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Adventures of a Roman Nobleman in the Days of the Empire
EDWARD LUCAS WHITE
Mirum atque inscitum somniavi somnium.
[Illustration: THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN THE SECOND CENTURY A.D.
To Show The Wanderings Of ANDIVIUS HEDULIO]
[Illustration: THE CITY OF ROME UNDER THE EMPIRE]
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
WHO, IN READING FICTION, LOVED "THE OPEN ROAD AND THE BRIGHT EYES OF
BOOK I. DISASTER
I. AN UNEXPECTED GUEST
II. A COUNTRY DINNER
III. TENANTRY AND SLAVERY
IV. HOROSCOPES AND MARVELS
VI. A RATHER BAD DAY
VII. A RATHER GOOD DAY
VIII. THE WATER GARDEN
IX. THE SQUALL OF THE LEOPARD
BOOK II. DISAPPEARANCE
XIII. THE LONELY HUT
XIV. WINTER IN THE MOUNTAINS
XV. THE HUNT
XVI. THE CAVE
XVII. THE FESTIVAL
XIX. MARSEILLES AND TIBER WHARF
BOOK III. DIVERSITIES
XXII. THE MUTINEERS
XXIII. THE EMPEROR
XXIV. THE MASSACRE
XXV. THE OPEN COUNTRY
XXVI. THE OUTLAWS
XXVII. THE POINT OP VIEW
BOOK IV. DISSIMULATIONS
XXXIV. PALUS THE INCOMPARABLE
XXXIX. THE TULLIANUM
By no means absurd, it seems to me, but altogether reasonable, is the
impulse which urges me to write out a detailed narrative of my years of
adversity and of the vicissitudes which befell me during that wretched
period of my life. My adventures, in themselves, were worthy of record and
my memories of them and of the men and women encountered in them are clear
and vivid. It is natural that I should wish to set them down for the
edification of my posterity and of any who may chance to read them.
For my experience has been, I believe, unique. Since the establishment of
the Principate in our Republic many men, even an uncountable horde of men,
have incurred Imperial displeasure. Of these not a few, after banishment
from Italy or relegation to guarded islands or to some distant frontier
outpost, have survived the Prince who exiled them and have, by the favor
of his successors, been permitted to return to Rome and to the enjoyment
of their property. But I believe that no Roman nobleman implicated, justly
or unjustly, in any conspiracy against the life of his Sovereign, ever
escaped the extreme penalty of death. Some, by their own hands,
forestalled the arrival of the Imperial emissaries, others perished by the
weapons or implements of those designated to abolish the enemies of the
Prince. Except myself not one ever survived to regain Imperial favor in a
later reign; except myself not one ever recovered his patrimony and
enjoyed, to a green old age, the income, position and privileges to which
he had been born. If such a thing ever occurred, certainly there is no
record of any other nobleman domiciled in Italy, except myself, having
grasped at the slender chance of escape afforded by the device of
arranging that he be supposed dead, of disguising himself, of vanishing
among the populace, of passing himself off for a man of the people. I not
only was led, by my clever slave, to attempt this histrionic feat, but I
succeeded in the face of unimaginable difficulties. An experience so
notably without a parallel seems peculiarly deserving of such a record as
AN UNEXPECTED GUEST
When I look back on the beginning of my adventures, I can set the very day
and hour when the tranquil course of my early life came to an end, when
the comfortable commonplaces of my previous existence altered, when the
placid current of my former life broke suddenly and without warning into
the tumultuous rapids which hurried me from surprise to surprise and from
peril to peril. The last hour of my serene youth was about the ninth of
the day, nearly midafternoon, on the Nones of June in the 937th year of
the city, [Footnote: A.D. 184. See Note C.] while Cossonius Marullus and
Papirius Aelian were consuls, when Commodus had already been four years
It was not that misfortune then suddenly overwhelmed me, not that, sharp
as a blown trumpet, I heard the voice of doom blare over me; not that, as
one sees the upper rim of the sun vanish beneath the waves where the
skyline meets the sea, and knows day ended and night begun, not thus that
I recognized the end of my prosperity and the beginning of my disasters.
That moment came later, as I shall record. It was rather that; as, in
certain states of the weather, long before sunset one may be suddenly
aware that afternoon is past and evening approaches; so, though I had no
intimation at the moment, yet, reviewing my memories I realize that at
that instant began the chain of trivial circumstances which led up to my
calamity and enmeshed me in ruin.
And just here I cannot but remark, what I have often meditated over, how
trifling, how apparently insignificant, are the circumstances which
determine the felicity or misery of human beings. I was possessed of an
ample estate; I was, in most difficult conditions, in unruffled amity with
all my neighbors, on both sides of the great feud, except only my
hereditary enemy; I was high in the favor of the Emperor; I was in a fair
way to marry the youngest, the most lovely and the richest widow in Rome.
In the twinkling of an eye I was cast down from the pinnacle of good
fortune into an abyss of adversity. And upon what did my catastrophe
hinge? Upon the whims of a friend and upon one oversight of my secretary.
I should have had no story to tell, I should have been a man continuously
happy, affluent and at ease, early married and passing from one high
office to the next higher in an uninterrupted progress of success, had it
not entered the head of my capricious crony to pay me an unexpected and
unannounced visit, had he not arrived precisely at the time at which he
came, had he not encountered just the persons he met just where he did
meet them, had not his prankishness hatched in him the vagary which led
him to give quizzical replies to their questions; had I not, carried away
by my elation at my prosperity and fine prospects, been a trifle too
indulgent to my tenantry.
Even after, as a result, the nexus of circumstances had been woven about
me and after I found myself embroiled with both my powerful neighbors, I
should have escaped any evil consequences had not my secretary, than whom
no man ever was more loyal to his master or more wary and inclusive in his
foresight upon every conceivable eventuality, failed to forecast the
possible effects of a minor omission.
When my story begins I had already had one small adventure, nothing much
out of the ordinary. Agathemer and I were returning from my final
inspection of my estate. As we rode past one of the farmsteads we heard
cries for help. Reining up and turning into the barn-yard, we found the
tenant himself being attacked by his bull. I dismounted and diverted the
animal's attention. After the beast was securely penned up I was riding
homewards more than a little tired, rumpled and heated and very eager for
As we approached my villa we saw a runner coming up the road, a big Nubian
in a fantastic livery which when he reached us turned to be entirely
unknown to me. My grooms were just taking our horses. The grinning black,
not a bit out of breath after his long run, saluted and addressed me.
"My master has sent me ahead to say he is coming to visit you."
"Who is your master?" I asked.
"My master," he said, still grinning goodnaturedly, "enjoined me not to
tell you who he is."
I turned to Agathemer.
"What do you make of this?" I asked.
"There is but one man in Italy," he replied, "who is likely to send you
such a message, and his name is on the tip of your tongue."
"And on the tip of yours, I'll wager," said I. "Both together now!"
I raised my finger and counted.
"One! Two! Three!"
Both together we uttered:
There was no variation in the Nubian's non-committal grin. We went up the
steps and stood by the balustrade of the terrace, where it commanded a
good view of the valley. We could see a party approaching, a mounted
intendant in advance, a litter, extra bearers and runners and several
"Nobody but Tanno would send me such a message," I said to Agathemer.
"No one else," he agreed, "but I should be no more surprised to see the
Emperor himself in this part of the world."
"One of his wild whims," I conjectured. "Nothing else would tear him away
from the city."
"Our arrangements for dinner," I continued, "fall in very well with his
coming. I suppose the guest-rooms are all ready, but you had best go see
to that, and meanwhile turn this fellow over to Ofatulenus."
Agathemer nodded. The pleasantest of his many good qualities was that
whatever he might be asked to do he carried out without comment or
objection. Nothing was too big or too small for him. If he were asked to
arrange for an interview with the Emperor or to attend to the creasing of
a toga he was equally painstaking and obliging. He went off, followed by
the negro. I waited on the terrace for Tanno. There was no use attempting
to bathe until after his arrival. Presently a cheerful halloo from the
litter reached my ears. It was Tanno to a certainty. Nobody else of my
acquaintance had voice enough to make himself heard at that distance or
was sufficiently lacking in dignity to emit a yawp in that fashion. When
his escort came near enough I could see that all his bearers wore the same
livery as his runner. Tanno was forever changing his liveries and each
fresh invention he managed to make more fantastic than the last. There
were eight bearers to the litter and some twenty reliefs. Travelling long
distances by litter, begun as a necessity to such invalids as my uncle,
had become a fashion through the extreme coxcombery of wealthy fops and
the practice of the young Emperor. Tanno's litter had all its panels slid
back, and the curtains were not drawn. He was sitting almost erect,
propped up by countless down cushions. He greeted me with many waves of
the hand and a smile as genial as his halloo. I went down a little from
the terrace to meet him and walked a few paces beside the litter. He
rolled out and embraced me cordially, appearing as glad to see me as I was
delighted to see him.
"I do not know," I said, "whether I am more surprised or pleased to see
you. To what do I owe my good fortune?"
"We simply cannot get on without you," he answered, "and I am going to
take you back to Rome with me. How soon can you start?"
"You came at the nick of time," said I, "I had expected to go down three
days from now, but I found out this afternoon that I can get away tomorrow
"Praise be to Hercules and all the gods," said Tanno. "I love the country
frantically, especially when I am in the city. I love it so that three
days on the road is enough country for me. I have been bored to death and
do so want a bath."
"The bath is all hot and ready," said I, "and the slaves waiting. But I am
giving a dinner this evening and nearly all my neighbors are coming. The
diners are almost due to arrive, I need a bath and want one, but I meant
to wait for my guests."
"Well," he said, "you have one guest here already and that's enough. Let's
bathe once, at once, and you can bathe again when your Sabine clodhoppers
get here. Life is too short for a man to get enough baths, anyhow. Two a
day is never enough for me. A pretext for two in an afternoon is always
welcome. Come on, let's bathe quick, so as to have it over with before the
first of the other guests arrives, then we can get a breath of fresh air
and be as keen for the second bath as for the first."
