The Last Days of Pompeii
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Part 6 out of 9
the handsome Julia entered the apartment.
Scarcely had she received the salutation of the two guests, ere Pansa and
his wife, Lepidus, Clodius, and the Roman senator, entered almost
simultaneously; then came the widow Fulvia; then the poet Fulvius, like to
the widow in name if in nothing else; the warrior from Herculaneum,
accompanied by his umbra, next stalked in; afterwards, the less eminent of
the guests. Ione yet tarried.
It was the mode among the courteous ancients to flatter whenever it was in
their power: accordingly it was a sign of ill-breeding to seat themselves
immediately on entering the house of their host. After performing the
salutation, which was usually accomplished by the same cordial shake of the
right hand which we ourselves retain, and sometimes, by the yet more
familiar embrace, they spent several minutes in surveying the apartment, and
admiring the bronzes, the pictures, or the furniture, with which it was
adorned--a mode very impolite according to our refined English notions,
which place good breeding in indifference. We would not for the world
express much admiration of another man's house, for fear it should be
thought we had never seen anything so fine before!
'A beautiful statue this of Bacchus!' said the Roman senator.
'A mere trifle!' replied Diomed.
'What charming paintings!' said Fulvia.
'Mere trifles!' answered the owner.
'Exquisite candelabra!' cried the warrior.
'Exquisite!' echoed his umbra.
'Trifles! trifles!' reiterated the merchant.
Meanwhile, Glaucus found himself by one of the windows of the gallery, which
communicated with the terraces, and the fair Julia by his side.
'Is it an Athenian virtue, Glaucus,' said the merchant's daughter, 'to shun
those whom we once sought?'
'Yet methinks, it is one of the qualities of Glaucus.'
'Glaucus never shuns a friend!' replied the Greek, with some emphasis on the
'May Julia rank among the number of his friends?'
'It would be an honour to the emperor to find a friend in one so lovely.'
'You evade my question,' returned the enamoured Julia. 'But tell me, is it
true that you admire the Neapolitan Ione?'
'Does not beauty constrain our admiration?'
'Ah! subtle Greek, still do you fly the meaning of my words. But say, shall
Julia be indeed your friend?'
'If she will so favor me, blessed be the gods! The day in which I am thus
honored shall be ever marked in white.'
'Yet, even while you speak, your eye is resting--your color comes and
goes--you move away involuntarily--you are impatient to join Ione!'
For at that moment Ione had entered, and Glaucus had indeed betrayed the
emotion noticed by the jealous beauty.
'Can admiration to one woman make me unworthy the friendship of another?
Sanction not so, O Julia the libels of the poets on your sex!'
'Well, you are right--or I will learn to think so. Glaucus, yet one moment!
You are to wed Ione; is it not so?'
'If the Fates permit, such is my blessed hope.'
'Accept, then, from me, in token of our new friendship, a present for your
bride. Nay, it is the custom of friends, you know, always to present to
bride and bridegroom some such little marks of their esteem and favoring
'Julia! I cannot refuse any token of friendship from one like you. I will
accept the gift as an omen from Fortune herself.'
'Then, after the feast, when the guests retire, you will descend with me to
my apartment, and receive it from my hands. Remember!' said Julia, as she
joined the wife of Pansa, and left Glaucus to seek Ione.
The widow Fulvia and the spouse of the aedile were engaged in high and grave
'O Fulvia! I assure you that the last account from Rome declares that the
frizzling mode of dressing the hair is growing antiquated; they only now
wear it built up in a tower, like Julia's, or arranged as a helmet--the
Galerian fashion, like mine, you see: it has a fine effect, I think. I
assure you, Vespius (Vespius was the name of the Herculaneum hero) admires
'And nobody wears the hair like yon Neapolitan, in the Greek way.'
'What, parted in front, with the knot behind? Oh, no; how ridiculous it is!
it reminds one of the statue of Diana! Yet this Ione is handsome, eh?'
'So the men say; but then she is rich: she is to marry the Athenian--I wish
her joy. He will not be long faithful, I suspect; those foreigners are very
'Oh, Julia!' said Fulvia, as the merchant's daughter joined them; 'have you
seen the tiger yet?'
'Why, all the ladies have been to see him. He is so handsome!'
'I hope we shall find some criminal or other for him and the lion,' replied
Julia. 'Your husband (turning to Pansa's wife) is not so active as he
should be in this matter.'
'Why, really, the laws are too mild,' replied the dame of the helmet.
'There are so few offences to which the punishment of the arena can be
awarded; and then, too, the gladiators are growing effeminate! The stoutest
bestiarii declare they are willing enough to fight a boar or a bull; but as
for a lion or a tiger, they think the game too much in earnest.'
'They are worthy of a mitre," replied Julia, in disdain.
'Oh! have you seen the new house of Fulvius, the dear poet?' said Pansa's
'No: is it handsome?'
'Very!--such good taste. But they say, my dear, that he has such improper
pictures! He won't show them to the women: how ill-bred!'
'Those poets are always odd,' said the widow. 'But he is an interesting
man; what pretty verses he writes! We improve very much in poetry: it is
impossible to read the old stuff now.'
'I declare I am of your opinion, returned the lady of the helmet. 'There is
so much more force and energy in the modern school.'
The warrior sauntered up to the ladies.
'It reconciles me to peace,' said he, 'when I see such faces.'
'Oh! you heroes are ever flatterers,' returned Fulvia, hastening to
appropriate the compliment specially to herself.
'By this chain, which I received from the emperor's own hand,' replied the
warrior, playing with a short chain which hung round the neck like a collar,
instead of descending to the breast, according to the fashion of the
peaceful--'By this chain, you wrong me! I am a blunt man--a soldier should
'How do you find the ladies of Pompeii generally?' said Julia.
'By Venus, most beautiful! They favor me a little, it is true, and that
inclines my eyes to double their charms.'
'We love a warrior,' said the wife of Pansa.
'I see it: by Hercules! it is even disagreeable to be too celebrated in
these cities. At Herculaneum they climb the roof of my atrium to catch a
glimpse of me through the compluvium; the admiration of one's citizens is
pleasant at first, but burthensome afterwards.'
'True, true, O Vespius!' cried the poet, joining the group: 'I find it so
'You!' said the stately warrior, scanning the small form of the poet with
ineffable disdain. 'in what legion have you served?'
'You may see my spoils, my exuviae, in the forum itself,' returned the poet,
with a significant glance at the women. 'I have been among the
tent-companions, the contubernales, of the great Mantuan himself.'
'I know no general from Mantua, said the warrior, gravely. 'What campaign
have you served?'
'That of Helicon.'
'I never heard of it.'
'Nay, Vespius, he does but joke,' said Julia, laughing.
'Joke! By Mars, am I a man to be joked!'
'Yes; Mars himself was in love with the mother of jokes,' said the poet, a
little alarmed. 'Know, then, O Vespius! that I am the poet Fulvius. It is
I who make warriors immortal!'
'The gods forbid!' whispered Sallust to Julia. 'If Vespius were made
immortal, what a specimen of tiresome braggadocio would be transmitted to
The soldier looked puzzled; when, to the infinite relief of himself and his
companions, the signal for the feast was given.
As we have already witnessed at the house of Glaucus the ordinary routine of
a Pompeian entertainment, the reader is spared any second detail of the
courses, and the manner in which they were introduced.
Diomed, who was rather ceremonious, had appointed a nomenclator, or
appointer of places to each guest.
The reader understands that the festive board was composed of three tables;
one at the centre, and one at each wing. It was only at the outer side of
these tables that the guests reclined; the inner space was left untenanted,
for the greater convenience of the waiters or ministri. The extreme corner
of one of the wings was appropriated to Julia as the lady of the feast; that
next her, to Diomed. At one corner of the centre table was placed the
aedile; at the opposite corner, the Roman senator--these were the posts of
honour. The other guests were arranged, so that the young (gentleman or
lady) should sit next each other, and the more advanced in years be
similarly matched. An agreeable provision enough, but one which must often
have offended those who wished to be thought still young.
The chair of Ione was next to the couch of Glaucus. The seats were veneered
with tortoiseshell, and covered with quilts stuffed with feathers, and
ornamented with costly embroideries. The modern ornaments of epergne or
plateau were supplied by images of the gods, wrought in bronze, ivory, and
silver. The sacred salt-cellar and the familiar Lares were not forgotten.
Over the table and the seats a rich canopy was suspended from the ceiling.
At each corner of the table were lofty candelabra--for though it was early
noon, the room was darkened--while from tripods, placed in different parts
of the room, distilled the odor of myrrh and frankincense; and upon the
abacus, or sideboard, large vases and various ornaments of silver were
ranged, much with the same ostentation (but with more than the same taste)
that we find displayed at a modern feast.
The custom of grace was invariably supplied by that of libations to the
gods; and Vesta, as queen of the household gods, usually received first that
This ceremony being performed, the slaves showered flowers upon the couches
and the floor, and crowned each guest with rosy garlands, intricately woven
with ribands, tied by the rind of the linden-tree, and each intermingled
with the ivy and the amethyst--supposed preventives against the effect of
wine; the wreaths of the women only were exempted from these leaves, for it
was not the fashion for them to drink wine in public. It was then that the
president Diomed thought it advisable to institute a basileus, or director
of the feast--an important office, sometimes chosen by lot; sometimes, as
now, by the master of the entertainment.
Diomed was not a little puzzled as to his election. The invalid senator was
too grave and too infirm for the proper fulfilment of his duty; the aedile
Pansa was adequate enough to the task: but then, to choose the next in
official rank to the senator, was an affront to the senator himself. While
deliberating between the merits of the others, he caught the mirthful glance
of Sallust, and, by a sudden inspiration, named the jovial epicure to the
rank of director, or arbiter bibendi.
Sallust received the appointment with becoming humility.
'I shall be a merciful king,' said he, 'to those who drink deep; to a
recusant, Minos himself shall be less inexorable. Beware!'
The slaves handed round basins of perfumed water, by which lavation the
feast commenced: and now the table groaned under the initiatory course.
The conversation, at first desultory and scattered, allowed Ione and Glaucus
to carry on those sweet whispers, which are worth all the eloquence in the
world. Julia watched them with flashing eyes.
'How soon shall her place be mine!' thought she.
But Clodius, who sat in the centre table, so as to observe well the
countenance of Julia, guessed her pique, and resolved to profit by it. He
addressed her across the table in set phrases of gallantry; and as he was of
high birth and of a showy person, the vain Julia was not so much in love as
to be insensible to his attentions.
