47. Actually they had already left the church, and a shameful reception awaited them outside. The rabble made fun of them, naturally enough under the circumstances. Sometimes the insults were tempered with laughter, but malice inspired others.

Anyhow, they brought them out, intending to drive them through the centre of the city, but they had not gone far on the journey when they were encountered by the man who had been commanded to blind the two miscreants. His party showed their instructions to the mob and they proceeded to prepare for the execution and sharpen the iron for the branding.

Meanwhile the victims heard what wretched fate was in store for them. There was no longer any hope of escape, for while some applauded the sentence, the others did nothing to oppose it, and the two were instantly struck dumb with fright. In fact, they would have nearly died, had not one of the senators stood by them to help. He offered consolation in their misery and little by little restored some courage in their hearts.

Whole time of his tribulation

48. In spite of this encouragement, the emperor, overwhelmed by the situation and his wretched misfortunes, showed the same weakness of character throughout the whole time of his tribulation. He moaned and wailed aloud. Whenever anyone approached him, he begged for help. He humbly called upon God, raised hands in supplication to Heaven, to the church, to any other thing he could think of.

His uncle, on the other hand, although at first he followed his companion’s example, once he was convinced that safety really was out of the question, braced himself for the trial, and having armed himself, as it were, against the shock of catastrophe, he faced suffering bravely.

The fact is, he was a man of more dignified and steadfast character than his nephew, a man who would not willingly surrender to adverse fortune. Seeing the executioners all ready for their work, he at once offered himself as the first victim and calmly approached them, waiting with hands athirst for his blood.

And as there was no clear space between himself and the mob — for everyone there present wished to be the first witness of their punishment — the Nobilissimus quietly looked round for the man to whom the miserable job had been entrusted. ‘You there,’ he said, ‘please make the people stand back. Then you will see how bravely I bear my calamity!’

Read More about The Man and the Snake part 2

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