A PRISONER On leaving the propraetor Beric further informed his comrades of the offer that Petronius had made. "And you think he will keep his oath?" Boduoc asked. "I am sure of it," Beric said; "he has been sent out by Rome to undo the mischief Suetonius and Decianus have caused. His face is an honest one, and a Roman would not lie to his gods any more than we would." "But you ought to have made terms with them, Beric," Boduoc said. "You ought to have made a condition that you should be allowed to stay. It matters not for us, but you are the chief of all the Iceni who are left." "In the first place, Boduoc, I was not in a position to make terms, seeing that I am a captive and at their mercy; and in the next place, I would not if I could. Think you that the tribesmen would then accept my counsels to leave the Fens and return to their homes? They would say that I had purchased my life and freedom from the Romans, and had agreed to betray them into their hands." "No one would venture to say that of you, Beric." "You may think not, Boduoc; but if not now, in the future it would be said that, as before I was brought up among the Romans, so now I had gone back to them. No, even if they offered to all of us our liberty, I would say, let those go who will, but I remain a captive. Had the message come to us when I was free in the Fens I would have accepted it, for I knew that, although we might struggle long, we should be finally overpowered. Moreover, the marsh fevers were as deadly as Roman swords, and though for a year we have supported them, we should in time, perhaps this year when the summer heats come, have lost our strength and have melted away. Thus, had I believed that the Romans were sincere in their wish for peace, and that they desired to see the land tilled, I would have accepted their terms, because we were in arms and free, and could still have resisted; but as a captive, and conquered, I scorn to accept mercy from Rome." By this time they had arrived at the house where the other captives were guarded, and Beric repeated the terms that Petronius had offered. "They will not benefit us," he said. "We are the captives of Suetonius, and being taken with arms in our hands warring against Rome, we must pay the penalty; but, for the sake of our brethren, I rejoice. Our land may yet be peopled again by the Iceni, and we shall have the consolation that, whatever may befall us, it is partly our valour that has won such terms from Rome. There are still fifteen hundred fighting men in the swamps, and twice as many women and children. There may be many more lurking in the Fens to the north, for great numbers, especially from our northern districts, must have taken refuge with the Brigantes. Thus, then, there will, when all have returned, be a goodly number, and it is our defence of the Fenlands that has won their freedom for them. We may be captives and slaves, but we are not dishonoured. For months we have held Suetonius at bay, and two Romans have fallen for every Briton; and even at last it was by treachery we were captured. "None of us have begged our lives of Rome. We fought to the last, and showed front when we were but twenty against two thousand. It was not our fault that we did not die on the field, and we can hold our heads as high now when we are captives as we did when we were free men. We know not what may be our fate at Rome, but whatever it be, it will be a consolation to us to know that our people again wander in the old woods; that our women are spinning by their hearthstones; that the Iceni are again a tribe; and that it is we who have won this for them." An enthusiastic assent greeted Beric's words. "Now," he said, "we must choose the four who shall carry the message. I said those most sorely wounded, but since four are to go they can care little who are chosen. Most of us have lost those we love, but there are some whose wives may have been elsewhere when the attack was made. Let these stay, and let those who have no ties save that of country go to Rome." Only two men were found whose families had not been on the island when it was attacked. These and the two most seriously wounded were at once chosen as the messengers. The next morning the whole of the captives were escorted to the temple, which was but a small building in comparison with the great edifice that had been destroyed at the capture of Camalodunum. Here Petronius and all the principal officers and officials were assembled. Sacrifice was offered, and then Petronius, laying his hand on the altar, declared a solemn peace with the Britons, and swore that, so long as they remained peaceable subjects of Rome, no man should interfere with them, but all should be free to settle in their villages, to till their land, and to tend their herds free from any molestation whatever. Beric translated the words of the oath to the Britons. Petronius then bade the four men who had been chosen stand forward, and told them to carry his message to their countrymen. "Enough blood has been shed on both sides," he said. "It is time for peace. You have proved yourselves worthy and valiant enemies; let us now lay aside the sword and live together in friendship. I sent orders last night for the legions to leave their forts by the Fenland and to return hither, so that the way is now open to your own land. We can settle the terms of the tribute hereafter, but it shall not be onerous." After leaving the temple Beric gave his messages to the men, and they at once started under an escort for the camp, the officer