The slaves, in the interim, were constantly kept upon the alert by the
vigilant Sallust, who chased one cup by another with a celerity which seemed
as if he were resolved upon exhausting those capacious cellars which the
reader may yet see beneath the house of Diomed. The worthy merchant began to
repent his choice, as amphora after amphora was pierced and emptied. The
slaves, all under the age of manhood (the youngest being about ten years
old--it was they who filled the wine--the eldest, some five years older,
mingled it with water), seemed to share in the zeal of Sallust; and the face
of Diomed began to glow as he watched the provoking complacency with which
they seconded the exertions of the king of the feast.
'Pardon me, O senator!' said Sallust; 'I see you flinch; your purple hem
cannot save you--drink!'
'By the gods,' said the senator, coughing, 'my lungs are already on fire;
you proceed with so miraculous a swiftness, that Phaeton himself was nothing
to you. I am infirm, O pleasant Sallust: you must exonerate me.'
'Not I, by Vesta! I am an impartial monarch--drink.'
The poor senator, compelled by the laws of the table, was forced to comply.
Alas! every cup was bringing him nearer and nearer to the Stygian pool.
'Gently! gently! my king,' groaned Diomed; 'we already begin to...'
'Treason!' interrupted Sallust; 'no stern Brutus here!--no interference with
'But our female guests...'
'Love a toper! Did not Ariadne dote upon Bacchus?'
The feast proceeded; the guests grew more talkative and noisy; the dessert
or last course was already on the table; and the slaves bore round water
with myrrh and hyssop for the finishing lavation. At the same time, a small
circular table that had been placed in the space opposite the guests
suddenly, and as by magic, seemed to open in the centre, and cast up a
fragrant shower, sprinkling the table and the guests; while as it ceased the
awning above them was drawn aside, and the guests perceived that a rope had
been stretched across the ceiling, and that one of those nimble dancers for
which Pompeii was so celebrated, and whose descendants add so charming a
grace to the festivities of Astley's or Vauxhall, was now treading his airy
measures right over their heads.
This apparition, removed but by a cord from one's pericranium, and indulging
the most vehement leaps, apparently with the intention of alighting upon
that cerebral region, would probably be regarded with some terror by a party
in May Fair; but our Pompeian revellers seemed to behold the spectacle with
delighted curiosity, and applauded in proportion as the dancer appeared with
the most difficulty to miss falling upon the head of whatever guest he
particularly selected to dance above. He paid the senator, indeed, the
peculiar compliment of literally falling from the rope, and catching it
again with his hand, just as the whole party imagined the skull of the Roman
was as much fractured as ever that of the poet whom the eagle took for a
tortoise. At length, to the great relief of at least Ione, who had not much
accustomed herself to this entertainment, the dancer suddenly paused as a
strain of music was heard from without. He danced again still more wildly;
the air changed, the dancer paused again; no, it could not dissolve the
charm which was supposed to possess him! He represented one who by a
strange disorder is compelled to dance, and whom only a certain air of music
can cure. At length the musician seemed to hit on the right tune; the
dancer gave one leap, swung himself down from the rope, alighted on the
floor, and vanished.
One art now yielded to another; and the musicians who were stationed without
on the terrace struck up a soft and mellow air, to which were sung the
following words, made almost indistinct by the barrier between and the
exceeding lowness of the minstrelsy:-
FESTIVE MUSIC SHOULD BE LOW
Hark! through these flowers our music sends its greeting
To your loved halls, where Psilas shuns the day;
When the young god his Cretan nymph was meeting
He taught Pan's rustic pipe this gliding lay:
Soft as the dews of wine
Shed in this banquet hour,
The rich libation of Sound's stream divine,
O reverent harp, to Aphrodite pour!
Wild rings the trump o'er ranks to glory marching;
Music's sublimer bursts for war are meet;
But sweet lips murmuring under wreaths o'er-arching,
Find the low whispers like their own most sweet.
Steal, my lull'd music, steal
Like womans's half-heard tone,
So that whoe'er shall hear, shall think to feel
In thee the voice of lips that love his own.
At the end of that song Ione's cheek blushed more deeply than before, and
Glaucus had contrived, under cover of the table, to steal her hand.
'It is a pretty song,' said Fulvius, patronizingly.
'Ah! if you would oblige us!' murmured the wife of Pansa.
'Do you wish Fulvius to sing?' asked the king of the feast, who had just
called on the assembly to drink the health of the Roman senator, a cup to
each letter of his name.
'Can you ask?' said the matron, with a complimentary glance at the poet.
Sallust snapped his fingers, and whispering the slave who came to learn his
orders, the latter disappeared, and returned in a few moments with a small
harp in one hand, and a branch of myrtle in the other. The slave approached
the poet, and with a low reverence presented to him the harp.
'Alas! I cannot play,' said the poet.
'Then you must sing to the myrtle. It is a Greek fashion: Diomed loves the
Greeks--I love the Greeks--you love the Greeks--we all love the Greeks--and
between you and me this is not the only thing we have stolen from them.
However, I introduce this custom--I, the king: sing, subject, sing!' The
poet, with a bashful smile, took the myrtle in his hands, and after a short
prelude sang as follows, in a pleasant and well-tuned voice:--
THE CORONATION OF THE LOVES
The merry Loves one holiday
Were all at gambols madly
; But Loves too long can seldom play
Without behaving sadly.
They laugh'd, they toy'd, they romp'd about,
And then for change they all fell out.
Fie, fie! how can they quarrel so?
My Lesbia--ah, for shame, love
Methinks 'tis scarce an hour ago
When we did just the same, love.
The Loves, 'tis thought, were free till then,
They had no king or laws, dear;
But gods, like men, should subject be,
Say all the ancient saws, dear.
And so our crew resolved, for quiet,
To choose a king to curb their riot.
A kiss: ah! what a grievous thing
For both, methinks, 'twould be, child,
If I should take some prudish king,
And cease to be so free, child!
Among their toys a Casque they found,
It was the helm of Ares;
With horrent plumes the crest was crown'd,
It frightened all the Lares.
So fine a king was never known--
They placed the helmet on the throne.
My girl, since Valor wins the world,
They chose a mighty master;
But thy sweet flag of smiles unfurled
Would win the world much faster!
The Casque soon found the Loves too wild
A troop for him to school them;
For warriors know how one such child
Has aye contrived to fool them.
They plagued him so, that in despair
He took a wife the plague to share.
If kings themselves thus find the strife
Of earth, unshared, severe, girl;
Why just to halve the ills of life,
Come, take your partner here, girl.
Within that room the Bird of Love
The whole affair had eyed then;
The monarch hail'd the royal dove,
And placed her by his side then:
What mirth amidst the Loves was seen!
'Long live,' they cried, 'our King and Queen.'
Ah! Lesbia, would that thrones were mine,
And crowns to deck that brow, love!
And yet I know that heart of thine
For me is throne enow, love!
The urchins hoped to tease the mate
As they had teased the hero;
But when the Dove in judgment sate
They found her worse than Nero!
Each look a frown, each word a law;
The little subjects shook with awe.
In thee I find the same deceit--
Too late, alas! a learner!
For where a mien more gently sweet?
And where a tyrant sterner?
This song, which greatly suited the gay and lively fancy of the Pompeians,
was received with considerable applause, and the widow insisted on crowning
her namesake with the very branch of myrtle to which he had sung. It was
easily twisted into a garland, and the immortal Fulvius was crowned amidst
the clapping of hands and shouts of Io triumphe! The song and the harp now
circulated round the party, a new myrtle branch being handed about, stopping
at each person who could be prevailed upon to sing.
The sun began now to decline, though the revellers, who had worn away
several hours, perceived it not in their darkened chamber; and the senator,
who was tired, and the warrior, who had to return to Herculaneum, rising to
depart, gave the signal for the general dispersion. 'Tarry yet a moment, my
friends,' said Diomed; 'if you will go so soon, you must at least take a
share in our concluding game.'
So saying, he motioned to one of the ministri, and whispering him, the slave
went out, and presently returned with a small bowl containing various
tablets carefully sealed, and, apparently, exactly similar. Each guest was
to purchase one of these at the nominal price of the lowest piece of silver:
and the sport of this lottery (which was the favorite diversion of Augustus,
who introduced it) consisted in the inequality, and sometimes the
incongruity, of the prizes, the nature and amount of which were specified
within the tablets. For instance, the poet, with a wry face, drew one of
his own poems (no physician ever less willingly swallowed his own draught);
the warrior drew a case of bodkins, which gave rise to certain novel
witticisms relative to Hercules and the distaff; the widow Fulvia obtained a
large drinking-cup; Julia, a gentleman's buckle; and Lepidus, a lady's
patch-box. The most appropriate lot was drawn by the gambler Clodius, who
reddened with anger on being presented to a set of cogged dice. A certain
damp was thrown upon the gaiety which these various lots created by an
accident that was considered ominous; Glaucus drew the most valuable of all
the prizes, a small marble statue of Fortune, of Grecian workmanship: on
handing it to him the slave suffered it to drop, and it broke in pieces.
A shiver went round the assembly, and each voice cried spontaneously on the
gods to avert the omen.
Glaucus alone, though perhaps as superstitious as the rest, affected to be
'Sweet Neapolitan,' whispered he tenderly to Ione, who had turned pale as
the broken marble itself, 'I accept the omen. It signifies that in
obtaining thee, Fortune can give no more--she breaks her image when she
blesses me with thine.'
In order to divert the impression which this incident had occasioned in an
assembly which, considering the civilization of the guests, would seem
miraculously superstitious, if at the present day in a country party we did
not often see a lady grow hypochondriacal on leaving a room last of
thirteen, Sallust now crowning his cup with flowers, gave the health of
their host. This was followed by a similar compliment to the emperor; and
then, with a parting cup to Mercury to send them pleasant slumbers, they
concluded the entertainment by a last libation, and broke up the party.
Carriages and litters were little used in Pompeii, partly owing to the
extreme narrowness of the streets, partly to the convenient smallness of the
city. Most of the guests replacing their sandals, which they had put off in
the banquet-room, and induing their cloaks, left the house on foot attended
by their slaves.
Meanwhile, having seen Ione depart, Glaucus turning to the staircase which
led down to the rooms of Julia, was conducted by a slave to an apartment in
which he found the merchant's daughter already seated.
'Glaucus!' said she, looking down, 'I see that you really love Ione--she is
'Julia is charming enough to be generous,' replied the Greek. 'Yes, I love
Ione; amidst all the youth who court you, may you have one worshipper as
'I pray the gods to grant it! See, Glaucus, these pearls are the present I
destine to your bride: may Juno give her health to wear them!'
So saying, she placed a case in his hand, containing a row of pearls of some
size and price. It was so much the custom for persons about to be married
to receive these gifts, that Glaucus could have little scruple in accepting
the necklace, though the gallant and proud Athenian inly resolved to requite
the gift by one of thrice its value. Julia then stopping short his thanks,
poured forth some wine into a small bowl.
'You have drunk many toasts with my father,' said she smiling--'one now with
me. Health and fortune to your bride!'
