One day I was sitting in gloomy abstraction in the sunny garden, when, 
looking up suddenly, a little maid stood by demurely and somewhat 
compassionately regarding me. Grateful just then for any sort of 
sympathy, I led her to talk, and presently found, as we thawed into good-
fellowship, drawn together by some mutual attraction; that she was of 
British birth, and more -- from my old village! This was bond enough in 
my then state; but think how moved and pleased I was when the comely 
little damsel laughingly said: "Oh, yes! it is only you Roman lords who 
come and go more often than these flowers. We British seldom move; I 
and my people have lived yonder on the coast for ages!" So I let my lonely 
fancy fill in the blanks, and took the little maid for a kinsman,


and was right glad to know some one in the void world into which four 
hundred years' sleep had plunged me.

Strange, too, as you will take it, Numidea, who, now and then, to my mind 
was so like the ancestress she knew naught of; Numidea, the slave-girl 
who had stood before me by predestined chance in that hour of sorrow -- 
it was she who directed my destiny and saved and ruined me in this 
chapter, just as her mother had done distant life-times before!

Between this fair little friend and my inexhaustible wallet I dried up my 
grief, and turned idle and reckless in that fascinating town of extravagance 
and debauchery. It was not a time to boast much of. 'The degenerate 
Romans had lost all their valor and most of their skill in the arts of 
government. All their hardihood and strength had sunk under the evil 
example of the debased capital by the Tiber; and, though some few 
unpopular ones among them railed against the effeminate luxury of the 
times, few heeded and none were warned. It shamed me to find that all 
these latter-day Romans thought of was silks and linens, front seats at the 
theater, pageantry and spectacles, trinkets and scouts. It roused my disdain 
to see the senators go by with gilded trains of servitors and the young 
centurions swagger down the streets i~1 their mock armor -- their toy, 
peace-time swords hanging in golden chains from their tender sides, and 
the wind warning one of their perfumed presence even before they came 
in sight. Such were not the men to win an empire, I thought, or to hold it!

As for the native British, a modicum of them had dropped the sagum for 
the toga, and had put on with it all its vices, but few of its virtues. Such a 
witless, vain, incapable medley of arrogant fools never before was seen. To 
their countrymen they represented themselves as possessed of all the keys 
of statecraft and government, stirring them up as far as they durst to 
discontent and rebellion, while to their masters they stood acknowledged 
sycophants and apes of all the meannesses of a degenerate time. All this 
was the more the pity, for magnificent and wide were the evidences of 
what Rome had done for Britain during the long years she had held it. 
When I slept it was a chaotic wild, peopled by brave but scattered tribes; 
when I awoke it was a fair, united realm -- a beautiful territory of fertility, 
rich in corn and apple-yards, arteried by smooth white-paved roads and 
ruled by half a dozen wonderful capitals, with countless lesser cities, 
camps, and villas, wherein modern luxury, like a rampant, beautiful-
flowered parasite, had overgrown, and choked and killed the sturdy stuff 
on which it grew.


Well, it is not my province to tell you of these things. The gilded fops who 
thronged the city ways I soon found were good enough for drinking-
bouts and revelry, and, by all Olympus! my sleep had made me thirsty and 
my sorrow full of a moroseness which had to be constantly battened down 
under the hatches of an artificial pleasure. All the old cautious, frugal, 
merchant spirit had gone, and the Roman Phra, in his gold and turquoise 
cincture, his belt full of his outlandish, never-failing coins, was soon the talk 
of the town, the life and soul of every reckless bout or folly, the terror of 
all lictors and honest, benighted citizens.

And, like many another good young man of like inclinations, his exit was 
as sudden as his entry! Well I remember that day, when my ivory tablets 
were crowded with suggestions for new idleness and vanities, and bore a 
dozen or two of merry engagements to plays and processions and 
carnivals, and all my new-found world looked like a summer sea of 
pleasure. Under these circumstances I went to my hoard one evening, as I 
had done very often of late, and was somewhat chagrined to discover only 
five pieces of money left. However, they were big plump ones, larger than 
any I had used before, and, as all those had been good gold, these still 
might mean a long spell of frolic for me -- when they were nearly spent it 
would be time to turn serious.

I at once sat down to rub the general green tint of age from one, noticing it 
was more verdant than any of its comrades had been, and rubbed with 
increasing consternation and alarm moment after moment, until I had 
reduced it at last to an ancient British copper token, a base, abominable 
thing, not good enough to pitch to a starving beggar!

Another and another was snatched up and chafed, and, as I toiled on by 
my little flickering earthen lamp in my bachelor cell, every one of those 
traitor coins in an hour had shed its coating of time and turned out under 
my disgusted fingers common plebeian metal. There they lay before me at 
length, a contemptible five-pence wherewith to carry on a week's 
carousing. Five-pence! Why, it was not enough to toss to a noisy beggar 
outside the circus -- hardly enough for a drink of detestable British wine, 
let alone a draught of the good Italian vintages that I had lately come to 
look upon as my prerogative. Horrible! and as I gazed at them stolidly, 
that melancholy evening, the airy castle of my pleasure crumbled from 
base to battlement.

As the result of long cogitation -- knowing the measure of my friends too 
well to think of borrowing of them -- I finally


decided to make a retreat, and leave my acquaintance my still unblemished 
reputation in pawn for the various little items owing by me. Taking a look 
round, to assure myself every one in the house was asleep, I argued that 
to-night, though a pauper, I was still of good account, whereas with 
daylight I should be a discredited beggar; so that it was, in fact, a 
meritorious action to leave my host an old pair of sandals in lieu of a 
month's expenses, and drop through the little window into the garden, on 
the way to the open world once more. Necessity is ever a sophist.

