BOOK THE FIFTH
9. Chapter IX
THE DESPAIR OF THE LOVERS. THE CONDITION OF THE MULTITUDE.
GLAUCUS turned in gratitude but in awe, caught Ione once more in his arms,
and fled along the street, that was yet intensely luminous. But suddenly a
duller shade fell over the air. Instinctively he turned to the mountain,
and beheld! one of the two gigantic crests, into which the summit had been
divided, rocked and wavered to and fro; and then, with a sound, the
mightiness of which no language can describe, it fell from its burning base,
and rushed, an avalanche of fire, down the sides of the mountain! At the
same instant gushed forth a volume of blackest smoke--rolling on, over air,
sea, and earth.
Another--and another--and another shower of ashes, far more profuse than
before, scattered fresh desolation along the streets. Darkness once more
wrapped them as a veil; and Glaucus, his bold heart at last quelled and
despairing, sank beneath the cover of an arch, and, clasping Ione to his
heart--a bride on that couch of ruin--resigned himself to die.
Meanwhile Nydia, when separated by the throng from Glaucus and Ione, had in
vain endeavored to regain them. In vain she raised that plaintive cry so
peculiar to the blind; it was lost amidst a thousand shrieks of more selfish
terror. Again and again she returned to the spot where they had been
divided--to find her companions gone, to seize every fugitive--to inquire of
Glaucus--to be dashed aside in the impatience of distraction. Who in that
hour spared one thought to his neighbor? Perhaps in scenes of universal
horror, nothing is more horrid than the unnatural selfishness they engender.
At length it occurred to Nydia, that as it had been resolved to seek the
sea-shore for escape, her most probable chance of rejoining her companions
would be to persevere in that direction. Guiding her steps, then, by the
staff which she always carried, she continued, with incredible dexterity, to
avoid the masses of ruin that encumbered the path--to thread the
streets--and unerringly (so blessed now was that accustomed darkness, so
afflicting in ordinary life!) to take the nearest direction to the sea-side.