[Credits: Project Gutenberg, the source of this text]

decorated initial 'T'HE hours passed in lingering torture over the head of Nydia from the time in which she had been replaced in her cell.

Sosia, as if afraid he should be again outwitted, had refrained from visiting her until late in the morning of the following day, and then he but thrust in the periodical basket of food and wine, and hastily reclosed the door. That day rolled on, and Nydia felt herself pent—barred—inexorably confined, when that day was the judgment-day of Glaucus, and when her release would have saved him! Yet knowing, almost impossible as seemed her escape, that the sole chance for the life of Glaucus rested on her, this young girl, frail, passionate, and acutely susceptible as she was—resolved not to give way to a despair that would disable her from seizing whatever opportunity might occur. She kept her senses whenever, beneath the whirl of intolerable thought, they reeled and tottered; nay, she took food and wine that she might sustain her strength—that she might be prepared!

She revolved scheme after scheme of escape, and was forced to dismiss all. Yet Sosia was her only hope, the only instrument with which she could tamper. He had been superstitious in the desire of ascertaining whether he could eventually purchase his freedom. Blessed gods! might he not be won by the bribe of freedom itself? was she not nearly rich enough to purchase it? Her slender arms were covered with bracelets, the presents of Ione; and on her neck she yet wore that very chain which, it may be remembered, had occasioned her jealous quarrel with Glaucus, and which she had afterwards promised vainly to wear for ever. She waited burningly till Sosia should again appear: but as hour after hour passed, and he came not, she grew impatient. Every nerve beat with fever; she could endure the solitude no longer—she groaned, she shrieked aloud—she beat herself against the door. Her cries echoed along the hall, and Sosia, in peevish anger, hastened to see what was the matter, and silence his prisoner if possible.

'Ho! ho! what is this?' said he, surlily. 'Young slave, if thou screamest out thus, we must gag thee again. My shoulders will smart for it, if thou art heard by my master.'

'Kind Sosia, chide me not—I cannot endure to be so long alone,' answered Nydia; 'the solitude appals me. Sit with me, I pray, a little while. Nay, fear not that I should attempt to escape; place thy seat before the door. Keep thine eye on me—I will not stir from this spot.'

Sosia, who was a considerable gossip himself, was moved by this address. He pitied one who had nobody to talk with—it was his case too; he pitied—and resolved to relieve himself. He took the hint of Nydia, placed a stool before the door, leant his back against it, and replied:

'I am sure I do not wish to be churlish; and so far as a little innocent chat goes, I have no objection to indulge you. But mind, no tricks—no more conjuring!'

'No, no; tell me, dear Sosia, what is the hour?'

'It is already evening—the goats are going home.'

'O gods! how went the trial'

'Both condemned.'

Nydia repressed the shriek. 'Well—well, I thought it would be so. When do they suffer?'

'To-morrow, in the amphitheatre. If it were not for thee, little wretch, I should be allowed to go with the rest and see it.'

Nydia leant back for some moments. Nature could endure no more—she had fainted away. But Sosia did not perceive it, for it was the dusk of eve, and he was full of his own privations. He went on lamenting the loss of so delightful a show, and accusing the injustice of Arbaces for singling him out from all his fellows to be converted into a gaoler; and ere he had half finished, Nydia, with a deep sigh, recovered the sense of life.

'Thou sighest, blind one, at my loss! Well, that is some comfort. So long as you acknowledge how much you cost me, I will endeavor not to grumble. It is hard to be ill-treated, and yet not pitied.'

'Sosia, how much dost thou require to make up the purchase of thy freedom?'

'How much? Why, about two thousand sesterces.'

'The gods be praised! not more? Seest thou these bracelets and this chain? They are well worth double that sum. I will give them thee if...'

'Tempt me not: I cannot release thee. Arbaces is a severe and awful master. Who knows but I might feed the fishes of the Sarnus Alas! all the sesterces in the world would not buy me back into life. Better a live dog than a dead lion.'

'Sosia, thy freedom! Think well! If thou wilt let me out only for one little hour!—let me out at midnight—I will return ere to-morrow's dawn; nay, thou canst go with me.'

'No,' said Sosia, sturdily, 'a slave once disobeyed Arbaces, and he was never more heard of.'

'But the law gives a master no power over the life of a slave.'

'The law is very obliging, but more polite than efficient. I know that Arbaces always gets the law on his side. Besides, if I am once dead, what law can bring me to life again!'

Nydia wrung her hands. 'Is there no hope, then?' said she, convulsively.

'None of escape till Arbaces gives the word.'

'Well, then, said Nydia, quickly, 'thou wilt not, at least, refuse to take a letter for me: thy master cannot kill thee for that.'

'To whom?'

'The praetor.'

'To a magistrate? No—not I. I should be made a witness in court, for what I know; and the way they cross-examine the slaves is by the torture.'

'Pardon: I meant not the praetor—it was a word that escaped me unawares: I meant quite another person—the gay Sallust.'

'Oh! and what want you with him?'

'Glaucus was my master; he purchased me from a cruel lord. He alone has been kind to me. He is to die. I shall never live happily if I cannot, in his hour of trial and doom, let him know that one heart is grateful to him. Sallust is his friend; he will convey my message.'

'I am sure he will do no such thing. Glaucus will have enough to think of between this and to-morrow without troubling his head about a blind girl.'

'Man,' said Nydia, rising, 'wilt thou become free? Thou hast the offer in thy power; to-morrow it will be too late. Never was freedom more cheaply purchased. Thou canst easily and unmissed leave home: less than half an hour will suffice for thine absence. And for such a trifle wilt thou refuse liberty?'

Sosia was greatly moved. It was true that the request was remarkably silly; but what was that to him? So much the better. He could lock the door on Nydia, and, if Arbaces should learn his absence, the offence was venial, and would merit but a reprimand. Yet, should Nydia's letter contain something more than what she had said—should it speak of her imprisonment, as he shrewdly conjectured it would do—what then! It need never be known to Arbaces that he had carried the letter. At the worst the bribe was enormous—the risk light—the temptation irresistible. He hesitated no longer—he assented to the proposal.

'Give me the trinkets, and I will take the letter. Yet stay—thou art a slave—thou hast no right to these ornaments—they are thy master's.'

'They were the gifts of Glaucus; he is my master. What chance hath he to claim them? Who else will know they are in my possession?'

'Enough—I will bring thee the papyrus.'

'No, not papyrus—a tablet of wax and a stilus.'

