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The Death of Virginia

The next day, at the appointed hour, the client appeared before Appius Claudius, and claimed Virginia as his property, saying that her mother had once been his slave. Now this was not true, and Virginia's uncle protested against such a judgment; but Appius declared at once that the girl must go with the client. He said this because he had arranged that the man should give Virginia to him; and he fancied that no one would guess his motive or dare to resist.

The client laid hands upon the unwilling Virginia, and was about to drag her away by force, when her unfortunate father appeared. Breathless with the haste he had made to reach Rome in time to save his child, he began to plead with Appius Claudius to set her free. He soon saw, however, that all his prayers were vain, and that in spite of all he could say or do his daughter would be taken away from him, and given over to the mercy of those wicked men.

In his despair, he now asked that he might, at least, be allowed to take leave of Virginia, and he sadly led her to one side. He knew that none of the spectators would have the courage to help him save her, and that death was far better than the life which awaited her in the house of Appius Claudius. All at once, he caught up a knife from a neighboring butcher's shop, and stabbed her to the heart, saying:

"Dear little daughter, only thus can I save you."

Then, drawing the bloody dagger from her breast, he rushed through the guards, who did not dare to stop him, and left Rome, vowing that he would be avenged. When he reached the army, and told his companions about the base attempt of Appius Claudius, they all swore to help him, and marched towards Rome.

The decemvirs had not expected a revolt, and had made no preparations to defend the city. The army therefore marched in unhindered, and Appius was flung into prison. There he was found soon after, strangled to death; but no one ever took the trouble to inquire how this accident had happened.

The decemvirs were now entirely set aside, and the government was restored as it had been before; but the brazen tablets remained, and the laws which the tyrants had chosen continued to be enforced, because they were, in general, good and just for all the people.