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Marcus Aurelius
by [?]

One visitor of note was a man by the name of Aurelius Antoninus. He was about forty years old as Marcus first remembered him–tall and straight, with a full, dark beard, and short, curly hair touched with gray. He was a quiet, self-contained man, and at first little Marcus was a bit afraid of him. Aurelius Antoninus had been a soldier, but he showed such a studious mind, and was so intent on doing the right thing that he was made an under-secretary, then private secretary to the Emperor, and finally he had been sent away to govern a rebellious province, and put down mutiny by wise diplomacy instead of by force of arms.

Aurelius Antoninus was inclined towards the Stoics, although he didn’t talk much about it. He usually ate but two meals a day, worked with the servants, and wrote this in his diary, “Men are made for each other: even the inferior for the superior, and these for the sake of one another.”

This philosophy of the Stoics rather appealed to the widow Lucilla, also, and she read Zeno with Aurelius Antoninus. Verus did not object to it–he had been a soldier and knew the advantages of doing without things and of being able to make the things you needed, and of living simply and being plain and direct in all your acts and speech. But Faustina laughed at it all–to her it was preposterous that one should wear plain clothing and no jewelry when he could buy the costliest and best; and why one should eschew wine and meat and live on brown bread and fruit and cold water, when he could just as well have spiced and costly dishes–all this was clear beyond her. Various fetes and banquets were given by Faustina, to which the young nobles were invited. She was a beautiful woman and never for a moment forgot it, and by some mistake or accident she got herself betrothed to three men at the same time. Two of these fought a duel and one was killed. The third man looked on and hoped both would be killed, for then he could have the woman. Faustina got this third man to challenge the survivor, and then by one of those strange somersaults of fate the unexpected occurred.

Faustina and Aurelius Antoninus were married.

It was a most queer mismating, for the man was plain, sincere and honorable, and she was almost everything else. Yet she had wit and she had beauty, and Aurelius had been living in the desert so long he imagined that all women were gentle and good. The Consul was very glad to unite his house with so fine and excellent a man as Aurelius; Lucilla cried for two days and more and little Marcus cried because his mother did, and neither cried because Faustina had gone away.

But grief is transient.

In a little over a year Antoninus and Faustina came back to Rome, and brought with them a little girl baby, Faustina Second. Marcus was very much interested in this baby, and made great plans about how they would play together when she got older.

Among other visitors at the house of the old Consul often came the Emperor himself. Hadrian and Verus were Spaniards and had been soldiers together, and now Hadrian often liked to get away from the cares of State, and in the evening hide himself from the office-seekers and flattering parasites, in the quiet villa on Mount Coelius–he liked it here even better than at his own wonderful gardens at Tivoli. And little Marcus wasn’t afraid of him, either. Marcus would sit on the Emperor’s knee and listen to tales about hunting wild boars and bears, or men as wild. Then they would play tag or I-spy among the bushes and trees; and once Marcus dared the Emperor to climb the long ladder to the lookout in the big cedar. Hadrian accepted the challenge and climbed to the crow’s-nest and cut his initials in the trunk of the tree.