Conversation with Tanno consisted mostly in listening and interjecting
questions. He wallowed in the cold tank like a porpoise; caught me and
ducked me until I yelled for mercy, and while I was trying to get my
breath, half drowned me with the water he splashed over me with both
hands; talking incessantly, except when his head was under water. When we
lay down on the divan in the warm room he rattled on.
"You needn't tell me," he said, "that your runners haven't taken letters
to Vedia, but she is supposed not to hear from you, so, as I told of two
of your letters to me, I have, in a way been held responsible for you and
have been pelted with inquiries. Nemestronia loves you like a grandson,
and, if you ask me, I say Vedia is in love with you out and out. As I had
heard from you and nobody else had, I began to feel as if I ought to look
after you. Everything was abominably humdrum and I deceived myself into
thinking I should enjoy the smell of green fields. I certainly should have
turned back less than half way if I had been concerned with anybody else
than you; and when we turned off the Via Salaria into your country byroad
I cursed you and your neighbors and all Sabinum. The most deserted stretch
of road I ever travelled in all my life. I saw only six human beings
before I reached your villa and I had heard that this valley was populous
and busy. I slept last night at Vicus Novus and I started this morning,
bright and early. When we turned up the road below Villa Satronia I was
never more disgusted in my life. My men are perfectly matched in height,
weight, pace and action and any eight of the lot will carry me at full
speed as smoothly as a pleasure-barge. But they could make nothing of that
road. It is all washed, guttered, dusty in the open places, puddly where
trees hang over it and full of loose stones on top everywhere.
"I was so horribly jolted that I called the bearers to stop. I made
Dromanus get off his horse and give me his poncho and his big felt hat.
Then I got on his horse and told him to get into the litter. He was
"'Pooh', said I, 'you cannot walk and we should look like fools with an
empty litter. Get in and be jounced! Draw the curtains; if we meet anybody
I'll give you an impressive title.' He rolled in among the cushions,
looking as foolish as possible. His horse ambled perfectly and I felt more
comfortable. I went on ahead. We had not met anybody since we turned into
the crossroads; about half a mile beyond the place where I had left my
litter I came around one of the innumerable curves a little ahead of the
procession and saw two men approaching on foot. When they came abreast of
me they saluted me politely and the taller, a black-haired, dark-faced
fellow with a broad jaw, inquired (in the tone he would have used to
Dromanus) whose litter I was escorting. I was rather tickled that they
took me for my own intendant. I judged we must be approaching the entrance
to Villa Satronia and that they were people from there. I assumed an
exaggerated imitation of Dromanus' most grandiloquent manner and in his
orotund unctuous delivery I declaimed:
"'My master is Numerius Vedius Vindex. He is asleep.' (They swallowed that
awful lie, they did not realize how bad their own road was.) 'We are on
our way to Villa Vedia.'
"They looked sour enough at that, I promise you, and I made out that they
were Satronians for certain. The two fellows exchanged a glance, thanked
me politely and went on.
"I knew the entrance to the Satronian estate by the six big chestnut-
trees, you had often described them to me; and I knew the next private
road by the single huge plane tree. But when we crossed the second bridge,
the little one, I went over that round hill and did not recognize the foot
of your road when we came to it. I was for going on. Dromanus called from
behind the curtains of the litter:
"'This is Hedulio's road: turn to the right.'
"I was stubborn and sang back at him:
"'Hedulio has told me all about this country. This is not his land. It is
further on at the next brook.'
"We went on over the next bridge past the entrance to the south, and I
felt more and more that Dromanus was right and I was wrong, and yet I grew
more and more stubborn. When we passed the sixth bridge and I saw the
stream getting bigger and turning to the left, I knew I was wrong. At the
crossroads I realized we were at the entrance to Villa Vedia, but I would
not give up, I took the left-hand turn and went down stream. Beyond the
first bend in the road we found ourselves approaching a long, straggling,
one-street village of tall, narrow stone houses along the eastern bank of
the little river. By the road, just before the first house, watching five
goats, was a boy, a boy with a crooked twitching face.
"'The village idiot,' I put in. 'They can never let him out of sight and
he is always beside the road.'
"He was not too big an idiot to tell us it was Vediamnum."
"He was enough of an idiot," I said, "to forget you, and your question the
next minute. The boy is almost a beast."
"He had enough sense to tell us the name of the village," Tanno retorted,
"and I had to acknowledge to Dromanus he was right, and so we turned
round. When we were hardly more than out of sight of Vediamnum we met
another party, a respectable-looking man, much like a farm bailiff, on
horseback, and two slaves afoot. I had not seen them before, and they,
apparently, had not previously seen us. The rider asked, very decently,
whose was the party. I treated them as I had the others.
"'My master is asleep,' I said again. (It was not such an improbable lie
that time, for the road by Vediamnum is pretty good.) 'I have the honor to
escort Mamercus Satronius Sabinus.'
"I had guessed that they were Vedians and I was sure of it when I said
that. The slaves scowled and the bailiff saluted very stiffly.
"Just after we turned into your road, I stopped the escort and told
Dromanus to take his horse. He had relieved me of his hat and poncho and I
had one hand on the litter, ready to climb in, when I heard hoofs behind
us on the road. I looked back. There was a rider on a beautiful bay mare
coming up at a smartish lope. Just as he came abreast of us she shied at
the litter and reared and began to prance about. I give you my word I
never had such a fright in my life. If you can imagine Commodus in an old
weather-beaten, broad-brimmed hat of soft, undyed felt and a mean, cheap,
shaggy poncho of undyed wool, and worse than the hat, that was the man on
the mare. He was left-handed, too."
"How did you know that?" I asked.
"By the way he handled his reins, of course," said Tanno.
"The mare was a magnificent beast, vicious as a fury, with a mouth as hard
as an eighty-pound tunny. He sat her like Castor himself. She pirouetted
back and forth across the road and my fellows scampered from under her
hoofs. The mare was such a beauty I could not take my eyes off her."
"Yes," I put in, "Ducconius has a splendid stud."
"Was he Ducconius?" Tanno exclaimed. "Your adversary in your old law-
"His son Marcus, from your description," I amplified. "He is proprietor of
the property now. His father died last year."
"Well," Tanno went on. "You know that look Commodus has, like a healthy,
well-fed country proprietor with no education, no ideas and no thoughts
beyond crops and deer-hunting and boar-hunting, with a vacuous,
unintelligent stare? Well, that was just the way he looked."
"That is the way young Ducconius looks," I rejoined. "He ought to. You
have described exactly what he is."
"Does he know he looks like the Emperor?" Tanno asked, "and how does it
"Pure coincidence," said I. "The family have been reared in these hills
for generations, none of them ever went to Rome. Reate is the end of the
world for them."
"Well," Tanno commented, "he might be Commodus' twin brother, by his
looks. He'll be a head shorter, in a hurry, if Commodus ever hears of him.
He is the duplicate of him. I stood in the road, staring after him, and
forgot to climb into the litter. When I woke up and climbed in, my lads
swung up your road at a great pace, and here I am. If I had had any sense
I'd have been here not much after noon. As it is I have wasted most of the
When we went into the hot room, I asked him,
"Where did you get your new bearers? They look to me like Nemestronia's.
What have you done with your Saxons?"
"Nemestronia has them," he explained, "and my Nubians were hers. The dear
old lady took a fancy to my Saxons and teased and wheedled until I agreed
to exchange. Nobody ever can refuse anything to Nemestronia. I argued a
good deal. I told her that even if she is the youngest-looking old lady in
Rome it would never do in the world to set herself in contrast to such
blue eyes and pink skins and such yellow hair: that Nubians were much more
appropriate and that nothing could be more trying than Saxons, even for a
bride. She told me I mustn't make fun of her old age and decrepitude. She
said that the Saxons had such cheerful, bright faces and looked such
infantile giants that she really must have them. So I let her have her
way. The Nubians stand the heat better and the Saxons were almost too
Even while the attendant was thumping and kneading him on the slab, Tanno
went on talking a cheerful monologue of frothy gossip. I asked him about
"As fretful as possible," he said. "The trouble with Commodus is that he
is growing tired of exhibiting himself as an athlete to invited audiences
in the Palace. He is perfectly frantic to show himself off in the Circus
or in the Amphitheatre. He oscillates between the determination to
disregard convention and to do as he likes and virtuous resolutions, when
he has been given a good talking-to by his old councillors and has made up
his mind to behave properly. He will break out yet into public exhibitions
of himself. He is really pathetically unhappy over his hard lot and
positively wails about the amount of his time which is taken up with State
business and about the pitifully small opportunity he has for training and
My bath was broken off, sooner than I had intended, by the appearance of
one of the kitchen-boys, who asked for me so tragically and so urgently
and was so positive that no one else would suffice, that I went down into
the kitchen in a towering rage at being interrupted and wondering why on
earth I could be needed. I found Ofatulena, wife of the Villa-farm
bailiff, in violent altercation with my head-cook. He asserted that she
had no business in his kitchen and must get out. Her contention was that
she, as bailiff's wife, was above all slaves whatever, that she knew her
place and that when a distinguished stranger visited the Villa she would
show him what old-fashioned Sabine cooking was like, so she would. The
cook had had, through Agathemer, my directions for a formal dinner and he
declared that one more guest made no difference and that his dinner was
good enough for anybody. I compromised by telling him to continue as he
had planned, but to allow Ofatulena to prepare one dish for each course
and to add to each one of her own. I was rather pleased at her intrusion,
for there was no better cook in Sabinum, and anything old-fashioned was
sure to be a novelty to Tanno.
I found Tanno on the terrace, basking comfortably in the late sunshine and
gazing down the valley,
"What is that big hill away off to the East?" he asked.
"That is on the Aemilian property," I answered. "Villa Aemilia has a
direct outlet to the Via Valeria and the Aemilian Estate does not belong
to this neighborhood at all. It runs back to the Tolenus and mostly drains
and slopes that way. Huge as the Vedian estates are, and though the
Satronian estates are still huger, yet the Aemilian estates are so vast
that they are larger than both the Vedian and Satronian lands together.
