Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

4. Chapter IV


RESTLESS and anxious, Apaecides consumed the day in wandering through the most sequestered walks in the vicinity of the city. The sun was slowly setting as he paused beside a lonely part of the Sarnus, ere yet it wound amidst the evidences of luxury and power. Only through openings in the woods and vines were caught glimpses of the white and gleaming city, in which was heard in the distance no din, no sound, nor 'busiest hum of men'. Amidst the green banks crept the lizard and the grasshopper, and here and there in the brake some solitary bird burst into sudden song, as suddenly stifled. There was deep calm around, but not the calm of night; the air still breathed of the freshness and life of day; the grass still moved to the stir of the insect horde; and on the opposite bank the graceful and white capella passed browsing through the herbage, and paused at the wave to drink.

As Apaecides stood musingly gazing upon the waters, he heard beside him the low bark of a dog.

'Be still, poor friend,' said a voice at hand; 'the stranger's step harms not thy master.' The convert recognized the voice, and, turning, he beheld the old mysterious man whom he had seen in the congregation of the Nazarenes.

The old man was sitting upon a fragment of stone covered with ancient mosses; beside him were his staff and scrip; at his feet lay a small shaggy dog, the companion in how many a pilgrimage perilous and strange.

The face of the old man was as balm to the excited spirit of the neophyte: he approached, and craving his blessing, sat down beside him.

'Thou art provided as for a journey, father,' said he: 'wilt thou leave us yet?'

'My son,' replied the old man, 'the days in store for me on earth are few and scanty; I employ them as becomes me travelling from place to place, comforting those whom God has gathered together in His name, and proclaiming the glory of His Son, as testified to His servant.'

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