She touched the cup with her lips and then presented it to Glaucus. The
customary etiquette required that Glaucus should drain the whole contents;
he accordingly did so. Julia, unknowing the deceit which Nydia had
practised upon her, watched him with sparkling eyes; although the witch had
told her that the effect might not be immediate, she yet sanguinely trusted
to an expeditious operation in favor of her charms. She was disappointed
when she found Glaucus coldly replace the cup, and converse with her in the
same unmoved but gentle tone as before. And though she detained him as long
as she decorously could do, no change took place in his manner. 'But
to-morrow,' thought she, exultingly recovering her
disappointment--'to-morrow, alas for Glaucus!'
Alas for him, indeed!
THE STORY HALTS FOR A MOMENT AT AN EPISODE.
RESTLESS and anxious, Apaecides consumed the day in wandering through the
most sequestered walks in the vicinity of the city. The sun was slowly
setting as he paused beside a lonely part of the Sarnus, ere yet it wound
amidst the evidences of luxury and power. Only through openings in the woods
and vines were caught glimpses of the white and gleaming city, in which was
heard in the distance no din, no sound, nor 'busiest hum of men'. Amidst
the green banks crept the lizard and the grasshopper, and here and there in
the brake some solitary bird burst into sudden song, as suddenly stifled.
There was deep calm around, but not the calm of night; the air still
breathed of the freshness and life of day; the grass still moved to the stir
of the insect horde; and on the opposite bank the graceful and white capella
passed browsing through the herbage, and paused at the wave to drink.
As Apaecides stood musingly gazing upon the waters, he heard beside him the
low bark of a dog.
'Be still, poor friend,' said a voice at hand; 'the stranger's step harms
not thy master.' The convert recognized the voice, and, turning, he beheld
the old mysterious man whom he had seen in the congregation of the
The old man was sitting upon a fragment of stone covered with ancient
mosses; beside him were his staff and scrip; at his feet lay a small shaggy
dog, the companion in how many a pilgrimage perilous and strange.
The face of the old man was as balm to the excited spirit of the neophyte:
he approached, and craving his blessing, sat down beside him.
'Thou art provided as for a journey, father,' said he: 'wilt thou leave us
'My son,' replied the old man, 'the days in store for me on earth are few
and scanty; I employ them as becomes me travelling from place to place,
comforting those whom God has gathered together in His name, and proclaiming
the glory of His Son, as testified to His servant.'
'Thou hast looked, they tell me, on the face of Christ?'
'And the face revived me from the dead. Know, young proselyte to the true
faith, that I am he of whom thou readest in the scroll of the Apostle. In
the far Judea, and in the city of Nain, there dwelt a widow, humble of
spirit and sad of heart; for of all the ties of life one son alone was
spared to her. And she loved him with a melancholy love, for he was the
likeness of the lost. And the son died. The reed on which she leaned was
broken, the oil was dried up in the widow's cruse. They bore the dead upon
his bier; and near the gate of the city, where the crowd were gathered,
there came a silence over the sounds of woe, for the Son of God was passing
by. The mother, who followed the bier, wept--not noisily, but all who
looked upon her saw that her heart was crushed. And the Lord pitied her,
and he touched the bier, and said, "I SAY UNTO THEE, ARISE," And the dead
man woke and looked upon the face of the Lord. oh, that calm and solemn
brow, that unutterable smile, that careworn and sorrowful face, lighted up
with a God's benignity--it chased away the shadows of the grave! I rose, I
spoke, I was living, and in my mother's arms--yes, I am the dead revived!
The people shouted, the funeral horns rung forth merrily: there was a cry,
"God has visited His people!" I heard them not--I felt--I saw--nothing but
the face of the Redeemer!'
The old man paused, deeply moved; and the youth felt his blood creep, and
his hair stir. He was in the presence of one who had known the Mystery of
'Till that time,' renewed the widow's son, 'I had been as other men:
thoughtless, not abandoned; taking no heed, but of the things of love and
life; nay, I had inclined to the gloomy faith of the earthly Sadducee! But,
raised from the dead, from awful and desert dreams that these lips never
dare reveal--recalled upon earth, to testify the powers of Heaven--once more
mortal, the witness of immortality; I drew a new being from the grave. O
faded--O lost Jerusalem!--Him from whom came my life, I beheld adjudged to
the agonized and parching death! Far in the mighty crowd I saw the light
rest and glimmer over the cross; I heard the hooting mob, I cried aloud, I
raved, I threatened--none heeded me--I was lost in the whirl and the roar of
thousands! But even then, in my agony and His own, methought the glazing
eye of the Son of Man sought me out--His lip smiled, as when it conquered
death--it hushed me, and I became calm. He who had defied the grave for
another--what was the grave to him? The sun shone aslant the pale and
powerful features, and then died away! Darkness fell over the earth; how
long it endured, I know not. A loud cry came through the gloom--a sharp and
bitter cry!--and all was silent.
'But who shall tell the terrors of the night?' I walked along the city--the
earth reeled to and fro, and the houses trembled to their base--the living
had deserted the streets, but not the Dead: through the gloom I saw them
glide--the dim and ghastly shapes, in the cerements of the grave--with
horror, and woe, and warning on their unmoving lips and lightless
eyes!--they swept by me, as I passed--they glared upon me--I had been their
brother; and they bowed their heads in recognition; they had risen to tell
the living that the dead can rise!'
Again the old man paused, and, when he resumed, it was in a calmer tone.
'From that night I resigned all earthly thought but that of serving HIM. A
preacher and a pilgrim, I have traversed the remotest corners of the earth,
proclaiming His Divinity, and bringing new converts to His fold. I come as
the wind, and as the wind depart; sowing, as the wind sows, the seeds that
enrich the world.
'Son, on earth we shall meet no more. Forget not this hour,--what are the
pleasures and the pomps of life? As the lamp shines, so life glitters for
an hour; but the soul's light is the star that burns for ever, in the heart
of inimitable space.'
It was then that their conversation fell upon the general and sublime
doctrines of immortality; it soothed and elevated the young mind of the
convert, which yet clung to many of the damps and shadows of that cell of
faith which he had so lately left--it was the air of heaven breathing on the
prisoner released at last. There was a strong and marked distinction
between the Christianity of the old man and that of Olinthus; that of the
first was more soft, more gentle, more divine. The heroism of Olinthus had
something in it fierce and intolerant--it was necessary to the part he was
destined to play--it had in it more of the courage of the martyr than the
charity of the saint. It aroused, it excited, it nerved, rather than
subdued and softened. But the whole heart of that divine old man was bathed
in love; the smile of the Deity had burned away from it the leaven of
earthlier and coarser passions, and left to the energy of the hero all the
meekness of the child.
'And now,' said he, rising at length, as the sun's last ray died in the
west; 'now, in the cool of twilight, I pursue my way towards the Imperial
Rome. There yet dwell some holy men, who like me have beheld the face of
Christ; and them would I see before I die.'
'But the night is chill for thine age, my father, and the way is long, and
the robber haunts it; rest thee till to-morrow.'
'Kind son, what is there in this scrip to tempt the robber? And the Night
and the Solitude!--these make the ladder round which angels cluster, and
beneath which my spirit can dream of God. Oh! none can know what the
pilgrim feels as he walks on his holy course; nursing no fear, and dreading
no danger--for God is with him! He hears the winds murmur glad tidings; the
woods sleep in the shadow of Almighty wings--the stars are the Scriptures of
Heaven, the tokens of love, and the witnesses of immortality. Night is the
Pilgrim's day.' With these words the old man pressed Apaecides to his
breast, and taking up his staff and scrip, the dog bounded cheerily before
him, and with slow steps and downcast eyes he went his way.
The convert stood watching his bended form, till the trees shut the last
glimpse from his view; and then, as the stars broke forth, he woke from the
musings with a start, reminded of his appointment with Olinthus.
THE PHILTRE. ITS EFFECT.
WHEN Glaucus arrived at his own home, he found Nydia seated under the
portico of his garden. In fact, she had sought his house in the mere chance
that he might return at an early hour: anxious, fearful, anticipative, she
resolved upon seizing the earliest opportunity of availing herself of the
love-charm, while at the same time she half hoped the opportunity might be
It was then, in that fearful burning mood, her heart beating, her cheek
flushing, that Nydia awaited the possibility of Glaucus's return before the
night. He crossed the portico just as the first stars began to rise, and
the heaven above had assumed its most purple robe.
'Ho, my child, wait you for me?'
'Nay, I have been tending the flowers, and did but linger a little while to
'It has been warm,' said Glaucus, placing himself also on one of the seats
beneath the colonnade.
'Wilt thou summon Davus? The wine I have drunk heats me, and I long for
some cooling drink.'
Here at once, suddenly and unexpectedly, the very opportunity that Nydia
awaited presented itself; of himself, at his own free choice, he afforded to
her that occasion. She breathed quick--'I will prepare for you myself,'
said she, 'the summer draught that Ione loves--of honey and weak wine cooled
'Thanks,' said the unconscious Glaucus. 'If Ione love it, enough; it would
be grateful were it poison.'
Nydia frowned, and then smiled; she withdrew for a few moments, and returned
with the cup containing the beverage. Glaucus took it from her hand. What
would not Nydia have given then for one hour's prerogative of sight, to have
watched her hopes ripening to effect--to have seen the first dawn of the
imagined love--to have worshipped with more than Persian adoration the
rising of that sun which her credulous soul believed was to break upon her
dreary night! Far different, as she stood then and there, were the
thoughts, the emotions of the blind girl, from those of the vain Pompeian
under a similar suspense. In the last, what poor and frivolous passions had
made up the daring whole! What petty pique, what small revenge, what
expectation of a paltry triumph, had swelled the attributes of that
sentiment she dignified with the name of love! but in the wild heart of the
Thessalian all was pure, uncontrolled, unmodified passion--erring,
unwomanly, frenzied, but debased by no elements of a more sordid feeling.
Filled with love as with life itself, how could she resist the occasion of
winning love in return!
She leaned for support against the wall, and her face, before so flushed,
was now white as snow, and with her delicate hands clasped convulsively
together, her lips apart, her eyes on the ground, she waited the next words
Glaucus should utter.
Glaucus had raised the cup to his lips, he had already drained about a
fourth of its contents, when his eye suddenly glancing upon the face of
Nydia, he was so forcibly struck by its alteration, by its intense, and
painful, and strange expression, that he paused abruptly, and still holding
the cup near his lips, exclaimed:
'Why, Nydia! Nydia! I say, art thou ill or in pain? Nay, thy face speaks
for thee. What ails my poor child?' As he spoke, he put down the cup and
rose from his seat to approach her, when a sudden pang shot coldly to his
heart, and was followed by a wild, confused, dizzy sensation at the brain.
