“Cruel one!” said he, turning and biting his lips. “Your words are as the blow of the pilum.”
“Have they indeed wounded you?” She touched his hand with a look of sympathy.
“They have made me sick at heart.”
“Then would I not believe them,” said she, tenderly, slipping her slender fingers into his.
He pressed her hand. “And do you, then, love me?”
“You are a strange people—you maidens of the capital,” said he, taking her hand in both of his. “Rome has conquered everything save its women.”
She parted her tunic and stood looking down at her white bosom, and with her delicate fingers brushed off a bit of dust which had fallen from the vine above them.
“I do think much of love,” said she, thoughtfully, still looking down at her breast.
“And of me,” he insisted.
“Nay, not of you,” she answered, without delay.
“I shall know,” said he, wistfully, “for I shall consult the fates. I have here a sacred coin. An old dame found it when she was digging in the side of Soracte. See, it has on its face the head of Apollo, and opposite is an arrow in a death-hand. And the hag had an odd dream of this coin, so she told me—that it fell out of the sky, and was, indeed, from the treasury of the gods, and had in it a wonderful power in all mysteries. And one might tell by tossing it in the air and noting its fall, if he were loved or hated by the first one he should see after learning its answer. I have never known it to fail. If the head is up you love me,” said he, tossing the disk of metal.
It fell and lay at his feet.
“The head!” he exclaimed, with joy.
“Is it really blest of the gods?” she inquired, eagerly, her cheeks aflame. “Is it indeed blest?”
“So said the woman who gave it me.”
“Now I shall toss it,” said she, taking the coin.
“Ah! you would know if I love you,” he answered.
The coin leaped high and fell and rolled along the marble walk. Both followed eagerly, he leading, and, as it stopped, he quickly covered the bit of metal with his hand.
“Let me see!” said she, her hand upon his wrist.
“Do not look.”
“Let me see it!” she insisted.
“Sweet sister of Appius, I beg of you, here on my knees, do not look at the coin! I will give you the white steeds from Cappadocia, but do not look.”
“Let me see it, I say, son of Varro!” She was tugging at his wrist, and now, indeed, there was a pretty pleading in her voice. The words were to him as pearls strung on a silken thread.
“Wait a little.”
“I shall not wait.”
“Sweet flower of Rome,” said he, looking into her eyes, “I know that you are mine now! Your voice—it is like the love-call of the robin!”
“Stubborn boy! Do you think I care for you?” She stopped and looked into his eyes.