Excerpt, from Chapter 7: Siege and Speech

Now, I am not trying to boast about what happened.  I would be the first one to admit, if you asked me in private, that I didn't do much that morning.  But when I saw the baker's body fall and I heard them saying "Hello there" on the other side of that front door I felt the blood thumping up to my brain and I realized, "Aulus, now you find out if you're a Roman like your father.  Are you going to faint, or are you going to stand there and keep on talking?"    
   There were only two men with me, the guards.  They had their axes, and also the heavy javelins that soldiers use.  They didn't know what had happened.  I stepped two paces back to join them and whispered, "Get your weapons ready."  But I was indeed afraid.  I had come to Rome hoping I might, after all, see gladiators in the arena; I never dreamed I would be fighting them myself.    
   Behind us in the house I could hear Tullia calling out to watch the side door.   She was stationing men at the back of the house.  But where were the others she had promised, the reinforcements?  How long could the wooden bolt hope to keep them out?
   It was up to me to speak.  I spoke.  "And let me wish you a good morning, gentlemen.  May I ask who we have the pleasure of welcoming this morning?"
   Two men gave their names: a Senator and a Roman knight, the same ones who had volunteered at Volturcius' house.  There was a note of impatience in their voices.  
   "And you're here to speak with Marcus Tullius Cicero, I understand?"  That was my question; but surely they would grasp that I was stalling?
   "That's right, just like we said.  Don't be rude now.  Let us in, and fetch your master."
   "May I ask how many have come with you?  We would like to offer you some small refreshment."  I was running out of ideas.  It would have been the height of rudeness to keep a Senator waiting in the street, normally.
   "Just ourselves and our secretaries, naturally.  Political business.  Now, when will you open this door, slave?"
   At that moment Tullia came up.  She had four more guards with her.  I drew my finger across my throat to show that I was speaking to the would-be murderers.  But she was never one to back off.
   "This is Tullia, the Consul's daughter," she called out.  "I am sorry to keep you waiting, gentlemen.  We are somewhat slow this morning.  Surely you wouldn't like to embarrass a young woman who is fixing her hair?"
   I grabbed a javelin from one of the guards.  The little farce could not last long.
   "We can wait inside, madam.  It's cold out here."
   "I assure you," she answered, "it is just as cold in here."
   "Then we won't wait at all!" the Roman knight shouted, losing his temper.  He barked an order and straightaway the iron doors gave a groan as the weight of five gladiators slammed against them . . .