The Last Days of Pompeii
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Part 3 out of 9
'Give me my slave!' shrieked the virago, placing her mighty grasp on the
breast of the Greek.
'Not if all your sister Furies could help you,' answered Glaucus. 'Fear
not, sweet Nydia; an Athenian never forsook distress!'
'Holla!' said Burbo, rising reluctantly, 'What turmoil is all this about a
slave? Let go the young gentleman, wife--let him go: for his sake the pert
thing shall be spared this once.' So saying, he drew, or rather dragged off,
his ferocious help-mate.
'Methought when we entered,' said Clodius, 'there was another man present?'
'He is gone.'
For the priest of Isis had indeed thought it high time to vanish.
'Oh, a friend of mine! a brother cupman, a quiet dog, who does not love
these snarlings,' said Burbo, carelessly. 'But go, child, you will tear the
gentleman's tunic if you cling to him so tight; go, you are pardoned.'
'Oh, do not--do not forsake me!' cried Nydia, clinging yet closer to the
Moved by her forlorn situation, her appeal to him, her own innumerable and
touching graces, the Greek seated himself on one of the rude chairs. He
held her on his knees--he wiped the blood from her shoulders with his long
hair--he kissed the tears from her cheeks--he whispered to her a thousand of
those soothing words with which we calm the grief of a child--and so
beautiful did he seem in his gentle and consoling task, that even the fierce
heart of Stratonice was touched. His presence seemed to shed light over
that base and obscene haunt--young, beautiful, glorious, he was the emblem
of all that earth made most happy, comforting one that earth had abandoned!
'Well, who could have thought our blind Nydia had been so honored!' said the
virago, wiping her heated brow.
Glaucus looked up at Burbo.
'My good man,' said he, 'this is your slave; she sings well, she is
accustomed to the care of flowers--I wish to make a present of such a slave
to a lady. Will you sell her to me?' As he spoke he felt the whole frame of
the poor girl tremble with delight; she started up, she put her disheveled
hair from her eyes, she looked around, as if, alas, she had the power to
'Sell our Nydia! no, indeed,' said Stratonice, gruffly.
Nydia sank back with a long sigh, and again clasped the robe of her
'Nonsense!' said Clodius, imperiously: 'you must oblige me. What, man! what,
old dame! offend me, and your trade is ruined. Is not Burbo my kinsman
Pansa's client? Am I not the oracle of the amphitheatre and its heroes? If
I say the word, break up your wine-jars--you sell no more. Glaucus, the
slave is yours.'
Burbo scratched his huge head, in evident embarrassment.
'The girl is worth her weight in gold to me.'
'Name your price, I am rich,' said Glaucus.
The ancient Italians were like the modern, there was nothing they would not
sell, much less a poor blind girl.
'I paid six sestertia for her, she is worth twelve now,' muttered
'You shall have twenty; come to the magistrates at once, and then to my
house for your money.'
'I would not have sold the dear girl for a hundred but to oblige noble
Clodius,' said Burbo, whiningly. 'And you will speak to Pansa about the
place of designator at the amphitheatre, noble Clodius? it would just suit
'Thou shalt have it,' said Clodius; adding in a whisper to Burbo, 'Yon Greek
can make your fortune; money runs through him like a sieve: mark to-day with
white chalk, my Priam.'
'An dabis?' said Glaucus, in the formal question of sale and barter.
'Dabitur,' answered Burbo.
'Then, then, I am to go with you--with you? O happiness!' murmured Nydia.
'Pretty one, yes; and thy hardest task henceforth shall be to sing thy
Grecian hymns to the loveliest lady in Pompeii.'
The girl sprang from his clasp; a change came over her whole face, bright
the instant before; she sighed heavily, and then once more taking his hand,
'I thought I was to go to your house?'
'And so thou shalt for the present; come, we lose time.'
THE RIVAL OF GLAUCUS PRESSES ONWARD IN THE RACE.
IONE was one of those brilliant characters which, but once or twice, flash
across our career. She united in the highest perfection the rarest of
earthly gifts--Genius and Beauty. No one ever possessed superior
intellectual qualities without knowing them--the alliteration of modesty and
merit is pretty enough, but where merit is great, the veil of that modesty
you admire never disguises its extent from its possessor. It is the proud
consciousness of certain qualities that it cannot reveal to the everyday
world, that gives to genius that shy, and reserved, and troubled air, which
puzzles and flatters you when you encounter it.
Ione, then, knew her genius; but, with that charming versatility that
belongs of right to women, she had the faculty so few of a kindred genius in
the less malleable sex can claim--the faculty to bend and model her graceful
intellect to all whom it encountered. The sparkling fountain threw its
waters alike upon the strand, the cavern, and the flowers; it refreshed, it
smiled, it dazzled everywhere. That pride, which is the necessary result of
superiority, she wore easily--in her breast it concentred itself in
independence. She pursued thus her own bright and solitary path. She asked
no aged matron to direct and guide her--she walked alone by the torch of her
own unflickering purity. She obeyed no tyrannical and absolute custom. She
moulded custom to her own will, but this so delicately and with so feminine
a grace, so perfect an exemption from error, that you could not say she
outraged custom but commanded it. The wealth of her graces was
inexhaustible--she beautified the commonest action; a word, a look from her,
seemed magic. Love her, and you entered into a new world, you passed from
this trite and commonplace earth. You were in a land in which your eyes saw
everything through an enchanted medium. In her presence you felt as if
listening to exquisite music; you were steeped in that sentiment which has
so little of earth in it, and which music so well inspires--that
intoxication which refines and exalts, which seizes, it is true, the senses,
but gives them the character of the soul.
She was peculiarly formed, then, to command and fascinate the less ordinary
and the bolder natures of men; to love her was to unite two passions, that
of love and of ambition--you aspired when you adored her. It was no wonder
that she had completely chained and subdued the mysterious but burning soul
of the Egyptian, a man in whom dwelt the fiercest passions. Her beauty and
her soul alike enthralled him.
Set apart himself from the common world, he loved that daringness of
character which also made itself, among common things, aloof and alone. He
did not, or he would not see, that that very isolation put her yet more from
him than from the vulgar. Far as the poles--far as the night from day, his
solitude was divided from hers. He was solitary from his dark and solemn
vices--she from her beautiful fancies and her purity of virtue.
If it was not strange that Ione thus enthralled the Egyptian, far less
strange was it that she had captured, as suddenly as irrevocably, the
bright and sunny heart of the Athenian. The gladness of a temperament which
seemed woven from the beams of light had led Glaucus into pleasure. He
obeyed no more vicious dictates when he wandered into the dissipations of
his time, than the exhilarating voices of youth and health. He threw the
brightness of his nature over every abyss and cavern through which he
strayed. His imagination dazzled him, but his heart never was corrupted.
Of far more penetration than his companions deemed, he saw that they sought
to prey upon his riches and his youth: but he despised wealth save as the
means of enjoyment, and youth was the great sympathy that united him to
them. He felt, it is true, the impulse of nobler thoughts and higher aims
than in pleasure could be indulged: but the world was one vast prison, to
which the Sovereign of Rome was the Imperial gaoler; and the very virtues,
which in the free days of Athens would have made him ambitious, in the
slavery of earth made him inactive and supine. For in that unnatural and
bloated civilization, all that was noble in emulation was forbidden.
Ambition in the regions of a despotic and luxurious court was but the
contest of flattery and craft. Avarice had become the sole ambition--men
desired praetorships and provinces only as the license to pillage, and
government was but the excuse of rapine. It is in small states that glory
is most active and pure--the more confined the limits of the circle, the
more ardent the patriotism. In small states, opinion is concentrated and
strong--every eye reads your actions--your public motives are blended with
your private ties--every spot in your narrow sphere is crowded with forms
familiar since your childhood--the applause of your citizens is like the
caresses of your friends. But in large states, the city is but the court:
the provinces--unknown to you, unfamiliar in customs, perhaps in
language--have no claim on your patriotism, the ancestry of their
inhabitants is not yours. In the court you desire favor instead of glory;
at a distance from the court, public opinion has vanished from you, and
self-interest has no counterpoise.
Italy, Italy, while I write, your skies are over me--your seas flow beneath
my feet, listen not to the blind policy which would unite all your crested
cities, mourning for their republics, into one empire; false, pernicious
delusion! your only hope of regeneration is in division. Florence, Milan,
Venice, Genoa, may be free once more, if each is free. But dream not of
freedom for the whole while you enslave the parts; the heart must be the
centre of the system, the blood must circulate freely everywhere; and in
vast communities you behold but a bloated and feeble giant, whose brain is
imbecile, whose limbs are dead, and who pays in disease and weakness the
penalty of transcending the natural proportions of health and vigour.
Thus thrown back upon themselves, the more ardent qualities of Glaucus found
no vent, save in that overflowing imagination which gave grace to pleasure,
and poetry to thought. Ease was less despicable than contention with
parasites and slaves, and luxury could yet be refined though ambition could
not be ennobled. But all that was best and brightest in his soul woke at
once when he knew Ione. Here was an empire, worthy of demigods to attain;
here was a glory, which the reeking smoke of a foul society could not soil
or dim. Love, in every time, in every state, can thus find space for its
golden altars. And tell me if there ever, even in the ages most favorable to
glory, could be a triumph more exalted and elating than the conquest of one
And whether it was that this sentiment inspired him, his ideas glowed more
brightly, his soul seemed more awake and more visible, in Ione's presence.
If natural to love her, it was natural that she should return the passion.
Young, brilliant, eloquent, enamoured, and Athenian, he was to her as the
incarnation of the poetry of her father's land. They were not like
creatures of a world in which strife and sorrow are the elements; they were
like things to be seen only in the holiday of nature, so glorious and so
fresh were their youth, their beauty, and their love. They seemed out of
place in the harsh and every-day earth; they belonged of right to the
Saturnian age, and the dreams of demigod and nymph. It was as if the poetry
of life gathered and fed itself in them, and in their hearts were
concentrated the last rays of the sun of Delos and of Greece.
But if Ione was independent in her choice of life, so was her modest pride
proportionably vigilant and easily alarmed. The falsehood of the Egyptian
was invented by a deep knowledge of her nature. The story of coarseness, of
indelicacy, in Glaucus, stung her to the quick. She felt it a reproach upon
her character and her career, a punishment above all to her love; she felt,
for the first time, how suddenly she had yielded to that love; she blushed
with shame at a weakness, the extent of which she was startled to perceive:
she imagined it was that weakness which had incurred the contempt of
Glaucus; she endured the bitterest curse of noble natures--humiliation! Yet
her love, perhaps, was no less alarmed than her pride. If one moment she
murmured reproaches upon Glaucus--if one moment she renounced, she almost
hated him--at the next she burst into passionate tears, her heart yielded to
its softness, and she said in the bitterness of anguish, 'He despises me--he
does not love me.'
From the hour the Egyptian had left her she had retired to her most secluded
chamber, she had shut out her handmaids, she had denied herself to the
crowds that besieged her door. Glaucus was excluded with the rest; he
wondered, but he guessed not why! He never attributed to his Ione--his
queen--his goddess--that woman--like caprice of which the love-poets of
Italy so unceasingly complain. He imagined her, in the majesty of her
candour, above all the arts that torture. He was troubled, but his hopes
were not dimmed, for he knew already that he loved and was beloved; what
more could he desire as an amulet against fear?
At deepest night, then, when the streets were hushed, and the high moon only
beheld his devotions, he stole to that temple of his heart--her home; and
wooed her after the beautiful fashion of his country. He covered her
threshold with the richest garlands, in which every flower was a volume of
sweet passion; and he charmed the long summer night with the sound of the
Lydian lute: and verses, which the inspiration of the moment sufficed to
But the window above opened not; no smile made yet more holy the shining air
of night. All was still and dark. He knew not if his verse was welcome and
his suit was heard.
Yet Ione slept not, nor disdained to hear. Those soft strains ascended to
her chamber; they soothed, they subdued her. While she listened, she
believed nothing against her lover; but when they were stilled at last, and
his step departed, the spell ceased; and, in the bitterness of her soul, she
almost conceived in that delicate flattery a new affront.
