THE ROMAN TRAITOR:
THE DAYS OF CICERO, CATO AND CATALINE.
A TRUE TALE OF THE REPUBLIC.
BY HENRY WILLIAM HERBERT AUTHOR OF "CROMWELL," "MARMADUKE WYVIL," "BROTHERS," ETC.
Why not a Borgia or a Catiline?—POPE.
This is one of the most powerful Roman stories in the English language, and is of itself sufficient to stamp the writer as a powerful man. The dark intrigues of the days which Csar, Sallust and Cicero made illustrious; when Cataline defied and almost defeated the Senate; when the plots which ultimately overthrew the Roman Republic were being formed, are described in a masterly manner. The book deserves a permanent position by the side of the great Bellum Catalinarium of Sallust, and if we mistake not will not fail to occupy a prominent place among those produced in America.
Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson, NO. 102 CHESTNUT STREET
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by T. B. PETERSON, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
PHILADELPHIA: STEREOTYPED BY GEORGE CHARLES, No. 9 Sansom Street.
CHAPTER PAGE I. THE MEN 9 II. THE MEASURES 25 III. THE LOVERS 37 IV. THE CONSUL 51 V. THE CAMPUS 69 VI. THE FALSE LOVE 89 VII. THE OATH 108 VIII. THE TRUE LOVE 121 IX. THE AMBUSH 137 X. THE WANTON 146 XI. THE RELEASE 166 XII. THE FORGE 183 XIII. THE DISCLOSURE 197 XIV. THE WARNINGS 209 XV. THE CONFESSION 223 XVI. THE SENATE 235
I. THE OLD PATRICIAN 3 II. THE CONSULAR 12 COMITIA III. THE PERIL 21 IV. THE CRISIS 29 V. THE ORATION 38 VI. THE FLIGHT 54 VII. THE AMBASSADORS 65 VIII. THE LATIN VILLA 75 IX. THE MULVIAN BRIDGE 88 X. THE ARREST 101 XI. THE YOUNG 113 PATRICIAN XII. THE ROMAN FATHER 123 XIII. THE DOOM 136 XIV. THE TULLIANUM 150 XV. THE CAMP IN THE 158 APPENINES XVI. THE WATCHTOWER OF 168 USELLA XVII. TIDINGS FROM ROME 185 XVIII. THE RESCUE 192 XIX. THE EVE OF BATTLE 205 XX. THE FIELD OF 216 PISTORIA XXI. THE BATTLE 223 XXII. A NIGHT OF HORROR 234
THE ROMAN TRAITOR;
OR, THE DAYS OF
CICERO, CATO AND CATALINE.
A TRUE TALE OF THE REPUBLIC.
THE OLD PATRICIAN.
A Roman father of the olden time. MS. PLAY.
In a small street, not far from the Sacred Way and the Roman Forum, there was a large house, occupying the whole of one insula, as the space contained between four intersecting streets was called by the ancients.
But, although by its great size and a certain rude magnificence, arising from the massy stone-work of its walls, and the solemn antiquity of the old Oscan columns which adorned its entrance, it might be recognised at once as the abode of some Patrician family; it was as different in many respects from the abodes of the aristocracy of that day, as if it had been erected in a different age and country.
It had no stately colonnades of foreign marbles, no tesselated pavement to the vestibule, no glowing frescoes on the walls, no long lines of exterior windows, glittering with the new luxury of glass. All was decorous, it is true; but all, at the same time, was stern, and grave, and singular for its antique simplicity.
On either hand of the entrance, there was, in accordance with the custom of centuries long past, when Rome's Consulars were tillers of the ground, a large shop with an open front, devoted to the sale of the produce of the owner's farm. And, strange to say, although the custom had been long disused in these degenerate times, it seemed that the owner of this time-honored mansion adhered sturdily to the ancient usage of his race.
For, in one of these large cold unadorned vaults, a tall grayheaded slave, a rural laborer, as it required no second glance to perceive, was presiding over piles of cheese, stone-jars of honey, baskets of autumn fruits, and sacks of grain, by the red light of a large smoky flambeau; while a younger man, who from his resemblance to the other might safely be pronounced his son, was keeping an account of the sales by a somewhat complicated system of tallies.
In the other apartment, two youths, slaves likewise from the suburban or rustic farm, were giving samples, to such as wished to buy, of different qualities of wine from several amphora or earthen pitchers, which stood on a stone counter forming the sill of the low-browed window.
It was late in the evening already, and the streets were rapidly growing dark; yet there were many passengers abroad, more perhaps than was usual at that hour; and now and then, a little group would form about one or the other of the windows, cheapening and purchasing provisions, and chatting for a few minutes, after their business was finished, with their gossips.
These groups were composed altogether of the lowest order of the free citizens of Rome, artizans, and small shop keepers, and here and there a woman of low origin, or perhaps a slave, the house steward of some noble family, mingling half reluctantly with his superiors. For the time had not arrived, when the soft eunuchs of the East, and the bold bravoes of the heroic North, favorites and tools of some licentious lord, dared to insult the freeborn men of Rome, or gloried in the badges of their servitude.
The conversation ran, as it was natural to expect, on the probable results of the next day's election; and it was a little remarkable, that among these, who should have been the supporters of the democratic faction, there appeared to be far more of alarm and of suspicion, concerning the objects of Catiline, than of enthusiasm for the popular cause.
"He a man of the people, or the people's friend!" said an old grave-looking mechanic; "No, by the Gods! no more than the wolf is the friend of the sheepfold!"
"He may hate the nobles," said another, "or envy the great rich houses; but he loves nothing of the people, unless it be their purses, if he can get a chance to squeeze them"—
"Or their daughters," interrupted a third, "if they be fair and willing"—
"Little cares he for their good-will," cried yet a fourth, "so they are young and handsome. It is but eight days since, that some of his gang carried off Marcus', the butcher's, bride, Icilia, on the night of her bridal. They kept her three days; and on the fourth sent her home dishonored, with a scroll, 'that she was now a fit wife for a butcher'!"
"By the Gods!" exclaimed one or two of the younger men, "who was it did this thing?"
"One of the people's friends!" answered the other, with a sneer.
"The people have no friends, since Caius Marius died," said the deep voice of Fulvius Flaccus, as he passed casually through the crowd.
"But what befel the poor Icilia?" asked an old matron, who had been listening with greedy sympathy to the dark tale.
"Why, Marcus would yet have taken her to his bosom, seeing she had no share in the guilt; but she bore a heart too Roman to bring disgrace upon one she loved, or to survive her honor. Icilia is no longer."
"She died like Lucretia!" said an old man, who stood near, with a clouded brow, which flashed into stormy light, as the same deep voice asked aloud,
"Shall she be so avenged?"
But the transient gleam faded instantly away, and the sad face was again blank and rayless, as he replied—
"No—for who should avenge her?"
"The people! the people!" shouted several voices, for the mob was gathering, and growing angry—
"The Roman People should avenge her!"
"Tush!" answered Fulvius Flaccus. "There is no Roman people!"
"And who are you," exclaimed two or three of the younger men, "that dare tell us so?"
"The grandson," answered the republican, "of one, who, while there yet was a people, loved it"—
"His name? his name?" shouted many voices.
"He hath no name"—replied Fulvius. "He lost that, and his life together."
"Lost them for the people?" inquired the old man, whom he had first addressed, and who had been scrutinizing him narrowly.
"And by the people," answered the other. "For the people's cause; and by the people's treason!—as is the case," he added, half scornfully, half sadly, "with all who love the people."
"Hear him, my countrymen," said the old man. "Hear him. If there be any one can save you, it is he. It is Fulvius, the son of Caius, the son of Marcus—Flaccus. Hear him, I say, if he will only lead you."
"Lead us! speak to us! lead us!" shouted the fickle crowd. "Love us, good Fulvius, as your fathers did of old."
"And die, for you, as they died!" replied the other, in a tone of melancholy sarcasm. "Hark you, my masters," he added, "there are none now against whom to lead you; and if there were, I think there would be none to follow. Keep your palms unsoiled by the base bribes of the nobles! Keep your ears closed to the base lies of the demagogues! Keep your hearts true and honest! Keep your eyes open and watchful! Brawl not, one with the other; but be faithful, as brethren should. Be grave, laborious, sober, and above all things humble, as men who once were free and great, and now, by their own fault, are fallen and degraded. Make yourselves fit to be led gloriously; and, when the time shall come, there will be no lack of glorious leaders!"
"But to-morrow? what shall we do to-morrow?" cried several voices; but this time it was the elder men, who asked the question, "for whom shall we vote to-morrow?"
"For the friend of the people!" answered Flaccus.
"Where shall we find him?" was the cry; "who is the friend of the people?"
"Not he who would arm them, one against the other," he replied. "Not he, who would burn their workshops, and destroy their means of daily sustenance! Not he, by all the Gods! who sports with the honor of their wives, the virtue"—
But he was interrupted here, by a stern sullen hum among his audience, increasing gradually to a fierce savage outcry. The mob swayed to and fro; and it was evident that something was occurring in the midst, by which it was tremendously excited.
Breaking off suddenly in his speech, the democrat leaped on a large block of stone, standing at the corner of the large house in front of which the multitude was gathered, and looked out anxiously, if he might descry the cause of the tumult.
Nor was it long ere he succeeded.
A young man, tall and of a slender frame, with features singularly handsome, was making his way, as best he could, with unsteady steps, and a face haggard and pale with debauchery, through the tumultuous and angry concourse.
His head, which had no other covering than its long curled and perfumed locks, was crowned with a myrtle wreath; he wore a long loose saffron-colored tunic richly embroidered, but ungirt, and flowing nearly to his ankles; and from the dress, and the torch-bearers, who preceded him, as well as from his wild eye and reeling gait, it was evident that he was returning from some riotous banquet.
Fulvius instantly recognised him. It was a kinsman of his own, Aulus, the son of Aulus Fulvius, the noblest of the survivors of his house, a senator of the old school, a man of stern and rigid virtue, the owner of that grand simple mansion, beside the door of which he stood.
But, though he recognised his cousin, he was at a loss for a while to discover the cause of the tumult; 'till, suddenly, a word, a female name, angrily murmured through the crowd, gave a clue to its meaning.
Still, though the crowd swayed to and fro, and jostled, and shouted, becoming evidently more angry every moment, it made way for the young noble, who advanced fearlessly, with a sort of calm and scornful insolence, contemning the rage which his own vile deed had awakened.
