A Thorny Path by Georg Ebers
Before sunrise the wind changed. Heavy clouds bore down from the north, darkening the clear sky of Alexandria. By the time the market was filling it was raining in torrents, and a cold breeze blew over the town from the lake. Philostratus had only allowed himself a short time for sleep, sitting till long after midnight over his history of Apolonius of Tyana. His aim was to prove, by the example of this man, that a character not less worthy of imitation than that of the lord of the Christians might be formed in the faith of the ancients, and nourished by doctrines produced by the many-branched tree of Greek religion and philosophy. Julia Domna, Caracalla's mother, had encouraged the philosopher in this task, which was to show her passionate and criminal son the dignity of moderation and virtue. The book was also to bring home to Caesar the religion of his forefathers and his country in all its beauty and elevating power; for hitherto he had vacillated from one form to another, had not even rejected Christianity, with which his nurse had tried to inoculate him as a child, and had devoted himself to every superstition of his time in a way which had disgusted those about him. It had been particularly interesting to the writer, with a view to the purpose of this work, to meet with a girl who practiced all the virtues the Christians most highly prized, without belonging to that sect, who were always boasting of the constraining power of their religion in conducing to pure morality.
In his work the day before he had taken occasion to regret the small recognition his hero had met with among those nearest to him. In this, as in other respects, he seemed to have shared the fate of Jesus Christ, whose name, however, Philostratus purposely avoided mentioning. Now, to-night, he reflected on the sacrifice offered by Melissa for Caesar whom she knew not, and he wrote the following words as though proceeding from the pen of Apollonius himself: "I know well how good a thing it is to regard all the world as my home, and all mankind as my brethren and friends; for we are all of the same divine race, and have all one Father."
Then, looking up from the papyrus, he murmured to himself: "From such a point of view as this Melissa might see in Caracalla a friend and a brother. If only now it were possible to rouse the conscience of that imperial criminal!"
He took up the written sheet on which he had begun a dissertation as to what conscience is, as exerting a choice between good and evil. He had written: "Understanding governs what we purpose; consciousness governs what our understanding resolves upon. Hence, if our understanding choose the good, consciousness is satisfied."
How flat it sounded! It could have no effect in that form.
Melissa had confessed with far greater warmth what her feelings had been after she had sacrificed for the suffering sinner. Every one, no doubt, would feel the same who, when called on to choose between good and evil, should prefer the good; so he altered and expanded the last words: "Thus consciousness sends a man with song and gladness into the sanctuaries and groves, into the roads, and wherever mortals live. Even in sleep the song makes itself heard, and a happy choir from the land of dreams lift up their voices about his bed."
That was better! This pleasing picture might perhaps leave some impression on the soul of the young criminal, in whom a preference for good could still, though rarely, be fanned to a flame. Caesar read what Philostratus wrote, because he took pleasure in the form of his work; and this sentence would not have been written in vain if only it should prompt Caracalla in some cases, however few, to choose the good.
The philosopher was fully determined to do his utmost for Melissa and her brothers. He had often brought pictures under Caesar's notice, for he was the first living authority as a connoisseur of painting, and as having written many descriptions of pictures. He built some hopes, too, on Melissa's innocence; and so the worthy man, when he retired to rest, looked forward with confidence to the work of mediation, which was by no means devoid of danger.
But next morning it presented itself in a less promising light. The clouded sky, the storm, and rain might have a fatal effect on Caesar's temper; and when he heard that old Galen, after examining his patient and prescribing certain remedies, had yesterday evening taken ship, leaving Caracalla in a frenzy of rage which had culminated in slight convulsions, he almost repented of his promise. However, he felt himself pledged; so as early as possible he went to Caesar's rooms, prepared for the worst.
His gloomy anticipations were aggravated by the scene which met his eyes.
In the anteroom he found the chief men of the city and some representative members of the Alexandrian Senate, who were anxious for an audience of their imperial visitor. They had been commanded to attend at an unusually early hour, and had already been kept a long time waiting.
