration; but the lady Euryale
was thoughtful for her, and now led her to her chamber to have her hair
dressed for the Circus. The matron carefully avoided, for the present,
all mention of her young friend’s flight, though her mind was constantly
occupied with it--and not in vain.

The skillful waiting-woman, whom she had bought from the house of
the priest of Alexander, who was a Roman knight, loosened the girl’s
abundant brown hair, and, with loud cries of admiration, declared it
would be easy to dress such locks in the most approved style of fashion.
She then laid the curling-irons on the dish of coals which stood on a
slender tripod, and was about to twist it into ringlets; but Melissa,
who had never resorted to such arts, refused to permit it. The slave
assured her, however, as earnestly as if it were a matter of the highest
importance, that it was impossible to arrange the curls of a lady of
distinction without the irons. Euryale, too, begged Melissa to allow it,
as nothing would make her so conspicuous in her overdressed surroundings
as excessive simplicity. That was quite true, but it made the girl
realize so vividly what was before her, that she covered her face with
her hands and sobbed out:

“To be exposed to the gaze of the whole city--to its envy and its
scorn!”

The matron’s warning inquiry, what had become of her favorite’s
high-minded calm, and her advice to restrain her weeping, lest she
should appear before the public in the Amphitheater with tear-stained
eyes, helped her to compose herself.

The tire-woman had not finished her work when Alexander returned, and
Melissa dared not turn her head for fear of disturbing her in her task.
But when Alexander began his report with the exclamation, “Who knows
what foolish gossip has driven him to this?” she sprang up, regardless
of the slave’s warning cry. And as her brother went on to relate how
Diodoros had left the Serapeum, in spite of the physician’s entreaty
to wait at least until next morning, but that Melissa need not take it
greatly to heart, it was too much for the girl who had already that day
gone through such severe and varied experiences. The ground seemed to
heave beneath her feet; sick and giddy she put out her hand to find some
support, that she might not sink on her knees; in so doing, she caught
the tall tripod which held the dish of coals. It swayed and fell
clattering to the ground, bringing the irons with it. Its burning
contents fell partly on the floor and partly on the festal robe which
Melissa had thrown over a chair before loosening her hair. Alexander
caught her just in time to prevent her falling.

With her healthy nature, Melissa soon regained consciousness, and during
the first few moments her distress over the spoiled garment threw every
other thought into the background. Shaking her head gravely over the
black-edged holes which the coals had burned in the peplos and the
under-robes, Euryale secretly rejoiced at the accident. She remembered
that when her heart was torn and bleeding, after the death of her only
child, her thoughts were taken off herself by the necessary duty of
providing mourning garments for herself, her husband, and the slaves.
This trivial task had at least helped her to forget for a few hours the
bitterness of her grief.

Only anxious to lighten in some sort the fate of the sweet young
creature whom she had learned to love, she made much of the difficulty
of procuring a fresh dress for Melissa, though she was perfectly aware
that her sister-in-law possessed many such. Alexander was commissioned
to take one of the emperor’s chariots--which always stood ready for
the use of the courtiers between the Serapeum and the springs on the
east--and to hasten to the lady Berenike. The lady begged that he, as an
artist, would assist in choosing the robe; and the less conspicuous and
costly it was the better.

To this Melissa heartily agreed, and, after Alexander had gone, Euryale
bore off her pale young charge to the eating-room, where she forced
her to take some old wine and a little food, which she would not touch
before. As the attendant filled the wine-cup, the high-priest himself
joined them, greeted Melissa briefly and with measured courtesy, and
begged his wife to follow him for a moment into the tablinum.

The attendant, a slave who had grown gray in the service of Timotheus,
now begged the young guest, as though he represented his mistress, to
take a little food, and not to sip so timidly from the winecup. But the
lonely repast was soon ended, and Melissa, strengthened and refreshed,
withdrew to the sleeping-apartment. Only light curtains hung at the
doors of the high-priest’s hurriedly furnished rooms, and no one noticed
Melissa’s entrance into the adjoining chamber.

She had never played the eavesdropper, but she had neither the presence
of mind to withdraw, nor could she avoid hearing that her own name was
mentioned.

It was the lady who spoke, and her husband answered in excited tones:

“As to your Christianity, and whatever there may be in it that is
offensive to me as high-priest of a heathen god, we will speak of that
later. It is not a question now of a difference of opinion, but of a
serious danger, which you with your easily-moved heart will bring down
upon yourself and me. The gem-cutter’s daughter is a lovely creature--I
will not deny it--and worthy of your sympathy; besides which, you, as a
woman, can not bear to see her most sacred feelings wounded.”

“And would you let your hands he idle in your lap,” interposed his wife,
“if you saw a lovable, innocent child on the edge of a precipice, and
felt yourself strong enough to save her from falling? You can not have
asked yourself what would be the fate of a girl like Melissa if she were
Caracalla’s wife.”

“Indeed I have,” Timotheus assured her gravely, “and nothing would
please me better than that the maiden should succeed in escaping that
fate. But--the time is short, and I must be brief--the emperor is our
guest, and honors me with boundless confidence. Just now he disclosed
to me his determination to make Melissa his wife, and I was forced to
approve it. Thus he looks to me to carry out his wishes; and if the
maiden escapes, and there falls on you, or, through you, on me, the
shadow of a suspicion of having assisted in her flight, he will have
every right to regard me as a traitor and to treat me as such. To others
my life is made sacred by my high office, but the man to whom a human
life--no matter whose--is no more than that of a sacrificial animal is
to you or me, that man would shed the blood of us both without a quiver
of the eyelid.”

“Then let him!” cried Euryale, hotly. “My bereaved and worn-out life is
but a small price to pay for that of an innocent, blameless creature,
glowing with youth and all the happiness of requited love, and with a
right to the highest joys that life can offer.”

“And I?” exclaimed Timotheus, angrily. “What am I to you since the death
of our child? For the sake of the first person that came to you as
a poor substitute for our lost daughter, you are ready to go to your
death, and to drag me with you into the gloom of Hades. There speaks the
Christian! Even that gentle philosopher on the throne, Marcus Aurelius,
was disgusted at your fellow-believers’ hideous mania for death. The
Christian expects in the next world all that is denied to him in this.
But we think of this life, in which the Deity has placed us. To me
life is the highest blessing, and yours is dearer to me than my own.
Therefore I say, firmly and decidedly: Melissa must not make her escape
from this house. If she is determined to fly this night, let her do
so--I shall not hinder her. If your counsel is of service to her, I am
glad; but she must not enter this house again after the performance in
the Circus, unless she be firmly resolved to become Caesar’s wife. If
she can not bring herself to this, the apartments which belong to us
must be closed against her, as against a dangerous foe.”

“And whither can she go?” asked Euryale, sadly and with tearful eyes,
for there was no gainsaying so definite an order from her lord and
master. “The moment she is missed, they will search her father’s
house; and, if she takes advantage of Berenike’s ship, it will soon be
discovered that it was your brother’s wife who helped her to escape from
Caracalla.”

“Berenike will know what to do,” answered Timotheus, composedly. “She,
if any one, knows how to take care of herself. She has the protection of
her influential brother-in-law, Coeranus; and just now there is nothing
she would not do to strike a blow at her hated enemy.”

“How sorrow and revenge have worked upon that strange woman!” exclaimed
the lady, sadly. “Caracalla has injured her, it is true--”

“He has, and to-day he has added a further, deeper insult, for he forces
her to appear in the Amphitheater, with the wives of the other citizens
who bear the cost of this performance. I was there, and heard him say
to Seleukus, who was acting as spokesman, that he counted on seeing his
wife, of whom he had heard so much, in her appointed place this evening.

“This will add fuel to the fire of her hatred. If she only does not
allow her anger to carry her away, and to show it in a manner that she
will afterward regret!--But my time is short. I have to walk before
the sacred images in full ceremonial vestments, and accompanied by
the priest of Alexander. You, unfortunately, take no pleasure in such
spectacles. Once more, then--if the girl is determined to fly, she must
not return here. I repeat, if any one can help her to get away, it is
Berenike. Our sister-in-law must take the consequences. Caesar can not
accuse her of treason, at any rate, and her interference in the matter
will clear us of all suspicion of complicity.”

No word of this conversation had escaped Melissa. She learned nothing
new from it, but it affected her deeply.

Warm-hearted as she was, she fully realized the debt of gratitude she
owed to the lady Euryale; and she could not blame the high-priest, whom
prudence certainly compelled to close his doors against her. And yet she
was wounded by his words. She had struggled so hard in these last days
to banish all thought of her own happiness, and shield her dear ones
from harm, that such selfishness appeared doubly cruel to her. Did
it not seem as if this priest of the great Deity to whom she had been
taught to pray, cared little what became of his nearest relatives, so
long as he and his wife were unmolested? That was the opposite of what
Andreas had praised as the highest duty, the last time she had walked
with him to the ferry; and since then Johanna had told her the story
of Christ’s sufferings, and she understood the fervor with which the
freedman had spoken of the crucified Son of God--the great example of
all unselfishness.

In the enthusiasm of her warm young heart she felt that what she had
heard of the Christians’ teacher was beautiful, and that she too would
not find it hard to die for those she loved.

With drooping head Euryale re-entered the room, and gazed with kind,
anxious eyes into the girl’s face, as if asking her forgiveness.
Following the impulse of her candid heart, Melissa threw her fair young
arms round the aged lady, and, to her great surprise, after kissing her
warmly on brow and mouth and eyes, cried in tones of tender entreaty:

“Forgive me. I did not want to listen, and yet I could not choose but
hear. No word of your discourse escaped me. I know now that I must not
fly, and that I must bear whatever fate the gods may send me. I used
often to say to myself, ‘Of how little importance is my life or my
happiness!’ And now that I must give up my lover, come what may I care
not what the future has in store for me. I can never forget Diodoros;
and, when I think that everything is at an end between us, it is as if
my heart were torn in pieces. But I have found out, in these last days,
what heavy troubles one may bear without breaking down. If my flight is
to bring danger, if not death and ruin, upon so many good people, I had
better stay. The man who lusts after me--it is true, when I think of his
embrace my blood runs cold! But perhaps I shall be able to endure even
that. And then--if I crush my heart into silence, and renounce Diodoros
forever, and give myself up to Caesar--as I must--tell me you will not
then close your doors against me, but that I may stay with you till the
horrid hour comes when Caracalla calls me?”

The matron had listened with deep emotion to Melissa’s victory over her
desires and her aversions. This heathen maiden, brought up in the right
way by a good mother, and to whom life had taught many a hard lesson,
was she not already treading in the footsteps of the Saviour? This child
was offering up the great and pure love of her heart to preserve others
from sorrow and danger; and what a different course of action was she
herself to pursue in obedience to her husband’s orders--her husband,
whose duty it was to offer a shining example to the whole heathen world!

She thought of Abraham’s sacrifice, and wondered if the Lord might not
perhaps be satisfied with Melissa’s willingness to lay her love upon the
altar. In any case, whatever she, Euryale, could do to save her from the
worst fate that could befall a woman, that should be done, and this time
it was she who drew the other toward her and kissed her.

Her heart was full to overflowing, and yet she did not forget to warn
Melissa to be careful, when she was about to lay her head with its
artificially arranged curls upon the lady’s breast.

“No, no,” she said, tenderly warding off the maiden’s embrace. Then,
laying her hands on the girl’s shoulders, she looked her straight in the
face, and continued: “Here you will ever find a resting-place. When your
hair lies smoothly round your sweet face, as it did yesterday, then lay
it on my breast as often as you will. Aye, and it can and shall be here
in the Serapeum; though not in these rooms, which my lord and master
closes against you. I told you of the time being fulfilled for each one
of us, and when yours came you proved yourself to be the good tree of
which our Lord speaks as bearing good fruit. You look at me inquiringly;
how indeed should you understand the words of a Christian? But I shall
find time enough in the next few days to explain them to you; for--I say
it again--you shall remain near me while the emperor searches the city
and half the world over for you. Keep that firmly in your mind and let
it help to give you courage in the Circus.”

“But my father?” cried Melissa, pointing to the curtain, through which
Heron’s loud voice now became audible.

“Depend on me,” whispered the lady, hurriedly; “and rest assured that he
will be warned in time. Do not betray my promise. If we were to take him
into our confidence now, he would spoil all. As soon as he is gone, and
your brother has returned, you two shall hear--”

They were interrupted by the steward, who, with a peculiar smile upon
his clean-shaven lips, came to announce Heron’s visit.

The communicative gem-cutter had already confided to the servant what
it was that agitated him so greatly, but Melissa was astonished at the
change in her father’s manner.

The shuffling gait of the gigantic, unwieldy man, who had grown gray
stooping over his work, had gained a certain majestic dignity. His
cheeks glowed, and the gray eyes, which had long since acquired a fixed
look from straining over the gemcutting, now beamed with a blissful
radiance. Something wonderful must have happened to him, and, without
waiting to be questioned by the lady, he poured out to her the news that
he would have been overjoyed to have shouted in the market-place for all
to hear.

The reception accorded to him at Caesar’s table, he declared, had been
flattering beyond all words. The godlike monarch had treated him more
considerately, nay, sometimes with more reverence, than his own sons.
The best dishes had been put before him, and Caracalla had asked all
sorts of questions about his future consort, and, on hearing that
Melissa had sent him greetings, he had raised himself and drunk to him
as if he were a friend.

His table-companions, too, had treated Heron with every distinction.
Immediately on his arrival the monarch had desired them to honor him
as the father of the future empress. They had all agreed with him in
demanding that Zminis the Egyptian should be punished with death, and
had even encouraged him to give the reins to his righteous anger. He, if
any one, was in the habit of being moderate in all things, if only as
a good example to his sons; and he had proved in many a Dionysiac feast
that the god could not easily overpower him. The amount of wine he
had drunk to-day would generally have had no more effect upon him than
water, and yet he had felt now and then as if he were drunken, and the
whole festal hall turned round with him. Even now he would be quite
incapable of walking forward in a given straight line.

With the exclamation, “Such is life!--a few hours ago on the
rowing-bench, and fighting with the brander of the galleys for trying
to brand me with the slave-mark, and now one of the greatest among the
great!” he closed his tale, for a glance through the window showed him
that time pressed.

With strange bashfulness he then gazed at a ring upon his right hand,
and said hesitatingly that his own modesty made the avowal difficult to
him; but the fact was, he was not the same man as when he last left
the ladies. By the grace of the emperor he had been made a praetorian.
Caesar had at first wanted to make him a knight; but he esteemed his
Macedonian descent higher than that class, to which too many freed
slaves belonged for his taste. This he had frankly acknowledged, and the
emperor must have considered his objections valid, for he immediately
spoke a few words to the prefect Macrinus, and then told the others to
greet him as senator with the rank of praetorian.

Then indeed he felt as if the seat beneath him were transformed into a
wild steed carrying him away, through sea and sky-wherever it pleased.
He had had to hold tightly to the arm of the couch, and only remembered
that some one--who it was he did not know--had whispered to him to thank
Caesar.

“This,” continued the gem-cutter, “restored me so far to myself that I
could express my gratitude to your future husband, my child. I am only
the second Egyptian who has entered the senate. Coeranus was the only
one before me. What favor! And how can I describe what followed? All the
distinguished members of the senate and the past consuls offered me a
brotherly embrace as their new colleague. When Caesar commanded me to
appear at your side in the Circus, wearing the white toga with the
broad purple stripe, and I remarked that the shops of the better
clothes-sellers would be shut by this time on account of the
performance, and that such a toga was not to be obtained, there was a
great laugh over the Alexandrian love of amusement. From all sides they
offered me what I required; but I gave the preference to Theocritus, on
account of his height. What is long enough for him will not be too short
for me.--And now one of the emperor’s chariots is waiting for me. If
only Alexander were at home! The house ought to have been illuminated
and hung with garlands for my arrival, and a crowd of slaves waiting to
kiss my hands.

“There will soon be more than our two. I hope Argutis may understand how
to fasten on the shoes with the straps and the crescent! Philip knows
even less of these things than I do myself, besides which the poor
boy is laid low. It is lucky that I remembered him. I had very nearly
forgotten his existence. Ah!--if your mother were still alive! She had
clever-fingers! She--Ah, lady Euryale, Melissa has perhaps told you
about her. Olympias she was called, like the mother of the great
Alexander, and, like her, she bore good children. You yourself were
praising my boys just now. And the girl!.. Only a few days ago, it was
a pretty, shy thing that no one would ever have expected to do anything
great; and now, what have we not to thank that gentle child for? The
little one was always her mother’s darling. Eternal gods! I dare not
think of it! If only she who is gone might have had the joy of hearing
me called senator and praetor! O child! if she could have sat with
us to-day in the emperor’s seats, and we two could have seen you
there--you, our pride, honored by the whole city, Caesar’s future
bride.”

Here the strong man with the soft heart broke down, and, clasping
his hands over his face, sobbed aloud, while Melissa clung to him and
stroked his bearded cheeks.

Under her loving words of consolation he soon regained his composure,
and, still struggling against the rising tears, he cried:

“Thank Heaven, there can be no more foolish talk of flight! I shall stay
here; I shall never take advantage of the ivory chair that belongs to
me in the curia in Rome. Your husband, my child, and the state, would
scarcely expect it of me. If, however, Caesar presents me as his
father, with estates and treasures, my first thought shall be to raise a
monument to your mother. You shall see! A monument, I tell you, without
a rival. It shall represent the strength of man submissive to womanly
charm.”

He bent down to kiss his daughter’s brow, and whispered in her ear:

“Gaze confidently into the future, my girl. A father’s eye is not easily
deceived, and so I tell you--that the emperor has been forced to shed
blood do insure the safety of the throne; but, in personal intercourse
with him, I learned to know your future husband as a noble-hearted man.
Indeed, I am not rich enough to thank the gods for such a son-in-law!”

Melissa gazed after her father, incapable of speaking. It went to
her heart that all these hopes should be changed to sorrow and
disappointment through her. And so she said, with tearful eyes, and
shook hey head when the lady assured her that with her it was a question
of a cruelly spoiled life, whereas her father would only have to
renounce some idle vanities which he would forget as easily as he had
seized upon them.

“You do not know him,” answered the maiden, sadly. “If I fly, then he
too must hide himself in a far country. He will never be happy again if
they take him from the little house--his birds--our mother’s grave. It
was for her sake alone that he took no thought for the ivory seat in the
curia. If you only knew how he clings to everything that reminds him of
our mother, and she never left our city.”

Here she was interrupted by the entrance of Philostratus. He was not
alone; an imperial slave accompanied him, bringing a graceful basket
with gifts from the emperor to Melissa.

First came a wreath of roses and lotos-flowers, looking as if they had
been plucked just before sunrise, for among the blossoms and leaves
there flashed and sparkled a glittering dew of diamonds, lightly
fastened on delicate silver wires. Next came a bunch of flowers, round
whose stems a supple golden snake was twined, covered with rubies and
diamonds and destined to coil itself round a woman’s arm. The third
was a necklace of extremely costly Persian pearls, which had once
belonged--so the merchant had declared--to great Cleopatra’s treasure.

Melissa loved flowers; and the costly gifts that accompanied them
could not fail to rejoice a woman’s heart. And yet she only gave them a
passing glance, reddening painfully as she did so.

What the bearer had to say to her was of more importance to her than
the gifts he brought, and in fact the troubled manner of the usually
composed philosopher betrayed that he had something more serious to
deliver than the gifts of his love-sick lord.

The lady Euryale, perceiving that he meant to try once more to persuade
Melissa to yield, hastened to declare that she had found ways and means
to help the maiden to escape; but he shook his head with a sigh, and
said, thoughtfully:

“Well--well--I shall go on board the ship while the wild beasts are
doing their part in the Circus. May we meet again happily, either here
or else where! My way leads me first to Caesar’s mother, to inform her
of his choice of a wife. Not that he needs her consent: whose consent or
disapproval does Caracalla care for? But I am to win Julia’s heart for
you. Possibly I may succeed; but you--you scorn it, and fly from her
son. And yet--believe me, child--the heart of that woman is a treasure
that has no equal, and, if she should open her arms to you, there would
be little that you could not endure. When I left you, just now, I put
myself in your place, and approved of your resolve; but it would be
wrong not to remind you once more of what you must expect if you follow
your own will, and if Caesar considers himself scorned, ill-treated, and
deceived by you.”

“In the name of all the gods, what has happened?” broke in Melissa,
pallid with fear. Philostratus pressed his hand to his brow, and his
voice was hoarse with suppressed emotion as he continued: “Nothing
new-only things are taking their old course. You know that Caracalla
threatened old Claudius Vindex and his nephew with death because of
their opposition to his union with you. We all hoped, however, that he
would be moved to exercise mercy. He is in love--he was so gracious at
the feast! I myself was foremost among those who did their utmost to
dispose Caesar to clemency.. But he would not be moved, and, before the
sun goes down upon this day, the old man and the young one--the chiefest
among the nobles of Rome--will be no more. And it is Caracalla’s love
for you, child, that sheds this blood. Ask yourself after this how many
lives will be sacrificed when your flight causes hatred and fury to
reign supreme in the soul of the cheated monarch!”

With quickened breath Euryale had listened to the philosopher, without
regarding the girl; but scarcely had Philostratus uttered his last words
than Melissa ran to her, and, clasping her hands passionately on the
matron’s arm, she cried, “Ought I to obey you, Euryale, and the terrors
of my own heart, and flee?”

Then releasing the lady, she turned again to the philosopher, and burst
out: “Or are you in the right, Philostratus? Must I stay, to prevent the
misery that threatens to overtake others?”

Beside herself, torn by the storm that raged in her soul, she clasped
her hands upon her brow and continued, wildly: “You are both of you
so wise, and surely wish the best. How can you give me such opposite
advice? And my own heart?--why have the gods struck it dumb? Time was
when it spoke loudly enough if ever I was in doubt. One thing I know
for certain: if by the sacrifice of my life I could undo it all, I would
joyfully cast myself before the lions and panthers, like the Christian
maiden whom my mother saw smiling radiantly as she was led into the
arena. Splendor and power are as hateful to me as the flowers yonder
with their false dew. I was ever taught to close my ear to the voice
of selfishness. If I have any wish for myself, it is that I may keep my
faith with him to whom it was promised. But for love of my father, and
if I could be certain of saving many from death and misery, I would
stay, though I should despise myself and be separated forever from my
beloved!”

“Submit to the inevitable,” interposed the philosopher, with eager
entreaty. “The immortal gods will reward you with the blessings
of hundreds whom a word from you will have saved from ruin and
destruction.”

“And what say you?” asked the maiden, gazing with anxious expectancy
into the matron’s face. “Follow your own heart!” replied the lady,
deeply moved.

Melissa had hearkened to both counselors with eager ear, and both hung
anxiously on her lips, while, as if taken out of herself, she gazed with
panting bosom into the empty air. They had not long to wait. Suddenly
the maiden approached Philostratus and said with a firmness and decision
that astonished her friend:

“This will I do--this--I feel it here--this is the right. I remain, I
renounce the love of my heart, and accept what Fate has laid upon me. It
will be hard, and the sacrifice that I offer is great. But I must first
have the certainty that it shall not be in vain.”

“But, child,” cried Philostratus, “who can look into the future, and
answer for what is still to come?”

“Who?” asked Melissa, undaunted. “He alone in whose hand lies my future.
To Caesar himself I leave the decision. Go you to him now and speak for
me. Bring him greeting from me, and tell him that I, whom he honors with
his love, dare to entreat him modestly but earnestly not to punish the
aged Claudius Vindex and his nephew for the fault they were guilty of on
my account. For my sake would he deign to grant them life--and liberty?
Add to this that it is the first proof I have asked of his magnanimity,
and clothe it all in such winning words as Peitho can lay upon your
eloquent lips. If he grants pardon to these unfortunate ones, it shall
be a sign to me that I may be permitted to shield others from his wrath.
If he refuses, and they are put to death, then will he himself have
decided our fate otherwise, and he sees me for the last time alive in
the Circus. Thus shall it be--I have spoken.”