It is needless to say the gray dawn was not particularly cheerful as I sprung 
into the city fosse and struck out for the woods beyond. The fortune which 
makes a man one day a gentleman of means and the next a mendicant is 
more pleasant to hear of when it has befallen one's friends than to feel at 
first-hand. It was only the fear of the detestable city jail and the 
abominable provender there, added to the ridicule of my friends, perhaps, 
that sent me, scripless, thus afield. Gray as the prospect ahead might be, 
behind it was black; so I plodded on, with my spear for a staff and 
melancholy for a companion.

The leafy shades reached in an hour or so invited rest, and in their 
seclusion an idle spell was spent watching through the green frame of 
branches the fair, careless city below wake to new luxurious life; watching 
the blue smoke rise from the temple court-yards, and the pigeons circling 
up into the sky, and the glitter of the sun on the legionaries' arms as they 
wheeled and formed and reformed in the open ground beyond the 
prefect's house. Oh, yes! I knew it all! And how pleasantly the water 
spluttered in the marble baths after those dusty exercises; and how heavy 
the lightest armor was after such nights as I and those jolly ones down 
there were accustomed to spend! As I, breakfastless, leaned upon the top 
of my staff, I recalled the good red wine from my host's coolest cellars and 
the hot bread from slaves' ovens in the street, and how pleasant it was to 
lie in silk and sandals, and drink and laugh in the shade and stare after the 
comely British maids, and lay out in those idle sunny hours the fabrics of 
fun and mirth.

On again, and by midday a valley opened before me, and at the head, a 
mile or so from the river, was a very stately white villa. Thither, out of 
curiosity, my steps were turned, and I descended upon that lordly abode 
by coppices, ferny brakes, and pastures, until one brambly field alone 
separated us. An ordinary being whom the fates had not set themselves to 


forever in their immortal hands would have gone round this inclosure, and 
so taken the uneventful pathway, but not so I; I must needs cross the 
brambles, and thus bring down fresh ventures on my head. In the midst of 
the inclosure was an oak, and under the oak five or six white cows with a 
massive bull of the fierce old British breed. This animal resented my 
trespass, and, shaking his head angrily as I advanced, he came after me at a 
trot when half-way across. Now, a good soldier knows when to run no 
less that when to stand, and so my best foot was put forth in the direction 
of the house, and I presently slipped through a hole in the fence directly 
into the trim gay garden of the villa itself.

So hasty was my entry that I nearly ran into a stately procession 
approaching down one of the well-kept terraces intersecting the grounds; 
a seneschal and a butler, a gorgeously arrayed mercenary or two, men and 
damsels in waiting, all this lordly array attending a litter borne by two 
negro slaves, whereon, with a languidness like that of convalescence, 
belied, however, by the bloom of excellent health and the tokens of robust 
grace in the every limb, reclined a handsome Roman lady. There was 
hardly time to take all this in at a glance, when the gorgeous attendants set 
up a shout of consternation and alarm, and glancing over my shoulder to 
see the cause, there was that resentful bull bursting the hedge a scanty 
twenty paces away, with vindictive purpose in his widespread nostrils and 
angry eyes.

Down went the seneschal's staff of office, down went the base 
mercenaries' gilded shields; the butler threw the dish of grapes he was 
carrying for his lady's refreshment into the bushes; the waiting-maids 
dropped their fans, and, shrieking, joined the general rout. Worse than all, 
those base villains, the littermen, slipped their leather straps and in the 
general panic dropped the litter, and left to her fate that mistress who, with 
her sandaled feet wrapped in silks and spangled linens, struggled in vain to 
rise. There was no time for fear. I turned, and as the bull came down upon 
us two in a snorting avalanche of white hide and sinew, I gave him the 
spear, driving it home with all my strength just in front of the ample 
shoulder as he lowered his head. The strong seven-foot haft of ash as thick 
as a man's wrist bent between us like a green hazel wand, and then burst 
into splinters right up to my grasp. The next moment I was hurled 
backward, crashing into the flowers and trim parterres as though it were 
by the fist of Jove himself I had been struck. Hardly touching the ground, I 
was up again, my short sword drawn and ready as ever --


though the gay world swam before me -- to kill or to be killed.

It was not necessary. There had been few truer or more forceful spears 
than mine in the old times; and there lay the great white monster on his 
side in a crimson pool of blood, essaying in vain to lift his head, and dying 
in mighty tremors all among the pretty things the servants had thrown 
down. The gush of red blood from his chest was wetting even the silken 
fringes of the comely dame's skirts and wrappings, while she, now at last 
on her feet, frowned down on him with angry triumph rather than fear in 
her countenance.

Though there was hardly a change of color on her face or a tremor in the 
voice with which she thanked me, yet I somehow felt her ladyship was in a 
fine passion behind that disdainful mask. But whether it were so or not, 
she was civil enough to me, personally evincing a condescending interest 
in the trifling wound that was staining my bare right arm with crimson, 
and sending her "good youth" away in a minute or two to the house to get 
it bound. As I turned to go the stately lady gathered up tunic folds and 
skirts in her white fist and moved down upon the group of trembling 
servants who were gathering their wits together slowly under the nervous 
encouragement of the seneschal. What she said to them I know not, but, if 
ever the countenances of men truly reflected their sensations, her brief 
fierce whispers must have been exceedingly unpleasant to listen to.

The damsel who bound the scratch upon my shoulder told me something 
of this beautiful and wealthy dame. But, in truth, when she called her Lady 
Electra I needed to hear little more. It was a name that had circulated freely 
in the city yonder, and especially when wine was sparkling best and 
tongues at lightest! I knew without asking the lady was niece to an 
emperor, and was reputed as haughty and cruel as though she had been 
one of the worst herself; I knew her lawful spouse was away, like most 
Romans, from his duty just then, and she stood in his place to tyrannize 
over the British peasants and sweep the taxes into his insatiate coffers. I 
knew, too, why Rome was forbidden for a time to the vivacious lady, as 
well as some stories, best untold, of how she enlivened the tedium of her 
exile in these "savage" places.

