BOOK THE THIRD
10. Chapter X
THE LORD OF THE BURNING BELT AND HIS MINION. FATE WRITES HER PROPHECY IN
RED LETTERS, BUT WHO SHALL READ THEM?
ARBACES had tarried only till the cessation of the tempest allowed him,
under cover of night, to seek the Saga of Vesuvius. Borne by those of his
trustier slaves in whom in all more secret expeditions he was accustomed to
confide, he lay extended along his litter, and resigning his sanguine heart
to the contemplation of vengeance gratified and love possessed. The slaves
in so short a journey moved very little slower than the ordinary pace of
mules; and Arbaces soon arrived at the commencement of a narrow path, which
the lovers had not been fortunate enough to discover; but which, skirting
the thick vines, led at once to the habitation of the witch. Here he rested
the litter; and bidding his slaves conceal themselves and the vehicle among
the vines from the observation of any chance passenger, he mounted alone,
with steps still feeble but supported by a long staff, the drear and sharp
Not a drop of rain fell from the tranquil heaven; but the moisture dripped
mournfully from the laden boughs of the vine, and now and then collected in
tiny pools in the crevices and hollows of the rocky way.
'Strange passions these for a philosopher,' thought Arbaces, 'that lead one
like me just new from the bed of death, and lapped even in health amidst the
roses of luxury, across such nocturnal paths as this; but Passion and
Vengeance treading to their goal can make an Elysium of a Tartarus.' High,
clear, and melancholy shone the moon above the road of that dark wayfarer,
glossing herself in every pool that lay before him, and sleeping in shadow
along the sloping mount. He saw before him the same light that had guided
the steps of his intended victims, but, no longer contrasted by the
blackened clouds, it shone less redly clear.
He paused, as at length he approached the mouth of the cavern, to recover
breath; and then, with his wonted collected and stately mien, he crossed the
The fox sprang up at the ingress of this newcomer, and by a long howl
announced another visitor to his mistress.