The last words came like a stern order, and Philostratus seemed to
have some hopes of the emperor’s clemency, for his love’s sake, and the
philosopher’s own eloquence. The moment Melissa ceased, he seized her
hand and cried, eagerly:

“I will try it; and, if he grant your request, you remain?”

“Yes,” answered the maiden, firmly. “Pray Caesar to have mercy, soften
his heart as much as you are able. I expect an answer before going to
the Circus.”

She hurried back into the sleeping-room without regarding Philostratus’s
answer. Once there, she threw herself upon her knees and prayed, now
to the manes of her mother, now--it was for the first time--to the
crucified Saviour of the Christians, who had taken upon himself a
painful death to bring happiness to others. First she prayed for
strength to keep her vow, come what might; and then she prayed for
Diodoros, that he might not be made wretched if she found herself
compelled to break her troth with him. Her father and brothers, too,
were not forgotten, as she commended their lives to a higher power.

When Euryale looked into the room, she found Melissa still upon her
knees, her young frame shaken as with fever. So she withdrew softly, and
in the Temple of Serapis, where her husband served as high-priest, she
prayed to Jesus Christ that he who suffered little children to come unto
him would lead this wandering lamb into the right path.



CHAPTER XXVI

The lady Euryale’s silent prayer was interrupted by the return of
Alexander. He brought the clothes which Seleukus’s wife had given him
for Melissa. He was already dressed in his best, and crowned like all
those who occupied the first seats in the Circus; but his festal garb
accorded ill with the pained look on his features, from which every
trace had vanished of the overflowing joy in life which had embellished
them only this morning.

He had seen and heard things which made him feel that it would no longer
be a sacrifice to give his life to save his sister.

Sad thoughts had flitted across his cheerful spirit like dark bats, even
while he was talking with Melissa and her protectress, for he knew well
how infinitely hard his father would find it to have to quit Alexandria;
and if he himself fled with Melissa he would be obliged to give up the
winning of fair Agatha. The girl’s Christian father had indeed received
him kindly, but had given him to understand plainly enough that he would
never allow a professed heathen to sue for his daughter’s hand. Besides
this, he had met with other humiliations which placed themselves like a
wall between him and his beloved, the only child of a rich and respected
man. He had forfeited the right of appearing before Zeus as a suitor;
for indeed he was no longer such as he had been only yesterday.

The news that Caracalla proposed to marry Melissa had been echoed by
insolent tongues, with the addition that he, Alexander, had ingratiated
himself with Caesar by serving him as a spy. No one had expressly said
this to him; but, while he was hurrying through the city in Caesar’s
chariot, on the ladies’ message, it had been made very plain to his
apprehension. Honest men had avoided him--him to whom hitherto every one
for whose regard he cared had held out a friendly hand; and much else
that he had experienced in the course of this drive had been unpleasant
enough to give rise to a change of his whole inner being.

The feeling that every one was pointing at him the finger of scorn,
or of wrath, had never ceased to pursue him. And he had been under no
illusion; for when he met the old sculptor Lysander, who only yesterday
had so kindly told him and Melissa about Caesar’s mother, as he nodded
from the chariot his greeting was not returned; and the honest artist
had waved his hand with a gesture which no Alexandrian could fail to
understand as meaning, “I no longer know you, and do not wish to be
recognized by you.”

He had from his childhood loved Diodoros as a brother, and in one of the
side streets, down which the chariot had turned to avoid the tumult in
the Kanopic way, Alexander had seen his old friend. He had desired the
charioteer to stop, and had leaped out on the road to speak to Diodoros
and give him at once Melissa’s message; but the young man had turned
his back with evident displeasure, and to the painter’s pathetic appeal,
“But, at any rate, hear me!” he answered, sharply: “The less I hear of
you and yours the better for me. Go on--go on, in Caesar’s chariot!”

With this he had turned away and knocked at the door of an architect who
was known to them both; and Alexander, tortured with painful feelings,
had gone on, and for the first time the idea had taken possession of him
that he had indeed descended to the part of spy when he had betrayed to
Caesar what Alexandrian wit had to say about him. He could, of course,
tell himself that he would rather have faced death or imprisonment than
have betrayed to Caracalla the name of one of the gibers; still, he
had to admit to himself that, but for the hope of saving his father and
brother from death and imprisonment, he would hardly have done Caesar
such service. The mercy shown to them was certainly too like payment,
and his own part in the matter struck him as hateful and base. His
fellow-townsmen had a right to bear him a grudge, and his friends to
keep out of his way. A feeling came over him of bitter self-contempt,
hitherto strange to him; and he understood for the first time how Philip
could regard life as a burden and call it a malicious Danaus-gift of the
gods. When, finally, in the Kanopic way, close in front of Seleukus’s
house, a youth unknown to him cried, scornfully, as the chariot was
slowly making its way through the throng, “The brother-in-law of
Tarautas!” he had great difficulty in restraining himself from leaping
down and letting the rascal feel the weight of his fists. He knew, too,
that Tarautas was the name of a hateful and bloodthirsty gladiator which
had been given as a nickname to Caesar in Rome; and when he heard
the insolent fellow’s cry taken up by the mob, who shouted after him,
“Tarautas’s brother-in-law!” wherever he went, he felt as though he were
being pelted with mire and stones.

It would have been a real comfort to him if the earth would have opened
to swallow him with the chariot, to hide him from the sight of men. He
could have burst out crying like a child that has been beaten. When at
last he was safe inside Seleukus’s house, he was easier; for here he was
known; here he would be understood. Berenike must know what he thought
of Caesar’s suit, and seeing her wholesome and honest hatred, he had
sworn to himself that he would snatch his sister from the hands of the
tyrant, if it were to lead him to the most agonizing death.

While she was engaged in selecting a dress for her protegee, he related
to the lady Euryale what had happened to him in the street and in
the house of Seleukus. He had been conducted past the soldiers in the
vestibule and impluvium to the lady’s private rooms, and there he had
been witness to a violent matrimonial dispute. Seleukus had previously
delivered to his wife Caesar’s command that she should appear in the
Amphitheater with the other noble dames of the city. Her answer was
a bitter laugh, and a declaration that she would mingle with the
spectators in none but mourning robes. Thereupon her husband, pointing
out to her the danger to which such conduct would expose them, had
raised objections, and she at last had seemed to yield. When Alexander
joined her he had found her in a splendid dress of shining purple
brocade, her black hair crowned with a wreath of roses, and a splendid
diadem; a garland of roses hung across her bosom, and precious stones
sparkled round her throat and arms. In short, she was arrayed like a
happy mother for her daughter’s wedding-day.

Soon after Alexander’s arrival Seleukus had come in, and this
conspicuously handsome dress, so unbecoming to the matron’s age, and
so unlike her usual attire-chosen, evidently, to put the monstrosity of
Caesar’s demand in the strongest light--had roused her husband’s wrath.
He had expressed his dissatisfaction in strong terms, and again pointed
out to her the danger in which such a daring demonstration might involve
them; but this time there was no moving the lady; she would not despoil
herself of a single rose. After she had solemnly declared that she
would appear in the Circus either as she thought fit or not at all, her
husband had left her in anger.

“What a fool she is!” Euryale exclaimed.

Then she showed him a white robe of beautiful bombyx, woven in the isle
of Kos, which she had decided on for Melissa, and a peplos with a border
of tender sea-green; and Alexander approved of the choice.

Time pressed, and Euryale went at once to Melissa with the new festal
raiment. Once more she nodded kindly to the girl, and begged her, as
she herself had something to discuss with Alexander, to allow the
waiting-woman to dress her. She felt as if she were bringing the robe
to a condemned creature, in which she was to be led to execution, and
Melissa felt the same.

Euryale then returned to the painter, and bade him end his narrative.

The lady Berenike had forthwith desired Johanna to pack together all the
dead Korinna’s festal dresses. Alexander had then followed her guidance,
accompanying her to a court in the slaves’ quarters, where a number
of men were awaiting her. These were the captains of Seleukus’s ships,
which were now in port, and the superintendents of his granaries and
offices, altogether above a hundred freedmen in the merchant’s service.
Each one seemed to know what he was here for.

The matron responded to their hearty greetings with a word of thanks,
and added, bitterly:

“You see before you a mourning mother whom a ruthless tyrant compels to
go to a festival thus--thus--only look at me--bedizened like a peacock!”

At this the bearded assembly gave loud expression to their
dissatisfaction, but Berenike went on “Melapompus has taken care to
secure good places; but he has wisely not taken them all together. You
are all free men; I have no orders to give you. But, if you are indeed
indignant at the scorn and heart-ache inflicted on your lord’s wife,
make it known in the Circus to him who has brought them on her. You are
all past your first youth, and will carefully avoid any rashness which
may involve you in ruin. May the avenging gods aid and protect you!”

With this she had turned her back on the multitude; but Johannes, the
Christian lawyer, the chief freedman of the household, had hurried into
the court-yard, just in time to entreat her to give up this ill-starred
demonstration, and to extinguish the fire she had tried to kindle.
So long as Caesar wore the purple, rebellion against him, to whom the
Divinity had intrusted the sovereignty, was a sin. The scheme she was
plotting was meant to punish him who had pained her; but she forgot
that it might cost these brave men, husbands and fathers, their life or
liberty. The vengeance she called on them to take might be balm to the
wounds of her own heart; but if Caesar in his wrath brought destruction
down on these, her innocent instruments, that balm would turn to burning
poison.

These words, whispered to her with entire conviction, had not been
without their effect. For some minutes Berenike had stared gloomily at
the ground; but then she had again approached the assembly, to repeat
the warning given her by the Christian, whom all respected, and by whom
some indeed had been persuaded to be baptized.

“Johannes is right,” she ended. “This ill-used heart did wrong when it
sent up its cry of anguish before you. Rather will I be trodden under
foot by the enemy, as is the manner of the Christians, than bring
such misfortune on innocent men, who are so faithful to our house. Be
cautious, then. Give no overt expression to your feelings. Let each one
who feels too weak to control his wrath, avoid the Circus; and those who
go, keep still if they feel moved to act in my behalf. One thing only
you may do. Tell every one, far and wide, what I had purposed. What
others may do, they themselves must answer for.”

The Christian had strongly disapproved of this last clause; but Berenike
had paid no heed, and had left the court-yard, followed by Alexander.

The shouts of the indignant multitude had rung in their ears, and, in
spite of her warning, they had sounded like a terrible threat. Johannes,
to be sure, had remained, to move them to moderation by further
remonstrances.

“What were the mad creatures plotting?” Euryale anxiously broke in;
and he hastily went on “They call Caesar by no name but Tarautas; every
mouth is full of gibes and rage at the new and monstrous taxes, the
billeting of the troops, and the intolerable insolence of the soldiery,
which Caracalla wickedly encourages. His contemptuous indifference has
deeply offended the heads of the town. And then his suit to my sister!
Young and old are wagging their tongues over it.”

“It would be more like them to triumph in it,” said the matron,
interrupting him. “An Alexandrian in the purple, on the throne of the
Caesars!”

“I too had hoped that,” cried Alexander, “and it seemed so likely. But
who can understand the populace? Every woman in the place, I should have
thought, would hold her head higher, at the thought that an Alexandrian
girl was empress; but it was from the women that I heard the most
vindictive and shameless abuse. I heard more than enough; for, as we
got closer to the Serapeum, the more slowly was the chariot obliged to
proceed, to make its way through the crowd. And the things I heard! I
clinch my fists now as I only think of them.--And what will it be in the
Circus? What will not Melissa have to endure!”

“It is envy,” the matron murmured to herself; but she was immediately
silent, for the young girl came toward them, out of the bedroom. Her
toilet was complete; the beautiful white dress became her well. The
wreath of roses, with diamond dewdrops, lay lightly on her hair, the
snake-shaped bracelet which her imperial suitor had sent her clasped her
white arm, and her small head, somewhat bent, her pale, sweet face,
and large, bashful, inquiring, drooping eyes formed such an engaging,
modest, and unspeakably touching picture, that Euryale dared to hope
that even in the Circus none but hardened hearts could harbor a hostile
feeling against this gentle, pure blossom, slightly drooping with
silent sorrow. She could not resist the impulse to kiss Melissa, and
the half-formed purpose ripened within her to venture the utmost for the
child’s protection. The pity in her heart had turned to love; and when
she saw that to this sweet creature, at the mere sight of whom her heart
went forth, the most splendid jewels, in which any other girl would have
been glad to deck herself, were as a heavy burden to be borne but sadly,
she felt it a sacred duty to comfort her and lighten this trial,
and shelter Melissa, so far as was in her power, from insult and
humiliation.

It was many years since she had visited the Amphitheater, where the
horrible butchery was an abomination to her; but to-day her heart bade
her conquer her old aversion, and accompany the girl to the Circus.

Had not Melissa taken the place in her heart of her lost daughter? Was
not she, Euryale, the only person who, by showing herself with Melissa
and declaring herself her friend, could give the people assurance that
the girl, who was exposed to misapprehension and odium by the favor she
had met with from the ruthless and hated sovereign, was in truth pure
and lovable? Under her guardianship, by her side, the girl, as she knew,
would be protected from misapprehension and insult; and she, an old
woman and a Christian, should she evade the first opportunity of taking
up a cross in imitation of the Divine Master, among whose followers she
joyfully counted herself--though secretly, for fear of men? All this
flashed through her mind with the swiftness of lightning, and her call,
“Doris!” addressed to her waiting-woman, was so clear and unexpected
that Melissa’s overstrung nerves were startled. She looked up at the
lady in amazement, as, without a word of explanation, she said to the
woman who had hurried in:

“The blue robe I wore at the festival of Adonis, my mother’s diadem,
and a large gem with the head of Serapis for my shoulder. My hair--oh,
a veil will cover it! What does it matter for an old woman?--You, child,
why do you look at me in such amazement? What mother would allow a
pretty young daughter to appear alone in the Circus? Besides, I may
surely hope that it will confirm your courage to feel that I am at your
side. Perhaps the populace may be moved a little in your favor if the
wife of the high-priest of their greatest god is your companion.”

But she could scarcely end her speech, for Melissa had flown into her
arms, exclaiming, “And you will do this for me?” while Alexander, deeply
touched by gratitude and joy, kissed her thin arm and the hem of her
peplos.

While Melissa helped the matron to change her dress--in the next room
Alexander paced to and fro in great unrest. He knew the Alexandrians,
and there was not the slightest doubt but that the presence of this
universally revered lady would make them look with kindlier eyes on his
sister. Nothing else could so effectually impress them with the entire
propriety of her appearance in the Circus. The more seriously he had
feared that Melissa might be deeply insulted and offended by the rough
demonstrations of the mob, the more gratefully did his heart beat; nay,
his facile nature saw in this kind act the first smile of returning good
fortune.

He only longed to be hopeful once more, to enjoy the present--as so many
philosophers and poets advised--and especially the show in the Circus,
his last pleasure, perhaps; to forget the imminent future.

The old bright look came back to his face; but it soon vanished, for
even while he pictured himself in the amphitheatre, he remembered that
there, too, his former acquaintances might refuse to speak to him; that
the odious names of “Tarautas’ brother-in-law” or of “traitor” might be
shouted after him on the road. A cold chill came over him, and the image
of pretty Ino rose up before him--Ino, who had trusted in his love;
and to whom, of all others, he had given cause to accuse him of
false-heartedness. An unpleasant sense came over him of dissatisfaction
with himself, such as he, who always regarded self-accusation,
repentance, and atonement as a foolish waste of life, had never before
experienced.

The fine, sunny autumn day had turned to a sultry, dull evening, and
Alexander went to the window to let the sea-breeze fan his dewy brow;
but he soon heard voices behind him, for Euryale and Melissa had
re-entered the room, followed by the house-steward, who presented to
his mistress a sealed tablet which a slave had just brought from
Philostratus. The women had been talking of Melissa’s vow; and Euryale
had promised her that, if Fate should decide against Caesar, she would
convey the girl to a place of safety, where she could certainly not be
discovered, and might look forward in peace to the future. Then she had
impressed on her that, if things should be otherwise ordered, she must
endure even the unendurable with patience, as an obedient wife, as
empress, but still ever conscious of the solemn and beneficent power she
might wield in her new position.

The tablets would now settle the question; and side by side the two
women hastily read the missive which Philostratus had written on the
wax, in his fine, legible hand. It was as follows:

“The condemned have ceased to live. Your efforts had no effect but to
hasten their end. Caesar’s desire was to rid you of adversaries even
against your will. Vindex and his nephew are no more; but I embarked
soon enough to escape the rage of him who might have attained the
highest favors of fortune if he had but known how to be merciful.”

“God be praised!--but alas, poor Vindex!” cried Euryale, as she laid
down the tablets. But Melissa kissed her, and then exclaimed to her
brother:

“Now all doubts are at an end. I may fly. He himself has settled the
matter!”

Then she added, more gently, but still urgently “Do you take care of my
father, and Philip, and of yourself. The lady Euryale will protect me.
Oh, how thankful am I!”

She looked up to heaven with fervent devotion Euryale whispered to them:
“My plan is laid. As soon as the performance is over, Alexander shall
take you home, child, to your father’s house; you must go in one of
Caesar’s chariots. Afterward come back here with your brother; I will
wait for you below. But now we will go together to the Circus, and can
discuss the details on our way. You, my young friend, go now and order
away the imperial litter; bid my steward to have the horses put to my
covered harmamaxa. There is room in it for us all three.”

By the time Alexander returned, the daylight was waning, and the clatter
of the chariots began to be audible which conveyed Caesar’s court to the
Circus.



CHAPTER XXVII.

The great Amphitheatre of Dionysus was in the Bruchium, the splendid
palatial quarter of the city, close to the large harbor between the
Choma and the peninsula of Lochias. Hard by the spacious and lofty
rotunda, in which ten thousand spectators could be seated, stood the
most fashionable gymnasia and riding-schools. These buildings, which had
been founded long since by the Ptolemiac kings, and had been repeatedly
extended and beautified, formed, with the adjoining schools for
gladiators and beast-fighters, and the stables for wild beasts from
every part of the world, a little town by themselves.

At this moment the amphitheatre looked like a beehive, of which every
cell seems to be full, but in which a whole swarm expects yet to find
room. The upper places, mere standing-room for the common people, and
the cheaper seats, had been full early in the day. By the afternoon the
better class of citizens had come in, if their places were not reserved;
and now, at sunset, those who were arriving in litters and chariots,
just before the beginning of the show, were for the most part in
Caesar’s train, court officials, senators, or the rich magnates of the
city.

The strains of music were by this time mingling with the shouting and
loud talk of the spectators, or of the thousands who were crowding round
the building without hoping to obtain admission. But even for them there
was plenty to be seen. How delightful to watch the well-dressed
women, and the men of rank and wealth, crowned with wreaths, as they
dismounted; to see the learned men and artists arrive--more or less
eagerly applauded, according to the esteem in which they were held
by the populace! The most splendid sight of all was the procession of
priests, with Timotheus, the high-priest of Serapis, at their head, and
by his side the priest of Alexander, both marching with dignity under
a canopy. They were followed by the animals to be slaughtered for
sacrifice, and the images of the gods and the deified Caesars, which
were to be placed in the arena, as the most worshipful of all the
spectators. Timotheus wore the splendid insignia of his office; the
priest of Alexander was in purple, as being the idiologos and head of
all the temples of Egypt, and representative of Caesar.

The advent of the images of the Caesars gave rise to a sort of judgment
of the dead: for the mob hailed that of Julius Caesar with enthusiasm,
that of Augustus, with murmurs of disapproval; when Caligula appeared,
he was hissed; while the statues of Vespasian, Titus, Hadrian, and
Antonine, met with loud acclamations. That of Septimius Severus,
Caracalla’s father, to whom the town owed many benefits, was very well
received. The images of the gods, too, had very various fates. Serapis,
and Alexander, the divine hero of the town, were enthusiastically
welcomed, while scarcely a voice was heard on the approach of
Zeus-Jupiter and Ares-Mars. They were regarded as the gods of the hated
Romans.

The companies of the imperial body-guard, who were placed about the
amphitheatre, found no great difference, so long as it was daylight,
between the crowd round the Circus of Alexandria and that by the Tiber.
What chiefly struck them was the larger number of dusky faces, and the
fanciful garb of the Magians. The almost naked rabble, too, with nothing
on but a loin-cloth, who wriggled in and out of the throng, ready for
any service or errand, formed a feature unknown at Rome. But, as it grew
darker, the Romans began to perceive that it was not for nothing that
they had come hither.

At Rome, when some great show was promised, of beast-fighting,
gladiators, and the like, there were, no doubt, barbarian princes to
be seen, and envoys from the remotest ends of the earth in strange and
gorgeous array; and there, too, small wares of every kind were for sale.
By the Tiber, again, night shows were given, with grand illuminations,
especially for the feast of Flora; but here, as soon as the sun had
set, and the sports were about to begin, the scene was one never to
be forgotten. Some of the ladies who descended from the litters, wore
garments of indescribable splendor; the men even displayed strange
and handsome costumes as they were helped out of their gilt and plated
chariots by their servants. What untold wealth must these men have
at their command, to be able to dress their slaves in gold and silver
brocade; and the runners, who kept up with the swiftest horses, must
have lungs of iron! The praetorians, who had not for many a day seen
anything to cause them to forget the motto of the greatest philosopher
among their poets--never to be astonished at anything--repeatedly pushed
each other with surprise and admiration; nay, the centurion Julius
Martialis, who had just now had a visit in camp from his wife and
children, in defiance of orders, while Caesar himself was looking on,
struck his fist on his greaves, and, exclaiming loudly, “Look out!”
 pointed to Seleukus’s chariot, for which four runners, in tunics with
long sleeves, made of sea-green bombyx, richly embroidered with silver,
were making a way through the crowd.

The barefooted lads, with their nimble, gazellelike legs, were all well
looking, and might have been cast all in one mold. But what struck the
centurion and his comrades as most remarkable in their appearance were
the flash and sparkle from their slender ankles, as the setting sun
suddenly shot a fleeting ray through a rift in the heavy clouds. Each of
these fellows wore on his legs gold bands set with precious stones, and
the rubies which glittered on the harness of Seleukus’s horse were of
far greater value.

He, as master of the festival, had come betimes, and this was the first
of many such displays of wealth which followed each other in quick
succession, as soon as the brief twilight of Egypt had given way to
darkness, and the lighting up of the Circus was begun.

Here came a beautifully dressed woman in a roomy litter, over which
waved a canopy entirely of white ostrich-plumes, which the evening
breeze swayed like a thicket of fern-leaves. This throne was borne by
ten black and ten white slave-girls, and before it two fair children
rode on tame ostriches. The tall heir of a noble house, who, like Caesar
at Rome, belonged to the “Blues,” drove his own team of four splendid
white horses; and he himself was covered with turquoises, while the
harness was set with cut sapphires.

The centurion shook his head in silent admiration. His face had been
tanned in many wars, both in the East and West, and he had fought even
in distant Caledonia, but the low forehead, loose under lip, and dull
eye spoke of small gifts of intellect. Nevertheless, he was not lacking
in strength of will, and was regarded by his comrades as a good beast
of burden who would submit to a great deal before it became too much for
him. But then he would break out like a mad bull, and he might long
ago have risen to higher rank, had he not once in such a fit of passion
nearly throttled a fellow-soldier. For this crime he had been severely
punished, and condemned to begin again at the bottom of the ladder. He
owed it chiefly to the young tribune Aurelius Apollinaris that he had
very soon regained the centurion’s staff, in spite of his humble birth;
he had saved that officer’s life in the war with the Armenians--to be
here, in Alexandria, cruelly mutilated by the hand of his sovereign.

