The Last Days of Pompeii
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
Part 9 out of 9
temple. He bore her to the remoter and more sheltered part of the portico,
and leaned over her, that he might shield her, with his own form, from the
lightning and the showers! The beauty and the unselfishness of love could
hallow even that dismal time!
'Who is there?' said the trembling and hollow voice of one who had preceded
them in their place of refuge. 'Yet, what matters?--the crush of the ruined
world forbids to us friends or foes.'
Ione turned at the sound of the voice, and, with a faint shriek, cowered
again beneath the arms of Glaucus: and he, looking in the direction of the
voice, beheld the cause of her alarm. Through the darkness glared forth two
burning eyes--the lightning flashed and lingered athwart the temple--and
Glaucus, with a shudder, perceived the lion to which he had been doomed
couched beneath the pillars--and, close beside it, unwitting of the
vicinity, lay the giant form of him who had accosted them--the wounded
That lightning had revealed to each other the form of beast and man; yet the
instinct of both was quelled. Nay, the lion crept nearer and nearer to the
gladiator, as for companionship; and the gladiator did not recede or
tremble. The revolution of Nature had dissolved her lighter terrors as well
as her wonted ties.
While they were thus terribly protected, a group of men and women, bearing
torches, passed by the temple. They were of the congregation of the
Nazarenes; and a sublime and unearthly emotion had not, indeed, quelled
their awe, but it had robbed awe of fear. They had long believed, according
to the error of the early Christians, that the Last Day was at hand; they
imagined now that the Day had come.
'Woe! woe!' cried, in a shrill and piercing voice, the elder at their head.
'Behold! the Lord descendeth to judgment! He maketh fire come down from
heaven in the sight of men! Woe! woe! ye strong and mighty! Woe to ye of
the fasces and the purple! Woe to the idolater and the worshipper of the
beast! Woe to ye who pour forth the blood of saints, and gloat over the
death-pangs of the sons of God! Woe to the harlot of the sea!--woe! woe!'
And with a loud and deep chorus, the troop chanted forth along the wild
horrors of the air, 'Woe to the harlot of the sea!--woe! woe!'
The Nazarenes paced slowly on, their torches still flickering in the storm,
their voices still raised in menace and solemn warning, till, lost amid the
windings in the streets, the darkness of the atmosphere and the silence of
death again fell over the scene.
There was one of the frequent pauses in the showers, and Glaucus encouraged
Ione once more to proceed. just as they stood, hesitating, on the last step
of the portico, an old man, with a bag in his right hand and leaning upon a
youth, tottered by. The youth bore a torch. Glaucus recognized the two as
father and son--miser and prodigal.
'Father,' said the youth, 'if you cannot move more swiftly, I must leave
you, or we both perish!'
'Fly, boy, then, and leave thy sire!'
'But I cannot fly to starve; give me thy bag of gold!' And the youth
snatched at it.
'Wretch! wouldst thou rob thy father?'
'Ay! who can tell the tale in this hour? Miser, perish!'
The boy struck the old man to the ground, plucked the bag from his relaxing
hand, and fled onward with a shrill yell.
'Ye gods!' cried Glaucus: 'are ye blind, then, even in the dark? Such crimes
may well confound the guiltless with the guilty in one common ruin. Ione,
ARBACES ENCOUNTERS GLAUCUS AND IONE.
ADVANCING, as men grope for escape in a dungeon, Ione and her lover
continued their uncertain way. At the moments when the volcanic lightnings
lingered over the streets, they were enabled, by that awful light, to steer
and guide their progress: yet, little did the view it presented to them
cheer or encourage their path. In parts, where the ashes lay dry and
uncommixed with the boiling torrents, cast upward from the mountain at
capricious intervals, the surface of the earth presented a leprous and
ghastly white. In other places, cinder and rock lay matted in heaps, from
beneath which emerged the half-hid limbs of some crushed and mangled
fugitive. The groans of the dying were broken by wild shrieks of women's
terror--now near, now distant--which, when heard in the utter darkness, were
rendered doubly appalling by the crushing sense of helplessness and the
uncertainty of the perils around; and clear and distinct through all were
the mighty and various noises from the Fatal Mountain; its rushing winds;
its whirling torrents; and, from time to time, the burst and roar of some
more fiery and fierce explosion. And ever as the winds swept howling along
the street, they bore sharp streams of burning dust, and such sickening and
poisonous vapors, as took away, for the instant, breath and consciousness,
followed by a rapid revulsion of the arrested blood, and a tingling
sensation of agony trembling through every nerve and fibre of the frame.
