"THE mills of God," says an old writer, "grind slowly,
but they grind exceeding small;" and Lucilius was
beginning to find out this truth for himself. Again and
again he bitterly reproached himself for lending his
help to the conspiracy which had been hatched in the
wine-shop of Theron. So far, none of the gains that he
had expected to flow in from the confiscated estates
had reached his coffers. Antistius, who was a really
wealthy man, had died (as has been said) in Rome, and
it was a doubtful point who would benefit by his
property. Would it go where the appeal had been
decided—that is, in the Capital—or where he had been
condemned in the first instance? The provincial
claimant might have the better right in law, but
Lucilius knew perfectly well that when such rights came
to collision with the demands of the Imperial purse,
 pretty sure to go to the wall. Anicetus had
been far too generous in his lifetime to leave anything
behind him after his death. Most of the richer
among the accused had saved their properties as well as
their lives by denying their faith. In short, the
speculation, so far, had been a failure.
On the other hand, the prospect at home grew darker and
darker. Whatever feeling his long-indulged habit of
avarice had left him was centred in his son, and this
son's life was trembling in the balance. At first it
had seemed a lucky chance that brought the two sisters
to his house. They had kept the boy alive. Latterly,
Rhoda's increasing weakness had compelled her to give
up her share in the nursing, and Cleoné had assumed the
She was simply indispensable to the boy. It was from
her hand only that he would take food or drink. When
his delirium was at its worst, it was her hand that
soothed and quieted him. But if she had to leave him,
it would have been better that she had never come.
The old physician was furious at the thought. All his
cases interested him deeply, but in this he was
especially wrapt up. Never had he fought against
disease more pertinaciously and more skilfully, and
never had he been more ably helped by the physician's
best ally, a good nurse. It was
 simply maddening to him
to have this assistance removed, for the loss meant
defeat. He cursed with impartial rage every one
concerned in the matter: the busybodies who had stirred
up the movement against the Christians; the foolish
obstinacy—for so he described it—which made these
people cling to their absurd superstition.
But nothing could be done. The Emperor's commands had
to be executed, and all persons who had confessed their
adherence to the Christian faith would have to be
dealt with according to law. Among these were the two
sisters. A formal demand was made by the officials upon
Lucilius for their surrender, and he had no alternative
but to submit. They were included in the company of
prisoners arraigned before the Governor's tribunal on
the day that followed the execution of Anicetus.
Lucilius was among the crowd of spectators which
thronged the court-house and awaited the result with
feelings of despair.
Nothing could save the sisters. He knew them too well
to have the least hope that they would renounce their
faith to save their lives. A vague suggestion to that
effect on which he had once ventured during the time of
their sojourn in his house had been received by Cleoné
with a scorn that brought conviction to his mind.
Their condemnation, then, was certain.
 Hard-hearted as he was, he could not contemplate this
result with indifference. They had lived in his house
for some weeks. Their grace and goodness, seen in the
close intercourse of family life, had touched him as he
had never dreamt of being touched, and he shuddered at
the thought of their being handed over to the shame and
torture of the slave's death.
And then there was the thought of his son. Even if he
were to battle through the disease without the help of
his nurse, what would be the result when he heard, as
hear he must, of the horrible fate which had overtaken
her? The wretched man groaned aloud when he thought of
what the future had in store for him.
He was roused from the stupor of despair into which he
had fallen by the voice of the court-crier calling
aloud the names of Rhoda and Cleoné. Rhoda was
described as an ancilla, i.e., a female slave, and as
a deaconess attached to a certain unlawful society
which called itself by the name of Christus. Cleoné was
also described as being of servile condition.
When the clerk of the court had finished reading what
we may call the indictment, the Governor addressed the
prisoners. "The clemency of our most gracious lord and
master, Trajan Augustus, has ordered that even for the
 offenders there should be provided a
place of repentance, if only, even at the last moment,
they will submit themselves to lawful authority, and
renounce their obstinate adherence to a mischievous
superstition. Therefore I call upon you, Rhoda, for the
last time. Are you willing to burn incense to the
statue of the divine Trajan, and to curse this
Christus, whom you superstitiously and rebelliously
have honoured as a God?"
