At this, it must be confessed, cutting remark, Lollia
" Way," she said imperiously, " and let me pass.
Not now or ever would I consider thy suit. I leave thee
to thy "
She flashed at Gwenna as she advanced toward the
passageway a bitter, common word.
A maiden of less gentle spirit would have been crushed
by it. Not so Gwenna. Forgetful of everything but
the outrage and insult she stepped forward, fiercely
resentful, but Lollia, too, had all the courage and fire
of her race and family.
" If thou dost lay the weight of thy finger upon me,"
she said, " I will cause thee to be flogged to death, and
not even thy lover can protect thee. I have but to
whisper to the Emperor "
And indeed she did not underrate her influence with
Nero, although Caius Attilius knew nothing about it,
much less the cause of it.
" This is madness," he cried, interposing between the
two. " Gwenna, go thou instantly to Lais. I will send
for thee later when I require thy services. Enough,"
he said curtly as the poor woman started to speak.
Mastering her desires at his behest, and it was evi-
dence of her feeling for him that she could do so,
Gwenna bowed low before him.
194 THE FETTERS OF FREEDOM
" I obey thee," she said, and turned away and swept
haughtily down the peristyle toward the quarters of
the women slaves upon the other side of the garden.
" That," said Lollia, " was a timely dismissal, Caius
Attilius. Another word and plighted troth had been
broken forever between us."
Indeed, had Lollia been all that she seemed, what had
passed already had sufficed for that, but, truth to tell,
she was anxious to marry. Her character and career
were known to all in Rome save to Attilius, who was a
stranger; and there was something in the character of
the man which made it a dangerous thing even to hint
that the woman whom he honoured with his affections
was unworthy of them. Lollia knew this as well as
anybody. She was broken in fortune as well as in
reputation. Attilius was her last chance. He stood, as
it were, between her and ruin, and she could not lightly
cast him off. Yet had she consulted her inclinations
in the presence of what she believed, she would have
struck him in the face and thrown him aside. The
affront conveyed by the woman Gwenna had been almost
more than could be borne by her proud Roman soul.
In one way indeed it had intensified her determination
to marry Attilius, for when she was mistress of his
household this blue-eyed, yellow-haired British woman
would be made to suffer.
She therefore assumed a sweet meekness. She drew
near to Attilius, laid her hand upon his arm, and looked
up into his face. Her graceful head only came to his
shoulder. She smiled upon him tenderly, and when she
smiled she could look very attractive indeed.
HE DEALS WITH TWO WOMEN 195
Attilius had seen that smile before. It had formerly
a great effect upon his impressionable nature, more im-
pressionable, perhaps, because he had been so long with-
drawn from such society as Rome afforded, but this time
he was singularly unresponsive to it. Time was when
he would have thrilled at her proximity, at her caress-
ing gesture, at her inviting, not to say languishing,
look, but these now left him cold and untouched.
Truth to tell, his heart was hot within him. He was
full of anger against Paulus and full of desire for
Gwenna. He had resented the presence of Lollia in
the first instance, and the scene which had just then
been enacted had not diminished that resentment. And
yet it was not in him to be a boor in her presence.
Vicious she might be, but he did not know that, and
she was certainly graceful and charming whatever her
character. Thought of marrying Gwenna had never
entered Attilius' head, yet matrimony was a condition
for which he had prepared himself. He was the last
of his house; the perpetuation of his family was laid
upon him as a duty. Lollia Claudia was high-born and
beautiful enough though not for a moment to be
compared to Gwenna in his eyes her other disabilities
were not known to him. He felt he could scarcely do
better. He really imagined at that moment that, de-
prived of Gwenna, he hated all women, that it was more
or less a matter of indifference so far as affection went,
and therefore Lollia would do as well as another.
By the code of Roman society, as he very well knew,
Lollia had been treated abominably ; that a slave woman
should have dared to lift her eyes to her, much less to
196 THE FETTERS OF FREEDOM
address her as an equal, was unheard of. The tribune
could not but justify in his secret heart the resentment
of Gwenna, yet he was forced to condemn it. In a
mood akin to despair he forced himself to smile upon
his fair companion.
