’But thou hast heard my voice: no matter, those recollections it should shame us both to recall. Listen, thou hast a sister.’
‘Speak! speak! what of her?’
’Thou knowest the banquets of the dead, stranger—it pleases thee, perhaps, to share them—would it please thee to have thy sister a partaker? Would it please thee that Arbaces was her host?’
’O gods, he dare not! Girl, if thou mockest me, tremble! I will tear thee limb from limb!’
’I speak the truth; and while I speak, Ione is in the halls of Arbaces—for the first time his guest. Thou knowest if there be peril in that first time! Farewell! I have fulfilled my charge.’
‘Stay! stay!’ cried the priest, passing his wan hand over his brow. ’If this be true, what—what can be done to save her? They may not admit me. I know not all the mazes of that intricate mansion. O Nemesis! justly am I punished!’
’I will dismiss yon slave, be thou my guide and comrade; I will lead thee to the private door of the house: I will whisper to thee the word which admits. Take some weapon: it may be needful!’
‘Wait an instant,’ said Apaecides, retiring into one of the cells that flank the temple, and reappearing in a few moments wrapped in a large cloak, which was then much worn by all classes, and which concealed his sacred dress. ‘Now,’ he said, grinding his teeth, ’if Arbaces hath dared to—but he dare not! he dare not! Why should I suspect him? Is he so base a villain? I will not think it—yet, sophist! dark bewilderer that he is! O gods protect—hush! are there gods? Yes, there is one goddess, at least, whose voice I can command; and that is—Vengeance!’
Muttering these disconnected thoughts, Apaecides, followed by his silent and sightless companion, hastened through the most solitary paths to the house of the Egyptian.
The slave, abruptly dismissed by Nydia, shrugged his shoulders, muttered an adjuration, and, nothing loath, rolled off to his cubiculum.
The solitude and soliloquy of the Egyptian. His character analysed.
We must go back a few hours in the progress of our story. At the first grey dawn of the day, which Glaucus had already marked with white, the Egyptian was seated, sleepless and alone, on the summit of the lofty and pyramidal tower which flanked his house. A tall parapet around it served as a wall, and conspired, with the height of the edifice and the gloomy trees that girded the mansion, to defy the prying eyes of curiosity or observation. A table, on which lay a scroll, filled with mystic figures, was before him. On high, the stars waxed dim and faint, and the shades of night melted from the sterile mountain-tops; only above Vesuvius there rested a deep and massy cloud, which for several days past had gathered darker and more solid over its summit. The struggle of night and day was more visible over the broad ocean, which stretched calm, like a gigantic lake, bounded by the circling shores that, covered with vines and foliage, and gleaming here and there with the white walls of sleeping cities, sloped to the scarce rippling waves.