FIRST SUCCESSES Upon leaving his mother, Beric returned to the spot where the Sarci were lying. Some of the chiefs were sitting round a fire made of beams and woodwork dragged from the ruins of the Roman houses. "We must be up an hour before daybreak; I think that there will be work for us tomorrow. If Unser and his tribe fail in capturing the temple we are to try; and there will be preparations to make." And he explained the plan upon which he had determined. Daylight was just breaking when the Sarci entered the forest four miles from Camalodunum. Here they scattered in search of dry wood. In two hours sufficient had been gathered for their purpose, and it was made up into two hundred great faggots nearly four feet across and ten in length, in weight as much as a strong man could carry on his head. With these they returned to the city. It needed no questions as to the result of the attack, which had just terminated with the same fortune that had befallen that on the day previous. Unser had been killed, and large numbers of his men had fallen in their vain attempts to hew down the gates. The battering rams had proved a complete failure. Many of the fifty men who carried the beam had fallen as they advanced. The others had rushed at the gate door, but the recoil had thrown them down, and many had had their limbs broken from the tree falling on them. Attempts had been made to repeat the assault; but the Romans having pierced the under part of the roof in many places, let fall javelins and poured down boiling oil; and at last, having done all that was possible, but in vain, the tribesmen had fallen back. Beric proceeded at once to the queen's. A council was being held, and it had just been determined to march away to meet Cerealis when Beric entered. Aska left his place in the circle of chiefs as soon as he saw him enter the door. "Are you ready to undertake it, Beric? Do not do so unless you have strong hopes of success. The repulses of yesterday and today have lowered the spirits of our men, and another failure would still further harm us." "I will undertake it, Aska, and I think I can answer for success; but I shall need three hours before I begin." "That could be spared," the chief said. "Cerealis will not have learned the news until last night at the earliest -- he may not know it yet. There is no fear of his arriving here until tomorrow." Then he returned to his place. "Before we finally decide, queen," he said, "I would tell you that the young chief Beric is ready to attack the place with the Sarci. He has learned much of the Roman methods, and may be more fortunate than the others have been. I would suggest that he be allowed to try, for it will have a very ill effect upon the tribes if we fail in taking the temple, which is regarded as the symbol of Roman dominion. I will even go so far as to say that a retreat now would go very far to mar our hopes of success in the war, for the news would spread through the country and dispirit others now preparing to join us." "Why should Beric succeed when Unser has failed?" one of the chiefs said. "Can a lad achieve a success where one of our best and bravest chiefs has been repulsed?" "I think that he might," Aska replied. "At any rate, as he is ready to risk his life and his tribe in doing so, I pray the queen to give her consent. He demands three hours to make his preparations for the attack." "He shall try," Boadicea said decidedly. "You saw the other day, chiefs, how well he has learned the Roman methods of war. He shall have an opportunity now of turning his knowledge to account. Parta, you are willing that your son should try?" "Certainly I am willing," Parta said. "He can but die once; he cannot die in a nobler effort for his country." "Then it is settled," the queen said. "The Sarci will attack in three hours." As soon as Beric heard the decision he hurried away and at once ordered the tribesmen to scatter through the country and to kill two hundred of the cattle roaming at present masterless, to strip off their hides, and bring them in. They returned before the three hours expired, bringing in the hides. In the meantime Beric had procured from a half consumed warehouse a quantity of oil, pitch, and other combustibles, and had smeared the faggots with them. On the arrival of the men with the hides, these were bound with the raw side upwards over the faggots. Two hundred of the strongest men of the tribe were then chosen and divided into two parties, and the rest being similarly divided, took their station at the ends of the square facing the gates. When Beric sounded his horn the faggot bearers raised their burdens on to their heads and formed in a close square, ten abreast, with the faggots touching each other. Beric himself commanded the party facing the principal entrance, and holding a blazing torch in each hand, took his place in the centre of the square, there being ample room for him between the lines of men. The rest of the tribe were ordered to stand firmly in order until he gave the signal for the advance. Then he again sounded his horn, and the two parties advanced from the opposite ends of the square. As soon as they came within reach the Romans showered down darts and javelins; but these either slipped altogether from the surface of the wet hides, or, penetrating them, went but a short distance