Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

8. Chapter VIII (continued)

'Again do the stars forewarn me! Some danger, then, assuredly awaits me!' said he, slowly; 'some danger, violent and sudden in its nature. The stars wear for me the same mocking menace which, if our chronicles do not err, they once wore for Pyrrhus--for him, doomed to strive for all things, to enjoy none--all attacking, nothing gaining--battles without fruit, laurels without triumph, fame without success; at last made craven by his own superstitions, and slain like a dog by a tile from the hand of an old woman! Verily, the stars flatter when they give me a type in this fool of war--when they promise to the ardour of my wisdom the same results as to the madness of his ambition--perpetual exercise--no certain goal!--the Sisyphus task, the mountain and the stone!--the stone, a gloomy image!--it reminds me that I am threatened with somewhat of the same death as the Epirote. Let me look again. "Beware," say the shining prophets, "how thou passest under ancient roofs, or besieged walls, or overhanging cliffs--a stone hurled from above, is charged by the curses of destiny against thee!" And, at no distant date from this, comes the peril: but I cannot, of a certainty, read the day and hour. Well! if my glass runs low, the sands shall sparkle to the last. Yet, if I escape this peril--ay, if I escape--bright and clear as the moonlight track along the waters glows the rest of my existence. I see honors, happiness, success, shining upon every billow of the dark gulf beneath which I must sink at last. What, then, with such destinies beyond the peril, shall I succumb to the peril? My soul whispers hope, it sweeps exultingly beyond the boding hour, it revels in the future--its own courage is its fittest omen. If I were to perish so suddenly and so soon, the shadow of death would darken over me, and I should feel the icy presentiment of my doom. My soul would express, in sadness and in gloom, its forecast of the dreary Orcus. But it smiles--it assures me of deliverance.'

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