“It was I who learned you spy on Marcia. I know, too, that you keep a spy in Britain,—one in Gaul, another in Severus’ camp. I read the last nine letters they sent you. I showed them to Marcia.”
“I kept one,” Marcia added. “It came yesterday. It compromises you beyond—”
“I yield!” said Livius, his knees beginning to look weak.
“To whom? To me?” asked Sextus, standing up abruptly and confronting him with folded arms. “Who stole the list I sent to Pertinax, of names of the important men who are intriguing for Severus, and for Pescennius Niger, and for Clodius Albinus?”
“Who knows?” Livius shrugged his shoulders.
“None knew of that list but you!” said Sextus. “You heard me speak of it to Pertinax. You heard me promise I would send it to him. None but you and he and I knew who the messenger would be. Where is the messenger?”
“In the sewers probably!” said Marcia. “The list is more important.”
“If it isn’t in the sewers, too,” said Livius, snatching at a straw. “By Hercules, I know nothing of a list.”
“Then you shall drown with Sextus’ slave in the Cloaca Maxima, the great sewer of Rome,” said Marcia. “Not that I need the list. I know what names are written on it. But if it should have fallen into Caesar’s hands—”
She shuddered, acting horror perfectly, and Livius, like a drowning man who thinks he sees the shore, struck out and sank!
“You threaten me, but I am no such fool as you imagine! I know all about you! I perceive you have crossed your Rubicon. Well—”
“Summon the decurion and two men!” Marcia interrupted, glancing at Cornificia. But she made a gesture with her hand that Cornificia interpreted to mean “do nothing of the kind!”
Livius did not see the gesture. Rage, shame, terror overwhelmed him and he blurted out the information Marcia was seeking—hurled it at her in the form of silly, useless threats:
“You wanton! You can kill me but my journal is in safe hands! Harm me— cause me to be missing from the palace for a few hours, and they may light your funeral fires! My journal, with the names of the conspirators, and all the details of your daily intriguing, goes straight into Caesar’s hands!”
The climax he expected failed. There was no excitement. Nobody seemed astonished. Marcia settled herself more comfortably on the couch and Galen began whispering to Sextus. The two other women looked amused. Reaction sweeping over him, his senses reeled and Livius stepped backward, staggering to the fountain, where he sat down.
“Bona dea! But the man took time to tell his secret!” Marcia exclaimed. “Popeia, you had better take my litter to the palace and bring that minx Cornelia. I suspected it was she but wasn’t sure of it. Don’t give her an inkling of what you know. Go with her to her apartment and watch her dress; then make an excuse to keep her waiting in your room while you go back and search hers. Have help if you need it; take two of my eunuchs, but watch that they don’t read the journal. Look under her mattress. Look everywhere. If you can’t find the journal, bring Cornelia without it. I will soon make her tell us where it is.”