At length one of the mob, bolder than the rest, thrust himself in between the torch bearers and their lord, and meeting the latter face to face, cried out, so that all the crowd might hear,
"Lo! Aulus Fulvius! the violator of Icilia! the friend of the people!"
A loud roar of savage laughter followed; and then, encouraged by the applause of his fellows, the man added,
"Vote for Aulus Fulvius, the friend of the people! vote for good Aulus, and his virtuous friend Catiline!"
The hot blood flashed to the brow of the young noble, at the undisguised scorn of the plebeian's speech. Insolence he could have borne, but contempt!—and contempt from a plebeian!
He raised his hand; and slight and unmuscular as he appeared, indignation lent such vigor to that effeminate arm, that the blow which he dealt him on the face, cast the burly mechanic headlong, with the blood spouting from his mouth and nostrils.
A fearful roar of the mob, and a furious rush against the oppressor, followed.
The torch-bearers fought for their master gallantly, with their tough oaken staves; and the young man showed his patrician blood by his patrician courage in the fray. Flaccus, too, wished and endeavored to interpose, not so much that he cared to shield his unworthy kinsman, as that he sought to preserve the energies of the people for a more noble trial. The multitude, moreover, impeded one another by their own violent impetuosity; and to this it was owing, more than to the defence of his followers, or the intercession of the popular Flaccus, that the young libertine was not torn to pieces, on the threshold of his own father's house.
The matter, however, was growing very serious—stones, staves, and torches flew fast through the air—the crash of windows in the neighboring houses was answered by the roar of the increasing mob, and every thing seemed to portend a very dangerous tumult; when, at the same moment, the door of the Fulvian House was thrown open, and the high-crested helmets of a cohort were seen approaching, in a serried line, above the bare heads of the multitude.
Order was restored very rapidly; for a pacific party had been rallying around Fulvius Flaccus, and their efforts, added to the advance of the levelled pila of the cohort, were almost instantly successful.
Nor did the sight, which was presented by the opening door of the Fulvian mansion, lack its peculiar influence on the people.
An old man issued forth, alone, from the unfolded portals.
He was indeed extremely old; with hair as white as snow, and a long venerable beard falling in waves of silver far down upon his chest. Yet his eyebrows were black as night, and these, with the proud arch of his Roman nose, and the glance of his eagle eyes, untamed by time or hardship, almost denied the inference drawn from the white head and reverend chin.
His frame, which must once have been unusually powerful and athletic, was now lean and emaciated; yet he held himself erect as a centennial pine on Mount Algidus, and stood as firmly on his threshold, looking down on the tumultuous concourse, which waved and fluctuated, like the smaller trees of the mountain side, beneath him.
His dress was of the plain and narrow cut, peculiar to the good olden time; yet it had the distinctive marks of the senatorial rank.
It was the virtuous, severe, old senator—the noblest, alas! soon to be the last, of his noble race.
"What means this tumult?" he said in a deep firm sonorous voice, "Wherefore is it, that ye shout thus, and hurl stones about a friendly door! For shame! for shame! What is it that ye lack? Bread? Ye have had it ever at my hands, without seeking it thus rudely."
"It is not bread, most noble Aulus, that we would have," cried the old man, who had made himself somewhat conspicuous before, "but vengeance!"
"Vengeance, on whom, and for what?" exclaimed the noble Roman.
But ere his question could be answered, the crowd opened before him, and his son stood revealed, sobered indeed by the danger he had run, but pale, haggard, bleeding, covered with mud and filth, and supported by one of his wounded slaves.
"Ah!" cried the old man, starting back aghast, "What is this? What fresh crime? What recent infamy? What new pollution of our name?"
"Icilia! Icilia! vengeance for poor Icilia!" cried the mob once again; but they now made no effort to inflict the punishment, for which they clamored; so perfect was their confidence in the old man's justice, even against his own flesh and blood.
At the next moment a voice was heard, loud and clear as a silver trumpet, calling upon the people to disperse.
It was the voice of Paullus, who now strode into the gap, left by the opening concourse, glittering in the full panoply of a decurion of the horse, thirty dismounted troopers arranging themselves in a glittering line behind him.
At the sight of the soldiery, led by one whose face was familiar to him, the audacity of the young man revived; and turning round with a light laugh toward Arvina,
"Here is a precious coil," he said, "my Paullus, about a poor plebeian harlot!"
"I never heard that Icilia was such," replied the young soldier sternly, for the dark tale was but too well known; "nor must you look to me, Aulus Fulvius, for countenance in deeds like these, although it be my duty to protect you from violence! Come my friends," he continued, turning to the multitude, "You must disperse, at once, to your several homes; if any have been wronged by this man, he can have justice at the tribunal of the Prtor! But there must be no violence!"
"Is this thing true, Aulus?" asked the old man, in tones so stern and solemn, that the youth hung his head and was silent.
"Is this thing true?" the Senator repeated.
"Why, hath he not confessed it?" asked the old man, who had spoken so many times before; and who had lingered with Fulvius Flaccus, and a few others of the crowd. "It is true."
"Who art thou?" asked the old Patrician, a terrible suspicion crossing his mind.
"The father of that daughter, whom thy son forcibly dishonored!"
"Enter!" replied the senator, throwing the door, in front of which he stood, wide open, "thou shalt have justice!"
Then, casting a glance full of sad but resolute determination upon the culprit, all whose audacity had passed away, he said in a graver tone,
"Enter thou likewise; thou shalt have punishment!"
"Punishment!" answered the proud youth, his eye flashing, "Punishment! and from whom?"
"Punishment from thy father! wilt thou question it? Punishment, even unto death, if thou shalt be found worthy to die!—the law is not dead, if it have slept awhile! Enter!"
He dared not to reply—he dared not to refuse. Slow, sullen, and crest-fallen, he crossed his father's threshhold; but, as he did so, he glared terribly on Paullus, and shook his hand at him, and cried in tones of deadly hatred,
"This is thy doing! curses—curses upon thee! thou shalt rue it!"
Arvina smiled in calm contempt of his impotent resentment.
The culprit, the accuser, and the judge passed inward; the door closed heavily behind them; the crowd dispersed; the soldiery marched onward; and the street, in front of the Fulvian House, was left dark and silent.
An hour perhaps had passed, when the door was again opened, and the aged plebeian, Icilia's father, issued into the dark street.
"Scourged!" he cried, with a wild triumphant laugh, "Scourged, like a slave, at his own father's bidding! Rejoice, exult, Icilia! thy shame is half avenged!"
THE CONSULAR COMITIA.
Your voices! CORIOLANUS.
The morning had at length arrived, big with the fate of Rome. The morning of the Consular elections.
The sun shone broad and bright over the gorgeous city, and the wide green expanse of the field of Mars, whereon, from an hour before the first peep of dawn, the mighty multitude of Roman citizens had stood assembled.
All the formalities had been performed successfully. The Consul Cicero, who had gone forth beyond the walls to take the auspices, accompanied by an augur, had declared the auguries favorable.
The separate enclosures, with the bridges, as they were termed, across which the centuries must pass to give their votes, had been erected; the distributors of the ballots, and the guardians of the ballot-boxes, had been appointed.
And now, as the sun rushed up with his crown of living glory into the cloudless arch of heaven, the brazen trumpets of the centuries pealed long and loud, calling the civic army to its ranks, in order to commence their voting.
That was the awful moment; and scarce a breast was there, but beat high with hope or fear, or dark and vague anticipation.
The Consul and the friends of order were, perhaps, calmer and more confident, than any others of that mighty concourse; for they were satisfied with their preparations; they were firm in the support of the patrician houses, and in the unanimity of the Roman knights conciliated by Cicero.
Scarcely less confident were the conspirators; for with so much secrecy had the arrangements of the Consul been made, that although Catiline knew himself suspected, knew that his motives were perspicuous, and his measures in some sort anticipated, he yet believed that the time was propitious.
He hoped, and believed as fully as he hoped, that Cicero and his party, content with the triumph they had obtained in the Senate, and with the adjudication by that body of dictatorial power to the consuls, were now deceived into the idea that the danger was already over.
Still, his fierce heart throbbed violently; and there was a feeling of hot agonizing doubt blent with the truculent hope, the savage ambition, the strong thirst of blood, which goaded him almost to madness.
From an early hour he had stood surrounded by his friends, the leaders of that awful faction, hard by the portico of the diribitorium, or pay-office, marking with a keen eye every group that entered the field of Mars, and addressing those, whom he knew friendly to his measures, with many a fiery word of greeting and encouragement.
Cassius and Lentulus, a little way behind him, leaned against the columns of the gateway, with more than a thousand of the clients of their houses lounging about in groups, seemingly inattentive, but really alive to every word or glance of their leaders.
These men were all armed secretly with breast plates, and the puissant Roman sword, beneath their peaceful togas.
These men, well-trained in the wars of Sylla, hardy and brave, and acting in a body, were destined to commence the work of slaughter, by slaying the Great Consul, so soon as he should open the comitia.
Cethegus had departed, already, to join his gladiators, who, to the number of fifteen hundred, were gathered beyond the Janiculum, ready to act upon the guard, and to beat down the standard which waved there, the signal of election.
Statilius, Gabinius, and Cparius, were ready with their armed households and insurgent slaves, prepared at a moment's notice to throw open the prison doors, and fire the city in twelve places.
Fearless, unanimous, armed, and athirst for blood, the foes of the republic stood, and marked with greedy eyes and visages inflamed and fiery, their victims sweep through the gates, arrayed in their peaceful robes, unarmed, as it would seem, and unsuspecting.
Not a guard was to be seen anywhere; not a symptom of suspicion; much less of preparation. The wonted cohort only was gathered about the standard on the bridge gate of the Janiculum; but even these bore neither shields, nor javelins; and sat or lounged about, unconcerned, and evidently off their guard.
But the keen eye of Catiline, could mark the band of grey-tunicked Gladiators, mustered, and ready to assume the offensive at a moment's notice, though now they were sauntering about, or sitting down or lying in the shade, or chatting with the country girls and rustic slaves, who covered the sloping hill-sides of the Janiculum, commanding a full view of the Campus Martius.
"The Fools!" muttered Catiline. "The miserable, God-deserted idiots! Does the man of Arpinum deem me then so weak, to be disarmed by an edict, quelled by a paltry proclamation?"