In fact, I knew I had fallen into the gilded hold of a magnificent outlaw, one 
of the worst productions of a debased and sinking state, and, being 
wayward by predestination, I determined to play with the she-wolf in her 
own den.

No fancy of mine is so rash but that Fate will countersign.


it. When Electra sent for me presently in the great hall where the fountains 
played into basins of rosy marble, it was to inform me that the destruction 
of the bull, and my bearing thereat, had caught her fancy, and I was to 
"consider myself for the present in her private service, and attached to the 
body-guard." This decision was announced with an easy imperialness 
which seemed to ignore all  suggestion of opposition -- a suavity such as 
Juno might use in directing the most timorous of servitors -- so, as my 
wishes ran in unison, I bowed my thanks, and kissed the fringe of my 
ladyship's cloak, and thought, as she lay there before me on her silken 
couch in the tessellated hall of her stately home, that I had never before 
seen so beautiful or dangerous-looking a creature.

Nor had I long to wait for a sight of the vice-prefect's talons. While she 
asked me of my history, the which I made up as I told it (and, having once 
thus balked the truth, never afterward told her the real facts), a messenger 
came, and, standing at a respectful distance, saluted his mistress.

"Ah!" she said, with a pretty look of interest in her face and rising on her 
elbow, "are they dead?"

"One is, Madame," the man responded; "one of your bearers fled, but the 
other we secured. We took him into the field and tied him, as your 
ladyship directed, to the horns of the strongest white cow. She dragged 
him here and there, and gored him for full ten minutes before he died -- 
and now all that remains of him," with a wave of the hand toward the 
vestibule, "most respectfully awaits your ladyship's inspection in the porch" 
-- and the messenger bowed low.

"It is well. Fling the dog into a ditch -- and my friend -- let my brave 
henchmen know if they do not lay hands on the other villain before sunset 
to-morrow, I shall come to them for a substitute."

The successful termination of this episode seemed to relieve my new 

"Ah! my excellent soldier," she said, with a pretty sigh, "you can not 
conceive what a vexation my servants are to me, or how rebellious and 
unruly. Would there were but a man here, such as yourself, for instance, to 
protect and soften a lonely matron's exile."

This was very flattering to my vanity, more especially as it was 
accompanied by a gracious look with more of condescension in it than I 
fancied usually fell to the lot of those who met her handsome eyes. In such 
circumstances, under a lordly roof and careless again of to-morrow, a new 
spell of experience was commenced in the Roman villa, and I learned


much of the ways of corrupt Roman government and a luxurious society 
there which might amuse you were it not all too long to set down. For a 
time, when her ladyship gave, as was her frequent pleasure, gorgeous 
dinners, and all the statesmen and soldiers of the neighboring towns came 
in to sup with her, I pleaded one thing and another in excuse for absence 
from the places where I must have met many too well known before. But 
Electra, as the time went on, was proud of her handsome, stalwart 
centurion, and advanced me quicker than my modest ambition could 
demand, clothed me in the gorgeous livery of her household troops, raised 
me to the chief command, and finally, one evening, sat me at her side on 
her own silken couch before all the lords and senators, and, deriding their 
surprise and covert sarcasm, proclaimed me first favorite there with royal 

Did I but say Electra was proud of her new find? Much better had it been 
simply so; but she was not accustomed to moderation in any matters, and 
perhaps my cold indifference to her overwhelming attractions, when all 
else fawned for an indulgent look, excited her fiery thirst of dominion. Be 
this as it may, no very long time after my arrival it was palpable her 
manner was changing; and as the days went by, and she would have me 
sit on the tiger-skin at her knee, a second Antony to this British Cleopatra, 
telling wonderful tales of war and woodcraft, I presently found the 
unmistakable light of awakening love shining through her ladyship's half-
shut lids. Many and many a time before and since has that beacon been 
lighted for me in eyes of every complexion -- it makes me sad to think 
how well I know that gentle gleam -- but never in all my life did I 
experience anything like the concentrated fire that burned silently but 
more strongly day by day in those black Roman eyes.

I would not be warned. More; I took a lawless delight in covertly piling on 
material and leading that reckless dame, who had used and spurned a 
score of gallant soldiers or great senators according to her idle fancy, to 
pour out her over-ample affection on me, the penniless adventurer. And, 
like one who fans a spark among combustible material, the blaze that 
resulted was near my undoing.

The more dense I was to her increasing love, the more she suffered. Truly, 
it was pitiful to see her who was so little accustomed to know any other 
will, thwarted by so fine an agency -- to see her imperialness strain and fret 
at the silken meshes of love, and fume to have me know; and answer to 
her meaning yet fear to tell it, and at times be timorous to speak


and at others start up palely wrathful that she could not order in this case 
as elsewhere. Indeed, my lady was in a bad way, and now she would be 
fierce and sullen and anon gracious and melancholy. In the latter mood she 
said one day as I sat by her bisellium:

"I am ill and pale, my centurion; I wonder you have not noticed it."

"Perhaps, madame," I said, with the distant respect that galled her so -- 
"perhaps your ladyship's supper last night was overlarge and late -- and 
those lampreys, I warned you against them that third time."

"Gross! Material!" exclaimed Electra, frowning blackly. "Guess again -- a 
finer malady -- a subtler pain."

"Then, may be the valley air affects my lady's liver, or rheumatism, 
perhaps, exacts a penalty for some twilight rambles."

Such banter as this, and more, was all the harder to bear since she could 
not revenge it. I was sorry for the tyrantess, for she was wonderfully 
attractive thus pensive-wise, and woefully in earnest as she turned away to 
the painted walls and sighed to herself.

"Fy! to be thus withstood by a fameless mercenary. Why must I thus, 
unaccustomed, sue this one -- the least worthy of them all -- and lavish on 
his dull, plebeian ears the sighs that many another would give a province 
or two to hear? -- I, who have slighted the homage of silk and scarlet, and 
imperial purple even. Lucullus was not half so dull -- or Palladius, or 
Decius; and that last of many others, my witty Publius Torquatus, would 
have diagnosed my disease and prescribed for it all in one whisper."

