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قراءة كتاب Continental Monthly , Vol. 6, No. 1, July, 1864 Devoted to Literature and National Policy.

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‏اللغة: English
Continental Monthly , Vol. 6,  No. 1, July, 1864
Devoted to Literature and National Policy.

Continental Monthly , Vol. 6, No. 1, July, 1864 Devoted to Literature and National Policy.

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

but at the first glance she felt that in this respect she had nothing to dread. In almost every particular, Cleotos had but little changed. His costume was but slightly different from that which he had always been accustomed to wear; for the centurion, in view of the chance of effecting a profitable sale, had, for that occasion, made him put on suitable and becoming attire. The face was still youthful—the eye, as of old, soft, expressive, and unhardened by the ferocities of the world about him. As Ænone looked, it seemed as though the years which had passed rolled back again, and that she was once more a girl. But it also seemed as though something else had passed away—as though she looked not upon a lover, but rather upon a quiet, kindhearted, innocent friend—one who could ever be dear to her as a brother, but as nothing else. What was it which had so flitted away that the same face could now stir up no fire of passion, but only a friendly interest? Something, she could not tell what; but she thanked the gods that it was so, and drew a long breath of relief.

But it was none the less incumbent upon her, for the sake of that present friendship and for the memory of that old regard, to cast her protection over him. For an instant the thought flashed across her that it would be well to purchase him, not simply for a page, but so that she could have him in the way of kind treatment and attention until some opportunity of restoring him to his native land might occur. But then again was the danger that, if any great length of time should meanwhile elapse, unconsidered trifles might lead to a recognition. No, that plan could not be thought of. She must keep a protecting eye upon him from a distance, and trust to the future for a safe working out of the problem.

'It cannot be,' she murmured, in answer, half to her father, half to her own suggestion.

''Tis well,' muttered the centurion, rising with an air of displeasure which indicated that he thought it very ill. 'I supposed that it would be a kindness to the imperator or to yourself to give the first offer of the man. But it matters little. The captain Polidorus will take him any moment at a fair price.'

'You will not send him to the captain Polidorus?' exclaimed Ænone in affright. For at once the many atrocities of that man toward his slaves rose in her mind—how that he had slain one in a moment of passion—how that he had deliberately beaten another to death for attempting to escape to the catacombs—how that stripes and torture were the daily portion of the unfortunates in his power—and that, not by reason of any gross neglect of their duty, but for the merest and most trifling inadvertencies. Better death than such a fate.

'Pah! What can I do?' retorted Porthenus, skilfully touching the chord of her sympathies, as he saw how sensitive she was to its vibrations. 'It is true that Polidorus is no fawning woman, and that he greets his slaves with the rod and the brand, and what not. It is true that he thinks but little of sending one of them to Hades through the avenue of his fishponds. But that, after all, is his affair, and if he chooses to destroy his property, what should it matter to me? Am I so rich that I can afford to lose a fair purchaser because he may incline to hang or drown his bargain? Such self-denial may suit the governor of a province, but should not be expected of a poor centurion.'

Ænone trembled, and again the impulse to make the purchase came upon her. Better to risk anything for herself—recognition, discovery, suspicion, or misconstruction, than that her friendship should so far fail as to allow this poor captive to fall into the hands of a brutish tyrant. There was a purse of gold in the half-opened drawer of a table which stood near her; and, in sore perplexity, she raised it, then let it fall, and again lifted it. As the centurion listened to the ring of the metal, his eyes sparkled, and he prepared to apply new arguments, when Cleotos himself sprang forward.

'I know nothing about this Polidorus of whom they speak,' said he, dropping upon one knee at her feet. 'And it is not to save myself from his hands that I ask your pity, most noble lady. There is much that I have already suffered, and perhaps a little more might make no difference, or, better yet, might close the scene with me forever. It is for other reasons that I would wish to be in this house—even as the lowest, meanest slave of all, rather than to live in the halls of the emperor Titus himself. There is one in this house, most noble lady, from whom I have long been cruelly separated, and who—what can I say but that if, when I was a free man, she gave me her love, now, in my abasement, she will not fail with that love to brighten my lot?'

Ænone started. At hearing such words, there could be but one thought in her mind—that he had actually recognized her, and that, without waiting to see whether or not she had forgotten him, and certainly knowing that in any event her position toward him had become changed, he was daring to covertly suggest a renewal of their old relationship. But the next words reassured her.

'We lived near each other in Samos, my lady. I was happy, and I blessed the fates for smiling upon us. How was I then to know that she would be torn away from me upon the very day when I was to have led her to my own home?'

'You say that she is here? Is it—do you speak of Leta?' cried Ænone.

'Leta was her name,' he responded, in some surprise that his secret had been so promptly penetrated before he had more than half unfolded it. 'And she is here.'

There was to Ænone perhaps one instant of almost unconscious regret at learning that she had been forgotten for another. But it passed away like a fleeting cloud—banished from her mind by the full blaze of happiness which poured in upon her at the thought that here at last was what would counteract the cruel schemes which were warring against her peace, and would thereby bring sure relief to her sorrow.

'And she is here,' repeated Cleotos. 'When at the first she was torn from my side, most noble lady, I would have died, if I could, for I did not believe that life had any further blessing in store for me. But, though the Roman armies were cruel, the fates have been kind, and have again brought us near. It was but a week ago that, as I looked up by the moonlight at these palace walls, I saw her. Can it be, that after so long a time, the gods meant I should be brought near, to have but this one glimpse of happiness, and then again be sundered from it?'

'It cannot be—it was not meant to be,' exclaimed Ænone, with energy; and again lifting the purse of gold, she placed it in the centurion's hand. 'There, I will purchase your slave,' she said. 'Take from this his proper price, and leave him with me.'


The centurion received the purse with ill-dissembled joy. Had he been fully able to control himself, he would doubtless have maintained a quiet air of dignified self-possession, befitting one giving full value for what he had received, and therefore not expected to exhibit any peculiarly marked or lively satisfaction. But the affair had been concluded so suddenly, and with such a liberal confidence in his discretion, that, for the moment, his hands trembled with excitement, and his face shone with avaricious pleasure.

Then he began to count out the gold pieces, gleefully dropping some into his pouch, and reluctantly putting others back into the purse. From the first he had established in his own mind the valuation which he would place upon the slave; and he had taken care to make his calculation upon such a liberal scale that he could well afford to consent to a large deduction, if it were required of him. Now he reasoned that, as his child had merely told him to take out what was proper, there could be no impropriety in paying himself at the highest