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ently mother, daughter, and son. Eyes of bright azure, hair of gold, and skin of mingled whiteness and ruddiness gave them almost an ethereal beauty, while their supple, graceful figures were good to look upon.
But their faces betrayed intense anxiety. As the mother gazed on her son and daughter, bitter, anxious thoughts surged through her mind. Not in vain had the knowledge come to her of the treatment received by alien slaves from Roman masters. She knew that their lives were regarded as of no more value than the lives of beasts-their flesh fit for the same use, their virtue not to be considered.
As the throngs passed through the market, all eyes were involuntarily turned in admiration upon the little group. Comments, some philanthropic, some mercenary, but in all cases complimentary, were passed upon their fair-haired beauty. At length, a Roman approached the group. As he stood gazing in sincere admiration, he asked the keeper, "Of what race are these?"
"Celts, from the distant island of Britain," was the answer. "By Jupiter, a beauty of beauties!" exclaimed the handsome young Claudius, gazing with astonished admiration on the girl. He and Decius had come thither out of idle curiosity during a leisurely walk through the forum.
The slave maiden tried in vain to
escape the searching look. "Come, Claudius," said Decius. "Are there not enough maidens and matrons of patrician rank to share your favors? Must you lavish them on a senseless chattel-an alien and a slave? Fie, Claudius! Remember your rank."
With an impatient gesture, Claudius turned from him and again directed his gaze upon the girl. Had a basilisk's eyes been upon her, she could not have made more strenuous efforts to avoid them. Trembling, she sought to hide herself behind her mother; while her brother, noting her embarrassment, clenched his fists and glared defiantly at the unwelcome visitor.
At length Claudius turned to the keeper, "Her price?" he
If he had intended to drive a shrewd bargain, his show of admiration had already defeated his purpose. The keeper felt justified in naming an exorbitant sum. It was promptly paid. Then
the purchaser turned to the girl and made her understand that she was his property, and must go with him. Her terror was pitiable. She threw her arms about her mother and sobbed in agony. She turned appealing eyes on her brother, but his chains rendered him powerless to help her. At last she fell on her knees and pleaded with the keeper for protection. But, accustomed to such appeals, and trained to disregard them, he roughly bade her prepare to follow her new owner.
Darkness settled down upon the forum-and dense darkness of despair on the hearts of mother and brother, as they bewailed the dear one who had been dragged away to a fate, the very uncertainty of which rendered it all the more terrible.
Five years had passed, and mighty changes had been wrought. The principles of Christianity were being preached in the island of Britain, in their primitive purity and simplicity, and the hearts of some had been touched with the beauty and dignity of the message. And yet the land as a whole lay in darkness, and the factions still carried on ceaseless warfare. The Picts and Scots and Britains were struggling for supremacy, and the Romans were striving to pacify the land in their usual way-by bringing all factions under the absolute sway of Rome. Yet even in the Roman camp, the ministrations of the Christian missionaries had worked wonders, in the softening of the tone of warfare, and the raising of the standard of morality and humanity.
The summer campaign of the Roman army in Britain was ended, and such officers and men as were not needed to garrison the outposts, had gathered in semi-military winter quarters. Evening had fallen on the town. The mists which had been hovering over the landscape during the day, were giving way to the frosty brightness of a moon-lit night.
The rules of military discipline were relaxed, and the boisterous sounds of carousal arose from tents and houses. Occasionally the louder din of a quarrel or an encounter of arms was heard, rising into clamor, and then sinking into comparative stillIn one of the houses, wine was flowing freely. Officers
were reclining at a repast, rich in delicacies, and betokening none of the hardhips of foreign war. They were evidently young patricians, whom love of glory and booty had attracted to the conquest of the battle-torn island.
In the midst of their festivities, they sang ribald songs, and uttered mirthless witticisms, giving way to the spirit of wild, lawless carousal. Suddenly a quarrel arose, one of those contentions which, arising from nothing, lead to much.
"I say it was ten!" shouted one, pointing to the dice before
"It was only eight," answered the other, in a calm voice. "The wine has muddled your brain, Decius. You will count better when you are sober."
Decius sprang to his feet. "I can count," he cried excitedly, "the love affairs of one Claudius, of the imperator's guard; and their number rises far above eight or ten."
The taunt had its effect. In his rage, Claudius strode toward Decius, while the other officers, in alarm, stepped between them. "Lose not your discretion, Decius," he said when he had obtained some mastery over himself. "Remember what I am, and how anger changes me."
