Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

8. Chapter VIII


ARBACES was seated in a chamber which opened on a kind of balcony or portico that fronted his garden. His cheek was pale and worn with the sufferings he had endured, but his iron frame had already recovered from the severest effects of that accident which had frustrated his fell designs in the moment of victory. The air that came fragrantly to his brow revived his languid senses, and the blood circulated more freely than it had done for days through his shrunken veins.

'So, then,' thought he, 'the storm of fate has broken and blown over--the evil which my lore predicted, threatening life itself, has chanced--and yet I live! It came as the stars foretold; and now the long, bright, and prosperous career which was to succeed that evil, if I survived it, smiles beyond: I have passed--I have subdued the latest danger of my destiny. Now I have but to lay out the gardens of my future fate--unterrified and secure. First, then, of all my pleasures, even before that of love, shall come revenge! This boy Greek--who has crossed my passion--thwarted my designs--baffled me even when the blade was about to drink his accursed blood--shall not a second time escape me! But for the method of my vengeance? Of that let me ponder well! Oh! Ate, if thou art indeed a goddess, fill me with thy direst Inspiration!' The Egyptian sank into an intent reverie, which did not seem to present to him any clear or satisfactory suggestions. He changed his position restlessly, as he revolved scheme after scheme, which no sooner occurred than it was dismissed: several times he struck his breast and groaned aloud, with the desire of vengeance, and a sense of his impotence to accomplish it. While thus absorbed, a boy slave timidly entered the chamber.

A female, evidently of rank from her dress, and that of the single slave who attended her, waited below and sought an audience with Arbaces.

'A female!' his heart beat quick. 'Is she young?'

'Her face is concealed by her veil; but her form is slight, yet round, as that of youth.'

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