I said she was denied to all; but there was one exception, there was one
person who would not be denied, assuming over her actions and her house
something like the authority of a parent; Arbaces, for himself, claimed an
exemption from all the ceremonies observed by others. He entered the
threshold with the license of one who feels that he is privileged and at
home. He made his way to her solitude and with that sort of quiet and
unapologetic air which seemed to consider the right as a thing of course.
With all the independence of Ione's character, his heart had enabled him to
obtain a secret and powerful control over her mind. She could not shake it
off; sometimes she desired to do so; but she never actively struggled
against it. She was fascinated by his serpent eye. He arrested, he
commanded her, by the magic of a mind long accustomed to awe and to subdue.
Utterly unaware of his real character or his hidden love, she felt for him
the reverence which genius feels for wisdom, and virtue for sanctity. She
regarded him as one of those mighty sages of old, who attained to the
mysteries of knowledge by an exemption from the passions of their kind. She
scarcely considered him as a being, like herself, of the earth, but as an
oracle at once dark and sacred. She did not love him, but she feared. His
presence was unwelcome to her; it dimmed her spirit even in its brightest
mood; he seemed, with his chilling and lofty aspect, like some eminence
which casts a shadow over the sun. But she never thought of forbidding his
visits. She was passive under the influence which created in her breast,
not the repugnance, but something of the stillness of terror.
Arbaces himself now resolved to exert all his arts to possess himself of
that treasure he so burningly coveted. He was cheered and elated by his
conquests over her brother. From the hour in which Apaecides fell beneath
the voluptuous sorcery of that fete which we have described, he felt his
empire over the young priest triumphant and insured. He knew that there is
no victim so thoroughly subdued as a young and fervent man for the first
time delivered to the thraldom of the senses.
When Apaecides recovered, with the morning light, from the profound sleep
which succeeded to the delirium of wonder and of pleasure, he was, it is
true, ashamed--terrified--appalled. His vows of austerity and celibacy
echoed in his ear; his thirst after holiness--had it been quenched at so
unhallowed a stream? But Arbaces knew well the means by which to confirm
his conquest. From the arts of pleasure he led the young priest at once to
those of his mysterious wisdom. He bared to his amazed eyes the initiatory
secrets of the sombre philosophy of the Nile--those secrets plucked from the
stars, and the wild chemistry, which, in those days, when Reason herself was
but the creature of Imagination, might well pass for the lore of a diviner
magic. He seemed to the young eyes of the priest as a being above
mortality, and endowed with supernatural gifts. That yearning and intense
desire for the knowledge which is not of earth--which had burned from his
boyhood in the heart of the priest--was dazzled, until it confused and
mastered his clearer sense. He gave himself to the art which thus addressed
at once the two strongest of human passions, that of pleasure and that of
knowledge. He was loth to believe that one so wise could err, that one so
lofty could stoop to deceive. Entangled in the dark web of metaphysical
moralities, he caught at the excuse by which the Egyptian converted vice
into a virtue. His pride was insensibly flattered that Arbaces had deigned
to rank him with himself, to set him apart from the laws which bound the
vulgar, to make him an august participator, both in the mystic studies and
the magic fascinations of the Egyptian's solitude. The pure and stern
lessons of that creed to which Olinthus had sought to make him convert, were
swept away from his memory by the deluge of new passions. And the Egyptian,
who was versed in the articles of that true faith, and who soon learned from
his pupil the effect which had been produced upon him by its believers,
sought, not unskilfully, to undo that effect, by a tone of reasoning,
half-sarcastic and half-earnest.
'This faith,' said he, 'is but a borrowed plagiarism from one of the many
allegories invented by our priests of old. Observe,' he added, pointing to
a hieroglyphical scroll--'observe in these ancient figures the origin of the
Christian's Trinity. Here are also three gods--the Deity, the Spirit, and
the Son. Observe, that the epithet of the Son is "Saviour"--observe, that
the sign by which his human qualities are denoted is the cross.' Note here,
too, the mystic history of Osiris, how he put on death; how he lay in the
grave; and how, thus fulfilling a solemn atonement, he rose again from the
dead! In these stories we but design to paint an allegory from the
operations of nature and the evolutions of the eternal heavens. But the
allegory unknown, the types themselves have furnished to credulous nations
the materials of many creeds. They have travelled to the vast plains of
India; they have mixed themselves up in the visionary speculations of the
Greek; becoming more and more gross and embodied, as they emerge farther
from the shadows of their antique origin, they have assumed a human and
palpable form in this novel faith; and the believers of Galilee are but the
unconscious repeaters of one of the superstitions of the Nile!'
This was the last argument which completely subdued the priest. It was
necessary to him, as to all, to believe in something; and undivided and, at
last, unreluctant, he surrendered himself to that belief which Arbaces
inculcated, and which all that was human in passion--all that was flattering
in vanity--all that was alluring in pleasure, served to invite to, and
contributed to confirm.
This conquest, thus easily made, the Egyptian could now give himself wholly
up to the pursuit of a far dearer and mightier object; and he hailed, in his
success with the brother, an omen of his triumph over the sister.
He had seen Ione on the day following the revel we have witnessed; and which
was also the day after he had poisoned her mind against his rival. The next
day, and the next, he saw her also: and each time he laid himself out with
consummate art, partly to confirm her impression against Glaucus, and
principally to prepare her for the impressions he desired her to receive.
The proud Ione took care to conceal the anguish she endured; and the pride
of woman has an hypocrisy which can deceive the most penetrating, and shame
the most astute. But Arbaces was no less cautious not to recur to a subject
which he felt it was most politic to treat as of the lightest importance.
He knew that by dwelling much upon the fault of a rival, you only give him
dignity in the eyes of your mistress: the wisest plan is, neither loudly to
hate, nor bitterly to contemn; the wisest plan is to lower him by an
indifference of tone, as if you could not dream that he could be loved.
Your safety is in concealing the wound to your own pride, and imperceptibly
alarming that of the umpire, whose voice is fate! Such, in all times, will
be the policy of one who knows the science of the sex--it was now the
He recurred no more, then, to the presumption of Glaucus; he mentioned his
name, but not more often than that of Clodius or of Lepidus. He affected to
class them together as things of a low and ephemeral species; as things
wanting nothing of the butterfly, save its innocence and its grace.
Sometimes he slightly alluded to some invented debauch, in which he declared
them companions; sometimes he adverted to them as the antipodes of those
lofty and spiritual natures, to whose order that of Ione belonged. Blinded
alike by the pride of Ione, and, perhaps, by his own, he dreamed not that
she already loved; but he dreaded lest she might have formed for Glaucus the
first fluttering prepossessions that lead to love. And, secretly, he ground
his teeth in rage and jealousy, when he reflected on the youth, the
fascinations, and the brilliancy of that formidable rival whom he pretended
It was on the fourth day from the date of the close of the previous book,
that Arbaces and Ione sat together.
'You wear your veil at home,' said the Egyptian; 'that is not fair to those
whom you honour with your friendship.'
'But to Arbaces,' answered Ione, who, indeed, had cast the veil over her
features to conceal eyes red with weeping--'to Arbaces, who looks only to
the mind, what matters it that the face is concealed?'
'I do look only to the mind,' replied the Egyptian: 'show me then your
face--for there I shall see it.'
'You grow gallant in the air of Pompeii,' said Ione, with a forced tone of
'Do you think, fair Ione, that it is only at Pompeii that I have learned to
value you?' The Egyptian's voice trembled--he paused for a moment, and then
'There is a love, beautiful Greek, which is not the love only of the
thoughtless and the young--there is a love which sees not with the eyes,
which hears not with the ears; but in which soul is enamoured of soul. The
countryman of thy ancestors, the cave-nursed Plato, dreamed of such a
love--his followers have sought to imitate it; but it is a love that is not
for the herd to echo--it is a love that only high and noble natures can
conceive--it hath nothing in common with the sympathies and ties of coarse
affection--wrinkles do not revolt it--homeliness of feature does not deter;
it asks youth, it is true, but it asks it only in the freshness of the
emotions; it asks beauty, it is true, but it is the beauty of the thought
and of the spirit. Such is the love, O Ione, which is a worthy offering to
thee from the cold and the austere. Austere and cold thou deemest me--such
is the love that I venture to lay upon thy shrine--thou canst receive it
without a blush.'
'And its name is friendship!' replied Ione: her answer was innocent, yet it
sounded like the reproof of one conscious of the design of the speaker.
'Friendship!' said Arbaces, vehemently. 'No; that is a word too often
profaned to apply to a sentiment so sacred. Friendship! it is a tie that
binds fools and profligates! Friendship! it is the bond that unites the
frivolous hearts of a Glaucus and a Clodius! Friendship! no, that is an
affection of earth, of vulgar habits and sordid sympathies; the feeling of
which I speak is borrowed from the stars'--it partakes of that mystic and
ineffable yearning, which we feel when we gaze on them--it burns, yet it
purifies--it is the lamp of naphtha in the alabaster vase, glowing with
fragrant odorous, but shining only through the purest vessels. No; it is
not love, and it is not friendship, that Arbaces feels for Ione. Give it no
name--earth has no name for it--it is not of earth--why debase it with
earthly epithets and earthly associations?'
Never before had Arbaces ventured so far, yet he felt his ground step by
step: he knew that he uttered a language which, if at this day of affected
platonisms it would speak unequivocally to the ears of beauty, was at that
time strange and unfamiliar, to which no precise idea could be attached,
from which he could imperceptibly advance or recede, as occasion suited, as
hope encouraged or fear deterred. Ione trembled, though she knew not why;
her veil hid her features, and masked an expression, which, if seen by the
Egyptian, would have at once damped and enraged him; in fact, he never was
more displeasing to her--the harmonious modulation of the most suasive voice
that ever disguised unhallowed thought fell discordantly on her ear. Her
whole soul was still filled with the image of Glaucus; and the accent of
tenderness from another only revolted and dismayed; yet she did not conceive
that any passion more ardent than that platonism which Arbaces expressed
lurked beneath his words. She thought that he, in truth, spoke only of the
affection and sympathy of the soul; but was it not precisely that affection
and that sympathy which had made a part of those emotions she felt for
Glaucus; and could any other footstep than his approach the haunted adytum
of her heart?
Anxious at once to change the conversation, she replied, therefore, with a
cold and indifferent voice, 'Whomsoever Arbaces honors with the sentiment of
esteem, it is natural that his elevated wisdom should color that sentiment
with its own hues; it is natural that his friendship should be purer than
that of others, whose pursuits and errors he does not deign to share. But
tell me, Arbaces, hast thou seen my brother of late? He has not visited me
for several days; and when I last saw him his manner disturbed and alarmed
me much. I fear lest he was too precipitate in the severe choice that he
has adopted, and that he repents an irrevocable step.'
'Be cheered, Ione,' replied the Egyptian. 'It is true that, some little
time since he was troubled and sad of spirit; those doubts beset him which
were likely to haunt one of that fervent temperament, which ever ebbs and
flows, and vibrates between excitement and exhaustion. But he, Ione, he
came to me his anxieties and his distress; he sought one who pitied me and
loved him; I have calmed his mind--I have removed his doubts--I have taken
him from the threshold of Wisdom into its temple; and before the majesty of
the goddess his soul is hushed and soothed. Fear not, he will repent no
more; they who trust themselves to Arbaces never repent but for a moment.'
'You rejoice me,' answered Ione. 'My dear brother! in his contentment I am
The conversation then turned upon lighter subjects; the Egyptian exerted
himself to please, he condescended even to entertain; the vast variety of
his knowledge enabled him to adorn and light up every subject on which he
touched; and Ione, forgetting the displeasing effect of his former words,
was carried away, despite her sadness, by the magic of his intellect. Her
manner became unrestrained and her language fluent; and Arbaces, who had
waited his opportunity, now hastened to seize it.
'You have never seen,' said he, 'the interior of my home; it may amuse you
to do so: it contains some rooms that may explain to you what you have often
asked me to describe--the fashion of an Egyptian house; not indeed, that you
will perceive in the poor and minute proportions of Roman architecture the
massive strength, the vast space, the gigantic magnificence, or even the
domestic construction of the palaces of Thebes and Memphis; but something
there is, here and there, that may serve to express to you some notion of
that antique civilization which has humanized the world. Devote, then, to
the austere friend of your youth, one of these bright summer evenings, and
let me boast that my gloomy mansion has been honored with the presence of
the admired Ione.'
