The Last Days of Pompeii
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Part 4 out of 9
'It is Olinthus,' replied the jeweller; 'a reputed Nazarene.'
The merchant shuddered. 'A dread sect!' said he, in a whispered and fearful
voice. 'It is said. that when they meet at nights they always commence
their ceremonies by the murder of a new-born babe; they profess a community
of goods, too--the wretches! A community of goods! What would become of
merchants, or jewellers either, if such notions were in fashion?'
'That is very true,' said the jeweller; 'besides, they wear no jewels--they
mutter imprecations when they see a serpent; and at Pompeii all our
ornaments are serpentine.'
'Do but observe,' said a third, who was a fabricant of bronze, 'how yon
Nazarene scowls at the piety of the sacrificial procession. He is murmuring
curses on the temple, be sure. Do you know, Celcinus, that this fellow,
passing by my shop the other day, and seeing me employed on a statue of
Minerva, told me with a frown that, had it been marble, he would have broken
it; but the bronze was too strong for him. "Break a goddess!" said I. "A
goddess!" answered the atheist; "it is a demon--an evil spirit!" Then he
passed on his way cursing. Are such things to be borne? What marvel that
the earth heaved so fearfully last night, anxious to reject the atheist from
her bosom?--An atheist, do I say? worse still--a scorner of the Fine Arts!
Woe to us fabricants of bronze, if such fellows as this give the law to
'These are the incendiaries that burnt Rome under Nero,' groaned the
While such were the friendly remarks provoked by the air and faith of the
Nazarene, Olinthus himself became sensible of the effect he was producing;
he turned his eyes round, and observed the intent faces of the accumulating
throng, whispering as they gazed; and surveying them for a moment with an
expression, first of defiance and afterwards of compassion, he gathered his
cloak round him and passed on, muttering audibly, 'Deluded idolaters!--did
not last night's convulsion warn ye? Alas! how will ye meet the last day?'
The crowd that heard these boding words gave them different interpretations,
according to their different shades of ignorance and of fear; all, however,
concurred in imagining them to convey some awful imprecation. They regarded
the Christian as the enemy of mankind; the epithets they lavished upon him,
of which 'Atheist' was the most favored and frequent, may serve, perhaps, to
warn us, believers of that same creed now triumphant, how we indulge the
persecution of opinion Olinthus then underwent, and how we apply to those
whose notions differ from our own the terms at that day lavished on the
fathers of our faith.
As Olinthus stalked through the crowd, and gained one of the more private
places of egress from the forum, he perceived gazing upon him a pale and
earnest countenance, which he was not slow to recognize.
Wrapped in a pallium that partially concealed his sacred robes, the young
Apaecides surveyed the disciple of that new and mysterious creed, to which
at one time he had been half a convert.
'Is he, too, an impostor? Does this man, so plain and simple in life, in
garb, in mien--does he too, like Arbaces, make austerity the robe of the
sensualist? Does the veil of Vesta hide the vices of the prostitute?'
Olinthus, accustomed to men of all classes, and combining with the
enthusiasm of his faith a profound experience of his kind, guessed, perhaps,
by the index of the countenance, something of what passed within the breast
of the priest. He met the survey of Apaecides with a steady eye, and a brow
of serene and open candour.
'Peace be with thee!' said he, saluting Apaecides.
'Peace!' echoed the priest, in so hollow a tone that it went at once to the
heart of the Nazarene.
'In that wish,' continued Olinthus, 'all good things are combined--without
virtue thou canst not have peace. Like the rainbow, Peace rests upon the
earth, but its arch is lost in heaven. Heaven bathes it in hues of
light--it springs up amidst tears and clouds--it is a reflection of the
Eternal Sun--it is an assurance of calm--it is the sign of a great covenant
between Man and God. Such peace, O young man! is the smile of the soul; it
is an emanation from the distant orb of immortal light. PEACE be with you!'
'Alas!' began Apaecides, when he caught the gaze of the curious loiterers,
inquisitive to know what could possibly be the theme of conversation between
a reputed Nazarene and a priest of Isis. He stopped short, and then added
in a low tone: 'We cannot converse here, I will follow thee to the banks of
the river; there is a walk which at this time is usually deserted and
Olinthus bowed assent. He passed through the streets with a hasty step, but
a quick and observant eye. Every now and then he exchanged a significant
glance, a slight sign, with some passenger, whose garb usually betokened the
wearer to belong to the humbler classes; for Christianity was in this the
type of all other and less mighty revolutions--the grain of mustard-seed was
in the heart of the lowly. Amidst the huts of poverty and labor, the vast
stream which afterwards poured its broad waters beside the cities and
palaces of earth took its neglected source.
THE NOONDAY EXCURSION ON THE CAMPANIAN SEAS.
'BUT tell me, Glaucus,' said Ione, as they glided down the rippling Sarnus
in their boat of pleasure, 'how camest thou with Apaecides to my rescue from
that bad man?'
'Ask Nydia yonder,' answered the Athenian, pointing to the blind girl, who
sat at a little distance from them, leaning pensively over her lyre; 'she
must have thy thanks, not we. It seems that she came to my house, and,
finding me from home, sought thy brother in his temple; he accompanied her
to Arbaces; on their way they encountered me, with a company of friends,
whom thy kind letter had given me a spirit cheerful enough to join. Nydia's
quick ear detected my voice--a few words sufficed to make me the companion
of Apaecides; I told not my associates why I left them--could I trust thy
name to their light tongues and gossiping opinion?--Nydia led us to the
garden gate, by which we afterwards bore thee--we entered, and were about to
plunge into the mysteries of that evil house, when we heard thy cry in
another direction. Thou knowest the rest.'
Ione blushed deeply. She then raised her eyes to those of Glaucus, and he
felt all the thanks she could not utter. 'Come hither, my Nydia,' said she,
tenderly, to the Thessalian.
'Did I not tell thee that thou shouldst be my sister and friend? Hast thou
not already been more?--my guardian, my preserver!'
'It is nothing,' answered Nydia coldly, and without stirring.
'Ah! I forgot,' continued Ione, 'I should come to thee'; and she moved along
the benches till she reached the place where Nydia sat, and flinging her
arms caressingly round her, covered her cheeks with kisses.
Nydia was that morning paler than her wont, and her countenance grew even
more wan and colorless as she submitted to the embrace of the beautiful
Neapolitan. 'But how camest thou, Nydia,' whispered Ione, 'to surmise so
faithfully the danger I was exposed to? Didst thou know aught of the
'Yes, I knew of his vices.'
'Noble Ione, I have been a slave to the vicious--those whom I served were
'And thou hast entered his house since thou knewest so well that private
'I have played on my lyre to Arbaces,' answered the Thessalian, with
'And thou hast escaped the contagion from which thou hast saved Ione?'
returned the Neapolitan, in a voice too low for the ear of Glaucus.
'Noble Ione, I have neither beauty nor station; I am a child, and a slave,
and blind. The despicable are ever safe.'
It was with a pained, and proud, and indignant tone that Nydia made this
humble reply; and Ione felt that she only wounded Nydia by pursuing the
subject. She remained silent, and the bark now floated into the sea.
'Confess that I was right, Ione,' said Glaucus, 'in prevailing on thee not
to waste this beautiful noon in thy chamber--confess that I was right.'
'Thou wert right, Glaucus,' said Nydia, abruptly.
'The dear child speaks for thee,' returned the Athenian. 'But permit me to
move opposite to thee, or our light boat will be over-balanced.'
So saying, he took his seat exactly opposite to Ione, and leaning forward,
he fancied that it was her breath, and not the winds of summer, that flung
fragrance over the sea.
'Thou wert to tell me,' said Glaucus, 'why for so many days thy door was
closed to me?'
'Oh, think of it no more!' answered Ione, quickly; 'I gave my ear to what I
now know was the malice of slander.'
'And my slanderer was the Egyptian?'
Ione's silence assented to the question.
'His motives are sufficiently obvious.'
'Talk not of him,' said Ione, covering her face with her hands, as if to
shut out his very thought.
'Perhaps he may be already by the banks of the slow Styx,' resumed Glaucus;
'yet in that case we should probably have heard of his death. Thy brother,
methinks, hath felt the dark influence of his gloomy soul. When we arrived
last night at thy house he left me abruptly. Will he ever vouchsafe to be my
'He is consumed with some secret care,' answered Ione, tearfully. 'Would
that we could lure him from himself! Let us join in that tender office.'
'He shall be my brother,' returned the Greek.
'How calmly,' said Ione, rousing herself from the gloom into which her
thoughts of Apaecides had plunged her--'how calmly the clouds seem to repose
in heaven; and yet you tell me, for I knew it not myself, that the earth
shook beneath us last night.'
'It did, and more violently, they say, than it has done since the great
convulsion sixteen years ago: the land we live in yet nurses mysterious
terror; and the reign of Pluto, which spreads beneath our burning fields,
seems rent with unseen commotion. Didst thou not feel the earth quake,
Nydia, where thou wert seated last night? and was it not the fear that it
occasioned thee that made thee weep?'
'I felt the soil creep and heave beneath me, like some monstrous serpent,'
answered Nydia; 'but as I saw nothing, I did not fear: I imagined the
convulsion to be a spell of the Egyptian's. They say he has power over the
'Thou art a Thessalian, my Nydia,' replied Glaucus, 'and hast a national
right to believe in magic.
'Magic!--who doubts it?' answered Nydia, simply: 'dost thou?'
'Until last night (when a necromantic prodigy did indeed appal me), methinks
I was not credulous in any other magic save that of love!' said Glaucus, in
a tremulous voice, and fixing his eyes on Ione.
'Ah!' said Nydia, with a sort of shiver, and she awoke mechanically a few
pleasing notes from her lyre; the sound suited well the tranquility of the
waters, and the sunny stillness of the noon.
'Play to us, dear Nydia, said Glaucus--'play and give us one of thine old
Thessalian songs: whether it be of magic or not, as thou wilt--let it, at
least, be of love!'
'Of love!' repeated Nydia, raising her large, wandering eyes, that ever
thrilled those who saw them with a mingled fear and pity; you could never
familiarize yourself to their aspect: so strange did it seem that those dark
wild orbs were ignorant of the day, and either so fixed was their deep
mysterious gaze, or so restless and perturbed their glance, that you felt,
when you encountered them, that same vague, and chilling, and
half-preternatural impression, which comes over you in the presence of the
insane--of those who, having a life outwardly like your own, have a life
'Will you that I should sing of love?' said she, fixing those eyes upon
'Yes,' replied he, looking down.
She moved a little way from the arm of Ione, still cast round her, as if
that soft embrace embarrassed; and placing her light and graceful instrument
on her knee, after a short prelude, she sang the following strain:
The Wind and the Beam loved the Rose,
And the Rose loved one;
For who recks the wind where it blows?
Or loves not the sun?
None knew whence the humble Wind stole,
Poor sport of the skies--
None dreamt that the Wind had a soul,
In its mournful sighs!
Oh, happy Beam! how canst thou prove
That bright love of thine?
In thy light is the proof of thy love.
Thou hast but--to shine!
How its love can the Wind reveal?
Unwelcome its sigh;
Mute--mute to its Rose let it steal--
Its proof is--to die!