The floor seemed to glide from under him--his feet seemed to move on air--a
mighty and unearthly gladness rushed upon his spirit--he felt too buoyant
for the earth--he longed for wings, nay, it seemed in the buoyancy of his
new existence, as if he possessed them. He burst involuntarily into a loud
and thrilling laugh. He clapped his hands--he bounded aloft--he was as a
Pythoness inspired; suddenly as it came this preternatural transport passed,
though only partially, away. He now felt his blood rushing loudly and
rapidly through his veins; it seemed to swell, to exult, to leap along, as a
stream that has burst its bounds, and hurries to the ocean. It throbbed in
his ear with a mighty sound, he felt it mount to his brow, he felt the veins
in the temples stretch and swell as if they could no longer contain the
violent and increasing tide--then a kind of darkness fell over his
eyes--darkness, but not entire; for through the dim shade he saw the
opposite walls glow out, and the figures painted thereon seemed, ghost-like,
to creep and glide. What was most strange, he did not feel himself ill--he
did not sink or quail beneath the dread frenzy that was gathering over him.
The novelty of the feelings seemed bright and vivid--he felt as if a younger
health had been infused into his frame. He was gliding on to madness--and
he knew it not!
Nydia had not answered his first question--she had not been able to
reply--his wild and fearful laugh had roused her from her passionate
suspense: she could not see his fierce gesture--she could not mark his
reeling and unsteady step as he paced unconsciously to and fro; but she
heard the words, broken, incoherent, insane, that gushed from his lips. She
became terrified and appalled--she hastened to him, feeling with her arms
until she touched his knees, and then falling on the ground she embraced
them, weeping with terror and excitement.
'Oh, speak to me! speak! you do not hate me?--speak, speak!'
'By the bright goddess, a beautiful land this Cyprus! Ho! how they fill us
with wine instead of blood! now they open the veins of the Faun yonder, to
show how the tide within bubbles and sparkles. Come hither, jolly old god!
thou ridest on a goat, eh?--what long silky hair he has! He is worth all
the coursers of Parthia. But a word with thee--this wine of thine is too
strong for us mortals. Oh! beautiful! the boughs are at rest! the green
waves of the forest have caught the Zephyr and drowned him! Not a breath
stirs the leaves--and I view the Dreams sleeping with folded wings upon the
motionless elm; and I look beyond, and I see a blue stream sparkle in the
silent noon; a fountain--a fountain springing aloft! Ah! my fount, thou
wilt not put out rays of my Grecian sun, though thou triest ever so hard
with thy nimble and silver arms. And now, what form steals yonder through
the boughs? she glides like a moonbeam!--she has a garland of oak-leaves on
her head. In her hand is a vase upturned, from which she pours pink and
tiny shells and sparkling water. Oh! look on yon face! Man never before
saw its like. See! we are alone; only I and she in the wide forest. There
is no smile upon her lips--she moves, grave and sweetly sad. Ha! fly, it is
a nymph!--it is one of the wild Napaeae! Whoever sees her becomes mad-fly!
see, she discovers me!'
'Oh! Glaucus! Glaucus! do you not know me? Rave not so wildly, or thou wilt
kill me with a word!'
A new change seemed now to operate upon the jarring and disordered mind of
the unfortunate Athenian. He put his hand upon Nydia's silken hair; he
smoothed the locks--he looked wistfully upon her face, and then, as in the
broken chain of thought one or two links were yet unsevered, it seemed that
her countenance brought its associations of Ione; and with that remembrance
his madness became yet more powerful, and it swayed and tinged by passion,
as he burst forth:
'I swear by Venus, by Diana, and by Juno, that though I have now the world
on my shoulders, as my countryman Hercules (ah, dull Rome! whoever was truly
great was of Greece; why, you would be godless if it were not for us!)--I
say, as my countryman Hercules had before me, I would let it fall into chaos
for one smile from Ione. Ah, Beautiful,--Adored,' he added, in a voice
inexpressibly fond and plaintive, 'thou lovest me not. Thou art unkind to
me. The Egyptian hath belied me to thee--thou knowest not what hours I have
spent beneath thy casement--thou knowest not how I have outwatched the
stars, thinking thou, my sun, wouldst rise at last--and thou lovest me not,
thou forsakest me! Oh! do not leave me now! I feel that my life will not
be long; let me gaze on thee at least unto the last. I am of the bright
land of thy fathers--I have trod the heights of Phyle--I have gathered the
hyacinth and rose amidst the olive-groves of Ilyssus. Thou shouldst not
desert me, for thy fathers were brothers to my own. And they say this land
is lovely, and these climes serene, but I will bear thee with me--Ho! dark
form, why risest thou like a cloud between me and mine? Death sits calmly
dread upon thy brow--on thy lip is the smile that slays: thy name is Orcus,
but on earth men call thee Arbaces. See, I know thee! fly, dim shadow, thy
spells avail not!'
'Glaucus! Glaucus!' murmured Nydia, releasing her hold and falling, beneath
the excitement of her dismay, remorse, and anguish, insensible on the floor.
'Who calls?' said he in a loud voice. 'Ione, it is she! they have borne her
off--we will save her--where is my stilus? Ha, I have it! I come, Ione, to
thy rescue! I come! I come!'
So saying, the Athenian with one bound passed the portico, he traversed the
house, and rushed with swift but vacillating steps, and muttering audibly to
himself, down the starlit streets. The direful potion burnt like fire in
his veins, for its effect was made, perhaps, still more sudden from the wine
he had drunk previously. Used to the excesses of nocturnal revellers, the
citizens, with smiles and winks, gave way to his reeling steps; they
naturally imagined him under the influence of the Bromian god, not vainly
worshipped at Pompeii; but they who looked twice upon his face started in a
nameless fear, and the smile withered from their lips. He passed the more
populous streets; and, pursuing mechanically the way to Ione's house, he
traversed a more deserted quarter, and entered now the lonely grove of
Cybele, in which Apaecides had held his interview with Olinthus.
A REUNION OF DIFFERENT ACTORS. STREAMS THAT FLOWED APPARENTLY APART RUSH
INTO ONE GULF.
IMPATIENT to learn whether the fell drug had yet been administered by Julia
to his hated rival, and with what effect, Arbaces resolved, as the evening
came on, to seek her house, and satisfy his suspense. It was customary, as I
have before said, for men at that time to carry abroad with them the tablets
and the stilus attached to their girdle; and with the girdle they were put
off when at home. In fact, under the appearance of a literary instrument,
the Romans carried about with them in that same stilus a very sharp and
formidable weapon. It was with his stilus that Cassius stabbed Caesar in
the senate-house. Taking, then, his girdle and his cloak, Arbaces left his
house, supporting his steps, which were still somewhat feeble (though hope
and vengeance had conspired greatly with his own medical science, which was
profound, to restore his natural strength), by his long staff--Arbaces took
his way to the villa of Diomed.
And beautiful is the moonlight of the south! In those climes the night so
quickly glides into the day, that twilight scarcely makes a bridge between
them. One moment of darker purple in the sky--of a thousand rose-hues in
the water--of shade half victorious over light; and then burst forth at once
the countless stars--the moon is up--night has resumed her reign!
Brightly then, and softly bright, fell the moonbeams over the antique grove
consecrated to Cybele--the stately trees, whose date went beyond tradition,
cast their long shadows over the soil, while through the openings in their
boughs the stars shone, still and frequent. The whiteness of the small
sacellum in the centre of the grove, amidst the dark foliage, had in it
something abrupt and startling; it recalled at once the purpose to which the
wood was consecrated--its holiness and solemnity.
With a swift and stealthy pace, Calenus, gliding under the shade of the
trees, reached the chapel, and gently putting back the boughs that
completely closed around its rear, settled himself in his concealment; a
concealment so complete, what with the fane in front and the trees behind,
that no unsuspicious passenger could possibly have detected him. Again, all
was apparently solitary in the grove: afar off you heard faintly the voices
of some noisy revellers or the music that played cheerily to the groups that
then, as now in those climates, during the nights of summer, lingered in the
streets, and enjoyed, in the fresh air and the liquid moonlight, a milder
From the height on which the grove was placed, you saw through the intervals
of the trees the broad and purple sea, rippling in the distance, the white
villas of Stabiae in the curving shore, and the dim Lectiarian hills
mingling with the delicious sky. Presently the tall figure of Arbaces, in
his way to the house of Diomed, entered the extreme end of the grove; and at
the same instant Apaecides, also bound to his appointment with Olinthus,
crossed the Egyptian's path.
'Hem! Apaecides,' said Arbaces, recognizing the priest at a glance; 'when
last we met, you were my foe. I have wished since then to see you, for I
would have you still my pupil and my friend.'
Apaecides started at the voice of the Egyptian; and halting abruptly, gazed
upon him with a countenance full of contending, bitter, and scornful
'Villain and impostor!' said he at length; 'thou hast recovered then from
the jaws of the grave! But think not again to weave around me thy guilty
meshes. Retiarius, I am armed against thee!'
'Hush!' said Arbaces, in a very low voice--but his pride, which in that
descendant of kings was great, betrayed the wound it received from the
insulting epithets of the priest in the quiver of his lip and the flush of
his tawny brow. 'Hush! more low! thou mayest be overheard, and if other
ears than mine had drunk those sounds--why...'
'Dost thou threaten?--what if the whole city had heard me?'
'The manes of my ancestors would not have suffered me to forgive thee. But,
hold, and hear me. Thou art enraged that I would have offered violence to
thy sister. Nay, peace, peace, but one instant, I pray thee. Thou art
right; it was the frenzy of passion and of jealousy--I have repented
bitterly of my madness. Forgive me; I, who never implored pardon of living
man, beseech thee now to forgive me. Nay, I will atone the insult--I ask thy
sister in marriage--start not--consider--what is the alliance of yon holiday
Greek compared to mine? Wealth unbounded--birth that in its far antiquity
leaves your Greek and Roman names the things of yesterday--science--but that
thou knowest! Give me thy sister, and my whole life shall atone a moment's
'Egyptian, were even I to consent, my sister loathes the very air thou
breathest: but I have my own wrongs to forgive--I may pardon thee that thou
hast made me a tool to thy deceits, but never that thou hast seduced me to
become the abettor of thy vices--a polluted and a perjured man.
Tremble!--even now I prepare the hour in which thou and thy false gods shall
be unveiled. Thy lewd and Circean life shall be dragged to day--thy mumming
oracles disclosed--the fane of the idol Isis shall be a byword and a
scorn--the name of Arbaces a mark for the hisses of execration! Tremble!'
The flush on the Egyptian's brow was succeeded by a livid paleness. He
looked behind, before, around, to feel assured that none were by; and then
he fixed his dark and dilating eye on the priest, with such a gaze of wrath
and menace, that one, perhaps, less supported than Apaecides by the fervent
daring of a divine zeal, could not have faced with unflinching look that
lowering aspect. As it was, however, the young convert met it unmoved, and
returned it with an eye of proud defiance.