The centurion had a faithful heart. He was as much attached to the two
noble brothers as to his wife and children, for indeed he owed them
much; and if the service had allowed it he would long since have made
his way to the house of Seleukus to learn how the wounded tribune was
faring. But he had not time even to see his own family, for his younger
and richer comrades, who wanted to enjoy the pleasures of the city, had
put upon him no small share of their own duties. Only this morning a
young soldier of high birth, who had begun his career at the same
time as Martialis, had promised him some tickets of admission to the
evening’s performance in the Circus if he would take his duty on guard
outside the amphitheatre. And this offer had been very welcome to the
centurion, for he thus found it possible to give those he loved best,
his wife and his mother, the greatest treat which could be offered
to any Alexandrian. And now, when anything noteworthy was to be seen
outside, he only regretted that he had already some time since conducted
them to their seats in one of the upper rows. He would have liked that
they, too, should have seen the horses and the chariots and the “Blue”
 charioteer’s turquoises and sapphires; although a decurion observed, as
he saw them, that a Roman patrician would scorn to dress out his person
with such barbaric splendor, and an Alexandrian of the praetorian guard
declared that his fellow-citizens of Greek extraction thought more of a
graceful fold than of whole strings of precious stones.

“But why, then, was this ‘Blue’ so vehemently hailed by the mob!” asked
a Pannonian in the guard.

“The mob!” retorted the Alexandrian, scornfully. “Only the Syrians and
other Asiatics. Look at the Greeks. The great merchant Seleukus is the
richest of them all, but splendid as his horses, his chariots, and his
slaves are, he himself wears only the simple Macedonian mantle. Though
it is of costly material, who would suspect it? If you see a man
swaggering in such a blaze of gems you may wager your house--if you have
one--that his birthplace lies not very far from Syria.”

“Now, that one, in a mother-of-pearl shell on two wheels, is the Jew
Poseidonius,” the Pannonian put in. “I am quartered on his father. But
he is dressed like a Greek.”

At this the centurion, in his delight at knowing something, opened his
mouth with a broad grin: “I am a native here,” said he, “and I can tell
you the Jew would make you answer for it if you took him for anything
but a Greek.”

“And quite right,” added another soldier, from Antioch. “The Jews here
are many, but they have little in common with those in Palestine. They
wish to pass for Greeks; they speak Greek, assume Greek names, and
even cease to believe in the great God their father; they study Greek
philosophy, and I know one who worships in the Temple of Serapis.”

“Many do the same in Rome,” said a man of Ostia. “I know an epigram
which ridicules them for it.”

At this point they were interrupted, for Martialis pointed to a tall
man who was coming toward them, and whom his sharp eye had recognized
as Macrinus, the prefect of the praetorians. In an instant the soldiers
were erect and rigid, but still many a helmeted head was turned toward
the spot where their chief stood talking in an undertone to the Magian
Serapion.

Macrinus had persuaded Caesar to send for the exorciser, to test his
arts. Immediately after the performance, however late it might be, the
Magian was to be admitted to his presence.

Serapion thanked the prefect, and then whispered to him, “I have had a
second revelation.”

“Not here!” exclaimed Macrinus, uneasily, and, leading away his handsome
little son, he turned toward the entrance.

Dusk, meanwhile, had given way to darkness, and several slaves stood
ready to light the innumerable little lamps which were to illuminate the
outside of the Circus. They edged the high arches which surrounded
the two lower stories, and supported the upper ranks of the enormous
circular structure. Separated only by narrow intervals, the rows of
lights formed a glittering series of frames which outlined the noble
building and rendered it visible from afar.

The arches on the ground-floor led to the cells from which the men and
beasts were let out into the arena; but some, too, were fitted with
shops, where flowers and wreaths, refreshments, drinks, handkerchiefs,
fans, and other articles in request, were sold. On the footway between
the building and the row of pitch torches which surrounded it, men and
women in thousands were walking to and fro. Smart, inquisitive girls
were pushing their way singly or in groups, and their laughter drowned
the deep, tragical voices of the soothsayers and Magians who announced
their magic powers to the passersby. Some of these even made their way
into the waiting-rooms of the gladiators and wrestlers, who to-day so
greatly needed their support that, in spite of severe and newly enforced
prohibitions, many a one stole out into the crowd to buy some effectual
charm or protecting amulet.

Where the illuminations were completed, attempts of another kind
were being made to work upon the mood of the people; nimble-tongued
fellows--some in the service of Macrinus and some in that of the anxious
senate--were distributing handkerchiefs to wave on Caesar’s approach,
or flowers to strew in his path. More than one, who was known for a
malcontent, found a gold coin in his hand, with the image of the monarch
he was expected to hail; and on the way by which Caesar was to come many
of those who awaited him wore the caracalla. These were for the most
part bribed, and their acclamations were to mollify the tyrant’s mood.

As soon as the prefect had disappeared within the building, the
praetorian ranks fell out again. It was lucky that among them were
several Alexandrians, besides the centurion Martialis, who had not long
been absent from their native town; for without them much would have
remained incomprehensible. The strangest thing to foreign eyes was
a stately though undecorated harmamaxa, out of which stepped first a
handsome wreathed youth, then a matron of middle age, and at last an
elegantly dressed girl, whose rare beauty made even Martialis--who
rarely noticed women--exclaim, “Now, she is to my taste the
sweetest-thing of all.”

But there must have been something very remarkable about these three;
for when they appeared the crowd broke out at first in loud shouts and
outcries, which soon turned to acclamations and welcome, though through
it all shrill whistles and hisses were heard.

“Caesar’s new mistress, the daughter of a gemcutter!” the Alexandrian
muttered to his comrades. “That handsome boy is her brother, no doubt.
He is said to be a mean sycophant, a spy paid by Caesar.”

“He?” said an older centurion, shaking his scarred head. “Sooner would I
believe that the shouts of the populace were intended for the old woman
and not for the young one.”

“Then a sycophant he is and will remain,” said the Alexandrian with
a laugh. “For, as a matter of fact, it is the elder lady they are
greeting, and, by Heracles, she deserves it! She is the wife of the
high-priest of Serapis. There are few poor in this city to whom she has
not done a kindness. She is well able, no doubt, for her husband is the
brother of Seleukus, and her father, too, sat over his ears in gold.”

“Yes, she is able,” interrupted Martialis, with a tone of pride, as
though it were some credit to himself. “But how many have even more, and
keep their purse-strings tight! I have known her since she was a child,
and she is the best of all that is good. What does not the town owe to
her! She risked her life to move Caesar’s father to mercy toward the
citizens, after they had openly declared against him and in favor of his
rival Pescennius Niger. And she succeeded, too.”

“Why, then, are they whistling?” asked the older centurion.

“Because her companion is a spy,” repeated the Alexandrian. “And the
girl--In Caesar’s favor! But, after all, which of you all would not
gladly see his sister or his niece Caesar’s light of love?”

“Not I!” cried Martialis. “But the man who speaks ill of that girl only
does so because he likes blue eyes best. The maiden who comes in the
lady Euryale’s chariot is spotless, you may swear.”

“Nay, nay,” said the younger Alexandrian soothingly. “That black-haired
fellow and his companions would whistle another tune if they knew any
evil of her, and she would not be in the lady Euryale’s company--that
is the chief point--. But, look there! The shameless dogs are stopping
their way! ‘Green’ to a man.--But here come the lictors.”

“Attention!” shouted Martialis, firmly resolved to uphold the guardians
of the peace, and not to suffer any harm to the matron and her fair
companion; for Euryale’s husband was the brother of Seleukus, whom his
father and father-in-law had served years ago, while in the villa at
Kanopus his mother and wife were left in charge to keep it in order. He
felt that he was bound in duty to the merchant, and that all who were
of that household had a right to count on his protection. But no active
measures were needed; a number of “Blues” had driven off the “Greens”
 who had tried to bar Alexander’s way, and the lictors came to their
assistance.

A young man in festal array, who had pushed into the front rank of the
bystanders, had looked on with panting breath. He was very pale, and the
thick wreath he wore was scarcely sufficient to hide the bandage under
it. This was Diodoros, Melissa’s lover. After resting awhile at his
friend’s house he had been carried in a litter to the amphitheatre, for
he could yet hardly walk. His father being one of the senators of the
town, his family had a row of seats in the lowest and best tier; but
this, on this occasion, was entirely given up to Caesar and his court.
Consequently the different members of the senate could have only half
the usual number of seats. Still, the son of Polybius might in any
case claim two in his father’s name; and his friend Timon--who had also
provided him with suitable clothing--had gone to procure the tickets
from the curia. They were to meet at the entrance leading to their
places, and it would be some little time yet before Timon could return.

Diodoros had thought he would behold his imperial rival; however,
instead of Caracalla he had seen the contemptuous reception which
awaited Alexander and Melissa, from some at least of the populace.
Still, how fair and desirable had she seemed in his eyes, whom, only
that morning, he had been blessed in calling his! As he now moved away
from the main entrance, he asked himself why it was such torture to him
to witness the humiliation of a being who had done him such a wrong, and
whom he thought he hated and scorned so utterly. Hardly an hour since he
had declared to Timon that he had rooted his love for Melissa out of his
heart. He himself would feel the better for using the whistle he wore,
in derision of her, and for seeing her faithlessness punished by the
crowd. But now? When the insolent uproar went up from the “Greens,”
 whose color he himself wore, he had found it difficult to refrain from
rushing on the cowardly crew and knocking some of them down.

He now made his way with feeble steps to the entrance where he was
to meet his friend. The blood throbbed in his temples, his mouth
was parched, and, as a fruit-seller cried her wares from one of the
archways, he took a few apples from her basket to refresh himself with
their juice. His hand trembled, and the experienced old woman, observing
the bandage under his wreath, supposed him to be one of the excited
malcontents who had perhaps already fallen into the hands of the
lictors. So, with a significant grin, she pointed under the table on
which her fruit-baskets stood, and said “I have plenty of rotten ones.
Six in a wrapper, quite easy to hide under your cloak. For whom you
will. Caesar has given the golden apple of Paris to a goddess of
this town. I should best like to see these flung at her brother, the
sycophant.”

“Do you know them?” asked Diodoros, hoarsely.

“No,” replied the old woman. “No need for that. I have plenty of
customers and good ears. The slut broke her word with a handsome youth
of the town for the sake of the Roman, and they who do such things are
repaid by the avenging gods.” Diodoros felt his knees failing under
him, and a wrathful answer was on his lips, when the huckster suddenly
shouted like mad: “Caesar, Caesar! He is coming.”

The shouts of the crowd hailing their emperor had already become audible
through the heavy evening air, at first low and distant, and louder by
degrees. They now suddenly rose to a deafening uproar, and while the
sound rolled on like approaching thunder, broken by shrill whistles
suggesting lightning, the sturdy old apple-seller clambered unaided on
to her table, and shouted with all her might:

“Caesar! Here he is!--Hail, hail, hail to great Caesar!”

At the imminent risk of tumbling off her platform, she bent low down
to reach under the table for the blue cloth which covered her store of
rotten apples, snatched it off, and waved it with frantic enthusiasm,
as though her elderly heart had suddenly gone forth to the very man for
whom a moment ago she had been ready to sell her disgusting missiles.
And still she shouted in ringing tones, “Hail, hail, Caesar!” again
and again, with all her might, till there was no breath left in her
overbuxom, panting breast, and her round face was purple with the
effort. Nay, her emotion was so vehement that the bright tears streamed
down her fat cheeks.

And every one near was shrieking like the applewoman, “Hail, Caesar!”
 and it was only where the crowd was densest that a sharp whistle now and
then rent the roar of acclamations.

Diodoros, meanwhile, had turned to look at the main entrance, and,
carried away by the universal desire to see, had perched himself on an
unopened case of dried figs. His tall figure now towered far above
the throng, and he set his teeth as he heard the old woman, almost
speechless with delight, gasp out:

“Lovely! wonderful! He would never have found the like in Rome. Here,
among us--”

But the cheers of the multitude now drowned every other sound. Fathers
or mothers who had children with them lifted them up as high as they
could; where a small man stood behind a tall one, way was willingly
made, for it would have been a shame to hinder his view of such a
spectacle. Many had already seen the great monarch in his shining,
golden chariot, drawn by four splendid horses; but such an array of
torch-bearers as now preceded Caracalla was a thing never seen within
the memory of the oldest or most traveled man. Three elephants marched
before him and three came behind, and all six carried in their trunks
blazing torches, which they held now low and now aloft to light his
road. To think that beasts could be trained to such a service! And that
here, in Alexandria, such a display could be made before the haughty and
pampered Romans!

The chariot stood still, and the black Ethiopians who guided the huge
four-footed torch-bearers took the three leaders to join their fellows
behind the chariot. This really was a fine sight; this could not but
fill the heart of every one who loved his native town with pride and
delight. For what should a man ever shout himself hoarse, if not for
such a splendid and unique show? Diodoros himself could not take
his eyes off the elephants. At first he was delighted with them, but
presently the sight annoyed him even more than it had pleased him;
for he reflected that the tyrant, the villain, his deadly enemy, would
certainly take to himself the applause bestowed on the clever beasts.
With this, he grasped the reed pipe in the breast of his tunic. He had
been on the point of using it before now, to retaliate on Melissa for
some portion of the pain she had inflicted on him. At this thought,
however, the paltriness of such revenge struck him with horror, and with
a hasty impulse he snapped the pipe in two, and flung the pieces on
the ground in front of the apple-stall. The old woman observed it and
exclaimed:

“Ay, ay, such a sight makes one forgive a great deal”; but he turned his
back on her in silence, and joined his friend at the appointed spot.

They made their way without difficulty to the seats reserved for the
senators’ families, and when they had taken their places, the young man
replied but briefly to the sympathetic inquiries as to his health which
were addressed to him by his acquaintances. His friend Timon gazed
anxiously into his handsome but pale, sad face, as Diodoros sat crushed
and absorbed in thought. He would have liked to urge him to quit the
scene at once, for the seats just opposite were those destined to Caesar
and his court-among them, no doubt, Melissa. In the dim light which
still prevailed in the vast amphitheatre it was impossible to recognize
faces. But there would soon be a blaze of light, and what misery must
await the hapless victim of her faithlessness, still so far from perfect
health! After the glare of light outside, which was almost blinding, the
twilight within was for the moment a relief to Diodoros. His weary limbs
were resting, a pleasant smell came up from the perfumed fountains
in the arena, and his eyes, which could not here rest on anything to
gratify him, were fixed on vacancy.

And yet it was a comfort to him to think that he had broken his pipe.
It would have disgraced him to whistle it; and, moreover, the tone would
have reached the ear of the noble lady who had accompanied Melissa, and
whom he himself had, only yesterday, revered as a second mother.

Loud music now struck up, he heard shouts and cheers, and just above
him--for it could only proceed from the uppermost tiers--there was an
extraordinary tumult. Still he paid no heed, and as he thought of that
matron the question suddenly arose in his mind, whether she would have
consented to be seen with Melissa if she thought that the girl was
indeed capable of ruthless falsehood or any other unworthy act. He, who
never missed a show in the arena, had never seen the lady Euryale here.
She could hardly have come to-day for her own pleasure; she had come,
then, for Melissa’s sake; and yet she knew that the girl was betrothed
to him. Unless Caesar had commanded the matron’s presence, Melissa must
still be worthy of the esteem and affection of this best of women; and
at this reflection Hope once more raised her head in his tortured soul.

He now suddenly wished that brighter light might dispel the gloom which
just now he had found so restful; for the lady Euryale’s demeanor would
show him whether Melissa were still a virtuous maiden. If the matron
were as friendly with her as ever, her heart was perhaps still his;
it was not the splendor of the purple that had led her astray, but the
coercion of the tyrant.

His silent reflections were here interrupted by the loud sounding of
trumpets, battle-cries, and, immediately after, the fall of some
heavy body, followed by repeated acclamations, noisy outcries, and the
applause of those about him. Not till then had he been aware that the
performances had begun. Below him, indeed, on the arena from which he
had not once raised his eyes, nothing was to be seen on the yellow sand
but the scented fountain and a shapeless body, by which a second and a
third were soon lying; but overhead something was astir, and, from the
right-hand side, bright rays flashed across the wide space. Above the
vast circle of seats, arranged on seven tiers, suns and huge, strangely
shaped stars were seen, which shed a subdued, many-tinted radiance;
and what the youth saw over his head was not the vault of heaven, which
to-night bent over his native city darkened by clouds, but a velarium of
immense size on which the nocturnal firmament was depicted. This covered
in the whole of the open space. Every constellation which rose over
Alexandria was plainly recognizable. Jupiter and Mars, Caesar’s
favorites, outdid the other planets in size and brightness; and in the
center of this picture of the sky, which slowly revolved round it,
stars were set to form the letters of Caracalla’s names, Bassianus and
Antoninus. But their light, too, was dim, and veiled as it were with
clouds. Soft music was heard from these artificial heavens, and in
the stratum of air immediately beneath, the blare of war-trumpets
and battle-cries were heard. Thus all eyes were directed upward, and
Diodoros’s with the rest.

He perceived, with amazement, that the givers of the entertainment,
in their anxiety to set something absolutely new before their imperial
guest, had arranged that the first games should take place in the air. A
battle was being fought overhead, on a level with the highest places, in
a way that must surely be a surprise even to the pampered Romans. Black
and gold barks were jostling each other in mid-air, and their crews were
fighting with the energy of despair. The Egyptian myth of the gods of
the great lights who sail the celestial ocean in golden barks, and
of the sun-god who each morning conquers the demons of darkness, had
suggested the subject of this performance.

The battle between the Spirits of Darkness and of Light was to be fought
out high above the best rows of seats occupied by Caesar and his court;
and the combatants were living men, for the most part such as had been
condemned to death or to the hardest forced labor. The black vessels
were manned by negroes, the golden by fair-haired criminals, and they
had embarked readily enough; for some of them would escape from the fray
with only a few wounds and some quite unhurt, and each one was resolved
to use his weapons so as to bring the frightful combat to a speedy end.

The woolly-haired blacks did not indeed know that they had been provided
with loosely made swords which would go to pieces at the first shock,
and with shields which could not resist a serious blow; while the
fair-haired representatives of the light were supplied with sharp
and strong weapons of offense and defense. At any cost the spirits of
darkness must not be allowed to triumph over those of light. Of what
value was a negro’s life, especially when it was already forfeited?

While Euryale and Melissa sat with eyes averted from the horrible scene
going on above them, and the matron, holding her young companion’s hand,
whispered to her:

“O child, child! to think that I should be compelled to bring you here!”
 loud applause and uproarious clapping surrounded them on every side.

The gem-cutter Heron, occupying one of the foremost cushioned seats,
radiant with pride and delight in the red-bordered toga of his new
dignity, clapped his big hands with such vehemence that his immediate
neighbors were almost deafened. He, too, had been badly received, on
his arrival, with shrill whistling, but he had been far from troubling
himself about that. But when a troop of “Greens” had met him, just in
front of the imperial dais, shouting brutal abuse in his face, he had
paused, chucked the nearest man under the chin with his powerful
fist, and fired a storm of violent epithets at the rest. Thanks to
the lictors, he had got off without any harm, and as soon as he found
himself among friends and men of rank, on whom he looked in speechless
respect, he had recovered his spirits. He was looking forward with
intense satisfaction to the moment when he might ask Caesar what he now
thought of Alexandria.

Like his father, Alexander was intent on the bloody struggle--gazing
upward with breathless interest as the combatants tried to fling each
other into the yawning depth below them. But at the same time he never
for an instant forgot the insults he had endured outside. How deeply he
felt them was legible in his clouded face. Only once did a smile pass
over it--when, toward the end of this first fight, the place was made
lighter, he perceived in the row of seats next above him the daughter of
his neighbor Skopas, pretty Ino, whom but a few days since he had vowed
to love. He was conscious of having treated her badly, and given her the
right to call him faithless. Toward her, indeed, he had been guilty of
treachery, and it had really weighed on his soul. Their eyes met, and
she gave him to understand in the plainest way that she had heard him
stigmatized as Caesar’s spy, and had believed the calumny. The mere
sight of him seemed to fill her with anger, and she did her utmost to
show him that she had quickly found a substitute for him; and it was to
Alexander, no doubt, that Ktesias, her young kinsman, who had long paid
her his addresses, owed the kindliness with which Ino now gazed into
his eyes. This was some comfort to the luckless, banished lover. On her
account, at any rate, he need reproach himself no longer. Diodoros
was sitting opposite to him, and his attention, too, was frequently
interrupted.

The flashing swords and torches in the hands of the Spirits of Light,
and the dimly gleaming stars above their heads, had not so far dispelled
the darkness as that the two young people could identify each other.
Diodoros, indeed, even throughout this absorbing fight, had frequently
glanced at the imperial seats, but had failed to distinguish his beloved
from the other women in Caracalla’s immediate vicinity. But it now grew
lighter, for, while the battle was as yet undecided, a fresh bark,
full of Spirits of Light, flourishing their torches, was unexpectedly
launched to support their comrades, and Heaven seemed to have sent them
forth to win the fight, which had already lasted longer than the masters
of the ceremonies had thought possible.

The wild shouts of the combatants and the yells of the wounded had long
since drowned the soft music of the spheres above their heads. The call
of tubas and bugles rang without ceasing through the great building,
to the frequent accompaniment of the most horrible sound of all in this
hideous spectacle--the heavy fall of a dead man dropping from above into
the gulf.

But this dreadful thud was what gave rise to the loudest applause among
the spectators, falling on their satiated ears as a new sound. This
frenzied fight in the air, such as had never before been seen, gave rise
to the wildest delight, for it led the eye, which was wont in this
place to gaze downward, in a direction in which it had never yet been
attracted. And what a glorious spectacle it was when black and white
wrestled together! How well the contrast of color distinguished the
individual combatants, even when they clung together in close embrace!
And when, toward the end of the struggle, a bark was overturned bodily,
and some of the antagonists would not be parted, even as they fell,
trying to kill each other in their rage and hatred, the very walls of
the great structure shook with the wild clamor and applause of thousands
of every degree.

Only once did the roar of approval reach a higher pitch, and that was
after the battle was ended, at what succeeded. Hardly had the victorious
Spirits of Light been seen to stand up in their barks, waving their
torches, to receive from fluttering genii wreaths of laurel which they
flung down to where Caesar sat, than a perfumed vapor, emanating from
the place where the painted sky met the wall of the circular building,
hid the whole of the upper part of it from the sight of the spectators.
The music stopped, and from above there came a strange and ominous
growling, hissing, rustling, and crackling. A dull light, dimmer even
than before, filled the place, and anxious suspicions took possession of
the ten thousand spectators.

What was happening? Was the velarium on fire; had the machinery for
lighting up refused to work; and must they remain in this uncomfortable
twilight?

Here and there a shout of indignation was heard, or a shrill whistle
from the capricious mob. But the mist had already gradually vanished,
and those who gazed upward could see that the velarium with the sun and
stars had made way for a black surface. No one knew whether this was the
real cloudy sky, or whether another, colorless awning closed them in.
But suddenly the woven roof parted; invisible hands drew away the two
halves. Quick, soft music began as if at a signal from a magician, and
at the same time such a flood of light burst down into the theatre that
every one covered his eyes with his hand to avoid being blinded. The
full glory of sunshine followed on the footsteps of night, like a
triumphant chorus on a dismal mourning chant.

The machinists of Alexandria had done wonders. The Romans, who, even
at the night performances of the festival of Flora, had never seen the
like, hailed the effect with a storm of applause which showed no signs
of ceasing, for, when they had sufficiently admired the source of the
light which flooded the theatre, reflected from numberless mirrors, and
glanced round the auditorium, they began again to applaud with hands and
voices. At a given signal thousands of lights appeared round the tiers
of seats, and, if the splendor of the entertainment answered at all
to that of the Alexandrian spectators, something fine indeed was to be
expected.

