Glaucus vainly endeavored to cheer the exhausted spirits of Ione; and scarce less vainly to recover the elastic tone of his own natural gaiety. They soon arrived before the gate of the city: as it opened to them, a litter borne by slaves impeded the way.
‘It is too late for egress,’ cried the sentinel to the inmate of the litter.
‘Not so,’ said a voice, which the lovers started to hear; it was a voice they well recognized. ’I am bound to the villa of Marcus Polybius. I shall return shortly. I am Arbaces the Egyptian.’
The scruples of him at the gate were removed, and the litter passed close beside the carriage that bore the lovers.
’Arbaces, at this hour!—scarce recovered too, methinks!—Whither and for what can he leave the city?’ said Glaucus.
‘Alas!’ replied Ione, bursting into tears, ’my soul feels still more and more the omen of evil. Preserve us, O ye Gods! or at least,’ she murmured inly, ‘preserve my Glaucus!’
The lord of the burning belt and his Minion. Fate writes her prophecy in red letters, but who shall read them?
Arbaces had tarried only till the cessation of the tempest allowed him, under cover of night, to seek the Saga of Vesuvius. Borne by those of his trustier slaves in whom in all more secret expeditions he was accustomed to confide, he lay extended along his litter, and resigning his sanguine heart to the contemplation of vengeance gratified and love possessed. The slaves in so short a journey moved very little slower than the ordinary pace of mules; and Arbaces soon arrived at the commencement of a narrow path, which the lovers had not been fortunate enough to discover; but which, skirting the thick vines, led at once to the habitation of the witch. Here he rested the litter; and bidding his slaves conceal themselves and the vehicle among the vines from the observation of any chance passenger, he mounted alone, with steps still feeble but supported by a long staff, the drear and sharp ascent.
Not a drop of rain fell from the tranquil heaven; but the moisture dripped mournfully from the laden boughs of the vine, and now and then collected in tiny pools in the crevices and hollows of the rocky way.
‘Strange passions these for a philosopher,’ thought Arbaces, ’that lead one like me just new from the bed of death, and lapped even in health amidst the roses of luxury, across such nocturnal paths as this; but Passion and Vengeance treading to their goal can make an Elysium of a Tartarus.’ High, clear, and melancholy shone the moon above the road of that dark wayfarer, glossing herself in every pool that lay before him, and sleeping in shadow along the sloping mount. He saw before him the same light that had guided the steps of his intended victims, but, no longer contrasted by the blackened clouds, it shone less redly clear.