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Title: Arachne — Complete
Author: Ebers, Georg, 1837-1898
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Arachne — Complete" ***

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ARACHNE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 1.

Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford



CHAPTER I.

Deep silence brooded over the water and the green islands which rose like
oases from its glittering surface. The palms, silver poplars, and
sycamores on the largest one were already casting longer shadows as the
slanting rays of the sun touched their dark crowns, while its glowing
ball still poured a flood of golden radiance upon the bushes along the
shore, and the light, feathery tufts at the tops of the papyrus reeds in
the brackish water.

More than one flock of large and small waterfowl flew past beneath the
silvery cloudlets flecking the lofty azure vault of heaven; here and
there a pelican or a pair of wild ducks plunged, with short calls which
ceased abruptly, into the lush green thicket, but their cackling and
quacking belonged to the voices of Nature, and, when heard, soon died
away in the heights of the tipper air, or in the darkness of the
underbrush that received the birds. Very few reached the little city of
Tennis, which now, during the period of inundation in the year 274 B.C.,
was completely encircled by water.

From the small island, separated from it by a channel scarcely three
arrow-shots wide, it seemed as though sleep or paralysis had fallen upon
the citizens of the busy little industrial town, for few people appeared
in the streets, and the scanty number of porters and sailors who were
working among the ships and boats in the little fleet performed their
tasks noiselessly, exhausted by the heat and labour of the day.

Columns of light smoke rose from many of the buildings, but the sunbeams
prevented its ascent into the clear, still air, and forced it to spread
over the roofs as if it, too, needed rest.

Silence also reigned in the little island diagonally opposite to the
harbour. The Tennites called it the Owl's Nest, and, though for no
especial reason, neither they nor the magistrates of King Ptolemy II ever
stepped upon its shores. Indeed, a short time before, the latter had even
been forbidden to concern themselves about the pursuits of its
inhabitants; since, though for centuries it had belonged to a family of
seafaring folk who were suspected of piracy, it had received, two
generations ago, from Alexander the Great himself, the right of asylum,
because its owner, in those days, had commanded a little fleet which
proved extremely useful to the conqueror of the world in the siege of
Gaza and during the expedition to Egypt. True, under the reign of Ptolemy
I, the owners of the Owl's Nest were on the point of being deprived of
this favour, because they were repeatedly accused of piracy in distant
seas; but it had not been done. Yet for the past two years an
investigation had threatened Satabus, the distinguished head of the
family, and during this period he, with his ships and his sons, had
avoided Tennis and the Egyptian coast.

The house occupied by the islanders stood on the shore facing the little
city. It had once been a stately building, but now every part of it
seemed to be going to ruin except the central portion, which presented a
less dilapidated appearance than the sorely damaged, utterly neglected
side wings.

The roof of the whole long structure had originally consisted of palm
branches, upon which mud and turf had been piled; but this, too, was now
in repair only on the central building. On the right and left wings the
rain which often falls in the northeastern part of the Nile Delta, near
the sea, had washed off the protecting earth, and the wind had borne it
away as dust.

Once the house had been spacious enough to shelter a numerous family and
to store a great quantity of goods and provisions, but it was now long
since the ruinous chambers had been occupied. Smoke rose only from the
opening in the roof of the main building, but its slender column showed
from what a very scanty fire it ascended.

The purpose which this was to serve was readily discovered, for in front
of the open door of the dwelling, that seemed far too large and on
account of the pillars at the entrance, which supported a triangular
pediment--also too stately for its sole occupant, sat an old woman,
plucking three ducks.

In front of her a girl, paying no heed to her companion, stood leaning
against the trunk of the low, wide-branching sycamore tree near the
shore. A narrow boat, now concealed from view by the dense growth of
rushes, had brought her to the spot.

The beautiful, motherless young creature, needing counsel, had come to
old Tabus to appeal to her art of prophecy and, if she wanted them, to
render her any little services; for the old dame on the island was
closely bound to Ledscha, the daughter of one of the principal
ship-owners in Tennis, and had once been even more closely united to the
girl.

Now, as the sun was about to set, the latter gave herself up to a wild
tumult of sweet memories, anxious fears, and yearning expectation.

Not until a cool breath from the neighbouring sea fanned her brow did she
throw down the cord and implement with which she had been adding a few
meshes to a net, and rising, gaze sometimes across the water at a large
white house in the northern part of the city, sometimes at the little
harbour or the vessels on the horizon steering toward Tennis, among which
her keen eyes discovered a magnificent ship with bright-hued sails.

Drawing a long breath, she enjoyed the coolness which precedes the
departure of the daystar.

But the effect of this harbinger of night upon her surroundings was even
more powerful than upon herself, for the sun in the western horizon
scarcely began to sink slowly behind the papyrus thicket on the shore of
the straight Tanite arm of the Nile, dug by human hands, than one new and
strange phenomenon followed another.

First a fan, composed of countless glowing rays which spread in dazzling
radiance over the west, rose from the vanishing orb and for several
minutes adorned the lofty dome of the deep-blue sky like the tail of a
gigantic peacock. Then the glitter of the shining plumes paled. The
light-giving body from which they emanated disappeared and, in its stead,
a crimson mantle, with gold-bordered, crocus-yellow edges, spread itself
over the space it had left until the gleaming tints merged into the
deeper hues of the violet.

But the girl paid no heed to this splendid spectacle. Perhaps she noticed
how the fading light diffused a delicate rose-hued veil over the
light-blue sails, embroidered with silver vines, of the approaching state
galley, making its gilded prow glitter more brightly, and saw one fishing
boat after another move toward the harbour, but she gave the whole scene
only a few careless glances.

Ledscha cared little for the poor fishermen of Tennis, and the glittering
state galley could scarcely bring or bear away anything of importance to
her.

The epistrategus of the whole province was daily expected. But of what
consequence to the young girl were the changes which it was rumoured he
intended to introduce into the government of the country, concerning
which her father had expressed such bitter dissatisfaction before he set
out on his last trip to Pontus?

A very different matter occupied her thoughts, and as, pressing her hand
upon her heart, she gazed at the little city, gleaming with crimson hues
in the reflection of the setting sun, a strange, restless stir pervaded
the former stillness of Nature. Pelicans and flamingoes, geese and ducks,
storks and herons, ibises and cranes, bitterns and lapwings, flew in dark
flocks of manifold forms from all directions. Countless multitudes of
waterfowl darkened the air as they alighted upon the uninhabited islands,
and with ear-splitting croaking and cackling, whistling and chirping,
clapping and twittering, dropped into the sedges and bushes which
concealed their nests, while in the city the doors of the houses opened,
and men, women, and children, after toiling at the loom and in the
workshop, came out to enjoy the coolness of the evening in the open air.

One fishing boat after another was already throwing a rope to the shore,
as the ship with the gay sails approached the little roadstead.

How large and magnificent it was!

None of the king's officials had ever used such a galley, not even the
epistrategus of the Delta, who last year had given the banking and the
oil trade to new lessees. Besides, the two transports that had followed
the magnificent vessel appeared to belong to it.

Ledscha had watched the ships indifferently enough, but suddenly her
gaze--and with it the austere beauty of her face--assumed a different
expression.

Her large black eyes dilated, and with passionate intentness she looked
from the gaily ornamented galley to the shore, which several men in Greek
costume were approaching.

The first two had come from the large white house whose door, since
sunset, had been the principal object of her attention.

It was Hermon, the taller one, for whom she was waiting with old Tabus.
He had promised to take her from the Owl's Nest, after nightfall, for a
lonely row upon the water.

Now he was not coming alone, but with his fellow-artist, the sculptor
Myrtilus, the nomarch and the notary--she recognised both
distinctly--Gorgias, the rich owner of the second largest weaving
establishment in Tennis, and several slaves.

What did it mean?

A sudden flush crimsoned her face, now slightly tanned, to the brow, and
her lips were compressed, giving her mouth an expression of repellent,
almost cruel harshness.

But the tension of her charming features, whose lines, though sharp, were
delicately outlined, soon vanished. There was still plenty of time before
the darkness would permit Hermon to join her unnoticed. A reception, from
which he could not be absent, was evidently about to take place.

Yes, that was certainly the case; for now the magnificent galley had
approached as near the land as the shallow water permitted, and the
whistle of the rowers' flute-player, shouts of command, and the barking
of dogs could be heard.

Then a handkerchief waved a greeting from the vessel to the men on shore,
but the hand that held it was a woman's. Ledscha would have recognised it
had the twilight been far deeper.

The features of the new arrival could no longer be distinguished; but she
must be young. An elderly woman would not have sprung so nimbly into the
skiff that was to convey her to the land.

The man who assisted her in doing so was the same sculptor, Hermon, for
whom she had watched with so much longing.

Again the blood mounted into Ledscha's cheeks, and when she saw the
stranger lay her hand upon the shoulder of the Alexandrian who, only
yesterday, had assured the young girl of his love with ardent vows, and
allow him to lift her out of the boat, she buried her little white teeth
deeply in her lips.

She had never seen Hermon in the society of a woman of his own class,
and, full of jealous displeasure; perceived with what zealous assiduity
he who bowed before no one in Tennis, paid court to the stranger no less
eagerly than did his friend Myrtilus.

The whole scene passed like a shadow in the dusk before Ledscha's eyes,
half dimmed by uneasiness, perplexity, and suddenly inflamed jealousy.

The Egyptian twilight is short, and when Hermon disappeared with the
new-comer it was no longer possible to recognise the man who entered the
very boat in which she was to have taken the nocturnal voyage with her
lover, and which was now rowed toward the Owl's Nest.

Surely it would bring her a message from Hermon; and as the stranger, who
was now joined by a number of other women and two packs of barking dogs,
with their keepers, vanished in the darkness, the skiff already touched
the shore close at her side.



CHAPTER II.

In spite of the surrounding gloom, Ledscha recognised the man who left
the boat.

The greeting he shouted told her that it was Hermon's slave, Pias, a
Biamite, whom she had met in the house of some neighbours who were his
relatives and had sharply rebuffed when he ventured to accost her more
familiarly than was seemly for one in bondage.

True, in his childhood this man had lived near Tennis as the son of a
free papyrus raiser, but when still a lad was sold into slavery in
Alexandria with his father, who had been seized for taking part in an
insurrection against the last king.

In the service of Areluas, his present master's uncle, who had given him
to his nephew, and as the slave of the impetuous yet anything but cruel
sculptor, Hermon, he had become accustomed to bondage, but was still far
more strongly attached to his Biamite race than to the Greek, to whom, it
is true, his master belonged, but who had robbed him and his family of
freedom.

The man of forty did not lack mother wit, and as his hard fate rendered
him thoughtful and often led him to use figurative turns of speech, which
were by no means intended as jests, he had been called by his first
master "Bias" for the sage of Priene.

In the house of Hermon, who associated with the best artists in
Alexandria, he had picked up all sorts of knowledge and gladly welcomed
instruction. His highest desire was to win esteem, and he often did so.

Hermon prized the useful fellow highly. He had no secrets from him, and
was sure of his silence and good will.

Bias had managed to lure many a young beauty in Alexandria, in whom the
sculptor had seen a desirable model, to his studio, even under the most
difficult circumstances; but he was vexed to find that his master had
cast his eye upon the daughter of one of the most distinguished families
among his own people. He knew, too, that the Biamites jealously guarded
the honour of their women, and had represented to Hermon what a dangerous
game he was playing when he began to offer vows of love to Ledscha.

So it was an extremely welcome task to be permitted to inform her that
she was awaiting his master in vain.

In reply to her inquiry whether it was the aristocrat who had just
arrived who kept Hermon from her, he admitted that she was right, but
added that the gods were above even kings, and his master was obliged to
yield to the Alexandrian's will.

Ledscha laughed incredulously: "He--obey a woman!"

"He certainly would not submit to a man," replied the slave. "Artists,
you must know, would rather oppose ten of the most powerful men than one
weak woman, if she is only beautiful. As for the daughter of
Archias--thereby hangs a tale."

"Archias?" interrupted the girl. "The rich Alexandrian who owns the great
weaving house?"

"The very man."

"So it is his daughter who is keeping Hermon? And you say he is obliged
to serve her?"

"As men serve the Deity, to the utmost, or truth," replied the slave
importantly. "Archias, the father, it is true, imposed upon us the debt
which is most tardily paid, and which people, even in this country, call
'gratitude.' We are under obligations to the old man--there's no denying
it--and therefore also to his only child."

"For what?" Ledscha indignantly exclaimed, and the dark eyebrows which
met above her delicate nose contracted suspiciously. "I must know!"

"Must!" repeated the slave. "That word is a ploughshare which suits only
loose soil, and mine, now that my master is waiting for me, can not be
tilled even by the sharpest. Another time! But if, meanwhile, you have
any message for Hermon----"

"Nothing," she replied defiantly; but Bias, in a tone of the most eager
assent, exclaimed: "One friendly word, girl. You are the fairest among
the daughters of the highest Biamite families, and probably the richest
also, and therefore a thousand times too good to yield what adorns you to
the Greek, that it may tickle the curiosity of the Alexandrian apes.
There are more than enough women in the capital to serve that purpose.
Trust the experience of a man not wholly devoid of wisdom, my girl. He
will throw you aside like an empty wine bottle when he has used you for a
model."

"Used?" interrupted Ledscha disdainfully; but he repeated with firm
decision: "Yes, used! What could you learn of life, of art and artists,
here in the weaver's nest in the midst of the waves? I know them. A
sculptor needs beautiful women as a cobbler wants leather, and the charms
he seeks in you he does not conceal from his friend Myrtilus, at least.
They are your large almond-shaped eyes and your arms. They make him
fairly wild with delight by their curves when, in drawing water, you hold
the jug balanced on your head. Your slender arched foot, too, is a
welcome morsel to him."

The darkness prevented Bias from seeing Ledscha's features, but it was
easy to perceive what was passing in her mind as, hoarse with
indignation, she gasped: "How can I know the object of your accusations?
but fie upon the servant who would alienate from his own kind master what
his soul desires!"

Then Bias changed not only his tone of voice, but his language, and,
deeply offended, poured forth a torrent of wrath in the dialect of his
people: "If to guard you, and my master with you, from harm, my words had
the power to put between you and Hermon the distance which separates
yonder rising moon from Tennis, I would make them sound as loud as the
lion's roar. Yet perhaps you would not understand them, for you go
through life as though you were deaf and blind. Did you ever even ask
yourself whether the Greek is not differently constituted from the sons
of the Biamite sailors and fishermen, with whom you grew up, and to whom
he is an abomination? Yet he is no more like them than poppy juice is
like pure water. He and his companions turn life upside down. There is no
more distinction between right and wrong in Alexandria than we here in
the dark can make between blue and green. To me, the slave, who is
already growing old, Hermon is a kind master. I know without your aid
what I owe him, and serve him as loyally as any one; but where he
threatens to lead to ruin the innocent daughter of the race whose blood
flows in my veins as well as yours, and in doing so perhaps finally
destroy himself too, conscience commands me to raise my voice as loud as
the sentinel crane when danger threatens the flock. Beware, girl, I
repeat! Keep your beauty, which is now to be degraded to feast the eyes
of gaping Greeks, for the worthiest husband among our people. Though
Hermon has vowed, I know not what, your love-dallying will very soon be
over; we shall leave Tennis within the next few days. When he has gone
there will be one more deceived Biamite who will call down the curse of
the gods upon the head of a Greek. You are not the only one who will
execrate the destiny that brought us here. Others have been caught in his
net too."

"Here?" asked Ledscha in a hollow tone; and the slave eagerly answered:
"Where else? And that you may know the truth--among those who visited
Hermon in his studio is your own young sister."

"Our Taus? That child?" exclaimed the girl, stretching her hands toward
the slave in horror, as if to ward off some impending disaster.

"That child, who, I think, has grown into a very charming girl--and,
before her, pretty Gula, the wife of Paseth, who, like your father, is
away on his ship."

Here, in a tone of triumphant confidence, the answer rang from the
Biamite's lips: "There the slanderer stands revealed! Now you are
detected, now I perceive the meaning of your threat. Because, miserable
slave, you cherish the mad hope of beguiling me yourself, you do your
utmost to estrange me from your master. Gula, you say, visited Hermon in
his studio, and it may be true. But though I have been at home only a
short time, Tennis is too full of the praises of the heroic Greek who, at
the risk of his own life, rescued a child from Paseth's burning house,
for the tale not to reach my ears from ten or a dozen different quarters.
Gula is the mother of the little girl whose life was saved by Hermon's
bold deed, and perhaps the young mother only knocked at her benefactor's
door to thank him; but you, base defamer--"

"I," Bias continued, maintaining his composure with difficulty, "I saw
Gula secretly glide into our rooms again and again to permit her child's
preserver to imitate in clay what he considered beautiful. To seek your
love, as you know, the slave forbade himself, although a man no more
loses tender desires with his freedom than the tree which is encircled by
a fence ceases to put forth buds and blossoms. Eros chooses the slave's
heart also as the target for his arrows; but his aim at yours was better
than at mine. Now I know how deeply he wounds, and so, as soon as yonder
ship in the harbour bears our visitor away again, I shall see you,
Schalit's daughter, Ledscha, standing before Hermon's modelling table and
behold him scan your beauty to determine what seems worth copying."

The Biamite, panting for breath, had listened to the end. Then, raising
her little clinched hand menacingly, she muttered through her set teeth:
"Let him try even to touch my veil with his fingers! If I had not been
obliged to go away, this would not have happened to my Taus and luckless
Gula."

"Scarcely," replied Bias calmly. "If the chicken runs into the water, the
hen can not save it. For the rest--I grew up as a boy in freedom with the
husband of your sister, who summoned you to her aid. His father's
brick-kiln was next to our papyrus plantation. Then we fared like so many
others--the great devour the small, the just cause is the lost one, and
the gods are like men. My father, who drew the sword against oppression
and violence, was robbed of liberty, and your brother-in-law, in payment
for his honest courage, met an early death. Is the story which is told of
you here true? I heard that soon after the poor fellow's burial the
slaves in the brick-kiln refused to obey his widow. There were a dozen
rebellious brick-moulders, and you--one can forgive you much for it--you,
the weak girl----"

"I am not weak," interrupted Ledscha proudly. "I could have taught three
times twelve of the scoundrels who was master. Now they obey my sister,
and yet I wish I had stayed in Tennis. Our Taus," she continued in a more
gentle tone, "is still so young, and our mother died when she was a
little child; but I, fool, who should have warned her, left her alone,
and if she yielded to Hermon's temptations the fault is mine, wholly
mine."

During this outburst the light of the fire, which old Tabus had fed with
fresh straw and dry rushes, fell upon the face of the agitated girl. It
revealed her thoughts plainly enough, and, pleased with the success of
his warning, Bias exclaimed: "And Ledscha, you, too, will not grant him
that from which you would so gladly have withheld your sister. So I will
go and tell my master that you refuse to give him another appointment."

He had confidently expected an assent, and therefore started indignantly
at her exclamation: "I intend to do just the contrary." Yet she eagerly
added, as if in explanation: "He must give me an account of himself, no
matter where, and, since it can not be to-day, to-morrow at latest."

The slave, disappointed and anxious, now tried to make her understand how
foolish and hard to accomplish her wish was, but she obstinately insisted
upon having her own way.

Bias angrily turned his back upon her and, in the early light of the
moon, walked toward the shore, but she hastened after him, seized his arm
and, with imperious firmness, commanded: "You will stay! I must first
know whether Hermon really means to leave Tennis so soon."

"That was his intention early this morning," replied the other, releasing
himself from her grasp. "What are we to do here longer, now that his work
is as good as finished?"

"But when is he going?" she urged with increased eagerness.

"Day after to-morrow," was the reply, "in five, or perhaps even in six
days, just as it suits him. Usually we do not even know to-day what is to
be done to-morrow. So long as the Alexandrian remains, he will scarcely
leave her, or Myrtilus either. Probably she will take both hunting with
her, for, though a kind, fair-minded woman, she loves the chase, and as
both have finished their work, they probably will not be reluctant to go
with Daphne."

He stepped into the boat as he spoke, but Ledscha again detained him,
asking impatiently: "And 'the work,' as you call it? It was covered with
a cloth when I visited the studio, but Hermon himself termed it the
statue of a goddess. Yet what it represents--Does it look like my sister
Taus--enough like her, I mean, to be recognised?"

A half-compassionate, half-mocking smile flitted over the Biamite's
copper-coloured visage, and in a tone of patronizing instruction assumed
by the better informed, he began: "You are thinking of the face? Why no,
child! What that requires can be found in the countenance of no Biamite,
hardly even in yours, the fairest of all."

"And the goddess's figure?" asked Ledscha eagerly.

"For that he first used as a model the fair-haired Heliodora, whom he
summoned from Alexandria, and as the wild cat could endure the loneliness
only a fortnight, the sisters Nico and Pagis came together. But Tennis
was too quiet for them too. The rabble can only be contented among those
of their own sort in the capital. But the great preliminary work was
already finished before we left Alexandria."

"And Gula--my sister?"

"They were not used for the Demeter," said the slave, smiling. "Just
think, that slender scarcely grown creature, Taus, and the matronly
patroness of marriage. And Gula? True, her little round face is fresh and
not ill-looking--but the model of a goddess requires something more. That
can only be obtained in Alexandria. What do not the women there do for
the care of the body! They learn it in the Aphrodision, as the boys study
reading and writing. But you! What do you here know even about colouring
the eyelids and the lips, curling the hair, and treating the nails on the
hands and feet? And the clothes! You let them hang just as you put them
on, and my master's work is full of folds and little lines in the robe
and the peplos--But I have staid too long already. Do you really insist
upon meeting Hermon again?

"I will and must see him," she eagerly declared.

"Well, then," he answered harshly. "But if you cast my warning to the
winds, pity will also fly away with it."

"I do not need it," the girl retorted in a contemptuous tone.

"Then let Fate take its course," said the slave, shrugging his shoulders
regretfully. "My master shall learn what you wish. I shall remain at home
until the market is empty. There are plenty of servants at your farm.
Your messenger shall bring you Hermon's answer."

"I will come myself and wait for it under the acacia," she cried hastily,
and went toward the house, but this time it was Bias who called her back.

Ledscha reluctantly fulfilled his wish, but she soon regretted it, for
though what he had to say was doubtless kindly meant, it contained a
fresh and severe offence: the slave represented to her the possibility
that, so long as the daughter of Archias remained his guest, Hermon might
rebuff her like a troublesome beggar.

Then, as if sure of her cause, she indignantly cut short his words: "You
measure him according to your own standard, and do not know what depends
upon it for us. Remind him of the full moon on the coming night and,
though ten Alexandrians detained him, he would escape from them to hear
what I bring him."

With these words Ledscha again turned her back upon him, but Bias, with a
low imprecation, pushed the boat from the shore and rowed toward the
city.



CHAPTER III.

When Ledscha heard the strokes of the oars she stopped again and, with
glowing cheeks, gazed after the boat and the glimmering silver furrow
which it left upon the calm surface of the moonlit water.

Her heart was heavy. The doubts of her lover's sincerity which the slave
had awakened tortured her proud soul.

Was Hermon really only trifling mischievously with her affection?

Surely it was impossible.

She would rather endure everything, everything, than this torturing
uncertainty.

Yet she was here on the Owl's Nest to seek the aid of old Tabus's magic
arts. If any one could give her satisfaction, it was she and the demons
who obeyed her will, and the old woman was glad to oblige Ledscha; she
was bound to her by closer ties than most people in Tennis knew.

Ledscha had no cause to be ashamed of her frequent visits to the Owl's
Nest, for old Tabus had no equal as a leech and a prophetess, and the
corsair family, of which she was the female head, stood in high repute
among the Biamites. People bore them no ill-will because they practised
piracy; many of their race pursued the same calling, and the sailors made
common cause with them.

Ledscha's father, too, was on good terms with the pirates, and when Abus,
a handsome fellow who commanded his father's second ship and had won a
certain degree of renown by many a bold deed, sought the hand of his
oldest daughter, he did not refuse him, and only imposed the condition
that when he had gained riches enough and made Ledscha his wife, he would
cease his piratical pursuits and, in partnership with him, take goods and
slaves from Pontus to the Syrian and Egyptian harbours, and grain and
textiles from the Nile to the coasts of the Black Sea.

Young Abus had yielded to this demand, since his grandmother on the Owl's
Nest thought it wise to delay for a time the girl's marriage to him, the
best beloved of her grandsons; she was then scarcely beyond childhood.

Yet Ledscha had felt a strong affection for the young pirate, in whom she
saw the embodiment of heroic manhood. She accompanied him in imagination
through all his perilous expeditions; but she had been permitted to enjoy
his society only after long intervals for a few days.

Once he remained absent longer than usual, and this very voyage was to
have been his last on a pirate craft--the peaceful seafaring life was to
begin, after his landing, with the marriage.

Ledscha had expected her lover's return with eager longing, but week
after week elapsed, yet nothing was seen or heard of the ships owned by
the Owl's Nest family; then a rumour spread that this time the corsairs
were defeated in a battle with the Syrian war-galleys.

The first person who received sure tidings was old Tabus. Her grandson
Hanno, who escaped with his life, at the bidding of his father Satabus,
who revered his mother, had made his way to her amid great perils to
convey the sorrowful news. Two of the best ships in the family had been
sunk, and on one the brave Abus, Ledscha's betrothed husband, who
commanded it, had lost his life; on the other the aged dame's oldest son
and three of her grandchildren.

Tabus fell as if struck by lightning when she heard the tidings, and
since that time her tongue had lost its power of fluent speech, her ear
its sharpness; but Ledscha did not leave her side, and saved her life by
tireless, faithful nursing.

Neither Satabus, the old woman's second son, who now commanded the little
pirate fleet, nor his sons, Hanno and Labaja, had been seen in the
neighbourhood of Tennis since the disaster, but after Tabus had recovered
sufficiently to provide for herself, Ledscha returned to Tennis to manage
her father's great household and supply the mother's place to her younger
sister, Taus.