When Philostratus--who was always free to enter Caesar's presence--made his appearance, Caracalla was seating himself on the throne which had been placed for him in the splendidly fitted audience-chamber. He had come from his bath, and was wrapped in the comfortable white woolen robe which he wore on leaving it. His "friends" as they were called, senators, and other men of mark, stood round in considerable numbers, among them the high-priest of Serapis. Pandion, Caesar's charioteer, was occupied, under the sovereign's instructions, in fastening the lion's chain to the ring fixed for the purpose in the floor by the side of the throne; and as the beast, whose collar had been drawn too tight, uttered a low, complaining growl, Caracalla scolded the favorite. As soon as he caught sight of Philostratus, he signed to him to approach:
"Do you see nothing strange in me?" he whispered. "Your Phoebus Apollo appeared to me in a dream. He laid his hand on my shoulder toward morning; indeed, I saw only horrible faces." Then he pointed out of the window, exclaiming:
"The god hides his face to-day. Gloomy days have often brought me good fortune; but this is a strange experience of the eternal sunshine of Egypt! Men and sky have given me the same kind welcome; gray, gray, and always gray-without and within--and my poor soldiers out on the square! Macrinus tells me they are complaining. But my father's advice was sound: 'Keep them content, and never mind anything else.' The heads of the town are waiting outside; they must give up their palaces to the bodyguard; if they murmur, let them try for themselves how they like sleeping on the soaking ground under dripping tents. It may cool their hot blood, and perhaps dilute the salt of their wit.--Show them in, Theocritus."
He signed to the actor, and when he humbly asked whether Caesar had forgotten to exchange his morning wrapper for another dress, Caracalla laughed contemptuously, and replied:
"Why, an empty corn-sack over my shoulders would be dress enough for this rabble of traders!" He stretched his small but muscular frame out at full length, resting his head on his hand, and his comely face, which had lost the suffering look it had worn the day before, suddenly changed in expression. As was his habit when he wished to inspire awe or fear, he knit his brows in deep furrows, set his teeth tightly, and assumed a suspicious and sinister scowl.
The deputation entered, bowing low, headed by the exegetes, the head of the city, and Timotheus, the chief-priest of Serapis. After these came the civic authorities, the members of the senate, and then, as representing the large Jewish colony in the city, their alabarch or head-man. It was easy to see in each one as he came in, that the presence of the lion, who had raised his head at their approach, was far from encouraging; and a faint, scornful smile parted Caracalla's lips as he noted the cowering knees of these gorgeously habited courtiers. The high-priest alone, who, as Caesar's host, had gone up to the side of the throne, and two or three others, among them the governor of the town, a tall, elderly man of Macedonian descent, paid no heed to the brute. The Macedonian bowed to his sovereign with calm dignity, and in the name of the municipally hoped he had rested well. He then informed Caesar what shows and performances were prepared in his honor, and finally named the considerable sum which had been voted by the town of Alexandria to express to him their joy at his visit. Caracalla waved his hand, and said, carelessly:
"The priest of Alexander, as idiologos, will receive the gold with the temple tribute. We can find use for it. We knew that you were rich. But what do you want for your money? What have you to ask?"
"Nothing, noble Caesar," replied the governor. "Thy gracious presence--"
Caracalla interrupted him with a long-drawn "Indeed!" Then, leaning forward, he gave him a keen, oblique look. "No one but the gods has nothing to wish for; so it must be that you are afraid to ask. What can that avail, unless to teach me that you look for nothing but evil from me; that you are suspicious of me? And if that is so, you fear me; and if you fear, you hate me. The insults I have received in this house sufficiently prove the fact. And if you hate me," and he sprang up and shook his fist, "I must protect myself!"
"Great Caesar," the exegetes began, in humble deprecation, but Caracalla went on, wrathfully:
"I know when I have to protect myself, and from whom. It is not well to trifle with me! An insolent tongue is easily hidden behind the lips; but heads are less easy to hide, and I shall be content with them. Tell that to your Alexandrian wits! Macrinus will inform you of all else. You may go."
During this speech the lion, excited by his master's furious gestures, had risen on his feet and showed his terrible teeth to the delegates. At this their courage sank. Some laid their hands on their bent knees, as if to shield them; others had gradually sidled to the door before Caesar had uttered the last word. Then, in spite of the efforts of the governor and the alabarch to detain them, in the hope of pacifying the potentate, as soon as they heard the word "go," they hurried out; and, for better or for worse, the few bolder spirits had to follow.
As soon as the door was closed upon them, Caesar's features lost their cruel look. He patted the lion with soothing words of praise, and exclaimed, contemptuously:
"These are the descendants of the Macedonians, with whom the greatest of heroes conquered the world! Who was that fat old fellow who shrank into himself so miserably, and made for the door while I was yet speaking?"
"Kimon, the chief of the night-watch and guardian of the peace of the city," replied the high-priest of Alexander, who as a Roman had kept his place by the throne; and Theocritus put in:
"The people must sleep badly under the ward of such a coward. Let him follow the prefect, noble Caesar."
