’Arbaces, replied Calenus, losing all the vulgar audacity of his natural character, ’verily thou art a Magician; thou readest the heart as it were a scroll.’
‘It is my vocation,’ answered the Egyptian, laughing gently. ’Well, then, forbear; and when all is over, I will make thee rich.’
‘Pardon me,’ said the priest, as the quick suggestion of that avarice, which was his master-passion, bade him trust no future chance of generosity; ’pardon me; thou saidst right—we know each other. If thou wouldst have me silent, thou must pay something in advance, as an offer to Harpocrates.’ If the rose, sweet emblem of discretion, is to take root firmly, water her this night with a stream of gold.’
‘Witty and poetical!’ answered Arbaces, still in that bland voice which lulled and encouraged, when it ought to have alarmed and checked, his griping comrade. ‘Wilt thou not wait the morrow?’
’Why this delay? Perhaps, when I can no longer give my testimony without shame for not having given it ere the innocent man suffered, thou wilt forget my claim; and, indeed, thy present hesitation is a bad omen of thy future gratitude.’
‘Well, then, Calenus, what wouldst thou have me pay thee?’
‘Thy life is, very precious, and thy wealth is very great,’ returned the priest, grinning.
‘Wittier and more witty. But speak out—what shall be the sum?’
’Arbaces, I have heard that in thy secret treasury below, beneath those rude Oscan arches which prop thy stately halls, thou hast piles of gold, of vases, and of jewels, which might rival the receptacles of the wealth of the deified Nero. Thou mayst easily spare out of those piles enough to make Calenus among the richest priests of Pompeii, and yet not miss the loss.’
‘Come, Calenus,’ said Arbaces, winningly, and with a frank and generous air, ’thou art an old friend, and hast been a faithful servant. Thou canst have no wish to take away my life, nor I a desire to stint thy reward: thou shalt descend with me to that treasury thou referrest to, thou shalt feast thine eyes with the blaze of uncounted gold and the sparkle of priceless gems; and thou shalt for thy own reward, bear away with thee this night as much as thou canst conceal beneath thy robes. Nay, when thou hast once seen what thy friend possesses, thou wilt learn how foolish it would be to injure one who has so much to bestow. When Glaucus is no more, thou shalt pay the treasury another visit. Speak I frankly and as a friend?’
‘Oh, greatest, best of men!’ cried Calenus, almost weeping with joy, ’canst thou thus forgive my injurious doubts of thy justice, thy generosity?’
‘Hush! one other turn and we will descend to the Oscan arches.’
The slave consults the oracle. They who blind themselves the blind may fool. Two new prisoners made in one night.