She had not recovered the careless cheerfulness of earlier years, but,
graver than the companions of her own age, she absented herself from the
gaieties of the Biamite maidens. Meanwhile her beauty had increased
wonderfully, and, attracting attention far and wide, drew many suitors
from neighbouring towns to Tennis. Only a few, however, had made offers
of marriage to her father; the beautiful girl's cold, repellent manner
disheartened them. She herself desired nothing better; yet it secretly
incensed her and pierced her soul with pain to see herself at twenty
unwedded, while far less attractive companions of her own age had long
been wives and mothers.

The arduous task which she had performed a short time before for her
widowed sister had increased the seriousness of her disposition to sullen
moroseness.

After her return home she often rowed to the Owl's Nest, for Ledscha felt
bound to old Tabus, and, so far as lay in her power, under obligation to
atone for the injury which the horror of her lover's sudden death had
inflicted upon his grandmother.

Now she had at last been subjugated by a new passion--love for the Greek
sculptor Hermon, who did his best to win the heart of the Biamite girl,
whose austere, extremely singular beauty attracted his artist eyes.

To-day Ledscha had come to the sorceress to learn from her what awaited
her and her love. She had landed on the island, sure of favourable
predictions, but now her hopes lay as if crushed by hailstones.

If Bias, who was superior to an ordinary slave, was right, she was to be
degraded to a toy and useful tool by the man who had already proved his
pernicious power over other women of her race, even her own young sister,
whom she had hitherto guarded with faithful care. It had by no means
escaped her notice that the girl was concealing something from her,
though she did not perceive the true cause of the change.

The bright moonbeams, which now wove a silvery web over every surrounding
object, seemed like a mockery of her darkened soul.

If the demons of the heights and depths had been subject to her, as to
the aged enchantress she would have commanded them to cover the heavens
with black clouds. Now they must show her what she had to hope or to
fear.

She shook her head slightly, as if she no longer believed in a favourable
turn of affairs, pushed the little curls which had escaped from the
wealth of her black hair back from her forehead with her slender hand,
and walked firmly to the house.

The old dame was crouching beside the hearth in the middle room, turning
the metal spit, on which she had put the ducks, over the freshly kindled
fire.

The smoke hurt her eyes, which were slightly inflamed, yet they seemed to
serve their purpose better than her half-dulled ear, for, after a swift
glance at Ledscha, she stammered in her faltering speech: "What has
happened? Nothing good, certainly. It is written on your face."

The girl nodded assent, pointed with a significant gesture to her eyes
and the open air, and went down to the shore again to convince herself
that no other vessel was approaching.

What she had to confide to Tabus was intended for her alone, and
experience taught how far spoken words could be heard at night over the
water.

When she had returned to the hut, she bent down to the old woman's ear
and, holding her curved hand to her lips, cried, "He is not coming!"

Tabus shrugged her shoulders, and the smile of satisfaction which flitted
over her brown, wrinkled face showed that the news was welcome.

For her murdered grandson's sake the girl's confession that she had given
her heart to a Greek affected her painfully; but Tabus also had something
else on her mind for her beautiful darling.

Now she only intimated by a silent nod that she understood Ledscha, and
her head remained constantly in motion as the latter continued: "True, I
shall see him again to-morrow, but when we part, it will hardly be in
love. At any rate--do you hear, grandmother?--to-morrow must decide
everything. Therefore--do you understand me?--you must question the cords
now, to-night, for to-morrow evening what they advised might be too
late."

"Now?" repeated Tabus in surprise, letting her gaze rest inquiringly upon
the girl. Then she took the spit from the fire, exclaiming angrily:
"Directly, do you mean? As if that could be! As if the stars obeyed us
mortals like maids or men servants! The moon must be at the full to learn
the truth from the cords. Wait, child! What is life but waiting? Only
have patience, girl! True, few know how to practise this art at your age,
and it is alien to many all their lives. But the stars! From them, the
least and the greatest, man can learn to go his way patiently, year by
year. Always the same course and the same pace. No deviation even one
hair's breadth, no swifter or slower movement for the unresting
wanderers. No sudden wrath, no ardent desire, no weariness or aversion
urges or delays them. How I love and honour them! They willingly submit
to the great law until the end of all things. What they appoint for this
hour is for it alone, not for the next one. Everything in the vast
universe is connected with them. Whoever should delay their course a
moment would make the earth reel. Night would become day, the rivers
would return to their sources. People would walk on their heads instead
of their feet, joy would be transformed to sorrow and power to servitude.
Therefore, child, the full moon has a different effect from the waxing or
waning one during the other twenty-nine nights of the month. To ask of
one what belongs to another is to expect an answer from the foreigner who
does not understand your language. How young you are, child, and how
foolish! To question the cords for you in the moonlight now is to expect
to gather grapes from thorns. Take my word for that!"

Here she interrupted the words uttered with so much difficulty, and with
her blackish-blue cotton dress wiped her perspiring face, strangely
flushed by the exertion and the firelight.

Ledscha had listened with increasing disappointment.

The wise old dame was doubtless right, yet before she ventured to the
sculptor's workshop the next day she must know at every cost how matters
stood, what she had to fear or to hope from him; so after a brief silence
she ventured to ask the question, "But are there only the stars and the
cords which predict what fate holds in store for one who is so nearly
allied to you?"

"No, child, no," was the reply. "But nothing can be clone about looking
into the future now. It requires rigid fasting from early dawn, and I ate
the dates you brought me. I inhaled the odor of the roasting ducks, too,
and then--it must be done at midnight; and at midnight your people will
be anxious if you are not at home by that time, or perhaps send a slave
to seek you here at my house, and that--that must not be done--I must
prevent it."

"So you are expecting some one," Ledscha eagerly replied. "And I know who
it is. Your son Satabus, or one of your grandsons. Else why are the ducks
cooked? And for what is the wine jar which I just took from its hiding
place?"

A vehement gesture of denial from Tabus contradicted the girl's
conjecture; but directly after she scanned her with a keen, searching
glance, and said: "No, no. We have nothing to fear from you, surely. Poor
Abus! Through him you will always belong to us. In spite of the Greek,
ours you are and ours you will remain. The stars confirm it, and you have
always been faithful to the old woman. You are shrewd and steadfast. You
would have been the right mate for him who was also wise and firm. Poor,
dear, brave boy! But why pity him? Because the salt waves now flow over
him? Fools that we are! There is nothing better than death, for it is
peace. And almost all of them have found it. Of nine sons and twenty
grandsons, only three are left. The others are all calm after so much
conflict and danger. How long ago it is since seven perished at once! The
last three their turn will come too. How I envy them that best of
blessings, only may they not also go before me!"

Here she lowered her voice, and in a scarcely audible whisper murmured:
"You shall know it. My son Satabus, with his brave boys Hanno and Labaja,
are coming later in the evening. About midnight--if ye protect them, ye
powers above--they will be with me. And you, child, I know your soul to
its inmost depths. Before you would betray the last of Abus's kindred--"

"My hand and tongue should wither!" Ledscha passionately interrupted, and
then, with zealous feminine solicitude, she asked whether the three ducks
would suffice to satisfy the hunger of these strong men.

The old woman smiled and pointed to a pile of fresh leaves heaped one
above another, beneath which lay several fine shad. They were not to be
cooked until the expected visitors arrived, and she had plenty of bread
besides.

In the presence of these proofs of maternal solicitude the morose,
wrinkled countenance of the old sorceress wore a kind, almost tender
expression, and the light of joyous anticipation beamed upon her young
guest from her red-rimmed eyes.

"I am to see them once more!" cried Tabus in an agitated tone. "The
last--and all three, all! If they--But no; they will not set to work so
near Pelusium. No, no! They will not, lest they should spoil the meeting
with the old woman. Oh, they are kind; no one knows how kind my rough
Satabus can be. He would be your father now, girl, if we could have kept
our Abus--he was the best of all--longer. It is fortunate that you are
here, for they must see you, and it would have been hard for me to fetch
the other things: the salt, the Indian pepper, and the jug of Pelusinian
zythus, which Satabus is always so fond of drinking."

Then Ledscha went into the ruinous left wing of the house, where she took
from a covered hole in the floor what the old woman had kept for the last
of her race, and she performed her task gladly and with rare skill.

Next she prepared the fish and the pan, and while her hands were moving
busily she earnestly entreated the old woman to gratify her wish and look
into the future for her.

Tabus, however, persisted in her refusal, until Ledscha again called her
"grandmother," and entreated her, by the heads of the three beloved ones
whom she expected, to fulfil her desire.

Then the old dame rose, and while the girl, panting for breath, took the
roasted ducks from the spit, the former, with her own trembling hands,
drew from the little chest which she kept concealed behind a heap of dry
reeds, branches, and straw, a shining copper dish, tossed the gold coins
which had been in it back into the box, and moistened the bottom with the
blackish-red juice of the grape from the wine jar.

After carefully making these preparations she called Ledscha and repeated
that the cords possessed the power of prophecy only on nights when the
moon was full, and that she would use another means of looking into the
future.

Then she commanded the girl to let her hands rest now and to think of
nothing except the questions whose answer she had at heart. Lastly, she
muttered into the vessel a series of incantations, which Ledscha repeated
after her, and gazed as if spellbound at the dark liquid which covered
the bottom.

The girl, panting for breath, watched every movement of the sorceress,
but some time elapsed ere the latter suddenly exclaimed, "There he is!"
and then, without removing her eyes from the bottom of the vessel, she
went on, with faltering accents, as though she was describing a scene
close before her eyes. "Two young men-both Greeks, if the dress does not
deceive--one is at your right hand, the other at your left. The former is
fair-haired; the glance of his eyes is deep and constant. It is he, I
think--But no! His image is fading, and you are turning your back upon
him. You do it intentionally. No, no, you two are not destined for each
other. You think of the one with the waving black hair and beard--of him
alone. He is growing more and more distinct--a handsome man, and how his
brow shines! Yet his glance--it sees more than that of many others, but,
like the rest of his nature, it lacks steadfastness."

Here she paused, raised her shaking head, looked at Ledscha's flushed
face, and in a grave, warning tone, said: "Many signs of happiness, but
also many dark shadows and black spots. If he is the one, child, you must
be on your guard."

"He is," murmured the girl softly, as if speaking to herself.

But the deaf old crone had read the words from her lips, and while gazing
intently at the wine, went on impatiently: "If the picture would only
grow more distinct! As it was, so it has remained. And now! The image of
the fair man with the deep-blue eyes melts away entirely, and a gray
cloud flutters between you and the other one with the black beard. If it
would only scatter! But we shall never make any progress in this way. Now
pay attention, girl."

The words had an imperious tone, and with outstretched head and throbbing
heart Ledscha awaited the old woman's further commands.

They came at once and ordered her to confess, as freely and openly as
though she was talking to herself, where she had met the man whom she
loved, how he had succeeded in snaring her heart, and how he repaid her
for the passion which he had awakened.

These commands were so confused and mingled in utterance that any one
less familiar with the speaker would scarcely have comprehended what they
required of her, but Ledscha understood and was ready to obey.



CHAPTER IV.

This reserved, thoroughly self-reliant creature would never have betrayed
to any human being what moved her soul and filled it some times with
inspiring hope, sometimes with a consuming desire for vengeance; but
Ledscha did not shrink from confiding it to the demons who were to help
her to regain her composure.

So, obeying a swift impulse, she threw herself on her knees by the old
woman's side. Then, supporting her head with her hands, she gazed at the
still glimmering fire, and, as if one memory after another received new
life from it, she began the difficult confession:

"I returned from my sister's brick-kiln a fortnight ago," she commenced,
while the sorceress leaned her deaf ear nearer to her lips.

"During my absence something--I know not what it was--had saddened the
cheerful spirits of my young sister Taus. At the recent festival of
Astarte she regained them, and obtained some beautiful bright flowers to
make wreaths for herself and me. So we joined the procession of the
Tennis maidens and, as the fairest, they placed us directly behind the
daughters of Hiram.

"When we were about to go home after the sacrifice, two young Greeks
approached us and greeted Hiram's daughters and my sister also.

"One was a quiet young man, with narrow shoulders and light, curling
hair; the other towered above him in stature. His powerful figure was
magnificently formed, and he carried his head with its splendid black
beard proudly.

"Since the gods snatched Abus from me, though so many men had wooed me, I
had cared for no one; but the fair-haired Greek with the sparkling light
in his blue eyes and the faint flush on his cheeks pleased me, and his
name, 'Myrtilus,' fell upon my ear like music. I was glad when he joined
me and asked, as simply as though he were merely inquiring the way, why
he had never seen me, the loveliest among the beauties in the temple, in
Tennis.

"I scarcely noticed the other. Besides, he seemed to have eyes only for
Taus and the daughters of Hiram. He played all sorts of pranks with them,
and they laughed so heartily that, fearing the strangers, of whom there
was no lack, might class them with the Hieroduli who followed the sailors
and young men in the temple grottoes, I motioned to Taus to restrain
herself.

"Hermon--this was the name of the tall, bearded man--noticed it and
turned toward me. In doing so his eyes met mine, and it seemed as though
sweet wine flowed through my veins, for I perceived that my appearance
paralyzed his reckless tongue. Yet he did not accost me; but Myrtilus,
the fair one, entreated me not to lessen for the beautiful children the
pleasure to which we are all born.

"I thought this remark foolish--how much sorrow and how little pleasure I
had experienced from childhood!--so I only shrugged my shoulders
disdainfully.

"Then the black-bearded man asked if, young and beautiful as I was, I had
forgotten to believe in mirth and joy. My reply was intended to tell him
that, though this was not the case, I did not belong to those who spent
their lives in loud laughing and extravagant jests.

"The answer was aimed at the black-bearded man's reckless conduct; but
the fair-haired one parried the attack in his stead, and retorted that I
seemed to misunderstand his friend. Pleasure belonged to a festival, as
light belonged to the sun; but usually Hermon laboured earnestly, and
only a short time before he had saved the little daughter of Gula, the
sailor's wife, from a burning house.

"The other did not let Myrtilus finish, but exclaimed that this would
only confirm my opinion of him, for this very leap into the flames had
afforded him the utmost joy.

"The words fell from his bearded lips as if the affair was very simple, a
mere matter of course, yet I knew that the bold deed had nearly cost him
his life--I said to myself that no one but our Abus would have done it,
and then I may have looked at him more kindly, for he cried out that I,
too, understood how to smile, and would never cease doing so if I knew
how it became me.

"As he spoke he turned away from the girls to my side, while Myrtilus
joined them. Hermon's handsome face had become grave and thoughtful, and
when our eyes met I could have wished that they would never part again.
But on account of the others I soon looked down at the ground and we
walked on in this way, side by side, for some distance; but as he did not
address a word to me, only sometimes gazed into my face as if seeking or
examining, I grew vexed and asked him why he, who had just entertained
the others gaily enough, had suddenly become so silent.

"He shook his head and answered--every word impressed itself firmly upon
my memory: 'Because speech fails even the eloquent when confronted with a
miracle.'

"What, except me and my beauty, could be meant by that? But he probably
perceived how strangely his words confused me, for he suddenly seized my
hand, pressing it so firmly that it hurt me, and while I tried to
withdraw it he whispered, 'How the immortals must love you, that they
lend you so large a share of their own divine beauty!'"

"Greek honey," interposed the sorceress, "but strong enough to turn such
a poor young head. And what more happened? The demons desire to hear
all--all--down to the least detail--all!"

"The least detail?" repeated Ledscha reluctantly, gazing into vacancy as
if seeking aid. Then, pressing her hand on her brow, she indignantly
exclaimed: "Ah, if I only knew myself how it conquered me so quickly! If
I could understand and put it into intelligible words, I should need no
stranger's counsel to regain my peace of mind. But as it is! I was driven
by my anxiety from temple to temple, and now to you and your demons. I
went from hour to hour as though in a burning fever. If I left the house
firmly resolved to bethink myself and, as I had bidden my sister, avoid
danger and the gossip of the people, my feet still led me only where he
desired to meet me. Oh, and how well he understood how to flatter, to
describe my beauty! Surely it was impossible not to believe in it and
trust its power!"

Here she hesitated, and while gazing silently into vacancy a sunny light
flitted over her grave face, and, drawing a long breath, she began again:
"I could curse those days of weakness and ecstasy which now--at least I
hope so--are over. Yet they were wonderfully beautiful, and never can I
forget them!"

Here she again bowed her head silently, but the old dame nodded
encouragingly, saying eagerly; "Well, well! I understand all that, and I
shall learn what more is coming, for whatever appears in the mirror of
the wine is infallible--but it must become still more distinct. Let
me--first conjure up the seventy-seven great and the seven hundred and
seventy-seven little demons. They will do their duty, if you open your
heart to us without reserve."

This demand sounded urgent enough, and Ledscha pressed her head against
the old woman's shoulder as if seeking assistance, exclaiming: "I can
not--no, I can not! As if the spirits who obey you did not know already
what had happened and will happen in the future! Let them search the
depths of my soul. There they will see, with their own eyes, what I
should never, never succeed in describing. I could not tell even you,
grandmother, for who among the Biamites ever found such lofty,
heart-bewitching words as Hermon? And what looks, what language he had at
command, when he desired to put an end to my jealous complaints! Could I
still be angry with him, when he confessed that there were other beauties
here whom he admired, and then gazed deep into my eyes and said that when
I appeared they all vanished like the stars at sunrise? Then every
reproach was forgotten, and resentment was transformed into doubly ardent
longing. This, however, by no means escaped his keen glance, which
detects everything, and so he urged me with touching, ardent entreaties
to go with him to his studio, though but for one poor, brief hour."

"And you granted his wish?" Tabus anxiously interrupted.

"Yes," she answered frankly, "but it was the evening of the day before
yesterday--that was the only time. Secrecy--nothing, Grand mother, was
more hateful to me from childhood."

"But he," the old woman again interrupted, "he--I know it--he praised it
to you as the noblest virtue."

A silent nod from Ledscha confirmed this conjecture, and she added
hesitatingly: "'Only far from the haunts of men,' he said, 'when the
light had vanished, did we hear the nightingale trill in the dark
thickets. Those are his own words, and though it angers you, Grandmother,
they are true."

"Until the secrecy is over, and the sun shines upon misery," the
sorceress answered in her faltering speech, with menacing severity.

"And beneath the tempter's roof you enjoyed the lauded secret love until
the cock roused you?"

"No," replied Ledscha firmly. "Did I ever tell you a lie, that you look
at me so incredulously?"

"Incredulously?" replied the old woman in protest. "I only trembled at
the danger into which you plunged."

"There could be no greater peril," the girl admitted. "I foresaw it
clearly enough, and yet--this is the most terrible part of it--yet my
feet moved as if obeying a will of their own, instead of mine, and when I
crossed his threshold, resistance was silenced, for I was received like a
princess. The lofty, spacious apartment was brilliantly illuminated, and
the door was garlanded with flowers.

"It was magnificent! Then, in a manner as respectful as if welcoming an
illustrious guest, he invited me to take my place opposite to him, that
he might form a goddess after my model. This was the highest flattery of
all, and I willingly assumed the position he directed, but he looked at
me from every side, with sparkling eyes, and asked me to let down my hair
and remove the veil from the back of my head. Then--need I assure you of
it?--my blood boiled with righteous indignation; but instead of being
ashamed of the outrage, he raised his hand to my head and pulled the
veil. Resentment and wrath suddenly flamed in my soul, and before he
could detain me I had left the room. In spite of his representations and
entreaties, I did not enter it again."

"Yet," asked the sorceress in perplexity, "you once more obeyed his
summons?"

"Yesterday also I could not help it," Ledscha answered softly.

"Fool!" cried Tabus indignantly, but the girl exclaimed, in a tone of
sincere shame: "You do well to call me that. Perhaps I deserve still
harsher names, for, in spite of the sternness with which I forbade him
ever to remind me of the studio by even a single word, I soon listened to
him willingly when he besought me, if I really loved him, not to refuse
what would make him happy. If I allowed him to model my figure, his
renown and greatness would be secured. And how clearly he made me
understand this! I could not help believing it, and at last promised
that, in spite of my father and the women of Tennis, I would grant all,
all, and accompany him again to the work room if he would have patience
until the night of the next day but one, when the moon would be at the
full."

"And he?" asked Tabus anxiously.

"He called the brief hours which I required him to wait an eternity,"
replied the girl, "and they seemed no less long to me--but neither
entreaties nor urgency availed; what you predicted for me from the cords
last year strengthened my courage. I should wantonly throw away--I
constantly reminded myself--whatever great good fortune Fate destined for
me if I yielded to my longing and took prematurely what was already so
close at hand; for--do you remember?--at that time it was promised that
on a night when the moon was at the full a new period of the utmost
happiness would begin for me. And now--unless everything deceives me--now
it awaits me. Whether it will come with the full moon of to-morrow night,
or the next, or the following one, your spirits alone can know; but
yesterday was surely too soon to expect the new happiness."

"And he?" asked the old dame.

"He certainly did not make it easy for me," was the reply, "but as I
remained firm, he was obliged to yield. I granted only his earnest desire
to see me again this evening. I fancy I can still hear him exclaim, with
loving impetuosity, that he hated every day and every night which kept
him from me. And now? Now? For another's sake he lets me wait for him in
vain, and if his slave does not lie, this is only the beginning of his
infamous, treacherous game."

She had uttered the last words in a hoarse cry, but Tabus answered
soothingly: "Hush, child, hush! The first thing is to see clearly, if I
am to interpret correctly what is shown me here. The demons are to be
fully informed they have required it. But you? Did you come to hear
whether the spirits still intend to keep the promise they made then?"

Ledscha eagerly assented to this question, and the old woman continued
urgently: "Then tell me first what suddenly incenses you so violently
against the man whom you have so highly praised?"

The girl related what had formerly been rumoured in Tennis, and which she
had just heard from the slave.

He had lured other women--even her innocent young sister--to his studio.
Now he wanted to induce Ledscha to go there, not from love, but merely to
model her limbs so far as he considered them useful for his work. He was
in haste to do so because he intended to return to the capital
immediately. Whether he meant to leave her in the lurch after using her
for his selfish purposes, she also desired to learn from the sorceress.
But she would ask him that question herself to-morrow. Woe betide him if
the spirits recognised in him the deceiver she now believed him.

Hitherto Tabus had listened quietly, but when she closed her passionate
threats with the exclamation that he also deserved punishment for
alienating Gula, the sailor's wife, from her absent husband, the
enchantress also lost her composure and cried out angrily: "If that is
true, if the Greek really committed that crime--then certainly. The
foreigners destroy, with their laughing levity, much that is good among
us. We must endure it; but whoever broke the Biamite's marriage bond,
from the earliest times, forfeited his life, and so, the gods be thanked,
it has remained. This very last year the fisherman Phabis killed with a
hammer the Alexandrian clerk who had stolen into his house, and drowned
his faithless wife. But your lover--though you should weep for sorrow
till your eyes are red--"

"I would denounce the traitor, if he made himself worthy of death,"
Ledscha passionately interrupted, with flashing eyes. "What portion of
the slave's charge is true will appear at once--and if it proves correct,
to morrow's full moon shall indeed bring me the greatest bliss; for
though, when I was younger and happier, I contradicted Abus when he
declared that one thing surpassed even the raptures of love--satisfied
vengeance--now I would agree with him."

A loud cry of "Right! right!" from the old crone's lips expressed the
gray-haired Biamite's pleasure in this worthy daughter of her race.

Then she again gazed at the wine in the vessel, and this time she did so
silently, as if spellbound by the mirror on its bottom.

At last, raising her aged head, she said in a tone of the most sincere
compassion: "Poor child! Yes, you would be cruelly and shamefully
deceived. Tear your love for this man from your heart, like poisonous
hemlock. But the full moon which is to bring you great happiness is
scarcely the next, perhaps not even the one which follows it, but surely
and certainly a later one will rise, by whose light the utmost bliss
awaits you. True, I see it come from another man than the Greek."

The girl had listened with panting breath. She believed as firmly in the
infallibility of the knowledge which the witch received from the demons
who obeyed her as she did in her own existence.

All her happiness, all that had filled her joyous soul with freshly
awakened hopes, now lay shattered at her feet, and sobbing aloud she
threw herself down beside the old woman and buried her beautiful face in
her lap.

Completely overwhelmed by the great misfortune which had come upon her,
without thinking of the vengeance which had just made her hold her head
so proudly erect, or the rare delight which a later full moon was to
bring, she remained motionless, while the old woman, who loved her and
who remembered an hour in the distant past when she herself had been
dissolved in tears at the prediction of another prophetess, laid her
trembling hand upon her head.

Let the child weep her fill.

Time, perhaps vengeance also, cured many a heartache, and when they had
accomplished this office upon the girl who had once been betrothed to her
grandson, perhaps the full moon bringing happiness, whose appearance
first the cords, then the wine mirror in the bottom of the vessel had
predicted, would come to Ledscha, and she believed she knew at whose side
the girl could regain what she had twice lost--satisfaction for the young
heart that yearned for love.

"Only wait, wait," she cried at last, repeating the consoling words again
and again, till Ledscha raised her tear-stained face.

Impulse urged her to kiss the sufferer, but as she bent over the mourner
the copper dish slipped from her knees and fell rattling on the floor.

Ledscha started up in terror, and at the same moment the Alexandrian's
packs of hounds on the shore opposite to the Owl's Nest began to bark so
loudly that the deaf old woman heard the baying as if it came from a
great distance; but the girl ran out into the open air and, returning at
the end of a few minutes, called joyously to the sorceress from the
threshold, "They are coming!"

