A LETTER FROM TRAJAN
 "IS this man Lucilius in court?" asked the Governor
of one of the officials.
"I saw him this morning, my lord," said the person
"Crier, call Lucilius."
The crier called the name, but there was no answer. The
wretched man had listened to the evidence of the slave
with growing apprehension, which was soon changed into
dismay. At first, indeed, he had wholly failed to
recognise the man. The lapse of twenty years and more
had of course made a great change in Geta's appearance.
The old shepherd, tanned to an almost African hue by
exposure to wind and sun, with his grizzled beard and
moustache, and long, unkempt locks falling over his
shoulders, and his roughly made garments of skin, was
as different a figure as possible from the neat,
well-dressed, confidential servant
 whom Lucilius had
known in time past. Still, some vague indication of
the voice, as soon as the man began to speak, had
troubled him; and of course little room had been left
to him for doubt as soon as the man began to tell his
Lucilius was not so heartless but that he had often
thought with regret of the two beautiful girl babies
whom he had put out to die. The crime was indeed far
too common in the ancient world to rouse the horror
which it now excites. Indeed, it was a recognised
practice. The fate of a new-born child was not
considered to be fixed till the father by taking it up
in his arms had signified his wish that it should be
Still, the remembrance of that night's deed had
troubled him. Prosperous days had soon come, and the
losses which had infuriated him had been repaired. Then
the grief of his wife, whom he loved with all the
affection of which his nature was capable, had much
troubled him. As a mere matter of domestic peace, her
mourning for her lost darlings—though, as we shall
see, she did not know of their actual fate—had
destroyed all the comfort of his home. And for some
years his home was childless. When, after an interval,
a son was born, and the mother forgot something of her
grief in the care which she lavished upon him, the
father was stricken by a new fear—what if
 this child
should be taken from him by way of retribution for the
hard-heartedness with which he had treated his
first-born? Every ailment of infancy and childhood
had made him terribly anxious ; and he watched over the
boy who was to carry out his ambitions with an
apprehension which conscience never allowed him to set
As the lad grew up these fears had fallen into the
background. But we have seen how they had of late been
revived, and, it seemed, justified. The shepherd's
story made them more intense than ever, while it added
a new horror. It was a hideous thought that he should
have helped to doom his own daughters to torture and
death; and he saw what would be the end when his son
should know of it. The wretched man waited in court
till he had heard enough to banish all doubt from his
mind, and then hurried home, half expecting as he came
near the house to hear the lamentations for the newly
As a matter of fact, no change had taken place in the
condition of the invalid. He had woke two or three
times since the departure of Cleoné, but never so
thoroughly as to become aware of her absence. He had
taken mechanically from his mother's hand the
nourishment offered him, and had almost instantly
fallen asleep. The physician had just paid his morning
 was more hopeful. For the present at least
the lad was doing well. But when the explanation had to
be made, that was another matter altogether.
Lucilius entered the sick boy's chamber with a silent
step. His wife took no notice of his coming; but when
he stood fronting her on the opposite side of the bed,
and she could not help seeing his face, her woman's
heart was touched by its inexpressible misery. She went
round to his side, and laid her hand with a caressing
gesture on his arm.
"What ails you, my husband?" she said. "Our darling, I
hope, is doing well. The good Dioscorides speaks well
He made no answer, but, falling on his knees beside the
bed, buried his face in the coverlet. She could see his
body shaken with silent and tearless sobs. At last he
managed to articulate: "Call Manto"—Manto was an old
and trustworthy servant who had been long a member of
the household—"and let her watch for a while. I have
something to tell you."
When Manto had obeyed the summons, Lucilius, who
seemed to have become almost helpless, was led by his
wife into an adjoining chamber.
Then, in a voice broken by sobs and tears, he told the
 He had scarcely finished when an official arrived from
the Governor's court, bringing a summons for his
The wretched man rose from his seat as if to obey. But
the limit of his strength and endurance had been
reached, and he fell swooning upon the floor. Before
long he was restored to partial consciousness; but it
was evident that his attendance at the court was out of
the question. In fact, he was suffering from a slight
shock of paralysis.
