BOOK THE SECOND
8. Chapter VIII
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
It was the hour above all others most sacred to the daring science of the
Egyptian--the science which would read our changeful destinies in the stars.
He had filled his scroll, he had noted the moment and the sign; and, leaning
upon his hand, he had surrendered himself to the thoughts which his