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Best Books about Pompeii

 

 

Arria Marcella: A Souvenir of Pompeii
A Short Story by Théophile Gautier
Plaster Cast from Pompeii
Background Information
Where to see them
Pompeii Antiquarium
Garden of the Fugitives
Stabian Thermal Baths
Horrea and Olitorium
Macellum
Villa of the Mysteries
Caupona Pherusa
House of the Four Styles
Region I
Porta Nocera
Boscoreale Antiquarium
Historical Information
Younger Pliny's letters
Seneca's describes AD 62 earthquake
Gautier short story about Pompeii

Early account of making plaster casts

Charles Dickens describes Pompeii
Mark Twain describes Pompeii
William Dean Howells describes Pompeii
WW2 bombing of Pompeii
Visiting Pompeii and vicinity
visiting Pompeii
visiting Herculaneum
visiting Mt. Vesuvius
Further Information
books about Pompeii
touring Pompeii exhibitions
websites about Pompeii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three young fellows, three friends who had gone to Italy together, were last year visiting the Studj Museum at Naples, where have been collected various antiquities from the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum.

They wandered through the rooms as their fancy led them, and examined the mosaics, bronzes, and frescoes detached from the walls of the dead city. When one of them came upon something interesting, he would call to his companions with a joyous shout, to the great disgust of the taciturn English and the stolid tourists busy turning over their guide-books.

The youngest of the trio, who had stopped by a glass case, appeared not to hear the exclamations of the others, for he was absorbed in deep contemplation. He was examining most attentively a heap of black coagulated ashes, with a hollow imprint. It looked like a fragment of a statue mould, broken in the casting. An artist's practiced eye would have easily recognized in it the outline of a beautiful bosom, and of a hip as pure in style as that of a Greek statue. Every one knows, for every guide-book mentions the fact, that this lava ash, which cooled round a woman's body, preserved the exquisite contours of her frame. Thanks to the caprice of the eruption which destroyed four cities, this noble form, that turned to dust some two thousand years ago, has come down to us. The rounded bosom has traversed the ages; while on the other hand, many vanished empires have left no trace behind them. This mark of beauty, stamped by chance upon the scoriae of a volcano, has not been effaced.

Seeing that he could not drag himself away, Octavian's two friends returned to him, and Max, touching him on the shoulder, made him start like a man whose secret has been surprised. Plainly Octavian had not heard Max and Fabio approach.

"Come, Octavian," said Max, "don't stop for hours at a time by each case, or we shall miss the train, and be unable to see Pompeii today."

"What is our friend looking at?" added Fabio, who had drawn near. "Ah, I see! The imprint found in the house of Arrius Diomedes."

He cast a quick, strange look at Octavian, who blushed slightly as he took Max's arm, and the visit ended without further incident.

On leaving the Museum, the three friends got into a corricolo, and were driven to the station. The corricolo, with its great red wheels, its seat studded with brass nails, its thin and spirited horse, harnessed like a Spanish mule, galloping along the broad lava flags, is too well known to need describing here. Besides, I am not writing impressions of travel in Naples, but the simple account of a strange and rather incredible adventure, which is nevertheless true.

The railway to Pompeii runs almost the whole way along the seashore. The waves break in foam upon a black sand that looks like sifted charcoal, for the beach is formed of molten lava and volcanic ashes. Its dark tone contrasts with the blue of the sky and the blue of the water. The earth alone seems to be in shadow in the midst of all that splendor.

The villages which the railway traverses, or skirts — Portici, made famous by Auber's opera, Resina, Torre del Greco, Torre dell' Annunziata, the arcaded houses and terraced roofs of which are seen on the way — have, in spite of the intensity of the sunshine and the southern whitewash, a Plutonian and ferruginous character, like Manchester and Birmingham. The dust is black ; impalpable soot clings to everything; one feels that the great forge of Vesuvius is puffing and smoking close by.

The three friends alighted at the Pompeii Station, amused by the mixture of antiquity and modern times naturally suggested to the mind by the title " Pompeii Station; " a Greco-Roman city, and a railway terminus!

They traversed the cotton field — over which fluttered some white flakes — which lies between the railway and the unburied city, and took a guide at the osteria built outside the old ramparts — or, more correctly speaking, a guide took them, a calamity which it is difficult to avoid in Italy.

It was one of those lovely days so frequent in Naples, when, owing to the brilliancy of the sunshine and the purity of the air, objects assume a coloring which appears fabulous in the North, and seem to belong rather to a dream world than to reality. Who ever has once seen that light of mingled gold and azure remains homesick for it when back amid his native fogs.

The innumerable details of the unburied city, which had thrown off a. corner of its ashen shroud, stood out in the blinding light. In the background showed the cone of Vesuvius, rayed with blue, rose, and violet lava, gilded by the sun. A faint mist, almost invisible in the light, capped the mountain's broken crest. At the first glance it might have been mistaken for one of those cloudlets that often on the clearest day rest on the summit of high peaks, but when observed more closely, it was seen to contain slender whisps of white vapor, issuing from the upper part of the mount as from the holes of a perfume-burner, to meet in the form of a light vapor. The volcano, good-tempered that day, was quietly smoking its pipe, and but for the fact that Pompeii lay buried at its feet, it might well have been supposed as gentle-tempered as Montmartre. On the other side lovely hills, with undulating and voluptuous lines, like those of a woman's hips, bounded the horizon; and still farther away, the calm azure line of the sea, that formerly brought biremes and triremes up to the ramparts of the city.

Surprising indeed is the aspect of Pompeii. Even the most prosaic and least intelligent natures are amazed by the sudden retrogression of nineteen centuries. In two steps one passes from modern to antique life, from Christianity to Paganism. When the three friends saw the streets in which the forms of a vanished existence have been preserved intact, though they were prepared by the books they had read and the drawings they had seen, they experienced a deep and strange impression. Octavian in particular seemed stupefied, and mechanically followed the guide like a somnambulist, without listening to the  monotonous nomenclature, committed to memory, which the fellow
was reciting like a lesson.

