The Last Days of Pompeii
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Part 5 out of 9
young as I am, I can sympathize unbought with those who love--and love in
'Sayest thou so!' returned Julia. 'Thou speakest like a free woman--and
thou shalt yet be free--farewell!'
JULIA SEEKS ARBACES. THE RESULT OF THAT INTERVIEW.
ARBACES was seated in a chamber which opened on a kind of balcony or portico
that fronted his garden. His cheek was pale and worn with the sufferings he
had endured, but his iron frame had already recovered from the severest
effects of that accident which had frustrated his fell designs in the moment
of victory. The air that came fragrantly to his brow revived his languid
senses, and the blood circulated more freely than it had done for days
through his shrunken veins.
'So, then,' thought he, 'the storm of fate has broken and blown over--the
evil which my lore predicted, threatening life itself, has chanced--and yet
I live! It came as the stars foretold; and now the long, bright, and
prosperous career which was to succeed that evil, if I survived it, smiles
beyond: I have passed--I have subdued the latest danger of my destiny. Now
I have but to lay out the gardens of my future fate--unterrified and secure.
First, then, of all my pleasures, even before that of love, shall come
revenge! This boy Greek--who has crossed my passion--thwarted my
designs--baffled me even when the blade was about to drink his accursed
blood--shall not a second time escape me! But for the method of my
vengeance? Of that let me ponder well! Oh! Ate, if thou art indeed a
goddess, fill me with thy direst Inspiration!' The Egyptian sank into an
intent reverie, which did not seem to present to him any clear or
satisfactory suggestions. He changed his position restlessly, as he
revolved scheme after scheme, which no sooner occurred than it was
dismissed: several times he struck his breast and groaned aloud, with the
desire of vengeance, and a sense of his impotence to accomplish it. While
thus absorbed, a boy slave timidly entered the chamber.
A female, evidently of rank from her dress, and that of the single slave who
attended her, waited below and sought an audience with Arbaces.
'A female!' his heart beat quick. 'Is she young?'
'Her face is concealed by her veil; but her form is slight, yet round, as
that of youth.'
'Admit her,' said the Egyptian: for a moment his vain heart dreamed the
stranger might be Ione.
The first glance of the visitor now entering the apartment sufficed to
undeceive so erring a fancy. True, she was about the same height as Ione,
and perhaps the same age--true, she was finely and richly formed--but where
was that undulating and ineffable grace which accompanied every motion of
the peerless Neapolitan--the chaste and decorous garb, so simple even in the
care of its arrangement--the dignified yet bashful step--the majesty of
womanhood and its modesty?
'Pardon me that I rise with pain,' said Arbaces, gazing on the stranger: 'I
am still suffering from recent illness.'
'Do not disturb thyself, O great Egyptian!' returned Julia, seeking to
disguise the fear she already experienced beneath the ready resort of
flattery; 'and forgive an unfortunate female, who seeks consolation from thy
'Draw near, fair stranger,' said Arbaces; 'and speak without apprehension or
Julia placed herself on a seat beside the Egyptian, and wonderingly gazed
around an apartment whose elaborate and costly luxuries shamed even the
ornate enrichment of her father's mansion; fearfully, too, she regarded the
hieroglyphical inscriptions on the walls--the faces of the mysterious
images, which at every corner gazed upon her--the tripod at a little
distance--and, above all, the grave and remarkable countenance of Arbaces
himself: a long white robe like a veil half covered his raven locks, and
flowed to his feet: his face was made even more impressive by its present
paleness; and his dark and penetrating eyes seemed to pierce the shelter of
her veil, and explore the secrets of her vain and unfeminine soul.
'And what,' said his low, deep voice, 'brings thee, O maiden! to the house
of the Eastern stranger?'
'His fame,' replied Julia.
'In what?' said he, with a strange and slight smile.
'Canst thou ask, O wise Arbaces? Is not thy knowledge the very gossip theme
'Some little lore have I indeed, treasured up,' replied Arbaces: 'but in
what can such serious and sterile secrets benefit the ear of beauty?'
'Alas!' said Julia, a little cheered by the accustomed accents of adulation;
'does not sorrow fly to wisdom for relief, and they who love unrequitedly,
are not they the chosen victims of grief?'
'Ha!' said Arbaces, 'can unrequited love be the lot of so fair a form, whose
modelled proportions are visible even beneath the folds of thy graceful
robe? Deign, O maiden! to lift thy veil, that I may see at least if the
face correspond in loveliness with the form.'
Not unwilling, perhaps, to exhibit her charms, and thinking they were likely
to interest the magician in her fate, Julia, after some slight hesitation,
raised her veil, and revealed a beauty which, but for art, had been indeed
attractive to the fixed gaze of the Egyptian.
'Thou comest to me for advice in unhappy love,' said he; 'well, turn that
face on the ungrateful one: what other love-charm can I give thee?'
'Oh, cease these courtesies!' said Julia; 'it is a love-charm, indeed, that
I would ask from thy skill!'
'Fair stranger!' replied Arbaces, somewhat scornfully, 'love-spells are not
among the secrets I have wasted the midnight oil to attain.'
'Is it indeed so? Then pardon me, great Arbaces, and farewell!'
'Stay,' said Arbaces, who, despite his passion for Ione, was not unmoved by
the beauty of his visitor; and had he been in the flush of a more assured
health, might have attempted to console the fair Julia by other means than
those of supernatural wisdom.
'Stay; although I confess that I have left the witchery of philtres and
potions to those whose trade is in such knowledge, yet am I myself not so
dull to beauty but that in earlier youth I may have employed them in my own
behalf. I may give thee advice, at least, if thou wilt be candid with me.
Tell me then, first, art thou unmarried, as thy dress betokens?'
'Yes,' said Julia.
'And, being unblest with fortune, wouldst thou allure some wealthy suitor?'
'I am richer than he who disdains me.'
'Strange and more strange! And thou lovest him who loves not thee?'
'I know not if I love him,' answered Julia, haughtily; 'but I know that I
would see myself triumph over a rival--I would see him who rejected me my
suitor--I would see her whom he has preferred in her turn despised.'
'A natural ambition and a womanly,' said the Egyptian, in a tone too grave
for irony. 'Yet more, fair maiden; wilt thou confide to me the name of thy
lover? Can he be Pompeian, and despise wealth, even if blind to beauty?'
'He is of Athens,' answered Julia, looking down.
'Ha!' cried the Egyptian, impetuously, as the blood rushed to his cheek;
'there is but one Athenian, young and noble, in Pompeii. Can it be Glaucus
of whom thou speakest!'
'Ah! betray me not--so indeed they call him.'
The Egyptian sank back, gazing vacantly on the averted face of the
merchant's daughter, and muttering inly to himself: this conference, with
which he had hitherto only trifled, amusing himself with the credulity and
vanity of his visitor--might it not minister to his revenge?'
'I see thou canst assist me not,' said Julia, offended by his continued
silence; 'guard at least my secret. Once more, farewell!'
'Maiden,' said the Egyptian, in an earnest and serious tone, 'thy suit hath
touched me--I will minister to thy will. Listen to me; I have not myself
dabbled in these lesser mysteries, but I know one who hath. At the base of
Vesuvius, less than a league from the city, there dwells a powerful witch;
beneath the rank dews of the new moon, she has gathered the herbs which
possess the virtue to chain Love in eternal fetters. Her art can bring thy
lover to thy feet. Seek her, and mention to her the name of Arbaces: she
fears that name, and will give thee her most potent philtres.'
'Alas!' answered Julia, I know not the road to the home of her whom thou
speakest of: the way, short though it be, is long to traverse for a girl who
leaves, unknown, the house of her father. The country is entangled with wild
vines, and dangerous with precipitous caverns. I dare not trust to mere
strangers to guide me; the reputation of women of my rank is easily
tarnished--and though I care not who knows that I love Glaucus, I would not
have it imagined that I obtained his love by a spell.'
'Were I but three days advanced in health,' said the Egyptian, rising and
walking (as if to try his strength) across the chamber, but with irregular
and feeble steps, 'I myself would accompany thee. Well, thou must wait.'
'But Glaucus is soon to wed that hated Neapolitan.'
'Yes; in the early part of next month.'
'So soon! Art thou well advised of this?'
'From the lips of her own slave.'
'It shall not be!' said the Egyptian, impetuously. 'Fear nothing, Glaucus
shall be thine. Yet how, when thou obtainest it, canst thou administer to
him this potion?'
'My father has invited him, and, I believe, the Neapolitan also, to a
banquet, on the day following to-morrow: I shall then have the opportunity
to administer it.'
'So be it!' said the Egyptian, with eyes flashing such fierce joy, that
Julia's gaze sank trembling beneath them. 'To-morrow eve, then, order thy
litter--thou hast one at thy command?'
'Surely--yes,' returned the purse-proud Julia.
'Order thy litter--at two miles' distance from the city is a house of
entertainment, frequented by the wealthier Pompeians, from the excellence of
its baths, and the beauty of its gardens. There canst thou pretend only to
shape thy course--there, ill or dying, I will meet thee by the statue of
Silenus, in the copse that skirts the garden; and I myself will guide thee
to the witch. Let us wait till, with the evening star, the goats of the
herdsmen are gone to rest; when the dark twilight conceals us, and none
shall cross our steps. Go home and fear not. By Hades, swears Arbaces, the
sorcerer of Egypt, that Ione shall never wed with Glaucus.'
'And that Glaucus shall be mine,' added Julia, filling up the incompleted
'Thou hast said it!' replied Arbaces; and Julia, half frightened at this
unhallowed appointment, but urged on by jealousy and the pique of rivalship,
even more than love, resolved to fulfill it.
Left alone, Arbaces burst forth:
'Bright stars that never lie, ye already begin the execution of your
promises--success in love, and victory over foes, for the rest of my smooth
existence. In the very hour when my mind could devise no clue to the goal
of vengeance, have ye sent this fair fool for my guide?' He paused in deep
thought. 'Yes,' said he again, but in a calmer voice; 'I could not myself
have given to her the poison, that shall be indeed a philtre!--his death
might be thus tracked to my door. But the witch--ay, there is the fit, the
natural agent of my designs!'
He summoned one of his slaves, bade him hasten to track the steps of Julia,
and acquaint himself with her name and condition. This done, he stepped
forth into the portico. The skies were serene and clear; but he, deeply
read in the signs of their various change, beheld in one mass of cloud, far
on the horizon, which the wind began slowly to agitate, that a storm was
'It is like my vengeance,' said he, as he gazed; 'the sky is clear, but the
cloud moves on.'
STORM IN THE SOUTH. THE WITCH'S CAVERN.
IT was when the heats of noon died gradually away from the earth, that
Glaucus and Ione went forth to enjoy the cooled and grateful air. At that
time, various carriages were in use among the Romans; the one most used by
the richer citizens, when they required no companion in their excursion, was
the biga, already described in the early portion of this work; that
appropriated to the matrons, was termed carpentum, which had commonly two
wheels; the ancients used also a sort of litter, a vast sedan-chair, more
commodiously arranged than the modern, inasmuch as the occupant thereof
could lie down at ease, instead of being perpendicularly and stiffly jostled
up and down. There was another carriage, used both for travelling and for
excursions in the country; it was commodious, containing three or four
persons with ease, having a covering which could be raised at pleasure; and,
in short, answering very much the purpose of (though very different in shape
from) the modern britska. It was a vehicle of this description that the
lovers, accompanied by one female slave of Ione, now used in their
excursion. About ten miles from the city, there was at that day an old
ruin, the remains of a temple, evidently Grecian; and as for Glaucus and
Ione everything Grecian possessed an interest, they had agreed to visit
these ruins: it was thither they were now bound.