into the faggots; and the British tribesmen raised shouts of exultation as the two solid bodies advanced unshaken to the steps of the temple. Mounting these they advanced to the gates. In vain the Romans dropped their javelins perpendicularly through the holes in the ceiling of the colonnade, in vain poured down streams of boiling oil, which had proved so fatal to the last attack. The javelins failed to penetrate, the oil streamed harmless off the hides. The men had, before advancing, received minute instructions. The ten men in the front line piled their faggots against the door, and then keeping close to the wall of the temple itself, slipped round to the side colonnade. The operation was repeated by the next line, and so on until but two lines remained. Then the two men at each end of these lines mounted the pile of faggots and placed their burdens there, leaving but six standing. In their centre Beric had his place, and now, kneeling down under their shelter, applied his torches to the pile. He waited till he saw the flames beginning to mount up. Then he gave the word; the six men dropped their faggots to the ground, and with him ran swiftly to the side colonnade, where they were in shelter, as the Romans, knowing they could not be attacked here, had made no openings in the ceiling above. The Britons were frantic with delight when they saw columns of smoke followed by tongues of flames mounting from either end of the temple. Higher and higher the flames mounted till they licked the ceiling above them. For half an hour the fire continued, and by the end of that time there was but a glowing mass of embers through which those without could soon see right into the temple. The doors and the obstacles behind them had been destroyed. As soon as he was aware by the shouts of his countrymen that the faggots were well in a blaze, Beric had sounded his horn, and he and the tribesmen from both colonnades had run across the open unmolested by the darts of the Romans, who were too panic stricken at the danger that threatened them to pay any heed to their movements. Beric was received with loud acclamations by the Iceni, and was escorted by a shouting multitude to the queen, who had taken her place at a point where she could watch the operations. She held out her hand to him. "You have succeeded, Beric," she said; "and my thanks and those of all here -- nay, of all Britain -- are due to you. In half an hour the temple will be open to attack." "Hardly in that time, queen," he replied. "The faggots will doubtless have done their work by then, but it will be hours before the embers and stonework will be sufficiently cool to enable men to pass over them to the assault." "We can wait," the queen said. "A messenger, who left the camp of Cerealis at daybreak, has just arrived, and at that hour nothing was known to the Romans of our attack here. They will not now arrive until tomorrow." Not until the afternoon was it considered that the entrances would be cool enough to pass through. Then the Sarci prepared for the attack, binding pieces of raw hide under their feet to protect them from the heated stonework. They were formed ten abreast. Beric took his place before the front line of one of the columns, and with levelled spears they advanced at a run towards the doors. A shower of missiles saluted them from the roof. Some fell, but the rest, pressing on in close order, dashed through the gateway and flung themselves upon the Roman soldiers drawn up to oppose their passage. The resistance was feeble. The Romans had entirely lost heart and could not for a moment sustain the weight of the charge. They were swept away from the entrance, and the Britons poured in. Standing in groups the Romans defended themselves in desperation; but their efforts were vain, and in five minutes the last defender of the place was slain. As soon as the fight was over the whole of the Iceni rushed tumultuously forward with exultant shouts and filled the temple; then a horn sounded and a lane was made, as Boadicea, followed by her chiefs and chieftainesses, entered the temple. The queen s face was radiant with triumph, and she would have spoken but the shouting was so loud that those near her could not obtain silence. They understood, however, when advancing to the statues of the gods that stood behind the altars, she waved her spear. In an instant the tribesmen swarmed round the statues, ropes were attached to the massive figures, and Jupiter, Mars, and Minerva fell to the ground with a crash, as did the statue of the Emperor Claudius. A mighty shout hailed its downfall. The gods of the Britons, insulted and outraged, were avenged upon those of Rome; the altars of Mona had streamed with the blood of the Druids, those of Camalodunum were wet with the gore of Roman legionaries. The statues were broken to pieces, the altars torn down, and then the chiefs ordered the tribesmen to fetch in faggots. Thousands went to the forest, while others pulled down detached houses and sheds that had escaped the flames, and dragged the beams and woodwork to the temple. By nightfall an enormous pile of faggots was raised round each of the eight interior columns that in two lines supported the roof. Torches were applied by Boadicea, her two daughters and some of the principal Druids, and in a short time the interior of