Nydia, as the reader will have seen, was born of gentle parents. They had done all to lighten her calamity, and her quick intellect seconded their exertions. Despite her blindness, she had therefore acquired in childhood, though imperfectly, the art to write with the sharp stilus upon waxen tablets, in which her exquisite sense of touch came to her aid. When the tablets were brought to her, she thus painfully traced some words in Greek, the language of her childhood, and which almost every Italian of the higher ranks was then supposed to know. She carefully wound round the epistle the thread, and covered its knot with wax; and ere she placed it in the hands of Sosia, she thus addressed him:

'Sosia, I am blind and in prison. Thou mayst think to deceive me—thou mayst pretend only to take the letter to Sallust—thou mayst not fulfill thy charge: but here I solemnly dedicate thy head to vengeance, thy soul to the infernal powers, if thou wrongest thy trust; and I call upon thee to place thy right hand of faith in mine, and repeat after me these words: "By the ground on which we stand—by the elements which contain life and can curse life—by Orcus, the all-avenging—by the Olympian Jupiter, the all-seeing—I swear that I will honestly discharge my trust, and faithfully deliver into the hands of Sallust this letter! And if I perjure myself in this oath, may the full curses of heaven and hell be wreaked upon me!" Enough!—I trust thee—take thy reward. It is already dark—depart at once.'

'Thou art a strange girl, and thou hast frightened me terribly; but it is all very natural: and if Sallust is to be found, I give him this letter as I have sworn. By my faith, I may have my little peccadilloes! but perjury—no! I leave that to my betters.'

With this Sosia withdrew, carefully passing the heavy bolt athwart Nydia's door—carefully locking its wards: and, hanging the key to his girdle, he retired to his own den, enveloped himself from head to foot in a huge disguising cloak, and slipped out by the back way undisturbed and unseen.

The streets were thin and empty. He soon gained the house of Sallust. The porter bade him leave his letter, and be gone; for Sallust was so grieved at the condemnation of Glaucus, that he could not on any account be disturbed.

'Nevertheless, I have sworn to give this letter into his own hands—do so I must!' And Sosia, well knowing by experience that Cerberus loves a sop, thrust some half a dozen sesterces into the hand of the porter.

'Well, well,' said the latter, relenting, 'you may enter if you will; but, to tell you the truth, Sallust is drinking himself out of his grief. It is his way when anything disturbs him. He orders a capital supper, the best wine, and does not give over till everything is out of his head—but the liquor.'

'An excellent plan—excellent! Ah, what it is to be rich! If I were Sallust, I would have some grief or another every day. But just say a kind word for me with the atriensis—I see him coming.'

Sallust was too sad to receive company; he was too sad, also, to drink alone; so, as was his wont, he admitted his favorite freedman to his entertainment, and a stranger banquet never was held. For ever and anon, the kind-hearted epicure sighed, whimpered, wept outright, and then turned with double zest to some new dish or his refilled goblet.

'My good fellow,' said he to his companion, it was a most awful judgment—heigho!—it is not bad that kid, eh? Poor, dear Glaucus!—what a jaw the lion has too! Ah, ah, ah!'

And Sallust sobbed loudly—the fit was stopped by a counteraction of hiccups.

'Take a cup of wine,' said the freedman.

'A thought too cold: but then how cold Glaucus must be! Shut up the house to-morrow—not a slave shall stir forth—none of my people shall honour that cursed arena—No, no!'

'Taste the Falernian—your grief distracts you. By the gods it does—a piece of that cheesecake.'

It was at this auspicious moment that Sosia was admitted to the presence of the disconsolate carouser.

'Ho—what art thou?'

'Merely a messenger to Sallust. I give him this billet from a young female. There is no answer that I know of. May I withdraw?'

Thus said the discreet Sosia, keeping his face muffled in his cloak, and speaking with a feigned voice, so that he might not hereafter be recognized.

'By the gods—a pimp! Unfeeling wretch!—do you not see my sorrows? Go! and the curses of Pandarus with you!'

Sosia lost not a moment in retiring.

'Will you read the letter, Sallust?' said the freedman.

'Letter!—which letter?' said the epicure, reeling, for he began to see double. 'A curse on these wenches, say I! Am I a man to think of—(hiccup)—pleasure, when—when—my friend is going to be eat up?'

'Eat another tartlet.'

'No, no! My grief chokes me!'

'Take him to bed said the freedman; and, Sallust's head now declining fairly on his breast, they bore him off to his cubiculum, still muttering lamentations for Glaucus, and imprecations on the unfeeling overtures of ladies of pleasure.

Meanwhile Sosia strode indignantly homeward. 'Pimp, indeed!' quoth he to himself. 'Pimp! a scurvy-tongued fellow that Sallust! Had I been called knave, or thief. I could have forgiven it; but pimp! Faugh! There is something in the word which the toughest stomach in the world would rise against. A knave is a knave for his own pleasure, and a thief a thief for his own profit; and there is something honorable and philosophical in being a rascal for one's own sake: that is doing things upon principle—upon a grand scale. But a pimp is a thing that defiles itself for another—a pipkin that is put on the fire for another man's pottage! a napkin, that every guest wipes his hands upon! and the scullion says, "by your leave" too. A pimp! I would rather he had called me parricide! But the man was drunk, and did not know what he said; and, besides, I disguised myself. Had he seen it had been Sosia who addressed him, it would have been "honest Sosia!" and, "worthy man!" I warrant. Nevertheless, the trinkets have been won easily—that's some comfort! and, O goddess Feronia! I shall be a freedman soon! and then I should like to see who'll call me pimp!—unless, indeed, he pay me pretty handsomely for it!'

While Sosia was soliloquising in this high-minded and generous vein, his path lay along a narrow lane that led towards the amphitheatre and its adjacent palaces. Suddenly, as he turned a sharp corner he found himself in the midst of a considerable crowd. Men, women, and children, all were hurrying or laughing, talking, gesticulating; and, ere he was aware of it, the worthy Sosia was borne away with the noisy stream.

'What now?' he asked of his nearest neighbor, a young artificer; 'what now? Where are all these good folks thronging?' Does any rich patron give away alms or viands to-night?'

'Not so, man—better still,' replied the artificer; 'the noble Pansa—the people's friend—has granted the public leave to see the beasts in their vivaria. By Hercules! they will not be seen so safely by some persons to-morrow.'

'Tis a pretty sight,' said the slave, yielding to the throng that impelled him onward; 'and since I may not go to the sports to-morrow, I may as well take a peep at the beasts to-night.'