Unconscious of the pollutions of the mansion, of the danger that awaited
her, Ione readily assented to the proposal. The next evening was fixed for
the visit; and the Egyptian, with a serene countenance, and a heart beating
with fierce and unholy joy, departed. Scarce had he gone, when another
visitor claimed admission.... But now we return to Glaucus.
THE POOR TORTOISE. NEW CHANGES FOR NYDIA.
THE morning sun shone over the small and odorous garden enclosed within the
peristyle of the house of the Athenian. He lay reclined, sad and
listlessly, on the smooth grass which intersected the viridarium; and a
slight canopy stretched above, broke the fierce rays of the summer sun.
When that fairy mansion was first disinterred from the earth they found in
the garden the shell of a tortoise that had been its inmate. That animal,
so strange a link in the creation, to which Nature seems to have denied all
the pleasure of life, save life's passive and dream-like perception, had
been the guest of the place for years before Glaucus purchased it; for
years, indeed which went beyond the memory of man, and to which tradition
assigned an almost incredible date. The house had been built and
rebuilt--its possessors had changed and fluctuated--generations had
flourished and decayed--and still the tortoise dragged on its slow and
unsympathizing existence. In the earthquake, which sixteen years before had
overthrown many of the public buildings of the city, and scared away the
amazed inhabitants, the house now inhabited by Glaucus had been terribly
shattered. The possessors deserted it for many days; on their return they
cleared away the ruins which encumbered the viridarium, and found still the
tortoise, unharmed and unconscious of the surrounding destruction. It
seemed to bear a charmed life in its languid blood and imperceptible
motions; yet it was not so inactive as it seemed: it held a regular and
monotonous course; inch by inch it traversed the little orbit of its domain,
taking months to accomplish the whole gyration. It was a restless voyager,
that tortoise!--patiently, and with pain, did it perform its self-appointed
journeys, evincing no interest in the things around it--a philosopher
concentrated in itself. There was something grand in its solitary
selfishness!--the sun in which it basked--the waters poured daily over
it--the air, which it insensibly inhaled, were its sole and unfailing
luxuries. The mild changes of the season, in that lovely clime, affected it
not. It covered itself with its shell--as the saint in his piety--as the
sage in his wisdom--as the lover in his hope.
It was impervious to the shocks and mutations of time--it was an emblem of
time itself: slow, regular, perpetual; unwitting of the passions that fret
themselves around--of the wear and tear of mortality. The poor tortoise!
nothing less than the bursting of volcanoes, the convulsions of the riven
world, could have quenched its sluggish spark! The inexorable Death, that
spared not pomp or beauty, passed unheedingly by a thing to which death
could bring so insignificant a change.
For this animal the mercurial and vivid Greek felt all the wonder and
affection of contrast. He could spend hours in surveying its creeping
progress, in moralizing over its mechanism. He despised it in joy--he
envied it in sorrow.
Regarding it now as he lay along the sward--its dull mass moving while it
seemed motionless, the Athenian murmured to himself:
'The eagle dropped a stone from his talons, thinking to break thy shell: the
stone crushed the head of a poet. This is the allegory of Fate! Dull
thing! Thou hadst a father and a mother; perhaps, ages ago, thou thyself
hadst a mate. Did thy parents love, or didst thou? Did thy slow blood
circulate more gladly when thou didst creep to the side of thy wedded one?
Wert thou capable of affection? Could it distress thee if she were away from
thy side? Couldst thou feel when she was present? What would I not give to
know the history of thy mailed breast--to gaze upon the mechanism of thy
faint desires--to mark what hair--breadth difference separates thy sorrow
from thy joy! Yet, methinks, thou wouldst know if Ione were present! Thou
wouldst feel her coming like a happier air--like a gladder sun. I envy thee
now, for thou knowest not that she is absent; and I--would I could be like
thee--between the intervals of seeing her! What doubt, what presentiment,
haunts me! why will she not admit me? Days have passed since I heard her
voice. For the first time, life grows flat to me. I am as one who is left
alone at a banquet, the lights dead, and the flowers faded. Ah! Ione,
couldst thou dream how I adore thee!'
From these enamoured reveries, Glaucus was interrupted by the entrance of
Nydia. She came with her light, though cautious step, along the marble
tablinum. She passed the portico, and paused at the flowers which bordered
the garden. She had her water-vase in her hand, and she sprinkled the
thirsting plants, which seemed to brighten at her approach. She bent to
inhale their odor. She touched them timidly and caressingly. She felt,
along their stems, if any withered leaf or creeping insect marred their
beauty. And as she hovered from flower to flower, with her earnest and
youthful countenance and graceful motions, you could not have imagined a
fitter handmaid for the goddess of the garden.
'Nydia, my child!' said Glaucus.
At the sound of his voice she paused at once--listening, blushing,
breathless; with her lips parted, her face upturned to catch the direction
of the sound, she laid down the vase--she hastened to him; and wonderful it
was to see how unerringly she threaded her dark way through the flowers, and
came by the shortest path to the side of her new lord.
'Nydia,' said Glaucus, tenderly stroking back her long and beautiful hair,
'it is now three days since thou hast been under the protection of my
household gods. Have they smiled on thee? Art thou happy?'
'Ah! so happy!' sighed the slave.
'And now,' continued Glaucus, 'that thou hast recovered somewhat from the
hateful recollections of thy former state,--and now that they have fitted
thee (touching her broidered tunic) with garments more meet for thy delicate
shape--and now, sweet child, that thou hast accustomed thyself to a
happiness, which may the gods grant thee ever! I am about to pray at thy
hands a boon.'
'Oh! what can I do for thee?' said Nydia, clasping her hands.
'Listen,' said Glaucus, 'and young as thou art, thou shalt be my confidant.
Hast thou ever heard the name of Ione?'
The blind girl gasped for breath, and turning pale as one of the statues
which shone upon them from the peristyle, she answered with an effort, and
after a moment's pause:
'Yes! I have heard that she is of Neapolis, and beautiful.'
'Beautiful! her beauty is a thing to dazzle the day! Neapolis! nay, she is
Greek by origin; Greece only could furnish forth such shapes. Nydia, I love
'I thought so,' replied Nydia, calmly.
'I love, and thou shalt tell her so. I am about to send thee to her. Happy
Nydia, thou wilt be in her chamber--thou wilt drink the music of her
voice--thou wilt bask in the sunny air of her presence!'
'What! what! wilt thou send me from thee?'
'Thou wilt go to Ione,' answered Glaucus, in a tone that said, 'What more
canst thou desire?'
Nydia burst into tears.
Glaucus, raising himself, drew her towards him with the soothing caresses of
'My child, my Nydia, thou weepest in ignorance of the happiness I bestow on
thee. She is gentle, and kind, and soft as the breeze of spring. She will
be a sister to thy youth--she will appreciate thy winning talents--she will
love thy simple graces as none other could, for they are like her own.
Weepest thou still, fond fool? I will not force thee, sweet. Wilt thou not
do for me this kindness?'
'Well, if I can serve thee, command. See, I weep no longer--I am calm.'
'That is my own Nydia,' continued Glaucus, kissing her hand. 'Go, then, to
her: if thou art disappointed in her kindness--if I have deceived thee,
return when thou wilt. I do not give thee to another; I but lend. My home
ever be thy refuge, sweet one. Ah! would it could shelter all the
friendless and distressed! But if my heart whispers truly, I shall claim
thee again soon, my child. My home and Ione's will become the same, and
thou shalt dwell with both.'
A shiver passed through the slight frame of the blind girl, but she wept no
more--she was resigned.
'Go, then, my Nydia, to Ione's house--they shall show thee the way. Take her
the fairest flowers thou canst pluck; the vase which contains them I will
give thee: thou must excuse its unworthiness. Thou shalt take, too, with
thee the lute that I gave thee yesterday, and from which thou knowest so
well to awaken the charming spirit. Thou shalt give her, also, this letter,
in which, after a hundred efforts, I have embodied something of my thoughts.
Let thy ear catch every accent, every modulation of her voice, and tell me,
when we meet again, if its music should flatter me or discourage. It is
now, Nydia, some days since I have been admitted to Ione; there is something
mysterious in this exclusion. I am distracted with doubts and fears;
learn--for thou art quick, and thy care for me will sharpen tenfold thy
acuteness--learn the cause of this unkindness; speak of me as often as thou
canst; let my name come ever to thy lips: insinuate how I love rather than
proclaim it; watch if she sighs whilst thou speakest, if she answer thee;
or, if she reproves, in what accents she reproves. Be my friend, plead for
me: and oh! how vastly wilt thou overpay the little I have done for thee!
Thou comprehendest, Nydia; thou art yet a child--have I said more than thou
'And thou wilt serve me?'
'Come to me when thou hast gathered the flowers, and I will give thee the
vase I speak of; seek me in the chamber of Leda. Pretty one, thou dost not
'Glaucus, I am a slave; what business have I with grief or joy?'
'Sayest thou so? No, Nydia, be free. I give thee freedom; enjoy it as thou
wilt, and pardon me that I reckoned on thy desire to serve me.'
'You are offended. Oh! I would not, for that which no freedom can give,
offend you, Glaucus. My guardian, my saviour, my protector, forgive the
poor blind girl! She does not grieve even in leaving thee, if she can
contribute to thy happiness.'
'May the gods bless this grateful heart!' said Glaucus, greatly moved; and,
unconscious of the fires he excited, he repeatedly kissed her forehead.
'Thou forgivest me,' said she, 'and thou wilt talk no more of freedom; my
happiness is to be thy slave: thou hast promised thou wilt not give me to
'I have promised.'
'And now, then, I will gather the flowers.'
Silently, Nydia took from the hand of Glaucus the costly and jewelled vase,
in which the flowers vied with each other in hue and fragrance; tearlessly
she received his parting admonition. She paused for a moment when his voice
ceased--she did not trust herself to reply--she sought his hand--she raised
it to her lips, dropped her veil over her face, and passed at once from his
presence. She paused again as she reached the threshold; she stretched her
hands towards it, and murmured:
'Three happy days--days of unspeakable delight, have I known since I passed
thee--blessed threshold! may peace dwell ever with thee when I am gone! And
now, my heart tears itself from thee, and the only sound it utters bids
THE HAPPY BEAUTY AND THE BLIND SLAVE.
A SLAVE entered the chamber of Ione. A messenger from Glaucus desired to be
Ione hesitated an instant.
'She is blind, that messenger,' said the slave; 'she will do her commission
to none but thee.'
Base is that heart which does not respect affliction! The moment she heard
the messenger was blind, Ione felt the impossibility of returning a chilling
reply. Glaucus had chosen a herald that was indeed sacred--a herald that
could not be denied.
'What can he want with me? what message can he send?' and the heart of Ione
beat quick. The curtain across the door was withdrawn; a soft and echoless
step fell upon the marble; and Nydia, led by one of the attendants, entered
with her precious gift.
She stood still a moment, as if listening for some sound that might direct
'Will the noble Ione,' said she, in a soft and low voice, 'deign to speak,
that I may know whither to steer these benighted steps, and that I may lay
my offerings at her feet?'
'Fair child,' said Ione, touched and soothingly, 'give not thyself the pain
to cross these slippery floors, my attendant will bring to me what thou hast
to present'; and she motioned to the handmaid to take the vase.
'I may give these flowers to none but thee,' answered Nydia; and, guided by
her ear, she walked slowly to the place where Ione sat, and kneeling when
she came before her, proffered the vase.
Ione took it from her hand, and placed it on the table at her side. She
then raised her gently, and would have seated her on the couch, but the girl
'I have not yet discharged my office,' said she; and she drew the letter of
Glaucus from her vest. 'This will, perhaps, explain why he who sent me
chose so unworthy a messenger to Ione.'
