Malchus dared not approach the creature now, for though he was not afraid for himself, it was now furious, and might, if disturbed, rush among the others and do terrible destruction before it could be secured. The net was quickly brought, and Malchus, with three of the most resolute of the slaves, advanced and threw it over the lion, which was lying upon the prostrate body of Sempronius. It sprang to its feet, but the net was round it, and in its struggle to escape it fell on its side. Another twist of the net and it was helplessly inclosed; the four men lifted the ends and carried it away. Cutting a portion of the net Malchus placed the massive iron collar attached to the chain round its neck and then left it, saying to the others:
“We can cut the rest of the net off it afterwards.”
He then hurried back to the scene of the struggle. Flavia was already there.
“What is all this, Malchus,” she asked. “Here I find Sempronius dead and one of his slaves senseless beside him; they tell me when he first arrived you were here.”
“I know nothing of it, lady,” Malchus replied, “save that the lion aroused me by growling, and thinking that robbers might have entered the house, I arose and searched it and came upon three men. One I levelled to the ground with my staff; doubtless he is only stunned and will be able to tell you more when he recovers. I grappled with another, and while engaged in a struggle with him the third attacked me with a sword, and would have slain me had not the lion sprang upon him and felled him. The other man then fled — this is all I know about it.”
“What can it all mean?” Flavia said. “What could Sempronius with two slaves be doing in my house after midnight? It is a grave outrage, and there will be a terrible scandal in Rome tomorrow — the son of a praetor and a friend of the house!”
She then ordered the slaves to raise the body of Sempronius and carry it to a couch, and to send at once for a leech. She also bade them throw water on the slave and bring him to consciousness, and then to bring him before her to be questioned.
“Where is my daughter?” she said suddenly; “has she not been roused by all this stir?” One of the female slaves stole into Julia’s apartment, and returned saying that her mistress was sound asleep on her couch.
An expression of doubt crossed Flavia’s face, but she only said, “Do not disturb her,” and then thoughtfully returned to her room. It was not until an hour later that the prisoner was sufficiently recovered to be brought before Flavia. He had already heard that his master was killed, and, knowing that concealment would be useless, he threw himself on the ground before Flavia, and owned that he and another slave had been brought by Sempronius to carry off a slave girl.