He looked with amazed glance at the ruts worn in the cyclopean pavements of the streets, seemingly no older than yesterday, so sharp are the lines; the inscriptions, written in red letters with a free hand upon the walls, the playbills, notices of houses to let, votive formulae, signs, advertisements of all kinds, as interesting as, two thousand years hence, will be to the yet unknown nations of the future a wall of Paris found with all its notices and posters. The houses with their broken-in roofs, that allowed the glance to penetrate the mysteries of the interior, the many domestic details which historians neglect, and the secret of which civilizations carry away with them, the scarce dry fountains, the Forum, caught by the catastrophe while being repaired, the clean outlines of the columns and architraves cut and carved, waiting to be put in their proper places; the temples, consecrated to gods now become mythological, but which then had not a single atheist; the shops, in which nothing was lacking but the shopkeeper; the taverns, where might yet be seen on the marble tops of the tables the circular stain left by the topers' cups; the barracks with the pillars painted yellow and red, on which the soldiers had drawn caricatures of combatants; and the two theatres, of the drama and of song, side by side, which might reopen their doors but that the troupes which played there, now reduced to dust, were, perhaps, stopping a bung-hole or a crack in a wall, like the noble dust of Alexander and Caesar, as Hamlet in melancholy mood remarked.

Fabio ascended the stage of the Tragic Theatre, while Octavian and Max climbed to the top of the benches, and there he began to recite, with abundant pantomime, the passages of verse which occurred to him, to the great terror of the lizards, which fled with quivering tails and concealed themselves in the cracks of the ruinous courses of stone. Although the brass and earthen vessels intended to act as sounding-boards no longer existed, his voice nevertheless was heard sonorous and vibrant.

The guide next led them, through the cultivated ground which covers the yet buried portions of Pompeii, to the amphitheatre at the other extremity of the city. They walked under trees the roots of which plunged into the roofs of the buried houses, tearing away the tiles, cracking the ceilings, dislocating the pillars; they passed through fields in which vulgar vegetables ripened over marvels of art, material images of that forgetfulness which time casts over the finest things.

The amphitheatre did not impress them much. They had already seen that at Verona, which is larger and fully as well preserved; they were as well acquainted with the arrangement of these arenas of antiquity as with that of the bull-fight arenas in Spain, which resemble them closely, save that they are not as solidly constructed nor of as fine materials.

So they retraced their steps, reached by a cross way the Street of Fortune, listening indifferently to the guide, who, as he passed before each house, called it by the name bestowed upon it when it was discovered, and which was derived from some characteristic peculiarity : the House of the Bronze Bull, the House of the Faun, the House of the Ship, the Temple of Fortune, the House of Meleager, the Tavern of For tune at the corner of the Consular Street, the Academy of Music, the Public Bakehouse, the Pharmacy, the Surgeon's Shop, the Custom House, the Vestals' Dwelling, the Inn of Albinus, the Thermopoli, and so on till they reached the gate leading to the Way of the Tombs.

Within the interior arch of this brick gate, covered with statues, and the ornaments of which have disappeared, there are two deep grooves intended for a portcullis, just as in a mediaeval donjon, which might have been supposed to possess the monopoly of this particular kind of defence.

"Who would have suspected," said Max to his friends, "that Pompeii, the Greco-Latin city, possessed a gate so romantically Gothic ? Can you imagine a belated Roman knight sounding his horn in front of this gate, like a page of the fifteenth century, in order to have the portcullis raised ?"

"There's nothing new under the sun," answered Fabio, "and even that remark is not new, since Solomon made it."

"Perhaps there may be something new under the moon, "put in Octavian, with a smile of melancholy irony.

"My dear Octavian," said Max, who had meanwhile stopped before an inscription traced in red on the outer wall, "would you like to be present at a combat of gladiators? Here are the advertisements: Battle and hunt on the fifth of the nones of April ; the masts will be raised; twenty pairs of gladiators will fight on the nones; and if you should happen to fear for your complexion, you may be reassured, the awnings will be stretched, — unless you prefer coming to the amphitheatre early, for these fellows are to cut each other's throats in the morning — matutini erunt. Most kind indeed! "

As they chatted thus, the three friends walked down the Way, bordered by sepulchres, which to our modern feelings would be a sombre entrance to a city, but which had not the same meaning for the ancients, whose tombs, instead of a hideous body, contained merely a handful of ashes — the abstract idea of death. Art embellished these final dwellings, and as Goethe says, the Pagan decorated the sarcophagi and urns with the images of life.

That was indeed the reason why Max and Fabio were visiting, with bright curiosity and an enjoyment of life which they would certainly not have felt in a Christian cemetery, these funereal monuments so richly gilded by the sun, and which, placed as they were on either side of the road, seemed still to belong to life, suggesting nothing of that cold repulsion or of that fantastic terror which is due to our lugubrious mode of burial. They stopped before the tomb of Mamia, the public priestess, near which has grown a tree, a cypress or a poplar. They sat down in the hemicycle of the triclinium of the funereal repasts, laughing as if they had just come into an inheritance. They cracked no end of jokes upon the epitaphs of Naevoleia, Labeon, and the Arria family, save Octavian, who seemed to feel more deeply than his careless companions the fate of the dead of two thousand years ago.

They thus came to the villa of Arrius Diomedes, one of the largest dwellings in Pompeii. It is reached by brick steps, and after passing through the door, flanked by two small columns, one enters a courtyard, like the patio in the centre of Spanish and Moorish houses, and to which the ancients gave the name of impluvium or cavtedium. Fourteen brick columns covered with stucco formed on its four faces a portico, or covered peristyle, like a convent cloister, in which the inhabi tants could walk, sheltered from the rain. The court is paved with a mosaic of bricks and white marble, the effect of which is very soft and pleasant to the eye. In the centre, a still existing square marble basin received the rain water which fell from the roof of the portico. It produces a strange impression to penetrate thus into the life of antiquity, and to walk in patent-leather boots upon the marble pavement worn by the sandals and cothurns of the contemporaries of
Augustus and Tiberius.

The guide then took them into the hexedra or summer drawing-room, opening towards the sea, for the sake of the cool breeze. This was the place where visitors were received and a siesta was indulged in during the hot hours of the day, when the mighty African zephyrs laden with languor and storms were blowing. He showed them into the basilica, a long open gallery lighting the apartments, in which visitors and clients waited until called by the usher. He next led them to the terrace of white marble, whence the view extends over the green gardens and the blue sea. Then he showed them the nymphaeum, or bathroom, with walls painted yellow, stucco columns and mosaic pavement, and the marble bath which received so many lovely bodies now vanished like shadows; the cubicalum, in which floated so many dreams that had entered through the ivory door; the alcoves in the wall, closed by a conopeum or curtain, the bronze rings of which are still lying on the ground ; the tetrastyle or recreation-room; the chapel of the household gods, the cabinet of archives, the library, the museum of paintings, the gynasceum, or women's apartments, composed of small chambers partly in ruins, on the walls of which they observed some traces of paintings and arabesques, like cheeks from which the rouge has been unskilfully wiped.