in charge of them being ordered to provide them with a boat, in which they were to proceed alone to their countrymen. That evening Petronius sent for Beric, and received him alone. "I am sorry," he said, "that I cannot restore you and your companions to your tribe, but in this I am powerless, as Suetonius has captured you, and to him you belong. I have begged him, as a personal favour, to hand you over to me, but he has refused, and placed as we are I can do no more. I have, however, written to friends in Rome concerning you, and have said that you have done all in your power to bring about a pacification of the land, and have begged them to represent to Nero and the senate that if a report reach this island that you have been put to death, it will undo the work of pacification, and perhaps light up a fresh flame of war." There had, indeed, been an angry dispute between Suetonius and his successor. The former, although well pleased to return to Rome, was jealous of Petronius, and was angry at seeing that he was determined to govern Britain upon principles the very reverse of those he himself had adopted. Moreover, he regarded the possession of the captives as important, and deemed that their appearance in his train, as proofs that before leaving he had completely stamped out the insurrection, would create a favourable impression, and would go far to restore him to popular opinion. This was, as he had heard from friends in Rome, strongly adverse to him, in consequence of the serious disasters and heavy losses which had befallen the Roman arms during his propraetorship, and he had therefore refused with some heat to grant the request of Petronius. The next morning the captives were mustered, and were marched down to the river and placed on board a ship. There were six vessels lying in readiness, as Suetonius was accompanied not only by his own household, but by several officers and officials attached to him personally, and by two hundred soldiers whose time of service had expired, and who were to form his escort to Rome. To Beric, from his residence in Camalodunum, large ships were no novelty, but the Britons with him were struck with astonishment at craft so vastly exceeding anything that they had before seen. "Could we sail in these ships to Rome?" Boduoc asked. "You could do so, but it would be a very long and stormy voyage passing through the straits between two mountains which the Romans call the Pillars of Hercules. Our voyage will be but a short one. If the wind is favourable we shall reach the coast of Gaul in two days, and thence we shall travel on foot." Fortunately the weather was fine, and on the third day after setting sail they reached one of the northern ports of Gaul. When it was known that Suetonius was on board, he was received with much pomp, and was lodged in the house of the Roman magistrate. As he had no desire to impress the inhabitants of the place, the captives were left unbound and marched through the streets under a guard of the Roman spearmen. Gaul had long been completely subdued, but the inhabitants looked at the captives with pitying eyes. When these reached the house in which they were to be confined, the natives brought them presents of food, bribing the Roman guards to allow them to deliver them. As the language of the two peoples was almost identical, the Gauls had no difficulty in making themselves understood by the captives, and asked many questions relating to the state of affairs in Britain. They had heard of the chief, Beric, who had for a year successfully opposed the forces of Rome, and great was their surprise when they found that the youngest of the party was the noted leader. Two days later they started on their long march. Inured as the Britons were to fatigue, the daily journeys were nothing to them. They found the country flourishing. Villages occurred at frequent intervals, and they passed through several large towns with temples, handsome villas, and other Roman erections similar to those that they had sacked at the capture of Camalodunum. "The people here do not seem to suffer under the Roman rule at any rate," Boduoc remarked; "they appear to have adopted the Roman dress and tongue, but for all that they are slaves." "Not slaves, Boduoc, though they cannot be said to be free; however, they have become so accustomed to the Roman dominion that doubtless they have ceased to fret under it; they are, indeed, to all intents and purposes Roman. They furnish large bodies of troops to the Roman armies, and rise to positions of command and importance among them. In time, no doubt, unless misfortunes fall upon Rome, they will become as one people, and such no doubt in the far distance will be the case with Britain. We shall adopt many of the Roman customs, and retain many of our own. There is one advantage, you see, in Roman dominion -- there are no more tribal wars, no more massacres and slaughters, each man possesses his land in peace and quiet." "But what do they do with themselves?" Boduoc asked, puzzled. "In such a country as this there can be few wild beasts. If men can neither fight nor hunt, how are they to employ their time? They must become a nation of women." "It would seem so to us, Boduoc, for we have had nothing else to employ our thoughts; but when we look at what the Romans have done, how great an empire they have formed, how wonderful are their arts, how good their laws, and what learning and wisdom they have stored up, one sees that there are other things to live for; and you see, though the