"They, they," faltered Tabus, hurriedly pushing her disordered gray hair
under the veil on the back of her head, while exclaiming, scarcely able
to use her voice in her joyous excitement: "I knew it. He keeps his word.
My Satabus is coming. The ducks, the bread, the fish, girl! Good, loyal
heart."

Then a wide, long shadow fell across the dimly lighted room, and from the
darkened threshold a strangely deep, gasping peal of laughter rang from a
man's broad breast.

"Satabus! My boy!" the witch's shriek rose above the peculiar sound.

"Mother!" answered the gray-bearded lips of the pirate.

For one short moment he remained standing at the door with outstretched
arms. Then he took a step toward the beloved being from whom he had been
separated more than two years, and suddenly throwing himself down before
her, while his huge lower limbs covered part of the floor, he stretched
his hands toward the little crooked old woman, who had not strength to
rise from her crouching posture, and seizing her with loving impetuosity,
lifted her as if she were a child, and placing her on his knees, drew her
into a close embrace.

Tabus willingly submitted to this act of violence, and passing her thin
left arm around her son's bull neck with her free hand, patted his
bearded cheeks, wrinkled brow, and bushy, almost white hair.

No intelligible words passed the lips of either the mother or the son at
this meeting; nothing but a confused medley of tender and uncouth natural
sounds, which no language knows.

Yet they understood each other, and Ledscha, who had moved silently
aside, also comprehended that these low laughs, moans, cries, and
stammers were the expressions of love of two deeply agitated hearts, and
for a moment an emotion of envy seized her.

The gods had early bereft her of her mother, while this savage fighter
against the might of the waves, justice, law, and their pitiless, too
powerful defenders, this man, already on the verge of age, still
possessed his, and sunned his rude heart in her love.

It was some time before the old pirate had satisfied his yearning for
affection and placed his light burden down beside the fire.

Tabus now regained the power to utter distinct words, and, difficult as
it was for her half paralyzed tongue to speak, she poured a flood of
tender pet names and affectionate thanks upon the head of her rude son,
the last one left, who had grown gray in bloody warfare; but with the
eyes of her soul she again saw in him the little boy whom, with warm
maternal love, she had once pressed to her breast and cradled in her
arms.

When, in his rough fashion, he warmly returned her professions of
tenderness, her eyes grew wet with tears, and at the question what he
could still find in her, a withered, good-for-nothing little creature who
just dragged along from one day to another, an object of pity to herself,
he again burst into his mighty laugh, and his deep voice shouted: "Do you
want to know that? But where would be the lime that holds us on the ships
if you were no longer here? The best capture wouldn't be worth a drachm
if we could not say, 'Hurrah! how pleased the old mother will be when she
hears it!' And when things go badly, when men have been wounded or
perished in the sea, we should despair of our lives if we did not know
that whatever troubles our hearts the old mother feels, too, and we shall
always get from her the kind words needed to press on again. And then,
when the strait is sore and life is at stake, whence would come the
courage to cast the die if we did not know that you are with us day and
night, and will send your spirits to help us if the need is great?
Hundreds of times they rushed to our aid just at the right time, and
assisted us to hew off the hand of the foe which was already choking us.
But that is only something extra, which we could do without, if
necessary. That you are here, that a man still has his dear mother, whose
heart wishes us everything good and our foes death and destruction, whose
aged eyes will weep if anything harms us, that, mother dear, that is the
main thing!"

He bent his clumsy figure over her as he spoke, and cautiously, as if he
were afraid of doing her some injury, kissed her head with tender care.

Then, rising, he turned to Ledscha, whom he always regarded as his dead
son's betrothed bride, and greeted her with sincere kindness.

Her great beauty strengthened his plan of uniting her to his oldest son,
and when the latter entered the house he cast a searching glance at him.

The result was favourable, for a smile of satisfaction flitted over his
scarred features.

The young pirate's stately figure was not inferior in height to the old
one's, but his shoulders were narrower, his features less broad and full,
and his hair and beard had the glossy raven hue of the blackbird's
plumage.

The young man paused on the threshold in embarrassment, and gazed at
Ledscha with pleased surprise. When he saw her last his grandmother had
not been stricken by paralysis, and the girl was the promised wife of his
older brother, to whom custom forbade him to raise his eyes.

He had thought of her numberless times as the most desirable of women.
Now nothing prevented his wooing her, and finding her far more beautiful
than memory had showed her, strengthened his intention of winning her.

This purpose had matured in the utmost secrecy. He had concealed it even
from his father and his brother Labaja, who was still keeping watch on
the ships, for he had a reserved disposition, and though obliged to obey
his father, wherever it was possible he pursued his own way.

Though Satabus shared Hanno's wish, it vexed him that at this meeting,
after so long a separation, his son should neglect his beloved and
honoured mother for the sake of a beautiful girl. So, turning his back on
Ledscha, he seized the young giant's shoulder with a powerful grip to
drag him toward the old woman; but Hanno perceived his error, and now, in
brief but affectionate words, showed his grandmother that he, too,
rejoiced at seeing her again.

The sorceress gazed at her grandson's stalwart figure with a pleasant
smile, and, after welcoming him, exclaimed to Ledscha: "It seems as if
Abus had risen from the grave."

The girl vouchsafed her dead lover's brother a brief glance, and, while
pouring oil upon the fish in the pan, answered carelessly: "He is a
little like him."

"Not only in person," remarked the old pirate, with fatherly pride, and
pointing to the broad scar across the young man's forehead, visible even
in the dim light, he added by way of explanation: "When we took vengeance
for Abus, he bore away that decoration of honour. The blow nearly made
him follow his brother, but the youth first sent the souls of half a
dozen enemies to greet him in the nether world."

Then Ledscha held out her hand to Hanno, and permitted him to detain it
till an ardent glance from his black eyes met hers, and she withdrew it
blushing. As she did so she said to Tabus: "You can put them on the fire,
and there stands whatever else you need. I must go home now."

In taking leave of the men she asked if she could hope to find them here
again the next day. "The full moon will make it damnably light," replied
the father, "but they will scarcely venture to assail the right of
asylum, and the ships anchored according to regulation at Tanis, with a
cargo of wood from Sinope. Besides, for two years people have believed
that we have abandoned these waters, and the guards think that if we
should return, the last time to choose would be these bright nights.
Still, I should not like to decide anything positively about the morrow
until news came from Labaja."

"You will find me, whatever happens," Hanno declared after his father had
ceased speaking. Old Tabus exchanged a swift glance with her son, and
Satabus said: "He is his own master. If I am obliged to go--which may
happen--then, my girl, you must be content with the youth. Besides, you
are better suited to him than to the graybeard."

He shook hands with Ledscha as he spoke, and Hanno accompanied her to her
boat.

At first he was silent, but as she was stepping into the skiff he
repeated his promise of meeting her here the following night.

"Very well," she answered quickly. "Perhaps I may have a commission to
give you."

"I will fulfil it," he answered firmly.

"To-morrow, then," she called, "unless something unexpected prevents."

But when seated on the thwart she again turned to him, and asked: "Does
it need a long time to bring your ship, with brave men on board, to this
place?"

"We can be here in four hours, and with favourable winds still sooner,"
was the reply.

"Even if it displeases your father?"

"Even then, and though the gods, many as there are, should forbid--if
only your gratitude will be gained."

"It will," she answered firmly, and the water plashed lightly under the
strokes of her oars.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Cast my warning to the winds, pity will also fly away with it
     Must--that word is a ploughshare which suits only loose soil
     Tender and uncouth natural sounds, which no language knows
     There is nothing better than death, for it is peace
     Tone of patronizing instruction assumed by the better informed
     Wait, child! What is life but waiting?



ARACHNE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 2.



CHAPTER V.

In the extreme northern portion of the little city of Tennis a large,
perfectly plain whitewashed building stood on an open, grass-grown
square.

The side facing the north rested upon a solid substructure of hard blocks
of hewn stone washed by the waves.

This protecting wall extended along both sides of the long, plain
edifice, and prevented the water from overflowing the open space which
belonged to it.

Archias, the owner of the largest weaving establishment in Tennis, the
father of the Alexandrian aristocrat who had arrived the evening before,
was the owner of the house, as well as of the broad plain on which he had
had it built, with the indestructible sea wall, to serve as a storehouse
to receive the supplies of linen, flax, and wool which were manufactured
in his factories.

It was favourably situated for this purpose, for the raw materials could
be moved from the ships which brought them to Tennis directly into the
building. But as the factories were at a considerable distance, the
transportation required much time and expense, and therefore Archias had
had a canal dug connecting the workshops with the water, and at its end
erected a new storehouse, which rendered a second transportation of the
ships' cargoes unnecessary.

The white mansion had not yet been devoted to any other purpose when the
owner determined to offer the spacious empty rooms of the ware house to
his nephews, the sculptors Hermon and Myrtilus, for the production of two
works with whose completion he associated expectations of good fortune
both for the young artists, who were his nephews and wards, and himself.

The very extensive building which now contained the studios and spacious
living apartments for the sculptors and their slaves would also have
afforded ample room for his daughter and her attendants, but Daphne had
learned from the reports of the artists that rats, mice, and other
disagreeable vermin shared the former storehouse with them, so she had
preferred to have tents pitched in the large open space which belonged
it.

True, the broad field was exposed to the burning sun, and its soil was
covered only with sand and pitiably scorched turf, but three palm trees,
a few sunt acacias, two carob trees, a small clump of fig trees, and the
superb, wide-branched sycamore on the extreme outer edge had won for it
the proud name of a "garden."

Now a great change in its favour had taken place, for Daphne's beautiful
tent, with walls and top of blue and white striped sail-cloth, and the
small adjoining tents of the same colours, gave it a brighter aspect.

The very roomy main tent contained the splendidly furnished sitting and
dining rooms. The beds occupied by Daphne and her companion, Chrysilla,
had been placed in an adjoining one, which was nearly as large, and the
cook, with his assistants, was quartered in a third.

The head keeper, the master of the hounds, and most of the slaves
remained in the transports which had followed the state galley. Some had
slept under the open sky beside the dog kennel hastily erected for
Daphne's pack of hounds.

So, on the morning after the wholly unexpected arrival of the owner's
daughter, the "garden" in front of the white house, but yesterday a
desolate field, resembled an encampment, whose busy life was varied and
noisy enough.

Slaves and freedmen had been astir before sunrise, for Daphne was up
betimes in order to begin the hunt in the early hour when the birds left
their secret nooks on the islands.

Her cousins, the young sculptors, to please her, had gone out, too, but
the sport did not last long; for when the market place of Tennis, just
between the morning and noontide hours, was most crowded, the little
boats which the hunters had used again touched the shore.

With them and Daphne's servants seafaring men also left the
boats--Biamite fishermen and boatmen, who knew the breeding places and
nests of the feathered prey--and before them, barking loudly and shaking
their dripping bodies, the young huntress's brown and white spotted dogs
ran toward the tents.

Dark-skinned slaves carried the game, which had been tied in bunches
while in the boats, to the white house, where they laid three rows of
large water fowl, upon the steps leading to the entrance.

Daphne's arrows were supposed to have killed all these, but the master of
the hunt had taken care to place among his mistress's booty some of the
largest pelicans and vultures which had been shot by the others.

Before retiring to her tent, she inspected the result of the shooting
expedition and was satisfied.

She had been told of the numbers of birds in this archipelago, but the
quantity of game which had been killed far exceeded her greatest
expectations, and her pleasant blue eyes sparkled with joy as she began
to examine the birds which had been slaughtered in so short a time.

Yet, ere she had finished the task, a slight shadow flitted over her
well-formed and attractive though not beautiful features.

The odour emanating from so many dead fowls, on which the sun, already
high in the heavens, was shining, became disagreeable to her, and a
strong sense of discomfort, whose cause, however, she did not seek, made
her turn from them.

The movement with which she did so was full of quiet, stately grace, and
the admiring glance with which Hermon, a tall, black-bearded young man,
watched it, showed that he knew how to value the exquisite symmetry of
her figure.

The somewhat full outlines of her form and the self-possession of her
bearing would have led every one to think her a young matron rather than
a girl; but the two artists who accompanied her on the shooting party had
been intimate with her from childhood, and knew how much modesty and
genuine kindness of heart were united with the resolute nature of this
maiden, who numbered two and twenty years.

Fair-haired Myrtilus seemed to pay little heed to the game which Gras,
Archias's Bithynian house steward, was counting, but black-bearded Hermon
had given it more attention, and when Daphne drew back he nodded
approvingly, and pointing to the heap of motionless inhabitants of the
air, exclaimed with sincere regret: "Fie upon us human wretches! Would
the most bloodthirsty hyena destroy such a number of living creatures in
a few hours? Other beasts of prey do not kill even one wretched sparrow
more than they need to appease their hunger. But we and you,
tender-hearted priestess of a gracious goddess--leading us friends of the
Muse--we pursue a different course! What a mound of corpses! And what
will become of it? Perhaps a few geese and ducks will go into the
kitchen; but the rest--the red flamingoes and the brave pelicans who feed
their young with their own blood? They are only fit to throw away, for
the Biamites eat no game that is shot, and your black slaves, too, would
refuse to taste it. So we destroy hundreds of lives for pastime. Base
word! As if we had so many superfluous hours at our disposal ere we
descend into Hades. A philosopher among brutes would be entitled to cry
out, 'Shame upon you, raging monster!'"

"Shame on you, you perpetual grumbler," interrupted Daphne in an offended
tone. "Who would ever have thought it cruel to test the steady hand and
the keen eye upon senseless animals in the joyous chase? But what shall
we call the fault-finder, who spoils his friend's innocent enjoyment of a
happy morning by his sharp reproaches?"

Hermon shrugged his shoulders, and, in a voice which expressed far more
compassion than resentment, answered: "If this pile of dead birds pleases
you, go on with the slaughter. You can sometimes save the arrows and
catch the swarming game with your hands. If your lifeless victims yonder
were human beings, after all, they would have cause to thank you; for
what is existence?"

"To these creatures, everything," said Myrtilus, the Alexandrian's other
cousin, beckoning to Daphne, who had summoned him to her aid by a
beseeching glance, to draw nearer. "Gladly as I would always and
everywhere uphold your cause, I can not do so this time. Only look here!
Your arrow merely broke the wing of yonder sea eagle, and he is just
recovering from the shock. What a magnificent fellow! How wrathfully and
vengefully his eyes sparkle! How fiercely he stretches his brave head
toward us in helpless fury, and--step back!--how vigorously, spite of the
pain of his poor, wounded, drooping pinion, he flaps the other, and
raises his yellow claws to punish his foes! His plumage glistens and
shines exquisitely where it lies smooth, and how savagely he puffs out
the feathers on his neck! A wonderful spectacle! The embodiment of
powerful life! And the others by his side. We transformed the poor
creatures into a motionless, miserable mass, and just now they were
cleaving the air with their strong wings, proclaiming by proud, glad
cries to their families among the reeds their approach with an abundant
store of prey. Every one was a feast to the eyes before our arrows struck
it, and now? When Hermon, with his pitying heart, condemns this kind of
hunting, he is right. It deprives free, harmless creatures of their best
possession--life--and us thereby of a pleasant sight. In general, a
bird's existence seems to me also of little value, but beauty, to me as
to you, transcends everything else. What would existence be without it?
and wherever it appears, to injure it is infamous."

Here a slight cough interrupted the young artist, and the moist glitter
of his blue eyes also betrayed that he was suffering from an attack of
severe pain in his lungs; but Daphne nodded assent to him, and to Hermon
also, and commanded the steward Gras to take the birds out of her sight.

"But," said the Bithynian, "our mistress will doubtless allow us at least
to take the hard lower part of the pelicans' beaks, and the wing feathers
of the flamingoes and birds of prey, to show our master on our return as
trophies."

"Trophies?" repeated the girl scornfully. "Hermon, you are better than I
and the rest of us, and I see that you are right. Where game flies toward
us in such quantities, hunting becomes almost murder. And successes won
by so slight an exertion offer little charm. The second expedition before
sunset, Gras, shall be given up. The master of the hounds, with his men
and the dogs, will return home on the transports this very day. I am
disgusted with sport here. Birds of prey, and those only when brought
down from the air, would probably be the right game in this place."

"Those are the very ones to which I would grant life," said Hermon,
smiling, "because they enjoy it most."

"Then we will at least save the sea eagle," cried Daphne, and ordered the
steward, who was already having the dead fowl carried off, to care for
the wounded bird of prey; but when the latter struck furiously with his
beak at the Biamite who attempted to remove it, Hermon again turned to
the girl, saying: "I thank you in the eagle's name for your good will,
you best of women; but I fear even the most careful nursing will not help
this wounded creature, for the higher one seeks to soar, the more surely
he goes to destruction if his power of flight is broken. Mine, too, was
seriously injured."

"Here?" asked Daphne anxiously. "At this time, which is of such great
importance to you and your art?"

Then she interrupted herself to ask Myrtilus's opinion, but as he had
gone away coughing, she continued, in a softer tone: "How anxious you can
make one, Hermon! Has anything really happened which clouds your pleasure
in creating, and your hope of success?"

"Let us wait," he answered, hastily throwing back his head, with its
thick, waving raven locks. "If, in leaping over the ditch, I should fall
into the marsh, I must endure it, if thereby I can only reach the shore
where my roses bloom!"

"Then you fear that you have failed in the Demeter?" asked Daphne.

"Failed?" repeated the other. "That seems too strong. Only the work is
not proving as good as I originally expected. For the head we both used a
model--you will see--whose fitness could not be surpassed. But the body!
Myrtilus knows how earnestly I laboured, and, without looking to the
right or the left, devoted all my powers to the task of creation. True,
the models did not remain. But even had a magic spell doubled my ability,
the toil would still have been futile. The error is there; yet I am
repairing it. To be sure, many things must aid me in doing so, for which
I now hope; who knows whether it will not again be in vain? You are
acquainted with my past life. It has never yet granted me any great,
complete success, and if I was occasionally permitted to pluck a flower,
my hands were pricked by thorns and nettles!"

He pursed up his lips as if to hiss the unfriendly fate, and Daphne felt
that he, whose career she had watched from childhood with the interest of
affection, and to whom, though she did not confess it even to herself,
she had clung for years with far more than sisterly love, needed a kind
word.

Her heart ached, and it was difficult for her to assume the cheerful tone
which she desired to use; but she succeeded, and her voice sounded gay
and careless enough as she exclaimed to the by no means happy artist and
Myrtilus, who was just returning: "Give up your foolish opposition, you
obstinate men, and let me see what you have accomplished during this long
time. You promised my father that you would show your work to no one
before him, but believe my words, if he were here he would give you back
the pledge and lead me himself to the last production of your study.
Compassion would compel you disobliging fellows to yield, if you could
only imagine how curiosity tortures us women. We can conquer it where
more indifferent matters are concerned. But here!--it need not make you
vainer than you already are, but except my father, you are dearest in all
the world to me. And then, only listen! In my character as priestess of
Demeter I hereby release you from your vow, and thus from any evil
consequences of your, moreover, very trivial guilt; for a father and
daughter who live together, as I do with your uncle, are just the same as
one person. So come! Wearied as I am by the miserable hunting excursion
which caused me such vexation, in the presence of your works--rely upon
it--I shall instantly be gay again, and all my life will thank you for
your noble indulgence."

While speaking, she walked toward the white house, beckoning to the young
men with a winning, encouraging smile.

It seemed to produce the effect intended, for the artists looked at each
other irresolutely, and Hermon was already asking himself whether
Daphne's arguments had convinced Myrtilus also, when the latter, in great
excitement, called after her: "How gladly we would do it, but we must not
fulfil your wish, for it was no light promise--no, your father exacted an
oath. He alone can absolve us from the obligation of showing him, before
any one else, what we finish here. It is not to be submitted to the
judges until after he has seen it."

"Listen to me!" Daphne interrupted with urgent warmth, and began to
assail the artists with fresh entreaties.

For the second time black-bearded Hermon seemed inclined to give up his
resistance, but Myrtilus cried in zealous refusal: "For Hermon's sake, I
insist upon my denial. The judges must not talk about the work until both
tasks are completed, for then each of us will be as good as certain of a
prize. I myself believe that the one for Demeter will fall to me."

"But Hermon will succeed better with the Arachne?" asked Daphne eagerly.

Myrtilus warmly assented, but Hermon exclaimed: "If I could only rely
upon the good will of the judges!"

"Why not?" the girl interrupted. "My father is just, the king is an
incorruptible connoisseur, and certainly yesterday evening you, too,
believed the others to be honest men; as for your fellow-candidate
Myrtilus, he will no more grudge a prize to you than to himself."

"Why should he?" asked Hermon, as if he, too, was perfectly sure of his
friend. "We have shared many a bit of bread together. When we determined
upon this competition each knew the other's ability. Your father
commissioned us to create peaceful Demeter, the patroness of agriculture,
peace, marriage, and Arachne, the mortal who was the most skilful of
spinners; for he is both a grain dealer and owner of spinning factories.
The best Demeter is to be placed in the Alexandrian temple of the
goddess, to whose priestesses you belong; the less successful one in your
own house in the city, but whose Demeter is destined for the sanctuary, I
repeat, is now virtually decided. Myrtilus will add this prize to the
others, and grant me with all his heart the one for the Arachne. The
subject, at any rate, is better adapted to my art than to his, and so I
should be tolerably certain of my cause. Yet my anxiety about the verdict
of the judges remains, for surely you know how much the majority are
opposed to my tendency. I, and the few Alexandrians who, following me,
sacrifice beauty to truth, swim against the stream which bears you,
Myrtilus, and those who are on your side, smoothly along. I know that you
do it from thorough conviction, but with other acknowledged great artists
and our judges, you, too, demand beauty--always beauty. Am I right, or
wrong? Is not any one who refuses to follow in the footsteps left by the
ancients of Athens as certain of condemnation as the convicted thief or
murderer? But I will not follow the lead of the Athenians, inimitably
great though they are in their own way, because I would fain be more than
the ancients of Ilissus: a disciple and an Alexandrian."

"The never-ending dispute," Myrtilus answered his fellow-artist, with a
cordiality in which, nevertheless, there was a slight accent of pity.

"Surely you know it, Daphne. To me the ideal and its embodiment within
the limits of the natural, according to the models of Phidias,
Polycletus, and Myron is the highest goal, but he and his co-workers seek
objects nearer at hand."

"Or rather we found them," cried Hermon, interrupting his companion with
angry positiveness. "The city of Alexandria, which is growing with
unprecedented vigour, is their home. There, the place to which every race
on earth sends a representative, the pulse of the whole world is
throbbing. There, whoever does not run with the rest is run over; there,
but one thing is important--actual life. Science has undertaken to fathom
it, and the results which it gains with measures and numbers is of a
different value and more lasting than that which the idle sport of the
intellects of the older philosophers obtained. But art, her nobler
sister, must pursue the same paths. To copy life as it is, to reproduce
the real as it presents itself, not as it might or must be, is the task
which I set myself. If you would have me carve gods, whom man can not
represent to himself except in his own form, allow me also to represent
them as reality shows me mortals. I will form them after the models of
the greatest, highest, and best, and also, when the subject permits, in
powerful action in accordance with my own power, but always as real men
from head to foot. We must also cling to the old symbols which those who
order demand, because they serve as signs of recognition, and my Demeter,
too, received the bundle of wheat."

As the excited artist uttered this challenge a defiant glance rested upon
his comrade and Daphne. But Myrtilus, with a soothing gesture of the
hand, answered: "What is the cause of this heat? I at least watch your
work with interest, and do not dispute your art so long as it does not
cross the boundaries of the beautiful, which to me are those of art."

Here the conversation was interrupted; the steward Gras brought a letter
which a courier from Pelusium had just delivered.

Thyone, the wife of Philippus, the commander of the strong border
fortress of Pelusium, near Tennis, had written it. She and her husband
had been intimate friends of Hermon's father, who had served under the
old general as hipparch, and through him had become well acquainted with
his wealthy brother Archias and his relatives.

The Alexandrian merchant had informed Philippus--whom, like all the
world, he held in the highest honour as one of the former companions of
Alexander the Great--of his daughter's journey, and his wife now
announced her visit to Daphne. She expected to reach Tennis that evening
with her husband and several friends, and mentioned especially her
anticipation of meeting Hermon, the son of her beloved Erigone and her
husband's brave companion in arms.

Daphne and Myrtilus received the announcement with pleasure; but Hermon,
who only the day before had spoken of the old couple with great
affection, seemed disturbed by the arrival of the unexpected guests. To
avoid them entirely appeared impossible even to him, but he declared in
an embarrassed tone, and without giving any reason, that he should
scarcely be able to devote the entire evening to Daphne and the
Pelusinians.

Then he turned quickly toward the house, to which a signal from his slave
Bias summoned him.



CHAPTER VI.

As soon as Hermon had disappeared behind the door Daphne begged Myrtilus
to accompany her into the tent.

After taking their seats there, the anxious exclamation escaped her lips:
"How excited he became again! The stay in Tennis does not seem to agree
with you--you are coughing, and father expected so much benefit to your
ailment from the pure moist air, and to Hermon still more from the lonely
life here in your society. But I have rarely seen him more strongly
enlisted in behalf of the tendency opposed to beauty."

"Then your father must be satisfied with the good effect which our
residence here has exerted upon me," replied Myrtilus. "I know that he
was thinking of my illness when he proposed to us to complete his
commissions here. Hermon--the good fellow!--could never have been induced
to leave his Alexandria, had not the hope of thereby doing me a kindness
induced him to follow me. I will add it to the many for which I am
already indebted to his friendship. As for art, he will go his own way,
and any opposition would be futile. A goddess--he perceives it
himself--was certainly the most unfortunate subject possible for his--"

"Is his Demeter a complete failure?" asked Daphne anxiously.

"Certainly not," replied Myrtilus eagerly.