The Neapolitan took the letter with a hand, the trembling of which Nydia at
once felt and sighed to feel. With folded arms, and downcast looks, she
stood before the proud and stately form of Ione--no less proud, perhaps, in
her attitude of submission. Ione waved her hand, and the attendants
withdrew; she gazed again upon the form of the young slave in surprise and
beautiful compassion; then, retiring a little from her, she opened and read
the following letter:
'Glaucus to Ione sends more than he dares to utter. Is Ione ill? thy slaves
tell me "No", and that assurance comforts me. Has Glaucus offended
Ione?--ah! that question I may not ask from them. For five days I have been
banished from thy presence. Has the sun shone?--I know it not. Has the sky
smiled?--it has had no smile for me. My sun and my sky are Ione. Do I
offend thee? Am I too bold? Do I say that on the tablet which my tongue
has hesitated to breathe? Alas! it is in thine absence that I feel most the
spells by which thou hast subdued me. And absence, that deprives me of joy,
brings me courage. Thou wilt not see me; thou hast banished also the common
flatterers that flock around thee. Canst thou confound me with them? It is
not possible! Thou knowest too well that I am not of them--that their clay
is not mine. For even were I of the humblest mould, the fragrance of the
rose has penetrated me, and the spirit of thy nature hath passed within me,
to embalm, to sanctify, to inspire. Have they slandered me to thee, Ione?
Thou wilt not believe them. Did the Delphic oracle itself tell me thou wert
unworthy, I would not believe it; and am I less incredulous than thou I
think of the last time we met--of the song which I sang to thee--of the look
that thou gavest me in return. Disguise it as thou wilt, Ione, there is
something kindred between us, and our eyes acknowledged it, though our lips
were silent. Deign to see me, to listen to me, and after that exclude me if
thou wilt. I meant not so soon to say I loved. But those words rush to my
heart--they will have way. Accept, then, my homage and my vows. We met
first at the shrine of Pallas; shall we not meet before a softer and a more
'Beautiful! adored Ione! If my hot youth and my Athenian blood have
misguided and allured me, they have but taught my wanderings to appreciate
the rest--the haven they have attained. I hang up my dripping robes on the
Sea-god's shrine. I have escaped shipwreck. I have found THEE. Ione,
deign to see me; thou art gentle to strangers, wilt thou be less merciful to
those of thine own land? I await thy reply. Accept the flowers which I
send--their sweet breath has a language more eloquent than words. They take
from the sun the odorous they return--they are the emblem of the love that
receives and repays tenfold--the emblem of the heart that drunk thy rays,
and owes to thee the germ of the treasures that it proffers to thy smile. I
send these by one whom thou wilt receive for her own sake, if not for mine.
She, like us, is a stranger; her fathers' ashes lie under brighter skies:
but, less happy than we, she is blind and a slave. Poor Nydia! I seek as
much as possible to repair to her the cruelties of Nature and of Fate, in
asking permission to place her with thee. She is gentle, quick, and docile.
She is skilled in music and the song; and she is a very Chloris to the
flowers. She thinks, Ione, that thou wilt love her: if thou dost not, send
her back to me.
'One word more--let me be bold, Ione. Why thinkest thou so highly of yon
dark Egyptian? he hath not about him the air of honest men. We Greeks learn
mankind from our cradle; we are not the less profound, in that we affect no
sombre mien; our lips smile, but our eyes are grave--they observe--they
note--they study. Arbaces is not one to be credulously trusted: can it be
that he hath wronged me to thee? I think it, for I left him with thee; thou
sawest how my presence stung him; since then thou hast not admitted me.
Believe nothing that he can say to my disfavor; if thou dost, tell me so at
once; for this Ione owes to Glaucus. Farewell! this letter touches thy
hand; these characters meet thine eyes--shall they be more blessed than he
who is their author. Once more, farewell!'
It seemed to Ione, as she read this letter, as if a mist had fallen from her
eyes. What had been the supposed offence of Glaucus?--that he had not
really loved! And now, plainly, and in no dubious terms, he confessed that
love. From that moment his power was fully restored. At every tender word
in that letter, so full of romantic and trustful passion, her heart smote
her. And had she doubted his faith, and had she believed another? and had
she not, at least, allowed to him the culprit's right to know his crime, to
plead in his defence?--the tears rolled down her cheeks--she kissed the
letter--she placed it in her bosom: and, turning to Nydia, who stood in the
same place and in the same posture:
'Wilt thou sit, my child,' said she, 'while I write an answer to this
'You will answer it, then!' said Nydia, coldly. 'Well, the slave that
accompanied me will take back your answer.'
'For you,' said Ione, 'stay with me--trust me, your service shall be light.'
Nydia bowed her head.
'What is your name, fair girl?'
'They call me Nydia.'
'The land of Olympus--Thessaly.'
'Thou shalt be to me a friend,' said Ione, caressingly, 'as thou art already
half a countrywoman. Meanwhile, I beseech thee, stand not on these cold and
glassy marbles. There! now that thou art seated, I can leave thee for an
'Ione to Glaucus greeting. Come to me, Glaucus,' wrote Ione, 'come to me
to-morrow. I may have been unjust to thee; but I will tell thee, at least,
the fault that has been imputed to thy charge. Fear not, henceforth, the
Egyptian--fear none. Thou sayest thou hast expressed too much--alas! in
these hasty words I have already done so. Farewell.'
As Ione reappeared with the letter, which she did not dare to read after she
had written (Ah! common rashness, common timidity of love!)--Nydia started
from her seat.
'You have written to Glaucus?'
'And will he thank the messenger who gives to him thy letter?'
Ione forgot that her companion was blind; she blushed from the brow to the
neck, and remained silent.
'I mean this,' added Nydia, in a calmer tone; 'the lightest word of coldness
from thee will sadden him--the lightest kindness will rejoice. If it be the
first, let the slave take back thine answer; if it be the last, let me--I
will return this evening'
'And why, Nydia,' asked Ione, evasively, 'Wouldst thou be the bearer of my
'It is so, then!' said Nydia. 'Ah! how could it be otherwise; who could be
unkind to Glaucus?'
'My child,' said Ione, a little more reservedly than before, 'thou speakest
warmly--Glaucus, then, is amiable in thine eyes?'
'Noble Ione! Glaucus has been that to me which neither fortune nor the gods
have been--a friend!'
The sadness mingled with dignity with which Nydia uttered these simple
words, affected the beautiful Ione: she bent down and kissed her. 'Thou art
grateful, and deservedly so; why should I blush to say that Glaucus is
worthy of thy gratitude? Go, my Nydia--take to him thyself this letter--but
return again. If I am from home when thou returnest--as this evening,
perhaps, I shall be--thy chamber shall be prepared next my own. Nydia, I
have no sister--wilt thou be one to me?' The Thessalian kissed the hand of
Ione, and then said, with some embarrassment:
'One favor, fair Ione--may I dare to ask it?'
'Thou canst not ask what I will not grant,' replied the Neapolitan.
'They tell me,' said Nydia, 'that thou art beautiful beyond the loveliness
of earth. Alas! I cannot see that which gladdens the world! Wilt thou
suffer me, then, to pass my hand over thy face?--that is my sole criterion
of beauty, and I usually guess aright.'
She did not wait for the answer of Ione, but, as she spoke, gently and
slowly passed her hand over the bending and half-averted features of the
Greek--features which but one image in the world can yet depicture and
recall--that image is the mutilated, but all-wondrous, statue in her native
city--her own Neapolis--that Parian face, before which all the beauty of the
Florentine Venus is poor and earthly--that aspect so full of harmony--of
youth--of genius--of the soul--which modern critics have supposed the
representation of Psyche.
Her touch lingered over the braided hair and polished brow--over the downy
and damask cheek--over the dimpled lip--the swan-like and whitish neck. 'I
know now, that thou art beautiful,' she said: 'and I can picture thee to my
darkness henceforth, and for ever!'
When Nydia left her, Ione sank into a deep but delicious reverie. Glaucus
then loved her; he owned it--yes, he loved her. She drew forth again that
dear confession; she paused over every word, she kissed every line; she did
not ask why he had been maligned, she only felt assured that he had been so.
She wondered how she had ever believed a syllable against him; she wondered
how the Egyptian had been enabled to exercise a power against Glaucus; she
felt a chill creep over her as she again turned to his warning against
Arbaces, and her secret fear of that gloomy being darkened into awe. She
was awakened from these thoughts by her maidens, who came to announce to her
that the hour appointed to visit Arbaces was arrived; she started, she had
forgotten the promise. Her first impression was to renounce it; her second,
was to laugh at her own fears of her eldest surviving friend. She hastened
to add the usual ornaments to her dress, and doubtful whether she should yet
question the Egyptian more closely with respect to his accusation of
Glaucus, or whether she should wait till, without citing the authority, she
should insinuate to Glaucus the accusation itself, she took her way to the
gloomy mansion of Arbaces.
IONE ENTRAPPED. THE MOUSE TRIES TO GNAW THE NET.
'DEAREST Nydia!' exclaimed Glaucus as he read the letter of Ione, 'whitest
robed messenger that ever passed between earth and heaven--how, how shall I
'I am rewarded,' said the poor Thessalian.
'To-morrow--to-morrow! how shall I while the hours till then?'
The enamoured Greek would not let Nydia escape him, though she sought
several times to leave the chamber; he made her recite to him over and over
again every syllable of the brief conversation that had taken place between
her and Ione; a thousand times, forgetting her misfortune, he questioned her
of the looks, of the countenance of his beloved; and then quickly again
excusing his fault, he bade her recommence the whole recital which he had
thus interrupted. The hours thus painful to Nydia passed rapidly and
delightfully to him, and the twilight had already darkened ere he once more
dismissed her to Ione with a fresh letter and with new flowers. Scarcely
had she gone, than Clodius and several of his gay companions broke in upon
him; they rallied him on his seclusion during the whole day, and absence
from his customary haunts; they invited him to accompany them to the various
resorts in that lively city, which night and day proffered diversity to
pleasure. Then, as now, in the south (for no land, perhaps, losing more of
greatness has retained more of custom), it was the delight of the Italians
to assemble at the evening; and, under the porticoes of temples or the shade
of the groves that interspersed the streets, listening to music or the
recitals of some inventive tale-teller, they hailed the rising moon with
libations of wine and the melodies of song. Glaucus was too happy to be
unsocial; he longed to cast off the exuberance of joy that oppressed him.
He willingly accepted the proposal of his comrades, and laughingly they
sallied out together down the populous and glittering streets.
In the meantime Nydia once more gained the house of Ione, who had long left
it; she inquired indifferently whither Ione had gone.
The answer arrested and appalled her.
'To the house of Arbaces--of the Egyptian? Impossible!'
'It is true, my little one,' said the slave, who had replied to her
question. 'She has known the Egyptian long.'
'Long! ye gods, yet Glaucus loves her?' murmured Nydia to herself.
'And has,' asked she aloud, 'has she often visited him before?'
'Never till now,' answered the slave. 'If all the rumored scandal of
Pompeii be true, it would be better, perhaps, if she had not ventured there
at present. But she, poor mistress mine, hears nothing of that which
reaches us; the talk of the vestibulum reaches not to the peristyle.'
'Never till now!' repeated Nydia. 'Art thou sure?'
'Sure, pretty one: but what is that to thee or to us?'
Nydia hesitated a moment, and then, putting down the flowers with which she
had been charged, she called to the slave who had accompanied her, and left
the house without saying another word.
Not till she had got half-way back to the house of Glaucus did she break
silence, and even then she only murmured inly:
'She does not dream--she cannot--of the dangers into which she has plunged.
Fool that I am--shall I save her?--yes, for I love Glaucus better than
When she arrived at the house of the Athenian, she learnt that he had gone
out with a party of his friends, and none knew whither. He probably would
not be home before midnight.
The Thessalian groaned; she sank upon a seat in the hall and covered her
face with her hands as if to collect her thoughts. 'There is no time to be
lost,' thought she, starting up. She turned to the slave who had
'Knowest thou,' said she, 'if Ione has any relative, any intimate friend at
'Why, by Jupiter!' answered the slave, 'art thou silly enough to ask the
question? Every one in Pompeii knows that Ione has a brother who, young and
rich, has been--under the rose I speak--so foolish as to become a priest of
'A priest of Isis! O Gods! his name?'