'Oh, Glaucus! my beloved! my own!--take me to thy arms! One embrace! let me
feel thy arms around me--and in that embrace let me die--I can no more!'
'For my sake, for my life--courage, yet, sweet Ione--my life is linked with
thine: and see--torches--this way! Lo! how they brave the Wind! Ha! they
live through the storm--doubtless, fugitives to the sea! we will join them.'
As if to aid and reanimate the lovers, the winds and showers came to a
sudden pause; the atmosphere was profoundly still--the mountain seemed at
rest, gathering, perhaps, fresh fury for its next burst; the torch-bearers
moved quickly on. 'We are nearing the sea,' said, in a calm voice, the
person at their head. 'Liberty and wealth to each slave who survives this
day! Courage! I tell you that the gods themselves have assured me of
Redly and steadily the torches flashed full on the eyes of Glaucus and Ione,
who lay trembling and exhausted on his bosom. Several slaves were bearing,
by the light, panniers and coffers, heavily laden; in front of them--a drawn
sword in his hand--towered the lofty form of Arbaces.
'By my fathers!' cried the Egyptian, 'Fate smiles upon me even through these
horrors, and, amidst the dreadest aspects of woe and death, bodes me
happiness and love. Away, Greek! I claim my ward, Ione!'
'Traitor and murderer!' cried Glaucus, glaring upon his foe, 'Nemesis hath
guided thee to my revenge!--a just sacrifice to the shades of Hades, that
now seem loosed on earth. Approach--touch but the hand of Ione, and thy
weapon shall be as a reed--I will tear thee limb from limb!'
Suddenly, as he spoke, the place became lighted with an intense and lurid
glow. Bright and gigantic through the darkness, which closed around it like
the walls of hell, the mountain shone--a pile of fire! Its summit seemed
riven in two; or rather, above its surface there seemed to rise two monster
shapes, each confronting each, as Demons contending for a world. These were
of one deep blood-red hue of fire, which lighted up the whole atmosphere far
and wide; but, below, the nether part of the mountain was still dark and
shrouded, save in three places, adown which flowed, serpentine and
irregular, rivers of the molten lava. Darkly red through the profound gloom
of their banks, they flowed slowly on, as towards the devoted city. Over the
broadest there seemed to spring a cragged and stupendous arch, from which,
as from the jaws of hell, gushed the sources of the sudden Phlegethon. And
through the stilled air was heard the rattling of the fragments of rock,
hurtling one upon another as they were borne down the fiery
cataracts--darkening, for one instant, the spot where they fell, and
suffused the next, in the burnished hues of the flood along which they
The slaves shrieked aloud, and, cowering, hid their faces. The Egyptian
himself stood transfixed to the spot, the glow lighting up his commanding
features and jewelled robes. High behind him rose a tall column that
supported the bronze statue of Augustus; and the imperial image seemed
changed to a shape of fire!
With his left hand circled round the form of Ione--with his right arm raised
in menace, and grasping the stilus which was to have been his weapon in the
arena, and which he still fortunately bore about him, with his brow knit,
his lips apart, the wrath and menace of human passions arrested as by a
charm, upon his features, Glaucus fronted the Egyptian!
Arbaces turned his eyes from the mountain--they rested on the form of
Glaucus! He paused a moment: 'Why,' he muttered, 'should I hesitate? Did
not the stars foretell the only crisis of imminent peril to which I was
subjected?--Is not that peril past?'
'The soul,' cried he aloud, 'can brave the wreck of worlds and the wrath of
imaginary gods! By that soul will I conquer to the last! Advance,
slaves!--Athenian, resist me, and thy blood be on thine own head! Thus,
then, I regain Ione!'
He advanced one step--it was his last on earth! The ground shook beneath
him with a convulsion that cast all around upon its surface. A simultaneous
crash resounded through the city, as down toppled many a roof and
pillar!--the lightning, as if caught by the metal, lingered an instant on
the Imperial Statue--then shivered bronze and column! Down fell the ruin,
echoing along the street, and riving the solid pavement where it
crashed!--The prophecy of the stars was fulfilled!