The Aemilian land has much woodland along its western borders and blankets
and almost encloses the Vedian and Satronian estates and all of us in
between. The road you came up is a sort of detour east of the Salarian
way. The Satronians and Vedians and we in between all use it, turning to
the right towards Reate and to the left towards Rome."
Tanno blinked at the soft, hazy view and swept his arm southward.
"That is all Satronian over there?" he asked.
"All," I said, "as far as the Aemilian domain."
"Which way," he queried, "is Villa Vedia?"
"To see it from here," I said, "you would have to look straight through
this house and half a dozen hills. It is almost due north."
"Vedians to the northward," he continued, "Satronians to the southward,
and just you and Ducconius sandwiched in between, clapper-clawing each
"No, quite otherwise!" I retorted. "My property does not touch Vedian or
Satronian land anywhere, and Ducconius has barely half a mile of boundary
line along the Satronian domain. There are six other estates, the largest
half as big as mine, the smallest not much bigger than the largest of my
tenant-farms; three are on one side of me and three on the other. You will
meet the proprietors at dinner, as I told you. They should be here now."
"Goggling country bumpkins?" he conjectured.
"Not a bit like that," I countered, "though you would scarcely call them
cultured. There is no art connoisseur among them. They care little for
books, but they are educated gentlemen and can talk of other subjects
besides vine-growing and cattle breeding. They have all been to Rome, the
Ducconians are the only stay-at-home, stick-in-the-mud family in this
valley. You will find all your fellow-diners keenly interested in anything
you can tell them about the latest fashions and the latest gossip from
Rome. They think and talk of the doings of Rome's fast set much more than
"They have nothing to do with the feud?" he queried.
"Three of them," I explained, "are on the Vedian side, three on the
Satronian side, though they are always polite to each other. But it is a
frigid politeness and I was anticipating the dinner tonight as a frightful
trial. I fancy your presence will ensure its passing off comfortably.
Entedius Hirnio will be here, too. His estates are beyond Vediamnum and he
has never taken sides in the feud any more than Ducconius or my family."
"Do you ever see Ducconius?" he asked.
"Oh, never," said I, "we take care never to recognize each, other, I
assure you. We cannot help meeting occasionally, but I never see him and
he never sees me. We meet mostly on the road. The lower part of this
valley-road where he overtook you is as much his right-of-way as mine, up
to where the road forks and is crossed by the Bran Brook. You can see the
bridge from here."
Tanno shaded his eyes with his hand.
"That is all his land over there, on the other side of the Bran Brook," I
continued. "Further up the valley the brook has three feeders. The Flour
rises back of my land on the Vedian estate. The Chaff brook is all mine
and the Bran rises in his woodlands."
"Will he appeal the case or reopen it now your uncle is dead?" Tanno
"There is no possibility of appeal," I said, "or of reopening. The case is
closed and I have won it forever. And all thanks to Agathemer. But for
Agathemer, Ducconius would have won the final hearing as he had won all
the intermediate appeals. His defeat after so many victories has
embittered him more than if we had won every time and he hates me worse
"The only unpleasant feature for me is that the tenant of the farm so long
in dispute cannot be ousted. He was heart and soul with Ducconius all
through the period of the suit. His daughter is married to one of
Ducconius' tenants and his younger son has taken one of Ducconius' farms
since three of his tenant-families died off year before, last with the
plague. This makes old Chryseros Philargyrus by no means a pleasant tenant
"Old Love-Gold Love-Silver," Tanno commented, "is that a nickname or is it
really his name?"
"Really his name," I affirmed. "His mother was so extravagant and wasteful
that his father named him Chryseros Philargyrus as a sort of antidote
incantation, in the hope that it might prove a good omen of his
disposition and predispose him to parsimony. He certainly has turned out
sufficiently close-fisted to justify the choice."
"I don't understand your talk about tenantry," said Tanno. "Do you mean
you cannot change a bailiff on a farm which, you have won incontestably on
final appeal in a suit at law?"
"He is no bailiff," I answered him. "He is a free man, just as much as you
or I. Sabinum is not like Latium or Etruria or Campania, where the free
tenantry has vanished, or like Bruttium or Spain, where there never was
any free tenantry. The free tenantry have survived in Sabinum more
completely than in any part of the world. I have only one bailiff here and
he manages only the villa-farm with a very moderate gang of slaves under
him. I do not own any more slaves on my estate. The slaves on the farms
are all owned by my tenants and there are eight farms besides the villa-
farm; counting Chryseros, there are nine tenant farmers. Each owns slaves
enough to work his farms. All the estates about here are managed in that
way: Aemilian, Vedian, Satronian, Entedian and all the rest, big or
little. We are rather proud of the system and very proud of our tenants."
"It must be a fine system," Tanno sneered. "I have been wondering what
kept you away from Home, I suppose it has been the beautifully smooth and
marvellously easy working of your farm-tenant system."
"It works just as well as one slave-gang under one bailiff, if not
better," I retorted, hotly.
"Oh, yes," Tanno drawled, "it works just as well as one slave-gang under
one bailiff. That is why you have not had to inspect your estates in
Bruttium, why you have not visited Bruttium at all, why you have not so
much as thought of visiting Bruttium, whereas you have had to spend more
than two months here in these fascinating wilds. You can trust your
tenantry so completely that you only have to spend two months making sure
they are not idling or cheating you: you can trust your Bruttian bailiff
so poorly that you let him alone absolutely."
I was more than a little nettled by his ironical mood.
"I spent three months of the year out of the past four years in Bruttium,"
I argued. "I know every inch of the ranches perfectly. My uncle never
allowed me to become acquainted with anything up here. I was his
representative and factor in Bruttium. When I visited him here I was no
more than a guest and I have had to learn all the workings of the estate
from the beginning."
"Nonsense!" Tanno rejoined. "You know each when you see it. If the tenants
pay their rent on time, what do you need to know about how they run their
"They pay cash and on time," I explained, "but the cash represents half
the yield and each manages the sale of his own produce. It is necessary
for the proprietor to understand the capacities of each farm."
"And you are proud of a tenantry," he sneered, "so honest that you cannot
trust them not to swindle you out of your just dues and on whom you have
to spy all the time to get what you should get from them."
"You do not understand," I declared.
"Right you are," said Tanno. "I do not and I do not want to."
"Just wait a moment and do not interrupt," I urged. "You do not
understand, there is no use in being a proprietor if you do not know more
than your tenantry. There are a thousand, there are ten thousand details
in which the management of the farms may be made more profitable or less
profitable, and all these details have to be watched and must be well in
the proprietor's mind."
"Could you not get some kind of overseeing general estate bailiff to do
all that for you?" he suggested.
"I can," I said, "and I'm going to get one. My uncle's overseer died of
the plague and my uncle was too old and too set in his ways to get
another, so he acted as his own overseer for the last four years of his
life. I must know of my own knowledge just how the place ought to be
managed or I can never detect and forestall unnecessary and ruinous
friction and trouble between my tenantry and any new superintending
"I do not know," Tanno ruminated, "which to admire more, the beauties of
the Sabine tenant system or the wonders of the Sabine character. Any other
man I know would have stayed in Rome and attended strictly to his
courtship and let his estates take care of themselves. You are supposed to
be violently in love and you certainly behave like it: yet you leave Rome
and Vedia and shut yourself up among these damp cold hills and inspect and
reinspect and make a final inspection, and delay for one last peep and
linger for one final glance, where any other man would ignore the property
and be with the widow."
"I do not see anything extraordinary about it," I disclaimed. "A man needs
an income, a lover most of all."
"Income!" he snorted. "Isn't your income from your Bruttian estates ten
times the gross return from the property?"
"More than ten times," I admitted.
"Why worry about it at all then?" he demanded. "Isn't your Bruttian income
"No income is enough," I declared, "if a man has a chance to get in more."
"Of course," he beamed, "you do not see anything extraordinary in your
petting this property. A Sabine would use up a year to get in a sesterce
from a frog pond. You are a Sabine. All Sabines worship the Almighty
Sesterce. But to anybody not a Sabine it is amazing to see a lover
postponing prayers to Lord Cupid until he has finished the last detail of
his ceremonial duties to Chief Cash, Greatest and Best."
A COUNTRY DINNER
Just then Tanno caught sight of a horseman approaching up the valley. I
looked where he pointed.
"That will be Entedius Hirnio," I said. "Of my dinner guests he lives
furthest away and so he always comes in first to any festivity."
"How far beyond Vediamnum does he live?" Tanno enquired.
"On the other side of the Vedian lands," I explained. "His property is
over the divide towards the Tolenus, in between Villa Vedia and Villa
Entedius it was, as I made sure, when he drew nearer, by his magnificent
black mare. He covered the last hundred paces at a furious gallop, pulled
up his snorting mare abruptly, and dismounted jauntily. Plainly, at first
sight, he and Tanno liked each other. When I had introduced them they
looked each other up and down appraisingly, Entedius appearing to relish
Tanno's swarthy vigor, warm coloring and exuberant health as much as did
Tanno his hard-muscled leanness and weather-beaten complexion.
"Are you any relation to Entedia Jucunda?" Tanno queried.
"Very distant," Hirnio replied, "very distant indeed: too far for us to
call each other 'cousin.' When I am in Rome I always call on her; once in
a while she invites me to one of her very big dinners; otherwise we never
see each other."
Almost before they had exchanged greetings Mallius Vulso rounded the house
from the east and then Neponius Pomplio from the west; after he had been
presented, the two other Satronians, Bultius Seclator and Juventius Muso,
cantered up, followed closely by Fisevius Rusco and Lisius Naepor, both
adherents of the Vedian side of the feud.
