He bowed before her, whispering a prayer; he put all his soul into one long look and quickly went away.
Then she rose and ran to the end of the banquet-hall. “I can hear his voice,” she whispered. “No, I must not go—I must not go.”
A moment followed in which there came to her a sound of distant voices. She stilled her sobs and listened. She ran towards the loved voice and checked her eager feet.
She stood a moment with arms extended. The sound grew fainter and a hush fell. She ran to the white statue of the little god Eros, and, kneeling, threw her arms around the shapely form and wept bitterly.
The dark was lifting as Vergilius entered the Field of Mars. There were lanterns about his litter, and far and near, in lines and clusters, he could see lights on the plain, some moving, some standing still. Hard by the Tiber he joined a small troop of horse, and vaulting on the shaft of his lance, mounted a white charger. Manius wheeled into place beside him at the head of the column. A quaestor called the roll.
“Ready?” Vergilius inquired, turning to Manius.
“All ready,” the other answered.
Then a trumpet sounded and those many feet had begun the long journey to Jerusalem. They made their way to the Forum. Scores of women and children of the families of those departing had gathered by the golden mile-stone. The troop halted. Those who had been waiting in the dank, chill air sought to press in among the horses. It was hard to keep them back. Vergilius, full of his own sorrow, felt for them and gave them good time. A little group, in gray paenula and veils, were watching from without the crowd. He moved aside, beckoning to them.
“Make your farewells,” said he, as they came near. “We shall be off in a moment.”
A beautiful white hand was extended to him. He took it in his, and then quickly pressed it to his lips.
“Farewell, dear love!” he whispered.
A quick pressure answered him, and the veiled figure turned away. Then a trumpet-call, a flash of blue vexilla and silver eagles in the air, and, a moment later, some eighty hoofs were drumming in the Appian Way. For a little the horsemen heard them that were left behind, wailing.
“It is like a sticking of pigs to leave a lot of plebeian women,” said Manius, when the sound was far out of hearing.
“An arrow in the heart of the soldier, but I think it good,” said Vergilius. “For a time, at least, Rome will be dear to him.”