THE next morning the Count invited the Imperial
messenger to a private conference. His daughter and
Carna were present, as was also Claudian.
"You have the latest news," the Count began. "Pray let
us have them. Here we know nothing. But tell us first
how you got here. It was noticed that you did not hoist
the standard till you were within the Haven. You did
not, I suppose, think it a safe flag to sail under."
"Well," replied the messenger, "I thought it better to
have no flag at all. But, to tell the truth, the
Labarum is not just now exactly the best passport in
"You crossed from Gaul, I suppose?" the Count went on.
"How are matters there?"
"Constantine, with the legions he brought from here,
and those that have joined him since, is pretty well
master of the country, and of Spain too."
 "And what is the Emperor doing? Did he let these
provinces go without a struggle? Spain was the first
province that Rome ever had, and Gaul was the second.
None, I take it, have been so steadily profitable, and
now we are to lose them."
He rose from his seat, and walked up and down the room
in an agitation which he could not conceal.
"And the only man who could keep the Empire together
is gone; butchered, as if he were a criminal!"
The messenger said nothing to this outburst. He went
on, "I believe his Majesty proposes to admit
Constantine to a share of the Imperial honours, to make
him Cæsar of Gaul and Spain."
"What!" said the Count. "Do not my ears deceive me? This
fellow, whom I have seen wearing the collar for the
neglect of duty, recognized as his colleague by
"I do not pretend to know his Majesty's purposes, I can
only say what is reported at head-quarters, and, it
would seem, on good authority. But," continued the
speaker, in a voice from which he had studiously
banished all kind of emphasis, and looking as he spoke
at the ceiling of the room, "your lordship is aware
that the honours thus unexpectedly bestowed do not
always turn out to the advantage of those who receive
 "What do you mean?" asked the Count.
"I mean that what is given may be taken away—and taken
away with very handsome interest for the loan—when the
proper time comes. Your lordship has not forgotten the
name of Carausius."
"Well," said the Count, "this is not the old way Rome
had of dealing with her enemies. But, 'other times,
other manners.' Tell me now, if the Augustus has
arranged or is going to arrange with Constantine, what
"Oh! he will be quiet for a time, or should be, if
there is any truth in a barbarian's oath. You have
heard how he marched on Rome?"
"No, indeed," replied the Count. "I have heard nothing
here, except, quite early in the year, a vague rumour
that he was on the move again. But tell me—has Augustus
given him, too, a share in the Empire?"
"Not exactly; but I will tell what has taken place. He
marched on Rome."
 "Yes," interjected the Count, "and there was no
Stilicho to save it!"
"The city was almost helpless. Even the walls had not
been kept in repair, and if they had, there was no
proper force to man them. The only thing possible was
to make peace on the best terms that they could. I
happened to be in Alaric's camp with a letter, under a
flag of truce, the very day that the ambassadors came
out to treat with the king, and I saw the whole affair.
I don't mind saying that it was not one to make a man
feel proud of being a Roman. The barbarians, it seemed
to me, had not only all the strength on their side, but
the dignity also. Alaric himself is a splendid specimen
of humanity, every inch a king, the tallest and
handsomest man in his army, and that, too, an army of
giants. It was a contrast, I can tell you, between him
and the two miserable, pettifogging creatures that
represented the Senate. At first they tried what a
little brag could do. 'Give us an honourable peace,'
said their spokesman, 'or you will repent of having
driven to despair a nation of warriors, a nation that
has conquered the world.' The king laughed; he knew
what the Romans have come to. 'The thicker the hay,' he
said, 'the easier to mow.' And then he fixed the ransom
that he would take for retiring from before the walls.
Brennus throwing his sword into the scales was
moderation in comparison to him. 'Give
 me,' he said, 'all the gold and silver, coined or
uncoined, private property or public that you have,
and all the other property that the envoys whom I shall
send think worth taking; and hand over to me all the
slaves that you have of the nations of the North,
Goths, or Huns, or Vandals. You are pleased to call
them barbarians, but they are more fit to be masters
than you; and I will not suffer them to be in a bondage
so unworthy. Your Greeks, and Africans, and Asiatics,
and such like cattle you may keep.' The ambassadors
were pale with dismay. If they had taken back such an
answer, the Romans had at least enough spirit left to
tear them in pieces. 'What do you leave us, then?' they
said. 'Your lives!' he thundered out. In the end,
however, he softened somewhat. Five thousand pounds of
gold and thirty thousand pounds of silver, and I don't
know how much silk, and cloth, and spices, were what he
finally asked. I know the city was stripped pretty bare
before the Senate could make up the sum. I am told that
the treasuries of the churches had to be emptied. Well,
as I said, Alaric, if he keeps his bargain, ought to be
quiet for a time, but you will see that the Emperor has
need of all his friends round him, and all the strength
which he can bring together. That is what I have to say
by way of explanation of the despatch that I brought."
"May I ask you to leave us for a while?" said the Count
to the young Italian.
 When he had left the room the Count turned to his
daughter, and said—
"And this is our country! This is Rome! The Emperor,
forsooth, has need of all his friends. His friends
indeed! I little thought that the day would come when I
should feel ashamed of the title. But tell me,
daughter; what shall we do? Shall we go?"
