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Petronius Maximus, a wealthy senator of the Anician family, who had been twice consul, was possessed of a chaste and beautiful wife: her obstinate resistance served only to irritate the desires of Valentinian; and he resolved to accomplish them, either by stratagem or force.

And in that exclamation there was as much sincerity as flattery; for Petronius, though older and less athletic, was more beautiful than even Vinicius. The women of Rome admired not only his pliant mind and his taste, which gained for him the title Arbiter elegantiæ, but also his body.

And he began to tremble so that the guests sitting nearer burst into loud laughter. FOR some time Vinicius had spent his nights away from home. It occurred to Petronius that perhaps he had formed a new plan, and was working to liberate Lygia from the Esquiline dungeon; he did not wish, however, to inquire about anything, lest he might bring misfortune to the work.

"Or exhibiting learned monkeys, calculating dogs, or a flute-playing ass," added Petronius. "That is true, but let us speak of something more important. Summon thy attention and listen. I have said on the Palatine that thou art ill, unable to leave the house; still thy name is on the list, which proves that some one does not credit my stories and has seen to this purposely.

Tigellinus himself lost his head, and hesitated whether or not to yield as conquered, for Cæsar had said repeatedly that in all Rome and in his court there were only two spirits capable of understanding each other, two real Hellenes, he and Petronius. The amazing dexterity of Petronius confirmed people in the conviction that his influence would outlive every other.

He spoke so openly that Petronius, though his friend, began to be cautious. Scevinus complained that the world was living madly and unjustly, that all must end in some catastrophe more dreadful still than the burning of Rome.

"The gods have given me a little talent," said he, "but they have given me something greater, a true judge and friend, the only man able to speak the truth to my eyes." Then he stretched his fat hand, grown over with reddish hair, to a golden candelabrum plundered from Delphi, to burn the verses. But Petronius seized them before the flame touched the paper.

"This, that I wish no other love. I have no wish for your life, your feasts, your shamelessness, your crimes!" "What is taking place in thee? Art thou a Christian?" The young man seized his head with both hands, and repeated, as if in despair, "Not yet! not yet!" PETRONIUS went home shrugging his shoulders and greatly dissatisfied.

I doubt whether at present such facts as those given by Petronius, in an extract from the latter, would now be permitted to be published. However, we know that Augustus prohibited the "Acta Diurna," and the "Diario Romano" exists still; so that some progress has been made. And it must be confessed that Tuscany is scarcely in advance of Rome in this respect; and Naples is behind both.

"Life deserves laughter, hence people laugh at it," answered Petronius, "but laughter here has another sound." "Petronius does not laugh for days in succession," said Vinicius; "but then he laughs entire nights."