'I know it all,' muttered Nydia: 'brother and sister, then, are to be both
victims! Apaecides! yes, that was the name I heard in... Ha! he well, then,
knows the peril that surrounds his sister; I will go to him.'
She sprang up at that thought, and taking the staff which always guided her
steps, she hastened to the neighboring shrine of Isis. Till she had been
under the guardianship of the kindly Greek, that staff had sufficed to
conduct the poor blind girl from corner to corner of Pompeii. Every street,
every turning in the more frequented parts, was familiar to her; and as the
inhabitants entertained a tender and half-superstitious veneration for those
subject to her infirmity, the passengers had always given way to her timid
steps. Poor girl, she little dreamed that she should, ere many days were
passed, find her blindness her protection, and a guide far safer than the
But since she had been under the roof of Glaucus, he had ordered a slave to
accompany her always; and the poor devil thus appointed, who was somewhat of
the fattest, and who, after having twice performed the journey to Ione's
house, now saw himself condemned to a third excursion (whither the gods only
knew), hastened after her, deploring his fate, and solemnly assuring Castor
and Pollux that he believed the blind girl had the talaria of Mercury as
well as the infirmity of Cupid.
Nydia, however, required but little of his assistance to find her way to the
popular temple of Isis: the space before it was now deserted, and she won
without obstacle to the sacred rail.
'There is no one here,' said the fat slave. 'What dost thou want, or whom
Knowest thou not that the priests do not live in the temple?'
'Call out,' said she, impatiently; 'night and day there is always one
flamen, at least, watching in the shrine of Isis.'
The slave called--no one appeared.
'Seest thou no one?'
'Thou mistakest; I hear a sigh: look again.'
The slave, wondering and grumbling, cast round his heavy eyes, and before
one of the altars, whose remains still crowd the narrow space, he beheld a
form bending as in meditation.
'I see a figure, said he; 'and by the white garments, it is a priest.'
'O flamen of Isis!' cried Nydia; 'servant of the Most Ancient, hear me!'
'Who calls?' said a low and melancholy voice.
'One who has no common tidings to impart to a member of your body: I come to
declare and not to ask oracles.'
'With whom wouldst thou confer? This is no hour for thy conference; depart,
disturb me not; the night is sacred to the gods, the day to men.'
'Methinks I know thy voice? thou art he whom I seek; yet I have heard thee
speak but once before. Art thou not the priest Apaecides?'
'I am that man,' replied the priest, emerging from the altar, and
approaching the rail.
'Thou art! the gods be praised!' Waving her hand to the slave, she bade him
withdraw to a distance; and he, who naturally imagined some superstition
connected, perhaps, with the safety of Ione, could alone lead her to the
temple, obeyed, and seated himself on the ground, at a little distance.
'Hush!' said she, speaking quick and low; 'art thou indeed Apaecides?'
'If thou knowest me, canst thou not recall my features?'
'I am blind,' answered Nydia; 'my eyes are in my ear, and that recognizes
thee: yet swear that thou art he.'
'By the gods I swear it, by my right hand, and by the moon!'
'Hush! speak low--bend near--give me thy hand; knowest thou Arbaces? Hast
thou laid flowers at the feet of the dead? Ah! thy hand is cold--hark
yet!--hast thou taken the awful vow?'
'Who art thou, whence comest thou, pale maiden?' said Apaecides, fearfully:
'I know thee not; thine is not the breast on which this head hath lain; I
have never seen thee before.'
'But thou hast heard my voice: no matter, those recollections it should
shame us both to recall. Listen, thou hast a sister.'
'Speak! speak! what of her?'
'Thou knowest the banquets of the dead, stranger--it pleases thee, perhaps,
to share them--would it please thee to have thy sister a partaker? Would it
please thee that Arbaces was her host?'
'O gods, he dare not! Girl, if thou mockest me, tremble! I will tear thee
limb from limb!'
'I speak the truth; and while I speak, Ione is in the halls of Arbaces--for
the first time his guest. Thou knowest if there be peril in that first
time! Farewell! I have fulfilled my charge.'
'Stay! stay!' cried the priest, passing his wan hand over his brow. 'If
this be true, what--what can be done to save her? They may not admit me. I
know not all the mazes of that intricate mansion. O Nemesis! justly am I
'I will dismiss yon slave, be thou my guide and comrade; I will lead thee to
the private door of the house: I will whisper to thee the word which admits.
Take some weapon: it may be needful!'
'Wait an instant,' said Apaecides, retiring into one of the cells that flank
the temple, and reappearing in a few moments wrapped in a large cloak, which
was then much worn by all classes, and which concealed his sacred dress.
'Now,' he said, grinding his teeth, 'if Arbaces hath dared to--but he dare
not! he dare not! Why should I suspect him? Is he so base a villain? I
will not think it--yet, sophist! dark bewilderer that he is! O gods
protect--hush! are there gods? Yes, there is one goddess, at least, whose
voice I can command; and that is--Vengeance!'
Muttering these disconnected thoughts, Apaecides, followed by his silent and
sightless companion, hastened through the most solitary paths to the house
of the Egyptian.
The slave, abruptly dismissed by Nydia, shrugged his shoulders, muttered an
adjuration, and, nothing loath, rolled off to his cubiculum.
THE SOLITUDE AND SOLILOQUY OF THE EGYPTIAN. HIS CHARACTER ANALYSED.
WE must go back a few hours in the progress of our story. At the first grey
dawn of the day, which Glaucus had already marked with white, the Egyptian
was seated, sleepless and alone, on the summit of the lofty and pyramidal
tower which flanked his house. A tall parapet around it served as a wall,
and conspired, with the height of the edifice and the gloomy trees that
girded the mansion, to defy the prying eyes of curiosity or observation. A
table, on which lay a scroll, filled with mystic figures, was before him.
On high, the stars waxed dim and faint, and the shades of night melted from
the sterile mountain-tops; only above Vesuvius there rested a deep and massy
cloud, which for several days past had gathered darker and more solid over
its summit. The struggle of night and day was more visible over the broad
ocean, which stretched calm, like a gigantic lake, bounded by the circling
shores that, covered with vines and foliage, and gleaming here and there
with the white walls of sleeping cities, sloped to the scarce rippling
It was the hour above all others most sacred to the daring science of the
Egyptian--the science which would read our changeful destinies in the stars.
He had filled his scroll, he had noted the moment and the sign; and, leaning
upon his hand, he had surrendered himself to the thoughts which his
'Again do the stars forewarn me! Some danger, then, assuredly awaits me!'
said he, slowly; 'some danger, violent and sudden in its nature. The stars
wear for me the same mocking menace which, if our chronicles do not err,
they once wore for Pyrrhus--for him, doomed to strive for all things, to
enjoy none--all attacking, nothing gaining--battles without fruit, laurels
without triumph, fame without success; at last made craven by his own
superstitions, and slain like a dog by a tile from the hand of an old woman!
Verily, the stars flatter when they give me a type in this fool of war--when
they promise to the ardour of my wisdom the same results as to the madness
of his ambition--perpetual exercise--no certain goal!--the Sisyphus task,
the mountain and the stone!--the stone, a gloomy image!--it reminds me that
I am threatened with somewhat of the same death as the Epirote. Let me look
again. "Beware," say the shining prophets, "how thou passest under ancient
roofs, or besieged walls, or overhanging cliffs--a stone hurled from above,
is charged by the curses of destiny against thee!" And, at no distant date
from this, comes the peril: but I cannot, of a certainty, read the day and
hour. Well! if my glass runs low, the sands shall sparkle to the last. Yet,
if I escape this peril--ay, if I escape--bright and clear as the moonlight
track along the waters glows the rest of my existence. I see honors,
happiness, success, shining upon every billow of the dark gulf beneath which
I must sink at last. What, then, with such destinies beyond the peril,
shall I succumb to the peril? My soul whispers hope, it sweeps exultingly
beyond the boding hour, it revels in the future--its own courage is its
fittest omen. If I were to perish so suddenly and so soon, the shadow of
death would darken over me, and I should feel the icy presentiment of my
doom. My soul would express, in sadness and in gloom, its forecast of the
dreary Orcus. But it smiles--it assures me of deliverance.'
As he thus concluded his soliloquy, the Egyptian involuntarily rose. He
paced rapidly the narrow space of that star-roofed floor, and, pausing at
the parapet, looked again upon the grey and melancholy heavens. The chills
of the faint dawn came refreshingly upon his brow, and gradually his mind
resumed its natural and collected calm. He withdrew his gaze from the
stars, as, one after one, they receded into the depths of heaven; and his
eyes fell over the broad expanse below. Dim in the silenced port of the
city rose the masts of the galleys; along that mart of luxury and of labor
was stilled the mighty hum. No lights, save here and there from before the
columns of a temple, or in the porticoes of the voiceless forum, broke the
wan and fluctuating light of the struggling morn. From the heart of the
torpid city, so soon to vibrate with a thousand passions, there came no
sound: the streams of life circulated not; they lay locked under the ice of
sleep. From the huge space of the amphitheatre, with its stony seats rising
one above the other--coiled and round as some slumbering monster--rose a
thin and ghastly mist, which gathered darker, and more dark, over the
scattered foliage that gloomed in its vicinity. The city seemed as, after
the awful change of seventeen ages, it seems now to the traveler,--a City of
The ocean itself--that serene and tideless sea--lay scarce less hushed, save
that from its deep bosom came, softened by the distance, a faint and regular
murmur, like the breathing of its sleep; and curving far, as with
outstretched arms, into the green and beautiful land, it seemed
unconsciously to clasp to its breast the cities sloping to its
margin--Stabiae, and Herculaneum, and Pompeii--those children and darlings
of the deep. 'Ye slumber,' said the Egyptian, as he scowled over the
cities, the boast and flower of Campania; 'ye slumber!--would it were the
eternal repose of death! As ye now--jewels in the crown of empire--so once
were the cities of the Nile! Their greatness hath perished from them, they
sleep amidst ruins, their palaces and their shrines are tombs, the serpent
coils in the grass of their streets, the lizard basks in their solitary
halls. By that mysterious law of Nature, which humbles one to exalt the
other, ye have thriven upon their ruins; thou, haughty Rome, hast usurped
the glories of Sesostris and Semiramis--thou art a robber, clothing thyself
with their spoils! And these--slaves in thy triumph--that I (the last son
of forgotten monarchs) survey below, reservoirs of thine all-pervading power
and luxury, I curse as I behold! The time shall come when Egypt shall be
avenged! when the barbarian's steed shall make his manger in the Golden
House of Nero! and thou that hast sown the wind with conquest shalt reap the
harvest in the whirlwind of desolation!'
As the Egyptian uttered a prediction which fate so fearfully fulfilled, a
more solemn and boding image of ill omen never occurred to the dreams of
painter or of poet. The morning light, which can pale so wanly even the
young cheek of beauty, gave his majestic and stately features almost the
colors of the grave, with the dark hair falling massively around them, and
the dark robes flowing long and loose, and the arm outstretched from that
lofty eminence, and the glittering eyes, fierce with a savage gladness--half
prophet and half fiend!
He turned his gaze from the city and the ocean; before him lay the vineyards
and meadows of the rich Campania. The gate and walls--ancient, half
Pelasgic--of the city, seemed not to bound its extent. Villas and villages
stretched on every side up the ascent of Vesuvius, not nearly then so steep
or so lofty as at present. For, as Rome itself is built on an exhausted
volcano, so in similar security the inhabitants of the South tenanted the
green and vine-clad places around a volcano whose fires they believed at
rest for ever. From the gate stretched the long street of tombs, various in
size and architecture, by which, on that side, the city is as yet
approached. Above all, rode the cloud-capped summit of the Dread Mountain,
with the shadows, now dark, now light, betraying the mossy caverns and ashy
rocks, which testified the past conflagrations, and might have
prophesied--but man is blind--that which was to come!
Difficult was it then and there to guess the causes why the tradition of the
place wore so gloomy and stern a hue; why, in those smiling plains, for
miles around--to Baiae and Misenum--the poets had imagined the entrance and
thresholds of their hell--their Acheron, and their fabled Styx: why, in
those Phlegrae, now laughing with the vine, they placed the battles of the
gods, and supposed the daring Titans to have sought the victory of
heaven--save, indeed, that yet, in yon seared and blasted summit, fancy
might think to read the characters of the Olympian thunderbolt.