'Thou singest but sadly, sweet girl,' said Glaucus; 'thy youth only feels as
yet the dark shadow of Love; far other inspiration doth he wake, when he
himself bursts and brightens upon us.
'I sing as I was taught,' replied Nydia, sighing.
'Thy master was love-crossed, then--try thy hand at a gayer air. Nay, girl,
give the instrument to me.' As Nydia obeyed, her hand touched his, and, with
that slight touch, her breast heaved--her cheek flushed. Ione and Glaucus,
occupied with each other, perceived not those signs of strange and premature
emotions, which preyed upon a heart that, nourished by imagination,
dispensed with hope.
And now, broad, blue, bright, before them, spread that halcyon sea, fair as
at this moment, seventeen centuries from that date, I behold it rippling on
the same divinest shores. Clime that yet enervates with a soft and Circean
spell--that moulds us insensibly, mysteriously, into harmony with thyself,
banishing the thought of austerer labor, the voices of wild ambition, the
contests and the roar of life; filling us with gentle and subduing dreams,
making necessary to our nature that which is its least earthly portion, so
that the very air inspires us with the yearning and thirst of love. Whoever
visits thee seems to leave earth and its harsh cares behind--to enter by the
Ivory gate into the Land of Dreams. The young and laughing Hours of the
PRESENT--the Hours, those children of Saturn, which he hungers ever to
devour, seem snatched from his grasp. The past--the future--are forgotten;
we enjoy but the breathing time. Flower of the world's garden--Fountain of
Delight--Italy of Italy--beautiful, benign Campania!--vain were, indeed, the
Titans, if on this spot they yet struggled for another heaven! Here, if God
meant this working-day life for a perpetual holiday, who would not sigh to
dwell for ever--asking nothing, hoping nothing, fearing nothing, while thy
skies shine over him--while thy seas sparkle at his feet--while thine air
brought him sweet messages from the violet and the orange--and while the
heart, resigned to--beating with--but one emotion, could find the lips and
the eyes, which flatter it (vanity of vanities!) that love can defy custom,
and be eternal?
It was then in this clime--on those seas, that the Athenian gazed upon a
face that might have suited the nymph, the spirit of the place: feeding his
eyes on the changeful roses of that softest cheek, happy beyond the
happiness of common life, loving, and knowing himself beloved.
In the tale of human passion, in past ages, there is something of interest
even in the remoteness of the time. We love to feel within us the bond
which unites the most distant era--men, nations, customs perish; THE
AFFECTIONS ARE IMMORTAL!--they are the sympathies which unite the ceaseless
generations. The past lives again, when we look upon its emotions--it lives
in our own! That which was, ever is! The magician's gift, that revives the
dead--that animates the dust of forgotten graves, is not in the author's
skill--it is in the heart of the reader!
Still vainly seeking the eyes of Ione, as, half downcast, half averted, they
shunned his own, the Athenian, in a low and soft voice, thus expressed the
feelings inspired by happier thoughts than those which had colored the song
THE SONG OF GLAUCUS
As the bark floateth on o'er the summer-lit sea,
Floats my heart o'er the deeps of its passion for thee;
All lost in the space, without terror it glides,
For bright with thy soul is the face of the tides.
Now heaving, now hush'd, is that passionate ocean,
As it catches thy smile or thy sighs;
And the twin-stars that shine on the wanderer's devotion
Its guide and its god--are thine eyes!
The bark may go down, should the cloud sweep above,
For its being is bound to the light of thy love.
As thy faith and thy smile are its life and its joy,
So thy frown or thy change are the storms that destroy.
Ah! sweeter to sink while the sky is serene,
If time hath a change for thy heart!
If to live be to weep over what thou hast been,
Let me die while I know what thou art!
As the last words of the song trembled over the sea, Ione raised her
looks--they met those of her lover. Happy Nydia!--happy in thy affliction,
that thou couldst not see that fascinated and charmed gaze, that said so
much--that made the eye the voice of the soul--that promised the
impossibility of change!
But, though the Thessalian could not detect that gaze, she divined its
meaning by their silence--by their sighs. She pressed her hands lightly
across her breast, as if to keep down its bitter and jealous thoughts; and
then she hastened to speak--for that silence was intolerable to her.
'After all, O Glaucus!' said she, 'there is nothing very mirthful in your
'Yet I meant it to be so, when I took up thy lyre, pretty one. Perhaps
happiness will not permit us to be mirthful.'
'How strange is it,' said Ione, changing a conversation which oppressed her
while it charmed--'that for the last several days yonder cloud has hung
motionless over Vesuvius! Yet not indeed motionless, for sometimes it
changes its form; and now methinks it looks like some vast giant, with an
arm outstretched over the city. Dost thou see the likeness--or is it only
to my fancy?'
'Fair Ione! I see it also. It is astonishingly distinct. The giant seems
seated on the brow of the mountain, the different shades of the cloud appear
to form a white robe that sweeps over its vast breast and limbs; it seems to
gaze with a steady face upon the city below, to point with one hand, as thou
sayest, over its glittering streets, and to raise the other (dost thou note
it?) towards the higher heaven. It is like the ghost of some huge Titan
brooding over the beautiful world he lost; sorrowful for the past--yet with
something of menace for the future.'
'Could that mountain have any connection with the last night's earthquake?
They say that, ages ago, almost in the earliest era of tradition, it gave
forth fires as AEtna still. Perhaps the flames yet lurk and dart beneath.'
'It is possible,' said Glaucus, musingly.
'Thou sayest thou art slow to believe in magic,' said Nydia, suddenly. 'I
have heard that a potent witch dwells amongst the scorched caverns of the
mountain, and yon cloud may be the dim shadow of the demon she confers
'Thou art full of the romance of thy native Thessaly,' said Glaucus; 'and a
strange mixture of sense and all conflicting superstitions.'
'We are ever superstitious in the dark,' replied Nydia. 'Tell me,' she
added, after a slight pause, 'tell me, O Glaucus! do all that are beautiful
resemble each other? They say you are beautiful, and Ione also. Are your
faces then the same? I fancy not, yet it ought to be so.'
'Fancy no such grievous wrong to Ione,' answered Glaucus, laughing. 'But we
do not, alas! resemble each other, as the homely and the beautiful sometimes
do. Ione's hair is dark, mine light; Ione's eyes are--what color, Ione? I
cannot see, turn them to me. Oh, are they black? no, they are too soft.
Are they blue? no, they are too deep: they change with every ray of the
sun--I know not their color: but mine, sweet Nydia, are grey, and bright
only when Ione shines on them! Ione's cheek is...'
'I do not understand one word of thy description,' interrupted Nydia,
peevishly. 'I comprehend only that you do not resemble each other, and I am
glad of it.'
'Why, Nydia?' said Ione.
Nydia colored slightly. 'Because,' she replied, coldly, 'I have always
imagined you under different forms, and one likes to know one is right.'
'And what hast thou imagined Glaucus to resemble?' asked Ione, softly.
'Music!' replied Nydia, looking down.
'Thou art right,' thought Ione.
'And what likeness hast thou ascribed to Ione?'
'I cannot tell yet,' answered the blind girl; 'I have not yet known her long
enough to find a shape and sign for my guesses.'
'I will tell thee, then,' said Glaucus, passionately; 'she is like the sun
that warms--like the wave that refreshes.'
'The sun sometimes scorches, and the wave sometimes drowns,' answered Nydia.
'Take then these roses,' said Glaucus; 'let their fragrance suggest to thee
'Alas, the roses will fade!' said the Neapolitan, archly.
Thus conversing, they wore away the hours; the lovers, conscious only of the
brightness and smiles of love; the blind girl feeling only its darkness--its
tortures--the fierceness of jealousy and its woe!
And now, as they drifted on, Glaucus once more resumed the lyre, and woke
its strings with a careless hand to a strain, so wildly and gladly
beautiful, that even Nydia was aroused from her reverie, and uttered a cry
'Thou seest, my child,' cried Glaucus, 'that I can yet redeem the character
of love's music, and that I was wrong in saying happiness could not be gay.
Listen, Nydia! listen, dear Ione! and hear:
THE BIRTH OF LOVE
Like a Star in the seas above,
Like a Dream to the waves of sleep--
Up--up--THE INCARNATE LOVE--
She rose from the charmed deep!
And over the Cyprian Isle
The skies shed their silent smile;
And the Forest's green heart was rife
With the stir of the gushing life--
The life that had leap'd to birth,
In the veins of the happy earth!
Hail! oh, hail!
The dimmest sea-cave below thee,
The farthest sky-arch above,
In their innermost stillness know thee:
And heave with the Birth of Love!
Gale! soft Gale!
Thou comest on thy silver winglets,
From thy home in the tender west,
Now fanning her golden ringlets,
Now hush'd on her heaving breast.
And afar on the murmuring sand,
The Seasons wait hand in hand
To welcome thee, Birth Divine,
To the earth which is henceforth thine.
Behold! how she kneels in the shell,
Bright pearl in its floating cell!
Behold! how the shell's rose-hues,
The cheek and the breast of snow,
And the delicate limbs suffuse,
Like a blush, with a bashful glow.
Sailing on, slowly sailing
O'er the wild water;
All hail! as the fond light is hailing
We are thine, all thine evermore:
Not a leaf on the laughing shore,
Not a wave on the heaving sea,
Nor a single sigh
In the boundless sky,
But is vow'd evermore to thee!
And thou, my beloved one--thou
, As I gaze on thy soft eyes now,
Methinks from their depths I view
The Holy Birth born anew;
Thy lids are the gentle cell
Where the young Love blushing lies;
See! she breaks from the mystic shell,
She comes from thy tender eyes!
Hail! all hail!
She comes, as she came from the sea,
To my soul as it looks on thee;
She comes, she comes!
She comes, as she came from the sea,
To my soul as it looks on thee!
Hail! all hail!
FOLLOWED by Apaecides, the Nazarene gained the side of the Sarnus--that
river, which now has shrunk into a petty stream, then rushed gaily into the
sea, covered with countless vessels, and reflecting on its waves the
gardens, the vines, the palaces, and the temples of Pompeii. From its more
noisy and frequented banks, Olinthus directed his steps to a path which ran
amidst a shady vista of trees, at the distance of a few paces from the
river. This walk was in the evening a favorite resort of the Pompeians, but
during the heat and business of the day was seldom visited, save by some
groups of playful children, some meditative poet, or some disputative
philosophers. At the side farthest from the river, frequent copses of box
interspersed the more delicate and evanescent foliage, and these were cut
into a thousand quaint shapes, sometimes into the forms of fauns and satyrs,
sometimes into the mimicry of Egyptian pyramids, sometimes into the letters
that composed the name of a popular or eminent citizen. Thus the false
taste is equally ancient as the pure; and the retired traders of Hackney and
Paddington, a century ago, were little aware, perhaps, that in their
tortured yews and sculptured box, they found their models in the most
polished period of Roman antiquity, in the gardens of Pompeii, and the
villas of the fastidious Pliny.
