BOOK THE SECOND
9. Chapter IX
In the walls were set pictures of inestimable art, the lights shone over
statues of the noblest age of Greece. Cabinets of gems, each cabinet itself
a gem, filled up the interstices of the columns; the most precious woods
lined the thresholds and composed the doors; gold and jewels seemed lavished
all around. Sometimes they were alone in these rooms--sometimes they passed
through silent rows of slaves, who, kneeling as she passed, proffered to her
offerings of bracelets, of chains, of gems, which the Egyptian vainly
entreated her to receive.
'I have often heard,' said she, wonderingly, 'that you were rich; but I
never dreamed of the amount of your wealth.'
'Would I could coin it all,' replied the Egyptian, 'into one crown, which I
might place upon that snowy brow!'
'Alas! the weight would crush me; I should be a second Tarpeia,' answered
'But thou dost not disdain riches, O Ione! they know not what life is
capable of who are not wealthy. Gold is the great magician of earth--it
realizes our dreams--it gives them the power of a god--there is a grandeur,
a sublimity, in its possession; it is the mightiest, yet the most obedient
of our slaves.'
The artful Arbaces sought to dazzle the young Neapolitan by his treasures
and his eloquence; he sought to awaken in her the desire to be mistress of
what she surveyed: he hoped that she would confound the owner with the
possessions, and that the charms of his wealth would be reflected on
himself. Meanwhile, Ione was secretly somewhat uneasy at the gallantries
which escaped from those lips, which, till lately, had seemed to disdain the
common homage we pay to beauty; and with that delicate subtlety, which woman
alone possesses, she sought to ward off shafts deliberately aimed, and to
laugh or to talk away the meaning from his warming language. Nothing in the
world is more pretty than that same species of defence; it is the charm of
the African necromancer who professed with a feather to turn aside the
The Egyptian was intoxicated and subdued by her grace even more than by her
beauty: it was with difficulty that he suppressed his emotions; alas! the
feather was only powerful against the summer breezes--it would be the sport
of the storm.