Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

2. Chapter II (continued)

Opposite to him sat the sturdy Burbo, carefully counting on a table between them a little pile of coins which the priest had just poured from his purse--for purses were as common then as now, with this difference--they were usually better furnished!

'You see,' said Calenus, that we pay you handsomely, and you ought to thank me for recommending you to so advantageous a market.'

'I do, my cousin, I do,' replied Burbo, affectionately, as he swept the coins into a leathern receptacle, which he then deposited in his girdle, drawing the buckle round his capacious waist more closely than he was wont to do in the lax hours of his domestic avocations. 'And by Isis, Pisis, and Nisis, or whatever other gods there may be in Egypt, my little Nydia is a very Hesperides--a garden of gold to me.'

'She sings well, and plays like a muse,' returned Calenus; 'those are virtues that he who employs me always pays liberally.'

'He is a god,' cried Burbo, enthusiastically; 'every rich man who is generous deserves to be worshipped. But come, a cup of wine, old friend: tell me more about it. What does she do? she is frightened, talks of her oath, and reveals nothing.'

'Nor will I, by my right hand! I, too, have taken that terrible oath of secrecy.'

'Oath! what are oaths to men like us?'

'True oaths of a common fashion; but this!'--and the stalwart priest shuddered as he spoke. 'Yet,' he continued, in emptying a huge cup of unmixed wine, 'I own to thee, that it is not so much the oath that I dread as the vengeance of him who proposed it. By the gods! he is a mighty sorcerer, and could draw my confession from the moon, did I dare to make it to her. Talk no more of this. By Pollux! wild as those banquets are which I enjoy with him, I am never quite at my ease there. I love, my boy, one jolly hour with thee, and one of the plain, unsophisticated, laughing girls that I meet in this chamber, all smoke-dried though it be, better than whole nights of those magnificent debauches.'

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