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from Monologues and novelties (1896)
edited by B.C.L. Griffith

To learn more about the original novel
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The life and works of
Edward George Bulwer Lytton


Arranged by Marguerite W. Morton

(1) Glaucus, an Athenian, has been adjudged guilty of the murder of Apæcides, a priest of Isis, and doomed to the arena, where criminals were condemned to fight with wild beasts. The crime was really committed by Arbaces, the Egyptian. The only eye-witness of the deed was a priest, Calenus, whom Arbaces incarcerated in a secret dungeon, leaving him, as he thought, to die of starvation. Accident led to his discovery by Nydia, and he was rescued by Sallust, a friend of Glaucus.

  While awaiting his doom Glaucus was confined in a gloomy cell with a Christian, Olinthus, who was also under sentence of death. The applauses of the amphitheatre, as victim after victim fell in desperate conflict before the eyes of the blood-thirsty crowd, came faintly to their ears.

  (2) "Hark! (3) hearest thou that shout?" said Olinthus. (4) "They are growling over their human blood!"

   (5)"I hear; my heart grows sick; (6) but the gods support me! (7)Dost thou hear them drag yon heavy body through the passage? Such as that clay will be ours, soon."

  The doors swung gratingly back — the gleam of spears shot along the walls.

   (8)"Glaucus, the Athenian, thy time has come," said a loud voice. "The lion awaits thee."

   (9)"I am ready," said the Athenian. (10) "Brother and co-mate (11)one last embrace. (12)Bless me — and farewell — (13) Worthy officer, I attend you."

  When Glaucus came forth into the air, its hot breath smote witheringly upon him. His frame shrank and trembled.

  "Courage!" said the officer who supported him. "Thou art young, active, well-knit. They give thee a weapon! Despair not and thou may'st yet conquer."

  They placed a stilus in his hand and led him into the arena. And now, when the Greek saw the eyes of thousands and tens of thousands upon him, he no longer felt that he was mortal. All fear was gone. A haughty flush spread over his features. He towered aloft to the full of his glorious stature. He seemed the very incarnation of the valor of his land, of the divinity of its worship — at once a hero and a god. The murmur of hatred and horror which had greeted his entrance died into the silence of involuntary respect. The gaze of the spectators turned from the Athenian (14) to a dark, uncouth object in the centre of the arena. It was the grated den of the lion. Slowly the editor gave the sign. The keeper cautiously removed the grating and the lion sprang forth with a mighty roar. (15)Glaucus, with his shining weapon raised on high, awaited the expected rush of the beast. (16)But, to the astonishment of all, the lion seemed not even aware of the presence of the criminal. At half speed it circled round and round the space, turning its head from side to side as if seeking only some avenue of escape, and its eye, though it wandered at times to Glaucus, rolled listlessly from him again. At length it crept with a moan into its cage.

  The editor called to the keeper:

  "How is this? Take the goad! prick him forth, and then close the door of the cage!"

  As the keeper was preparing to obey, (17)a loud cry was heard at one of the entrances of the arena. There was a confusion — the crowd gave away, and suddenly Sallust appeared on the senatorial benches.

   (18)"Remove the Athenian!" he cried. "Haste — he is innocent! Arrest Arbaces, the Egyptian. He is the murderer of Apæcides!"

   (19)"Art thou mad, Sallust?" cried the prætor. "What means this raving?"

   (20)"Remove the Athenian! — Quick! or his blood be on your head. Prætor, delay, and you answer with your life to the Emperor! I bring with me the eye-witness to the death of the priest Apæcides. (21)Room there — stand back! — give way! (22)People of Pompeii, fix every eye upon Arbaces. (23)There he sits! (24)Room, there for the priest Calenus!"

  Pale, haggard, fresh from the jaws of famine and of death, Calenus was supported into the very row in which Arbaces sat.

   (25)"The priest Calenus! — Calenus!" cried the mob. "Is it he? (26)No, it is a dead man!"

  "It is the priest Calenus," said the prætor, gravely. (27)"What hast thou to say?"

   (28)"Arbaces of Egypt is the murderer of Apæcides, the priest of Isis. These eyes saw him deal the blow. It is from the dungeon into which he plunged me — it is — (29)it is — from the darkness and horror of a death by famine that the gods have raised me to proclaim his crime! Release the Athenian — he is innocent!"

   (30)"It is for this, then, that the lion spared him — a miracle! — a miracle!" cried Pansa.

  "A miracle! a miracle!" shouted the people. "Remove the Athenian! (31)Arbaces to the lion!" And that shout echoed from hill to vale, from coast to sea. (32)"Arbaces to the lion!"

