THE EMPEROR - PART 2 - VOLUME 8.
THE EMPEROR - PART 2 - VOLUME 8.
The story told by Mastor which had so greatly agitated Pollux and had
prompted him to his mad flight was the history of events which had taken
place in the steward's rooms during the hours when the young artist was
helping his parents to transfer their household belongings into his
sister's tiny dwelling. Keraunus was certainly not one of the most
cheerful of men but on the morning when Sabina came to the palace and
the gate-keeper was driven from his home he had worn the aspect of a
Since visiting Selene the day before he had given himself no farther
concern about her. She was not dangerously ill and was exceptionally
well taken care of and the children did not seem to miss her. Indeed
he himself did not want her back to-day. He avoided confessing this to
himself it is true still he felt lighter and freer in the absence of his
grave monitor than he had been for a long time. It would be delightful
he thought to go on living in this careless manner alone with Arsinoe
and the children and now and again he rubbed his hands and grinned
complacently. When the old slave-woman brought a large dish full of
cakes which he had desired her to buy and set it down by the side of the
children's porridge he chuckled so heartily that his fat person shook
and swayed; and he had very good reason to be happy in his way for
Plutarch quite early in the morning had sent a heavy purse of gold
pieces for his ivory cup and a magnificent bunch of roses to Arsinoe;
he might give his children a treat buy himself a solid gold fillet and
dress Arsinoe as finely as though she were the prefect's favorite
His vanity was gratified in every particular.
And what a splendid fellow was the slave who now--with a superbly
reverential bow-presented him with a roast chicken and who was to walk
behind him in the afternoon to the council-chamber. The tall Thessalian
who marched after the Archidikastes to the Hall of justice carrying his
papers was hardly grander than his "body-servant." He had bought him
yesterday at quite a low price. The well-grown Samian was scarcely
thirty years old; he could read and write and was in a position therefore
to instruct the children in these arts; nay he could even play the lute.
His past to be sure was not a spotless record and it was for that
reason that he had been sold so cheaply. He had stolen things on several
occasions; but the brands and scars which he bore upon his person were
hidden by his new chiton and Keraunus felt in himself the power to cure
him of his evil propensities.
After desiring Arsinoe to let nothing he about of any value for their
new house-mate seemed not to be perfectly honest he answered his
daughter's scruples by saying:
"It would be better no doubt that he should be as honest as the old
skeleton I gave in exchange for him but I reflect that even if my body-
servant should make away with some of the few drachmae we carry about
with us I need not repent of having bought him since I got him for many
thousand drachmae less than he is worth on account of his thefts while
a teacher for the children would have cost more than he can steal from us
at the worst. I will lock up the gold in the chest with my documents.
It is strong and could only be opened with a crow-bar. Besides the
fellow will have left off stealing at any rate at first for his late
master was none of the mildest and had cured him of his pilfering I
should think once for all. It is lucky that in selling such rascals we
should be compelled to state what their faults are; if the seller fails
to do so compensation maybe claimed from him by the next owner for what
he may lose. Lykophron certainly concealed nothing and setting aside
his thieving propensities the Samian is said to be in every respect a
But father" replied Arsinoe her anxiety once more urging her to speak
"it is a bad thing to have a dishonest man in the house."
"You know nothing about it child!" answered Keraunus. "To us to live
and to be honest are the same thing but a slave!--King Antiochus is said
to have declared that the man who wishes to be well served must employ
none but rascals."
When Arsinoe had been tempted out on to the balcony by her lover's snatch
of song and had been driven in again by her father the steward had not
reproved her in any way unkindly but had stroked her cheeks and said
with a smile: "I rather fancy that lad of the gatekeeper's--whom I once
turned out of doors has had his eye on you since you were chosen for
Roxana. Poor wretch! But we have very different suitors in view for you
my little girl. How would it be think you if rich Plutarch had sent
you those roses not on his own behalf but as a greeting on the part of
his son? I know that he is very desirous of marrying him but the
fastidious man has never yet thought any Alexandrian girl good enough for
"I do not know him and he does not think of a poor thing like me" said
"Do you think not?" asked Keraunus smiling. "We are of as good family
nay of a better than Plutarch and the fairest is a match for the
wealthiest. What would you say child to a long flowing purple robe and a
chariot with white horses and runners in front?"
