Then there arose on high the universal shrieks of women; the men stared at each other, but were dumb. At that moment they felt the earth shake beneath their feet; the walls of the theatre trembled: and, beyond in the distance, they heard the crash of falling roofs; an instant more and the mountain-cloud seemed to roll towards them, dark and rapid, like a torrent; at the same time, it cast forth from its bosom a shower of ashes mixed with vast fragments of burning stone! Over the crushing vines—over the desolate streets—over the amphitheatre itself—far and wide—with many a mighty splash in the agitated sea—fell that awful shower!
No longer thought the crowd of justice or of Arbaces; safety for themselves was their sole thought. Each turned to fly—each dashing, pressing, crushing, against the other. Trampling recklessly over the fallen—amidst groans, and oaths, and prayers, and sudden shrieks, the enormous crowd vomited itself forth through the numerous passages. Whither should they fly? Some, anticipating a second earthquake, hastened to their homes to load themselves with their more costly goods, and escape while it was yet time; others, dreading the showers of ashes that now fell fast, torrent upon torrent, over the streets, rushed under the roofs of the nearest houses, or temples, or sheds—shelter of any kind—for protection from the terrors of the open air. But darker, and larger, and mightier, spread the cloud above them. It was a sudden and more ghastly Night rushing upon the realm of Noon!
The cell of the prisoner and the den of the dead. Grief unconscious of horror.
Stunned by his reprieve, doubting that he was awake, Glaucus had been led by the officers of the arena into a small cell within the walls of the theatre. They threw a loose robe over his form, and crowded round in congratulation and wonder. There was an impatient and fretful cry without the cell; the throng gave way, and the blind girl, led by some gentler hand, flung herself at the feet of Glaucus.
‘It is I who have saved thee,’ she sobbed; now let me die!’
‘Nydia, my child!—my preserver!’
’Oh, let me feel thy touch—thy breath! Yes, yes, thou livest! We are not too late! That dread door, methought it would never yield! and Calenus—oh! his voice was as the dying wind among tombs—we had to wait—gods! it seemed hours ere food and wine restored to him something of strength. But thou livest! thou livest yet! And I—I have saved thee!’
This affecting scene was soon interrupted by the event just described.
‘The mountain! the earthquake!’ resounded from side to side. The officers fled with the rest; they left Glaucus and Nydia to save themselves as they might.