Really, thought the Roman woman, when he smiled
the rather grim sternness of his bearing was instantly
lightened. She had long since passed the sentimental
stage of life, but even her battered, calloused heart
experienced a slight thrill of admiration as she looked
up at the tall, haughty young patrician who bent
" Thou hast been treated with gross disrespect,"
he said. " I shall deal with that slave woman later," he
" Have her flogged for me, dear Caius Attilius," said
the woman softly. " I marvel what thou seest in such
washed-out, pale-faced humanity."
" Let us talk no longer of her," said the tribune
He did not intend for one moment to have Gwenna
flogged, and his promised dealing committed him to
nothing. For the matter of that she ought to be
punished for not falling into his arms, for having per-
mitted Paulus to interfere, and some of his anger found
vent in these words.
"Art thou glad to return to me?" asked Lollia,
There were slaves in the garden, but to the Romans
slaves counted no more than blocks of wood or stone.
The obvious was expected, and Attilius did not dis-
HE DEALS WITH TWO WOMEN 197
appoint the woman. His arm went around her waist.
He bent his head and kissed her. This was compara-
tively a new experience to Attilius, an old one to Lollia.
It was the man who blushed and not the woman. This
was not a common woman in his eyes, and it never oc-
curred to Attilius that many others had made free
with her lips without rebuke.
" And didst thou dream of me in the camp and in the
field ? " she whispered, returning his caress.
Attilius was an honourable man ; he was not fond of
deceit ; evasion even, much more plain lying, appalled
him, but in the circumstances in which he found himself
there was no alternative. He lied like a gentleman.
Lollia would have mocked at what she would have called
his squeamishness if she had known it. But the tribune
was too new to Rome and the court to have learned
to be a ready liar. Truth to tell, he had scarcely given
Lollia a thought, but what was he to say? He nodded
his head, and, taking advantage of her willingness,
for she made not the slightest motion to release her-
self indeed she nestled closer to him he kissed her
again, entirely ignorant of the fact that, through the
hangings behind which she had retired, poor Gwenna,
eavesdropping, with no compunctions of conscience at
all under the circumstances, was a spectator to the
whole performance. What were her feelings at the
sight it is not difficult to imagine. She had hated
Lollia before and she hated her more, if possible, now.
" I have done an unmaidenly thing," said Lollia
at last demurely, drawing away from him and drop-
ping her eyes, wishing at the same time that she could
198 THE FETTERS OF FREEDOM
blush like her lover, " in coming here to thy house.
Thou shouldst have sought me first."
" I have but this morning returned from Gaul," said
Attilius honestly. " It was my fixed purpose to see
thee after midday. I knew thy delicate habit did not
admit of disturbance by callers before the noon hour."
" Yes," said Lollia gently, " that is my practice,
but when my freedman learned from one who was
present at thine audience with Caesar this morning that
thou hadst returned, and communicated the news to
me, I was so anxious to see thee that I threw prudence
and propriety to the winds. It was unmaidenly. What
must thou think of me?"
This was a hard question to answer, for Attilius was
not thinking of Lollia at all. He had made up his mind
to marry her as she stood there, but he wanted to get
away from her now. He was distrait, preoccupied, and
the woman who was wise in her way and experienced
in her dealings with men at last detected it.
" Thou art weary from thy journey," she said softly ;
" I will leave thee. Wilt thou dine with my father
"Gladly," said Attilius, and his desire to get rid of
her lent emphasis to his tone so that even she was
deceived by it.
" There will be but few guests," continued the woman,
" and thou canst imagine with what anxiety I shall wait
for thine arrival."
" An anxiety that cannot possibly match mine own,"
returned the tribune gallantly.
" Wilt thou conduct me to my litter, then? " returned
HE DEALS WITH TWO WOMEN 199
Lollia, slipping her hand into his own, and thus he led
her through the garden and into the passageway
whence the flying Gwenna had barely escaped before
them then through the atrium, seeing her at last safely
bestowed within the litter. He pressed a kiss upon her
hands, and left her with promises of meeting in the
Scarcely had her cortege turned the corner and he
had ceased to be under her observation than he turned
and walked rapidly into the house. Gwenna met him
in the atrium. Her fair face was flushed, her hands
were clenched, her blue eyes filled with indignant tears.
Her foot tapped uneasily upon the pavement. She was
beautiful as always, more beautiful in her indignation,
perhaps, than ordinarily, but Attilius had no eyes for
her beauty. He had been irritated beyond measure
by the assumption which had been forced upon him by
the advances of Lollia. The sight of Gwenna increased
his agitation. He did not intend to be cross-questioned
by a slave. There was no such reason for dissimulation
in this case as had been in the other. For the first time
he spoke to her harshly.