Then, as the stout smith, Caius Crispus, passed by him, with a gang of workmen, and a rabble of the lowest citizens,
"Ha!" he exclaimed, "hail, Crispus—hail, brave hearts!—all things look well for us to-day—well for the people! Your voices, friends; I must have your voices!"
"You shall—Catiline!" replied the smith—"and our hands also!" he added, with a significant smile and a dark glance.
"Catiline! Catiline—all friends of the good people, all foes of the proud patricians, give noble Catiline your voices!"
"Catiline! Catiline for the persecuted people!" and, with a wild and stirring shout, the mob passed inward through the gate, leaving the smith behind, however; who stopped as if to speak with one of the Cornelian clients, but in reality to wait further orders.
"When shall we march"—he asked, after a moment or two, stealthily approaching the chief conspirator. "Before they have called the prerogative century to vote, or when the knights are in the bridges?"
"When the standard goes down, fool!" replied Catiline, harshly. "Do not you know your work?"
At this moment, a party of young and dissipated nobles came swaggering along the road, with their ungirded tunics flowing down to their heels, their long sleeves fringed with purple falling as far as to their wrists, and their curled ringlets floating on their shoulders. Among them, with a bloodshot eye, a pale and haggard face, and a strange terrible expression, half-sullen, half-ashamed, on all his features, as if he fancied that his last night's disgrace was known to all men, strode Aulus Fulvius, the son of that stern senator.
"Your voices! noblemen, your voices!" cried Catiline, laughing with feigned gayety—"Do but your work to-day, and to-night"—
"Wine and fair women!" shouted one; but Aulus smiled savagely, and darkly, and answered in one word "Revenge!"
Next behind them, came Bassus, the veteran father of the dead eagle-bearer; he who had told so sad a tale of patrician cruelty to Fulvius Flaccus, in the forge.
"Why, Bassus, my brave veteran, give me your hand," cried the conspirator, making a forward step to meet him. "For whom vote you to-day, for Muroena and Silanus? Ha?"
"For Catiline and justice!" answered the old man, "justice on him who wronged the Eagle-bearer's child! who sits in the senate even yet, defiled with her pure blood!—the infamous Cornelius!"
Another man had paused to listen to these words, and he now interposed, speaking to Bassus,
"Verily Catiline is like to do thee justice, my poor Bassus, on a member of the Cornelian house! Is't Lentulus, I prithee, or Cethegus, on whom thou would'st have justice?"
But the old man replied angrily, "The people's friend shall give the people justice! who ever knew a noble pity or right a poor man?"
"Ask Aulus Fulvius"—replied the other, with a sarcastic tone, and a strange smile lighting up his features. "Besides, is not Catiline a noble?"
At the word Aulus Fulvius leaped on him like a tiger, with his face crimsoning, and his heart almost bursting with fury.
He could not speak for rage, but he seized the man who had uttered those mysterious words by the throat, and brandished a long poniard, extricated in a second's space from the loose sleeve of his tunic, furiously in the air.
As the bright blade flashed in the sunlight, there was a forward rush among the conspirators, who, anxious to avert any casual affray, that might have created a disturbance, would have checked the blow.
But their aid would have come too late, had not the man thus suddenly assaulted, by an extraordinary exertion of strength, vigor, and agility, wrenched the dagger from Aulus' hand, and, tripping him at the same moment with his foot, hurled him upon his back in the dust, which surged up in a great cloud, covering his perfumed hair and snow-white toga, with its filthy and ftid particles.
"Ha! ha!" he cried with a loud ringing laugh, as he tossed the weapon high into the sunny air, that all around might see it—"Here is one of your noble people's friends!—Do they wear daggers all, for the people's throats? Do they wave torches all, against the people's workshops?"
The matter seemed to be growing serious, and while two or three of the conspirators seized Aulus, and compelled him with gentle violence to desist from farther tumult, Cparius whispered into the ear of Catiline, "This knave knows far too much. Were it not best three or four of our friend Crispus' men should knock him on the head?"
"No! no!" cried Catiline—"By Hades! no! It is too late, I tell you. The whole thing will be settled within half an hour. There goes the second trumpet."
And as he spoke, the shrill blast of the brazen instruments rose piercingly and almost painfully upon the ear; and the people might be seen collecting themselves rapidly into the centuries of their tribes, in order to give their votes in their places, as ascertained by lot.
"And the third"—exclaimed Cassius, joyfully—"Will give the signal for election!" Catiline interrupted him, as if fearful that he would say some thing that should commit the party. "But see," he added, pointing with his hand across the wide plain toward a little knoll, on which there stood a group of noble-looking men, surrounded by a multitude of knights and patricians, "See yonder, how thickly the laticlavian tunics muster, and the crimson-edged togas of the nobles—all the knights are there too, methinks. And look! look the consuls of the year! and my competitors! Come, my friends, come; we must toward the consul. He is about to open the comitia."
"Catiline! Catiline! the people's friend!" again shouted Caius Crispus; and Bassus took the word, and repeated it in the shrill quavering accents of old age—"All those who love the people vote for the people's friend—vote for the noble Catiline!"
And at once thousands of voices took the cry, "Catiline! Catiline! Hail, Catiline, that shall be Consul!"
And, in the midst of these triumphant cries, hardened and proud of heart, and confident of the success of his blood-thirsty schemes, he hurried forward, accompanied by Lentulus and his armed satellites, panting already with anticipated joy, and athirst for slaughter.
But, as he swept along, followed by the faction, a great body of citizens of the lower orders, decent substantial men, came crowding toward the Campus, and paused to inquire the cause of the tumult, which had left its visible effects in the flushed visages and knotted brows of many present.
Two or three voices began to relate what had passed; but the smith Crispus, who had lingered with one or two of his ruffians, intent to murder the man who had crossed his chief, so soon as the signal should be given, rudely broke in, and interrupted them with the old cry, "The people's friend! All ye who love the people, vote for the people's friend, vote for the noble Catiline!"
"Had mighty Marius been alive, Marius of Arpinum, or the great Gracchi, they had cried, 'Vote rather for the man of the people!—vote for Cicero of Arpinum!'"
"Tush, what knows he of Marius?" replied the smith.
"What knows he of the great Gracchi?" echoed one of his followers.
"Whether should best know Marius, they who fought by his side, or they who slew his friends? Who should best know the great Gracchi if not Fulvius, the grandson of that Fulvius Flaccus, who died with them, in the forum, by the hands of Saturninus?"
"Vote for Catiline! vote for Catiline! friends of the people!" shouted the smith again, rechoed by all his savage and vociferous gang, seeking to drown the voice of the true man of the people.
"Aye" exclaimed Fulvius, ironically, springing upon a stone horse-block, thence to address the people, who shouted "Flaccus! Flaccus!" on all sides. "Live Fulvius Flaccus! Speak to us, noble Fulvius!"
"Aye!" he exclaimed, "friends of the people, followers of Marius, vote, if ye be wise men, for the murderer of his kinsman—for Catiline, who slew Marius Gratidianus!"
"No! no! we will none of them! no Catiline! no follower of Sylla? To your tribes, men of Rome—to your tribes!"
The mingled cries waxed wild and terrible; and it was clear that the popular party was broken, by the bold words of the speaker, into two bodies, if ever it had been united. But little cared the conspirators for that, since they had counted, not upon winning by a majority of tribes, but by a civic massacre.
And now—even as that roar was the loudest, while Flaccus in vain strove to gain a hearing, for the third time the brazen trumpets of the centuries awoke their stirring symphonies, announcing that the hour had arrived for the tribes to commence their voting.
Those who were in the secret looked eagerly over the field. The hour had come—the leader was at their head—they waited but the signal!
That signal, named by Catiline, in the house of Lca,—the blood of Cicero!
They saw a mass of men, pressing on like a mighty wedge through the dense multitude; parting the waves of the living ocean as a stout galley parts the billows; struggling on steadily toward the knoll, whereon, amid the magnates of the land, consulars, senators, and knights, covering it with the pomp of white and crimson gowns, gemmed only by the flashing axe-heads of the lictors, stood the great Consul.
They saw the gladiators forming themselves into a separate band, on the slopes of the Janiculum, with a senator's robe distinct among the dark gray tunics.
Catiline and his clients were not a hundred paces distant from Cicero, and the assembled nobles. They had halted! Their hands were busy in the bosom of their gowns, griping the hilts of their assassin's tools!
Cethegus and his gladiators were not a hundred paces distant from the bridge-gate of the Janiculum, and the cohort's bannered eagle.
They, too, had halted! they, too, were forming in battle order—they too were mustering their breath for the dread onset—they too were handling their war weapons!
Almost had Caius Crispus, in his mad triumph, shouted victory.
One moment, and Rome had been the prize for the winner in the gladiators' battle.
And the notes of the brazen trumpets had not yet died away, among the echoing hills.
They had not died away, before they were taken up and repeated, east, west, and north and south, by shriller, more pervading clangors.
It burst over the heads of the astonished people like heaven's thunder, the wild prolonged war-flourish of the legions. From the Tarpeian rock, and the guarded Capitol; from the rampired Janiculum; from the fortress, beyond the Island bridge; from the towered steeps of the Quirinal, broke simultaneously the well known Roman war note!
Upsprang, along the turreted wall of the Janiculum, with crested casques, and burnished brazen corslets, and the tremendous javelins of the cohorts, a long line of Metellus' legionaries.
Upsprang on the heights of the Capitol, and on each point of vantage, an answering band of warriors, full armed.
And, last not least, as that warlike din smote the sky, Cicero, on whom every eye was riveted of that vast concourse, flung back his toga, and stood forth conspicuous, armed with a mighty breastplate, and girded with the sword that won him, at an after day, among the mountains of Cilicia, the high style of Imperator.
A mighty shout burst from the faithful ranks of the knights; and, starting from their scabbards, five thousand sword-blades flashed in a trusty ring around the savior of his country.
"Catiline would have murdered Him!" shouted the voice of Fulvius Flaccus—"Catiline would have burned your workshops! Catiline would have made himself Dictator, King! Vote, men of Rome, vote, friends of the people I vote now, I say, for Catiline!"
Anticipated, frustrated, outwitted,—the conspirators glared on each other hopeless.
Against forces so combined, what chance of success?
Still, although ruined in his hopes, Catiline bore up bravely, and with an insolence of hardihood that in a good cause had been heroism.