Their road lay among vines and olive-groves; till, winding more and more
towards the higher ground of Vesuvius, the path grew rugged; the mules moved
slowly, and with labor; and at every opening in the wood they beheld those
grey and horrent caverns indenting the parched rock, which Strabo has
described; but which the various revolutions of time and the volcano have
removed from the present aspect of the mountain. The sun, sloping towards
his descent, cast long and deep shadows over the mountain; here and there
they still heard the rustic reed of the shepherd amongst copses of the
beechwood and wild oak. Sometimes they marked the form of the silk-haired
and graceful capella, with its wreathing horn and bright grey eye--which,
still beneath Ausonian skies, recalls the eclogues of Maro, browsing
half-way up the hills; and the grapes, already purple with the smiles of the
deepening summer, glowed out from the arched festoons, which hung pendent
from tree to tree. Above them, light clouds floated in the serene heavens,
sweeping so slowly athwart the firmament that they scarcely seemed to stir;
while, on their right, they caught, ever and anon, glimpses of the waveless
sea, with some light bark skimming its surface; and the sunlight breaking
over the deep in those countless and softest hues so peculiar to that
'How beautiful!' said Glaucus, in a half-whispered tone, 'is that expression
by which we call Earth our Mother! With what a kindly equal love she pours
her blessings upon her children! and even to those sterile spots to which
Nature has denied beauty, she yet contrives to dispense her smiles: witness
the arbutus and the vine, which she wreathes over the arid and burning soil
of yon extinct volcano. Ah! in such an hour and scene as this, well might
we imagine that the Faun should peep forth from those green festoons; or,
that we might trace the steps of the Mountain Nymph through the thickest
mazes of the glade. But the Nymphs ceased, beautiful Ione, when thou wert
There is no tongue that flatters like a lover's; and yet, in the
exaggeration of his feelings, flattery seems to him commonplace. Strange and
prodigal exuberance, which soon exhausts itself by overflowing!
They arrived at the ruins; they examined them with that fondness with which
we trace the hallowed and household vestiges of our own ancestry--they
lingered there till Hesperus appeared in the rosy heavens; and then
returning homeward in the twilight, they were more silent than they had
been; for in the shadow and beneath the stars they felt more oppressively
their mutual love.
It was at this time that the storm which the Egyptian had predicted began to
creep visibly over them. At first, a low and distant thunder gave warning
of the approaching conflict of the elements; and then rapidly rushed above
the dark ranks of the serried clouds. The suddenness of storms in that
climate is something almost preternatural, and might well suggest to early
superstition the notion of a divine agency--a few large drops broke heavily
among the boughs that half overhung their path, and then, swift and
intolerably bright, the forked lightning darted across their very eyes, and
was swallowed up by the increasing darkness.
'Swifter, good Carrucarius!' cried Glaucus to the driver; 'the tempest comes
The slave urged on the mules--they went swift over the uneven and stony
road--the clouds thickened, near and more near broke the thunder, and fast
rushed the dashing rain.
'Dost thou fear?' whispered Glaucus, as he sought excuse in the storm to
come nearer to Ione.
'Not with thee,' said she, softly.
At that instant, the carriage, fragile and ill-contrived (as, despite their
graceful shapes, were, for practical uses, most of such inventions at that
time), struck violently into a deep rut, over which lay a log of fallen
wood; the driver, with a curse, stimulated his mules yet faster for the
obstacle, the wheel was torn from the socket, and the carriage suddenly
Glaucus, quickly extricating himself from the vehicle, hastened to assist
Ione, who was fortunately unhurt; with some difficulty they raised the
carruca (or carriage), and found that it ceased any longer even to afford
them shelter; the springs that fastened the covering were snapped asunder,
and the rain poured fast and fiercely into the interior.
In this dilemma, what was to be done? They were yet some distance from the
city--no house, no aid, seemed near.
'There is,' said the slave, 'a smith about a mile off; I could seek him, and
he might fasten at least the wheel to the carruca--but, Jupiter! how the
rain beats; my mistress will be wet before I come back.'
'Run thither at least,' said Glaucus; 'we must find the best shelter we can
till you return.'
The lane was overshadowed with trees, beneath the amplest of which Glaucus
drew Ione. He endeavored, by stripping his own cloak, to shield her yet
more from the rapid rain; but it descended with a fury that broke through
all puny obstacles: and suddenly, while Glaucus was yet whispering courage
to his beautiful charge, the lightning struck one of the trees immediately
before them, and split with a mighty crash its huge trunk in twain. This
awful incident apprised them of the danger they braved in their present
shelter, and Glaucus looked anxiously round for some less perilous place of
refuge. 'We are now,' said he, 'half-way up the ascent of Vesuvius; there
ought to be some cavern, or hollow in the vine-clad rocks, could we but find
it, in which the deserting Nymphs have left a shelter.' While thus saying he
moved from the trees, and, looking wistfully towards the mountain,
discovered through the advancing gloom a red and tremulous light at no
considerable distance. 'That must come,' said he, 'from the hearth of some
shepherd or vine-dresser--it will guide us to some hospitable retreat. Wilt
thou stay here, while I--yet no--that would be to leave thee to danger.'
'I will go with you cheerfully,' said Ione. 'Open as the space seems, it is
better than the treacherous shelter of these boughs.'
Half leading, half carrying Ione, Glaucus, accompanied by the trembling
female slave, advanced towards the light, which yet burned red and
steadfastly. At length the space was no longer open; wild vines entangled
their steps, and hid from them, save by imperfect intervals, the guiding
beam. But faster and fiercer came the rain, and the lightning assumed its
most deadly and blasting form; they were still therefore, impelled onward,
hoping, at last, if the light eluded them, to arrive at some cottage or some
friendly cavern. The vines grew more and more intricate--the light was
entirely snatched from them; but a narrow path, which they trod with labor
and pain, guided only by the constant and long-lingering flashes of the
storm, continued to lead them towards its direction. The rain ceased
suddenly; precipitous and rough crags of scorched lava frowned before them,
rendered more fearful by the lightning that illumined the dark and dangerous
soil. Sometimes the blaze lingered over the iron-grey heaps of scoria,
covered in part with ancient mosses or stunted trees, as if seeking in vain
for some gentler product of earth, more worthy of its ire; and sometimes
leaving the whole of that part of the scene in darkness, the lightning,
broad and sheeted, hung redly over the ocean, tossing far below, until its
waves seemed glowing into fire; and so intense was the blaze, that it
brought vividly into view even the sharp outline of the more distant
windings of the bay, from the eternal Misenum, with its lofty brow, to the
beautiful Sorrentum and the giant hills behind.
Our lovers stopped in perplexity and doubt, when suddenly, as the darkness
that gloomed between the fierce flashes of lightning once more wrapped them
round, they saw near, but high, before them, the mysterious light. Another
blaze, in which heaven and earth were reddened, made visible to them the
whole expanse; no house was near, but just where they had beheld the light,
they thought they saw in the recess of the cavern the outline of a human
form. The darkness once more returned; the light, no longer paled beneath
the fires of heaven, burned forth again: they resolved to ascend towards it;
they had to wind their way among vast fragments of stone, here and there
overhung with wild bushes; but they gained nearer and nearer to the light,
and at length they stood opposite the mouth of a kind of cavern, apparently
formed by huge splinters of rock that had fallen transversely athwart each
other: and, looking into the gloom, each drew back involuntarily with a
superstitious fear and chill.
A fire burned in the far recess of the cave; and over it was a small
cauldron; on a tall and thin column of iron stood a rude lamp; over that
part of the wall, at the base of which burned the fire, hung in many rows,
as if to dry, a profusion of herbs and weeds. A fox, couched before the
fire, gazed upon the strangers with its bright and red eye--its hair
bristling--and a low growl stealing from between its teeth; in the centre of
the cave was an earthen statue, which had three heads of a singular and
fantastic cast: they were formed by the real skulls of a dog, a horse, and a
boar; a low tripod stood before this wild representation of the popular
But it was not these appendages and appliances of the cave that thrilled the
blood of those who gazed fearfully therein--it was the face of its inmate.
Before the fire, with the light shining full upon her features, sat a woman
of considerable age. Perhaps in no country are there seen so many hags as
in Italy--in no country does beauty so awfully change, in age, to
hideousness the most appalling and revolting. But the old woman now before
them was not one of these specimens of the extreme of human ugliness; on the
contrary, her countenance betrayed the remains of a regular but high and
aquiline order of feature: with stony eyes turned upon them--with a look
that met and fascinated theirs--they beheld in that fearful countenance the
very image of a corpse!--the same, the glazed and lustreless regard, the
blue and shrunken lips, the drawn and hollow jaw--the dead, lank hair, of a
pale grey--the livid, green, ghastly skin, which seemed all surely tinged
and tainted by the grave!
'It is a dead thing,' said Glaucus.
'Nay--it stirs--it is a ghost or larva,' faltered Ione, as she clung to the
'Oh, away, away!' groaned the slave, 'it is the Witch of Vesuvius!'
'Who are ye?' said a hollow and ghostly voice. 'And what do ye here?'
The sound, terrible and deathlike as it was--suiting well the countenance of
the speaker, and seeming rather the voice of some bodiless wanderer of the
Styx than living mortal, would have made Ione shrink back into the pitiless
fury of the storm, but Glaucus, though not without some misgiving, drew her
into the cavern.
'We are storm-beaten wanderers from the neighboring city,' said he, 'and
decoyed hither by yon light; we crave shelter and the comfort of your
As he spoke, the fox rose from the ground, and advanced towards the
strangers, showing, from end to end, its white teeth, and deepening in its
'Down, slave!' said the witch; and at the sound of her voice the beast
dropped at once, covering its face with its brush, and keeping only its
quick, vigilant eye fixed upon the invaders of its repose. 'Come to the fire
if ye will!' said she, turning to Glaucus and his companions. 'I never
welcome living thing--save the owl, the fox, the toad, and the viper--so I
cannot welcome ye; but come to the fire without welcome--why stand upon
The language in which the hag addressed them was a strange and barbarous
Latin, interlarded with many words of some more rude, and ancient dialect.
She did not stir from her seat, but gazed stonily upon them as Glaucus now
released Ione of her outer wrapping garments, and making her place herself
on a log of wood, which was the only other seat he perceived at hand--fanned
with his breath the embers into a more glowing flame. The slave, encouraged
by the boldness of her superiors, divested herself also of her long palla,
and crept timorously to the opposite corner of the hearth.
'We disturb you, I fear,' said the silver voice of Ione, in conciliation.
The witch did not reply--she seemed like one who has awakened for a moment
from the dead, and has then relapsed once more into the eternal slumber.
'Tell me,' said she, suddenly, and after a long pause, 'are ye brother and
'No,' said Ione, blushing.
'Are ye married?'
'Not so,' replied Glaucus.
