374 VIRGILIUS THE SORCERER
A week or two passed by, and once more they appeared in the senate house.
' O, noble lords !' said they, ' last night in a vision we beheld twelve casks of gold lying under the foundation stone of the Capitol, on which stands the statue of the Preservation of Rome. Now, seeing that by your goodness we have been greatly enriched by our former dreams, we wish, in gratitude, to bestow this third treasure on you for your own profit; so give us workers, and we will begin to dig without delay.'
And receiving permission they began to dig, and when the messengers had almost undermined the Capitol they stole away as secretly as they had come.
And next morning the stone gave way, and the sacred statue fell on its face and was broken. And the senators knew that their greed had been their ruin.
From that day things went from bad to worse, and every morning crowds presented themselves before the emperor, complaining of the robberies, murders, and other crimes that were committed nightly in the streets.
The emperor, desiring nothing so much as the safety of his subjects, took counsel with Virgilius how this violence could be put down.
Virgilius thought hard for a long time, and then he spoke:
'Great prince,'said he, 'cause a copper horse and rider to be made, and stationed in front of the Capitol. Then make a proclamation that at ten o'clock a bell will toll, and every man is to enter his house, and not leave it again.'
The emperor did as Virgilius advised, but thieves and murderers laughed at the horse, and went about their misdeeds as usual.
But at the last stroke of the bell the horse set off at full gallop through the streets of Rome, and by daylight men counted over two hundred corpses that it had trodden down. The rest of the thieves — and there were still many remaining — instead of being