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THE INDUSTRY OF LUCRETIA
 AS the years passed, Tarquin was disturbed by terrible
dreams. The evil deeds he had done came back to his
memory, and haunted him by day and by night. Even in
the temples of the gods he could find no rest from his
One day, as sacrifices were being offered, the king saw
a serpent stealing down a wooden pillar. Fascinated,
he watched as it dropped slowly on to the altar and
devoured the sacrifice. His fear told him that this
was a bad omen, and, thoroughly alarmed, Tarquin
determined to consult the Greek oracle at Delphi, for
this oracle was famous not only in Greece, but
throughout the world.
So he sent his two sons, Titus and Aruns, to Delphi.
With them went the king's nephew, named Junius, but
called Brutus because he was believed to be stupid.
But Brutus only pretended to be stupid so that his
uncle would not trouble to do him harm.
When the princes reached the dwelling of the priestess,
the king's sons offered her valuable gifts, while
Brutus gave to her only a simple staff. His cousins
mocked at Brutus as they were used to do, for a
priestess would not care for so poor a gift, they were
sure. But Brutus was wiser than they deemed, for the
staff had been made hollow, and then had been filled
As the king had bidden, the young princes asked the
oracle the meaning of the serpent that had devoured the
sacrifice on the altar.
It was indeed an evil omen. "The fall of Tarquin is at
hand," was the sinister answer they received.
 "Which of us shall reign after him?" demanded the
king's sons with unseemly eagerness.
"He who shall first kiss his mother," responded the
Then the two princes cast lots to determine which of
them should greet their mother first on their return.
But Brutus guessed that the words of the oracle had a
As he left the Delphic temple, he pretended to slip,
and falling to the ground, he secretly kissed the
Earth, knowing that she was the mother of all men.
When the princes returned the king was at war,
besieging Ardea, a town in Latium. It seemed that he
had forgotten his fears, nor does the story tell what
he thought of the answer of the oracle.
Meanwhile the siege of Ardea dragged on month after
month, so bravely did the inhabitants defend their
In the Roman camp, Prince Sextus and a noble named
Collatinus one day whiled away the hours by wondering
what their wives were doing. Each boasted that his
wife was the more diligent and the more modest of the
At length one of their friends idly suggested that
Sextus and Collatinus should ride to their homes and
find out how their wives were employed.
So the two officers, accompanied by their friends,
ordered their horses, and rode first of all to Rome.
Here they found the wife of Sextus at a banquet, where
she was dancing gaily, the merriest of all the merry
It was late when they reached Collatia, where they
found Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, still busy with
her maidens at the spinning-wheel.
The whole company agreed that of the two wives Lucretia
deserved the greater praise. Then the frolic being
over, the prince and his friends rode back to camp.