You are here

قراءة كتاب The Continental Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 5, May, 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

تنويه: تعرض هنا نبذة من اول ١٠ صفحات فقط من الكتاب الالكتروني، لقراءة الكتاب كاملا اضغط على الزر “اشتر الآن"

‏اللغة: English
The Continental Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 5, May, 1864
Devoted To Literature And National Policy

The Continental Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 5, May, 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

No votes yet
دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

overlaying every other expression, as though he was continually tortured with the belief that his success in life had not equalled his merits. As Ænone entered, he was bending over a shield, and earnestly engaged in burnishing its brazen mouldings. At his side leaned a short sword, awaiting similar attention, and in a rack beside him were a number of weapons of different varieties and sizes, which had already submitted to his restorative skill, and now shone like glass.

Hearing her light step, he looked up, arose, flung the shield into a corner, and, with a roar, as though ordering a battalion, called out to the grinning dwarf, who had followed her in:

"Ho there, ape! A seat for my daughter, the wife of the imperator Sergius Vanno!"

The dwarf sprang forward and dragged out a seat for her; having done which, he seemed about to yield to his curiosity and remain. But the centurion, disapproving of such freedom, made a lunge at him with the small sword, before which the dwarf retired with a precipitate leap, and joined the bondwoman and armor bearer outside. Then the father, being left alone with his daughter, embraced her, and uttered such words of welcome as his rough nature suggested.

As regarded his intercourse with her, perhaps the most noticeable traits were the mingled reverence and familiarity with which he treated her. It seemed as though he was actuated by an ever-pervading consciousness that her exalted position demanded the observance of the deepest respect toward her; but that this feeling was connected in his mind with an unceasing struggle to remember that, after all, she was his own child, and as such was not entitled to any undue consideration from him. Upon the present occasion, he first timidly touched her cheek with his lips and uttered a gentle and almost courtly salutation; but immediately recollecting himself, and appearing to become impressed with the belief that his unwitting deference was unworthy of the character of a father, he proceeded to atone for the mistake by a rough and discomposing embrace, and such a familiar and frolicksome greeting as none but a camp follower would have felt flattered with. Then, seating himself before her, he commenced his conversation in a rude and uncouth tone, and with rather a forced affectation of military bluntness; from which, however, as his eye dwelt upon the richness of her apparel and his mind began to succumb to the charm of her native refinement, he gradually and unconsciously subsided, in turn, into his former soft and deferential manner.

'And so the imperator Sergius Vanno has returned,' he said, rolling upon his tongue, with evident satisfaction, that high-sounding title—once the acknowledged appellation of a conqueror, but now claimed as a right by the imperial line alone, and no longer elsewhere bestowed except as an informal and transitory compliment. 'It was a splendid ovation, and well earned by a glorious campaign. There is no one in all the Roman armies who could have managed it better.'

Nevertheless, with unconscious inconsistency, he immediately began to show wherein the campaign could have been improved, and how many gross mistakes were visible in every portion of it—how the force of Mutius should have been diverged more in advancing inland—how, in the battle along the shore, the three-oared galleys of Agricola should have been drawn up to support the attack—the consequence of this omission, if the leading cohort had met with a repulse—and the like. All this he marked out upon the floor with a piece of coal, taking but little heed that Ænone could not follow him; and step by step, in the ardor of criticism, he advanced so far that he was soon ready to prove that the campaign had been most wofully misconducted, and was only indebted to accident for success.

'But it is of little use for me to talk, if I cannot act as well,' he at length concluded, rising from the floor. 'And how could I act any part, placed as I am? The father of the wife of the imperator Sergius Vanno should be the leader of a cohort rather than of a mere century; and be otherwise lodged than in this poor place. Then would they listen to him.'

He spoke bitterly and enviously, exhibiting in his whole tone as well as in his words his besetting weakness. For a while Ænone did not answer. It was as far from her duty as from her taste and pleasure to remind him, even if she could have done so to his comprehension, that her husband had already advanced him as far as was possible or fitting, and had otherwise provided for him in various ways as well as could reasonably be expected. The views of the centurion were of a far different nature. In giving his daughter to the patrician he had meanly intended thereby to rise high in life—had anticipated ready promotion beyond what his ignorance would have justified—had supposed that he would be admitted upon an equal social footing among the friends of Sergius, not realizing that his own native roughness and brutishness must have forbidden such a connection—had dazzled his eyes too wilfully with pictures of the wealth and influence and glory that would fall to his lot. As long, therefore, as so many of those gilded imaginings had failed in their promise, it seemed as nothing to him that Sergius, in the first flush of admiration for the daughter, had removed the father from rough provincial to more pleasing and relaxing urban duties, had purchased him a house befitting his station, and had lightened his condition in various ways.

'But we are gradually doing better,' Ænone said at length, striving to cheer him by identifying her fortunes more nearly with his own, 'This is a finer place than we had to live in at Ostia. Think how narrow and crowded we were then. And now I see that we have a new slave to open for us, while at Ostia we had only old Mitus. Indeed, we are very comfortable.'

'Ay, ay,' growled the centurion; 'a new slave—a dwarf or idiot, or what not—just such a creature as would not bring five sestertia in the market; and, therefore, the imperator has cast him to me, like a bare bone to a dog. Tell him I thank him for the gift. And in this matter it has been with me as always heretofore—either no luck at all, or too much. How often have I not passed a campaign without taking a prisoner, while they fell in crowds to all around me? And when at last I gained my share, when was it ever of any value to me, being hundreds of miles from a market? And here it is the same again. For months, no slave at all; and then all at once there are two, and I shall be,eaten out of my house.'

'Two, father?'

'Listen to me. No sooner did your honored lord send me this dwarf, than arrives Tisiphon of the twelfth cohort. He had long owed me a slave; and now that a captive, poor and feeble, and likely to die, had fallen into his hands, he thought it a fair opportunity to acquit himself toward me. But for once Tisiphon has cheated himself. The slave he brought was weak and sick, but it was only from want of food and rest. The fellow will recover, and I will yet make much of him. Would you see him? Look out of the back window there. He will turn out a fine slave yet, and, if this dwarf had not come, would be right pleasing to me. But two of them! How shall I find bread for both?'

Ænone walked to the window, and leaned out. The courtyard behind was but limited in size, containing a few squares of burnt brick arranged for pavement around a small plot of grass at the foot of a single plane tree. The slave of whom the centurion spoke was seated upon this plot, with his back against the tree, and his head bent over, while, with vacant mind, he watched the play of a small green lizard. As she appeared at the window, he raised his eyes toward her, then dropped them again upon the ground. It was hardly, in fact, as much as could be called a look—a mere glance, rather, a single tremor of the drooping lid, a mute appeal for sympathy, as though