Romans have learned all these things, they can still fight. If they once turn so much to the arts of peace as to forget the virtues of war, their empire will fall to pieces more rapidly than it has been built up." Boduoc shook his head, "These things are well enough for you, Beric, who have lived among the Romans and learned many of their ways. Give me a life in which a man is a man; when we can live in the open air, hunt the wolf and the bear, meet our enemies face to face, die as men should, and go to the Happy Island without bothering our brains about such things as the arts and luxuries that the Romans put such value on. A bed on the fallen leaves under an oak tree, with the stars shining through the leaves, is better than the finest chamber in Rome covered with paintings." "Well, Boduoc," Beric said good temperedly, "we are much more likely to sleep under the stars in Rome than in a grand apartment covered with paintings; but though the one may be very nice, as you say, in summer, I could very well put up with the other when the snow lies deep and the north wind is howling." They did not, as Beric had hoped, cross the tremendous mountains, over which, as he had read in Polybius, Hannibal had led his troops against Rome. Hannibal had been his hero. His dauntless bravery, his wonderful resources, his cheerfulness under hardships, and the manner in which, cut off for years from all assistance from home, he had yet supported the struggle and held Rome at bay, had filled him with the greatest admiration, and unconsciously he had made the great Carthaginian his model. He was therefore much disappointed when he heard from the conversation of his guards that they were to traverse Gaul to Massilia, and thence take ship to Rome. The Roman guards were fond of talking to their young captive. Their thoughts were all of Rome, from which they had been so long absent, and Beric was eager to learn every detail about the imperial city; the days' marches therefore passed pleasantly. At night they were still guarded, but they were otherwise allowed much liberty, and when they stopped for two or three days at a place they were free to wander about as they chose, their great stature, fair hair, and blue eyes exciting more and more surprise as they went farther south, where the natives were much shorter and swarthier than those of northern Gaul. One of the young officers with Suetonius had taken a great fancy to Beric, and frequently invited him to spend the evening with him at their halting places. When they approached Massilia he said, "I have some relations in the city, and I will obtain leave for you to stay with me at their house while we remain in the town, which may be for some little time, as we must wait for shipping. My uncle is a magistrate, and a very learned man. He is engaged in writing a book upon the religions of the world, and he seldom remains long at any post. He has very powerful friends in Rome, and so is able to get transferred from one post to another. He has been in almost every province of the empire in order to learn from the people themselves their religions and beliefs. I stayed with him for a month here two years since on my way to Britain, and he was talking of getting himself transferred there, after he had been among the Gauls for a year or two; but his wife was averse to the idea, protesting that she had been dragged nearly all over the world by him, and was determined not to go to its furthest boundaries. But I should think that after the events of the last year he has given up that idea. I know it will give him the greatest possible pleasure to converse with one who can tell him all about the religions and customs of the Britons in his own language." Massilia was by far the largest city that the Britons had entered, and they were greatly surprised at its magnitude, and at the varieties of people who crowded its streets. Even Boduoc, who professed a profound indifference for everything Roman, was stupefied when he saw a negro walking in the train of a Roman lady of rank. "Is it a human being, think you," he murmured in Beric's ear, "or a wild creature they have tamed? He has not hair, but his head is covered with wool like a black sheep." "He is a man," Beric replied. "Across the sea to the south there are brown men many shades darker than the people here, and beyond these like lands inhabited by black men. Look at him showing his teeth and the whites of his eyes. He is as much surprised at our appearance, Boduoc, as we are at his. We shall see many like him in Rome, for Pollio tells me that they are held in high estimation as slaves, being good tempered and obedient." "He is hideous, Beric; look at his thick lips. But the creature looks good tempered. I wonder that any woman could have such an one about the house. Can they talk?" "Oh, yes, they talk. They are men just the same as we are, except for their colour." "But what makes them so black, Beric?" "That is unknown; but it is supposed that the heat of the sun, for the country they inhabit is terribly hot, has in time darkened them. You see, as we have gone south, the people have got darker and darker." "But are they born that colour, Beric?" "Certainly they are." "If a wife of mine bore me a child of that colour," Boduoc said, "I would strangle it. And think you that it is the heat of the sun that has curled up their hair so tightly?" "That I cannot say -- they are all like that." "Well, they are horrible," Boduoc said positively. "I did not think that the earth contained such monsters." Soon