As soon as the stable-boys had led off their horses we started bathwards,
delayed a moment by the arrival of a slave of Entedius, on a mule, leading
another heavily laden with two packs. We made a quick bath, with no
loitering, and at once went in to dinner. My uncle had been to the last
degree conservative and old-fashioned. He would have nothing to do with
any new inventions, save his own. So he would not hear of any alterations
in the furnishings of his villa, except those suggested by his ideas of
sanitation. Otherwise it had been kept just as my grandfather had left it
to him. In particular uncle could not be brought to like the newly popular
C-shaped dining sofas, which all Rome and all fashionables all over Italy
and the provinces had so acclaimed and so promptly adopted along with
circular-topped dining-tables. My _triclinium_ still held grandfather's
square-topped table and the three square sofas about it. Uncle's will, in
fact, had stipulated that no furnishings of the villa must be altered
within five years of the date of his death. As I had to adjust my formal
dinners to the old style, I was not only delighted to have Tanno with us
for himself and for his jollity, but also because he just made up the nine
diners demanded by ancient convention.
Agathemer had asked me, as a special favor, to leave the decoration of the
_triclinium_ entirely to him, and I had agreed, when he fairly begged me,
not to enter the _triclinium_ or even pass its door, after my noonday
siesta. When I did enter it with my guests I was dazzled. The sun had just
set and the northwestern sky was all a blaze of golden brightness,
streaked with long pink and rosy streamers of cloud, from which the
evening light, neither glaring nor dim, flooded through the big
northwestern windows. The spacious room was a bower of bloom. Great
armfuls of flowers hid the capitals of the pilasters, others their bases;
garlands--heavy, even corpulent garlands--were looped from pilaster to
pilaster; every vase was filled with flowers, the little vases on the
brackets, the big ones alternating with the statues in the niches, the
huge floor-vases in the corners: the table, the sofas, the floor, all were
strewn with smaller blossoms, tiny flowers or fresh petals of roses. The
garlands for our heads, which were offered us heaped on a tray, were to
the last degree exquisite. I adjusted mine as if in a dream. I was dazed.
I knew that the flowers could not have been supplied by our gardens; I
could not conjecture whence they came.
Agathemer, bowing and grinning, stood in the inner doorway. My eyes
"I have a note here," he said, "which I was enjoined not to hand you until
you had lain down to dinner."
The two second assistant waiter boys took our shoes and we disposed
ourselves on the sofas, Tanno in the place of honor, I rejoicing again
that his presence has solved, acceptably to all the rest, the otherwise
insoluble problem of to whom I should accord that location.
Agathemer handed me the note. At sight of it I recognized the handwriting
of Vedius Caspo. Of course, like my uncle before me, I always invited to
any of my formal entertainments all my neighbors except Ducconius Furfur,
our enemy, and the only neighbor with whom we were not on good terms.
Equally, of course, Vedius Caspo at Villa Vedia and Satronius Dromo at
Villa Satronia, regularly found some transparent pretext for declining my
invitation, each fearing that, if he accepted, the other might by some
prank of the gods of chance accept also, and they might encounter each
The thread was too strong for me to break. I tore it out of the seal, and,
asking my guests' indulgence, I opened the note. It read:
"Vedius Caspo to his good friend Andivius Hedulio. If you are well I
am well also. I was writing at Villa Vedia on the day before the Nones
of June. I had written you some days before and explained my inability
to avail myself of your kind invitation to dinner on the Nones. I
purposed sending you, with this, what flowers my gardens afford
towards decorating your _triclinium_ for your feast. I beg that
you accept these as a token of my good will. When you reach Rome I beg
that, at your leisure and convenience, you transmit my best wishes to
my kinswoman, Vedia Venusta.
This note staggered me more than the sight of the flowers. It was amazing
that Vedius should have taken the trouble to be, so gracious to me; that
he should go out of his way to write me the vague and veiled, but
unequivocal intimation of his approval of my suit for Vedia implied in the
last sentences of his letter was astounding. Vedia had a very large
property inherited from her father, from two aunts and from others of the
Vedian clan. The whole clan was certain to be very jealous of her choice
of a second husband. I had anticipated their united opposition to my suit.
To be assured of his approbation by the beloved brother of the head of the
clan made me certain that I should meet with no opposition at all.
My delight must have irradiated my face. Tanno, the irresistible, at once
urged me to read the note aloud, saying:
"Don't be a hog. Don't keep all those good things to yourself. Let us have
a share of the tid-bits. Read it out to all of us."
Of course the three Satronians looked sour. But Tanno knew how to smooth
out any embarrassing situation. He beamed at me and fairly bubbled with
"I bet on you," he said. "The widow will be yours at this rate. But don't
show her that note till you two are married."
Before anybody else could speak he went on:
"I'm famished. So are we all. Flowers are fine to look at and to smell,
but give me food. Let's get at our dinner."
We did. We fell upon the relishes, disposing of them with hardly the
interchange of a word.
When the boys cleared the table I observed with some pride that Tanno eyed
with an expression of approval the table cloth and the big silver tray
which they set on it, laden with the second course.
"You are," he said, "pretty well equipped for house-keeping in these
remote wilds, Caius. Your table-cloth is far above the average for town
tables and your tray is magnificent."
That started a round of talk on city usages, town etiquette and court
gossip. Tanno, very naturally, did much of the talking, the rest mostly
questioning and listening. He spoke at length of the Emperor, but of
course more guardedly than while talking to me alone.
When the tray with the first course was removed and while that with the
second course was being brought in the talk ebbed. Tanno gave it a turn,
which at first seemed likely to prove unfortunate, by saying:
"Now I've told you the latest news from Rome and the current gossip and
the popular fads. Turn about is fair play. It is time for some of you to
tell me what just now most interests this country-side. My idea of country
life is that it is about as exciting as the winter sleep of a dormouse or
of a hibernating bear; but for all I know, it may be as lively in its way
as life in town; you may be agog over some occurrence as important to you
as a change of Palace Prefects would be at Rome. Speak out somebody, if
there is anything worth telling."
"Whether it be worth telling I do not know," spoke up Bultius Seclator,
"but the country-side hereabouts is agog just now over a recent case of
(I shuddered: here was the feud to the fore in spite of everything. And I
shuddered yet more as I saw set and harden the features of Vulso, Rusco
"To make clear to you," he went on, "I'll have to explain the
circumstances. You undoubtedly know both Satronius Dromo of this valley
and his father, Satronius Satro, at Rome. Satro's father, old Satronius
Satronianus, among the horde of slaves set free by his will, liberated a
number of artisans of various kinds, who, scattered about among the
neighboring towns and villages, had lived like free men, in dwellings
belonging to him or in rented abodes, plying their trades and returning to
their master a better income than he could have derived from their
activities in any other way, since one of his assistant overseers saw to
it that they paid in, unfailingly and promptly, the stipulated percentage
of their gains. Among these was a cobbler named Turpio, at Trebula. He was
so expert, so deft, so quick and so ingratiating to customers, that the
overseer insisted on his paying a percentage of his earnings larger than
that paid by any other similar slave. Now cobbling, at the best of it, is
not an occupation at which one would fancy that anyone would become
wealthy. Yet Turpio grew to be very well off. He early amassed savings
enough to pay for his own freedom, but his master would not agree to that,
so Turpio bought the house in which he lived and his workshop. In the
course of time he accumulated possessions of no mean value and owned
several slaves, whom he employed as assistant cobblers. By his master's
will all that he had amassed became his property, of course, when he was
freed. He was, as he is, very popular in Trebula and among all the
country-folk round about who visit Trebula. He is esteemed by all who know
him and by all Satronians of every degree.
"Now Turpio, some years ago, partly on account of his kind-heartedness,
partly since he could never resist a bargain and he got her for almost
nothing, partly, perhaps because of his canny foresight, bought a
wretched, puny, sickly, little runt of a four-year-old slave-girl, a mere
rack of bones covered with yellow skin. She continued sickly for some
years, then, when she was more than half grown, the fresh air of Trebula,
its good water, the kindness with which she was treated, the generous fare
accorded her, all working together, suddenly began to show results. She
plumped out, grew tall, vigorous, active, graceful and charming. She also
acquired notable skill at weaving. His intimates congratulated Turpio on
his luck or prescience and foretold for him notable profits from her sale.
Turpio averred that he and his spouse were so fond of the girl that he was
unwilling to part with her except to a master or mistress whom she took to
and who seemed likely to be kind to her. He refused several handsome
offers for her. She became notable in Trebula as its most beautiful
inhabitant and all who knew her wished her well.
"Not long ago, Vedius Molo of Concordia, not a bad specimen of a noble
lad, I will say, came to Villa Vedia. He roamed about the country as a
young nobleman will. By some chance he caught sight of Xantha, for that is
her name, and, of course, like many another, fell in love with her. He
promptly offered to buy her. But Xantha did not like him at all and
Turpio, as always, consulted her before deciding to sell her. Opposition
inflamed Molo and he bid Turpio up till his business instincts all but
overcame his doting affection for Xantha. But Xantha liked Molo less and
less the more she saw of him. She begged Turpio not to sell her to Molo.
He was obdurate, although Molo bid on up till he was offering a really
fabulous price, though one well within his means. He could not credit that
Turpio would not yield. When he was convinced that he could not wheedle
him he lost his temper. Turpio told him that the negotiations were at an
end and warned him not to return. Molo went off in a rage.
"Two nights later Turpio's house was broken into by a considerable body of
men, armed, certainly with clubs or staffs. Turpio and his household
defended themselves vigorously and were all severely mishandled in the
affray, Turpio most severely of all. They were overcome, even overwhelmed,
and, before their neighbors could come to their assistance or the townsmen
in general rally to help, Xantha was carried off by the intruders, who,
beating the night watchman insensible, escaped through the postern of the
"This highhanded outrage has greatly incensed all Trebula and the entire
neighborhood. The night was very dark, neither Turpio nor any of his
household nor yet the watchman at the postern claims to have recognized
any of the abductors. Yet all impute the outrage to Vedius Molo. Every
magistrate is alert to punish the delinquents and to return Xantha to her
master. Yet she has totally vanished. After they passed the postern her
abductors left no trace. Whether they had or had not with them a two-
wheeled or a four-wheeled carriage or a litter or a sedan-chair cannot be
determined; nor whether they were on foot or on horseback. The weather was
dry and windy and the rocky roads out of Trebula showed no tracks of any
kind. The country has been scoured in every direction and all persons
questioned, not only at the change-stations on the main roads, and at
crossroads, but at all villages. Not a clue has been found; though all
Turpio's friends more than suspect Vedius Molo, there is not an iota of
evidence on which anyone could base a demand for a warrant to search Villa
Vedia or any other specified villa, farmstead or other piece of property.