" What doest thou in the atrium? " he demanded.
" Master ! " exclaimed the woman, surprised almost
out of her resentment, for her slavery had sat but
lightly upon her shoulders heretofore.
" Get thee gone," said Attilius harshly, " into thy
quarters where thou belongest. When I have need of
thee I shall send for thee."
But Gwenna, unable to comprehend this strange
change, stood as if rooted to the floor.
200 THE FETTERS OF FREEDOM
Her apparent noncompliance with his wishes aroused
Attilius to fury. He stamped his foot upon the pave-
"Dost thou hesitate when I command?" he cried.
" Wouldst thou have the lash laid upon thy naked
shoulders? Dost thou not hear me? Go, and be thank-
ful that thou art not whipped for thine insolence to
Lollia Claudia a moment since."
For a second the amazed woman confronted him,
unsubdued and unawed, but when he raised his hand and
started toward her passionately she shot a swift look
at him and turned and fled before the threat of physical
menace in his air and bearing. And Caius Attilius was
very sorry, as the hangings fell behind the blue tunic,
that she was gone. He was as miserable as a wealthy
young man in good health, distinguished by the favour
of the Emperor, beloved apparently by a noble and high-
born lady, and possessed of the most beautiful slave in
Rome could well be. And she? In her own cubicle she
threw herself upon her couch and sobbed as if her
heart were broken.
THE FORGOTTEN PROMISE
CAIUS ATTIUUS had spent a very miserable morning.
He thought bitterly of all the disturbing events of the
day before ; the startling disappearance of Gwenna, her
speedy recovery, the sudden gust of passion which had
swept him from his feet as he sought to take her in
his arms, the extraordinary interference of Paulus, the
ill-timed visit of Lollia, his brutal treatment of Gwenna.
The favour of Nero, his promised preferment to a
legateship, and his prospective appointment to a com-
mand under Corbulo made no difference to him. His
meditations were shot through with deep anxiety cen-
tring on Nero and the possible interest he might take in
Gwenna. How closely had the drunken Emperor and
his satellites, playing their mad pranks in the streets
of Rome, observed the maiden? Would they recognise
her again? Had she impressed him sufficiently to cause
Caesar to seek for her? What should the tribune do
if Nero learned that Gwenna belonged to him and
made a demand upon him for her? Paulus had exacted
a promise that he would respect and protect her. Was
he to preserve her purity simply to turn her over to
the infamous, bestial, brutal, degraded Csesar at his
command in the end? Perish the thought! Attilius
would kill her rather, and the maiden would thank him
for the act when she knew.
202 THE FETTERS OF FREEDOM
And then the prospective dinner to which he was
bidden by Lollia for that night did not add to his
satisfaction. Such a dinner under such circumstances
would almost amount to a formal betrothal. Though
he felt constrained to marry her because of her evident
desire and because of her fitness, as he believed, and
because he had in a measure committed himself to that
course, he was not blind to the fact that his heart cher-
ished not one spark of affection for the woman. He
had thought that he loved her, but since Gwenna had
come into his life he realised what love truly was.
He had told Lollia that he had often thought of her
over the campfire. In truth she had scarcely ever
crossed his imagination. But Gwenna he had dwelt
upon her, dreamed of her, communed with his soul about
her, idealised her, of course. And unconsciously he
had grown to love her. It was for her, not Nero, that
he had made such breakneck speed through Italy on
his return journey. And when he did not find her to
greet him as he stepped across his threshold that fact
was the precipitation of his passion. He knew then
that he loved her.
Loving her under ordinary circumstances, he had but
to take her as he, like his kind, took anything he fan-
cied; but now that stern old Hebrew had interfered.
Well, Attilius passionately resolved upon his course:
he would marry Lollia and take Gwenna in some way.
The one thing was easy, the other hard, but he would
wrest from old Paulus release from his proudly given
promise in one way or another; meanwhile he was hot,
uncomfortable, and very tired.
THE FORGOTTEN PROMISE 203
He clapped his hands and bade some one prepare a
bath for him. A bath then was a luxury, and it was a
serious and protracted process as indulged in by the
Romans. It was the more agreeable to Attilius because
he found it a novelty since the camp and the field did
not provide facilities for enjoying the practice. He
lingered long. It was high noon before, vested in a
new tunic of spotless white, with its broad senatorial
stripe, he partook of his midday meal.