Rhoda had remained seated during the proceedings. Her
weakness did not permit her to stand with the rest of
the prisoners. She now rose, and confronted the
Governor. Fear she had never known; and, for the
moment, her bodily strength seemed to have been
restored to her.
"I thank the Emperor," she said, in a voice which never
faltered for a moment, "for the clemency which he offers,
though I cannot but refuse the conditions. For him, as
our ruler appointed by God, I pray all blessings; and
especially light, that he may discern the truth. Such
honour as a man may receive, I willingly pay; more I
refuse; for it is written, 'Thou shalt worship the Lord
thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.' That I should
blaspheme my Lord and Saviour is a thing too monstrous
to be thought, much more spoken."
"What say you, Cleoné?" went on the Governor,
addressing himself to the other sister.
 "I am of one mind with my sister. I will not worship a
man; neither will I blaspheme my God."
"Rhoda and Cleoné," said the Governor, "are condemned
to suffer the punishment of death in such manner as is
customary with those of servile condition."
At this moment a commotion was heard at the back of the
court. The young Greek, Clitus, whose acquaintance we
have already made in his character as Cleoné's suitor,
made his way with difficulty through the crowd that
besieged the door into the body of the chamber. He had
just arrived in Nicæa, and his dress bore the marks of
"My lord," he said, addressing the Governor, "is it
permitted me to speak on a matter of urgency, which
concerns the administration of justice in this matter,
and especially the case of the two prisoners Rhoda and
Rhoda, who had sunk again into her seat, seemed not to
notice this interruption of the proceedings. But Cleoné
turned an eager look upon the speaker. She had never
seen or even heard of the young Greek since the day on
which they had spoken together among the vines. She had
striven to school herself into the persuasion that it
was well that it should be so. He had spoken of love
 in days past, it was true, but all was now changed. He was
a citizen of Rome, and had it not been proved that she
was a slave? In any case, there was henceforth a
hopeless separation between them. And then, what had
she, a condemned woman, to do with thoughts of love?
No, it was well that he had not attempted to hold any
communication with her. It was only what prudence, and
even duty, dictated—that he should keep aloof. So she
had thought, or tried to think. Nevertheless, her
heart gave a glad bound when she knew that, after all,
he had not forgotten her; and the exalted look on her
face, which showed how she had braced herself up to
confess and suffer, changed to a softer and more
tender expression as she listened to what he said.
"Speak on," said the Governor, "if you have anything
of importance to engage the ear of the court."
The young Greek proceeded. "Your Excellency is aware
that the two women, Rhoda and Cleoné, hitherto reputed
daughters of one Bion and Rhoda his wife, were adjudged
to be of servile condition on testimony by which it was
proved that they were not in truth daughters of the
said Bion, but were castaway children, adopted by him
and his wife.
"I have now to bring under your Excellency's
the terms of an Imperial rescript quoted by yourself in
this court last December, as settling a certain
question concerning the condition of exposed children
submitted by you to the Emperor. These terms were in
substance as follows—your Excellency will correct me if
I am wrong, but I took them down in writing at the
time, as seeming to me to be of great importance:—'If
it should be proved that children so exposed were born
of free parents, their free condition shall not be
held to have been impaired by such exposure.' This, my
lord, is exactly what I am now prepared to prove of the
two women Rhoda and Cleoné. And first I will, with
your permission, produce the witness on whose testimony
I chiefly rely, though indeed it can easily be
confirmed by other evidence."
"Inform the court of the name and condition of this
witness. But it will promote the ends of justice if you
will first inform us of your own proceedings in this
case, and of how you were led to believe that our
adjudications needed to be corrected."
"My lord," began the young advocate, "it must have
occurred to you and to others who were present on the
first day of the trial, as certainly it occurred to me,
that nature had committed, if I may so speak, a strange
freak when she
 ordered that maidens of an appearance so
noble, so worthy of freedom, should be born of slaves."