'You will do well,' returned his new acquaintance, 'a lion and a tiger are not to be seen at Pompeii every day.'

The crowd had now entered a broken and wide space of ground, on which, as it was only lighted scantily and from a distance, the press became dangerous to those whose limbs and shoulders were not fitted for a mob. Nevertheless, the women especially—many of them with children in their arms, or even at the breast—were the most resolute in forcing their way; and their shrill exclamations of complaint or objurgation were heard loud above the more jovial and masculine voices. Yet, amidst them was a young and girlish voice, that appeared to come from one too happy in her excitement to be alive to the inconvenience of the crowd.

'Aha!' cried the young woman, to some of her companions, 'I always told you so; I always said we should have a man for the lion; and now we have one for the tiger too! I wish tomorrow were come!'

       Ho, ho! for the merry, merry show,
        With a forest of faces in every row!
        Lo! the swordsmen, bold as the son of Alcmaena,
        Sweep, side by side, o'er the hushed arena.
        Talk while you may, you will hold your breath
        When they meet in the grasp of the glowing death!
        Tramp! tramp! how gaily they go!
        Ho! ho! for the merry, merry show!

'A jolly girl!' said Sosia.

'Yes,' replied the young artificer, a curly-headed, handsome youth. 'Yes,' replied he, enviously; 'the women love a gladiator. If I had been a slave, I would have soon found my schoolmaster in the lanista!'

'Would you, indeed?' said Sosia, with a sneer. 'People's notions differ!'

The crowd had now arrived at the place of destination; but as the cell in which the wild beasts were confined was extremely small and narrow, tenfold more vehement than it hitherto had been was the rush of the aspirants to obtain admittance. Two of the officers of the amphitheatre, placed at the entrance, very wisely mitigated the evil by dispensing to the foremost only a limited number of tickets at a time, and admitting no new visitors till their predecessors had sated their curiosity. Sosia, who was a tolerably stout fellow and not troubled with any remarkable scruples of diffidence or good breeding, contrived to be among the first of the initiated.

Separated from his companion the artificer, Sosia found himself in a narrow cell of oppressive heat and atmosphere, and lighted by several rank and flaring torches.

The animals, usually kept in different vivaria, or dens, were now, for the greater entertainment of the visitors, placed in one, but equally indeed divided from each other by strong cages protected by iron bars.

There they were, the fell and grim wanderers of the desert, who have now become almost the principal agents of this story. The lion, who, as being the more gentle by nature than his fellow-beast, had been more incited to ferocity by hunger, stalked restlessly and fiercely to and fro his narrow confines: his eyes were lurid with rage and famine: and as, every now and then, he paused and glared around, the spectators fearfully pressed backward, and drew their breath more quickly. But the tiger lay quiet and extended at full length in his cage, and only by an occasional play of his tail, or a long impatient yawn, testified any emotion at his confinement, or at the crowd which honored him with their presence.

'I have seen no fiercer beast than yon lion even in the amphitheatre of Rome,' said a gigantic and sinewy fellow who stood at the right hand of Sosia.

'I feel humbled when I look at his limbs,' replied, at the left of Sosia, a slighter and younger figure, with his arms folded on his breast.

The slave looked first at one, and then at the other. 'Virtus in medio!—virtue is ever in the middle!' muttered he to himself; 'a goodly neighborhood for thee, Sosia—a gladiator on each side!'

'That is well said, Lydon,' returned the huger gladiator; 'I feel the same.'

'And to think,' observed Lydon, in a tone of deep feeling, to think that the noble Greek, he whom we saw but a day or two since before us, so full of youth, and health, and joyousness, is to feast yon monster!'

'Why not?' growled Niger, savagely: 'many an honest gladiator has been compelled to a like combat by the emperor—why not a wealthy murderer by the law?'

Lydon sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and remained silent. Meanwhile the common gazers listened with staring eyes and lips apart: the gladiators were objects of interest as well as the beasts—they were animals of the same species; so the crowd glanced from one to the other—the men and the brutes—whispering their comments and anticipating the morrow.

'Well!' said Lydon, turning away, 'I thank the gods that it is not the lion or the tiger I am to contend with; even you, Niger, are a gentler combatant than they.'

'But equally dangerous,' said the gladiator, with a fierce laugh; and the bystanders, admiring his vast limbs and ferocious countenance, laughed too.

'That as it may be,' answered Lydon, carelessly, as he pressed through the throng and quitted the den.

'I may as well take advantage of his shoulders,' thought the prudent Sosia, hastening to follow him: 'the crowd always give way to a gladiator, so I will keep close behind, and come in for a share of his consequence.'

The son of Medon strode quickly through the mob, many of whom recognized his features and profession.

'That is young Lydon, a brave fellow: he fights to-morrow,' said one.

'Ah! I have a bet on him,' said another; 'see how firmly he walks!'

'Good luck to thee, Lydon!' said a third.

'Lydon, you have my wishes,' half whispered a fourth, smiling (a comely woman of the middle class)—'and if you win, why, you may hear more of me.'

'A handsome man, by Venus!' cried a fifth, who was a girl scarce in her teens. 'Thank you,' returned Sosia, gravely taking the compliment to himself.

However strong the purer motives of Lydon, and certain though it be that he would never have entered so bloody a calling but from the hope of obtaining his father's freedom, he was not altogether unmoved by the notice he excited. He forgot that the voices now raised in commendation might, on the morrow, shout over his death-pangs. By nature fierce and reckless, as well as generous and warm-hearted, he was already imbued with the pride of a profession that he fancied he disdained, and affected by the influence of a companionship that in reality he loathed. He saw himself now a man of importance; his step grew yet lighter, and his mien more elate.

'Niger,' said he, turning suddenly, as he had now threaded the crowd; 'we have often quarrelled; we are not matched against each other, but one of us, at least, may reasonably expect to fall—give us thy hand.'

'Most readily,' said Sosia, extending his palm.

'Ha! what fool is this? Why, I thought Niger was at my heels!'

'I forgive the mistake,' replied Sosia, condescendingly: 'don't mention it; the error was easy—I and Niger are somewhat of the same build.'

'Ha! ha! that is excellent! Niger would have slit thy throat had he heard thee!'

'You gentlemen of the arena have a most disagreeable mode of talking,' said Sosia; 'let us change the conversation.'

'Vah! vah!' said Lydon, impatiently; 'I am in no humor to converse with thee!'

'Why, truly,' returned the slave, 'you must have serious thoughts enough to occupy your mind: to-morrow is, I think, your first essay in the arena. Well, I am sure you will die bravely!'