"Send him his dismissal at once," said Caracalla; "but see that his successor is a man."
He then turned to the high-priest, and politely requested him to assist Theocritus in choosing a new head for the town-guard, and Timotheus and the favorite quitted the room together.
Philostratus took ingenious advantage of the incident, by at once informing the emperor that it had come to his knowledge that this coward, so worthily dismissed from office, had, on the merest suspicion, cast into prison a painter who was undoubtedly one of the first of living artists, and with him his guiltless relations.
"I will not have it!" Caesar broke out. "Nothing but blood will do any good here, and petty aggravations will only stir their bile and increase their insolence. Is the painter of whom you speak an Alexandrian?--I pine for the open air, but the wind blows the rain against the windows."
"In the field," the philosopher remarked, "you have faced the weather heroically enough. Here, in the city, enjoy what is placed before you. Only yesterday I still believed that the art of Apelles was utterly degenerate. But since then I have changed my opinion, for I have seen a portrait which would be an ornament to the Pinakothek in your baths. The northern windows are closed, or, in this land of inundations, and in such weather as this, we might find ourselves afloat even under cover of a roof; so it is too dark here to judge of a painting, but your dressing-room is more favorably situated, and the large window there will serve our purpose. May I be allowed the pleasure of showing you there the work of the imprisoned artist?"
Caesar nodded, and led the way, accompanied by his lion and followed by the philosopher, who desired an attendant to bring in the picture.
In this room it was much lighter than in the audience-chamber, and while Caracalla awaited, with Philostratus, the arrival of the painting, his Indian body-slave, a gift from the Parthian king, silently and skillfully dressed his thin hair. The sovereign sighed deeply, and pressed his hand to his brow as though in pain. The philosopher ventured to approach him, and there was warm sympathy in his tone as he asked:
"What ails you, Bassianus? Just now you bore all the appearance of a healthy, nay, and of a terrible man!"
"It is better again already," replied the sovereign. "And yet--!"
He groaned again, and then confessed that only yesterday he had in the same way been tortured with pain.
"The attack came on in the morning, as you know," he went on, "and when it was past I went down into the court of sacrifice; my feet would scarcely carry me. Curiosity--and they were waiting for me; and some great sign might be shown! Besides, some excitement helps me through this torment. But there was nothing--nothing! Heart, lungs, liver, all in their right place.--And then, Galenus--What I like is bad for me, what I loathe is wholesome. And again and again the same foolish question, 'Do you wish to escape an early death?' And all with an air as though Death were a slave at his command--He can, no doubt, do more than others, and has preserved his own life I know not how long. Well, and it is his duty to prolong mine.
"I am Caesar. I had a right to insist on his remaining here. I did so; for he knows my malady, and describes it as if he felt it himself. I ordered him--nay, I entreated him. But he adhered to his own way. He went--he is gone!"
"But he may be of use to you, even at a distance," Philostratus said.
"Did he do anything for my father, or for me in Rome, where he saw me every day?" retorted Caesar. "He can mitigate and relieve the suffering, but that is all; and of all the others, is there one fit to hand him a cup of water? Perhaps he would be willing to cure me, but he can not; for I tell you, Philostratus, the gods will not have it so. You know what sacrifices I have offered, what gifts I have brought. I have prayed, I have abased myself before them, but none will hear. One or another of the gods, indeed, appears to me not infrequently as Apollo did last night. But is it because he favors me? First, he laid his hand on my shoulder, as my father used to do; but his was so heavy, that the weight pressed me down till I fell on my knees, crushed. This is no good sign, you think? I see it in your face. I do not myself think so. And how loudly I have called on him, of all the gods! The whole empire, they say, men and women alike, besought the immortals unbidden for the welfare of Titus. I, too, am their lord; but"--and he laughed bitterly--"who has ever raised a hand in prayer for me of his own impulse? My own mother always named my brother first. He has paid for it,--But the rest!"
"They fear rather than love you," replied the philosopher. "He to whom Phoebus Apollo appears may always expect some good to follow. And yesterday--a happy omen, too--I overheard by chance a young Greek girl, who believed herself unobserved, who of her own prompting fervently entreated Asklepios to heal you. Nay, she collected all the coins in her little purse, and had a goat and a cock sacrificed in your behalf."
"And you expect me to believe that!" said Caracalla, with a scornful laugh.
