there had been an inner instinct which, at that instant, had directed him to her, as one who could feel pity for his trouble and desolation. But at that glance, joined to something strangely peculiar in the captive's figure and attitude, a nervous thrill shot through Ænone's heart, causing her to hold her breath in unreasoning apprehension; a fear of something which she could not explain, a dim consciousness of some forgotten association of the past arising to confront her, but which she could not for the moment identify. And still she looked out, resisting the impulse of dread which bade her move away, fixing a strained gaze upon the captive, in a vain struggle to allay, by one moment of calm scrutiny, that phantom of her memory which, act as she might, would not be repressed, but which each instant seemed to expand into clearer certainty before her.
'Do you see him? Does he appear to you a worthy slave?' cried the centurion.
'A worthy slave, indeed,' she answered, in a low tone, feeling compelled to make some response.
At her voice, the captive again raised his head, and looked into her face; not now with a hasty, timid glance, but with the full gaze of one who believes he has been spoken to, and waits for a renewal of the question. And as she met the inquiring look, Ænone turned away and sank back in terror and dismay. She knew it all, now, nor could she longer deceive herself by vain pretences or assurances. The instinct which, at the first had filled her soul with that unexplained dread, had not been false to her. For that glance, as it now rested upon her with, longer duration and deeper intensity, too surely completed the suggestion which, at the first it had faintly whispered to her, flashing into her heart the long-stifled memories of the past, recalling the time when, a few years before, she had sat upon the rock at Ostia, and had gazed down upon eyes lifted to meet her own with just so beseeching an appeal, and telling her too truly that she stood again in the presence of him to whom she had then promised her girlish faith, and whom she had so long since looked upon as dead to her.
'I will call him in,' said the centurion, 'and you can see him closer.'
'Nay, nay, father; let him remain where he is,' she exclaimed, in uncontrollable dread of recognition.
'Ha! art not afraid, girl?' demanded the old man. 'He can do no hurt, even were he stronger; and now that he is weak, a child could lead him with a string. Come hither, sirrah!'
The captive arose, smoothed down his tunic, and, obediently entering the house, awaited commands; while Ænone, with as quiet movement as possible, shrunk, into the most distant corner of the room. What if he should recognize her, and should call upon her by name, not knowing her changed position, or recollecting his own debasement into slavery? What explanation other than the true one could she give to account for his audacity, and save him from the chastisement which the offended centurion would prepare to bestow upon him? This was but a momentary fear, however, since she felt that the increasing glow of evening, added to her own alteration by dress, and the certainty that he would not expect to meet her thus, found a sure protection against recognition, as long as she took care not to risk betrayal by her voice or manner. And, perhaps, after all—and her heart lightened somewhat at the thought—it might be that her reason had too freely yielded to an insane fancy, and allowed her to be deceived by a chance resemblance.
'How is he called?' she inquired, disguising her voice as thoroughly as she could. The instant she had spoken she would have retracted her words, if possible, from the mere fear lest her father, in his response, might mention her name. But it luckily chanced that the centurion did not do so.
'How is he called? Nay, that thing I had not thought to ask as yet. Your name, slave?'
At the word, the blood again flew back to her heart. There could now no longer be a doubt. How often had she repeated that name endearingly, in those early days of her first romance in life!
'Cleotos,' said the centurion. 'It is a brave name. There was once a leader of a full phalanx with that name, and he did well to the empire. It is, therefore, scarcely a name for a slave to bear. But we will talk some other time about that. It is of thine appearance now, that we will speak. Is he not, after all, a pleasing youth? Did Tisiphon so surely deceive me as he intended, when he gave the man to me? See! there is but little brawn and muscle to him, I grant; and therefore he will not make a good gladiator or even spearman; but he has a comely shape, which will fit him well for a page or palace usher. And, therefore, I will sell him for such. He should bring a good price, indeed, when the marks of his toil and sickness have gone off from him, and he has been fattened into better condition. But two of them!' continued the centurion, suddenly recurring to his former source of grief. 'How can I fatten him when there are two of them? How find bread for both? And yet he is not so very thin, now. I will light a lamp, daughter, for it has grown quite dark, and you shall come nearer and examine him.'
'Nay! nay!' exclaimed Ænone, in hurried resistance of this new danger. 'Not now. I am no judge of the merits of captives, and it is getting late. I know that my lord will be expecting me, and perchance will be vexed if I delay.'
'Be it so, then,' responded the other. 'And as it is dark, it is not befitting that you should go without escort. Take, therefore—'
'I have the armor bearer for my escort, father.'
'It is something, but not enough,' said the centurion. 'Enough for safety, but not for dignity. Remember that, while on the one hand you are the wife of the imperator Sergius Vanno, you are also a daughter of the house of Porthenus—a family which was powerful in the far-off days of the republic, long before the house of Vanno had begun to take root,' he continued, in a tone of pride. For then, as now, poverty consoled itself for its privations by dreams—whether well or ill founded, it mattered but little—of grandeurs which had once existed; and it was one of the weaknesses of the centurion to affect superiority of blood, and try to believe that therein he enjoyed compensations beyond anything that wealth could bestow.
'Of the house of Porthenus,' he repeated, 'and should therefore be suitably attended. So let this new slave follow behind. And take, also, the dwarf. He is not of soldierly appearance, but for all that he will count as one more.'
Fearful of offending her father by a refusal, or of encountering additional risks of recognition by a more prolonged conversation at the doorway, now brightened by the light of the newly risen moon, Ænone hastily assented, and started upon her homeward route. Clinging closely to the side of her bondwoman, not daring to look back for a parting adieu to her father, who stood at the door leaning upon his sword, and grimly smiling with delight at fancying his child at last attended as became a scion of the house of Porthenus—not regarding the half-smothered oaths and exclamations of contempt with which the armor bearer behind her surveyed his two new companions upon guard—she pressed rapidly on, with the sole desire of reaching her house and secluding herself from further danger of recognition.
The moon rose higher, silvering the city with charms of new beauty, gleaming upon the surface of the swift-rolling Tiber, giving fresh radiance to the marble palaces and temples, adding effect to whatever was already beautiful, diminishing the deformity of whatever was unlovely, even imparting a pleasant aspect of cheerfulness to the lower quarters of the city, where lay congregated poverty and dishonor and crime. The Appian Way no longer swarmed with the crowd that had trodden it an hour ago. The priests had completed