Just where the porticoes of a light and graceful temple threw their shade stood a young girl. She had a flower basket on her right arm and in her left hand a small three-stringed lyre, to whose low tones she was singing a wild and half-barbaric air. At every pause in the music she lifted her flower basket, inviting the people to buy. Many a coin was dropped into the basket, either in compliment to the music or in pity of the singer, for she was blind.
” It is my poor Thessalian,” said Glaucus to a friend who was walking with him; ” I have not seen her since my return to Pompeii. Hush! her voice is sweet; let us listen.”
Buy my flowers0 buy I pray ! The blind girl comes from afar ; If the earth be as fair as I hear them say, These flowers her children are ! Do they her beauty keep ? They are fresh from her lap, I know; For I caught them fast asleep In her arms an hour ago, With the air which is her breath Her soft and delicate breath Over them murmuring low ! On their lips her sweet kiss lingers yet,
And their cheeks with her tender tears are wet. For she weeps that gentle mother weeps (As morn and night her watch she keeps, With a yearning heart and a passionate care) To see the young things grow so fair; She weeps for love she weeps ; And the dews are the tears she weeps, From the well of a mother’s love !
” I must have a bunch of violets, Nydia,” said Glaucus, pressing through the crowd and dropping a handful of small coins in her basket.
The blind girl started forward. ” So you are returned,” she said in a soft voice; “Glaucus is returned.”
” Yes, child, I have been in Pompeii but a few days. My garden wants your care ; you will visit it, I trust, tomorrow. No hands but those of Nydia shall wind any garlands for my house.”
The blind girl smiled, but did not answer.
” So she is a client of yours,” said Glaucus’s friend, as they went away.
” Yes. Does she not sing prettily? She interests me, the poor slave ! Besides, she is from the land of Olympus; she is of Thessaly.”
Adapted from ” The Last Days of Pompeii ”
Thessalian (the sa li an): one born in Thessaly (thes’a ii), a section of Greece. Nydia (nid’i a). client (kli ent): a person in ancient Rome who was under the protection of another of superior rank and influence. Bodenhausen (bo’den hou’zen).