"The head is even one of his very best. Only the figure awakens grave
doubts. In the effort to be faithful to reality, the fear of making
concessions to beauty, he lapsed into ungraceful angularity and a
sturdiness which, in my opinion, would be unpleasing even in a mortal
woman. The excess of unbridled power again makes it self visible in the
wonderfully gifted man. Many things reached him too late, and others too
soon."

Daphne eagerly asked what he meant by these words, and Myrtilus replied:
"Surely you know how he became a sculptor. Your father had intended him
to be his successor in business, but Hermon felt the vocation to become
an artist--probably first in my studio--awake with intense force. While I
early placed myself under the instruction of the great Bryaxis, he was
being trained for a merchant's life. When he was to guide the reed in the
counting-house, he sketched; when he was sent to the harbour to direct the
loading of the ships, he became absorbed in gazing at the statues placed
there. In the warehouse he secretly modelled, instead of attending to the
bales of goods. You are certainly aware what a sad breach occurred then,
and how long Hermon was restrained before he succeeded in turning his
back upon trade."

"My father meant so kindly toward him," Daphne protested. "He was
appointed guardian to you both. You are rich, and therefore he aided in
every possible way your taste for art; but Hermon did not inherit from
his parents a single drachm, and so my father saw the most serious
struggles awaiting him if he devoted himself to sculpture. And, besides,
he had destined his nephew to become his successor, the head of one of
the largest commercial houses in the city."

"And in doing so," Myrtilus responded, "he believed he had made the best
provision for his happiness. But there is something peculiar in art. I
know from your father himself how kind his intentions were when he
withdrew his assistance from Hermon, and when he had escaped to the
island of Rhodes, left him to make his own way during the first period of
apprenticeship through which he passed there. Necessity, he thought,
would bring him back to where he had a life free from anxiety awaiting
him. But the result was different. Far be it from me to blame the
admirable Archias, yet had he permitted his ward to follow his true
vocation earlier, it would have been better for him."

"Then you think that he began to study too late?" asked Daphne eagerly.

"Not too late," was the reply, "but with his passionate struggle to
advance, an earlier commencement would have been more favourable. While
the companions of his own age were already doing independent work, he was
still a student, and so it happened that he began for himself too soon."

"Yet," Daphne answered, "can you deny that, directly after Hermon
produced his first work which made his talent undeniable, my father again
treated him like his own son?"

"On the contrary," replied Myrtilus, "I remember only too well how
Archias at that time, probably not entirely without your intercession,
fairly showered gold upon his nephew, but unfortunately this abundance
was by no means to his advantage."

"What do you mean?" asked Daphne. "Were not you, at that very time, in
full possession of the great wealth inherited from your father and
mother, and yet did you not work far beyond your strength? Bryaxis--I
heard him--was full of your praises, and yet entreated my father to use
all his influence, as guardian, to warn you against overwork."

"My kind master!" cried Myrtilus, deeply moved. "He was as anxious about
me as a father."

"Because he perceived that you were destined for great achievements."

"And because it did not escape his penetration how much I needed care. My
lungs, Daphne, my lungs--surely you know how the malicious disease became
fatal to my clear mother, and to my brother and sister also. All three
sank prematurely into the grave, and for years the shades of my parents
have been beckoning to me too. When the cough shakes my chest, I see
Charon raise his oar and invite me also to enter his sable boat."

"But you just assured me that you were doing well," observed the girl.
"The cough alone makes me a little anxious. If you could only see for
yourself what a beautiful colour the pure air has given your cheeks!"

"This flush," replied Myrtilus gravely, "is the sunset of life's closing
day, not the dawn of approaching convalescence. But let us drop the
subject. I allude to these sorrowful things only to prevent your praises
of me at Hermon's expense. True, even while a student I possessed wealth
far beyond my needs, but the early deaths of my brother and sister had
taught me even then to be economical of the brief span of life allotted
to me. Hermon, on the contrary, was overflowing with manly vigour, and
the strongest among the Ephebi in the wrestling school. After three
nights' revel he would not even feel weary, and how difficult the women
made it for the handsome, black-bearded fellow to commence his work
early! Did you ever ask yourself why young steeds are not broken in
flowery meadows, but upon sand? Nothing which attracts their attention
and awakens their desires must surround them; but your father's gold led
Hermon, ere the season of apprenticeship was over, into the most
luxuriant clover fields. Honour and respect the handsome, hot-blooded
youth that, nevertheless, he allowed himself to be diverted from work
only a short time and soon resumed it with ardent zeal, at first in
superabundance, and then amid fresh need and privation."

"O Myrtilus," the girl interrupted, "how terribly I suffered in those
days! For the first time the gods made me experience that there are black
clouds, as well as bright sunshine, in the human soul. For weeks an
impassable gulf separated me from my father, with whom I had always had
one heart and soul. But I never saw him as he was then. The first prize
had been awarded to you for your Aphrodite, radiant in marvellous beauty,
and your brow had also been already crowned for your statue of Alexander,
when Hermon stepped forward with his works. They were at the same time
the first which were to show what he believed to be the true mission of
art--a hideous hawker, hide in hand, praising his wares with open mouth,
and the struggling Maenads. Surely you know the horrible women who throw
one another on the ground, tearing and rending with bestial fury. The
spectacle of these fruits of the industry of one dear to me grieved me
also, and I could not understand how you and the others saw anything to
admire in them. And my father! At the sight of these things the colour
faded from his cheeks and lips, and, as if by virtue of his guardianship
he had a right to direct Hermon in the paths of art also, he forbade his
ward to waste any more time in such horrible scarecrows, and awaken
loathing and wrath instead of gratification, exultation, and joy. You
know the consequences, but you do not know how my heart ached when
Hermon, frantic with wounded pride and indignation, turned his back upon
my father and severed every tie that united him to us. In spite of his
deep vexation and the unbridled violence with which the nephew had
allowed himself to address his uncle, my father did not dream of
withholding his assistance from him. But Hermon no longer came to our
house, and when I sent for him to bring him to reason, he positively
declared that he would not accept another obolus from my father--he would
rather starve than permit any one to dictate to him in the choice of his
subjects. Liberty was worth more than his uncle's gold. Yet my father
sent him his annual allowance."

"But he refused it," added Myrtilus. "I remember that day well, how I
tried to persuade him, and, when he persisted in his intention, besought
him to accept from my abundance what he needed. But this, too, he
resolutely refused, though at that time I was already so deeply in his
debt that I could not repay him at all with paltry money."

"You are thinking of the devotion with which he nursed you when you were
so ill?" asked Daphne.

"Certainly; yet not of that alone," was the reply. "You do not know how
he stood by me in the worst days. Who was it that after my first great
successes, when base envy clouded many an hour of my life, rejoiced with
me as though he himself had won the laurel? It was he, the ambitious
artist, though recognition held even farther aloof from his creations
than success. And when, just at that time, the insidious disease attacked
me more cruelly than ever, he devoted himself to me like a loving
brother. While formerly, in the overflowing joy of existence, he had
revelled all day and caroused all night, how often he paused in the rush
of gaiety to exchange the festal hall for a place beside my couch,
frequently remaining there until Eos dyed the east, that he might hold my
fevered hand and support my shaken frame! Frequently too, when already
garlanded for some gay banquet, he took the flowers from his head and
devoted the night to his friend, that he might not leave him to the
attendance of the slaves. It is owing to him, and the care and skill of
the great leech Erasistratus, that I am still standing before you alive
and can praise what my Hermon was and proved himself to me in those days.
Yet I must also accuse him of a wrong; to this hour I bear him a grudge
for having, in those sorrowful hours, refused to share my property with
me fraternally. What manly pride would have cheerfully permitted him to
accept was opposed by the defiant desire to show me, your father, you,
the whole world, that he would depend upon himself, and needed assistance
neither from human beings nor even the gods. In the same way, while
working, he obstinately rejected my counsel and my help, though the Muse
grants me some things which he unfortunately lacks. Great as his talent
is, firmly as I believe that he will yet succeed some day in creating
something grand, nay, perhaps something mighty, the unbelieving disciple
of Straton lacks the power of comprehending the august dignity, the
superhuman majesty of the divine nature, and he does not succeed in
representing the bewitching charm of woman, because he hates it as the
bull hates a red rag. Only once hitherto has he been successful, and that
was with your bust."

Daphne's cheeks suddenly flamed with a burning flush, and feeling it she
raised her feather fan to her eyes, and with forced indifference
murmured: "We were good friends from our earliest childhood. And,
besides, how small is the charm with which the artist who chooses me for
a model has to deal!"

"It is rather an unusually fascinating one," Myrtilus asserted
resolutely. "I have no idea of flattering you, and you are certainly
aware that I do not number you among the beauties of Alexandria. But
instead of the delicate, symmetrical features which artists need, the
gods bestowed upon you a face which wins all hearts, even those of women,
because it is a mirror of genuine, helpful, womanly kindness, a sincere
disposition, and a healthy, receptive mind. To reproduce such a face, not
exactly beautiful, and yet bewitching, is the hardest possible task, and
Hermon, I repeat it, has succeeded. You are the only one of your noble
sex who inspires the motherless man with respect, and for whom he feels
more than a fleeting fancy. What does he not owe you? After the bridge
which united him to his uncle and paternal friend had been so suddenly
broken, it was you who rebuilt it. Now, I think, it is stronger than
ever. I could not imagine anything that would induce him to give you up;
and all honour to your father, who, instead of bearing the insubordinate
fellow a grudge, only drew him more warmly to his heart, and gave us two
commissions which will permit each to do his best. If I see clearly, the
daughter of Archias is closely connected with this admirable deed."

"Of course," replied Daphne, "my father discussed his intention with me,
but the thought was entirely his own. True, Hermon's Street-Boy eating
Figs was not exactly according to his taste, but it pleased him better
than his former works, and I agree with Euphranor, it is remarkably true
to nature. My father perceived this too. Besides, he is a merchant who
sets a high value upon what he has earned, and Hermon's refusal of his
gold startled him. Then the good man also saw how nobly, in spite of his
wild life, his obstinacy, and the work so unpleasing to him, his nephew
always showed the noble impulses inherited from his brave father, and
thus Hermon gained the day."

"But what would have become of him last year, after the mortifying
rejection of his model of The Happy Return Home for the harbour of
Eunostus," asked Myrtilus, "if you and your encouragement had not cheered
him?"

"That verdict, too, was abominable!" exclaimed Daphne indignantly. "The
mother opening her arms to the returning son was unlovely, it is true,
and did not please me either; but the youth with the travelling hat and
staff is magnificent in his vigour and natural action."

"That opinion, as you know, is mine also," replied Myrtilus. "In the
mother the expression was intended to take the place of beauty. For the
returning son, as well as for the fig-eater, he found a suitable model.
True, the best was at his disposal for his Demeter."

Here he hesitated; but Daphne so urgently asked to know what he, who had
already denied her admission to the studios, was now again withholding
from her, that, smiling indulgently, he added: "Then I must probably
consent to tell in advance the secret with which you were to be
surprised. Before him, as well as before me, hovered--since you wish to
know it--in Alexandria, when we first began to model the head of the
goddess, a certain charming face which is as dear to one as to the
other."

Daphne, joyously excited, held out her hand to the artist, exclaiming:
"Oh, how kind that is! Yet how was it possible, since I posed neither to
him nor to you?"

"Hermon had finished your bust only a short time before, and you
permitted me to use your head for my statue of the goddess of Peace,
which went down with the ship on the voyage to Ostia. This was at the
disposal of us both in three or four reproductions, and, besides, it
hovered before our mental vision clearly enough. When the time to show
you our work arrives, you will be surprised to discover how differently
two persons see and copy the same object."

"Now that I know so much, and have a certain share in your works, I
insist upon seeing them!" cried Daphne with far greater impetuosity than
usual. "Tell Hermon so, and remind him that I shall at any rate expect
him to meet the Pelusinian guests at the banquet. Threaten him seriously
with my grave displeasure if he persists in leaving it speedily."

"I will not fail to do my part," replied Myrtilus; "but as to your wish
to see the two Demeters--"

"That will come to pass," interrupted Daphne, "as soon as we three are
together again like a clover leaf." She returned the sculptor's farewell
greeting as she spoke, but before he reached the entrance to the tent she
again detained him with the exclamation: "Only this one thing more: Does
Hermon deceive himself when he hopes so confidently for success with the
weaver, Arachne?"

"Hardly--if the model whom he desires does not fail him."

"Is she beautiful, and did he find her here in Tennis?" asked Daphne,
trying to assume an indifferent manner; but Myrtilus was not deceived,
and answered gaily: "That's the way people question children to find out
things. Farewell until the banquet, fair curiosity!"



CHAPTER VII.

The slave Bias had not gone to the hunting party with his master. He had
never been fit for such expeditions, since the Egyptian guard who took
him to the slave market for sale crippled the arch-traitor's son's left
leg by a blow, but he was all the more useful in the house, and even the
keenest eye could scarcely now perceive the injury which lessened his
commercial value.

He had prepared everything his master would need to shoot the birds very
early in the morning, and after helping the men push the boats into the
water, he, too, remained out of doors.

The old Nubian doorkeeper's little badger dog ran to meet him, as usual,
barking loudly, and startled a flock of sparrows, which flew up directly
in front of Bias and fluttered to and fro in confusion.

The slave regarded this as an infallible omen, and when Stephanion,
Daphne's maid, who had grown gray in the household of Archias, and though
a freed woman still worked in the old way, came out of the tent, he
called to her the gay Greek greeting, "Rejoice!" pointed to the sparrows,
and eagerly continued: "How one flies above another! how they flutter and
chirp and twitter! It will be a busy day."

Stephanion thought this interpretation of the ordinary action of the
birds very consistent with Bias's wisdom, which was highly esteemed in
the household of Archias, and it also just suited her inclination to chat
with him for a while, especially as she had brought a great deal of news
from Alexandria.

By way of introduction she mentioned the marriages and deaths in their
circle of acquaintances, bond and free, and then confided to the slave
what had induced her mistress to remain so long absent from her father,
whom she usually left alone for only a few hours at the utmost.

Archias himself had sent her here, after young Philotas, who was now
apparently wooing her with better success than other suitors, had spoken
of the enormous booty which one of his friends had brought from a
shooting expedition at Tennis, and Daphne had expressed a wish to empty
her quiver there too.

True, Philotas himself had been eager to guide the hunting party, but
Daphne declined his escort because--so the maid asserted--she cared far
more about meeting her cousins, the sculptors, than for the chase. Her
mistress had frankly told her so, but her father was delighted to hear
her express a wish, because for several months she had been so quiet and
listless that she, Stephanion, had become anxious about her. Meanwhile,
Daphne had tried honestly to conceal her feelings from the old man, but
such games of hide and seek were useless against the master's keen
penetration. He spared no pains in the preparations for the journey, and
the girl now seemed already transformed. This was caused solely by
meeting her cousins again; but if any one should ask her whether Daphne
preferred Myrtilus or Hermon, she could not give a positive answer.

"Cautious inquiry saves recantation," replied Bias importantly. "Yet you
may believe my experience, it is Myrtilus. Fame inspires love, and what
the world will not grant my master, in spite of his great talent, it
conceded to the other long ago. And, besides, we are not starving; but
Myrtilus is as rich as King Croesus of Sardis. Not that Daphne, who is
stifling in gold herself, would care about that, but whoever knows life
knows--where doves are, doves will fly."

Stephanion, however, was of a different opinion, not only because Daphne
talked far more about the black-bearded cousin than the fair one, but
because she knew the girl, and was seldom mistaken in such matters. She
would not deny that Daphne was also fond of Myrtilus. Yet probably
neither of the artists, but Philotas, would lead home the bride, for he
was related to the royal family--a fine, handsome man; and, besides, her
father preferred him to the other suitors who hovered around her as flies
buzzed about honey. Of course, matters would be more favourable to
Philotas in any other household. Who else in Alexandria would consult the
daughter long, when he was choosing her future husband? But Archias was a
white raven among fathers, and would never force his only child to do
anything.

Marrying and loving, however, were two different affairs. If Eros had the
final decision, her choice might perhaps fall on one of the artists.

Here she was interrupted by the slave's indignant exclamation: "What
contradictions! 'Woman's hair is long, but her wit is short,' says the
proverb. 'Waiting is the merchant's wisdom,' I have heard your master say
more than once, and to obey the words of shrewd people is the best plan
for those who are not so wise. Meanwhile, I am of the opinion that
curiosity alone brought Daphne--who, after all, is only a woman--to this
place. She wants to see the statues of Demeter which her father ordered
from us."

"And the Arachne?" asked the maid. This was an opportune question to the
slave--how often he had heard the artists utter the word "Arachne!"--and
his pride of education had suffered from the consciousness that he knew
nothing about her except the name, which in Greek meant "the spider."

Some special story must surely be associated with this Arachne, for which
his master desired to use his young countrywoman, Ledscha, as a model,
and whose statues Archias intended to place in his house in Alexandria
and in the great weaving establishment at Tennis beside the statue of
Demeter.

Stephanion, a Greek woman who grew up in a Macedonian household, must
know something about her.

So he cautiously turned the conversation to the spinner Arachne, and when
Stephanion entered into it, admitted that he, too, was curious to learn
in what way the sculptors would represent her.

"Yes," replied the maid, "my mistress has more than once racked her
brains over that, and Archias too. Perhaps they will carve her as a girl
at work in the house of her father Idmon, the purple dyer of Colophon."

"Never," replied Bias in a tone of dissent. "Just imagine how the loom
would look wrought in gold and ivory!"

"I thought so too," said Stephanion, in apology for the foolish idea.
"Daphne thinks that the two will model her in different ways: Myrtilus,
as mistress in the weaving room, showing with proud delight a piece just
completed to the nymphs from the Pactolus and other rivers, who sought
her at Colophon to admire her work; but Hermon, after she aroused the
wrath of Athene because she dared to weave into the hangings the love
adventures of the gods with mortal women."

"Father Zeus as a swan toying with Leda," replied Bias as confidently as
if Arachne's works were before his eyes, "and in the form of a bull
bearing away Europa, the chaste Artemis bending over the sleeping
Endymion."

"How that pleases you men!" interrupted the maid, striking him lightly on
the arm with the duster which she had brought from the tent. "But ought
the virgin Athene to be blamed because she punished the weaver who, with
all her skill, was only a mortal woman, for thus exposing her divine
kindred?"

"Certainly not," replied Bias, and Stephanion went on eagerly: "And when
the great Athene, who invented weaving and protects weavers, condescended
to compete with Arachne, and was excelled by her, surely her gall must
have overflowed. Whoever is just will scarcely blame her for striking the
audacious conqueror on the brow with the weaver's shuttle."

"It is that very thing," replied Bias modestly, "which to a short-sighted
fool like myself--may the great goddess not bear me a grudge for
it!--never seemed just in her. Even the mortal who succumbs in a fair
fight ought not to be enraged against the victor. At least, so I was
taught. But what, I ask myself, when I think of the stones which were
flung at Hermon's struggling Maenads, could be less suited for imitation
than two women, one of whom strikes the other?"

"The woman who in her desperation at that blow desires to hang herself,
must produce a still more horrible impression," replied Stephanion.
"Probably she will be represented as Athene releases her from the noose
rather than when, as a punishment for her insolence, she transforms
Arachne into a spider."

"That she might be permitted, in the form of an insect, to make artistic
webs until the end of her life," the slave, now sufficiently well
informed, added importantly. "Since that transformation, as you know, the
spider has been called by the Greeks Arachne. Perhaps--I always thought
so--Hermon will represent her twisting the rope with which she is to kill
herself. You have seen many of our works, and know that we love the
terrible."

"Oh, let me go into your studio!" the maid now entreated no less urgently
than her mistress had done a short time before, but her wish, too,
remained ungratified.

"The sculptors," Bias truthfully asserted, "always kept their workrooms
carefully locked." They were as inaccessible as the strongest fortress,
and it was wise, less on account of curious spectators, from whom there
was nothing to fear, than of the thievish propensities of the people. The
statues, by Archias's orders, were to be executed in chryselephantine
work, and the gold and ivory which this required might only too easily
awaken the vice of cupidity in the honest and frugal Biamites. So nothing
could be done about it, not to mention the fact that he was forbidden, on
pain of being sold to work in a stone quarry, to open the studio to any
one without his master's consent.

So the maid, too, was obliged to submit, and the sacrifice was rendered
easier for her because, just at that moment, a young female slave called
her back to the tent where Chrysilla, Daphne's companion, a matron who
belonged to a distinguished Greek family, needed her services.

Bias, rejoicing that he had at last learned, without exposing his own
ignorance, the story of the much-discussed Arachne, returned to the
house, where he remained until Daphne came back from shooting with her
companions. While the latter were talking about the birds they had
killed, Bias went out of doors; but he was forced to give up his desire
to listen to a conversation which was exactly suited to arrest his
attention, for after the first few sentences he perceived behind the
thorny acacias in the "garden" his countrywoman Ledscha.

So she was keeping her promise. He recognised her plainly, in spite of
the veil which covered the back of her head and the lower portion of her
face. Her black eyes were visible, and what a sinister light shone in
them as she fixed them sometimes on Daphne, sometimes on Hermon, who
stood talking together by the steps!

The evening before Bias had caught a glimpse of this passionate
creature's agitated soul. If anything happened here that incensed or
wounded her she would be capable of committing some unprecedented act
before the very master's honoured guest.

To prevent this was a duty to the master whom he loved, and against whom
he had only warned Ledscha because he was reluctant to see a free maiden
of his own race placed on a level with the venal Alexandrian models, but
still more because any serious love affair between Hermon and the Biamite
might bring disastrous consequences upon both, and therefore also on
himself. He knew that the free men of his little nation would not suffer
an insult offered by a Greek to a virgin daughter of their lineage to
pass unavenged.

True, in his bondage he had by no means remained free from all the bad
qualities of slaves, but he was faithfully devoted to his master, who had
imposed upon him a great debt of gratitude; for though, during the trying
period of variance with his rich and generous uncle, Hermon had often
been offered so large a sum for him that it would have relieved the
artist from want, he could not be induced to yield his "wise and faithful
Bias" to another. The slave had sworn to himself that he would never
forget this, and he kept his oath.

Freedmen and slaves were moving to and fro in the large open square
before him, amid the barking of the dogs and the shouts of the male and
female venders of fruit, vegetables, and fish, who hoped to dispose of
their wares in the kitchen tent of the wealthy strangers.

The single veiled woman attracted no attention here, but Bias kept his
gaze fixed steadily upon her, and as she curved her little slender hand
above her brow to shade her watchful eyes from the dazzling sunlight, and
set her beautifully arched foot on a stone near one of the trees in order
to gain a better view, he thought of the story of the weaver which he had
just heard.

Though the stillness of the hot noontide was interrupted by many sounds,
it exerted a bewitching influence over him.

Ledscha seemed like the embodiment of some great danger, and when she
lowered one arm and raised the other to protect herself again from the
radiance of the noonday sun, he started; for through the brain of the
usually fearless man darted the thought that now the nimble spider-legs
were moving to draw him toward her, entwine him, and suck his heart's
blood.

The illusion lasted only a few brief moments, but when it vanished and
the girl had regained the figure of an unusually slender, veiled Biamite
woman, he shook his head with a sigh of relief, for never had such a
vision appeared to him in broad noonday and while awake, and it must have
been sent to warn him and his master against this uncanny maiden.

It positively announced some approaching misfortune which proceeded from
this beautiful creature.

The Biamite now advanced hesitatingly toward Hermon and Daphne, who were
still a considerable distance from her. But Bias had also quitted his
post of observation, and after she had taken a few steps forward, barred
her way.

With a curt "Come," he took her hand, whispering, "Hermon is joyously
expecting your visit."

Ledscha's veil concealed her mouth, but the expression of her eyes made
him think that it curled scornfully.

Yet she silently followed him.

At first he led her by the hand, but on the way he saw at the edge of her
upper veil the thick, dark eyebrows which met each other, and her fingers
seemed to him so strangely cold and tapering that a shudder ran through
his frame and he released them.

Ledscha scarcely seemed to notice it, and, with bowed head, walked beside
him through the side entrance to the door of Hermon's studio.

It was a disappointment to her to find it locked, but Bias did not heed
her angry complaint, and led her into the artist's sitting room,
requesting her to wait for his master there.

Then he hurried to the steps, and by a significant sign informed the
sculptor that something important required his attention.

Hermon understood him, and Bias soon had an opportunity to tell the
artist who it was that desired to speak to him and where he had taken
Ledscha. He also made him aware that he feared some evil from her, and
that, in an alarming vision, she had appeared to him as a hideous spider.

Hermon laughed softly. "As a spider? The omen is appropriate. We will
make her a woman spider--an Arachne that is worth looking at. But this
strange beauty is one of the most obstinate of her sex, and if I let her
carry out her bold visit in broad daylight she will get the better of me
completely. The blood must first be washed from my hands here. The
wounded sea eagle tore the skin with its claw, and I concealed the
scratch from Daphne. A strip of linen to bandage it! Meanwhile, let the
impatient intruder learn that her sign is not enough to open every door."

Then he entered his sitting room, greeted Ledscha curtly, invited her to
go into the studio, unlocked it, and left her there alone while he went
to his chamber with the slave and had the slight wound bandaged
comfortably.

While Bias was helping his master he repeated with sincere anxiety his
warning against the dangerous beauty whose eyebrows, which had grown
together, proved that she was possessed by the demons of the nether
world.

"Yet they increase the austere beauty of her face," assented the artist.
"I should not want to omit them in modelling Arachne while the goddess is
transforming her into a spider! What a subject! A bolder one was scarcely
ever attempted and, like you, I already see before me the coming spider."

Then, without the slightest haste, he exchanged the huntsman's chiton for
the white chlamys, which was extremely becoming to his long, waving
beard, and at last, exclaiming gaily, "If I stay any longer, she will
transform herself into empty air instead of the spider," he went to her.



CHAPTER VIII.

While waiting in the studio Ledscha had used the time to satisfy her
curiosity.