Having finished this part of the visit, they went down to the lower story, for the ground is much lower on the garden side than on the side of the Street of Tombs. They traversed eight halls, painted in rosso antico, in one of which are niches like those in the vestibule of the Hall of Ambassadors in the Alhambra, and they at last reached a sort of cellar, the use of which was plainly indicated by eight clay amphorae standing against the wall, and which had no doubt been perfumed like Horace's odes with Cretan, Falernian, and Massican wine. A bright beam of light entered through a narrow opening obstructed by nettles, the leaves of which the light transformed into emeralds and topazes, this bright touch of nature smiling very seasonably upon the gloom of the place.

"This is the spot," said the guide in his drawling voice, the tone of which scarcely harmonized with the meaning of the words, "where was found, among seventeen skeletons, that of the lady the imprint of which is in the Naples Museum. She had on gold rings, and the remains of a fine tunic still adhered to the ash cast that had preserved her shape."

The guide's commonplace statements moved Octavian deeply. He desired to be shown the exact spot where the precious remains had been discovered, and had he not been restrained by the presence of his friends he would have indulged in some extravagant lyrical outburst. His breast heaved, his eyes were moist; the catastrophe effaced by twenty centuries of forgetfulness impressed him like a quite recent misfortune; the death of his mistress or of a friend would not have moved him more, and a tear, two thousand years late, fell, while Max's and Fabio's backs were turned, upon the spot where had perished, stifled by the hot ashes of the volcano, the woman for whom he felt himself filled with retrospective love.

"We have had enough archaeology," cried Fabio ; "for we do not propose to write a dissertation upon a pitcher or a tile of the days of Julius Caesar, in order to be elected to some provincial academy. These classical remembrances make me hungry. Let us go and dine, if the thing is possible, at that picturesque osteria ; though I am afraid they will serve us with fossil beef-steaks and fresh eggs laid before Pliny's death."

"I shall not quote Boileau, and say, 'A fool occasionally gives good advice,' " said Max laughing; "it would not be polite. Your idea is a good one, though it would have been pleasanter to have our meal here on a triclinium, lying down after the antique fashion, and waited on by slaves, after the manner of Lucullus and Trimalcion. It is true that I don't see many oysters from the Lucrine Lake; the turbots and mullets of the Adriatic are wanting; the Apulian boar is not to be found in the market; the loaves and honey-cakes are in the Naples Museum, hard as stones by the side of their verdigrised moulds; raw macaroni, dusted with caccia-cavallo, detestable though it is, is better than nothing. What is dear Octavian's opinion?"

Octavian, who greatly regretted not having been in Pompeii on the day of the eruption of Vesuvius, so that he might have saved the lady with the gold rings and thus deserved her love, had not heard a single word of this gastronomical conversation. Only the last two words uttered by Max struck his ear, and as he had no desire to begin a discussion, he nodded affirmatively at a venture, and the three friends started back to the inn, following the line of the ramparts.

The table was set in a sort of open porch which forms a vestibule to the osteria, and the whitewashed walls of which were decorated with daubs claimed by the host to be the work of Salvator Rosa, Spagnoletto, Massimo, and other celebrated painters of the Neapolitan school, which he felt it to be his duty to praise.

"Venerable host," said Fabio, "do not waste your eloquence. We are not English, and we prefer girls to old paintings. Rather send us your wine list by that handsome brunette with velvet eyes whom I caught sight of on the stairs."

The palforio, perceiving that his guests did not belong to the easily taken-in class of Philistines and tradespeople, stopped praising his gallery in order to praise his cellar. To begin with, he had every wine of the best brands: Chateau-Margaax, Grand-Laffitte
which had been to India and back, Moet, Sillery, Hochmeyer, port and porter, ale and ginger beer, white and red Lacryma Christi, Capri and Falernian.

"What ! You have Falernian, you wretch, and put it at the bottom of your list ! You compel us to listen to a prosy oenological litany," said Max, springing to the inn-keeper's throat with a gesture of comic fury. "You are utterly lacking in feeling for local color; you are unworthy of living in this antique neighborhood. But, is your Falernian good ? Was it put into amphorae under the consulship of Plancus — Consult Planco?"

"I do not know who Consul Plancus is, and my wine is not in amphorae; but it is old and costs ten carlini a bottle."

Day had fallen and night had come on, — a serene, transparent night, brighter unquestionably than noonday in London. Wonderfully soft were the azure tones of earth and the silvery reflections in the sky; the air was so still that the flame of the tapers placed on the table did not even quiver.

A young lad playing a flute drew near the table and remained standing, in the attitude of a bas-relief, gazing at the three guests and blowing into his soft, melodious instrument some of the popular cantilenas in a minor key, the charm of which is so penetrating. Perhaps the lad was a direct descendant of the flute-player who walked before Duilius.

"Our meal is assuming quite an antique look. All we lack are Gaditanian dancers, and wreaths of ivy," said Fabio, as he poured himself out a bumper of Falernian.

"I feel like quoting Latin, as they do in newspapers. Stanzas keep recurring to my memory," added Max.

"Keep them to yourself," cried Octavian and Fabio, justly alarmed. "There is nothing so indigestible as Latin at table."

Conversation between young fellows who, with cigars in their mouths, their elbows on the table, contemplate a number of empty bottles, especially if the wine is heady, generally turns pretty quickly to the subject of women. Each of the three stated his views, which are here briefly summarized.

Fabio cared for beauty and youth only. Voluptuous and practical, he had no illusions or prejudices in matters of love. A peasant girl was just as good as a duchess, provided she was beautiful. He cared more for the beauty than for the dress. He made much fun of some of his friends who were captivated by a few yards of lace and silk, and said it would be more reasonable to be in love with a dressmaker's show window. These opinions, very sound at bottom, and which he did not conceal, caused him to pass for an eccentric individual.

Max, less artistic than Fabio, cared only for difficult undertakings and complicated intrigues. He wanted to overcome resistance and seduce the virtuous; love to him was like a game of chess, with moves long meditated, effects suspended, surprises and stratagems worthy of Polybius. When he went into a drawing-room, the woman he chose to attack was the one who seemed least sympathetic to him. It was a delightful pleasure for him to make her pass from aversion to love by skilful gradations; to impose himself on those who repelled him, and to break down the wills that rebelled against his ascendency seemed to him the sweetest of triumphs. Like those sportsmen who traverse fields, woods, and plains in rain, snow, and sun, unmindful of fatigue, and with an ardor that nothing checks, for the sake of some wretched game, which they generally refuse to eat, Max, once he had secured his prey, ceased to care for it, and immediately started out in quest of another.

