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- A Thorny Path, Volume 12. - 9/9 -


months after their marriage news was brought to Carthage that Caesar had been murdered by the centurion Martialis, prompted by the tribunes Apollinaris and Nemesianus Aurelius. Immediately on this, Macrinus, the praetorian prefect, was proclaimed emperor by the troops.

The ambitious man's sovereignty lasted less than a year; still, the prophecy of Serapion was fulfilled. It cost the Magian his life indeed; for a letter written by him to the prefect, in which he reminded him of what he had foretold, fell into the hands of Caracalla's mother, who opened the letters addressed to her ill-fated son at Antioch, where she was then residing. The warning it contained did not arrive, however, till after Caesar's death, and before the new sovereign could effectually protect the soothsayer. As soon as Macrinus had mounted the throne the persecution of those who had roused the ire of the unhappy Caracalla was at an end. Diodoros and Melissa, Heron and Polybius, could mingle once more with their fellow-citizens secure from all pursuit.

Diodoros and other friends took care that the suspicion of treachery which had been cast on Heron's household should be abundantly disproved. Nay, the death of Philip, and Melissa's and Alexander's evil fortunes, placed them in the ranks of the foremost foes of tyranny.

Within ten months of his accession Macrinus was overthrown, after his defeat at Immae, where, though the praetorians still fought for him bravely, he took ignominious flight; Julia Domna's grandnephew was then proclaimed Caesar by the troops, under the name of Heliogabalus, and the young emperor of fourteen had a statue and a cenotaph erected at Alexandria to Caracalla, whose son he was falsely reputed to be. These two works of art suffered severely at the hands of those on whom the hated and luckless emperor had inflicted such fearful evils. Still, on certain memorial days they were decked with beautiful flowers; and when the new prefect, by order of Caracalla's mother, made inquiry as to who it was that laid them there, he was informed that they came from the finest garden in Alexandria, and that it was Melissa, the wife of the owner, who offered them. This comforted the heart of Julia Domna, and she would have blessed the donor still more warmly if she could have known that Melissa included the name of her crazed son in her prayers to her dying day.

Old Heron, who had settled on the estate of Diodoros and lived there among his birds, less surly than of old, still produced his miniature works of art; he would shake his head over those strange offerings, and once when he found himself alone with old Dido, now a freed-woman, he said, irritably: "If that little fool had done as I told her she would be empress now, and as good as Julia Domna. But all has turned out well-- only that Argutis, whom every one treats as if our old Macedonian blood ran in his veins, was sent yesterday by Melissa with finer flowers for Caracalla's cenotaph than for her own mother's tomb--May her new-fangled god forgive her! There is some Christian nonsense at the bottom of it, no doubt. I stick to the old gods whom my Olympias served, and she always did the best in everything."

Old Polybius, too, remained a heathen; but he allowed the children to please themselves. He and Heron saw their grandchildren brought up as Christians without a remonstrance, for they both understood that Christianity was the faith of the future.

Andreas to his latest day was ever the faithful adviser of old and young alike. In the sunshine of love which smiled upon him his austere zeal turned to considerate tenderness. When at last he lay on his death-bed, and shortly before the end, Melissa asked him what was his favorite verse of the Scriptures, he replied firmly and decidedly:

"Now the fullness of time is come."

"So be it," replied Melissa with tears in her eyes. He smiled and nodded, signed to Diodoros to draw off his signet ring--the only thing his father had saved from the days of his wealth and freedom--and desired Melissa to keep it for his sake. Deeply moved, she put it on her finger; but Andreas pointed to the motto, and said with failing utterance:

"That is your road--and mine--my father's motto: Per aspera ad astra. It has guided me to my goal, and you--all of you. But the words are in Latin; you understand them? By rough ways to the stars--Nay what they say to me is: Upward, under the burden of the cross, to bliss here and hereafter--And you too," he added, looking in his darling's face. "You too, both of you; I know it."

He sighed deeply, and, laying his hand on Melissa's head as she knelt by his bed, he closed his faithful eyes in the supporting arms of Diodoros.


A Thorny Path, Volume 12. - 9/9

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