'May thy words fall on thine own head!' said Lydon, superstitiously, for he by no means liked the blessing of Sosia. 'Die! No—I trust my hour is not yet come.'

'He who plays at dice with death must expect the dog's throw,' replied Sosia, maliciously. 'But you are a strong fellow, and I wish you all imaginable luck; and so, vale!'

With that the slave turned on his heel, and took his way homeward.

'I trust the rogue's words are not ominous,' said Lydon, musingly. 'In my zeal for my father's liberty, and my confidence in my own thews and sinews, I have not contemplated the possibility of death. My poor father! I am thy only son!—if I were to fall...'

As the thought crossed him, the gladiator strode on with a more rapid and restless pace, when suddenly, in an opposite street, he beheld the very object of his thoughts. Leaning on his stick, his form bent by care and age, his eyes downcast, and his steps trembling, the grey-haired Medon slowly approached towards the gladiator. Lydon paused a moment: he divined at once the cause that brought forth the old man at that late hour.

'Be sure, it is I whom he seeks,' thought he; 'he is horror struck at the condemnation of Olinthus—he more than ever esteems the arena criminal and hateful—he comes again to dissuade me from the contest. I must shun him—I cannot brook his prayers—his tears.'

These thoughts, so long to recite, flashed across the young man like lightning. He turned abruptly and fled swiftly in an opposite direction. He paused not till, almost spent and breathless, he found himself on the summit of a small acclivity which overlooked the most gay and splendid part of that miniature city; and as there he paused, and gazed along the tranquil streets glittering in the rays of the moon (which had just arisen, and brought partially and picturesquely into light the crowd around the amphitheatre at a distance, murmuring, and swaying to and fro), the influence of the scene affected him, rude and unimaginative though his nature. He sat himself down to rest upon the steps of a deserted portico, and felt the calm of the hour quiet and restore him. Opposite and near at hand, the lights gleamed from a palace in which the master now held his revels. The doors were open for coolness, and the gladiator beheld the numerous and festive group gathered round the tables in the atrium; while behind them, closing the long vista of the illumined rooms beyond, the spray of the distant fountain sparkled in the moonbeams. There, the garlands wreathed around the columns of the hall—there, gleamed still and frequent the marble statue—there, amidst peals of jocund laughter, rose the music and the lay.

              EPICUREAN SONG

       Away with your stories of Hades,
          Which the Flamen has forged to affright us—
       We laugh at your three Maiden Ladies,
          Your Fates—and your sullen Cocytus.

       Poor Jove has a troublesome life, sir,
          Could we credit your tales of his portals—
       In shutting his ears on his wife, sir,
          And opening his eyes upon mortals.

       Oh, blest be the bright Epicurus!
          Who taught us to laugh at such fables;
        On Hades they wanted to moor us,
          And his hand cut the terrible cables.

       If, then, there's a Jove or a Juno,
          They vex not their heads about us, man;
        Besides, if they did, I and you know
          'Tis the life of a god to live thus, man!

       What! think you the gods place their bliss—eh?—
         In playing the spy on a sinner?
        In counting the girls that we kiss, eh?
          Or the cups that we empty at dinner?

       Content with the soft lips that love us,
          This music, this wine, and this mirth, boys,
        We care not for gods up above us—
         We know there's no god for this earth, boys!

While Lydon's piety (which accommodating as it might be, was in no slight degree disturbed by these verses, which embodied the fashionable philosophy of the day) slowly recovered itself from the shock it had received, a small party of men, in plain garments and of the middle class, passed by his resting-place. They were in earnest conversation, and did not seem to notice or heed the gladiator as they moved on.

'O horror on horrors!' said one; 'Olinthus is snatched from us! our right arm is lopped away! When will Christ descend to protect his own?'

'Can human atrocity go farther said another: 'to sentence an innocent man to the same arena as a murderer! But let us not despair; the thunder of Sinai may yet be heard, and the Lord preserve his saint. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."'

At that moment out broke again, from the illumined palace, the burden of the reveller's song:—

    We care not for gods up above us—
       We know there's no god for this earth, boys!

Ere the words died away, the Nazarenes, moved by sudden indignation, caught up the echo, and, in the words of one of their favorite hymns, shouted aloud:—

        THE WARNING HYMN OF THE NAZARENES

       Around—about—for ever near thee,
        God—OUR GOD—shall mark and hear thee!
        On his car of storm He sweeps!
        Bow, ye heavens, and shrink, ye deeps!
        Woe to the proud ones who defy Him!—
       Woe to the dreamers who deny Him!
            Woe to the wicked, woe!
          The proud stars shall fail—
         The sun shall grow pale—
       The heavens shrivel up like a scroll—
         Hell's ocean shall bare
          Its depths of despair,
        Each wave an eternal soul!
          For the only thing, then,
          That shall not live again
            Is the corpse of the giant TIME.

           Hark, the trumpet of thunder!
           Lo, earth rent asunder!
         And, forth, on His Angel-throne,
           He comes through the gloom,
           The Judge of the Tomb,
         To summon and save His own!
              Oh, joy to Care, and woe to Crime,
              He comes to save His own!
        Woe to the proud ones who defy Him!
        Woe to the dreamers who deny Him!
              Woe to the wicked, woe!

A sudden silence from the startled hall of revel succeeded these ominous words: the Christians swept on, and were soon hidden from the sight of the gladiator. Awed, he scarce knew why, by the mystic denunciations of the Christians, Lydon, after a short pause, now rose to pursue his way homeward.

Before him, how serenely slept the starlight on that lovely city! how breathlessly its pillared streets reposed in their security!—how softly rippled the dark-green waves beyond!—how cloudless spread, aloft and blue, the dreaming Campanian skies! Yet this was the last night for the gay Pompeii! the colony of the hoar Chaldean! the fabled city of Hercules! the delight of the voluptuous Roman! Age after age had rolled, indestructive, unheeded, over its head; and now the last ray quivered on the dial-plate of its doom! The gladiator heard some light steps behind—a group of females were wending homeward from their visit to the amphitheatre. As he turned, his eye was arrested by a strange and sudden apparition. From the summit of Vesuvius, darkly visible at the distance, there shot a pale, meteoric, livid light—it trembled an instant and was gone. And at the same moment that his eye caught it, the voice of one of the youngest of the women broke out hilariously and shrill:—

       TRAMP! TRAMP! HOW GAILY THEY GO!
        HO, HO! FOR THE MORROW'S MERRY SHOW!