"The thought was not unreasonable," said the Governor;
"but such eccentricities are not unknown, and the
evidence seemed to support the presumption."
"Further, my lord, I was aware that this nobility was
not of appearance only, but of mind also and
disposition, for I had been admitted into the home of
Bion, the reputed father of the two, and know that none
could be more worthy of respect and love."
Cleoné cast down her eyes, blushing to hear these
praises from her lover's lips.
"But I will leave suppositions, my lord, and proceed to
facts. I gathered from the evidence that there was a
secret connected with the birth of these two
children—that the only person who had been known to be
cognisant of this secret was a certain nurse, and that
this person was now deceased. It was also proved that,
when about to die, she had refused to communicate the
knowledge that she evidently possessed. The only hope
that seemed to me to remain was, if I could discover
that there had been some other person who had shared,
or might be supposed likely to have shared, in this
knowledge. I made many inquiries for such a person, and
for a long
 time could hear of none. Her husband had
been long dead. She had left no children behind her.
But at last I heard from a woman of the same age, who
is yet alive, that she had a brother who had been a
slave in the city. All that I could learn about him was
that he had suddenly disappeared from this
neighbourhood; that some supposed that he had been
drowned, but others doubted, seeing that his body had
never been found. Here, then, my inquiries seemed to
have an end.
"But now, my lord, listen to what followed. Your
Excellency sent me on business, wholly unconnected with
this matter, to a certain village on the borders of
Phrygia. It was finished sooner than I had expected,
and as I could not return till my horse had had a day's
rest, I had some time to spare. I spent it in wandering
about the downs which are above the village, and in the
course of my walks I fell in with an old shepherd. The
man interested me with his talk, which touched upon
more things than such a man commonly knows. He happened
to let fall something, from which I gathered that he
knew this town. When I asked him a question about it,
he seemed unwilling to speak. I pressed him. Something
seemed to warn me that by chance, if there is such
thing as chance, I had found the man whom I wanted."
 "You are a student," interrupted the Governor, and you
know doubtless how one of your historians speaks of an
'inspired chance.' It was that, if I remember right,
which made the baby Cypselus smile in the face of the
men who came to murder him. Chance, I take it, is an
ordering of things which we do not understand, and we
may well call it inspired. But go on."
"Well, my lord, as I said, I pressed him, and he told
me that he knew this town well. And then he gave me the
story of how he came to leave it. But as this story
bears directly upon the matter in hand, I would
suggest, with your permission, that you should hear it
from the man's own lips."
The witness, who had been waiting outside in the charge
of one of the officers of the court, was called in. His
face, curiously seamed with lines and wrinkles beyond
all counting, indicated an extreme old age; but it was
an age that was still vigorous and green. His blue eyes
were bright and piercing. His hair was abundant, and
showed amidst the prevailing grey much of the auburn
which had been its color in the days of his prime. His
tall figure was but little bowed by years; and his
broad shoulders and sinewy arm (the right of them left
bare by his one-sleeved tunic) showed that he might
still be a match for many a younger man.
 It was evident that the scene into which he had been
brought was wholly strange to him, and that he was not
at all at his ease. He had stood nervously shifting his
red Phrygian cap from one hand to another, while his
eye roved restlessly over the crowded court.
"Tell us your name," said the Governor.
"My lord," said the man in Greek, "let me first
implore your protection." The refinement of his voice
and accent contrasted curiously with his uncultured
look. In garb he was a rustic of the rustics; but it
might be seen that he had once been a dweller in
"You can speak without fear," said the Governor.
"I shall have to say that which may be brought up
against myself. It concerns years long past; but if the
man against whom I offended still lives, he is not one
of those who forgive."
"No one shall harm you if you will speak the truth. I
promise it by the majesty of Augustus."
"More than twenty years ago I was steward in the
household of a certain merchant in Nicæa."
"What was his name?" asked the Governor.
