They hastened onward—those three. Alas! whither? They now saw not a step before them—the blackness became utter. They were encompassed with doubt and horror!—and the death he had escaped seemed to Glaucus only to have changed its form and augmented its victims.
Calenus and Burbo. Diomed and Clodius. The girl of the amphitheatre and Julia.
The sudden catastrophe which had, as it were, riven the very bonds of society, and left prisoner and jailer alike free, had soon rid Calenus of the guards to whose care the praetor had consigned him. And when the darkness and the crowd separated the priest from his attendants, he hastened with trembling steps towards the temple of his goddess. As he crept along, and ere the darkness was complete, he felt himself suddenly caught by the robe, and a voice muttered in his ear:
‘Hist!—Calenus!—an awful hour!’
’Ay! by my father’s head! Who art thou?—thy face is dim, and thy voice is strange.
‘Not know thy Burbo?—fie!’
’Gods!—how the darkness gathers! Ho, ho!—by yon terrific mountain, what sudden blazes of lightning!’—How they dart and quiver! Hades is loosed on earth!’
’Tush!—thou believest not these things, Calenus! Now is the time to make our fortune!’
’Listen! Thy temple is full of gold and precious mummeries!—let us load ourselves with them, and then hasten to the sea and embark! None will ever ask an account of the doings of this day.’
’Burbo, thou art right! Hush, and follow me into the temple. Who cares now—who sees now—whether thou art a priest or not? Follow, and we will share.’
In the precincts of the temple were many priests gathered around the altars, praying, weeping, grovelling in the dust. Impostors in safety, they were not the less superstitious in danger! Calenus passed them, and entered the chamber yet to be seen in the south side of the court. Burbo followed him—the priest struck a light. Wine and viands strewed the table; the remains of a sacrificial feast.
‘A man who has hungered forty-eight hours,’ muttered Calenus, ’has an appetite even in such a time.’ He seized on the food, and devoured it greedily. Nothing could perhaps, be more unnaturally horrid than the selfish baseness of these villains; for there is nothing more loathsome than the valor of avarice. Plunder and sacrilege while the pillars of the world tottered to and fro! What an increase to the terrors of nature can be made by the vices of man!
‘Wilt thou never have done?’ said Burbo, impatiently; ’thy face purples and thine eyes start already.’
’It is not every day one has such a right to be hungry. Oh, Jupiter! what sound is that?—the hissing of fiery water! What! does the cloud give rain as well as flame! Ha!—what! shrieks? And, Burbo, how silent all is now! Look forth!’