'Apaecides,' said the Egyptian, in a tremulous and inward tone, 'beware!
What is it thou wouldst meditate? Speakest thou--reflect, pause before thou
repliest--from the hasty influences of wrath, as yet divining no settled
purpose, or from some fixed design?'
'I speak from the inspiration of the True God, whose servant I now am,'
answered the Christian, boldly; 'and in the knowledge that by His grace
human courage has already fixed the date of thy hypocrisy and thy demon's
worship; ere thrice the sun has dawned, thou wilt know all! Dark sorcerer,
tremble, and farewell!'
All the fierce and lurid passions which he inherited from his nation and his
clime, at all times but ill concealed beneath the blandness of craft and the
coldness of philosophy, were released in the breast of the Egyptian.
Rapidly one thought chased another; he saw before him an obstinate barrier
to even a lawful alliance with Ione--the fellow-champion of Glaucus in the
struggle which had baffled his designs--the reviler of his name--the
threatened desecrator of the goddess he served while he disbelieved--the
avowed and approaching revealer of his own impostures and vices. His love,
his repute, nay, his very life, might be in danger--the day and hour seemed
even to have been fixed for some design against him. He knew by the words
of the convert that Apaecides had adopted the Christian faith: he knew the
indomitable zeal which led on the proselytes of that creed. Such was his
enemy; he grasped his stilus--that enemy was in his power! They were now
before the chapel; one hasty glance once more he cast around; he saw none
near--silence and solitude alike tempted him.
'Die, then, in thy rashness!' he muttered; 'away, obstacle to my rushing
And just as the young Christian had turned to depart, Arbaces raised his
hand high over the left shoulder of Apaecides, and plunged his sharp weapon
twice into his breast.
Apaecides fell to the ground pierced to the heart--he fell mute, without
even a groan, at the very base of the sacred chapel.
Arbaces gazed upon him for a moment with the fierce animal joy of conquest
over a foe. But presently the full sense of the danger to which he was
exposed flashed upon him; he wiped his weapon carefully in the long grass,
and with the very garments of his victim; drew his cloak round him, and was
about to depart, when he saw, coming up the path, right before him, the
figure of a young man, whose steps reeled and vacillated strangely as he
advanced: the quiet moonlight streamed full upon his face, which seemed, by
the whitening ray, colorless as marble. The Egyptian recognized the face
and form of Glaucus. The unfortunate and benighted Greek was chanting a
disconnected and mad song, composed from snatches of hymns and sacred odes,
all jarringly woven together.
'Ha!' thought the Egyptian, instantaneously divining his state and its
terrible cause; 'so, then, the hell-draught works, and destiny hath sent
thee hither to crush two of my foes at once!'
Quickly, even ere this thought occurred to him, he had withdrawn on one side
of the chapel, and concealed himself amongst the boughs; from that lurking
place he watched, as a tiger in his lair, the advance of his second victim.
He noted the wandering and restless fire in the bright and beautiful eyes of
the Athenian; the convulsions that distorted his statue-like features, and
writhed his hueless lip. He saw that the Greek was utterly deprived of
reason. Nevertheless, as Glaucus came up to the dead body of Apaecides,
from which the dark red stream flowed slowly over the grass, so strange and
ghastly a spectacle could not fail to arrest him, benighted and erring as
was his glimmering sense. He paused, placed his hand to his brow, as if to
collect himself, and then saying:
'What ho! Endymion, sleepest thou so soundly? What has the moon said to
thee? Thou makest me jealous; it is time to wake'--he stooped down with the
intention of lifting up the body.
Forgetting--feeling not--his own debility, the Egyptian sprung from his
hiding-place, and, as the Greek bent, struck him forcibly to the ground,
over the very body of the Christian; then, raising his powerful voice to its
highest pitch, he shouted:
'Ho, citizens--oh! help me!--run hither--hither!--A murder--a murder before
your very fane! Help, or the murderer escapes!' As he spoke, he placed his
foot on the breast of Glaucus: an idle and superfluous precaution; for the
potion operating with the fall, the Greek lay there motionless and
insensible, save that now and then his lips gave vent to some vague and
As he there stood awaiting the coming of those his voice still continued to
summons, perhaps some remorse, some compunctious visitings--for despite his
crimes he was human--haunted the breast of the Egyptian; the defenceless
state of Glaucus--his wandering words--his shattered reason, smote him even
more than the death of Apaecides, and he said, half audibly, to himself:
'Poor clay!--poor human reason; where is the soul now? I could spare thee,
O my rival--rival never more! But destiny must be obeyed--my safety demands
thy sacrifice.' With that, as if to drown compunction, he shouted yet more
loudly; and drawing from the girdle of Glaucus the stilus it contained, he
steeped it in the blood of the murdered man, and laid it beside the corpse.
And now, fast and breathless, several of the citizens came thronging to the
place, some with torches, which the moon rendered unnecessary, but which
flared red and tremulously against the darkness of the trees; they
surrounded the spot. 'Lift up yon corpse,' said the Egyptian, 'and guard
well the murderer.'
They raised the body, and great was their horror and sacred indignation to
discover in that lifeless clay a priest of the adored and venerable Isis;
but still greater, perhaps, was their surprise, when they found the accused
in the brilliant and admired Athenian.
'Glaucus!' cried the bystanders, with one accord; 'is it even credible?'
'I would sooner,' whispered one man to his neighbor, 'believe it to be the
Here a centurion thrust himself into the gathering crowd, with an air of
'How! blood spilt! who the murderer?'
The bystanders pointed to Glaucus.
'He!--by Mars, he has rather the air of being the victim!
'Who accuses him?'
'I,' said Arbaces, drawing himself up haughtily; and the jewels which
adorned his dress flashing in the eyes of the soldier, instantly convinced
that worthy warrior of the witness's respectability.
'Pardon me--your name?' said he.
'Arbaces; it is well known methinks in Pompeii. Passing through the grove,
I beheld before me the Greek and the priest in earnest conversation. I was
struck by the reeling motions of the first, his violent gestures, and the
loudness of his voice; he seemed to me either drunk or mad. Suddenly I saw
him raise his stilus--I darted forward--too late to arrest the blow. He had
twice stabbed his victim, and was bending over him, when, in my horror and
indignation, I struck the murderer to the ground. He fell without a
struggle, which makes me yet more suspect that he was not altogether in his
senses when the crime was perpetrated; for, recently recovered from a severe
illness, my blow was comparatively feeble, and the frame of Glaucus, as you
see, is strong and youthful.'
'His eyes are open now--his lips move,' said the soldier. 'Speak, prisoner,
what sayest thou to the charge?'
'The charge--ha--ha! Why, it was merrily done; when the old hag set her
serpent at me, and Hecate stood by laughing from ear to ear--what could I
do? But I am ill--I faint--the serpent's fiery tongue hath bitten me. Bear
me to bed, and send for your physician; old AEsculapius himself will attend
me if you let him know that I am Greek. Oh, mercy--mercy! I burn!--marrow
and brain, I burn!'
And, with a thrilling and fierce groan, the Athenian fell back in the arms
of the bystanders.
'He raves,' said the officer, compassionately; 'and in his delirium he has
struck the priest. Hath any one present seen him to-day!'
'I,' said one of the spectators, 'beheld him in the morning. He passed my
shop and accosted me. He seemed well and sane as the stoutest of us!'
'And I saw him half an hour ago,' said another, 'passing up the streets,
muttering to himself with strange gestures, and just as the Egyptian has
'A corroboration of the witness! it must be too true. He must at all events
to the praetor; a pity, so young and so rich! But the crime is dreadful: a
priest of Isis, in his very robes, too, and at the base itself of our most
At these words the crowd were reminded more forcibly, than in their
excitement and curiosity they had yet been, of the heinousness of the
sacrilege. They shuddered in pious horror.
'No wonder the earth has quaked,' said one, 'when it held such a monster!'
'Away with him to prison--away!' cried they all.
And one solitary voice was heard shrilly and joyously above the rest:
'The beasts will not want a gladiator now, Ho, ho, for the merry, merry
It was the voice of the young woman whose conversation with Medon has been
'True--true--it chances in season for the games!' cried several; and at that
thought all pity for the accused seemed vanished. His youth, his beauty,
but fitted him better for the purpose of the arena.
'Bring hither some planks--or if at hand, a litter--to bear the dead,' said
Arbaces: 'a priest of Isis ought scarcely to be carried to his temple by
vulgar hands, like a butchered gladiator.'
At this the bystanders reverently laid the corpse of Apaecides on the
ground, with the face upwards; and some of them went in search of some
contrivance to bear the body, untouched by the profane.
It was just at that time that the crowd gave way to right and left as a
sturdy form forced itself through, and Olinthus the Christian stood
immediately confronting the Egyptian. But his eyes, at first, only rested
with inexpressible grief and horror on that gory side and upturned face, on
which the agony of violent death yet lingered.
'Murdered!' he said. 'Is it thy zeal that has brought thee to this? Have
they detected thy noble purpose, and by death prevented their own shame?'
He turned his head abruptly, and his eyes fell full on the solemn features
of the Egyptian.
As he looked, you might see in his face, and even the slight shiver of his
frame, the repugnance and aversion which the Christian felt for one whom he
knew to be so dangerous and so criminal. It was indeed the gaze of the bird
upon the basilisk--so silent was it and so prolonged. But shaking off the
sudden chill that had crept over him, Olinthus extended his right arm
towards Arbaces, and said, in a deep and loud voice:
'Murder hath been done upon this corpse! Where is the murderer? Stand
forth, Egyptian! For, as the Lord liveth, I believe thou art the man!'
An anxious and perturbed change might for one moment be detected on the
dusky features of Arbaces; but it gave way to the frowning expression of
indignation and scorn, as, awed and arrested by the suddenness and vehemence
of the charge, the spectators pressed nearer and nearer upon the two more
'I know,' said Arbaces, proudly, 'who is my accuser, and I guess wherefore
he thus arraigns me. Men and citizens, know this man for the most bitter of
the Nazarenes, if that or Christians be their proper name! What marvel that
in his malignity he dares accuse even an Egyptian of the murder of a priest
'I know him! I know the dog!' shouted several voices. 'It is Olinthus the
Christian--or rather the Atheist--he denies the gods!'
'Peace, brethren,' said Olinthus, with dignity, 'and hear me! This murdered
priest of Isis before his death embraced the Christian faith--he revealed to
me the dark sins, the sorceries of yon Egyptian--the mummeries and delusions
of the fane of Isis. He was about to declare them publicly. He, a
stranger, unoffending, without enemies! who should shed his blood but one of
those who feared his witness? Who might fear that testimony the
most?--Arbaces, the Egyptian!'