The sound--the shock, stunned the Athenian for several moments. When he
recovered, the light still illuminated the scene--the earth still slid and
trembled beneath! Ione lay senseless on the ground; but he saw her not
yet--his eyes were fixed upon a ghastly face that seemed to emerge, without
limbs or trunk, from the huge fragments of the shattered column--a face of
unutterable pain, agony, and despair! The eyes shut and opened rapidly, as
if sense were not yet fled; the lips quivered and grinned--then sudden
stillness and darkness fell over the features, yet retaining that aspect of
horror never to be forgotten!
So perished the wise Magician--the great Arbaces--the Hermes of the Burning
Belt--the last of the royalty of Egypt!
THE DESPAIR OF THE LOVERS. THE CONDITION OF THE MULTITUDE.
GLAUCUS turned in gratitude but in awe, caught Ione once more in his arms,
and fled along the street, that was yet intensely luminous. But suddenly a
duller shade fell over the air. Instinctively he turned to the mountain,
and beheld! one of the two gigantic crests, into which the summit had been
divided, rocked and wavered to and fro; and then, with a sound, the
mightiness of which no language can describe, it fell from its burning base,
and rushed, an avalanche of fire, down the sides of the mountain! At the
same instant gushed forth a volume of blackest smoke--rolling on, over air,
sea, and earth.
Another--and another--and another shower of ashes, far more profuse than
before, scattered fresh desolation along the streets. Darkness once more
wrapped them as a veil; and Glaucus, his bold heart at last quelled and
despairing, sank beneath the cover of an arch, and, clasping Ione to his
heart--a bride on that couch of ruin--resigned himself to die.
Meanwhile Nydia, when separated by the throng from Glaucus and Ione, had in
vain endeavored to regain them. In vain she raised that plaintive cry so
peculiar to the blind; it was lost amidst a thousand shrieks of more selfish
terror. Again and again she returned to the spot where they had been
divided--to find her companions gone, to seize every fugitive--to inquire of
Glaucus--to be dashed aside in the impatience of distraction. Who in that
hour spared one thought to his neighbor? Perhaps in scenes of universal
horror, nothing is more horrid than the unnatural selfishness they engender.
At length it occurred to Nydia, that as it had been resolved to seek the
sea-shore for escape, her most probable chance of rejoining her companions
would be to persevere in that direction. Guiding her steps, then, by the
staff which she always carried, she continued, with incredible dexterity, to
avoid the masses of ruin that encumbered the path--to thread the
streets--and unerringly (so blessed now was that accustomed darkness, so
afflicting in ordinary life!) to take the nearest direction to the sea-side.
Poor girl!--her courage was beautiful to behold!--and Fate seemed to favor
one so helpless! The boiling torrents touched her not, save by the general
rain which accompanied them; the huge fragments of scoria shivered the
pavement before and beside her, but spared that frail form: and when the
lesser ashes fell over her, she shook them away with a slight tremor,' and
dauntlessly resumed her course.
Weak, exposed, yet fearless, supported but by one wish, she was a very
emblem of Psyche in her wanderings; of Hope, walking through the Valley of
the Shadow; of the Soul itself--lone but undaunted, amidst the dangers and
the snares of life!
Her path was, however, constantly impeded by the crowds that now groped
amidst the gloom, now fled in the temporary glare of the lightnings across
the scene; and, at length, a group of torch-bearers rushing full against
her, she was thrown down with some violence.
'What!' said the voice of one of the party, 'is this the brave blind girl!
By Bacchus, she must not be left here to die! Up, my Thessalian! So--so.
Are you hurt? That's well! Come along with us! we are for the shore!'
'O Sallust! it is thy voice! The gods be thanked! Glaucus! Glaucus!
Glaucus! have ye seen him?'
'Not I. He is doubtless out of the city by this time. The gods who saved
him from the lion will save him from the burning mountain.'
As the kindly epicure thus encouraged Nydia, he drew her along with him
towards the sea, heeding not her passionate entreaties that he would linger
yet awhile to search for Glaucus; and still, in the accent of despair, she
continued to shriek out that beloved name, which, amidst all the roar of the
convulsed elements, kept alive a music at her heart.
