Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

5. Chapter V (continued)

Apaecides had not yet adopted formally the Christian faith, but he was already on the brink of it. He already participated the doctrines of Olinthus--he already imagined that the lively imaginations of the heathen were the suggestions of the arch-enemy of mankind. The innocent and natural answer of Ione made him shudder. He hastened to reply vehemently, and yet so confusedly, that Ione feared for his reason more than she dreaded his violence.

'Ah, my brother!' said she, 'these hard duties of thine have shattered thy very sense. Come to me, Apaecides, my brother, my own brother; give me thy hand, let me wipe the dew from thy brow--chide me not now, I understand thee not; think only that Ione could not offend thee!'

'Ione,' said Apaecides, drawing her towards him, and regarding her tenderly, 'can I think that this beautiful form, this kind heart, may be destined to an eternity of torment?'

'Dii meliora! the gods forbid!' said Ione, in the customary form of words by which her contemporaries thought an omen might be averted.

The words, and still more the superstition they implied, wounded the ear of Apaecides. He rose, muttering to himself, turned from the chamber, then, stopping, half way, gazed wistfully on Ione, and extended his arms.

Ione flew to them in joy; he kissed her earnestly, and then he said:

'Farewell, my sister! when we next meet, thou mayst be to me as nothing; take thou, then, this embrace--full yet of all the tender reminiscences of childhood, when faith and hope, creeds, customs, interests, objects, were the same to us. Now, the tie is to be broken!'

With these strange words he left the house.

The great and severest trial of the primitive Christians was indeed this; their conversion separated them from their dearest bonds. They could not associate with beings whose commonest actions, whose commonest forms of speech, were impregnated with idolatry. They shuddered at the blessing of love, to their ears it was uttered in a demon's name. This, their misfortune, was their strength; if it divided them from the rest of the world, it was to unite them proportionally to each other. They were men of iron who wrought forth the Word of God, and verily the bonds that bound them were of iron also!

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