Poor lady! It was not within me -- though she did not know it to hold out 
for long against the sunshine and storm of her impetuous nature. Neither 
her abominable cruelties nor her reckless rapacity could suffice to dim her 
attractions -- many a time since, when that comely personage has been as 
clearly wiped from the page of life, as utterly obliterated from the earth as 
the very mound of her final resting-place, have I regretted that she was 
not born to better days, and then, perchance, her fine material might have 
been run into a nobler mold.

She was jealous, too, and it came about in this way. Very soon after I had 
taken service with her, whom should I espy, one morning, feeding the 
golden pheasants outside the veranda, but my little friend Numidea. Often 
I had thought of that maid, and determined to discover that " big house" 


she had told me she was bondwoman, and the "great lady" who sent her 
tripping long journeys into the town for the powders and silk stuffs none 
could better choose. And now, here she was on my path again, a roof-
mate by strange chance, with her graceful tender figure and her dainty 
ways, and that chronic friendly smile upon her mouth that brought such 
strange fancies to my mind every time I looked upon it. Of course, I 
befriended the maid as though she were my own little one, not so many 
times removed, and equally, of course, Lady Electra noticed and misread 
our friendship. Poor Numidea! she had a hard life before I came, and a 
harder, perhaps, afterward. You compassionate moderns will wonder 
when I tell you that Numidea has shown me her white silk shoulders laced 
with the red scars of old floggings laid on by Electra herself, and the blood-
spotted dimples here and there where that imperious dame had thrust, for 
some trivial offense, a golden bodkin from her hair deep into that innocent 
flesh. No one knew better than my noble mistress how to give acute 
torture to a slave without depreciating the market price of her property.

But when I became of more weight -- when, in brief, my comely tigress 
was too fast bound to be dangerous -- I spoke up, and Electra grew to be 
jealous, and to hate the small Christian slave-girl with all the unruly 
strength that marked her other passions.

Thus one day, having discovered Numidea weeping over a new-made 
wound, I sought out the offender, and as she sauntered up and down her 
tessellated pavements, I shook my fist at her queenship, and said:

"By the bright flame of Vesta, Lady Electra, and by every deity, old or new, 
in the endless capacity of the skies, if you get out your abominable flail for 
that girl again, or draw but once upon her one of your accursed bodkins, I 
will -- marry her among the smoking ruins of this white sty of yours!"

When I spoke to her thus under the lash of my anger, she would uprise to 
the topmost reach of her height, and thence, frowning down upon me, her 
shapely head tossed back and her draperies falling from her crossed arms 
and ample shoulders to the marble floor, she would regard me with an 
imperious stare that might have withered an ordinary mortal. So beautiful 
and statuesque was her ladyship on these occasions, towering there in her 
own white hall like an image of an offended Juno in the first flush of her 
queenly wrath, that even I would involuntarily step back a pace. But I did 
not lower or drop my eyes, and, when we had glowered at each


other so for a minute or two, the royal instinct within her was no match 
for traitor Love. Slowly then the woman would come welling into her 
proud face, and the glow of anger gave way upon her cheeks; her arms 
dropped by her sides; she shrunk to mortal proportions, and, lastly, sunk 
on the ebony and ivory couch in a wild gust of weeping, woefully asking 
to know, as I turned upon my heels, why the slave's trivial scars were 
more to me than the mistress's tears.

My vice-prefect was avaricious, too. There was, stored in the spacious 
hollows below her villa, I know not how much bronze and gold squeezed 
from those reluctant British hinds whose old-world huts cluster together in 
the oak clumps dotting the fertile vales as far as the eye could see from our 
roof-ledges on every hand. Had all the offices of the imperial government 
been kept as she kept her duties of tax-collecting, the great empire would 
have been further by many a long year from its ruin. And the closer 
Electra made her accounts, the more deadly became her exactions, the 
more angry and rebellious grew the natives round us.

Already they had heard whispers of how hard barbarians were pressing 
upon Rome, day by day they saw Britain depleted of the stalwart 
legionaries who had occupied the land four hundred years, and as phalanx 
after phalanx went south through Gaul to protect the mother city on the 
Tiber, their demagogues secretly stirred the people up to ambition and 

Nor can it be denied the villains had something to grumble for. Society 
was dissolute and debased, while the country was full of those who made 
the good Roman name a byword. The British peasant had to toil and sweat 
that a hundred tyrants, the rank production of social decay, might 
squander and parade in the luxury and finery his labors purchased. Added 
to this, the pressing needs of the emperor himself demanded the services 
of those who had taken upon themselves for centuries the protection of 
the country. As they retired, northern rovers, at first fitfully, but afterward 
with increasing rigor, came down upon the unguarded coasts, and, sailing 
up the estuaries, harried the rich English vales on either side, and rioted 
amid the accumulated splendor and plenty of the luckless land to their 
hearts' content.

Saddled thus with the weight of luxurious conquerors who had lost nearly 
every art but that of extortion, miserable at home and devastated from 
abroad, who can wonder that the British longed to throw off the Roman 
yoke and breathe the fresher air of a wholesome life again? And as the 
shadow of


the imperial wings was withdrawn from them their hopes ripened; they 
thought they were strong and ruleworthy. Fatal mistake! I saw it bud, and 
I saw it bitterly fruitful.

If you turn back the pages of history you will find these hinds did indeed 
make a stand for a moment, and, when Honorius had withdrawn his last 
legionaries and given the islanders their liberty, for a few brief years there 
was a shepherd government here -- the British ruled again in Britain. Then 
came the next strong tide of northern invasion, and another conquest.

