Last Days of Pompeii eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 565 pages of information about Last Days of Pompeii.

‘All the gold of Dalmatia,’ cried he, ’will not buy thee a crust of bread.  Starve, wretch! thy dying groans will never wake even the echo of these vast halls; nor will the air ever reveal, as thou gnawest, in thy desperate famine, thy flesh from thy bones, that so perishes the man who threatened, and could have undone, Arbaces!  Farewell!’

‘Oh, pity—­mercy!  Inhuman villain; was it for this...’

The rest of the sentence was lost to the ear of Arbaces as he passed backward along the dim hall.  A toad, plump and bloated, lay unmoving before his path; the rays of the lamp fell upon its unshaped hideousness and red upward eye.  Arbaces turned aside that he might not harm it.

‘Thou art loathsome and obscene,’ he muttered, ’but thou canst not injure me; therefore thou art safe in my path.’

The cries of Calenus, dulled and choked by the barrier that confined him, yet faintly reached the ear of the Egyptian.  He paused and listened intently.

‘This is unfortunate,’ thought he; ’for I cannot sail till that voice is dumb for ever.  My stores and treasures lie, not in yon dungeon it is true, but in the opposite wing.  My slaves, as they move them, must not hear his voice.  But what fear of that?  In three days, if he still survive, his accents, by my father’s beard, must be weak enough, then!—­no, they could not pierce even through his tomb.  By Isis, it is cold!—­I long for a deep draught of the spiced Falernian.’

With that the remorseless Egyptian drew his gown closer round him, and resought the upper air.

Chapter XIV

Nydia accosts Calenus.

What words of terror, yet of hope, had Nydia overheard!  The next day Glaucus was to be condemned; yet there lived one who could save him, and adjudge Arbaces to his doom, and that one breathed within a few steps of her hiding-place!  She caught his cries and shrieks—­his imprecations—­his prayers, though they fell choked and muffled on her ear.  He was imprisoned, but she knew the secret of his cell:  could she but escape—­could she but seek the praetor he might yet in time be given to light, and preserve the Athenian.  Her emotions almost stifled her; her brain reeled—­she felt her sense give way—­but by a violent effort she mastered herself,—­and, after listening intently for several minutes, till she was convinced that Arbaces had left the space to solitude and herself, she crept on as her ear guided her to the very door that had closed upon Calenus.  Here she more distinctly caught his accents of terror and despair.  Thrice she attempted to speak, and thrice her voice failed to penetrate the folds of the heavy door.  At length finding the lock, she applied her lips to its small aperture, and the prisoner distinctly heard a soft tone breathe his name.

His blood curdled—­his hair stood on end.  That awful solitude, what mysterious and preternatural being could penetrate!  ‘Who’s there?’ he cried, in new alarm; ’what spectre—­what dread larva, calls upon the lost Calenus?’

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Last Days of Pompeii from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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