A. C. (Albert Carlton) Whitehead.

The standard bearer : a story of army life in the time of Caesar online

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"My leg was broken, and I lay long before I could
stir from the house. All the time the little Bridiga


tended me with the greatest care. I had a Roman
book, the beautiful poems of Livius Andronicus. I
read to pass a part of the time. She was curious and
wished to know more about it. Soon I taught her to
read it and also to speak Latin. She was very eager
to learn and did so rapidly.

"Meanwhile, I knew the king was eager for me to be
gone, and only endured my presence out of hospitality
and for the sake of the golden-haired girl. Hospitality
is one of the most marked traits of Gallic character,
and hence I would have been safe, at any rate.

"At last I was well enough to travel, and I came
away with no hurt. The little Bridiga wept and begged
me to stay. I have often thought of her. I wish I
knew if she lived and fared well after Caesar defeated
her father in that awful slaughter at the Sabis.

"But I had lost all my wealth, for robbers or some one
had plundered me before the king's men found me. I
have been busy since in trying to restore my fortune.
May the gods favor me on this trip. I must go now
and see if I can find some hungry legionary who wants
to buy from me."

And he went away, leaving Titus asleep, and Caius
thinking of the Nervian maid and a great deal more
curious about the matter than he cared to own. What
if this were the Nervian maiden whom he had taken
for a boy ? What if she were not the same ? Anyway,
what difference could it make to him, a Roman soldier
of patrician birth, with a fortune to win and many
wrongs to avenge ?

He lay, for a long time, alone on the grass and tried
to think of duty.


CJESAR'S bridge across the Rhine was completed on
the tenth day from that on which he had begun it.

On the next morning when the first light shone, the
trumpets sang throughout the great Roman camp, the
white flag on Caesar's tent was taken down in token
that the soldiers should strike their tents, the baggage
was packed, the legions fell into column of advance,
the trumpets again set the echoes flying on the river
and throughout the forest, and the Roman army
began to cross the bridge.

The rising sun tipped the steel points of the Tenth
legion with silver as it led the way. The water of the
swift, turbulent river splashed and gurgled uproariously
as it dashed among the piles that obstructed its way.
Occasionally, a huge tree or log brought down by the
waters came rushing along with such force that it
seemed the supports of the bridge must be broken
away. Legion after legion now marched forth and
across, a line a mile in length, reaching from the camp
on across the bridge to the further edge of the open
land, where, one after another, they were swallowed
up in the dark shadows of the German forest.

After several days' march through the fire-wasted
land which the Germans themselves had devastated to
prevent, as far as possible, the advance of an enemy,
the Roman army finally encamped not far from the
Hercynian forest.

1 88


There was a large number of Gauls in the camp who
had followed the army into Germany. Many stories
they told the Romans of the wonderful men of Germany,
of its great swamps, and of its strange animals.

"Why do these Germans burn and destroy such fine
crops and so many towns which might furnish at least
some plunder?" asked Sannio of Crixus, a Gaul.

"Because," replied he, "that is their custom. Each
German nation prides itself on the greatest width of
territory it can keep devastated about its own borders.
Then if an enemy threatens them, that they fear as
they now do Caesar's army, they will destroy their
own houses, towns, and crops, and move farther on."

"I don't wonder that they move faVther on in these
dark forests," said Sannio. "I am sure they are full
of fauns and wood sprites and magic as well as of
wild beasts. They say this forest is the largest in

"It is the largest in the world," said the Gaul. "It
begins at the borders of the Helvetians and Rauracians
and runs along the Danube River to the territories of the
Dacians. Then it extends round about many nations
and rivers. It takes a man swift as the wind to walk
around it in sixty days or more. In it the trees are so
thick grown the shadows are black as night, and some
of the trees reach to the clouds. No man goes in it or
around it."

"How, then, does any one know all these things?"
asked Titus. He was inclined to be rather skeptical.

"Oh, well!" replied the Gaul, impatiently, "that
is what they say. I was only telling you what I have


"I see/' said Titus. "You are telling what you have
heard as something you know. I have noticed many
Gauls doing the like."