Octavian confessed that reality had no great attraction for him. Not that he indulged in school-boy dreams full of lilies and roses, but every woman was surrounded by too many prosaic and repellent facts, too many prosy fathers, coquettish mothers wearing real flowers in false hair, bright-faced cousins turning over declarations of love in their minds, ridiculous aunts fond of little dogs. An engraving after a painting by Horace Vernet or Delaroche hanging in a woman's room, sufficed to kill in his breast a rising passion. More poetical than amorous, he wanted a terrace on Isola Bella, on Lago Maggiore, with a fine moonlight, by way of setting for a rendezvous. He would have liked to remove his love from common life and to transport it to the stars. Consequently he had felt a mighty, impossible love for all the great feminine characters preserved by art or history ; like Faust, he had loved Helen, and had wished that the undulations of centuries had brought to him one of those sublime incarnations of the desires and dreams of mankind, the form of which, invisible to vulgar eyes, ever subsists through time and space. He had formed an ideal seraglio with Semiramis, Aspasia, Cleopatra, Diana of Poitiers, Joan of Aragon. Sometimes, too, he fell in love with statues, and one day, as he passed before the Venus of Milo in the Louvre, he had called out, " Oh, who will give you back your arms, so that you may press me to your marble breasts." At Rome, the sight of a thick tress of hair, exhumed from an antique tomb, had inspired him with a curious fancy. He had endeavored, by means of two or three threads of the hair, purchased at the price of gold from the keeper and handed to a very powerful somnambulist, to call up the shadow and shape of this dead woman; but the conductive fluid had evaporated during the lapse of so many years, and the apparition had been unable to emerge from eternal night.

As Fabio had guessed when he saw his friend standing before the glass case in the Studj, the imprint found in the cellar of the house of Arrius Diomedes had excited in Octavian an insensate desire for a retrospective ideal. He was endeavoring to leave time and life behind and to transport his soul to the age of Titus.

Max and Fabio withdrew to their rooms, and, their heads somewhat heavy, thanks to the classic vapors of the Falernian, they speedily fell asleep. Octavian, who had repeatedly left his glass untouched before him, — not caring to trouble by material intoxication the poetic fervour that seethed in his brain, — felt by the restlessness of his nerves that sleep would not come to him. He left the osteria slowly, to cool his brow and to quiet his thoughts in the air of night.

Unconsciously his feet took him to the dead city. He removed the wooden bar that closed it and ventured into the ruins. The white moonbeams illumined the wan houses, and divided the streets into two parts of silvery light and bluish shadow. This nocturnal light concealed with its delicate tints the ruinous state of the buildings. The broken columns, the cracked facades, the roofs broken down by the eruption, were not noticed as in the crude glare of noon. The parts that were lacking were filled in by half-tints, and an unexpected beam, like a touch of feeling in a sketch for a painting, suggested a whole fallen ensemble. The mighty genii of night seemed to have restored the fossil city for the performance of a strange life.

Sometimes, even, Octavian fancied he saw faint human shapes moving in the darkness, but they vanished as soon as they reached the lighted part. Soft whisperings, vague rumors, floated through the silence. He attributed these at first to the winking of his eyes and the buzzing of his ears; he thought they must be due to optical illusions, the plaint of the sea breeze, or the hurried flight of a lizard or of an adder through the nettles; for everything lives in nature, even death; everything sounds, even silence. Nevertheless, he could not help a certain feeling of anxiety, a slight shudder, due perhaps to the chilly air of night. Twice or thrice he looked round. He did not feel alone in the deserted town as he had done a moment since. Could his comrades have done the same thing as he, and were they looking for him among the ruins? Were the shapes he had caught glimpses of Max and Fabio? Were the indistinct sounds of steps produced by them as they walked and chatted and disappeared round the corner of a square? Although this was a natural explanation, Octavian felt that it was not the correct one, and he failed to convince himself by any reasoning. The solitude and the shadow were peopled by invisible beings whom he had disturbed. He had come plump into the middle of a mystery, and it seemed as though his departure were awaited before anything could begin. Such were the absurd ideas which came into his mind, and which assumed much likelihood, owing to the time, the place, and the numerous causes of terror that will easily recur to those who have been in some great ruin at night.

As he passed before a house which he had noticed during the day, and on which the moon was shining brightly, he saw, in a state of complete restoration, a portico which he had endeavored to reconstruct in his mind. Four Doric columns fluted half-way up, the shaft covered with a coat of red like a purple drapery, supported a cyma covered with polychrome ornaments, which seemed to have been finished but the day before. On the side wall of the door a Laconian mastiff in encaustic, accompanied by the usual legend, Cave canem, was baying at the moon and at visitors with painted fury. Above the mosaic threshold the word Have in Oscan and Latin characters welcomed the guests with its friendly syllables. The outer walls, painted red and yellow, showed not a single crevice. The house was higher by one story, and the tile roof, topped by a bronze acroter, exhibited a perfect profile against the pale-blue sky, in which glimmered a few
stars.

This strange restoration, carried out between afternoon and night by some unknown architect, greatly bothered Octavian, who was quite certain that during the day he had seen that same house in a very ruinous condition. The mysterious restorer had worked very fast, for the neighbouring dwellings had a similar recent and new look. All the pillars were topped by capitals; not a stone, not a brick, not a pellicle of stucco, not a morsel of paint was lacking on the brilliant walls of the facades, and through the peristyles he could see, round the marble basin in the cavaedium, white and rose laurels, myrtles, and pomegranate trees. History was at fault; there had been no eruption, or the hand of time had gone back twenty centuries upon the dial of eternity.

Octavian, filled with deepest surprise, asked himself whether he was sleeping standing or whether he was walking in a dream. He examined himself seriously to ascertain whether delirium were evoking hallucinations in his mind; but he was compelled to recognize that he was neither sleeping nor mad. A singular change had taken place in the atmosphere. Faint rosy tints mingled their violet gradations with the azure beams of the moon. The heavens were growing lighter on the horizon. It seemed as if day were about to dawn. Octavian looked at his watch -, it pointed to midnight. Fancying it might have stopped, he touched the repeater spring. The repeater sounded twelve times. It was midnight unquestionably, and yet the light kept on brightening, the moon was disappearing in the azure, which was becoming more and more luminous; the sun was rising.

Then Octavian, in whose mind the notion of time was becoming confused, was fain to admit that he was walking, not in dead Pompeii, — the cold corpse of a city half drawn from its shroud,—but in a living, young, intact Pompeii, on which the burning mud torrents of Vesuvius had not yet flowed. An inexplicable miracle had just carried him back, a Frenchman of the nineteenth century, to the days of Titus, not in spirit but in reality; or else it was bringing back to him from the depths of the past a destroyed city, with its vanished inhabitants; for at that moment a man wearing an antique costume emerged from a neighboring house.