At breakfast Keraunus drank two cups of strong wine in which he allowed
Arsinoe to mix only a few drops of water. While his daughter was curling
his hair a swallow flew into the room; this was a good omen and raised
the steward's spirits. Dressed in his best and with a well-filled purse
he was on the point of starting for the council-chamber with his new
slave when Sophilus the tailor and his girl-assistant were shown into the
living-room. The man begged to be allowed to try the dress ordered for
Roxana by the prefect's wife on the steward's daughter. Keraunus
received him with much condescension and allowed him to bring in the
slave who followed him with a large parcel of dresses--and Arsinoe who
was with the children was called.
Arsinoe was embarrassed and anxious and would far rather have yielded her
part to another; still she was curious about the new dresses. The
tailor begged her to allow her maid to dress her; his assistant would
help her because the dresses which were only slightly stitched together
for trying on were cut not in the Greek but in the Oriental fashion.
"Your waiting woman" he added turning to Arsinoe "will be able to learn
to-day the way to dress you on the great occasion."
"My daughter's maid" said Keraunus winking slily at Arsinoe "is not in
"Oh I require no help" cried the tailor's girl. "I am handy too at
dressing hair and I am most glad to help such a fair Roxana."
"And it is a real pleasure to work for her" added Sophilus. "Other
young ladies are beautified by what they wear but your daughter adds
beauty to all she wears."
"You are most polite" said Keraunus as Arsinoe and her handmaid left
"We learn a great deal by our intercourse with people of rank" replied
the tailor. "The illustrious ladies who honor me with their custom like
not only to see but to hear what is pleasing. Unfortunately there are
among them some whom the gods have graced with but few charms and they
strangely enough crave the most flattering speeches. But the poor
always value it more than the rich when benevolence is shown them."
"Well said" cried Keraunus. "I myself am but indifferently well off for
a man of family and am glad to live within my moderate means--so that my
"The lady Julia has chosen the costliest stuffs for her; as is fitting--
as the occasion demands" said the tailor. "Quite right at the same
"Well my lord?"
"The grand occasion will be over and my daughter now that she is grown
up ought to be seen at home and in the street in suitable and handsome
though not costly clothes.
"I said just now true beauty needs no gaudy raiment."
"Would you be disposed now to work for me at a moderate price?"
"With pleasure; nay I shall be indebted to her for all the world will
admire Roxana and inquire who may be her tailor."
"You are a very reasonable and right-minded man. What now would you
charge for a dress for her?"
"That we can discuss later."
"No no I beg you sincerely--"
"First let me consider what you want. Simple dresses are more difficult
far more difficult to make and yet become a handsome woman better than
rich and gaudy robes. But can any man make a woman understand it? I
could tell you a tale of their folly! Why many a woman who rides by in
her chariot wears dresses and gems to conceal not merely her own limbs
but the poverty-stricken condition of her house."
Thus and in this wise did Keraunus and the tailor converse while the
assistant plaited up Arsinoe's hair with strings of false pearls that she
had brought with tier and fitted and pinned on her the costly white and
blue silk robes of an Asiatic princess. At first Arsinoe was very still
and timid. She no longer cared to dress for any one but Pollux; but the
garments prepared for her were wonderfully pretty--and how well the
fitter knew how to give effect to her natural advantages. While the
neat-handed woman worked busily and carefully many merry jests passed
between them--many sincere and hearty words of admiration--and before
long Arsinoe had become quite excited and took pleased interest in the
Every bough that is freshly decked by spring seems to feel gladness and
the simple child who was to-day so splendidly dressed was captivated by
pleasure in her own beauty and its costly adornment which delighted her
beyond measure. Arsinoe now clapped her hands with delight now had the
mirror handed to her and now with all the frankness of a child
expressed her satisfaction not only with the costly clothes she wore
but with her own surprisingly grand appearance in them.
The dress-maker was enchanted with her proud and delighted and could
not resist the impulse to give a kiss to the charming girl's white
beautifully round throat.
"If only Pollux could see me so!" thought Arsinoe. "After the
performance perhaps I might show myself in my dress to Selene and then
she would forgive my taking part in the show. It is really a pleasure to
look so nice!"
The children all stood round her while she was being dressed and shouted
with admiration each time some new detail of the princess's attire was
added. Helios begged to be allowed to feel her dress and after
satisfying herself that his little hands were clean she stroked them over
the glistening white silk.
She had now advanced so far that her father and the tailor could be
called in. She felt remarkably content and happy. Drawn up to her
tallest like a real king's daughter and yet with a heart beating as
anxiously as that of any girl would who is on the point of displaying her
beauty--hitherto protected and hidden in her parents' home--to the
thousand eyes of the gaping multitude she went towards the sitting-room;
but she drew back her hand she had put forth to raise the latch for she
heard the voices of several men who must just now have joined her father.