The sudden illumination, the bursts of the floods of lava, and the
earthquake, which we have already described, chanced when Sallust and his
party had just gained the direct path leading from the city to the port; and
here they were arrested by an immense crowd, more than half the population
of the city. They spread along the field without the walls, thousands upon
thousands, uncertain whither to fly. The sea had retired far from the
shore; and they who had fled to it had been so terrified by the agitation
and preternatural shrinking of the element, the gasping forms of the uncouth
sea things which the waves had left upon the sand, and by the sound of the
huge stones cast from the mountain into the deep, that they had returned
again to the land, as presenting the less frightful aspect of the two. Thus
the two streams of human beings, the one seaward, the other from the sea,
had met together, feeling a sad comfort in numbers; arrested in despair and
'The world is to be destroyed by fire,' said an old man in long loose robes,
a philosopher of the Stoic school: 'Stoic and Epicurean wisdom have alike
agreed in this prediction: and the hour is come!'
'Yea; the hour is come!' cried a loud voice, solemn, but not fearful.
Those around turned in dismay. The voice came from above them. It was the
voice of Olinthus, who, surrounded by his Christian friends, stood upon an
abrupt eminence on which the old Greek colonists had raised a temple to
Apollo, now timeworn and half in ruin.
As he spoke there came that sudden illumination which had heralded the death
of Arbaces, and glowing over that mighty multitude, awed, crouching,
breathless--never on earth had the faces of men seemed so haggard!--never
had meeting of mortal beings been so stamped with the horror and sublimity
of dread!--never till the last trumpet sounds, shall such meeting be seen
again! And above those the form of Olinthus, with outstretched arm and
prophet brow, girt with the living fires. And the crowd knew the face of
him they had doomed to the fangs of the beast--then their victim--now their
warner! and through the stillness again came his ominous voice:
'The hour is come!'
The Christians repeated the cry. It was caught up--it was echoed from side
to side--woman and man, childhood and old age, repeated, not aloud, but in a
smothered and dreary murmur:
'THE HOUR IS COME!'
At that moment, a wild yell burst through the air--and, thinking only of
escape, whither it knew not, the terrible tiger of the desert leaped amongst
the throng, and hurried through its parted streams. And so came the
earthquake--and so darkness once more fell over the earth!
And now new fugitives arrived. Grasping the treasures no longer destined
for their lord, the slaves of Arbaces joined the throng. One only of all
their torches yet flickered on. It was borne by Sosia; and its light
falling on the face of Nydia, he recognized the Thessalian.
'What avails thy liberty now, blind girl?' said the slave.
'Who art thou? canst thou tell me of Glaucus?'
'Ay; I saw him but a few minutes since.'
'Blessed be thy head! where?'
'Crouched beneath the arch of the forum--dead or dying!--gone to rejoin
Arbaces, who is no more!'
Nydia uttered not a word, she slid from the side of Sallust; silently she
glided through those behind her, and retraced her steps to the city. She
gained the forum--the arch; she stooped down--she felt around--she called on
the name of Glaucus.
A weak voice answered--'Who calls on me? Is it the voice of the Shades?
Lo! I am prepared!'
'Arise! follow me! Take my hand! Glaucus, thou shalt be saved!'
In wonder and sudden hope, Glaucus arose--'Nydia still? Ah! thou, then, art
The tender joy of his voice pierced the heart of the poor Thessalian, and
she blessed him for his thought of her.
Half leading, half carrying Ione, Glaucus followed his guide. With
admirable discretion, she avoided the path which led to the crowd she had
just quitted, and, by another route, sought the shore.
After many pauses and incredible perseverance, they gained the sea, and
joined a group, who, bolder than the rest, resolved to hazard any peril
rather than continue in such a scene. In darkness they put forth to sea;
but, as they cleared the land and caught new aspects of the mountain, its
channels of molten fire threw a partial redness over the waves.
Utterly exhausted and worn out, Ione slept on the breast of Glaucus, and
Nydia lay at his feet. Meanwhile the showers of dust and ashes, still borne
aloft, fell into the wave, and scattered their snows over the deck. Far and
wide, borne by the winds, those showers descended upon the remotest climes,
startling even the swarthy African; and whirled along the antique soil of
Syria and of Egypt (Dion Cassius).