The man wore his hair short and was smooth shaven. He had on a brown tunic and a grayish cloak, the ends of which were turned up so as not to impede his steps. He walked rapidly, almost ran, and passed Octavian without seeing him. On his arm he carried an esparto basket and he was going towards the Forum. There was no doubt about it, he was a slave, a Davus going to market.

The sound of wheels was heard. An antique cart, drawn by white oxen and laden with vegetables, entered the street. By the oxen walked a driver with bare legs tanned by the sun, sandals on his feet, and wearing a sort of linen shirt puffed out at the waist. A pointed straw hat thrown behind his back and fastened round his neck by a strap, showed his head, of a type unknown at the present day; a low brow with hard bumps, black, crinkly hair, a straight nose, eyes as soft as those of the oxen, and a neck like that of a country Hercules. He gravely touched his animals with the goad, assuming a statuesque pose that would have made Ingres go into ecstasies. He noticed Octavian and seemed surprised, but went on his way. He did turn round once, no doubt unable to understand the presence of that personage, strange to him, but with his placid rustic stupidity leaving cleverer men than he to read the riddle.

Campanian peasants also came, driving before them asses bearing skins of wine and tinkling their brazen bells. Their faces were as different from those of our modern peasants as medals differ from pennies.

The town was gradually filling up with people, like one of those panorama pictures that show deserted at first and which a change in the light fills with people invisible before.

Octavian's feelings had now changed. A moment ago, in the deceitful darkness of night, he had been a prey to that uneasiness which the bravest cannot avoid when reason fails to explain troubling, fantastic circumstances. His vague terror was replaced by deep stupefaction. He could not understand the evidence of his senses, in view of the clearness of his perceptions, and yet what he beheld was absolutely incredible. Still not quite convinced, he sought by noting small realistic details to assure himself that he was not the plaything of a hallucination. It could not be phantoms that filed past him, for the brilliant light of the sun illumined them with unmistakable reality, and their shadows, lengthened in the morning light, were cast on the pavements and the walls.

Unable to understand what was happening to him, Octavian, at bottom delighted at seeing one of his dearest dreams realized, let himself go and simply watched all these marvels without attempting to understand them. He said to himself that since in virtue of some mysterious power he was enabled to live for a few hours in a vanished age, he was not going to lose his time in the solution of an incomprehensible problem; and he continued bravely on his way, looking right and left at a prospect which was to him at once so new and so old.

But what was the particular period in the life of Pompeii into which he had been transported? The names of the public personages in an aedile's inscription engraved on the wall enabled him to ascertain that he was at the beginning of the reign of Titus, — that is, in the year 79 of the Christian era. A sudden thought flashed into Octavian's mind. The woman whose imprint he had admired in the Naples Museum must be alive, since the eruption of Vesuvius, in which she had perished, had taken place on August 24 in that year; so it was possible for him to find her, to see her, to speak to her. The great desire which he had experienced at the sight of those ashes molded upon divine contours, was perhaps to be satisfied ; for nothing could be impossible to a love that could compel time to go backwards, and the same hour to pass twice through the
hour-glass of eternity.

While Octavian indulged in these reflections, hand some young maids were going to the fountains, supporting with the tips of their white ringers the jars they balanced on their heads. Patricians in white togae bordered with purple bands, and followed by their train of clients, were proceeding to the Forum. Purchasers crowded round the shops; each of which was distinguished by a carved and painted sign, and recalled by its small size and its shape the Moorish shops in Algiers. Above most of the stalls a splendid phallus in colored terra cotta, bearing the words hie habitat felicitas, gave proof of superstitious precautions against the evil eye. Octavian noticed even an amulet shop, the show-case of which was filled with horns, branches of coral, and small golden Priapae, 'such as are still to be found in Naples, as defences against jettatura, whereupon he remarked to himself that superstition was more durable than religion even.

Following the pavement, which borders every street in Pompeii, — the English being thus deprived of the honor of having invented that comfort, — Octavian came face to face with a handsome young fellow of about his own age, wearing a saffron-colored tunic, and draped in a mantle of fine white wool as soft as cashmere. The sight of Octavian, wearing the hideous modern hat, an ugly black frock-coat, his legs pinioned in trousers, his feet fastened in by shining boots, appeared to surprise the young Pompeian as much as the sight of a Redskin or a Botocudo with his feathers, his necklace of grizzly-bear claws and his queer tattooing would surprise us on the Boulevard. However, as he was a well-bred young man, he did not burst out laughing in Octavian's face, and taking pity on the poor barbarian lost in the Greco-Roman city, he said to him in a gently modulated voice: —

"Advena, salve."

It was quite natural that an inhabitant of Pompeii in the reign of the divine Emperor Titus, Most Powerful and Most August, should speak Latin ; yet Octavian started on hearing that dead language spoken by a living mouth. Then he congratulated himself on having been one of the best Latin students and carried off prizes in the competitions. The Latin taught in the University served him for once, and recalling his classroom experience, he replied to the Pompeian's welcome in the style of De viribus illustribus and of Selectee e profanis, in a fairly intelligible manner, but with a Parisian accent which compelled the young man to smile.

"Perhaps it is easier for you to speak Greek," said the Pompeian." I know that language too, for I studied at Athens."

"I know even less Greek than Latin," replied Octavian. "I am from Gaul, from Paris, from Lutetia."

"I know that country. My ancestor made war in Gaul under the great Julius Caesar. But what a curious dress you wear! The Gauls I saw at Rome were not dressed like that."

Octavian attempted to make the young Pompeian understand that twenty centuries had passed since the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, and that fashions had possibly changed in the meantime. But his Latin was not sufficient for the purpose; and indeed, it did not amount to much.

"I am called Rufus Holconius, and my house is yours," said the young man; "unless you prefer the freedom of the tavern. You can be quite comfortable at the inn of Albinus, near the gate of the Augustus Felix suburb, and in the hostelry of Sarinus, the son of Publius, near the second tower; but if you have no objection, I should be glad to show you through the city, which is strange to you. I like you, you young barbarian, although you did try to play on my credulity by pretending that Emperor Titus, who is reigning at this moment, died two thousand years ago, and that the Nazarene, whose abominable followers, covered with pitch, lighted up the gardens of Nero, alone reigns as master in the deserted heavens whence the great gods have fallen. By Pollux," he added, glancing at a red inscription on a corner of a street, "you have come at the right moment. They are playing Plautus' Casino, recently put again on the stage. It is a curious and comical play, which will amuse you, even if you can make out no more than the gestures. Follow me, for it will soon begin. I will have you placed in the seats for guests and strangers."

