« ZurückWeiter »
having bathed, he sat down to supper (with great, or at least what is equally heroic) with all the appearance of cheerfulness. In the meanwhile, the fire from Vesuvius flamed forth, from several parts of the mountain, with great violence; which the darkness of the night contributed to render still more visible and dreadful. But my uncle, in order to calm the apprehensions of his friend, assured him it was only the conflagration of the villages, which the country people had abandoned. After this he retired to rest, and, it is most certain, Was so little discomposed as to fall into a deep sleep; for being corpulent, and breathing hard, the attendants in the anti-chamber actually heard him snore.
"' The court which led to his apartment being now almost filled with stones and ashes, it would have been impossible for him, if he had continued there any longer, to have made his way out; it was thought proper, therefore, to awaken him. He got up, and joined Pompianus and the rest of the company, who had not been sufficiently unconcerned to think of going to bed. They consulted together, whether it would be most prudent to trust to the houses, which now shook from side to side, with frequent and violent concussions; or flee to the open fields, where the calcined stones and cinders, though levigated indeed, yet fell in large showers, threatening them with instant destruction. In this distress they resolved for the fields, as the less dangerous situation of the two: a resolution which, while the rest of the company were hurried into by their fears, my uncle embraced upon cool and deliberate consideration. They went out then, having pillows tied upon their heads with napkins; and this was the whole defence against the storm of stones that fell around them.
"'It was now day every where else; but there a deeper darkness prevailed than in the blackest night; which was, however, in some degree, dissipated by torches and other lights of various kinds. They thought it expedient to go down further upon the shore, in order to observe if they might safely put out to sea; but they found the waves still run extremely high and boisterous.
"' There my uncle, having drunk a draught or two of cold water, laid himself down upon a sail-cloth, which was spread for him; when, immediately, the flames, preceded by a strong smell of sulphur, dispersed the rest of the company, and obliged him to rise. He raised himself with the assistance of the servants, and instantly fell down dead; suffocated, I suppose, by some great and noxious vapour, having always had weak lungs, and frequently subject to a difficulty of breathing. As soon as it was light again, which was not till the third day after this melancholy accident, his body was found entire, and without any marks of violence, exactly in the same posture in which he fell, and looking more like a man asleep than dead.'"
"And what became of the younger Pliny, Sir?" asked Ann, "during this dreadful scene."
"I will give you his narration in his own words," answered Mr. Wilmot.
"'My uncle having left us, I continued the employment which prevented my going with him, till it was time to bathe: after which, I went to supper, and then fell into a short and uneasy sleep. There had, during many days before, been some shocks of an earthquake, which the less alarmed us, as they are frequent in Campania; but they were so particularly violent that night, that they not only shook every thing about us, but seemed to threaten total destruction. My mother flew to my chamber, where she found me rising in order to awaken her. We went out into a small court belonging to the house, which separated the sea from the buildings.
"'As I was at that time but eighteen years of age, I know not whether I can call my behaviour, in this perilous conjuncture, courage or rashness; but I took up Livy, and amused myself with turning over that author, and even in making extracts from him, as if I had been perfectly at my ease. While we were in that situation, a friend of my uncle's, who was just come from Spain to pay him a visit, joined us; and observing me sitting by my mother, with a book in my hand, reproved her patience and my security: nevertheless, I still went OHjWith my author.
"' It was now morning, but the light was exceedingly faint and languid; the buildings all around tottered; and though we stood upon open ground, yet, as the place was narrow and confined, there was no remaining without imminent danger: we therefore resolved to leave the town. The people followed us in the utmost consternation, and (as to a mind distracted With terror, every suggestion seems more prudent than its own) pressed in great crowds about us, in our way out. Being advanced at a considerable distance from the houses, we stood still, in the midst of a most hazardous
and tremendous scene. The chariots which we had ordered out, were so agitated backwards and forwards, though upon the most level ground, that we could not keep them steady, even by supporting them with large stones.
"' The sea seemed to roll back upon itself, and to be driven from the banks by the convulsive motion of the earth: it is certain, at least, that the shore was considerably enlarged, and several sea-animals were left upon it.
"' On the other side, a black and dreadful cloud, bursting with an igneous serpentine vapour, darted out a long train of fire, resembling flashes of lightning, but much longer. Upon this, our Spanish friend, whom I mentioned above, addressing himself to my mother and me with great warmth and earnestness, said, 'If your brother and your uncle is safe, he earnestly wishes that you may be so too; but if he perished, it was, doubtless, his desire that you might both survive him. Why, therefore, do you delay your escape a moment?'
"' We could never think of our own safety,' we replied, 'whilst we were uncertain of his.' Upon which our friend left us, and withdrew from the danger with the utmost precipitation.