Xantha has vanished. There are rumors that she is at Villa Vedia, but they
seem as baseless as the rumor of a party of horsemen conveying a closed
litter, which rumor has radiated from uncountable localities all about
here, not one of which localities could, when their inhabitants were
questioned, substantiate the rumor in any way. Equally baseless appear the
numerous rumors that this or that individual has it on unimpeachable
authority that Xantha's abductors are camped somewhere in this or that
woodland and are preparing to smuggle Xantha into Villa Vedia by that
route which they deem least probable for such a venture and therefore
least watched. With all this the country-side is agog, I can assure you."
"Fairly exciting, I admit," Tanno remarked when Bultius paused. "Sounds
like the tales of goings-on in Latium in the days when the Aequi, Volsci
and Hernici raided up to the gates of Rome four summers out of five. I had
not thought Sabinum so primitive."
Before I could speak, Fisevius Rusco cut in.
"Bultius," he said, "Vulso and Naepor and I have listened without any
interruptions to your version of the occurrences you have narrated, and I
must say you have told them as fairly as could be expected from any one
with your leanings. I have no remarks to make on your story nor anything
to say in rebuttal. But it seems to me, it is now your turn, along with
Nepronius and Juventius, to listen with equal patience, while I narrate a
The three Satronians bowed stiffly and in silence.
Rusco resumed, addressing Tanno:
"I shall not," he said, "be compelled to go into details as minutely as
did Bultius. You can comprehend my story with less background.
"At Reate, for some years past, there lived a worthy couple, freedman and
freedwoman of Vedius Vindex. The husband died more than a year ago,
leaving a young and childless widow, named Greia Posis, possessed of a
good town-house and of three small farms not far out in the country.
Naturally as she was comely and well-off, Greia soon had suitors aplenty.
For some time she showed no favor to any, but lately it has been plain
that she would marry either Helvidius Flaccus, a tenant-farmer holding his
land under one of the Vedian clan near Reate, or Annius Largus, similarly
a tenant of one of the Satronian properties. Although Helvidius was on
Greia's side of our local feud, while Annius was on the other, idlers at
Reate were laying wagers that Annius would win Greia, considering him most
in her favor.
"Recently, however, Greia had some sort of a quarrel with Annius, and
announced her intention of marrying Helvidius.
"You must understand that Greia has the best sort of reputation, is
universally respected, and is greatly liked by all her neighbors and
acquaintances and is popular in Reate.
"Now, a day or two after the abduction which Bultius has narrated, Greia
had visited one of her farms and, towards dark, was returning home to
Reate in a two-wheeled gig driven by a slave of hers, a deaf-mute lad.
What occurred can only be conjectured, as the deaf-mute cannot relate it,
but, at all events, he was found insensible, bruised and bleeding, by the
road, apparently having been unmercifully beaten. Not far from him the
mule was grazing by the roadside, his harness in perfect condition and the
gig unharmed. Greia, however, had vanished. No one had seen Annius in the
neighborhood, yet it is generally assumed that he managed to abduct Greia
in broad daylight without any one sighting him either coming or going:
which, if the fact, would be an almost miraculous feat.
"Certainly Greia has disappeared. The magistrates of Reate searched
Annius' farmstead, but found neither Greia nor, indeed, any trace of
Annius himself. It is conjectured that he is hiding, with Greia, at some
farm or villa under the Satronian protection. But there is no shadow of
any tangible basis for the conjecture, nor for the rumors, which, like
those concerning Xantha which Bultius had told you of, run all over the
country-side; very similar rumors, too; for some are to the effect that
Annius is holding Greia in durance at Villa Satronia; others that a
cortege of horsemen escorting a closed litter has been seen here or there
on some road; others that someone has learnt that Annius is about to
attempt to reach Villa Satronia with Greia, convoyed by an escort of his
clansmen. The country-side buzzes with such whispers.
"And let me point out to you, what you undoubtedly comprehend, that
serious as is the forcible abduction of a slave-girl, the abduction of a
freewoman, even if a freedwoman, is a far more serious matter. Not only is
Helvidius on fire to reclaim his bride and to revenge himself on Largus,
not only are all his relations, friends and well-wishers eager to assist
him by every means in their power, not only are all right-thinking men
incensed at the outrage, but the magistrates of Reate are determined to
bring the guilty man to justice and to free Greia."
"Very well told," was Tanno's comment, "and I comprehend far better than
you perhaps imagine. Not only are the magistrates of Reate hot on the
trail of Annius and those of Trebula equally keen after Vedius Molo, but
all Vedians are eager to shield Molo and to help catch and convict Annius
Largus, and all Satronians conversely doing all they can to shield Largus
and get Molo. Oh, I twig! Moreover I realize that all Vedians regard the
abduction of Greia as not so much a hot-headed folly of Largus as a
Satronian retort to the abduction of Xantha; and conversely, all
Satronians regard it as merely an insufficient counter to Xantha's
abduction. Oh, I comprehend the feud atmosphere. I have no doubt that
scores of poniards of the Vedian clan are sharp and daily sharpened
sharper, for use on Largus and as many Satronian dirks for use on Molo;
that every road hereabouts has watchers posted along it; that bands of
lusty lads are camped here and there waiting summonses or are actually in
likely ambushes by the roadsides. I foresee shindies of great amplitude.
You need not say any more; neither of you need say any more; none of you
need say any more. In fact, I beg that the whole subject be dropped right
here. I comprehend the feud atmosphere and I don't want any more of it in
this _triclinium_. Let's forget or ignore the feud and enjoy Hedulio's
His compelling personality exerted its magic, as usual. All six feudists
relaxed. I could feel the social tension dissolve. We all felt relieved.
By that time we had disposed of the fish and roasts, the boys had lighted
the hanging lamps and the standing lamps, had removed the tray with what
we had left of the roasts and had brought in the third-course tray with
the birds and salads. As we sampled them Tanno remarked:
"You have a cook, astonishingly good, Caius, for anywhere outside of Rome
and amazingly good for a villa in the hills, far from a town. I must see
your cook and question him. His roasts, his broiled, baked and fried
dishes are above the averages, yet nothing wonderful. But his ragouts or
fricassees or whatever you call them, are marvellous. This salmi of fig-
peckers (or of some similar bird, for it is so ingeniously flavored and
spiced, that I cannot be sure) is miraculous. There was a sort of chowder,
too, of what fish I could not conjecture, which was so appetizing that I
could have gorged on it. Just as provocative and alluring was one of the
concoctions of the second course, apparently of lamb or kid, but
indubitably a masterpiece. I certainly must see your cook."
"My cook," I confessed, "was not the artist of the dishes you praise so
highly. Hereabouts we do not give them such high-sounding names as you
apply to them, we call them hashes or stews. Ofatulena, the wife of my
villa-farm bailiff, devised them and prepared them. She is famous
hereabouts for her cooking."
"What," cried Tanno, "a woman cook! Never saw a woman cook, never heard of
one, never read of one. Egypt, Babylonia, Lydia, Persia, Greece and Italy,
all cooks have always been men. I ought to know all about cookery, what
with my library on cookery and my travels to all the cities famous for
cookery. But you have taught me something novel and wholly unsuspected.
Trot out your female cook. Let's have a look at her."
I sent for Ofatulena and she came in, pleased and embarrassed, flushed
brick-red all over her full moon of a face, diffident and elated,
trembling and giggling.
Tanno questioned her and satisfied himself that she had prepared the
dishes which had won his approbation and also that she was no hit-or-miss
cook, but a real artist in the kitchen, and really knew what she was
"Beware, Hedulio," he said as he dismissed her. "You Sabines will have
three abductions to gossip over if you do not look out. I'm half tempted
now to suborn some of the riff-raff of the Subura to kidnap this miracle-
worker of yours and hale her to Rome into my kitchen to amaze my guests."
When she was gone he resumed:
"Everything is topsy turvy in Sabinum, woman cooks and tenant farmers!
What next? I gather that all of you, Satronians, Vedians and outsiders,
have your estates parcelled out among free tenant farmers. Am I right?"
Hirnio, Seclator and the rest assured him that he was right.
"Well, then," he said, "tenant farming must be a subject perfectly safe
for all persons present. Let's talk about it. Hedulio has tried to expound
to me the beauties of the system, but he had no great success. I fail so
far, to comprehend how the institution ever came into existence, why it
has maintained itself only in Sabinum and what are its advantages. Tell me
Tanno had hit upon one of the few subjects on which all present felt
concordantly. His utterance started a hubbub, all my guests talking at
once, each trying to out-talk all the others and all voicing our local
enthusiasm for our local farm-system. The _triclinium_ rang with paeans of
praise of our Sabine yeomanry, and when the excitement had abated enough
to permit of intelligible discourse, Tanno was regaled with a series of
tales illustrating the sterling worth of the Sabine yeomen, their
knowledge of farming, their diligence, their patience, their unflagging
energy, their parsimony, their amazing productivity in respect to crop-
yield, stock, implements and all things raised or made on their farms,
their devotion to their landlords, the charm of the ties between the
gentry and the yeomanry and the universal Sabine cult of the tenant
With all this talk we lingered longer than usual over Ofatulena's
bewitching salads, which Tanno lauded even above her ragouts.
