Page images

waiting for the giant, nor whether he would not defend himself when he met death eye to eye.

In fact, they had not long to wait. Suddenly the shrill sound of brazen trumpets was heard, and at that signal into the arena rushed, amid the shouts of the beast-keepers, an enormous German aurochs, bearing on his head the naked body of a


Vinicius sprang to his feet.

"Lygia! Oh, ... I believe! I believe! Oh, Christ, a miracle! a miracle !” And he did not even know that Petronius had covered his head at that moment with a toga. He did not look; he did not see. The feeling of some awful emptiness possessed him. In his head there remained not a thought. His lips merely repeated as if in madness, "I believe! I believe! I believe!

This time the amphitheater was silent, for in the arena something uncommon had happened. That giant, obedient and ready to die, when he saw his queen on the horns of the wild beast, sprang up, as if touched by living fire, and, bending forward, he ran at the raging animal.

From all breasts a sudden cry of amazement was heard, as the giant fell on the raging bull and seized him by the horns. And then came deep silence. All breasts ceased to breathe. In the amphitheater a fly might be heard on the wing. People could not believe their own eyes. Since Rome was Rome no one had ever seen such a spectacle. The man's feet sank in the sand to his ankle; his back was bent like a bow; "his head was hidden between his shoulders; on his arms the muscles came out so that the skin almost burst from their pressure; but he had stopped the bull in his tracks. The man and the bull remained so still that the spectators thought themselves looking at a group hewn in stone. But in that apparent repose there was a tremendous exertion of two struggling forces. The bull's feet, as well as the man's, sank in the sand, and the dark,

shaggy body was curved so that it seemed a gigantic ball. Which of the two would fail first? Which would fall first?

Meanwhile a dull roar resembling a groan was heard from the arena, after which a brief shout was wrested from every breast, and again there was silence. Duller and duller, hoarser and hoarser, more and more painful grew the


of the bull as it mingled with the whistling breath from the breast of the giant. The head of the beast began to turn in the iron hands of the barbarian, and from his jaws crept forth a long, foaming tongue. A moment more and to the ears of the spectators sitting nearer came, as it were, the crack of breaking bones; then the beast rolled on the earth, dead.

The giant removed in a twinkling the ropes that bound the maiden to the horns of the bull. His face was very pale; he stood as if only half conscious; then he raised his eyes and looked at the spectators.

The amphitheater had gone wild. The walls of the building were trembling from the roar of tens of thousands of people.

Everywhere were heard cries for mercy, passionate and persistent, which soon turned into one unbroken thunder.

The giant understood that they were asking for his life and liberty, but his thoughts were not for himself. He raised the unconscious maiden in his arms, and, going to Nero's padium, held her up and looked up imploringly.

Vinicius sprang over the barrier, which separated the lower seats from the arena, and, running to Lygia, covered her with

his toga.

Then he tore apart the tunic on his breast, laid bare the scars left by wounds received in the Armenian war, and stretched out his hands to the multitude.

At this the enthusiasm passed everything ever seen in a circus before. Voices choking with tears began to demand mercy. Yet Nero halted and hesitated. He would have preferred to see the giant and the maiden rent by the horns of the bull.

Nero was alarmed. He understood that to oppose longer was simply dangerous. A disturbance begun in the circus might seize the whole city. He looked once more, and, seeing everywhere frowning brows, excited faces and eyes fixed on him, he slowly raised his hand and gave the sign for mercy.

Then a thunder of applause broke from the highest seats to the lowest. But Vinicius heard it not. He dropped on his knees in the arena, stretched his hands toward heaven and cried: "I believe! Oh, Christ! I believe! I believe !"



I shot an arrow into the air.

It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air.

It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong

That it can follow the flight of song.
Long, long afterward, in an oak,

I found the arrow still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,

I found again in the heart of a friend.



At Paris it was, at the opera there;
And she looked like a queen that night,
With a wreath of pearl in her raven hair,

And the brooch in her breast so bright. 1 Used by permission of Houghton, Mifflin & Co., publishers of his works.

Of all the operas that Verdi wrote,
The best, to my taste, is the “. Trovatoré”:
And Mario can soothe, with a tenor note,
The souls in purgatory.

The moon on the tower slept soft as snow;
And who was not thrilled in the strangest way,
As we heard him sing, while the gas burned low,
Non ti scordar di me?"

The Emperor there in his box of state,
Looked grave; as if he had just then seen
The red flag wave from the city gate,
Where the eagles in bronze had been.

The Empress, too, had a tear in her eye;
You'd have thought that her fancy had gone back again,
For one moment, under the old blue sky,
To that old glad life in Spain.

Well! there in our front row box we sat
Together, my bride betrothed and I;
My gaze was fixed on my opera hat,
And hers on the stage hard by.

And both were silent and both were sad;
Like a queen she leaned on her full white arm,
With that regal indolent air she had;
So confident of her charm!

I have not a doubt she was thinking then
Of her former lord, good soul that he was,
Who died the richest and roundest of men,
The Marquis of Carabas.
I hope that, to get to the kingdom of heaven,
Through a needle's eye he had not to pass;

I wish him well for the jointure given
To my lady of Carabas.

Meanwhile I was thinking of my first love
As I had not been thinking of aught for years;
Till over my eyes there began to move
Something that felt like tears.

I thought of the dress that she wore last time,
When we stood neath the cypress-trees together,
In that lost land, in that soft clime,
In the crimson evening weather;

Of that muslin dress (for the eve was hot);
And her warm white neck in its golden chain;
And her full soft hair just tied in a knot,
And falling loose again.

And the Jasmine flower in her fair young breast;
(O the faint sweet smell of that Jasmine flower !)
And the one bird singing alone to its nest;
And the one star over the tower.

I thought of our little quarrels and strife,
And the letter that brought me back my ring;
And it all seemed there in the waste of life,
Such a very little thing.
For I thought of her grave below the hill,
Which the sentinel cypress-tree stands over;
And I thought, “Were she only living still,
How I could forgive her and love her!”

And I swear as I thought of her thus in that hour,
And of how, after all, old things are best,
That I smelt the smell of that Jasmine flower
Which she used to wear in her breast.

« PreviousContinue »