‘So think the young philosophers of the Garden,’ replied the Egyptian; ’they mistake lassitude for meditation, and imagine that, because they are sated with others, they know the delight of loneliness. But not in such jaded bosoms can Nature awaken that enthusiasm which alone draws from her chaste reserve all her unspeakable beauty: she demands from you, not the exhaustion of passion, but all that fervor, from which you only seek, in adoring her, a release. When, young Athenian, the moon revealed herself in visions of light to Endymion, it was after a day passed, not amongst the feverish haunts of men, but on the still mountains and in the solitary valleys of the hunter.’
‘Beautiful simile!’ cried Glaucus; ’most unjust application! Exhaustion! that word is for age, not youth. By me, at least, one moment of satiety has never been known!’
Again the Egyptian smiled, but his smile was cold and blighting, and even the unimaginative Clodius froze beneath its light. He did not, however, reply to the passionate exclamation of Glaucus; but, after a pause, he said, in a soft and melancholy voice:
’After all, you do right to enjoy the hour while it smiles for you; the rose soon withers, the perfume soon exhales. And we, O Glaucus! strangers in the land and far from our fathers’ ashes, what is there left for us but pleasure or regret!—for you the first, perhaps for me the last.’
The bright eyes of the Greek were suddenly suffused with tears. ’Ah, speak not, Arbaces,’ he cried—’speak not of our ancestors. Let us forget that there were ever other liberties than those of Rome! And Glory!—oh, vainly would we call her ghost from the fields of Marathon and Thermopylae!’
‘Thy heart rebukes thee while thou speakest,’ said the Egyptian; ’and in thy gaieties this night, thou wilt be more mindful of Leoena than of Lais. Vale!’
Thus saying, he gathered his robe around him, and slowly swept away.
‘I breathe more freely,’ said Clodius. ’Imitating the Egyptians, we sometimes introduce a skeleton at our feasts. In truth, the presence of such an Egyptian as yon gliding shadow were spectre enough to sour the richest grape of the Falernian.’
’Strange man! said Glaucus, musingly; ’yet dead though he seem to pleasure, and cold to the objects of the world, scandal belies him, or his house and his heart could tell a different tale.’
’Ah! there are whispers of other orgies than those of Osiris in his gloomy mansion. He is rich, too, they say. Can we not get him amongst us, and teach him the charms of dice? Pleasure of pleasures! hot fever of hope and fear! inexpressible unjaded passion! how fiercely beautiful thou art, O Gaming!’
‘Inspired—inspired!’ cried Glaucus, laughing; ’the oracle speaks poetry in Clodius. What miracle next!’
Parentage of Glaucus. Description of the houses of Pompeii. Classic revel.