But it was neither the rugged height of the still volcano, nor the fertility
of the sloping fields, nor the melancholy avenue of tombs, nor the
glittering villas of a polished and luxurious people, that now arrested the
eye of the Egyptian. On one part of the landscape, the mountain of Vesuvius
descended to the plain in a narrow and uncultivated ridge, broken here and
there by jagged crags and copses of wild foliage. At the base of this lay a
marshy and unwholesome pool; and the intent gaze of Arbaces caught the
outline of some living form moving by the marshes, and stooping ever and
anon as if to pluck its rank produce.
'Ho!' said he, aloud, 'I have then, another companion in these unworldly
night--watches. The witch of Vesuvius is abroad. What! doth she, too, as
the credulous imagine--doth she, too, learn the lore of the great stars?
Hath she been uttering foul magic to the moon, or culling (as her pauses
betoken) foul herbs from the venomous marsh? Well, I must see this
fellow-laborer. Whoever strives to know learns that no human lore is
despicable. Despicable only you--ye fat and bloated things--slaves of
luxury--sluggards in thought--who, cultivating nothing but the barren sense,
dream that its poor soil can produce alike the myrtle and the laurel. No,
the wise only can enjoy--to us only true luxury is given, when mind, brain,
invention, experience, thought, learning, imagination, all contribute like
rivers to swell the seas of SENSE!--Ione!'
As Arbaces uttered that last and charmed word, his thoughts sunk at once
into a more deep and profound channel. His steps paused; he took not his
eyes from the ground; once or twice he smiled joyously, and then, as he
turned from his place of vigil, and sought his couch, he muttered, 'If death
frowns so near, I will say at least that I have lived--Ione shall be mine!'
The character of Arbaces was one of those intricate and varied webs, in
which even the mind that sat within it was sometimes confused and perplexed.
In him, the son of a fallen dynasty, the outcast of a sunken people, was
that spirit of discontented pride, which ever rankles in one of a sterner
mould, who feels himself inexorably shut from the sphere in which his
fathers shone, and to which Nature as well as birth no less entitles
himself. This sentiment hath no benevolence; it wars with society, it sees
enemies in mankind. But with this sentiment did not go its common
companion, poverty. Arbaces possessed wealth which equalled that of most of
the Roman nobles; and this enabled him to gratify to the utmost the passions
which had no outlet in business or ambition. Travelling from clime to
clime, and beholding still Rome everywhere, he increased both his hatred of
society and his passion for pleasure. He was in a vast prison, which,
however, he could fill with the ministers of luxury. He could not escape
from the prison, and his only object, therefore, was to give it the
character of the palace. The Egyptians, from the earliest time, were
devoted to the joys of sense; Arbaces inherited both their appetite for
sensuality and the glow of imagination which struck light from its
rottenness. But still, unsocial in his pleasures as in his graver pursuits,
and brooking neither superior nor equal, he admitted few to his
companionship, save the willing slaves of his profligacy. He was the
solitary lord of a crowded harem; but, with all, he felt condemned to that
satiety which is the constant curse of men whose intellect is above their
pursuits, and that which once had been the impulse of passion froze down to
the ordinance of custom. >From the disappointments of sense he sought to
raise himself by the cultivation of knowledge; but as it was not his object
to serve mankind, so he despised that knowledge which is practical and
useful. His dark imagination loved to exercise itself in those more
visionary and obscure researches which are ever the most delightful to a
wayward and solitary mind, and to which he himself was invited by the daring
pride of his disposition and the mysterious traditions of his clime.
Dismissing faith in the confused creeds of the heathen world, he reposed the
greatest faith in the power of human wisdom. He did not know (perhaps no one
in that age distinctly did) the limits which Nature imposes upon our
discoveries. Seeing that the higher we mount in knowledge the more wonders
we behold, he imagined that Nature not only worked miracles in her ordinary
course, but that she might, by the cabala of some master soul, be diverted
from that course itself. Thus he pursued science, across her appointed
boundaries, into the land of perplexity and shadow. From the truths of
astronomy he wandered into astrological fallacy; from the secrets of
chemistry he passed into the spectral labyrinth of magic; and he who could
be sceptical as to the power of the gods, was credulously superstitious as
to the power of man.
The cultivation of magic, carried at that day to a singular height among the
would-be wise, was especially Eastern in its origin; it was alien to the
early philosophy of the Greeks; nor had it been received by them with favor
until Ostanes, who accompanied the army of Xerxes, introduced, amongst the
simple credulities of Hellas, the solemn superstitions of Zoroaster. Under
the Roman emperors it had become, however, naturalized at Rome (a meet
subject for Juvenal's fiery wit). Intimately connected with magic was the
worship of Isis, and the Egyptian religion was the means by which was
extended the devotion to Egyptian sorcery. The theurgic, or benevolent
magic--the goetic, or dark and evil necromancy--were alike in pre-eminent
repute during the first century of the Christian era; and the marvels of
Faustus are not comparable to those of Apollonius. Kings, courtiers, and
sages, all trembled before the professors of the dread science. And not the
least remarkable of his tribe was the most formidable and profound Arbaces.
His fame and his discoveries were known to all the cultivators of magic;
they even survived himself. But it was not by his real name that he was
honored by the sorcerer and the sage: his real name, indeed, was unknown in
Italy, for 'Arbaces' was not a genuinely Egyptian but a Median appellation,
which, in the admixture and unsettlement of the ancient races, had become
common in the country of the Nile; and there were various reasons, not only
of pride, but of policy (for in youth he had conspired against the majesty
of Rome), which induced him to conceal his true name and rank. But neither
by the name he had borrowed from the Mede, nor by that which in the colleges
of Egypt would have attested his origin from kings, did the cultivators of
magic acknowledge the potent master. He received from their homage a more
mystic appellation, and was long remembered in Magna Graecia and the Eastern
plain by the name of 'Hermes, the Lord of the Flaming Belt'. His subtle
speculations and boasted attributes of wisdom, recorded in various volumes,
were among those tokens 'of the curious arts' which the Christian converts
most joyfully, yet most fearfully, burnt at Ephesus, depriving posterity of
the proofs of the cunning of the fiend.
The conscience of Arbaces was solely of the intellect--it was awed by no
moral laws. If man imposed these checks upon the herd, so he believed that
man, by superior wisdom, could raise himself above them. 'If (he reasoned) I
have the genius to impose laws, have I not the right to command my own
creations? Still more, have I not the right to control--to evade--to
scorn--the fabrications of yet meaner intellects than my own?' Thus, if he
were a villain, he justified his villainy by what ought to have made him
virtuous--namely, the elevation of his capacities.
Most men have more or less the passion for power; in Arbaces that passion
corresponded exactly to his character. It was not the passion for an
external and brute authority. He desired not the purple and the fasces, the
insignia of vulgar command. His youthful ambition once foiled and defeated,
scorn had supplied its place--his pride, his contempt for Rome--Rome, which
had become the synonym of the world (Rome, whose haughty name he regarded
with the same disdain as that which Rome herself lavished upon the
barbarian), did not permit him to aspire to sway over others, for that would
render him at once the tool or creature of the emperor. He, the Son of the
Great Race of Rameses--he execute the orders of, and receive his power from,
another!--the mere notion filled him with rage. But in rejecting an
ambition that coveted nominal distinctions, he but indulged the more in the
ambition to rule the heart. Honoring mental power as the greatest of
earthly gifts, he loved to feel that power palpably in himself, by extending
it over all whom he encountered. Thus had he ever sought the young--thus
had he ever fascinated and controlled them. He loved to find subjects in
men's souls--to rule over an invisible and immaterial empire!--had he been
less sensual and less wealthy, he might have sought to become the founder of
a new religion. As it was, his energies were checked by his pleasures.
Besides, however, the vague love of this moral sway (vanity so dear to
sages!) he was influenced by a singular and dreamlike devotion to all that
belonged to the mystic Land his ancestors had swayed. Although he
disbelieved in her deities, he believed in the allegories they represented
(or rather he interpreted those allegories anew). He loved to keep alive
the worship of Egypt, because he thus maintained the shadow and the
recollection of her power. He loaded, therefore, the altars of Osiris and
of Isis with regal donations, and was ever anxious to dignify their
priesthood by new and wealthy converts. The vow taken--the priesthood
embraced--he usually chose the comrades of his pleasures from those whom he
made his victims, partly because he thus secured to himself their
secrecy--partly because he thus yet more confirmed to himself his peculiar
power. Hence the motives of his conduct to Apaecides, strengthened as these
were, in that instance, by his passion for Ione.
He had seldom lived long in one place; but as he grew older, he grew more
wearied of the excitement of new scenes, and he had sojourned among the
delightful cities of Campania for a period which surprised even himself. In
fact, his pride somewhat crippled his choice of residence. His unsuccessful
conspiracy excluded him from those burning climes which he deemed of right
his own hereditary possession, and which now cowered, supine and sunken,
under the wings of the Roman eagle. Rome herself was hateful to his
indignant soul; nor did he love to find his riches rivalled by the minions
of the court, and cast into comparative poverty by the mighty magnificence
of the court itself. The Campanian cities proffered to him all that his
nature craved--the luxuries of an unequalled climate--the imaginative
refinements of a voluptuous civilization. He was removed from the sight of
a superior wealth; he was without rivals to his riches; he was free from the
spies of a jealous court. As long as he was rich, none pried into his
conduct. He pursued the dark tenour of his way undisturbed and secure.
It is the curse of sensualists never to love till the pleasures of sense
begin to pall; their ardent youth is frittered away in countless
desires--their hearts are exhausted. So, ever chasing love, and taught by a
restless imagination to exaggerate, perhaps, its charms, the Egyptian had
spent all the glory of his years without attaining the object of his
desires. The beauty of to-morrow succeeded the beauty of to-day, and the
shadows bewildered him in his pursuit of the substance. When, two years
before the present date, he beheld Ione, he saw, for the first time, one
whom he imagined he could love. He stood, then, upon that bridge of life,
from which man sees before him distinctly a wasted youth on the one side,
and the darkness of approaching age upon the other: a time in which we are
more than ever anxious, perhaps, to secure to ourselves, ere it be yet too
late, whatever we have been taught to consider necessary to the enjoyment of
a life of which the brighter half is gone.
With an earnestness and a patience which he had never before commanded for
his pleasures, Arbaces had devoted himself to win the heart of Ione. It did
not content him to love, he desired to be loved. In this hope he had watched
the expanding youth of the beautiful Neapolitan; and, knowing the influence
that the mind possesses over those who are taught to cultivate the mind, he
had contributed willingly to form the genius and enlighten the intellect of
Ione, in the hope that she would be thus able to appreciate what he felt
would be his best claim to her affection: viz, a character which, however
criminal and perverted, was rich in its original elements of strength and
grandeur. When he felt that character to be acknowledged, he willingly
allowed, nay, encouraged her, to mix among the idle votaries of pleasure, in
the belief that her soul, fitted for higher commune, would miss the
companionship of his own, and that, in comparison with others, she would
learn to love herself. He had forgot, that as the sunflower to the sun, so
youth turns to youth, until his jealousy of Glaucus suddenly apprised him of
his error. From that moment, though, as we have seen, he knew not the
extent of his danger, a fiercer and more tumultuous direction was given to a
passion long controlled. Nothing kindles the fire of love like the
sprinkling of the anxieties of jealousy; it takes then a wilder, a more
resistless flame; it forgets its softness; it ceases to be tender; it
assumes something of the intensity--of the ferocity--of hate.
Arbaces resolved to lose no further time upon cautious and perilous
preparations: he resolved to place an irrevocable barrier between himself
and his rivals: he resolved to possess himself of the person of Ione: not
that in his present love, so long nursed and fed by hopes purer than those
of passion alone, he would have been contented with that mere possession.
He desired the heart, the soul, no less than the beauty, of Ione; but he
imagined that once separated by a daring crime from the rest of
mankind--once bound to Ione by a tie that memory could not break, she would
be driven to concentrate her thoughts in him--that his arts would complete
his conquest, and that, according to the true moral of the Roman and the
Sabine, the empire obtained by force would be cemented by gentler means.