It was now possible to see the beauty of the women and the costliness of
their attire; not till now had the precious stones shown their flashing
and changeful radiance. How many gardens and lotus-pools must have been
plundered, how many laurel-groves stripped to supply the wreaths which
graced every head in the upper rows! And to look round those ranks and
note the handsome raiment in which men and women alike were arrayed,
suggested a belief that all the inhabitants of Alexandria must be rich.
Wherever the eye turned, something beautiful or magnificent was to be
seen; and the numerous delightful pictures which crowded on the sight
were framed with massive garlands of lotos and mallow, lilies and roses,
olive and laurel, tall papyrus and waving palm, branches of pine and
willow-here hanging in thick festoons, there twining round the columns
or wreathing the pilasters and backs of seats.

Of all the couples in this incomparable amphitheatre one alone neither
saw nor heard all that was going on. Scarcely had the darkness given way
to light, when Melissa’s eyes met those of her lover, and recognition
was immediately followed by a swift inquiry and reply which filled the
unhappy pair with revived hopes. Melissa’s eyes told Diodoros that she
loved him and him alone, and she read in his that he could never give
her up. Still, his also expressed the doubt and anxiety of his tortured
soul, and sent question after question across to Melissa.

And she understood the mute appeal as well as though looks were words.
Without heeding the curious crowd about her, or considering the danger
of such audacity, she took up her nosegay and waved it toward him as
though to refresh him with its fragrance, and then pressed a hasty kiss
on the finest of the half-opened buds. His responsive gesture showed
that she had been understood, for her lover’s expressive eyes beamed
with unqualified love and gratitude. Never, she thought, had he gazed
more fervently in her face, and again she bent over the bunch of roses.

But even in the midst of her newly found happiness her cheeks tingled
with maidenly modesty at her own boldness. Too happy to regret what she
had done, but still anxious lest the friend whose opinion was all in
all to her should disapprove, she forgot time and place, and, laying her
head on Euryale’s shoulder, looked up at her in inquiry with her large
eyes as though imploring forgiveness. The matron understood, for she had
followed the girl’s glance and felt what it was that stirred her heart;
and, little thinking of the joy she was giving to a third person, she
clasped her closely and kissed her on the temple, regardless of the
people about them.

At this Diodoros felt as though he had won the prize in a race; and his
friend Timon, whose artistic eye was feasting on the magnificent scene,
started at the vehement and ardent pressure which Diodoros bestowed on
his hand.

What had come over the poor, suffering youth whom he, Timon, had
escorted to the Circus out of sheer compassion? His eyes sparkled, and
he held his head as high as ever. What was the meaning of his declaring
that everything would go well with him now? But it was in vain that he
questioned the youth, for Diodoros could not reveal, even to his best
friend, what it was that made him happy. It was enough for him to know
that Melissa loved him, and that the woman to whom he looked up with
enthusiastic reverence esteemed her as highly as ever. And now, for the
first time, he began to feel ashamed of his doubts of Melissa. How could
he, who had known her from childhood, have believed of her anything
so base and foul? It must be some strong compulsion which bound her to
Caesar, and she could never have looked at him thus unless she had
some scheme--in which, perhaps, the lady Euryale meant to abet her--for
escaping her imperial suitor before it was too late. Yes, it must be so;
and the oftener he gazed at her the more convinced he felt.

Now he rejoiced in the blaze of light about him, for it showed him his
beloved. The words which Euryale had whispered in her ear must have been
an admonition to prudence, for she only rarely bestowed on him a loving
glance, and he acknowledged that the mute but eager exchange of signals
would have been fraught with danger for both of them.

The first sudden illumination had revealed too many things to distract
the attention of the spectators, including Caesar’s, for their
proceedings to be observed. Now curiosity was to some extent satisfied,
and even Diodoros felt that reserve was imperative.

Caracalla had not yet shown himself to the people. A golden screen, in
which there were holes for him to look through without being seen, hid
him from public gaze; still Diodoros could recognize those who were
admitted to his presence. First came the givers of the entertainment;
then the Parthian envoys, and some delegates from the municipal
authorities of the town. Finally, Seleukus presented the wives of the
magnates who had shared with him the cost of this display, and among
these, all magnificently dressed, the lady Berenike shone supreme by the
pride of her demeanor and the startling magnificence of her attire. As
her large eyes met those of Caesar with a flash of defiance, he frowned,
and remarked satirically:

“It seems to be the custom here to mourn in much splendor!”

But Berenike promptly replied:

“It has nothing to do with mourning. It is in honor of the sovereign who
commanded the presence of the mourner at the Circus.”

Diodoros could not see the flame of rage in, Caesar’s threatening eye,
nor hear his reply to the audacious matron:

“This is a misapprehension of how to do me honor, but an opportunity
will occur for teaching the Alexandrians better.”

Even across the amphitheatre the youth could see the sudden flush and
pallor of the lady’s haughty face; and immediately after, Macrinus, the
praetorian prefect, approached Caracalla with the master of the games,
the superintendent of the school of gladiators.

At the same time Diodoros heard his next neighbor, a member of the city
senate, say:

“How quietly it is going off! My proposal that Caesar should come in to
a dim light, so as to keep him and his unpopular favorites out of sight
for a while, has worked capitally. Who could the mob whistle at, so long
as they could not see one from another? Now they are too much delighted
to be uproarious. Caesar’s bride, of all others, has reason to thank
me. And she reminds me of the Persian warriors who, before going into
battle, bound cats to their bucklers because they knew that the Egyptian
foe would not shoot at them so long as the sacred beasts were exposed to
being hit by his arrows.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked another, and received the brisk reply:

“The lady Euryale is the cat who protects the damsel. Out of respect for
her, and for fear of hurting her, too, her companion has hitherto been
spared even by those fellows up there.”

And he pointed to a party of “Greens” who were laying their heads
together in one of the topmost tiers. But his friend replied:

“Something besides that keeps them within bounds. The three beardless
fellows just behind them belong to the city watch, who are scattered
through the general mass like raisins in doughcakes.”

“That is very judicious,” replied the senator.

“We might otherwise have had to quit the Circus a great deal quicker
than we came in. We shall hardly get home with dry garments as it is.
Look how the lights up there are flaring; you can hear the lashing
of the storm, and such flashes are not produced by machinery. Zeus is
preparing his bolts, and if the storm bursts--”

Here his discourse was interrupted by the sound of trumpets, mingling
with the roar of distant thunder following a vivid flash. The procession
now began, which was the preliminary to every such performance.

The statues of the gods had, before Caesar’s arrival, been placed on the
pedestals erected for them to prevent any risk of a demonstration at
the appearance of the deified emperors. The priests now first marched
solemnly round these statues, and Timotheus poured a libation on the
sand to Serapis, while the priest of Alexandria did the same to
the tutelary hero of the town. Then the masters of the games, the
gladiators, and beast-fighters came out, who were to make proof of their
skill. As the priests approached Caesar’s dais, Caracalla came forward
and greeted the spectators, thus showing himself for the first time.

While he was still sitting behind the screen, he had sent for Melissa,
who had obeyed the command, under the protection of Euryale, and he had
spoken to her graciously. He now took no further notice of her, of
her father, or her brother, and by his orders their places had been
separated by some little distance from his. By the advice of Timotheus
he would not let her be seen at his side till the stars had once more
been consulted, and he would then conduct Melissa to the Circus as his
wife-the day after to-morrow, perhaps. He thanked the matron for having
escorted Melissa, and added, with a braggart air of virtue, that the
world should see that he, too, could sacrifice the most ardent wish of
his heart to moral propriety.

The elephant torch-bearers had greatly delighted him, and in the
expectation of seeing Melissa again, and of a public recognition that he
had won the fairest maid there, he had come into the Circus in the best
spirits. He still wore his natural expression; yet now and then his brow
was knit, for he was haunted by the eyes of Seleukus’s wife. The haughty
woman--“that bedizened Niobe” he had contemptuously called her in
speaking to Macrinus--had appeared to him as an avenging goddess;
strangely enough, every time he thought of her, he remembered, too, the
consul Vindex and his nephew, whose execution Melissa’s intercession had
only hastened, and he was vexed now that he had not lent an ear to her
entreaties. The fact that the name Vindex signified an avenger disturbed
him greatly, and he could no more get it out of his mind than the image
of the “Niobe” with her ominous dark eyes.

He would see her no more; and in this he was helped by the gladiators,
for they now approached him, and their frantic enthusiasm kept him
for some time from all other thoughts. While they flourished their
weapons-some the sword and buckler, and others the not less terrible net
and harpoon--the time-honored cry rose from their husky throats in eager
acclamation: “Hail, Caesar! those about to die salute thee!” Then, in
rows of ten men each, they crossed the arena at a rapid pace.

Between the first and second group one man swaggered past alone, as
though he were something apart, and he strutted and rolled as he walked
with pompous self-importance. It was his prescriptive right, and in
his broad, coarse features, with a snub nose, thick lips, and white,
flashing teeth like those of a beast of prey, it was easy to see that
the adversary would fare but ill who should try to humble him. And yet
he was not tall; but on his deep chest, his enormous square shoulders,
and short, bandy legs, the muscles stood out like elastic balls, showing
the connoisseur that in strength he was a giant. A loin-cloth was all he
wore, for he was proud of the many scars which gleamed red and white on
his fair skin. He had pushed back his little bronze helmet, so that the
terrible aspect of the left side of his face might not be lost on the
populace. While he was engaged in fighting three panthers and a lion,
the lion had torn out his eye and with it part of his cheek. His name
was Tarautas, and he was known throughout the empire as the most brutal
of gladiators, for he had also earned the further privilege of never
fighting but for life or death, and never under any circumstances either
granting or asking quarter. Where he was engaged corpses strewed the
plain.

Caesar knew that he himself had been nicknamed Tarautas after this man,
and he was not ill pleased; for, above all things, he aimed at being
thought strong and terrible, and this the gladiator was without a peer
in his own rank of life. They knew each other: Tarautas had received
many a gift from his imperial patron after hard-won victories in which
his blood had flowed. And now, as the scarred veteran, who, puffed up
with conceit, walked singly and apart in the long train of gladiators,
cast a roving and haughty glance on the ranks of spectators, he was
filled out of due time with the longing to center all eyes on himself,
the one aim of his so frequently risking his life in these games. His
chest swelled, he braced up the tension of his supple sinews, and as
he passed the imperial seats he whirled his short sword round his head,
describing a circle in the air, with such skill and such persistent
rapidity, that it appeared like a disk of flashing steel. At the same
time his harsh, powerful voice bellowed out, “Hail, Caesar!” sounding
above the shouts of his comrades like the roar of a lion; and Caracalla,
who had not yet vouchsafed a friendly word or pleasant look to any
Alexandrian, waved his hand graciously again and again to this audacious
monster, whose strength and skill delighted him.

This was the instant for which the “Greens” in the third tier were
waiting. No one could prohibit their applauding the man whom Caesar
himself approved, so they forthwith began shouting “Tarautas!” with all
their might. They knew that this would suggest the comparison between
Caesar and the sanguinary wretch whose name had been applied to him,
and all who were eager to give expression to their vexation or
dissatisfaction took the hint and joined in the outcry. Thus in a moment
the whole amphitheatre was ringing with the name of “Tarautas!”

At first it rose here and there; but soon, no one knew how, the whole
crowd in the upper ranks joined in one huge chorus, giving free vent to
their long-suppressed irritation with childish and increasing uproar,
shouting the word with steady reiteration and a sort of involuntary
rhythm. Before long it sounded as though the multitude must have
practiced the mad chant which swelled to a perfect roar.

“Tarau-Tarau-Tarautas!” and, as is always the case when a breach has
been made in the dam, one after another joined in, with here the shrill
whistle of a reed pipe and there the clatter of a rattle. Mingling with
these were the angry outcries of those whom the lictors or guardians
of the peace had laid hands on, or their indignant companions; and the
thunder outside rolled a solemn accompaniment to the mutinous tumult
within.

Caesar’s scowling brow showed that a storm threatened in that quarter
also; and no sooner had he discerned the aim of the crowd than, foaming
with rage, he commanded Macrinus to restore order.

Then, above the chaos of voices, trumpet-calls were sounded. The masters
of the games perceived that, if only they could succeed in riveting the
attention of the mob by some exciting or interesting scene, that would
surely silence the demonstration which was threatening ruin to the whole
community; so the order was at once given to begin the performance with
the most important and effective scene with which it had been intended
that the whole should conclude.

The spectacle was to represent a camp of the Alemanni, surprised and
seized by Roman warriors. In this there was a covert compliment to
Caesar, who, after a doubtful victory over that valiant people, had
assumed the name of Alemannicus. Part of the gladiators, clothed in
skins, represented the barbarians, and wore long flowing wigs of red or
yellow hair; others played the part of Roman troops, who were to conquer
them. The Alemanni were all condemned criminals, who were allowed no
armor, and only blunt swords wherewith to defend themselves. But life
and freedom were promised to the women if, after the camp was seized,
they wounded themselves with the sharp knives with which each one was
provided, at least deeply enough to draw blood. And any who succeeded in
feigning death really deceptively were to earn a special reward. Among
the Germans there were, too, a few gladiators of exceptional stature,
armed with sharp weapons, so as to defer the decision for a while.

In a few minutes, and under the eyes of the spectators, carts, cattle,
and horses were placed together in a camp, and surrounded by a wall of
tree trunks, stones, and shields. Meanwhile shouts and whistles were
still heard; nay, when Tarautas came out on the arena in the highly
decorated armor of a Roman legate, at the head of a troop of heavily
armed men, and again greeted the emperor, the commotion began afresh.
But Caracalla’s patience was exhausted, and the high-priest saw by his
pale cheeks and twitching eyelids what was passing in his mind; so,
inspired by the fervent hope of averting some incalculable disaster from
his fellow-citizens, he took his place in front of the statue of the
god, and, lifting up his hands, he began:

“In the name of Serapis, O Macedonians!” His deep, ringing tones sounded
above the voices of the insurgents in the upper rows, and there was
silence.

Not a sound was to be heard but the long-drawn howling of the wind, and
now and then the flap of a strip of cloth torn from the velarium by the
gale. Mingling with these might be heard the uncanny hooting of owls
and daws which the illumination had brought out of their nests in the
cornice, and which the storm was now driving in again.

Timotheus, in a clear and audible address, now appealed to his audience
to remain quiet, not to disturb the splendid entertainment here set
before them, and above all to remember that great Caesar, the divine
ruler of the world, was in their midst, an honor to each and all. As the
guest of the most hospitable city on earth, their illustrious sovereign
had a right to expect from every Alexandrian the most ardent endeavors
to make his stay here delightful. It was his part as high-priest to
uplift his warning voice in the name of the greatest of the gods, that
the ill-will of a few malcontents might not give rise to an idea in the
mind of their beloved guest that the natives of Alexandria were blind to
the blessings for which every citizen had to thank his beneficent rule.

A shrill whistle here interrupted his discourse, and a voice shouted:
“What blessings? We know of none.”

But Timotheus was not to be checked, and went on more vehemently

“All of you who, by the grace of Caesar, have been made Roman
citizens--”

But again a voice broke in--the speaker was the overseer of the
granaries of Seleukus, sitting in the second tier--“And do you suppose
we do not know what the honor costs us?”

This query was heartily applauded, and then suddenly, as if by magic, a
perfect chorus arose, chanting a distich which one man in the crowd had
first given out and then two or three had repeated, to which a fourth
had given a sort of tune, till it was shouted by every one present at
the very top of his voice, with marked application to him of whom
it spoke. From the topmost row of places, on every side of the
amphitheatre, rang out the following lines, which but a moment before no
one had ever heard:

  “Death to the living, to pay for burying those that are dead;
   Since, what the taxes have spared, soldiers have ruthlessly seized.”

And the words certainly came from the heart; of the people, for they
seemed never weary of repeating them; and it was not till a tremendous
clap of thunder shook the very walls that several were silent and looked
up with increasing alarm. The moment’s pause was seized on to begin
the fight. Caesar bit his lip in powerless fury, and his hatred of the
towns-people, who had thus so plainly given him to understand their
sentiments, was rising from one minute to the next. He felt it a real
misfortune that he was unable to punish on the spot the insult thus
offered him; swelling with rage, he remembered a speech made by
Caligula, and wished the town had but one head, that he might sever it
from the body. The blood throbbed so fiercely in his temples, and there
was such a singing in his ears, that for some little time he neither saw
nor heard what was going on. This terrible agitation might cost him yet
some hours of great suffering. But he need no longer dread them so much;
for there sat the living remedy which he believed he had secured by the
strongest possible ties.

How fair she was! And, as he looked round once more at Melissa, he
observed that her eye was turned on him with evident anxiety. At this a
light seemed to dawn in his clouded soul, and he was once more conscious
of the love which had blossomed in his heart. But it would never do
to make her who had wrought the miracle so soon the confidante of his
hatred. He had seen her angry, had seen her weep, and had seen her
smile; and within the next few days, which were to make him a happy
man instead of a tortured victim, he longed only to see her great eyes
sparkle and her lips overflow with words of love, joy, and gratitude.
His score with the Alexandrians must be settled later, and it was in his
power to make them atone with their blood and bitterly rue the deeds of
this night.

He passed his hand over his furrowed brow, as though to wake himself
from a bad dream; nay, he even found a smile when next his eyes met
hers; and those spectators to whom his aspect seemed more absorbing than
the horrible slaughter in the arena, looked at each other in amazement,
for the indifference or the dissimulation, whichever it might be, with
which Caesar regarded this unequaled scene of bloodshed, seemed to them
quite incredible.

Never, since his very first visit to a circus, had Caracalla left
unnoticed for so long a time the progress of such a battle as this.
However, nothing very remarkable had so far occurred, for the actual
seizure of the camp had but just begun with the massacre of the Alemanni
and the suicide of the women.

At this moment the gladiator Tarautas, as nimble as a cat and as
bloodthirsty as a hungry wolf, sprang on to one of the enemy’s piled-up
wagons, and a tall swordsman, with a bear-skin over his shoulder, and
long, reddish-gold hair, flew to meet him.

This was no sham German! Caracalla knew the man. He had been brought to
Rome among the captive chiefs, and, as he had proved to be a splendid
horseman, he had found employment in Caesar’s stables. His conduct
had always been blameless till, on the day when Caracalla had entered
Alexandria, he had, in a drunken fit, killed first the man set over
him, a hot-headed Gaul, and then the two lictors who had attempted to
apprehend him. He was condemned to death, and had been placed on the
German side to fight for his life in the arena.

And how he fought! How he defied the most determined of gladiators, and
parried his strokes with his short sword! This was a combat really worth
watching; indeed, it so captivated Caracalla that he forgot everything
else. The name of the German’s antagonist had been applied to
him--Caesar. Just now the many-voiced yell “Tarautas!” had been meant
for him; and, accustomed as he was to read an omen in every incident, he
said to himself, and called Fate to witness, that the gladiator’s doom
would foreshadow his own. If Tarautas fell, then Caesar’s days were
numbered; if he triumphed, then a long and happy life would be his.

He could leave the decision to Tarautas with perfect confidence; he was
the strongest gladiator in the empire, and he was fighting with a sharp
sword against the blunt one in his antagonist’s hand, who probably had
forgotten in the stable how to wield the sword as he had done of yore.
But the German was the son of a chief, and had followed arms from his
earliest youth. Here it was defense for dear life, however glorious it
might be to die under the eyes of the man whom he had learned to honor
as the conqueror and tyrant of many nations, among them his own. So the
strong and practiced athlete did his best.

He, like his opponent, felt that the eyes of ten thousand were on him,
and he also longed to purge himself of the dishonor which, by actual
murder, he had brought on himself and on the race of which he was still
a son. Every muscle of his powerful frame gained more rigid tension at
the thought, and when he was presently hit by the sword of his hitherto
unconquered foe, and felt the warm blood flow over his breast and left
arm, he collected all his strength. With the battle-cry of his tribe,
he flung his huge body on the gladiator. Heedless of the furious
sword-thrust with which Tarautas returned the assault, he threw himself
off the top of the packed wagon on to the stones of the camp inclosure,
and the combatants rolled, locked together like one man, from the wall
into the sand of the arena.

Caracalla started as though he himself had been the injured victim, and
watched, but in vain, to see the supple Tarautas, who had escaped such
perils before now, free himself from the weight of the German’s body.

But the struggle continued to rage round the pair, and neither stirred
a finger. At this Caesar, greatly disturbed, started to his feet, and
desired Theocritus to make inquiry as to whether Tarautas were wounded
or dead; and while the favorite was gone he could not sit still.
Agitated by distressing fears, he rose to speak first to one and then
to another of his suite, only to drop on his seat again and glance once
more at the butchery below. He was fully persuaded that his own end must
be near, if indeed Tarautas were dead. At last he heard Theocritus’s
voice, and, as he turned to ask him the news, he met a look from the
lady Berenike, who had risen to quit the theatre.

He shuddered!--the image of Vindex and his nephew rose once more before
his mind’s eye; at the same moment, however, Theocritus hailed him with
the exclamation:

“That fellow, Tarautas, is not a man at all! I should call him an eel if
he were not so broad shouldered. The rascal is alive, and the physician
says that in three weeks he will be ready again to fight four bears or
two Alemanni!”

A light as of sudden sunshine broke on Caesar’s face, and he was
perfectly cheerful again, though a fearful clap of thunder rattled
through the building, and one of those deluges of rain which are known
only in the south came pouring down into the open theatre, extinguishing
the fires and lights, and tearing the velarium from its fastenings till
it hung flapping in the wind and lashing the upper tiers of places, so
as to drive the spectators to a hasty retreat.

Men were flying, women screaming and sobbing, and the heralds loudly
proclaimed that the performance was suspended, and would be resumed on
the next day but one.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

The amphitheatre was soon emptied, amid the flare of lightning and the
crash and roll of thunder. Caracalla, thinking only of the happy omen
of Tarautas’s wonderful escape, called out to Melissa, with affectionate
anxiety, to fly to shelter as quickly as possible; a chariot was in
waiting to convey her to the Serapeum. On this she humbly represented
that she would rather be permitted to return under her brother’s escort
to her father’s house, and Caracalla cheerfully acceded. He had business
on hand this night, which made it seem desirable to him that she should
not be too near him. He should expect her brother presently at the
Serapeum.

With his own hand he wrapped her in the caracalla and hood which old
Adventus was about to put on his master’s shoulders, remarking, as he
did so, that he had weathered worse storms in the field.

Melissa thanked him with a blush, and, going close up to her, he
whispered: “To-morrow, if Fate grants us gracious answers to the
questions I shall put to her presently after this storm--tomorrow the
horn of happiness will be filled to overflowing for you and me. The
thrifty goddess promises to be lavish to me through you.”

Slaves were standing round with lighted lanterns; for the torches in the
theatre were all extinguished, and the darkened auditorium lay like
an extinct crater, in which a crowd of indistinguishable figures were
moving to and fro. It reminded him of Hades and a troop of descending
spirits; but he would not allow anything but what was pleasant to occupy
his mind or eye. By a sudden impulse he took a lantern from one of
the attendants, held it up above Melissa’s head, and gazed long and
earnestly into her brightly illuminated face. Then he dropped his hand
with a sigh and said, as though speaking in a dream: “Yes, this is life!
Now I begin to live.”

He lifted the dripping laurel crown from his head, tossed it into
the arena, and added to Melissa: “Now, get under shelter at once,
sweetheart. I have been able to see you this whole evening, even when
the lamps were out; for lightning gives light. Thus even the storm has
brought me joy. Sleep well. I shall expect you early, as soon as I have
bathed.”

Melissa wished him sound slumbers, and he replied, lightly:

“If only all life were a dream, and if to-morrow I might but wake up,
no longer the son of Severus, but Alexander; and you, not Melissa, but
Roxana, whom you so strongly resemble! To be sure I might find myself
the gladiator Tarautas. But, then, who would you be? And your stalwart
father, who stands there defying the rain, certainly does not look like
a vision, and this storm is not favorable to philosophizing.”

He kissed his hand to her, had a dry caracalla thrown over his
shoulders, ordered Theocritus to take care of Tarautas and carry him a
purse of gold--which he handed to the favorite--and then, pulling the
hood over his head, led the way, followed by his impatient courtiers;
but not till he had answered Heron, who had come forward to ask him what
he thought of the mechanical arts of the Alexandrians, desiring him to
postpone that matter till the morrow.