Sosia, as if afraid he should be again outwitted, had refrained from visiting her until late in the morning of the following day, and then he but thrust in the periodical basket of food and wine, and hastily reclosed the door. That day rolled on, and Nydia felt herself pent—barred—inexorably confined, when that day was the judgment-day of Glaucus, and when her release would have saved him! Yet knowing, almost impossible as seemed her escape, that the sole chance for the life of Glaucus rested on her, this young girl, frail, passionate, and acutely susceptible as she was—resolved not to give way to a despair that would disable her from seizing whatever opportunity might occur. She kept her senses whenever, beneath the whirl of intolerable thought, they reeled and tottered; nay, she took food and wine that she might sustain her strength—that she might be prepared!

She revolved scheme after scheme of escape, and was forced to dismiss all. Yet Sosia was her only hope, the only instrument with which she could tamper. He had been superstitious in the desire of ascertaining whether he could eventually purchase his freedom. Blessed gods! might he not be won by the bribe of freedom itself? was she not nearly rich enough to purchase it? Her slender arms were covered with bracelets, the presents of Ione; and on her neck she yet wore that very chain which, it may be remembered, had occasioned her jealous quarrel with Glaucus, and which she had afterwards promised vainly to wear for ever. She waited burningly till Sosia should again appear: but as hour after hour passed, and he came not, she grew impatient. Every nerve beat with fever; she could endure the solitude no longer—she groaned, she shrieked aloud—she beat herself against the door. Her cries echoed along the hall, and Sosia, in peevish anger, hastened to see what was the matter, and silence his prisoner if possible.

'Ho! ho! what is this?' said he, surlily. 'Young slave, if thou screamest out thus, we must gag thee again. My shoulders will smart for it, if thou art heard by my master.'

'Kind Sosia, chide me not—I cannot endure to be so long alone,' answered Nydia; 'the solitude appals me. Sit with me, I pray, a little while. Nay, fear not that I should attempt to escape; place thy seat before the door. Keep thine eye on me—I will not stir from this spot.'

Sosia, who was a considerable gossip himself, was moved by this address. He pitied one who had nobody to talk with—it was his case too; he pitied—and resolved to relieve himself. He took the hint of Nydia, placed a stool before the door, leant his back against it, and replied:

'I am sure I do not wish to be churlish; and so far as a little innocent chat goes, I have no objection to indulge you. But mind, no tricks—no more conjuring!'

'No, no; tell me, dear Sosia, what is the hour?'

'It is already evening—the goats are going home.'

'O gods! how went the trial'

'Both condemned.'

Nydia repressed the shriek. 'Well—well, I thought it would be so. When do they suffer?'

'To-morrow, in the amphitheatre. If it were not for thee, little wretch, I should be allowed to go with the rest and see it.'

Nydia leant back for some moments. Nature could endure no more—she had fainted away. But Sosia did not perceive it, for it was the dusk of eve, and he was full of his own privations. He went on lamenting the loss of so delightful a show, and accusing the injustice of Arbaces for singling him out from all his fellows to be converted into a gaoler; and ere he had half finished, Nydia, with a deep sigh, recovered the sense of life.

'Thou sighest, blind one, at my loss! Well, that is some comfort. So long as you acknowledge how much you cost me, I will endeavor not to grumble. It is hard to be ill-treated, and yet not pitied.'

'Sosia, how much dost thou require to make up the purchase of thy freedom?'

'How much? Why, about two thousand sesterces.'

'The gods be praised! not more? Seest thou these bracelets and this chain? They are well worth double that sum. I will give them thee if...'

'Tempt me not: I cannot release thee. Arbaces is a severe and awful master. Who knows but I might feed the fishes of the Sarnus Alas! all the sesterces in the world would not buy me back into life. Better a live dog than a dead lion.'

'Sosia, thy freedom! Think well! If thou wilt let me out only for one little hour!—let me out at midnight—I will return ere to-morrow's dawn; nay, thou canst go with me.'

'No,' said Sosia, sturdily, 'a slave once disobeyed Arbaces, and he was never more heard of.'

'But the law gives a master no power over the life of a slave.'

'The law is very obliging, but more polite than efficient. I know that Arbaces always gets the law on his side. Besides, if I am once dead, what law can bring me to life again!'

Nydia wrung her hands. 'Is there no hope, then?' said she, convulsively.

'None of escape till Arbaces gives the word.'

'Well, then, said Nydia, quickly, 'thou wilt not, at least, refuse to take a letter for me: thy master cannot kill thee for that.'

'To whom?'

'The praetor.'

'To a magistrate? No—not I. I should be made a witness in court, for what I know; and the way they cross-examine the slaves is by the torture.'

'Pardon: I meant not the praetor—it was a word that escaped me unawares: I meant quite another person—the gay Sallust.'

'Oh! and what want you with him?'

'Glaucus was my master; he purchased me from a cruel lord. He alone has been kind to me. He is to die. I shall never live happily if I cannot, in his hour of trial and doom, let him know that one heart is grateful to him. Sallust is his friend; he will convey my message.'

'I am sure he will do no such thing. Glaucus will have enough to think of between this and to-morrow without troubling his head about a blind girl.'

'Man,' said Nydia, rising, 'wilt thou become free? Thou hast the offer in thy power; to-morrow it will be too late. Never was freedom more cheaply purchased. Thou canst easily and unmissed leave home: less than half an hour will suffice for thine absence. And for such a trifle wilt thou refuse liberty?'

Sosia was greatly moved. It was true that the request was remarkably silly; but what was that to him? So much the better. He could lock the door on Nydia, and, if Arbaces should learn his absence, the offence was venial, and would merit but a reprimand. Yet, should Nydia's letter contain something more than what she had said—should it speak of her imprisonment, as he shrewdly conjectured it would do—what then! It need never be known to Arbaces that he had carried the letter. At the worst the bribe was enormous—the risk light—the temptation irresistible. He hesitated no longer—he assented to the proposal.

'Give me the trinkets, and I will take the letter. Yet stay—thou art a slave—thou hast no right to these ornaments—they are thy master's.'

'They were the gifts of Glaucus; he is my master. What chance hath he to claim them? Who else will know they are in my possession?'

'Enough—I will bring thee the papyrus.'

'No, not papyrus—a tablet of wax and a stilus.'

