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Verres's trial. But he is the despicable tool of a despicable party."
"Your language, Caius, convinces me that the reports which have been circulated are not without foundation. I will venture to prophecy that within a few months the republic will pass through a whole Odyssey of strange adventures."
"I believe so; an Odyssey of which Pompey will be the Polyphemus, and Cicero the Syren. I would have the state imitate Ulysses-show no mercy to the former; but contrive, if it can be done, to listen to the enchanting voice of the other, without being seduced by it to destruction."
"But whom can your party produce as rivals to these two famous leaders?"
"Time will show. I would hope that there may arise a man, whose genius to conquer, to conciliate, and to govern, may unite in one cause an oppressed and divided people;-may do all that Sylla should have done, and exhibit the magnificent spectacle of a great nation directed by a great mind."
"And where is such a man to be found?"
"Perhaps where you would least expect to find him. Perhaps he may be one whose powers have hitherto been concealed in domestic or literary retirement. Perhaps he may be one, who, while waiting for some adequate excitement, for some worthy opportunity, squanders on trifles a genius, before which may yet be humbled the sword of Pompey and the gown of Cicero. Perhaps he may now be disputing with a sophist; perhaps prattling with a mistress; perhaps-" and, as he spoke, he turned away, and resumed his lounge, "strolling in the Forum."
It was almost midnight. The party had separated. Catiline and Cethegus were still conferring in the supper-room, which was, as usual, the highest apartment of the house. It formed a cupola, from which windows opened on the flat roof that surrounded it. To this terrace Zoe had retired. With eyes dimmed by fond and melancholy tears, she leaned over the balustrade, to catch the last glimpse of the departing form of Cæsar, as it grew more and more indistinct in the moonlight. Had he any thought of her? Any love for her? He, the favourite of the high-born beauties of Rome, the most splendid, the most graceful, the most eloquent of its nobles? It could not be. His voice had, indeed, been touchingly soft whenever he addressed her. There had been a fascinating tenderness even in the vivacity of his look and conversation. But such were always the manners of Cæsar towards women. He had wreathed a sprig of myrtle in her hair as she was singing. She took it from her dark ringlets, and kissed it, and wept over it, and thought of the sweet
legends of her own dear Greece,-of youths and girls, who, pining away in hopeless love, had been transformed into flowers by the compassion of the Gods; and she wished to become a flower, which Cæsar might sometimes touch, though he should touch it only to weave a crown for some prouder and happier mistress.
She was roused from her musings by the loud step and voice of Cethegus, who was pacing furiously up and down the supper
"May all the Gods confound me, if Cæsar be not the deepest traitor, or the most miserable idiot, that ever intermeddled with a plot!
Zoe shuddered. She drew nearer to the window. She stood concealed from observation by the curtain of fine network which hung over the aperture, to exclude the annoying insects of the climate.
"And you, too!" continued Cethegus, turning fiercely on his accomplice; " you to take his part against me!-you, who proposed the scheme yourself!"
"My dear Caius Cethegus, you will not understand me. I proposed the scheme, and I will join in executing it. But policy is as necessary to our plans as boldness. I did not wish to startle Cæsar-to lose his co-operation-perhaps to send him off with an information against us to Cicero and Catulus. He was so indignant at your suggestion, that all my dissimulation was scarcely sufficient to prevent a total rupture."
"Indignant! The Gods confound him!-he prated about humanity, and generosity, and moderation. By Hercules, I have not heard such a lecture since I was with Xenochares at Rhodes."
"Cæsar is made up of inconsistencies. He has boundless ambition, unquestioned courage, admirable sagacity. Yet I have frequently observed in him a womanish weakness at the sight of pain. I remember that once one of his slaves was taken ill while carrying his litter. He alighted, put the fellow in his place, and walked home in a fall of snow. I wonder that you could be so ill-advised as to talk to him of massacre, and pillage, and conflagration. You might have foreseen that such propositions would disgust a man of his temper."
"I do not know. I have not your self-command, Lucius. I hate such conspirators. What is the use of them? We must have blood-blood,-hacking and tearing work-bloody work!"
"Do not grind your teeth, my dear Caius; and lay down the carving-knife. By Hercules, you have cut up all the stuffing of the couch."
"No matter; we shall have couches enough soon,—and down to stuff them with,-and purple to cover them,-and pretty women
to loll on them,-unless this fool, and such as he, spoil our plans. I had something else to say. The essenced fop wishes to seduce Zoe from me."
"Impossible! You misconstrue the ordinary gallantries which he is in the habit of paying to every handsome face." "Curse on his ordinary gallantries, and his verses, and his compliments, and his sprigs of myrtle! If Cæsar should dareby Hercules, I will tear him to pieces in the middle of the Forum."
"Trust his destruction to me. We must use his talents and influence-thrust him upon every danger-make him our instrument while we are contending-our peace-offering to the Senate if we fail-our first victim if we succeed."
"Hark! what noise was that?"
Somebody in the terrace !-lend me your dagger." Catiline rushed to the window. Zoe was standing in the shade. He stepped out. She darted into the room-passed like a flash of lightning by the startled Cethegus-flew down the stairs-through the court-through the vestibule-through the street. Steps, voices, lights, came fast and confusedly behind her; but with the speed of love and terror she gained upon her pursuers. She fled through the wilderness of unknown and dusky streets, till she found herself, breathless and exhausted, in the midst of a crowd of gallants, who, with chaplets on their heads, and torches in their hands, were reeling from the portico of a stately mansion.