'You hear him!' said Arbaces; 'you hear him! he blasphemes! Ask him if he
believes in Isis!'
'Do I believe in an evil demon?' returned Olinthus, boldly.
A groan and shudder passed through the assembly. Nothing daunted, for
prepared at every time for peril, and in the present excitement losing all
prudence, the Christian continued:
'Back, idolaters! this clay is not for your vain and polluting rites--it is
to us--to the followers of Christ, that the last offices due to a Christian
belong. I claim this dust in the name of the great Creator who has recalled
With so solemn and commanding a voice and aspect the Christian spoke these
words, that even the crowd forbore to utter aloud the execration of fear and
hatred which in their hearts they conceived. And never, perhaps, since
Lucifer and the Archangel contended for the body of the mighty Lawgiver, was
there a more striking subject for the painter's genius than that scene
exhibited. The dark trees--the stately fane--the moon full on the corpse of
the deceased--the torches tossing wildly to and fro in the rear--the various
faces of the motley audience--the insensible form of the Athenian,
supported, in the distance, and in the foreground, and above all, the forms
of Arbaces and the Christian: the first drawn to its full height, far taller
than the herd around; his arms folded, his brow knit, his eyes fixed, his
lip slightly curled in defiance and disdain. The last bearing, on a brow
worn and furrowed, the majesty of an equal command--the features stern, yet
frank--the aspect bold, yet open--the quiet dignity of the whole form
impressed with an ineffable earnestness, hushed, as it were, in a solemn
sympathy with the awe he himself had created. His left hand pointing to the
corpse--his right hand raised to heaven.
The centurion pressed forward again.
'In the first place, hast thou, Olinthus, or whatever be thy name, any proof
of the charge thou hast made against Arbaces, beyond thy vague suspicions?'
Olinthus remained silent--the Egyptian laughed contemptuously.
'Dost thou claim the body of a priest of Isis as one of the Nazarene or
'Swear then by yon fane, yon statue of Cybele, by yon most ancient sacellum
in Pompeii, that the dead man embraced your faith!'
'Vain man! I disown your idols! I abhor your temples! How can I swear by
'Away, away with the Atheist! away! the earth will swallow us, if we suffer
these blasphemers in a sacred grove--away with him to death!'
'To the beasts!' added a female voice in the centre of the crowd; 'we shall
have one a-piece now for the lion and tiger!'
'If, O Nazarene, thou disbelievest in Cybele, which of our gods dost thou
own?' resumed the soldier, unmoved by the cries around.
'Hark to him! hark!' cried the crowd.
'O vain and blind!' continued the Christian, raising his voice: 'can you
believe in images of wood and stone? Do you imagine that they have eyes to
see, or ears to hear, or hands to help ye? Is yon mute thing carved by
man's art a goddess!--hath it made mankind?--alas! by mankind was it made.
Lo! convince yourself of its nothingness--of your folly.'
And as he spoke he strode across to the fane, and ere any of the bystanders
were aware of his purpose, he, in his compassion or his zeal, struck the
statue of wood from its pedestal.
'See!' cried he, 'your goddess cannot avenge herself. Is this a thing to
Further words were denied to him: so gross and daring a sacrilege--of one,
too, of the most sacred of their places of worship--filled even the most
lukewarm with rage and horror. With one accord the crowd rushed upon him,
seized, and but for the interference of the centurion, they would have torn
him to pieces.
'Peace!' said the soldier, authoritatively--'refer we this insolent
blasphemer to the proper tribunal--time has been already wasted. Bear we
both the culprits to the magistrates; place the body of the priest on the
litter--carry it to his own home.'
At this moment a priest of Isis stepped forward. 'I claim these remains,
according to the custom of the priesthood.'
'The flamen be obeyed,' said the centurion. 'How is the murderer?'
'Insensible or asleep.'
'Were his crimes less, I could pity him. On!'
Arbaces, as he turned, met the eye of that priest of Isis--it was Calenus;
and something there was in that glance, so significant and sinister, that
the Egyptian muttered to himself:
'Could he have witnessed the deed?'
A girl darted from the crowd, and gazed hard on the face of Olinthus. 'By
Jupiter, a stout knave! I say, we shall have a man for the tiger now; one
for each beast!'
'Ho!' shouted the mob; 'a man for the lion, and another for the tiger! What
luck! Io Paean!'
IN WHICH THE READER LEARNS THE CONDITION OF GLAUCUS. FRIENDSHIP TESTED.
ENMITY SOFTENED. LOVE THE SAME, BECAUSE THE ONE LOVING IS BLIND.
THE night was somewhat advanced, and the gay lounging places of the
Pompeians were still crowded. You might observe in the countenances of the
various idlers a more earnest expression than usual. They talked in large
knots and groups, as if they sought by numbers to divide the half-painful,
half-pleasurable anxiety which belonged to the subject on which they
conversed: it was a subject of life and death.
A young man passed briskly by the graceful portico of the Temple of
Fortune--so briskly, indeed, that he came with no slight force full against
the rotund and comely form of that respectable citizen Diomed, who was
retiring homeward to his suburban villa.
'Holloa!' groaned the merchant, recovering with some difficulty his
equilibrium; 'have you no eyes? or do you think I have no feeling? By
Jupiter! you have well nigh driven out the divine particle; such another
shock, and my soul will be in Hades!'
'Ah, Diomed! is it you? forgive my inadvertence. I was absorbed in
thinking of the reverses of life. Our poor friend, Glaucus, eh! who could
have guessed it?'
'Well, but tell me, Clodius, is he really to be tried by the senate?'
'Yes; they say the crime is of so extraordinary a nature that the senate
itself must adjudge it; and so the lictors are to induct him formally.'
'He has been accused publicly, then?'
'To be sure; where have you been not to hear that?'
'Why, I have only just returned from Neapolis, whither I went on business
the very morning after his crime--so shocking, and at my house the same
night that it happened!'
'There is no doubt of his guilt,' said Clodius, shrugging his shoulders;
'and as these crimes take precedence of all little undignified peccadilloes,
they will hasten to finish the sentence previous to the games.'
'The games! Good gods!' replied Diomed, with a slight shudder: 'can they
adjudge him to the beasts?--so young, so rich!'
'True; but then he is a Greek. Had he been a Roman, it would have been a
thousand pities. These foreigners can be borne with in their prosperity;
but in adversity we must not forget that they are in reality slaves.
However, we of the upper classes are always tender-hearted; and he would
certainly get off tolerably well if he were left to us: for, between
ourselves, what is a paltry priest of Isis!--what Isis herself? But the
common people are superstitious; they clamor for the blood of the
sacrilegious one. It is dangerous not to give way to public opinion.'
'And the blasphemer--the Christian, or Nazarene, or whatever else he be
'Oh, poor dog! if he will sacrifice to Cybele or Isis, he will be
pardoned--if not, the tiger has him. At least, so I suppose; but the trial
will decide. We talk while the urn's still empty. And the Greek may yet
escape the deadly Theta of his own alphabet. But enough of this gloomy
subject. How is the fair Julia?'
'Well, I fancy.'
'Commend me to her. But hark! the door yonder creaks on its hinges; it is
the house of the praetor. Who comes forth? By Pollux! it is the Egyptian!
What can he want with our official friend!'
'Some conference touching the murder, doubtless,' replied Diomed; 'but what
was supposed to be the inducement to the crime? Glaucus was to have married
the priest's sister.'
'Yes: some say Apaecides refused the alliance. It might have been a sudden
quarrel. Glaucus was evidently drunk--nay, so much so as to have been quite
insensible when taken up, and I hear is still delirious--whether with wine,
terror, remorse, the Furies, or the Bacchanals, I cannot say.'
'Poor fellow!--he has good counsel?'
'The best--Caius Pollio, an eloquent fellow enough. Pollio has been hiring
all the poor gentlemen and well-born spendthrifts of Pompeii to dress
shabbily and sneak about, swearing their friendship to Glaucus (who would
not have spoken to them to be made emperor!--I will do him justice, he was a
gentleman in his choice of acquaintance), and trying to melt the stony
citizens into pity. But it will not do; Isis is mightily popular just at
'And, by-the-by, I have some merchandise at Alexandria. Yes, Isis ought to
'True; so farewell, old gentleman: we shall meet soon; if not, we must have
a friendly bet at the Amphitheatre. All my calculations are confounded by
this cursed misfortune of Glaucus! He had bet on Lydon the gladiator; I
must make up my tablets elsewhere. Vale!'
Leaving the less active Diomed to regain his villa, Clodius strode on,
humming a Greek air, and perfuming the night with the odorous that steamed
from his snowy garments and flowing locks.
'If,' thought he, 'Glaucus feed the lion, Julia will no longer have a person
to love better than me; she will certainly doat on me--and so, I suppose, I
must marry. By the gods! the twelve lines begin to fail--men look
suspiciously at my hand when it rattles the dice. That infernal Sallust
insinuates cheating; and if it be discovered that the ivory is clogged, why
farewell to the merry supper and the perfumed billet--Clodius is undone!
Better marry, then, while I may, renounce gaming, and push my fortune (or
rather the gentle Julia's) at the imperial court.'
Thus muttering the schemes of his ambition, if by that high name the
projects of Clodius may be called, the gamester found himself suddenly
accosted; he turned and beheld the dark brow of Arbaces.
'Hail, noble Clodius! pardon my interruption; and inform me, I pray you,
which is the house of Sallust?'
'It is but a few yards hence, wise Arbaces. But does Sallust entertain
'I know not,' answered the Egyptian; 'nor am I, perhaps, one of those whom
he would seek as a boon companion. But thou knowest that his house holds
the person of Glaucus, the murderer.'
'Ay! he, good-hearted epicure, believes in the Greek's innocence! You
remind me that he has become his surety; and, therefore, till the trial, is
responsible for his appearance.' Well, Sallust's house is better than a
prison, especially that wretched hole in the forum. But for what can you
'Why, noble Clodius, if we could save him from execution it would be well.
The condemnation of the rich is a blow upon society itself. I should like
to confer with him--for I hear he has recovered his senses--and ascertain
the motives of his crime; they may be so extenuating as to plead in his
'You are benevolent, Arbaces.'
'Benevolence is the duty of one who aspires to wisdom,' replied the
Egyptian, modestly. 'Which way lies Sallust's mansion?'
'I will show you,' said Clodius, 'if you will suffer me to accompany you a
few steps. But, pray what has become of the poor girl who was to have wed
the Athenian--the sister of the murdered priest?'
'Alas! well-nigh insane! Sometimes she utters imprecations on the
murderer--then suddenly stops short--then cries, "But why curse? Oh, my
brother! Glaucus was not thy murderer--never will I believe it!" Then she
begins again, and again stops short, and mutters awfully to herself, "Yet if
it were indeed he?"'
