TARPEIA





There was once a girl named Tarpeia, whose father was guard of the outer

gate of the citadel of Rome. It was a time of war,--the Sabines were

besieging the city. Their camp was close outside the city wall.



Tarpeia used to see the Sabine soldiers when she went to draw water from

the public well, for that was outside the gate. And sometimes she stayed

about and let the strange men talk with her, because she liked to look at

their bright silver ornaments. The Sabine soldiers wore heavy silver

rings and bracelets on their left arms,--some wore as many as four or

five.



The soldiers knew she was the daughter of the keeper of the citadel, and

they saw that she had greedy eyes for their ornaments. So day by day they

talked with her, and showed her their silver rings, and tempted her. And

at last Tarpeia made a bargain, to betray her city to them. She said she

would unlock the great gate and let them in, _if they would give her what

they wore on their left arms._



The night came. When it was perfectly dark and still, Tarpeia stole from

her bed, took the great key from its place, and silently unlocked the gate

which protected the city. Outside, in the dark, stood the soldiers of the

enemy, waiting. As she opened the gate, the long shadowy files pressed

forward silently, and the Sabines entered the citadel.



As the first man came inside, Tarpeia stretched forth her hand for her

price. The soldier lifted high his left arm. "Take thy reward!" he said,

and as he spoke he hurled upon her that which he wore upon it. Down upon

her head crashed--not the silver rings of the soldier, but the great brass

shield he carried in battle!



She sank beneath it, to the ground.



"Take thy reward," said the next; and his shield rang against the first.



"Thy reward," said the next--and the next--and the next--and the next;

every man wore his shield on his left arm.



So Tarpeia lay buried beneath the reward she had claimed, and the Sabines

marched past her dead body, into the city she had betrayed.





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