"Wait a little while there are visitors" she cried to the seamstress
who had followed her and she put her ear to the door to listen. At
first she could not make out anything that was going on but the end of
the strange conversation that was being carried on within was so
hideously intelligible that she could never forget it so long as she
Her father had ordered two new dresses for her beating down the price
with the promise of prompt payment when Mastor came into the steward's
room and informed Keraunus that his master and Gabinius the curiosity-
dealer from Nicaea wished to speak with him.
"Your master" said Keraunus haughtily "may come in; I think that he
regrets the injury he has done me; but Gabinius shall never cross this
threshold again for he is a scoundrel."
"It would be as well that you should desire that man to leave you for the
present" said the slave pointing to the tailor.
"Whoever comes to visit me" said the steward loftily "must be satisfied
to meet any one whom I permit to enter my house."
"Nay nay" said the slave urgently "my master is a greater man than you
think. Beg this man to leave the room."
"I know I know very well" said Keraunus with a smile. "Your master is
an acquaintance of Caesar's. But we shall see after the performance
that is about to take place which of us two Caesar will decide for.
This tailor has business here and will stay at my pleasure. Sit in the
corner there my friend."
"A tailor!" cried Mastor horrified. "I tell you he must go."
"He must!" asked Keraunus wrathfully. "A slave dares to give orders in
my house? We will see."
"I am going" interrupted the artisan who understood the case. "No
unpleasantness shall arise here on my account I will return in a quarter
of an hour."
"You will stay" commanded Keraunus. "This insolent Roman seems to think
that Lochias belongs to him; but I will show him who is master here."
But Mastor paid no heed to these words spoken in a high pitch; he took
the tailor's hand and led him out whispering to him:
"Come with me if you wish to escape an evil hour."
The two men went off and Keraunus did not detain the artisan for it
occurred to his mind that his presence did him small credit. He purposed
to show himself in all his dignity to the overbearing architect but he
also remembered that it was not advisable to provoke unnecessarily the
mysterious bearded stranger with the big clog. Much excited and not
altogether free from anxiety he paced up and down his room. To give
himself courage he hastily filled a cup from the wine-jar that stood on
the breakfast table emptied it refilled it and drank it off a second
time without adding any water and then stood with his arms folded and a
strong color in his face awaiting his enemy's visit.
The Emperor walked in with Gabinius. Keraunus expected some greeting
but Hadrian spoke not a word cast a glance at him of the utmost contempt
and passed by him without taking any more notice of him than if he had
been a pillar or a piece of furniture. The blood mounted to the
steward's head and heated his eyes and for fully a minute he strove in
vain to find words to give utterance to his rage. Gabinius paid no more
heed to Keraunus than the Roman had done. He walked on ahead and paused
in front of the mosaic for which he had offered so high a price and over
which a few days since he had been so sharply dealt with by the steward.
"I would beg you" he said "to look at this masterpiece."
The Emperor looked at the ground but hardly had he begun to study the
picture of which he quite understood and appreciated the beauty when
just behind him he heard in a hoarse voice these words uttered with
"In Alexandria--it is the custom to greet--to say something--to the
people you visit." Hadrian half turned his head towards the speaker and
said indifferently but with strong and insulting contempt:
"In Rome too it is the custom to greet honest people." Then looking down
again at the mosaic he said "Exquisite exquisite an inestimable and
precious work." At Hadrian's words Keraunus' eyes almost started out of
his head. His face was crimson and his lips pale; he went close up to
him and as soon as he had found breath to speak he said:
"What have you--what are your words intended to convey?"
Hadrian turned suddenly and full upon the steward; in his eyes sparkled
that annihilating fire which few could endure to gaze on and his deep
voice rolled sullenly through the room as he said to the miserable man:
"My words are intended to convey that you have been an unfaithful
steward that I know what you would rather I should not know that I have
learned how you deal with the property entrusted to you that you--"
"That I?"--cried the steward trembling with rage and stepping close up to
"That you" shouted Hadrian in his face "tried to sell this picture to
this man; in short that you are a simpleton and a scoundrel into the
"I--I" gasped Keraunus slapping his hand on his fat chest. "I--a--a--
but you shall repent of these words."
Hadrian laughed coldly and scornfully but Keraunus sprang on Gabinius
with a wonderful agility for his size clutched him by the collar of his
chiton and shook the feeble little man as if he were a sapling shrieking
"I will choke you with your own lies--serpent mean viper!"