But Philostratus eagerly replied:
"It is the pure truth. I went to the little temple because it was said that Apollonius had left some documents there. Every word from his pen is, as you know, of value to me in writing his history. The little library was screened off from the cella by a curtain, and while I was hunting through the manuscripts I heard a woman's voice."
"It spoke for some other Bassianus, Antoninus, Tarautus, or whatever they choose to call me," Caesar broke in.
"Nay, my lord, not so. She prayed for you, the son of Severus. I spoke to her afterwards. She had seen you yesterday morning, and fancied she had noted how great and severe your sufferings were. This had gone to her heart. So she went thither to pray and sacrifice for you, although she knew that you were prosecuting her brother, the very painter of whom I spoke. I would you too could have heard how fervently she addressed the god, and then Hygeia!"
"A Greek, you say?" Caracalla remarked. "And she really did not know you, or dream that you could hear her?"
"No, my lord; assuredly not. She is a sweet maid, and if you would care to see her--"
Caesar had listened to the tale with great attention and evident expectancy; but suddenly his face clouded, and, heedless of the slaves who, under the guidance of his chamberlain Adventus, had now brought in the portrait, he sprang up, went close to Philostratus, and stormed out:
"Woe to you if you lie to me! You want to get the brother out of prison, and then, by chance, you come across the sister who is praying for me! A fable to cheat a child with!"
"I am speaking the truth," replied Philostratus, coolly, though the rapid winking of Caesar's eyelids warned him that his blood was boiling with wrath.
"It was from the sister, whom I overheard in the temple, that I learned of her brother's peril, and I afterward saw that portrait."
Caracalla stared at the floor for a moment in silence; then he looked up, and said, in a tone husky with agitation:
"I only long for anything which may bring me nearer to the perverse race over whom I rule, be it what it may. You offer it me. You are the only man who never asked me for anything. I have believed you to be as righteous as all other men are not. And now if you, if this time--"
He lowered his tones, which had become somewhat threatening, and went on very earnestly: "By all you hold most sacred on earth, I ask you, Did the girl pray for me, and of her own free impulse, not knowing that any one could hear her?"
"I swear it, by the head of my mother!" replied Philostratus, solemnly.
"Your mother?" echoed Caesar, and his brow began to clear. But suddenly the gleam of satisfaction, which for a moment had embellished his features, vanished, and with a sharp laugh he added: "And my mother! Do you suppose that I do not know what she requires of you? It is solely to please her that you, a free man, remain with me. For her sake you are bold enough to try now and then to quell the stormy sea of my passions. You do it with a grace, so I submit. And now my hand is raised to strike a wretch who mocks at me; he is a painter, of some talent, so, of course, you take him under your protection. Then, in a moment, your inventive genius devises a praying sister. Well, there is in that something which might indeed mollify me. But you would betray Bassianus ten times over to save an artist. And then, how my mother would fly to show her gratitude to the man who could quell her furious son! Your mother!--But I only squint when it suits me. My eye must become dimmer than it yet is before I fail to see the connection of ideas which led you to swear by your mother. You were thinking of mine when you spoke. To please her, you would deceive her son. But as soon as he touches the lie it vanishes into thin air, for it has no more substance than a soap bubble!" The last words were at once sad, angry, and scornful; but the philosopher, who had listened at first with astonishment and then with indignation, could no longer contain himself.
"Enough!" he cried to the angry potentate, in an imperious tone. Then, drawing himself up, he went on with offended dignity:
"I know what the end has been of so many who have aroused your wrath, and yet I have courage enough to tell you to your face, that to injustice, the outcome of distrust, you add the most senseless insult. Or do you really think that a just man--for so you have called me more than once--would outrage the manes of the beloved woman who bore him to please the mother of another man, even though she be Caesar's? What I swear to by the head of my mother, friend and foe alike must believe; and he who does not, must hold me to be the vilest wretch on earth; my presence can only be an offense to him. So I beg you to allow me to return to Rome."
The words were manly and spoken firmly, and they pleased Caracalla; for the joy of believing in the philosopher's statement outweighed every other feeling. And since he regarded Philostratus as the incarnation of goodness--though he had lost faith in that--his threat of leaving disturbed him greatly. He laid his hand on his brave adviser's arm, and assured him that he was only too happy to believe a thing so incredible.