   (33)"Officers, remove the accused Glaucus — remove, but guard him yet," said the prætor. (34)"The gods lavish their wonders upon this day! (35) Calenus, priest of Isis, thou accusest Arbaces of the murder of Apæcides?"

   (36)"I do."

  "Thou didst behold the deed?"

  "Prætor, with these eyes ——"

  "Enough, at present. (37)Arbaces of Egypt, thou hearest the charge against thee — thou hast not yet spoken — what hast thou to say?"

   (38)"Prætor, this charge is so mad that it scarcely deserves reply. My first accuser is the noble Sallust, the most intimate friend of Glaucus! My second is a priest. I revere his garb and calling — but, (39)people of Pompeii, ye know somewhat of the character of Calenus. (40)The witness of such men is to be bought! (41) Prætor, I am innocent."

   (42)"Sallust," said the magistrate, "where found you Calenus?"

  "In the dungeons of Arbaces."

  "Egyptian," said the prætor, frowning, "thou didst then dare to imprison a priest of the gods? — and wherefore?"

   (43)"Hear me!" said Arbaces. "This man came to threaten that he would make against me the charge he has now made unless I would purchase his silence with half my fortune. Noble prætor, (44)and ye, O people, I was a stranger in the land. I knew myself innocent of the charge, yet the witness of a priest against me might destroy me. I may have erred — but who among you will not acknowledge the equity of self-preservation? For the rest, I throw myself on your laws. I demand their protection. I will willingly appear before the legitimate tribunal and cheerfully abide by its decision. This is no place for further parley."

  "He says right," said the prætor. "Ho! guards, remove Arbaces — guard Calenus! Sallust, we hold you responsible for your accusation. (45)Let the sports be resumed!"

   (46)"What?" cried Calenus, turning round to the people. "Shall Isis be thus contemned? Shall the blood of Apæcides yet cry for vengeance? Shall justice be delayed now that it may be frustrated hereafter? (47)A god! a god! I feel the god rush to my lips! To the lion — to the lion with Arbaces!"

  His exhausted frame could support no more. He sank to the ground in strong convulsions. The people saw and shuddered.

   (48)"It is a god that inspires the holy man? To the lion with the Egyptian! Arbaces to the lion!"

   (49)With that cry up sprang — on moved thousands upon thousands! They rushed from the heights — they poured down in the direction of the Egyptian. In vain did the ædile command — in vain did the prætor lift his voice and proclaim the law. His power was as a reed beneath the whirlwind. (50)In despair and terror which beat down even pride, Arbaces glanced over the rolling, rushing crowd — when, right above them, through the wide chasm which had been left in the velaria, he beheld a strange and awful apparition — he beheld, and his craft restored his courage.

   (51)"Behold!" he shouted. "Behold how the gods protect the guiltless! (52)Fires of the avenging Orcus burst forth against the false witness of my accusers."

   (53)The eyes of the crowd followed the gesture of the Egyptian, and beheld, with ineffable dismay, a vast vapor shooting from the summit of Vesuvius in the form of a gigantic pine-tree — the trunk, blackness, the branches, fire. (54)There was a dead, heart-sunken silence, through which there suddenly broke the fierce roar of the lions. Dread seers were they of the burden of the atmosphere and wild prophets of the wrath to come. (55)No longer thought the crowd of justice or of Arbaces. (56) They felt the earth shake beneath their feet; (57)the walls of the theatre trembled; (58)beyond in the distance, they heard the crash of falling roofs. An instant more, and the mountain-cloud (59) rolled toward them, dark and rapid like a torrent. Over the crushing vines, over the desolate streets, over the amphitheatre itself, fell that awful shower. (60)Darker and larger and mightier spread the cloud above them. Then, (61)amid groans and oaths and prayers and sudden shrieks, (62)closed in that ghastly night.




