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- The Emperor, Part 2, Volume 9. - 6/10 -
"And did you send for me only to have that done?" cried Pontius, much annoyed. "Your house-slaves, I should think, might have been equal to that without my assistance."
"Perhaps, but then the wall would have to be freshly whitewashed--I know how obliging you always are." Thank you very much. To-morrow I will send you two regular workmen."
"Nay, to-day, at once if possible."
"Are you in such pressing haste to spoil the poor child's amusement? And besides I cannot but think that it is not to stare at the horsemen and chariots that she looks out, but to see her worthy lover."
"So much the worse. I was telling you, Eumenes, that a sculptor wants to marry her."
"She is a heathen," replied the bishop.
"But on the road to salvation," answered Paulina. "But we will speak of that presently. There is still something else to discuss, Pontius. The hall of my country villa must be enlarged."
"Then send me the plans."
"They are in the book-room of my late husband." The architect left his sister to go into the library, which he knew well.
As soon as the bishop was left alone with Paulina, he shook his head and said:
"If I judge rightly, my dear sister, you are going the wrong way to work in leading this child intrusted to your care. Not all are called, and rebellious hearts must be led along the path of salvation with a gentle hand, not dragged and driven. Why do you cut off this girl, who still stands with both feet in the world, from all that can give her pleasure? Allow the young creature to enjoy every permitted pleasure which can add to the joys of life in youth. Do not hurt Arsinoe needlessly, do not let her feel the hand that guides her. First teach her to love you from her heart, and when she knows nothing dearer than you, a request from you will be worth more than bolts or walled-up windows."
"At first I wished nothing more than that she should love me," interrupted Paulina.
"But have you proved her? Do you see in her the spark which may be fanned to a flame? Have you detected in her the germ which may possibly grow to a strong desire for salvation and to devotion to the Redeemer?"
"That germ exists in every heart-these are your own words."
"But in many of the heathen it is deeply buried in sand and stories; and do you feel yourself equal to clearing them away without injury to the seed or to the soil in which it lies?"
"I do, and I will win Arsinoe to Jesus Christ," said Paulina firmly.
Pontius interrupted the conversation; he remained with his sister some time longer discussing with her and with Eumenes the new building to be done at her country house; then he and the bishop left at the same time and Pontius proceeded to the scene of the fire by the harbor and in the old palace.
Pontius did not find the Emperor at Lochias, for Hadrian had moved at mid-day to the Caesareum. The strong smell of burning in every room in the palace had sickened him and he had begun to regard the restored building as a doomed scene of disaster. The architect was waited for with much anxiety, for the rooms originally furnished for the Emperor in the Caesareum had been despoiled and disarranged to decorate the rooms at Lochias, and Pontius was wanted to superintend their immediate rehabilitation. A chariot was waiting for him and there was no lack of slaves, so he began this fresh task at once and devoted himself to it till late at night. It was in vain this time that his anteroom was filled with people waiting for his return.
Hadrian had retired to some rooms which formed part of his wife's apartments. He was in a grave mood, and when the prefect Titianus was announced he kept him waiting till, with his own hand, he had laid a fresh dressing on his favorite's burns.
"Go now, my lord," begged the Bithynian, when the Emperor had finished his task with all the skill of a surgeon: "Titianus has been walking up and down in there for the last quarter of an hour."
"And so he may," said the monarch. "And if the whole world is shrieking for me it must wait till these faithful hands have had their due. Yes, my boy! we will wander on through life together, inseparable comrades. Others indeed do the same, and each one who goes through life side by side with a companion sharing all he enjoys or suffers, comes to think at last that he knows him as he knows himself; still the inmost core of his friend's nature remains concealed from him. Then, some day Fate lets a storm come raging down upon their; the last veil is torn, under the wanderer's eyes, from the very heart of his companion, and at last he really sees him as he is, like a kernel stripped of its shell, a bare and naked body. Last night such a blast swept over us and let me see the heart of my Antinous, as plainly as this hand I hold before my eyes. Yes, yes, yes! for the man who will risk his young and happy existence for a thing his friend holds precious would sacrifice ten lives if he had them, for his friend's person. Never, my friend, shall that night be forgotten. It gives you the right to do much that might pain me, and has graven your name on my heart, the foremost among those to whom I am indebted for any benefit.--They are but few."