'Ho, lovers!--ha!--ha!--ha!' and the witch laughed so loud and so long that
the caverns rang again.
The heart of Ione stood still at that strange mirth. Glaucus muttered a
rapid counterspell to the omen--and the slave turned as pale as the cheek of
the witch herself.
'Why dost thou laugh, old crone?' said Glaucus, somewhat sternly, as he
concluded his invocation.
'Did I laugh?' said the hag, absently.
'She is in her dotage,' whispered Glaucus: as he said this, he caught the
eye of the hag fixed upon him with a malignant and vivid glare.
'Thou liest!' said she, abruptly.
'Thou art an uncourteous welcomer,' returned Glaucus.
'Hush! provoke her not, dear Glaucus!' whispered Ione.
'I will tell thee why I laughed when I discovered ye were lovers,' said the
old woman. 'It was because it is a pleasure to the old and withered to look
upon young hearts like yours--and to know the time will come when you will
loathe each other--loathe--loathe--ha!--ha!--ha!'
It was now Ione's turn to pray against the unpleasing prophecy.
'The gods forbid!' said she. 'Yet, poor woman, thou knowest little of love,
or thou wouldst know that it never changes.'
'Was I young once, think ye?' returned the hag, quickly; 'and am I old, and
hideous, and deathly now? Such as is the form, so is the heart.' With these
words she sank again into a stillness profound and fearful, as if the
cessation of life itself.
'Hast thou dwelt here long?' said Glaucus, after a pause, feeling
uncomfortably oppressed beneath a silence so appalling.
'It is but a drear abode.'
'Ha! thou mayst well say that--Hell is beneath us!' replied the hag,
pointing her bony finger to the earth. 'And I will tell thee a secret--the
dim things below are preparing wrath for ye above--you, the young, and the
thoughtless, and the beautiful.'
'Thou utterest but evil words, ill becoming the hospitable,' said Glaucus;
'and in future I will brave the tempest rather than thy welcome.'
'Thou wilt do well. None should ever seek me--save the wretched!'
'And why the wretched?' asked the Athenian.
'I am the witch of the mountain,' replied the sorceress, with a ghastly
grin; 'my trade is to give hope to the hopeless: for the crossed in love I
have philtres; for the avaricious, promises of treasure; for the malicious,
potions of revenge; for the happy and the good, I have only what life
has--curses! Trouble me no more.
With this the grim tenant of the cave relapsed into a silence so obstinate
and sullen, that Glaucus in vain endeavored to draw her into farther
conversation. She did not evince, by any alteration of her locked and rigid
features, that she even heard him. Fortunately, however, the storm, which
was brief as violent, began now to relax; the rain grew less and less
fierce; and at last, as the clouds parted, the moon burst forth in the
purple opening of heaven, and streamed clear and full into that desolate
abode. Never had she shone, perhaps, on a group more worthy of the
painter's art. The young, the all-beautiful Ione, seated by that rude
fire--her lover already forgetful of the presence of the hag, at her feet,
gazing upward to her face, and whispering sweet words--the pale and
affrighted slave at a little distance--and the ghastly hag resting her
deadly eyes upon them; yet seemingly serene and fearless (for the
companionship of love hath such power) were these beautiful beings, things
of another sphere, in that dark and unholy cavern, with its gloomy
quaintness of appurtenance. The fox regarded them from his corner with his
keen and fiery eye: and as Glaucus now turned towards the witch, he
perceived for the first time, just under her seat, the bright gaze and
crested head of a large snake: whether it was that the vivid coloring of the
Athenian's cloak, thrown over the shoulders of Ione, attracted the reptile's
anger--its crest began to glow and rise, as if menacing and preparing itself
to spring upon the Neapolitan--Glaucus caught quickly at one of the
half-burned logs upon the hearth--and, as if enraged at the action, the
snake came forth from its shelter, and with a loud hiss raised itself on end
till its height nearly approached that of the Greek.
'Witch!' cried Glaucus, 'command thy creature, or thou wilt see it dead.'
'It has been despoiled of its venom!' said the witch, aroused at his threat;
but ere the words had left her lip, the snake had sprung upon Glaucus; quick
and watchful, the agile Greek leaped lightly aside, and struck so fell and
dexterous a blow on the head of the snake, that it fell prostrate and
writhing among the embers of the fire.
The hag sprung up, and stood confronting Glaucus with a face which would
have befitted the fiercest of the Furies, so utterly dire and wrathful was
its expression--yet even in horror and ghastliness preserving the outline
and trace of beauty--and utterly free from that coarse grotesque at which
the imaginations of the North have sought the source of terror. 'Thou
hast,' said she, in a slow and steady voice--which belied the expression of
her face, so much was it passionless and calm--'thou hast had shelter under
my roof, and warmth at my hearth; thou hast returned evil for good; thou
hast smitten and haply slain the thing that loved me and was mine: nay,
more, the creature, above all others, consecrated to gods and deemed
venerable by man,--now hear thy punishment. By the moon, who is the
guardian of the sorceress--by Orcus, who is the treasurer of wrath--I curse
thee! and thou art cursed! May thy love be blasted--may thy name be
blackened--may the infernals mark thee--may thy heart wither and scorch--may
thy last hour recall to thee the prophet voice of the Saga of Vesuvius! And
thou,' she added, turning sharply towards Ione, and raising her right arm,
when Glaucus burst impetuously on her speech:
'Hag!' cried he, 'forbear! Me thou hast cursed, and I commit myself to the
gods--I defy and scorn thee! but breathe but one word against yon maiden,
and I will convert the oath on thy foul lips to thy dying groan. Beware!'
'I have done,' replied the hag, laughing wildly; 'for in thy doom is she who
loves thee accursed. And not the less, that I heard her lips breathe thy
name, and know by what word to commend thee to the demons. Glaucus--thou
art doomed!' So saying, the witch turned from the Athenian, and kneeling
down beside her wounded favorite, which she dragged from the hearth, she
turned to them her face no more.
'O Glaucus!' said Ione, greatly terrified, 'what have we done?--Let us
hasten from this place; the storm has ceased. Good mistress, forgive
him--recall thy words--he meant but to defend himself--accept this
peace-offering to unsay the said': and Ione, stooping, placed her purse on
the hag's lap.
'Away!' said she, bitterly--'away! The oath once woven the Fates only can
'Come, dearest!' said Glaucus, impatiently. 'Thinkest thou that the gods
above us or below hear the impotent ravings of dotage? Come!'
Long and loud rang the echoes of the cavern with the dread laugh of the
Saga--she deigned no further reply.
The lovers breathed more freely when they gained the open air: yet the scene
they had witnessed, the words and the laughter of the witch, still fearfully
dwelt with Ione; and even Glaucus could not thoroughly shake off the
impression they bequeathed. The storm had subsided--save, now and then, a
low thunder muttered at the distance amidst the darker clouds, or a
momentary flash of lightning affronted the sovereignty of the moon. With
some difficulty they regained the road, where they found the vehicle already
sufficiently repaired for their departure, and the carrucarius calling
loudly upon Hercules to tell him where his charge had vanished.
Glaucus vainly endeavored to cheer the exhausted spirits of Ione; and scarce
less vainly to recover the elastic tone of his own natural gaiety. They
soon arrived before the gate of the city: as it opened to them, a litter
borne by slaves impeded the way.
'It is too late for egress,' cried the sentinel to the inmate of the litter.
'Not so,' said a voice, which the lovers started to hear; it was a voice
they well recognized. 'I am bound to the villa of Marcus Polybius. I shall
return shortly. I am Arbaces the Egyptian.'
The scruples of him at the gate were removed, and the litter passed close
beside the carriage that bore the lovers.
'Arbaces, at this hour!--scarce recovered too, methinks!--Whither and for
what can he leave the city?' said Glaucus.
'Alas!' replied Ione, bursting into tears, 'my soul feels still more and
more the omen of evil. Preserve us, O ye Gods! or at least,' she murmured
inly, 'preserve my Glaucus!'
THE LORD OF THE BURNING BELT AND HIS MINION. FATE WRITES HER PROPHECY IN
RED LETTERS, BUT WHO SHALL READ THEM?
ARBACES had tarried only till the cessation of the tempest allowed him,
under cover of night, to seek the Saga of Vesuvius. Borne by those of his
trustier slaves in whom in all more secret expeditions he was accustomed to
confide, he lay extended along his litter, and resigning his sanguine heart
to the contemplation of vengeance gratified and love possessed. The slaves
in so short a journey moved very little slower than the ordinary pace of
mules; and Arbaces soon arrived at the commencement of a narrow path, which
the lovers had not been fortunate enough to discover; but which, skirting
the thick vines, led at once to the habitation of the witch. Here he rested
the litter; and bidding his slaves conceal themselves and the vehicle among
the vines from the observation of any chance passenger, he mounted alone,
with steps still feeble but supported by a long staff, the drear and sharp
Not a drop of rain fell from the tranquil heaven; but the moisture dripped
mournfully from the laden boughs of the vine, and now and then collected in
tiny pools in the crevices and hollows of the rocky way.
'Strange passions these for a philosopher,' thought Arbaces, 'that lead one
like me just new from the bed of death, and lapped even in health amidst the
roses of luxury, across such nocturnal paths as this; but Passion and
Vengeance treading to their goal can make an Elysium of a Tartarus.' High,
clear, and melancholy shone the moon above the road of that dark wayfarer,
glossing herself in every pool that lay before him, and sleeping in shadow
along the sloping mount. He saw before him the same light that had guided
the steps of his intended victims, but, no longer contrasted by the
blackened clouds, it shone less redly clear.
He paused, as at length he approached the mouth of the cavern, to recover
breath; and then, with his wonted collected and stately mien, he crossed the
The fox sprang up at the ingress of this newcomer, and by a long howl
announced another visitor to his mistress.
The witch had resumed her seat, and her aspect of gravelike and grim repose.
By her feet, upon a bed of dry weeds which half covered it, lay the wounded
snake; but the quick eye of the Egyptian caught its scales glittering in the
reflected light of the opposite fire, as it writhed--now contracting, now
lengthening, its folds, in pain and unsated anger.
'Down, slave!' said the witch, as before, to the fox; and, as before, the
animal dropped to the ground--mute, but vigilant.
'Rise, servant of Nox and Erebus!' said Arbaces, commandingly; 'a superior
in thine art salutes thee! rise, and welcome him.'
At these words the hag turned her gaze upon the Egyptian's towering form and
dark features. She looked long and fixedly upon him, as he stood before her
in his Oriental robe, and folded arms, and steadfast and haughty brow. 'Who
art thou,' she said at last, 'that callest thyself greater in art than the
Saga of the Burning Fields, and the daughter of the perished Etrurian race?'
'I am he,' answered Arbaces, 'from whom all cultivators of magic, from north
to south, from east to west, from the Ganges and the Nile to the vales of
Thessaly and the shores of the yellow Tiber, have stooped to learn.'
'There is but one such man in these places,' answered the witch, 'whom the
men of the outer world, unknowing his loftier attributes and more secret
fame, call Arbaces the Egyptian: to us of a higher nature and deeper
knowledge, his rightful appellation is Hermes of the Burning Girdle.'
'Look again, returned Arbaces: 'I am he.'
