The Last Days of Pompeii (Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1834)

In ancient Pompeii, Glaucus, a young Athenian man, falls in love with Ione, a Greek woman. However, her guardian, the Egyptian astrologer Arbaces, has long intended to claim her for his own wife. When her brother Apaecides, formerly a priest of Isis, converts to the new religion of the Nazarenes and threatens to reveal the Egyptian mysteries, Arbaces sees his chance. He kills Apaecides and frames Glaucus for the murder, seeing him sentenced to death by lion in the arena.

Nydia, a blind slave, is also in love with Glaucus. As she has knowledge of Arbaces’s crime, he’s imprisoned her in his mansion. By the time she’s freed, Glaucus has already been served to the lion, but strangely, the starved beast makes no move to attack him. The superstitious crowd takes this as proof of Glaucus’s innocence and turns on Arbaces when he is accused. He would be thrown to the lion himself, but just then, Vesuvius, the long-dormant volcano, erupts.

The city collapses into chaos. The ash vomited into the sky completely blots out the sun and the people struggle in the dark to reach the sea. Glaucus and Ione are lost in the confusing maze of streets, but Nydia, who knows the city not by sight but by feel, leads them to safety. They board a ship and escape the volcano, but Nydia, realizing now that she’s lost Glaucus to Ione forever, leaps into the water and drowns herself.

Inscription: “Alice M. Bartlett, Nov. 1897, from Mr.+Mrs. Ross”, on the front flyleaf.

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