the temple was a glowing furnace. The beams of the ceiling and roof soon ignited and the flames shot up high into the air. All day the Trinobantes had been pouring in, and a perfect frenzy of delight reigned among the great crowd looking on at the destruction of the temple that had been raised to signify and celebrate the subjugation of Britain. Women with flowing hair performed wild dances of triumph; some rushed about as if possessed with madness, uttering prophecies of the total destruction of the Romans; others foamed at the mouth and fell in convulsions, while the men were scarcely less excited over their success. Messengers had already brought in news that at midday Cerealis had learned that Camalodunum had been attacked, and that the legion was to start on the following morning to relieve the town. The news had been taken to him by one of the Trinobantes, who had received his instructions from Aska. He was to say that the town had suddenly been attacked and that many had fallen; but the greater portion of the population had escaped to the temple, which had been vainly attacked by the Iceni. The object of this news was to induce Cerealis to move out from his fortified camp. The chiefs felt the difficulty of assaulting such a position, and though they had dreaded the arrival of Cerealis before the temple was taken, they were anxious that he should set out as soon as they saw that Beric's plan of attack had succeeded, and that the temple was now open to their assault. At midnight the roof of the temple fell in, and nothing remained but the bare walls and the columns surrounding them. The chiefs ordered their followers to make their way through the still burning town and to gather by tribes outside the defensive works, and there lie down until morning, when they would march to meet the legion of Cerealis. At daybreak they were again afoot and on the march southward, swollen by the accession of the Trinobantes and by the arrival during the last two days of tribes who had been too late to join the rest at Cardun. The British force now numbered at least fifty thousand. "It is a great army, Beric," Boduoc said exultingly as they moved forward. "It is a great host," Beric replied. "I would that it were an army. Had they all even as much training as our men I should feel confident in the future." "But surely you are confident now, Beric; we have begun well." "We have scarcely begun at all," Beric said. "What have we done? Destroyed a sleeping town and captured by means of fire a temple defended by four hundred men. We shall win today, that I do not doubt. The men are wrought up by their success, and the Romans are little prepared to meet such a force -- I doubt not that we shall beat them, but to crush a legion is not to defeat Rome. I hope, Boduoc, but I do not feel confident. Look back at the Sarci and then look round at this disordered host. Well, the Romans in discipline and order exceed the Sarci as much as we exceed the rest of the Iceni. They will be led by generals trained in war; we are led by chiefs whose only idea of war is to place themselves at the head of their tribe and rush against the enemy. Whether courage and great numbers can compensate for want of discipline remains to be seen. The history of Rome tells me that it has never done so yet." After five hours' marching some fleet footed scouts sent on ahead brought in the news that the Romans were approaching. A halt was called, and the chiefs assembled round the queen's chariot in council. Beric was summoned by a messenger from the queen. "You must always attend our councils," she said when he came up. "You have proved that, young as you are, you possess a knowledge of war that more than compensates for your lack of years. You have the right, after capturing the temple for us, to take for the Sarci the post of honour in today's battle. Choose it for yourself. You know the Romans; where do you think we had better fight them?" "I think we could not do better than await them here," he said. "We stand on rising ground, and one of the Trinobantes to whom I have just spoken says that there is a swamp away on the left of our front, so that the Roman horsemen cannot advance in that direction. I should attack them in face and on their left flank, closing in thickly so as to prevent their horsemen from breaking out on to the plain at our right and then falling upon us in our rear. Since you are good enough to say that I may choose my post for the Sarci, I will hold them where they stand; then, should the others fail to break the Roman front, we will move down upon them and check their advance while the rest attack their flanks." This answer pleased some of the chiefs, who felt jealous of the honour the small tribe had gained on the previous day. They were afraid that Beric would have chosen to head the attack. "Does that plan please you?" Boadicea asked. "It is as well as another," one of the chiefs said. "Let the Sarci look on this time while we destroy the enemy. I should have thought Beric would have chosen for his tribe the post of honour in the attack." "The Romans always keep their best troops in reserve," Beric said quietly; "in a hard fight it is the reserve that decides the fate of the battle." "Then let it be so," Boadicea said. "Is the swamp that you speak of deep?" "It is not too deep for our