What was there not to be seen!

On pedestals and upon the boards of the floor, on boxes, racks, and along
the wall, stood, lay, or hung the greatest variety of articles: plaster
casts of human limbs and parts of the bodies of animals, male and female,
of clay and wax, withered garlands, all sorts of sculptor's tools, a
ladder, vases, cups and jars for wine and water, a frame over which linen
and soft woollen materials were spread, a lute and a zither, several
seats, an armchair, and in one corner a small table with three
dilapidated book rolls, writing tablets, metal styluses, and reed pens.

All these articles were arranged haphazard, and showed that Bias
possessed more wisdom than care in the use of duster and broom.

It would have been difficult to count the number of things brought
together here, but the unusually long, wide room was by no means crowded.

Ledscha cast a wondering glance sometimes at one object, sometimes at
another, but without understanding its meaning or its use.

The huge figure on the pedestal in the middle of the studio, upon which
the full glare of light fell through the open windows, was certainly the
statue of the goddess on which Hermon was working; but a large gray cloth
concealed it from her gaze.

How tall it was!

When she looked at it more closely she felt small and oppressed by
comparison.

A passionate longing urged her to remove the cloth, but the boldness of
the act restrained her. After she had taken another survey of the
spacious apartment, which she was visiting for the first time by
daylight, the torturing feeling of being neglected gained possession of
her.

She clinched her white teeth more firmly, and when there was a noise at
the door that died away again without bringing the man she expected, she
went up to the statue which she had already walked past quietly several
times and, obeying an impatient impulse, freed it from its covering.

The goddess, now illumined by the sunlight, shone before her in gleaming
yellow gold and snowy ivory.

She had never seen such a statue, and drew back dazzled.

What a master was the man who had deceived her trusting heart!

He had created a Demeter; the wheat in her hand showed it.

How beautiful this work was--and how valuable! It produced a powerful
impression upon her mind, wholly unaccustomed to the estimate of such
things.

The goddess before her was the very one whose statue stood in the temple
of Demeter, and to whom she also sacrificed, with the Greeks in Tennis,
when danger threatened the harvest. Involuntarily she removed the lower
veil from her face and raised her hand in prayer.

Meanwhile she gazed into the pallid face, carved from ivory, of the
immortal dispenser of blessings, and suddenly the blood crimsoned her
cheeks, the nostrils of her delicate, slightly arched nose rose and fell
more swiftly, for the countenance of the goddess--she was not
mistaken--was that of the Alexandrian whom she had just watched so
intently, and for whose sake Hermon had left her in the lurch the evening
before.

Now, too, she remembered for what purpose the sculptor was said to have
lured Gula, the sailor's wife, and her own young sister Taus, to his
studio, and in increasing excitement she drew the cloth also from the
bust beside the Demeter.

Again the Alexandrian's face--the likeness was even more unmistakable
than in the goddess.

The Greek girl alone occupied his thoughts. Hermon had disdained to model
the Biamite's head.

What could the others, or she herself, be to him, since he loved the rich
foreigner in the tent outside, and her alone? How firmly her image must
have been impressed upon his soul, that he could reproduce the features
of the absent one with such lifelike fidelity!

Yet with what bold assurance he had protested that his heart belonged
solely to her. But she thought that she now perceived his purpose. If the
slave was right, it was done that she might permit him to model what he
admired in her figure, only not the head and face, whose beauty,
nevertheless, he praised so extravagantly.

Had he attracted Gula and her sister with similar sweet flatteries? Had
the promise to bestow their charms upon a goddess been made to them also?

The swift throbbing of her indignant heart made it impossible for her to
think calmly, but its vehement pulsation reminded her of the object of
her presence here.

She had come to obtain a clear understanding between him and herself.

She stood here as a judge.

She must know whether she had been betrayed or deceived.

He should confess what his intentions toward her were. The next moments
must decide the fate of her life, and she added, drawing a long breath,
perhaps of his also.

Suddenly Ledscha started. She had not heard Hermon enter the studio, and
was now startled by his greeting.

It was not positively unkind, but certainly not a lover's.

Perhaps the words might have been warmer, but for his annoyance at the
insolent boldness with which she had removed the coverings from his
works. He restrained himself from openly blaming her, it is true, but he
exclaimed, with a tinge of gay sarcasm: "You seem to feel very much at
home here already, fairest of the fair. Or was it the goddess herself who
removed the curtain from her image in order to show herself to her
successor upon this pedestal?"

But the question was to remain unanswered, for under the spell of the
resentment which filled her heart, and in the effort not to lose sight of
the object that brought her here, Ledscha had only half understood its
meaning, and pointing her slender forefinger at the face of his completed
work, she demanded to know whom she recognised in this statue.

"The goddess Demeter," he answered quietly; "but if it pleases you
better, as you seem to be on the right track, also the daughter of
Archias."

Then, angered by the wrathful glance she cast at him, he added more
sternly: "She is kind-hearted, free from disagreeable whims and the
disposition to torture others who are kindly disposed toward her. So I
adorned the goddess with her pleasant features."

"Mine, you mean to say," Ledscha answered bitterly, "would be less
suitable for this purpose. Yet they, too, can wear a different expression
from the present one. You, I think, have learned this. Only I shall never
acquire the art of dissimulation, not even in your society."

"You seem to be angry on account of my absence yesterday evening?" Hermon
asked in an altered tone, clasping her hand; but Ledscha snatched it from
him, exclaiming: "The model of the Demeter, the daughter of the wealthy
Archias, detained you, you were going to tell me, and you think that
ought to satisfy the barbarian maiden."

"Folly!" he answered angrily. "I owe a debt of gratitude to her father,
who was my guardian, and custom commands you also to honour a guest. But
your obstinacy and jealousy are unbearable. What great thing is it that I
ask of your love? A little patience. Practise it. Then your turn will
come too."

"Of course, the second and third will follow the first," she answered
bitterly. "After Gula, the sailor's wife, you lured my innocent young
sister, Taus, to this apartment; or am I mistaken in the order, and was
Gula the second?"

"So that's it!" cried Hermon, who was surprised rather than alarmed by
this betrayal of his secret. "If you want confirmation of the fact, very
well--both were here."

"Because you deluded them with false vows of love."

"By no means. My heart has nothing what ever to do with these visits.
Gula came to thank me because I rendered her a service--you know
it--which to every mother seems greater than it is."

"But you certainly did not underestimate it," Ledscha impetuously
interrupted, "for you demanded her honour in return."

"Guard your tongue!" the artist burst forth angrily. "The woman visited
me unasked, and I let her leave me as faithful or as unfaithful to her
husband as she came. If I used her as a model--"

"Gula, whom the sculptor transforms into a goddess," Ledscha interrupted,
with a sneering laugh.

"Into a fish-seller, if you wish to know it," cried Hermon indignantly.
"I saw in the market a young woman selling shad. I took the subject, and
found in Gula a suitable model. Unfortunately, she ventured here far too
seldom. But I can finish it with the help of the sketch--it stands in
yonder cupboard."

"A fish-seller," Ledscha repeated contemptuously. "And for what did my
Taus, poor lovely child, seem desirable?"

"Over opposite," Hermon answered quickly, as if he wished to get rid of a
troublesome duty, pointing through the window out of doors, "the free
maidens, during the hot days, took off their sandals and waded through
the water. There I saw your sister's feet. They were the prettiest of
all, and Gula brought the young girl to me. I had commenced in Alexandria
a figure of a girl holding her foot in her hand to take out a thorn, so I
used your sister's for it."

"And when my turn comes?" Ledscha demanded.

"Then," he replied, freshly captivated by the magic of her beauty, in a
kinder, almost tender tone, "then I will make of you, in gold and ivory,
you wonderfully lovely creature, the counterpart of this goddess."

"And you will need a long time for it?"

"The oftener you come the faster the work will advance."

"And the more surely the Biamite women will point their fingers at me."

"Yet you ventured here to-day, unasked, in the broad light of noon."

"Because I wish to remind you myself that I shall expect you this
evening. Yesterday you did not appear; but to-day-I am right, am I
not?--to-day you will come."

"With the greatest delight, if it is possible," he answered eagerly.

A warmer glance from her dark eyes rested upon him. The blood seethed in
his veins, and as he extended both hands to her and ardently uttered her
name, she rushed forward, clinging to him with passionate devotion, as if
seeking assistance, but when his lips touched hers she shrank back and
loosed her soft arms from his neck.

"What does this mean?" asked the sculptor in surprise, trying to draw her
toward him again; but Ledscha would not permit it, pleading in a softer
tone than before: "Not now; but--am I not right, dearest--I may expect
you this evening? Just this once let the daughter of Archias yield to me,
who loves you better. We shall have a full moon to-night, and you have
heard what was predicted to me--to-night the highest bliss which the gods
can bestow upon a mortal awaits me."

"And me also," cried Hermon, "if you will permit me to share it with you."

"Then I will expect you on the Pelican Island--just when the full moon is
over the lofty poplars there. You will come? Not to the Owl's Nest: to
the Pelican Island. And though your love is far less, far cooler than
mine, yet you will not defraud me of the best happiness of my life?"

"How could I?" he asked, as if he felt wounded by such distrust. "What
detains me must be something absolutely unavoidable."

Ledscha's eyebrows contracted sharply, and in a choked voice she
exclaimed: "Nothing must detain you--nothing, whatever it may be! Though
death should threaten, you will be with me just at midnight."

"I will, if it is possible," he protested, painfully touched by the
vehemence of her urging. "What can be more welcome to me also than to
spend happy hours with you in the silence of a moonlight night? Besides,
my stay in Tennis will not be long."

"You are going?" she asked in a hollow tone.

"In three or four days," he answered carelessly; "then Myrtilus and I
will be expected in Alexandria. But gently--gently--how pale you are,
girl! Yes, the parting! But in six weeks at latest I shall be here again;
then real life will first begin, and Eros will make the roses bloom for
us."

Ledscha nodded silently, and gazing into his face with a searching look
asked, "And how long will this season of blossoming last?"

"Several months, girl; three, if not six."

"And then?"

"Who looks so far into the future?"

She lowered her glance, and, as if yielding to the inevitable, answered:
"What a fool I was! Who knows what the morrow may bring? Are we even sure
whether, six months hence, we shall not hate, instead of loving, each
other?"

She passed her hand across her brow as she spoke, exclaiming: "You said
just now that only the present belonged to man. Then let us enjoy it as
though every moment might be the last. By the light of the full moon
to-night, the happiness which has been predicted to me must begin. After
it, the orb between the horns of Astarte will become smaller; but when it
fulls and wanes again, if you keep your promise and return, then, though
they may curse and condemn me, I will come to your studio and grant what
you ask. But which of the goddesses do you intend to model from me as a
companion statue to the Demeter?"

"This time it can not be one of the immortelles," he answered
hesitatingly, "but a famous woman, an artist who succeeded in a
competition in vanquishing even the august Athene."

"So it is no goddess?" Ledscha asked in a disappointed tone.

"No, child, but the most skilful woman who ever plied the weaver's
shuttle."

"And her name?"

"Arachne."

The young girl started, exclaiming contemptuously: "Arachne? That
is--that is what you Greeks call the most repulsive of creatures--the
spider."

"The most skilful of all creatures, that taught man the noble art of
weaving," he eagerly retorted.

Here he was interrupted; his friend Myrtilus put his fair head into the
room, exclaiming: "Pardon me if I interrupt you--but we shall not see
each other again for some time. I have important business in the city,
and may be detained a long while. Yet before I go I must perform the
commission Daphne gave me for you. She sends word that she shall expect
you without fail at the banquet for the Pelusinian guests. Your absence,
do you hear?--pardon the interruption, fairest Ledscha--your absence
would seriously anger her."

"Then I shall be prepared for considerable trouble in appeasing her,"
replied Hermon, glancing significantly at the young girl.

Myrtilus crossed the threshold, turned to the Biamite, and said in his
quiet, cheerful manner: "Where beautiful gifts are to be brought to Eros,
it beseems the friend to strew with flowers the path of the one who is
offering the sacrifices; and you, if everything does not deceive me,
would fain choose to-night to serve him with the utmost devotion.
Therefore, I shall need forgiveness from you and the god, if I beseech
you to defer the offering, were it only until to-morrow."

Ledscha silently shrugged her shoulders and made no answer to the
inquiring glance with which Hermon sought hers, but Myrtilus changed his
tone and addressed a grave warning to his friend to consider well that it
would be an insult to the manes of his dead parents if he should avoid
the old couple from Pelusium, who had been their best friends and had
taken the journey hither for his sake.

Hermon looked after him in painful perplexity, but the Biamite also
approached the threshold, and holding her head haughtily erect, said
coldly: "The choice is difficult for you, as I see. Then recall to your
memory again what this night of the full moon means--you are well aware
of it--to me. If, nevertheless, you still decide in favour of the banquet
with your friends, I can not help it; but I must now know: Shall this
night belong to me, or to the daughter of Archias?"

"Is it impossible to talk with you, unlucky girl, as one would with other
sensible people?" Hermon burst forth wrathfully. "Everything is carried
to extremes; you condemn a brief necessary delay as breach of faith and
base treachery. This behaviour is unbearable."

"Then you will not come?" she asked apathetically, laying her hand upon
the door; but Hermon cried out in a tone half beseeching, half imperious:
"You must not go so! If you insist upon it, surely I will come. There is
no room in your obstinate soul for kind indulgence. No one, by the dog,
ever accused me of being specially skilled in this smooth art; yet there
may be duties and circumstances--"

Here Ledscha gently opened the door; but, seized with a fear of losing
this rare creature, whose singular beauty attracted him powerfully, even
now, this peerless model for a work on which he placed the highest hopes,
he strode swiftly to her side, and drawing her back from the threshold,
exclaimed: "Difficult as it is for me on this special day, I will come,
only you must not demand what is impossible. The right course often lies
midway. Half the night must belong to the banquet with my old friends and
Daphne; the second half--"

"To the barbarian, you think--the spider," she gasped hoarsely. "But my
welfare as well as yours depends on the decision. Stay here, or come to
the island--you have your choice."

Wrenching herself from his hold as she spoke, she slipped through the
doorway and left the room.

Hermon, with a muttered oath, stood still, shrugging his shoulders
angrily.

He could do nothing but yield to this obstinate creature's will.

In the atrium Ledscha met the slave Bias, and returned his greeting only
by a wave of the hand; but before opening the side door which was to lead
her into the open air, she paused, and asked bluntly in the language of
their people: "Was Arachne--I don't mean the spider, but the weaver whom
the Greeks call by that name--a woman like the rest of us? Yet it is said
that she remained victor in a contest with the goddess Athene."

"That is perfectly true," answered Bias, "but she had to atone cruelly
for this triumph; the goddess struck her on the forehead with the
weaver's shuttle, and when, in her shame and rage, she tried to hang
herself, she was transformed into the spider."

Ledscha stood still, and, while drawing the veil over her pallid face,
asked with quivering lips, "And is there no other Arachne?"

"Not among mortals," was the reply, "but even here in this house there
are more than enough of the disagreeable, creeping creatures which bear
the same name."

Ledscha now went clown the steps which led to the lawn, and Bias saw that
she stumbled on the last one and would have fallen had not her lithe body
regained its balance in time.

"A bad omen!" thought the slave. "If I had the power to build a wall
between my master and the spider yonder, it should be higher than the
lighthouse of Sostratus. To heed omens guides one safely through life. I
know what I know, and will keep my eyes open, for my master too."



CHAPTER IX.

Hermon had intended to add a few more touches to his Demeter, but he
could not do it. Ledscha, her demand, and the resentment with which she
had left him, were not to be driven from his mind.

There was no doubt that he must seek her if he was not to lose her, yet
he reproached himself for having acted like a thoughtless fool when he
proposed to divide the night between her and Daphne.

There was something offensive in the proposal to so proud a creature. He
ought to have promised positively to come, and then left the banquet
somewhat earlier. It would have been easy to apologize for his late
arrival, and Ledscha would have had no cause to be angry with him.

Now she had, and her resentment awakened in him--though he certainly did
not lack manly courage--an uncomfortable feeling closely allied to
anxiety.

Angered by his own conduct, he asked himself whether he loved the
barbarian, and could find no satisfactory answer.

At their first meeting he had felt that she was far superior to the other
Biamite maidens, not only in beauty but in everything else. The very
acerbity of her nature had seemed charming. To win this wonderful, pliant
creature, slender as a cypress, whose independence merged into fierce
obstinacy, had appeared to him worth any sacrifice; and having perceived
in her an admirable model for his Arachne, he had also determined to
brave the dangers which might easily arise for the Greek from a love
affair with a Biamite girl, whose family was free and distinguished.

It had been easier for him to win her heart than he expected; yet at none
of the meetings which she granted him had he rejoiced in the secret bond
between them.

Hitherto her austere reserve had been invincible, and during the greater
part of their interviews he had been compelled to exert all his influence
to soothe, appease her, and atone for imprudent acts which he had
committed.

True, she, too, had often allowed herself to display passionate
tenderness, but always only to torture him with reproaches and demands
inspired by her jealousy, suspicion, and wounded pride.

Yet her beauty, and the strong power of resistance which she offered to
his wooing, exerted so bewitching a thrall over him that he had been led
into conceding far too much, and making vows which he could not and did
not desire to fulfil.

Love had usually been to him a richly flowing well-spring of gay delight,
but this bond had plunged him from one vexation into another, one anxiety
to another, and now that he had almost reached the goal of his wishes, he
could not help fearing that he had transformed Ledscha's love to hate.

Daphne was dear to him. He esteemed her highly, and owed her a great debt
of gratitude. Yet in this hour he anathematized her unexpected journey to
Tennis; for without it he would have obtained from Ledscha that very day
what he desired, and could have returned to Alexandria with the certainty
of finding her ready later to pose as the model for his Arachne.

Never could he find anywhere a more fitting one.

He had devoted himself with passionate love to his art, and even his
enemies numbered him among its most promising disciples. Yet hither to he
had not succeeded in obtaining a great and undisputed success. On the
other hand, he had experienced what were termed failures in abundant
measure.

The art to which he had gained entrance by so severe a struggle, and on
whose soil he had laboured diligently enough, proved, so far as outward
recognition was concerned, cruel to the enthusiastic disciple. Yet even
now he would not have abandoned it at any price; the joy of creation
compensated him richly for suffering and disappointment. Confidence in
his own powers and the final triumph of his conviction had deserted him
only occasionally, and for a few brief hours.

He was born for conflicts. What ill-success, what antagonism and
difficulties he had encountered! Some day the laurel which had so long
adorned the brow of Myrtilus must also grow green for him and the great
talent whose possession he felt. With the Arachne--he was sure of
this--he would compel even his opponents to accord him the recognition
for which hitherto he had striven in vain.

While pacing restlessly up and down the spacious apartment, stopping from
time to time before his work to fix his eyes angrily upon it, he thought
of his friend's Demeter, whose head also had Daphne's features, who also
bore in her hand a bundle of wheat, and even in attitude did not differ
very widely from his own. And yet--eternal gods!--how thoroughly
dissimilar the two were!

In the figure created by Myrtilus, supernatural dignity blended with the
utmost womanly charm; in his, a pleasing head rested upon a body in whose
formation he had used various models without striving to accomplish
anything except to depart as far as possible from established custom,
with which he was at variance.

Yet had he not found himself, nevertheless, compelled to follow the old
rules? One arm was raised, the other hung down; the right foot was put
forward, the left one back.

Exactly the same as in Myrtilus's statue, and thousands of other figures
of Demeter!

If he could have used the hammer and chisel, the thing might have become
more powerful; but how many things he had had to consider in employing
the accursed gold and ivory upon which Archias obstinately insisted!

This hammering, chipping, and filing told unfavourably upon his power and
his aspiration toward grandeur.

This time the battle seemed to be lost.

It was fortunate that the conqueror was no other than Myrtilus. Often as
he had gone astray in his young life, many as were the errors he had
committed, not even the faintest shadow of an envious feeling concerning
his friend's more successful work had ever stained his soul.

True, the fact that fate, in addition to such abundant gifts of mind and
spirit, had also endowed the latter with great worldly possessions, while
he, but for the generosity of his uncle Archias, must have starved, had
often led Hermon to inveigh angrily against the injustice of the gods.
Yet he did not grudge Myrtilus the wealth without which he could not
imagine him, and which his invalid friend needed to continue successfully
the struggle against the insidious disease inherited with the gold. And
his sufferings! Hermon could not have endured keener pain had they been
his own. He must even rejoice over the poor dear fellow's victory; for if
he, Hermon, succeeded with his Arachne as he hoped, it would make
Myrtilus--he could swear to it--happier than his own triumph.

After these reflections, which again reminded him of the second
appointment and of Ledscha, the sculptor turned away from his work and
went to the window to look across at Pelican Island, where she must not
await him in vain.

The boat which was to convey him over to it lay ready in the little
flotilla, where a magnificently equipped galley had just been moored to
the shore, undoubtedly the one that had brought the guests from Pelusium
hither. The best thing he could do was to greet them at once, share the
banquet with them, and, before the dessert was served, seek the beautiful
woman whom his absence threatened to make his foe. And she was certainly
justified in resenting it if, with cruel lack of consideration, he paid
no heed to what had been prophesied for her on this night of the full
moon.

For the first time compassion mingled with his feelings for Ledscha. If
to avoid the fleeting censure of aristocratic friends he left in the
lurch the simple barbarian maiden who loved him with ardent passion, it
was no evidence of resolute strength of soul, but of pitiful,
reprehensible weakness. No, no! He must take the nocturnal voyage in
order not to grieve Ledscha.

Soon after the girl's abrupt departure he dressed himself in festal
garments for the banquet. It would flatter Ledscha also if he went to her
in this attire and, with his figure drawn up to its full height, he
walked toward the door to go to the Alexandrian's tent.

But what did this mean? Myrtilus was standing before his Demeter,
scanning it intently with his keen artist eyes. Hermon had not noticed
his entrance, and did not disturb him now, but fixed his gaze upon his
mobile features in intense expectation.

There were few of his fellow-artists whose opinion he valued as highly as
that of this darling of the Muse.

At a slight shake of the head, which Hermon interpreted as disapproval,
he clinched his teeth; but soon his lips relaxed and his breast heaved
with a sigh of relief, for the sunny glance that Myrtilus bent upon the
face of the goddess seemed to show Hermon that it aroused his approval,
and, as if relieved from an oppressive nightmare, he approached his
friend.

The latter turned toward him, exclaiming: "Daphne! As in the case of
yonder bust, you have succeeded most perfectly with this dear
face--only--"

"Only," Hermon repeated slowly; "I am familiar with that evil word.
Doubts knock at the door with it. Out with them honestly. I gave up my
last hope of the prize yesterday while looking at your Demeter. Besides,
careful scrutiny has just destroyed the last gleam of satisfaction with
my own work. But if you like the head, what seem to you the greatest
defects in the figure?"

"It has nothing to do with defects, which, with your rare ability, can
scarcely exist," replied the other, the faint pink flush in his beardless
cheeks deepening to a more vivid hue. "It refers rather to the expression
which you have given the divinity in yonder statue." Here Myrtilus
hesitated, and, turning so that he stood face to face with Hermon, asked
frankly, "Did you ever seek the goddess and, when you found her, did you
feel any supernatural power and beauty?"

"What a question!" exclaimed Hermon in astonishment. "A pupil of Straton,
and go in search of beings and powers whose existence he denies! What my
mother instilled into my heart I lost with my childhood, and you address
your question only to the artist who holds his own ground, not to the
boy. The power that calls creation to life, and maintains it, has for me
long had nothing in common with those beings like mortals whom the
multitude designates by the name of divinities."

"I think differently," replied Myrtilus. "While I numbered myself among
the Epicureans, whose doctrine still possesses the greatest charm for me,
I nevertheless shared the master's opinion that it is insulting the gods
to suppose that they will disturb their blissful repose for the sake of
us insignificant mortals. Now my mind and my experience rebel against
holding to this view, yet I believe with Epicurus, and with you, that the
eternal laws of Nature bow to neither divine nor human will."

"And yet," said Hermon, "you expect me to trouble myself about those who
are as powerless as myself!"

"I only wished that you might do so," answered Myrtilus; "for they are
not powerless to those who from the first assumed that they can do
nothing in opposition to those changeless laws. The state, too, rules
according to them, and the wise king who refrains from interfering with
them in the smallest trifle can therefore wield the sceptre with mighty
power. So, in my opinion, it is perfectly allowable to expect aid from
the gods. But we will let that pass. A healthy man, full of exuberant
vigour like yourself, rarely learns early what they can bestow in
suffering and misfortune; yet where the great majority believe in them,
he, too, will be unable to help forming some idea of them; nay, even you
and I have experienced it. By a thousand phenomena they force themselves
into the world which surrounds us and our emotional life. Epicurus, who
denied their power, saw in them at least immortal beings who possess in
stainless perfection everything which in mortals is disfigured by errors,
weaknesses, and afflictions. To him they are the intensified, reflected
image of our own nature, and I think we can do nothing wiser than to
cling to that, because it shows us to what heights of beauty and power,
intellect, goodness, and purity we may attain. To completely deny their
existence would hardly be possible even for you, because their persons
have found a place in your imagination. Since this is the case, it can
only benefit you to recognise in them magnificent models, by whose means
we artists, if we imitate, perfect, and model them, will create works far
more sublime and beautiful than anything visible to our senses which we
meet here beneath the sun."

"It is this very superiority in sublimity and beauty which I, and those
who pursue the same path with me, oppose," replied Hermon. "Nature is
sufficient for us. To take anything from her, mutilates; to add anything,
disfigures her."