As he spoke he drew aside his robe, and revealed a cincture seemingly of
fire, that burned around his waist, clasped in the centre by a plate whereon
was engraven some sign apparently vague and unintelligible but which was
evidently not unknown to the Saga. She rose hastily, and threw herself at
the feet of Arbaces. 'I have seen, then,' said she, in a voice of deep
humility, 'the Lord of the Mighty Girdle--vouchsafe my homage.'
'Rise,' said the Egyptian; 'I have need of thee.'
So saying, he placed himself on the same log of wood on which Ione had
rested before, and motioned to the witch to resume her seat.
'Thou sayest,' said he, as she obeyed, 'that thou art a daughter of the
ancient Etrurian tribes; the mighty walls of whose rock-built cities yet
frown above the robber race that hath seized upon their ancient reign.
Partly came those tribes from Greece, partly were they exiles from a more
burning and primeval soil. In either case art thou of Egyptian lineage, for
the Grecian masters of the aboriginal helot were among the restless sons
whom the Nile banished from her bosom. Equally, then, O Saga! thy descent
is from ancestors that swore allegiance to mine own. By birth as by
knowledge, art thou the subject of Arbaces. Hear me, then, and obey!'
The witch bowed her head.
'Whatever art we possess in sorcery,' continued Arbaces, 'we are sometimes
driven to natural means to attain our object. The ring and the crystal, and
the ashes and the herbs, do not give unerring divinations; neither do the
higher mysteries of the moon yield even the possessor of the girdle a
dispensation from the necessity of employing ever and anon human measures
for a human object. Mark me, then: thou art deeply skilled, methinks, in
the secrets of the more deadly herbs; thou knowest those which arrest life,
which burn and scorch the soul from out her citadel, or freeze the channels
of young blood into that ice which no sun can melt. Do I overrate thy
skill? Speak, and truly!'
'Mighty Hermes, such lore is, indeed, mine own. Deign to look at these
ghostly and corpse-like features; they have waned from the hues of life
merely by watching over the rank herbs which simmer night and day in yon
The Egyptian moved his seat from so unblessed or so unhealthful a vicinity
as the witch spoke.
'It is well,' said he; 'thou hast learned that maxim of all the deeper
knowledge which saith, "Despise the body to make wise the mind." But to thy
task. There cometh to thee by to-morrow's starlight a vain maiden, seeking
of thine art a love-charm to fascinate from another the eyes that should
utter but soft tales to her own: instead of thy philtres, give the maiden
one of thy most powerful poisons. Let the lover breathe his vows to the
The witch trembled from head to foot.
'Oh pardon! pardon! dread master,' said she, falteringly, 'but this I dare
not. The law in these cities is sharp and vigilant; they will seize, they
will slay me.'
'For what purpose, then, thy herbs and thy potions, vain Saga?' said
The witch hid her loathsome face with her hands.
'Oh! years ago,' said she, in a voice unlike her usual tones, so plaintive
was it, and so soft, 'I was not the thing that I am now. I loved, I fancied
'And what connection hath thy love, witch, with my commands?' said Arbaces,
'Patience,' resumed the witch; 'patience, I implore. I loved! another and
less fair than I--yes, by Nemesis! less fair--allured from me my chosen. I
was of that dark Etrurian tribe to whom most of all were known the secrets
of the gloomier magic. My mother was herself a saga: she shared the
resentment of her child; from her hands I received the potion that was to
restore me his love; and from her, also, the poison that was to destroy my
rival. Oh, crush me, dread walls! my trembling hands mistook the phials, my
lover fell indeed at my feet; but dead! dead! dead! Since then, what has
been life to me I became suddenly old, I devoted myself to the sorceries of
my race; still by an irresistible impulse I curse myself with an awful
penance; still I seek the most noxious herbs; still I concoct the poisons;
still I imagine that I am to give them to my hated rival; still I pour them
into the phial; still I fancy that they shall blast her beauty to the dust;
still I wake and see the quivering body, the foaming lips, the glazing eyes
of my Aulus--murdered, and by me!'
The skeleton frame of the witch shook beneath strong convulsions.
Arbaces gazed upon her with a curious though contemptuous eye.
'And this foul thing has yet human emotions!' thought he; 'still she cowers
over the ashes of the same fire that consumes Arbaces!--Such are we all!
Mystic is the tie of those mortal passions that unite the greatest and the
He did not reply till she had somewhat recovered herself, and now sat
rocking to and fro in her seat, with glassy eyes fixed on the opposite
flame, and large tears rolling down her livid cheeks.
'A grievous tale is thine, in truth,' said Arbaces. 'But these emotions are
fit only for our youth--age should harden our hearts to all things but
ourselves; as every year adds a scale to the shell-fish, so should each year
wall and incrust the heart. Think of those frenzies no more! And now,
listen to me again! By the revenge that was dear to thee, I command thee to
obey me! it is for vengeance that I seek thee! This youth whom I would
sweep from my path has crossed me, despite my spells:--this thing of purple
and broidery, of smiles and glances, soulless and mindless, with no charm
but that of beauty--accursed be it!--this insect--this Glaucus--I tell thee,
by Orcus and by Nemesis, he must die.'
And working himself up at every word, the Egyptian, forgetful of his
debility--of his strange companion--of everything but his own vindictive
rage, strode, with large and rapid steps, the gloomy cavern.
'Glaucus! saidst thou, mighty master!' said the witch, abruptly; and her dim
eye glared at the name with all that fierce resentment at the memory of
small affronts so common amongst the solitary and the shunned.
'Ay, so he is called; but what matters the name? Let it not be heard as
that of a living man three days from this date!'
'Hear me!' said the witch, breaking from a short reverie into which she was
plunged after this last sentence of the Egyptian. 'Hear me! I am thy thing
and thy slave! spare me! If I give to the maiden thou speakest of that
which would destroy the life of Glaucus, I shall be surely detected--the
dead ever find avengers. Nay, dread man! if thy visit to me be tracked, if
thy hatred to Glaucus be known, thou mayest have need of thy archest magic
to protect thyself!'
'Ha!' said Arbaces, stopping suddenly short; and as a proof of that
blindness with which passion darkens the eyes even of the most acute, this
was the first time when the risk that he himself ran by this method of
vengeance had occurred to a mind ordinarily wary and circumspect.
'But,' continued the witch, 'if instead of that which shall arrest the
heart, I give that which shall sear and blast the brain--which shall make
him who quaffs it unfit for the uses and career of life--an abject, raving,
benighted thing--smiting sense to drivelling youth to dotage--will not thy
vengeance be equally sated--thy object equally attained?'
'Oh, witch! no longer the servant, but the sister--the equal of Arbaces--how
much brighter is woman's wit, even in vengeance, than ours! how much more
exquisite than death is such a doom!'
'And,' continued the hag, gloating over her fell scheme, 'in this is but
little danger; for by ten thousand methods, which men forbear to seek, can
our victim become mad. He may have been among the vines and seen a
nymph--or the vine itself may have had the same effect--ha, ha! they never
inquire too scrupulously into these matters in which the gods may be agents.
And let the worst arrive--let it be known that it is a love-charm--why,
madness is a common effect of philtres; and even the fair she that gave it
finds indulgence in the excuse. Mighty Hermes, have I ministered to thee
'Thou shalt have twenty years' longer date for this,' returned Arbaces. 'I
will write anew the epoch of thy fate on the face of the pale stars--thou
shalt not serve in vain the Master of the Flaming Belt. And here, Saga,
carve thee out, by these golden tools, a warmer cell in this dreary
cavern--one service to me shall countervail a thousand divinations by sieve
and shears to the gaping rustics.' So saying, he cast upon the floor a heavy
purse, which clinked not unmusically to the ear of the hag, who loved the
consciousness of possessing the means to purchase comforts she disdained.
'Farewell,' said Arbaces, 'fail not--outwatch the stars in concocting thy
beverage--thou shalt lord it over thy sisters at the Walnut-tree,' when thou
tellest them that thy patron and thy friend is Hermes the Egyptian.
To-morrow night we meet again.'
He stayed not to hear the valediction or the thanks of the witch; with a
quick step he passed into the moonlit air, and hastened down the mountain.
The witch, who followed his steps to the threshold, stood at the entrance of
the cavern, gazing fixedly on his receding form; and as the sad moonlight
streamed over her shadowy form and deathlike face, emerging from the dismal
rocks, it seemed as if one gifted, indeed, by supernatural magic had escaped
from the dreary Orcus; and, the foremost of its ghostly throng, stood at its
black portals--vainly summoning his return, or vainly sighing to rejoin him.
The hag, then slowly re-entering the cave, groaningly picked up the heavy
purse, took the lamp from its stand, and, passing to the remotest depth of
her cell, a black and abrupt passage, which was not visible, save at a near
approach, closed round as it was with jutting and sharp crags, yawned before
her: she went several yards along this gloomy path, which sloped gradually
downwards, as if towards the bowels of the earth, and, lifting a stone,
deposited her treasure in a hole beneath, which, as the lamp pierced its
secrets, seemed already to contain coins of various value, wrung from the
credulity or gratitude of her visitors.
'I love to look at you,' said she, apostrophising the moneys; 'for when I
see you I feel that I am indeed of power. And I am to have twenty years'
longer life to increase your store! O thou great Hermes!'
She replaced the stone, and continued her path onward for some paces, when
she stopped before a deep irregular fissure in the earth. Here, as she
bent--strange, rumbling, hoarse, and distant sounds might be heard, while
ever and anon, with a loud and grating noise which, to use a homely but
faithful simile, seemed to resemble the grinding of steel upon wheels,
volumes of streaming and dark smoke issued forth, and rushed spirally along
'The Shades are noisier than their wont,' said the hag, shaking her grey
locks; and, looking into the cavity, she beheld, far down, glimpses of a
long streak of light, intensely but darkly red. 'Strange!' she said,
shrinking back; 'it is only within the last two days that dull, deep light
hath been visible--what can it portend?'
The fox, who had attended the steps of his fell mistress, uttered a dismal
howl, and ran cowering back to the inner cave; a cold shuddering seized the
hag herself at the cry of the animal, which, causeless as it seemed, the
superstitions of the time considered deeply ominous. She muttered her
placatory charm, and tottered back into her cavern, where, amidst her herbs
and incantations, she prepared to execute the orders of the Egyptian.
'He called me dotard,' said she, as the smoke curled from the hissing
cauldron: 'when the jaws drop, and the grinders fall, and the heart scarce
beats, it is a pitiable thing to dote; but when,' she added, with a savage
and exulting grin, 'the young, and the beautiful, and the strong, are
suddenly smitten into idiocy--ah, that is terrible! Burn, flame--simmer
herb--swelter toad--I cursed him, and he shall be cursed!'
On that night, and at the same hour which witnessed the dark and unholy
interview between Arbaces and the Saga, Apaecides was baptized.
PROGRESS OF EVENTS. THE PLOT THICKENS. THE WEB IS WOVEN, BUT THE NET
'AND you have the courage then, Julia, to seek the Witch of Vesuvius this
evening; in company, too, with that fearful man?'
'Why, Nydia?' replied Julia, timidly; 'dost thou really think there is
anything to dread? These old hags, with their enchanted mirrors, their
trembling sieves, and their moon-gathered herbs, are, I imagine, but crafty
impostors, who have learned, perhaps, nothing but the very charm for which I
apply to their skill, and which is drawn but from the knowledge of the
field's herbs and simples. Wherefore should I dread?'
