Quo Vadis, A Narrative of the Time of Nero
FOR a number of days after the interview, Chilo did not show himself anywhere.
Vinicius, since he had learned from Acte that Lygia loved him, was a hundred
times more eager to find her, and began himself to search. He was unwilling, and
also unable, to ask aid of Caesar, who was in great fear because of the illness of
the infant Augusta.
Sacrifices in the temples did not help, neither did prayers and offerings, nor the
art of physicians, nor all the means of enchantment to which they turned finally.
In a week the child died. Mourning fell upon the court and Rome. Caesar, who at
the birth of the infant was wild with delight, was wild now from despair, and,
confining himself in his apartments, refused food for two days; and though the
palace was swarming with senators and Augustians, who hastened with marks of
sorrow and sympathy, he denied audience to every one. The senate assembled
in an extraordinary session, at which the dead child was pronounced divine. It
was decided to rear to her a temple and appoint a special priest to her service.
New sacrifices were offered in other temples in honor of the deceased; statues of
her were cast from precious metals; and her funeral was one immense solemnity,
during which the people wondered at the unrestrained marks of grief which
Caesar exhibited; they wept with him, stretched out their hands for gifts, and
above all amused themselves with the unparalleled spectacle.
That death alarmed Petronius. All knew in Rome that Poppae ascribed it to
enchantment. The physicians, who were thus enabled to explain the vanity of
their efforts, supported her; the priests, whose sacrifices proved powerless, did
the same, as well as the sorcerers, who were trembling for their lives, and also
the people. Petronius was glad now that Lygia had fled; for he wished no evil to
Aulus and Pomponia, and he wished good to himself and Vinicius; therefore
when the cypress, set out before the Palatine as a sign of mourning, was
removed, he went to the reception appointed for the senators and Augustians to
learn how far Nero had lent ear to reports of spells, and to neutralize results
which might come from his belief.
Knowing Nero, he thought, too, that though he did not believe in charms, he
would feign belief, so as to magnify his own suffering, and take vengeance on
some one, finally, to escape the suspicion that the gods had begun to punish him
for crimes. Petronius did not think that Caesar could love really and deeply even
his own child; though he loved her passionately, he felt certain, however, that he
would exaggerate his suffering. He was not mistaken. Nero listened, with stony
face and fixed eyes, to the consolation offered by knights and senators. It was
evident that, even if he suffered, he was thinking of this: What impression would
his suffering make upon others? He was posing as a Niobe, and giving an
exhibition of parental sorrow, as an actor would give it on the stage. He had not
the power even then to endure in his silent and as it were petrified sorrow, for at
moments he made a gesture as if to cast the dust of the earth on his head, and
at moments he groaned deeply; but seeing Petronius, he sprang up and cried in
a tragic voice, so that all present could hear him, -- "Eheu! And thou art guilty of