Hereupon Rufus Holconius walked off toward the small comic theatre which the three friends had visited during the course of the day.

The Frenchman and the Pompeian walked through the Street of the Fountain of Abundance, the Street of Theatres, passed by the College and the Temple of Isis, the Sculptor's Studio, and entered the Odeon, or comic theatre, by a side entrance. Thanks to the recommendation of Holconius, Octavian was placed near the proscenium. Every glance was immediately turned upon him with kindly curiosity, and light whisperings ran all about the amphitheatre.

The play had not yet begun. Octavian turned the time to account by examining the hall. The semicircular benches, ending at each extremity in a magnificent lion's paw, carved out of Vesuvian lava, rose and broadened from an empty space answering to our orchestra stalls, but much smaller and paved with a mosaic of Greek marbles; a broader bench formed every here and there a distinctive zone, and four staircases corresponding to the entrances, and ascending from the base to the summit of the amphitheatre, divided it into four wedges, wider at the top than at the bottom. The spectators, provided with tickets consisting of small ivory counters on which were marked the compartment, the wedge, and the bench, with the title of the play to be performed and the name of the author, found their places without difficulty. The magistrates and nobles, the married men, the young men, the soldiers with their gleaming bronze helmets, had separate seats. The beautiful togas and the full white mantles, well-draped, spreading over the lower steps and contrasting with the varied dresses of the women, who were seated above, and the gray capes of the common people, relegated to the upper benches near the pillars supporting the roof, between which one could see a sky as intensely blue as the azure field of a panathena, formed a wonderful spectacle. A fine spray of water, scented with saffron, fell in imperceptible drops from the friezes, and perfumed the air while cooling it. Octavian recalled the fetid emanations that poison the atmosphere of our theatres, so incommodious that they may be considered places of torture, and came to the conclusion that civilization had not improved greatly.

The curtain, supported by a transverse beam, fell below the orchestra. The musicians seated themselves in their tribune, and Prologue appeared, dressed grotesquely, his head covered with an ugly mask, put on like a helmet.

Prologue, after having bowed to the audience and called for applause, began to make an argument. "Old plays," he said, "were like wine, which improves with use; and Casino, dear to the elders, should surely not be less dear to the young. All could enjoy it, the former because they were acquainted with it, the latter because they did not yet know it. For the rest, the play had been carefully restored, and the spectators ought to listen to it free from care, without thinking of their debts or their creditors, for no arrests could be made at a theatre. It was a lucky day, the weather was fine, and the halcyons were soaring over the Forum." Then he gave a summary of the comedy which the actors were about to perform, at such length that it is clear surprise had little to do with the pleasure the ancients took in dramatic performances. He stated that the old man Stalino, in love with his beautiful slave Casina, proposed to marry her to his farmer Olympio, a complaisant husband, whose place he was to occupy on the wedding night and that Lycostrata, Stalino's wife, to checkmate her vicious husband's lust, proposed to marry Casina to the equerry Chalinus, with the intention of favoring her son's amours; finally, how Stalino, completely taken in, mistook a disguised slave youth for Casina, who, on its being found that she was free and of ingenuous birth, wedded the young master, whom she loved and by whom she was beloved.

The young Frenchman paid little attention to the actors with their bronze-mouthed masks as they performed on the stage. The slaves ran hither and thither to simulate haste; the old man wagged his head and held out his trembling hands ; the matron, loud-voiced, with sour and disdainful look, asserted her importance and scolded her husband, to the great delight of the spectators, The actors entered and went out by three doors, cut in the wall at the back, and leading to the actors' foyer. Stalino's house was at one corner of the stage, and opposite was that of his old friend Alcesimus. The setting, though very well painted, rather gave an idea of the place than represented it, like the non-characteristic stage-setting of the classic tragedy.

When the nuptial procession escorting the sham Casina entered on the stage, a great burst of laughter, such as Homer describes the laughter of the gods to be, ran along every bench in the amphitheatre, and thunders of applause awoke the echoes of the place. But Octavian no longer listened or looked, for in the compartment occupied by the women he had just caught sight of a wonderful beauty. From that minute the lovely faces which had attracted him were eclipsed, as the stars are eclipsed by Phoebe. Everything vanished, and disappeared as in a dream. A mist seemed to cover the benches that swarmed with people, and the shrill voices of the actors seemed lost in infinite distance. He felt at his heart a sort of electric shock, and when that woman's glance was turned upon him, he felt that sparks flashed from his breast.

She was dark and pale; her wavy, curly hair, black as night, was slightly drawn back on the temples in the Greek fashion, and in her white face shone somber, soft eyes, full of an indefinable expression of voluptuous sadness and weariness of passion. Her mouth, disdainfully curved at the corners, protested by the ardent brilliancy of its flaming purple against the placid whiteness of the face. Her neck had those lovely, pure lines which nowadays are to be seen on statues only. Her arms were bare to the shoulder, and from the tips of her proud breasts, that lifted her rose mauve-colored tunic, fell two folds that might have been carved in marble by Phidias or Cleomenes.

The sight of those breasts, so perfect in contour, so pure in outline, filled Octavian with emotion. It seemed to him that they exactly fitted the hollow imprints in the Museum of Naples, which had cast him into such an ardent reverie, and a voice called out from within his heart that that was the woman who had been stifled by the ashes of Vesuvius in the villa of Arrius Diomedes. By what miracle did he now behold her alive, present at the performance of Plautus' Casina? He did not attempt to understand it. For the matter of that, how did he happen to be there himself? He accepted her presence as in dreams we accept the intervention of people who have long since died and who nevertheless act as if they were still living. Besides, his emotion checked his reasoning powers. As far as he was concerned, the wheel of time was thrown out of its rut, and his victorious desire had chosen its own place amid the vanished centuries. He found himself face to face with his dream, one of the least realizable, a retrospective chimera. All at once his life was filled out.

As he gazed upon that face, so calm and yet so full of passion, he understood that he beheld his first and last love, that he had before him his cup of supreme intoxication. He felt the remembrances of all the women he thought he had loved vanishing like faint shadows, and his soul became virgin of any anterior emotion. The past disappeared.

Meanwhile, the beautiful Pompeian girl, resting her chin upon the palm of her hand, cast upon Octavian, while appearing to watch the stage, the velvety glance of her darksome eyes, a glance that fell upon him heavy and burning, like a jet of molten lead. Then she leaned and whispered to a girl seated by her side.