after the captives were lodged in a prison, Pollio came to see Beric, and told him that he had obtained permission for him to lodge at his uncle's house, he himself being guarantee for his safe custody there; accordingly they at once started together. The house was a large one; for, as Pollio had told Beric by the way, his uncle was a man of great wealth, and it was a matter of constant complaint on the part of his wife that he did not settle down in Rome. Passing straight through the atrium, where he was respectfully greeted by the servants and slaves, Pollio passed into the tablinum, where his uncle was sitting writing. "This is the guest I told you I should bring, uncle," he said. "He is a great chief, young as he looks, and has given us a world of trouble. He speaks Latin perfectly, and you will be able to learn from him all about the Britons without troubling yourself and my aunt to make a journey to his country." Norbanus was an elderly man, short in figure, with a keen but kindly face. He greeted Beric cordially. "Welcome, young chief," he said. "I will try to make your stay here comfortable, and I shall be glad indeed to learn from you about your people, of whom, unfortunately, I have had no opportunity hitherto of learning anything, save that when I journeyed up last year to the northwest of Gaul, I found a people calling themselves by the same name as you. They told me that they were a kindred race, and that your religion was similar to theirs." "That may well be," Beric said. "We are Gauls, though it is long since we left that country and settled in Britain. It may well be that in some of the wars in the south of the island a tribe, finding themselves overpowered, may have crossed to Gaul, with which country we were always in communication until it was conquered by you. We certainly did not come thence, for all our traditions say that the Iceni came by ship from a land lying due east from us, and that we were an offshoot of the Belgae, whose country lay to the northwest of Gaul." "The people I speak of," the magistrate said, "have vast temples constructed of huge stones placed in circles, which appear to me to have, like the great pyramids of Egypt, an astronomical signification, for I found that the stones round the sacrificial altars were so placed that the sun at its rising threw its rays upon the stone only upon the longest day of summer." "It is so with our great temples," Beric said; "and upon that day sacrifices are offered. What the signification of the stones and their arrangements is I cannot say. These mysteries are known only to the Druids, and they are strictly preserved from the knowledge of those outside the priestly rank." "Spare him for today, uncle," Pollio said laughing. "We are like, I hear, to be a fortnight here before we sail; so you will have abundant time to learn everything that Beric can tell you. I will take him up now, with your permission, and introduce him to my aunt and cousins." "You will find them in the garden, Pollio. Supper will be served in half an hour. Tomorrow, Beric, we will, after breakfast, renew this conversation that my feather brained young nephew has cut so short." "My Aunt Lesbia will be greatly surprised when she sees you," Pollio laughed as they issued out into the garden. "I did not see her until after I had spoken to my uncle, and I horrified her by telling her that the noted British chief Beric, who had defeated our best troops several times with terrible slaughter, was coming here to remain under my charge until we sail for Rome. She was shocked, considering that you must be a monster of ferocity; and even my pretty cousins were terrified at the prospect. I had half a mind to get you to attire yourself in Roman fashion, but I thought that you would not consent. However, we shall surprise them sufficiently as it is." Lesbia was seated with her two daughters on couches placed under the shade of some trees. Two or three slave girls stood behind them with fans. A dalmatian bore hound lay on the ground in front of them. Another slave girl was singing, accompanying herself on an instrument resembling a small harp, while a negro stood near in readiness to start upon errands, or to fetch anything that his mistress might for the moment fancy. Lesbia half rose from her reclining position when she saw Pollio approaching, accompanied by a tall figure with hair of a golden colour clustering closely round his head. The Britons generally wore their hair flowing over their shoulders; but the Iceni had found such inconvenience from this in making their way through the close thickets of the swamps, that many of them -- Beric among the number -- had cut their hair close to the head. With him it was but a recurrence to a former usage, as while living among the Romans his hair had been cut short in their fashion. The two girls, who were fifteen and sixteen years old, uttered an exclamation of surprise as Beric came near, and Lesbia exclaimed angrily: "You have been jesting with us, Pollio. You told me that you were going to bring Beric the fierce British chief here, and this young giant is but a beardless lad." Pollio burst into a fit of laughter, which was increased at the expression of astonishment in Lesbia's face when Beric said, in excellent Latin, -- "Pollio has not deceived you, lady. My name is Beric, I was the chief of the Britons, and my followers gave some trouble even to Suetonius." "But you are not the Beric whom we have heard of as leading the insurgent Britons?" "There is no other chief of