Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

9. Chapter IX (continued)

'How beautiful!' said Glaucus, in a half-whispered tone, 'is that expression by which we call Earth our Mother! With what a kindly equal love she pours her blessings upon her children! and even to those sterile spots to which Nature has denied beauty, she yet contrives to dispense her smiles: witness the arbutus and the vine, which she wreathes over the arid and burning soil of yon extinct volcano. Ah! in such an hour and scene as this, well might we imagine that the Faun should peep forth from those green festoons; or, that we might trace the steps of the Mountain Nymph through the thickest mazes of the glade. But the Nymphs ceased, beautiful Ione, when thou wert created!'

There is no tongue that flatters like a lover's; and yet, in the exaggeration of his feelings, flattery seems to him commonplace. Strange and prodigal exuberance, which soon exhausts itself by overflowing!

They arrived at the ruins; they examined them with that fondness with which we trace the hallowed and household vestiges of our own ancestry--they lingered there till Hesperus appeared in the rosy heavens; and then returning homeward in the twilight, they were more silent than they had been; for in the shadow and beneath the stars they felt more oppressively their mutual love.

It was at this time that the storm which the Egyptian had predicted began to creep visibly over them. At first, a low and distant thunder gave warning of the approaching conflict of the elements; and then rapidly rushed above the dark ranks of the serried clouds. The suddenness of storms in that climate is something almost preternatural, and might well suggest to early superstition the notion of a divine agency--a few large drops broke heavily among the boughs that half overhung their path, and then, swift and intolerably bright, the forked lightning darted across their very eyes, and was swallowed up by the increasing darkness.

'Swifter, good Carrucarius!' cried Glaucus to the driver; 'the tempest comes on apace.'

The slave urged on the mules--they went swift over the uneven and stony road--the clouds thickened, near and more near broke the thunder, and fast rushed the dashing rain.

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