The performance was over. The crowd passed out of the exits. Octavian, refusing the proffered service of his guide Holconius, sprang out of the first exit which he came upon. He had scarcely reached the door, when he felt a hand on his arm, and a feminine voice whispered to him, low, but so distinctly that he lost not a word, —

"I am Tyche Nevoleia, and I minister to the pleasures of Arria Marcella, daughter of Arrius Diomedes. My mistress loves you; follow me."

Arria Marcella had just entered her litter, borne by four strong Syrian slaves, nude to the belt, their bronze torsos shining in the sun. The curtains of the litter were drawn apart, and a white hand, covered with rings, was waving in friendly fashion to Octavian, as if to confirm the message borne by the servant. The purple curtain closed, and the litter went off, to the cadenced step of the slaves.

Tyche led Octavian through side streets, crossing from one to another by stepping lightly upon stones which connected the pavements, and between which passed the car wheels, making her way through the labyrinth with the readiness that comes of familiarity with a city. Octavian observed that he was traversing portions of Pompeii which had not yet been excavated, and which consequently were wholly unknown to him. This curious circumstance, amid so many other curious circumstances, did not surprise him. He had made up his mind to be astonished at nothing. In all this archaic phantasmagoria, which would have driven an archaeologist crazy with delight, he saw but the dark, deep glance of Arria Marcella, and her splendid bosom, triumphant over the ages, which destruction itself sought to preserve.

They reached a concealed door, that opened and immediately closed, and Octavian found himself in a court surrounded by Ionic columns of Greek marble, painted half-way up a bright yellow, the capitals picked out with red and blue ornaments. A plant of aristolochia hung its broad, heart-shaped leaves from the corners of the building, like a natural arabesque, and near a basin bordered with plants, a rose flamingo stood on one leg, like a feather flower among the vegetable flowers. Frescoed panels, representing fanciful buildings or landscapes, adorned the walls. Octavian noted these details with a rapid glance, for Tyche handed him over to the slaves who attended the baths, and who, in spite of his impatience, compelled him to undergo all the refinements of the baths of antiquity. After having passed through the different degrees of vaporized heat, borne with the scraper of the rubber, and had poured over him perfumes, cosmetics, and oil, he was clothed in a white tunic, and at the farther door found Tyche, who took his hand and led him into another richly ornamented room.

On the ceiling were painted, with a purity of drawing, a brilliancy of color, and a freedom of touch that marked a great master and nor a mere decorator, Mars, Venus, and Cupid; a frieze composed of stags, hares, and birds, playing amid foliage, ran around the room above a wainscotting of Cipoline marble; the mosaic of the flooring, a wonderful piece of work, which was perhaps done by Sosimus of Pergamus, represented banqueting meats admirably executed.

At the back of the room, on a biclinium, or bed for two persons, leaned Arria Marcella, in a voluptuous, serene pose that recalled the resting woman carved by Phidias on the front of the Parthenon. Her pearl-embroidered shoes lay at the foot of the bed, and her lovely bare feet, purer than white marble, showed from under a light linen coverlet.

Two urns shaped like balances, with a pearl in each scale, shimmered in the light by her pale cheeks; a necklace of golden balls, from which hung pear-shaped drops, gleamed upon the bosom half revealed by the careless opening of a straw-colored peplum, bordered with a black fret; a gold and black band shone in her auburn hair ; for she had changed her dress on returning from the theatre, and round her arm, like the asp round Cleopatra's arm, was a golden serpent, with eyes formed of precious stones, trying to bite its tail.

A small table supported on griffins' feet, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, silver, and ivory, stood by the bed, laden with various dishes served in gold and silver plate, or on china enameled with precious paintings. There was a pheasant with its feathers on, and various fruits that ripen at different seasons.

There was every indication that a guest was expected. Fresh-cut flowers were strewn on the ground, and the amphorae of wine were plunged in urns full of snow.

Arria Marcella signed to Octavian to lie down by her on the biclinium and to share the meal. The young man, half crazed with surprise and love, ate a few mouthfuls from the dishes held out to him by little Asiatic slaves with curly hair and short tunics. Arria did not eat, but she often bore to her lips an opalescent Myrrhine cup filled with a dark purple wine, like coagulated blood. As she drank, from her heart, which had not beat for so many years, a faint rosy flush rose to her pale cheeks, but her bare arm, which Octavian touched as he raised his cup, was cold as a serpent's skin or a marble tombstone.

"Oh, when you stopped at the Studj to look at the piece of hardened clay which has preserved my shape," said Arria Marcella, as she cast a deep moist glance upon Octavian, " and when your thought rushed ardently to me, my soul felt it in the world in which I float, invisible to material eyes. Belief makes a god, and love makes woman. One really dies only when no longer loved. Your desire has restored me to life; the mighty evocation of your heart has suppressed the distance which separated us."

This view of amorous evocation, expressed by the young woman, coincided with the philosophical belief of Octavian, — a belief which I am much inclined to share. For, in truth, nothing dies; everything goes on existing. No power can annihilate whatever has once been created. Every act, every word, every shape, every thought which has fallen into the universal ocean of things makes circles which go on broadening to the far confines of eternity. Material configurations disappear only to the common glance; their specters people the infinite. Paris still carries away Helen to some unknown region of bliss ; the silken sails of Cleopatra's galley still swell on some blue ideal Cydnus. Some passionate minds, endowed with a powerful will, have succeeded in recalling to themselves ages apparently vanished, and have revived people dead to others. Faust had the daughter of Tyndarus for a mistress, and took her to his Gothic castle from the mysterious depths of Hades. Octavian had just lived one day in the reign of Titus, and had made himself beloved of Arria Marcella, who was lying at this moment by him on an antique bed, in a city that for every one else was destroyed.

"By the disgust other women inspire me with," said Octavian, "by the irresistible thought which drew me to its own radiant types in the depths of the ages, as towards stars calling to me, I understood that I should never love save outside all time and space. You are the one I waited for, and the faint trace preserved by man's curiosity placed me in relation with your soul through secret magnetism. I know not whether you are a dream or a reality, a phantom or a woman; whether, like Ixion, I am clasping a cloud to my breast, or whether I am the plaything of a sorcerer's foul charm ; but what I do know is that you shall be my first and my last love."

"May Eros, son of Aphrodite, hear your vow," said Arria Marcella, resting her head upon her lover's shoulder, as he drew her to him in a passionate embrace. "Oh, press me to your young breast, envelop me with your warm breath; I am cold from having remained so long without love."