This walk now, as the noonday sun shone perpendicularly through the
chequered leaves, was entirely deserted; at least no other forms than those
of Olinthus and the priest infringed upon the solitude. They sat themselves
on one of the benches, placed at intervals between the trees, and facing the
faint breeze that came languidly from the river, whose waves danced and
sparkled before them--a singular and contrasted pair; the believer in the
latest--the priest of the most ancient--worship of the world!
'Since thou leftst me so abruptly,' said Olinthus, 'hast thou been happy?
has thy heart found contentment under these priestly robes? hast thou, still
yearning for the voice of God, heard it whisper comfort to thee from the
oracles of Isis? That sigh, that averted countenance, give me the answer my
'Alas!' answered Apaecides, sadly, 'thou seest before thee a wretched and
distracted man! From my childhood upward I have idolized the dreams of
virtue! I have envied the holiness of men who, in caves and lonely temples,
have been admitted to the companionship of beings above the world; my days
have been consumed with feverish and vague desires; my nights with mocking
but solemn visions. Seduced by the mystic prophecies of an impostor, I have
indued these robes;--my nature (I confess it to thee frankly)--my nature has
revolted at what I have seen and been doomed to share in! Searching after
truth, I have become but the minister of falsehoods. On the evening in which
we last met, I was buoyed by hopes created by that same impostor, whom I
ought already to have better known. I have--no matter--no matter! suffice
it, I have added perjury and sin to rashness and to sorrow. The veil is now
rent for ever from my eyes; I behold a villain where I obeyed a demigod; the
earth darkens in my sight; I am in the deepest abyss of gloom; I know not if
there be gods above; if we are the things of chance; if beyond the bounded
and melancholy present there is annihilation or an hereafter--tell me, then,
thy faith; solve me these doubts, if thou hast indeed the power!'
'I do not marvel,' answered the Nazarene, 'that thou hast thus erred, or
that thou art thus sceptic. Eighty years ago there was no assurance to man
of God, or of a certain and definite future beyond the grave. New laws are
declared to him who has ears--a heaven, a true Olympus, is revealed to him
who has eyes--heed then, and listen.'
And with all the earnestness of a man believing ardently himself, and
zealous to convert, the Nazarene poured forth to Apaecides the assurances of
Scriptural promise. He spoke first of the sufferings and miracles of
Christ--he wept as he spoke: he turned next to the glories of the Saviour's
Ascension--to the clear predictions of Revelation. He described that pure
and unsensual heaven destined to the virtuous--those fires and torments that
were the doom of guilt.
The doubts which spring up to the mind of later reasoners, in the immensity
of the sacrifice of God to man, were not such as would occur to an early
heathen. He had been accustomed to believe that the gods had lived upon
earth, and taken upon themselves the forms of men; had shared in human
passions, in human labours, and in human misfortunes. What was the travail
of his own Alcmena's son, whose altars now smoked with the incense of
countless cities, but a toil for the human race? Had not the great Dorian
Apollo expiated a mystic sin by descending to the grave? Those who were the
deities of heaven had been the lawgivers or benefactors on earth, and
gratitude had led to worship. It seemed therefore, to the heathen, a
doctrine neither new nor strange, that Christ had been sent from heaven,
that an immortal had indued mortality, and tasted the bitterness of death.
And the end for which He thus toiled and thus suffered--how far more
glorious did it seem to Apaecides than that for which the deities of old had
visited the nether world, and passed through the gates of death! Was it not
worthy of a God to, descend to these dim valleys, in order to clear up the
clouds gathered over the dark mount beyond--to satisfy the doubts of
sages--to convert speculation into certainty--by example to point out the
rules of life--by revelation to solve the enigma of the grave--and to prove
that the soul did not yearn in vain when it dreamed of an immortality? In
this last was the great argument of those lowly men destined to convert the
earth. As nothing is more flattering to the pride and the hopes of man than
the belief in a future state, so nothing could be more vague and confused
than the notions of the heathen sages upon that mystic subject. Apaecides
had already learned that the faith of the philosophers was not that of the
herd; that if they secretly professed a creed in some diviner power, it was
not the creed which they thought it wise to impart to the community. He had
already learned, that even the priest ridiculed what he preached to the
people--that the notions of the few and the many were never united. But, in
this new faith, it seemed to him that philosopher, priest, and people, the
expounders of the religion and its followers, were alike accordant: they did
not speculate and debate upon immortality, they spoke of as a thing certain
and assured; the magnificence of the promise dazzled him--its consolations
soothed. For the Christian faith made its early converts among sinners!
many of its fathers and its martyrs were those who had felt the bitterness
of vice, and who were therefore no longer tempted by its false aspect from
the paths of an austere and uncompromising virtue. All the assurances of
this healing faith invited to repentance--they were peculiarly adapted to
the bruised and sore of spirit! the very remorse which Apaecides felt for
his late excesses, made him incline to one who found holiness in that
remorse, and who whispered of the joy in heaven over one sinner that
'Come,' said the Nazarene, as he perceived the effect he had produced, 'come
to the humble hall in which we meet--a select and a chosen few; listen there
to our prayers; note the sincerity of our repentant tears; mingle in our
simple sacrifice--not of victims, nor of garlands, but offered by
white-robed thoughts upon the altar of the heart. The flowers that we lay
there are imperishable--they bloom over us when we are no more; nay, they
accompany us beyond the grave, they spring up beneath our feet in heaven,
they delight us with an eternal odor, for they are of the soul, they partake
of its nature; these offerings are temptations overcome, and sins repented.
Come, oh come! lose not another moment; prepare already for the great, the
awful journey, from darkness to light, from sorrow to bliss, from corruption
to immortality! This is the day of the Lord the Son, a day that we have set
apart for our devotions. Though we meet usually at night, yet some amongst
us are gathered together even now. What joy, what triumph, will be with us
all, if we can bring one stray lamb into the sacred fold!'
There seemed to Apaecides, so naturally pure of heart, something ineffably
generous and benign in that spirit of conversation which animated
Olinthus--a spirit that found its own bliss in the happiness of others--that
sought in its wide sociality to make companions for eternity. He was
touched, softened, and subdued. He was not in that mood which can bear to
be left alone; curiosity, too, mingled with his purer stimulants--he was
anxious to see those rites of which so many dark and contradictory rumours
were afloat. He paused a moment, looked over his garb, thought of Arbaces,
shuddered with horror, lifted his eyes to the broad brow of the Nazarene,
intent, anxious, watchful--but for his benefits, for his salvation! He drew
his cloak round him, so as wholly to conceal his robes, and said, 'Lead on,
I follow thee.'
Olinthus pressed his hand joyfully, and then descending to the river side,
hailed one of the boats that plyed there constantly; they entered it; an
awning overhead, while it sheltered them from the sun, screened also their
persons from observation: they rapidly skimmed the wave. From one of the
boats that passed them floated a soft music, and its prow was decorated with
flowers--it was gliding towards the sea.
'So,' said Olinthus, sadly, 'unconscious and mirthful in their delusions,
sail the votaries of luxury into the great ocean of storm and shipwreck! we
pass them, silent and unnoticed, to gain the land.'
Apaecides, lifting his eyes, caught through the aperture in the awning a
glimpse of the face of one of the inmates of that gay bark--it was the face
of Ione. The lovers were embarked on the excursion at which we have been
made present. The priest sighed, and once more sunk back upon his seat.
They reached the shore where, in the suburbs, an alley of small and mean
houses stretched towards the bank; they dismissed the boat, landed, and
Olinthus, preceding the priest, threaded the labyrinth of lanes, and arrived
at last at the closed door of a habitation somewhat larger than its
neighbors. He knocked thrice--the door was opened and closed again, as
Apaecides followed his guide across the threshold.
They passed a deserted atrium, and gained an inner chamber of moderate size,
which, when the door was closed, received its only light from a small window
cut over the door itself. But, halting at the threshold of this chamber,
and knocking at the door, Olinthus said, 'Peace be with you!' A voice from
within returned, 'Peace with whom?' 'The Faithful!' answered Olinthus, and
the door opened; twelve or fourteen persons were sitting in a semicircle,
silent, and seemingly absorbed in thought, and opposite to a crucifix rudely
carved in wood.
They lifted up their eyes when Olinthus entered, without speaking; the
Nazarene himself, before he accosted them, knelt suddenly down, and by his
moving lips, and his eyes fixed steadfastly on the crucifix, Apaecides saw
that he prayed inly. This rite performed, Olinthus turned to the
congregation--'Men and brethren,' said he, 'start not to behold amongst you
a priest of Isis; he hath sojourned with the blind, but the Spirit hath
fallen on him--he desires to see, to hear, and to understand.'
'Let him,' said one of the assembly; and Apaecides beheld in the speaker a
man still younger than himself, of a countenance equally worn and pallid, of
an eye which equally spoke of the restless and fiery operations of a working
'Let him,' repeated a second voice, and he who thus spoke was in the prime
of manhood; his bronzed skin and Asiatic features bespoke him a son of
Syria--he had been a robber in his youth.
'Let him,' said a third voice; and the priest, again turning to regard the
speaker, saw an old man with a long grey beard, whom he recognized as a
slave to the wealthy Diomed.
'Let him,' repeated simultaneously the rest--men who, with two exceptions,
were evidently of the inferior ranks. In these exceptions, Apaecides noted
an officer of the guard, and an Alexandrian merchant.
'We do not,' recommenced Olinthus--'we do not bind you to secrecy; we impose
on you no oaths (as some of our weaker brethren would do) not to betray us.
It is true, indeed, that there is no absolute law against us; but the
multitude, more savage than their rulers, thirst for our lives. So, my
friends, when Pilate would have hesitated, it was the people who shouted
"Christ to the cross!" But we bind you not to our safety--no! Betray us to
the crowd--impeach, calumniate, malign us if you will--we are above death,
we should walk cheerfully to the den of the lion, or the rack of the
torturer--we can trample down the darkness of the grave, and what is death
to a criminal is eternity to the Christian.'
A low and applauding murmur ran through the assembly.
'Thou comest amongst us as an examiner, mayest thou remain a convert! Our
religion? you behold it! Yon cross our sole image, yon scroll the mysteries
of our Caere and Eleusis! Our morality? it is in our lives!--sinners we all
have been; who now can accuse us of a crime? we have baptized ourselves from
the past. Think not that this is of us, it is of God. Approach, Medon,'
beckoning to the old slave who had spoken third for the admission of
Apaecides, 'thou art the sole man amongst us who is not free. But in
heaven, the last shall be first: so with us. Unfold your scroll, read and
Useless would it be for us to accompany the lecture of Medon, or the
comments of the congregation. Familiar now are those doctrines, then
strange and new. Eighteen centuries have left us little to expound upon the
lore of Scripture or the life of Christ. To us, too, there would seem
little congenial in the doubts that occurred to a heathen priest, and little
learned in the answers they receive from men uneducated, rude, and simple,
possessing only the knowledge that they were greater than they seemed.