When it was time for the last course, after the service-boys had slid the
third-course tray off the table, I was amazed to see my four strongest
table slaves enter fairly staggering under the load put upon them by
Grandfather's biggest dinner-tray heaped with fruit, among which I
descried African pomegranates and other exotics. Still more was I amazed
when other slaves crowded in behind them, carrying baskets of hot-house
melons of astonishing size and insistent perfume. Last of the procession
was Agathemer, who stood in the doorway, grinning and beaming.
Tanno, not less than the guests in chorus, acclaimed this unexpected
Again I looked interrogatively at Agathemer. He responded as at the
commencement of our meal.
"I have a note here," he said, "which I was enjoined not to hand you until
after this fruit had been set upon your table."
He handed me the missive, the superscription of which was, to my
astonishment, in the handwriting of Satronius Dromo. While my fingers
tugged at the thread, Tanno commanded:
"Read it out loud at once, like the other. No secrets here. Let us all
The letter began with all the traditional polite formalities, as had that
from Vedius. It read:
"Satronius Dromo to his valued friend Andivius Hedulio. If you are
well I am well also. I was writing at Villa Satronia on the day before
the Nones of June. Some days before I had written you expressing my
regret at the circumstances which prevented me from accepting your
most welcome invitation to dine with you on the Nones. I intended
dispatching to you, with this, what fruit my establishment has fit for
your acceptance, which I ask of you, this fruit being sent as an
earnest of my cordiality. When you are settled at Rome I beg that,
when perfectly convenient to you, you convey my warmest regards to my
cousin's widow, Vedia Venusta.
At this letter I was fairly thunderstruck. That Satronius should take any
notice of me at all was more amazing than the graciousness of Vedius. That
he should have ransacked the provinces and overstrained the capabilities
of rowers and horseflesh to send me costly rarities out of season was
astounding. That his last sentence should practically duplicate the last
sentence of the letter from Vedius was most incredible of all. For if all
Vedians were sure to be very decidedly hypercritical as to anyone likely
to become Vedia's second husband, it was still more a certainty that the
entire Satronian connection would scrutinize minutely everything
concerning any man likely to come into control of the great properties
which she had inherited from her husband, Satronius Patavinus. That I
should be disfavored by the entire Satronian connection had seemed to me
more than likely. Dromo's intimation of his warm approval of my suit for
Vedia, coming on top of Caspo's, cleared of all obstacles my path towards
matrimony with the woman of my heart's choice. I was more than elated, I
was drunk with ecstacy.
After I had finished reading, dead silence reigned in the _triclinium_;
even Tanno was too dumbfounded to utter any sound.
Hirnio spoke first.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I beg of you to hear me out with attention. Like
our Caius here and like his hereditary antagonist, Ducconius Furfur, I
have never taken sides in our age-long local feud. Like all outsiders and
like a majority of its partisans, I have grieved at its existence,
deplored its unfortunate results and hoped for its extinction. I think I
may say with truth that there was not one inhabitant of this neighborhood
who did not rejoice when the heads of the two families, with the abolition
of the feud and the creation of the permanent amity in view, arranged a
marriage between, the lovely daughter of the head of the northern branch
of the Vedian House and the son of the northern, branch of the Satronian
House. Satronian or Vedian; freeman or slave, everyone was delighted at
the prospect of lasting harmony. The sudden death of Satronius Patavinus
not only blasted these hopes, but intensified antagonisms; for all the
Vedians felt that a daughter of the clan had been sacrificed in vain and
all Satronians regretted that vast properties about Padua, long possessed
by Satronians, passed by the will of her husband to a young widow, born of
the Vedian House. All saw the prospect of exacerbated enmities and their
"Now it must be apparent to you that the two letters which we have heard
read would never have been written without their writers having consulted
with the heads of their respective houses. These letters are an intimation
to our Caius that both her kinsmen and the kinsmen of her first husband
smile upon his suit for the most lovely, the most charming and the
wealthiest widow in Rome. This means, to a certainty, that both Satronius
Satro and Vedius Vedianus descry the possibility that Vedia's union with a
second husband acceptable to both clans and opposed to neither may work
for mitigation of the feud spirit and for establishment of harmonious
amity almost as powerfully as would have the permanency of her membership
of the Satronian clan. I conceive that all of us, outsiders and partisans,
may congratulate Caius without reservation or afterthought, heartily and
To this all present agreed in chorus, all drank my health.
Vulso, rather hesitatingly, spoke next.
"As all we say here," he began, "is under the rose and will not be
repeated or hinted at, I do not mind saying that I feel as does Hirnio."
To this Rusco and Naepor agreed, with less hesitancy.
Similarly the three Satronians expressed their concurrence.
Again they all congratulated me on my luck, drank to the success of my
suit, and to my prosperity and health.
Complete harmony reigned and the strained social atmosphere attending a
dinner in the feud area vanished completely.
By this time the moon, which was nearly full, was high enough to bathe the
world with silvery light. Tanno peering across the table and through the
"You have a fine prospect, Caius. I admired it when I first lay down, but
our interest in the flowers and in your letter from Vedius diverted my
intention to speak of it. It is a charming outlook even by moonlight."
"Yes," I admitted, with not a little pride. "Grandfather, of course, dined
earlier than is fashionable nowadays. He built this _triclinium_ so that
he could bask in the rays of the declining sun and could watch the sunset
colors as they varied and deepened. My uncle used to dine as early as his
father and, even in the hottest weather, enjoyed the direct rays of the
sun on him as he dined, for he was always rheumatic and chilly, yet he
enjoyed the beauty of the view even more."
"It is charming even by moonlight," Tanno repeated, "and that although the
villa is between our outlook and the moon, so its shadow darkens the
We all contemplated the view through the window. "Who are those men I see
just beyond the shadow of the house?" Tanno queried. "Quite an assemblage,
it seems to me; almost a mob for these lonely districts."
I looked where he indicated and could not conjecture what it was that I
TENANTRY AND SLAVERY
Agathemer came in and explained that my tenants had a petition to present
to me and had gathered, hoping that I would receive them after dinner.
(Doubtless, I thought, conjecturing that I would be, just after dinner, in
the most accommodating humor possible.)
"I must see this and hear what they have to say," Tanno declared. "Have
you any objections to our going with you, Caius?" he asked.
On my saying that I should be glad to have him come along, he said:
"Come on, all of you, it will be fun, and standing out in the night cool
will freshen our zest for our wine."
All nine of us went out on the terrace. The prospect was indeed beautiful,
only the brighter stars showing in the pale sky, the far hills outlined
against it, the nearer hills darkly glimmering in the moon-rays, the
valleys all full of pearly moonlit haze, the pleasance about the villa
vague in the witchery of the moon's full radiance.
In that full radiance, on the path below the balustrade of the terrace,
were my nine tenant farmers. Not one, as was natural among our healthy
hills, but was my elder. Yet, according to our customary mode of address
from master to tenant, I said to them:
"What brings you here, lads, so long after your habitual bed-time?"
Ligo Atrior acted as spokesman.
"We have a request to prefer," he said, "and we judged this an opportune
"Speak out," I said, "our wine is waiting for me and my guests, and I am
listening. Speak out!"
He set forth, at considerable length and with many halts and repetitions,
that all their farms were in excellent order and in an exceedingly forward
condition, promising very well for the future in all respects; that I had
just assured myself of all this by a minute inspection; that they were
keenly emulous of each other and each thought his farm the best of the
nine; that they were and had been very curious to learn which of the nine
farms I thought the best kept; that someone had suggested that, if I
judged any one of the nine distinctly better than his fellows', it would
be proper to distinguish the man of my choice by some gift, bonus,
exemption or privilege, if his farm was really the best kept; that while
discussing these matters someone had remarked that he envied me my
approaching visit to Rome, as he had never been there; that this had
brought to their notice that not one of them had ever seen Rome, though it
was less than three days' journey away; that someone had suggested that
perhaps I might be induced not only to specify which of them I considered
the best farmer, but to indicate my preference by allowing the best of
them to visit Rome later in the summer, after the crops were all
harvested; that they had agreed to abide loyally by my choice and that
they prayed me to declare which of them, in my opinion, was the best
When Ligo paused, old Chryseros Philargyrus, his wiry leanness manifest
even in the moonlight, although he was well muffled up against the
dampness of the night, pushed himself to the front and said that he
claimed that, in any such competition, he ought to stand on a level with
my eight other tenants, even if they had been life-long tenants of the
estate, whereas he, like his father and grandfather, had paid rent to
Ducconius Furfur. He claimed that the court decision by which Ducconius
had had to refund to my uncle all the rents received from the farm in
dispute since the first decision of the lowest court had awarded it to a
Ducconius had been, in effect, an affirmation that his ancestors and he
had always been, constructively, tenants of the Andivian estate.
The old man spoke well and tersely, made his points neatly and stated his
arguments lucidly, and, in conclusion he said:
"And you must realize, Sir, that whatever my feelings have been up to
today, after what happened this afternoon I have forgotten that I or mine
ever owned Ducconius Furfur as master. I am your man henceforward, body
and soul; I call you not only patron but savior and father. I make my plea
for treatment putting me on full equality with my fellows, and I value
myself so highly that I hope for the prize. Yet if I am not the lucky man,
I shall loyally and in silence abide by your decision."
I was pleased with his words and I admitted the correctness of his
contentions, but rebuked him for his self-assertive manner.
Then Ligo spoke again.
"Please publish your opinion, Master, for we are sleepy and long to be
abed. But much more do we long for your decision, for each one of us
considers himself a better farmer than any other and expects to be the
"Suppose," I said, "that I am of the opinion that no one of you is better
than all his fellows, but that two of you are better than the other seven,
but equal to each other in merit?"
Ligo stood at loss, but old Chryseros spoke out at once, saying:
"In that case, Master, it would be proper that both men go to Rome, as
such a prize could not be divided into shares."
His forwardness angered me. I told him sharply to mind his manners and to
keep his place; that Ligo had been chosen spokesman and that he was to
hold his peace. I also pointed out that I had not agreed to give any such
prize for distinguished excellence, that far less had I agreed that a
visit to Rome should be the prize.