"By Bel, the bright sun god/' exclaimed the Gaul,
hotly. "If you tell me I speak falsely, I can prove
on your body that I speak the truth." And his hand
worked nervously over the hilt of his sword, while
his jaws set and his eyes grew hard and bright.

"I'm ready," said Titus, stolidly, while drawing his
sword. "I want all the practice I can get." The two
were just ready to come to blows, when Caesar, accom-
panied by several of his friends, passing that way,
stopped and interposed.

Caesar, learning what the discussion was about, grew
interested, and then commanded the Gaul to tell more
of the great forest.

"I know many things of it," he said, "but this man
must not talk to me as he does."

"I will be surety that you are not interrupted again,"
said Caesar. "Tell us something of the animals in the

"Are there animals that yield beautiful and mer-
chantable furs?" ventured Matho.

"I do not know that," replied the Gaul. "But the
animals are the most wonderful and strange in the
world. There is a kind of cow like a stag in form. In
the middle of its head, between its ears, it has a single
long straight horn which branches at the top like a tree."

A murmur of wonder ran around the group, but,
encouraged by the attention Caesar was giving him,
Crixus continued. "Then there is the elk. It looks
like a goat in shape and in the different colors of the


skin, but it is smaller than a goat. Its horns are
pronged, but they are bent every way like a broken bush.
Its legs have no joints and it never lies down, not even
to sleep. Should one by accident be thrown down, it
is unable to rise again because of its stiff legs. To
sleep they lean against trees. The Germans take
them by cutting the trees almost down where they
sleep, or by digging them at the roots till they will
easily fall. The elks lean against them and both fall

"That is a wonderful animal," said Caesar. "I
should like to see one of them."

Thus further encouraged, the Gaul continued. "The
aurochs is the biggest beast in the world. You could
not reach to the top of its back with a Roman javelin.
They are shaped and colored like a bull. They are
strong and fierce and spare neither man nor beast, and
can only be taken in deep pits digged and covered over
with tree tops. The German youth prove their man-
hood by taking an aurochs. They must bring the
horns and show them in public. Then they receive
great praise. You cannot tame one even when it is
very young."

"How did you learn these things?" asked Caesar.

"I was once made a prisoner by the Germans," said
Crixus. "I escaped, and learned of them while wander-
ing in the forests to hide from the Germans."

'' Those are most wonderful animals," said Caesar.
"I should like to see them. Since we are to delay here
for several days, we may hunt some of them. Let
Caius, Baculus, Sannio, and this Gaul who knows of
these animals advance into the forests this afternoon


with fifty men and dig pits for aurochs and select trees
for the taking of the stiff-legged elk. Then, early to-
morrow we will go on a hunt. It were well sometimes
to forget our battles and amuse ourselves with sports."

Caesar and his companions walked on. " By Bacchus,
but I do not want to go into this forest," said Sannio.
"I see little profit in it, and I fear the fauns, the
witches, and the magic of the place more than I do
the animals." And he shuddered despite the fact that
his hand rested on the hilt of his good sword.

"Yes, and so do I," said Titus. "I believe that there
are magic and witchery in this great black forest much
more than I believe there are such animals there as
that Gaul told us about."

Crixus had left the group, and there was no con-

Caius and the party, sent to make ready for the hunt,
found the reports of the great trees and the thick
growth and grassy marshes, and of the darkness of the
shadows, not by any means overt old. The darkness
and the gloom were enough to lead wiser men than
these to feel a dread of some unknown danger which
might lurk in the bogs, the thickets, or the brakes, and
which might be encountered in almost any shape of
witchery or magic.

The party advanced cautiously, and at last found a
place where, on a slight ridge covered with a growth of
small trees, they found many tracks of some small
cloven-footed animal. The Gaul said they were the
tracks of the elk. So they carefully cut many of the
trees near the ground till they were almost ready to fall.

Some distance beyond they found fresh tracks like



those of large cows. Crixus said these were the tracks
of the aurochs. Near by they digged deep pits and
covered them over with long slender poles on which they
laid leafy branches.


"By Hercules, I think we would best sacrifice a pig
to Sylvanus, the forest god," said Sannio. "He is
spiteful sometimes, and may do us harm for desecrat-
ing this wood. I think this must be especially sacred
to him. The forest growth is so rank and thick."