'Dost thou not fear thy companion?'
'What, Arbaces? By Dian, I never saw lover more courteous than that same
magician! And were he not so dark, he would be even handsome.'
Blind as she was, Nydia had the penetration to perceive that Julia's mind
was not one that the gallantries of Arbaces were likely to terrify. She
therefore dissuaded her no more: but nursed in her excited heart the wild
and increasing desire to know if sorcery had indeed a spell to fascinate
love to love.
'Let me go with thee, noble Julia,' said she at length; 'my presence is no
protection, but I should like to be beside thee to the last.'
'Thine offer pleases me much,' replied the daughter of Diomed. 'Yet how
canst thou contrive it? we may not return until late, they will miss thee.'
'Ione is indulgent,' replied Nydia. 'If thou wilt permit me to sleep
beneath thy roof, I will say that thou, an early patroness and friend, hast
invited me to pass the day with thee, and sing thee my Thessalian songs; her
courtesy will readily grant to thee so light a boon.'
'Nay, ask for thyself!' said the haughty Julia. 'I stoop to request no
favor from the Neapolitan!'
'Well, be it so. I will take my leave now; make my request, which I know
will be readily granted, and return shortly.'
'Do so; and thy bed shall be prepared in my own chamber.' With that, Nydia
left the fair Pompeian.
On her way back to Ione she was met by the chariot of Glaucus, on whose
fiery and curveting steeds was riveted the gaze of the crowded street.
He kindly stopped for a moment to speak to the flower-girl.
'Blooming as thine own roses, my gentle Nydia! and how is thy fair
mistress?--recovered, I trust, from the effects of the storm?'
'I have not seen her this morning,' answered Nydia, 'but...'
'But what? draw back--the horses are too near thee.'
'But think you Ione will permit me to pass the day with Julia, the daughter
of Diomed?--She wishes it, and was kind to me when I had few friends.'
'The gods bless thy grateful heart! I will answer for Ione's permission.'
'Then I may stay over the night, and return to-morrow?' said Nydia,
shrinking from the praise she so little merited.
'As thou and fair Julia please. Commend me to her; and hark ye, Nydia, when
thou hearest her speak, note the contrast of her voice with that of the
silver-toned Ione. Vale!'
His spirits entirely recovered from the effect of the past night, his locks
waving in the wind, his joyous and elastic heart bounding with every spring
of his Parthian steeds, a very prototype of his country's god, full of youth
and of love--Glaucus was borne rapidly to his mistress.
Enjoy while ye may the present--who can read the future?
As the evening darkened, Julia, reclined within her litter, which was
capacious enough also to admit her blind companion, took her way to the
rural baths indicated by Arbaces. To her natural levity of disposition, her
enterprise brought less of terror than of pleasurable excitement; above all,
she glowed at the thought of her coming triumph over the hated Neapolitan.
A small but gay group was collected round the door of the villa, as her
litter passed by it to the private entrance of the baths appropriated to the
'Methinks, by this dim light,' said one of the bystanders, 'I recognize the
slaves of Diomed.'
'True, Clodius,' said Sallust: 'it is probably the litter of his daughter
Julia. She is rich, my friend; why dost thou not proffer thy suit to her?'
'Why, I had once hoped that Glaucus would have married her. She does not
disguise her attachment; and then, as he gambles freely and with
'The sesterces would have passed to thee, wise Clodius. A wife is a good
thing--when it belongs to another man!'
'But,' continued Clodius, 'as Glaucus is, I understand, to wed the
Neapolitan, I think I must even try my chance with the dejected maid. After
all, the lamp of Hymen will be gilt, and the vessel will reconcile one to
the odor of the flame. I shall only protest, my Sallust, against Diomed's
making thee trustee to his daughter's fortune.'
'Ha! ha! let us within, my comissator; the wine and the garlands wait us.'
Dismissing her slaves to that part of the house set apart for their
entertainment, Julia entered the baths with Nydia, and declining the offers
of the attendants, passed by a private door into the garden behind.
'She comes by appointment, be sure,' said one of the slaves.
'What is that to thee?' said a superintendent, sourly; 'she pays for the
baths, and does not waste the saffron. Such appointments are the best part
of the trade. Hark! do you not hear the widow Fulvia clapping her hands?
Julia and Nydia, avoiding the more public part of the garden, arrived at the
place specified by the Egyptian. In a small circular plot of grass the
stars gleamed upon the statue of Silenus--the merry god reclined upon a
fragment of rock--the lynx of Bacchus at his feet--and over his mouth he
held, with extended arm, a bunch of grapes, which he seemingly laughed to
welcome ere he devoured.
'I see not the magician,' said Julia, looking round: when, as she spoke, the
Egyptian slowly emerged from the neighboring foliage, and the light fell
palely over his sweeping robes.
'Salve, sweet maiden!--But ha! whom hast thou here? we must have no
'It is but the blind flower-girl, wise magician,' replied Julia: 'herself a
'Oh! Nydia!' said the Egyptian. 'I know her well.'
Nydia drew back and shuddered.
'Thou hast been at my house, methinks!' said he, approaching his voice to
Nydia's ear; 'thou knowest the oath!--Silence and secrecy, now as then, or
'Yet,' he added, musingly to himself, 'why confide more than is necessary,
even in the blind--Julia, canst thou trust thyself alone with me? Believe
me, the magician is less formidable than he seems.'
As he spoke, he gently drew Julia aside.
'The witch loves not many visitors at once,' said he: 'leave Nydia here till
your return; she can be of no assistance to us: and, for protection--your
own beauty suffices--your own beauty and your own rank; yes, Julia, I know
thy name and birth. Come, trust thyself with me, fair rival of the youngest
of the Naiads!'
The vain Julia was not, as we have seen, easily affrighted; she was moved by
the flattery of Arbaces, and she readily consented to suffer Nydia to await
her return; nor did Nydia press her presence. At the sound of the
Egyptian's voice all her terror of him returned: she felt a sentiment of
pleasure at learning she was not to travel in his companionship.
She returned to the Bath-house, and in one of the private chambers waited
their return. Many and bitter were the thoughts of this wild girl as she
sat there in her eternal darkness. She thought of her own desolate fate,
far from her native land, far from the bland cares that once assuaged the
April sorrows of childhood--deprived of the light of day, with none but
strangers to guide her steps, accursed by the one soft feeling of her heart,
loving and without hope, save the dim and unholy ray which shot across her
mind, as her Thessalian fancies questioned of the force of spells and the
gifts of magic.
Nature had sown in the heart of this poor girl the seeds of virtue never
destined to ripen. The lessons of adversity are not always
salutary--sometimes they soften and amend, but as often they indurate and
pervert. If we consider ourselves more harshly treated by fate than those
around us, and do not acknowledge in our own deeds the justice of the
severity, we become too apt to deem the world our enemy, to case ourselves
in defiance, to wrestle against our softer self, and to indulge the darker
passions which are so easily fermented by the sense of injustice. Sold
early into slavery, sentenced to a sordid taskmaster, exchanging her
situation, only yet more to embitter her lot--the kindlier feelings,
naturally profuse in the breast of Nydia, were nipped and blighted. Her
sense of right and wrong was confused by a passion to which she had so madly
surrendered herself; and the same intense and tragic emotions which we read
of in the women of the classic age--a Myrrha, a Medea--and which hurried and
swept away the whole soul when once delivered to love--ruled, and rioted in,
Time passed: a light step entered the chamber where Nydia yet indulged her
'Oh, thanked be the immortal gods!' said Julia, 'I have returned, I have
left that terrible cavern! Come, Nydia! let us away forthwith!'
It was not till they were seated in the litter that Julia again spoke.
'Oh!' said she, tremblingly, 'such a scene! such fearful incantations! and
the dead face of the hag!--But, let us talk not of it. I have obtained the
potion--she pledges its effect. My rival shall be suddenly indifferent to
his eye, and I, I alone, the idol of Glaucus!'
'Glaucus!' exclaimed Nydia.
'Ay! I told thee, girl, at first, that it was not the Athenian whom I loved:
but I see now that I may trust thee wholly--it is the beautiful Greek!'
What then were Nydia's emotions! she had connived, she had assisted, in
tearing Glaucus from Ione; but only to transfer, by all the power of magic,
his affections yet more hopelessly to another. Her heart swelled almost to
suffocation--she gasped for breath--in the darkness of the vehicle, Julia
did not perceive the agitation of her companion; she went on rapidly
dilating on the promised effect of her acquisition, and on her approaching
triumph over Ione, every now and then abruptly digressing to the horror of
the scene she had quitted--the unmoved mien of Arbaces, and his authority
over the dreadful Saga.
Meanwhile Nydia recovered her self-possession: a thought flashed across her:
she slept in the chamber of Julia--she might possess herself of the potion.
They arrived at the house of Diomed, and descended to Julia's apartment,
where the night's repast awaited them.
'Drink, Nydia, thou must be cold, the air was chill to-night; as for me, my
veins are yet ice.'
And Julia unhesitatingly quaffed deep draughts of the spiced wine.
'Thou hast the potion,' said Nydia; 'let me hold it in my hands. How small
the phial is! of what color is the draught?'
'Clear as crystal,' replied Julia, as she retook the philtre; 'thou couldst
not tell it from this water. The witch assures me it is tasteless. Small
though the phial, it suffices for a life's fidelity: it is to be poured into
any liquid; and Glaucus will only know what he has quaffed by the effect.'
'Exactly like this water in appearance?'
'Yes, sparkling and colorless as this. How bright it seems! it is as the
very essence of moonlit dews. Bright thing! how thou shinest on my hopes
through thy crystal vase!'
'And how is it sealed?'
'But by one little stopper--I withdraw it now--the draught gives no odor.
Strange, that that which speaks to neither sense should thus command all!'
'Is the effect instantaneous?'
'Usually--but sometimes it remains dormant for a few hours.'
'Oh, how sweet is this perfume!' said Nydia, suddenly, as she took up a
small bottle on the table, and bent over its fragrant contents.
'Thinkest thou so? the bottle is set with gems of some value. Thou wouldst
not have the bracelet yestermorn--wilt thou take the bottle?'
'It ought to be such perfumes as these that should remind one who cannot see
of the generous Julia. If the bottle be not too costly...'
'Oh! I have a thousand costlier ones: take it, child!'
Nydia bowed her gratitude, and placed the bottle in her vest.
'And the draught would be equally efficacious, whoever administers it?'
'If the most hideous hag beneath the sun bestowed it, such is its asserted
virtue that Glaucus would deem her beautiful, and none but her!'
Julia, warmed by wine, and the reaction of her spirits, was now all
animation and delight; she laughed loud, and talked on a hundred
matters--nor was it till the night had advanced far towards morning that she
summoned her slaves and undressed.
When they were dismissed, she said to Nydia, 'I will not suffer this holy
draught to quit my presence till the hour comes for its use. Lie under my
pillow, bright spirit, and give me happy dreams!'
So saying, she placed the potion under her pillow. Nydia's heart beat
'Why dost thou drink that unmixed water, Nydia? Take the wine by its side.'