All nine of them stood mute.
I was tingling with my elation over my prospects of winning Vedia, for I
felt sure of her personal favor, and the two notes from my great neighbors
had thrown me into a sort of trance of rapture. I was genuinely pleased
with the frugality, diligence and skill of my tenants. My estate was in a
way to return far more than I had expected of it. I was in a position to
be liberal, I felt indulgent.
"Lads," I cried, "everyone of the nine of you is as good a farmer as
everyone of the other eight. You are the nine best farmers in Sabinum. You
are such good farmers that you have put your farms in a state where your
bailiffs can oversee the harvest as well as if under your own eyes.
Everyone of you has earned a visit to Rome and everyone of you shall have
it, and not at some future time, which may never come, but now. I start
for Rome at daybreak and the whole nine of you shall go with me!"
This unexpected liberality they heard in silence: they stood dumb and
All but Philargyrus. Gesticulating, he pressed forward among them from
where he had retired to the rear after my late rebuke. Gesticulating, his
voice rising into a senile scream, he upbraided me for folly,
extravagance, unthrift and prodigality. He declared that such indulgence
would ruin me, would debauch him and his fellows and would, by its evil
example, infect, corrupt and deprave the whole countryside. He railed at
me. He vowed that, whatever the rest might do, he would use all his powers
of persuasion to urge them to stick to their farms till harvest was over
and he swore that he himself would, under no circumstances, leave his till
the last ear of grain, the last root, the last fruit, was garnered, stored
and safe for the winter.
I let him shriek himself hoarse and talk himself mute; then I spoke calmly
"I am master here and master of all of you. The loyalty due from a free
tenant is, in Sabinum, as mandatory a bond as the obedience legally due
from a slave. I speak. Listen, all of you. I set out for Rome at dawn. See
that every man of the nine of you is on horseback at the east courtyard
gate at dawn, with an ample pack of all things needed for a month's
absence properly girthed on a led mule. If any of you dare to disobey I
shall find some effective means to make him smart for his temerity."
Ligo, finding his voice, thanked me for the nine, and they trudged away.
When we were back again on the dining-sofas Tanno, as was his habit, took
charge of things after Ms breezy fashion.
"With the permission of our Caius," he said, without asking my permission,
of which he was sure, "I appoint myself King of the Revels. Where's the
When my major-domo came forward, Tanno queried:
"How much water did you mix with the wine we've been drinking with our
The butler replied:
"Two measures of water to one of wine."
Tanno nodded to me, smiling.
"You've mighty good wine, Caius," he said. "No one is more an expert than
I and I should have conjectured three to two."
"Lads," he continued, to the guests collectively, "this is the sort of
master-of-the-revels I am. I mean to start for Rome at dawn with Caius and
I intend that both of us shall start cold sober. Therefore all of us must
go to bed reasonably sober. You must submit to my rulings."
Then he instructed the butler:
"Give us no more of the mixture we have been drinking. Mix a big bowl
three to one and ladle that out to us."
When our goblets had been filled he spoke to me!
"Caius, I want to know what that old hunks of a Chryseros Philargyrus
meant when he said that after what had occurred this afternoon he was your
man, body and soul. What happened."
"Nothing much." I said. "As Agathemer and I were riding home and were
passing his barn-yard gate, we heard yells for help. I dismounted and ran
in. I found Chryseros rather at a disadvantage in handling a bull. I
helped him get the beast into his pen. His gratitude seems exaggerated."
"Not any more exaggerated than your modesty," spoke up Neponius Pomplio,
who had hardly uttered a word since he arrived. Turning to Tanno he
"You'll never get Hedulio to tell you anything more definite than the very
vague and hazy adumbration of his exploit he has already given. I heard
some rumors of his feat as I rode down here from my house. I conjecture
that the story is worth telling, to its least detail. If you want to hear
what really occurred, call in Agathemer; he was with Hedulio when it
"Good idea," said Tanno, "and I want Agathemer here for another reason.
May I call him in, Caius?"
I assented and Agathemer came in, as smiling and obsequious as always.
"Agathemer," Tanno queried, "have you finished your dinner?"
"Long ago," said Agathemer, "and plenty too."
"Then, have a chair," said Tanno, rolling himself luxuriously on the deep,
soft mattress of one of my uncle's superlatively comfortable sofas. "No!"
he said sharply. "No demurring. Sit down, man! Do as I tell you! I've a
batch of questions to put to you and you'll be long answering me. I want
you entirely at ease while you talk. You can't talk as I want you to
unless you forget everything else. If you stand you'll be thinking of your
tired legs instead of talking without thinking at all."
Agathemer, embarrassed, seated himself in the lowest and simplest chair in
"We called you in for something else," said Tanno, "but first of all I
want to ask you why you were not with us at dinner? Caius has written me
again and again how he and you dine together evening after evening and how
you are so entertaining that he enjoys a dinner just with you almost as
much as if he has novel guests. Why were you left out of this? Is Hedulio
shy of more or less than nine at table, like his uncle, or does his
uncle's dining-room outfit coerce him? Or what _was_ the reason?"
Agathemer turned red and visibly writhed, mute and sweating.
I cut in.
"Here, Caius," I said to Tanno, "this isn't the torture chamber nor you
the executioner, nor yet has Agathemer deserved the rack. You are putting
him in an excruciating dilemma. He is too courteous to tell you that you
ought to ask me, not him, and he is too loyal to tell you the reason."
I was nearer to being angry with Tanno than I had ever been in our lives.
I comprehended why he, with all his superlative equipment of tact and
intuition, had blundered; he could not but assume that circumstances were
as they should have been rather than as they were; yet the blunder was, in
a sense, unforgivable, and had created a social situation than which
nothing could be more awkward.
Agathemer's face cleared as I spoke.
Tanno rounded on me.
"You tell me, then!" he said. "I guess from their faces that I have
advertised my ignorance of what is perfectly well known to everybody else
here. Remove my disabilities."
I hesitated and then went in with a rush.
"It does not matter a particle," I said, "how often I lie down to dinner
with Agathemer when we are alone. Since I am then the only freeman in the
villa there are no witnesses of our dining together. But if I have him to
dinner with any guest he becomes thereby a freeman, as you very well know.
And if I were free to set him free and chose to free him in that fashion,
I should have to advise my friends in advance of my intentions and ask
whether they were willing to lend themselves to such a proceeding. One
cannot invite a man without previous explanation and then, when he's
already in one's house, ask him to lie down to dinner with a slave."
"Slave!" Tanno roared at me, his face red as the back of a boiled lobster.
If I had just missed being angry with him, there was no doubt that he was
in a tearing fury with me.
"Slave?" he repeated. "Agathemer still a slave? Are you joking or are you
serious? Is this true?"
"Entirely and literally true." I affirmed.
Tanno, so red that I should have thought it impossible that he could grow
redder, grew redder.
"If your uncle," he roared, "did not free him in his will he was a hog. If
you haven't freed him yourself, you're a hog. Free him here and now! Show
some decency and some gratitude! Better late than never. Here, Agathemer,
get off that boy's stool and lie down between me and Entedius."
"Go slow, Caius!" I admonished him. "You just confessed that you know
nothing of the circumstances, yet you give orders in my house, orders
affecting my property-rights, without first acquainting yourself with all
the conditions on which such orders should be based, even if you had asked
and received my permission to issue them."
Tanno was impulsive, even headlong, but he never wrangled or quarrelled
and seldom lost his temper. I had feared a still more violent outburst
from him, but my admonition brought him to himself.
"I apologize," he said, the red fading from his face. "Tell me the whole
matter, so that I may comprehend. I'll listen in silence."
"The vital fact," I said, "is that, although I fully expected my uncle, in
his will, to free Agathemer, he not only did not free him, but he enjoined
me not to free him within five years after my entrance into my
"Well," said Tanno, "I take back what I said of you when I called you a
hog, but, even if we are taught to utter nothing but good of the dead, I
repeat that your uncle was a hog. What do you think of it, Agathemer?"
Agathemer sat at ease now on his stool and his face was placid.
"Since you have asked what I think," he said, "may I assume that you
accord me permission to utter what I think, as if I were even a free man?"
"Utter precisely what you think, without any reservations or
modifications," said Tanno. "I want to have exactly what you think and all
"I think," spoke Agathemer, "that you are neither wise to speak so of the
dead nor justified in speaking so of my former master. He was a just man
and a wise man. Though I cannot conjecture his reason, I am sure that what
he did was, somehow, for the best."
Tanno stared at him with a puzzled expression.
He turned to me.
"Isn't it true," he queried, "that your uncle had on his hands an
hereditary lawsuit of the most exasperating sort, in the course of which
the other side had won the first decision and every appeal?"
"Everybody knows that, Socrates," I admitted.
"Didn't Agathemer," Tanno pressed me, "just before the case was heard in
the highest court, make a suggestion which your uncle's lawyers utilized
and through which they won the case?"
"That is also true," I affirmed.
"Didn't they all say, that Agathemer's suggestion was just what they
should have thought of at the very first and didn't they admit that they
had not thought of it until Agathemer suggested it and that they never
would have thought of it if he had not suggested it?"
"Those are the facts," I confessed.
"In view of those facts," Tanno continued, "what did you yourself expect
your uncle to do for Agathemer in his will?"
"The very least I anticipated," I said, "was that he would free Agathemer
and make him a present equal to the value of half the property in dispute
in the lawsuit. As Ducconius had had to repay to my uncle the full amount
of the rents paid since his family first gained possession of the
property, that would have been a very moderate reward for Agathemer's
service. I also conjectured that he might free Agathemer and will him a
sum equivalent to the net proceeds of the repaid rents, less the costs of
the suit. I should not have been surprised if he had made him a present of
the whole farm out and out. Many an owner has done more for a slave who
had done less for him."
"And you would have regarded it as fair if your uncle had taken any of
those methods of recompensing Agathemer?"
"Certainly!" I affirmed.
"Then why, in the name of Mercury," he demanded, "didn't you free
Agathemer the moment the will was read?"
