Text - "Quo Vadis" Henryk Sienkiewicz

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From that moment Lygia showed herself more rarely in the common chamber, and approached his couch less frequently. But peace did not return to her. She saw that Vinicius followed her with imploring glance; that he was waiting for every word of hers, as for a favor; that he suffered and dared not complain, lest he might turn her away from him; that she alone was his health and delight. And then her heart swelled with compassion. Soon she observed, too, that the more she tried to avoid him, the more compassion she had for him; and by this itself the more tender were the feelings which rose in her. Peace left her. At times, she said to herself that it was her special duty to be near him always, first, because the religion of God commands return of good for evil; second, that by conversing with him, she might attract him to the faith. But at the same time conscience told her that she was tempting herself; that only love for him and the charm which he exerted were attracting her, nothing else. Thus, she lived in a ceaseless struggle, which was intensified daily. At times, it seemed that a kind of net surrounded her, and that in trying to break through it she entangled herself more and more. She had also to confess that for her the sight of him was becoming more needful, his voice was becoming dearer, and that she had to struggle with all her might against the wish to sit at his bedside. When she approached him, and he grew radiant, delight filled her heart. On a certain day she noticed traces of tears on his eyelids, and for the first time in life the thought came to her, to dry them with kisses. Terrified by that thought, and full of self-contempt, she wept all the night following.

He was as enduring as if he had made a vow of patience. When at moments his eyes flashed with petulance, self-will, and anger, he restrained those flashes promptly, and looked with alarm at her, as if to implore pardon. This acted still more on her. Never had she such a feeling of being greatly loved as then; and when she thought of this, she felt at once guilty and happy. Vinicius, too, had changed essentially. In his conversations with Glaucus there was less pride. It occurred to him frequently that even that poor slave physician and that foreign woman, old Miriam, who surrounded him with attention, and Crispus, whom he saw absorbed in continual prayer, were still human. He was astonished at such thoughts, but he had them. After a time he conceived a liking for Ursus, with whom he conversed entire days; for with him, he could talk about Lygia. The giant, on his part, was inexhaustible in narrative, and while performing the most simple services for the sick man, he began to show him also some attachment. For Vinicius, Lygia had been at all times a being of another order, higher a hundred times than those around her: nevertheless, he began to observe simple and poor people,-a thing which he had never done before,-and he discovered in them various traits the existence of which he had never suspected.

Nazarius, however, he could not endure, for it seemed to him that the young lad had dared to fall in love with Lygia. He had restrained his aversion for a long time, it is true; but once when he brought her two quails, which he had bought in the market with his own earned money, the descendant of the Quirites spoke out in Vinicius, for whom one who had wandered in from a strange people had less worth than the meanest worm. When he heard Lygia's thanks, he grew terribly pale; and when Nazarius went out to get water for the birds, he said,-"Lygia, canst thou endure that he should give you gifts? Dost thou not know that the Greeks call people of his nation Jewish dogs?"

"I do not know what the Greeks call them; but I know that Nazarius is a Christian and my brother."

When she had said this she looked at Vinicius with astonishment and regret, for he had disaccustomed her to similar outbursts; and he set his teeth, so as not to tell her that he would have given command to beat such a brother with sticks, or would have sent him as a compeditus (a man who labors with chained feet) to dig earth in his Sicilian vineyards. He restrained himself, however, throttled the anger within him, and only after a while did he say,-"Pardon me, Lygia. For me thou art the daughter of a king and the adopted child of Plautius. " And he subdued himself to that degree that when Nazarius appeared in the chamber again, he promised him, on returning to his villa, the gift of a pair of peacocks or flamingoes, of which he had a garden full.

Lygia understood what such victories over himself must have cost him; but the oftener he gained them the more her heart turned to him. His merit with regard to Nazarius was less, however, than she supposed. Vinicius might be indignant for a moment, but he could not be jealous of him. In fact the son of Miriam did not, in his eyes, mean much more than a dog; besides, he was a child yet, who, if he loved Lygia, loved her unconsciously and servilely. Greater struggles must the young tribune have with himself to submit, even in silence, to that honor with which among those people the name of Christ and His religion was surrounded. In this regard wonderful things took place in Vinicius. That was in every case a religion which Lygia believed; hence for that single reason he was ready to receive it. Afterward, the more he returned to health, the more he remembered the whole series of events which had happened since that night at Ostrianum, and the whole series of thoughts which had come to his head from that time, the more he was astonished at the superhuman power of that religion which changed the souls of men to their foundations. He understood that in it there was something uncommon, something which had not been on earth before, and he felt that could it embrace the whole world, could it ingraft on the world its love and charity, an epoch would come recalling that in which not Jupiter, but Saturn had ruled. He did not dare either to doubt the supernatural origin of Christ, or His resurrection, or the other miracles. The eyewitnesses who spoke of them were too trustworthy and despised falsehood too much to let him suppose that they were telling things that had not happened. Finally, Roman scepticism permitted disbelief in the gods, but believed in miracles. Vinicius, therefore, stood before a kind of marvellous puzzle which he could not solve. On the other hand, however, that religion seemed to him opposed to the existing state of things, impossible of practice, and mad in a degree beyond all others. According to him, people in Rome and in the whole world might be bad, but the order of things was good. Had Caesar, for example, been an honest man, had the Senate been composed, not of insignificant libertines, but of men like Thrasea, what more could one wish? Nay, Roman peace and supremacy were good; distinction among people just and proper. But that religion, according to the understanding of Vinicius, would destroy all order, all supremacy, every distinction. What would happen then to the dominion and lordship of Rome? Could the Romans cease to rule, or could they recognize a whole herd of conquered nations as equal to themselves? That was a thought which could find no place in the head of a patrician. As regarded him personally, that religion was opposed to all his ideas and habits, his whole character and understanding of life. He was simply unable to imagine how he could exist were he to accept it. He feared and admired it; but as to accepting it, his nature shuddered at that. He understood, finally, that nothing save that religion separated him from Lygia; and when he thought of this, he hated it with all the powers of his soul.