Affecting to laugh at the precautions, and sneer at the pusillanimous mind that had suggested them, he defied proof, defied suspicion.
There was no overt act—no proof! and Cicero, satisfied with his triumph—for alarmed beyond measure, and astonished, all ranks and classes vied with each other in voting for Silanus and Murna—took no step to arrest or convict the ringleaders.
It was a moral, not a physical victory, at which he had aimed so nobly.
And nobly had he won it.
The views of the conspiracy frustrated; the hearts of its leaders chilled and thunder-stricken; the loyalty and virtue of all classes aroused; the eyes of the Roman people opened to knowledge of their friends; two wise and noble consuls chosen, by who were on the point of casting their votes for a murderer and traitor; the city saved from conflagration; the commonwealth preserved, in all its majesty; these were the trophies of the Consular Comitia.
Things, bad begun, make strong themselves by ill. MACBETH.
Sixteen days had elapsed, since the conspirators were again frustrated at the Consular Comitia.
Yet not for that had the arch-traitor withdrawn his foot one hair's breadth from his purpose, or paused one moment in his career of crime and ruin.
There is, beyond doubt, a necessity—not as the ancients deemed, supernatural, and the work of fate, but a natural moral necessity—arising from the very quality of crime itself, which spurs the criminal on to new guilt, fresh atrocity.
In the dark path of wickedness there is no halting place; the wretched climber must turn his face for ever upward, for ever onward; if he look backward his fall is inevitable, his doom fixed.
So was it proved with Catiline. To gain impunity for his first deed of cruelty and blood, another and another were forced on him, until at last, harassed and maddened by the consciousness of untold guilt, his frantic spirit could find no respite, save in the fierce intoxication of excitement, the strange delight of new atrocity.
Add to this, that, knowing himself anticipated and discovered, he knew also that if spared for a time by his opponent, it was no lack of will, but lack of opportunity alone to crush him, that held the hands of Cicero inactive.
Thus, although for a time the energies of his weaker comrades sank paralysed by the frustration of their schemes, and by the certainty that they were noted and observed even in their most secret hours, his stronger and more vehement spirit found only in the greater danger the greater stimulus to action.
Sixteen days had elapsed, and gradually, as the conspirators found that no steps were taken by the government for their apprehension or punishment, they too waxed bolder, and began to fancy, in their insolent presumption, that the republic was too weak or too timid to enforce its own laws upon undoubted traitors.
All the causes, moreover, which had urged them at first to councils so desperate, existed undiminished, nay, exaggerated by delay.
Their debts, their inability to raise those funds which their boundless profusion rendered necessary, still maddened them; and to these the consciousness of detected guilt, and that "necessity which," in the words of their chief, "makes even the timid brave," were superadded.
The people and the Senate, who had all, for a time, been vehemently agitated by a thousand various emotions of anger, fear, anxiety, revenge, forgetting, as all popular bodies are wont to do, the past danger in the present security, were beginning to doubt whether they had not been alarmed at a shadow; and were half inclined to question the existence of any conspiracy, save in the fears of their Consul.
It was well for Rome at that hour, that there was still in the commonwealth, a counterpoise to the Democratic Spirit; which, vehement and energetical beyond all others in sudden and great emergencies, is ever restless and impatient of protracted watchfulness and preparation, and lacks that persistency and resolute endurance which seems peculiar to aristocratic constitutions.
And now especially were demonstrated these opposite characteristics; for while the lower orders, and the popular portion of the Senate, who had been in the first instance most strenuous in their alarm, and most urgent for strong measures, were now hesitating, doubting, and almost compassionating the culprits, who had fallen under such a load of obloquy, the firmer and more moderate minds, were guarding the safety of the commonwealth in secret, and watching, through their unknown emissaries, every movement of the traitors.
It was about twelve o'clock at night, on the eighth day before the Ides, corresponding to our seventh of November, when the Consul was seated alone in the small but sumptuous library, which has been described above, meditating with an anxious and care-worn expression, over some papers which lay before him on the table.
No sound had been heard in the house for several hours; all its inhabitants except the Consul only, with the slave who had charge of the outer door, and one faithful freedman, having long since retired to rest.
But from without, the wailing of the stormy night-wind rose and fell in melancholy alternations of wild sobbing sound, and breathless silence; and the pattering of heavy rain was distinctly audible on the flat roofs, and in the flooded tank, or impluvium, which occupied the centre of the hall.
It was in one of the lulls of the autumnal storm, that a heavy knock was heard on the pannel of the exterior door, reverberating in long echoes, through the silent vestibule, and the vast colonnades of the Atrium and peristyle.
At that dead hour of night, such a summons would have seemed strange in any season: it was now almost alarming.
Nor, though he was endowed pre-eminently with that moral strength of mind which is the highest quality of courage, and was by no means deficient in mere physical bravery, did Cicero raise his head from the perusal of his papers, and listen to that unwonted sound, without some symptoms of anxiety and perturbation.
So thoroughly acquainted as he was, with the desperate wickedness, the infernal energy, and absolute fearlessness of Catiline, it could not but occur to him instantly, when he heard that unusual summons, at a time when all the innocent world was buried in calm sleep, how easy and obvious a mode of liberation from all danger and restraint, his murder would afford to men so daring and unscrupulous, as those against whom he was playing, for no less a stake than life or death.
There was, he well knew, but a single slave, and he old and unarmed, in the vestibule, nor was the aged and effeminate Greek freedman, one on whom reliance could be placed in a deadly struggle.
All these things flashed suddenly upon the mind of Cicero, as the heavy knocking fell upon his ear, followed by a murmur of many voices, and the tread of many feet without.
He arose quietly from the bronze arm-chair, on which he had been sitting, walked across the room, to a recess beside the book-shelves, and reached down from a hook, on which it hung, among a collection of armor and weapons, a stout, straight, Roman broad-sword, with a highly adorned hilt and scabbard.
Scarcely, however, had he taken the weapon in his hand, before the door was thrown open, and his freedman ushered in three men, attired in the full costume of Roman Senators.
"All hail, at this untimely hour, most noble Cicero," exclaimed the first who entered.
"By all the Gods!" cried the second, "rejoiced I am, O Consul, to see that you are on your guard; for there is need of watchfulness, in truth, for who love the republic."
"Which need it is, in short," added the third, "that has brought us hither."
"Most welcome at all times," answered Cicero, laying aside the broad-sword with a smile, "though of a truth, I thought it might be less gracious visitors. Noble Marcellus, have you good tidings of the commonwealth? and you, Metellus Scipio, and you Marcus Crassus? Friends to the state, I know you; and would trust that no ill news hath held you watchful."
"Be not too confident of that, my Consul," replied Scipio. "Peril there is, at hand to the commonwealth, in your person."
"We have strange tidings here, confirming all that you made known to the Senate, on the twelfth day before the Calends, in letters left by an unknown man with Crassus' doorkeeper this evening," said Marcellus. "We were at supper with him, when they came, and straightway determined to accompany him hither."
"In my person!" exclaimed Cicero—"Then is the peril threatened from Lucius Sergius Catiline! were it for myself alone, this were a matter of small moment; but, seeing that I hold alone the clues of this dark plot, it were disastrous to the state, should ought befall me, who have set my life on this cast to save my country."
"Indeed disastrous!" exclaimed the wealthy Crassus; "for these most horrible and cursed traitors are sworn, as it would seem, to consume this most glorious city of the earth, and all its stately wealth, with the sword and fire."
"To destroy all the noble houses," cried Scipio, "and place the vile and loathsome rabble at the helm of state."
"All this, I well knew, of old," said Cicero calmly. "But I pray you, my friends, be seated; and let me see these papers."
And taking the anonymous letters from the hands of Crassus, he read them aloud, pausing from time to time, to meditate on the intention of the writer.
"Marcus Licinius Crassus," thus ran the first, "is spoken of by those, who love not Rome, as their lover and trusty comrade! Doth Marcus Licinius Crassus deem that the flames, which shall roar over universal Rome, will spare his houses only? Doth Marcus Crassus hope, that when the fetters shall be stricken from the limbs of every slave in Rome, his serfs alone will hold their necks beneath a voluntary yoke?—Doth he imagine that, when all the gold of the rich shall be distributed among the needy, his seven thousand talents shall escape the red hands of Catiline and his associates? Be wise! Take heed! The noble, who forsakes his order, earns scorn alone from his new partisans! When Cicero shall fall, all noble Romans shall perish lamentably, with him—when the great Capitol itself shall melt in the conflagration, all private dwellings shall go down in the common ruin. Take counsel of a friend, true, though unknown and humble! Hold fast to the republic! rally the nobles and the rich, around the Consul! Ere the third day hence, he shall be triumphant, or be nothing!—Fare thee well!"
"This is mysterious, dark, incomprehensible," said Cicero, as he finished reading it. "Had it been sent to me, I should have read it's secret thus, as intended to awake suspicion, in my mind, of a brave and noble Roman! a true friend of his country!" he added, taking the hand of Crassus in his own. "Yet, even so, it would have failed. For as soon would I doubt the truth of heaven itself, as question the patriotic faith of the conqueror of Spartacus! But left at thy house, my Crassus, it seems almost senseless and unmeaning. What have we more?
"The snake is scotched, not slain! The spark is concealed, not quenched! The knife is sharp yet, though it lie in the scabbard! When was conspiracy beat down by clemency, or treason conquered by timidity? Let those who would survive the ides of November, keep their loins girded, and their eyes wakeful. What I am, you may not learn, but this much only—I was a noble, before I was a beggar! a Roman, before I was a—traitor!"
"Ha!" continued the consul, examining the paper closely, "This is somewhat more pregnant—the Ides of November!—the Ides—is it so?—They shall be met withal!—It is a different hand-writing also; and here is a third—Ha!"
"A third, plainer than the first," said Metellus Scipio—"pray mark it."
"Three men have sworn—who never swear in vain—a knight, a senator, and yet a senator again! Two of the three, Cornelii! Their knives are keen, their hands sure, their hearts resolute, against the new man from Arpinum! Let those who love Cicero, look to the seventh day, before November's Ides."
"The seventh day—ha? so soon? Be it so," said the undaunted magistrate. "I am prepared for any fortune."
"Consul," exclaimed the Freedman, again entering, "I watched with Geta, in the vestibule, since these good fathers entered; and now there have come two ladies clad in the sacred garb of vestals. Two lictors wait on them. They ask to speak with the consul."
