BOOK THE FOURTH
14. Chapter XIV
NYDIA ACCOSTS CALENUS.
WHAT words of terror, yet of hope, had Nydia overheard! The next day
Glaucus was to be condemned; yet there lived one who could save him, and
adjudge Arbaces to his doom, and that one breathed within a few steps of her
hiding-place! She caught his cries and shrieks--his imprecations--his
prayers, though they fell choked and muffled on her ear. He was imprisoned,
but she knew the secret of his cell: could she but escape--could she but
seek the praetor he might yet in time be given to light, and preserve the
Athenian. Her emotions almost stifled her; her brain reeled--she felt her
sense give way--but by a violent effort she mastered herself,--and, after
listening intently for several minutes, till she was convinced that Arbaces
had left the space to solitude and herself, she crept on as her ear guided
her to the very door that had closed upon Calenus. Here she more distinctly
caught his accents of terror and despair. Thrice she attempted to speak,
and thrice her voice failed to penetrate the folds of the heavy door. At
length finding the lock, she applied her lips to its small aperture, and the
prisoner distinctly heard a soft tone breathe his name.
His blood curdled--his hair stood on end. That awful solitude, what
mysterious and preternatural being could penetrate! 'Who's there?' he
cried, in new alarm; 'what spectre--what dread larva, calls upon the lost
'Priest,' replied the Thessalian, 'unknown to Arbaces, I have been, by the
permission of the gods, a witness to his perfidy. If I myself can escape
from these walls, I may save thee. But let thy voice reach my ear through
this narrow passage, and answer what I ask.'
'Ah, blessed spirit,' said the priest, exultingly, and obeying the
suggestion of Nydia, 'save me, and I will sell the very cups on the altar to
pay thy kindness.'
'I want not thy gold--I want thy secret. Did I hear aright? Canst thou save
the Athenian Glaucus from the charge against his life?'
'I can--I can!--therefore (may the Furies blast the foul Egyptian!) hath
Arbaces snared me thus, and left me to starve and rot!'