“As General Paulinus crouched over the fire on a dismal afternoon that was a perfect match for his spirits, he looked for solace in The Aeneid. Two hundred years earlier, Cato called for the destruction of Carthage on the grounds that the rebellious nation would never accept Roman rule. He wondered if the stern old censor felt as badly about the Carthaginian slaughter, as he did about massacring the Iceni. He glanced up as Reggie came in. “Didn’t Pollux tell you to use the slave’s entrance?”
“Yes, but I forgot."
The General cocked an eyebrow at her. “I forgot, Your Excellency.” With that curt reprimand the General went back to the Punic Wars.
Ten minutes passed but it seemed much longer to Reggie. Unaware she was not permitted to break the silence, she asked him if there was anything he wanted her to do. Paulinus put down the scroll. “Don’t speak without leave,” he said sternly.
Please forgive me.” She gave a nervous laugh. “You see I’ve never been a slave before."
The General’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you’d lost your memory.”
Reggie searched the floor, avoiding eye contact with the General. “Er, yes ... I have.”
“Well how do you know you weren’t a slave?”
Reggie lifted her head and stared helplessly into his penetrating eyes. Finally she said, “I don’t.”
“I understand this condition arose as the result of a bump on the head?”
“That’s correct, Your Excellency.”
“Hmm!” Paulinus paused to roll the long scroll of papyrus onto the left-hand stick. After he’d placed the hand-copied volume in its storage box, he said, “Do you think a smack round the ears might help in its recovery, because I am tempted to give it a try.”
Reggie forgot she was pretending to be a boy and her post-modern feminist sensitivities appeared along with two red spots on her indignant cheeks. “Don’t you dare,” she said, gritting her teeth.
The General, chosen to govern Briton on the strength of his record for subduing troublesome colonies, was rendered speechless. To make things worse by the time he’d decided to carry out his threat, he was interrupted by a sharp rap on the door. “I hope,” he said resuming his seat, “you are capable of answering the door?”
A relieved smile touched Reggie’s mouth. “Yes, Your Excellency.”
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