"Admit them, madman!" exclaimed Cicero; "admit them with all honor. You have not surely kept them in the vestibule?"
"Not so, my Consul. They are seated on the ivory chairs in the Tablinum."
"Pardon me, noble friends. I go to greet the holy virgins. This is a strange and most unusual honour. Lead the way, man."
And with the words, he left the room in evident anxiety and haste; while his three visitors stood gazing each on the other, in apprehension mingled with wonder.
In a few moments, however, he returned alone, very pale, and wearing on his fine features a singular expression of awe and dignified self-complacency, which seemed to be almost at variance with each other.
"The Gods," he said, as he entered, in a deep and solemn tone, "the Gods themselves attest Rome's peril by grand and awful portents. The College of the Vestals sends tidings, that 'The State totters to its fall'!"
"May the Great Gods avert!" cried his three auditors, simultaneously, growing as pale as death, and faltering out their words from ashy lips in weak or uncertain accents.
"It is so!" said Cicero; who, though a pure Deist, in truth, and no believer in Rome's monstrous polytheism, was not sufficiently emancipated from the superstition of the age to dispute the truth of prodigies and portents. "It is so. The priestess, who watched the sacred flame on the eternal hearth, beheld it leap thrice upward in a clear spire of vivid and unearthly light, and lick the vaulted roof-stones—thrice vanish into utter gloom! Once, she believed the fire extinct, and veiled her head in more than mortal terror. But, after momentary gloom, it again revived, while three strange sighs, mightier than any human voice, came breathing from the inmost shrine, and waved the flame fitfully to and fro, with a dread pallid lustre. The College bids the Consul to watch for himself and the republic, these three days, or ill shall come of it."
Even as he spoke, a bustle was again heard in the vestibule, as of a fresh arrival, and again the freedman entered.
"My Consul, a veiled patrician woman craves to confer with you, in private."
"Ha! all Rome is afoot, methinks, to-night. Do you know her, my Glaucias?"
"I saw her once before, my Consul. On the night of the fearful storm, when the falchion of flame shook over Rome, and the Senate was convened suddenly."
"Ha! She! it is well—it is very well! we shall know all anon." And his face lighted up joyously, as he spoke. "Excuse me, Friends and Fathers. This is one privy to the plot, with tidings of weight doubtless. Thanks for your news, and good night; for I must pray you leave me. Your warning hath come in good season, and I will not be taken unaware. The Gods have Rome in their keeping, and, to save her, they will not let me perish. Fare ye well, nobles. I must be private with this woman."
After the ceremonial of the time, his visitors departed; but as they passed through the atrium, they met the lady, conducted by the old Greek freedman.
Little expecting to meet any one at that untimely hour, she had allowed her veil to fall down upon her shoulders; and, although she made a movement to recover it, as she saw the Senators approaching her by the faint light of the single lamp which burned before the household gods on the small altar by the impluvium, Marcus Marcellus caught a passing view of a pair of large languishing blue eyes, and a face of rare beauty.
"By the great Gods!" he whispered in Crassus' ear, "that was the lovely Fulvia."
"Ha! Curius' paramour!" replied the other. "Can it be possible that the stern Consul amuses his light hours, with such high-born harlotry?"
"Not he! not he!" said Scipio. "I doubt not Curius is one of them! He is needy, and bold, and bloody."
"But such a braggart!" answered Marcellus.
"I have known braggarts fight," said Crassus. "There was a fellow, who served in the fifth legion; he fought before the standard of the hastati; and I deemed him a coward ever, but in the last strife with Spartacus he slew six men with his own hand. I saw it."
"I have heard of such things," said Scipio. "But it grows late. Let us move homeward." And then he added, as he was leaving the Consul's door, "If he can trust his household, Cicero should arm it. My life on it! They will attempt to murder him."
"He has given orders even now to arm his slaves," said the Freedman, in reply; "and so soon as they have got their blades and bucklers, I go to invite hither the surest of his clients."
"Thou shalt do well to do so—But see thou do it silently."
And with the words, they hurried homeward through the dark streets, leaving the wise and virtuous magistrate in conference with his abandoned, yet trustworthy informant, Fulvia.
He is about it. The doors are open. MACBETH.
The morning had scarcely dawned, after that dismal and tempestuous night, when three men were observed by some of the earlier citizens, passing up the Sacred Way, toward the Cerolian Place.
It was not so much that the earliness of the hour attracted the notice of these spectators—for the Romans were a matutinal people, even in their most effeminate and luxurious ages, and the sun found few loiterers in their chambers, when he came forth from his oriental gates—as that the manner and expression of these men themselves were singular, and such as might well excite suspicion.
They all walked abreast, two clad in the full garb of Senators, and one in the distinctive dress of Roman knighthood. No one had heard them speak aloud, nor seen them whisper, one to the other. They moved straight onward, steadily indeed and rather slowly, but with something of consciousness in their manner, glancing furtively around them from beneath their bent brows, and sometimes even casting their eyes over their shoulders, as if to see whether they were followed.
At about a hundred paces after these three, not however accompanying them, or attached to their party, so far at least as appearances are considered, two large-framed fellows, clothed in the dark gray frocks worn by slaves and gladiators, came strolling in the same direction.
These men had the auburn hair, blue eyes, and massive, if not stolid cast of features peculiar to northern races, at that time the conquered slaves, though destined soon to be the victors, of Rome's gigantic power.
When the first three reached the corner of the next block of buildings, to the corner of that magnificent street called the Carinoe, they paused for a few moments; and, after looking carefully about them, to mark whether they were observed or not, held a short whispered conversation, which their stern faces, and impassioned gestures seemed to denote momentous.
While they were thus engaged, the other two came sauntering along, and passed them by, apparently unheeded, and without speaking, or saluting them.
Those three men were the knight Caius Cornelius, a friend and distant kinsman of Cethegus, who was the second of the number, and Lucius Vargunteius, a Senator, whose name has descended only to posterity, through the black infamy of the deed, which he was even at that moment meditating.
Spurred into action by the menaces and violence of Catiline, who had now resolved to go forth and commence open warfare from the entrenched camp prepared in the Appenines, by Caius Manlius, these men had volunteered, on the previous night, at a second meeting held in the house of Lca, to murder Cicero, with their own hands, during his morning levee.
To this end, they had now come forth thus early, hoping so to anticipate the visit of his numerous clients, and take him at advantage, unprepared and defenceless.
Three stout men were they, as ever went forth armed and determined for premeditated crime; stout in frame, stout of heart, invulnerable by any physical apprehension, unassailable by any touch of conscience, pitiless, fearless, utterly depraved.
Yet there was something in their present enterprise, that half daunted them. Something in the character of the man, whom they were preparing to assassinate—something of undefined feeling, suggesting to them the certainty of the whole world's reproach and scorn through everlasting ages, however present success "might trammel up the consequence."
Though they would not have confessed it to their own hearts, they were reluctant toward their task; and this unadmitted reluctance it was, which led them to pause and parley, under the show of arranging their schemes, which had in truth been fully organized on the preceding night.
They were too far committed, however, to recede; and it is probable that no one of them, although their hearts were full almost to suffocation, as they neared the good Consul's door, had gone so far as to think of withdrawing his hand from the deed of blood.
The outer door of the vestibule was open; and but one slave was stationed in the porch; an old man quite unarmed, not having so much even as a porter's staff, who was sitting on a stone bench, in the morning sunshine.
As the conspirators ascended the marble steps, which gave access to the vestibule, and entered the beautiful Tuscan colonnade, the two Germans, who had stopped and looked back for a moment, seeing them pass in, set off as hard as they could run, through an adjoining street toward the house of Catiline, which was not very far distant.
It was not long ere they reached it, and entered without question or hindrance, as men familiar and permitted.
In a small room, adjoining the inner peristyle, the master of the house was striding to and fro across the tesselated floor, in a state of perturbation, extreme even for him; whose historian has described him with bloodless face, and evil eyes, irregular and restless motions, and the impress of frantic guilt, ever plain to be seen in his agitated features.
Aurelia Orestilla sat near him, on a low cushioned stool, with her superb Italian face livid and sicklied by unusual dread. Her hands lay tightly clasped upon her knee—her lips were as white as ashes. Her large lustrous eyes, burning and preternaturally distended, were fixed on the haggard face of her husband, and followed him, as he strode up and down the room in impotent anxiety and expectation.
Yet she, privy as she was to all his blackest councils, the instigator and rewarder of his most hideous crime, knowing the hell of impotent agony that was consuming his heart, she dared not address him with any words of hope or consolation.
At such a crisis all ordinary phrases of comfort or cheering love, seem but a mockery to the spirit, which can find no rest, until the doubts that harass it are ended; and this she felt to be the case, and, had her own torturing expectation allowed her to frame any speech to soothe him, she would not have ventured on its utterance, certain that it would call forth a torrent of imprecation on her head, perhaps a burst of violence against her person.
The very affections of the wicked, are strangely mixed at times, with more discordant elements; and it would have been a hard question to solve, whether that horrible pair most loved, or hated one another.
The woman's passions, strange to relate, had been kindled at times, by the very cruelty and fury, which at other moments made her almost detest him. There was a species of sublimity in the very atrocity of Catiline's wickedness, which fascinated her morbid and polluted fancy; and she almost admired the ferocity which tortured her, and from which, alone of mortal ills, she shrank appalled and unresisting.
And Catiline loved her, as well as he could love anything, loved her the more because she too, in some sort, had elicited his admiration; for she had crossed him many times, and once braved him, and, alone of human beings, he had not crushed her.
They were liker to mated tigers, which even in their raptures of affection, rend with the fang, and clutch with the unsheathed talon, until the blood and anguish testify the fury of their passion, than to beings of human mould and nature.
Suddenly the traitor stopped short in his wild and agitated walk, and seemed to listen intently, although no sound came to the ears of the woman, who was no less on the alert than he, for any stir or rumor.
"It is"—he said at length, clasping his hands above his head—"it is the step of Arminius, the trusty gladiator—do you not hear it, Orestilla?"
"No," she replied, shaking her head doubtfully. "There is no sound at all. My ear is quicker of hearing, too, than yours, Catiline, and if there were any step, I should be first to mark it."
"Tush! woman!" he made answer, glaring upon her fiercely. "It is my heart that hears it."
"You have a heart, then!" she replied bitterly, unable even at that time to refrain from taunting him.