my name," Beric said. "Therefore, if you heard aught of good or evil concerning Beric the Briton, it must relate to me." "This is Beric, aunt," Pollio said, "and you must not judge him by his looks. I was with Suetonius in his battles against him, and I can tell you that we held him in high respect, as we had good cause for doing, considering that in all it cost the lives of some twelve hundred legionaries before we could overcome him, and we took him by treachery rather than force." "But how is it that he speaks our language?" Lesbia asked. "I was a hostage for five years among the Romans," Beric said, "and any knowledge I may have of the art of war was learned from the pages of Caesar, Polybius, and other Roman writers. The Romans taught me how to fight them." "And now," Pollio broke in, "I must introduce you in proper form. This is my Aunt Lesbia, as you see; these are my cousins Aemilia and Ennia. Do you know, girls, that these Britons, big and strong as they are, are ruled by their women. These take part in their councils, and are queens and chieftainesses, and when it is necessary they will fight as bravely as the men. They are held by them in far higher respect than with us, and I cannot say that they do not deserve it, for they think of other things than attiring themselves and spending their time in visits and pleasure." "You are not complimentary, Pollio," Aemilia said; "and as to attire, the young Romans think as much of it as we do, and that without the same excuse, for we are cut off from public life, and have none save home pursuits. If you treat us as you say the Britons treat their women, I doubt not that we should show ourselves as worthy of it." "Now I ask you fairly, Aemilia, can you fancy yourself encouraging the legionaries in the heat of battle, and seizing spear and shield and rushing down into the thick of the fight as I have seen the British women do?" "No, I cannot imagine that," Aemilia said laughing. "I could not bear the weight of a shield and spear, much less use them in battle. But if the British women are as much bigger and stronger than I am, as Beric is bigger and stronger than you are, I can imagine their fighting. I wondered how the Britons could withstand our troops, but now that I see one of them there is no difficulty in comprehending it, and yet you do not look fierce, Beric." "I do not think that I am fierce," Beric said smiling; "but even the most peaceful animal will try and defend itself when it is attacked." "Have you seen Norbanus?" Lesbia asked. "He has seen him," Pollio replied; "and if it had not been for me he would be with him still, for my uncle wished to engage him at once in a discourse upon the religion and customs of his people; I carried Beric away almost forcibly." Lesbia sighed impatiently. The interest of her husband in these matters was to her a perpetual source of annoyance. It was owing to this that she so frequently travelled from one province to another, instead of enjoying herself at the court in Rome. But although in all other matters Norbanus gave way to her wishes, in this he was immovable, and she was forced to pass her life in what she considered exile. She ceased to take any further interest in the conversation, but reclined languidly on her couch, while Pollio gave his cousins a description of his life in Britain, and Beric answered their numerous questions as to his people. Their conversation was interrupted by a slave announcing that supper was ready, and Lesbia was relieved at finding that Beric thoroughly understood Roman fashions, and comported himself at table as any other guest would have done. The girls sat down at the meal, although this was contrary to usual custom; but Norbanus insisted that his family should take their meals with him, save upon occasions of a set banquet. "It seems wonderful," Ennia said to her sister later on, "that we should have been dining with the fierce chief of whom we have heard so much, and that he should be as courteous and pleasant and well mannered as any young Roman." "A good deal more pleasant than most of them," Aemilia said, "for he puts on no airs, and is just like a merry, good tempered lad, while if a young Roman had done but a tithe of the deeds he has he would be insufferable. We must get Pollio to take us tomorrow to see the other Britons. They must be giants indeed, when Beric, who says he is but little more than eighteen years, could take Pollio under his arm and walk away with him." In the morning, accordingly, Pollio started with his two cousins to the prison, while Beric sat down for a long talk with Norbanus in his study. Beric soon saw that the Roman viewed all the matters on which he spoke from the standpoint of a philosopher without prejudices. After listening to all that Beric could tell him about the religion of the Britons, he said, "It is remarkable that all people appear to think that they have private deities of their own, who interest themselves specially on their behalf, and aid them to fight their battles. I have found no exception to this rule, and the more primitive the people the more obstinate is this belief. In Rome at present the learned no longer believe in Jupiter and Mars and the rest of the deities, though they still attend the state ceremonies at the temples, holding that a state religion is necessary. The lower class still believe, but then they cannot be said to reason. In Greece scepticism is universal among the upper class, and the same may now be said of Egypt. Our Roman belief is the more unaccountable