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مجموعه: کتاب های فوق متوسط / کتاب: گلادیاتور / درس 11

کتاب های فوق متوسط

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  • زمان مطالعه 11 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

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Chapter 10 Secrets and Lies

Commodus walked up and down in his room. He was a worried man. There was one other person with him: Senator Falco.

“An emperor cannot rule if he is not loved!” Commodus said to Falco. “And now they love Maximus because he let Tigris live.

I can’t kill him now or they will hate me. But I can’t just let him continue like this—every day he adds another insult. It’s like a bad dream.”

“Every day his power is greater,” said Falco. “And the people are getting braver. The Senate sees it, too. This is not something that will go away in a few days or weeks. Rome is beginning to move against you. He must die.”

“Then they will love him even more!” shouted Commodus.

He began walking again and soon he was calmer. “When I went to the Senate today,” he said, “I purposely told them about selling the wheat to pay for the games. And what happened?” “Nothing,” said Falco.

“Exactly! Nothing!” said Commodus. “Even Gracchus was as silent as a mouse. Why?” He stopped and looked out his window over Rome.

“We must be quiet and patient, Caesar. We must let the enemy come to us,” said Falco.

Commodus began to relax a little. “Have every senator followed,” he ordered. “I want daily reports.”

It was easy to find Lucilla, but much harder to speak to her. For two days Cicero stayed in the streets around the palace. Finally, he was lucky. Lucilla’s carriage came toward him, surrounded by royal guards. There were two other men following her carriage— but they were not in uniform. One, a small man, was blind in one eye. He was one of Falco’s secret police. He had been very good at watching senators, but now he had been given a different job.

He was watching Lucilla.

As the carriage passed, Cicero called out, “My lady! I served your father at Vindobona!” Lucilla heard but did not pay him much attention. The guards pushed him away, and he ran around to the other side of the carriage. “And I served General Maximus!” he said, when he got close enough.

Lucilla called for her carriage to stop. She asked her servant for a coin and held it out to Cicero. “And I serve him still,” he said, as he came closer to take it.

Lucilla understood at once that he was a messenger. She told her guards to step back. “This is for your loyalty, soldier,” she said.

Cicero took the coin and kissed her hand. He whispered, “A message from the General. He’ll meet your politician.” It was enough. Cicero stepped back into the crowd, and Lucilla’s carriage moved on.

Proximo’s school was dark and quiet. The men were all asleep, except one. Proximo went quietly to wake Maximus and then took him to his own rooms.

Lucilla and Gracchus were there, waiting for Maximus.

Proximo turned and left immediately. Lucilla introduced Gracchus to Maximus.

“The Senate is with you?” asked Maximus.

“The Senate? Yes, I can speak for them,” Gracchus replied.

“Can you buy my freedom and get me out of Rome?” asked Maximus, wasting no time.

“Why would I do that?”

“Get me out of the city. Have fresh horses ready to take me to Ostia. My army is camped there. By the second night, I’ll be back with 5,000 men,” said Maximus.

“But there are new commanders,” said Lucilla. “Loyal to Commodus.”

“Let my men see me alive. They are still loyal to me.” “This is crazy,” said Gracchus. “No Roman army has entered the city in 100 years. This may be no better than the rule of Commodus. And what next? After the battle to take control of Rome you’ll take your men and just . . . leave?” “I will leave,” said Maximus. “The soldiers will stay to protect you, under the command of the Senate.”

“When all of Rome is yours, you’ll just give it back to the people?” asked Gracchus. “Tell me why.”

“Because that was the last wish of a dying man,” said Maximus, quietly. “I will kill Commodus and leave Rome to you.” There was silence, then Gracchus spoke again. “Marcus Aurelius trusted you, his daughter trusts you. So I will trust you, too. Give me two days.” He held out his hand to Maximus. “And stay alive.”

In his beautiful house Senator Gracchus listened to the cheers coming from the Colosseum. His servant helped him pack a large amount of money into a bag.

