Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

9. Chapter IX (continued)

As he spoke, the still and vast features of the goddess seemed suddenly to glow with life; through the black marble, as through a transparent veil, flushed luminously a crimson and burning hue; around the head played and darted coruscations of livid lightning; the eyes became like balls of lurid fire, and seemed fixed in withering and intolerable wrath upon the countenance of the Greek. Awed and appalled by this sudden and mystic answer to the prayer of his foe, and not free from the hereditary superstitions of his race, the cheeks of Glaucus paled before that strange and ghastly animation of the marble--his knees knocked together--he stood, seized with a divine panic, dismayed, aghast, half unmanned before his foe! Arbaces gave him not breathing time to recover his stupor: 'Die, wretch!' he shouted, in a voice of thunder, as he sprang upon the Greek; 'the Mighty Mother claims thee as a living sacrifice!' Taken thus by surprise in the first consternation of his superstitious fears, the Greek lost his footing--the marble floor was as smooth as glass--he slid--he fell. Arbaces planted his foot on the breast of his fallen foe. Apaecides, taught by his sacred profession, as well as by his knowledge of Arbaces, to distrust all miraculous interpositions, had not shared the dismay of his companion; he rushed forward--his knife gleamed in the air--the watchful Egyptian caught his arm as it descended--one wrench of his powerful hand tore the weapon from the weak grasp of the priest--one sweeping blow stretched him to the earth--with a loud and exulting yell Arbaces brandished the knife on high. Glaucus gazed upon his impending fate with unwinking eyes, and in the stern and scornful resignation of a fallen gladiator, when, at that awful instant, the floor shook under them with a rapid and convulsive throe--a mightier spirit than that of the Egyptian was abroad!--a giant and crushing power, before which sunk into sudden impotence his passion and his arts. IT woke--it stirred--that Dread Demon of the Earthquake--laughing to scorn alike the magic of human guile and the malice of human wrath. As a Titan, on whom the mountains are piled, it roused itself from the sleep of years, it moved on its tortured couch--the caverns below groaned and trembled beneath the motion of its limbs. In the moment of his vengeance and his power, the self-prized demigod was humbled to his real clay. Far and wide along the soil went a hoarse and rumbling sound--the curtains of the chamber shook as at the blast of a storm--the altar rocked--the tripod reeled, and high over the place of contest, the column trembled and waved from side to side--the sable head of the goddess tottered and fell from its pedestal--and as the Egyptian stooped above his intended victim, right upon his bended form, right between the shoulder and the neck, struck the marble mass! The shock stretched him like the blow of death, at once, suddenly, without sound or motion, or semblance of life, upon the floor, apparently crushed by the very divinity he had impiously animated and invoked!

This is page 154 of 436. [Mark this Page]
Mark any page to add this title to Your Bookshelf. (0 / 10 books on shelf)
Customize text appearance:
Color: A A A A A   Font: Aa Aa   Size: 1 2 3 4 5   Defaults
(c) 2003-2012 LiteraturePage.com and Michael Moncur. All rights reserved.
For information about public domain texts appearing here, read the copyright information and disclaimer.