BOOK THE FOURTH
16. Chapter XVI
'Ay, we shall see if his firmness will last over to-morrow.' But what merit
in courage, when that atheistical hound, Olinthus, manifested the same?'
'The blasphemer! Yes,' said Lepidus, with pious wrath, 'no wonder that one
of the decurions was, but two days ago, struck dead by lightning in a serene
sky.' The gods feel vengeance against Pompeii while the vile desecrator is
alive within its walls.'
'Yet so lenient was the senate, that had he but expressed his penitence, and
scattered a few grains of incense on the altar of Cybele, he would have been
let off. I doubt whether these Nazarenes, had they the state religion,
would be as tolerant to us, supposing we had kicked down the image of their
Deity, blasphemed their rites, and denied their faith.'
'They give Glaucus one chance, in consideration of the circumstances; they
allow him, against the lion, the use of the same stilus wherewith he smote
'Hast thou seen the lion? hast thou looked at his teeth and fangs, and wilt
thou call that a chance? Why, sword and buckler would be mere reed and
papyrus against the rush of the mighty beast! No, I think the true mercy
has been, not to leave him long in suspense; and it was therefore fortunate
for him that our benign laws are slow to pronounce, but swift to execute;
and that the games of the amphitheatre had been, by a sort of providence, so
long since fixed for to-morrow. He who awaits death, dies twice.'
'As for the Atheist, said Clodius, 'he is to cope the grim tiger
naked-handed. Well, these combats are past betting on. Who will take the
odds?' A peal of laughter announced the ridicule of the question.
'Poor Clodius!' said the host; I to lose a friend is something; but to find
no one to bet on the chance of his escape is a worse misfortune to thee.'
'Why, it is provoking; it would have been some consolation to him and to me
to think he was useful to the last.'