'I am fevered,' replied the blind girl, 'and the water cools me. I will
place this bottle by my bedside, it refreshes in these summer nights, when
the dews of sleep fall not on our lips. Fair Julia, I must leave thee very
early--so Ione bids--perhaps before thou art awake; accept, therefore, now
'Thanks: when next we meet you may find Glaucus at my feet.'
They had retired to their couches, and Julia, worn out by the excitement of
the day, soon slept. But anxious and burning thoughts rolled over the mind
of the wakeful Thessalian. She listened to the calm breathing of Julia; and
her ear, accustomed to the finest distinctions of sound, speedily assured
her of the deep slumber of her companion.
'Now befriend me, Venus!' said she, softly.
She rose gently, and poured the perfume from the gift of Julia upon the
marble floor--she rinsed it several times carefully with the water that was
beside her, and then easily finding the bed of Julia (for night to her was
as day), she pressed her trembling hand under the pillow and seized the
potion. Julia stirred not, her breath regularly fanned the burning cheek of
the blind girl. Nydia, then, opening the phial, poured its contents into
the bottle, which easily contained them; and then refilling the former
reservoir of the potion with that limpid water which Julia had assured her
it so resembled, she once more placed the phial in its former place. She
then stole again to her couch, and waited--with what thoughts!--the dawning
The sun had risen--Julia slept still--Nydia noiselessly dressed herself,
placed her treasure carefully in her vest, took up her staff, and hastened
to quit the house.
The porter, Medon, saluted her kindly as she descended the steps that led to
the street: she heard him not; her mind was confused and lost in the whirl
of tumultuous thoughts, each thought a passion. She felt the pure morning
air upon her cheek, but it cooled not her scorching veins.
'Glaucus,' she murmured, 'all the love-charms of the wildest magic could not
make thee love me as I love thee. Ione!--ah; away hesitation! away remorse!
Glaucus, my fate is in thy smile; and thine! hope! O joy! O transport, thy
fate is in these hands!'
BOOK THE FOURTH
REFLECTIONS ON THE ZEAL OF THE EARLY CHRISTIANS. TWO MEN COME TO A PERILOUS
RESOLVE. WALLS HAVE EARS, PARTICULARLY SACRED WALLS.
WHOEVER regards the early history of Christianity, will perceive how
necessary to its triumph was that fierce spirit of zeal, which, fearing no
danger, accepting no compromise, inspired its champions and sustained its
martyrs. In a dominant Church the genius of intolerance betrays its
cause--in a weak and persecuted Church, the same genius mainly supports. It
was necessary to scorn, to loathe, to abhor the creeds of other men, in
order to conquer the temptations which they presented--it was necessary
rigidly to believe not only that the Gospel was the true faith, but the sole
true faith that saved, in order to nerve the disciple to the austerity of
its doctrine, and to encourage him to the sacred and perilous chivalry of
converting the Polytheist and the Heathen. The sectarian sternness which
confined virtue and heaven to a chosen few, which saw demons in other gods,
and the penalties of hell in other religions--made the believer naturally
anxious to convert all to whom he felt the ties of human affection; and the
circle thus traced by benevolence to man was yet more widened by a desire
for the glory of God. It was for the honour of the Christian faith that the
Christian boldly forced its tenets upon the scepticism of some, the
repugnance of others, the sage contempt of the philosopher, the pious
shudder of the people--his very intolerance supplied him with his fittest
instruments of success; and the soft Heathen began at last to imagine there
must indeed be something holy in a zeal wholly foreign to his experience,
which stopped at no obstacle, dreaded no danger, and even at the torture, or
on the scaffold, referred a dispute far other than the calm differences of
speculative philosophy to the tribunal of an Eternal Judge. It was thus
that the same fervor which made the Churchman of the middle age a bigot
without mercy, made the Christian of the early days a hero without fear.
Of these more fiery, daring, and earnest natures, not the least ardent was
Olinthus. No sooner had Apaecides been received by the rites of baptism
into the bosom of the Church, than the Nazarene hastened to make him
conscious of the impossibility to retain the office and robes of priesthood.
He could not, it was evident, profess to worship God, and continue even
outwardly to honour the idolatrous altars of the Fiend.
Nor was this all, the sanguine and impetuous mind of Olinthus beheld in the
power of Apaecides the means of divulging to the deluded people the juggling
mysteries of the oracular Isis. He thought Heaven had sent this instrument
of his design in order to disabuse the eyes of the crowd, and prepare the
way, perchance, for the conversion of a whole city. He did not hesitate
then to appeal to all the new-kindled enthusiasm of Apaecides, to arouse his
courage, and to stimulate his zeal. They met, according to previous
agreement, the evening after the baptism of Apaecides, in the grove of
Cybele, which we have before described.
'At the next solemn consultation of the oracle,' said Olinthus, as he
proceeded in the warmth of his address, 'advance yourself to the railing,
proclaim aloud to the people the deception they endure, invite them to
enter, to be themselves the witness of the gross but artful mechanism of
imposture thou hast described to me. Fear not--the Lord, who protected
Daniel, shall protect thee; we, the community of Christians, will be amongst
the crowd; we will urge on the shrinking: and in the first flush of the
popular indignation and shame, I myself, upon those very altars, will plant
the palm-branch typical of the Gospel--and to my tongue shall descend the
rushing Spirit of the living God.'
Heated and excited as he was, this suggestion was not unpleasing to
Apaecides. He was rejoiced at so early an opportunity of distinguishing his
faith in his new sect, and to his holier feelings were added those of a
vindictive loathing at the imposition he had himself suffered, and a desire
to avenge it. In that sanguine and elastic overbound of obstacles (the
rashness necessary to all who undertake venturous and lofty actions),
neither Olinthus nor the proselyte perceived the impediments to the success
of their scheme, which might be found in the reverent superstition of the
people themselves, who would probably be loth, before the sacred altars of
the great Egyptian goddess, to believe even the testimony of her priest
against her power.
Apaecides then assented to this proposal with a readiness which delighted
Olinthus. They parted with the understanding that Olinthus should confer
with the more important of his Christian brethren on his great enterprise,
should receive their advice and the assurances of their support on the
eventful day. It so chanced that one of the festivals of Isis was to be
held on the second day after this conference. The festival proffered a
ready occasion for the design. They appointed to meet once more on the next
evening at the same spot; and in that meeting were finally to be settled the
order and details of the disclosure for the following day.
It happened that the latter part of this conference had been held near the
sacellum, or small chapel, which I have described in the early part of this
work; and so soon as the forms of the Christian and the priest had
disappeared from the grove, a dark and ungainly figure emerged from behind
'I have tracked you with some effect, my brother flamen,' soliloquised the
eavesdropper; 'you, the priest of Isis, have not for mere idle discussion
conferred with this gloomy Christian. Alas! that I could not hear all your
precious plot: enough! I find, at least, that you meditate revealing the
sacred mysteries, and that to-morrow you meet again at this place to plan
the how and the when. May Osiris sharpen my ears then, to detect the whole
of your unheard-of audacity! When I have learned more, I must confer at
once with Arbaces. We will frustrate you, my friends, deep as you think
yourselves. At present, my breast is a locked treasury of your secret.'
Thus muttering, Calenus, for it was he, wrapped his robe round him, and
strode thoughtfully homeward.
A CLASSIC HOST, COOK, AND KITCHEN. APAECIDES SEEKS IONE. THEIR
IT was then the day for Diomed's banquet to the most select of his friends.
The graceful Glaucus, the beautiful Ione, the official Pansa, the high-born
Clodius, the immortal Fulvius, the exquisite Lepidus, the epicurean Sallust,
were not the only honourers of his festival. He expected, also, an invalid
senator from Rome (a man of considerable repute and favor at court), and a
great warrior from Herculaneum, who had fought with Titus against the Jews,
and having enriched himself prodigiously in the wars, was always told by his
friends that his country was eternally indebted to his disinterested
exertions! The party, however, extended to a yet greater number: for
although, critically speaking, it was, at one time, thought inelegant among
the Romans to entertain less than three or more than nine at their banquets,
yet this rule was easily disregarded by the ostentatious. And we are told,
indeed, in history, that one of the most splendid of these entertainers
usually feasted a select party of three hundred. Diomed, however, more
modest, contented himself with doubling the number of the Muses. His party
consisted of eighteen, no unfashionable number in the present day.
It was the morning of Diomed's banquet; and Diomed himself, though he
greatly affected the gentleman and the scholar, retained enough of his
mercantile experience to know that a master's eye makes a ready servant.
Accordingly, with his tunic ungirdled on his portly stomach, his easy
slippers on his feet, a small wand in his hand, wherewith he now directed
the gaze, and now corrected the back, of some duller menial, he went from
chamber to chamber of his costly villa.
He did not disdain even a visit to that sacred apartment in which the
priests of the festival prepare their offerings. On entering the kitchen,
his ears were agreeably stunned by the noise of dishes and pans, of oaths
and commands. Small as this indispensable chamber seems to have been in all
the houses of Pompeii, it was, nevertheless, usually fitted up with all that
amazing variety of stoves and shapes, stew-pans and saucepans, cutters and
moulds, without which a cook of spirit, no matter whether he be an ancient
or a modern, declares it utterly impossible that he can give you anything to
eat. And as fuel was then, as now, dear and scarce in those regions, great
seems to have been the dexterity exercised in preparing as many things as
possible with as little fire. An admirable contrivance of this nature may
be still seen in the Neapolitan Museum, viz., a portable kitchen, about the
size of a folio volume, containing stoves for four dishes, and an apparatus
for heating water or other beverages.
Across the small kitchen flitted many forms which the quick eye of the
master did not recognize.
'Oh! oh!' grumbled he to himself, 'that cursed Congrio hath invited a whole
legion of cooks to assist him. They won't serve for nothing, and this is
another item in the total of my day's expenses. By Bacchus! thrice lucky
shall I be if the slaves do not help themselves to some of the drinking
vessels: ready, alas, are their hands, capacious are their tunics. Me
The cooks, however, worked on, seemingly heedless of the apparition of
'Ho, Euclio, your egg-pan! What, is this the largest? it only holds
thirty-three eggs: in the houses I usually serve, the smallest egg-pan holds
fifty, if need be!'
'The unconscionable rogue!' thought Diomed; 'he talks of eggs as if they
were a sesterce a hundred!'
'By Mercury!' cried a pert little culinary disciple, scarce in his
novitiate; 'whoever saw such antique sweetmeat shapes as these?--It is
impossible to do credit to one's art with such rude materials. Why,
Sallust's commonest sweetmeat shape represents the whole siege of Troy;
Hector and Paris, and Helen... with little Astyanax and the Wooden Horse
into the bargain!'
'Silence, fool!' said Congrio, the cook of the house, who seemed to leave
the chief part of the battle to his allies. 'My master, Diomed, is not one
of those expensive good-for-noughts, who must have the last fashion, cost
what it will!'
'Thou liest, base slave!' cried Diomed, in a great passion--and thou costest
me already enough to have ruined Lucullus himself! Come out of thy den, I
want to talk to thee.'
The slave, with a sly wink at his confederates, obeyed the command.
'Man of three letters,' said Diomed, with his face of solemn anger, 'how
didst thou dare to invite all those rascals into my house?--I see thief
written in every line of their faces.'
'Yet, I assure you, master, that they are men of most respectable
character--the best cooks of the place; it is a great favor to get them.
