Antonina HTML version

discreetly refrained from testifying the smallest desire to save himself from the
catastrophe in which the senator and his friends had determined to involve
themselves. Securing himself in a place of safety, he awaited the end of the orgie;
and when he found that its unexpected termination left his master still living to
employ him, appeared again as a faithful servant, ready to resume his customary
occupation with undiminished zeal.
After the dispersion of his household during the famine, and amid the general
confusion of the social system in Rome, on the raising of the blockade, Vetranio
found no one near him that he could trust but Carrio--and he trusted him. Nor was
the confidence misplaced: the man was selfish and sordid enough; but these very
qualities ensured his fidelity to his master as long as that master retained the
power to punish and the capacity to reward.
The letter which Carrio held in his hand was addressed to him at a villa--from
which he had just returned--belonging to Vetranio, on the shores of the Bay of
Naples, and was written by the senator from Rome. The introductory portions of
this communication seemed to interest the freedman but little: they contained
praised of his diligence in preparing the country-house for the immediate
habitation of its owner, and expressed his master's anxiety to quit Rome as
speedily as possible, for the sake of living in perfect tranquillity, and breathing the
reviving air of the sea, as the physicians had counselled. It was the latter part of
the letter that Carrio perused and re-perused, and then meditated over with
unwonted attention and labour of mind. It ran thus:--
'I have now to repose in you a trust, which you will execute with perfect fidelity
as you value my favour or respect the wealth from which you may obtain your
reward. When you left Rome you left the daughter of Numerian lying in danger of
death: she has since revived. Questions that I have addressed to her during her
recovery have informed me of much in her history that I knew not before; and
have induced me to purchase, for reasons of my own, a farm-house and its lands,
beyond the suburbs. (The extent of the place and its situation are written on the
vellum that is within this.) The husbandman who cultivated the property had
survived the famine, and will continue to cultivate it for me. But it is my desire
that the garden, and all that it contains, shall remain entirely at the disposal of
Numerian and his daughter, who may often repair to it; and who must henceforth
be regarded there as occupying my place and having my authority. You will
divide your time between overlooking the few slaves whom I leave at the palace
in my absence, and the husbandman and his labourers whom I have installed at
the farm; and you will answer to me for the due performance of your own duties
and the duties of those under you--being assured that by well filling this office
you will serve your own interests in these, and in all things besides.'
The letter concluded by directing the freedman to return to Rome on a certain day,
and to go to the farm-house at an appointed hour, there to meet his master, who
had further directions to give him, and who would visit the newly acquired
property before he proceeded on his journey to Naples.
Nothing could exceed the perplexity of Carrio as he read the passage in his
patron's letter which we have quoted above. Remembering the incidents attending
Vetranio's early connection with Antonina and her father, the mere circumstances