BOOK THE SECOND
6. Chapter VI
'They tell me,' said Nydia, 'that thou art beautiful beyond the loveliness
of earth. Alas! I cannot see that which gladdens the world! Wilt thou
suffer me, then, to pass my hand over thy face?--that is my sole criterion
of beauty, and I usually guess aright.'
She did not wait for the answer of Ione, but, as she spoke, gently and
slowly passed her hand over the bending and half-averted features of the
Greek--features which but one image in the world can yet depicture and
recall--that image is the mutilated, but all-wondrous, statue in her native
city--her own Neapolis--that Parian face, before which all the beauty of the
Florentine Venus is poor and earthly--that aspect so full of harmony--of
youth--of genius--of the soul--which modern critics have supposed the
representation of Psyche.
Her touch lingered over the braided hair and polished brow--over the downy
and damask cheek--over the dimpled lip--the swan-like and whitish neck. 'I
know now, that thou art beautiful,' she said: 'and I can picture thee to my
darkness henceforth, and for ever!'
When Nydia left her, Ione sank into a deep but delicious reverie. Glaucus
then loved her; he owned it--yes, he loved her. She drew forth again that
dear confession; she paused over every word, she kissed every line; she did
not ask why he had been maligned, she only felt assured that he had been so.
She wondered how she had ever believed a syllable against him; she wondered
how the Egyptian had been enabled to exercise a power against Glaucus; she
felt a chill creep over her as she again turned to his warning against
Arbaces, and her secret fear of that gloomy being darkened into awe. She
was awakened from these thoughts by her maidens, who came to announce to her
that the hour appointed to visit Arbaces was arrived; she started, she had
forgotten the promise. Her first impression was to renounce it; her second,
was to laugh at her own fears of her eldest surviving friend. She hastened
to add the usual ornaments to her dress, and doubtful whether she should yet
question the Egyptian more closely with respect to his accusation of
Glaucus, or whether she should wait till, without citing the authority, she
should insinuate to Glaucus the accusation itself, she took her way to the
gloomy mansion of Arbaces.