« PredošláPokračovať »
and the officer of the guard who was responsible for the Empress' safety. Valeria had fainted and lay pale as ashes on her conch, a crinison stream flowing from her check.
“Dear heart!” exclaimed Juba, with an ostentalious exhibition of well-feigned grief,“ let her inhale this fragrant clixir. It is a potent restorative in such deadly faints," and she attempted to complete her desperate crime by thrusting the poisonous persume under Valeria’s nostrils.
"Who was last in the presence before this strange accident—if it be an accident occurred ?” deinanded the officer,
"I and Juba, were the only ones," faltereil Callio hoë, when a deathly pallor passed over lier face, and with a convulsive sbudder she fell writhing on the ground.
“You are under arrest,” said the officer to Juba, and then to a soldier of the guard,“ Go, seize and seal up her effects--everything she has; and you,” turning to another, "send at once tie court physician."
The attendants meanwhile were fanning and sprinkling with water the seemingly inanimate torms of the Empress and Callirhoë. When the physician came and felt the fluttering pulse and noted the dilated eyes of liis patients, he pronounced it a case of acrid poisoning and promptly ordered antidotes. The Empress, in a few days
rallied and seemed little the worse beyond a strange pallor which overspread her features and an abnormal coldness, almost as of death, which pervaded her frame. From these she never fully recovered, but throughout her life was known in popular speech as “ The White Lady.”
Upon Callirhoë the effects of the poison were still more serious. By her prompt action in sucking the aspic virus from the envenomed wound, she had saved the life of her beloved mistress, but at the peril of her own. The venom coursed through her veins, kindling the fires of fever in her blood. Her dilated eyes shone with unusual brilliance; her speech was rapid; her manner urgent; and her emotions and expressions were characterized by a strange and unwonted intenseness. The physician in answer to the eager questioning of Valeria, gravely shook his head, and said that the case was one that baffled his skill—that cure there was none for the aspic's poison if absorbed into the system, although as it had not in this case been communicated directly to the blood, possibly the youth and vigour of the patient might overcome the toxic effect of the contagium-so he learnedly discoursed.
My dear child, you have given your life for mine,” exclaimed the Empress, throwing her arms around her late enfranchised slave, and bedewing her cheek with her tears.
"God grant it be so," said Callirhoë, with kindling eye. “I would gladly die to save you from a sorrow or a pain. I owe you more than life. I owe you liberty and a life more precious than my own.”
"All that love and skill can do, dear heart, shall be done,” said the Empress caressingly, “ to proserve you to your new-found liberty, and to your sire.”
"As God wills, dearest lady," answered Callirhoë, kissing her mistress' hand. “In IIis great love I live or die content. I bless Ilim every hou that IIe las permitted me to show in some weak way, the love I bear my best and dearest earthly friend."
And with such fond converse passed the hours of Valeria's convalescence, and of Cullirhoë's deepening decline.
HE crafty Juba, when she found herseli
arrested in flagrante delicto—in the very act of her attempted crime-determined to use, if possible, the fiction she had employed with reference to Isidorus, as a means of escape from the very serious dilemma in which she was placed. It will be remembered that she had stated, in order to procure the acceptance of her fatal gift, that it was a thank-offering from the young Greek who had rendered such service to the Empress and Callirhoë. Happy if Valeria had remembered and practised the ancient adage, “ Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” But suspicion was foreign to her generous nature, and even if the wise saw had occurred to her, she would have lightly laughed away its cynical suggestion.
When the treacherous slave was examined as to her share in the attempted crime, she stoutly adhered to her fictitious story, and protested that she knew nothing of the contents of the basket, but that she had received it from Isidorus, and had been well paid for conveying it to the Empress without suspicion of any sinster design.
The Greek, when charged with the crime of attempting to procure, by poison, the death of the Empress Valeria, manifested the greatest astonishment. Summoned before the Quæstor of the l'alace, an officer of co-ordinate jurisdiction with the Prefect of the city, he stoutly protested his innocence. But ail his protestations were regarded by that official, as only the very perlection of art—the well-feigned evasions of a mendacious Greek. And certainly appearances were very much against him. The Prefect Naso, now that he had extorted from him all the infulmation he had to give, abandoned him as a wornout tool and divulged to the Quæster the damning fact that the Greek by a formal document had accused the Empress of treason agaiust the State, and of conspiracy with the Christians—for so he represented the confessions which, by his diabolical arts, he had wrung from his unhappy victim. Confronted by this evidence Isidorus was dumb. He saw the trap into which he had been snared, and that by no efforts of his own could he extricate himself. He sa:v, too, the ruin he had brought upon his friends, for Naso had