But discretion had been scattered to the winds. "I do remember what you are," shouted Decius. "You are Claudius, the erstwhile lover of the cast-off Julia; the devoted slave of the rich, unscrupulous Fulvia; the factotum of the patrician Cornelia-."
"Hush!" thundered Claudius, vainly attempting to rush at his
Tantalizingly calm, with the advantage he had gained, Decius went on: "The betrayer of the unfortunate Marcia; and"-here his voice expressed the most exquisite scorn and mockery,-"at once the master and the slave of the beautiful British maiden, whom you have trained to your taste, like a pheasant fattened for an epicure's table."
"Who assails her name proclaims himself liar and coward!" thundered the thoroughly enraged Claudius; and only the strongest efforts of the peace-makers prevented him from executing summary vengeance on his tantalizing persecutor. Again the mocking
voice arose. "To slander a slave, my dear Claudius, is beyond my power. That which has neither soul nor sense cannot be slandered. 'Of equal soul and equal sense with the beasts,'—your own words, my Claudius.”
"Ye furies!" shouted the maddened man; and by a supreme effort he broke through the line of guards and seized Decius by the throat. "Die, villain and slanderer!" he shouted, bearing his victim to the floor. He would have made short shrift of Decius had not the other officers dragged him away. "Remember," he exclaimed as the discomfited Decius arose, "that you will answer to me for your words alone, and face to face, or I will brand you coward, as well as slanderer."
"When, how, and where you wish," answered Decius, "I will answer with my life, or yours." And life-long friendship turned to bitter enmity; the two officers were separated by their friends.
Within his own tent, Claudius feverishly paced back and forth, his disordered steps, caused half by anger and half by wine, keeping time with his disordered thoughts. And as he walked, he mused: "What a man am I. I resent the slander of a woman's fame, but what have I done to preserve her in purity? Have I kept watch and ward over her, or has she been left to protect herself against those who still regard slaves as chattels, commodities for sale and barter-devoid of soul and human feeling? Nay, have I not given her, at least in thought, cause for fear that instead of protecting her I would attempt her destruction? And yet, there is an air of purity about her, a subtle sense of the divine, which disarms evil, and makes good, duty. What it is that gives her this power, I know not. Pronounced though it was from my first knowledge of her, it has increased beyond measure of Changing not in kind, but in intensity, this subtile power appears invincible. The gods be praised for it!" he fervently thought. "From what depth of degradation has it not saved me!"
In his hurried walk, he did not notice a visitor enter his tent.
It was the imperator. So absorbed was the young man in his varied thoughts that the general had to bring him to a realization of the present, by touching his arm. Instinctively his hand flew to his sword-hilt; then, seeing who confronted him, he blushed and stammered an apology. Accustomed as the imperator was to
brawls between patrician officers, he had never before known one to occur on such a theme. He could scarcely believe that Claudius had sacrificed the friendship of Decius, and risked his own life, to defend the honor of a slave maiden of an alien race. He listened respectfully to the young man's explanation of the brawl, shrugged his shoulders in respectful doubt, and promised to investigate more thoroughly the following day. As he turned to go, he asked, "Is your slave maiden in the camp?"
Claudius answered in the affirmative.
"Do you recognize her voice?" he asked.
Claudius stepped ouside his tent, and stood, transfixed with astonishment. Rising on crisp air, the clear, sweet voice of a few men and women blended in the strains of a Christian hymn. Sounding above the rest, he recognized the voice of his slave maiden. As the imperator strode away to his own tent, Claudius still stood in the moonlight listening to the singing. The flush of wine had left him, and the cool air played upon his brow, soothing his fevered brain; while the gentle, spiritual music touched the greatest depths of his soul. As the singing ceased, the young man wept such tears of mingled grief and joy, as he had never known before. And still he stood there, while the moon rode through the heavens, shedding her light upon him like a benediction.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
SOMETHING TO READ.
A boy of seventeen should intimately know the English Bible. He should know it as literature quite aside from its religious teaching. He should know it from having had it read to him from his earliest years, and from reading and studying it for himself. A boy who grows up without this intimate acquaintance with the great masterpiece of all literature is without something, for the loss of which nothing can compensate and which nothing can replace. It is needless to speak of the strength of the language, the beauty of the poetry, and the interest of the narratives of this wonderful book, but necessary merely to emphasize concerning it * * that, without knowing it well, it is impossible to really understand or appreciate the great mass of our best literature. Experience shows that unless a boy acquires this knowledge before he is seventeen, he rarely gets it later.-H. L. Elmendorf.