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if not a Christian, he is at least a sincere inquirer after the truth."
The Empress briefly explained the nature of the commission which she wished executed, and asked that the proposed agent, who waited in an ante-room, might be presented. In a moment the chamberlain announced our old friend Isidorus. With bowed head and hands folded upon his breast, he stood on the threshhold, and then advancing, knelt gracefully before the Empress. He evidently made a good impression, for her Majesty smiled graciou-ly and said:
“It is a difficult quest on which I would send thee, but thou shalt be well rewarded for thy fidelity and zeal."
“My humble services, my life, are at your Majesty's disposal,” said the Greek. “I shall deem myself well rewarded by your Majesty's favour.”
“See'st thou this lady?” asked the Empress, pointing to Callirhoë. “To find her sire in this wide world—that is thy task;" and she briefly explained the nature of the commission.
The youth gazed long and earnestly on the fair face of the girl, and replied, “Those features once seen can never be forgotten. If I find anywhere on earth aught resembling them, I shall not fail to recognize the likeness. In such a quest I would gladly search the wide world over.” “My chamberlain will amply equip you for your journey, and will give you a letter, with the Emperor's seal, to all the Roman prefects in Italy; and, by the Divine favour, I trust you will bring us good tidings.”
So may it be,” said the youth, as he retired from the presence, giving, as he did so, a lingering look at Callirhoë, who, with dilated eyes and parted lips, gazed at him with an intensity of entreaty that would have proved an inspiration to a less susceptible nature than his.
A WICKED PLOT.
E have already mentioned the fact that
Fausta, the mother of the Emperor Galerius, was a fanatical pagan. The especial object of her regard was the goddess Cybele, who was worshipped in Rome with rites of the most degrading superstition. Fausta was intensely bitter in her hatred of the Christian name, and strenuously endeavoured to incite her son, the Emperor, to persecution. She was especially virulent towards her daughter-in-law, the beautiful Valeria, and sought by every means to embitter the mind of Galerius against her. In this she was strongly abetted, or rather inspired, by Furca, the vicious old priest of Cybele, whose wicked influence over lier was very great. This worthy pair, the day after the interview above described, were engaged in a secret conclave or conspiracy against Valeria and the Christians, while the latter was seeking to carry out her benevolent enterprise.
The scene of their interview was the receptionroom of Fausta, in the palace of the Emperor Galerius. It was far more sumptuously furnished and decorated than that of the Empress Valeria, and at one end, in a marble niche, stood an ugly image of the goddess Cybele, with her crown of many towers, rudely carved out of olive wood, but quite embrowned, and almost blackened with ace. It was bedizened with costly jewels, and was deemed to be of special sanctity. Betore it was a small marble altar, on which burned, day and night, a silver censer.
At the moment of which we write, Fausta approached the altar, and kissing her hand to the image-an ancient mode of worship, from which we get the word “ adore ”—she took some costly Sabean incense from a small gold coffer, and sprinkled it on the glowing coals of the
Dense white fumes arose, whose rich aromatic odour filled the large apartment. Fausta had been an Illyrian peasant, and, notwithstanding her embroidered robes and costly jewels, she still exhibited much of the rude peasant character and lack of culture. Her coarse and wr kled features and swarthy complexion, were all the more striking by their contrast with the snowy mantle, with its goid-embroidered border,
which she wore; and her bright black eyes glittered with an expression of deadly malice like those of a serpent. While she stood before the altar, a servant announced that Furca, the arch-priest of Cybele, had obeyed her summons. As the curtain of the door was drawn aside, a little weazened old man, as dark as mahogany, wearing a thick crop of snow white hair, appeared.
* Thanks, good Furca,” said Fausta, “I desire your counsel on a matter of much importance to the State, and to the worship of the holy Cybele.”
"At your service, your Excellency,” said the obsequious priest, who also kissed his hand to the black-faced image, and sprinkled a few grains of incense on the censer.
“Thou knowest how the worship of the Galilean Christus has increased, not only among the common people, the vile plebs, and the still viler slave population, but even among the patricians and nobles. I have evidence that even in this palace, and very near the throne, the execrable superstition is cherished.
“Alas! your Excellency, I fear it is only too true," whined the bigot arch-priest. “Certain it is that neither of the Empresses,
Prisca Valeria, ever take part in the public worship of