It was customary for men of rank to be accompanied to the shows of the amphitheatre by a procession of their slaves and freedmen; and the long ‘family’ of Arbaces were already arranged in order, to attend the litter of their lord.
Only, to their great chagrin, the slaves in attendance on Ione, and the worthy Sosia, as gaoler to Nydia, were condemned to remain at home.
‘Callias,’ said Arbaces, apart to his freedman, who was buckling on his girdle, ’I am weary of Pompeii; I propose to quit it in three days, should the wind favor. Thou knowest the vessel that lies in the harbor which belonged to Narses, of Alexandria; I have purchased it of him. The day after tomorrow we shall begin to remove my stores.’
’So soon! ‘Tis well. Arbaces shall be obeyed—and his ward, Ione?’
‘Accompanies me. Enough!—Is the morning fair?’
‘Dim and oppressive; it will probably be intensely hot in the forenoon.’
’The poor gladiators, and more wretched criminals! Descend, and see that the slaves are marshalled.’
Left alone, Arbaces stepped into his chamber of study, and thence upon the portico without. He saw the dense masses of men pouring fast into the amphitheatre, and heard the cry of the assistants, and the cracking of the cordage, as they were straining aloft the huge awning under which the citizens, molested by no discomforting ray, were to behold, at luxurious ease, the agonies of their fellow creatures. Suddenly a wild strange sound went forth, and as suddenly died away—it was the roar of the lion. There was a silence in the distant crowd; but the silence was followed by joyous laughter—they were making merry at the hungry impatience of the royal beast.
‘Brutes!’ muttered the disdainful Arbaces are ye less homicides than I am? I slay but in self-defence—ye make murder pastime.’
He turned with a restless and curious eye, towards Vesuvius. Beautifully glowed the green vineyards round its breast, and tranquil as eternity lay in the breathless skies the form of the mighty hill.
‘We have time yet, if the earthquake be nursing,’ thought Arbaces; and he turned from the spot. He passed by the table which bore his mystic scrolls and Chaldean calculations.
‘August art!’ he thought, ’I have not consulted thy decrees since I passed the danger and the crisis they foretold. What matter?—I know that henceforth all in my path is bright and smooth. Have not events already proved it? Away, doubt—away, pity! Reflect O my heart— reflect, for the future, but two images—Empire and Ione!’