Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago - Julia D. Cowles

The Return to Rome

"The farm is nice, but it will seem good to be at home again," said Terentia to her mother, as they entered the carriage which stood waiting.

It would take two days to make the journey back to the city, and they were to stop over night at the home of Perseus, a friend of Gaius, as they on their way to the farm.

Perseus, with his family, always stayed at the home of Gaius when in Rome, and the exchange of visits was enjoyed by all.

The children were quite excited at the novelty of the journey. Gaius and Marcus were to ride on horseback. Lucius was to ride in the carriage with his mother and sisters, but he wished with all his heart that he were old enough to mount a horse and ride beside his father and Marcus.

The carriage had no seats, but was supplied with many soft pillows upon which they were to recline.

The family goods were made up into packs, which were carried on the backs of mules. Altogether, they formed quite a little caravan, and the children thought it almost as good as one of the gay processions of the city.

Lucius, who liked to "make believe," declared that his father was a great general returning from war. Marcus was his chief officer, the family slaves were those that had been captured by Gaius in a great battle, while the mules with their packs bore the spoils that had been taken—the gold and silver vessels, the rich silks and embroideries, and the massive armor of the conquered generals.

"And what are we?" asked Terentia laughing.

"We? Oh," added Lucius readily, "Mamma is a noble princess that Gaius, the general, met and married; you girls are her handmaidens, and I—oh," ended Lucius with a laugh, "I am her slave," and he flung his arms impetuously about her neck, while Gaia gathered him into her arms.

"Slaves don't do that!" said Terentia.

The road that they travelled that day was a quiet one. Now and then a foot-runner, or a messenger on horseback would meet them, or they would be passed by a two-wheeled cart with a high seat and a single horse to draw it.

After several hours of travelling, the children grew tired, and then Gaia read a story to them, and played games with them.

At noon it was like a delightful picnic, for then they all rested beside the road, while the slaves served the food which had been prepared at the farm.

Late in the afternoon, they passed one of the roadside inns or taverns, which had a sign in the form of a stork hanging before the door. In the doorway stood the keeper of the inn, who called lustily to Gaius to stop over night with him, and promised all sorts of comfortable beds and board, for a reasonable sum.

But Gaius paid no attention to the innkeeper, for the taverns of that day were used mostly by foot-runners and messengers, and they were neither comfortable nor clean.

The home of Perseus was but a little farther on, and at his door the family caravan halted.

Perseus bade them welcome, and in a little while the children of the two families were playing together about the beautiful fountain in the open court, and talking of games, and of school, which would so soon begin again.

Gaia and the wife of Perseus talked of household affairs, and of the life upon the farm; while Gaius and Perseus discussed the recent wars, and the grave affairs of the state.

The home of Perseus was very large and very beautiful, but although he was a man of wealth and had many slaves, he chose to live outside the city, and to carry on his own farm.

Gaius and his family were so pleasantly entertained, that all were sorry when the time came for them to resume their journey the next day.