I well remember how, in the throes of the first great change that heralded 
a new era in Britain, the herdsmen and serfs were crushed between 
waning Roman terrors, such as Electra wielded, and the growing horrors 
of the Northmen.

Of these latter I saw something. On one occasion, when the storm was 
brewing, I was away down in the coast provinces hunting wolves, and 
thus, by chance, fell in with a "sea-king's" foray and a British reprisal.  On 
that occasion the spoilers were spoiled, and we taught the northern 
ravishers a lesson which, had they been more united, so that such a blow 
might have been better felt by the whole, would have damped their ardor 
for a long time. As it was, to rout and destroy their scattered parties was 
but like mopping up the advancing tide of those salt waves that brought 
them on us.

Those down there by the Kentish shore had been unmolested for some 
years; they had lived at their leisure, had got their harvests in, had rebuilt 
their villages out in the open, and set up forges and hammered spearheads 
and bosses, rings for the women, of silver and brass, and chains and 
furniture for their horses, of gold, shearing their flocks, and living as 
though such things as Norsemen were not -- when one day the infliction 
came upon them again.

t was a gusty morning in early summer -- I remember it well -- and most 
of the men were from the villages hunting, when, away toward the coast 
went up to the brightening sky a thin curl of smoke, followed by another 
and another. The sight was understood only too well. Line after line crept 
up, in the silence of the morning, over the green tree-tops and against the 
gray of the sea, while groups of black figures (flying villagers we knew 
them to be) went now and then over the sky-line of the wolds into the 
security of the valleys to right and left. As the wail went up from the huts 
where I rested, a mounted chief, his toes in the iron rings of his stirrups 
and his wolfskins flying from his bare shoulders, came pounding


through the woods with the bad news that the raiders were close behind.

Rapid packing was a great feminine accomplishment in those days, and, 
while the women swept their children and more portable valuables into 
their cloths and disappeared into the forest, we sent the quick-footed 
youths that were with us to call back the hunters, and made our first stand 
there round the huts and mounds of the old village of Caen Edron.

And we kept its thatch and chattels inviolate, for, by this time, the country-
side was all in arms, and, as the sea was far behind them, the despoilers but 
showed themselves on the fringe of the open, exchanged a javelin or two, 
and turned.

Hot on their track that morning of vengeance we went after them; over 
the scrubby open ground and down through the tangles of oak and hazel. 
We pressed them back past the charred and smoking remnants of the 
villages they had burned, back by the streams that still ran streaky in quite 
places with blood, back down the red path of ruin and savagery they had 
trodden, back by the cruel finger-posts of dead women, back by the 
halting-places of the ravishers -- ever drawing new recruits and courage till 
we outnumbered them by six to one -- and thus we trampled that day on 
the heels of those laden pirates from the valley-head down to the shore.

It was a time of vengeance, and our women and children crowded, singing 
and screaming, after us to kill and torture the wounded. Every now and 
then those surly spoilers turned, and we fled before them as the dogs fly 
from a big boar who goes to bay; but each time we came on again, and 
their standing-places by the coverts and under the lichened rocks were 
littered with dead, and all bestrewn amid the ferns in the pink morning 
light were the glittering spoil they disgorged. Truly that was all hour of 
victory, and the Britons were drunk with success. They followed like 
starving wolves after a herd of deer, leaping from rock to rock, crowding 
every point of vantage, and running and yelling through the underwood 
until surely the Northmen must have thought the place in possession of a 
legion of devils.

But all this noise was as nothing to the frightful yell of savage joy which 
went up from us when we saw the raiders draw together on the shingle 
ridge of the beach and knew instinctively, by their pale, tideward faces and 
hesitation, that they were trapped -- the sea was out, and their ships were 
high and dry!

Somehow, I scarcely know how it was, when those men turned, grimly, 
and prepared to make their last stand under


their ships, a strange silence fell upon both hands, and for a minute or two 
the long, wild rank of our warriors halted at the bottom of the slope, every 
man silent and dumb by a strange accord, while opposite, against the sky-
line, were the mighty Norsemen clustered together, and looking down 
with fierce, sullen brows, equally silent and expectant, while the sun glinted 
on their rustling arms and tall peaked casques.

We stood thus a minute or two, and I heard the thumpings of my heart, 
like an echo of the low wash of the far-away sea -- a plover piping 
overhead, and a raven croaking on the distant hills, but not another sound 
until -- suddenly some British women, who had come red-handed to a 
mound behind, broke out into a wild war-song. Then the spell was loosed, 
and we were again at them, sweeping the sea-kings from the ridge into the 
tangle of long grass and sand and stunted bushes that led to the shore, and 
there, separated, but dying stubbornly, powerless against our numbers, 
we pulled them down, and killed them one by one, lopping their armor 
from them and stripping their clothes, till the pleasant lichen alleys of the 
sea-shore wood and the green footways of the moss were stamped full of 
crimson puddles and littered with the naked bodies of those tawny giants.

The last man to fall was a chief. Twice I had seen him hard pressed, and 
had lifted my javelin to slay him, but a touch of silly compunction had each 
time held my hand, and now he stood with his back to his ship like some 
fierce, beautiful thing of the sea. His plated brass and steel cuirass was 
hacked and dinted, his white linen hung in shreds about him; his arms 
were bare, and blood ran down them, while his long fair hair lifted to the 
salt wind that was coming in freshly with the tide, and the sun shone on his 
cold blue eyes, and his polished harness, and his tall and comely 
proportions standing out there against the dark side of his high-sterned 

But what cared the Britons for flaxen locks or the goodliness of a young 
Thor? He had in his hands a broken spear, his own sword being snapped 
in two; and with this weapon he lay about fiercely every now and then as 
the men edged in upon him. Luckless Viking! there is no retreat or rescue, 
he was bleeding heavily, and even as I watched his chin sunk upon his 
chest. At once the Britons ran in upon him; but the life flared up again, and 
the gallant robber crushed in a pair of heads with his stave and sent the 
others flying back, still glaring upon the wide circle of his enemies with 
death and defiance struggling for mastery in his eyes in a way wonderful 
to behold. Again. and again the yellow head of the


young Thor nodded and sunk, and again and again he started up and 
scowled upon them, as each savage cry of joy, to see him thus bleeding to 
death, fell upon his ears. Presently he wavered for a moment and leaned 
his shoulder against the black side of his ship, and his lids dropped wearily; 
at once the Britons rushed, and, when I turned my face there again, they 
were hacking and stripping the armor from a mutilated but still quivering 

A few such episodes as this repulse of the Northmen, magnified and 
circulated with all the lying exaggeration that a coward race ever wraps 
about its feats of arms, made the Britons bold, and their boldness brings 
me to the end of my chapter.