"Let me go instead of him," said the wife. "I can at
least tell what I know, and you can examine him when he
is fit to answer."
Accordingly, after giving directions to Manto as to
what was to be done for the patient during her absence,
she accompanied the official to the court.
It was not much that she had to say; but, so far as it
went, it confirmed the shepherd's story.
"I became the mother of two female children," she
said, "on the fourteenth of May, twenty-one years ago.
They were born alive, and were healthy and strong. I
nursed them for fourteen days, as far as I can
remember. Then I fell ill of a fever, and they had to
taken from me. I remember seeing them several times in
the day for two or three days afterwards; then I knew
 more. When I recovered my senses they were
gone. It was then nearly the end of June. My husband
told me that they were dead."
"Had you any doubt whether he was telling you the
truth?" asked the Governor.
"I had none. Why should I? And when we were reckoning
up our expenses at the end of the year, I found a paper
which seemed to show the sum paid for the funeral."
"Do you remember the slave Geta?"
"Yes; I remember him. My husband said that he had been
drowned. Some articles of his clothing were found by
"Have you had any suspicion at all up to this time?"
"Lately I have had. Since my son has been ill, my
husband has been much troubled in mind. He has talked
in his sleep; and he said the same things over and over
again, till I could not choose but heed them. 'Why did
I kill them? Why did I kill them?' 'Geta, Geta,
bring them back!' and 'Childless! Childless!' These
were the things that he repeated. I put them together
till I began to suspect that there had been some foul
play. And then I remembered some words the old woman,
Geta's sister, had said."
"And have you anything else to say?"
"Nothing, my lord, except that within the
 last hour my
husband has confessed to me the whole."
"Why is he not here?"
"He is paralysed."
Here the poor woman, who had given her evidence with
extraordinary firmness and self-possession, utterly
The Governor took but little time to consider his
decision. It was to this effect:—
"The legal proof in this case is not complete, for it
needs the formally attested confession of the man
Lucilius. Substantially, however, the truth has been
established, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing
the sisters Rhoda and Cleoné to be of free condition."
Clitus now rose to address the court.
"I have an application to make that the proceedings in
this case be annulled."
"On what ground?" said the Governor.
"On the ground that they were essentially illegal; that
the evidence of the free-woman Rhoda was extorted from
her by questioning that could not lawfully be applied."
"And you contend, therefore, that she should be set
"That is my contention."
"And how about the woman Cleoné?"
"The question was embarrassing. Cleoné had
 suffered no
actual wrong, and Clitus felt that here his case was
weak. He tried to make the best of it.
"She has been treated as if she were of servile
condition. The indictment against her is made out in
these terms—'Also the slave-girl Cleoné,' are the
words. I contend that it is informal, and ought
therefore to be quashed."
The young advocate had the sympathies of the court—so
far, at least, as the Governor was concerned—in his
favour. He adjourned the court in order to consult his
assessors. He found them adverse to the claim. A
long argument ensued. In the end the opinion of the
Governor prevailed, and he returned to the tribunal and
began to deliver judgment.
"Having carefully considered the circumstances of this
case, and remembering especially that the law, if ever
it has been unwittingly betrayed into error, is anxious
to make such amends as may be possible, I direct that
the free women, Rhoda and Cleoné, wrongfully condemned
as being of the servile condition——"
At this point the delivery of judgment was interrupted
by the arrival of a messenger bearing an imperial
The Governor rose to receive the messenger, took the
despatch from his hand, and, after
 making a gesture of
respect to the document, proceeded to cut the sealed
thread which fastened it. He read it, every one in
court watching his face as he did so with intense
It ran thus:—"Trajan Augustus, to his dearly beloved
Cæcilius Plinius, Proprætor of Bithynia, greeting.—It
is my pleasure that all persons, whether men or women,
bond or free, who shall have been found guilty of
cherishing the detestable superstition which has taken
to itself the name of Christus, be forthwith sent to
Ephesus, there to be held at the disposition of the
Proconsul of Asia."
Every one knew what this meant, for the great show of
wild beasts and gladiators that was about to be
exhibited at Ephesus was the talk of the whole