men to cross," one of the chiefs of the Trinobantes said; "but assuredly a horseman could not pass through it." "Very well, then, let the Trinobantes attack by falling upon the Romans on our right; the Iceni will attack them in front; and the Sarci will remain where they stand until Beric sees need for them to advance." In a few minutes the Roman legion was seen advancing, with a portion of the cavalry in front and the rest in the rear. The queen, whose chariot was placed in front of the line, raised her spear. A tremendous shout was raised by the Britons, and with wild cries the tribes poured down to the attack, while the women, clustered on the slopes they had left, added their shrill cries of encouragement to the din. The Romans, who, believing that the Britons were still engaged in the attack on Camalodunum, had no expectation of meeting them on the march, halted and stood uncertain as the masses of Britons poured down to the attack. Then their trumpets sounded and they again advanced, the cavalry in the rear moving forward to join those in the advance, but before they accomplished this the Britons were upon them. Showers of darts were poured in, and the horsemen, unable to stand the onslaught, rode into the spaces between the companies of the infantry, who, moving outwards and forming a solid column on either flank, protected them from the assaults of their foes. The Britons, after pouring in showers of javelins, flung themselves, sword in hand, upon the Roman infantry; but these with levelled spears showed so solid a front that they were unable to break through, while from behind the spearmen, the light armed Roman troops poured volleys of missiles among them. Boadicea called Beric to her side. "It is as you said, Beric; the order in which the Romans fight is wonderful. See how steadily they hold together, it is like a wild boar attacked by dogs; but they will be overwhelmed, see how the darts fly and how bravely the Iceni are fighting." The tribesmen, indeed, were attacking with desperate bravery. Seizing the heads of the spears they attempted to wrest them from their holders, or to thrust them aside and push forward within striking distance. Sometimes they partially succeeded, and though the first might fall others rushing in behind reached the Romans and pressed them backwards, but reserves were brought up and the line restored. Then slowly but steadily the Romans moved forward, and although partial success had at some points attended those who attacked them in flank, the front of the column with serried spears held its way on in spite of the efforts of the Britons to arrest the movement. Presently the supply of javelins of their assailants began to fail, and the assaults upon the head of the column to grow more feeble, while the shouts of the Roman soldiers rose above the cries of their assailants. "Now it is time for us to move down," Beric said; "if we can arrest the advance their flanks will be broken in before long. Now, men," he shouted as he returned to his place at the head of the Sarci, "now is the time to show that you can meet the Romans in their own fashion. Move slowly down to the attack, let no man hasten his pace, but let each keep his place in the ranks. Four companies will attack the Romans in front, the others in column five deep will march down till they face the Roman flank, then they will march at it, spears down, and break it in." Beric sounded his bugle, and ten deep the four hundred men moved steadily down to the attack of the Romans. The five front ranks marched with levelled spears, those behind prepared to hurl their darts over their heads. When within fifty yards of the enemy the Sarci raised their battle cry, and the Iceni engaged with the Romans in front, seeing the hedge of spears advancing behind them, hurriedly ran off at both flanks and the Sarci advanced to the attack. The Romans halted involuntarily, astonished at the spectacle. Never before had they encountered barbarians advancing in formation similar to their own, and the sight of the tall figures advancing almost naked to the assault -- for the Britons always threw off their garments before fighting -- filled them with something like consternation. At the shouts of their officers, however, they again got into motion and met the Britons firmly. The additional length Beric had given to the spears of the Sarci now proved of vital advantage, and bearing steadily onward they brought the Romans to a standstill, while the javelins from the British rear ranks fell thick and fast among them. Gradually the Romans were pressed backwards, quickly as the gaps were filled up by those behind, until the charging shout of the Sarci on their flank was heard. Beric blew his horn, and his men with an answering shout pressed forward faster, their cries of victory rising as the Romans gave way. Still the latter fought stubbornly, until triumphant yells and confused shouts told them that the flank had given way under the attack of the Britons. Then Beric's horn sounded again, the slow advance was converted into a charge, the ranks behind closed up, and before the weight and impetus of the rush the Roman line was broken. Then the impetuosity of the Sarci could no longer be restrained, in vain Beric blew his horn. Flinging down their spears and drawing their swords the Britons flung