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            “The love of money is the root of all evil.” – I Tim. VI, 10.


            IN the upper room of a house in the Suburra, sat Lysias and Cornelius, both earnestly engaged in talking over the day’s occurrences.


            “Ah,” said the latter, throwing himself back in his seat with a self-satisfied air, “we gave the Christians a lesson this morning at all events! How angry the prefect was at the boldness of those wretches; wasn’t he?”


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            “I never saw him so enraged before, and that’s not saying a little, for he hasn’t the sweetest of tempers at any time!” returned Lysias with a grin.


            “Well,” laughed Cornelius, “I’m sure those fellows deserved his anger! To stand forward with such impudence, and boast as they did of their crime! But truly” – he continued with a knowing look – “I believe these Christians are sorcerers! Assuredly, they have some way of providing against tortures! Did you not notice how quiet and composed Faustinus was, when the prefect ordered him to be put on the rack? And how too, he bore all the stretching and pulling as though the whole thing were mere child’s play? I could not endure it to please the divine emperors themselves!” And he shuddered. “As to Simplicius,” he went on, “I think he was made of iron itself! I declare to you, Lysias, I saw him smile quite contentedly while the executioners were busying themselves with heating the galea ferrea (a frame of iron placed on the head red-hot), and other instruments which were intended to bring him to reason. For my part, I was quite glad when they were both beheaded, thanking the gods that Rome was freed from at least two more of those dangerous Christians! For one doesn’t know

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what harm they might do with their sorceries and machinations.”


            “Ay,” said Lysias, “but now listen to the account of my discovery. Discovery, I call it, for you must know that I more than suspect Beatrice to be a Christian.”


            The speaker fixed his keen eyes on Cornelius, who exclaimed starting, “What! Beatrice, the sister of Simplicius and Faustinus?”


            “Yes, I watched her closely this morning; both before the trial, and while it was going on. I saw her encouraging those fellows by signs, and once heard her say to Faustinus, ‘Be stedfast, brother, and fight the good fight!’ Now, if I can but prove her to be a Christian, and procure her arrest, I shall by the right of confiscation inherit her estate which adjoins mine. And that,” he said rubbing his hands, “would be no small acquisition, for she’s not badly off!”


            Cornelius eyed his companion with a look of something like disgust. Lysias felt it, but failed to attribute it to its real cause.


            “I do not rest my hopes of possession on this right of confiscation only, Cornelius,” he said. “I have other reasons to expect that I shall be heir. To expect, said I? Nay, I am certain of inheritance! I am no fool to snatch at shadows! I build on something better

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than mere hopes. Listen, I’ll tell you all about my plans, if you’d like to know them.”


            “Thank you,” returned the other coldly; “I don’t interest myself in such matters. It’s not my trade to hunt out either Christians or estates!”


            Lysias understood the reproof, and would probably have replied, had not Secundus just then entered the room.


            At this moment Cornelius rose slowly from his seat, and waving his band with condescending grace to his abashed companion, in token of farewell, he departed. The latter looked gloomily after him a moment, and then turning to the young man standing at his side, bade him sit down, as he wished to speak with him.


            Secundus obeyed, and a long silence followed, at length broken by Lysias, who said abruptly, “I want you to help me this evening. There’s something to be done.”


            He stopped as suddenly as he began, and awaited a reply, but as none came, be resumed without looking at his companion.


            “You know Beatrice, – the lady Beatrice? Eh?”


            He stopped again, and this time a scarcely audible answer in the affirmative reached his ear.”


            “Ah, well!” he went on; “I think, – I am pretty certain that she is a Christian.”


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            As he concluded this disjointed sentence, he looked up, and fixed his small piercing eyes on Secundus, who turned pale, and tried vainly to avoid his glance.


            Lysias noticed with surprise his agitation, for which be could no way account, but not thinking it worth while to inquire into its cause, he continued in a low voice,


            “I expect that she and some others will be down at the river tonight to recover the dead bodies, which you know have been thrown into it, for the sake of burying them. You and I will go too; listen to their conversation; make sure of this girl’s Christianity and place of abode; get hold of something which will both furnish proofs of the first, and procure her arrest in the second. Having done this, we will go to the magistrate, and swear to what we shall have heard and seen; two witnesses being better than one; the lady Beatrice will be put to death for contempt of the gods, &c. I will secure her estates, and give you a handsome reward for your services. There’s the whole thing in a few words. You can’t refuse me, Secundus!”


            The young man winced under the keen look which accompanied these last words. He had already a reverence for the religion which could inspire the beautiful sentiments he had heard from Beatrice in the morning, and he felt the

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injustice of awarding death as a punishment for the profession of such a religion. He considered too, what guilt he should incur by acting against his conscience, if he all owed himself to become an accomplice in the murder of one, whom he could not but esteem and venerate. He desired therefore to deter Lysias from accomplishing his purpose, or at least from drawing himself into participation of the intended crime, for he thought that to sacrifice an innocent girl to the avarice of a wicked man, must be a great crime. How to deter him, remained to be decided.