THE NEXT MORNING. THE FATE OF NYDIA.
AND meekly, softly, beautifully, dawned at last the light over the trembling
deep!--the winds were sinking into rest--the foam died from the glowing
azure of that delicious sea. Around the east, thin mists caught gradually
the rosy hues that heralded the morning; Light was about to resume her
reign. Yet, still, dark and massive in the distance, lay the broken
fragments of the destroying cloud, from which red streaks, burning dimlier
and more dim, betrayed the yet rolling fires of the mountain of the
'Scorched Fields'. The white walls and gleaming columns that had adorned
the lovely coasts were no more. Sullen and dull were the shores so lately
crested by the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The darlings of the deep
were snatched from her embrace! Century after century shall the mighty
Mother stretch forth her azure arms, and know them not--moaning round the
sepulchres of the Lost!
There was no shout from the mariners at the dawning light--it had come too
gradually, and they were too wearied for such sudden bursts of joy--but
there was a low, deep murmur of thankfulness amidst those watchers of the
long night. They looked at each other and smiled--they took heart--they
felt once more that there was a world around, and a God above them! And in
the feeling that the worst was passed, the overwearied ones turned round,
and fell placidly to sleep. In the growing light of the skies there came the
silence which night had wanted: and the bark drifted calmly onward to its
port. A few other vessels, bearing similar fugitives, might be seen in the
expanse, apparently motionless, yet gliding also on. There was a sense of
security, of companionship, and of hope, in the sight of their slender masts
and white sails. What beloved friends, lost and missed in the gloom, might
they not bear to safety and to shelter!
In the silence of the general sleep, Nydia rose gently. She bent over the
face of Glaucus--she inhaled the deep breath of his heavy slumber--timidly
and sadly she kissed his brow--his lips; she felt for his hand--it was
locked in that of Ione; she sighed deeply, and her face darkened. Again she
kissed his brow, and with her hair wiped from it the damps of night. 'May
the gods bless you, Athenian!' she murmured: 'may you be happy with your
beloved one!--may you sometimes remember Nydia! Alas! she is of no further
use on earth!'
With these words she turned away. Slowly she crept along by the fori, or
platforms, to the farther side of the vessel, and, pausing, bent low over
the deep; the cool spray dashed upward on her feverish brow. 'It is the
kiss of death,' she said 'it is welcome.' The balmy air played through her
waving tresses--she put them from her face, and raised those eyes--so
tender, though so lightless--to the sky, whose soft face she had never seen!
'No, no!' she said, half aloud, and in a musing and thoughtful tone, 'I
cannot endure it; this jealous, exacting love--it shatters my whole soul in
madness! I might harm him again--wretch that I was! I have saved
him--twice saved him--happy, happy thought: why not die happy?--it is the
last glad thought I can ever know. Oh! sacred Sea! I hear thy voice
invitingly--it hath a freshening and joyous call. They say that in thy
embrace is dishonour--that thy victims cross not the fatal Styx--be it
so!--I would not meet him in the Shades, for I should meet him still with
her! Rest--rest--rest! there is no other Elysium for a heart like mine!'
A sailor, half dozing on the deck, heard a slight splash on the waters.
Drowsily he looked up, and behind, as the vessel merrily bounded on, he
fancied he saw something white above the waves; but it vanished in an
instant. He turned round again, and dreamed of his home and children.
When the lovers awoke, their first thought was of each other--their next of
Nydia! She was not to be found--none had seen her since the night. Every
crevice of the vessel was searched--there was no trace of her. Mysterious
from first to last, the blind Thessalian had vanished for ever from the
living world! They guessed her fate in silence: and Glaucus and Ione, while
they drew nearer to each other (feeling each other the world itself), forgot
their deliverance, and wept as for a departed sister.
Chapter the Last
WHEREIN ALL THINGS CEASE LETTER FROM GLAUCUS TO SALLUST, TEN YEARS AFTER THE
DESTRUCTION OF POMPEII.