"I imagine Sylvanus must be so lonely here, he would
be glad to have us cut many more trees," said Titus.
"At any rate, I vow to him the tall cypresses at home
on which my father nails the wolf's head for protection,
if he does us no harm on account of this evening's work.
I would take no such risks in dangerous forests for any
one but Caesar."

"Never worry," said Baculus. "If man protects
us, so tame a god as Sylvanus is not likely to harm us."

"I think he stays only in Italy, anyway," said Caius.
"He is not worshiped in Gaul."

"You had best fear only the storms that fell the
trees and the gods of the stars and fires that dwell
afar," said the Gaul; but the others gave him little

And so with many a jibe at each other about their
fear of Sylvanus, magic, fauns, and the like, albeit with
more of dread than mirth in their hearts, the party
returned to camp.


ON the next morning, with the first light, the hunting
party assembled in front of the camp. Near the per-
son of Caesar were grouped several of his attendants,
men who were in Gaul merely as his friends, among
them Trebatius, Hirtius, Pansa, Oppius, and Metius.
Three or four of his lieutenants Quintus Cicero, Pe-
dius, Cotta, and Galba rode near him. Caius, Bacu-
lus, Sannio, Titus, and three or four other centurions
had charge of the following of soldiers who attended.

"Let Crixus lead the van of this gay army for sport,"
said Caesar. "Lanius may act as rear guard. As
there are few enemies in our rear, he is likely to have a
light task."

A boisterous laugh from the others greeted this order.
For it had become well known in the army that Lanius
was ready for all ventures except such as involved
personal risk or bodily danger. However, he dropped
back to the rear with a scowl on his averted face.

Crixus took his place in front as guide, a trumpet
sounded, and the party set off with hilarious shouts
and laughter, and many a jest and jibe.

"What a surprise ! " said Caesar. "And more so to me
than to any one else. Who would have thought we
would build a bridge across the Rhine, and march the
Roman army into the wilds of Germany only to hunt
for strange beasts ? "



"Truly," said Metius, lightly, "we might earn money
by taking these beasts for the shows and the circuses
at the city."

" But meanwhile the business of war would stop too
long," said Caesar. "Indeed, I am doing a rash thing
to leave the camp to-day. But I have determined to
lay off all duties and to have a day of happy, heedless
sport. To-morrow we must be busy again."

Not far from Caesar and his friends marched Titus
and Sannio. They discussed the dangers of magic
and witchery which might lurk in the mysterious
intricacies of the great forest.

"Will our Italian people never learn that witches and
fauns and magic do not exist and are only names with
which to conjure the ignorant ?" said Caesar, who over-
heard them. "Here are these two men, the best of
soldiers and hundreds more like them throughout
the army who believe that there are secret dangers
and mysteries and harmful spirits and gods in the
woods. They are even yet, after all these centuries
of Roman civilization, as superstitious as these bar-
barian Gauls. Hey, there, Titus, why do you fear the

"Sir, I believe in all the Roman gods, as my father
before me has done," replied Titus, with a low bow.
"In these dark forests I am sure there are harmful
sprites which I cannot combat. If I could fight them
with my sword and javelin, I would fear them not at

"You are right to fear the gods, Titus," said Caesar,
who, through policy, pretended a belief in the gods
long after he held on to a faith only in fate and fortune.


"But there are no such things as spirits or fauns or
magic to harm you."

"With your leave, I cannot help believing in them,"
said Titus. "At home my father keeps a wolf's head
nailed on a great cypress at the front of the house to
keep away evil spirits. When each of his children was
born, three men at night went round to the doors of
our home and struck them with an ax, then with a
pestle, and lastly with a broom, to propitiate for us -and
mother the good spirits, Intercidona, Pilumnus, and
Deverra. We sacrifice to the god Terminus as well as
to Jupiter, Pluto, and all the rest. I feel even now my
genius telling me that something is going to happen

Caesar laughed heartily, and said, "Believe as you
will, my good soldier Titus. You have all the country
people of Italy with you, and it is that belief that makes
Roman soldiers such unconquerable heroes, even though
the whole Roman army did once refuse to enter the
Ciminian forest." And he turned to his friends and
engaged Hirtius in the discussion of Xenophon's trea-
tise on hunting.