Many a pleasant week and month did I live and enjoy all the best things 
life has to give; the master of my Roman mistress; the foremost spearman 
where the boar went to bay among the rocks on the hill-side; the jolliest 
fellow that was ever invited to a lordly banquet; the penniless adventurer 
whose fortune every one envied -- and then fate put me by again, and 
wiped my tablets clean for another frolic epoch.

It came about this way. The British grew more and more unruly as time 
went on, and legion after legion left us. At length, when the last of the 
Romans were down to the coast, about to embark, Electra made up her 
mind to go too -- and with all her hoard. But in this latter particular the 
new authorities in the neighboring town could not concur, and they sent 
two brand-new civilian senators to expostulate and detain her, the last 
representative of the old rule. Electra had those gentlemen stripped in the 
vestibule, and flogged within an ace of their lives, and then sent them 
home, bound, in a mean country-cart.

All that afternoon we were busy sewing up the gold and bronze in bags, 
and by dusk a long train of mules set out for the coast, in charge of a score 
of our mercenaries, who, having served a long apprenticeship to cruelty 
and extortion, had more to fear from the natives than even we. Nor was it 
too soon. As the last of the convoy went into the evening darkness, Electra 
and I ascended the flat, wide roof of her home, and there we saw, 
westward, under the stormy red of the setting sun, the flashing of arms 
and the dust-wreaths against the glow which hung above the bands of 
people moving out and bearing down on us in a mood one well could 

Her ladyship, having safely packed, was disdainful and angry. Her fine lips 
curled as she watched the gray column of citizens swarming out to the 
assault; but when her gaze


wandered over the fair valleys she had ruled and bled so long, she was, 
perhaps, a little regretful and softened.

"My good and stalwart captain," she said, coming near to me, "yonder sun, 
I fear, will never rise again on a Roman Briton! We must obey the Fates. 
You know what I would do, had I the power, to yonder scum; but, since 
we must desert this house to them (as I see too clearly we must), how can 
we best insure the safety of the treasure?"

We arranged there and then, with small time for parley, that I should stay 
with a handful of her mercenaries and make a stand about the villa, while 
she, with the last of her servants, should go on and hurry up by every 
means in her power the slow caravan of her wealth. In truth, my mistress 
was as brave as she was overbearing, and, but for those endless shining 
bags of gold, I do believe she would have stayed and fought the place with 

As it was, she reluctantly consented to the plan, and bid me adieu (which I 
returned but coldly), and came back again for another kiss, and said 
another good-bye, and hung about me, and enjoined caution, and held my 
hands, and looked first into my eyes and then back into the darkness 
where the laden mules were, as much in love as a rustic maid, as anxious as 
a usurer, and torn and distracted between these contending feelings.

At last she and all the women were gone, whereon with a lighter mind we 
set ourselves down to cover their retreat. Here must it be confessed that, 
for myself, I was ill at ease; treachery lurked within me. I had grown 
somewhat weary of her ladyship, nor had longer a special wish to be 
dragged in her golden chains, the restless spirit chance had bred within 
moved, and I had determined to see my enamored vice-prefect safe to her 
ships, and then -- if I could -- if I dared -- break with her! I well knew the 
wild tornado of indignation and love this would call up, and hence had not 
confessed my intentions earlier, but had been cold and distant. The dame, 
you will see presently, had been sharper in guessing than I supposed.

We made such preparation as we could with the small time at our disposal, 
barricading the white facade of the villa and losing all approaches. Then we 
pulled the winter stacks to pieces in the yard, making two great mounds of 
fagots in front of the porch, pouring oil upon each, and stationing a man to 
fire them, by way of torches, at a given signal. My hope was that, as the 
wide Roman way ran just below the


villa, the avengers of the embassadors would not think of passing on until 
they had demolished the house and us.

Of the loyalty of the few men with me I had little fear. They were brave 
and stubborn, all their pay was on Electra's mules, and the British hated 
them without compunction. There were in our little company that black 
evening seven wild Welshmen, under a shaggy-haired, blue-eyed 
princeling, Gwallon of the Bow, he called himself -- fifteen swarthy 
lberians, all teeth and cimeters -- a handful of Belgic mercenaries, with 
great double-headed axes -- but never a Roman among them all in this last 
stand of Roman power in Britain!

Was I a Roman? I wondered, as I stood on the terrace waiting the onset of 
the liberated slaves. What was I? who was I? How came it that he who was 
first in repelling the stalwart Roman adventurers of endless years before 
was the last to lift a sword in their defense? And, more personally, was this 
night to be, as it greatly seemed, the last of all my wild adventures; or had 
Fate infinite others in store for her bantling?

You will guess how I wondered and speculated as my golden Roman 
armor clanked to my gloomy stride in Electra's empty corridors, and the 
wet, fleecy clouds drifted fitfully across the face of a broad full moon, and a 
thousand things of love or sorrow crowded on my busy mind.

We had not long to wait, however. In an hour the mob came scuffling 
round the bend, shouting disorderly, With innumerable torches borne 
aloft, and they set up a yell when they caught sight of our shining white 
walls silently agleam in the moonlight.