GLAUCUS to his beloved Sallust--greeting and health!--You request me to
visit you at Rome--no, Sallust, come rather to me at Athens! I have
forsworn the Imperial City, its mighty tumult and hollow joys. In my own
land henceforth I dwell for ever. The ghost of our departed greatness is
dearer to me than the gaudy life of your loud prosperity. There is a charm
to me which no other spot can supply, in the porticoes hallowed still by
holy and venerable shades. In the olive-groves of Ilyssus I still hear the
voice of poetry--on the heights of Phyle, the clouds of twilight seem yet
the shrouds of departed freedom--the heralds--the heralds--of the morrow
that shall come! You smile at my enthusiasm, Sallust!--better be hopeful in
chains than resigned to their glitter. You tell me you are sure that I
cannot enjoy life in these melancholy haunts of a fallen majesty. You dwell
with rapture on the Roman splendors, and the luxuries of the imperial court.
My Sallust--"non sum qualis eram"--I am not what I was! The events of my
life have sobered the bounding blood of my youth. My health has never quite
recovered its wonted elasticity ere it felt the pangs of disease, and
languished in the damps of a criminal's dungeon. My mind has never shaken
off the dark shadow of the Last Day of Pompeii--the horror and the
desolation of that awful ruin!--Our beloved, our remembered Nydia! I have
reared a tomb to her shade, and I see it every day from the window of my
study. It keeps alive in me a tender recollection--a not unpleasing
sadness--which are but a fitting homage to her fidelity, and the
mysteriousness of her early death. Ione gathers the flowers, but my own
hand wreathes them daily around the tomb. She was worthy of a tomb in
'You speak of the growing sect of the Christians in Rome. Sallust, to you I
may confide my secret; I have pondered much over that faith--I have adopted
it. After the destruction of Pompeii, I met once more with Olinthus--saved,
alas! only for a day, and falling afterwards a martyr to the indomitable
energy of his zeal. In my preservation from the lion and the earthquake he
taught me to behold the hand of the unknown God! I
listened--believed--adored! My own, my more than ever beloved Ione, has
also embraced the creed!--a creed, Sallust, which, shedding light over this
world, gathers its concentrated glory, like a sunset, over the next! We
know that we are united in the soul, as in the flesh, for ever and for ever!
Ages may roll on, our very dust be dissolved, the earth shrivelled like a
scroll; but round and round the circle of eternity rolls the wheel of
life--imperishable--unceasing! And as the earth from the sun, so
immortality drinks happiness from virtue, which is the smile upon the face
of God! Visit me, then, Sallust; bring with you the learned scrolls of
Epicurus, Pythagoras, Diogenes; arm yourself for defeat; and let us, amidst
the groves of Academus, dispute, under a surer guide than any granted to our
fathers, on the mighty problem of the true ends of life and the nature of
'Ione--at that name my heart yet beats!--Ione is by my side as I write: I
lift my eyes, and meet her smile. The sunlight quivers over Hymettus: and
along my garden I hear the hum of the summer bees. Am I happy, ask you?
Oh, what can Rome give me equal to what I possess at Athens? Here,
everything awakens the soul and inspires the affections--the trees, the
waters, the hills, the skies, are those of Athens!--fair, though
mourning-mother of the Poetry and the Wisdom of the World. In my hall I see
the marble faces of my ancestors. In the Ceramicus, I survey their tombs!
In the streets, I behold the hand of Phidias and the soul of Pericles.
Harmodius, Aristogiton--they are everywhere--but in our hearts!--in mine, at
least, they shall not perish! If anything can make me forget that I am an
Athenian and not free, it is partly the soothing--the love--watchful, vivid,
sleepless--of Ione--a love that has taken a new sentiment in our new
creed--a love which none of our poets, beautiful though they be, had
shadowed forth in description; for mingled with religion, it partakes of
religion; it is blended with pure and unworldly thoughts; it is that which
we may hope to carry through eternity, and keep, therefore, white and
unsullied, that we may not blush to confess it to our God! This is the true
type of the dark fable of our Grecian Eros and Psyche--it is, in truth, the
soul asleep in the arms of love. And if this, our love, support me partly
against the fever of the desire for freedom, my religion supports me more;
for whenever I would grasp the sword and sound the shell, and rush to a new
Marathon (but Marathon without victory), I feel my despair at the chilling
thought of my country's impotence--the crushing weight of the Roman yoke,
comforted, at least, by the thought that earth is but the beginning of
life--that the glory of a few years matters little in the vast space of
eternity--that there is no perfect freedom till the chains of clay fall from
the soul, and all space, all time, become its heritage and domain. Yet,
Sallust, some mixture of the soft Greek blood still mingles with my faith.