            He knew how useless it would be to speak to such a one as Lysias, of the iniquity of the proceeding, or in any way to oppose him openly. He determined therefore to throw obstacles in his path, by appealing to the scruples of his own avarice, and thus to accomplish by stratagem, what he knew would be hopeless to reasoning. He fancied that if he could but exculpate himself from the share Lysias wished him to take in the affair, he should be freed likewise from all share in the guilt of it, even though Beatrice should after all be arrested and put to death. These reflections prompted him to reply after some little delay,


            “But Lysias, supposing that we have collected sufficient evidence to impeach the lady

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Beatrice, as we are both equally important witnesses against her, and both equally instrumental in procuring her arrest, why should you have greater right to her property I than myself? Shall I not be also justified in claiming it? You say, ‘I shall have her estates, and will pay you for your services.’ Why cannot I say the same to you? Who shall decide which of us has the better claim? Or, to set myself aside altogether. You talk of inheriting her property, as a matter of course, as though it became yours, immediately on her decease, solely by the laws of confiscation. Those laws are not always observed. Some near kinsman of the lady Beatrice might claim the estates as being naturally and rightfully his. What would you do then?”


            Lysias smiled sarcastically.


            “Silly boy!” said he, “do you think I have not well considered the thing? You should know me better than to fancy I would undertake anything rashly! Listen then. Not only by the rules concerning confiscation, but by those of inheritance, shall I possess the property. I am the lady Beatrice’s kinsman, she has no nearer relative living; at least none in Italy. So you see I am quite sure of the prize.”


            Secundus, although foiled in this attack, was determined if possible to find some means

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of excusing himself from a share in the intended plot. He therefore replied in an irresolute tone,


            “But since you are so sure of obtaining your object, what do you want with me? Will not your testimony be sufficient to criminate her? Why am I to be employed? Pray, Lysias, is not one witness enough? I can’t see what you want with me.”


            “I have told you already!” said Lysias impatiently, “that two witnesses are better than one. Why do you ask questions? I’ll take care of my own interests, and I’ll pay you well for your services. What more do you want? You are very scrupulous tonight!”

Secundus now saw no way to get out of the dilemma, so after a little hesitation he agreed to accompany Lysias to the river.


            “Well then,” said the latter, “if you are coming, you had better make haste. Wrap yourself well up in your cloak, follow me, and make no noise.”


            All these directions the young man mechanically obeyed, and quitting the apartment, they both sallied out into the bright moonlight, taking the nearest road to the river.


            Lysias was right. Beatrice, accompanied by Donata, and by two Christian brothers – Largus and Smaragdus, came down to the Tiber that night to take up the corpses of the

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martyrs, which had been thrown into it in the morning.


            Scarcely had Lysias and Secundus arrived at the bank of the river, not far from the Templum Pietatis, than the little group above named appeared, the brothers bearing a litter in which to place the bodies.


            Beatrice and Donata were walking together, both of them enveloped in large cloaks, their faces being concealed by thick scarfs or veils, which were wrapt over their heads.


            Notwithstanding this covering, Secundus easily recognized them, the one by the majesty and grace of her bearing, the other by her slight girlish figure, and by the quick impetuosity of her step.


            As they approached nearer, Lysias drew his companion with him into the shade, where they could see and hear all that passed without observation. None of the little band they were watching spoke a word, until after a long and difficult search, the bodies had been recovered, and decently disposed in the litter.


            Then Beatrice advanced, and after kissing affectionately the cold lips of her dead brothers, she unwound the scarf from her head, and stretched it over their faces, saying solemnly, “GOD bless them!”


            The action displaced her hair, which suddenly uncoiled itself and fell in glossy waves

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over her shoulders, covering her like a mantle of golden coloured silk.


            Donata, impressed with the solemnity of the scene, gazed up reverently at Beatrice, through the folds of her dark veil, and catching one of her hands in both her own, raised it to her lips and kissed it fervently.


            Beatrice hardly noticed the action, so intently was she absorbed in her own thoughts. Silently she stood, her radiant eyes gleaming with the light of faith and holy love. The calm moonbeams looked down on her, and tinted her motionless figure with a hue that made it appear rather like a piece of exquisite statuary than a living form. How beautiful she looked standing there in the pale light, her countenance soft and fair with the impress of innocence, and her bands crossed peacefully on her bosom, as one of the immortals stands, in the brighter light of heaven!


            Secundus gazed at her with a feeling of admiring awe, almost amounting to adoration, and his heart seemed to faint within him when he remembered that he had consented to betray one so heavenly pure. He longed to creep out of the dark comer where he stood, and falling at her feet to beg forgiveness of his meditated sin. But he dared not; Lysias was by his side, – Lysias his tempter, his destroyer. He shrank from his companion almost perceptibly,

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as from some evil spirit who was leading him on to perdition.


            And as his gaze wandered from Beatrice to Lysias, and back again to Beatrice, he longed more than ever to rush from his hiding place to warn her of her danger, and to beseech her to save herself. Ah, he did not know how readily she would have chosen to die for her LORD. While he yet looked, Largus and Smaragdus took up the litter again, and followed by the two women withdrew from the spot in the direction of the Porta Palatina.


            Lysias and Secundus watched them breathlessly, until the echoes of their footsteps had died away into silence, and nothing more was heard save the drowsy rippling of the river so lately bereft of its prey.



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