There could be no parley with such a leaderless rush, and we attempted 
none. Without a thought of discipline they stormed the pastures and 
swarmed into the garden, a motley, angry crowd, armed with scythes and 
hooks and axes, and apparently all the town pressing on behind.

Well, we fired our fagots, and they gleamed up fiercely to welcome the 
scullion levies to their doom. Never did you see such a ruddy, wild scene -- 
such a motley parody of noble war! The bright flames leaped into the 
tranquil sky in volcanoes of spark and hissing tongues, the British rushed 
at us between the fires like imps of darkness, and we met them face to face 
and slew them like the dogs they were. In a few minutes we were 
hemmed in the veranda, under whose columns we had some shelter, and 
then my brave Welshmen showed me how they could pull their long 
bows, which indeed they did in right good earnest, until all the trim 
terraces were littered with writhing, howling foemen,


But again they drove us back, this time into the house, and there we soon 
had a better light to fight by, for the sparks had caught the roof, and soon 
everything far and near was ablaze. Every man with me that night fought 
like a patrician, and Electra's polished floors were slippery with blood; her 
pretty walls, with their endless painted garlands of oak and myrtle, their 
cooing doves and tender Cupids, were horribly besmeared and smudged; 
and her marble pillars were chipped by flying javelins and gashed by 
random ax-strokes.

Ten times we hurled ourselves upon the invaders and drove them 
staggering backward over the slippery pavements into the passages -- 
sixteen men had fallen to my own arm alone, and we crammed their 
bodies into door-ways for barricade. But it would not do. The sheer weight 
of those without made the men within brave against their will. Nothing 
availed the stinging shafts of my Welshmen, the Iberian cimeters played 
hopelessly (like summer lightning in the glare) upon a solid wall of 
humanity, and the German axes could make no pathway through that 
impenetrable civilian tangle.

Overhead and among us the smoke curled and eddied, and the names 
behind it made it like a hot noonday in our fighting-place. And in the 
wreaths of that pungent vapor, circling thick and yellow in the great open-
roofed hall of the noble Roman villa, her ladyship's statues of Faun and 
satyrs still fluted and grinned imbecilely as though they liked the turmoil. 
Niobe wept for new griefs as the marble little ones at her feet were 
calcined before her eyes, and the Gorgon head wore a hundred frightful 
snakes of flame; the pale, proud Pallas Athenae of the Greeks looked 
disdainfully on the dying barbarians at her feet, and Pan, himself in 
bronze, leered on us through the reek until his lower limbs grew white hot 
-- and gave way, and down he came -- whereon a mighty Briton heaved 
him up by his head, and with this hissing, glowing flail carried destruction 
and confusion among us.

It was so hot in that flaming marble battle-place that foreigner and Briton 
broke off fighting now and then to kneel together for a moment at the red 
fountain basins where the jets still played (for the fugitives had forgotten 
to turn them off), and quenched their thirst in hurried gasps, ere flying 
again at each others' throats, and so wild the confusion and uproar, and so 
dense the smoke and flame, so red and slippery were the pavements, and 
so thick the dead and dying, that hardly one could tell which were friends 
and which foes.

For an hour we kept them at bay, and then, when my arms ached with 
killing, all on a sudden the face of a man unknown 


to me, whom I never had seen before or over since shone in the gleam at 
my shoulder.

"Phra the Phoenician," he said, calling me by an appellation no living man 
then knew, "I am bidden to get you hence. Come to the inner door-way -- 

I hardly knew what he meant, but there was that about him which I could 
not but obey, so I turned and followed his retreating figure.

I ran with him across the court-yard, under the white marble pillars all 
aglow, through the silent banquet-hall that had echoed so often to the 
haughty laughter of my mistress, and then when we reached the cool, 
damp outer air -- like a wreath of mist in November, like an eddy among 
the dead leaves -- my guide vanished and left me!

Angry and surprised, but with no time for wonder, I turned back. .

Even as I did so there was a mighty crack, a groaning of a thousand 
timbers, and there before my very face, with a resounding roar, Electra's 
lordly mansion, and all the wings and buttresses and basements, the 
rooms and colonnades and corridors of that splendid home of luxury and 
power, lurched forward, and heaved and collapsed in one mighty red ruin 
that tinctured the sky from east to west, and buried alike in one vast, 
glowing hecatomb besiegers and besieged!

It had fallen, the last stronghold of Roman authority, and there was 
nothing more to defend! I turned, and took me to the quiet forest 
pathways, every nook and bend of which I knew. As I ran, the sweet, 
moist air of the evening was like an elixir to my heated frame; now into 
the black shadows I plunged, and anon brushing the silver moonlight dew 
from bramble and bracken, while a thousand fancies of our stubborn fight 
danced around me.

In a little time the road went down to a river that sparkled in flood under 
the moonbeams. Here the laden mules had crossed into comparative 
safety, and now I had to follow them with a singlc guide-rope to feel my 
way alone across the dangerous ford. I struggled through the swollen 
stream safely, though it rose high above my waist, and then who should 
loom out of the dark on the far side but Electra, standing alone and 
expectant at the brink.

Faithful, stately matron! She was so glad to see me again, I was really sorry 
I did not love her more. I told her something of the fight, and she a little of 
the retreat. Some time before the long train of mules and slaves had gone 
on up the


steep sloping bank, and into the coppice beyond, and now I and the 
Roman dame lingered a minute or so by the brink of the turgid stream to 
see the last flickers of her burning home. We were on the point of turning; 
indeed, Lady Electra seemed anxious to be gone, when, stepping out of the 
dark pathway into a patch of moonlight on the further shore, a little silver 
casket in her duteous hands, and those dainty skirts in which she took so 
much pride muddy and soiled, appeared the poor little slave Numidea.

