BOOK THE THIRD
10. Chapter X
She replaced the stone, and continued her path onward for some paces, when
she stopped before a deep irregular fissure in the earth. Here, as she
bent--strange, rumbling, hoarse, and distant sounds might be heard, while
ever and anon, with a loud and grating noise which, to use a homely but
faithful simile, seemed to resemble the grinding of steel upon wheels,
volumes of streaming and dark smoke issued forth, and rushed spirally along
'The Shades are noisier than their wont,' said the hag, shaking her grey
locks; and, looking into the cavity, she beheld, far down, glimpses of a
long streak of light, intensely but darkly red. 'Strange!' she said,
shrinking back; 'it is only within the last two days that dull, deep light
hath been visible--what can it portend?'
The fox, who had attended the steps of his fell mistress, uttered a dismal
howl, and ran cowering back to the inner cave; a cold shuddering seized the
hag herself at the cry of the animal, which, causeless as it seemed, the
superstitions of the time considered deeply ominous. She muttered her
placatory charm, and tottered back into her cavern, where, amidst her herbs
and incantations, she prepared to execute the orders of the Egyptian.
'He called me dotard,' said she, as the smoke curled from the hissing
cauldron: 'when the jaws drop, and the grinders fall, and the heart scarce
beats, it is a pitiable thing to dote; but when,' she added, with a savage
and exulting grin, 'the young, and the beautiful, and the strong, are
suddenly smitten into idiocy--ah, that is terrible! Burn, flame--simmer
herb--swelter toad--I cursed him, and he shall be cursed!'
On that night, and at the same hour which witnessed the dark and unholy
interview between Arbaces and the Saga, Apaecides was baptized.