"And a hand also, and a dagger! and, by Hell and all its furies! I know not why I do not flesh it in you. I will one day."
"No, you will not," she answered very quietly.
"And wherefore not? I have done many a worse deed in my day. The Gods would scarce punish me for that slaughter; and men might well call it justice.—Wherefore not, I say? Do you think I so doat on your beauty, that I cannot right gladly spare you?"
"Because," answered the woman, meeting his fixed glare, with a glance as meaning and as fiery, "because, when I find that you meditate it, I will act quickest. I know a drug or two, and an unguent of very sovereign virtue."
"Ha! ha!" The reckless profligate burst into a wild ringing laugh of triumphant approbation. "Ha! ha! thou mightst have given me a better reason. Where else should I find such a tigress? By all the Gods! it is your clutch and claws that I prize, more than your softest and most rapturous caress! But hist! hist! now—do you not hear that step?"
"I do—I do," she replied, clasping her hands again, which she had unclinched in her anger—"and it is Arminius' step! I was wrong to cross thee, Catiline; and thou so anxious! we shall hear now—we shall hear all."
Almost as she spoke, the German gladiator rushed into the room, heated and panting from his swift race; and, without any sign of reverence or any salutation, exclaimed abruptly,
"Catiline, it is over, ere this time! I saw them enter his house!"
The woman uttered a low choking shriek, her face flushed crimson, and then again turned paler than before, and she fell back on her cushioned seat, swooning with joy at the welcome tidings.
But Catiline flung both his arms abroad toward heaven, and cried aloud—"Ye Gods, for once I thank ye! if there be Gods indeed!" he added, with a sneer—"thou sawest them enter, ha?—thou art not lying?—By all the furies! If you deceive me, I will take care that you see nothing more in this world."
"Catiline, these eyes saw them!"
"At length! at length!" he exclaimed, his eye flashing, and his whole countenance glowing with fiendish animation, "and yet curses upon it!—that I could not slay him—that I should owe to any other hand my vengeance on my victim. Thou hast done well—ha! here is gold, Arminius! the last gold I own—but what of that, to-morrow—to-morrow, I will have millions! Away! away! bold heart, arouse your friends and followers—to arms, to arms, cry havoc through the streets, and liberty and vengeance!"
While he was speaking yet, the door was again opened, and Cethegus entered with the others, dull, gloomy, and crest-fallen; but Catiline was in a state of excitement so tremendous, that he saw nothing but the men.
At one bound he reached Cethegus, and catching him by both hands—"How!" he exclaimed—"How was it?—quick, tell me, quick! Did he die hard? Did he die, conscious, in despair, in anguish?—Tell me, tell me, you tortured him in the slaying—tell me, he died a coward, howling and cursing fate, and knowing that I, I slew him, and—speak Cethegus?—speak, man! By the Gods! you are pale! silent!—these are not faces fit for triumph! speak, man, I say, how died he?—show me his blood, Cethegus! you have not wiped it from your dagger, give me the blade, that I may kiss away the precious death-drops."
So rapidly and impetuously had he spoken, heaping query on query, that Cethegus could not have answered, if he would. But, to say the truth, he was in little haste to do so. When Catiline ceased, however, which he did at length, from actual want of breath to enquire farther, he answered in a low smothered voice.
"He is not dead at all—he refused"——
"Not dead!" shrieked Catiline, for it was a shriek, though articulate, and one so piercing that it roused Aurelia from her swoon of joy—"Not dead! Yon villain swore that he saw you enter—not dead!" he repeated, half incredulously—"By heaven and hell! I believe you are jesting with me! Tell me that you have lied, and I—I—I will worship you, Cethegus."
"His porter refused us entrance, and, as the door was opened, we saw in the Atrium the slaves of his household, and half a hundred of his clients, all armed from head to foot, with casque and corslet, pilum, broad-sword, and buckler. And, to complete the tale, as we returned into the street baffled and desperate, a window was thrown open in the banquet-hall above, and we might see the Consul, with Cato, and Marcellus, and Scipio, and a score of Consulars beside, gazing upon us in all the triumph of security, in all the confidence of success. We are betrayed, that is plain—our plans are all known as soon as they are taken, all frustrated ere acted! All is lost, Catiline, for what remains to do?"
"To dare!" answered the villain, all undaunted even by this reverse—"and, if need be, to die—but to despair, never!"
"But who can be the traitor?—where shall we look to find him?"
"Look there," exclaimed Catiline, pointing to the German gladiator, who stood all confounded and chap-fallen. "Look there, and you shall see one; and see him punished too! What ho! without there, ho! a dozen of you, if you would shun the lash!"
And, at the summons, ten or twelve slaves and freedmen rushed into the room in trepidation, almost in terror, so savage was the temper of the lord whom they served, and so merciless his wrath, at the most trivial fault or error.
"Drag that brute, hence!" he said, waving his hand toward the unhappy gladiator, "put out his eyes, fetter him foot and hand, and cast him to the congers in the fish-pond."
Without a moment's pause or hesitation, they cast themselves upon their miserable comrade; and, though he struggled furiously, and struck down two or three of the foremost, and shouted himself hoarse, in fruitless efforts to explain, he was secured, and bound and gagged, within a shorter time than is required to describe it.
This done, one of the freedmen looked toward his dreaded master, and asked, with pale lips, and a faltering voice,
"Alive—and hark you, Sirrah, fasten his head above the water, that he die not too speedily. Those biggest congers will lug him manfully, Cethegus; we will go see the sport, anon. It will serve to amuse us, after this disappointment. There! away with him, begone!"
The miserable creature struggled desperately in his bonds, but in vain; and strove so terribly to speak, in despite his gag, that his face turned almost black, from the blood which rushed to every pore; but no sound could he utter, as he was dragged away, save a deep-mouthed groan, which was drowned by the laughter of the remorseless wretches, who gazed on his anguish with fiendish merriment; among which, hideous to relate, the thrilling sounds of Aurelia's silvery and contagious mirth were distinctly audible.
"He will take care to see more truly in Hades!" said Catiline, with his sardonic smile, as he was dragged out of the room, by his appalled and trembling fellows. "But now to business. Tell me, did you display any weapon? or do aught, that can be proved, to show your intent on the Consul?"
"Nothing, my Catiline," replied Cethegus, firmly.
"Nothing, indeed, Cethegus? By all our hopes! deceive me not!"
"By your head! nothing, Catiline."
"Then I care nothing for the failure!" answered the other. "Keep good hearts, and wear smiling faces! I will kill him myself to-morrow, if, like the scorpion, I must die in the deed."
"Try it not, Catiline. You will but fail—and"——
"Fail! who ever knew me fail, in vengeance?"
"No one!" said Orestilla—"and no one can hinder you of it. No! not the Gods!"
"There are no Gods!" exclaimed the Traitor, "and if there be, it were all one—I defy them!"
"Cicero says there is ONE, they tell me," said Cethegus, half mocking, half in earnest—"and he is very wise."
"Very!" replied the other, with his accustomed sneer—"Therefore that ONE may save him—if he can!"
"The thing is settled," cried Aurelia Orestilla, "I told him yesterday he ought to do it, himself—I should not be content, unless Catiline's hand dealt him the death blow, Catiline's eye gloated upon him in the death-struggle, Catiline's tongue jeered him in the death-pang!"
"You love him dearly, Orestilla," said Cethegus.
"And clearly he has earned it," she replied.
"By Venus! I would give half my hopes, to see him kiss you."
"And I, if my lips had the hydra's venom. But come," she added, with a wreathed smile and a beaming eye, "Let us go see the fishes eat yon varlet; else shall we be too late for the sport."
"Rare sport!" said Cethegus, "I have not seen a man eaten, by a tiger even, these six months past; and by a fish, I think, never!"
"The fish do it better," replied Catiline—"Better, and cleaner—they leave the prettiest skeleton you can imagine—they are longer about it, you will say—True; but I do not grudge the time."
"No! no! the longer, the merrier!" said Aurelia, laughing melodiously—"The last fellow I saw given to the tigers, had his head crushed like a nut-shell, by a single blow. He had not time to shriek even once. There was no fun in that, you know."
"None indeed," said Cethegus—"but I warrant you this German will howl gloriously, when the fish are at him." "Yes! yes!" exclaimed the lovely woman, clapping her hands joyously. "We must have the gag removed, to give free vent to his music. Come, come, I am dying to see him."
"Some one must die, since Cicero did not."
"Happy fellow this, if he only knew it, to give his friends so much pleasure!"
"One of them such a fair lady too!"
"Will there be more pleasure, think you, in seeing the congers eat the gladiator, or in eating the congers afterward?"
"Oh! no comparison! one can eat fat congers always."
"We have the advantage of them truly, for they cannot always eat fat gladiators."
And they walked away with as much glee and expectation, to the scene of agony and fiendish torture, vitiated by the frightful exhibitions of the circus and the arena, as men in modern days would feel, in going to enjoy the fictitious sorrows of some grand tragedian.
Can it be that the contemplation of human wo, in some form or other, is in all ages grateful to poor corrupt humanity?
Quousque tandem abutere— CICERO.
The Senate was assembled in the great temple on the Palatine, built on the spot where Jupiter, thence hailed as Stator, had stayed the tide of flight, and sent the rallied Romans back to a glorious triumph.
A cohort was stationed on the brow of the hill, its spear-heads glancing in the early sunshine.
The Roman knights, wearing their swords openly, and clad in their girded tunics only, mustered around the steps which led to the colonnade and doors of the temple, a voluntary guard to the good consul.
A mighty concourse had flowed together from all quarters of the city, and stood in dense masses in all the neighboring streets, and in the area of the temple, in hushed and anxious expectation.
The tribunes of the people, awed for once by the imminence of the peril, forgot to be factious.
Within the mighty building, there was dead silence—silence more eloquent than words.
For, to the wonder of all men, undismayed by detection, unrebuked by the horror and hate which frowned on him from every brow, Catiline had assumed his place on the benches of his order.
Not one, even of his most intimate associates, had dared to salute him; not one, even of the conspirators, had dared to recognize the manifest traitor.
As he assumed his place, the senators next to him had arisen and withdrawn from the infamous vicinity, some of them even shaking their gowns, as if to dissipate the contamination of his contact.
Alone he sat, therefore, with a wide vacant space around him—alone, in that crowded house—alone, yet proud, unrebuked, undaunted.
