Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

3. Chapter III


THRICE had Sallust awakened from his morning sleep, and thrice, recollecting that his friend was that day to perish, had he turned himself with a deep sigh once more to court oblivion. His sole object in life was to avoid pain; and where he could not avoid, at least to forget it.

At length, unable any longer to steep his consciousness in slumber, he raised himself from his incumbent posture, and discovered his favorite freedman sitting by his bedside as usual; for Sallust, who, as I have said, had a gentlemanlike taste for the polite letters, was accustomed to be read to for an hour or so previous to his rising in the morning.

'No books to-day! no more Tibullus! no more Pindar for me! Pindar! alas, alas! the very name recalls those games to which our arena is the savage successor. Has it begun--the amphitheatre? are its rites commenced?'

'Long since, O Sallust! Did you not hear the trumpets and the trampling feet?'

'Ay, ay; but the gods be thanked, I was drowsy, and had only to turn round to fall asleep again.'

'The gladiators must have been long in the ring.'

'The wretches! None of my people have gone to the spectacle?'

'Assuredly not; your orders were too strict.'

'That is well--would the day were over! What is that letter yonder on the table?'

'That! Oh, the letter brought to you last night, when you were--too--too...'

'Drunk to read it, I suppose. No matter, it cannot be of much importance.'

'Shall I open it for you, Sallust,'

'Do: anything to divert my thoughts. Poor Glaucus!'

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