"But not," replied Myrtilus firmly, "when it is done only in a special
sense, and within the limits of Nature, to which the gods also belong.
The final task of art, fiercely as you and your few followers contend
against it, lies in the disentanglement, enhancing, and ennobling of
Nature. You, too, ought not to overlook it when you undertake to model a
Demeter; for she is a goddess, no mortal like yourself. The rest or I
ought rather to say the alteration which converts the mortal woman into
the immortal one, the goddess--I miss, and with special regret, because
you do not even deem it worth consideration."

"That I shall never do," retorted Hermon irritably, "so long as it is a
changing chimera which presents itself differently to every mind."

"Yet, should it really be a chimera, it is at any rate a sublime one,"
Myrtilus protested, "and whoever among us artists wanders through Nature
with open eyes and heart, and then examines his own soul, will find it
worth while to attempt to give his ideal form."

"Whatever stirs my breast during such walks, unless it is some unusual
human being, I leave to the poet," replied Hermon. "I should be satisfied
with the Demeter yonder, and you, too, probably, if--entirely apart from
that--I had only succeeded fully and entirely in making her an
individual--that is, a clearly outlined, distinct personality. This, you
have often told me, is just wherein I am usually most successful. But
here, I admit, I am baffled. Demeter hovered before me as a kindly
dispenser of good gifts, a faithful, loving wife. Daphne's head expresses
this; but in modelling the body I lost sight of the whole creation.
While, for instance, in my fig-eater, every toe, every scrap of the
tattered garments, belongs to the street urchin whom I wished to
represent, in the goddess everything came by chance as the model
suggested it, and you know that I used several. Had the Demeter from head
to foot resembled Daphne, who has so much in common with our goddess, the
statue would have been harmonious, complete, and you would perhaps have
been the first to acknowledge it."

"By no means," Myrtilus eagerly interrupted. "What our statues of the
gods are we two know best: a wooden block, covered with gold and sheets
of ivory. But to tens of thousands the statue of the divinity must be
much more. When they raise their hearts, eyes, hands to it in prayer,
they must be possessed by the idea of the deity which animated us while
creating it, and with which we, as it were, permeated it. If it shows
them only a woman endowed with praiseworthy qualities--"

"Then," interrupted Hermon, "the worshipper should thank the sculptor;
for is it not more profitable to him to be encouraged by the statue to
emulate the human virtues whose successful embodiment it shows him than
to strive for the aid of the botchwork of human hands, which possesses as
much or as little power as the wood, gold, and ivory that compose it? If
the worshipper does not appeal to the statue, but to the goddess, I fear
it will be no less futile. So I shall consider it no blemish if you see
in my Demeter a mortal woman, and no goddess; nay, it reconciles me in
some degree to her weaknesses, to which I by no means close my eyes. I,
too--I confess it--often feel a great desire to give the power of
imagination greater play, and I know the divinities in whom I have lost
faith as well as any one; for I, too, was once a child, and few have ever
prayed to them more fervently, but with the increasing impulse toward
liberty came the perception: There are no gods, and whoever bows to the
power of the immortals makes himself a slave. So what I banished from
life I will also remove from art, and model nothing which might not meet
me to-day or to-morrow."

"Then, as an honest man, abstain altogether from making statues of the
gods," interrupted his friend.

"That was my intention long ago, as you are aware," the other answered.

"You could not commit a worse robbery upon yourself," cried Myrtilus. "I
know you; nay, perhaps I see farther into your soul than you yourself. By
ingenious fetters you force the mighty winged intellect to content itself
within the narrow world of reality. But the time when you will yourself
rend the bonds and find the divinity you have lost, will come, and then,
with your mighty power once more free, you will outstrip most of us, and
me also if I live to see it."

Then he pressed his hand upon his rattling chest and walked slowly to the
couch; but Hermon followed, helped him to lie down, and with affectionate
solicitude arranged his pillows.

"It is nothing," Myrtilus said soothingly, after a few minutes' silence.
"My undermined strength has been heavily taxed to-day. The Olympians know
how calmly I await death. It ends all things. Nothing will be left of me
except the ashes, to which you will reduce my body, and what you call
'possession.' But even this can no longer belong to me after death,
because I shall then be no more, and the idea of possession requires a
possessor. My estate, too, is now disposed of. I have just been to the
notary, and sixteen witnesses--neither more nor less--have signed my will
according to the custom of this ceremonious country. There, now, if you
please, go before me, and let me stay here alone a little while. Remember
me to Daphne and the Pelusinians. I will join you in an hour."



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Cautious inquiry saves recantation
     Nature is sufficient for us
     There are no gods, and whoever bows makes himself a slave
     Waiting is the merchant's wisdom
     Woman's hair is long, but her wit is short



ARACHNE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 3.



CHAPTER X.

"When the moon is over Pelican Island." How often Ledscha had repeated
this sentence to herself while Hermon was detained by Daphne and her
Pelusinian guests!

When she entered the boat after nightfall she exclaimed hopefully, sure
of her cause, "When the moon is over Pelican Island he will come."

Her goal was quickly reached in the skiff; the place selected for the
nocturnal meeting was a familiar one to her.

The pirates had remained absent from it quite two years. Formerly they
had often visited the spot to conceal their arms and booty on the densely
wooded island. The large papyrus thicket on the shore also hid boats from
spying eyes, and near the spot where Ledscha landed was a grassy seat
which looked like an ordinary resting place, but beneath it the corsairs
had built a long, walled passage, that led to the other side of the
island, and had enabled many a fugitive to vanish from the sight of
pursuers, as though the earth had swallowed them.

"When the moon is over the island," Ledscha repeated after she had waited
more than an hour.

The time had not yet come; the expanse of water lay before her
motionless, in hue a dull, leaden gray, and only the dimly illumined air
and a glimmering radiance along the edges of the waves that washed the
island showed that the moon was already brightening the night.

When its full orb floated above the island Hermon, too, would appear, and
the happiness which had been predicted to Ledscha would begin.

Happiness?

A bitter smile hovered around her delicately cut lips as she repeated the
word.

Hitherto no feeling was more distant from her; for when love and longing
began to stir in her heart, it seemed as though a hideous spider was
weaving its web about her, and vague fears, painful memories, and in
their train fierce hate would force glad expectation into the shadow.

Yet she yearned with passionate fervour to see Hermon again, and when he
was once there all must be well between them. The prediction of old
Tabus, who ruled as mistress over so many demons, could not deceive.

After Ledscha had so lately reminded the lover who so vehemently roused
her jealous wrath what this night of the full moon meant to her, she
could rely upon his appearance in spite of everything.

Various matters undoubtedly held him firmly enough in Tennis--she
admitted this to herself after she grew calmer--but he had promised to
come; he would surely enter the boat, and she--she would submit to share
the night with the Hellene.

Her whole being longed for the bliss awaiting her, and it could come from
no one save the man whose lips would seek hers when the moon rose over
the Pelican Island.

How tardily and sluggishly the cow-headed goddess who bore the silver orb
between her horns rose to-night! how slowly the time passed, yet she did
not move forward more certainly that the man whom Ledscha expected must
arrive.

Of the possibility of his non-appearance she would not think; but when
the fear that she was perhaps looking for him in vain assailed her, the
blood crimsoned her face as if she felt the shame of a humiliating
insult. Yet why should she make the period of waiting more torturing than
it was already?

Surely he must come!

Sometimes she rested on the grassy seat and gazed across the dull gray
surface of the water into the distance; sometimes she walked to and fro,
stopping at every turn to look across at Tennis and the bright torches
and lights which surrounded the Alexandrian's tent.

So one quarter of an hour after another passed away.

A light breeze rose, and gradually the tops of the rushes began to shine,
and the leafage before, beside, and above her to glitter in the silvery
light.

The water was no longer calm, but furrowed by countless little ripples,
on whose crests the rays from above played, sparkling and flashing
restlessly. A web of shimmering silvery radiance covered the edges of
every island, and suddenly the brilliant full moon was reflected in
argent lustre like a magnificent quivering column upon the surface of the
water, now rippled by the evening breeze.

The time during which Ledscha could repeat "When the moon is over Pelican
Island" was past; already its course had led it beyond.

The island lay behind it, and it continued its pilgrimage before the
young girl's eyes.

The glittering column of light upon the water proved that she was not
mistaken; the time which she had appointed for Hermon had already
expired.

The moon in calm majesty sailed farther and farther onward in its course,
and with it minute after minute elapsed, until they became a half hour,
then a whole one.

"How long is it since the moon was over Pelican Island?" was the question
which now pressed itself upon her again and again, and to which she found
an answer at every glance upward, for she had learned to estimate time by
the position of the stars.

Rarely was the silence of the night interrupted by the call of a human
being or the barking of a dog from the city, or even the hooting of an
owl at a still greater distance; but the farther the moon moved on above
her the fiercer grew the uproar in Ledscha's proud, cruelly wronged soul.
She felt offended, scorned, insulted, and at the same time defrauded of
the happiness which this night of the full moon contained for her. Or had
the demons who promised happiness meant something else in their
prediction than Hermon's love? Was she to owe the bliss they had foretold
to hate and pitiless retribution?

When the midnight hour had nearly arrived she prepared to depart, but
after she had already set her foot on the edge of the boat she returned
to the grassy seat. She would wait a little longer yet. Then there would
be nothing which could give Hermon a right to consideration; then she
might let loose upon him the avenging powers at her command.

Ledscha again gazed over the calm landscape, but in the wild tumult of
her heart she no longer distinguished the details upon which her eyes
rested. Doubtless she saw the light mists hovering like ghosts, or the
restless shades of the unburied dead, over the shining expanse before
her, and the filmy vapours that veiled the brightness of the stars, but
she had ceased to question the heavenly bodies about the time.

What did she care for the progress of the hours, since the constellation
of Charles's Wain showed her that it was past midnight?

The moon no longer stood forth in sharp outlines against the deep azure
of the vaulted sky, but, robbed of its radiance, floated in a circle of
dimly illumined mists.

Not only the feelings which stirred Ledscha's soul, but the scene around
her, had gained a totally different aspect.

Since every hope of the happiness awaiting her was destroyed, she no
longer sought to palliate the wrongs Hermon had inflicted upon her. While
dwelling on them, she by no means forgot the trivial purpose for which
the artist intended to use her charms; and when she again gazed up at the
slightly-clouded sky, the shrouded moon no longer reminded her of the
silver orb between the horns of Astarte.

She did not ask herself how the transformation had occurred, but in its
place, high above her head, hung a huge gray spider. Its gigantic limbs
extended over the whole firmament, and seemed striving to clutch and
stifle the world beneath. The enormous monster was weaving its gray net
over Tennis, and all the islands in the water, the Pelican Island, and
she herself upon the seat of turf, and held them all prisoned in it.

It was a horrible vision, fraught with terrors which, even when she shut
her eyes in order to escape it, showed very little change.

Assailed by anxious fears, Ledscha started up, and a few seconds later
was urging her boat with steady strokes toward the Owl's Nest.

Even now lights were still shining from the Alexandrian's tent through
the sultry, veiled night.

There seemed to be no waking life on the pirates' island. Even old Tabus
had probably put out the fire and gone to sleep, for deathlike silence
and deep darkness surrounded it.

Had Hanno, who agreed to meet her here after midnight, also failed to
come? Had the pirate learned, like the Greek, to break his promise?

Only half conscious what she was doing, she left the boat; but her
slender foot had scarcely touched the land when a tall figure emerged
from the thicket near the shore and approached her through the darkness.

"Hanno!" she exclaimed, as if relieved from a burden, and the young
pirate repeated "Hanno" as if the name was the watchword of the night.

Her own name, uttered in a tone of intense yearning, followed. Not
another syllable accompanied it, but the expression with which it fell
upon her ear revealed so plainly what the young pirate felt for and
expected from her that, in spite of the darkness which concealed her, she
felt her face flush.

Then he tried to clasp her hand, and she dared not withdraw it from the
man whom she had chosen for her tool. So she unresistingly permitted him
to hold her right hand while he whispered his desire to take the place of
the fallen Abus and make her his wife.

Ledscha, in hurried, embarrassed tones, answered that she appreciated the
honour of his suit, but before she gave full consent she must discuss an
important matter with him.

Then Hanno begged her to go out on the water.

His father and his brother Labaja were sitting in the house by the fire
with his grandmother. They had learned, in following the trade of piracy,
to hide the glimmer of lights. The old people had approved his choice,
but the conversation in the dwelling would soon be over, and then the
opportunity of seeing each other alone would be at an end.

Without uttering a word in reply, Ledscha stepped back into the boat, but
Hanno plied the oars with the utmost caution and guided the skiff without
the slightest sound away from the island to an open part of the water far
distant from any shore.

Here he took in the oars and asked her to speak. They had no cause to
fear being overheard, for the surrounding mists merely subdued the light
of the full moon, and no other boat could have approached them
unobserved.

The few night birds, sweeping swiftly on their strong pinions from one
island to another, flew past them like flitting shadows. One hawk only,
in search of nocturnal booty, circled around the motionless skiff, and
sometimes, with expanded wings, swooped down close to the couple who were
talking together so eagerly; but both spoke so low that it would have
been impossible, even for the bird's keen hearing, to follow the course
of their consultation. Merely a few louder words and exclamations reached
the height where it hovered.

The young pirate himself was obliged to listen with the most strained
attention while Ledscha, in low whispers, accused the Greek sculptor of
having basely wronged and deceived her; but the curse with which Hanno
received this acknowledgment reached even the bird circling around the
boat, and it seemed as if it wished to express its approval to the
corsair, for this time its fierce croak, as it suddenly swooped down to
the surface of the water behind the boat, sounded shrilly through the
silent night. But it soon soared again, and now Ledscha's declaration
that she would become Hanno's bride only on condition that he would aid
her to punish the Hellenic traitor also reached him.

Then came the words "valuable booty," "slight risk," "thanks and reward."

The girl's whispered allusion to two colossal statues made of pure gold
and genuine ivory was followed by a laugh of disagreeable meaning from
the pirate.

At last he raised his deep voice to ask whether Ledscha, if the venture
in which he would willingly risk his life were successful, would
accompany him on board the Hydra, the good ship whose command his father
intrusted to him. The firm "Yes" with which she answered, and her
indignant exclamation as she repulsed Hanno's premature attempt at
tenderness, might have been heard by the hawk even at a greater distance.

Then the pirate's promised bride lowered her voice again, and did not
raise her tones until she saw in imagination the fulfilment of the
judgment which she was calling down upon the man who had torn her heart
with such pitiless cruelty.

Was this the happiness predicted for her on the night of the full moon?
It might be, and, radiant with secret joy, her eyes sparkling and her
bosom heaving as if her foot was already on the breast of the fallen foe,
she assured Hanno that the gold and the ivory should belong to him, and
to him alone; but not until he had delivered the base traitor to her
alive, and left his punishment in her hands, would she be ready to go
with him wherever he wished--not until then, and not one moment earlier.

The pirate, with a proud "I'll capture him!" consented to this condition;
but Ledscha, in hurried words, now described how she had planned the
attack, while the corsair, at her bidding, plied the oars so as to bring
the boat nearer to the scene of the assault.

The vulture followed the skiff; but when it stopped opposite to the large
white building, one side of which was washed by the waves, Ledscha
pointed to the windows of Hermon's studio, exclaiming hoarsely to the
young pirate: "You will seize him there--the Greek with the long, soft
black beard, and the slender figure, I mean. Then you will bind and gag
him, but, you hear, without killing him, for I can only inflict what he
deserves upon the living man. I am not bargaining for a dead one."

Just at that instant the bird of prey, with a shrill, greedy cry, as if
it were invited to a delicious banquet, flew far away into the distance
and did not return. It flew toward the left; the girl noticed it, and her
heavy black eyebrows, which already met, contracted still more. The
direction taken by the bird, which soon vanished in the darkness of the
night, indicated approaching misfortune; but she was here only to sow
destruction, and the more terrible growth it attained the better!

With an acuteness which aroused the admiration of the young corsair, who
was trained to similar plots, she explained hers.

That they must wait until after the departure of the Alexandrian with her
numerous train, and for the first dark night, was a matter of course.

One signal was to notify Hanno to hold himself in readiness, another to
inform him that every one in the white house had gone to rest, and that
Hermon was there too. The pirates were to enter the black-bearded Greek's
studio. While some were shattering his statues to carry away in sacks the
gold and ivory which they contained, others were to force their way into
Myrtilus's workroom, which was on the opposite side of the house. There
they would find the second statue; but this they must spare, because, on
account of the great fame of its creator, it was more valuable than the
other. The fair-haired artist was ill, and it would be no difficult
matter to take him alive, even if he should put himself on the defensive.
Hermon, on the contrary, was a strong fellow, and to bind him without
injuring him severely would require both strength and skill. Yet it must
be done, for only in case Hanno succeeded in delivering both sculptors to
her alive would she consider herself--she could not repeat it often
enough--bound to fulfil what she had promised him.

With the exception of the two artists, only Myrtilus's servant, the old
doorkeeper, and Bias, Hermon's slave, remained during the night in the
house which was to be attacked, and Hanno would undertake the assault
with twenty-five sturdy fellows whom he commanded on the Hydra if his
brother Labaja consented to share in the assault, this force could be
considerably increased.

To take the old corsair into their confidence now would not be advisable,
for, on account of his mother's near presence, he would scarcely consent
to enter into the peril. Should the venture fail, everything would be
over; but if it succeeded, the old man could only praise the courage and
skill with which it had been executed.

Nothing was to be feared from the coast guard, for since Abus's death the
authorities believed that piracy had vanished from these waters, and the
ships commanded by Satabus and his sons had been admitted from Pontus
into the Tanite arm of the Nile as trading vessels.



CHAPTER XI.

While Hanno was discussing these considerations, he rowed the boat past
the landing place from which the "garden" with the Alexandrian's tent
could be seen.

The third hour after midnight had begun. Smoking flames were still rising
from the pitch pans and blazing torches, and long rows of lanterns also
illumined the broad space.

It was as light as day in the vicinity of the tent, and Biamite huntsmen
and traders were moving to and fro among the slaves and attendants as
though it was market time.

"Your father, too," Hanno remarked in his awkward fashion, "will scarcely
make life hard for us. We shall probably find him in Pontus. He is
getting a cargo of wood for Egypt there. We have had dealings with him a
long time. He thought highly of Abus, and I, too, have already been
useful to him. There were handsome young fellows on the Pontine coast,
and we captured them. At the peril of our lives we took them to the mart.
He may even risk it in Alexandria. So the old man makes over to him a
large number of these youths, and often a girl into the bargain, and he
does it far too cheaply. One might envy him the profit--if it were not
your father! When you are once my wife, I'll make a special contract with
him about the slaves. And, besides, since the last great capture, in
which the old man allowed me a share of my own, I, too, need not complain
of poverty. I shall be ready for the dowry. Do you want to know what you
are worth to me?"

But Ledscha's attention was attracted by other things, and even after
Hanno, with proud conceit, repeated his momentous question, he waited in
vain for a reply.

Then he perceived that the girl was gazing at the brilliantly lighted
square as if spellbound, and now he himself saw before the tent a shed
with a canopied roof, and beneath it cushioned couches, on which several
Greeks--men and women--were half sitting, half lying, watching with eager
attention the spectacle which a slender young Hellenic woman was
presenting to them.

The tall man with the magnificent black beard, who seemed fairly
devouring her with his eyes, must be the sculptor whom Ledscha commanded
him to capture.

To the rude pirate the Greek girl, who in a light, half-transparent
bombyx robe, was exhibiting herself to the eyes of the men upon a
pedestal draped with cloths, seemed bold and shameless.

Behind her stood two female attendants, holding soft white garments
ready, and a handsome Pontine boy with black, waving locks, who gazed up
at her waiting for her signs.

"Nearer," Ledscha ordered the pirate in a stifled voice, and he rowed the
boat noiselessly under the shadow of a willow on the bank. But the skiff
had scarcely been brought to a stop there when an elderly matron, who
shared the couch of an old Macedonian man of a distinguished, soldierly
appearance, called the name "Niobe."

The Hellene on the pedestal took a cloth from the hand of one of the
female attendants, and beckoned to the boy, who obediently drew through
his girdle the short blue chiton which hung only to his knees, and sprang
upon the platform.

There the Greek girl manipulated in some way the red tresses piled high
upon her head, and confined above the brow by a costly gold diadem, flung
the white linen fabric which the young slave handed to her over her head,
wound her arm around the shoulders of the raven-locked boy, and drew him
toward her with passionate tenderness. At the same time she raised the
end of the linen drapery with her left hand, spreading it over him like a
protecting canopy.

The mobile features which had just smiled so radiantly expressed mortal
terror, and the pirate, to whom even the name "Niobe" was unfamiliar,
looked around him for the terrible danger threatening the innocent child,
from which the woman on the pedestal was protecting it with loving
devotion.

The mortal terror of a mother robbed by a higher power of her child could
scarcely be more vividly depicted, and yet haughty defiance hovered
around her slightly pouting lips; the uplifted hands seemed not only
anxiously to defend, but also to defy an invisible foe with powerless
anger.

The pirate's eyes rested on this spectacle as if spellbound, and the man
who in Pontus had dragged hundreds of young creatures--boys and girls--on
his ship to sell them into slavery, never thinking of the tears which he
thereby caused in huts and mansions, clinched his rough hand to attack
the base wretch who was robbing the poor mother of her lovely darling.

But just as Hanno was rising to look around him for the invisible
evildoer, the loud shouts of many voices startled him. He glanced toward
the pedestal; but now, instead of the hapless mother, he found there the
bold woman whom he had previously seen, as radiant as if some great piece
of good fortune had befallen her, bowing and waving her hand to the other
Greeks, who were thanking her with loud applause.

The sorely threatened boy, bowing merrily, sprang to the ground; but
Hanno put his hand on Ledscha's arm, and in great perplexity whispered,
"What did that mean?"

"Hush!" said the girl softly, stretching her slender neck toward the
illuminated square, for the performer had remained standing upon the
pedestal, and Chrysilla, Daphne's companion, sat erect on her couch,
exclaiming, "If it is agreeable to you, beautiful Althea, show us Nike
crowning the victor."

Even the Biamite's keen ear could not catch the reply and the purport of
the rapid conversation which followed; but she guessed the point in
question when the young men who were present rose hastily, rushed toward
the pedestal, loosed the wreaths from their heads, and offered them to
the Greek girl whom Chrysilla had just called "beautiful Althea."

Four Hellenic officers in the strong military force under Philippus, the
commandant of the "Key of Egypt," as Pelusium was justly called, had
accompanied the old Macedonian general to visit his friend Archias's
daughter at Tennis; but Althea rejected their garlands with an
explanation which seemed to satisfy them.

Ledscha could not hear what she said, but when only Hermon and Myrtilus
still stood with their wreaths of flowers opposite the "beautiful
Althea," and she glanced hesitatingly from one to the other, as if she
found the choice difficult, and then drew from her finger a sparkling
ring, the Biamite detected the swift look of understanding which Hermon
exchanged with her.

The girl's heart began to throb faster, and, with the keen premonition of
a jealous soul, she recognised in Althea her rival and foe.

Now there was no doubt of it; now, as the actress, skilled in every wile,
hid the hand holding the ring, as well as the other empty one, behind her
back, she would know how to manage so that she could use the garland
which Hermon handed her.

Ledscha's foreboding was instantly fulfilled, for when Althea held out
her little tightly clinched fist to the artists and asked Myrtilus to
choose, the hand to which he pointed and she then opened was empty, and
she took from the other the ring, which she displayed with well-feigned
regret to the spectators.

Then Hermon knelt before her, and, as he offered Althea his wreath, his
dark eyes gazed so ardently into the blue ones of the red-haired
Greek-like Queen Arsinoe, she was of Thracian descent--that Ledscha was
now positively certain she knew for whose sake her lover had so basely
betrayed her.

How she hated this bold woman!

Yet she was forced to keep quiet, and pressed her lips tightly together
as Althea seized the white sheet and with marvellous celerity wound it
about her until it fell in exquisite folds like a long robe.

Surprise, curiosity, and a pleasant sense of satisfaction in seeing what
seemed to her a shameless display withdrawn from her lover's eyes,
rendered it easier for Ledscha to maintain her composure; yet she felt
the blood throbbing in her temples as Hermon remained kneeling before the
Hellene, gazing intently into her expressive face.

Was it not too narrow wholly to please the man who had known how to
praise her own beauty so passionately? Did not the outlines of Althea's
figure, which the bombyx robe only partially concealed, lack roundness
even more than her own?

And yet! As soon as Althea had transformed the sheet into a robe, and
held the wreath above him, Hermon's gaze rested on hers as though
enraptured, while from her bright blue eyes a flood of ardent admiration
poured upon the man for whom she held the victor's wreath.

This was done with the upper portion of her body bending very far
forward. The slender figure was poised on one foot; the other, covered to
the ankle with the long robe, hovered in the air. Had not the wings
which, as Nike, belonged to her been lacking, every one would have been
convinced that she was flying--that she had just descended from the
heights of Olympus to crown the kneeling victor. Not only her hand, her
gaze and her every feature awarded the prize to the man at her feet.

There was no doubt that, if Nike herself came to the earth to make the
best man happy with the noblest of crowns, the spectacle would be a
similar one.

And Hermon! No garlanded victor could look up to the gracious divinity
more joyously, more completely enthralled by grateful rapture.

The applause which now rang out more and more loudly was certainly not
undeserved, but it pierced Ledscha's soul like a mockery, like the
bitterest scorn.

Hanno, on the contrary, seemed to consider the scene scarcely worth
looking at. Something more powerful was required to stir him. He was
particularly averse to all exhibitions. The utmost which his relatives
could induce the quiet, reserved man to do when they ventured into the
great seaports was to attend the animal fights and the games of the
athletes. He felt thoroughly happy only when at sea, on board of his good
ship. His best pleasure was to gaze up at the stars on calm nights, guide
the helm, and meanwhile dream--of late most gladly of making the
beautiful girl who had seemed to him worthy of his brave brother Abus,
his own wife.