   (1) This introductory paragraph should be spoken rather slowly, with careful attention to grouping and emphasis, especial prominence being given to those points upon which the understanding of the following scene depends. <== Back
  (2)Raise the left hand a little above the middle plane, listening attitude. <== Back (3) Turn head toward right, as if looking at Glaucus, sustaining gesture of left hand. <== Back (4) Bring left hand slowly down to side.<== Back
  (5) Speak to left, head bowed.<== Back (6) Raise head slowly, looking upward with expression of manly resolution. <== Back (7) Give gesture with right hand prone, to right. Turn face to left, addressing Olinthus. <== Back
  (8) Speak a little to left.<== Back
  (9) Speak to right. <== Back (10) Turn to left. <== Back (11) Extend both hands. <== Back (12) Bow the head. <== Back (13) Speak to right, inclining the head slightly.<== Back
  (14) Gesture of indication with right hand, forward. <== Back
  (15) Right arm raised above head, with hand closed as if holding the weapon, weight on left foot retired, left arm down and back in opposition to right, hand closed, arm tense. Sustain attitude until (16). <== Back
  (17) Step back on left foot, giving gesture of indication back and to left with left hand.<== Back
  (18) Throw weight forward on right foot. Give gesture with right hand, palm up, middle plane, forward. Repeat gesture on "Haste!" Point forward to right on "Arrest Arbaces." <== Back
  (19) Speak to right.<== Back
  (20) Turn to left. Give gesture of indication with hand forward. <== Back (21) Step back on left foot, and extend left arm, hand vertical, toward entrance indicated in (17). <== Back (22) Bringing left foot up in line with right, turn first to right, then to left, at the same time extending both arms, palms up, thus including the entire assemblage in the address.<== Back
   (23) Point to Arbaces with right index finger. <== Back (24) Turn to left. Give gesture of command, left arm, palm up.<== Back
  (25) Weight on right foot, slightly advanced. Arms lifted a little from sides, right forward, left backward, whole attitude suspensive; eyes fixed upon Calenus. <== Back (26) Draw back on left foot. <== Back
  (27) Speak a little to left. <== Back
  (28) Voice partially aspirated, utterance labored and broken. Breathe with upper chest, in short inhalations. <== Back (29) A slight groan or gasp may be given here, as if the horror of his recent captivity overwhelms him. This should be attempted only by those who are thoroughly skilled in the use of such dramatic effects. <== Back
  (30) Turning from right to left, as if addressing those around him. <== Back
  (31) and (32) Wave right hand. <== Back
  (33) Speak toward audience. <== Back (34) Aside, a little to right. <== Back (35) Speak to right. <== Back
  (36) Speak to left. <== Back
  (37) Turn to right, addressing Arbaces. <== Back
  (38) Speak to left. The majestic poise of Arbaces does not desert him yet. Speak slowly. A marked pause after "the noble Sallust" gives additional effect to the implication contained in the next words. <== Back (39) Turn toward right, letting the eyes range over the assemblage. <== Back (40) Give strong climax on "bought." <== Back (41) Pause, fold arms on chest, and turn to left, addressing the prætor. Speak the words simply. <== Back
  (42) Speak to right, Sallust turning to left in replying. <== Back
  (43) Deprecatory gesture with left hand, palm down, on "Hear me." On "this man" turn the head to right without the slightest movement of the shoulders, as if indicating Calenus by a slightly contemptuous glance, then look to left again. <== Back (44) Appeal to people, both arms extended, palms up. <== Back
  (45) Step forward, raising right arm in command. <== Back
  (46) Spoken with intense excitement, but with great effort. Arms extended as if appealing to people. Emphatic ascending gesture with right arm on vengeance. <== Back (47) Arms extended, expression rapt, eyes looking upward. <== Back
  (48) At first the people are awe-struck, but their excitement increases, culminating on the words "Arbaces to the lion!" <== Back
  (49) Rate rapid, but pauses distinct. <== Back (50) The calmness of Arbaces momentarily forsakes him. He glances rapidly, in terror, from right to left; then, as he catches sight of the "strange and awful apparition" directly before him his self-command returns. <== Back
  (51) Speak with full, ringing voice. Weight on left foot, retired. Give gesture of indication with right arm. <== Back (52) Extend both arms toward the "apparition." These words, though merely descriptive in the narrative, gain greatly in dramatic effect if uttered as a command addressed by Arbaces to the "fires of the avenging Orcus," and such an interpretation is in perfect harmony with his reputation for magical Power. <== Back
  (53) The effectiveness of these closing paragraphs depends upon perfect control of the voice and facial expression. In the utterance of the word "fire" should be reflected the terror naturally inspired by the sight. A slight pause before the word intensifies the effect. <== Back
  (54) Pitch lower, entire expression suspensive. The paralysis of sudden terror is upon the people. <== Back
  (55) Rate slightly accelerated. The paralysis is removed, the excitement is growing. <== Back (56) Descending gesture with both hands, palms down. <== Back (57) Carry both hands up and out, middle plane, palms vertical. <== Back
  (58) Carry right hand forward, bringing left hand down to side. <== Back
  (59) Look forward and upward, drawing back in terror as "the mountain cloud rolled toward them." <== Back
  (60) Ascending gesture with both hands, palms vertical. <== Back
  (61) Let the utterance of the words "groans," "oaths," "prayers" and "shrieks" suggest the meaning of the words. Hands clinched on "oaths;" look up on "prayers." On "shrieks" step back on left foot, right arm raised to ward off the impending destruction. <== Back
  (62) Pause, and then utter the closing words slowly and impressively . <== Back