Nydia, as the reader will have seen, was born of gentle parents. They had done all to lighten her calamity, and her quick intellect seconded their exertions. Despite her blindness, she had therefore acquired in childhood, though imperfectly, the art to write with the sharp stilus upon waxen tablets, in which her exquisite sense of touch came to her aid. When the tablets were brought to her, she thus painfully traced some words in Greek, the language of her childhood, and which almost every Italian of the higher ranks was then supposed to know. She carefully wound round the epistle the thread, and covered its knot with wax; and ere she placed it in the hands of Sosia, she thus addressed him:

'Sosia, I am blind and in prison. Thou mayst think to deceive me—thou mayst pretend only to take the letter to Sallust—thou mayst not fulfill thy charge: but here I solemnly dedicate thy head to vengeance, thy soul to the infernal powers, if thou wrongest thy trust; and I call upon thee to place thy right hand of faith in mine, and repeat after me these words: "By the ground on which we stand—by the elements which contain life and can curse life—by Orcus, the all-avenging—by the Olympian Jupiter, the all-seeing—I swear that I will honestly discharge my trust, and faithfully deliver into the hands of Sallust this letter! And if I perjure myself in this oath, may the full curses of heaven and hell be wreaked upon me!" Enough!—I trust thee—take thy reward. It is already dark—depart at once.'

'Thou art a strange girl, and thou hast frightened me terribly; but it is all very natural: and if Sallust is to be found, I give him this letter as I have sworn. By my faith, I may have my little peccadilloes! but perjury—no! I leave that to my betters.'

With this Sosia withdrew, carefully passing the heavy bolt athwart Nydia's door—carefully locking its wards: and, hanging the key to his girdle, he retired to his own den, enveloped himself from head to foot in a huge disguising cloak, and slipped out by the back way undisturbed and unseen.

The streets were thin and empty. He soon gained the house of Sallust. The porter bade him leave his letter, and be gone; for Sallust was so grieved at the condemnation of Glaucus, that he could not on any account be disturbed.

'Nevertheless, I have sworn to give this letter into his own hands—do so I must!' And Sosia, well knowing by experience that Cerberus loves a sop, thrust some half a dozen sesterces into the hand of the porter.

'Well, well,' said the latter, relenting, 'you may enter if you will; but, to tell you the truth, Sallust is drinking himself out of his grief. It is his way when anything disturbs him. He orders a capital supper, the best wine, and does not give over till everything is out of his head—but the liquor.'

'An excellent plan—excellent! Ah, what it is to be rich! If I were Sallust, I would have some grief or another every day. But just say a kind word for me with the atriensis—I see him coming.'

Sallust was too sad to receive company; he was too sad, also, to drink alone; so, as was his wont, he admitted his favorite freedman to his entertainment, and a stranger banquet never was held. For ever and anon, the kind-hearted epicure sighed, whimpered, wept outright, and then turned with double zest to some new dish or his refilled goblet.

'My good fellow,' said he to his companion, it was a most awful judgment—heigho!—it is not bad that kid, eh? Poor, dear Glaucus!—what a jaw the lion has too! Ah, ah, ah!'

And Sallust sobbed loudly—the fit was stopped by a counteraction of hiccups.

'Take a cup of wine,' said the freedman.

'A thought too cold: but then how cold Glaucus must be! Shut up the house to-morrow—not a slave shall stir forth—none of my people shall honour that cursed arena—No, no!'

'Taste the Falernian—your grief distracts you. By the gods it does—a piece of that cheesecake.'

It was at this auspicious moment that Sosia was admitted to the presence of the disconsolate carouser.

'Ho—what art thou?'

'Merely a messenger to Sallust. I give him this billet from a young female. There is no answer that I know of. May I withdraw?'

Thus said the discreet Sosia, keeping his face muffled in his cloak, and speaking with a feigned voice, so that he might not hereafter be recognized.

'By the gods—a pimp! Unfeeling wretch!—do you not see my sorrows? Go! and the curses of Pandarus with you!'

Sosia lost not a moment in retiring.

'Will you read the letter, Sallust?' said the freedman.

'Letter!—which letter?' said the epicure, reeling, for he began to see double. 'A curse on these wenches, say I! Am I a man to think of—(hiccup)—pleasure, when—when—my friend is going to be eat up?'

'Eat another tartlet.'

'No, no! My grief chokes me!'

'Take him to bed said the freedman; and, Sallust's head now declining fairly on his breast, they bore him off to his cubiculum, still muttering lamentations for Glaucus, and imprecations on the unfeeling overtures of ladies of pleasure.

Meanwhile Sosia strode indignantly homeward. 'Pimp, indeed!' quoth he to himself. 'Pimp! a scurvy-tongued fellow that Sallust! Had I been called knave, or thief. I could have forgiven it; but pimp! Faugh! There is something in the word which the toughest stomach in the world would rise against. A knave is a knave for his own pleasure, and a thief a thief for his own profit; and there is something honorable and philosophical in being a rascal for one's own sake: that is doing things upon principle—upon a grand scale. But a pimp is a thing that defiles itself for another—a pipkin that is put on the fire for another man's pottage! a napkin, that every guest wipes his hands upon! and the scullion says, "by your leave" too. A pimp! I would rather he had called me parricide! But the man was drunk, and did not know what he said; and, besides, I disguised myself. Had he seen it had been Sosia who addressed him, it would have been "honest Sosia!" and, "worthy man!" I warrant. Nevertheless, the trinkets have been won easily—that's some comfort! and, O goddess Feronia! I shall be a freedman soon! and then I should like to see who'll call me pimp!—unless, indeed, he pay me pretty handsomely for it!'

While Sosia was soliloquising in this high-minded and generous vein, his path lay along a narrow lane that led towards the amphitheatre and its adjacent palaces. Suddenly, as he turned a sharp corner he found himself in the midst of a considerable crowd. Men, women, and children, all were hurrying or laughing, talking, gesticulating; and, ere he was aware of it, the worthy Sosia was borne away with the noisy stream.

'What now?' he asked of his nearest neighbor, a young artificer; 'what now? Where are all these good folks thronging?' Does any rich patron give away alms or viands to-night?'

'Not so, man—better still,' replied the artificer; 'the noble Pansa—the people's friend—has granted the public leave to see the beasts in their vivaria. By Hercules! they will not be seen so safely by some persons to-morrow.'

'Tis a pretty sight,' said the slave, yielding to the throng that impelled him onward; 'and since I may not go to the sports to-morrow, I may as well take a peep at the beasts to-night.'

'You will do well,' returned his new acquaintance, 'a lion and a tiger are not to be seen at Pompeii every day.'