In the secluded monotony of his life as a scar over memory had exalted
Ledscha into the most desirable of all women, and the slaughtered Abus
into the greatest of heroes.

To win the love of this much-praised maiden seemed to Hanno peerless
happiness, and the young corsair felt that he was worthy of it; for on
the high seas, when a superior foe was to be opposed by force and
stratagem, when a ship was to be boarded and death spread over her deck,
he had proved himself a man of unflinching courage.

His suit had progressed more easily than he expected. His father would
rejoice, and his heart exulted at the thought of encountering a serious
peril for the girl he loved. His whole existence was a venture of life,
and, had he had ten to lose, they would not have been too dear a price to
him to win Ledscha.

While Althea, as the goddess of Victory, held the wreath aloft, and loud
applause hailed her, Hanno was thinking of the treasures which he had
garnered since his father had allowed him a share of the booty, and of
the future.

When he had accumulated ten talents of gold he would give up piracy, like
Abus, and carry on his own ships wood and slaves from Pontus to Egypt,
and textiles from Tennis, arms and other manufactured articles from
Alexandria to the Pontine cities. In this way Ledscha's father had become
a rich man, and he would also, not for his own sake--he needed
little--but to make life sweet for his wife, surround her with splendour
and luxury, and adorn her beautiful person with costly jewels. Many a
stolen ornament was already lying in the safe hiding place that even his
brother Labaja did not know.

At last the shouts died away, and as the stopping of the clattering wheel
wakes the miller, so the stillness on the shore roused Hanno from his
dream.

What was it that Ledscha saw there so fascinating that she did not even
hear his low call? His father and Labaja had undoubtedly left his
grandmother's house long ago, and were looking for him in vain.

Yes, he was right; the old pirate's shrill whistle reached his ear from
the Owl's Nest, and he was accustomed to obedience.

So, lightly touching Ledscha on the shoulder, he whispered that he must
return to the island at once. His father would be rejoiced if she went
with him.

"To-morrow," she answered in a tone of resolute denial. Then, reminding
him once more of the meaning of the signals she had promised to give, she
waved her hand to him, sprang swiftly past him to the prow of the boat,
caught an overhanging bough of the willow on the shore, and, as she had
learned during the games of her childhood, swung herself as lightly as a
bird into the thicket at the water's edge, which concealed her from every
eye.



CHAPTER XII.

Without even vouchsafing Hanno another glance, Ledscha glided forward in
the shadow of the bushes to the great sycamore, whose thick, broad top on
the side toward the tents was striped with light from the flood of
radiance streaming from them. On the opposite side the leafage vanished
in the darkness of the night, but Myrtilus had had a bench placed there,
that he might rest in the shade, and from this spot the girl could obtain
the best view of what she desired to see.

How gay and animated it was under the awning!

A throng of companions had arrived with the Pelusinians, and some also
had probably been on the ship which--she knew it from Bias--had come to
Tennis directly from Alexandria that afternoon. The galley was said to
belong to Philotas, an aristocratic relative of King Ptolemy. If she was
not mistaken, he was the stately young Greek who was just picking up the
ostrich-feather fan that had slipped from Daphne's lap.

The performance was over.

Young slaves in gay garments, and nimble female servants with glittering
gold circlets round their upper arms and on their ankles, were passing
from couch to couch, and from one guest to another, offering
refreshments. Hermon had risen from his knees, and the wreath of bright
flowers again adorned his black curls. He held himself as proudly erect
as if the goddess of Victory herself had crowned him, while Althea was
reaping applause and thanks. Ledscha gazed past her and the others to
watch every movement of the sculptor.

It was scarcely the daughter of Archias who had detained Hermon, for he
made only a brief answer--Ledscha could not hear what it was--when she
accosted him pleasantly, to devote himself to Althea, and--this could be
perceived even at a distance--thank her with ardent devotion.

And now--now he even raised the hem of her peplos to his lips.

A scornful smile hovered around Ledscha's mouth; but Daphne's guests also
noticed this mark of homage--an unusual one in their circle--and young
Philotas, who had followed Daphne from Alexandria, cast a significant
glance at a man with a smooth, thin, birdlike face, whose hair was
already turning gray. His name was Proclus, and, as grammateus of the
Dionysian games and high priest of Apollo, he was one of the most
influential men in Alexandria, especially as he was one of the favoured
courtiers of Queen Arsinoe.

He had gone by her command to the Syrian court, had enjoyed on his
return, at Pelusium, with his travelling companion Althea, the
hospitality of Philippus, and accompanied the venerable officer to Tennis
in order to win him over to certain plans. In spite of his advanced age,
he still strove to gain the favour of fair women, and the sculptor's
excessive ardour had displeased him.

So he let his somewhat mocking glance wander from Althea to Hermon, and
called to the latter: "My congratulations, young master; but I need
scarcely remind you that Nike suffers no one--not even goodness and grace
personified--to take from her hand what it is her sole duty to bestow."

While speaking he adjusted the laurel on his own thin hair; but Thyone,
the wife of Philippus, answered eagerly: "If I were a young man like
Hermon, instead of an old woman, noble Proclus, I think the wreath which
Beauty bestows would render me scarcely less happy than stern Nike's
crown of victory."

While making this pleasant reply the matron's wrinkled face wore an
expression of such cordial kindness, and her deep voice was so winning in
its melody, that Hermon forced himself to heed the glance of urgent
warning Daphne cast at him, and leave the sharp retort that hovered on
his lips unuttered. Turning half to the grammateus, half to the matron,
he merely said, in a cold, self-conscious tone, that Thyone was right. In
this gay circle, the wreath of bright flowers proffered by the hands of a
beautiful woman was the dearest of all gifts, and he would know how to
value it.

"Until other more precious ones cast it into oblivion," observed Althea.
"Let me see, Hermon: ivy and roses. The former is lasting, but the
roses--" She shook her finger in roguish menace at the sculptor as she
spoke.

"The roses," Proclus broke in again, "are of course the most welcome to
our young friend from such a hand; yet these flowers of the goddess of
Beauty have little in common with his art, which is hostile to beauty.
Still, I do not know what wreath will be offered to the new tendency with
which he surprised us."

At this Hermon raised his head higher, and answered sharply: "Doubtless
there must have been few of them, since you, who are so often among the
judges, do not know them. At any rate, those which justice bestows have
hitherto been lacking."

"I should deplore that," replied Proclus, stroking his sharp chin with
his thumb and forefinger; "but I fear that our beautiful Nike also cared
little for this lofty virtue of the judge in the last coronation.
However, her immortal model lacks it often enough."

"Because she is a woman," said one of the young officers, laughing; and
another added gaily: "That very thing may be acceptable to us soldiers.
For my part, I think everything about the goddess of Victory is beautiful
and just, that she may remain graciously disposed toward us. Nay, I
accuse the noble Althea of withholding from Nike, in her personation, her
special ornament--her swift, powerful wings."

"She gave those to Eros, to speed his flight," laughed Proclus, casting a
meaning look at Althea and Hermon.

No one failed to notice that this jest alluded to the love which seemed
to have been awakened in the sculptor as quickly as in the personator of
the goddess of Victory, and, while it excited the merriment of the
others, the blood mounted into Hermon's cheeks; but Myrtilus perceived
what was passing in the mind of his irritable friend, and, as the
grammateus praised Nike because in this coronation she had omitted the
laurel, the fair-haired Greek interrupted him with the exclamation:

"Quite right, noble Proclus, the grave laurel does not suit our gay
pastime; but roses belong to the artist everywhere, and are always
welcome to him. The more, the better!"

"Then we will wait till the laurel is distributed in some other place,"
replied the grammateus; and Myrtilus quickly added, "I will answer for it
that Hermon does not leave it empty-handed."

"No one will greet the work which brings your friend the wreath of
victory with warmer joy," Proclus protested. "But, if I am correctly
informed, yonder house hides completed treasures whose inspection would
give the fitting consecration to this happy meeting. Do you know what an
exquisite effect gold and ivory statues produce in a full glow of
lamplight? I first learned it a short time ago at the court of King
Antiochus. There is no lack of lights here. What do you say, gentlemen?
Will you not have the studios lighted till the rooms are as bright as
day, and add a noble enjoyment of art to the pleasures of this wonderful
night?"

But Hermon and Myrtilus opposed this proposal with equal decision.

Their refusal awakened keen regret, and the old commandant of Pelusium
would not willingly yield to it.

Angrily shaking his large head, around which, in spite of his advanced
age, thick snowwhite locks floated like a lion's mane, he exclaimed,
"Must we then really return to our Pelusium, where Ares restricts the
native rights of the Muses, without having admired the noble works which
arose in such mysterious secrecy here, where Arachne rules and swings the
weaver's shuttle?"

"But my two cruel cousins have closed their doors even upon me, who came
here for the sake of their works," Daphne interrupted, "and, as rather
Zeus is threatening a storm--just see what black clouds are rising!--we
ought not to urge our artists further; a solemn oath forbids them to show
their creations now to any one."

This earnest assurance silenced the curious, and, while the conversation
took another turn, the gray-haired general's wife drew Myrtilus aside.

Hermon's parents had been intimate friends of her own, as well as of her
husband's, and with the interest of sincere affection she desired to know
whether the young sculptor could really hope for the success of which
Myrtilus had just spoken.

It was years since she had visited Alexandria, but what she heard of
Hermon's artistic work from many guests, and now again through Proclus,
filled her with anxiety.

He had succeeded, it was said, in attracting attention, and his great
talent was beyond question; but in this age, to which beauty was as much
one of the necessities of life as bread and wine, and which could not
separate it from art, he ventured to deny it recognition. He headed a
current in art which was striving to destroy what had been proved and
acknowledged, yet, though his creations were undeniably powerful, and
even showed many other admirable qualities, instead of pleasing,
satisfying, and ennobling, they repelled.

These opinions had troubled the matron, who understood men, and was the
more disposed to credit them the more distinctly she perceived traces of
discontent and instability in Hermon's manner during the present meeting.

So it afforded her special pleasure to learn from Myrtilus his firm
conviction that, in Arachne, Hermon would produce a masterpiece which
could scarcely be excelled.

During this conversation Althea had come to Thyone's side, and, as Hermon
had already spoken to her of the Arachne, she eagerly expressed her
belief that this work seemed as if it were specially created for him.

The Greek matron leaned back comfortably upon her cushions, her wrinkled,
owl-like face assumed a cheerful expression, and, with the easy
confidence conferred by aristocratic birth, a distinguished social
position, and a light heart, she exclaimed: "Lucifer is probably already
behind yonder clouds, preparing to announce day, and this exquisite
banquet ought to have a close worthy of it. What do you say, you
wonder-working darling of the Muses"--she held out her hand to Althea as
she spoke--"to showing us and the two competing artists yonder the model
of the Arachne they are to represent in gold and ivory?"

Althea fixed her eyes upon the ground, and, after a short period of
reflection, answered hesitatingly: "The task which you set before me is
certainly no easy one, but I shall rely upon your indulgence."

"She will!" cried the matron to the others.

Then, clapping her hands, she continued gaily, in the tone of the
director of an entertainment issuing invitations to a performance: "Your
attention is requested! In this city of weavers the noble Thracian,
Althea, will depict before you all the weaver of weavers, Arachne, in
person."

"Take heed and follow my advice to sharpen your eyes," added Philotas,
who, conscious of his inferiority in intellect and talents to the men and
women assembled here, took advantage of this opportunity to assert
himself in a manner suited to his aristocratic birth. "This artistic yet
hapless Arachne, if any one, teaches the lesson how the lofty Olympians
punish those who venture to place themselves on the same level; so let
artists beware. We stepchildren of the Muse can lull ourselves
comfortably in the assurance of not giving the jealous gods the slightest
cause for the doom which overtook the pitiable weaver."

Not a word of this declaration of the Macedonian aristocrat escaped the
listening Ledscha. Scales seemed to fall from her eyes. Hermon had won
her love in order to use her for the model of his statue of Arachne, and,
now that he had met Althea, who perhaps suited his purpose even better,
he no longer needed the barbarian. He had cast her aside like a tight
shoe as soon as he found a more acceptable one in this female juggler.

The girl had already asked herself, with a slight thrill of horror,
whether she had not prematurely called down so terrible a punishment upon
her lover; now she rejoiced in her swift action. If anything else
remained for her to do, it was to make the vengeance with which she
intended to requite him still more severe.

There he stood beside the woman she hated. Could he bestow even one poor
thought upon the Biamite girl and the wrong he had inflicted?

Oh, no! His heart was filled to overflowing by the Greek--every look
revealed it.

What was the shameless creature probably whispering to him now?

Perhaps a meeting was just being granted. The rapture which had been
predicted to her for this moonlight night, and of which Hermon had robbed
her, was mirrored in his features. He could think of everything except
her and her poor, crushed heart.

But Ledscha was mistaken. Althea had asked the sculptor whether he still
regretted having been detained by her before midnight, and he had
confessed that his remaining at the banquet had been connected with a
great sacrifice--nay, with an offence which weighed heavily on his mind.
Yet he was grateful to the favour of the gods that had guided his
decision, for Althea had it in her power to compensate him richly for
what he had lost.

A glance full of promise flashed upon him from her eloquent eyes, and,
turning toward the pedestal at the same instant, she asked softly, "Is
the compensation I must and will bestow connected with the Arachne?"

An eager "Yes" confirmed this question, and a swift movement of her
expressive lips showed him that his boldest anticipations were to be
surpassed.

How gladly he would have detained her longer!--but she was already the
object of all eyes, and his, too, followed her in expectant suspense as
she gave an order to the female attendant and then stood thoughtfully for
some time before the platform.

When she at last ascended it, the spectators supposed that she would
again use a cloth; but, instead of asking anything more from the
assistants, she cast aside even the peplos that covered her shoulders.

Now, almost lean in her slenderness, she stood with downcast eyes; but
suddenly she loosed the double chain, adorned with flashing gems, from
her neck, the circlets from her upper arms and wrists, and, lastly, even
the diadem, a gift bestowed by her relative, Queen Arsinoe, from her
narrow brow.

The female slaves received them, and then with swift movements Althea
divided her thick long tresses of red hair into narrower strands, which
she flung over her back, bosom, and shoulders.

Next, as if delirious, she threw her head so far on one side that it
almost touched her left shoulder, and stared wildly upward toward the
right, at the same time raising her bare arms so high that they extended
far above her head.

It was again her purpose to present the appearance of defending herself
against a viewless power, yet she was wholly unlike the Niobe whom she
had formerly personated, for not only anguish, horror, and defiance, but
deep despair and inexpressible astonishment were portrayed by her
features, which obediently expressed the slightest emotion.

Something unprecedented, incomprehensible even to herself, was occurring,
and to Ledscha, who watched her with an expectation as passionate as if
her own weal and woe depended upon Althea's every movement, it seemed as
if an unintelligible marvel was happening before her eyes, and a still
greater one was impending; for was the woman up there really a woman like
herself and the others whose eyes were now fixed upon the hated actress
no less intently than her own?

Did her keen senses deceive her, or was not what was occurring actually a
mysterious transformation?

As Althea stood there, her delicate arms seemed to have lengthened and
lost even their slight roundness, her figure to have become even more
slender and incorporeal, and how strangely her thin fingers spread apart!
How stiffly the strands of the parted, wholly uncurled locks stood out in
the air!

Did it not seem as if they were to help her move?

The black shadow which Althea's figure and limbs cast upon the surface of
the brightly lighted pedestal-no, it was no deception, it not only
resembled the spinner among insects, it presented the exact picture of a
spider.

The Greek's slender body had contracted, her delicate arms and narrow
braids of hair changed into spider legs, and the many-jointed hands were
already grasping for their prey like a spider, or preparing to wind the
murderous threads around another living creature.

"Arachne, the spider!" fell almost inaudibly from her quivering lips,
and, overpowered by torturing fear, she was already turning away from the
frightful image, when the storm of applause which burst from the
Alexandrian guests soothed her excited imagination.

Instead of the spider, a slender, lank woman, with long, outstretched
bare arms, and fingers spread wide apart, fluttering hair, and wandering
eyes again stood before Ledscha.

But no peace was yet granted to her throbbing heart, for while Althea,
with perspiring brow and quivering lips, descended from the pedestal, and
was received with loud demonstrations of astonishment and delight, the
glare of a flash of lightning burst through the clouds, and a loud peal
of thunder shook the night air and reverberated a long time over the
water.

At the same instant a loud cry rang from beneath the canopy.

Thyone, the wife of Alexander the Great's comrade, though absolutely
fearless in the presence of human foes, dreaded the thunder by which Zeus
announced his anger. Seized with sudden terror, she commanded a slave to
obtain a black lamb for a sacrifice, and earnestly entreated her husband
and her other companions to go on board the ship with her and seek
shelter in its safe, rain-proof cabin, for already heavy drops were
beginning to fall upon the tensely drawn awning.

"Nemesis!" exclaimed the grammateus.

"Nemesis!" whispered young Philotas to Daphne in a confidential murmur,
throwing his own costly purple cloak around her to shield her from the
rain. "Nowhere that we mortals overstep the bounds allotted to us do we
await her in vain."

Then bending down to her again, he added, by way of explanation: "The
winged daughter of Night would prove herself negligent if she allowed me
to enjoy wholly without drawback the overwhelming happiness of being with
you once more."

"Nemesis!" remarked Thoas, an aristocratic young hipparch of the guards
of the Diadochi, who had studied in Athens and belonged to the
Peripatetics there. "The master sees in the figure of this goddess the
indignation which the good fortune of the base or the unworthy use of
good fortune inspires in us. She keeps the happy mean between envy and
malicious satisfaction." The young soldier looked around him, expecting
applause, but no one was listening; the tempest was spreading terror
among most of the freedmen and slaves.

Philotas and Myrtilus were following Daphne and her companion Chrysilla
as they hurried into the tent. The deep, commanding tones of old
Philippus vainly shouted the name of Althea, whom, as he had bestowed his
hospitality upon her in Pelusium, he regarded as his charge, while at
intervals he reprimanded the black slaves who were to carry his wife to
the ship, but at another heavy peal of thunder set down the litter to
throw themselves on their knees and beseech the angry god for mercy.

Gras, the steward whom Archias had given to his daughter, a Bithynian who
had attached himself to one school of philosophy after an other, and
thereby ceased to believe in the power of the Olympians, lost his quiet
composure in this confusion, and even his usual good nature deserted him.
With harsh words, and no less harsh blows, he rushed upon the servants,
who, instead of carrying the costly household utensils and embroidered
cushions into the tent, drew out their amulets and idols to confide their
own imperilled lives to the protection of higher powers.

Meanwhile the gusts of wind which accompanied the outbreak of the storm
extinguished the lamps and pitch-pans. The awning was torn from the
posts, and amid the wild confusion rang the commandant of Pelusium's
shouts for Althea and the screams of two Egyptian slave women, who, with
their foreheads pressed to the ground, were praying, while the angry Gras
was trying, by kicks and blows, to compel them to rise and go to work.

The officers were holding a whispered consultation whether they should
accept the invitation of Proclus and spend the short remnant of the night
on his galley over the wine, or first, according to the counsel of their
pious commandant, wait in the neighbouring temple of Zeus until the storm
was over.

The tempest had completely scattered Daphne's guests. Even Ledscha
glanced very rarely toward the tents. She had thrown her self on the
ground under the sycamore to beseech the angry deity for mercy, but,
deeply as fear moved her agitated soul, she could not pray, but listened
anxiously whenever an unexpected noise came from the meeting place of the
Greeks.

Then the tones of a familiar voice reached her. It was Hermon's, and the
person to whom he was speaking could be no one but the uncanny
spider-woman, Althea.

They were coming to have a secret conversation under the shade of the
dense foliage of the sycamore. That was easily perceived, and in an
instant Ledscha's fear yielded to a different feeling.

Holding her breath, she nestled close to the trunk of the ancient tree to
listen, and the first word she heard was the name "Nemesis," which had
just reached her from the tent.

She knew its meaning, for Tennis also had a little temple dedicated to
the terrible goddess, which was visited by the Egyptians and Biamites as
well as the Greeks.

A triumphant smile flitted over her unveiled features, for there was no
other divinity on whose aid she could more confidently rely. She could
unchain the vengeance which threatened Hermon with a far more terrible
danger than the thunder clouds above, under the protection--nay, as it
were at the behest of Nemesis.

To-morrow she would be the first to anoint her altar.

Now she rejoiced that her wealthy father imposed no restriction upon her
in the management of household affairs, for she need spare no expense in
choosing the animal she intended to offer as a sacrifice.

This reflection flashed through her mind with the speed of lightning
while she was listening to Althea's conversation with the sculptor.

"The question here can be no clever play upon the name and the nature of
the daughter of Erebus and Night," said the Thracian gravely. "I will
remind you that there is another Nemesis besides the just being who
drives from his stolen ease the unworthy mortal who suns himself in good
fortune. The Nemesis whom I will recall to-day, while angry Zeus is
hurling his thunderbolts, is the other, who chastises sacrilege--Ate, the
swiftest and most terrible of the Erinyes. I will invoke her wrath upon
you in this hour if you do not confess the truth to me fully and
entirely."

"Ask," Hermon interrupted in a hollow tone. "Only, you strange woman--"

"Only," she hastily broke in, "whatever the answer may be, I must pose to
you as the model for your Arachne--and perhaps it may come to that--but
first I must know, briefly and quickly, for they will be looking for me
immediately. Do you love Daphne?"

"No," he answered positively. "True, she has been dear to me from
childhood--"

"And," Althea added, completing the sentence, "you owe her father a debt
of gratitude. But that is not new to me; I know also how little reason
you gave her for loving you. Yet her heart belongs neither to Philotas,
the great lord with the little brain, nor to the famous sculptor
Myrtilus, whose body is really too delicate to bear all the laurels with
which he is overloaded, but to you, and you alone--I know it."

Hermon tried to contradict her, but Althea, without allowing him to
speak, went on hurriedly: "No matter! I wished to know whether you loved
her. True, according to appearances, your heart does not glow for her,
and hitherto you have disdained to transform by her aid, at a single
stroke, the poverty which ill suits you into wealth. But it was not
merely to speak of the daughter of Archias that I accompanied you into
this tempest, from which I would fain escape as quickly as possible. So
speak quickly. I am to serve you in your art, and yet, if I understood
you correctly, you have already found here another excellent model."

"A native of the country," answered Hermon in an embarrassed tone.

"And for my sake you allowed her to wait for you in vain?"

"It is as you say."

"And you had promised to seek her?"

"Certainly; but before the appointed hour came I met you. You rose before
me like a new sun, shedding a new light that was full of promise.
Everything else sank into darkness, and, if you will fulfil the hope
which you awakened in this heart--"

Just at that moment another flash of lightning blazed, and, while the
thunder still shook the air, Althea continued his interrupted
protestation: "Then you will give yourself to me, body and soul--but
Zeus, who hears oaths, is reminding us of his presence--and what will
await you if the Biamite whom you betrayed invokes the wrath of Nemesis
against you?"

"The Nemesis of the barbarians!" he retorted contemptuously. "She only
placed herself at the service of my art reluctantly; but you, Althea, if
you will loan yourself to me as a model, I shall succeed in doing my very
best; for you have just permitted me to behold a miracle, Arachne
herself, whom you became, you enchantress. It was real, actual life, and
that--that is the highest goal."

"The highest?" she asked hesitatingly. "You will have to represent the
female form, and beauty, Hermon, beauty?"

"Will be there, allied with truth," flamed Hermon, "if you, you peerless,
more than beautiful creature, keep your word to me. But you will! Let me
be sure of it. Is a little love also blended with the wish to serve the
artist?"

"A little love?" she repeated scornfully.

"This matter concerns love complete and full--or none. We will see each
other again to-morrow. Then show me what the model Althea is worth to
you."

With these words she vanished in the darkness, while the call of her name
again rang from the tents.

"Althea!" he cried in a tone of mournful reproach as he perceived her
disappearance, hurrying after her; but the dense gloom soon forced him to
give up the pursuit.

Ledscha, too, left her place beneath the sycamore.

She had seen and heard enough.

Duty now commanded her to execute vengeance, and the bold Hanno was ready
to risk his life for her.



CHAPTER XIII.

The following day the sun shone radiantly, with scorching brilliancy,
upon Tennis and the archipelago, which at this season of the year
surrounded the little city of weavers.

Young Philotas, without going to rest, had set out at dawn in pursuit of
game, accompanied by a numerous hunting party, to which several of the
Pelusinian officers belonged. He, too, had brought home a great quantity
of booty, with which he had expected to awaken Daphne's admiration, and
to lay as a token of homage at her feet. He had intended to lead before
her garlanded slaves bearing, tied by ropes, bunches of slaughtered wild
fowl, but his reception was very different from what he had anticipated.

Instead of praising his exploit, he had been indignantly requested to
remove the poor, easily killed victims from her presence; and, wounded
and disappointed, he had retired to his magnificent Nile boat, where,
spent by his sleepless night, he slumbered so soundly on his soft
cushions that he did not appear at the breakfast which the gray-haired
commander of Pelusium had invited him to attend on his galley.

While the others were still feasting there, Daphne was enjoying an hour
alone with her companion Chrysilla.

She had remained absent from Philippus's banquet, and her pale cheeks
showed the ill effects produced by the excitement of the previous night.

A little before noon Hermon came to see her. He, too, had not gone to the
Pelusinian's breakfast.

After Althea had left him the evening before he went directly back to the
white house, and, instead of going to rest, devoted himself to Myrtilus;
for the difficulty of breathing, which during his industrious life in
quiet seclusion had not troubled him for several months, attacked him
with twofold violence after the gaiety of the previous night. Hermon had
not left him an instant until day brought the sufferer relief, and he no
longer needed the supporting hand of his kind nurse.

