Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

15. Chapter XV (continued)

Arbaces gazed upon her a moment ere he advanced. She, too, lifted up her eyes; and when she saw who was the intruder, shut them with an expression of pain, but did not stir.

'Ah!' said Arbaces in a low and earnest tone as he respectfully, nay, humbly, advanced and seated himself at a little distance from the table--'Ah! that my death could remove thy hatred, then would I gladly die! Thou wrongest me, Ione; but I will bear the wrong without a murmur, only let me see thee sometimes. Chide, reproach, scorn me, if thou wilt--I will teach myself to bear it. And is not even thy bitterest tone sweeter to me than the music of the most artful lute? In thy silence the world seems to stand still--a stagnation curdles up the veins of the earth--there is no earth, no life, without the light of thy countenance and the melody of thy voice.'

'Give me back my brother and my betrothed,' said Ione, in a calm and imploring tone, and a few large tears rolled unheeded down her cheeks.

'Would that I could restore the one and save the other!' returned Arbaces, with apparent emotion. 'Yes; to make thee happy I would renounce my ill-fated love, and gladly join thy hand to the Athenian's. Perhaps he will yet come unscathed from his trial (Arbaces had prevented her learning that the trial had already commenced); if so, thou art free to judge or condemn him thyself. And think not, O Ione, that I would follow thee longer with a prayer of love. I know it is in vain. Suffer me only to weep--to mourn with thee. Forgive a violence deeply repented, and that shall offend no more. Let me be to thee only what I once was--a friend, a father, a Protector. Ah, Ione! spare me and forgive.'

'I forgive thee. Save but Glaucus, and I will renounce him. O mighty Arbaces! thou art powerful in evil or in good: save the Athenian, and the poor Ione will never see him more.' As she spoke, she rose with weak and trembling limbs, and falling at his feet, she clasped his knees: 'Oh! if thou really lovest me--if thou art human--remember my father's ashes, remember my childhood, think of all the hours we passed happily together, and save my Glaucus!'

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