But for my sake...'
'Thy sake, unhappy Congrio!' interrupted Diomed; and by what purloined
moneys of mine, by what reserved filchings from marketing, by what goodly
meats converted into grease, and sold in the suburbs, by what false charges
for bronzes marred, and earthenware broken--hast thou been enabled to make
them serve thee for thy sake?'
'Nay, master, do not impeach my honesty! May the gods desert me if...'
'Swear not!' again interrupted the choleric Diomed, 'for then the gods will
smite thee for a perjurer, and I shall lose my cook on the eve of dinner.
But, enough of this at present: keep a sharp eye on thy ill-favored
assistants, and tell me no tales to-morrow of vases broken, and cups
miraculously vanished, or thy whole back shall be one pain. And hark thee!
thou knowest thou hast made me pay for those Phrygian attagens enough, by
Hercules, to have feasted a sober man for a year together--see that they be
not one iota over-roasted. The last time, O Congrio, that I gave a banquet
to my friends, when thy vanity did so boldly undertake the becoming
appearance of a Melian crane--thou knowest it came up like a stone from
AEtna--as if all the fires of Phlegethon had been scorching out its juices.
Be modest this time, Congrio--wary and modest. Modesty is the nurse of
great actions; and in all other things, as in this, if thou wilt not spare
thy master's purse, at least consult thy master's glory.'
'There shall not be such a coena seen at Pompeii since the days of
'Softly, softly--thy cursed boasting again! But I say, Congrio, yon
homunculus--yon pigmy assailant of my cranes--yon pert-tongued neophyte of
the kitchen, was there aught but insolence on his tongue when he maligned
the comeliness of my sweetmeat shapes? I would not be out of the fashion,
'It is but the custom of us cooks,' replied Congrio, gravely, to undervalue
our tools, in order to increase the effect of our art. The sweetmeat shape
is a fair shape, and a lovely; but I would recommend my master, at the first
occasion, to purchase some new ones of a...'
'That will suffice,' exclaimed Diomed, who seemed resolved never to allow
his slave to finish his sentences. 'Now, resume thy
charge--shine----eclipse thyself. Let men envy Diomed his cook--let the
slaves of Pompeii style thee Congrio the great! Go! yet stay--thou hast not
spent all the moneys I gave thee for the marketing?' '"All!" alas! the
nightingales' tongues and the Roman tomacula, and the oysters from Britain,
and sundry other things, too numerous now to recite, are yet left unpaid
for. But what matter? every one trusts the Archimagirus of Diomed the
'Oh, unconscionable prodigal!--what waste!--what profusion!--I am ruined!
But go, hasten--inspect!--taste!--perform!--surpass thyself! Let the Roman
senator not despise the poor Pompeian. Away, slave--and remember, the
The chief disappeared within his natural domain, and Diomed rolled back his
portly presence to the more courtly chambers. All was to his liking--the
flowers were fresh, the fountains played briskly, the mosaic pavements were
as smooth as mirrors.
'Where is my daughter Julia?' he asked.
'At the bath.'
'Ah! that reminds me!--time wanes!--and I must bathe also.'
Our story returns to Apaecides. On awaking that day from the broken and
feverish sleep which had followed his adoption of a faith so strikingly and
sternly at variance with that in which his youth had been nurtured, the
young priest could scarcely imagine that he was not yet in a dream; he had
crossed the fatal river--the past was henceforth to have no sympathy with
the future; the two worlds were distinct and separate--that which had been,
from that which was to be. To what a bold and adventurous enterprise he had
pledged his life!--to unveil the mysteries in which he had participated--to
desecrate the altars he had served--to denounce the goddess whose
ministering robe he wore! Slowly he became sensible of the hatred and the
horror he should provoke amongst the pious, even if successful; if
frustrated in his daring attempt, what penalties might he not incur for an
offence hitherto unheard of--for which no specific law, derived from
experience, was prepared; and which, for that very reason, precedents,
dragged from the sharpest armoury of obsolete and inapplicable legislation,
would probably be distorted to meet! His friends--the sister of his
youth--could he expect justice, though he might receive compassion, from
them? This brave and heroic act would by their heathen eyes be regarded,
perhaps, as a heinous apostasy--at the best as a pitiable madness.
He dared, he renounced, everything in this world, in the hope of securing
that eternity in the next, which had so suddenly been revealed to him.
While these thoughts on the one hand invaded his breast, on the other hand
his pride, his courage, and his virtue, mingled with reminiscences of
revenge for deceit, of indignant disgust at fraud, conspired to raise and to
The conflict was sharp and keen; but his new feelings triumphed over his
old: and a mighty argument in favor of wrestling with the sanctities of old
opinions and hereditary forms might be found in the conquest over both,
achieved by that humble priest. Had the early Christians been more
controlled by 'the solemn plausibilities of custom'--less of democrats in
the pure and lofty acceptation of that perverted word--Christianity would
have perished in its cradle!
As each priest in succession slept several nights together in the chambers
of the temple, the term imposed on Apaecides was not yet completed; and when
he had risen from his couch, attired himself, as usual, in his robes, and
left his narrow chamber, he found himself before the altars of the temple.
In the exhaustion of his late emotions he had slept far into the morning,
and the vertical sun already poured its fervid beams over the sacred place.
'Salve, Apaecides!' said a voice, whose natural asperity was smoothed by
long artifice into an almost displeasing softness of tone. 'Thou art late
abroad; has the goddess revealed herself to thee in visions?'
'Could she reveal her true self to the people, Calenus, how incenseless
would be these altars!'
'That,' replied Calenus, 'may possibly be true; but the deity is wise enough
to hold commune with none but priests.'
'A time may come when she will be unveiled without her own acquiescence.'
'It is not likely: she has triumphed for countless ages. And that which has
so long stood the test of time rarely succumbs to the lust of novelty. But
hark ye, young brother! these sayings are indiscreet.'
'It is not for thee to silence them,' replied Apaecides, haughtily.
'So hot!--yet I will not quarrel with thee. Why, my Apaecides, has not the
Egyptian convinced thee of the necessity of our dwelling together in unity?
Has he not convinced thee of the wisdom of deluding the people and enjoying
ourselves? If not, oh, brother! he is not that great magician he is
'Thou, then, hast shared his lessons?' said Apaecides, with a hollow smile.
'Ay! but I stood less in need of them than thou. Nature had already gifted
me with the love of pleasure, and the desire of gain and power. Long is the
way that leads the voluptuary to the severities of life; but it is only one
step from pleasant sin to sheltering hypocrisy. Beware the vengeance of the
goddess, if the shortness of that step be disclosed!'
'Beware, thou, the hour when the tomb shall be rent and the rottenness
exposed,' returned Apaecides, solemnly. 'Vale!'
With these words he left the flamen to his meditations. When he got a few
paces from the temple, he turned to look back. Calenus had already
disappeared in the entry room of the priests, for it now approached the hour
of that repast which, called prandium by the ancients, answers in point of
date to the breakfast of the moderns. The white and graceful fane gleamed
brightly in the sun. Upon the altars before it rose the incense and bloomed
the garlands. The priest gazed long and wistfully upon the scene--it was
the last time that it was ever beheld by him!
He then turned and pursued his way slowly towards the house of Ione; for
before possibly the last tie that united them was cut in twain--before the
uncertain peril of the next day was incurred, he was anxious to see his last
surviving relative, his fondest as his earliest friend.
He arrived at her house, and found her in the garden with Nydia.
'This is kind, Apaecides,' said Ione, joyfully; 'and how eagerly have I
wished to see thee!--what thanks do I not owe thee? How churlish hast thou
been to answer none of my letters--to abstain from coming hither to receive
the expressions of my gratitude! Oh! thou hast assisted to preserve thy
sister from dishonour! What, what can she say to thank thee, now thou art
come at last?'
'My sweet Ione, thou owest me no gratitude, for thy cause was mine. Let us
avoid that subject, let us recur not to that impious man--how hateful to
both of us! I may have a speedy opportunity to teach the world the nature
of his pretended wisdom and hypocritical severity. But let us sit down, my
sister; I am wearied with the heat of the sun; let us sit in yonder shade,
and, for a little while longer, be to each other what we have been.'
Beneath a wide plane-tree, with the cistus and the arbutus iclustering round
them, the living fountain before, the greensward beneath their feet; the gay
cicada, once so dear to Athens, rising merrily ever and anon amidst the
grass; the butterfly, beautiful emblem of the soul, dedicated to Psyche, and
which has continued to furnish illustrations to the Christian bard, rich in
the glowing colors caught from Sicilian skies, hovering about the sunny
flowers, itself like a winged flower--in this spot, and this scene, the
brother and the sister sat together for the last time on earth. You may
tread now on the same place; but the garden is no more, the columns are
shattered, the fountain has ceased to play. Let the traveler search amongst
the ruins of Pompeii for the house of Ione. Its remains are yet visible; but
I will not betray them to the gaze of commonplace tourists. He who is more
sensitive than the herd will discover them easily: when he has done so, let
him keep the secret.
They sat down, and Nydia, glad to be alone, retired to the farther end of
'Ione, my sister,' said the young convert, 'place your hand upon my brow;
let me feel your cool touch. Speak to me, too, for your gentle voice is
like a breeze that hath freshness as well as music. Speak to me, but forbear
to bless me! Utter not one word of those forms of speech which our
childhood was taught to consider sacred!'
'Alas! and what then shall I say? Our language of affection is so woven
with that of worship, that the words grow chilled and trite if I banish from
them allusion to our gods.'
'Our gods!' murmured Apaecides, with a shudder: 'thou slightest my request
'Shall I speak then to thee only of Isis?'
'The Evil Spirit! No, rather be dumb for ever, unless at least thou
canst--but away, away this talk! Not now will we dispute and cavil; not now
will we judge harshly of each other. Thou, regarding me as an apostate! and
I all sorrow and shame for thee as an idolater. No, my sister, let us avoid
such topics and such thoughts. In thy sweet presence a calm falls over my
spirit. For a little while I forget. As I thus lay my temples on thy
bosom, as I thus feel thy gentle arm embrace me, I think that we are
children once more, and that the heaven smiles equally upon both. For oh!
if hereafter I escape, no matter what peril; and it be permitted me to
address thee on one sacred and awful subject; should I find thine ear closed
and thy heart hardened, what hope for myself could countervail the despair
for thee? In thee, my sister, I behold a likeness made beautiful, made
noble, of myself. Shall the mirror live for ever, and the form itself be
broken as the potter's clay? Ah, no--no--thou wilt listen to me yet! Dost
thou remember how we went into the fields by Baiae, hand in hand together,
to pluck the flowers of spring? Even so, hand in hand, shall we enter the
Eternal Garden, and crown ourselves with imperishable asphodel!'
Wondering and bewildered by words she could not comprehend, but excited even
to tears by the plaintiveness of their tone, Ione listened to these
outpourings of a full and oppressed heart. In truth, Apaecides himself was
softened much beyond his ordinary mood, which to outward seeming was usually
either sullen or impetuous. For the noblest desires are of a jealous
nature--they engross, they absorb the soul, and often leave the splenetic
humors stagnant and unheeded at the surface. Unheeding the petty things
around us, we are deemed morose; impatient at earthly interruption to the
diviner dreams, we are thought irritable and churlish. For as there is no
chimera vainer than the hope that one human heart shall find sympathy in
another, so none ever interpret us with justice; and none, no, not our
nearest and our dearest ties, forbear with us in mercy! When we are dead
and repentance comes too late, both friend and foe may wonder to think how
little there was in us to forgive!
