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WHEN the unhappy Isidorus discovered that
through his cowardice and tergiversation, and through the confessions extorted from his distempered mind, a criminal charge had been trumped up against the fair Callirhoë, whose beauty and grace had touched his susceptible imagination, he was almost beside himself with rage and remorse. Ile protested to the Prefect Naso and his disreputable son, Calphurnius, that she was as innocent as an unweaned babe of the monstrous crime alleged against hier—that of conspiracy to poison her beloved mistress.
“Accursed be the day," cried the wretched Isidorus, clenching liis lanıls till his nails pierced the fleslı, “ accursed be the day when I first came to your horrid den to betray innocent blood. Would I hal perished e'er it dawned.”
“IIark you, my friend,” said Naso,“ do you remember by what means you promised to carn the good red gold with which I bought you ? "
"Do not remind me of my shame in becoming a spy upon the Christians," cried the Greek with a look of self-loathing and abhorrence.
“Nay; 'by becoming one yourself,' that was the phrasc as I wrote it on my tablets,” snecred the prefect.
“ Would that I could become one !” exclaimed the unhappy man.
“Suppose I take you at your word and believe you are one ? ” queried Naso with a malignant leer.
“What new wickedness is this you have in your mind?” asked the Greek.
“JIow would you like to share the doom of your friends, the old Jew and his pretty daughter, who are to be thrown to the lions to-day," went on the remorseless man, toying with his victim like a tiger with its prey.
Gladly, were I but worthy," said the Greek. “ Had I their holy hopes, I would rejoice to bear them company."
“ But don't you sce," said Naso, '“ a word of mine would send you to the arena, whether you like it or not? Your neck is in the noose, my handsome youth, and I do not think, with all your dexterity, you can wriggle out of it.”
“Oh! any fate but that!” cried the Greek, writhing in anguish. “Let me die as a felon, a conspirator, an assassin, if you will; but not hy the doom of the martyrs.”
Well, you see,” went on the prefect, “justice is meted out to the Christians so much more swistly and certainly than even against the worst of felons, that I am tempted to take this plan to secure you your deserts."
The craven-spirited Greek, to whom the very idea of death was torture, blanched with terror and stood specchless, his tongue literally cleaving to the roof of his mouth.
When the prefect perceived that he was sufficiently unnerved for his final experiment le unveiled his diabolical purpose.
“Hark you, my friend,” he whispered or rather bissed into his ear, "you may do the State, yourself, and me a service, that will procure you life and liberty and fortune. You know the way to the secret assemblies of the accursed Christian sect; lead hitler a maniple of soldiers and your fortuno's made."
"Tempter, begone!” exclaimed the Greek in a moment of virtuous indignation, "you would make me worse than Judas whom the Christians execrate as the betrayer of his Master whom they worship.”
“As you please, my dainty youth,” answercu Naso, with his characteristic gesture of clutching lis sword. Prepare to fecd the lions on the morrow," and he consigned him to a cell in the vaults of the Coliseum.
Very different was the night spent by this craven soul to that of the destined martyrs. The darkness, to his distempered imagination, seemed full of accusing eyes, which glared reproach and vengeance upon him. The hungry lions' roar smote his soul with fearful apprehensions. When the savage bounds of the wild beasts shook his cell he cowered upon the ground, the picture of alject misery and despair.
When by these mental tortures his nerves were all unstrung, the arch tempter silently entered his cell and whispered in his ear, “Well, my dainty Greek, are you really for the games?"
• Save me! save me !” cried the unhappy man, 'any death but that! I will do anything to escape
such a fearful doom." “I thought you would come to terins," replied the prefect, well skilled in the cruel arts of his office. “Life is sweet. Here is gold. By the service I require you shall earn liberty," and the compact was sealed whereby the Greek was to betray the subterranean hiding-places of the Obrtstians to their eneniies.
Hence it was that at the dead of night, a band of Roman soldiers, reckless rusians trained to slaughter in many a bloody war, marched under cover of darkness along the Appian Way to the villa of the Lady Marcella. It was the work of a moment to force the door of the vineyard and they soon reached the entrance to the Catacomb.
“It is like a badger's burrow," said the officer in command. “ We will soon bag our game. Ilere the old priest has his lair. Secure him at
He is worth a score of the meaner vermin,"
Lighting their torches they marched on their revious way under the guidance of Isidorus, who had written on a rude chart the number of turns to be made to the right or left. With Roman military foresight, the officer marked with chalk the route they took, and fixed occasionally a torch in the niches in the wall.
Soon the suft, low cadence of the funeral hymn was heard, stealing weirdly on the ear, and a faint light glinimered from the chamber in which the Christians were paying the last rites to their martyred bretliren.
“They are at their incantations now," said the Centurion. “'Tis a fit place for their abominable orgies. Let us hasten, and we will spoil their wicked spells !” and he gave the command, at