He had bid the porter deny him that day to all comers
on the plea of desiring to recover from the fatigues
of his journey. His clients had got wind of his arrival,
but they had been received with scant ceremony by
Syfax, who dismissed them curtly and bade them pre-
sent themselves on the morrow. Attilius dined alone
therefore. He much wished for the company of old
Regulus, but the worthy knight could not possibly re-
turn from Brundisium before the end of the week.
After dining the tribune repaired to his library, threw
himself upon a couch, and bade some one summon Euro-
tas to read to him. In answer to this summons Phei-
dippides presented himself in the library.
" Lord," he said, " thou hast forgot in the happen-
ings of the day that Eurotas is ill and unable to leave
his bed. I did not allow thy summons to be brought
to him. Knowing his loyalty I feared he would make
the effort to attend upon thine order even to his hurt."
" Thou hast done well," said Attilius, " although it
is unfortunate that Eurotas is ill when I need him
"Hast thou also forgot British Gwenna, lord?"
04 THE FETTERS OF FREEDOM
"And what of her?" asked Attilius, who had by
no means forgot British Gwenna and who knew per-
fectly well the purport of Pheidippides' question.
" She hath studied faithfully with thy philosopher,
and I make no doubt could read to thee acceptably if
thou shouldst say the word."
" Send her to me," said the tribune, growling, but
delighted beyond measure at the turn of events.
In a few moments Gwenna appeared before him, where
he half reclined upon the couch, his hands clasped behind
his head. She stood erect after a gentle salutation.
Attilius regarded her with all the insolence of his race
and station, and if there was anything in the way of
insolence that these things could beget and which
even the rudest could infuse in his look, Attilius did not
know what they were. As usual, it was she who broke
" Thou hast sent for me, lord," she said, her voice
trembling a little in spite of herself.
" Thine eyes are red," began the tribune irrelevantly.
"Hast thou wept?"
" I have."
" See that it doth not occur again. I like about me
smiling faces, not frowning brows. Smile upon me,
" How can I smile when my lord is wroth with his
" Is it the old story that thou repines t because thou
art a slave? "
" No, but thine anger I could better bear the lash,
with which thou hast threatened me, than "
THE FORGOTTEN PROMISE 205
" Enough of that," said Attilius with a brutal manner
he did not feel. " I have no interest in thy feelings,
but I like not sadness. There is enough of it abroad
without bringing it into my domus. Thou hast studied
with Eurotas? "
" I have sought in every way to bow to thy will,"
said the woman.
" Ah, most meek of women, I have not observed it ! "
mocked the Roman sarcastically. " But let me try thee.
Take one of the rolls."
"Which one, lord?"
" Any that thou dost fancy. Then sit thou here, by
my side, and read."
Poor heart-bruised Gwenna turned and walked un-
steadily to the bookcase, opened the, door, and selected
from one of the many pigeonholes a roll of parchment
whose ivory tablet depending from its carved staff in-
dicated one of the books of Homer; which book the
woman was too nervous and excited to apprehend. It
did not matter. They were all great, and she loved
the thunderous and sonorous roll of the majestic Greek
of the master poet. Closing the door she drew a low
stool to within a short distance of the couch and pre-
pared to sit down.
" Nearer," said Attilius, watching her closely.
She drew a little nearer.
" Closer still, where I can touch thee if I am so
" Lord," whispered the woman, " I am afraid."
But in obedience to an imperious gesture of the
tribune she drew the stool close beside the couch and
206 THE FETTERS OF FREEDOM
sat down, hastily opened the roll, and began to read.
She read falteringly and stumblingly at first. If she
had glanced up from the manuscript and had seen the
mocking smile on the face of Attilius her confusion
would have been complete, but she fixed her attention
steadily upon the manuscript and forced herself to do
Presently the noble numbers overcame her timidity.
She straightened herself, lifted her head, and poured
forth in ringing tones the great verses, many of which
she knew by heart. Attilius had found it impossible
to concentrate his mind upon the reading because of his
interest in the reader by his side, but the splendid
poetry, as interpreted by the maiden, took possession
of him also presently. He rose upon one elbow and lis-
tened, his eyes gleaming. She read for a long time, and
coming to the end of the book she stopped and looked
The hand of Attilius went out to her and fell upon
her shoulders. She shrank beneath his touch, but did
" Lord, lord," she whispered piteously, but Attilius
did not heed.