There was one thing that greatly touched the Neapolitan: when the lecture
was concluded, they heard a very gentle knock at the door; the password was
given, and replied to; the door opened, and two young children, the eldest
of whom might have told its seventh year, entered timidly; they were the
children of the master of the house, that dark and hardy Syrian, whose youth
had been spent in pillage and bloodshed. The eldest of the congregation (it
was that old slave) opened to them his arms; they fled to the shelter--they
crept to his breast--and his hard features smiled as he caressed them. And
then these bold and fervent men, nursed in vicissitude, beaten by the rough
winds of life--men of mailed and impervious fortitude, ready to affront a
world, prepared for torment and armed for death--men, who presented all
imaginable contrast to the weak nerves, the light hearts, the tender
fragility of childhood, crowded round the infants, smoothing their rugged
brows and composing their bearded lips to kindly and fostering smiles: and
then the old man opened the scroll and he taught the infants to repeat after
him that beautiful prayer which we still dedicate to the Lord, and still
teach to our children; and then he told them, in simple phrase, of God's
love to the young, and how not a sparrow falls but His eye sees it. This
lovely custom of infant initiation was long cherished by the early Church,
in memory of the words which said, 'Suffer little children to come unto me,
and forbid them not'; and was perhaps the origin of the superstitious
calumny which ascribed to the Nazarenes the crime which the Nazarenes, when
victorious, attributed to the Jew, viz. the decoying children to hideous
rites, at which they were secretly immolated.
And the stern paternal penitent seemed to feel in the innocence of his
children a return into early life--life ere yet it sinned: he followed the
motion of their young lips with an earnest gaze; he smiled as they repeated,
with hushed and reverent looks, the holy words: and when the lesson was
done, and they ran, released, and gladly to his knee, he clasped them to his
breast, kissed them again and again, and tears flowed fast down his
cheek--tears, of which it would have been impossible to trace the source, so
mingled they were with joy and sorrow, penitence and hope--remorse for
himself and love for them!
Something, I say, there was in this scene which peculiarly affected
Apaecides; and, in truth, it is difficult to conceive a ceremony more
appropriate to the religion of benevolence, more appealing to the household
and everyday affections, striking a more sensitive chord in the human
It was at this time that an inner door opened gently, and a very old man
entered the chamber, leaning on a staff. At his presence, the whole
congregation rose; there was an expression of deep, affectionate respect
upon every countenance; and Apaecides, gazing on his countenance, felt
attracted towards him by an irresistible sympathy. No man ever looked upon
that face without love; for there had dwelt the smile of the Deity, the
incarnation of divinest love--and the glory of the smile had never passed
'My children, God be with you!' said the old man, stretching his arms; and
as he spoke the infants ran to his knee. He sat down, and they nestled
fondly to his bosom. It was beautiful to see that mingling of the extremes
of life--the rivers gushing from their early source--the majestic stream
gliding to the ocean of eternity! As the light of declining day seems to
mingle earth and heaven, making the outline of each scarce visible, and
blending the harsh mountain-tops with the sky, even so did the smile of that
benign old age appear to hallow the aspect of those around, to blend
together the strong distinctions of varying years, and to diffuse over
infancy and manhood the light of that heaven into which it must so soon
vanish and be lost.
'Father,' said Olinthus, 'thou on whose form the miracle of the Redeemer
worked; thou who wert snatched from the grave to become the living witness
of His mercy and His power; behold! a stranger in our meeting--a new lamb
gathered to the fold!'
'Let me bless him,' said the old man: the throng gave way. Apaecides
approached him as by an instinct: he fell on his knees before him--the old
man laid his hand on the priest's head, and blessed him, but not aloud. As
his lips moved, his eyes were upturned, and tears--those tears that good men
only shed in the hope of happiness to another--flowed fast down his cheeks.
The children were on either side of the convert; his heart was theirs--he
had become as one of them--to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
THE STREAM OF LOVE RUNS ON. WHITHER?
DAYS are like years in the love of the young, when no bar, no obstacle, is
between their hearts--when the sun shines, and the course runs smooth--when
their love is prosperous and confessed. Ione no longer concealed from
Glaucus the attachment she felt for him, and their talk now was only of
their love. Over the rapture of the present the hopes of the future glowed
like the heaven above the gardens of spring. They went in their trustful
thoughts far down the stream of time: they laid out the chart of their
destiny to come; they suffered the light of to-day to suffuse the morrow.
In the youth of their hearts it seemed as if care, and change, and death,
were as things unknown. Perhaps they loved each other the more because the
condition of the world left to Glaucus no aim and no wish but love; because
the distractions common in free states to men's affections existed not for
the Athenian; because his country wooed him not to the bustle of civil life;
because ambition furnished no counterpoise to love: and, therefore, over
their schemes and projects, love only reigned. In the iron age they
imagined themselves of the golden, doomed only to live and to love.
To the superficial observer, who interests himself only in characters
strongly marked and broadly colored, both the lovers may seem of too slight
and commonplace a mould: in the delineation of characters purposely subdued,
the reader sometimes imagines that there is a want of character; perhaps,
indeed, I wrong the real nature of these two lovers by not painting more
impressively their stronger individualities. But in dwelling so much on
their bright and birdlike existence, I am influenced almost insensibly by
the forethought of the changes that await them, and for which they were so
ill prepared. It was this very softness and gaiety of life that contrasted
most strongly the vicissitudes of their coming fate. For the oak without
fruit or blossom, whose hard and rugged heart is fitted for the storm, there
is less fear than for the delicate branches of the myrtle, and the laughing
clusters of the vine.
They had now advanced far into August--the next month their marriage was
fixed, and the threshold of Glaucus was already wreathed with garlands; and
nightly, by the door of Ione, he poured forth the rich libations. He
existed no longer for his gay companions; he was ever with Ione. In the
mornings they beguiled the sun with music: in the evenings they forsook the
crowded haunts of the gay for excursions on the water, or along the fertile
and vine-clad plains that lay beneath the fatal mount of Vesuvius. The
earth shook no more; the lively Pompeians forgot even that there had gone
forth so terrible a warning of their approaching doom. Glaucus imagined
that convulsion, in the vanity of his heathen religion, an especial
interposition of the gods, less in behalf of his own safety than that of
Ione. He offered up the sacrifices of gratitude at the temples of his
faith; and even the altar of Isis was covered with his votive garlands--as
to the prodigy of the animated marble, he blushed at the effect it had
produced on him. He believed it, indeed, to have been wrought by the magic
of man; but the result convinced him that it betokened not the anger of a
Of Arbaces, they heard only that he still lived; stretched on the bed of
suffering, he recovered slowly from the effect of the shock he had
sustained--he left the lovers unmolested--but it was only to brood over the
hour and the method of revenge.
Alike in their mornings at the house of Ione, and in their evening
excursions, Nydia was usually their constant, and often their sole
companion. They did not guess the secret fires which consumed her--the
abrupt freedom with which she mingled in their conversation--her capricious
and often her peevish moods found ready indulgence in the recollection of
the service they owed her, and their compassion for her affliction. They
felt an interest in her, perhaps the greater and more affectionate from the
very strangeness and waywardness of her nature, her singular alternations of
passion and softness--the mixture of ignorance and genius--of delicacy and
rudeness--of the quick humors of the child, and the proud calmness of the
woman. Although she refused to accept of freedom, she was constantly
suffered to be free; she went where she listed; no curb was put either on
her words or actions; they felt for one so darkly fated, and so susceptible
of every wound, the same pitying and compliant indulgence the mother feels
for a spoiled and sickly child--dreading to impose authority, even where
they imagined it for her benefit. She availed herself of this license by
refusing the companionship of the slave whom they wished to attend her.
With the slender staff by which she guided her steps, she went now, as in
her former unprotected state, along the populous streets: it was almost
miraculous to perceive how quickly and how dexterously she threaded every
crowd, avoiding every danger, and could find her benighted way through the
most intricate windings of the city. But her chief delight was still in
visiting the few feet of ground which made the garden of Glaucus--in tending
the flowers that at least repaid her love. Sometimes she entered the
chamber where he sat, and sought a conversation, which she nearly always
broke off abruptly--for conversation with Glaucus only tended to one
subject--Ione; and that name from his lips inflicted agony upon her. Often
she bitterly repented the service she had rendered to Ione: often she said
inly, 'If she had fallen, Glaucus could have loved her no longer'; and then
dark and fearful thoughts crept into her breast.
She had not experienced fully the trials that were in store for her, when
she had been thus generous. She had never before been present when Glaucus
and Ione were together; she had never heard that voice so kind to her, so
much softer to another. The shock that crushed her heart with the tidings
that Glaucus loved, had at first only saddened and benumbed--by degrees
jealousy took a wilder and fiercer shape; it partook of hatred--it whispered
revenge. As you see the wind only agitate the green leaf upon the bough,
while the leaf which has lain withered and seared on the ground, bruised and
trampled upon till the sap and life are gone, is suddenly whirled aloft--now
here--now there--without stay and without rest; so the love which visits the
happy and the hopeful hath but freshness on its wings! its violence is but
sportive. But the heart that hath fallen from the green things of life,
that is without hope, that hath no summer in its fibres, is torn and whirled
by the same wind that but caresses its brethren--it hath no bough to cling
to--it is dashed from path to path--till the winds fall, and it is crushed
into the mire for ever.
The friendless childhood of Nydia had hardened prematurely her character;
perhaps the heated scenes of profligacy through which she had passed,
seemingly unscathed, had ripened her passions, though they had not sullied
her purity. The orgies of Burbo might only have disgusted, the banquets of
the Egyptian might only have terrified, at the moment; but the winds that
pass unheeded over the soil leave seeds behind them. As darkness, too,
favors the imagination, so, perhaps, her very blindness contributed to feed
with wild and delirious visions the love of the unfortunate girl. The voice
of Glaucus had been the first that had sounded musically to her ear; his
kindness made a deep impression upon her mind; when he had left Pompeii in
the former year, she had treasured up in her heart every word he had
uttered; and when any one told her that this friend and patron of the poor
flower-girl was the most brilliant and the most graceful of the young
revellers of Pompeii, she had felt a pleasing pride in nursing his
recollection. Even the task which she imposed upon herself, of tending his
flowers, served to keep him in her mind; she associated him with all that
was most charming to her impressions; and when she had refused to express
what image she fancied Ione to resemble, it was partly, perhaps, that
whatever was bright and soft in nature she had already combined with the
thought of Glaucus. If any of my readers ever loved at an age which they
would now smile to remember--an age in which fancy forestalled the reason,
let them say whether that love, among all its strange and complicated
delicacies, was not, above all other and later passions, susceptible of
jealousy? I seek not here the cause: I know that it is commonly the fact.
When Glaucus returned to Pompeii, Nydia had told another year of life; that
year, with its sorrows, its loneliness, its trials, had greatly developed
her mind and heart; and when the Athenian drew her unconsciously to his
breast, deeming her still in soul as in years a child--when he kissed her
smooth cheek, and wound his arm round her trembling frame, Nydia felt
suddenly, and as by revelation, that those feelings she had long and
innocently cherished were of love. Doomed to be rescued from tyranny by
Glaucus--doomed to take shelter under his roof--doomed to breathe, but for
so brief a time, the same air--and doomed, in the first rush of a thousand
happy, grateful, delicious sentiments of an overflowing heart, to hear that
he loved another; to be commissioned to that other, the messenger, the
minister; to feel all at once that utter nothingness which she was--which
she ever must be, but which, till then, her young mind had not taught
her--that utter nothingness to him who was all to her; what wonder that, in
her wild and passionate soul, all the elements jarred discordant; that if
love reigned over the whole, it was not the love which is born of the more
sacred and soft emotions? Sometimes she dreaded only lest Glaucus should
discover her secret; sometimes she felt indignant that it was not suspected:
it was a sign of contempt--could he imagine that she presumed so far? Her
feelings to Ione ebbed and flowed with every hour; now she loved her because
he did; now she hated him for the same cause. There were moments when she
could have murdered her unconscious mistress; moments when she could have
laid down life for her. These fierce and tremulous alternations of passion
were too severe to be borne long. Her health gave way, though she felt it
not--her cheek paled--her step grew feebler--tears came to her eyes more
often, and relieved her less.