This resolution was yet more confirmed in him by his belief in the
prophecies of the stars: they had long foretold to him this year, and even
the present month, as the epoch of some dread disaster, menacing life
itself. He was driven to a certain and limited date. He resolved to crowd,
monarch-like, on his funeral pyre all that his soul held most dear. In his
own words, if he were to die, he resolved to feel that he had lived, and
that Ione should be his own.
WHAT BECOMES OF IONE IN THE HOUSE OF ARBACES. THE FIRST SIGNAL OF THE WRATH
OF THE DREAD FOE.
WHEN Ione entered the spacious hall of the Egyptian, the same awe which had
crept over her brother impressed itself also upon her: there seemed to her
as to him something ominous and warning in the still and mournful faces of
those dread Theban monsters, whose majestic and passionless features the
marble so well portrayed:
Their look, with the reach of past ages, was wise,
And the soul of eternity thought in their eyes.
The tall AEthiopian slave grinned as he admitted her, and motioned to her to
proceed. Half-way up the hall she was met by Arbaces himself, in festive
robes, which glittered with jewels. Although it was broad day without, the
mansion, according to the practice of the luxurious, was artificially
darkened, and the lamps cast their still and odor-giving light over the rich
floors and ivory roofs.
'Beautiful Ione,' said Arbaces, as he bent to touch her hand, 'it is you
that have eclipsed the day--it is your eyes that light up the halls--it is
your breath which fills them with perfumes.'
'You must not talk to me thus,' said Ione, smiling, 'you forget that your
lore has sufficiently instructed my mind to render these graceful flatteries
to my person unwelcome. It was you who taught me to disdain adulation: will
you unteach your pupil?'
There was something so frank and charming in the manner of Ione, as she thus
spoke, that the Egyptian was more than ever enamoured, and more than ever
disposed to renew the offence he had committed; he, however, answered
quickly and gaily, and hastened to renew the conversation.
He led her through the various chambers of a house, which seemed to contain
to her eyes, inexperienced to other splendor than the minute elegance of
Campanian cities, the treasures of the world.
In the walls were set pictures of inestimable art, the lights shone over
statues of the noblest age of Greece. Cabinets of gems, each cabinet itself
a gem, filled up the interstices of the columns; the most precious woods
lined the thresholds and composed the doors; gold and jewels seemed lavished
all around. Sometimes they were alone in these rooms--sometimes they passed
through silent rows of slaves, who, kneeling as she passed, proffered to her
offerings of bracelets, of chains, of gems, which the Egyptian vainly
entreated her to receive.
'I have often heard,' said she, wonderingly, 'that you were rich; but I
never dreamed of the amount of your wealth.'
'Would I could coin it all,' replied the Egyptian, 'into one crown, which I
might place upon that snowy brow!'
'Alas! the weight would crush me; I should be a second Tarpeia,' answered
'But thou dost not disdain riches, O Ione! they know not what life is
capable of who are not wealthy. Gold is the great magician of earth--it
realizes our dreams--it gives them the power of a god--there is a grandeur,
a sublimity, in its possession; it is the mightiest, yet the most obedient
of our slaves.'
The artful Arbaces sought to dazzle the young Neapolitan by his treasures
and his eloquence; he sought to awaken in her the desire to be mistress of
what she surveyed: he hoped that she would confound the owner with the
possessions, and that the charms of his wealth would be reflected on
himself. Meanwhile, Ione was secretly somewhat uneasy at the gallantries
which escaped from those lips, which, till lately, had seemed to disdain the
common homage we pay to beauty; and with that delicate subtlety, which woman
alone possesses, she sought to ward off shafts deliberately aimed, and to
laugh or to talk away the meaning from his warming language. Nothing in the
world is more pretty than that same species of defence; it is the charm of
the African necromancer who professed with a feather to turn aside the
The Egyptian was intoxicated and subdued by her grace even more than by her
beauty: it was with difficulty that he suppressed his emotions; alas! the
feather was only powerful against the summer breezes--it would be the sport
of the storm.
Suddenly, as they stood in one hall, which was surrounded by draperies of
silver and white, the Egyptian clapped his hands, and, as if by enchantment,
a banquet rose from the floor--a couch or throne, with a crimson canopy,
ascended simultaneously at the feet of Ione--and at the same instant from
behind the curtains swelled the invisible and softest music.
Arbaces placed himself at the feet of Ione--and children, young and
beautiful as Loves, ministered to the feast.
The feast was over, the music sank into a low and subdued strain, and
Arbaces thus addressed his beautiful guest:
'Hast thou never in this dark and uncertain world--hast thou never aspired,
my pupil, to look beyond--hast thou never wished to put aside the veil of
futurity, and to behold on the shores of Fate the shadowy images of things
to be? For it is not the past alone that has its ghosts: each event to come
has also its spectrum--its shade; when the hour arrives, life enters it, the
shadow becomes corporeal, and walks the world. Thus, in the land beyond the
grave, are ever two impalpable and spiritual hosts--the things to be, the
things that have been! If by our wisdom we can penetrate that land, we see
the one as the other, and learn, as I have learned, not alone the mysteries
of the dead, but also the destiny of the living.'
'As thou hast learned!--Can wisdom attain so far?'
'Wilt thou prove my knowledge, Ione, and behold the representation of thine
own fate? It is a drama more striking than those of AEschylus: it is one I
have prepared for thee, if thou wilt see the shadows perform their part.'
The Neapolitan trembled; she thought of Glaucus, and sighed as well as
trembled: were their destinies to be united? Half incredulous, half
believing, half awed, half alarmed by the words of her strange host, she
remained for some moments silent, and then answered:
'It may revolt--it may terrify; the knowledge of the future will perhaps
only embitter the present!'
'Not so, Ione. I have myself looked upon thy future lot, and the ghosts of
thy Future bask in the gardens of Elysium: amidst the asphodel and the rose
they prepare the garlands of thy sweet destiny, and the Fates, so harsh to
others, weave only for thee the web of happiness and love. Wilt thou then
come and behold thy doom, so that thou mayest enjoy it beforehand?'
Again the heart of Ione murmured 'Glaucus'; she uttered a half-audible
assent; the Egyptian rose, and taking her by the hand, he led her across the
banquet-room--the curtains withdrew as by magic hands, and the music broke
forth in a louder and gladder strain; they passed a row of columns, on
either side of which fountains cast aloft their fragrant waters; they
descended by broad and easy steps into a garden. The eve had commenced; the
moon was already high in heaven, and those sweet flowers that sleep by day,
and fill, with ineffable odorous, the airs of night, were thickly scattered
amidst alleys cut through the star-lit foliage; or, gathered in baskets, lay
like offerings at the feet of the frequent statues that gleamed along their
'Whither wouldst thou lead me, Arbaces?' said Ione, wonderingly.
'But yonder,' said he, pointing to a small building which stood at the end
of the vista. 'It is a temple consecrated to the Fates--our rites require
such holy ground.'
They passed into a narrow hall, at the end of which hung a sable curtain.
Arbaces lifted it; Ione entered, and found herself in total darkness.
'Be not alarmed,' said the Egyptian, 'the light will rise instantly.' While
he so spoke, a soft, and warm, and gradual light diffused itself around; as
it spread over each object, Ione perceived that she was in an apartment of
moderate size, hung everywhere with black; a couch with draperies of the
same hue was beside her. In the centre of the room was a small altar, on
which stood a tripod of bronze. At one side, upon a lofty column of
granite, was a colossal head of the blackest marble, which she perceived, by
the crown of wheat-ears that encircled the brow, represented the great
Egyptian goddess. Arbaces stood before the altar: he had laid his garland
on the shrine, and seemed occupied with pouring into the tripod the contents
of a brazen vase; suddenly from that tripod leaped into life a blue, quick,
darting, irregular flame; the Egyptian drew back to the side of Ione, and
muttered some words in a language unfamiliar to her ear; the curtain at the
back of the altar waved tremulously to and fro--it parted slowly, and in the
aperture which was thus made, Ione beheld an indistinct and pale landscape,
which gradually grew brighter and clearer as she gazed; at length she
discovered plainly trees, and rivers, and meadows, and all the beautiful
diversity of the richest earth. At length, before the landscape, a dim
shadow glided; it rested opposite to Ione; slowly the same charm seemed to
operate upon it as over the rest of the scene; it took form and shape, and
lo!--in its feature and in its form Ione beheld herself!
Then the scene behind the spectre faded away, and was succeeded by the
representation of a gorgeous palace; a throne was raised in the centre of
its hall, the dim forms of slaves and guards were ranged around it, and a
pale hand held over the throne the likeness of a diadem.
A new actor now appeared; he was clothed from head to foot in a dark
robe--his face was concealed--he knelt at the feet of the shadowy Ione--he
clasped her hand--he pointed to the throne, as if to invite her to ascend
The Neapolitan's heart beat violently. 'Shall the shadow disclose itself?'
whispered a voice beside her--the voice of Arbaces.
'Ah, yes!' answered Ione, softly.
Arbaces raised his hand--the spectre seemed to drop the mantle that
concealed its form--and Ione shrieked--it was Arbaces himself that thus
knelt before her.
'This is, indeed, thy fate!' whispered again the Egyptian's voice in her
ear. 'And thou art destined to be the bride of Arbaces.'
Ione started--the black curtain closed over the phantasmagoria: and Arbaces
himself--the real, the living Arbaces--was at her feet.
'Oh, Ione!' said he, passionately gazing upon her, 'listen to one who has
long struggled vainly with his love. I adore thee! The Fates do not
lie--thou art destined to be mine--I have sought the world around, and found
none like thee. From my youth upward, I have sighed for such as thou art.
I have dreamed till I saw thee--I wake, and I behold thee. Turn not away
from me, Ione; think not of me as thou hast thought; I am not that
being--cold, insensate, and morose, which I have seemed to thee. Never
woman had lover so devoted--so passionate as I will be to Ione. Do not
struggle in my clasp: see--I release thy hand. Take it from me if thou
wilt--well be it so! But do not reject me, Ione--do not rashly
reject--judge of thy power over him whom thou canst thus transform. I, who
never knelt to mortal being, kneel to thee. I, who have commanded fate,
receive from thee my own. Ione, tremble not, thou art my queen--my
goddess--be my bride! All the wishes thou canst form shall be fulfilled.
The ends of the earth shall minister to thee--pomp, power, luxury, shall be
thy slaves. Arbaces shall have no ambition, save the pride of obeying thee.
Ione, turn upon me those eyes--shed upon me thy smile. Dark is my soul when
thy face is hid from it: shine over me, my sun--my heaven--my
daylight!--Ione, Ione--do not reject my love!'
Alone, and in the power of this singular and fearful man, Ione was not yet
terrified; the respect of his language, the softness of his voice, reassured
her; and, in her own purity, she felt protection. But she was
confused--astonished: it was some moments before she could recover the power
'Rise, Arbaces!' said she at length; and she resigned to him once more her
hand, which she as quickly withdrew again, when she felt upon it the burning
pressure of his lips. 'Rise! and if thou art serious, if thy language be in
'If!' said he tenderly.
'Well, then, listen to me: you have been my guardian, my friend, my monitor;
for this new character I was not prepared--think not,' she added quickly, as
she saw his dark eyes glitter with the fierceness of his passion--'think not
that I scorn--that I am untouched--that I am not honored by this homage;
but, say--canst thou hear me calmly?'
'Ay, though thy words were lightning, and could blast me!'
'I love another!' said Ione, blushingly, but in a firm voice.
'By the gods--by hell!' shouted Arbaces, rising to his fullest height; 'dare
not tell me that--dare not mock me--it is impossible!--Whom hast thou
seen--whom known? Oh, Ione, it is thy woman's invention, thy woman's art
that speaks--thou wouldst gain time; I have surprised--I have terrified
thee. Do with me as thou wilt--say that thou lovest not me; but say not
that thou lovest another!'
'Alas!' began Ione; and then, appalled before his sudden and unlooked-for
violence, she burst into tears.
Arbaces came nearer to her--his breath glowed fiercely on her cheek; he
wound his arms round her--she sprang from his embrace. In the struggle a
tablet fell from her bosom on the ground: Arbaces perceived, and seized
it--it was the letter that morning received from Glaucus. Ione sank upon
the couch, half dead with terror.