The crowd had now entered a broken and wide space of ground, on which, as it was only lighted scantily and from a distance, the press became dangerous to those whose limbs and shoulders were not fitted for a mob. Nevertheless, the women especially—many of them with children in their arms, or even at the breast—were the most resolute in forcing their way; and their shrill exclamations of complaint or objurgation were heard loud above the more jovial and masculine voices. Yet, amidst them was a young and girlish voice, that appeared to come from one too happy in her excitement to be alive to the inconvenience of the crowd.

'Aha!' cried the young woman, to some of her companions, 'I always told you so; I always said we should have a man for the lion; and now we have one for the tiger too! I wish tomorrow were come!'

       Ho, ho! for the merry, merry show,
        With a forest of faces in every row!
        Lo! the swordsmen, bold as the son of Alcmaena,
        Sweep, side by side, o'er the hushed arena.
        Talk while you may, you will hold your breath
        When they meet in the grasp of the glowing death!
        Tramp! tramp! how gaily they go!
        Ho! ho! for the merry, merry show!

'A jolly girl!' said Sosia.

'Yes,' replied the young artificer, a curly-headed, handsome youth. 'Yes,' replied he, enviously; 'the women love a gladiator. If I had been a slave, I would have soon found my schoolmaster in the lanista!'

'Would you, indeed?' said Sosia, with a sneer. 'People's notions differ!'

The crowd had now arrived at the place of destination; but as the cell in which the wild beasts were confined was extremely small and narrow, tenfold more vehement than it hitherto had been was the rush of the aspirants to obtain admittance. Two of the officers of the amphitheatre, placed at the entrance, very wisely mitigated the evil by dispensing to the foremost only a limited number of tickets at a time, and admitting no new visitors till their predecessors had sated their curiosity. Sosia, who was a tolerably stout fellow and not troubled with any remarkable scruples of diffidence or good breeding, contrived to be among the first of the initiated.

Separated from his companion the artificer, Sosia found himself in a narrow cell of oppressive heat and atmosphere, and lighted by several rank and flaring torches.

The animals, usually kept in different vivaria, or dens, were now, for the greater entertainment of the visitors, placed in one, but equally indeed divided from each other by strong cages protected by iron bars.

There they were, the fell and grim wanderers of the desert, who have now become almost the principal agents of this story. The lion, who, as being the more gentle by nature than his fellow-beast, had been more incited to ferocity by hunger, stalked restlessly and fiercely to and fro his narrow confines: his eyes were lurid with rage and famine: and as, every now and then, he paused and glared around, the spectators fearfully pressed backward, and drew their breath more quickly. But the tiger lay quiet and extended at full length in his cage, and only by an occasional play of his tail, or a long impatient yawn, testified any emotion at his confinement, or at the crowd which honored him with their presence.

'I have seen no fiercer beast than yon lion even in the amphitheatre of Rome,' said a gigantic and sinewy fellow who stood at the right hand of Sosia.

'I feel humbled when I look at his limbs,' replied, at the left of Sosia, a slighter and younger figure, with his arms folded on his breast.

The slave looked first at one, and then at the other. 'Virtus in medio!—virtue is ever in the middle!' muttered he to himself; 'a goodly neighborhood for thee, Sosia—a gladiator on each side!'

'That is well said, Lydon,' returned the huger gladiator; 'I feel the same.'

'And to think,' observed Lydon, in a tone of deep feeling, to think that the noble Greek, he whom we saw but a day or two since before us, so full of youth, and health, and joyousness, is to feast yon monster!'

'Why not?' growled Niger, savagely: 'many an honest gladiator has been compelled to a like combat by the emperor—why not a wealthy murderer by the law?'

Lydon sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and remained silent. Meanwhile the common gazers listened with staring eyes and lips apart: the gladiators were objects of interest as well as the beasts—they were animals of the same species; so the crowd glanced from one to the other—the men and the brutes—whispering their comments and anticipating the morrow.

'Well!' said Lydon, turning away, 'I thank the gods that it is not the lion or the tiger I am to contend with; even you, Niger, are a gentler combatant than they.'

'But equally dangerous,' said the gladiator, with a fierce laugh; and the bystanders, admiring his vast limbs and ferocious countenance, laughed too.

'That as it may be,' answered Lydon, carelessly, as he pressed through the throng and quitted the den.

'I may as well take advantage of his shoulders,' thought the prudent Sosia, hastening to follow him: 'the crowd always give way to a gladiator, so I will keep close behind, and come in for a share of his consequence.'

The son of Medon strode quickly through the mob, many of whom recognized his features and profession.

'That is young Lydon, a brave fellow: he fights to-morrow,' said one.

'Ah! I have a bet on him,' said another; 'see how firmly he walks!'

'Good luck to thee, Lydon!' said a third.

'Lydon, you have my wishes,' half whispered a fourth, smiling (a comely woman of the middle class)—'and if you win, why, you may hear more of me.'

'A handsome man, by Venus!' cried a fifth, who was a girl scarce in her teens. 'Thank you,' returned Sosia, gravely taking the compliment to himself.

However strong the purer motives of Lydon, and certain though it be that he would never have entered so bloody a calling but from the hope of obtaining his father's freedom, he was not altogether unmoved by the notice he excited. He forgot that the voices now raised in commendation might, on the morrow, shout over his death-pangs. By nature fierce and reckless, as well as generous and warm-hearted, he was already imbued with the pride of a profession that he fancied he disdained, and affected by the influence of a companionship that in reality he loathed. He saw himself now a man of importance; his step grew yet lighter, and his mien more elate.

'Niger,' said he, turning suddenly, as he had now threaded the crowd; 'we have often quarrelled; we are not matched against each other, but one of us, at least, may reasonably expect to fall—give us thy hand.'

'Most readily,' said Sosia, extending his palm.

'Ha! what fool is this? Why, I thought Niger was at my heels!'

'I forgive the mistake,' replied Sosia, condescendingly: 'don't mention it; the error was easy—I and Niger are somewhat of the same build.'

'Ha! ha! that is excellent! Niger would have slit thy throat had he heard thee!'

'You gentlemen of the arena have a most disagreeable mode of talking,' said Sosia; 'let us change the conversation.'

'Vah! vah!' said Lydon, impatiently; 'I am in no humor to converse with thee!'

'Why, truly,' returned the slave, 'you must have serious thoughts enough to occupy your mind: to-morrow is, I think, your first essay in the arena. Well, I am sure you will die bravely!'

'May thy words fall on thine own head!' said Lydon, superstitiously, for he by no means liked the blessing of Sosia. 'Die! No—I trust my hour is not yet come.'