One morning, when she repaired to her usual task in the garden of the
Athenian, she found Glaucus under the columns of the peristyle, with a
merchant of the town; he was selecting jewels for his destined bride. He
had already fitted up her apartment; the jewels he bought that day were
placed also within it--they were never fated to grace the fair form of Ione;
they may be seen at this day among the disinterred treasures of Pompeii, in
the chambers of the studio at Naples.
'Come hither, Nydia; put down thy vase, and come hither. Thou must take
this chain from me--stay--there, I have put it on. There, Servilius, does
it not become her?'
'Wonderfully!' answered the jeweller; for jewellers were well-bred and
flattering men, even at that day. 'But when these ear-rings glitter in the
ears of the noble Ione, then, by Bacchus! you will see whether my art adds
anything to beauty.'
'Ione?' repeated Nydia, who had hitherto acknowledged by smiles and blushes
the gift of Glaucus.
'Yes,' replied the Athenian, carelessly toying with the gems; 'I am choosing
a present for Ione, but there are none worthy of her.'
He was startled as he spoke by an abrupt gesture of Nydia; she tore the
chain violently from her neck, and dashed it on the ground.
'How is this? What, Nydia, dost thou not like the bauble? art thou
'You treat me ever as a slave and as a child,' replied the Thessalian, with
ill-suppressed sobs, and she turned hastily away to the opposite corner of
Glaucus did not attempt to follow, or to soothe; he was offended; he
continued to examine the jewels and to comment on their fashion--to object
to this and to praise that, and finally to be talked by the merchant into
buying all; the safest plan for a lover, and a plan that any one will do
right to adopt, provided always that he can obtain an Ione!
When he had completed his purchase and dismissed the jeweller, he retired
into his chamber, dressed, mounted his chariot, and went to Ione. He
thought no more of the blind girl, or her offence; he had forgotten both the
one and the other.
He spent the forenoon with his beautiful Neapolitan, repaired thence to the
baths, supped (if, as we have said before, we can justly so translate the
three o'clock coena of the Romans) alone, and abroad, for Pompeii had its
restaurateurs--and returning home to change his dress ere he again repaired
to the house of Ione, he passed the peristyle, but with the absorbed reverie
and absent eyes of a man in love, and did not note the form of the poor
blind girl, bending exactly in the same place where he had left her. But
though he saw her not, her ear recognized at once the sound of his step.
She had been counting the moments to his return. He had scarcely entered
his favorite chamber, which opened on the peristyle, and seated himself
musingly on his couch, when he felt his robe timorously touched, and,
turning, he beheld Nydia kneeling before him, and holding up to him a
handful of flowers--a gentle and appropriate peace-offering--her eyes,
darkly upheld to his own, streamed with tears.
'I have offended thee,' said she, sobbing, 'and for the first time. I would
die rather than cause thee a moment's pain--say that thou wilt forgive me.
See! I have taken up the chain; I have put it on: I will never part from
it--it is thy gift.'
'My dear Nydia,' returned Glaucus, and raising her, he kissed her forehead,
'think of it no more! But why, my child, wert thou so suddenly angry? I
could not divine the cause?'
'Do not ask!' said she, coloring violently. 'I am a thing full of faults
and humors; you know I am but a child--you say so often: is it from a child
that you can expect a reason for every folly?'
'But, prettiest, you will soon be a child no more; and if you would have us
treat you as a woman, you must learn to govern these singular impulses and
gales of passion. Think not I chide: no, it is for your happiness only I
'It is true,' said Nydia, 'I must learn to govern myself I must bide, I must
suppress, my heart. This is a woman's task and duty; methinks her virtue is
'Self-control is not deceit, my Nydia,' returned the Athenian; and that is
the virtue necessary alike to man and to woman; it is the true senatorial
toga, the badge of the dignity it covers!'
'Self-control! self-control! Well, well, what you say is right! When I
listen to you, Glaucus, my wildest thoughts grow calm and sweet, and a
delicious serenity falls over me. Advise, ah! guide me ever, my preserver!'
'Thy affectionate heart will be thy best guide, Nydia, when thou hast
learned to regulate its feelings.'
'Ah! that will be never,' sighed Nydia, wiping away her tears.
'Say not so: the first effort is the only difficult one.'
'I have made many first efforts,' answered Nydia, innocently. 'But you, my
Mentor, do you find it so easy to control yourself? Can you conceal, can
you even regulate, your love for Ione?'
'Love! dear Nydia: ah! that is quite another matter,' answered the young
'I thought so!' returned Nydia, with a melancholy smile. 'Glaucus, wilt
thou take my poor flowers? Do with them as thou wilt--thou canst give them
to Ione,' added she, with a little hesitation.
'Nay, Nydia,' answered Glaucus, kindly, divining something of jealousy in
her language, though he imagined it only the jealousy of a vain and
susceptible child; 'I will not give thy pretty flowers to any one. Sit here
and weave them into a garland; I will wear it this night: it is not the
first those delicate fingers have woven for me.'
The poor girl delightedly sat down beside Glaucus. She drew from her girdle
a ball of the many-colored threads, or rather slender ribands, used in the
weaving of garlands, and which (for it was her professional occupation) she
carried constantly with her, and began quickly and gracefully to commence
her task. Upon her young cheeks the tears were already dried, a faint but
happy smile played round her lips--childlike, indeed, she was sensible only
of the joy of the present hour: she was reconciled to Glaucus: he had
forgiven her--she was beside him--he played caressingly with her silken
hair--his breath fanned her cheek--Ione, the cruel Ione, was not by--none
other demanded, divided, his care. Yes, she was happy and forgetful; it was
one of the few moments in her brief and troubled life that it was sweet to
treasure, to recall. As the butterfly, allured by the winter sun, basks for
a little in the sudden light, ere yet the wind awakes and the frost comes
on, which shall blast it before the eve--she rested beneath a beam, which,
by contrast with the wonted skies, was not chilling; and the instinct which
should have warned her of its briefness, bade her only gladden in its smile.
'Thou hast beautiful locks,' said Glaucus. 'They were once, I ween well, a
Nydia sighed; it would seem that she had not been born a slave; but she ever
shunned the mention of her parentage, and, whether obscure or noble, certain
it is that her birth was never known by her benefactors, nor by any one in
those distant shores, even to the last. The child of sorrow and of mystery,
she came and went as some bird that enters our chamber for a moment; we see
it flutter for a while before us, we know not whence it flew or to what
region it escapes.
Nydia sighed, and after a short pause, without answering the remark, said:
'But do I weave too many roses in my wreath, Glaucus? They tell me it is
thy favorite flower.'
'And ever favored, my Nydia, be it by those who have the soul of poetry: it
is the flower of love, of festival; it is also the flower we dedicate to
silence and to death; it blooms on our brows in life, while life be worth
the having; it is scattered above our sepulchre when we are no more.'
'Ah! would,' said Nydia, 'instead of this perishable wreath, that I could
take thy web from the hand of the Fates, and insert the roses there!'
'Pretty one! thy wish is worthy of a voice so attuned to song; it is uttered
in the spirit of song; and, whatever my doom, I thank thee.'
'Whatever thy doom! is it not already destined to all things bright and
fair? My wish was vain. The Fates will be as tender to thee as I should.'
'It might not be so, Nydia, were it not for love! While youth lasts, I may
forget my country for a while. But what Athenian, in his graver manhood,
can think of Athens as she was, and be contented that he is happy, while she
is fallen?--fallen, and for ever?'
'And why for ever?'
'As ashes cannot be rekindled--as love once dead can never revive, so
freedom departed from a people is never regained. But talk we not of these
matters unsuited to thee.'
'To me, oh! thou errest. I, too, have my sighs for Greece; my cradle was
rocked at the foot of Olympus; the gods have left the mountain, but their
traces may be seen--seen in the hearts of their worshippers, seen in the
beauty of their clime: they tell me it is beautiful, and I have felt its
airs, to which even these are harsh--its sun, to which these skies are
chill. Oh! talk to me of Greece! Poor fool that I am, I can comprehend
thee! and methinks, had I yet lingered on those shores, had I been a Grecian
maid whose happy fate it was to love and to be loved, I myself could have
armed my lover for another Marathon, a new Plataea. Yes, the hand that now
weaves the roses should have woven thee the olive crown!'
'If such a day could come!' said Glaucus, catching the enthusiasm of the
blind Thessalian, and half rising.--'But no! the sun has set, and the night
only bids us be forgetful--and in forgetfulness be gay--weave still the
But it was with a melancholy tone of forced gaiety that the Athenian uttered
the last words: and sinking into a gloomy reverie, he was only wakened from
it, a few minutes afterwards, by the voice of Nydia, as she sang in a low
tone the following words, which he had once taught her:-
THE APOLOGY FOR PLEASURE
Who will assume the bays
That the hero wore?
Wreaths on the Tomb of Days
Who shall disturb the brave,
Or one leaf on their holy grave?
The laurel is vowed to them,
Leave the bay on its sacred stem!
But this, the rose, the fading rose,
Alike for slave and freeman grows.
If Memory sit beside the dead
With tombs her only treasure;
If Hope is lost and Freedom fled,
The more excuse for Pleasure.
Come, weave the wreath, the roses weave,
The rose at least is ours:
To feeble hearts our fathers leave,
In pitying scorn, the flowers!
On the summit, worn and hoary,
Of Phyle's solemn hill,
The tramp of the brave is still!
And still in the saddening Mart,
The pulse of that mighty heart,
Whose very blood was glory!
Glaucopis forsakes her own,
The angry gods forget us;
But yet, the blue streams along,
Walk the feet of the silver Song;
And the night-bird wakes the moon;
And the bees in the blushing noon
Haunt the heart of the old Hymettus.
We are fallen, but not forlorn,
If something is left to cherish;
As Love was the earliest born,
So Love is the last to perish.
Wreathe then the roses, wreathe
The BEAUTIFUL still is ours,
While the stream shall flow and the sky shall glow,
The BEAUTIFUL still is ours!
Whatever is fair, or soft, or bright,
In the lap of day or the arms of night,
Whispers our soul of Greece--of Greece,
And hushes our care with a voice of peace.
Wreathe then the roses, wreathe!
They tell me of earlier hours;
And I hear the heart of my Country breathe
From the lips of the Stranger's flowers.
NYDIA ENCOUNTERS JULIA. INTERVIEW OF THE HEATHEN SISTER AND CONVERTED
BROTHER. AN ATHENIAN'S NOTION OF CHRISTIANITY.