since we have simply borrowed the religion of the Greeks, the gods and their attributes being the same, with only a change of name; and yet we fancy that these Greek gods are the special patrons of Rome. "Your religion seems to me the most reasonable of any I have studied, and approaches more nearly than any other to the highest speculations of the Greek philosophers. You believe in one God, who is invisible and impersonal, who pervades all nature; but having formed so lofty an idea of him, you belittle him by making him a special god of your own country, while if he pervades all nature he must surely be universal. The Jews, too, believe in a single God, and in this respect they resemble you in their religion, which is far more reasonable than that of nations who worship a multiplicity of deities; but they too consider that their God confines His attention simply to them, and rules over only the little tract they call their own -- a province about a hundred miles long, by thirty or forty wide. From them another religion has sprung. This has made many converts, even in Rome, but has made no way whatever among the learned, seeing that it is more strange and extravagant than any other. It has, however, the advantage that the new God is, they believe, universal, and has an equal interest in all people. I have naturally studied the tenets of this new sect, and they are singularly lofty and pure. They teach among other things that all men are equal in the sight of God -- a doctrine which naturally gains for them the approval of slaves and the lower people, but, upon the other hand, brings them into disfavour with those in power. "They are a peaceful sect, and would harm no one; but as they preach that fighting is wrong, I fear that they will before long come into collision with the state, for, were their doctrines to spread, there would soon be a lack of soldiers. To me it appears that their views are impracticable on this subject. In other respects they would make good citizens, since their religion prescribes respect to the authorities and fair dealing in all respects with other men. They are, too, distinguished by charity and kindness towards each other. One peculiarity of this new religion is, that although springing up in Judaea, it has made less progress among the Jews than elsewhere, for these people, who are of all others the most obstinate and intolerant, accused the Founder of the religion, one Christus, before the Roman courts, and He was put to death, in my opinion most unjustly, seeing that there was no crime whatever alleged against Him, save that He perverted the religion of the Jews, which was in no way a concern of ours, as we are tolerant of the religions of all people." "But Suetonius attacked our sacred island and slew the priests on the altars," Beric objected. "That is quite true," Norbanus said, "but his had nothing whatever to do with the religion, but was simply because the priests stirred up insurrection against us. We have temples in Rome to the deities of almost every nation we have subdued, and have suffered without objection the preachers of this new doctrine to make converts. The persecutions that have already begun against the sect are not because they believe in this Christus, but because they refuse to perform the duties incumbent upon all Roman citizens. Two of my slaves belong to the sect. They know well that I care not to what religion they belong, and indeed, for my part, I should be glad to see all my slaves join them, for the moral teaching is high, and these slaves would not steal from me, however good the opportunity. That is more than I can say of the others. Doubtless, had I been fixed in Rome, the fact that they belonged to these people would have been kept a secret, but in the provinces no one troubles his head about such matters. These are, to my mind, matters of private opinion, and they have leave from me to go on their meeting days to the place where they assemble, for even here there are enough of them to form a gathering. "So long as this is done quietly it is an offence to no one. The matter was discussed the other day among us, for orders against Christians came from Rome; but when the thing was spoken of I said that, as I believed members of the sect were chiefly slaves, who were not called upon to perform military duties, I could not deem that the order applied to them, and that as these were harmless people, and their religion taught them to discharge their duty in all matters save that of carrying arms, I could not see why they should be interfered with. Moreover, did we move in the matter, and did these people remain obstinate in their Faith, we might all of us lose some valuable slaves. After that no more was said of the matter. Now tell me about your institution of the bards, of which I have heard. These men seem not only to be the depositors of your traditions and the reciters of the deeds of your forefathers, but to hold something of a sacred position intermediate between the Druids and the people." For some hours Beric and his host conversed on these subjects, Beric learning more than he taught, and wondering much at the wide knowledge possessed by Norbanus. It was not until dinner was announced that the Roman rose. "I thank you much, Beric, for what you have told me, and I marvel at the interest that you, who have for the last two years been leading men to battle, evince in these matters. After five minutes of such talk my nephew Pollio would begin to weary." "I was fond of learning when I was