'He who plays at dice with death must expect the dog's throw,' replied Sosia, maliciously. 'But you are a strong fellow, and I wish you all imaginable luck; and so, vale!'

With that the slave turned on his heel, and took his way homeward.

'I trust the rogue's words are not ominous,' said Lydon, musingly. 'In my zeal for my father's liberty, and my confidence in my own thews and sinews, I have not contemplated the possibility of death. My poor father! I am thy only son!—if I were to fall...'

As the thought crossed him, the gladiator strode on with a more rapid and restless pace, when suddenly, in an opposite street, he beheld the very object of his thoughts. Leaning on his stick, his form bent by care and age, his eyes downcast, and his steps trembling, the grey-haired Medon slowly approached towards the gladiator. Lydon paused a moment: he divined at once the cause that brought forth the old man at that late hour.

'Be sure, it is I whom he seeks,' thought he; 'he is horror struck at the condemnation of Olinthus—he more than ever esteems the arena criminal and hateful—he comes again to dissuade me from the contest. I must shun him—I cannot brook his prayers—his tears.'

These thoughts, so long to recite, flashed across the young man like lightning. He turned abruptly and fled swiftly in an opposite direction. He paused not till, almost spent and breathless, he found himself on the summit of a small acclivity which overlooked the most gay and splendid part of that miniature city; and as there he paused, and gazed along the tranquil streets glittering in the rays of the moon (which had just arisen, and brought partially and picturesquely into light the crowd around the amphitheatre at a distance, murmuring, and swaying to and fro), the influence of the scene affected him, rude and unimaginative though his nature. He sat himself down to rest upon the steps of a deserted portico, and felt the calm of the hour quiet and restore him. Opposite and near at hand, the lights gleamed from a palace in which the master now held his revels. The doors were open for coolness, and the gladiator beheld the numerous and festive group gathered round the tables in the atrium; while behind them, closing the long vista of the illumined rooms beyond, the spray of the distant fountain sparkled in the moonbeams. There, the garlands wreathed around the columns of the hall—there, gleamed still and frequent the marble statue—there, amidst peals of jocund laughter, rose the music and the lay.

              EPICUREAN SONG

       Away with your stories of Hades,
          Which the Flamen has forged to affright us—
       We laugh at your three Maiden Ladies,
          Your Fates—and your sullen Cocytus.

       Poor Jove has a troublesome life, sir,
          Could we credit your tales of his portals—
       In shutting his ears on his wife, sir,
          And opening his eyes upon mortals.

       Oh, blest be the bright Epicurus!
          Who taught us to laugh at such fables;
        On Hades they wanted to moor us,
          And his hand cut the terrible cables.

       If, then, there's a Jove or a Juno,
          They vex not their heads about us, man;
        Besides, if they did, I and you know
          'Tis the life of a god to live thus, man!

       What! think you the gods place their bliss—eh?—
         In playing the spy on a sinner?
        In counting the girls that we kiss, eh?
          Or the cups that we empty at dinner?

       Content with the soft lips that love us,
          This music, this wine, and this mirth, boys,
        We care not for gods up above us—
         We know there's no god for this earth, boys!

While Lydon's piety (which accommodating as it might be, was in no slight degree disturbed by these verses, which embodied the fashionable philosophy of the day) slowly recovered itself from the shock it had received, a small party of men, in plain garments and of the middle class, passed by his resting-place. They were in earnest conversation, and did not seem to notice or heed the gladiator as they moved on.

'O horror on horrors!' said one; 'Olinthus is snatched from us! our right arm is lopped away! When will Christ descend to protect his own?'

'Can human atrocity go farther said another: 'to sentence an innocent man to the same arena as a murderer! But let us not despair; the thunder of Sinai may yet be heard, and the Lord preserve his saint. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."'

At that moment out broke again, from the illumined palace, the burden of the reveller's song:—

    We care not for gods up above us—
       We know there's no god for this earth, boys!

Ere the words died away, the Nazarenes, moved by sudden indignation, caught up the echo, and, in the words of one of their favorite hymns, shouted aloud:—

        THE WARNING HYMN OF THE NAZARENES

       Around—about—for ever near thee,
        God—OUR GOD—shall mark and hear thee!
        On his car of storm He sweeps!
        Bow, ye heavens, and shrink, ye deeps!
        Woe to the proud ones who defy Him!—
       Woe to the dreamers who deny Him!
            Woe to the wicked, woe!
          The proud stars shall fail—
         The sun shall grow pale—
       The heavens shrivel up like a scroll—
         Hell's ocean shall bare
          Its depths of despair,
        Each wave an eternal soul!
          For the only thing, then,
          That shall not live again
            Is the corpse of the giant TIME.

           Hark, the trumpet of thunder!
           Lo, earth rent asunder!
         And, forth, on His Angel-throne,
           He comes through the gloom,
           The Judge of the Tomb,
         To summon and save His own!
              Oh, joy to Care, and woe to Crime,
              He comes to save His own!
        Woe to the proud ones who defy Him!
        Woe to the dreamers who deny Him!
              Woe to the wicked, woe!

A sudden silence from the startled hall of revel succeeded these ominous words: the Christians swept on, and were soon hidden from the sight of the gladiator. Awed, he scarce knew why, by the mystic denunciations of the Christians, Lydon, after a short pause, now rose to pursue his way homeward.

Before him, how serenely slept the starlight on that lovely city! how breathlessly its pillared streets reposed in their security!—how softly rippled the dark-green waves beyond!—how cloudless spread, aloft and blue, the dreaming Campanian skies! Yet this was the last night for the gay Pompeii! the colony of the hoar Chaldean! the fabled city of Hercules! the delight of the voluptuous Roman! Age after age had rolled, indestructive, unheeded, over its head; and now the last ray quivered on the dial-plate of its doom! The gladiator heard some light steps behind—a group of females were wending homeward from their visit to the amphitheatre. As he turned, his eye was arrested by a strange and sudden apparition. From the summit of Vesuvius, darkly visible at the distance, there shot a pale, meteoric, livid light—it trembled an instant and was gone. And at the same moment that his eye caught it, the voice of one of the youngest of the women broke out hilariously and shrill: —

TRAMP! TRAMP! HOW GAILY THEY GO!
HO, HO! FOR THE MORROW'S MERRY SHOW!


Victorian Overview Sir Edward G. D. Bulwer-Lytton Sir Edward G. D. Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii Next

Last modified 4 January 2007