Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

11. Chapter XI


'AND you have the courage then, Julia, to seek the Witch of Vesuvius this evening; in company, too, with that fearful man?'

'Why, Nydia?' replied Julia, timidly; 'dost thou really think there is anything to dread? These old hags, with their enchanted mirrors, their trembling sieves, and their moon-gathered herbs, are, I imagine, but crafty impostors, who have learned, perhaps, nothing but the very charm for which I apply to their skill, and which is drawn but from the knowledge of the field's herbs and simples. Wherefore should I dread?'

'Dost thou not fear thy companion?'

'What, Arbaces? By Dian, I never saw lover more courteous than that same magician! And were he not so dark, he would be even handsome.'

Blind as she was, Nydia had the penetration to perceive that Julia's mind was not one that the gallantries of Arbaces were likely to terrify. She therefore dissuaded her no more: but nursed in her excited heart the wild and increasing desire to know if sorcery had indeed a spell to fascinate love to love.

'Let me go with thee, noble Julia,' said she at length; 'my presence is no protection, but I should like to be beside thee to the last.'

'Thine offer pleases me much,' replied the daughter of Diomed. 'Yet how canst thou contrive it? we may not return until late, they will miss thee.'

'Ione is indulgent,' replied Nydia. 'If thou wilt permit me to sleep beneath thy roof, I will say that thou, an early patroness and friend, hast invited me to pass the day with thee, and sing thee my Thessalian songs; her courtesy will readily grant to thee so light a boon.'

'Nay, ask for thyself!' said the haughty Julia. 'I stoop to request no favor from the Neapolitan!'

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