"I feel as you do," said Sannio, seriously, to Titus.
"I am sure something is going to fall out wrong for
some of us to-day. By Jupiter, but you gave Caesar
a good answer. But he believes in none of the gods
unless it be Fortuna and perhaps Mars."

Soon the party approached the trees where the elks
were supposed to sleep. Crixus had reached the place
first and reported that no elk lay stretched on the
ground, helpless. Likewise no aurochs had fallen
into the pits.


"As we are out for sport," said Caesar, "let us proceed
a little farther and see if we cannot find at least a wild
boar to capture."

The party advanced and soon came to ground that
rose gently before them. The undergrowth grew more
sparsely and the tree trunks were larger. After a little
time they had reached the summit of an eminence and
found that it sloped gradually away on the other side
to a small treeless plain. On the border of this open
space, they saw a small herd of animals feeding, all
unsuspicious of danger. Crixus declared it to be a herd
of aurochs. He eagerly repeated the wonders of their
fierceness and danger to man and beast.

It was decided to separate the party and to make an
effort to surround the plain. The soldiers were to rush
upon them from all sides at a given signal, and endeavor
to kill them with their javelins.

They all dismounted and crept forward. Spirits,
witchery, magic, and the like were forgotten. But
Titus kept near Caius. "I may owe Caesar more as a
soldier, Caius, but I grew up near you. I feel sure
something will happen. You fear neither the magic
of the wood nor the dangers you can see. I am strong
and fear not those brutes yonder. Perhaps we may
help each other. I am sure something will fall out

The two went toward the place to which they had
been directed, at the farther end of the little plain. A
bog at the edge of the wood obstructed their advance
and delayed them. They had scarcely surmounted this
difficulty and reached solid ground when it seemed that
there must be some confusion as to the signal, for the


animals which had continued feeding, now suddenly
threw up their heads, at the sound of a trumpet,
sniffed the air, and with a mad bellowing broke into a
thundering run across the plain. The soldiers with
loud yells broke cover, dashed out into the open, and
began to pursue. As the signal had been given too
soon, a great part of the circuit of. the plain was still
clear of any men to check them. A soldier leaped out
from behind a tree and hurled a javelin. It struck one
of the animals in the shoulder. With a hoarse bellow
of pain it dashed straight ahead. The soldier turned
and ran toward where the others were escaping. Caius
and Titus had rushed out, intending to pursue, but
now that the beast was coming so directly toward
them, they were confused and hardly knew what to do.

"Let's leap aside and stab it as it tries to pass us,"
said Titus. But Caius seemed not to hear, for he had
run straight ahead, seemingly with the intention of
meeting the animal after its own manner. But just
as the brute was nearly upon Caius, the latter leaped
quickly to one side and stabbed. He was too slow
and was overturned and tumbled headlong on the
thick grass, while the brute rushed blindly on.

Then all at once Caesar stood near its path. He came
like a shadow from no one knew where. But there he
stood, with a javelin poised, ready to cast it. The
brute seemed to see him and when it was within six yards
of him blindly swerved directly toward him. Then,
either through excitement or over-exertion, or because
attacked by one of those seizures which annoyed his
later years, his lance dropped from his hand, his body
grew limp, his eyes rolled upward, and he crumbled to



the ground. In some way Titus had leaped in, and with
a roll and a shove, had barely moved the Imperator out
of the animal's course. Titus was himself knocked head-
long by the outthrust of its hind legs as it dashed on.

The arm of Caius had been hurt, but he was quickly
up and ran to the spot where Caesar and Titus lay.
Titus was not much hurt, and was striving to rise.
Caius helped him, and ran to the marsh to bring a cap
of water. This he threw on Caesar's face and also
bathed his hands. He was rewarded by seeing the


eyes of the Proconsul open; and then Caesar sat up.
"By Jupiter, but I had a narrow escape," he said.
"What happened?"

The youth told him. "But where did you come
from so suddenly ?" they asked.