She tripped fearfully forth from the shadows and down to the brink, 
where the water was swirling against the stones in an ivory and silver 
inlay; and when she saw (not perceiving us in the shadows) that all the 
people had gone on and she was deserted to the tender mercies of the 
foemen behind, she dropped her burden, and threw up her white, clasped 
hands in the moonlight, and wailed upon us in a way that made my steel 
cuirass too small for my swelling heart.

Surely such a pitiful sight ought to have moved any one, yet Electra only 
cursed those nimble feet under her breath, and from this, though I may do 
her heavy injustice, I have since feared she had planned the desertion and 
sent the maid back to be killed or taken on some false errand which for her 
jealous purpose was too quickly executed.

That noble Roman lady pulled me by the hand, and would have had me 
leave the girl to her fate, scolding and entreating; and when I angrily 
shook myself free, turning her will, untutored passions into the channels of 
love, told me she had guessed my project of leaving her "for Numidea," 
and clung to me, and endeared me, and promised me "the tallest porch on 
Palantina" (as I threw off my buckler and broadsword to be lighter in the 
stream) and "the whitest arms for welcome there that ever a Roman 
matron spread" (as I pitched my gilded helmet into the bushes and strode 
down to the torrent), if I would but turn my back once for all upon my 
little kinswoman.

Three times the white arms of that magnificent wanton closed round me, 
and three times I wrenched them apart and hurled her back, three times 
she came anew to the struggle, squandering her wild, queenly love upon 
me, while, under the white light overhead, the tears shone in her 
wonderful upturned eyes like very diamonds; three times she invoked 
every deity in the hierarchy of the southern skies to witness her perjured 
love, and cursed, for my sake, all those absent youths who had fallen 
before her. Three times she knelt there on the black and white turf, and 
wrung her fair hands and shook


out her long thick hair, and came imploring and begging down to the very 
lapping of the water. And there I stood -- for I too was a southern, and 
could be hot and fierce -- and spoke such words as she had never heard 
before -- abused and scoffed and derided her; laughed at her sorrow and 
mocked her grief, and then turned and plunged into the torrent.

The ford was not long; in a minute or two I struggled out on the further 
shore, and Numidea, with a cry of pleasure and trustfulness, came to my 
dripping arms.

The British, hot on the track, were shouting to one another in the dark 
pursuit, so the little maid was picked up securely, and, with her in my left 
arm upon my hip, her warm wrists about my neck, and my other hand on 
the guide-rope, we went back into the stream again. By the sacred fane of 
Vesta, it ran stronger than a mill sluice, and tugged and worried at my 
limbs like the fingers of a fury! I felt the pebble gravel sifting and rolling 
beneath my feet, and the strong lift of the water, as it swirled, flying in the 
moonlight, hissing and bubbling at my heaving chest in a way that 
frightened me -- even me. At last, with my every muscle on fire with the 
strain and turmoil, and my head giddy with the dancing torrent all about 
it, I saw the further bank loom over us once more, and, heaving a heavy 
sigh of fatigue, collected myself for one more crowning effort.

But I had forgotten that royal harpy, my mistress; and even as I gathered 
my last strength in the swirl of the black water below, she sprung to the 
verge of the bank overhead, vengeance and hatred flashing in the eyes 
that I had left full of gentleness and tears, and, gleaming there in her 
wrath, her white robes shining in the moonlight against the ebony setting 
of the night, glowered down upon us.

"Down with the maid!" she screamed, with all the tyrant in her voice. 
"Down with her, centurion, or you die together!"

"Never! never!" I shouted, for my blood was boiling fiercely, and I could 
have laughed at a hundred such as she. But while I shouted my heart sunk, 
for Electra was terrible to behold -- an incarnation of beautiful cruelty, hot, 
reckless hatred ruling the features that had never turned upon me before 
but in sweetness and love. For one minute the passion gathered head, and 
then, while I stood still in the current with dread of the coming deed, she 
snatched my own naked sword from the ground. "Die, then!" she yelled; 
"and many a thousand curses weigh down your souls!" As she said it the 
blade whirled into the moonlight, descending on the guide.


rope just where it ran taut and hard over the posts, severing it clean to the 
last strands with one blow of those effective white arms, and the next 
minute the hempen cord was torn out of my grasp, and over and over in a 
drowning, bewildering cascade of foam we were swept away down the 

It was the wildest swim that ever a mortal took. So fiercely did we spin and 
fly that heaven and earth seemed mixed together, and the white clouds 
overhead were not whiter than the sheets of foam that ran down seaward 
with us. I am a good swimmer, but who could make the bank in such a 
caldron of angry waters? and now Numidea was on top, and now I. It 
went to my heart to hear the poor little Christian gasp out on "Good St. 
Christopher!" and to feel the flutter of her breast against my leather jerkin, 
and then presently I did not feel it at all. Many an island of wreckage 
passed us, but none that I could lay hold on, until presently a mighty log 
came foaming down upon us, laboring through that torrent surf like a full-
sailed ship. As it passed I threw an arm over a strong root, and thus, for an 
hour, beheld that black midnight javelin, we flew downward, I know not 
whither. Then it presently left the strong stream, and, towing me toward a 
soft alluvial beach, just as dawn was breaking in the east, deposited me 
there, and slowly disappeared again into the void.

This is all I know of Roman Britain; this is the end of the chapter.

As I reeled ashore with my burden, some friendly fisherfolk came forward 
to help, but I saw them not. Numidea was dead! my poor little slave-girl -- 
the one speak of virtue in that tyrant world -- and I bent over her, and shut 
her kindly eyes, and spread on the sand her long, wet braids, and 
smoothed the modest white gown she was so careful of, with a heart that 
was heavier than it ever felt yet in storm or battle!

Then all my grief and exertions came upon me in a flood, and the last thing 
I remember was stooping down in the morning starlight to kiss the fair 
little maid upon that pallid face that looked so wan and strange amid the 
wild-spread tangles of her twisted hair.

Contents Page
Chapter 5