Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

6. Chapter VI (continued)

'My own danger!' said the girl, frightened and looking hastily around--'Avert the omen! let thy words fall on thine own head!' And the girl, as she spoke, touched a talisman suspended round her neck. '"Thine own danger!" what danger threatens me?'

'Had the earthquake but a few nights since no warning?' said Medon. 'Has it not a voice? Did it not say to us all, "Prepare for death; the end of all things is at hand?"'

'Bah, stuff!' said the young woman, settling the folds of her tunic. 'Now thou talkest as they say the Nazarenes talked--methinks thou art one of them. Well, I can prate with thee, grey croaker, no more: thou growest worse and worse--Vale! O Hercules, send us a man for the lion--and another for the tiger!'

Ho! ho! for the merry, merry show,
With a forest of faces in every row!
Lo, the swordsmen, bold as the son of Alcmena,
Sweep, side by side, o'er the hushed arena;
Talk while you may--you will hold your breath
When they meet in the grasp of the glowing death.
Tramp, tramp, how gaily they go!
Ho! ho! for the merry, merry show!

Chanting in a silver and clear voice this feminine ditty, and holding up her tunic from the dusty road, the young woman stepped lightly across to the crowded hostelry.

'My poor son!' said the slave, half aloud, 'is it for things like this thou art to be butchered? Oh! faith of Christ, I could worship thee in all sincerity, were it but for the horror which thou inspirest for these bloody lists.'

The old man's head sank dejectedly on his breast. He remained silent and absorbed, but every now and then with the corner of his sleeve he wiped his eyes. His heart was with his son; he did not see the figure that now approached from the gate with a quick step, and a somewhat fierce and reckless gait and carriage. He did not lift his eyes till the figure paused opposite the place where he sat, and with a soft voice addressed him by the name of:


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