The eyes of every man in the vast assembly were riveted in fear, or hatred, or astonishment, on the set features and sullen scowling brow, of the arch conspirator.
Thus sat they, thus they gazed for ten minutes' space, and so deep was the all-absorbing interest, that none observed the Consul, who had arisen to his feet before the curule chair, until the great volume of his clear sonorous voice rolled over them, like the burst of sudden thunder amid the hush of nature which precedes it.
It was to no set form of words, to no premeditated speech, that he gave utterance; nor did he in the usual form address the Conscript Fathers.
With his form drawn to its fullest height, his arm outstretched as if it was about to launch the thunderbolt, he hurled his impassioned indignation against the fearless culprit.
"Until how long, O Catiline, wilt thou abuse our patience? Until how long, too, will thy frantic fury baffle us? Unto what extremity will thy unbridled insolence display itself? Do the nocturnal guards upon the Palatine nothing dismay you, nothing the watches through the city, nothing the terrors of the people, nothing the concourse hitherward of all good citizens, nothing this most secure place for the senate's convocation, nothing the eyes and faces of all these?" And at the words, he waved both arms slowly around, pointing the features and expression of every senator, filled with awe and aversion.
"Dost thou not feel that all thy plots are manifest? Not see that thy conspiracy was grasped irresistibly, so soon as it was known thoroughly to all these? Which of us dost thou imagine ignorant of what thou didst, where thou wert, whom thou didst convoke, what resolution thou didst take last night, and the night yet preceding? Oh! ye changed Times! Oh, ye degenerate customs! The Senate comprehends these things, the Consul sees them! Yet this man lives! Lives, did I say? Yea, indeed, comes into the Senate, bears a part in the public councils, marks out with his eyes and selects every one of us for slaughter. But we, strenuous brave men, imagine that we do our duty to the state, so long as we escape the frenzy, the daggers of that villain. Long since it had been right, Catiline, that thou shouldst have been led to death by the Consul's mandate—Long since should that doom have been turned upon thyself, which thou hast been so long devising for all of us here present. Do I err, saying this? or did that most illustrious man, Publius Scipio, pontifex maximus, when in no magisterial office, take off Tiberius Gracchus, for merely disturbing the established order of the state? And shall we, Consuls, endure Catiline aiming to devastate the world with massacre and conflagration? For I omit to state, as too ancient precedents, how Caius Servilius Ahala slew with his own hand Spurius Melius, when plotting revolution! There was, there was, of old, that energy of virtue in this commonwealth, that brave men hedged the traitorous citizen about with heavier penalties than the most deadly foe! We hold a powerful and weighty decree of the Senate against thee, O Catiline. Neither the counsel nor the sanction of this order have been wanting to the republic. We, we, I say it openly, we Consuls are wanting in our duty.
"The Senate decreed once, that Lucius Opimius, then Consul, should see THAT THE REPUBLIC TOOK NO HARM; not one night intervened. Caius Gracchus was slain on mere suspicions of sedition, the son of a most noble father, most noble grandfather, most noble ancestry. Marcus Fulvius, a consular, was slain with both his children. By a like decree of the Senate, the charge of the republic was committed to Caius Marius and Lucius Valerius, the Consuls—did the republic's vengeance delay the death of Lucius Saterninus, a tribune of the people, of Caius Servilius, a prtor, even a single day? And yet, we Consuls, suffer the edge of this authority to be blunted, until the twentieth day. For we have such a decree of the Senate, but hidden in the scroll which contains it, as a sword undrawn in its scabbard. By which decree it were right, O Catiline, that thou shouldst have been slaughtered on the instant. Thou livest; and livest not to lay aside, but to confirm and strengthen thine audacity. I desire, O Conscript fathers, to be merciful; I desire, too, in such jeopardy of the republic, not to seem culpably neglectful. Yet I condemn myself of inability, of utter weakness. There is a camp in Italy! hostile to the republic, in the defiles that open on Etruria! Daily the numbers of the foe are increasing! And yet the general of that camp, the leader of that foe, we see within the walls, aye, even in the Senate, day by day, plotting some intestine blow against the state. Were I to order thee to be arrested, to be slain now, O Catiline, I should have cause, I think, to dread the reproaches of all good citizens, for having stricken thee too late, rather than that of one, for having stricken thee too severely. And yet, that which should have been done long ago, I am not yet for a certain reason persuaded to do now. Then—then at length—will I slay thee, when there is not a man so base, so desperately wicked, so like to thee in character, but he shall own thy slaying just. So long as there shall be one man, who dares to defend thee, thou shalt live. And thou shalt live, as now thou livest, beset on every side by numerous, and steady guards, so that thou canst not even stir against the commonwealth. The eyes moreover, and the ears of many, even as heretofore, shall spy thee out at unawares, and mount guard on thee in private.
"For what is there, Catiline, which thou now canst expect more, if neither night with all its darkness, could conceal thy unholy meetings, nor even the most private house contain within its walls the voice of thy conspiracy? If all thy deeds shine forth, burst into public view? Change now that hideous purpose, take me along as thy adviser, forget thy schemes of massacre, of conflagration. Thou art hemmed in on every side. Thy every council is more clear to me than day; and these thou canst now review with me. Dost thou remember, how I stated in the Senate, on the twelfth day before the Calends of November,(1) that Caius Manlius, the satellite and co-minister of thy audacity, would be in arms on a given day, which day would be the sixth(2) before the Calends of November?—Did I err, Catiline, not in the fact, so great as it was, so atrocious, so incredible, but, what is much more wondrous, in the very day? Again I told thee in the Senate, that thou hadst conspired to slay the first men of the state, on the fifth(3) day before the Calends of November, when many leading men of Rome quitted the city, not so much to preserve their lives, as to mar thy councils. Canst thou deny that thou wert hemmed in on that day by my guards, and hindered by my vigilance from stirring thy hand against the state, when, frustrate by the departure of the rest, thou saidst that our blood, ours who had remained behind, would satisfy thee? What? When thou wert so confident of seizing Prneste, by nocturnal escalade, upon the very(4) Calends of November, didst thou not feel that it was by my order that colony was garrisoned, guarded, watched, impregnable?—Thou doest nothing, plottest nothing, thinkest nothing which I shall not—I say not—hear—but shall not see, shall not conspicuously comprehend.
"Review with me now, the transactions of the night before the last, so shalt thou understand that I watch far more vigilantly for the safety, than thou for the destruction of the state. I say that on that former night,(5) thou didst go to the street of the Scythemakers, I will speak plainly, to the house of Marcus Lca; that thou didst meet there many of thy associates in crime and madness. Wilt thou dare to deny it? Why so silent? If thou deniest, I will prove it. For I see some of those here, here in the Senate, who were with thee. Oh! ye immortal Gods! in what region of the earth do we dwell? in what city do we live? of what republic are we citizens? Here! they are here, in the midst of us, Conscript Fathers, here in this council, the most sacred, the most solemn of the universal world, who are planning the slaughter of myself, the slaughter of you all, planning the ruin of this city, and therein the ruin of the world. I the consul, see these men, and ask their opinions on state matters. Nay, those whom it were but justice to slaughter with the sword, I refrain as yet from wounding with a word. Thou wert therefore in the house of Lca, on that night, O Catiline. Thou didst allot the districts of Italy; thou didst determine whither each one of thy followers should set forth; thou didst choose whom thou wouldst lead along with thee, whom leave behind; thou didst assign the wards of the city for conflagration; thou didst assert that ere long thou wouldst go forth in person; thou saidst there was but one cause why thou shouldst yet delay a little, namely, that I was alive. Two Roman knights were found, who offered themselves to liberate thee from that care, and promised that they would butcher me, that very night, a little before daylight, in my own bed. Of all these things I was aware, when your assembly was scarce yet broken up. I strengthened my house, and guarded it with an unwonted garrison. I refused admittance to those whom thou hadst sent to salute me, when they arrived; even as I had predicted to many eminent men that they would arrive, and at that very time.
"Since then these things stand thus, O Catiline, proceed as thou hast begun; depart when thou wilt from the city; the gates are open; begone; too long already have those camps of Manlius lacked their general. Lead forth, with the morrow, all thy men—if not all, as many at least as thou art able; purify the city of thy presence. Thou wilt discharge me from great terror, so soon as a wall shall be interposed between thee and me. Dwell among us thou canst now no longer. I will not endure, I will not suffer, I will not permit it! Great thanks must be rendered to the immortal Gods, and to this Stator Jove, especially, the ancient guardian of this city, that we have escaped so many times already this plague, so foul, so horrible, so fraught with ruin to the republic. Not often is the highest weal of a state jeoparded in the person of a single individual. So long as you plotted against me, merely as Consul elect, O Catiline, I protected myself, not by public guards, but by private diligence. When at the late Comitia, thou wouldst have murdered me, presiding as Consul in the Field of Mars, with thy competitors, I checked thy nefarious plans, by the protection and force of my friends, without exciting any public tumult.—In a word, as often as thou hast thrust at me, myself have I parried the blow, although I perceived clearly, that my fall was conjoined with dread calamity to the republic. Now, now, thou dost strike openly at the whole commonwealth, the dwellings of the city; dost summon the temples of the Immortal Gods, the lives of all citizens, in a word, Italy herself, to havoc and perdition. Wherefore—seeing that as yet, I dare not do what should be my first duty, what is the ancient and peculiar usage of this state, and in accordance with the discipline of our fathers—I will, at least, do that which in respect to security is more lenient, in respect to the common good, more useful. For should I command thee to be slain, the surviving band of thy conspirators would settle down in the republic; but if—as I have been long exhorting thee, thou wilt go forth, the vast and pestilent contamination of thy comrades will be drained out of the city. What is this, Catiline? Dost hesitate to do that, for my bidding, which of thine own accord thou wert about doing? The Consul commands the enemy to go forth from the state. Dost thou enquire of me, whether into exile? I do not order, but, if thou wilt have my counsel, I advise it.
