BOOK THE FOURTH
15. Chapter XV
It was about this time that Nydia had resolved to quit her hiding-place, and
venture forth on her way. Lightly, tremulously holding her breath, which
ever and anon broke forth in quick convulsive gasps--now gliding by the
flower--wreathed columns that bordered the peristyle--now darkening the
still moonshine that fell over its tessellated centre--now ascending the
terrace of the garden--now gliding amidst the gloomy and breathless trees,
she gained the fatal door--to find it locked! We have all seen that
expression of pain, of uncertainty, of fear, which a sudden disappointment
of touch, if I may use the expression, casts over the face of the blind.
But what words can paint the intolerable woe, the sinking of the whole
heart, which was now visible on the features of the Thessalian? Again and
again her small, quivering hands wandered to and fro the inexorable door.
Poor thing that thou wert! in vain had been all thy noble courage, thy
innocent craft, thy doublings to escape the hound and huntsmen! Within but
a few yards from thee, laughing at thy endeavors--thy despair--knowing thou
wert now their own, and watching with cruel patience their own moment to
seize their prey--thou art saved from seeing thy pursuers!
'Hush, Callias!--let her go on. Let us see what she will do when she has
convinced herself that the door is honest.'
'Look! she raises her face to the heavens--she mutters--she sinks down
despondent! No! by Pollux, she has some new scheme! She will not resign
herself! By Jupiter, a tough spirit! See, she springs up--she retraces her
steps--she thinks of some other chance!--I advise thee, Sosia, to delay no
longer: seize her ere she quit the garden--now!'
'Ah! runaway! I have thee--eh?' said Sosia, seizing upon the unhappy Nydia.
As a hare's last human cry in the fangs of the dogs--as the sharp voice of
terror uttered by a sleep-walker suddenly awakened--broke the shriek of the
blind girl, when she felt the abrupt gripe of her gaoler. It was a shriek
of such utter agony, such entire despair, that it might have rung hauntingly
in your ears for ever. She felt as if the last plank of the sinking Glaucus
were torn from his clasp! It had been a suspense of life and death; and
death had now won the game.