I can share not the zeal of those who see crime and eternal wrath in men who
cannot believe as they. I shudder not at the creed of others. I dare not
curse them--I pray the Great Father to convert. This lukewarmness exposes
me to some suspicion amongst the Christians: but I forgive it; and, not
offending openly the prejudices of the crowd, I am thus enabled to protect
my brethren from the danger of the law, and the consequences of their own
zeal. If moderation seem to me the natural creature of benevolence, it
gives, also, the greatest scope to beneficence.
'Such, then, O Sallust! is my life--such my opinions. In this manner I
greet existence and await death. And thou, glad-hearted and kindly pupil of
Epicurus, thou... But come hither, and see what enjoyments, what hopes are
ours--and not the splendor of imperial banquets, nor the shouts of the
crowded circus, nor the noisy forum, nor the glittering theatre, nor the
luxuriant gardens, nor the voluptuous baths of Rome--shall seem to thee to
constitute a life of more vivid and uninterrupted happiness than that which
thou so unreasonably pitiest as the career of Glaucus the
Nearly Seventeen Centuries had rolled away when the City of Pompeii was
disinterred from its silent tomb, all vivid with undimmed hues; its walls
fresh as if painted yesterday--not a hue faded on the rich mosaic of its
floors--in its forum the half-finished columns as left by the workman's
hand--in its gardens the sacrificial tripod--in its halls the chest of
treasure--in its baths the strigil--in its theatres the counter of
admission--in its saloons the furniture and the lamp--in its triclinia the
fragments of the last feast--in its cubicula the perfumes and the rouge of
faded beauty--and everywhere the bones and skeletons of those who once moved
the springs of that minute yet gorgeous machine of luxury and of life! In
the house of Diomed, in the subterranean vaults, twenty skeletons (one of a
babe) were discovered in one spot by the door, covered by a fine ashen dust,
that had evidently been wafted slowly through the apertures, until it had
filled the whole space. There were jewels and coins, candelabra for
unavailing light, and wine hardened in the amphorae for a prolongation of
agonized life. The sand, consolidated by damps, had taken the forms of the
skeletons as in a cast; and the traveler may yet see the impression of a
female neck and bosom of young and round proportions--the trace of the fated
Julia! It seems to the inquirer as if the air had been gradually changed
into a sulphurous vapor; the inmates of the vaults had rushed to the door,
to find it closed and blocked up by the scoria without, and in their
attempts to force it, had been suffocated with the atmosphere.
In the garden was found a skeleton with a key by its bony hand, and near it
a bag of coins. This is believed to have been the master of the house--the
unfortunate Diomed, who had probably sought to escape by the garden, and
been destroyed either by the vapors or some fragment of stone. Beside some
silver vases lay another skeleton, probably of a slave.
The houses of Sallust and of Pansa, the Temple of Isis, with the juggling
concealments behind the statues--the lurking-place of its holy oracles--are
now bared to the gaze of the curious. In one of the chambers of that temple
was found a huge skeleton with an axe beside it: two walls had been pierced
by the axe--the victim could penetrate no farther. In the midst of the city
was found another skeleton, by the side of which was a heap of coins, and
many of the mystic ornaments of the fane of Isis. Death had fallen upon him
in his avarice, and Calenus perished simultaneously with Burbo! As the
excavators cleared on through the mass of ruin, they found the skeleton of a
man literally severed in two by a prostrate column; the skull was of so
striking a conformation, so boldly marked in its intellectual as well as its
worse physical developments, that it has excited the constant speculation of
every itinerant believer in the theories of Spurzheim who has gazed upon
that ruined palace of the mind. Still, after the lapse of ages, the
traveler may survey that airy hall within whose cunning galleries and
elaborate chambers once thought, reasoned, dreamed, and sinned, the soul
of Arbaces the Egyptian.
Viewing the various witnesses of a social system which has passed
from the world for ever---a stranger, from that remote and barbarian
Isle which the Imperial Roman shivered when he named, paused amidst
the delights of the soft Campania and composed this history!
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