"I had ridden this way, thinking that in this quarter
would be the most sport. My horse got entangled in
yonder marsh, and I had to leave him there. I got to
hard ground just in time to see that great brute rush
out. I wanted to take a part in the sport, and thus I
was here before either of you knew it. And so it was
Titus that dragged me out of the way ? He told me
this morning that something would happen. Well, so
it has. You deserve my eternal favor, Titus, and you
have it. You shall be made a centurion of the first
rank to-morrow. But let me charge you : say nothing
about this seizure of mine. I do not wish it known
among the soldiers that I am subject to them. Speak
not of it, I say to you once again. But let us see if my
horse can be pried from the marsh. Call some of the

They walked to the edge of the wood, and not far
away, near a huge, broad-headed white-stemmed
beech, they found the aurochs struggling in one of the
pits which the men had digged.





AFTER some two weeks spent in Germany, Caesar led
his army back into Gaul, and broke down the bridge.
When he had gone a short distance into the Gallic
territory, he built a strong camp, with a four-story
tower, and left Caius with five cohorts of the Tenth
legion to hold it. They were to watch the proceedings
of the Gauls in those parts, as well as to keep an eye
on the fords of the river and the doings of the Germans.

"Stay in the camp, Caius, as much as possible,"
he said. "It will be necessary for you to collect a
part of the winter supply of grain for the soldiers, but
it is near the camp. The Gauls at present pretend
peace. But they are a fickle and changeable people
above all others I have known. They will be ready to
attack and destroy you if opportunity occurs. If they
do attack you, fight them stoutly, always taking ad-
vantage of them in any way you can. Meanwhile, send
a messenger to me, and I will bring or send you aid."

"I will do my best to obey you, sir," said Caius.
"I do not see why I am thus honored, but I will do all
I can. Baculus can advise me, and with the cohorts
of the Tenth, I think I can keep back a great force of

"I trust you, and I fear not the results," said Caesar.

The camp was built and provided as a winter camp.
Instead of tents, log huts were built for the soldiers.
A large supply of wheat and barley were to be stored



in the quaestorium, and several wells were digged to
furnish water within the walls. The men left were
seasoned veterans, among them Sannio, Baculus,
Titus, and several others whom Caius knew for cool-
ness and bravery in danger.

Caius was surprised toward night of the day on which
Caesar went away to see Lanius and several of his com-
panions come riding back to the camp, and demand
admittance. All together, with their servants there
were some fifty of them. Lanius showed a letter
from Caesar commanding Caius to admit them and
provide him and his followers with the best quarters
and food in the camp.

Caius doubted the validity of the letter, for he could
see no reason why Caesar had sent him such a command
regarding a man whom he had publicly insulted only a
few days previously. Yet there was the letter with
Caesar's seal, and all he could do was to admit him and
treat him and his companions as well as he could.

They were no sooner in the camp than they began to
be boisterous and insulting to men and officers. They
seized on some of the huts and drove out their occu-
pants. They had their slaves to fling the arms and
baggage of the owners into the streets of the camp.
They even beat several of the legionaries who objected to
leaving their huts. Others they commanded to bring
water for them and their horses. Their loud laughter
and insolent looks and acts showed that they meant to
carry things with a high hand.

At length, Caius remonstrated with Lanius, who
seemed to be the leader of the party. At this Lanius
braced himself erect, and assumed his haughtiest air.


"I am a free man among free men, and shame to face
no man. I own three villas and much money at Rome.
I feed -

"I am not concerned with all this talk," broke in
Caius. "I have nothing to do with what you own or
what you feed. But Caesar has left me in command
of this camp, and given me certain orders concern-
ing it. I intend to carry them out. Now, unless
you and your friends behave more decently, you will
not be a free man much longer, for I shall have you
put in chains."

"Surely, you jest/' sneered Lanius. "Put me in
chains ! Lanius, a rich Roman noble, put in chains by
an upstart of a shepherd like you ? Wealthy and
honored as I am," he went on, "I have tried to treat
you as a patrician. Yet have you refused to accept
my kindness, and now you threaten to put me in
chains ! Bah, by Pollux, I defy you. You may not
remember that Caesar is not here to give you his aid

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Online LibraryA. C. (Albert Carlton) WhiteheadThe standard bearer : a story of army life in the time of Caesar → online text (page 11 of 16)