'But it is well for her that those solemn cares to the dead which religion
enjoins have hitherto greatly absorbed her attention from Glaucus and
herself: and, in the dimness of her senses, she scarcely seems aware that
Glaucus is apprehended and on the eve of trial. When the funeral rites due
to Apaecides are performed, her apprehension will return; and then I fear me
much that her friends will be revolted by seeing her run to succour and aid
the murderer of her brother!'
'Such scandal should be prevented.'
'I trust I have taken precautions to that effect. I am her lawful guardian,
and have just succeeded in obtaining permission to escort her, after the
funeral of Apaecides, to my own house; there, please the gods! she will be
'You have done well, sage Arbaces. And, now, yonder is the house of
Sallust. The gods keep you! Yet, hark you, Arbaces--why so gloomy and
unsocial? Men say you can be gay--why not let me initiate you into the
pleasures of Pompeii?--I flatter myself no one knows them better.'
'I thank you, noble Clodius: under your auspices I might venture, I think,
to wear the philyra: but, at my age, I should be an awkward pupil.'
'Oh, never fear; I have made converts of fellows of seventy. The rich, too,
are never old.'
'You flatter me. At some future time I will remind you of your promise.'
'You may command Marcus Clodius at all times--and so, vale!'
'Now,' said the Egyptian, soliloquising, 'I am not wantonly a man of blood;
I would willingly save this Greek, if, by confessing the crime, he will lose
himself for ever to Ione, and for ever free me from the chance of discovery;
and I can save him by persuading Julia to own the philtre, which will be
held his excuse. But if he do not confess the crime, why, Julia must be
shamed from the confession, and he must die!--die, lest he prove my rival
with the living--die, that he may be my proxy with the dead! Will he
confess?--can he not be persuaded that in his delirium he struck the blow?
To me it would give far greater safety than even his death. Hem! we must
hazard the experiment.'
Sweeping along the narrow street, Arbaces now approached the house of
Sallust, when he beheld a dark form wrapped in a cloak, and stretched at
length across the threshold of the door.
So still lay the figure, and so dim was its outline, that any other than
Arbaces might have felt a superstitious fear, lest he beheld one of those
grim lemures, who, above all other spots, haunted the threshold of the homes
they formerly possessed. But not for Arbaces were such dreams.
'Rise!' said he, touching the figure with his foot; 'thou obstructest the
'Ha! who art thou cried the form, in a sharp tone, and as she raised herself
from the ground, the starlight fell full on the pale face and fixed but
sightless eyes of Nydia the Thessalian. 'Who art thou? I know the burden
of thy voice.'
'Blind girl! what dost thou here at this late hour? Fie!--is this seeming
thy sex or years? Home, girl!'
'I know thee,' said Nydia, in a low voice, 'thou art Arbaces the Egyptian':
then, as if inspired by some sudden impulse, she flung herself at his feet,
and clasping his knees, exclaimed, in a wild and passionate tone, 'Oh dread
and potent man! save him--save him! He is not guilty--it is I! He lies
within, ill-dying, and I--I am the hateful cause! And they will not admit
me to him--they spurn the blind girl from the hall. Oh, heal him! thou
knowest some herb--some spell--some countercharm, for it is a potion that
hath wrought this frenzy!
'Hush, child! I know all!--thou forgettest that I accompanied Julia to the
saga's home. Doubtless her hand administered the draught; but her
reputation demands thy silence. Reproach not thyself--what must be, must:
meanwhile, I seek the criminal--he may yet be saved. Away!'
Thus saying, Arbaces extricated himself from the clasp of the despairing
Thessalian, and knocked loudly at the door.
In a few moments the heavy bars were heard suddenly to yield, and the
porter, half opening the door, demanded who was there.
'Arbaces--important business to Sallust relative to Glaucus. I come from
The porter, half yawning, half groaning, admitted the tall form of the
Egyptian. Nydia sprang forward. 'How is he?' she cried; 'tell me--tell
'Ho, mad girl! is it thou still?--for shame! Why, they say he is sensible.'
'The gods be praised!--and you will not admit me? Ah! I beseech thee...'
'Admit thee!--no. A pretty salute I should prepare for these shoulders were
I to admit such things as thou! Go home!'
The door closed, and Nydia, with a deep sigh, laid herself down once more on
the cold stones; and, wrapping her cloak round her face, resumed her weary
Meanwhile Arbaces had already gained the triclinium, where Sallust, with his
favorite freedman, sat late at supper.
'What! Arbaces! and at this hour!--Accept this cup.'
'Nay, gentle Sallust; it is on business, not pleasure, that I venture to
disturb thee. How doth thy charge?--they say in the town that he has
'Alas! and truly,' replied the good-natured but thoughtless Sallust, wiping
the tear from his eyes; 'but so shattered are his nerves and frame that I
scarcely recognize the brilliant and gay carouser I was wont to know. Yet,
strange to say, he cannot account for the cause of the sudden frenzy that
seized him--he retains but a dim consciousness of what hath passed; and,
despite thy witness, wise Egyptian, solemnly upholds his innocence of the
death of Apaecides.'
'Sallust,' said Arbaces, gravely, 'there is much in thy friend's case that
merits a peculiar indulgence; and could we learn from his lips the
confession and the cause of his crime, much might be yet hoped from the
mercy of the senate; for the senate, thou knowest, hath the power either to
mitigate or to sharpen the law. Therefore it is that I have conferred with
the highest authority of the city, and obtained his permission to hold a
private conference this night with the Athenian. Tomorrow, thou knowest,
the trial comes on.'
'Well,' said Sallust, 'thou wilt be worthy of thy Eastern name and fame if
thou canst learn aught from him; but thou mayst try. Poor Glaucus!--and he
had such an excellent appetite! He eats nothing now!'
The benevolent epicure was moved sensibly at this thought. He sighed, and
ordered his slaves to refill his cup.
'Night wanes,' said the Egyptian; 'suffer me to see thy ward now.'
Sallust nodded assent, and led the way to a small chamber, guarded without
by two dozing slaves. The door opened; at the request of Arbaces, Sallust
withdrew--the Egyptian was alone with Glaucus.
One of those tall and graceful candelabra common to that day, supporting a
single lamp, burned beside the narrow bed. Its rays fell palely over the
face of the Athenian, and Arbaces was moved to see how sensibly that
countenance had changed. The rich color was gone, the cheek was sunk, the
lips were convulsed and pallid; fierce had been the struggle between reason
and madness, life and death. The youth, the strength of Glaucus had
conquered; but the freshness of blood and soul--the life of life--its glory
and its zest, were gone for ever.
The Egyptian seated himself quietly beside the bed; Glaucus still lay mute
and unconscious of his presence. At length, after a considerable pause,
Arbaces thus spoke:
'Glaucus, we have been enemies. I come to thee alone and in the dead of
night--thy friend, perhaps thy saviour.'
As the steed starts from the path of the tiger, Glaucus sprang up
breathless--alarmed, panting at the abrupt voice, the sudden apparition of
his foe. Their eyes met, and neither, for some moments, had power to
withdraw his gaze. The flush went and came over the face of the Athenian,
and the bronzed cheek of the Egyptian grew a shade more pale. At length,
with an inward groan, Glaucus turned away, drew his hand across his brow,
sunk back, and muttered:
'Am I still dreaming?'
'No, Glaucus thou art awake. By this right hand and my father's head, thou
seest one who may save thy life. Hark! I know what thou hast done, but I
know also its excuse, of which thou thyself art ignorant. Thou hast
committed murder, it is true--a sacrilegious murder--frown not--start
not--these eyes saw it. But I can save thee--I can prove how thou wert
bereaved of sense, and made not a free-thinking and free-acting man. But in
order to save thee, thou must confess thy crime. Sign but this paper,
acknowledging thy hand in the death of Apaecides, and thou shalt avoid the
'What words are these?--Murder and Apaecides!--Did I not see him stretched
on the ground bleeding and a corpse? and wouldst thou persuade me that I did
the deed? Man, thou liest! Away!'
'Be not rash--Glaucus, be not hasty; the deed is proved. Come, come, thou
mayst well be excused for not recalling the act of thy delirium, and which
thy sober senses would have shunned even to contemplate. But let me try to
refresh thy exhausted and weary memory. Thou knowest thou wert walking with
the priest, disputing about his sister; thou knowest he was intolerant, and
half a Nazarene, and he sought to convert thee, and ye had hot words; and he
calumniated thy mode of life, and swore he would not marry Ione to thee--and
then, in thy wrath and thy frenzy, thou didst strike the sudden blow. Come,
come; you can recollect this!--read this papyrus, it runs to that
effect--sign it, and thou art saved.'
'Barbarian, give me the written lie, that I may tear it! I the murderer of
Ione's brother: I confess to have injured one hair of the head of him she
loved! Let me rather perish a thousand times!'
'Beware!' said Arbaces, in a low and hissing tone; 'there is but one
choice--thy confession and thy signature, or the amphitheatre and the lion's
As the Egyptian fixed his eyes upon the sufferer, he hailed with joy the
signs of evident emotion that seized the latter at these words. A slight
shudder passed over the Athenian's frame--his lip fell--an expression of
sudden fear and wonder betrayed itself in his brow and eye.
'Great gods!' he said, in a low voice, 'what reverse is this? It seems but
a little day since life laughed out from amidst roses--Ione mine--youth,
health, love, lavishing on me their treasures; and now--pain, madness,
shame, death! And for what? What have I done? Oh, I am mad still?'
'Sign, and be saved!' said the soft, sweet voice of the Egyptian.
'Tempter, never!' cried Glaucus, in the reaction of rage. 'Thou knowest me
not: thou knowest not the haughty soul of an Athenian! The sudden face of
death might appal me for a moment, but the fear is over. Dishonour appals
for ever! Who will debase his name to save his life? who exchange clear
thoughts for sullen days? who will belie himself to shame, and stand
blackened in the eyes of love? If to earn a few years of polluted life
there be so base a coward, dream not, dull barbarian of Egypt! to find him
in one who has trod the same sod as Harmodius, and breathed the same air as
Socrates. Go! leave me to live without self-reproach--or to perish without
'Bethink thee well! the lion's fangs: the hoots of the brutal mob: the
vulgar gaze on thy dying agony and mutilated limbs: thy name degraded; thy
corpse unburied; the shame thou wouldst avoid clinging to thee for aye and
'Thou ravest; thou art the madman! shame is not in the loss of other men's
esteem--it is in the loss of our own. Wilt thou go?--my eyes loathe the
sight of thee! hating ever, I despise thee now!'
'I go,' said Arbaces, stung and exasperated, but not without some pitying
admiration of his victim, 'I go; we meet twice again--once at the Trial,
once at the Death! Farewell!'