'WHAT happiness to Ione! what bliss to be ever by the side of Glaucus, to
hear his voice!--And she too can see him!'
Such was the soliloquy of the blind girl, as she walked alone and at
twilight to the house of her new mistress, whither Glaucus had already
preceded her. Suddenly she was interrupted in her fond thoughts by a female
'Blind flower-girl, whither goest thou? There is no pannier under thine
arm; hast thou sold all thy flowers?'
The person thus accosting Nydia was a lady of a handsome but a bold and
unmaidenly countenance: it was Julia, the daughter of Diomed. Her veil was
half raised as she spoke; she was accompanied by Diomed himself, and by a
slave carrying a lantern before them--the merchant and his daughter were
returning home from a supper at one of their neighbors'.
'Dost thou not remember my voice?' continued Julia. 'I am the daughter of
Diomed the wealthy.'
'Ah! forgive me; yes, I recall the tones of your voice. No, noble Julia, I
have no flowers to sell.'
'I heard that thou wert purchased by the beautiful Greek Glaucus; is that
true, pretty slave?' asked Julia.
'I serve the Neapolitan, Ione,' replied Nydia, evasively.
'Ah! and it is true, then...'
'Come, come!' interrupted Diomed, with his cloak up to his mouth, 'the night
grows cold; I cannot stay here while you prate to that blind girl: come, let
her follow you home, if you wish to speak to her.'
'Do, child,' said Julia, with the air of one not accustomed to be refused;
'I have much to ask of thee: come.'
'I cannot this night, it grows late,' answered Nydia. 'I must be at home; I
am not free, noble Julia.'
'What, the meek Ione will chide thee?--Ay, I doubt not she is a second
Thalestris. But come, then, to-morrow: do--remember I have been thy friend
'I will obey thy wishes,' answered Nydia; and Diomed again impatiently
summoned his daughter: she was obliged to proceed, with the main question
she had desired to put to Nydia unasked.
Meanwhile we return to Ione. The interval of time that had elapsed that day
between the first and second visit of Glaucus had not been too gaily spent:
she had received a visit from her brother. Since the night he had assisted
in saving her from the Egyptian, she had not before seen him.
Occupied with his own thoughts--thoughts of so serious and intense a
nature--the young priest had thought little of his sister; in truth, men,
perhaps of that fervent order of mind which is ever aspiring above earth,
are but little prone to the earthlier affections; and it had been long since
Apaecides had sought those soft and friendly interchanges of thought, those
sweet confidences, which in his earlier youth had bound him to Ione, and
which are so natural to that endearing connection which existed between
Ione, however, had not ceased to regret his estrangement: she attributed it,
at present, to the engrossing duties of his severe fraternity. And often,
amidst all her bright hopes, and her new attachment to her betrothed--often,
when she thought of her brother's brow prematurely furrowed, his unsmiling
lip, and bended frame, she sighed to think that the service of the gods
could throw so deep a shadow over that earth which the gods created.
But this day when he visited her there was a strange calmness on his
features, a more quiet and self-possessed expression in his sunken eyes,
than she had marked for years. This apparent improvement was but
momentary--it was a false calm, which the least breeze could ruffle.
'May the gods bless thee, my brother!' said she, embracing him.
'The gods! Speak not thus vaguely; perchance there is but one God!'
'What if the sublime faith of the Nazarene be true? What if God be a
monarch--One--Invisible--Alone? What if these numerous, countless deities,
whose altars fill the earth, be but evil demons, seeking to wean us from the
true creed? This may be the case, Ione!'
'Alas! can we believe it? or if we believed, would it not be a melancholy
faith answered the Neapolitan. 'What! all this beautiful world made only
human!--mountain disenchanted of its Oread--the waters of their Nymph--that
beautiful prodigality of faith, which makes everything divine, consecrating
the meanest flowers, bearing celestial whispers in the faintest
breeze--wouldst thou deny this, and make the earth mere dust and clay? No,
Apaecides: all that is brightest in our hearts is that very credulity which
peoples the universe with gods.'
Ione answered as a believer in the poesy of the old mythology would answer.
We may judge by that reply how obstinate and hard the contest which
Christianity had to endure among the heathens. The Graceful Superstition
was never silent; every, the most household, action of their lives was
entwined with it--it was a portion of life itself, as the flowers are a part
of the thyrsus. At every incident they recurred to a god, every cup of wine
was prefaced by a libation; the very garlands on their thresholds were
dedicated to some divinity; their ancestors themselves, made holy, presided
as Lares over their hearth and hall. So abundant was belief with them, that
in their own climes, at this hour, idolatry has never thoroughly been
outrooted: it changes but its objects of worship; it appeals to innumerable
saints where once it resorted to divinities; and it pours its crowds, in
listening reverence, to oracles at the shrines of St. Januarius or St.
Stephen, instead of to those of Isis or Apollo.
But these superstitions were not to the early Christians the object of
contempt so much as of horror. They did not believe, with the quiet
scepticism of the heathen philosopher, that the gods were inventions of the
priests; nor even, with the vulgar, that, according to the dim light of
history, they had been mortals like themselves. They imagined the heathen
divinities to be evil spirits--they transplanted to Italy and to Greece the
gloomy demons of India and the East; and in Jupiter or in Mars they
shuddered at the representative of Moloch or of Satan.
Apaecides had not yet adopted formally the Christian faith, but he was
already on the brink of it. He already participated the doctrines of
Olinthus--he already imagined that the lively imaginations of the heathen
were the suggestions of the arch-enemy of mankind. The innocent and natural
answer of Ione made him shudder. He hastened to reply vehemently, and yet
so confusedly, that Ione feared for his reason more than she dreaded his
'Ah, my brother!' said she, 'these hard duties of thine have shattered thy
very sense. Come to me, Apaecides, my brother, my own brother; give me thy
hand, let me wipe the dew from thy brow--chide me not now, I understand thee
not; think only that Ione could not offend thee!'
'Ione,' said Apaecides, drawing her towards him, and regarding her tenderly,
'can I think that this beautiful form, this kind heart, may be destined to
an eternity of torment?'
'Dii meliora! the gods forbid!' said Ione, in the customary form of words by
which her contemporaries thought an omen might be averted.
The words, and still more the superstition they implied, wounded the ear of
Apaecides. He rose, muttering to himself, turned from the chamber, then,
stopping, half way, gazed wistfully on Ione, and extended his arms.
Ione flew to them in joy; he kissed her earnestly, and then he said:
'Farewell, my sister! when we next meet, thou mayst be to me as nothing;
take thou, then, this embrace--full yet of all the tender reminiscences of
childhood, when faith and hope, creeds, customs, interests, objects, were
the same to us. Now, the tie is to be broken!'
With these strange words he left the house.
The great and severest trial of the primitive Christians was indeed this;
their conversion separated them from their dearest bonds. They could not
associate with beings whose commonest actions, whose commonest forms of
speech, were impregnated with idolatry. They shuddered at the blessing of
love, to their ears it was uttered in a demon's name. This, their
misfortune, was their strength; if it divided them from the rest of the
world, it was to unite them proportionally to each other. They were men of
iron who wrought forth the Word of God, and verily the bonds that bound them
were of iron also!
Glaucus found Ione in tears; he had already assumed the sweet privilege to
console. He drew from her a recital of her interview with her brother; but
in her confused account of language, itself so confused to one not prepared
for it, he was equally at a loss with Ione to conceive the intentions or the
meaning of Apaecides.
'Hast thou ever heard much,' asked she, 'of this new sect of the Nazarenes,
of which my brother spoke?'
'I have often heard enough of the votaries,' returned Glaucus, 'but of their
exact tenets know I naught, save that in their doctrine there seemeth
something preternaturally chilling and morose. They live apart from their
kind; they affect to be shocked even at our simple uses of garlands; they
have no sympathies with the cheerful amusements of life; they utter awful
threats of the coming destruction of the world; they appear, in one word, to
have brought their unsmiling and gloomy creed out of the cave of Trophonius.
Yet,' continued Glaucus, after a slight pause, 'they have not wanted men of
great power and genius, nor converts, even among the Areopagites of Athens.
Well do I remember to have heard my father speak of one strange guest at
Athens, many years ago; methinks his name was PAUL. My father was amongst a
mighty crowd that gathered on one of our immemorial hills to hear this sage
of the East expound: through the wide throng there rang not a single
murmur!--the jest and the roar, with which our native orators are received,
were hushed for him--and when on the loftiest summit of that hill, raised
above the breathless crowd below, stood this mysterious visitor, his mien
and his countenance awed every heart, even before a sound left his lips. He
was a man, I have heard my father say, of no tall stature, but of noble and
impressive mien; his robes were dark and ample; the declining sun, for it
was evening, shone aslant upon his form as it rose aloft, motionless, and
commanding; his countenance was much worn and marked, as of one who had
braved alike misfortune and the sternest vicissitude of many climes; but his
eyes were bright with an almost unearthly fire; and when he raised his arm
to speak, it was with the majesty of a man into whom the Spirit of a God
'"Men of Athens!" he is reported to have said, "I find amongst ye an altar
with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Ye worship in ignorance the same Deity I serve.
To you unknown till now, to you be it now revealed."
'Then declared that solemn man how this great Maker of all things, who had
appointed unto man his several tribes and his various homes--the Lord of
earth and the universal heaven, dwelt not in temples made with hands; that
His presence, His spirit, were in the air we breathed--our life and our
being were with Him. "Think you," he cried, "that the Invisible is like
your statues of gold and marble? Think you that He needeth sacrifice from
you: He who made heaven and earth?" Then spoke he of fearful and coming
times, of the end of the world, of a second rising of the dead, whereof an
assurance had been given to man in the resurrection of the mighty Being
whose religion he came to preach.
'When he thus spoke, the long-pent murmur went forth, and the philosophers
that were mingled with the people, muttered their sage contempt; there might
you have seen the chilling frown of the Stoic, and the Cynic's sneer; and
the Epicurean, who believeth not even in our own Elysium, muttered a
pleasant jest, and swept laughing through the crowd: but the deep heart of
the people was touched and thrilled; and they trembled, though they knew not
why, for verily the stranger had the voice and majesty of a man to whom "The
Unknown God" had committed the preaching of His faith.'
Ione listened with wrapt attention, and the serious and earnest manner of
the narrator betrayed the impression that he himself had received from one
who had been amongst the audience that on the hill of the heathen Mars had
heard the first tidings of the word of Christ!
THE PORTER. THE GIRL. AND THE GLADIATOR.