Hadrian held out his hand to Antinous as he spoke. The boy, who had kept his eyes fixed on the ground in much confusion, raised it to his lips and pressed it against them in violent agitation. Then he raised his large eyes to the Emperor's and said:
"You must not speak to me so kindly, for I do not deserve such goodness. What is my life after all? I would let it go, as a child leaves go of a beetle it has caught, to spare you one single anxious day."
"I know it," answered Hadrian firmly, and he went to the prefect in the adjoining room.
Titianus had come in obedience to Hadrian's orders; the matter to be settled was what indemnification was to be paid to the city and to the individual owners of the storehouses that had been destroyed, for Hadrian had caused a decree to be proclaimed that no one should suffer any loss through a misfortune sent by the gods and which had originated in his residence. The prefect had already instituted the necessary inquiries and the private secretaries, Phlegon, Heliodorus and Celer, were now charged with the duty of addressing documents to the injured parties in which they were invited, in the name of Caesar, to declare the truth as to the amount of the loss they had suffered. Titianus also brought the information that the Greeks and Jews had determined to express their thankfulness for Caesar's preservation by great thank-offerings.
And the Christians," asked Hadrian.
"They abominate the sacrifice of animals, but they will unite in a common act of thanksgiving."
"Their gratitude will not cost them much," said Hadrian.
"Their bishop, Eumenes, brought me a sum of money for which a hundred oxen might be bought, to distribute among the poor. He said the God of the Christians is a spirit and requires none but spiritual sacrifices; that the best offering a man can bring him is a prayer prompted by the spirit and proceeding from a loving heart."
"That sounds very well for us," said Hadrian. "But it will not do for the people. Philosophical doctrines do not tend to piety; the populace need visible gods and tangible sacrifices. Are the Christians here good citizens and devoted to the welfare of the state?"
"We need no courts of justice for them."
"Then take their money and distribute it among the needy; but I must forbid their meeting for a general thanksgiving; they may raise their hands to their great spirit in my behalf, in private. Their doctrine must not be brought into publicity; it is not devoid of a delusive charm and it is indispensable to the safety of the state that the mob should remain faithful to the old gods and sacrifices."
"As you command, Caesar."
"You know the account given of the Christians by Pliny and Trajan?"
"And Trajan's answer."
"Well then let us leave them to follow their own devices in private after their own fashion; only they must not commit any breach of the laws of the state nor force themselves into publicity. As soon as they show any disposition to refuse to the old gods the respect that is due to them, or to raise a finger against them, severity must be exercised and every excess must be punished by death."
During this conversation Verus had entered the room; he was following the Emperor everywhere to-day for he hoped to hear him say a word as to his observation of the heavens, and yet he did not dare to ask him what he had discovered from them.
When he saw that Hadrian was occupied he made a chamberlain conduct him to Antinous. The favorite turned pale as he saw the praetor, still he retained enough presence of mind to wish him all happiness on his birthday. It did not escape Verus that his presence had startled the lad; he therefore plied him at first with indifferent questions, introduced pleasing anecdotes into his conversation and then, when he had gained his purpose, he added carelessly:
"I must thank you in the name of the state and of every friend of Caesar's. You carried out your undertaking well to the end, though by somewhat overpowering means."
"I entreat you say no more," interrupted Antinous eagerly, and looking anxiously at the door of the next room.
"Oh! I would have sacrificed all Alexandria to preserve Caesar's mind from gloom and care. Besides we have both paid dearly for our good intentions and for those wretched sheds."
"Pray talk of something else."
"You sit there with your hands bound up and your hair singed, and I feel
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