"With your permission, I will reserve this to the end
of the story which I have to relate. I was a slave, but
I had been well taught, and he trusted me with much of
his business. I kept his
 accounts, and I knew much of
his affairs. He was, at the time of which I speak, a
man of about forty years of age. Five years before, he
had married the only daughter of the merchant Lycophron
of Nicomedia. Lycophron was reputed to be rich, and my
master, who was very greedy after money, expected to
inherit much wealth from him.
"Lycophron had given but a very small portion to his
daughter on her marriage. This was a grievance with my
master; but he hoped to have it made up to him. I have
heard the two talking about it—they always spoke openly
before me. ' Never mind,' the old man would say; 'there
will be the more when you come to unseal the
and by that time you will know how to
use it and keep it better.' This was a joke of the old
man's, for no man could make more of money, or cared
less for spending it, than my master.
"Well, at the time of which I am speaking, news came
that old Lycophron was dead, and my master started at
once for Nicomedia. He was not very willing, for my
mistress was then not very well. Three days after, he
came back. He was in a furious rage, and broke out as
soon as he saw me. 'Listen, Geta,' he said: 'that old
villain has deceived me. He has not left so much as a
 drachma behind him. His house was mortgaged;
the very bed on which he died was pledged. When I
came to open his will—for he had the impudence to leave
a will, though there was nothing to dispose of—I found
written in it—"The only possession of value that
belongs to me I have already given away, to wit, my
daughter Eubule. My son-in-law, who has now known for
five years what a treasure he has found in her, will
not be disappointed to know that I can give him nothing
more." These were his very words. Yes; he palmed off
his beggar's brat on me very cleverly. A treasure,
"Just at this moment the nurse who had been attending
on my mistress came into the room carrying two babies,
one on each arm. Her face was wreathed in smiles, and
she was so full of her own importance—as such women, I
have observed, are wont to be—that she did not see what
a state my master was in. 'Thank the gods, sir,' she
said, 'who have given you two most beautiful
daughters.'—'Curse them!' he began. By chance one of
the children began to cry at the very moment, and the
woman did not hear what he said. By the time she had
quieted the baby he had recovered himself. He kissed
the children, and went up to see his wife as soon as he
was allowed to do so.
 "Some days afterwards my mistress became very ill.
Fever showed itself, and she became delirious. The
children had to be taken from her, and brought up by a
nurse. I think my master was getting reconciled to his
disappointment, when, as bad luck would have it, he
heard of another loss. This time it was his wife's
brother had failed. He farmed some of the taxes of the
province, and my master had become security for him. I
heard him say to
himself when he had read the letter that told him about
it, 'This family will be my ruin.'
"That night, after I had been asleep about an hour, he
woke me up. He looked very wild. I think his losses had
half-crazed him. He was carrying a cradle, and the two
babies were in it, lying head to feet, and sound
asleep. 'Geta,' he said, 'these children will be my
ruin. If they were boys, now—but how can a beggar like
me keep two girls? You must put them out on the
hill.'—'O master!' I said, 'not these beautiful
babies!'—'It is better than strangling them,' he said.
"Well, I had scarcely a moment to think what was to be
done. He looked as if he might do the poor things a
mischief, so I made up my mind. 'Very well, master,' I
said, 'it shall be done.'—'Their mother,' he said,
per-  haps never will know. Take them, and
do it at once.' I got up and went out with the
children. It was a stormy night, and raining in
torrents. I was at my wits' end. Then a thought
occurred to me. I had a sister, a nurse, living in the
town; perhaps she might help me. I took the babies to
her house, and told her the whole story.
" 'You have come in time,' she said; 'I know of a home
for the dear little beauties. It is with one of the
best couples in the world, but the gods have not given
them any children.'—'So be it,' I said; 'but you must
swear that you will never tell where they came from.'
So she took an oath, and I left them there. But I did
not dare to go back to my master. I ran away, leaving
my hat and shoes on the river-side, to make people think
that I had been drowned. I made my way to a village
in Phrygia, and took up a shepherd's business, in which
I had had some experience when I was young. There I
was when this young lawyer found me."
"And now tell us your master's name," said the
The whole audience listened in breathless silence for
"My master's name was Lucilius."