THE door of Diomed's house stood open, and Medon, the old slave, sat at the
bottom of the steps by which you ascended to the mansion. That luxurious
mansion of the rich merchant of Pompeii is still to be seen just without the
gates of the city, at the commencement of the Street of Tombs; it was a gay
neighborhood, despite the dead. On the opposite side, but at some yards
nearer the gate, was a spacious hostelry, at which those brought by business
or by pleasure to Pompeii often stopped to refresh themselves. In the space
before the entrance of the inn now stood wagons, and carts, and chariots,
some just arrived, some just quitting, in all the bustle of an animated and
popular resort of public entertainment. Before the door, some farmers,
seated on a bench by a small circular table, were talking over their morning
cups, on the affairs of their calling. On the side of the door itself was
painted gaily and freshly the eternal sign of the chequers. By the roof of
the inn stretched a terrace, on which some females, wives of the farmers
above mentioned, were, some seated, some leaning over the railing, and
conversing with their friends below. In a deep recess, at a little distance,
was a covered seat, in which some two or three poorer travellers were
resting themselves, and shaking the dust from their garments. On the other
side stretched a wide space, originally the burial-ground of a more ancient
race than the present denizens of Pompeii, and now converted into the
Ustrinum, or place for the burning of the dead. Above this rose the
terraces of a gay villa, half hid by trees. The tombs themselves, with
their graceful and varied shapes, the flowers and the foliage that
surrounded them, made no melancholy feature in the prospect. Hard by the
gate of the city, in a small niche, stood the still form of the
well-disciplined Roman sentry, the sun shining brightly on his polished
crest, and the lance on which he leaned. The gate itself was divided into
three arches, the centre one for vehicles, the others for the
foot-passengers; and on either side rose the massive walls which girt the
city, composed, patched, repaired at a thousand different epochs, according
as war, time, or the earthquake had shattered that vain protection. At
frequent intervals rose square towers, whose summits broke in picturesque
rudeness the regular line of the wall, and contrasted well with the modern
buildings gleaming whitely by.
The curving road, which in that direction leads from Pompeii to Herculaneum,
wound out of sight amidst hanging vines, above which frowned the sullen
majesty of Vesuvius.
'Hast thou heard the news, old Medon?' said a young woman, with a pitcher in
her hand, as she paused by Diomed's door to gossip a moment with the slave,
ere she repaired to the neighboring inn to fill the vessel, and coquet with
'The news! what news?' said the slave, raising his eyes moodily from the
'Why, there passed through the gate this morning, no doubt ere thou wert
well awake, such a visitor to Pompeii!'
'Ay,' said the slave, indifferently.
'Yes, a present from the noble Pomponianus.'
'A present! I thought thou saidst a visitor?'
'It is both visitor and present. Know, O dull and stupid! that it is a most
beautiful young tiger, for our approaching games in the amphitheatre. Hear
you that, Medon? Oh, what pleasure! I declare I shall not sleep a wink
till I see it; they say it has such a roar!'
'Poor fool!' said Medon, sadly and cynically.
'Fool me no fool, old churl! It is a pretty thing, a tiger, especially if
we could but find somebody for him to eat. We have now a lion and a tiger;
only consider that, Medon! and for want of two good criminals perhaps we
shall be forced to see them eat each other. By-the-by, your son is a
gladiator, a handsome man and a strong, can you not persuade him to fight
the tiger? Do now, you would oblige me mightily; nay, you would be a
benefactor to the whole town.'
'Vah! vah!' said the slave, with great asperity; 'think of thine own danger
ere thou thus pratest of my poor boy's death.'
'My own danger!' said the girl, frightened and looking hastily
around--'Avert the omen! let thy words fall on thine own head!' And the
girl, as she spoke, touched a talisman suspended round her neck. '"Thine own
danger!" what danger threatens me?'
'Had the earthquake but a few nights since no warning?' said Medon. 'Has it
not a voice? Did it not say to us all, "Prepare for death; the end of all
things is at hand?"'
'Bah, stuff!' said the young woman, settling the folds of her tunic. 'Now
thou talkest as they say the Nazarenes talked--methinks thou art one of
them. Well, I can prate with thee, grey croaker, no more: thou growest
worse and worse--Vale! O Hercules, send us a man for the lion--and another
for the tiger!'
Ho! ho! for the merry, merry show,
With a forest of faces in every row!
Lo, the swordsmen, bold as the son of Alcmena,
Sweep, side by side, o'er the hushed arena;
Talk while you may--you will hold your breath
When they meet in the grasp of the glowing death.
Tramp, tramp, how gaily they go!
Ho! ho! for the merry, merry show!
Chanting in a silver and clear voice this feminine ditty, and holding up her
tunic from the dusty road, the young woman stepped lightly across to the
'My poor son!' said the slave, half aloud, 'is it for things like this thou
art to be butchered? Oh! faith of Christ, I could worship thee in all
sincerity, were it but for the horror which thou inspirest for these bloody
The old man's head sank dejectedly on his breast. He remained silent and
absorbed, but every now and then with the corner of his sleeve he wiped his
eyes. His heart was with his son; he did not see the figure that now
approached from the gate with a quick step, and a somewhat fierce and
reckless gait and carriage. He did not lift his eyes till the figure paused
opposite the place where he sat, and with a soft voice addressed him by the
'My boy! my Lydon! is it indeed thou?' said the old man, joyfully. 'Ah, thou
wert present to my thoughts.'
'I am glad to hear it, my father,' said the gladiator, respectfully touching
the knees and beard of the slave; 'and soon may I be always present with
thee, not in thought only.'
'Yes, my son--but not in this world,' replied the slave, mournfully.
'Talk not thus, O my sire! look cheerfully, for I feel so--I am sure that I
shall win the day; and then, the gold I gain buys thy freedom. Oh! my
father, it was but a few days since that I was taunted, by one, too, whom I
would gladly have undeceived, for he is more generous than the rest of his
equals. He is not Roman--he is of Athens--by him I was taunted with the
lust of gain--when I demanded what sum was the prize of victory. Alas! he
little knew the soul of Lydon!'
'My boy! my boy!' said the old slave, as, slowly ascending the steps, he
conducted his son to his own little chamber, communicating with the entrance
hall (which in this villa was the peristyle, not the atrium)--you may see it
now; it is the third door to the right on entering. (The first door
conducts to the staircase; the second is but a false recess, in which there
stood a statue of bronze.) 'Generous, affectionate, pious as are thy
motives,' said Medon, when they were thus secured from observation, 'thy
deed itself is guilt: thou art to risk thy blood for thy father's
freedom--that might be forgiven; but the prize of victory is the blood of
another. oh, that is a deadly sin; no object can purify it. Forbear!
forbear! rather would I be a slave for ever than purchase liberty on such
'Hush, my father!' replied Lydon, somewhat impatiently; 'thou hast picked up
in this new creed of thine, of which I pray thee not to speak to me, for the
gods that gave me strength denied me wisdom, and I understand not one word
of what thou often preachest to me--thou hast picked up, I say, in this new
creed, some singular fantasies of right and wrong. Pardon me if I offend
thee: but reflect! Against whom shall I contend? Oh! couldst thou know
those wretches with whom, for thy sake, I assort, thou wouldst think I
purified earth by removing one of them. Beasts, whose very lips drop blood;
things, all savage, unprincipled in their very courage: ferocious,
heartless, senseless; no tie of life can bind them: they know not fear, it
is true--but neither know they gratitude, nor charity, nor love; they are
made but for their own career, to slaughter without pity, to die without
dread! Can thy gods, whosoever they be, look with wrath on a conflict with
such as these, and in such a cause? Oh, My father, wherever the powers
above gaze down on earth, they behold no duty so sacred, so sanctifying, as
the sacrifice offered to an aged parent by the piety of a grateful son!'
The poor old slave, himself deprived of the lights of knowledge, and only
late a convert to the Christian faith, knew not with what arguments to
enlighten an ignorance at once so dark, and yet so beautiful in its error.
His first impulse was to throw himself on his son's breast--his next to
start away to wring his hands; and in the attempt to reprove, his broken
voice lost itself in weeping.
'And if,' resumed Lydon--'if thy Deity (methinks thou wilt own but one?) be
indeed that benevolent and pitying Power which thou assertest Him to be, He
will know also that thy very faith in Him first confirmed me in that
determination thou blamest.'
'How! what mean you?' said the slave.
'Why, thou knowest that I, sold in my childhood as a slave, was set free at
Rome by the will of my master, whom I had been fortunate enough to please.
I hastened to Pompeii to see thee--I found thee already aged and infirm,
under the yoke of a capricious and pampered lord--thou hadst lately adopted
this new faith, and its adoption made thy slavery doubly painful to thee; it
took away all the softening charm of custom, which reconciles us so often to
the worst. Didst thou not complain to me that thou wert compelled to
offices that were not odious to thee as a slave, but guilty as a Nazarene?
Didst thou not tell me that thy soul shook with remorse when thou wert
compelled to place even a crumb of cake before the Lares that watch over yon
impluvium? that thy soul was torn by a perpetual struggle? Didst thou not
tell me that even by pouring wine before the threshold, and calling on the
name of some Grecian deity, thou didst fear thou wert incurring penalties
worse than those of Tantalus, an eternity of tortures more terrible than
those of the Tartarian fields? Didst thou not tell me this? I wondered, I
could not comprehend; nor, by Hercules! can I now: but I was thy son, and my
sole task was to compassionate and relieve. Could I hear thy groans, could
I witness thy mysterious horrors, thy constant anguish, and remain inactive?
No! by the immortal gods! the thought struck me like light from Olympus! I
had no money, but I had strength and youth--these were thy gifts--I could
sell these in my turn for thee! I learned the amount of thy ransom--I
learned that the usual prize of a victorious gladiator would doubly pay it.
I became a gladiator--I linked myself with those accursed men, scorning,
loathing, while I joined--I acquired their skill--blessed be the lesson!--it
shall teach me to free my father!'
'Oh, that thou couldst hear Olinthus!' sighed the old man, more and more
affected by the virtue of his son, but not less strongly convinced of the
criminality of his purpose.
'I will hear the whole world talk if thou wilt,' answered the gladiator,
gaily; 'but not till thou art a slave no more. Beneath thy own roof, my
father, thou shalt puzzle this dull brain all day long, ay, and all night
too, if it give thee pleasure. Oh, such a spot as I have chalked out for
thee!--it is one of the nine hundred and ninety-nine shops of old Julia
Felix, in the sunny part of the city, where thou mayst bask before the door
in the day--and I will sell the oil and the wine for thee, my father--and
then, please Venus (or if it does not please her, since thou lovest not her
name, it is all one to Lydon)--then, I say, perhaps thou mayst have a
daughter, too, to tend thy grey hairs, and hear shrill voices at thy knee,
that shall call thee "Lydon's father!" Ah! we shall be so happy--the prize
can purchase all. Cheer thee! cheer up, my sire!--And now I must away--day
wears--the lanista waits me. Come! thy blessing!'
As Lydon thus spoke, he had already quitted the dark chamber of his father;
and speaking eagerly, though in a whispered tone, they now stood at the same
place in which we introduced the porter at his post.
'O bless thee! bless thee, my brave boy!' said Medon, fervently; 'and may
the great Power that reads all hearts see the nobleness of thine, and
forgive its error!'
The tall shape of the gladiator passed swiftly down the path; the eyes of
the slave followed its light but stately steps, till the last glimpse was
gone; and then, sinking once more on his seat, his eyes again fastened
themselves on the ground. His form, mute and unmoving, as a thing of stone.
His heart!--who, in our happier age, can even imagine its struggles--its
'May I enter?' said a sweet voice. 'Is thy mistress Julia within?'
The slave mechanically motioned to the visitor to enter, but she who
addressed him could not see the gesture--she repeated her question timidly,
but in a louder voice.
