“The ashes now began to fall upon us, though in no great quantity. I turned my head and observed behind us a thick smoke, which came rolling after us like a torrent. I proposed, while we yet had any light, to turn out of the high road lest she should be pressed to death in the dark by the crowd that followed us. We had scarce stepped out of the path when darkness overspread us, not like that of a cloudy night, or when there is no moon, but of a room when it is all shut up and all the lights are extinct. Nothing then was to be heard but the shrieks of women, the screams of children and the cries of men; some calling for their children, others for their parents, others for their husbands, and only distinguishing each other by their voices; one lamenting his own fate, another that of his family; some wishing to die from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part imagining that the last and eternal night was come, which was to destroy the gods and the world together. Among them were some who augmented the real terrors by imaginary ones, and made the frighted multitude believe that Misenum was actually in flames.
“At length a glimmering light appeared, which we imagined to be rather the forerunner of an approaching burst of flames, as in truth it was, than the return of day. However, the fire fell at distance from us; then again we were immersed in thick darkness, and a heavy shower of ashes rained upon us, which we were obliged every now and then to shake off, otherwise we should have been crushed and buried in the heap.
“I might boast that, during all this scene of horror, not a sigh or expression of fear escaped me, had not my support been founded in that miserable, though strong, consolation that all mankind were involved in the same calamity, and that I imagined I was perishing with the world itself! At last this dreadful darkness was dissipated by degrees, like a cloud of smoke; the real day returned, and soon the sun appeared, though very faintly, and as when an eclipse is coming on. Every object that presented itself to our eyes (which were extremely weakened) seemed changed, being covered over with white ashes, as with a deep snow. We returned to Misenum, where we refreshed ourselves as well as we could, and passed an anxious night between hope and fear, for the earthquake still continued, while several greatly excited people ran up and down, heightening their own and their friends’ calamities by terrible predictions. However, my mother and I, notwithstanding the danger we had passed and that which still threatened us, had no thoughts of leaving the place till we should receive some account from my uncle.
“And now you will read this narrative without any view of inserting it in your history, of which it is by no means worthy; and, indeed, you must impute it to your own request if it shall not even deserve the trouble of a letter. Farewell!”