The storm had silenced the music. Only a few stanch trumpeters had
remained in their places; and when they saw by the lanterns that Caesar
had left the Circus, they sounded a fanfare after him, which followed
the ruler of the world with a dull, hoarse echo.

Outside, the streets were still crowded with people pouring out of
the amphitheatre. Those of the commoner sort sought shelter under the
archways of the building, or else hurried boldly home through the
rain. Heron stood waiting at the entrance for his daughter, though the
purple-hemmed toga was wet, through and through. But she had, in fact,
hurried out while he was pushing forward to speak to Caesar, and in
his excitement overlooked everything else. The behavior of his
fellow-citizens had annoyed him, and he had an obscure impression that
it would be a blunder to claim Caesar’s approval of anything they had
done; still, he had not self-control enough to suppress the question
which had fluttered on his lips all through the performance. At last, in
high dudgeon at the inconsiderateness of young people and at the rebuff
he had met with--with the prospect, too, of a cold for his pains--he
made his way homeward on foot.

To Caracalla the bad weather was for once really an advantage, for it
put a stop to the unpleasant demonstrations which the “Green” party had
prepared for him on his way home.

Alexander soon found the closed carruca intended for Melissa, and placed
her in it as soon as he had helped Euryale into her harmamaxa. He was
astonished to find a man inside it, waiting for his sister. This
was Diodoros, who, while Alexander was giving his directions to the
charioteer, had, under cover of the darkness, sprung into the vehicle
from the opposite side. An exclamation of surprise was followed by
explanations and excuses, and the three young people, each with a
heart full almost to bursting, drove off toward Heron’s house. Their
conveyance was already rolling over the pavement, while most of the
magnates of the town were still waiting for their slaves to find their
chariots or litters.

For the lovers this was a very different scene from the terrible one
they had just witnessed in the Circus, for, in spite of the narrow
space and total darkness in which they sat, and the rain rattling and
splashing on the dripping black leather hood which sheltered them, in
their hearts they did not lack for sunshine. Caracalla’s saying that the
lightning, too, was light, proved true more than once in the course
of their drive, for the vivid flashes which still followed in quick
succession enabled the reunited lovers to exchange many confidences with
their eyes, for which it would have been hard to find words. When both
parties to a quarrel are conscious of blame, it is more quickly made up
than when one only needs forgiveness; and the pair in the carruca were
so fully prepared to think the best of each other that there was no need
for Alexander’s good offices to make them ready and willing to renew
their broken pledges. Besides, each had cause to fear for the other; for
Diodoros was afraid that the lady Euryale’s power was not far-reaching
enough to conceal Melissa from Caesar’s spies, and Melissa trembled at
the thought that the physician might too soon betray to Caesar that she
had been betrothed before he had ever seen her, and to whom; for, in
that case, Diodoros would be the object of relentless pursuit. So she
urged on her lover to embark, if possible, this very night.

Hitherto Alexander had taken no part in the conversation. He could not
forget the reception he had met with outside the amphitheatre. Euryale’s
presence had saved his sister from evil imputations, but had not
helped him; and even his gay spirits could make no head against the
consciousness of being regarded by his fellow-citizens as a hired
traitor. He had withdrawn to one of the back seats to see the
performance; for as soon as the theatre was suddenly lighted up, he had
become the object of dark looks and threatening gestures. For the first
time in his life he had felt compassion for the criminals torn by wild
beasts, and for the wounded gladiators, whose companion in misfortune
he vaguely felt himself to be. But, what was worst of all, he could not
regard himself as altogether free from the reproach of having accepted a
reward for the service he had so thoughtlessly rendered.

Nor did he see the remotest possibility of ever making those whose
opinion he cared for understand how it had come to pass that he should
have acceded to the desire of the villain in the purple, now that his
father, by showing himself to the people in the ‘toga pretexta’, had
set the seal to their basest suspicions. The thought that henceforth he
could never hope to feel the grasp of an honest man’s hand gnawed at his
heart.

The esteem of Diodoros was dear to him, and, when his young comrade
spoke to him, he felt at first as though he were doing him an unexpected
honor; but then he fell back into the suspicion that this was only for
his sister’s sake.

The deep sigh that broke from him induced Melissa to speak a few words
of comfort, and now the unhappy man’s bursting heart overflowed. In
eloquent words he described to Diodoros and Melissa all he had felt, and
the terrible consequences of his heedless folly, and as he spoke acute
regret filled his eyes with tears.

He had pronounced judgment on himself, and expected nothing of his
friend but a little pity. But in the darkness Diodoros sought and found
his hand, and grasped it fervently; and if Alexander could but have
seen his old playfellow’s face, he would have perceived that his eyes
glistened as he said what he could to encourage him to hope for better
days.

Diodoros knew his friend well. He was incapable of falsehood; and his
deed, which under a false light so easily assumed an aspect of villainy,
had, in fact, been no more than an act of thoughtlessness such as he had
himself often lent a hand in. Alexander, however, seemed determined not
to hear the comfort offered him by his sister and his friend. A flash of
lightning revealed him to them, sitting with a bent head and his hands
over his brow; and this gloomy vision of one who so lately had been the
gayest of the gay troubled their revived happiness even more than the
thought of the danger which, as each knew, threatened the others.

As they passed the Temple of Artemis, which was brightly illuminated,
reminding them that they were reaching their destination, Alexander
at last looked up and begged the lovers to consider their immediate
affairs. His mind had remained clear, and what he said showed that he
had not lost sight of his sister’s future.

As soon as Melissa should have effected her escape, Caesar would
undoubtedly seize, not only her lover, but his father as well. Diodoros
must forthwith cross the lake and rouse Polybius and Praxilla, to warn
them of the imminent danger, while Alexander undertook to hire a ship
for the party. Argutis would await the fugitives in a tavern by
the harbor, and conduct them on board the vessel which would be in
readiness. Diodoros, who was not yet able to walk far, promised to avail
himself of one of the litters waiting outside the Temple of Artemis.

Just before the vehicle stopped, the lovers took leave. They arranged
where and how they might have news of each other, and all they said, in
brief words and a fervent parting kiss, in this moment, when death or
imprisonment might await them, had the solemn purport of a vow.

The swift horses stopped. Alexander hastily leaned over to his friend,
kissed him on both cheeks, and whispered:

“Take good care of her; think of me kindly if we should never meet
again, and tell the others that wild Alexander has played another fool’s
trick, at any rate, not a wicked one, however badly it may turn out for
him.”

For the sake of the charioteer, who, after Melissa’s flight, would be
certainly cross-examined, Diodoros could make no reply. The carruca
rattled off by the way by which it had come; Diodoros vanished in the
darkness, and Melissa clasped her hands over her face. She felt as
though this were her last parting from her lover, and the sun would
never shine on earth again.

It was now near midnight. The slaves had heard the approach of the
chariot, and received them as heartily as ever, but in obedience to
Heron’s orders they added the most respectful bows to their usual
well-meant welcome. Since their master had shown himself to Dido, in the
afternoon, with braggart dignity, as a Roman magnate, she had felt
as though the age of miracles had come, and nothing was impossible.
Splendid visions of future grandeur awaiting the whole family, including
herself and Argutis, had not ceased to haunt her; but as to the empress,
something seemed to have gone wrong, for why had the girl wet eyes and
so sad a face? What was all this long whispering with Argutis? But it
was no concern of hers, after all, and she would know all in good time,
no doubt. “What the masters plot to-day the slaves hear next week,” was
a favorite saying of the Gauls, and she had often proved its truth.

But the cool way in which Melissa received the felicitations which
the old woman poured out in honor of the future empress, and her
tear-reddened eyes, seemed at any rate quite comprehensible. The child
was thinking, no doubt, of her handsome Diodoros. Among the splendors
of the palace she would soon forget. And how truly magnificent were the
dress and jewels in which the damsel had appeared in the amphitheatre!

“How they must have hailed her!” thought the old woman when she had
helped Melissa to exchange her dress for a simpler robe, and the girl
sat down to write. “If only the mistress had lived to see this day! And
all the other women must have been bursting with envy. Eternal gods!
But, after all, who knows whether the good luck we envy others is great
or small? Why, even in this house, which the gods have filled to the
roof with gifts and favors, misfortune has crept in through the key
hole. Poor Philip!

“Still, if all goes well with the girl. Things have befallen her such
as rarely come to any one, and yet no more than her due. The fairest and
best will be the greatest and wealthiest in the empire.”

And she clutched the amulets and the cross which hung round her arm and
throat, and muttered a hasty prayer for her darling.

Argutis, for his part, did not know what to think of it all. He, if any
one, rejoiced in the good fortune of his master and Melissa; but Heron’s
promotion to the rank of praetor had been too sudden, and Heron demeaned
himself too strangely in his purple-bordered toga. It was to be hoped
that this new and unexpected honor had not turned his brain! And the
state in which his master’s eldest son remained caused him the greatest
anxiety. Instead of rejoicing in the honors of his family, he had at his
first interview with his father flown into a violent rage; and though
he, Argutis, had not understood what they were saying, he perceived that
they were in vehement altercation, and that Heron had turned away in
great wrath. And then--he remembered it with horror, and could hardly
tell what he had seen to Alexander and Melissa in a reasonable and
respectful manner--Philip had sprung out of bed, had dressed himself
without help, even to his shoes, and scarcely had his father set out in
his litter before Philip had come into the kitchen. He looked like one
risen from the grave, and his voice was hollow as he told the slaves
that he meant to go to the Circus to see for himself that justice was
done. But Argutis felt his heart sink within him when the philosopher
desired him to fetch the pipe his father used to teach the birds to
whistle, and at the same time took up the sharp kitchen knife with which
Argutis slaughtered the sheep.

The young man then turned to go, but even on the threshold he had
stumbled over the straps of his sandals which dragged unfastened, and
Argutis had had to lead him, almost to carry him in from the garden, for
a violent fit of coughing had left him quite exhausted. The effort of
pulling at the heavy oars on board the galley had been too much for his
weak chest. Argutis and Dido had carried him to bed, and he had soon
fallen into a deep sleep, from which he had not waked since.

And now what were these two plotting? They were writing; and not on wax
tablets, but with reed pens on papyrus, as though it were a matter of
importance.

All this gave the slave much to think about, and the faithful soul did
not know whether to weep for joy or grief when Alexander told him, with
a gravity which frightened him in this light-hearted youth, that,
partly as the reward of his faithful service and partly to put him in a
position to aid them all in a crisis of peculiar difficulty, he gave him
his freedom. His father had long since intended to do this, and the deed
was already drawn out. Here was the document; and he knew that, even as
a freedman, Argutis would continue to serve them as faithfully as ever.
With this he gave the slave his manumission, which he was in any case to
have received within a month, at the end of thirty years’ service, and
Argutis took it with tears of joy, not unmixed with grief and anxiety,
while only a few hours since it would have been enough to make him the
happiest of mortals.

While he kissed their hands and stammered out words of gratitude, his
uncultured but upright spirit told him that he had been blind ever to
have rejoiced for a moment at the news that Melissa had been chosen to
be empress. All that he had seen during the last half-hour had convinced
him, as surely as if he had been told it in words, that his beloved
young mistress scorned her imperial suitor, and firmly intended to evade
him--how, Argutis could not guess. And, recognizing this, a spirit of
adventure and daring stirred him also. This was a struggle of the weak
against the strong; and to him, who had spent his life as one of the
oppressed, nothing could be more tempting than to help on the side of
the weak.

Argutis now undertook with ardent zeal to get Diodoros and his parents
safely on board the ship he was to engage, and to explain to Heron, as
soon as he should have read the letter which Alexander was now writing,
that, unless he could escape at once with Philip, he was lost. Finally,
he promised that the epistle to Caesar, which Melissa was composing,
should reach his hands on the morrow.

He could now receive his letter of freedom with gladness, and consented
to dress up in Heron’s garments; for, as a slave, he would have been
forbidden to conclude a bargain with a ship’s captain or any one else.

All this was done in hot haste, for Caesar was awaiting Alexander, and
Euryale expected Melissa. The ready zeal of the old man, free for the
first time to act on his own responsibility in matters which would
have been too much for many a free-born man, but to which he felt quite
equal, had an encouraging effect even on the oppressed hearts of the
other two. They knew now that, even if death should be their lot,
Argutis would be faithful to their father and sick brother, and the
slave at once showed his ingenuity and shrewdness; for, while the young
people were vainly trying to think of a hiding-place for Heron and
Philip, he suggested a spot which would hardly be discovered even by the
sharpest spies.

Glaukias, the sculptor, who had already fled, was Heron’s tenant. His
work-room, a barn-like structure, stood in the little vegetable-garden
which the gem-cutter had inherited from his father-in-law, and none but
Heron and the slave knew that, under the flooring, instead of a
cellar, there was a vast reservoir connected with the ancient aqueducts
constructed by Vespasian. Many years since Argutis had helped his master
to construct a trap-door to the entrance to these underground passages,
of which the existence had remained unknown even to Glaukias during all
the years he had inhabited the place. It was here that Heron kept his
gold, not taking his children even into his confidence; and only a
few months ago Argutis had been down with him and had found the old
reservoir dry, airy, and quite habitable. The gem-cutter would be quite
content to conceal himself where his treasure was, and the garden and
work-room were only distant a few hundred paces from his own home.
To get Philip there without being seen was to Argutis a mere trifle.
Alexander, too, old Dido, and, if needful, Diodoros, could all be
concealed there. But for Melissa, neither he nor Alexander thought it
sufficiently secure.

As she took leave of him the young girl once more charged the newly
freed man to greet her father from her a thousand times, to beseech
his forgiveness of her for the bitter grief she must cause him, and to
assure him of her affection.

“Tell him,” she added, as the tears streamed down her cheeks, “that I
feel as if I were going to my death. But, come what may, I am always his
dutiful child, always ready to sacrifice anything--excepting only the
man to whom, with my father’s consent, I pledged my heart. Tell him
that for love of him I might have been ready even to give my hand to
the blood-stained Caesar, but that Fate--and perhaps the manes of her we
loved, and who is dead--have ordered it otherwise.”

She then went into the room where her mother had closed her eyes. After
a short prayer by that bed, which still stood there, she hastened to
Philip’s room. He lay sleeping heavily; she bent over him and kissed
the too high brow, which looked as though even in sleep the brain within
were still busy over some difficult and painful question.

Her way led her once more through her father’s work-room, and she had
already crossed it when she hastily turned back to look once more--for
the last time-at the little table where she had sat for so many years,
busy with her needle, in modest contentment by the artist’s side,
dreaming with waking eyes, and considering what she, with her small
resources and great love, could do that would be of use to those she
loved, or relieve them if they were in trouble. Then, as though she knew
that she was bidding a last farewell to all the pleasant companionship
of her youth, she looked at the birds, long since gone to roost in their
cages. In spite of his recent curule honors Heron had not forgotten
them, and, before quitting the house to display himself to the populace
in the ‘toga pretexa’, he had as usual carefully covered them up. And
now, as Melissa lifted the cloth from the starling’s cage, and the bird
muttered more gently than usual, and perhaps in its sleep, the cry,
“Olympias!” a shudder ran through her; and, as she stepped out into the
road by Alexander’s side, she said, dejectedly:

“Everything is coming to an end! Well, and so it may; for what has come
over us all in these few days? Before Caesar came, what were you--what
was Philip? In my own heart what peace reigned!

“And my father? There is one comfort, at any rate; even as praetor he
has not forgotten his birds, and he will find feathered friends go where
he may.

“But I--And it is for my sake that he must hide like a criminal!”

But here Alexander vehemently broke in: “It was not you, it was I who
brought all this misery on us!” And he went on to accuse himself so
bitterly that Melissa regretted having alluded to the misfortunes of
their family, and did her best to inspire him with courage.

As soon as Caesar should have left the city and she had evaded his
pursuit, the citizens would be easily persuaded of his innocence. They
would see then how little she had cared for the splendor and wealth of
empire; why, he himself knew how quickly everything was forgotten in
Alexandria. His art, too, would be a comfort to him, and if he only had
the chance of making his way in his career he would have no difficulty
in winning Agatha. He would have her on his side, and Diodoros, and the
lady Euryale.

But to all these kind speeches the young man only sadly shook his head.
How could he, despised and contemned, dare to aspire to the daughter of
such a man as Zeno? He ended with a deep sigh; and Melissa, whose heart
grew heavier as they approached the Serapeum through the side streets,
still forced herself to express her confidence as though the lady
Euryale’s protection had relieved her of every anxiety. It was so
difficult to appear calm and cheerful that more than once she had to
wipe her eyes; still, their eager talk shortened the way, and she stood
still, surprised to find herself so near her destination, when Alexander
showed her the chain which was stretched across the end of the street of
Hermes to close in the great square in front of the Serapeum.

The storm had passed away and the rain had ceased; the sky was clear and
cloudless, and the moon poured its silvery light in lavish splendor, as
though revived, on the temple and on the statues round the square. Here
they must part, for they saw that it was impossible that they should
cross the open space together.

It was almost deserted, for the populace were not allowed to go there.
Of the hundreds of tents which till lately had covered it, only those of
the seventh cohort of the praetorian guard remained; for these, having
to protect the person of the emperor, had not been quartered in the
town. If Alexander and Melissa had crossed this vast square, where
it was now as light as clay, they would certainly have been seen, and
Melissa would have brought not herself only but her protectress also
into the greatest danger.

She still had so much on her mind that she wanted to say to her brother,
especially with regard to her father’s welfare; and then--what a
leavetaking was this when, as her gloomy forebodings told her, they
were parting never to meet again But Euryale must have been long and
anxiously waiting for her, and Alexander, too, was very late for his
appointment.

It was impossible to let the girl cross the square alone, for it was
guarded by soldiers. If she could but reach the side of the sanctuary
where she was expected, and where the road was in the shadow of the
riding-school opposite, all would be well, and it seemed as though there
was no alternative but for Alexander to lead his sister through by-ways
to her destination. They had just made up their minds to this inevitable
waste of time, when a young woman was seen coming toward them from one
of the tents with a swift, light step, winged with gladness. Alexander
suddenly released his sister’s hand, and saying:

“She will escort you,” he advanced to meet her. This was the wife
of Martialis, who had charge of the villa at Kanopus, and whose
acquaintance the artist had made when he was studying the Galatea in the
merchant’s country-house for the portrait of Korinna. Alexander had made
friends with the soldier’s wife in his winning, lively way, and she
was delighted to meet him again, and quite willing to escort his sister
across the square, and hold her tongue about it. So, after a short grasp
of the hand, and a fervent last appeal to her brother, “Never for a
moment let us forget one another, and always remember our mother!”
 Melissa followed her companion.

This evening the woman had sought her husband to tell him that she and
her mother had got safely out of the Circus, and to thank him for
the entertainment, of which the splendor, in spite of the various
disturbances and interruption, had filled their hearts and minds.

The first words she spoke to the girl led to the question as to whether
she, too, had been at the Circus; and when Melissa said yes, but that
she had been too frightened and horrified to see much, the chattering
little woman began to describe it all.

Quite the best view, she declared, had been obtained from the third tier
of places. Caesar’s bride, too, had been pointed out to her. Poor
thing! She would pay dearly for the splendor of the purple. No one
could dispute Caracalla’s taste, however, for the girl was lovely beyond
description; and as she spoke she paused to look at Melissa, for she
fancied she resembled Caesar’s sweetheart. But she went on again quicker
than before, remarking that Melissa was not so tall, and that the other
was more brilliant looking, as beseemed an emperor’s bride.

At this Melissa drew her kerchief more closely over her face; but it was
a comfort to her when the soldier’s wife, after describing to her what
she herself had worn, added that Caracalla’s choice had fallen on
a modest and well-conducted maiden, for, if she had not been, the
high-priest’s wife would never have been so kind to her. And the lady
Euryale was sister-in-law to the master she herself served, and she had
known her all her life.

Then, when Melissa, to change the subject, asked why the public were
forbidden to approach the Serapeum, her companion told her that
since his return from the Circus Caesar had been devoting himself to
astrology, soothsaying, and other abstruse matters, and that the noise
of the city disturbed him. He was very learned in such things, and if
she only had time she could have told Melissa wonderful things. Thus
conversing, they crossed the square, and when it lay behind them and
they were under the shadow of the stadium, Melissa thanked her lively
companion for her escort, while she, on her part, declared that it had
been a pleasure to do the friendly painter a service.

The western side of the immense temple stood quite detached from the
town. There were on that side but few bronze doors, and these, which
were opened only to the inhabitants of the building, had long since
been locked for the night and needed no guard. As the inhabitants were
forbidden to cross the space dividing the stadium from the Serapeum,
all was perfectly still. Dark shadows lay on the road, and the high
structures which shut it in like cliffs seemed to tower to the sky. The
lonely girl’s heart beat fast with fears as she stole along, close under
the wall, from which a warm vapor breathed on her after the recent
rain. The black circles which seemed to stare at her like dark, hollow
eye-sockets from the wall of the stadium, were the windows of the
stables.

If a runaway slave, an escaped wild beast, or a robber were to rush out
upon her! The owls swept across over her head on silent wings, and bats
flitted to and fro, from one building to the other, almost touching the
frightened girl. Her terrors increased at every step, and the wall which
she must follow to the end was so long--so endlessly long!

Supposing, too, that the lady Euryale had been tired of waiting and had
given her up! There would then be nothing for it but to make her way
back to the town past the guards, or to enter the temple through the
great gates--where that dreadful man was--and where she would at once be
recognized! Then there could be no escape, none--and she must, yes, she
must evade her dreadful suitor. Every thought of Diodoros cried, “You
must!”--even at the cost of her young life, of which, indeed, she saw
the imminent end nearer and nearer with every step. She knew not whither
her flight might take her, but a voice within declared that it would be
to an early grave.

Only a narrow strip of sky was visible between the tall buildings, but,
as she looked up to the heavens, she perceived that it was two hours
past midnight. She hurried on, but presently checked her pace again.
From the square, three trumpet-calls, one after another, rang through
the silence of the night. What could these signals mean at so unwonted
an hour?

There could be but one explanation--Caesar had again condemned some
hapless wretch to death, and he was being led to execution. When Vindex
and his nephew were beheaded, three trumpet-calls had sounded; her
brother had told her so.

And now, before her inward eye, rose the crowd of victims to Caracalla’s
thirst for blood. She fancied that Plautilla, whom her imperial consort
had murdered, was beckoning her to follow her to an early grave. The
terrors of the night were too much for her; and, as when a child, at
play with her brothers, she flew on as fast as her feet would carry her.
She fled as though she were pursued, her long dress hampering her steps,
along by the temple wall, till her gaze, fixed on her left, fell on the
spot which had been designated to her.

Here she stopped, out of breath; and, while she was identifying the
landmarks which she had impressed on her memory to guide her to the
right doorway, the temple wall seemed to open before her as if by a
charm, and a kind voice called her name, and then exclaimed, “At last!”
 and in a moment she had grasped Euryale’s hand and was drawn into the
building.

Here, as if at the touch of a magician’s wand, all fear and horror
vanished; and, although she still panted for breath, she would at once
have explained to her beloved protectress what it was that had prompted
her to run so fast, but that Euryale interrupted her, exclaiming: “Only
make haste! No one must see that block of porphyry turn on its pin.
It is invisible from the outside, and closes the passage by which the
mystics and adepts find their way to the mysteries after dedication. All
who know of it are sworn to secrecy.”

With this she led the way into a dark vestibule adjoining the temple,
and in a few moments the great block of stone which had admitted them
had turned into its place again. Those who passed by, even in broad
sunshine, could not distinguish it from all the other blocks of which
the ground-floor of the edifice was built.



CHAPTER XXIX.

