Presently he saw Norbanus riding the horse that he himself had ridden that afternoon from Antioch to Daphne, followed on a mule by Cadmus, the slave who had brought the letter which had pulled the trigger that set the catapults of destiny in motion. Making a wide circuit, they helped Scylax catch the Cappadocian.
Norbanus came cantering back. He was dressed for the road in a brown woolen tunic contributed by some one in Pertinax’ suite. He shook a bag of money.
“Cornificia was generous,” he said. “Old Pertinax thought he had done well enough by you. She cried shame on him and threatened to send for her jewelry. So he borrowed money from the priests. You are as dead as that.” He looked up at the tortured body of the robber. “What name will you take? We had better begin to get used to it.”
“It is written here,” said Sextus, showing him the parchment. But the moon had gone down in a smother of silvery cloud; Norbanus could not see to read. “I am Maternus-Latro.”
“I was told they had crucified that fellow.”
“This is Maternus. Being dead, he will hardly grudge me the use of his name! However, I will pay him for it. He shall have fair burial. Help me down with him.”
Norbanus beckoned to the slaves, who tied the horses to a near-by tree. They sought in the dark for a hole that would do for a grave, since they had no burying tools, stumbling on a limestone slab at last, that lay amid rank weeds near a tomb hollowed out of the rock that had been rifled, very likely, centuries ago. They lowered the already stiffened body into it, with a coin in its fingers for Charon’s ferry-fare across the Styx, then set the heavy slab in place, all four of them using their utmost strength.
Then Sextus, having poured a little water from his hollowed hands on to the slab, because he had no oil, and having murmured fragments of a ritual as old as Rome, bidding the gods of earth and air and the unseen re-absorb into themselves what man no longer could perceive or cherish or destroy, turned to the two slaves.
“Scylax,” he said, “Cadmus—he who was your master is as dead as that man we have buried. I am not Sextus, son of Maximus. I fare forth like a dead man on an unknown road, now being without honor on the lips of men. Nor have I any claim on you, being now an outlaw, whom the law would crucify if ill-luck should betray my feet. Nor can I set you free, since all my household doubtless is already confiscated; ye belong by law to whomsoever Commodus may have appointed to receive my goods. Do then at your own risk, of your own will, what seems good to you.”
Being slaves, they knelt. He bade them rise.
“We follow you,” said Scylax, Cadmus murmuring assent.
“Then the night bear witness!” Sextus turned toward the row of gibbets, pointing at them. “That is the risk we take together. If we escape that, you shall not go unrewarded from the fortune I redeem. Norbanus, you accept my leadership?”