Rapidly the eyes of Arbaces ran over the writing; the Neapolitan did not
dare to gaze upon him: she did not see the deadly paleness that came over
his countenance--she marked not his withering frown, nor the quivering of
his lip, nor the convulsions that heaved his breast. He read it to the end,
and then, as the letter fell from his hand, he said, in a voice of deceitful
'Is the writer of this the man thou lovest?'
Ione sobbed, but answered not.
'Speak!' he rather shrieked than said.
'It is--it is!
'And his name--it is written here--his name is Glaucus!'
Ione, clasping her hands, looked round as for succour or escape.
'Then hear me,' said Arbaces, sinking his voice into a whisper; 'thou shalt
go to thy tomb rather than to his arms! What! thinkest thou Arbaces will
brook a rival such as this puny Greek? What! thinkest thou that he has
watched the fruit ripen, to yield it to another! Pretty fool--no! Thou art
mine--all--only mine: and thus--thus I seize and claim thee!' As he spoke,
he caught Ione in his arms; and, in that ferocious grasp, was all the
energy--less of love than of revenge.
But to Ione despair gave supernatural strength: she again tore herself from
him--she rushed to that part of the room by which she had entered--she half
withdrew the curtain--he had seized her--again she broke away from him--and
fell, exhausted, and with a loud shriek, at the base of the column which
supported the head of the Egyptian goddess. Arbaces paused for a moment, as
if to regain his breath; and thence once more darted upon his prey.
At that instant the curtain was rudely torn aside, the Egyptian felt a
fierce and strong grasp upon his shoulder. He turned--he beheld before him
the flashing eyes of Glaucus, and the pale, worn, but menacing, countenance
of Apaecides. 'Ah,' he muttered, as he glared from one to the other, 'what
Fury hath sent ye hither?'
'Ate,' answered Glaucus; and he closed at once with the Egyptian.
Meanwhile, Apaecides raised his sister, now lifeless, from the ground; his
strength, exhausted by a mind long overwrought, did not suffice to bear her
away, light and delicate though her shape: he placed her, therefore, on the
couch, and stood over her with a brandishing knife, watching the contest
between Glaucus and the Egyptian, and ready to plunge his weapon in the
bosom of Arbaces should he be victorious in the struggle. There is,
perhaps, nothing on earth so terrible as the naked and unarmed contest of
animal strength, no weapon but those which Nature supplies to rage. Both
the antagonists were now locked in each other's grasp--the hand of each
seeking the throat of the other--the face drawn back--the fierce eyes
flashing--the muscles strained--the veins swelled--the lips apart--the teeth
set--both were strong beyond the ordinary power of men, both animated by
relentless wrath; they coiled, they wound, around each other; they rocked to
and fro--they swayed from end to end of their confined arena--they uttered
cries of ire and revenge--they were now before the altar--now at the base of
the column where the struggle had commenced: they drew back for
breath--Arbaces leaning against the column--Glaucus a few paces apart.
'O ancient goddess!' exclaimed Arbaces, clasping the column, and raising his
eyes toward the sacred image it supported, 'protect thy chosen--proclaim
they vengeance against this thing of an upstart creed, who with sacrilegious
violence profanes thy resting-place and assails thy servant.'
As he spoke, the still and vast features of the goddess seemed suddenly to
glow with life; through the black marble, as through a transparent veil,
flushed luminously a crimson and burning hue; around the head played and
darted coruscations of livid lightning; the eyes became like balls of lurid
fire, and seemed fixed in withering and intolerable wrath upon the
countenance of the Greek. Awed and appalled by this sudden and mystic
answer to the prayer of his foe, and not free from the hereditary
superstitions of his race, the cheeks of Glaucus paled before that strange
and ghastly animation of the marble--his knees knocked together--he stood,
seized with a divine panic, dismayed, aghast, half unmanned before his foe!
Arbaces gave him not breathing time to recover his stupor: 'Die, wretch!' he
shouted, in a voice of thunder, as he sprang upon the Greek; 'the Mighty
Mother claims thee as a living sacrifice!' Taken thus by surprise in the
first consternation of his superstitious fears, the Greek lost his
footing--the marble floor was as smooth as glass--he slid--he fell. Arbaces
planted his foot on the breast of his fallen foe. Apaecides, taught by his
sacred profession, as well as by his knowledge of Arbaces, to distrust all
miraculous interpositions, had not shared the dismay of his companion; he
rushed forward--his knife gleamed in the air--the watchful Egyptian caught
his arm as it descended--one wrench of his powerful hand tore the weapon
from the weak grasp of the priest--one sweeping blow stretched him to the
earth--with a loud and exulting yell Arbaces brandished the knife on high.
Glaucus gazed upon his impending fate with unwinking eyes, and in the stern
and scornful resignation of a fallen gladiator, when, at that awful instant,
the floor shook under them with a rapid and convulsive throe--a mightier
spirit than that of the Egyptian was abroad!--a giant and crushing power,
before which sunk into sudden impotence his passion and his arts. IT
woke--it stirred--that Dread Demon of the Earthquake--laughing to scorn
alike the magic of human guile and the malice of human wrath. As a Titan,
on whom the mountains are piled, it roused itself from the sleep of years,
it moved on its tortured couch--the caverns below groaned and trembled
beneath the motion of its limbs. In the moment of his vengeance and his
power, the self-prized demigod was humbled to his real clay. Far and wide
along the soil went a hoarse and rumbling sound--the curtains of the chamber
shook as at the blast of a storm--the altar rocked--the tripod reeled, and
high over the place of contest, the column trembled and waved from side to
side--the sable head of the goddess tottered and fell from its pedestal--and
as the Egyptian stooped above his intended victim, right upon his bended
form, right between the shoulder and the neck, struck the marble mass! The
shock stretched him like the blow of death, at once, suddenly, without sound
or motion, or semblance of life, upon the floor, apparently crushed by the
very divinity he had impiously animated and invoked!
'The Earth has preserved her children,' said Glaucus, staggering to his
feet. 'Blessed be the dread convulsion! Let us worship the providence of
the gods!' He assisted Apaecides to rise, and then turned upward the face of
Arbaces; it seemed locked as in death; blood gushed from the Egyptian's lips
over his glittering robes; he fell heavily from the arms of Glaucus, and the
red stream trickled slowly along the marble. Again the earth shook beneath
their feet; they were forced to cling to each other; the convulsion ceased
as suddenly as it came; they tarried no longer; Glaucus bore Ione lightly in
his arms, and they fled from the unhallowed spot. But scarce had they
entered the garden than they were met on all sides by flying and disordered
groups of women and slaves, whose festive and glittering garments contrasted
in mockery the solemn terror of the hour; they did not appear to heed the
strangers--they were occupied only with their own fears. After the
tranquillity of sixteen years, that burning and treacherous soil again
menaced destruction; they uttered but one cry, 'THE EARTHQUAKE! THE
EARTHQUAKE!' and passing unmolested from the midst of them, Apaecides and
his companions, without entering the house, hastened down one of the alleys,
passed a small open gate, and there, sitting on a little mound over which
spread the gloom of the dark green aloes, the moonlight fell on the bended
figure of the blind girl--she was weeping bitterly.
BOOK THE THIRD
THE FORUM OF THE POMPEIANS. THE FIRST RUDE MACHINERY BY WHICH THE NEW ERA
OF THE WORLD WAS WROUGHT.
IT was early noon, and the forum was crowded alike with the busy and the
idle. As at Paris at this day, so at that time in the cities of Italy, men
lived almost wholly out of doors: the public buildings, the forum, the
porticoes, the baths, the temples themselves, might be considered their real
homes; it was no wonder that they decorated so gorgeously these favorite
places of resort--they felt for them a sort of domestic affection as well as
a public pride. And animated was, indeed, the aspect of the forum of
Pompeii at that time! Along its broad pavement, composed of large flags of
marble, were assembled various groups, conversing in that energetic fashion
which appropriates a gesture to every word, and which is still the
characteristic of the people of the south. Here, in seven stalls on one
side the colonnade, sat the money-changers, with their glittering heaps
before them, and merchants and seamen in various costumes crowding round
their stalls. On one side, several men in long togas were seen bustling
rapidly up to a stately edifice, where the magistrates administered
justice--these were the lawyers, active, chattering, joking, and punning, as
you may find them at this day in Westminster. In the centre of the space,
pedestals supported various statues, of which the most remarkable was the
stately form of Cicero. Around the court ran a regular and symmetrical
colonnade of Doric architecture; and there several, whose business drew them
early to the place, were taking the slight morning repast which made an
Italian breakfast, talking vehemently on the earthquake of the preceding
night as they dipped pieces of bread in their cups of diluted wine. In the
open space, too, you might perceive various petty traders exercising the
arts of their calling. Here one man was holding out ribands to a fair dame
from the country; another man was vaunting to a stout farmer the excellence
of his shoes; a third, a kind of stall-restaurateur, still so common in the
Italian cities, was supplying many a hungry mouth with hot messes from his
small and itinerant stove, while--contrast strongly typical of the mingled
bustle and intellect of the time--close by, a schoolmaster was expounding to
his puzzled pupils the elements of the Latin grammar.' A gallery above the
portico, which was ascended by small wooden staircases, had also its throng;
though, as here the immediate business of the place was mainly carried on,
its groups wore a more quiet and serious air.
Every now and then the crowd below respectfully gave way as some senator
swept along to the Temple of Jupiter (which filled up one side of the forum,
and was the senators' hall of meeting), nodding with ostentatious
condescension to such of his friends or clients as he distinguished amongst
the throng. Mingling amidst the gay dresses of the better orders you saw
the hardy forms of the neighboring farmers, as they made their way to the
public granaries. Hard by the temple you caught a view of the triumphal
arch, and the long street beyond swarming with inhabitants; in one of the
niches of the arch a fountain played, cheerily sparkling in the sunbeams;
and above its cornice rose the bronzed and equestrian statue of Caligula,
strongly contrasting the gay summer skies. Behind the stalls of the
money-changers was that building now called the Pantheon; and a crowd of the
poorer Pompeians passed through the small vestibule which admitted to the
interior, with panniers under their arms, pressing on towards a platform,
placed between two columns, where such provisions as the priests had rescued
from sacrifice were exposed for sale.
At one of the public edifices appropriated to the business of the city,
workmen were employed upon the columns, and you heard the noise of their
labor every now and then rising above the hum of the multitude: the columns
are unfinished to this day!
All, then, united, nothing could exceed in variety the costumes, the ranks,
the manners, the occupations of the crowd--nothing could exceed the bustle,
the gaiety, the animation--where pleasure and commerce, idleness and labor,
avarice and ambition, mingled in one gulf their motley rushing, yet
Facing the steps of the Temple of Jupiter, with folded arms, and a knit and
contemptuous brow, stood a man of about fifty years of age. His dress was
remarkably plain--not so much from its material, as from the absence of all
those ornaments which were worn by the Pompeians of every rank--partly from
the love of show, partly, also, because they were chiefly wrought into those
shapes deemed most efficacious in resisting the assaults of magic and the
influence of the evil eye. His forehead was high and bald; the few locks
that remained at the back of the head were concealed by a sort of cowl,
which made a part of his cloak, to be raised or lowered at pleasure, and was
now drawn half-way over the head, as a protection from the rays of the sun.
The color of his garments was brown, no popular hue with the Pompeians; all
the usual admixtures of scarlet or purple seemed carefully excluded. His
belt, or girdle, contained a small receptacle for ink, which hooked on to
the girdle, a stilus (or implement of writing), and tablets of no ordinary
size. What was rather remarkable, the cincture held no purse, which was the
almost indispensable appurtenance of the girdle, even when that purse had
the misfortune to be empty!
It was not often that the gay and egotistical Pompeians busied themselves
with observing the countenances and actions of their neighbors; but there
was that in the lip and eye of this bystander so remarkably bitter and
disdainful, as he surveyed the religious procession sweeping up the stairs
of the temple, that it could not fail to arrest the notice of many.
'Who is yon cynic?' asked a merchant of his companion, a jeweller.
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