While the lady Euryale preceded her young charge with a lamp up a
narrow, dark staircase, Alexander waited in one of the audience-rooms
till the emperor should call him. The high-priest of Serapis, several
soothsayers of the temple, Aristides, the new head of the night-watch,
and other “friends” of the monarch had accompanied him thus far. But
admittance to the innermost apartments had not been permitted, for
Caracalla had ordered the magician Serapion to call up spirits before
him, and was having the future declared to him in the presence of the
prefect of the praetorians and a few other trusty followers.

The deputation of citizens, who had come to apologize to Caesar for
the annoying occurrences in the Circus, had been told to wait till the
exorcisms were over. Alexander would have preferred to hold aloof
from the others, but no one here seemed to think ill of him for his
thoughtless behavior. On the contrary, the courtiers pressed round
him--the brother of the future empress-with the greatest assiduity:
the high-priest inquired after his brother Philip; and Seleukus, the
merchant, who had come with the deputation, addressed many flattering
remarks to him on his sister’s beauty. Some of the Roman senators whose
advances he had received coldly enough at first, now took up his whole
attention, and described to him the works of art and the paintings
in the new baths of Caracalla; they advised him to offer himself as a
candidate for the ornamentation of some of the unfinished rooms with
frescoes, and led him to expect their support. In short, they behaved
toward the young man as if he might command their services, in spite of
their gray hairs. But Alexander saw through their purpose.

Their discourse ceased suddenly, for voices were audible in the
emperor’s apartments, and they all listened with outstretched necks and
bated breath if they might catch a word or two.

Alexander only regretted not having either charcoal or tablets at hand,
that he might fix their intent faces on the wood; but at last he stood
up, for the door was opened and the emperor entered from the tablinum,
accompanied by the magician who had shown Caesar several spirits of the
departed. In the middle of the demonstration, at Caracalla’s desire, the
beheaded Papinian had appeared in answer to Serapion’s call. Invisible
hands replaced his severed head upon his shoulders, and, having greeted
his sovereign, he promised him good fortune. Last of all great Alexander
had appeared, and assured the emperor in verse, and with many a flowery
phrase, that the soul of Roxana had chosen the form of Melissa to dwell
in. Caracalla would enjoy the greatest happiness through her, as long
as she was not alienated from him by love for another man. Should this
happen, Roxana would be destroyed and her whole race with her, but
Caesar’s glory and greatness would reach its highest point. The monarch
need have no misgivings in continuing to live out his (Alexander’s)
life. The spirit of his godlike father Severus watched over him, and had
given him a counselor in the person of Macrinus, in whose mortal body
the soul of Scipio Africanus had awakened to a new life.

With this, the apparition, which, like the others, had shown itself as
a colored picture moving to and fro upon the darkened wall of the
tablinum, vanished. The voice of the great Macedonian sounded hollow and
unearthly, but what he said had interested the emperor deeply and raised
his spirits.

However, his wish to see more spirits had remained unsatisfied. The
magician, who remained upon his knees with uplifted hands while the
apparitions were visible, declared that the forces he was obliged to
employ in exercising his magic power over the spirits had exhausted him.
His fine, bearded face was deathly pale, and his tall form trembled and
shook. His assistants had silently disappeared. They had kept themselves
and their great scrolls concealed behind a curtain. Serapion explained
that they were his pupils, whose office it was to support his
incantations by efficient formulas.

Caracalla dismissed him graciously, then turning to the assembled
company, he gave with much affability a detailed account of the wonders
he had seen and heard.

“A marvelous man, this Serapion,” he exclaimed to the high-priest
Timotheus--“a master in his art. What he said before proceeding to the
incantations is convincing, and explains much to me. According to him,
magic holds the same relation to religion as power to love, as the
command to the request. Power! What magic effect it has in real life? We
have seen its influence upon the spirits, and who among the children of
men can resist it? To it I owe my greatest results, and hope to be still
further indebted. Even reluctant love must bow to it.”

He gave a self-satisfied laugh, and continued: “As the pious worshiper
of the gods can move the heavenly ones by prayer and sacrifice, so--the
wondrous man declared--the magician can force them by means of his
secret lore to do his will. Therefore, he who knows and can call the
gods and spirits by the right name, him they must obey, as the slave
his master. The sages who served the Pharaohs in the gray dawn of
time succeeded in fathoming the mystery of these names given to the
everlasting ones at their birth, and their wisdom has come down to him
through the generations as a priceless secret. But it is not sufficient
to murmur the name to one’s self, or be able to write it down. Every
syllable has its special meaning like every member of the human frame.
It depends, too, on how it is pronounced and where the emphasis lies;
and this true name, containing in itself the spiritual essence of the
immortals, and the outward sign of their presence, is different again
from the names by which they are known among men.

“Could I have any suspicion--and here Serapion addressed himself to
me--which god he forced to obey him when he uttered the words, ‘Abar
Barbarie Eloce Sabaoth Pachnuphis,’ and more like it! I have only
remembered the first few words. But, he continued, it was not enough to
be able to pronounce these words. The heavenly spirits would submit only
to those mortals who shared in some of their highest characteristics.
Before the Magian dared to call them, he must purify his soul from all
sensual taint, and sanctify his body by long and severe fasting. When
the Magian succeeded, as he had done in these days, in rendering himself
impervious to the allurements of the senses, and in making his soul, as
far as was humanly possible, independent of the body, only then had
he attained to that degree of godliness which entitled him to have
intercourse with the heavenly ones and the entire spirit-world as with
his equals, and to subdue them to his will.

“He exerted his power, and we saw with our bodily eyes that the spirits
came to his call. But we discovered that it was not done by words
alone. What a noble-looking man he is! And the mortifications that he
practices--these, too, are heroic deeds! The cavilers in the Museum
might take example from him. Serapion performed an action and a
difficult one. They waste their time over words, miserable words! They
will prove to you by convincing argument that yonder lion is a rabbit.
The Magian waved his hands and the king of beasts cringed before him.
Like the worthies of the Museum, every one in this city is merely a
mouth on two legs. Where but here would the Christians--I know their
doctrines--have invented that term for their sublime teacher--The Word
become flesh? I have heard nothing here,” he turned to the deputation,
“but words and again words--from you, who humbly assure me of your love
and reverence; from those who think that their insignificant persons
may slip through my fingers and escape me, paltry, would-be witty words,
dipped in poison and gall. In the Circus, even, they aimed words at me.
The Magian alone dared to offer me deeds, and he succeeded wonderfully;
he is a marvelous man!”

“What he showed you,” said the high-priest, “was no more than what the
sorcerers achieved, as the old writings tell us, under the builders of
the Pyramids. Our astrologers, who traced out for you the path of the
stars--”

“They, too,” interrupted Caesar, bowing slightly to the astrologers,
“have something better to show than words. As I owe to the Magian an
agreeable hour, so I thank you, my friends, for a happy one.”

This remark had reference to the information which had been brought to
Caesar, during a pause in the incantations, that the stars predicted
great happiness for him in his union with Melissa, and that this
prediction was well-founded, was proved by the constellations which the
chief astrologer showed and explained to him.

While Caracalla was receiving the thanks of the astrologers, he caught
sight of Alexander, and at once graciously inquired how Melissa had got
back to her fathers house. He then asked, laughingly, if the wits of
Alexandria were going to treat him to another offering like the one on
his arrival. The youth, who had determined in the Circus to risk his
life, if need be, in order to clear himself of the taint of suspicion,
judged that the moment had come to make good the mistake which had
robbed him of his fellow-citizens’ esteem.

The presence of so many witnesses strengthened his courage; and fully
expecting that, like the consul Vindex, his speech would cost him
his head, he drew himself up and answered gravely, “It is true, great
Caesar, that in a weak moment and without considering the results, I
repeated some of those witticisms to you--”

“I commanded, and you had to obey,” retorted Caesar, and added, coldly,
“But what does this mean?”

“It means,” began Alexander--who already saw the sword of execution leap
from its scabbard--with pathetic dignity, which astonished the emperor
as coming from him, “it means that I herewith declare before you, and
my Alexandrian fellow-citizens here present, that I bitterly repent
my indiscretion; nay, I curse it, since I heard from your own lips how
their ready wit has set you against the sons of my beloved native city.”

“Ah, indeed! Hence these tears?” interposed Caesar, adopting a
well-known Latin phrase. He nodded to the painter, and continued, in a
tone of amused superiority: “Go on performing as an orator, if you like;
only moderate the tragic tone, which does not become you, and make
it short, for before the sun rises we all--these worthy citizens and
myself--desire to be in bed.”

Blushes and pallor alternated on the young man’s face. Sentence of death
would have been more welcome to him than this supercilious check to a
hazardous attempt, which he had looked upon as daring and heroic. Among
the Romans he caught sight of some laughing faces, and hurt, humiliated,
confused, scarcely capable of speaking a word, and yet moved by the
desire to justify himself, he stammered out: “I have--I meant to
assure--No, I am no spy! May my tongue wither before I--You can, of
course--It is in your power to take my life!”

“Most certainly it is,” interposed Caracalla, and his tone was more
contemptuous than angry. He could see how deeply excited the artist
was, and to save him--Melissa’s brother-from committing a folly which he
would be obliged to punish, he went on with gracious consideration: “But
I much prefer to see you live and wield the brush for a long time to
come. You are dismissed.”

The young man bent his head, and then turned his back upon the emperor,
for he felt that he was threatened now with what, to an Alexandrian, was
the most unbearable fate-to appear ridiculous before so many.

Caracalla allowed him to go, but, as he stepped across the threshold,
he called after him: “Tomorrow, then, with your sister, after the bath!
Tell her the stars and the spirits are propitious to our union.”

Caesar then beckoned to the chief of the nightwatch, and, having
laid the blame of the unpleasant occurrences in the Circus on his
carelessness, cut the frightened officer short when he proposed to take
every one prisoner whom the lictors had marked among the noisy.

“Not yet! On no account to-morrow,” Caracalla ordered. “Mark each one
carefully. Keep your eyes open at the next performance. Put down the
names of the disaffected. Take care that the rope hangs about the neck
of the guilty. The time to draw it tight will come presently. When they
think themselves safe, the cowardly show their true faces. Wait till
I give the signal--certainly not in the next few days; then seize upon
them, and let none escape!”

Caesar had given these orders with smiling lips. He wanted first to make
Melissa his, and, like a shepherd, to revel with her in the sweetness
of their love. No moment of this time should be darkened for him by the
tears and prayers of his bride. When she should hear, later on, of her
husband’s bloody vengeance upon his enemies, she would have to accept it
as an accomplished fact; and means, no doubt, would be found to soothe
her indignation.

Those who after the insulting occurrences in the Circus had expected
to see Caesar raging and storming, were hurried from one surprise to
another; for even after his conversation with the night-watch he looked
cheerful and contented, and exclaimed: “It is long since you have seen
me thus! My own mirror will ask itself if it has not changed owners. It
is to be hoped it may have cause to accustom itself to reflect me as
a happy man as often as I look in it. The two highest joys of life are
before me, and I know not what would be left for me to desire if only
Philostratus were here to share the coming days with me.”

The grave senator Cassius Dio here stepped forward and observed that
there were advantages in their amiable friend’s withdrawal from the
turmoil of court life. His Life of Apollonius, to which all the world
was looking forward, would come all the sooner to a close.

“If only that I might talk to him of the man of Tyana,” cried the
emperor, “I wish his biographer were here to-day. To possess little
and require nothing is the wish of the sage; and I can well imagine
circumstances in which one who has enjoyed power and riches to satiety
should consider himself blessed as a simple countryman following out the
precept of Horace, ‘procul negotiis,’ plowing his fields and gathering
the fruit of his own trees. According to Apollonius, the wise man must
also be poor, and, though the citizens of his state are permitted to
acquire treasures, the wealthy are looked upon as dishonorable. There is
some sense in this paradox, for the possessions that are to be obtained
with money are but vulgar joys. I know by experience what it is that
purifies the soul, that lifts it up and makes it truly blessed. It does
not come of power or riches. Whoso has known it, he to whom it has been
revealed--”

He stopped short, surprised at himself; then laughed as he shook his
head and exclaimed, “Behold, the tragedy hero in the purple with one
foot in an idyl!” and wished the assembled company pleasant slumbers for
the short remains of the night.

He gave his hand to a few favored ones; but, as he clasped that of the
proconsul Julius Paulinus, who, with unheard-of audacity, had put on
mourning garments for his brother-in-law Vindex, beheaded that day,
Caesar’s countenance grew dark, and, turning his back upon them all,
he walked rapidly away. Scarcely had he disappeared when the mourning
proconsul exclaimed in his dry manner, as if speaking to himself:

“The idyl is to begin. Would it might be the satyr-play that closes the
bloodiest of tragedies!”

“Caesar has not been himself to-day,” said the favorite Theocritus; and
the senator Cassius Dio whispered to Paulinus, “And therefore he was
more bearable to look at.”

Old Adventus gazed in astonishment as Arjuna, the emperor’s Indian
body-slave, disrobed him; for, though Caracalla had entered the
apartment with a dark and threatening brow, while his sandals were being
unfastened, he laughed to himself, and cried to his old servant with
beaming eyes, “To-morrow!” and the chamberlain called down a blessing
on the morrow, and on her who was destined to fill the coming years with
sunshine for mighty Caesar.

       ........................

Caracalla, generally an early riser, slept this time longer than on
other days. He had retired very late to rest, and the chamberlain
therefore put off waking him, especially as he had been troubled by evil
dreams, in spite of his happy frame of mind when he sought his couch.
When at last he rose he first inquired about the weather, and expressed
his satisfaction when he heard that the sun had risen with burning rays,
but was now veiled in threatening clouds.

His first visit led him to the court of sacrifice. The offerings had
fallen out most favorably, and he rejoiced at the fresh and healthy
appearance of the bullocks’ hearts and livers which the augurs
showed him. In the stomach of one of the oxen they had found a flint
arrow-head, and, on showing it to Caracalla, he laughed, and observed to
the high-priest Timotheus: “A shaft from Eros’s quiver! A hint from the
god to offer him a sacrifice on this happy day.”

After his bath he caused himself to be arrayed with peculiar care,
and then gave orders for the admittance, first, of the prefect of the
praetorians, and then of Melissa, for whom a mass of gorgeous flowers
stood ready.

But Macrinus was not to be found, although Caesar had commanded him
yesterday to give in his report before doing anything else. He had twice
come to the antechamber, but had gone away again shortly before, and had
not yet returned.

Determined to let nothing damp his spirits, Caesar merely shrugged his
shoulders, and gave orders to admit the maiden, and--should they have
accompanied her--her father and brother. But neither Melissa nor the
men had appeared as yet, though Caracalla distinctly remembered having
commanded all three to visit him after the bath, which he had taken
several hours later than usual.

Vexed, and yet endeavoring to keep his temper, he went to the window.
The sky was overcast, and a sharp wind from the sea drove the first
rain-drops in his face.

In the wide square at his feet a spectacle presented itself which would
have delighted him at another time, when in better spirits.

The younger men of the city--as many as were of Greek extraction--were
trooping in. They were divided into companies, according to the
wrestling-schools or the Circus and other societies to which they
belonged. The youths marched apart from the married men, and one could
see that they came gladly, and hoped for much enjoyment from the
events of the day. Some of the others looked less delighted. They were
unaccustomed to obey the orders of a despot, and many were ill-pleased
to lose a whole day from their work or business. But no one was
permitted to absent himself; for, when the chief citizens had invited
the emperor to visit their wrestling-schools, he replied that he
preferred to inspect the entire male youths of Alexandria in the
Stadium. This was situated close by his residence in the Serapeum, and
in this great space a spectacle would be afforded to him at one glance,
which he could otherwise only enjoy by journeying laboriously from one
gymnasium to another. He loved the strong effects produced by great
masses; and being on the race-course, the wrestlers and boxers, the
runners and discus-throwers, could give proof of their strength,
dexterity, and endurance.

It occurred to him at the moment that among these youths and men there
might be some of the descendants of the warriors who, under the command
of the great Alexander, had conquered the world. Here, then, was an
opportunity of gathering round him--rejuvenated and, so to speak, born
anew--those troops who, under the guidance of the man whose mission on
earth he was destined to accomplish, had won such deathless victories.
That was a pleasure he had every right to permit himself, and he wished
to show to Melissa the re-created military forces of him to whom, in a
former existence, as Roxana, she had been so dear.

Quick as ever to suit the deed to the word, he at once ordered the head
citizens to assemble the youth of Alexandria on the morning of the day
in question, and to form them into a Macedonian phalanx. He wished to
inspect them in the stadium, and they were now marching thither.

He had ordered helmets, shields, and lances to be made after well-known
Macedonian patterns and to be distributed to the new Hellenic legion.
Later on they might be intrusted with the guarding of the city,
should there be a Parthian war; and he required the attendance of the
Alexandrian garrison.

The inspection of this Greek regiment would be certain to give pleasure
to Melissa. He expected, too, to see Alexander among them. When once his
beloved shared the purple with him, he could raise her brother to the
command of this chosen phalanx.

Troop after troop streamed on to the course, and he thought he had
seldom seen anything finer than these slender youths, marching along
with elastic step, and garlands in their black, brown, or golden locks.

When the young noblemen who belonged to the school of Timagetes filed
past him, he took such delight in the beauty of their heads, the
wonderful symmetry of their limbs strengthened by athletic games, and
the supple grace of most of them, that he felt as if some magic spell
had carried him back to the golden age of Greece and the days of the
Olympian games in the Altis.

What could be keeping Melissa? This sight would assuredly please her,
and for once he would be able to say something flattering about her
people. One might easily overlook a good deal from such splendid youths.

Carried away by his admiration he waved his scarf to them, which being
remarked by the gymnasiarch, who with his two assistants-herculean
athletes--walked in front, was answered by him with a loud “Hail,
Caesar!”

The youths who followed him imitated his example, and the troop that
came after them returned his greeting loud and heartily. The young
voices could be heard from afar, and the news soon spread to the last
ranks of the first division to whom these greetings were addressed. But,
among the men who already were masters of households of their own, there
were many who deemed it shameful and unworthy to raise their voices in
greeting to the tyrant whose heavy hand had oppressed them more than
once; and a group of young men belonging to the party of the “Greens,”
 who ran their own horses, had the fatal audacity to agree among
themselves that they would leave Caesar’s greeting unanswered. A
many-headed crowd is like a row of strings which sound together as soon
as the note is struck to which they are all attuned; and so each one now
felt sure that his acclamation would only increase the insolence of this
fratricide, this bloodstained monster, this oppressor and enemy of the
citizens. The succeeding ranks of “Greens” followed the example, and
from the midst of a troop of young married men, members in the gymnasium
of the society of the Dioscuri, one foolhardy spirit had the reckless
temerity to blow a shrill, far-sounding whistle between his fingers.

He found no imitators, but the insulting sound reached the emperor’s
ear, and seemed to him like the signal-call of Fate; for, before it had
died away, the clouds broke, and a stream of brilliant sunshine spread
over the race-course and the assembled multitude. The cloudy day that
was to have brought happiness to Caesar had been suddenly transformed by
the sun of Africa into a bright one; and the radiant light which cheered
the hearts of others seemed to him to be a message from above to
warn him that, instead of the highest bliss, this day would bring him
disappointment and misfortune. He said nothing of this, for there was
no one there in whom it would be any relief to confide, or of whose
sympathy he could be sure. But those who watched him as he retired from
the window saw plainly that the idyl, which he had promised them should
begin to-day, would assuredly not do so for the next few hours at least,
unless some miracle should occur. No, he would have to wait awhile for
the pastoral joys he had promised himself. And it seemed as if, instead
of the satyr-play of which old Julius Paulinus had spoken, that fatal
whistle had given the signal for another act in Caracalla’s terrible
life-tragedy.

The “friends” of the emperor looked at him anxiously as, with furrowed
brow, he asked, impatiently: “Macrinus not here yet?”

Theocritus and others who had looked with envy upon Melissa and her
relatives, and with distrust upon her union with the emperor, now
heartily wished the girl back again.

But the prefect Macrinus came not; and while the emperor, having sent
messengers to fetch Melissa, turned with darkly boding brow to his
station overlooking the brightly lighted race-course, still hoping
the augury would prove false, and the sunny day turn yet in his favor,
Macrinus was in the full belief that the gate of greatness and power was
opening to him. Superstitious as the emperor himself and every one
else of his time, he was to-day more firmly persuaded than ever of the
existence of men whose mysterious wisdom gave them powers to which even
he must bend--the hard-headed man who had raised himself from the lowest
to the highest station, next to the Caesar himself.

In past nights the Magian Serapion had caused him to see and hear much
that was incomprehensible. He believed in the powers exerted by that
remarkable man over spirits, and his ability to work miracles, for he
had proved in the most startling manner that he had perfect control even
over such a determined mind as that of the prefect. The evening before,
the magician had bidden Macrinus come to him at the third hour after
sunrise of the next day, which he had unhesitatingly promised to do.
But the emperor had risen later than usual this morning, and the prefect
might expect to be called to his master at any moment. In spite of
this, and although his absence threatened to rouse Caesar to fury,
and everything pointed to the necessity of his remaining within call,
Macrinus, drawn by an irresistible craving, had followed the invitation,
which sounded more like a command. This, indeed, had seemed to him
decisive; for, as the seer ruled over his stern spirit, albeit he was
alive, even so must the spirits of the departed do his bidding. His
every interest urged him now to believe in the prophecy made to him
by Serapion, to-day for the third time, which foretold that he, the
prefect, should mount the throne of the Caesars, clad in the purple of
Caracalla. But it was not alone to repeat this prophecy that the seer
had called Macrinus to him, but to inform him that the future empress
was betrothed to a young Alexandrian, and that the tender intercourse
between the lovers had not been interrupted during Caracalla’s
courtship. This had come to Serapion’s ears yesterday afternoon,
through his adroit assistant Kastor, and he had taken advantage of the
information to prepare Caesar during the night for the faithlessness of
his chosen bride.

The Magian assured the prefect that what the spirit of the great
Macedonian had hinted at yesterday had since been confirmed by the
demons in his service. It would now be easy for Macrinus to possibly
hinder Melissa, who might have been all-powerful, from coming between
him and the great goal which the spirits had set before him.

Serapion then repeated the prophecy, which came with such convincing
power from the bearded lips of the sage that the prudent statesman cast
his last doubts from him, and, exclaiming, “I believe your words,
and shall press forward now in spite of every danger!” he grasped the
prophet’s hand in farewell.

Up to this point Macrinus, the son of a poor cobbler, who had had
difficulty in rearing his children at all, had received these prophetic
utterances with cool deliberation, and had ventured no step nearer to
the exalted aim which had been offered to his ambition. In all good
faith he had done his best to perform the duties of his office as an
obedient servant to his master and the state. This had all changed now,
and, firmly resolved to risk the struggle for the purple, he returned to
the emperor’s apartments.

Macrinus had no reason to expect a favorable reception when he entered
the tablinum, but his great purpose upheld his courage. He, the upstart,
was well aware that Fortune requires her favorites to keep their eyes
open and their hands active. He therefore took care to obtain a full
account of what had happened from his confidential friend the senator
Antigonus, a soldier of mean birth, who had gained favor with Caesar
by a daring piece of horsemanship. Antigonus closed his report with
the impudent whistle of the Greek athlete; he dwelt chiefly on his
astonishment at Melissa’s absence. This gave food for thought to the
prefect, too; but before entering the tablinum he was stopped by the
freedman Epagathos, who handed over to him a scroll which had been
given to him for the emperor. The messenger had disappeared directly
afterward, and could not be overtaken. Might it not endanger the life of
the reader by exhaling a poisonous perfume?

“Nothing is impossible here,” answered the prefect. “Ours it is to watch
over the safety of our godlike master.”

This letter was that which Melissa had intrusted to the slave Argutis
for Caesar, and with unwarrantable boldness the prefect and Epagathos
now opened it and ran rapidly over its contents. They then agreed to
keep this strange missive from the emperor till Macrinus should send
to ask whether the youths were assembled in their full number on the
race-course. They judged it necessary to prepare Caesar in some sort, to
prevent a fresh attack of illness.

