“It is yours?” said he, tossing it to Manius.
“I—I had not observed,” said the other, nervously, “It is part of the girdle I wear in deference to the people among whom I live. How came you by it?”
“Fox! Your cunning will not save you. Tell me first how you escaped the peril into which you had drawn me.”
“I do not understand you.”
“But I understand you,” said Vergilius, with anger. “There are but two places in the world for you. One is beyond the boundaries of Rome, the other is the valley of Hinnom.” Having said which, he turned, quickly, and left the assessor’s palace.
Arria and her brother were far from the shores of Hellas and near the Isle of Doom. Tepas knew that a few leagues more would bring him in sight of the familiar cliffs. Brother and sister were reclining on the deck of their trireme. The tenth day of their journey was near its end. The sun had sunk through misty depths of purple, and now seemed to melt and pour a flood of fire upon the waters.
“I am weary,” said the girl, looking thoughtfully at the calm sea.
“Of me?” said her brother.
“Nay, but of that groaning of the rowers. It tells me of aching arms in the galley. I cannot sleep at night, hearing it.”
Appius laughed with amusement. “Little fool!” said he. “The slaves of Tepas are all Jews.”
“But they are men,” said the beautiful girl; “and do you not understand, dear brother? I love a man.”
“Love!” exclaimed Appius, with contempt, “’Tis only as the longing of the bird for its mate.”
“Nay, I would give all for him I love.”
“Not all,” said he, with a look of surprise.
“Yes, all—even you, and my mother, and my home, and my country, and my life—I am sick with longing. And when I think of him I cannot bear to see men suffer.”
“You are gone mad,” said Appius, “and I pray the gods to bring you back. It may be the fair Vergilius forgets you.”
She turned, quickly, and her voice trembled as she whispered: “Nay, he also has the great love in him. He could not forget.”
Cyran, the pretty slave-girl, came soon with their evening repast. Arria bade her sit beside them.
“Tell us, dear Cyran,” said the Roman beauty—“tell us a tale of old Judea.”
“Beloved mistress,” said Cyran, kneeling by the side of Arria and kissing the border of her robe, “listen; I will tell you of the coming of the great love. Long ago there was a maiden of Galilee so beautiful that many came far to see her. Now, it so befell, there came a certain priest, young and fair to look upon, who did love her and seek her hand in marriage. And she loved him, even as you love, but would not wed him. O my good mistress! She knew that a mighty king was coming, and she was held of a great hope that God would choose her for the blessed mother. And, still loving the priest, she kept herself pure in thought and deed. Every day they saw each other, but stayed apart, and their love grew holier the more it was put down. And oh, it was a wonder! for it filled their hearts with kindness and sent their feet upon errands of mercy. And many years passed, and one day they sat together.