Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

6. Chapter VI (continued)

'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.

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