"For what is there, O Catiline, that can delight thee any longer in this city, in which there is not one man, without thy band of desperadoes, who does not fear, not one who does not hate thee?—What brand of domestic turpitude is not burnt in upon thy life? What shame of private bearing clings not to thee, for endless infamy? What scenes of impure lust, what deeds of daring crime, what horrible pollution attaches not to thy whole career?—To what young man, once entangled in the meshes of thy corruption, hast thou not tendered the torch of licentiousness, or the steel of murder? Must I say more? Even of late, when thou hadst rendered thy house vacant for new nuptials, by the death of thy late wife, didst thou not overtop that hideous crime, by a crime more incredible? which I pass over, and permit willingly to rest in silence, lest it be known, that in this state, guilt so enormous has existed, and has not been punished. I pass over the ruin of thy fortunes, which all men know to be impending on the next(6) Ides, I proceed to those things which pertain not to the private infamy of thy career, not to thy domestic difficulties and baseness, but to the supreme safety of the state, and to the life and welfare of us all. Can the light of this life, the breath of this heaven, be grateful to thee, Catiline, when thou art conscious that not one of these but knows how thou didst stand armed in the comitium, on the day previous(7) to the calends of January, when Lepidus and Tullus were the Consuls? That thou hadst mustered a band of assassins to slay the Consuls, and the noblest of the citizens? That no relenting of thy heart, no faltering from fear, opposed thy guilt and frenzy, but the wonted good fortune of the commonwealth? And now I pass from these things, for neither are these crimes not known to all, nor have there not been many more recently committed. How many times hast not thou thrust at me while elect, how many times when Consul? How many thrusts of thine so nearly aimed, that they appeared inevitable; have I not shunned by a slight diversion, and, as they say of gladiators, by the movements of my body? Thou doest nothing, attemptest nothing, plannest nothing, which can escape my knowledge, at the moment, when I would know it. Yet thou wilt neither cease from endeavoring nor from plotting. How many times already hath that dagger been wrested from thy hand? how many times hath it fallen by chance, and escaped thy grasp? Still thou canst not be deprived of it, more than an instant's space!—And yet, I know not with what unhallowed rites it has been consecrated and devoted by thee, that thou shouldst deem it necessary to flesh it in the body of a Consul.
"Now then, what life is this of thine? For I will now address thee, not so that I may seem moved by that detestation which I feel toward thee, but by compassion, no portion of which is thy due. But a moment since, thou didst come into the Senate, and which one man, from so vast a concourse, from thine own chosen and familiar friends, saluted thee? If this has befallen no one, within the memory of man, wilt thou await loud contumely, condemned already by the most severe sentence of this silence? What wouldst thou have, when all those seats around thee were left vacant on thy coming? When all those Consulars, whom thou so frequently hadst designated unto slaughter, as soon as thou didst take thy seat, left all that portion of the benches bare and vacant? With what spirit, in one word, can thou deem this endurable? By Hercules! did my slaves so dread me, as all thy fellow citizens dread thee, I should conceive it time for leaving my own house—dost thou not hold it time to leave this city?—And if I felt myself without just cause suspected, and odious to my countrymen, I should choose rather to be beyond the reach of their vision, than to be gazed upon by hostile eyes of all men. Dost thou hesitate, when conscious of thine own crimes thou must acknowledge that the hate of all is just, and due long ago—dost thou, I say, hesitate to avoid the presence and the sight of those whose eyes and senses thine aspect every day is wounding? If thine own parents feared and hated thee, and could by no means be reconciled, thou wouldst, I presume, withdraw thyself some-whither beyond the reach of their eyes—now thy country, which is the common parent of us all, dreads and detests thee, and has passed judgment on thee long ago, as meditating nothing but her parricide. Wilt thou now neither revere her authority, nor obey her judgment, nor yet dread her violence? Since thus she now deals with thee, Catiline, thus speaks to thee in silence.
"'No deed of infamy hath been done in these many years, unless through thee—no deed of atrocity without thee—to thee alone, the murder of many citizens, to thee alone the spoliation and oppression of our allies, hath been free and unpunished. Thou hast been powerful not only to escape laws and prosecutions, but openly to break through and overturn them. To these things, though indeed intolerable, I have submitted as best I might—but it can now no longer be endured that I should be in one eternal dread of thee only—that Catiline, on what alarm soever, alone should be the source of terror—that no treason against me can be imagined, such as should be revolting to thy desperate criminality. Wherefore begone, and liberate me from this terror, so that, if true, I may not be ruined; if false I may at least shake with fear no longer.'
"If thy country should thus, as I have said, parley with thee, should she not obtain what she demands, even if she lack force to compel it? What more shall I say, when thou didst offer thyself to go into some private custody? What, when to shun suspicion, thou didst profess thy willingness to take up thy residence under the roof of Manius Lepidus? Refused by whom, thou hadst audacity to come to me, and request that I would admit thee to my house. And when thou didst receive from me this answer, that I could not exist within the same house with that man, whose presence even inside the same city walls, I esteemed vast peril to my life, thou didst then go to the prtor Quintus Metellus; and, then, repulsed by him, to Marcus Marcellus, thine own comrade, a virtuous man truly, one whom past doubt thou didst deem likely to be most vigilant in guarding, most crafty in suspecting, most strenuous in bringing thee to justice. And how far shall that man be believed distant from deserving chains and a dungeon, who judges himself to be worthy of safekeeping?—Since, then, these things are so, dost hesitate, O Catiline, since here thou canst not tarry with an equal mind, to depart for some other land, and give that life, rescued from many just and deserved penalties, to solitude and exile? 'Lay the matter,' thou sayest, 'before the Senate,' for that it is which thou requirest, 'and if this order shall command thee into banishment, thou wilt obey their bidding.' I will not lay it before them—for to do so is repugnant to my character, yet I will so act, that thou shalt clearly see what these think of thee. Depart from the city, Catiline! Deliver the state from terror! begone into banishment, if that be the word for which thou tarriest!"
Then the great Orator paused once again, not to breathe, though the vehement and uninterrupted torrent of his eloquence, might well have required an interval of rest, but to give the confounded listener occasion to note the feelings of the assembled Senate, perfectly in accordance with his words.
It was but a moment, however, that he paused, and, that ended, again burst out the thunderous weight of his magnificent invective.
"What means this, Catiline? Dost thou note these, dost thou observe their silence? They permit my words, they are mute. Why dost thou wait that confirmation of their words, which thou seest given already by their silence? But had I spoken these same words to that admirable youth Publius Sextius, or to that very valiant man, Marcus Marcellus, I tell thee that this very Senate would have, already, in this very temple, laid violent hands on me, the Consul, and that too most justly! But with regard to thee, when quiescent they approve, when passive they decree, when mute they cry aloud! Nor these alone, whose authority it seems is very dear, whose life most cheap, in your eyes, but all those Roman knights do likewise, most honorable and most worthy men, and all those other valiant citizens, who stand about the Senate house, whose dense ranks thou couldst see, whose zeal thou couldst discover, whose patriotic cries thou couldst hear, but a little while ago; whose hands and weapons I have scarcely, for a long time, restrained from thee, whom I will yet induce to escort thee to the gates of Rome, if thou wilt leave this city, which thou hast sought so long to devastate and ruin.
"And yet what say I? Can it be hoped that anything should ever bend thee? that thou shouldst ever be reformed? that thou shouldst dream of any flight? that thou shouldst contemplate any exile? Would, would indeed that the immortal Gods might give thee such a purpose! And yet I perceive, if astounded by my voice thou shouldst bend thy spirit to go into voluntary exile, how vast a storm of odium would hang over me, if not at this present time, when the memory of thy villanies is recent, at least from the passions of posterity. But to me it is worth this sacrifice, so that the storm burst on my individual head, and be connected with no perils to the state. But that thou shouldst be moved by thine own vices, that thou shouldst dread the penalties of the law, that thou shouldst yield to the exigences of the republic, this indeed is not to be expected; for thou art not such an one, O Catiline, that any sense of shame should ever recall thee from infamy, any sense of fear from peril, any glimmering of reason from insanity. Wherefore, as I have said many times already, go forth from among us; and if thou wouldst stir up against me, as constantly thou sayest, against me thine enemy a storm of enmity and odium, then begone straightway into exile. Scarcely shall I have power to endure the clamors of the world, scarcely shall I have power to sustain the burthen of that odium, if thou wilt but go into voluntary banishment, now, at the consul's bidding. If, on the contrary, thou wouldst advance my glory and my reputation, then go forth with thy lawless band of ruffians! Betake thyself to Manlius! stir up the desperate citizens to arms! withdraw thyself from all good men! levy war on thy country! exult in unhallowed schemes of robbery and murder, so that thou shalt not pass for one driven forth by my tyranny into the arms of strangers, but for one joining by invitation his own friends and comrades. Yet why should I invite thee, when I well know that thy confederates are sent forth already, who nigh Forum Aurelium shall wait in arms for your arrival? When I well know that thou hast already a day promised and appointed whereon to join the camp of Manlius? When I well know that the silver eagle hath been prepared already—the silver eagle which will, I trust, prove ruinous and fatal to thee and all thine host, to which a shrine has been established in thine own house, thy villanies its fitting incense? For how shalt thou endure its absence any longer, thou who wert wont to adore it, setting forth to sacrilege and slaughter, thou who so often hast upraised that impious right hand of thine from its accursed altars to murder citizens of Rome?
"At length, then, at length, thou must go forth, whither long since thy frantic and unbridled passions have impelled thee. Nor shall this war against thy country vex or afflict thee. Nay, rather shall it bring to thee a strange and unimaginable pleasure, for to this frantic career did nature give thee birth, to this hath thine own inclination trained, to this, fortune preserved thee—for never hast thou wished—I say not peaceful leisure—but war itself, unless that war were sacrilegious. Thou hast drawn together from the most infamous of wretches, wretches abandoned not only by all fortune, but all hope, a bodyguard of desperadoes! Among these what pleasure wilt thou not experience, in what bliss not exult, in what raptures not madly revel, when thou shalt neither see nor hear one virtuous man in such a concourse of thy comrades? To this, this mode of life tended all those strenuous toils of thine, which are so widely talked of—to lie on the bare ground, not lying in wait merely for some occasion of adultery, but for some opportunity of daring crime! To watch through the night, not plotting merely against the sleep of betrayed husbands, but against the property of murdered victims! Now, then, thou hast a notable occasion for displaying those illustrious qualities of thine, that wonderful endurance of hunger, of cold, of destitution, by which ere long thou shalt feel thyself undone, and ruined. This much, however, I did accomplish, when I defeated thee in the comitia, that thou shouldst strike at the republic as an exile, rather than ravage it as a consul; and that the warfare, so villanously evoked by thee, should be called rather the struggle of a base banditti, than the fair strife of warriors.