“Though it was now morning, the light was exceedingly faint and languid; the buildings all around us tottered; and, though we stood upon open ground, yet as the place was narrow and confined, there was no remaining there without certain and great danger: we therefore resolved to quit the town. The people followed us in the utmost consternation, and, as to a mind distracted with terror every suggestion seems more prudent than its own, pressed in great crowds about us in our way out.
“Being got to a convenient distance from the houses, we stood still, in the midst of a most dangerous and dreadful scene. The chariots which we had ordered to be drawn out were so agitated backwards and forwards, though upon the most level ground, that we could not keep them steady, even by supporting them with large stones. The sea seemed to roll back upon itself, and to be driven from its banks by the convulsive motion of the earth; it is certain at least that the shore was considerably enlarged, and many sea animals were left upon it. On the other side a black and dreadful cloud, bursting with an igneous serpentine vapor, darted out a long train of fire, resembling flashes of lightning, but much larger.
FEAR VERSUS COMPOSURE
“Upon this the Spanish friend whom I have mentioned, addressed himself to my mother and me with great warmth and earnestness; ’If your brother and your uncle,’ said he, ’is safe, he certainly wishes you to be so too; but if he has perished, it was his desire, no doubt, that you might both survive him: why therefore do you delay your escape a moment?’ We could never think of our own safety, we said, while we were uncertain of his. Hereupon our friend left us, and withdrew with the utmost precipitation. Soon afterward, the cloud seemed to descend, and cover the whole ocean; as it certainly did the island of Capreae, and the promontory of Misenum. My mother strongly conjured me to make my escape at any rate, which, as I was young, I might easily do; as for herself, she said, her age and corpulency rendered all attempts of that sort impossible. However, she would willingly meet death, if she could have the satisfaction of seeing that she was not the occasion of mine. But I absolutely refused to leave her, and taking her by the hand, I led her on; she complied with great reluctance, and not without many reproaches to herself for retarding my flight.