‘Of Egypt?—yes!’ said Nydia, shuddering. ’What Pompeian has not heard of Arbaces?’
‘Arbaces! true,’ replied Julia, grasping at the recollection. ’They say he is a man above all the petty and false impostures of dull pretenders—that he is versed in the learning of the stars, and the secrets of the ancient Nox; why not in the mysteries of love?’
’If there be one magician living whose art is above that of others, it is that dread man,’ answered Nydia; and she felt her talisman while she spoke.
‘He is too wealthy to divine for money?’ continued Julia, sneeringly. ‘Can I not visit him?’
‘It is an evil mansion for the young and the beautiful,’ replied Nydia. ‘I have heard, too, that he languishes in...’
‘An evil mansion!’ said Julia, catching only the first sentence. ’Why so?’
’The orgies of his midnight leisure are impure and polluted—at least, so says rumor.’
’By Ceres, by Pan, and by Cybele! thou dost but provoke my curiosity, instead of exciting my fears,’ returned the wayward and pampered Pompeian. ’I will seek and question him of his lore. If to these orgies love be admitted—why the more likely that he knows its secrets!’
Nydia did not answer.
‘I will seek him this very day,’ resumed Julia; ’nay, why not this very hour?’
’At daylight, and in his present state, thou hast assuredly the less to fear,’ answered Nydia, yielding to her own sudden and secret wish to learn if the dark Egyptian were indeed possessed of those spells to rivet and attract love, of which the Thessalian had so often heard.
‘And who dare insult the rich daughter of Diomed?’ said Julia, haughtily. ‘I will go.’
‘May I visit thee afterwards to learn the result?’ asked Nydia, anxiously.
‘Kiss me for thy interest in Julia’s honour,’ answered the lady. ’Yes, assuredly. This eve we sup abroad—come hither at the same hour to-morrow, and thou shalt know all: I may have to employ thee too; but enough for the present. Stay, take this bracelet for the new thought thou hast inspired me with; remember, if thou servest Julia, she is grateful and she is generous.’
‘I cannot take thy present,’ said Nydia, putting aside the bracelet; ’but young as I am, I can sympathize unbought with those who love—and love in vain.’
‘Sayest thou so!’ returned Julia. ’Thou speakest like a free woman—and thou shalt yet be free—farewell!’
Julia seeks Arbaces. The result of that interview.
Arbaces was seated in a chamber which opened on a kind of balcony or portico that fronted his garden. His cheek was pale and worn with the sufferings he had endured, but his iron frame had already recovered from the severest effects of that accident which had frustrated his fell designs in the moment of victory. The air that came fragrantly to his brow revived his languid senses, and the blood circulated more freely than it had done for days through his shrunken veins.