Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

9. Chapter IX (continued)

'Dark Egyptian!' cried Ione, drawing herself proudly aside; 'begone! It is thou that hast slain my brother! Is it to thy care, thy hands yet reeking with his blood, that they will give the sister Ha! thou turnest pale! thy conscience smites thee! thou tremblest at the thunderbolt of the avenging god! Pass on, and leave me to my woe!'

'Thy sorrows unstring thy reason, Ione,' said Arbaces, attempting in vain his usual calmness of tone. 'I forgive thee. Thou wilt find me now, as ever, thy surest friend. But the public streets are not the fitting place for us to confer--for me to console thee. Approach, slaves! Come, my sweet charge, the litter awaits thee.'

The amazed and terrified attendants gathered round Ione, and clung to her knees.

'Arbaces,' said the eldest of the maidens, 'this is surely not the law! For nine days after the funeral, is it not written that the relatives of the deceased shall not be molested in their homes, or interrupted in their solitary grief?'

'Woman!' returned Arbaces, imperiously waving his hand, 'to place a ward under the roof of her guardian is not against the funeral laws. I tell thee I have the fiat of the praetor. This delay is indecorous. Place her in the litter.'

So saying, he threw his arm firmly round the shrinking form of Ione. She drew back, gazed earnestly in his face, and then burst into hysterical laughter:

'Ha, ha! this is well--well! Excellent guardian--paternal law! Ha, ha!' And, startled herself at the dread echo of that shrill and maddened laughter, she sunk, as it died away, lifeless upon the ground... A minute more, and Arbaces had lifted her into the litter. The bearers moved swiftly on, and the unfortunate Ione was soon borne from the sight of her weeping handmaids.

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