themselves on the broken mass, the other tribesmen pouring in tumultuously behind them. For a few minutes a desperate conflict raged, each man fighting for himself, but numbers prevailed, the Roman shouts became feebler, the war cries of the Britons louder and more triumphant. In ten minutes the fight was over, more than two thousand Roman soldiers lay dead, while Cerealis and the cavalry, bursting their way through their assailants, alone escaped, galloping off at full speed towards the refuge of their fortified camp. The exultation of the Britons knew no bounds. They had for the first time since the Romans set foot on their shore beaten them in a fair fight in the open. There was a rush to collect the arms, shields, and helmets of the fallen Romans, and two of the Sarci presently brought the standards of the legion to Beric. "Follow me with them," he said, and, extricating himself from the throng, ascended the slope to where Boadicea, surrounded with women who were dancing and joining in a triumphant chant of victory, was still standing in her chariot. "Here are the Roman standards, the emblems of victory," Beric said as he approached the chariot. Boadicea sprang down, and advancing to him, embraced him warmly. "The victory is yours, Beric," she said. "Keep these two eagles, and fix them in your hall, so that your children's children may point to them with pride and say, 'It was Beric, chief of the Sarci, who first overthrew the Romans in the field.' But there is no time to be lost;" and she turned to her charioteer, who carried a horn. "Sound the summons for the chiefs to assemble." There were several missing, for the Britons had suffered heavily in their first attack. "Chiefs," she said, "let us not lose an instant, but press on after the Romans. Let us strike before they recover from their confusion and surprise. Catus Decianus may be in their camp, and while I seek no other spoil, him I must have to wreak my vengeance on. See that a party remain to look to the wounded, and that such as need it are taken to their homes in wagons." The horns were at once sounded, the tribesmen flocked back to the positions from which they had charged, and resumed their garments. Then the march was continued. They presented a strange appearance now. Almost every man had taken possession of some portion or other of the Romans' arms. Some had helmets, others shields, others breastplates, swords, or spears. The helmets, however, were speedily taken off and slung behind them, the heads of the Iceni being vastly larger than those of the Romans, the tallest of whom they overtopped by fully six inches. The arms of the officer who commanded under Cerealis were offered to Beric, but he refused them. "I fight to drive the Romans from our land," he said, "and not for spoil. Nothing of theirs will I touch, but will return to the forest when all is over just as I left it." By evening they approached the Roman camp. A portion of the legion had been left there when Cerealis set out, and in the light of the setting sun the helmets and spearheads could be seen above the massive palisades that rose on the top of the outworks. The Britons halted half a mile away, fires were lighted, and the men sat down to feast upon the meat that had been brought in wagons from Camalodunum. Then a council was held. As a rule, the British councils were attended by all able bodied men. The power of the chiefs, except in actual war, was very small, for the Britons, like their Gaulish ancestors, considered every man to be equal, and each had a voice in the management of affairs. Thus every chief had, before taking up arms, held a council of his tribesmen, and it was only after they had given their vote for war that he possessed any distinct power and control. When the council began, one of the chiefs of the Trinobantes was asked first to give a minute description of the Roman camp. The works were formidable. Surrounding it was a broad and deep fosse, into which a stream was turned. Beyond this there was a double vallum or wall of earth so steep as to be climbed with great difficulty. In the hollow between the two walls sharp stakes were set thickly together. The second wall was higher than the first, and completely commanded it. Along its top ran a solid palisade of massive beams, behind which the earth was banked up to within some three and a half feet from the top, affording a stand for the archers, slingers, and spearmen. The council was animated, but the great majority of chiefs were in favour of leaving this formidable position untouched, and falling upon places that offered a chance of an easier capture. The British in their tribal wars fought largely for the sake of plunder. In their first burst of fury at Camalodunum they had, contrary to their custom, sought only to destroy; but their thirst for blood was now appeased, they longed for the rich spoils of the Roman cities, both as trophies of victory and to adorn their women. The chiefs represented that already many of their bravest tribesmen had fallen, and it would be folly to risk a heavy loss in the attack upon such a position. What matter, they argued, if two or three hundred Romans were left there for the present? They could do no harm, and could be either captured by force or obliged to surrender by hunger after Suetonius and the Roman army had