“The State,” he said, speaking at least as haughtily as Dea Flavia herself, “hath agreed to accept the sum of twenty aurei for this slave. ‘Tis too late now to make further bids for her.”
But a pair of large blue eyes, cold as the waters of the Tiber and like unto them mysterious and elusive, were turned fully on the speaker.
“Too late didst thou say, oh Taurus Antinor?” said Dea Flavia raising her pencilled eyebrows with a slight expression of scorn, “nay! I had not seen the hammer descend! The girl until then is not sold, and open to the highest bidder. Or am I wrong, O praefect, in thus interpreting the laws of Rome?”
“This is an exceptional case, Augusta,” he retorted curtly.
“Then wilt thou expound to me that law which deals with such exceptional cases?” she rejoined with the same ill-concealed tone of gentle irony. “I had never heard of it; so I pray thee enlighten mine ignorance. Of a truth thou must know the law, since thou didst swear before the altar of the gods to uphold it with all thy might.”
“‘Tis not a case of law, Augusta, but one of pity.”
The praefect, feeling no doubt the weakness of any argument which aimed at coercing this daughter of the Cæsars, prompted too by his innate respect of the law which he administered, thought it best to retreat from his position of haughty arrogance and to make an appeal, since obviously he could not command. Dea Flavia was quick to note this change of attitude, and her delicate lips parted in a contemptuous smile.
“Dost administer pity as well as law, O Taurus Antinor?” she asked coldly. – Summary from the book
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