’Three happy days—days of unspeakable delight, have I known since I passed thee—blessed threshold! may peace dwell ever with thee when I am gone! And now, my heart tears itself from thee, and the only sound it utters bids me—die!’
The happy beauty and the blind slave.
A slave entered the chamber of Ione. A messenger from Glaucus desired to be admitted.
Ione hesitated an instant.
‘She is blind, that messenger,’ said the slave; ’she will do her commission to none but thee.’
Base is that heart which does not respect affliction! The moment she heard the messenger was blind, Ione felt the impossibility of returning a chilling reply. Glaucus had chosen a herald that was indeed sacred—a herald that could not be denied.
‘What can he want with me? what message can he send?’ and the heart of Ione beat quick. The curtain across the door was withdrawn; a soft and echoless step fell upon the marble; and Nydia, led by one of the attendants, entered with her precious gift.
She stood still a moment, as if listening for some sound that might direct her.
‘Will the noble Ione,’ said she, in a soft and low voice, ’deign to speak, that I may know whither to steer these benighted steps, and that I may lay my offerings at her feet?’
‘Fair child,’ said Ione, touched and soothingly, ’give not thyself the pain to cross these slippery floors, my attendant will bring to me what thou hast to present’; and she motioned to the handmaid to take the vase.
‘I may give these flowers to none but thee,’ answered Nydia; and, guided by her ear, she walked slowly to the place where Ione sat, and kneeling when she came before her, proffered the vase.
Ione took it from her hand, and placed it on the table at her side. She then raised her gently, and would have seated her on the couch, but the girl modestly resisted.
‘I have not yet discharged my office,’ said she; and she drew the letter of Glaucus from her vest. ’This will, perhaps, explain why he who sent me chose so unworthy a messenger to Ione.’
The Neapolitan took the letter with a hand, the trembling of which Nydia at once felt and sighed to feel. With folded arms, and downcast looks, she stood before the proud and stately form of Ione—no less proud, perhaps, in her attitude of submission. Ione waved her hand, and the attendants withdrew; she gazed again upon the form of the young slave in surprise and beautiful compassion; then, retiring a little from her, she opened and read the following letter: