Quo Vadis, A Narrative of the Time of Nero
"SHE believes in God who is one, all-powerful, and just," said Petronius, when he
found himself again in the litter with Vinicius. "If her God is all-powerful, He
controls life and death; and if He is just, He sends death justly. Why, then, does
Pomponia wear mourning for Julius? In mourning for Julius she blames her God.
I must repeat this reasoning to our Bronzebeard, the monkey, since I consider
that in dialectics I am the equal of Socrates. As to women, I agree that each has
three or four souls, but none of them a reasoning one. Let Pomponia meditate
with Seneca or Cornurus over the question of what their great Logos is. Let them
summon at once the shades of Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno, and Plato, who
are as much wearied there in Cimmerian regions as a finch in a cage. I wished to
talk with her and with Plautius about something else. By the holy stomach of the
Egyptian Isis! If I had told them right out directly why we came, I suppose that
their virtue would have made as much noise as a bronze shield under the blow of
a club. And I did not dare to tell! Wilt thou believe, Vinicius, I did not dare!
Peacocks are beautiful birds, but they have too shrill a cry. I feared an outburst.
But I must praise thy choice. A real 'rosy-fingered Aurora.' And knowest thou
what she reminded me of too? -- Spring! not our spring in Italy, where an apple-
tree merely puts forth a blossom here and there, and olive groves grow gray, just
as they were gray before, but the spring which I saw once in Helvetia, -- young,
fresh, bright green. By that pale moon, I do not wonder at thee, Marcus; but know
that thou art loving Diana, because Auhis and Pomponia are ready to tear thee to
pieces, as the dogs once tore Actaeon."
Vinicius was silent a time without raising his head; then he began to speak with a
voice broken by passion, -- "I desired her before, but now I desire her still more.
When I caught her arm, flame embraced me. I must have her. Were I Zeus, I
would surround her with a cloud, as he surrounded lo, or I would f all on her in
rain, as he fell on Dana‰; I would kiss her lips till it pained! I would hear her
scream in my arms. I would kill Aulus and Pomponia, and bear her home in my
arms. I will not sleep to-night. I will give command to flog one of my slaves, and
listen to his groans --"
"Calm thyself," said Petronius. "Thou hast the longing of a carpenter from the
"All one to me what thou sayst. I must have her. I have turned to thee for aid; but
if thou wilt not find it, I shall find it myself. Aulus considers Lygia as a daughter;
why should I look on her as a slave? And since there is no other way, let her
ornament the door of my house, let her anoint it with wolf's fat, and let her sit at
my hearth as wife."
"Calm thyself, mad descendant of consuls. We do not lead in barbarians bound
behind our cars, to make wives of their daughters. Beware of extremes. Exhaust
simple, honorable methods, and give thyself and me time for meditation.
Chrysothemis seemed to me too a daughter of Jove, and still I did not marry her,
just as Nero did not marry Acte, though they called her a daughter of King
Attalus. Calm thyself! Think that if she wishes to leave Aulus for thee, he will
have no right to detain her. Know also that thou art not burning alone, for Eros