'Have I not told thee!' said the slave, peevishly: 'enter.'
'Thanks,' said the speaker, plaintively; and the slave, roused by the tone,
looked up, and recognized the blind flower-girl. Sorrow can sympathize with
affliction--he raised himself, and guided her steps to the head of the
adjacent staircase (by which you descended to Julia's apartment), where,
summoning a female slave, he consigned to her the charge of the blind girl.
THE DRESSING-ROOM OF A POMPEIAN BEAUTY. IMPORTANT CONVERSATION BETWEEN JULIA
THE elegant Julia sat in her chamber, with her slaves around her--like the
cubiculum which adjoined it, the room was small, but much larger than the
usual apartments appropriated to sleep, which were so diminutive, that few
who have not seen the bed-chambers, even in the gayest mansions, can form
any notion of the petty pigeon-holes in which the citizens of Pompeii
evidently thought it desirable to pass the night. But, in fact, 'bed' with
the ancients was not that grave, serious, and important part of domestic
mysteries which it is with us. The couch itself was more like a very narrow
and small sofa, light enough to be transported easily, and by the occupant
himself, from place to place; and it was, no doubt, constantly shifted from
chamber to chamber, according to the caprice of the inmate, or the changes
of the season; for that side of the house which was crowded in one month,
might, perhaps, be carefully avoided in the next. There was also among the
Italians of that period a singular and fastidious apprehension of too much
daylight; their darkened chambers, which first appear to us the result of a
negligent architecture, were the effect of the most elaborate study. In
their porticoes and gardens they courted the sun whenever it so pleased
their luxurious tastes. In the interior of their houses they sought rather
the coolness and the shade.
Julia's apartment at that season was in the lower part of the house,
immediately beneath the state rooms above, and looking upon the garden, with
which it was on a level. The wide door, which was glazed, alone admitted
the morning rays: yet her eye, accustomed to a certain darkness, was
sufficiently acute to perceive exactly what colors were the most
becoming--what shade of the delicate rouge gave the brightest beam to her
dark glance, and the most youthful freshness to her cheek.
On the table, before which she sat, was a small and circular mirror of the
most polished steel: round which, in precise order, were ranged the
cosmetics and the unguents--the perfumes and the paints--the jewels and
combs--the ribands and the gold pins, which were destined to add to the
natural attractions of beauty the assistance of art and the capricious
allurements of fashion. Through the dimness of the room glowed brightly the
vivid and various colourings of the wall, in all the dazzling frescoes of
Pompeian taste. Before the dressing-table, and under the feet of Julia, was
spread a carpet, woven from the looms of the East. Near at hand, on another
table, was a silver basin and ewer; an extinguished lamp, of most exquisite
workmanship, in which the artist had represented a Cupid reposing under the
spreading branches of a myrtle-tree; and a small roll of papyrus, containing
the softest elegies of Tibullus. Before the door, which communicated with
the cubiculum, hung a curtain richly broidered with gold flowers. Such was
the dressing-room of a beauty eighteen centuries ago.
The fair Julia leaned indolently back on her seat, while the ornatrix (i.e.
hairdresser) slowly piled, one above the other, a mass of small curls,
dexterously weaving the false with the true, and carrying the whole fabric
to a height that seemed to place the head rather at the centre than the
summit of the human form.
Her tunic, of a deep amber, which well set off her dark hair and somewhat
embrowned complexion, swept in ample folds to her feet, which were cased in
slippers, fastened round the slender ankle by white thongs; while a
profusion of pearls were embroidered in the slipper itself, which was of
purple, and turned slightly upward, as do the Turkish slippers at this day.
An old slave, skilled by long experience in all the arcana of the toilet,
stood beside the hairdresser, with the broad and studded girdle of her
mistress over her arm, and giving, from time to time (mingled with judicious
flattery to the lady herself), instructions to the mason of the ascending
'Put that pin rather more to the right--lower--stupid one! Do you not
observe how even those beautiful eyebrows are?--One would think you were
dressing Corinna, whose face is all of one side. Now put in the
flowers--what, fool!--not that dull pink--you are not suiting colors to the
dim cheek of Chloris: it must be the brightest flowers that can alone suit
the cheek of the young Julia.'
'Gently!' said the lady, stamping her small foot violently: 'you pull my
hair as if you were plucking up a weed!'
'Dull thing!' continued the directress of the ceremony. 'Do you not know
how delicate is your mistress?--you are not dressing the coarse horsehair of
the widow Fulvia. Now, then, the riband--that's right. Fair Julia, look in
the mirror; saw you ever anything so lovely as yourself?'
When, after innumerable comments, difficulties, and delays, the intricate
tower was at length completed, the next preparation was that of giving to
the eyes the soft languish, produced by a dark powder applied to the lids
and brows; a small patch cut in the form of a crescent, skillfully placed by
the rosy lips, attracted attention to their dimples, and to the teeth, to
which already every art had been applied in order to heighten the dazzle of
their natural whiteness.
To another slave, hitherto idle, was now consigned the charge of arranging
the jewels--the ear-rings of pearl (two to each ear)--the massive bracelets
of gold--the chain formed of rings of the same metal, to which a talisman
cut in crystals was attached--the graceful buckle on the left shoulder, in
which was set an exquisite cameo of Psyche--the girdle of purple riband,
richly wrought with threads of gold, and clasped by interlacing
serpents--and lastly, the various rings, fitted to every joint of the white
and slender fingers. The toilet was now arranged according to the last mode
of Rome. The fair Julia regarded herself with a last gaze of complacent
vanity, and reclining again upon her seat, she bade the youngest of her
slaves, in a listless tone, read to her the enamoured couplets of Tibullus.
This lecture was still proceeding, when a female slave admitted Nydia into
the presence of the lady of the place.
'Salve, Julia!' said the flower-girl, arresting her steps within a few paces
from the spot where Julia sat, and crossing her arms upon her breast. 'I
have obeyed your commands.'
'You have done well, flower-girl,' answered the lady. 'Approach--you may
take a seat.'
One of the slaves placed a stool by Julia, and Nydia seated herself.
Julia looked hard at the Thessalian for some moments in rather an
embarrassed silence. She then motioned her attendants to withdraw, and to
close the door. When they were alone, she said, looking mechanically from
Nydia, and forgetful that she was with one who could not observe her
'You serve the Neapolitan, Ione?'
'I am with her at present,' answered Nydia.
'Is she as handsome as they say?'
'I know not,' replied Nydia. 'How can I judge?'
'Ah! I should have remembered. But thou hast ears, if not eyes. Do thy
fellow-slaves tell thee she is handsome? Slaves talking with one another
forget to flatter even their mistress.'
'They tell me that she is beautiful.'
'Hem!--say they that she is tall?'
'Why, so am I. Dark haired?'
'I have heard so.'
'So am I. And doth Glaucus visit her much?'
'Daily' returned Nydia, with a half-suppressed sigh.
'Daily, indeed! Does he find her handsome?'
'I should think so, since they are so soon to be wedded.'
'Wedded!' cried Julia, turning pale even through the false roses on her
cheek, and starting from her couch. Nydia did not, of course, perceive the
emotion she had caused. Julia remained a long time silent; but her heaving
breast and flashing eyes would have betrayed, to one who could have seen,
the wound her vanity had sustained.
'They tell me thou art a Thessalian,' said she, at last breaking silence.
'Thessaly is the land of magic and of witches, of talismans and of
love-philtres,' said Julia.
'It has ever been celebrated for its sorcerers,' returned Nydia, timidly.
'Knowest thou, then, blind Thessalian, of any love-charms?'
'I!' said the flower-girl, coloring; 'I! how should I? No, assuredly not!'
'The worse for thee; I could have given thee gold enough to have purchased
thy freedom hadst thou been more wise.'
'But what,' asked Nydia, 'can induce the beautiful and wealthy Julia to ask
that question of her servant? Has she not money, and youth, and loveliness?
Are they not love-charms enough to dispense with magic?'
'To all but one person in the world,' answered Julia, haughtily: 'but
methinks thy blindness is infectious; and... But no matter.'
'And that one person?' said Nydia, eagerly.
'Is not Glaucus,' replied Julia, with the customary deceit of her sex.
Nydia drew her breath more freely, and after a short pause Julia
'But talking of Glaucus, and his attachment to this Neapolitan, reminded me
of the influence of love-spells, which, for ought I know or care, she may
have exercised upon him. Blind girl, I love, and--shall Julia live to say
it?--am loved not in return! This humbles--nay, not humbles--but it stings
my pride. I would see this ingrate at my feet--not in order that I might
raise, but that I might spurn him. When they told me thou wert Thessalian,
I imagined thy young mind might have learned the dark secrets of thy clime.'
'Alas! no, murmured Nydia: 'would it had!'
'Thanks, at least, for that kindly wish,' said Julia, unconscious of what
was passing in the breast of the flower-girl.
'But tell me--thou hearest the gossip of slaves, always prone to these dim
beliefs; always ready to apply to sorcery for their own low loves--hast thou
ever heard of any Eastern magician in this city, who possesses the art of
which thou art ignorant? No vain chiromancer, no juggler of the
market-place, but some more potent and mighty magician of India or of
'Of Egypt?--yes!' said Nydia, shuddering. 'What Pompeian has not heard of
'Arbaces! true,' replied Julia, grasping at the recollection. 'They say he
is a man above all the petty and false impostures of dull pretenders--that
he is versed in the learning of the stars, and the secrets of the ancient
Nox; why not in the mysteries of love?'
'If there be one magician living whose art is above that of others, it is
that dread man,' answered Nydia; and she felt her talisman while she spoke.
'He is too wealthy to divine for money?' continued Julia, sneeringly. 'Can
I not visit him?'
'It is an evil mansion for the young and the beautiful,' replied Nydia. 'I
have heard, too, that he languishes in...'
'An evil mansion!' said Julia, catching only the first sentence. 'Why so?'
'The orgies of his midnight leisure are impure and polluted--at least, so
'By Ceres, by Pan, and by Cybele! thou dost but provoke my curiosity,
instead of exciting my fears,' returned the wayward and pampered Pompeian.
'I will seek and question him of his lore. If to these orgies love be
admitted--why the more likely that he knows its secrets!'
Nydia did not answer.
'I will seek him this very day,' resumed Julia; 'nay, why not this very
'At daylight, and in his present state, thou hast assuredly the less to
fear,' answered Nydia, yielding to her own sudden and secret wish to learn
if the dark Egyptian were indeed possessed of those spells to rivet and
attract love, of which the Thessalian had so often heard.
'And who dare insult the rich daughter of Diomed?' said Julia, haughtily.
'I will go.'
'May I visit thee afterwards to learn the result?' asked Nydia, anxiously.
'Kiss me for thy interest in Julia's honour,' answered the lady. 'Yes,
assuredly. This eve we sup abroad--come hither at the same hour to-morrow,
and thou shalt know all: I may have to employ thee too; but enough for the
present. Stay, take this bracelet for the new thought thou hast inspired me
with; remember, if thou servest Julia, she is grateful and she is generous.'
'I cannot take thy present,' said Nydia, putting aside the bracelet; 'but
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