The foremost of the throng was a youth whose slender figure and beautiful countenance seemed hardly consistent with his sex. But the feminine delicacy of his features rendered more frightful the mingled sensuality and ferocity of their expression. The libertine audacity of his stare, and the grotesque foppery of his apparel, seemed to indicate at least a partial insanity. Flinging one arm round Zoe, and tearing away her veil with the other, he disclosed to the gaze of his thronging companions the regular features and large dark eyes which characterise Athenian beauty.
"Člodius has all the luck to night," cried Ligarius.
"Not so, by Hercules," said Marcus Coelius; "the girl is fairly our common prize; we will fling dice for her. The Venus* throw, as it ought to do, shall decide."
"Let me go-let me go, for Heaven's sake," cried Zoe, struggling with Clodius.
"What a charming Greek accent she has. Come into the house, my little Athenian nightingale."
* Venus was the Roman term for the highest throw on the dice
“Oh! what will become of me? If you have mothers—if you have sisters
"Clodius has a sister," muttered Ligarius, belied."
66 or he is much
By Heaven, she is weeping," said Clodius. "If she were not evidently a Greek," said Coelius, “ I should take her for a vestal virgin."
"And if she were a vestal virgin," cried Clodius fiercely; "it should not deter me. This way;-no struggling-no screaming."
Struggling! screaming!" exclaimed a gay and commanding voice; "You are making very ungentle love, Clodius." The whole party started. Cæsar had mingled with them unperceived.
The sound of his voice thrilled through the very heart of Zoe. With a convulsive effort she burst from the grasp of her insolent admirer, flung herself at the feet of Cæsar, and clasped his knees. The moon shone full on her agitated and imploring face; her lips moved, but she uttered no sound. He gazed at her for an instant-raised her-clasped her to his bosom. "Fear nothing, my sweet Zoe.” Then, with folded arms, and a smile of placid defiance, he placed himself between her and Clodius.
Clodius staggered forward, flushed with wine and rage, and uttering alternately a curse and a hiccup.
"By Pollux this passes a jest. Cæsar, how dare you insult me thus ?
"A jest! I am as serious as a Jew on the Sabbath. Insult you! For such a pair of eyes I would insult the whole consular bench, or I should be as insensible as King Psammis's mummy." "Good Gods, Cæsar!" said Marcus Coelius, interposing; "you cannot thing it worth while to get into a brawl for a little Greek girl!"
Why not? the Greek girls have used me as well as those of Rome. Besides, the whole reputation of my gallantry is at stake. Give up such a lovely woman to that drunken boy! My character would be gone for ever. No more perfumed tablets, full of vows and raptures! No more toying with fingers at the Circus. No more evening walks along the Tiber. No more hiding in chests, or jumping from windows. I, the favoured suitor of half the white stoles in Rome, could never again aspire above a freed-woman. You a man of gallantry, and think of such a thing! For shame, my dear Coelius! Do not let Clodia hear of it."
While Cæsar spoke he had been engaged in keeping Clodius at arm's length. The rage of the frantic libertine increased as the struggle continued. "Stand back as you value your life," he cried; "I will pass."
"Not this way, sweet Clodius. I have too much regard for you to suffer you to make love at such disadvantage. You smell too much of Falernian at present. Would you stifle your mistress? By Hercules, you are fit to kiss nobody now, except old Piso, when he is tumbling home in the morning from the vintners."*
Clodius plunged his hand into his bosom, and drew a little dagger, the faithful companion of many desperate adventures. "Oh, Gods! he will be murdered!" cried Zoe.
The whole throng of revellers was in agitation. The street fluctuated with torches and lifted hands. It was but for a moment. Cæsar watched with a steady eye the descending hand of Clodius, arrested the blow, seized his antagonist by the throat, and flung him against one of the pillars of the portico with such violence, that he rolled, stunned and senseless, on the ground.
"He is killed," cried several voices.
"Fair self-defence, by Hercules!" said Marcus Coelius. "Bear witness, you all saw him draw his dagger."
"He is not dead-he breathes," said Ligarius. into the house; he is dreadfully bruised."
The rest of the party retired with Clodius. Coelius turned to Cæsar.
"By all the Gods, Caius! you have won your lady fairly. A splendid victory! You deserve a triumph.”
"What a madman Clodius has become!"
"Intolerable. But come and sup with me on the Nones. You have no objection to meet the Consul?"
"Cicero? None at all. We need not talk politics. Our old dispute about Plato and Epicurus will furnish us with plenty of conversation. So reckon upon me, my dear Marcus, and farewell."
Cæsar and Zoe turned away. As soon as they were beyond hearing, she began in great agitation :—
Cæsar, you are in danger. I know all. I overheard Catiline and Cethegus. You are engaged in a project which must lead to certain destruction."
"My beautiful Zoe, I live only for glory and pleasure. For these I have never hesitated to hazard an existence which they alone render valuable to me. In the present case, I can assure you that our scheme presents the fairest hopes of success."
"So much the worse. You do not know-you do not understand me. I speak not of open peril, but of secret treachery. Catiline hates you;-Cethegus hates you;-your destruction is resolved. If you survive the contest, you perish in the first hour of victory. They detest you for your moderation ;—they
* Cic. in Pis.