"Madman!" cried Hadrian "leave hold of the Ligurian or by Sirius you
shall repent it."
"Repent it?" gasped the steward. "It will be your turn to repent when
Caesar comes. Then will come a day of reckoning with false witnesses
shameless calumniators who disturb peaceful households while credulous
"Man man" interrupted Hadrian not loudly but sternly and ominously
"you know not to whom you speak."
"Oh I know you--I know you only too well. But I--I--shall I tell you who
"You--you are a blockhead" replied the monarch shrugging his shoulders
contemptuously. Then he added calmly with dignity--almost with
"I am Caesar."
At these words the steward's hand dropped from the chiton of the half-
throttled dealer. Speechless and with a glassy stare he gazed in
Hadrian's face for a few seconds. Then he suddenly started staggered
backwards uttered a loud choking gurgling nameless cry and fell back
on the floor like a mass of rock shaken from its foundations by an
earthquake. The room shook again with his fall.
Hadrian was startled and when he saw him lying motionless at his feet he
bent over him--less from pity than from a wish to see what was the matter
with him; for he had also dabbled in medicine. Just as he was lifting
the fallen man's hand to feel his pulse Arsinoe rushed into the room.
She had heard the last words of the antagonists with breathless anxiety
and her father's fall and now threw herself on her knees by the side of
the unhappy man just opposite to Hadrian and as his distorted and grey-
white face told her what had occurred she broke out in a passionate cry
of anguish. Her brothers and sisters followed at her heels and when
they saw their favorite sister bewailing herself they followed her
example without knowing at first what Arsinoe was crying for but soon
with terror and horror at their father lying there stiff and disfigured.
The Emperor who had never had either son or daughter of his own found
nothing so intolerable as the presence of crying children. However he
endured the wailing and whimpering that surrounded him till he had
ascertained the condition of the man lying on the ground before him.
"He is dead" he said in a few minutes. "Cover his face Master."
Arsinoe and the children broke out afresh and Hadrian glanced down at
them with annoyance. When his eye fell on Arsinoe whose costly robe
merely pinned and slightly stitched together had come undone with the
vehemence of her movements and were hanging as flapping rags in tumbled
disorder he was disgusted with the gaudy fluttering trumpery which
contrasted so painfully with the grief of the wearer and turning his
back on the fair girl he quitted the chamber of misery.
Gabinius followed him with a hideous smirk. He had directed the
Emperor's attention to the mosaic pavement in the steward's room and had
shamelessly accused Keraunus of having offered to sell him a work that
belonged to the palace contrasting his conduct with his own rectitude.
Now the calumniated man was dead and the truth could never come to
light; this was necessarily a satisfaction to the miserable man but he
derived even greater pleasure from the reflection that Arsinoe could not
now fill the part of Roxana and that consequently there was once more a
possibility that it might devolve on his daughter.
Hadrian walked on in front of him silent and thoughtful. Gabinius
followed him into his writing-room and there said with fulsome
"Ah great Caesar thus do the gods punish with a heavy hand the crimes
of the guilty."
Hadrian did not interrupt him but he looked him keenly and enquiringly
in the face and then said gravely but coolly:
"It seems to me man that I should do well to break off my connection
with you and to give some other dealer the commissions which I proposed
to entrust to you."
"Caesar!" stammered Gabinius "I really do not know--"
"But I do know" interrupted the Emperor. "You have attempted to mislead
me and throw your own guilt on the shoulders of another."
"I--great Caesar? I have attempted--" began the Ligurian while his
pinched features turned an ashy grey. "You accused the steward of a
dishonorable trick" replied Hadrian. "But I know men well and I know
that no thief ever yet died of being called a scoundrel. It is only
undeserved disgrace that can cost a man's life."
"Keraunus was full-blooded and the shock when he learnt that you were
"That shock accelerated the end no doubt" interrupted the monarch "but
the mosaic in the steward's room is worth a million of sesterces and now
I have seen enough to be quite sure that you are not the man to save your
money when a work like that mosaic is offered you for sale--be the
circumstances what they may. If I see the case rightly it was Keraunus
who refused your demand that he should resign to you the treasure in his
charge. Certainly that was the case exactly! Now leave me. I wish to
Gabinius retired with many bows walking backwards to the door and then
turned his back on the palace of Lochias muttering many impotent curses
as he went.
The steward's new 'body-servant' the old black woman Mastor the tailor