been destroyed. Not a day should be lost, they contended, in marching upon Verulamium, after which London could be sacked, for, although far inferior in size and importance to Camalodunum and Verulamium, it was a rising town, inhabited by large numbers of merchants and traders, who imported goods from Gaul and distributed them over the country. Beric's opinion was in favour of an instant assault, and in this he was supported by Aska and two or three of the older chiefs; but the majority were the other way, and the policy of leaving altogether the fortified posts garrisoned by the Romans to be dealt with after the Roman army had been met and destroyed was decided upon. One of the arguments employed was that while the capture of these places would be attended with considerable loss, it would add little to the effect that the news of the destruction of the chief Roman towns would have upon the tribes throughout the whole country, and would take so long that Suetonius might return in time to succour the most important places before the work was done. Aska walked away from the council with Beric. "They have decided wrongly," he said. "I do not think it much matters," Beric replied. "Everything hangs at present upon the result of our battle with Suetonius. If we win, all the detached forts must surrender; if we lose, what matters it?" "You think we shall lose, Beric?" "I do not say that," Beric said; "but see how it was today. The Iceni made no more impression upon the Roman column than if they had been attacking a wall. They hindered themselves by their very numbers, and by the time we meet the Romans our numbers will be multiplied by five, perhaps by ten. But shall we be any stronger thereby? Will not rather the confusion be greater? Today the Roman horse fled; but had they charged among us, small as was their number, what confusion would they have made in our ranks! A single Briton is a match for a single Roman, and more. Ten Romans fighting in order might repel the assault of a hundred, and as the numbers multiply so does the advantage of discipline increase. I hope for victory, Aska, but I cannot say that I feel confident of it." Marching next morning against Verulamium, they arrived there in the afternoon and at once attacked it. The resistance was feeble, and bursting through in several places the Iceni and Trinobantes spread over the town, slaughtering all they found. Not only the Romans, but the Gauls settled in the city, and such Britons as had adopted Roman customs were put to the sword. The city was then sacked and set on fire. It was now decided that instead of turning towards London they should march west in order that they might be joined by other tribes on their way and meet Suetonius returning from Wales. There was no haste in their movements. They advanced by easy stages, their numbers swelling every day, tribe after tribe joining them, as the news spread of the capture and destruction of the two chief Roman towns, and the defeat and annihilation of one of the legions. So they marched until, a fortnight after the capture of Verulamium, the news arrived that Suetonius, marching with all speed towards the east, had already passed them, gathering up on his way the garrisons of all the fortified posts. Then the great host turned and marched east again. Beric regretted deeply the course that had been taken. Had the garrisons all been attacked and destroyed separately, the army they would have to encounter would have been a little more than half the strength of that which Suetonius would be able to put into the field when he collected all the garrisons. But the Britons troubled themselves in no way. They regarded victory as certain, and expressed exultation that they should crush all the Romans at one blow in the open field, instead of being forced to undertake a number of separate sieges. Still marching easily, they came down upon the valley of the Thames and followed it until they arrived at London. They had expected that Suetonius would give battle before they arrived there. He had indeed passed through the town a few days previously, but had disregarded the prayers of the inhabitants to remain for their protection. He allowed all males who chose to do so to enlist in the ranks and permitted others to accompany the army, but he wished before fighting to be joined by Cerealis and the survivors of his legion, and by the garrisons of other fortified posts. The Britons therefore fell upon London, slaughtered all the inhabitants, and sacked and burned the town. It was calculated that here and in the two Roman cities no less than 80,000 persons had been slain. This accomplished, the great host again set out in search of Suetonius. They were accompanied now by a vast train of wagons and chariots carrying the women and spoil. Beric was not present at the sack of London. As they approached the town and it became known that Suetonius had marched away, and that there would be no resistance, he struck off north. Since they had left Verulamium the tribesmen had given up marching in military order. They were very proud of the credit they had gained in the battle with the Romans, but said that they did not see any use in marching tediously abreast when there was no enemy near. Beric having no power whatever to compel them, told them that of course they could do as