Caracalla was standing near a pillar at the window whence he might see
without being seen. That whistle still shrilled in his ears. But another
idea occupied him so intensely that he had not yet thought of wiping out
the insult with blood.

What could be delaying Melissa and her father and brother?

The painter ought to have joined the other Macedonian youths on
the race-course, and Caracalla was engaged in looking out for him,
stretching forward every time he caught sight of some curly head that
rose above the others.

There was a bitter taste in his mouth, and at every fresh disappointment
his rebellious, tortured heart beat faster; and yet the idea that
Melissa might have dared to flee from him never entered his mind.

The high-priest of Serapis had informed him that his wife had seen
nothing of her as yet. Then it suddenly occurred to him that she might
have been wet through by the rain yesterday and now lay shaken by
fever, and that this must keep her father away, too; a supposition which
cheered the egoist more than it pained him, and with a sigh of relief he
turned once more to the window.

How haughtily these boys carried their heads; their fleet, elastic feet
skimmed over the ground; how daringly they showed off the strength and
dexterity that almost seemed their birthright! This reminded him that,
prematurely aged as he was by the wild excesses of his younger
years, with his ill-set broken leg and his thin locks, he must make
a lamentable contrast to these others of his own age; and he said to
himself that perhaps the whistle had come from the lips of one of the
strongest and handsomest, who had not considered him worth greeting.

And yet he was not weaker than any single individual down there; aye,
and if he chose he could crush them all together, as he would the
glow-worm creeping on that window-sill. With one quick squeeze of his
fingers he put an end to the pretty little insect, and at that moment he
heard voices behind him.

Had his beloved come at last?

No, it was only the prefect. He should have been there long ago, if
he were obedient to his sovereign’s commands. Macrinus was therefore a
convenient object on which to vent his anger. How mean was the face of
this long-legged upstart, with its small eyes, sharp nose, and furrowed
brow! Could the beautiful Diadumenianus really be his son? No matter!
The boy, the apple of his father’s eye, was in his power, and was a
surety for the old man’s loyalty. After all, Macrinus was a capable,
serviceable officer, and easier to deal with than the Romans of the old
noble families.

Notwithstanding these considerations, Caracalla addressed the prefect as
harshly as if he had been a disobedient slave, but Macrinus received the
flood of abuse with patience and humility. When the emperor reproached
him with never being at hand when he was wanted, he replied submissively
that it was just because he found he could be of service to Caesar that
he had dared to absent himself. The refractory young brood down there
were being kept well in hand, and it was entirely owing to his effectual
measures that they had contented themselves with that one whistle. Later
on it would be their duty to punish such audacity and high-treason with
the utmost rigor.

The emperor gazed in astonishment at the counselor, who till now had
ever advised him to use moderation, and only yesterday had begged him to
ascribe much to Alexandrian manners, which in Rome would have had to
be treated with severity. Had the insolence of these unruly citizens be
come unbearable even to this prudent, merciful man?

Yes, that must be it; and the grudge that Macrinus now showed against
the Alexandrians hastened the pardon which Caesar silently accorded him.

Caracalla even said to himself that he had underrated the prefect’s
intellect, for his eyes flashed and glowed like fire, notwithstanding
their smallness, and lending a force to his ignoble face which Caracalla
had never noticed before. Had Caesar no premonition that in the last
few hours this man had grown to be such another as himself?--for in his
unyielding mind the firm resolve had been strengthened to hesitate at
nothing--not even at the death of as many as might come between him and
his high aim, the throne.

Macrinus knew enough of human nature to observe the miserable
disquietude that had seized upon the emperor at his bride’s continued
absence, but he took good care not to refer to the subject. When
Caracalla, however, could no longer conceal his anxiety, and asked after
her himself, the prefect gave the appointed sign to Epagathos, who then
handed Melissa’s freshly re-sealed letter to his master.

“Let me open it, great Caesar,” entreated Macrinus. “Even Homer called
Egypt the land of poison.”

But the emperor did not heed him. No one had told him, and he had never
in his life received a letter in a woman’s hand, except from his
mother; and yet he knew that this delicate little roll had come from a
woman--from Melissa.

It was closed with a silken thread, and the seal with which Epagathos
had replaced the one they had broken. If Caracalla tore it open, the
papyrus and the writing might be damaged. He called impatiently for
a knife, and the body physician, who had just entered with other
courtiers, handed him his.

“Back again?” asked Caracalla as the physician drew the blade from its
sheath.

“At break of day, on somewhat unsteady legs,” was the jovial answer.
Caracalla took the knife from him, cut the silk, hastily broke the seal,
and began to read.

Till now his hands had performed their office steadily, but suddenly
they began to tremble, and while he ran his eye over Melissa’s
refusal--there were but a few lines-his knees shook, and a sharp, low
cry burst from him, like no sound that lies by nature in the throat of
man. Rent in two pieces, the strip of papyrus fluttered to the ground.

The prefect caught the despot, who, seized with giddiness, stretched out
his hands as if seeking a support. The physician hurriedly brought out
the drug which Galenus had advised him to use in such cases, and which
he always carried with him, and then, pointing to the letter, asked the
prefect:

“In the name of all the gods, from whom?”

“From the gem-cutter’s fair daughter,” replied Macrinus, with a
contemptuous shrug.

“From her?” cried the physician, indignantly. From that light Phryne,
who kissed and embraced my rich host’s son down there in his sick-room?

“At this the emperor, who had not lost consciousness for one moment,
started as if stung by a serpent, and sprang at the physician’s throat
screaming while he threatened to strangle him:

“What was that? What did you say? Cursed babbler! The truth, villain,
and the whole truth, if you love your life!”

The half-choked man, ever prone to talking, had no reason for concealing
from Caesar what he had seen with his own eyes, and had subsequently
heard in the Serapeum and at the table of Polybius.

When life was at stake a promise to a freedman could be of no account,
so he gave free rein to his tongue, and answered the questions Caracalla
hoarsely put to him without reserve, and--being a man used to the ways
of a court--with insinuations that were doubly welcome to a judge so
eager for damning evidence.

Yesterday, the day before, and the day before that--every day on which
Melissa had pretended to feel the mysterious ties that bound her heart
to his, every day that she had feigned love and led him on to woo her,
she had--as he now learned--granted to another what she had refused to
him with such stern discretion. Her prayer for him, the sympathy
she said she felt, the maidenly sensibility which had charmed him in
her--all, all had been lies, deceit, sham, in order to attain an
object. And that old man and the brothers to serve whom she had dared to
approach him--they all knew the cruel game she was playing with him and
his heart’s love. The lips that had lured him into the vilest trap
with lying words had kissed another. He seemed to hear the Alexandrians
laughing at the forsaken bridegroom, to see them pointing the finger
of derision at the man whom cunning woman had deceived even before
marriage. What a feast for their ribald wit!

And yet--he would have willingly borne it all, and more, for the
certainty that she had really loved him once; that her heart had been
his, if only for one short hour.

On those shreds of papyrus scattered over the floor she confessed she
was not able to accede to his wishes, because she had already given her
faith to another before she ever saw Caracalla. It was true she had felt
herself drawn to him as to no other but her betrothed; and had he been
content to let her be near him as a faithful servant and sicknurse, then
indeed... In short, he was informed in so many words that every tie
that bound her to him must be broken in favor of another, and the
hypocritical regret with which she sought to cover up the hard facts
only made him doubly indignant.

Lies, lies--even in this letter nothing but lies and heartless
dissimulation!

How it stabbed his heart! But he possessed the power to wound her in
return. Wild beasts should tear her fair body limb from limb, as she had
torn his soul in this hour.

One wish alone filled his heart--to see her whom he had loved above all
others, to whom he had revealed his inmost soul, for whose sake he had
amended his actions as he had never done for his own mother--to see her
lying in the dust before him, and to inflict upon her such tortures as
no mortal had ever endured before. And not only she, but all whom she
loved and who were her accomplices, should atone for the torment of this
hour. The time of reckoning had come, and every evil instinct of his
nature mingled its exulting voice with the anguished cries of his
bleeding heart.

The prefect knew his master well, and watched his every expression while
apparently listening to the voluble physician, but in reality absorbed
in a train of thought. By the twitching of his eyelids, the sharply
outlined red patches on his cheeks, the quivering nostrils, and the deep
furrows between his eyes, he must be revolving some frightful plan in
his mind.

Yesterday, had he found him in this condition, Macrinus would have
endeavored by every means in his power to calm his wrath; but to-day, if
Caesar had set the world in flames, he would only have added fuel to the
fire, for who could more surely upset the firmly established power of
this emperor and son of emperors as Caracalla himself? The people of
Rome had endured unimaginable sufferings at his hands; but the cup was
full, and, judging from Caesar’s looks, he would cause it to overflow
this day. Then the rising flood which tore the son of an idolized father
from the throne, might possibly bear him, the child of lowliness and
poverty, into the palace.

But Macrinus remained silent. No word from him should change the tenor
of the emperor’s thoughts. The plan he was thinking out must be allowed
to ripen to its full horror. The lowering, uncertain glance that
Caracalla cast round the tablinum at the close of the physician’s
narrative showed that the prefect’s reticence was an unnecessary
precaution.

Caesar’s mind and tongue still seemed paralyzed; but at that moment
something occurred which recalled him to himself and brought firmness to
his wandering gaze.

There was a sudden disturbance in the antechamber, with a confused sound
of cries and shouting. Those friends of Caesar who wore swords drew
them, and Caracalla, who was unarmed, called to Antigonus to give him
his.

“A revolt?” he asked Macrinus with flashing eyes, and as if he wished
the answer to be in the affirmative; but the prefect had hastened to
the door with drawn sword. Before he reached it, it was thrown open, and
Julius Asper, the legate, burst into the tablinum as if beside himself,
crying: “Cursed den of murderers! An attempt on your life, great Caesar;
but we have him fast!”

“Assassination!” interrupted Caracalla with furious joy. “That was the
only thing left undone! Bring the murderer! But first”--and he addressed
himself to Aristides--“close the city gates and the harbor. Not a man,
not a ship must be let through without being searched. The vessels that
have weighed anchor since daybreak must be followed and brought back.
Mounted Numidians under efficient officers must scour the high-roads as
soon as the gate-keepers have been examined. Every house must be open to
your men, every temple, every refuge. Seize Heron, the gem-cutter,
his daughter, and his two sons. Also--Diodoros is the young villain’s
name?--him, his parents, and everybody connected with them! The
physician knows where they are to be found. Alive, do you hear?--not
dead! I will have them alive! I give you till midnight! Your head, if
you let the jade and her brothers escape!”

With drooping head the unhappy officer departed. On the threshold he was
met by Martialis, the praetorian centurion. After him, his hands bound
behind his back, walked the criminal. A deep flush overspread his
handsome face, his eyes glowed under the too lofty brow with the fierce
light of fever, his waving locks stood out in wild confusion round his
head, while the finely cut upper lip with its disdainful curl seemed the
very seat of scorn and bitterest contempt. Every feature wore that same
expression, and not a trace of fear or regret. But his panting breast
betrayed to the physician’s first glance that they had here to deal with
a sick man in raging fever.

They had already torn off his mantle and discovered beneath its folds
the sharp-edged butcher’s knife which plainly betrayed his intentions.
He had penetrated to the first antechamber when a soldier of the
Germanic body-guard laid hold on him. Martialis had him by the girdle
now, and the emperor looked sharply and mistrustfully at the praetorian,
as he asked if it were he who had captured the assassin.

The centurion replied that he had not. Ingiomarus, the German, had
noticed the knife; he, Martialis, was here only in right of his
privilege as a praetorian to bring such prisoners before great Caesar.

Caracalla bent a searching gaze upon the soldier; for he thought he
recognized in him the man who had aroused his envy and whose happiness
he had once greatly desired to damp, when against orders he had received
his wife and child in the camp. Recollections rose in his mind that
drove the hot blood to his cheek, and he cried, disdainfully:

“I might have guessed it! What can be expected beyond the letter of
their service from one who so neglects his duties? Did you not disport
yourself with lewd women in the camp before my very eyes, setting at
naught the well-known rules? Hands off the prisoner! This is your
last day as praetorian and in Alexandria. As soon as the harbor is
opened--to-morrow, I expect--you go on board the ship that carries
reinforcements to Edessa. A winter on the Pontus will cool your
lascivious blood.”

This attack was so rapid and so unexpected to the somewhat dull-witted
centurion, that he failed at first to grasp its full significance. He
only understood that he was to be banished again from the loved ones
he had so long been deprived of. But when he recovered sufficiently to
excuse himself by declaring that it was his own wife and children who
had visited him, Caesar cut him short by commanding him to report his
change of service at once to the tribune of the legion.

The centurion bowed in silence and obeyed. Caracalla then went up to the
prisoner, and dragging him, weakly resisting, from the dark back ground
of the room to the window, he asked with a sneer:

“And what are assassins like in Alexandria? Ah, ha! this is not the face
of a hired cut-throat! Only thus do they look whose sharp wit I will
answer with still sharper steel.”

“For that answer at least you are not wont to be at a loss,” came
contemptuously from the lips of the prisoner.

The emperor winced as if he had been struck, and then exclaimed

“You may thank your bound hands that I do not instantly return you the
answer you seem to expect of me.”

Then turning to his courtiers, he asked if any of them could give him
information as to the name and history of the assassin; but no one
appeared to know him. Even Timotheus, the priest of Serapis, who as head
of the Museum had so often delighted in the piercing intellect of this
youth, and had prophesied a great future for him, was silent, and looked
at him with troubled gaze.

It was the prisoner himself who satisfied Caesar’s curiosity. Glancing
round the circle of courtiers, and casting a grateful look at his
priestly patron, he said:

“It would be asking too much of your Roman table-companions that they
should know a philosopher. You may spare yourself the question, Caesar.
I came here that you might make my acquaintance. My name is Philippus,
and I am son to Heron, the gem-cutter.”

“Her brother!” screamed Caracalla, as he rushed at him, and thrusting
his hand into the neck of the sick youth’s chiton--who already could
scarcely stand upon his feet--he shook him violently, crying, with a
scoffing look at the high-priest:

“And is this the ornament of the Museum, the free-thinker, the profound
skeptic Philippus?”

He stopped suddenly, and his eyes flashed as if a new light had burst
upon him; he dropped his hand from the prisoner’s robe, and bending his
head close to the other, he whispered in his ear, “You have come from
Melissa?”

“Not from her,” the other answered quickly, the flush deepening on his
face, “but in the name of that most unhappy, most pitiable maiden, and
as the representative of her noble Macedonian house, which you would
defile with shame and infamy; in the name of the inhabitants of this
city, whom you despoil and tread under foot; in the interests of the
whole world, which you disgrace!”

Trembling with fury Caracalla broke in:

“Who would choose you for their ambassador, miserable wretch?”

To which the philosopher replied with haughty calm:

“Think not so lightly of one who looks forward with longing to that of
which you have an abject fear.”

“Of death, do you mean?” asked Caracalla, sneering, for his wrath had
given place to astonishment.

And Philip answered: “Yes, Death--with whom I have sworn friendship,
and who should be ten times blessed to me if he would but atone for my
clumsiness and rid the world of such a monster!”

The emperor, still spell-bound by the unheard-of audacity of the youth
before him, now felt moved to keep step with the philosopher, whom few
could equal in sharpness of wit; and, controlling the raging fury of his
blood, he cried, in a tone of superiority:

“So that is the boasted logic of the Museum? Death is your dearest
desire, and yet you would give it to your enemy?”

“Quite right,” replied Philip, his lip curling with scorn. “For there
is something which to the philosopher stands higher than logic. It is a
stranger to you, but you know it perhaps by name--it is called justice.”

These words, and the contemptuous tone in which they were spoken, burst
the flood-gates of Caracalla’s painfully restrained passion; his voice
rose harsh and loud, till the lion growled angrily and dragged at his
chain, while his master flung hasty words of fury in the face of his
enemy:

“We shall soon see, my cunning fencer with words, whether I know how to
follow your advice, and how sternly I can exercise that virtue denied to
me by an assassin. Will any one accuse me now of injustice if I punish
the accursed brood that has grown up in this den of iniquity with all
the rigor that it deserves? Yes, glare at me with those great, burning
eyes! Alexandrian eyes, promising all and granting nothing--persuading
him who trusts in them to believe in innocence and chastity, truth
and affection. But let him look closer, and he finds nothing but
deep corruption, foul cunning, despicable self-seeking, and atrocious
faithlessness!

“And everything else in this city is like those eyes! Where are there so
many gods and priests, where do they sacrifice so often, where do they
fast and apply themselves so assiduously to repentance and the cleansing
of the soul? And yet, where does vice display itself so freely and
so unchecked? This Alexandria--in her youth as dissolute as she was
fair--what is she now but an old hag? Now that she is toothless, now
that wrinkles disfigure her face, she has turned pious, that, like the
wolf in sheep’s clothing, she may revenge herself by malice for the loss
of joy and of the admiration of her lovers! I can find no more striking
comparison than this; for, even as hags find a hideous pleasure in
empty chatter and spiteful slanderings, so she, once so beautiful and
renowned, has sunk deeper and deeper in the mire, and can not endure to
see anything that has achieved greatness or glory without maliciously
bespattering it with poison.

“Justice!--yes, I will exercise justice, oh, sublime and virtuous hero,
going forth to murder--a dagger hidden in your bosom! I thank you for
that lesson!

“Pride of the Museum!--you lead me to the source whence all your
corruption flows. It is that famous nursery of learning where you, too,
were bred up. There, yes, there they cherish the heresy that makes the
gods into puppets of straw, and the majesty of the throne into an owl
for pert and insignificant birds to peck at. Thence comes the doctrine
that teaches men and women to laugh at virtue and to break their word.
There, where in other days noble minds, protected by the overshadowing
favor of princes, followed out great ideas, they now teach nothing but
words--empty, useless words. I saw and said that yesterday, and now I
know it for certain--every poison shaft that your malice has aimed at me
was forged in the Museum.”

He paused for breath, and then continued, with a contemptuous laugh:

“If the justice which you rate higher than logic were to take its
course, nothing would be juster than to make an end this day of this
hot-bed of corruption. But your unlearned fellow-citizens shall taste
of my justice, too. You yourself will be prevented by the beasts in the
Circus from looking on at the effect your warning words have produced.
But as yet you are alive, and you shall hear what the experiences are
which make the severest measures the highest justice.

“What did I hope to find, and what have I really found? I heard the
Alexandrians praised for their hospitality--for the ardor with
which they pursue learning--for the great proficiency of their
astronomers--for the piety which has raised so many altars and invented
so many doctrines; and, lastly, for the beauty and fine wit of their
women.

“And this hospitality! All that I have known of it is a flood of
malicious abuse and knavish scoffing, which penetrated even to the gates
of this temple, my dwelling. I came here as emperor, and treason pursued
me wherever I went--even into my own apartments; for there you stand,
whom a barbarian had to hinder from stabbing me with the knife of the
assassin. And your learning? You have heard my opinion of the Museum.
And the astrologers of this renowned observatory? The very opposite of
all they promised me has come to pass.

“Religion? The people, of whom you know as little from the musty volumes
of the Museum as of ‘Ultima Thule’--the people indeed practice it. The
old gods are necessary to them. They are the bread of life to them.
But instead of those you have offered them sour, unripe fruit, with a
glittering rind-from your own garden, of your own growing. The fruit of
trees is a gift from Nature, and all that she brings forth has some good
in it; but what you offer to the world is hollow and poisonous. Your
rhetoric gives it an attractive exterior, and that, too, comes from the
Museum. There they are shrewd enough to create new gods, which start up
out of the earth like mushrooms. If it should only occur to them, they
would raise murder to the dignity of god of gods, and you to be his
high-priest.”

“That would be your office,” interposed the philosopher.

“You shall see,” returned the emperor, laughing shrilly, “and the
witlings of the Museum with you! You use the knife; but hear the words
of the master: The teeth of wild beasts and their claws are weapons not
to be despised. Your father and brother, and she who taught me what to
think of the virtue and faith of Alexandrian women, shall tell you this
in Hades. Soon shall every one of those follow you thither who forgot,
even by a glance of the eye, that I was Caesar and a guest of this city!
After the next performance in the Circus the offenders shall tell you
in the other world how I administer justice. No later than the day after
to-morrow, I imagine, you may meet there with several companions from
the Museum. There will be enough to clap applause at the disputations!”
 Caracalla ended his vehement speech with a jeering laugh, and looked
round eagerly for applause from the “friends” for whose benefit his last
words had been spoken; and it was offered so energetically as to drown
the philosopher’s reply.

But Caracalla heard it, and when the noise subsided he asked his
condemned victim:

“What did you mean by your exclamation, ‘And yet I would that death
might spare me’?”

“In order, if that should come true,” returned the philosopher quickly,
his voice trembling with indignation, “that I might be a witness of the
grim mockery with which the all-requiting gods will destroy you, their
defender.”

“The gods!” laughed the emperor. “My respect for your logic grows less
and less. You, the skeptic, expect the deeds of a mortal man from the
gods whose existence you deny!”

Then cried Philip, and his great eyes burning with hatred and
indignation sought the emperor’s: “Till this hour I was sure of nothing,
and therefore uncertain of the existence of a god; but now I believe
firmly that Nature, by whom everything is carried out according to
everlasting, immutable laws, and who casts out and destroys anything
that threatens to bring discord into the harmonious workings of all her
parts, would of her own accord bring forth a god, if there be not one
already, who should crush you, the destroyer of life and peace, in his
all-powerful hand!”

Here his wild outburst of indignation was brought to an abrupt close,
for a furious blow from Caracalla’s fist sent his enfeebled enemy
staggering back against the wall near the window.

Mad with rage, Caracalla shrieked hoarsely

“To the beasts with him! No, not to the beasts--to the torture! He and
his sister! The punishment I have bethought me of--scum of the earth--”

But the wild despair of the other, in whose breast hatred and fever
burned with equal strength, now reached the highest pitch. Like a hunted
deer which stays its flight for a moment to find an outlet or to turn
upon his pursuers, he gazed wildly round him, and before the emperor
could finish his threat; leaning against the pillar of the window as if
prepared to receive his death-blow, he interrupted Caracalla:

“If your dull wit can invent no death to satisfy your cruelty, the
blood-hound Zminis can aid you. You are a worthy couple. Curses on
you!...

“At him!” yelled the emperor to Macrinus and the legate, for no
substitute had appeared for the centurion he had dismissed.

But while the nobles advanced warily upon the madman, and Macrinus
called to the Germanic body-guard in the anteroom, Philip had turned
like lightning and disappeared through the window.

The legates and Caesar came too late to hold him back, and from below
came cries of: “Crushed!--dead!... What crime has he committed? They
cast him down!... He can not have done it himself... Impossible! ...
His arms are bound.... A new manner of death invented specially for the
Alexandrians!”

Then another whistle sounded, and the shout, “Down with the tyrant!”

But no second cry followed. The place was too full of soldiers and
lictors.

“Caracalla heard it all. He turned back into the room, wiped the
perspiration from his brow, and said in a voice of studied unconcern,
yet with horrible harshness:

“He deserved his death-ten times over. However, I have to thank him for
a good suggestion. I had forgotten the Egyptian Zminis. If he is still
alive, Macrinus, take him from his dungeon and bring him here. But
quickly--in a chariot! Let him come just as he is. I can make use of him
now.”

The prefect bowed assent, and by the rapidity with which he departed he
betrayed how willingly he carried out this order of his master’s.



CHAPTER XXX.

Scarcely had Macrinus closed the door behind him, when Caracalla threw
himself exhausted on the throne, and ordered wine to brought.

The gloomy gaze he bent upon the ground was not affected this time.
The physician noted with anxiety how his master’s breast heaved and his
eyelids quivered; but when he offered Caesar a soothing potion, he waved
him away, and commanded him to cease from troubling him.