'I will talk to thee then of our early years,' said Ione. 'Shall yon blind
girl sing to thee of the days of childhood? Her voice is sweet and musical,
and she hath a song on that theme which contains none of those allusions it
pains thee to hear.'
'Dost thou remember the words, my sister?' asked Apaecides.
'Methinks yes; for the tune, which is simple, fixed them on my memory.'
'Sing to me then thyself. My ear is not in unison with unfamiliar voices;
and thine, Ione, full of household associations, has ever been to me more
sweet than all the hireling melodies of Lycia or of Crete. Sing to me!'
Ione beckoned to a slave that stood in the portico, and sending for her
lute, sang, when it arrived, to a tender and simple air, the following
REGRETS FOR CHILDHOOD
It is not that our earlier Heaven
Escapes its April showers,
Or that to childhood's heart is given
No snake amidst the flowers.
Ah! twined with grief
Each brightest leaf,
That's wreath'd us by the Hours!
Young though we be, the Past may sting,
The present feed its sorrow;
But hope shines bright on every thing
That waits us with the morrow.
Like sun-lit glades,
The dimmest shades
Some rosy beam can borrow.
It is not that our later years
Of cares are woven wholly,
But smiles less swiftly chase the tears,
And wounds are healed more slowly.
And Memory's vow
To lost ones now,
Makes joys too bright, unholy.
And ever fled the Iris bow
That smiled when clouds were o'er us.
If storms should burst, uncheered we go,
A drearier waste before us--
And with the toys
Of childish joys,
We've broke the staff that bore us!
Wisely and delicately had Ione chosen that song, sad though its burthen
seemed; for when we are deeply mournful, discordant above all others is the
voice of mirth: the fittest spell is that borrowed from melancholy itself,
for dark thoughts can be softened down when they cannot be brightened; and
so they lose the precise and rigid outline of their truth, and their colors
melt into the ideal. As the leech applies in remedy to the internal sore
some outward irritation, which, by a gentler wound, draws away the venom of
that which is more deadly, thus, in the rankling festers of the mind, our
art is to divert to a milder sadness on the surface the pain that gnaweth at
the core. And so with Apaecides, yielding to the influence of the silver
voice that reminded him of the past, and told but of half the sorrow born to
the present, he forgot his more immediate and fiery sources of anxious
thought. He spent hours in making Ione alternately sing to, and converse
with him; and when he rose to leave her, it was with a calmed and lulled
'Ione,' said he, as he pressed her hand, 'should you hear my name blackened
and maligned, will you credit the aspersion?'
'Never, my brother, never!'
'Dost thou not imagine, according to thy belief, that the evil-doer is
punished hereafter, and the good rewarded?'
'Can you doubt it?'
'Dost thou think, then, that he who is truly good should sacrifice every
selfish interest in his zeal for virtue?'
'He who doth so is the equal of the gods.'
'And thou believest that, according to the purity and courage with which he
thus acts, shall be his portion of bliss beyond the grave?'
'So we are taught to hope.'
'Kiss me, my sister. One question more. Thou art to be wedded to Glaucus:
perchance that marriage may separate us more hopelessly--but not of this
speak I now--thou art to be married to Glaucus--dost thou love him? Nay, my
sister, answer me by words.'
'Yes!' murmured Ione, blushing.
'Dost thou feel that, for his sake, thou couldst renounce pride, brave
dishonour, and incur death? I have heard that when women really love, it is
to that excess.'
'My brother, all this could I do for Glaucus, and feel that it were not a
sacrifice. There is no sacrifice to those who love, in what is borne for
the one we love.'
'Enough! shall woman feel thus for man, and man feel less devotion to his
He spoke no more. His whole countenance seemed instinct and inspired with a
divine life: his chest swelled proudly; his eyes glowed: on his forehead was
writ the majesty of a man who can dare to be noble! He turned to meet the
eyes of Ione--earnest, wistful, fearful--he kissed her fondly, strained her
warmly to his breast, and in a moment more he had left the house.
Long did Ione remain in the same place, mute and thoughtful. The maidens
again and again came to warn her of the deepening noon, and her engagement
to Diomed's banquet. At length she woke from her reverie, and prepared, not
with the pride of beauty, but listless and melancholy, for the festival: one
thought alone reconciled her to the promised visit--she should meet
Glaucus--she could confide to him her alarm and uneasiness for her brother.
A FASHIONABLE PARTY AND A DINNER A LA MODE IN POMPEII.
MEANWHILE Sallust and Glaucus were slowly strolling towards the house of
Diomed. Despite the habits of his life, Sallust was not devoid of many
estimable qualities. He would have been an active friend, a useful
citizen--in short, an excellent man, if he had not taken it into his head to
be a philosopher. Brought up in the schools in which Roman plagiarism
worshipped the echo of Grecian wisdom, he had imbued himself with those
doctrines by which the later Epicureans corrupted the simple maxims of their
great master. He gave himself altogether up to pleasure, and imagined there
was no sage like a boon companion. Still, however, he had a considerable
degree of learning, wit, and good nature; and the hearty frankness of his
very vices seemed like virtue itself beside the utter corruption of Clodius
and the prostrate effeminacy of Lepidus; and therefore Glaucus liked him the
best of his companions; and he, in turn, appreciating the nobler qualities
of the Athenian, loved him almost as much as a cold muraena, or a bowl of
the best Falernian.
'This is a vulgar old fellow, this Diomed,' said Sallust: 'but he has some
good qualities--in his cellar!'
'And some charming ones--in his daughter.'
'True, Glaucus: but you are not much moved by them, methinks. I fancy
Clodius is desirous to be your successor.'
'He is welcome. At the banquet of Julia's beauty, no guest, be sure, is
considered a musca.'
'You are severe: but she has, indeed, something of the Corinthian about
her--they will be well matched, after all! What good-natured fellows we are
to associate with that gambling good-for-nought.'
'Pleasure unites strange varieties,' answered Glaucus. 'He amuses me...'
'And flatters--but then he pays himself well! He powders his praise with
'You often hint that he plays unfairly--think you so really?'
'My dear Glaucus, a Roman noble has his dignity to keep up--dignity is very
expensive--Clodius must cheat like a scoundrel, in order to live like a
'Ha ha!--well, of late I have renounced the dice. Ah! Sallust, when I am
wedded to Ione, I trust I may yet redeem a youth of follies. We are both
born for better things than those in which we sympathize now--born to render
our worship in nobler temples than the stye of Epicurus.'
'Alas!' returned Sallust, in rather a melancholy tone, 'what do we know more
than this--life is short--beyond the grave all is dark? There is no wisdom
like that which says "enjoy".'
'By Bacchus! I doubt sometimes if we do enjoy the utmost of which life is
'I am a moderate man,' returned Sallust, 'and do not ask "the utmost". We
are like malefactors, and intoxicate ourselves with wine and myrrh, as we
stand on the brink of death; but, if we did not do so, the abyss would look
very disagreeable. I own that I was inclined to be gloomy until I took so
heartily to drinking--that is a new life, my Glaucus.'
'Yes! but it brings us next morning to a new death.'
'Why, the next morning is unpleasant, I own; but, then, if it were not so,
one would never be inclined to read. I study betimes--because, by the gods!
I am generally unfit for anything else till noon.'
'Pshaw! the fate of Pentheus to him who denies Bacchus.'
'Well, Sallust, with all your faults, you are the best profligate I ever
met: and verily, if I were in danger of life, you are the only man in all
Italy who would stretch out a finger to save me.'
'Perhaps I should not, if it were in the middle of supper. But, in truth,
we Italians are fearfully selfish.'
'So are all men who are not free,' said Glaucus, with a sigh. 'Freedom alone
makes men sacrifice to each other.'
'Freedom, then, must be a very fatiguing thing to an Epicurean,' answered
Sallust. 'But here we are at our host's.'
As Diomed's villa is one of the most considerable in point of size of any
yet discovered at Pompeii, and is, moreover, built much according to the
specific instructions for a suburban villa laid down by the Roman architect,
it may not be uninteresting briefly to describe the plan of the apartments
through which our visitors passed.
They entered, then, by the same small vestibule at which we have before been
presented to the aged Medon, and passed at once into a colonnade,
technically termed the peristyle; for the main difference between the
suburban villa and the town mansion consisted in placing, in the first, the
said colonnade in exactly the same place as that which in the town mansion
was occupied by the atrium. In the centre of the peristyle was an open
court, which contained the impluvium.
From this peristyle descended a staircase to the offices; another narrow
passage on the opposite side communicated with a garden; various small
apartments surrounded the colonnade, appropriated probably to country
visitors. Another door to the left on entering communicated with a small
triangular portico, which belonged to the baths; and behind was the
wardrobe, in which were kept the vests of the holiday suits of the slaves,
and, perhaps, of the master. Seventeen centuries afterwards were found
those relics of ancient finery calcined and crumbling: kept longer, alas!
than their thrifty lord foresaw.
Return we to the peristyle, and endeavor now to present to the reader a coup
d'oeil of the whole suite of apartments, which immediately stretched before
the steps of the visitors.
Let him then first imagine the columns of the portico, hung with festoons of
flowers; the columns themselves in the lower part painted red, and the walls
around glowing with various frescoes; then, looking beyond a curtain, three
parts drawn aside, the eye caught the tablinum or saloon (which was closed
at will by glazed doors, now slid back into the walls). On either side of
this tablinum were small rooms, one of which was a kind of cabinet of gems;
and these apartments, as well as the tablinum, communicated with a long
gallery, which opened at either end upon terraces; and between the terraces,
and communicating with the central part of the gallery, was a hall, in which
the banquet was that day prepared. All these apartments, though almost on a
level with the street, were one story above the garden; and the terraces
communicating with the gallery were continued into corridors, raised above
the pillars which, to the right and left, skirted the garden below.
Beneath, and on a level with the garden, ran the apartments we have already
described as chiefly appropriated to Julia.
In the gallery, then, just mentioned, Diomed received his guests.
The merchant affected greatly the man of letters, and, therefore, he also
affected a passion for everything Greek; he paid particular attention to
'You will see, my friend,' said he, with a wave of his hand, 'that I am a
little classical here--a little Cecropian--eh? The hall in which we shall
sup is borrowed from the Greeks. It is an OEcus Cyzicene. Noble Sallust,
they have not, I am told, this sort of apartment in Rome.'
'Oh!' replied Sallust, with a half smile; 'you Pompeians combine all that is
most eligible in Greece and in Rome; may you, Diomed, combine the viands as
well as the architecture!'
'You shall see--you shall see, my Sallust,' replied the merchant. 'We have
a taste at Pompeii, and we have also money.'
'They are two excellent things,' replied Sallust. 'But, behold, the lady
The main difference, as I have before remarked, in the manner of life
observed among the Athenians and Romans, was, that with the first, the
modest women rarely or never took part in entertainments; with the latter,
they were the common ornaments of the banquet; but when they were present at
the feast, it usually terminated at an early hour.
Magnificently robed in white, interwoven with pearls and threads of gold,
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