Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

5. Chapter V


THE sun shone gaily into that beautiful chamber in the house of Glaucus, which I have before said is now called the 'Room of Leda'. The morning rays entered through rows of small casements at the higher part of the room, and through the door which opened on the garden, that answered to the inhabitants of the southern cities the same purpose that a greenhouse or conservatory does to us. The size of the garden did not adapt it for exercise, but the various and fragrant plants with which it was filled gave a luxury to that indolence so dear to the dwellers in a sunny clime. And now the odorous, fanned by a gentle wind creeping from the adjacent sea, scattered themselves over that chamber, whose walls vied with the richest colors of the most glowing flowers. Besides the gem of the room--the painting of Leda and Tyndarus--in the centre of each compartment of the walls were set other pictures of exquisite beauty. In one you saw Cupid leaning on the knees of Venus; in another Ariadne sleeping on the beach, unconscious of the perfidy of Theseus. Merrily the sunbeams played to and fro on the tessellated floor and the brilliant walls--far more happily came the rays of joy to the heart of the young Glaucus.

'I have seen her, then,' said he, as he paced that narrow chamber--'I have heard her--nay, I have spoken to her again--I have listened to the music of her song, and she sung of glory and of Greece. I have discovered the long-sought idol of my dreams; and like the Cyprian sculptor, I have breathed life into my own imaginings.'

Longer, perhaps, had been the enamoured soliloquy of Glaucus, but at that moment a shadow darkened the threshold of the chamber, and a young female, still half a child in years, broke upon his solitude. She was dressed simply in a white tunic, which reached from the neck to the ankles; under her arm she bore a basket of flowers, and in the other hand she held a bronze water-vase; her features were more formed than exactly became her years, yet they were soft and feminine in their outline, and without being beautiful in themselves, they were almost made so by their beauty of expression; there was something ineffably gentle, and you would say patient, in her aspect. A look of resigned sorrow, of tranquil endurance, had banished the smile, but not the sweetness, from her lips; something timid and cautious in her step--something wandering in her eyes, led you to suspect the affliction which she had suffered from her birth--she was blind; but in the orbs themselves there was no visible defect--their melancholy and subdued light was clear, cloudless, and serene. 'They tell me that Glaucus is here,' said she; 'may I come in?'

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