Any witness of the scene would have supposed this ruthless fatricide, this tyrant--whose intercourse with the visions of a crazed and unbridled fancy made him capable of any folly, and who loved to assume the aspect of a cruel misanthrope--to be a docile disciple, who cared for nothing but to recover the favor and forgiveness of his master. And Philostratus, knowing this man, and the human heart, did not make it too easy for him to achieve his end. When he at last gave up his purpose of returning to Rome, and had more fully explained to Caesar how and where he had met Melissa, and what he had heard about her brother the painter, he lifted the wrapper from Korinna's portrait, placed it in a good light, and pointed out to Caracalla the particular beauties of the purely Greek features.
It was with sincere enthusiasm that he expatiated on the skill with which the artist had reproduced in color the noble lines which Caracalla so much admired in the sculpture of the great Greek masters; how warm and tender the flesh was; how radiant the light of those glorious eyes; how living the waving hair, as though it still breathed of the scented oil! And when Philostratus explained that though Alexander had no doubt spoken some rash and treasonable words, he could not in any case be the author of the insulting verses which had been found at the Serapeum with the rope, Caracalla echoed his praises of the picture, and desired to see both the painter and his sister.
That morning, as he rose from his bed, he had been informed that the planets which had been seen during the past night from the observatory of the Serapeum, promised him fortune and happiness in the immediate future. He was himself a practiced star-reader, and the chief astrologer of the temple had pointed out to him how peculiarly favorable the constellation was whence he had deduced his prediction. Then, Phoebus Apollo had appeared to him in a dream; the auguries from the morning's sacrifices had all been favorable; and, before he dispatched Philostratus to fetch Melissa, he added:
"It is strange! The best fortune has always come to me from a gloomy sky. How brightly the sun shone on my marriage with the odious Plautilla! It has rained, on the contrary, on almost all my victories; and it was under a heavy storm that the oracle assured me the soul of Alexander the Great had selected this tortured frame in which to live out his too early ended years on earth. Can such coincidence be mere chance? Phoebus Apollo, your favorite divinity--and that, too, of the sage of Tyana--may perhaps have been angry with me. He who purified himself from blood-guiltiness after killing the Python is the god of expiation. I will address myself to him, like the noble hero of your book. This morning the god visited me again; so I will have such sacrifice slain before him as never yet was offered. Will that satisfy you, O philosopher hard to be appeased?"
"More than satisfy me, my Bassianus," replied Philostratus. "Yet remember that, according to Apollonius, the sacrifice is effective only through the spirit in which it is offered."
"Always a 'but' and an 'if'!" exclaimed Caracalla, as his friend left the room to call Melissa from the high-priest's quarters, where she was waiting.
For the first time for some days Caesar found himself alone. Leading the lion by the collar, he went to the window. The rain had ceased, but black clouds still covered the heavens. Below him lay the opening of the street of Hermes into the great square, swarming with human life, and covered with the now drenched tents of the soldiery; and his eyes fell on that of a centurion, a native of Alexandria, just then receiving a visit from his family, to whom the varied fortunes of a warrior's life had brought him back once more.
The bearded hero held an infant in his arms--assuredly his own--while a girl and boy clung to him, gazing up in his face with wondering black eyes; and another child, of about three, paying no heed to the others, was crowing as it splashed through a puddle with its little bare feet. Two women, one young and one elderly, the man's mother and his wife, no doubt, seemed to hang on his lips as he recounted perhaps some deed of valor.
The tuba sounded to arms. He kissed the infant, and carefully laid it on its mother's bosom; then he took up the boy and the girl, laughingly caught the little one, and pressed his bearded lips to each rosy mouth in turn. Last of all he clasped the young wife to his breast, gently stroked her hair, and whispered something in her ear at which she smiled up at him through her tears and then blushingly looked down. His mother patted him fondly on the shoulder, and, as they parted, he kissed her too on her wrinkled brow.
Caracalla had remarked this centurion once before; his name was Martialis, and he was a simple, commonplace, but well-conducted creature, who had often distinguished himself by his contempt for death. The imperial visit to Alexandria had meant for him a return home and the greatest joy in life. How many arms had opened to receive the common soldier; how many hearts had beat high at his coming! Not a day, it was certain, had passed since his arrival without prayers going up to Heaven for his preservation, from his mother, his wife, and his children. And he, the ruler of the world, had thought it impossible that one, even one of his millions of subjects, should have prayed for him. Who awaited him with a longing heart? Where was his home?
He had first seen the light in Gaul. His father was an African; his mother was born in Syria. The palace at Rome, his residence, he did not care to remember. He traveled about the empire, leaving as wide a space as possible between himself and that house of doom, from which he could never wipe out the stain of his brother's blood.