And Octavian felt that beautiful bosom, the mould of which he had that very morning admired through the glass of a case in the Museum, rising and falling against his breast. He felt the coolness of the lovely flesh through his tunic. It burned him. The black and gold band had fallen from Arria's head, which was thrown back in a passion of love, and her hair was spread like a black river upon the blue pillow.

The slaves had removed the table. Naught was heard but a confused sound of kisses and sighs. The tame quails, heedless of this amorous scene, were chirping and picking upon the mosaic floor the remains of the feast.

Suddenly the brazen rings of the portiere that closed the room slid along the pole, and an old man of severe appearance, robed in a great brown mantle, appeared on the threshold. He wore his gray beard in two points, like the Nazarenes. His face appeared wrinkled by fatigue and maceration; a small cross of black wood hung round his neck, leaving no doubt as to his belief: he belonged to the sect, then recently established, of the disciples of Christ.

At sight of him Arria Marcella, overwhelmed with confusion, concealed her face in a fold of her mantle, like a bird that conceals its head under its wing in the presence of a foe it cannot avoid, so as to escape at least the horror of seeing it, while Octavian, leaning on his elbow, looked fixedly at the troublesome individual who had thus abruptly broken in upon his enjoyment.

"Arria, Arria," said the austere individual, in a tone of reproach, "was not your lifetime sufficient for your dissipation, and must your infamous loves trespass upon the ages which do not belong to you? Can you not leave the living within their sphere? Have your ashes not cooled since the day you died unrepentant under the volcano's rain of fire? Have two thousand years of death not quieted you, and do your greedy arms still draw to your heartless marble bosom the poor mad men intoxicated by your spells?"

"Have mercy on me, father Arrius; do not overwhelm me in the name of that morose religion which never was mine. I believe in our old gods, who loved life, youth, beauty, and pleasure. Do not plunge me back into wan nothingness; let me enjoy the life which love has restored to me."

"Silence, impious one; speak not of your gods that are but fiends. Let go that man, enchained by your impure seductions; cease attracting him outside the circle of his life measured out by God; return into the limbo of paganism with your Asiatic, Roman, and Greek lovers. Young Christian, do thou abandon that larva, which would seem to thee more hideous than the Empusae and Phorcydes, if thou couldst see her such as she is."

Octavian, pale and frozen with horror, strove to speak, but his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth.

"Will you obey, Arria ?" cried the tall old man, imperiously.

"Never," replied Arria, her eyes flashing, her nostrils dilated, her lips quivering, as she clasped Octavian in her lovely statue-like arms, cold, hard, and rigid like marble. Her proud beauty, exasperated by the struggle, shone with supernal brilliancy at this supreme moment, as if to leave to her young lover an unforgettable remembrance.

"Well, then, evil one," replied the old man, " I shall have to use serious measures and make your nothingness palpable and visible to that fascinated youth."

Whereupon he uttered in a voice of command a formula of exorcism that drove from Arria's cheeks the rosy tints they owed to the black wine in the Myrrhine cup.

At that moment the distant bell of one of the villages on the seashore, or of one of the hamlets nestling in the folds of the mountain, sounded the angelic Salutation.

As she heard it, an agonizing sigh broke from the young woman. Octavian felt the arms that clasped him grow limp. The draperies that covered her fell back of themselves as if the contours that supported them had disappeared, and the unfortunate nocturnal wanderer saw by his side on the festal bed nothing but a handful of ashes and shapeless remains mingled with calcined bones, among which gleamed bracelets and golden jewels, such as must have been discovered when the house of Arrius Diomedes was excavated. — He uttered a terrible cry and swooned away. The old man had disappeared, the sun was rising, and the hall, so brilliantly adorned but a moment before, was now only a dismal ruin.

After a heavy sleep caused by the libations of the evening before, Max and Fabio awoke with a start, and their first thought was to summon their companion, whose room was near theirs, by one of those burlesque rallying-cries which young fellows sometimes agree upon when travelling. Octavian did not reply, for excellent reasons. Fabio and Max, receiving no reply, entered their friend's room, and perceived that he had not slept in his bed at all. "He must have been unable to get back to his bed, and have gone to sleep in a chair," said Fabio, "for he has not a very strong head, and then probably went out early to work off the fumes of the wine in the morning air."

"He had not drunk very much," added Max, reflectively. "This seems rather strange to me. Let's go and find him."

The two friends, accompanied by the cicerone, searched every street, every lane, every crossroads, every square in Pompeii, entered every quaint and curious house where they suspected Octavian might be copying a painting or noting an inscription, and at last found him lying in a swoon upon the mosaic of a small room that was partially collapsed in ruin. They had difficulty bring him to his senses; when he finally regained consciousness, he gave no explanation other than he had been taken by a whim to visit Pompeii by moonlight and he had fainted which was not likely to have any serious consequences.

The party returned to Naples by train, as they had come, and that evening, in their box at San Carlo, Max and Fabio watched through their opera glasses a swarm of ballet nymphs skipping after Amelia Farraris, the dancer then in vogue, all of them wearing beneath their gauze skirts hideous drawers of a monstrous green that made them look like frogs stung by a tarantula. Octavian, pale and weary with misty eyes, barely seemed to notice what was happening on the stage, so difficult was it after his extraordinary nocturnal adventure to enter once again into the sensation of real life.

From that day on, Octavian was consumed by a black melancholy, which the joking good humor of his old friends did more to aggravate than to relieve. The image of Arria Marcella haunted him constantly, and the unhappy ending of his fantastical love affair did not detract from its memory.

Once, unable to resist the desire, he secretly returned to Pompeii and wandered among the ruins by moonlight as he had that first time, his heart throbbing with a wild, absurd hope; but the hallucination did not reoccur. He saw only the lizards scurrying over the stones and heard only the calls of frightened night birds. His friend Rufus Holonicus was not to be seen; Tyche did not come to pose her slender hand upon his arm; Arria Marcella, implacable, remained dust.

As a last resort, Octavian married a lovely young English girl who is madly in love with him. He is a perfect husband, yet a secret, unerring instinct of her heart, tells Ellen that he is in love with another. But with whom? The most meticulous sleuthing has failed to provide any indication. Octavian does not keep a ballerina; in social encounters he honors women with the merest platitudes; he even gave a notably cool reception to the advances of a Russian princess known for her beauty and coquetry. A secret drawer, opened in her husband’s absence, provided Ellen with not the slightest proof of infidelity. But how would it ever occur to her to be jealous of Arria Marcella, daughter of Arrius Diomedes, a freedman of Tiberius?

 

 

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