For all that, he listened a little later to the legate, who brought
the news that the youths of the city assembled on the race-course
were beginning to be impatient. They were singing and applauding
boisterously, and the songs they so loudly insisted on having repeated
would certainly not contain matter flattering to the Romans.

“Leave them alone,” answered Caesar, roughly. “Every line is aimed at me
and no other. But the condemned are always allowed their favorite meal
before the last journey. The food they love is venomous satire. Let them
enjoy it to the full once more!--Is it far to Zminis’s prison?”

The reply was in the negative; and as Caracalla exclaimed, “So much the
better!” a significant smile played on his lips.

The high-priest of Serapis had looked on in much distress of mind. He,
as the head of the Museum, had set high hopes on the youth who had
come to such a terrible end. If Caesar should carry his threats into
execution, there would be an end to that celebrated home of learning
which, in his opinion, bore such noble fruits of study. And what could
Caracalla mean by his dark saying that the sport and mockery of those
youths below was their last meal? The worst might indeed be expected
from the fearful tyrant who was at once so deeply wounded and
so grievously offended; and the high-priest had already sent
messengers--Greeks of good credit--to warn the insurgent youths in the
stadium. But, as the chief minister of the divinity, he also esteemed it
his duty, at any risk to himself, to warn the despot, whom he saw on the
verge of being carried away to deeds of unparalleled horror. He thought
the time had come, when Caracalla looked up from the brooding reverie
into which he had again sunk, and with an ominous scowl asked Timotheus
whether his wife, under whose protection Melissa had been seen the
day before, had known that the false-hearted girl had given herself to
another man while she feigned love for him.

The high-priest repelled the suspicion with his usual dignity, and went
on to adjure Caesar not to visit on an industrious and dutiful community
the sins of a light-minded girl’s base folly and falsehood.

But Caracalla would not suffer him to finish; he wrathfully inquired who
had given him a right to force his advice on Caesar.

On this Timotheus replied, with calm dignity:

“Your own noble words, great Caesar, when, to your honor be it spoken,
you reminded the misguided skeptic of the true meaning of the old gods
and of what is due to them. The god whom I serve, great Caesar, is
second to none: the heavens are his head, the ocean is his body, and
the earth his feet; the sunshine is the light of his all-seeing eye, and
everything which stirs in the heart or brain of man is an emanation of
his divine spirit. Thus he is the all-pervading soul of the universe,
and a portion of that soul dwells in you, in me, in all of us. His power
is greater than any power on earth, and, though a well-grounded wrath
and only too just indignation urge you to exert the power lent you by
him--”

“And I will exert it!” Caesar exclaimed with haughty rage. “It reaches
far. I need no help, not even that of your god!”

“That I know,” replied Timotheus. “And the god will let those fall into
your hands who have sinned against your sacred majesty. Any punishment,
even the severest, will be pleasing in his sight which you may inflict
on those guilty of high-treason, for you wear the purple as his gift and
in his name; those who insult you sin also against the god. I myself,
with my small power, will help to bring the criminals to justice. But
when a whole population is accused, when it is beyond the power of human
justice to separate the innocent from the guilty, punishment is the
prerogative of the god. He will visit on this city the crimes it has
committed against you; and I implore you, in the name of your noble and
admirable mother--whom it has been my privilege to entertain under this
roof, and who in gratitude for the favors of Serapis--”

“And have I grudged sacrifices?” Caesar broke in. “I have done my utmost
to win the graces of your god--and with what success? Everything that
can most aggrieve the heart of man has befallen me here under his eyes.
I have as much reason to complain of him as to accuse the reprobate
natives of your city. He, no doubt, knows how to be avenged; the
three-headed monster at his feet does not look like a lap-dog. Why, he
would despise me if I should leave the punishment of the criminals to
his tender mercies! Nay, I can do that for myself. Though you have seen
me in many cases show mercy, it has always been for my mother’s sake.
You have done well to remind me of her. That lady--she is, I know, a
votary of your god. But to me the Alexandrians have dared to violate
the laws of hospitality; to her they were cordial hosts. I will remember
that in their favor. And if many escape unpunished, I would have the
traitors to know that they owe it to the hospitality shown to my mother
by their parents, or perhaps by themselves.”

He was here interrupted by the arrival of Aristides, who entered in
great haste and apparently pleased excitement. His spies had seized a
malefactor who had affixed an epigram of malignant purport to the statue
of Julia Domna in the Caesareum. The writer was a pupil of the Museum,
and had been taken in the stadium, where he was boasting of his exploit.
A spy, mingling with the crowd, had laid hands on him, and the captain
of the watch had forthwith hurried to the Serapeum to boast of a success
which might confirm him in his yet uncertain position. The rough sketch
of the lines had been found on the culprit, and Aristides held the
tablets on which they were written while Caracalla listened to his
report. Aristides was breathless with eagerness, and Caesar, snatching
the tablets impatiently from his hand, read the following lines:

“Wanton, I say, is this dam of irreconcilable brothers!” “Mean you
Jocasta?” “Nay, worse--Julia, the wife of Severus.”

“The worst of all--but the last!” Caracalla snarled, as, turning pale,
he laid the tablets down. But he almost instantly took them up again,
and handing the malignant and lying effusion to the high-priest, he
exclaimed, with a laugh:

“This seals the warrant! Here is my mother slandered, too! Now, the man
who sues for mercy condemns himself to death!” And, clinching his fist,
he muttered, “And this, too, is from the Museum.”

Timotheus, meanwhile, had also read the lines. Even paler than
Caracalla, and fully aware that any further counsel would be thrown
away and only turn the emperor’s wrath against himself, he expressed his
anger at this calumny directed against the noblest of women, and by a
boy hardly free from school!

But Caracalla furiously broke in:

“And woe to you if your god refuses me the only thing I crave in return
for so many sacrifices--revenge, complete and sanguinary; atonement from
great and small alike!” But he interrupted himself with the exclamation:
“He grants it! Now for the tool I need.”

The tool was ready--Zminis, the Egyptian, answering in every particular
to the image which Caracalla had had in his mind of the instrument who
might execute his most bloodthirsty purpose.

With hair in disorder and a blue-black stubble of beard on his haggard
yellow cheeks, in a dirty gray prison shirt, barefoot, and treading as
silently as Fate when it creeps on a victim, the rascal approached his
sovereign. He stood before Caracalla exactly as the prefect, in a swift
chariot, had brought him out of prison. The white of his long, narrow
eyes, which had so terrified Melissa, had turned yellow, and his glance
was as restless and shifting as that of a hyena. His small head on its
long neck was never for a moment still; the ruthless wretch had sat
waiting day after day in expectation of death, and it was by a miracle
that he found himself once more at the height of his ambition. But when
at last he inquired of Caracalla, in the husky voice which had gained an
added hoarseness from the damp dungeon whence he had been brought, what
his commands were, looking up at him like a starving dog which hopes for
a titbit from his master’s hand, even the fratricide, who himself held
the sword sharpened to kill, shuddered at the sight and sound.

But Caesar at once recovered himself, and when he asked the Egyptian:

“Will you undertake to help me, as captain of the night-watch, to punish
the traitors of Alexandria?” the answer was confident:

“What man can do, I can do.”

“Good!” replied Caracalla. “But this is not a matter of merely capturing
one or another. Every one--mark me--every one has merited death who has
broken the laws of hospitality, that hospitality which this lying city
offered me. Do you understand? Yes? Well, then, how are we to detect the
guilty? Where are we to find spies and executioners enough? How can
we punish worst those whose wickedness has involved the rest in guilt,
especially the epigramatists of the Museum? How are we to discover the
ringleaders of those who insulted me yesterday in the Circus, and of
those among the youths in the stadium who have dared to express their
vile disapproval by whistling in my very face? What steps will you take
to hinder a single one from escaping? Consider. How is it to be done so
effectually that I may lie down and say ‘They have had their deserts. I
am content’?”

The Egyptian’s eyes wandered round the floor, but he presently drew
himself up and answered briefly and positively, as though he were
issuing an order to his men:

“Kill them all!”

Caracalla started, and repeated dully, “All?”

“All!” repeated Zminis, with a hideous grin. “The young ones are all
there, safe in the stadium. The men in the Museum fear nothing. Those
who are in the streets can be cut down. Locked doors can be broken in.”

At this, Caesar, who had dropped on to his throne, started to his
feet, flung the wine-cup he held across the room, laughed loudly, and
exclaimed:

“You are the man for me! To work at once! This will be a day!--Macrinus,
Theocritus, Antigonus, we need your troops. Send up the legates. Those
who do not like the taste of blood, may sweeten it with plunder.”

He looked young again, as if relieved from some burden on his mind, and
the thought flashed through his brain whether revenge were not sweeter
than love.

No one spoke. Even Theocritus, on whose lips a word of flattery or
applause was always ready, looked down in his dismay; but Caracalla, in
his frenzy of excitement, heeded nothing.

The hideous suggestion of Zminis seemed to him worthy of his greatness
by its mere enormity. It must be carried out. Ever since he had
first donned the purple he had made it his aim to be feared. If this
tremendous deed were done, he need never frown again at those whom he
wished to terrify.

And then, what a revenge! If Melissa should hear of it, what an effect
it must have on her!

To work, then!

And he added in a gentler tone, as if he had a delightful surprise in
store for some old friend:

“But silence, perfect silence--do you hear?--till all is ready.--You,
Zminis, may begin on the pipers in the stadium and the chatterers in the
Museum. The prize for soldiers and lictors alike lies in the merchants’
chests.”

Still no one spoke; and now he observed it. His scheme was too grand for
these feeble spirits. He must teach them to silence their conscience
and the voice of Roman rectitude; he must take on himself the whole
responsibility of this deed, at which the timid quaked. So he drew
himself up to his full height, and, affecting not to see the hesitancy
of his companions, he said, in a tone of cheerful confidence:

“Let each man do his part. All I ask of you is to carry out the sentence
I pronounce as a judge. You know the crime of the citizens of this town,
and, by virtue of the power I exercise over life and death, be it known
to all that I, Caesar, condemn--mark the word, condemn--every free male
of Alexandria, of whatever age or rank, to die by the sword of a Roman
warrior! This is a conquered city, which has forfeited every claim to
quarter. The blood and the treasure of the inhabitants are the prize of
my soldiery. Only”--and he turned to Timotheus--“this house of your god,
which has given me shelter, with the priests and the treasure of great
Serapis, are spared. Now it lies with each of you to show whether or no
he is faithful to me. All of you”--and he addressed his friends--“all
who do me service in avenging me for the audacious insults which have
been offered to your sovereign, are assured of my imperial gratitude.”

This declaration was not without effect, and murmurs of applause
rose from the “friends” and favorites, though less enthusiastic
than Caracalla was accustomed to hear. But the feebleness of this
demonstration made him all the prouder of his own undaunted resolve.

Macrinus was one of those who had most loudly approved him, and
Caracalla rejoiced to think that this prudent counselor should advise
his drinking the cup of vengeance to the dregs. Intoxicated already
before he had even sipped it, he called Macrinus and Zminis to his side,
and with glowing looks impressed on them to take particular care that
Melissa, with her father, Alexander, and Diodoros were brought to him
alive.

“And remember,” he added, “there will be many weeping mothers here by
to-morrow morning; but there is one I must see again, and that not as a
corpse--that bedizened thing in red whom I saw in the Circus--I mean the
wife of Seleukus, of the Kanopic way.”



CHAPTER XXXI.

On the wide ascent leading to the Serapeum the praetorians stood
awaiting Caesar’s commands. They had not yet formed in rank and file,
but were grouped round the centurion Martialis, who had come to
tell them, sadly, of his removal to Edessa, and to take leave of his
comrades. He gave his hand to each one of them in turn, and received a
kindly pressure in return; for the stubborn fellow, though not of the
cleverest, had proved himself a good soldier, and to many of them a
trusty friend. There was not one who did not regret his going from among
them. But Caesar had spoken, and there was no gainsaying his orders.
In the camp, after service, they might talk the matter over; for the
present it were wise to guard their tongues.

The centurion had just said farewell to the last of his cohort, when
the prefect, with the legate Quintus Flavius Nobilior, who commanded the
legion, and several other higher officers, appeared among them. Macrinus
greeted them briefly, and, instead of having the tuba blown as usual and
letting them fall into their ranks, he told them to gather close round
him, the centurions in front. He then disclosed to them the emperor’s
secret orders. Caesar, he began, had long exercised patience and
mercy, but the insolence and malice of the Alexandrians knew no bounds;
therefore, in virtue of his power over life and death, he had pronounced
judgment upon them. To them as being nearest to his person he handed
over the most remunerative part of the work of punishment. Whomsoever
they found on the Kanopic way, the greatest and richest thoroughfare of
the city, they were to cut down as they would the rebellious inhabitants
of a conquered town. Only the women and children and the slaves were to
be spared. If for this task, a hideous one at best, they chose to pay
themselves out of the treasures of the citizens, nobody would blame
them.

A loud cheer followed these orders, and many an eye gleamed brighter.
Even the coolest among them seemed to see a broad, deep pool of blood
into which he need only dip his hand and bring out something worth the
catching. And the fish that were to be had there were not miserable
carp, but heavy gold and silver vessels, and coins and magnificent
ornaments. Macrinus then proceeded to inform the higher and lower
officers of the course of action he had agreed upon with the emperor and
Zminis. Seven trumpet-blasts from the terrace of the Serapeum would give
the signal for the attack to begin. Then they were to advance, maniple
on maniple; but they were not required to keep their ranks--each man had
his own work to do. The legion was to assemble again at sunset at the
Gate of the Sun, at the eastern end of the road, after having swept it
from end to end.

By order of the emperor, each man, however, must be particularly careful
whom he cut down in any hiding-place, for Caesar wished to give the
following Alexandrians--who had sinned most flagrantly against him--the
benefit of a trial, and they must therefore be taken alive. He then
named the gem-cutter Heron, his son Alexander, and his daughter Melissa,
the Alexandrian senator Polybius, his son Diodoros, and the wife of
Seleukus.

He described them as well as he was able. For each one Caesar promised
a reward of three thousand drachmas, and for Heron’s daughter twice as
much, but only on condition of their being delivered up unhurt. It
would therefore be to their own advantage to keep their eyes open in
the houses, and to be cautious. Whoever should take the daughter of the
gem-cutter--and he described Melissa once more--would render a special
service to Caesar and might reckon on promotion.

The centurion Julius Martialis stayed to hear the end of this discourse,
and then hurriedly departed. He felt just as he had done in the war with
the Alemanni when a red-haired German had dealt him a blow on the helmet
with his club. His head whirled and swam as it did then--only to-day
blood-red lights danced before his eyes instead of deep blue and gold.
It was some time before he could collect his thoughts to any purpose;
but when he did, he clinched his fists as he recalled Caesar’s malignant
cruelty in forcing him away from his family.

Presently his large mouth widened into a satisfied smile. He was no
longer in that company, and need take no part in the horrid butchery. In
any other place he would no doubt have joined in it like the rest, glad
of the rich booty; but here, in his own home, where his mother and wife
and child dwelt, it seemed a monstrous and accursed deed. Besides the
gemcutter’s family, in whom Martialis took no interest, Caesar seemed to
have a special grudge against the lady Berenike, whose husband Seleukus
had been master to the centurion’s father; nay, his own wife was still
in the service of the merchant.

Not being skilled in any trade, he had entered the army early. As
Evocatus he had married the daughter of a free gardener of Seleukus,
and when he was ordered to Rome to join the praetorians his wife had
obtained the post of superintendent of the merchant’s villa at Kanopus.
For this they had to thank the kindness of the lady Berenike and her
now dead daughter Korinna; and he was honestly grateful to the wife of
Seleukus, for, as his wife was established in the villa, he could leave
her without anxiety and go with the army wherever it was ordered.

Having by this time reached the Kanopic street on his way to his family,
he perceived the statues of Hermes and Demeter which stood on each side
of the entrance to the merchant’s house, and his slow mind recapitulated
the long list of benefits he had received from Seleukus and his wife; a
secret voice urged upon him that it was his duty to warn them.

He owed nothing to Caesar, that crafty butcher, who out of pure malice
could deprive an honest soldier of his only joy in life and cheat him
of half his pay--for the praetorians had twice the wages of the other
troops; and if he only knew some handicraft, he would throw away his
sword today.

Here, at least, he could interfere with Caesar’s ruthless schemes,
besides doing his benefactors a good turn. He therefore entered the
house of the merchant, instead of pursuing on his homeward way.

He was well known, and the mistress of the house was at once apprised of
his arrival.

All the lower apartments were empty, the soldiers who had been quartered
in them having joined the others at the Serapeum.

But what had happened to the exquisite garden in the impluvium? What
hideous traces showed where the soldiers had camped, and, drunk with
their host’s costly wine, had given free play to their reckless spirits!

The velvet lawn looked like a stable-floor; the rare shrubs had been
denuded of their flowers and branches. Blackened patches on the mosaic
pavement showed where fires had been kindled; the colonnades were turned
into drying-grounds for the soldiers’ linen, and a rope on which hung
some newly washed clothes was wound at one end round the neck of a
Venus from the hand of Praxiteles, and at the other round the lyre of an
Apollo fashioned in marble by Bryaxis. Some Indian shrubs, of which his
father-in-law had been very proud, were trampled underfoot; and in the
great banqueting-hall, which had served as sleeping-room for a hundred
praetorians, costly cushions and draperies were strewn, torn from the
couches and walls to make their beds more comfortable.

Used to the sights of war as he was, the soldier ground his teeth with
wrath at this scene. As long as he could remember, he had looked upon
everything here with reverence and awe; and to think that his comrades
had destroyed it all made his blood boil.

As he approached the women’s apartments he took fright. How was he to
disclose to his mistress what threatened her?

But it must be done; so he followed the waiting-maid Johanna, who led
him to her lady’s livingroom.

In it sat the Christian steward Johannes, with writing tablets and
scrolls of papyrus, working in the service of his patroness. She herself
was with the wounded Aurelius; and Martialis, on hearing this, begged to
be admitted to her.

Berenike was in the act of renewing the wounded soldier’s bandages, and
when the centurion saw how cruelly disfigured was the handsome, blooming
face of the young tribune, to whom he was heartily attached, the tears
rose to his eyes. The matron observed it, and witnessed with much
surprise the affectionate greeting between the young noble and the plain
soldier.

The centurion greeted her respectfully; but it was not till Nernesianus
asked him how it was that the troops had been called to arms at this
hour, that Martialis plucked up courage and begged the lady of the house
to grant him an interview.

But Berenike had still to wash and bandage the wounds of her patient--a
task which she always performed herself and with the greatest care; she
therefore promised the soldier to be at his disposal in half an hour.

“Then it will be too late!” burst from the lips of the centurion; then
she knew, by his voice and the terror-stricken aspect of the man whom
she had known so long, that he meant to warn her, and there was but one
from whom the danger could come.

“Caesar?” she asked. “He is sending out his creatures to murder me?”

The imperious gaze of Berenike’s large eyes so overpowered the simple
soldier as to render him speechless for a while. But Caesar had
threatened his mistress’s life--he must collect himself, and thus he
managed to stammer:

“No, lady, no! He will not have you killed assuredly not! On the
contrary-they are to let you live when they cut down the others!”

“Cut down!” cried Apollinaris, raising himself up and staring horrified
at this messenger of terror; but his brother laid his hand upon the
centurion’s broad shoulder, and, shaking him vigorously, commanded him
as his tribune to speak out.

The soldier, ever accustomed to obey, and only too anxious that his
warning should not come too late, disclosed in hurried words what he had
learned from the prefect. The brothers interrupted him from time to time
with some exclamation of horror or disgust, but Berenike remained silent
till Martialis stopped with a deep breath.

Then the lady gave a shrill laugh, and as the others looked at her in
amazement she said coolly “You men will wade through blood and shame
with that reprobate, if he but orders you to do so. I am only a woman,
and yet I will show him that there are limits even to his malignity.”

She remained for a few moments lost in thought, and then ordered the
centurion to go and find out where her husband was.

Martialis obeyed at once, and no sooner was the door closed behind him
than she turned to the two brothers, and addressing herself first to one
and then to the other with equal vehemence, she cried “Who is right now?
Of all the villains who have brought shame upon the throne and name of
mighty Caesar, this is the most dastardly. He has written plainly enough
upon Apollinaris’s face how much he values a brave soldier, the son of a
noble house. And you, Nemesianus--are you not also an Aurelius? You say
so; and yet, had he not chanced to let you care for your brother, you
would at this moment be wandering through the city like a mad dog,
biting all who crossed your path. Why do you not speak? Why not tell
me once more, Nemesianus, that a soldier must obey his commander
blindly?--And you, Apollinaris, will you dare still to assert that
the hand with which Caesar tore your face was guided only by righteous
indignation at an insult offered to an innocent maiden? Have you the
courage to excuse the murders by Caracalla of his own wife, and many
other noble women, by his anxiety for the safety of throne and state? I,
too, am a woman, and may hold up my head with the best; but what have I
to do with the state or with the throne? My eye met his, and from that
moment the fiend was my deadly enemy. A quick death at the hands of one
of his soldiers seemed too good for the woman he hated. Wild beasts were
to tear me to pieces before his eyes. Is that not sufficient for you?
Put every abomination together, everything unworthy of an honorable man
and abhorrent to the gods, and you have the man whom you so willingly
obey. I am only the wife of a citizen. But were I the widow of a
noble Aurelian and your mother--” Here Apollinaris, whose wounds were
beginning to burn again, broke in: “She would have counseled us to leave
revenge to the gods. He is Caesar!”

“He is a villain!” shrieked the matron--“the curse, the shame of
humanity, a damnable destroyer of peace and honor and life, such as
the world has never beheld before! To kill him would be to earn the
gratitude and blessing of the universe. And you, the scions of a noble
house, you, I say, prove that there still are men among so many
slaves! It is Rome herself who calls you through me--like her, a woman
maltreated and wounded to the heart’s core--to bear arms in her service
till she gives you the signal for making an end of the dastardly blood
hound!”

The brothers gazed at one another pale and speechless, till at last
Nemesianus ventured to say “He deserves to die, we know, a thousand
deaths, but we are neither judges nor executioners. We can not do the
work of the assassin.”

“No, lady, we can not,” added Apollinaris, and shook his wounded head
energetically.

But the lady, nothing daunted, went on: “Who has ever called Brutus a
murderer? You are young--Life lies before you. To plunge a sword into
the heart of this monster is a deed for which you are too good. But I
know a hand that understands its work and would be ready to guide the
steel. Call it out at the right moment and be its guide!”

“And that hand?” Apollinaris asked in anxious expectation.

“It is there,” replied Berenike, pointing to Martialis, who entered the
room at that moment. Again the brothers interchanged looks of doubt, but
the lady cried: “Consider for a moment! I would fain go hence with the
certainty that the one burning desire shall be fulfilled which still
warms this frozen heart.”

She motioned to the centurion, left the apartment with him, and preceded
him to her own room. Arrived there, she ordered the astonished freedman
Johannes, in his office as notary, to add a codicil to her will. In
the event of her death, she left to Xanthe, the wife of the centurion
Martialis, her lawful property the villa at Kanopus, with all it
contained, and the gardens appertaining to it, for the free use of
herself and her children.

The soldier listened speechless with astonishment. This gift was worth
twenty houses in the city, and made its owner a rich man. But the
testator was scarcely ten years older than his Xanthe, and, as he kissed
the hem of his mistress’s robe in grateful emotion, he cried: “May
the gods reward you for your generosity; but we will pray and offer up
sacrifices that it may be long before this comes into our hands!”

The lady shook her head with a bitter smile, and, drawing the soldier
aside, she disclosed to him in rapid words her determination to quit
this life before the praetorians entered the house. She then informed
the horror-stricken man that she had chosen him to be her avenger. To
him, too, the emperor had dealt a malicious blow. Let him remember that,
when the time came to plunge the sword in the tyrant’s heart. Should
this deed, however, cost Martialis