"I have told you over and over," I retorted impatiently, "that my uncle's
will enjoined me not to free Agathemer within five years, though he also
enjoined that I was to make a new will at once so as to leave Agathemer
free and recompensed if I died before the five years elapsed."
"But the injunction was not binding," Tanno persisted, "either in law or
by religious custom. No dead man can prevent his heirs freeing slaves he
leaves them. Why heed the injunction?"
"I could not contravene so explicit a behest of the dead," I demurred,
"especially of a man I loved and revered. And you must recall my uncle's
queer habit of acting on intuitions and the way he expressed them, always
"'It has been revealed to me that....' And his intuitions always seemed to
amount to prevision, he never seemed to have acted amiss, however
eccentric his act, however baseless his premonition. I have a feeling that
in Agathemer's case he acted on some such presentiment."
Tanno turned to Agathemer.
"Do you feel that way too?" he demanded.
"I most certainly do," said Agathemer, "I have a feeling that my remaining
a slave is going to be of vital service to Hedulio, somehow, sometime."
"Then you are content to remain a slave?" Tanno queried.
"No one wants to remain a slave," Agathemer confessed, "and every slave
longs to be a free man and is impatient to be free at once. But I try to
be resigned, of course, and, except that I cannot rejoice in not being
free, I am as well fed, clothed and housed as I should be as a free man
and have as much leisure."
Tanno glowered at both of us.
I cut in:
"You must remember that Agathemer was raised almost as a free man and
almost as my brother. We slept and played together from the time we could
walk. We had the same tutors, always, when in the country, both in
Bruttium and in Sabinum. In Rome, while I was at school, Agathemer was
taught the same subjects at home. We love each other almost as brothers.
Both of us were amazed when grandfather left Agathemer to my Uncle instead
of to my father or to me. We were more amazed at Uncle's will. But as
things are between us, Agathemer not only looks forward to freedom and an
estate within five years, but knows that his interval of waiting will be
pleasant, as pleasant as I can make it."
"But," Tanno objected, "think of the danger he is in while a slave. For
instance, just suppose--(may the gods avert the omen)--that you were
murdered in your bed this very night and no clue to the murderer found.
Nothing could save Agathemer from being tortured along with all your other
"Pooh!" I cried. "You are behind the times! You may be an unsurpassable
expert on dress and manners, on perfumery and jewels, but you could know
more law. All those ferocious old statutes have been abolished by the
enactments of Antoninus and Aurelius. A slave, during good behavior, is
almost as safe as a freedman."
"It is you," Tanno countered, "who are behind the times. Commodus has had
rescinded every edict ameliorating the condition of slaves promulgated
since the accession of Trajan. As Nerva did little for them the status of
slaves is now practically what it was at the death of Domitian."
"Anyhow," spoke up Agathemer, "whatever real or fancied perils hang over
me, by my late master's will and wish, a slave I am and a slave I remain
till the five years elapse. Even thereafter I shall be Hedulio's devoted
servitor, meanwhile I am his devoted slave."
"Does being his slave inhibit you from telling the truth about him?" Tanno
"If it is to his discredit, certainly," Agathemer answered.
"Suppose it is to his credit, very much to his credit," Tanno pursued.
"Then I am permitted to tell the truth," laughed Agathemer.
"Then," said Tanno, "tell us the whole truth about Hedulio and Chryseros
Philargyrus and the bull."
Agathemer laughed out loud.
"Delighted to oblige you," he bowed. Tanno looked at me.
"Hedulio is blushing," he said, "this promises to be interesting. As king
of the revels I forbid Hedulio from interrupting. Everybody drain a
goblet. Boy, pour a goblet for Agathemer. Agathemer, take a good long
drink, so you may start in good voice. And, boy, fill his goblet again
when it gets low. Keep an eye on it. Begin, Agathemer."
"It is a shorter story than you anticipate," Agathemer began.
"Hedulio and I had completed the final inspection of the estate. We had
begun each inspection with Chryseros' farm and had taken the farms in
rotation, ending up with Feliger's. We had inspected Macer's farm in the
morning, had had a leisurely bath, lunch and snooze and had ridden out to
Feliger's. After looking over the last details of the toolsheds and
henneries we were riding home under the over-arching elms down Bran Lane.
As we passed Chryseros' entrance we heard yells for help. Hedulio spurred
his horse up the avenue and towards the yells, I after him. The yells
guided us to the lower barn-yard gate. Hedulio reined up abruptly, leaped
off, leaving me to catch his mare, and vaulted the gate. I tethered our
mounts as quickly as I could and climbed the gate. I saw old Chryseros
pinned against the wall of his barley-barn, in between the horns of his
white bull. The points of the bull's horns were driven into the wood of
the barn and the horns were so long that Chryseros was in no immediate
danger of being crushed between the bull's forehead and the barn wall. The
bull was so enraged that he was pushing with all his might, puffing and
bellowing, spraying Chryseros' legs with froth, grunting and lowing
between bellows. As long as he kept on pushing Chryseros was more scared
than hurt; but, sooner or later, the bull was certain to draw back, lunge,
and skewer Chryseros on one or the other of his horns.
"When I first saw them Chryseros and the bull were as I have described.
Hedulio was twisting the bull's tail.
"The bull paid no more attention to the tail-twisting than if Hedulio had
been in the moon.
"Hedulio shouted to Chryseros to hold tight to the bull's horns, as he was
already doing, and to stand still. He let go the bull's tail and turned
round. Seeing me, he ordered me to get back over the gate and to stay
there. He looked about, ran to the stable door, peered in, went in and
returned with a manure fork. With that in his hand he ran back to the bull
and jabbed him with the fork.
"Then the bull did roar. He backed suddenly away from the barn, shaking
his horns loose from the futile grip Chryseros had on them, and whirled on
Hedulio. Hedulio jabbed him in the neck with the fork. The bull bellowed
with rage, it seemed, more than with pain, lowered his head and charged at
"Hedulio side-stepped as deftly as a professional beast-fighter in an
amphitheatre and to my amazement, well as I knew him, threw away the fork.
"The bull's rush carried him almost the whole breadth of the barn-yard.
When he turned round he stood, pawing the ground, shaking his head and
bellowing. I never saw a bull angrier-looking. He lowered his head to
"But he never charged.
"Hedulio was walking toward him and the bull just stood and pawed and
bellowed till Hedulio caught hold of the ring in his nose and led him off
to his pen.
"Chryseros, who had dodged through the little door into the barn and had
slammed it after him, had peered out of it just before Hedulio reached the
bull and had stood, mouth open, hands hanging, letting the door swing wide
"Hedulio led the bull into the pen, patted him on the neck and then turned
his back on him and sauntered out of the pen, shutting the gate without
"Chryseros ran to him, stumbling as he ran, fell on his knees, caught
Hedulio's hand, and poured out a torrent of thanks."
"Did all that really happen?" Tanno queried.
"Precisely as I have told it." Agathemer affirmed.
"Well," said Tanno, "I know why Caius did not want to tell it. He knew I'd
think it an impudent lie."
"Don't you believe it?" Agathemer asked, respectfully.
"Well," Tanno drawled, "I've been watching the faces of the audience.
Nobody has laughed or smiled or sneered. I'm an expert on curios and
antiques and other specialties, but I am no wiser on bulls than any other
city man. So I suppose I ought to believe it. But it struck me, while I
listened to you, as the biggest lie I ever heard. I apologize for my
"It would be incredible," said Juventius Muso, "if told of any one except
Hedulio and it would probably be untrue. As it is told of Hedulio it is
probably true and also entirely credible."
"Why of Caius any more than any one else?" queried Tanno.
Muso stared at him.
"I beg pardon," he said, "but I somehow got the idea that you were an old
and close friend of our host."
"I was and am," Tanno asserted.
"And know nothing," Muso pressed him, "of his marvellous powers over
animals of all kinds, even over birds and fish?"
"Never heard he had any such powers." Tanno confessed.
"How's this, Hedulio?" Juventius demanded of me.
"I suppose," I said, "that Tanno and I have mostly been together at Rome.
Animals are scarcer there than in the country and human beings more
plentiful. He knows more of my dealings with men and women than with other
"Besides," Tanno cut in, "you must all remember that our Caius not only
never boasts but is absurdly reticent about anything he has done of such a
kind that most men would brag of it. Towards his chums and cronies he is
open-hearted and as unreserved as a friend could be about everything else,
but especially close with them about such matters. So I know nothing of
his powers concerning which you speak."
My guests cried out in amazement, all talking at once.
"I'm king of the revels," Tanno reminded them.
"Juventius was talking; let him say his say. Everyone of you shall talk
his fill, I promise you. I am immensely interested and curious, as I
expect to hear many things which I should have heard from Caius any time
these ten years. Speak out, Juventius!"
"Before I say what I meant to say," Muso began, "I want to ask some
questions. What you have just told me has amazed me and what little you
have said leaves me puzzled. Surely there are dogs in Rome?"
"Plenty," Tanno assured him.
"Haven't you ever seen a vicious dog fly at Hedulio?" Muso pursued.
"Many a time," Tanno admitted.
"Did you ever see one bite him?" Muso asked.
"Never!" Tanno affirmed.
"Can you recall what happened?" queried Muso.
Tanno rubbed his chin.
"It seems to me," he said, "that every time I saw a snarling cur or an
open-mouthed watch-dog rush at Caius, the dog slowed his rush before he
reached him, circled about him, sniffing, and trotted back where he came
"Did you never see Hedulio beckon such a dog, handle and gentle him, even
"Once I did, as I now recall," Tanno confessed, "yet I thought nothing of
it at the time and forgot it at once."
"Probably," Muso conjectured, "you thought the dog was only pretending to
be cross and was really tame."
"Just about that, I suppose," Tanno ruminated.
"Well," said Muso, "I take it that any one of the dogs you saw run at
Hedulio was affected by him just as was the bull this afternoon; each
began by acting towards him as he would have towards any other man; each