they liked, but that they would speedily forget all they had learned. But the impatience of restraint of any kind, or of doing anything unless perfectly disposed to do it, which was a British characteristic, was too strong, and many were influenced by the scoffs of the newcomers, who, not having seen them in the day of battle, asked them scornfully if the Sarci were slaves that they should obey orders like Roman soldiers. Boduoc, although he had objected to the drill at first, and had scoffed at the idea of men fighting any better because they all kept an even distance from each other, and marched with the same foot forward, had now become an enthusiast in its favour and raged at this falling away. But Beric said, "It is no use being angry, Boduoc. I was surprised that they consented at first, and I am not surprised that they have grown tired of it. It is the fault of our people to be fickle and inconstant, soon wearying of anything they undertake; but I do not think that it matters much now. We alone were able to decide the fight when there were but two thousand Roman spearmen; but when we meet Suetonius, he will have ten thousand soldiers under him, and our multitude is so great that the Sarci would be lost in the crowd. If the Britons cannot beat them without us, we should not suffice to change the fortunes of the day." It was partly to escape the sight of the sack of London, partly because he was anxious to know how Berenice and Cneius Nepo were faring that Beric left the army, and drove north in a chariot. After two days' journey he arrived at the cottage of Boduoc's mother. The door stood open as was the universal custom in Britain, for nowhere was hospitality so lavishly practised, and it was thought that a closed door might deter a passerby from entering. His footsteps had been heard, for two dogs had growled angrily at his approach. The old woman was sitting at the fire, and at first he saw no one else in the hut. "Good will to all here!" he said. "It is the young chief!" the old woman exclaimed, and at once two figures rose from a pile of straw in a dark corner of the room. "Beric?" "Yes, it is I," he said. "How fares it with you, Berenice? You are well, Cneius, I hope? You have run no risks, I trust, since you have been here?" "We are well, Beric," the girl said; "but oh the time has seemed so long! It is not yet a month since you sent us here, but it seems a year. She has been very kind to us, and done all that she could, and the girls, her daughters, have gone with me sometimes for rambles in the wood; but they cannot speak our language. Not another person has been here since we came." "What is the news, Beric?" Cneius asked. "No word has reached us. The old woman and her daughters have learned something, for the eldest girl goes away sometimes for hours, and I can see that she tells her mother news when she returns." Beric briefly told them what had happened, at which Berenice exclaimed passionately that the Britons were a wicked people. "Then there will be a great battle when you meet Suetonius, Beric," Cneius said. "How think you will it go?" "It is hard to say," Beric replied; "we are more than one hundred and fifty thousand men against ten thousand, but the ten thousand are soldiers, while the hundred and fifty thousand are a mob. Brave and devoted, and fearless of death I admit, but still a mob. I cannot say how it will go." "How long shall we stay here, Beric?" Berenice asked. "When will you take me to my father?" "If we are beaten, Berenice, you will rejoin him speedily; if we win --" "He will not be alive," she broke in. Beric did not contradict her, but went on, "I will see that you are placed on board a ship and sent to Gaul; it is for this I come here today. Cneius, in two or three days we shall meet Suetonius; if we win, I will return to you myself, or if I am killed, Boduoc or his brother, both of whom I shall charge with the mission, will come in my place and will escort you to the coast and see that you are placed on board ship. If we lose, it is likely that none of us will return. I shall give the old woman instructions that in that case her daughter is to guide you through the forest and take you on until you meet some Roman soldiers, or are within sight of their camp, then you will only have to advance and declare yourself." Then he turned and spoke for some time to Boduoc's mother in her own language, thanking her for the shelter that she had given the fugitives, and giving instructions as to the future. He took a hasty meal, and started at once on his return journey in order to rejoin the Sarci as the army advanced from London. Berenice wept bitterly when he said goodbye, and Cneius himself was much affected. "I view you almost as a son," he said; "and it is terrible to know that if you win in the battle, my patron Caius and my countrymen will be destroyed, while if they win, you may fall." "It is the fortune of war, Cneius. You know that we Britons look forward to death with joy; that, unlike you, we mourn at a birth and feast at a burial, knowing that after death we go to the Happy Island where there is no more trouble or sorrow, but where all is peace and happiness and content; so do not grieve for me. You will know that if I fall I shall be happy, and shall be free from all the troubles that await this unfortunate land."