" Closer, closer," he whispered, " thy lips to mine,
" Master," she begged in fright.
"Nay, not as master but as lover."
He rose to a sitting position, his face close to hers,
his arm about her shoulders. She threw her hands up
against his breast.
" Thy word," she cried, " thy promise to Paulus ! "
THE FORGOTTEN PROMISE 207
" As I am a man," answered Attilius passionately,
" I cannot keep it. How dost thou expect me to deny
myself in the face of beauty like thine? "
He swept her to him and in another moment pressed
his lips full and fair upon her own. It would be false
to say that Gwenna did not thrill to the fervid pressure
of those masterful lips, and it would not be without the
truth to add that for a moment she returned their pres-
sure. But the woman recovered herself before the man.
She thrust him from her violently and sprang to her
feet. The neglected roll fell between them.
" Shame ! " she said.
" Thou didst return my kisses, I swear," cried At-
tilius, rising in turn.
" Shame, thou word breaker."
"What meanest thou? "
" Thou wert to treat me as a sister, to preserve mine
honour and my good name. Didst thou think that I was
a Roman woman like that Lollia of thine, whom I saw
kiss thee shamelessly in the garden? "
If Attilius had been wise in the ways of women, this
would have shown him her true state of feelings. He
started to speak, but Gwenna ran on:
" I am alone, helpless, thy slave. I have no will but
thine. Were I not a Christian I would kill myself rather
than submit to thee, and yet Paulus sayeth but no,
God would bid me choose death rather than dishonour."
" Is there dishonour in my kiss, in my love, for I
love thee, British Gwenna, with the red gold in thy
hair, with thy fair skin, thine eyes of blue, I love thee.
Dost hear? I loved thee from the moment I saw thee
208 THE FETTERS OF FREEDOM
in the courtyard of Phryx, the slave dealer; I loved
thee when I bought thee; I loved thee when I talked
with thee in the atrium; I loved thee when I bade thee
farewell; that kiss of thine upon my rough soldier's
hand hath kept it sweet and clean. No other woman
hath been aught to me since I saw thee. I love thee.
Dost understand? I loved thee in all the weary hours
of the far journey. As I rode along the roads I sought
speech with no one that I might think of thee. At
night I dreamed of thee. For thy sake I spared thy
people in that far-off isle of thine. I came back to
discharge Nero's command, but really to take thee in
my arms. Dost know what love is, what it means?
Canst thou not feel it, maiden? Thou art mine, the
law hath given thee to me. I bought thee, thou art
my slave, mine, praised be the gods, and now this He-
brew interfereth. It is he that hath spoilt thee with
that wretched religion that he preacheth. No god shall
take thee from me, much less one that is so weak that
he can be crucified by a Roman, and a base-born Roman
at that. No, not even Caesar himself or the whole
world shall have thee, for thou art mine and I love thee.
Hearest thou that? " He came closer to her and seized
her again. " Answerest thou nothing? Dost thou not
love me? Speak, or by the gods "
" Caius Attilius," said the woman unsteadily, her
bosom heaving with the violence of her emotions, for
every passionate word found its echo in her throbbing
heart, " had I retained the freedom of my youth, hadst
thou met me in lovely Massilia, hadst thou sought me
under the mighty oaks of Britain, I would have loved
THE FORGOTTEN PROMISE 209
thee. I would have been thy slave for love of thee, and
in honourable wedlock I would have denied thee noth-
" Wedlock, marriage ! " exclaimed Attilius, starting
back in surprise. " Dost thou think, beautiful bar-
barian, to wed a Roman ? "
" Nay, I think nothing," said Gwenna, but by her
manner she showed how bitterly she was affronted.
"What right have I to mate with thee? "
" What right have I to object to whatever thou
mayst do ? "
" None again ; thou speakest wisely at last, and
" But I do object," blazed out the woman in fierce-
ness which matched his own passion. " Thou hast not
enslaved my soul, Caius Attilius, my master and lord.
Although I am alone here and in thy power, if thou
layest hands upon me without my permission, I shall die
with the first weapon that cometh to my hand."
" And thou dost hate me so much as that? " he said
" Hate thee, Caius Attilius ! " said Gwenna, looking
at him, her mood changing with its wonted swiftness.