The Egyptian rose slowly, gathered his robes about him, and left the
chamber. He sought Sallust for a moment, whose eyes began to reel with the
vigils of the cup: 'He is still unconscious, or still obstinate; there is no
hope for him.'
'Say not so,' replied Sallust, who felt but little resentment against the
Athenian's accuser, for he possessed no great austerity of virtue, and was
rather moved by his friend's reverses than persuaded of his innocence--'say
not so, my Egyptian! so good a drinker shall be saved if possible. Bacchus
'We shall see,' said the Egyptian.
Suddenly the bolts were again withdrawn--the door unclosed; Arbaces was in
the open street; and poor Nydia once more started from her long watch.
'Wilt thou save him?' she cried, clasping her hands.
'Child, follow me home; I would speak to thee--it is for his sake I ask it.'
'And thou wilt save him?'
No answer came forth to the thirsting ear of the blind girl: Arbaces had
already proceeded far up the street; she hesitated a moment, and then
followed his steps in silence.
'I must secure this girl,' said he, musingly, 'lest she give evidence of the
philtre; as to the vain Julia, she will not betray herself.'
A CLASSIC FUNERAL.
WHILE Arbaces had been thus employed, Sorrow and Death were in the house of
Ione. It was the night preceding the morn in which the solemn funeral rites
were to be decreed to the remains of the murdered Apaecides. The corpse had
been removed from the temple of Isis to the house of the nearest surviving
relative, and Ione had heard, in the same breath, the death of her brother
and the accusation against her betrothed. That first violent anguish which
blunts the sense to all but itself, and the forbearing silence of her
slaves, had prevented her learning minutely the circumstances attendant on
the fate of her lover. His illness, his frenzy, and his approaching trial,
were unknown to her. She learned only the accusation against him, and at
once indignantly rejected it; nay, on hearing that Arbaces was the accuser,
she required no more to induce her firmly and solemnly to believe that the
Egyptian himself was the criminal. But the vast and absorbing importance
attached by the ancients to the performance of every ceremonial connected
with the death of a relation, had, as yet, confined her woe and her
convictions to the chamber of the deceased. Alas! it was not for her to
perform that tender and touching office, which obliged the nearest relative
to endeavor to catch the last breath--the parting soul--of the beloved one:
but it was hers to close the straining eyes, the distorted lips: to watch by
the consecrated clay, as, fresh bathed and anointed, it lay in festive robes
upon the ivory bed; to strew the couch with leaves and flowers, and to renew
the solemn cypress-branch at the threshold of the door. And in these sad
offices, in lamentation and in prayer, Ione forgot herself. It was among
the loveliest customs of the ancients to bury the young at the morning
twilight; for, as they strove to give the softest interpretation to death,
so they poetically imagined that Aurora, who loved the young, had stolen
them to her embrace; and though in the instance of the murdered priest this
fable could not appropriately cheat the fancy, the general custom was still
The stars were fading one by one from the grey heavens, and night slowly
receding before the approach of morn, when a dark group stood motionless
before Ione's door. High and slender torches, made paler by the unmellowed
dawn, cast their light over various countenances, hushed for the moment in
one solemn and intent expression. And now there arose a slow and dismal
music, which accorded sadly with the rite, and floated far along the
desolate and breathless streets; while a chorus of female voices (the
Praeficae so often cited by the Roman poets), accompanying the Tibicen and
the Mysian flute, woke the following strain:
THE FUNERAL DIRGE
O'er the sad threshold, where the cypress bough
Supplants the rose that should adorn thy home,
On the last pilgrimage on earth that now
Awaits thee, wanderer to Cocytus, come!
Darkly we woo, and weeping we invite--
Death is thy host--his banquet asks thy soul,
Thy garlands hang within the House of Night,
And the black stream alone shall fill thy bowl.
No more for thee the laughter and the song,
The jocund night--the glory of the day!
The Argive daughters' at their labours long;
The hell-bird swooping on its Titan prey--
The false AEolides upheaving slow,
O'er the eternal hill, the eternal stone;
The crowned Lydian, in his parching woe,
And green Callirrhoe's monster-headed son-
These shalt thou see, dim shadowed through the dark,
Which makes the sky of Pluto's dreary shore;
Lo! where thou stand'st, pale-gazing on the bark
, That waits our rite to bear thee trembling o'er!
Come, then! no more delay!--the phantom pines
Amidst the Unburied for its latest home;
O'er the grey sky the torch impatient shines--
Come, mourner, forth!--the lost one bids thee come.
As the hymn died away, the group parted in twain; and placed upon a couch,
spread with a purple pall, the corpse of Apaecides was carried forth, with
the feet foremost. The designator, or marshal of the sombre ceremonial,
accompanied by his torch-bearers, clad in black, gave the signal, and the
procession moved dreadly on.
First went the musicians, playing a slow march--the solemnity of the lower
instruments broken by many a louder and wilder burst of the funeral trumpet:
next followed the hired mourners, chanting their dirges to the dead; and the
female voices were mingled with those of boys, whose tender years made still
more striking the contrast of life and death--the fresh leaf and the
withered one. But the players, the buffoons, the archimimus (whose duty it
was to personate the dead)--these, the customary attendants at ordinary
funerals, were banished from a funeral attended with so many terrible
The priests of Isis came next in their snowy garments, barefooted, and
supporting sheaves of corn; while before the corpse were carried the images
of the deceased and his many Athenian forefathers. And behind the bier
followed, amidst her women, the sole surviving relative of the dead--her
head bare, her locks disheveled, her face paler than marble, but composed
and still, save ever and anon, as some tender thought--awakened by the
music, flashed upon the dark lethargy of woe, she covered that countenance
with her hands, and sobbed unseen; for hers were not the noisy sorrow, the
shrill lament, the ungoverned gesture, which characterized those who honored
less faithfully. In that age, as in all, the channel of deep grief flowed
hushed and still.
And so the procession swept on, till it had traversed the streets, passed
the city gate, and gained the Place of Tombs without the wall, which the
traveler yet beholds.
Raised in the form of an altar--of unpolished pine, amidst whose interstices
were placed preparations of combustible matter--stood the funeral pyre; and
around it drooped the dark and gloomy cypresses so consecrated by song to
As soon as the bier was placed upon the pile, the attendants parting on
either side, Ione passed up to the couch, and stood before the unconscious
clay for some moments motionless and silent. The features of the dead had
been composed from the first agonized expression of violent death. Hushed
for ever the terror and the doubt, the contest of passion, the awe of
religion, the struggle of the past and present, the hope and the horror of
the future!--of all that racked and desolated the breast of that young
aspirant to the Holy of Life, what trace was visible in the awful serenity
of that impenetrable brow and unbreathing lip? The sister gazed, and not a
sound was heard amidst the crowd; there was something terrible, yet
softening, also, in the silence; and when it broke, it broke sudden and
abrupt--it broke, with a loud and passionate cry--the vent of long-smothered
'My brother! my brother!' cried the poor orphan, falling upon the couch;
'thou whom the worm on thy path feared not--what enemy couldst thou provoke?
Oh, is it in truth come to this? Awake! awake! We grew together! Are we
thus torn asunder? Thou art not dead--thou sleepest. Awake! awake!'
The sound of her piercing voice aroused the sympathy of the mourners, and
they broke into loud and rude lament. This startled, this recalled Ione;
she looked up hastily and confusedly, as if for the first time sensible of
the presence of those around.
'Ah!' she murmured with a shiver, 'we are not then alone!' With that, after
a brief pause, she rose; and her pale and beautiful countenance was again
composed and rigid. With fond and trembling hands, she unclosed the lids of
the deceased; but when the dull glazed eye, no longer beaming with love and
life, met hers, she shrieked aloud, as if she had seen a spectre. Once more
recovering herself she kissed again and again the lids, the lips, the brow;
and with mechanic and unconscious hand, received from the high priest of her
brother's temple the funeral torch.
The sudden burst of music, the sudden song of the mourners announced the
birth of the sanctifying flame.
HYMN TO THE WIND
On thy couch of cloud reclined,
Wake, O soft and sacred Wind!
Soft and sacred will we name thee,
Whosoe'er the sire that claim thee--
Whether old Auster's dusky child,
Or the loud son of Eurus wild;
Or his who o'er the darkling deeps,
From the bleak North, in tempest sweeps;
Still shalt thou seem as dear to us
As flowery-crowned Zephyrus,
When, through twilight's starry dew,
Trembling, he hastes his nymph to woo.
Lo! our silver censers swinging,
Perfumes o'er thy path are flinging--
Ne'er o'er Tempe's breathless valleys,
Ne'er o'er Cypria's cedarn alleys,
Or the Rose-isle's moonlit sea,
Floated sweets more worthy thee.
Lo! around our vases sending
Myrrh and nard with cassia blending:
Paving air with odorous meet,
For thy silver-sandall'd feet!
August and everlasting air!
The source of all that breathe and be,
From the mute clay before thee bear
The seeds it took from thee!
Aspire, bright Flame! aspire!
Wild wind!--awake, awake!
Thine own, O solemn Fire!
O Air, thine own retake!
It comes! it comes! Lo! it sweeps,
The Wind we invoke the while!
And crackles, and darts, and leaps
The light on the holy pile!
It rises! its wings interweave
With the flames--how they howl and heave!
Toss'd, whirl'd to and fro,
How the flame-serpents glow!
Rushing higher and higher,
On--on, fearful Fire!
Thy giant limbs twined
With the arms of the Wind!
Lo! the elements meet on the throne
Of death--to reclaim their own!
Swing, swing the censer round--
Tune the strings to a softer sound!
From the chains of thy earthly toil,
From the clasp of thy mortal coil,
From the prison where clay confined thee,
The hands of the flame unbind thee!
O Soul! thou art free--all free!
As the winds in their ceaseless chase,
When they rush o'er their airy sea,
Thou mayst speed through the realms of space,
No fetter is forged for thee!
Rejoice! o'er the sluggard tide
Of the Styx thy bark can glide,
And thy steps evermore shall rove
Through the glades of the happy grove;
Where, far from the loath'd Cocytus,
The loved and the lost invite us.
Thou art slave to the earth no more!
O soul, thou art freed!--and we?--
Ah! when shall our toil be o'er?
Ah! when shall we rest with thee?
And now high and far into the dawning skies broke the fragrant fire; it
flushed luminously across the gloomy cypresses--it shot above the massive
walls of the neighboring city; and the early fisherman started to behold the
blaze reddening on the waves of the creeping sea.
But Ione sat down apart and alone, and, leaning her face upon her hands, saw
not the flame, nor heard the lamentation of the music: she felt only one
sense of loneliness--she had not yet arrived to that hallowing sense of
comfort, when we know that we are not alone--that the dead are with us!
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