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Soon afterwards, the cloud seemed to descend and cover the whole ocean; as, indeed, it entirely hid the island of Caprea, (an island near Naples, now called Capri,) and the promontory of Misenum. My mother conjured me to make my escape any way, which, as I was young, I might easily effect. As for herself^ she said, her age and corpulency rendered all attempts of that sort impossible: however, she would willingly meet death, if she could have the satisfaction of seeing that she was not the cause of mine. But I resolutely refused to leave her, and taking her by the hand, led her on. She complied with great reluctance, and not without many reproaches to herself, for being the occasion of retarding my flight.
"' The ashes now began to fall upon us, though in no great quantity. I turned my head, and observed behind me a thick smoke, which came rolling after us like a torrent. I proposed, while we had yet any light, to turn out of the high road, lest she should be pressed to death by the crowd that followed us.
"' We had scarcely stepped out of the path when darkness overspread us: not like that of a cloudy night, or when there is no moon; but of a room that is shut up, and all the lights extinct. Nothing then was to be heard but the shrieks of women, the screams of. children, and the cries of men; some calling for their children, others for their husbands, others for their parents, and only distinguishing them by their voices. One lamenting his own fate, another that of his family; some wishing to die, from, the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greatest part imagining that the last and eternal night was come, which was to destroy the gods and the world together. Amongst these, were some who augmented the real terrors by imaginary ones, and made the frighted multitude believe that Misenum was actually in flames.
"'At length a glimmering light appeared, which we imagined rather the forerunner of another burst of flame, (as in fact it was,) than the return of day. However, the fire fell at a distance from us; and then again we were immersed in thick darkness, and a heavy shower of ashes rained upon us, which we were obliged every now and then to shake off, otherwise we should have been overwhelmed and buried in the heap.
"'I might boast that, during all this scene of horror, not a sigh or expression of fear escaped from me, had not my support been founded on that miserable, though strong consolation, that all mankind were involved in the same calamity, and that I imagined that I was perishing with the world itself. At last this terrible darkness was dissipated by degrees, like a cloud or smoke; the real day returned, and even the sun appeared, though very faintly, as when an eclipse is coming on. Every object which presented itself to our eyes (which were extremely weakened) seemed changed, being covered with white ashes, as with a deep snow.
"' We returned to Misenum, where we refreshed ourselves as well as we could, and passed our anxious night between hope and fear: though, indeed, with a much larger share of the latter; for the earth still continued to shake, while several enthusiastic persons ran wildly among the people, and making a kind of frantic sport of their own and their friends' wretched situation. However, my mother and I, notwithstanding the danger we had passed, and that which threatened us, had no intention of leaving Misenum till we should receive some account of my uncle.'"
"How singular it was," said Susan, "that Pliny should read an historical work, at a moment of such imminent danger. Do you call it fortitude, Sir?"
"I am something, my dear, of lord Lyttelton's opinion, respecting this part of this really amiable man's conduct: 'That, when all nature seemed falling into final destruction, to be reading Livy and making extracts was an absurd affectation. To meet danger with courage is manly, but to be insensible to it is brutal stupidity; and to pretend insensibility where it cannot be supposed, is ridiculous falseness.'"
"But his conduct, in refusing to leave his mother, you will allow, was noble," remarked Mrs. Spencer.
"Undoubtedly it was a beautiful act of filial piety; and whilst I have passed a censure on the one act mentioned, I wish it to be remembered, that no Roman ever excelled him in sincere integrity of heart and greatness of sentiment; although there was a mixture of vanity blended with his virtue, which impaired and disgraced it."
"I think, Sir," said Ann, "you spoke of some cities being destroyed at this time.
"Yes, my dear, and Herculaneum was one. Like Pompeii and other cities, it was thought to be utterly destroyed, till the beginning of the eighteenth century, when it was discovered; and many of the houses were found perfectly furnished, and the furniture in good preservation."
"Do volcanic eruptions ever occur in other countries?" asked Susan.
"The principal apertures of this kind," replied Mr. Wilmot, "besides Vesuvius, are, Etna in Sicily; Stromboli, one of the Lipari Islands, north of Sicily; and Hecla in Iceland.
"So late as the year 1783, a volcanic eruption in Iceland surpassed any thing recorded in history. The lava spouted up to the height of two miles perpendicular, and continued thus for two months; during which time it covered a tract of three thousand six hundred square miles of ground, in some places more than one hundred feet deep; and this tremendous visitation was followed by a train of consequences, the most direful and melancholy, some of which continue to be felt to this day.
"Immense floods of red hot lava were poured down from the hills, with amazing velocity; and, spreading over the low country, burnt up men, cattle, churches, houses, and every thing they attacked in their progress. Not only was all vegetation in the immediate neighbourhood of the volcano destroyed, by the ashes, brimstone, and pumice which it emitted; but, it be