And his mother? She feared--perhaps she hated him--her first-born son, since he had killed her younger darling. What did she care for him, so long as she had her philosophers to argue with, who knew how to ply her with delicate flattery?
Then Plautilla, his wife? His father had compelled him to marry her, the richest heiress in the world, whose dowry had been larger than the collected treasure of a dozen queens; and as he thought of the sharp features of that insignificant, sour-faced, and unspeakably pretentious creature, he shuddered with aversion.
He had banished her, and then had her murdered. Others had done the deed, and it did not strike him that he was responsible for the crime committed in his service; but her loveless heart, without a care for him--her bird-sharp face, looking out like a well-made mask from her abundant hair--and her red, pinched lips, were very present to him. What cutting words those lips could speak; what senseless demands they had uttered; and nothing more insolent could be imagined than her way of pursing them up if at any time he had suggested a kiss!
His child? One had been born to him, but it had followed its mother into exile and to the grave. The little thing, which he had scarcely known, was so inseparable from its detested mother that he had mourned it no more than her. It was well that the assassins, without any orders from him, should have cut short that wretched life. He could not long for the embraces of the monster which should have united Plautilla's vices and his own.
Among the men about his person, there was not one for whom other hearts beat warmer; no creature that loved him excepting his lion; no spot on earth where he was looked for with gladness. He waited, as for some marvel, to see the one human being who had spontaneously entreated the gods for him. The girl must probably be a poor, tearful creature, as weak of brain as she was soft-hearted.
There stood the centurion at the head of his maniple, and raised his staff. Enviable man! How content he looked; how clearly he spoke the word of command! And how healthy the vulgar creature must be--while he, Caesar, was suffering that acute headache again! He gnashed his teeth, and felt a strong impulse to spoil the happiness of that shameless upstart. If he were sent packing to Spain, now, or to Pontus, there would be an end of his gladness. The centurion should know what it was to be a solitary soul.
Acting on this malignant impulse, he had raised his hand to his mouth to shout the cruel order to a tribune, when suddenly the clouds parted, and the glorious sun of Africa appeared in a blue island amid the ocean of gray, cheering the earth with glowing sheaves of rays. The beams were blinding as they came reflected from the armor and weapons of the men, reminding Caesar of the god to whom he had just vowed an unparalleled sacrifice.
Philostratus had often praised Phoebus Apollo above all gods, because wherever he appeared there was light, irradiating not the earth alone but men's souls; and because, as the lord of music and harmony, he aided men to arrive at that morally pure and equable frame of mind which was accordant and pleasing to his glorious nature. Apollo had conquered the dark heralds of the storm, and Caracalla looked up. Before this radiant witness he was ashamed to carry out his dark purpose, and he said, addressing the sun:
"For thy sake, Phoebus Apollo, I spare the man." Then, pleased with himself, he looked down again. The restraint he had laid upon himself struck him as in fact a great and noble effort, accustomed as he was to yield to every impulse. But at the same time he observed that the clouds, which had so often brought him good fortune, were dispersing, and this gave him fresh uneasiness. Dazzled by the flood of sunshine which poured in at the window, he withdrew discontentedly into the room. If this bright day were to bring disaster? If the god disdained his offering?
But was not Apollo, perhaps, like the rest of the immortals, an idol of the fancy, living only in the imagination of men who had devised it? Stern thinkers and pious folks, like the skeptics and the Christians, laughed the whole tribe of the Olympians to scorn. Still, the hand of Phoebus Apollo had rested heavily on his shoulders in his dream. His power, after all, might be great. The god must have the promised sacrifice, come what might. Bitter wrath rose up in his soul at this thought, as it had often done before, with the immortals, against whom he, the all-powerful, was impotent. If only for an hour they could be his subjects, he would make them rue the sufferings by which they spoiled his existence.
"He is called Martialis. I will remember that name," he thought, as he cast a last envious look at the centurion.
How long Philostratus was gone! Solitude weighed on him, and he looked about him wildly, as though seeking some support. An attendant at this moment announced the philosopher, and Caracalla, much relieved, went into the tablinum to meet him. There he sat down on a seat in front of the writing-table strewn with tablets and papyrus-rolls, rearranged the end of the purple toga for which he had exchanged his bathing-robe, rested one foot on the lion's neck and his head on his hand. He would receive this wonderful girl in the character of an anxious sovereign meditating on the welfare of his people.