’Away, away with the Atheist! away! the earth will swallow us, if we suffer these blasphemers in a sacred grove—away with him to death!’
‘To the beasts!’ added a female voice in the centre of the crowd; ’we shall have one a-piece now for the lion and tiger!’
’If, O Nazarene, thou disbelievest in Cybele, which of our gods dost thou own?’ resumed the soldier, unmoved by the cries around.
‘Hark to him! hark!’ cried the crowd.
‘O vain and blind!’ continued the Christian, raising his voice: ’can you believe in images of wood and stone? Do you imagine that they have eyes to see, or ears to hear, or hands to help ye? Is yon mute thing carved by man’s art a goddess!—hath it made mankind?—alas! by mankind was it made. Lo! convince yourself of its nothingness—of your folly.’
And as he spoke he strode across to the fane, and ere any of the bystanders were aware of his purpose, he, in his compassion or his zeal, struck the statue of wood from its pedestal.
‘See!’ cried he, ’your goddess cannot avenge herself. Is this a thing to worship?’
Further words were denied to him: so gross and daring a sacrilege—of one, too, of the most sacred of their places of worship—filled even the most lukewarm with rage and horror. With one accord the crowd rushed upon him, seized, and but for the interference of the centurion, they would have torn him to pieces.
‘Peace!’ said the soldier, authoritatively—’refer we this insolent blasphemer to the proper tribunal—time has been already wasted. Bear we both the culprits to the magistrates; place the body of the priest on the litter—carry it to his own home.’
At this moment a priest of Isis stepped forward. ’I claim these remains, according to the custom of the priesthood.’
‘The flamen be obeyed,’ said the centurion. ‘How is the murderer?’
‘Insensible or asleep.’
‘Were his crimes less, I could pity him. On!’
Arbaces, as he turned, met the eye of that priest of Isis—it was Calenus; and something there was in that glance, so significant and sinister, that the Egyptian muttered to himself:
‘Could he have witnessed the deed?’
A girl darted from the crowd, and gazed hard on the face of Olinthus. ’By Jupiter, a stout knave! I say, we shall have a man for the tiger now; one for each beast!’
‘Ho!’ shouted the mob; ’a man for the lion, and another for the tiger! What luck! Io Paean!’
In which the reader learns the condition of Glaucus. Friendship tested. Enmity softened. Love the same, because the one loving is blind.
The night was somewhat advanced, and the gay lounging places of the Pompeians were still crowded. You might observe in the countenances of the various idlers a more earnest expression than usual. They talked in large knots and groups, as if they sought by numbers to divide the half-painful, half-pleasurable anxiety which belonged to the subject on which they conversed: it was a subject of life and death.