“Wait outside the Colosseum. He’ll come to you,” he told the man.

Gracchus’s servant left the house and walked toward the Colosseum. All the way he was followed by one of Falco’s secret police.

Proximo sat in a café and waited. He seemed to be watching the crowd passing, but really he was looking for Gracchus’s servant. He knew immediately when he saw him, but just continued drinking his wine. He looked up and down the street.

Suddenly, he saw a man standing by a door and he did not like the look of him. It was Falco’s one-eyed secret policeman.

Gracchus’s servant stood patiently for a long time with his bag of money, but no one came to him. In the café Proximo’s table was now empty. He knew when to disappear.

Maximus was brought to Proximo’s room by two guards just after sunset. He was impatient, ready to start. Proximo looked at Maximus and shook his head. “I tried,” he said. “It won’t work.

The Emperor knows too much. And this has become too dangerous for me.”

“Let me go,” said Maximus, “and you’ll be paid when I return.

I promise you.”

“And what will happen if you don’t return?” asked Proximo.

“Trust me—I will kill Commodus,” said Maximus.

Proximo looked hard at Maximus, studying him.

“I know I can trust you, General,” he said. “I know you would die for honor, or for Rome, or the memory of your family. I, on the other hand, am just an entertainer.” He called for his guards.

“Take him away.”

Maximus looked straight into Proximo’s eyes. “He killed the man who freed you,” he said.

After Maximus had gone, Proximo picked up the wooden sword that Marcus Aurelius had given him, the sign of his freedom. And he thought for a long time.

Falco’s spies were good at their job. They had followed Gracchus and the other senators, then Lucilla, and now Proximo. Lucilla knew their lives were in great danger and she tried to keep her brother calm.

Maximus also knew it. Commodus would come for him soon, he was certain. In the dark of night in his prison room, he suddenly heard footsteps coming toward him.

It was Proximo. He woke Juba and threw him out. Then he turned to Maximus. “Congratulations, General,” he said. “You have very good friends.” He stepped back and Lucilla came into the room. Proximo left them together.

“My brother plans to put Gracchus in prison,” she said. “We can’t wait any longer. You must leave tonight. Proximo will come for you at midnight and take you to a gate. Cicero will be there with horses.”

“You’ve done all this? You’re very brave, Lucilla.” “I am tired of being brave,” she said. “My brother hates everyone—and you most of all.”

“Because your father chose me.”

“No,” she said. “Because my father loved you . . . and I loved you.”

Maximus took her hands in his.

“I’ve felt alone all my life—except with you,” she said.

She turned to go, but Maximus held her and they kissed. It was their first kiss for many years, and, for a short time, they rested in each other’s arms.

They separated, with one last look, and Lucilla went quickly back into the dark night.

Back in the palace, Lucilla hurried to her son’s bedroom. She looked around and called to the servant. “Where is Lucius?” “He’s with the Emperor, my lady,” she replied Lucilla rushed down the palace halls, looking in all the rooms she passed. Finally, in great fear, she opened her brother’s door.

Commodus and Lucius were sitting together, looking at some papers. “Sister, come and join us,” said Commodus, smiling. A frightening smile. “I’ve been reading to dear Lucius about the great Julius Caesar.” He took Lucius on his knee. “And tomorrow, if you’re very good, I’ll tell you the story of the Emperor Claudius,” he said. Commodus looked right into Lucilla’s eyes. “He trusted the people closest to him, but they didn’t deserve his trust.” Lucilla felt faint. She sat down opposite them.

“The Emperor knew they had been very busy, planning against him,” Commodus went on, watching his sister’s terror all the time. “And one night he sat down with one of them and said to her, ‘Tell me what you have planned, or I shall kill the person you love the most. You will see me wash in their blood.” Lucilla kept her eyes on her son, and a tear ran down her face.

“And the Emperor’s heart was broken because she had wounded him more than anyone else could. And what do you think happened next, Lucius?”

“I don’t know, Uncle,” said Lucius, nervously “She told him everything,” Commodus said.

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