Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

1. Chapter I (continued)

Nor was this all, the sanguine and impetuous mind of Olinthus beheld in the power of Apaecides the means of divulging to the deluded people the juggling mysteries of the oracular Isis. He thought Heaven had sent this instrument of his design in order to disabuse the eyes of the crowd, and prepare the way, perchance, for the conversion of a whole city. He did not hesitate then to appeal to all the new-kindled enthusiasm of Apaecides, to arouse his courage, and to stimulate his zeal. They met, according to previous agreement, the evening after the baptism of Apaecides, in the grove of Cybele, which we have before described.

'At the next solemn consultation of the oracle,' said Olinthus, as he proceeded in the warmth of his address, 'advance yourself to the railing, proclaim aloud to the people the deception they endure, invite them to enter, to be themselves the witness of the gross but artful mechanism of imposture thou hast described to me. Fear not--the Lord, who protected Daniel, shall protect thee; we, the community of Christians, will be amongst the crowd; we will urge on the shrinking: and in the first flush of the popular indignation and shame, I myself, upon those very altars, will plant the palm-branch typical of the Gospel--and to my tongue shall descend the rushing Spirit of the living God.'

Heated and excited as he was, this suggestion was not unpleasing to Apaecides. He was rejoiced at so early an opportunity of distinguishing his faith in his new sect, and to his holier feelings were added those of a vindictive loathing at the imposition he had himself suffered, and a desire to avenge it. In that sanguine and elastic overbound of obstacles (the rashness necessary to all who undertake venturous and lofty actions), neither Olinthus nor the proselyte perceived the impediments to the success of their scheme, which might be found in the reverent superstition of the people themselves, who would probably be loth, before the sacred altars of the great Egyptian goddess, to believe even the testimony of her priest against her power.

Apaecides then assented to this proposal with a readiness which delighted Olinthus. They parted with the understanding that Olinthus should confer with the more important of his Christian brethren on his great enterprise, should receive their advice and the assurances of their support on the eventful day. It so chanced that one of the festivals of Isis was to be held on the second day after this conference. The festival proffered a ready occasion for the design. They appointed to meet once more on the next evening at the same spot; and in that meeting were finally to be settled the order and details of the disclosure for the following day.

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