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Adauctus, who holds himself so high, and the rest of the accursed Christian brood.”
Yes, that is what we want, if it can be done, said Fausta; “but I fear it is impossible. You do not know how headstrong Galerius is in his own way; and the niore he is opposed, the fiercer he is."
* Here comes Naso,” said the arch priest. "He hates the Christians, if he does not love the gods. We will hear his counsel."
“Welcome, good Naso,” exclaimed Fausta, as the Prefect of the city was ushered into the room. We need your advice in the matter of this edict against the Christians : how we may use it as a net to snare the higher game of the palace and the Imperial household."
We must be wary as the weasel, sleepless as the basilisk, deadly as the aspic,” said Naso, sententiously.
“ Just what I have been saying,” remarked Furca.
“Methinks we must employ the aspic's secret sting, rather than the public edict."
"I declare for the edict," exclaimed with energy the truculent Naso. “Let its thunders smite the loftiest as well as the lowly. It will carry greater terror, and make the ruin of the Christian party more complete. What is the use of lopping off the twigs, when the trunk and
main branches are unscathed? I possess proof that will doom Adauctus, the senator Aurelius, and others who stand higher still. The Christians to the lions-every one, say I.”
"And so say I,” ejaculated Furca, with malicious fervour; “but her Excellency thinks that Galerius will interpose to protect one who stands near the throne, though she be the chief encouragement of the Christian vermin that crawl at her feet.”
“Madam, he dare not,” exclaimed Naso, with his characteristic gesture of clenching his hand as if grasping his sword. “ His own crown would stand in peril if beneath its shadow he would protect traitors to the State and enemies of the gods, however high their station.”
“As head of the State,” interjected the priest, "he is the champion of the gods, and bound to avenge their insulted majesty."
“You know not what he would dare," replied Fausta. He would defy both gods and men, if he took the whim.”
“ An accusation will be made before me," said Naso, which not even the Emperors can overlook, against the Imperial Consort, Valeria, for intriguing with the Christians and bringing their priests to Rome, and conniving at their crime.3 against the State. We will see whether the
majesty of the Empire or the beauty of a painted butterfly weighs the heavier in the scales.”
"I will second in private what your accusation demands in public," said the implacable Fausta. “Methinks I could die content if I might only trample that minion under my feet.' ”
“And I,” said Furca, “ will menace him with the wrath of the gods if he refuse to avenge their wrongs."
“ Between us all," added Naso, “it will go hard if we do not crush the Christian vermin, even beneath the shadow of the throne.”
N his statement as to the accusation of the
Empress before his tribunal, Naso, after his manner, took counsel of his truculent desires rather than of his cool reason. He had learned from his : capegrace son, Calphurnius, that Isidorus had returned to town from executing a commission for the Empress, the general purpose of which that hopeful youth had extorted from the drunken maunderings of the inconstant and unhappy Greek. Naso took it for granted, from his previous acquaintance with human nature of the baser sort, that Isidorus was trying to serve two masters, and that while acting as the agent of Valeria he would be willing to betray her secrets. Unaware of his vacillation of character and of his transient impulses toward Christianity, he further believed that the supple Greek, in accordance with his compact, would act as public
accuser of the Christians. He had impressed upon Calphurnius, who was very prompt to learn the lesson, that it was of the utmost importance to bring the Greek under his personal influence and control, and especially to induce him to come again to the tribunal of the Prefect in the Forum.
We must keep our thumb on him. We can use him to our advantage," said the Prefect to his son.
“I think I have him under a screw that will extort from him whatever you wish,” replied the hopeful youth. “He owes me money, and he shall pay good interest on the loan. He is not the material of which heroes are made, like that young Christian who suffered martyrdom, as they call it, a few weeks ago."
"Well, give your screw another turn,” said Naso with a hideous chuckle. “That's the way I do when I have them on the rack. Keep him in debt. Lure him on. Make him lose money at dice and lend him more. We will wring his heart-strings by-and-bye. If we can only secure the death of Adauctus and some of his wealthy friends, their fair estates will help to line our purses, for the Emperors cannot leave such a zealous servant as the Prefect Naso unrewarded," and this well matched pair—the offspring of the