“If I could persuade myself it is but a mistake, I would not be afraid.”

“A crime then- or, worse, a breach of duty. Thou mayst laugh at Caesar, or curse the gods, and live; but if the offence be to the eagles- ah, thou knowest, Gesius- go on!”

“It is now about eight years since Valerius Gratus selected me to be keeper of prisoners here in the Tower,” said the man, deliberately. “I remember the morning I entered upon the duties of my office. There had been a riot the day before, and fighting in the streets. We slew many Jews, and suffered on our side. The affair came, it was said, of an attempt to assassinate Gratus, who had been knocked from his horse by a tile thrown from a roof. I found him sitting where you now sit, O tribune, his head swathed in bandages. He told me of my selection, and gave me these keys, numbered to correspond with the numbers of the cells; they were the badges of my office, he said, and not to be parted with. There was a roll of parchment on the table. Calling me to him, he opened the roll. ‘Here are maps of the cells,’ said he. There were three of them. ‘This one,’ he went on, ‘shows the arrangement of the upper floor; this second one gives you the second floor; and this last is of the lower floor. I give them to you in trust.’ I took them from his hand, and he said, further, ‘Now you have the keys and the maps; go immediately, and acquaint yourself with the whole arrangement; visit each cell, and see to its condition. When anything is needed for the security of a prisoner, order it according to your judgment, for you are the master under me, and no other.”

“I saluted him, and turned to go away; he called me back. ‘Ah, I forgot,’ he said. ‘Give me the map of the third floor.’ I gave it to him, and he spread it upon the table. ‘Here, Gesius,’ he said, ‘see this cell.’ He laid his finger on the one numbered V. ‘There are three men confined in that cell, desperate characters, who by some means got hold of a state secret, and suffer for their curiosity, which’- he looked at me severely- ‘in such matters is worse than a crime. Accordingly, they are blind and tongueless, and are placed there for life. They shall have nothing but food and drink, to be given them through a hole, which you will find in the wall covered by a slide. Do you hear, Gesius?’ I made him answer. ‘It is well,’ he continued. ‘One thing more which you shall not forget, or’- he looked at me threateningly- ‘The door of their cell- cell number V. on the same floor- this one, Gesius’- he put his finger on the particular cell to impress my memory- ‘shall never be opened for any purpose, neither to let one in nor out, not even yourself.’ ‘But if they die?’ I asked. ‘If they die,’ he said, ‘the cell shall be their tomb. They were put there to die, and be lost. The cell is leprous. Do you understand?’ With that he let me go.”