Caesar Dies eBook

Talbot Mundy
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 142 pages of information about Caesar Dies.

It was a pleasant little house, not far away from Cornificia’s, within a precinct that was rebuilt after all that part of Rome burned under Nero’s fascinated gaze.  The street was crescent-shaped, not often crowded, though a score of passages like wheel-spokes led to it; and to the rear of Galen’s house was a veritable maze of alleys.  There were two gates to the house:  one wide, with decorated posts, that faced the crescent street, where Galen’s oldest slave sat on a stool and blinked at passers-by; the other narrow, leading from a little high-walled courtyard at the rear into an alley between stables in which milch-asses were kept.  That alley led into another where a dozen midwives had their names and claims to excellency painted on the doors—­an alley carefully to be avoided, because women of that trade, like barbers, vied for custom by disseminating gossip.

So Sextus used a passage running parallel to that one, leading between workshops where the burial-urn makers’ slaves engraved untruthful epitaphs in baked clay or inlaid them on the marble tomb-slabs—­to be gilded presently with gold-leaf (since a gilded lie, though costlier, is no worse than the same lie unadorned.)

He drummed a signal with his knuckles on the panel of a narrow door of olive-wood, set deep into the wall under a projecting arch.  An overleaning tree increased the shadow, and a visitor could wait without attracting notice.  A slave nearly as old as Galen presently admitted him into a paved yard in which a fish-pond had been built around an ancient well.  A few old fruit-trees grew against the wall, and there were potted shrubs, but little evidence of gardening, most of Galen’s slaves being too old for that kind of work.  There were a dozen of them loafing in the yard; some were so fat that they wheezed, and some so thin with age that they resembled skeletons.  There was a rumor that the fatness and the thinness were accounted for by Galen’s fondness for experiments.  Old Galen had a hundred jealous rivals and they even said he fed the dead slaves to the fish; but it was Roman custom to give no man credit for humaneness if an unclean accusation could be made to stick.

Another fat old slave led Sextus to a porch behind the house and through that to a library extremely bare of furniture but lined with shelves on which rolled manuscripts were stacked in tagged and numbered order; they were dusty, as if Galen used them very little nowadays.  There were two doors in addition to the one that opened on the porch; the old slave pointed to the smaller one and Sextus, stooping and turning sidewise because of the narrowness between the posts, went down a step and entered without knocking.

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Project Gutenberg
Caesar Dies from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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