in the household of Caius Muro, but my time was chiefly occupied by the study of military works and in military exercises; still I found time to read all the manuscripts in Muro's library. But I think I learned more from the talk of Cneius Nepo, his secretary, who was my instructor, than from the books, for he had travelled much with Muro, and had studied Greek literature." Pollio had returned some time before with his cousins. "I would have come in before to carry you away," he whispered to Beric as they proceeded to the dinner table, "but it would have put out my uncle terribly, and as I knew you would have to go through it all I thought it as well that you should finish with it at once." "I am glad you did not," Beric replied. "It has been a great pleasure to me to listen to your uncle's conversation, from which I have learned a good deal." Pollio glanced up to see if Beric was joking. Seeing that he spoke in perfect good faith, he said: "Truly, Beric, you Britons are strange fellows. I would rather go through another day's fighting in your swamps than have to listen to uncle for a whole morning." As they sat down he went on: "The girls are delighted with your Britons, Beric. They declare they are not only the biggest but the handsomest men they ever saw, and I believe that if your lieutenant Boduoc had asked either of them to return with him and share his hut in the swamps they would have jumped at the offer." The girls both laughed. "But they are wonderful, Beric," Aemilia said. "When you told us that you were not yet full grown I thought you were jesting, but I see now that truly these men are bigger even than you are. I wish I had such golden hair as most of them have, and such a white skin. Golden hair is fashionable in Rome, you know, but it is scarce, except in a few whose mothers were Gauls who have married with Romans." "It is the nature of man to admire the opposite to himself," Norbanus said. "You admire the Britons because they are fair, while to them, doubtless, Roman women would appear beautiful because their hair and their eyes are dark." "But Beric has not said so, father," Aemilia said laughing. "I am not accustomed to pay compliments," Beric said with a smile, "but assuredly your father is right. I have been accustomed for the last two years to see British maidens only. These are fair and tall, some of them well nigh as tall as I, and as they live a life of active exercise, they are healthy and strong." "That they are," Pollio broke in. "I would as soon meet a soldier of the Goths as one of these maidens Beric speaks of, when her blood is up. I have seen our soldiers shrink from their attack, when, with flashing eyes and hair streaming behind them, they rush down upon us, armed with only stones and billets of wood that they had snatched up. What they may be in their gentler moments I know not, and I should hesitate to pay my court to one, for, if she liked it not, she would make small difficulty in throwing me outside the door of her hut." "You are too quick, Pollio," Aemilia said. "Beric was about to compare us with them." "The comparison is difficult," Beric said; "but you must not imagine our women as being always in the mood in which Pollio has seen them. They were fighting, not for their lives, but in order to be killed rather than fall into the hands of your soldiers. Ordinarily they are gentle and kind. They seemed to Pollio to be giantesses, but they bear the same proportion to our height as you do to the height of the Roman men." "I meant not to say aught against them," Pollio broke in hastily. "I meant but to show my cousins how impossible it was for you to make any comparison between our women and yours. All who know them speak well of the British women, and admire their devotion to their husbands and children, their virtue, and bravery. You might as well compare a Libyan lioness with a Persian cat as the British women with these little cousins of mine." "But the Persian cat has, doubtless, its lovable qualities," Beric said smiling. "It is softer and gentler and better mannered than the lioness, though, perhaps, the lion might not think so. But truly your Roman ladies are beyond comparison with ours. Ours live a life of usefulness, discharging their duties as mistress of the household, intent upon domestic cares, and yet interested as ourselves in all public affairs, and taking a share in their decision. Your ladies live a life of luxury. They are shielded from all trouble. They are like delicate plants by the side of strong saplings. No rough air has blown upon them. They are dainty with adornments gathered from the whole world, and nature and art have combined alike to make them beautiful." "All of which means, Aemilia," Pollio laughed, "that, in Beric's opinion, you are pretty to look at, but good for nothing else." "I meant not that," Beric said eagerly, "only that the things you are good for are not the things which British women are good for. You have no occasion to be good housewives, because you have slaves who order everything for you. But you excel in many things of which a British woman never so much as heard. There is the same difference that there is between a cultured Roman and one of my tribesmen." "Human nature is the same everywhere," Norbanus said, "fair or dark, great or small. It is modified by climate, by education, by custom, and by civilization, but at bottom it is identical. And now, Pollio, I think you had better take Beric down to the port, the sight of the trade and shipping will be new to him."