"What else can we do?" asked the girl.
"I have thought much about the matter since I heard the
dreadful news of Stilicho's death, and have had all
kinds of wild schemes in my head. I have felt that I
could not go back and touch in friendship the hands
that murdered him. Sometimes I thought, while Cedric
was here, that we would take him with us, and sail
eastward. I have had many a hard fight with these
Saxons, but at least they are men, and brave men, too,
who are true to their friends, if they hate their
enemies. But that is now at an end. But is there no
other way to go? What say you, Claudian—have you any
counsel to give us?"
"I would not advise you to sail eastward," said the
poet. "We know pretty well what lies that way; tribes
of barbarians, of whom the less we see the better, with
all respect to your friend Cedric, who seems to have
been a fine fellow. But why not westward? You will
laugh at me for believing in the Islands of the Blest.
Well, I do not mean to say that there is
 a country where Achilles and the rest of the heroes are
living in immortal joy and peace. If there is, it is
not one which any ship, built by the art of man, can
reach. But I do believe that there is a country. These
old tales, depend upon it, have something more in them
than mere fancy. Why, my lord, should not you be the
one to find it?"
"Yes, let us go, dear father," said Ælia, "and leave
this dreadful world with all its troubles and quarrels
behind us. Don't you think so, Carna?"
Carna only smiled sadly.
"Or," continued the poet, "there is the land beyond the
north, the country of the blessed Hyperboreans, that
old Herodotus talks about. Why should we not go there?
Or, if that sounds too wild, there is Africa, with
regions rich and fertile beyond all doubt that are
waiting to be explored. These at least are no matter of
legend. We know where they are. Let us search for them.
Whatever world we may find, it can hardly be worse than
that which we are leaving behind."
"And what says Carna?" said the Count, turning, with an
affectionate look, to his adopted daughter.
The girl thus appealed to flushed painfully. For a
moment she seemed about to speak, but not a syllable
passed her lips.
"Speak," cried the Count; "you always see clearer and
farther than the rest of us."
 "My father," the girl went on, "I will speak from my
heart, as I know you always wish me to do. Forgive me
if I seem to teach when it is my part to learn and to
obey. But, if you ask what I think you should do, I
say, 'Go home to Rome or Ravenna, or wherever else the
Emperor bids you.' After all, it is your country, and
it never needed the help of good and brave men more
than it does now."
"By heaven! Claudian," cried the Count, after a brief
silence, "the girl is right, as she always is. These
are not the times for an honest man to turn his back
upon his country. If I could reach the Islands of the
Blest, or the happy people who live beyond the north,
as easily as I can walk across this room, I would not
do it; and after all, what is the world without Rome to
a Roman? What say you, Claudian?"
"I am but a poor singer, who has lost all that made him
sing. I could do little in any case, and I doubt
whether those who killed Stilicho will have anything
but the axe for Stilicho's friend. Still, I go with
you. It is not for a Roman to say that Rome is
"So that is settled," exclaimed the Count.
"Oh, Carna," cried Ælia, throwing her arms round her
sister, "shall we ever be as happy again as we have
been in this dear place?"
Carna clung to her, and sobbed as if her heart would
 "Does it trouble you so much to go?" asked the Count.
"Surely the place is not so much to you. You can be
happy, wherever you may be, with those you love."
The girl lifted up a tear-stained face to him.
"Father," she said—"more than father, for you have
loved me without any tie of kindred—I cannot go, my
home is here."
"Nay, child, what are you saying? Your home has been
with us ever since you were a babe in arms, and it is
so still; or," he added, with a smile, "are you going to
leave us for a husband?"
The girl blushed crimson as she shook her head. When
she could recover her speech, choked, as it was, with
sobs, she said—
"You asked me just now what you should do, and I said
'Go home to your country.' Can I do less myself? Rome
is your country, and Britain is mine. And oh, if Rome
wants all her sons and daughters, how much more does
this poor Britain!"
"But where will you live?" broke in the Count's
daughter; "Where will you be safe? Think of the
dreadful things you have gone through within the last
few months! How can you bear to face them with your
friends gone? And, dearest Carna," she went on, as she
clasped her still closer, "how can I live without you?"
"My dearest sister," sobbed the girl, "don't make
 it harder than it is. It breaks my heart to part from
you, but I cannot doubt what my duty is. And I am not
without hope. There are brave men here, and men who
love their country, and I cannot but trust that they
will be able to do something. Of course, we shall
stumble, for we have not been used to go alone, but I
do hope that we shall not fall altogether."
"But, Carna, what can you do?" said Ælia. "You seem to
be sacrificing yourself for nothing."
"Not for nothing; it is something if I can only sit at
home and pray. But it must be at home that I must pray.
God would not hear me if I were to put myself in some
safe, comfortable place, and then pretend to care for
the poor people whom I had left behind."
She hurried from the room when she had said this, as if
she could not trust herself against persuasions that
touched her heart so nearly.
"Carna is right," said the Count, when she had gone,
"but I feel as if she were going to her death."