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258

(1887) [MARC] Author: Viktor Rydberg Translator: Alfred Corning Clark With: Hans Anton Westesson Lindehn
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258 ROMAN DAYS,
tors. She did not, however, belong to their class ; for
she wore a simple dress, and her features still showed the
innocence of childhood. Her great black eyes looked
with astonishment upon all around her.
" How fair she is !
" cried Nero ;
" ’tis a dryad from
the woods of Ida. Girl, come hither !
"
The emperor beckoned her to him. She came.
" What wilt thou, Caesar ? " she asked.
’’
What is thy name, child ?
"
" I am called Picerna."
"Who is thy father?"
" My father is a soldier—a centurion. But wilt thou,
too, answer a question ?
"
" A thousand, from thy lips !
"
" Art thou right, Caisar, or is my father ?
"
" In what way, then, do mine and thy father’s thoughts
differ?"
" Thou sayest that there is no more than one virtue,
sincerity. My father has spoken to me of many virtues ;
and among them, of love of country; of fealty to the
flag, and to the oath, the soldier swears to Caesar; of the
warrior’s courage to die upon his shield. Caesar, if thou
hold these virtues to be vices, then declare it, openly, to
those who now submit to privation and death for thee
!
"
Nero was silent, and grew pale. He saw that the
maiden’s eyes expressed pity for the tyrant of the world
;
and he was ready to throw himself into the dust before
her.
Picerna turned, and went. When she had come to
her lonely and poverty-stricken home, she burst into
tears. The poor girl had received a wound in the heart.
She had read on the emperor’s yet beautiful features,
the surprise of modesty ; and this truly incredible revela-

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