While Hermon, in his own sleeping room, ordered Bias to anoint his hair
and beard and put on festal garments, the slave told him certain things
that destroyed the last remnant of composure in his easily agitated soul.

With the firm resolution to keep the appointment on Pelican Island,
Hermon had gone at sunset, in response to the Alexandrian's invitation,
to attend her banquet, and by no means unwillingly, for his parents' old
friends were dear to him, and he knew by experience the beneficial
influence Daphne's sunny, warmhearted nature exerted upon him.

Yet this time he did not find what he expected.

In the first place, he had been obliged to witness how earnestly Philotas
was pressing his suit, and perceived that her companion Chrysilla was
most eagerly assisting him. As she saw in the young aristocrat a suitable
husband for the daughter of Archias, and it was her duty to assign the
guests their seats at the banquet, she had given the cushion beside
Daphne to Philotas, and also willingly fulfilled Althea's desire to have
Hermon for her neighbour.

When Chrysilla presented the black-bearded artist to the Thracian, she
would have sworn that Althea found an old acquaintance in the sculptor;
but Hermon treated the far-famed relative of Queen Arsinoe as coldly and
distantly as if he now saw her for the first time, and with little
pleasure.

In truth, he was glad to avoid women of Althea's stamp. For some time he
had preferred to associate with the common people, among whom he found
his best subjects, and kept far aloof from the court circles to which
Althea belonged, and which, thanks to his birth and his ability as an
artist, would easily have been accessible to him also.

The over-refined women who gave themselves airs of avoiding everything
which imposes a restraint upon Nature, and therefore, in their
transparent robes, treated with contempt all that modest Macedonian dames
deemed worthy of a genuine woman's consideration, were repulsive to
him--perhaps because they formed so rude a contrast to his noble dead
mother and to Daphne.

Although he had been very frequently in feminine society, Althea's manner
at first caused him a certain degree of embarrassment; for, in spite of
the fact that he believed he met her here for the first time, there was
something familiar about her, especially in the tone of her voice, and he
fancied that her first words were associated with some former ones.

Yet no! If he had ever met her, he would surely have remembered her
red-gold hair and the other peculiarities of a personality which was
remarkable in every respect.

It soon proved that they were total strangers, and he wished matters to
remain so.

He was glad that she attracted him so little, for at least she would
scarcely make the early departure to the Biamite, which he considered his
duty, a difficult task.

True, he admired from the first the rare milk-white line of her delicate
skin, which was wholly free from rouge--his artist eye perceived that and
the wonderfully beautiful shape of her hands and feet. The pose of the
head on the neck, too, as she turned toward him seemed remarkably fine.
This slender, pliant woman would have been an admirable model!

Again and again she reminded him of a gay Lesbian with whom he had
caroused for a night during the last Dionysia in Alexandria, yet, on
closer inspection, the two were as different as possible.

The former had been as free and reckless in her conduct as Althea was
reserved. The hair and eyebrows of the Lesbian, instead of reddish gold,
were the deepest black, and her complexion--he remembered it
perfectly--was much darker. The resemblance probably consisted merely in
the shape of the somewhat too narrow face, with its absolutely straight
nose, and a chin which was rather too small, as well as in the sound of
the high voice.

Not a serious word had reached his ears from the wanton lips of the
Lesbian, while Althea at once desired information concerning his art, and
showed that she was thoroughly familiar with the works and the
aspirations of the Alexandrian sculptors. Although aware that Hermon had
begun his career as an artist, and was the leader of a new tendency, she
pretended to belong to the old school, and thereby irritated him to
contradiction and the explanation of his efforts, which were rooted in
the demands of the present day and the life of the flourishing capital.

The Thracian listened to the description of the new art struggling to
present truth, as if these things were welcome surprises, grand
revelations, for which she had waited with eager longing. True, she
opposed every statement hostile to the old beliefs; but her extremely
expressive features soon betrayed to him that he was stirring her to
reflect, shaking her opinions, and winning her to his side.

Already, for the sake of the good cause, he devoted himself with the
utmost zeal to the task of convincing Althea; she, however, did not make
it an easy one, but presented clever arguments against his assertions.

Whenever he or she, by way of example, mentioned any well-known work of
art, she imitated, as if involuntarily, its pose and action with
surprising fidelity, frequently also in admirable caricature, whose
effect was extremely comical. What a woman!

She was familiar with whatever Grecian art had created, and the animated
conversation became a bewitching spectacle. When the grammateus Proclus,
who as Althea's travelling companion had a certain claim upon her
attention, mingled for a while in the discussion and attracted Althea's
notice, Hermon felt injured, and answered his sensible remarks with such
rudeness that the elder man, whose social position was so much higher,
angrily turned his back upon him.

Althea had imposed a certain degree of restraint upon herself while
talking to the grammateus, but during the further conversation with
Hermon she confessed that she was decidedly of his opinion, and added to
the old reasons for the deposition of beauty and ideality in favour of
truth and reality new ones which surprised the sculptor. When she at last
offered him her hand for a firm alliance, his brain was fevered, and it
seemed a great honour when she asked eagerly what would occupy him in the
immediate future.

Passionate sympathy echoed in every word, was expressed in every feature,
and she listened as if a great happiness was in store for herself when he
disclosed the hopes which he based upon the statue of Arachne.

True, as time passed he had spoken more than once of the necessity of
retiring, and before midnight really tried to depart; but he had fallen
under Althea's thrall, and, in reply to her inquiry what must shorten
these exquisite hours, had informed her, in significant words, what drew
him away, and that his delay threatened him with the loss of a model such
as the favour of fate rarely bestowed upon an artist.

Now the Thracian for the first time permitted her eyes to make frank
confessions. She also bent forward with a natural movement to examine the
artistic work on a silver vase, and as while doing so her peplos fell
over his hand, she pressed it tenderly.

He gazed ardently up at her; but she whispered softly: "Stay! You will
gain through me something better than awaits you there, and not only for
to-day and to-morrow. We shall meet again in Alexandria, and to serve
your art there shall be a beloved duty."

His power of resistance was broken; yet he beckoned to his slave Bias,
who was busied with the mixing jars, and ordered him to seek Ledscha and
tell her not to wait longer; urgent duties detained him.

While he was giving this direction, Althea had become engaged in the gay
conversation of the others, and, as Thyone called Hermon, and he was also
obliged to speak to Daphne, he could not again obtain an opportunity for
private talk with the wonderful woman who held out far grander prospects
for his art than the refractory, rude Biamite maiden.

Soon Althea's performance seemed to prove how fortunate a choice he had
made. Her Arachne appeared like a revelation to him. If she kept her
promise, and he succeeded in modelling her in the pose assumed while
imagining the process of transformation, and presented her idea to the
spectators, the great success which hitherto--because he had not yielded
to demands which were opposed to his convictions--he had vainly expected,
could no longer escape him. The Alexandrian fellow-artists who belonged
to his party would gratefully welcome this special work; for what grew
out of it would have nothing in common with the fascination of superhuman
beauty, by which the older artists ensnared the hearts and minds of the
multitude. He would create a genuine woman, who would not lack defects,
yet who, though she inspired neither gratification nor rapture, would
touch, perhaps even thrill, the heart by absolute truth.

While Althea was standing on the pedestal, she had not only represented
the transformation into the spider, but experienced it, and the features
of the spectators revealed that they believed they were witnessing the
sinister event. His aim was now to awaken the same feeling in the
beholders of his Arachne. Nothing, nothing at all must be changed in the
figure of the model, in which many might miss the roundness and plumpness
so pleasing to the eye. Althea's very defects would perfect the figure of
the restless, wretched weaver whom Athene transformed into the spider.

While devoting himself to nursing his friend, he had thought far less of
the new love-happiness which, in spite of her swift flight, was probably
awaiting him through Althea than of the work which was to fill his
existence in the immediate future.

His healthy body, steeled in the palaestra, felt no fatigue after the
sleepless night passed amid so many powerful excitements when he retired
to his chamber and committed himself to the hands of his slave.

It had not been possible to hear his report before, but when he at last
received it Hermon was to learn something extremely unpleasant, and not
only because no word of apology or even explanation of his absence had
reached Ledscha.

Bias was little to blame for this neglect, for, in the first place, he
had found no boat to reach the Pelican Island, because half Tennis was on
the road to Tanis, where, on the night of the full moon, the brilliant
festivals of the full eye of Horns and the great Astarte were celebrated
by the mixed population of this place. When a boat which belonged to
Daphne's galley was finally given to him, the Biamite girl was no longer
at the place appointed for the meeting.

Hoping to find her on the Owl's Nest with old Tabus, he then landed
there, but had been so uncivilly rebuffed on the shore by a rough fellow
that he might be glad to have escaped with sound limbs. Lastly, he stole
to Ledscha's home, and, knowing that her father was absent, had ventured
as far as the open courtyard in the centre of the stately dwelling. The
dogs knew him, and as a light was shining from one of the rooms that
opened upon the courtyard, he peeped in and saw Taus, Ledscha's younger
sister. She was kneeling before the statue of a god at the back of the
room, weeping, while the old housekeeper had fallen asleep with the
distaff in her lap.

He called cautiously to the pretty child. She was awaiting the return of
her sister, who, she supposed, was still detained on the Owl's Nest by
old Tabus's predictions; she had sorrowful tidings for her.

The husband of her friend Gula had returned on his ship and learned that
his wife had gone to the Greek's studio. He had raged like a madman, and
turned the unfortunate woman pitilessly out of doors after sunset. Her
own parents had only been induced to receive her with great difficulty.
Paseth, the jealous husband, had spared her life and refrained from going
at once to kill the artist solely because Hermon had saved his little
daughter at his own peril from the burning house.

"Now," said Ledscha's pretty little sister, "it would also be known that
she had gone with Gula to his master, who was certainly a handsome man,
but for whom, now that young Smethis was wooing her, she cared no more
than she did for her runaway cat. All Tennis would point at her, and she
dared not even think what her father would do when he came home."

These communications had increased Hermon's anxiety.

He was a brave man, and did not fear the vengeance of the enraged
husband, against whom he was conscious of no guilt except having
persuaded his wife to commit an imprudence. What troubled him was only
the consciousness that he had given her and innocent little Taus every
reason to curse their meeting.

The ardent warmth with which Gula blessed him as the preserver of her
child had given him infinite pleasure. Now it seemed as if he had been
guilty of an act of baseness by inducing her to render a service which
was by no means free from danger, as though he wished to be paid for a
good deed.

Besides, the slave had represented the possible consequences of his
imprudence in the most gloomy light, and, with the assurance of knowing
the disposition of his fellow-countrymen, urged his master to leave
Tennis at once; the other Biamite men, who would bear anything rather
than the interference of a Greek in their married lives, might force
Gula's husband to take vengeance on him.

He said nothing about anxiety concerning his own safety, but he had good
reason to fear being regarded as a go-between and called to account for
it.

But his warnings and entreaties seemed to find deaf ears in Hermon. True,
he intended to leave Tennis as soon as possible, for what advantage could
he now find here? First, however, he must attend to the packing of the
statues, and then try to appease Ledscha, and make Gula's husband
understand that he was casting off his pretty wife unjustly.

He would not think of making a hasty departure, he told the slave,
especially as he was to meet Althea, Queen Arsinoe's art-appreciating
relative, in whom he had gained a friend, later in Alexandria.

Then Bias informed him of a discovery to which one of the Thracian's
slave women had helped him, and what he carelessly told his master drove
the blood from his cheeks, and, though his voice was almost stifled by
surprise and shame, made him assail him with questions.

What great thing had he revealed? There had been reckless gaiety at every
festival of Dionysus since he had been in the artist's service, and the
slaves had indulged in the festal mirth no less freely than the masters.
To intoxicate themselves with wine, the gift of the god to whom they were
paying homage, was not only permitted, but commanded, and the juice of
the grape proved its all-equalizing power.

There had been no lack of pretty companions even for him, the bondman,
and the most beautiful of all had made eyes at his master, the tall,
slender man with the splendid black beard.

The reckless Lesbian who had favoured Hermon at the last Dionysia had
played pranks with him madly enough, but then had suddenly vanished. By
his master's orders Bias had tried to find her again, but, in spite of
honest search, in vain.

Just now he had met, as Althea's maid, the little Syrian Margula, who had
been in her company, and raced along in the procession of bacchanals in
his, Bias's, arms. True, she could not be persuaded to make a frank
confession, but he, Bias, would let his right hand wither if Hermon's
companion at the Dionysia was any other than Althea. His master would own
that he was right if he imagined her with black hair instead of red.
Plenty of people in Alexandria practised the art of dyeing, and it was
well known that Queen Arsinoe herself willingly mingled in the throng at
the Dionysia with a handsome Ephebi, who did not suspect the identity of
his companion.

This was the information which had so deeply agitated Hermon, and then
led him, after pacing to and fro a short time, to go first to Myrtilus
and then to Daphne.

He had found his friend sleeping, and though every fibre of his being
urged him to speak to him, he forced himself to leave the sufferer
undisturbed.

Yet so torturing a sense of dissatisfaction with himself, so keen a
resentment against his own adverse destiny had awaked within him, that he
could no longer endure to remain in the presence of his work, with which
he was more and more dissatisfied.

Away from the studio!

There was a gay party on board the galley of his parents' old friends.
Wine should bring him forgetfulness, too, bless him again with the sense
of joyous existence which he knew so well, and which he now seemed on the
point of losing.

When he had once talked and drunk himself into the right mood, life would
wear a less gloomy face.

No! It should once more be a gay and reckless one.

And Althea?

He would meet her, with whom he had once caroused and revelled madly
enough in the intoxication of the last Dionysia, and, instead of allowing
himself to be fooled any longer and continuing to bow respectfully before
her, would assert all the rights she had formerly so liberally granted.

He would enjoy to-day, forget to-morrow, and be gay with the gay.

Eager for new pleasure, he drew a long breath as he went out into the
open air, pressed his hands upon his broad chest, and with his eyes fixed
upon the commandant of Pelusium's galley, bedecked with flags, walked
swiftly toward the landing place.

Suddenly from the deck, shaded by an awning, the loud laugh of a woman's
shrill voice reached his ear, blended with the deeper tones of the
grammateus, whose attacks on the previous night Hermon had not forgotten.

He stopped as if the laugh had pierced him to the heart. Proclus appeared
to be on the most familiar terms with Althea, and to meet him with the
Thracian now seemed impossible. He longed for mirth and pleasure, but was
unwilling to share it with these two. As he dared not disturb Myrtilus,
there was only one place where he could find what he needed, and this
was--he had said so to himself when he turned his back on his sleeping
friend--in Daphne's society.

Only yesterday he would have sought her without a second thought, but
to-day Althea's declaration that he was the only man whom the daughter of
Archias loved stood between him and his friend.

He knew that from childhood she had watched his every step with sisterly
affection. A hundred times she had proved her loyalty; yet, dear as she
was to him, willingly as he would have risked his life to save her from a
danger, it had never entered his mind to give the tie that united them
the name of love.

An older relative of both in Alexandria had once advised him, when he was
complaining of his poverty, to seek her hand, but his pride of manhood
rebelled against having the wealth which fate denied flung into his lap
by a woman. When she looked at him with her honest eyes, he could never
have brought himself to feign anything, least of all a passion of which,
tenderly attached to her though he had been for years, hitherto he had
known nothing.

"Do you love her?" Hermon asked himself as he walked toward Daphne's
tent, and the anticipated "No" had pressed itself upon him far less
quickly than he expected.

One thing was undeniably certain: whoever won her for a wife--even though
she were the poorest of the poor--must be numbered among the most
enviable of men. And should he not recognise in his aversion to every one
of her suitors, and now to the aristocratic young Philotas, a feeling
which resembled jealousy?

No! He did not and would not love Daphne. If she were really his, and
whatever concerned him had become hers, with whom could he have sought in
hours like these soothing, kind, and sensible counsel, comfort that
calmed the heart, and the refreshing dew which his fading courage and
faltering creative power required?

The bare thought of touching clay and wax with his fingers, or taking
hammer, chisel, and file in his hands, was now repulsive; and when, just
outside of the tent, a Biamite woman who was bringing fish to the cook
reminded him of Ledscha, and that he had lost in her the right model for
his Arachne, he scarcely regretted it.



ARACHNE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 4.



CHAPTER XIV.

Outside the door of the tent Hermon was trying to banish Althea's image
from his mind. How foolishly he had overestimated last night the value of
this miserable actress, who as a woman had lost all charm for him--even
as a model for his Arachne!

He would rather have appeared before his pure friend with unsightly
stains on his robe than while mastered by yearning for the Thracian.

The first glance at Daphne's beloved face, the first words of her
greeting, taught him that he should find with her everything for which he
longed.

In simple, truthful words she reproached him for having neglected her to
the verge of incivility the evening before, but there was no trace of
bitterness or resentment in the accusation, and she gave Hermon little
time for apology, but quickly gladdened him with words of forgiveness.

In the opinion of her companion Chrysilla, Daphne ought to have kept the
capricious artist waiting much longer for pardon. True, the cautious
woman took no part in the conversation afterward, but she kept her charge
in sight while she was skilfully knotting the fringe into a cloth which
she had woven herself. On account of her favourite Philotas, it was well
for Daphne to be aware that she was watched.

Chrysilla was acquainted with life, and knew that Eros never mingles more
arbitrarily in the intercourse of a young couple than when, after a long
separation, there is anything whatever to forgive.

Besides, many words which the two exchanged escaped her hearing, for they
talked in low tones, and it was hot in the tent. Often the fatigue she
felt after the sleepless night bowed her head, still comely with its
unwrinkled face, though she was no longer young; then she quickly raised
it again.

Neither Daphne nor Hermon noticed her. The former at once perceived that
something was weighing on the sculptor's mind, but he did not need any
long inquiry. He had come to confide his troubles to her, and she kindly
lightened the task for him by asking why he had not gone to breakfast
with the Pelusinians.

"Because I am not fit for gay company today," was the reply.

"Again dissatisfied with Fate?"

"True, it has given me small cause for contentment of late."

"Put in place of Fate the far-seeing care of the gods, and you will
accept what befalls you less unkindly."

"Let us stick to us mortals, I entreat you."

"Very well, then. Your Demeter does not fully satisfy you."

A discontented shrug of the shoulders was the reply.

"Then work with twofold zeal upon the Arachne."

"Although one model I hoped to obtain forsook me, and my soul is
estranged from the other."

"Althea?" she asked eagerly, and he nodded assent.

Daphne clapped her hands joyfully, exclaiming so loudly that Chrysilla's
head sprang up with a jerk. "It could not help being so! O Hermon! how
anxious I have been! Now, I thought, when this horrible woman represented
the transformation into the spider with such repulsive accuracy, Hermon
will believe that this is the true, and therefore the right, ideal; nay,
I was deceived myself while gazing. But, eternal gods! as soon as I
imagined this Arachne in marble or chryselephantine work, what a painful
feeling overpowered me!"

"Of course!" he replied in an irritated tone. "The thirst for beauty, to
which you all succumb, would not have much satisfaction to expect from
this work."

"No, no, no!" Daphne interrupted in a louder tone than usual, and with
the earnest desire to convince him. "Precisely because I transported
myself into your tendency, your aspirations, I recognised the danger. O
Hermon! what produced so sinister an effect by the wavering light of the
lamps and torches, while the thunderstorm was rising--the strands of
hair, the outspread fingers, the bewildered, staring blue eyes--do you
not feel yourself how artificial, how unnatural it all was? This
transformation was only a clever trick of acting, nothing more. Before a
quiet spectator, in the pure, truthful light of Apollo, the foe of all
deception, what would this Arachne probably become? Even now--I have
already said so--when I imagine her executed in marble or in gold and
ivory! Beauty? Who would expect to find in the active, constantly toiling
weaver, the mortal daughter of an industrious dyer in purple, the calm,
refreshing charm of divine women? I at least am neither foolish nor
unjust enough to do so. The degree of beauty Althea possesses would
entirely satisfy me for the Arachne. But when I imagine a plastic work
faithful to the model of yesterday evening--though I have seen a great
deal with my own eyes, and am always ready to defer to riper judgment--I
would think, while looking at it: This statue came to the artist from the
stage, but never from Nature. Such would be my view, and I am not one of
the initiated. But the adepts! The King, with his thorough
connoisseurship and fine taste, my father, and the other famous judges,
how much more keenly they would perceive and define it!"

Here she hesitated, for the blood had left Hermon's cheeks, and she saw
with surprise the deep impression which the candid expression of her
opinion had produced upon the artist, usually so independent and disposed
to contradiction. Her judgment had undoubtedly disturbed, nay, perhaps
convinced him; but at the same time his features revealed such deep
depression that, far from rejoicing in so rare a success, she patted his
arm like an affectionate sister, saying: "You have not yet found time to
realize calmly what yesterday dazzled us all--and you," she added in a
lower tone, "the most strongly."

"But now," he murmured sadly, half to himself, half to, her, "my vision
is doubly clear. Close before the success of which I dreamed failure and
bitter disappointment."

"If this 'doubly' refers to your completed work, and also to the
Arachne," cried Daphne in the affectionate desire to soothe him, "a
pleasant surprise will perhaps soon await you, for Myrtilus judges your
Demeter much more favourably than you yourself do, and he also betrayed
to me whom it resembles."

She blushed slightly as she spoke, and, as her companion's gloomy face
brightened for a short time, went on eagerly: "And now for the Arachne.
You will and must succeed in what you so ardently strive to accomplish, a
subject so exactly adapted to your magnificent virile genius and so
strangely suited to the course which your art has once entered upon. And
you can not fail to secure the right model. You had not found it in
Althea, no, certainly not! O Hermon! if I could only make you see clearly
how ill suited she, in whom everything is false, is to you--your art,
your only too powerful strength, your aspiration after truth--"

"You hate her," he broke in here in a repellent tone; but Daphne dropped
her quiet composure, and her gray eyes, usually so gentle, flashed
fiercely as she exclaimed: "Yes, and again yes! From my inmost soul I do,
and I rejoice in it. I have long disliked her, but since yesterday I
abhor her like the spider which she can simulate, like snakes and toads,
falsehood and vice."

Hermon had never seen his uncle's peaceful daughter in this mood. The
emotions that rendered this kindly soul so unlike itself could only be
the one powerful couple, love and jealousy; and while gazing intently at
her face, which in this moment seemed to him as beautiful as Dallas
Athene armed for battle, he listened breathlessly as she continued:
"Already the murderous spider had half entangled you in her net. She drew
you out into the tempest--our steward Gras saw it--in order, while Zeus
was raging, to deliver you to the wrath of the other gods also and the
contempt of all good men; for whoever yields himself to her she destroys,
sucks the marrow from his bones like the greedy harpies, and all that is
noble from his soul."

"Why, Daphne," interrupted Chrysilla, raising herself from her cushions
in alarm, "must I remind you of the moderation which distinguishes the
Greeks from the barbarians, and especially the Hellenic woman--"

Here Daphne indignantly broke in: "Whoever practises moderation in the
conflict against vice has already gone halfway over to evil. She utterly
ruined--how long ago is it?--the unfortunate Menander, my poor Ismene's
young husband. You know them both, Hermon. Here, of course, you scarcely
heard how she lured him from his wife and the lovely little girl who
bears my name. She tempted the poor fellow to her ship, only to cast him
off at the end of a month for another. Now he is at home again, but he
thinks Ismene is the statue from the Temple of Isis, which has gained
life and speech; for he has lost his mind, and when I saw him I felt as
if I should die of horror and pity. Now she is coming home with Proclus,
and, as the way led through Pelusium, she attached herself to our friends
and forces herself in here with them. What does she care about her
elderly travelling companion? But you--yes, you, Hermon--are the next
person whom she means to capture. Just now, when my eyes closed But no!
It is not only in my dreams; the hideous gray threads which proceed from
this greedy spider are continually floating before me and dim the light."
Here she paused, for the maid Stephanion announced the coming of
visitors, and at the same time loud voices were heard outside, and the
merry party who had been attending the breakfast given by the commandant
of Pelusium entered the tent.

Althea was among the guests, but she took little notice of Hermon.

Proclus, her associate in Queen Arsinoe's favour, was again asserting his
rights as her travelling companion, and she showed him plainly that the
attention which he paid her was acceptable.

Meanwhile her eager, bright blue eyes were roving everywhere, and nothing
that was passing around her escaped her notice.

As she greeted Daphne she perceived that her cheeks had flushed during
her conversation with Hermon.

How reserved and embarrassed the sculptor's manner was now to his uncle's
daughter, whom only yesterday he had treated with as much freedom as
though she were his sister! What a bungler in dissimulation! how
short-sighted was this big, strong man and remarkable artist! He had
carried her, Althea, in his arms like a child for a whole quarter of an
hour at the festival of Dionysus, and, in spite of the sculptor's keen
eye, he did not recognise her again!

What would not dyes and a change of manner accomplish!

Or had the memory of those mad hours revived and caused his
embarrassment? If he should know that her companion, the Milesian Nanno,
whom he had feasted with her on oyster pasties at Canopus after she had
given the slip to her handsome young companion was Queen Arsinoe! Perhaps
she would inform him of it some day if he recognised her.

Yet that could scarcely have happened. He had only been told what she
betrayed to him yesterday, and was now neglecting her for Daphne's sake.
That was undoubtedly the way the matter stood. How the girl's cheeks were
glowing when she entered!

The obstacle that stood between her and Hermon was the daughter of
Archias, and she, fool that she was, had attracted Hermon's attention to
her.

No matter!

He would want her for the Arachne, and she needed only to stretch out her
hand to draw him to her again if she found no better amusement in
Alexandria. Now she would awaken his fears that the best of models would
recall her favour. Besides, it would not do to resume the pleasant game
with him under the eyes of Philippus and his wife, who was a follower of
the manners of old times. The right course now was to keep him until
later.

Standing at Proclus's side, she took part gaily in the general
conversation; but when Myrtilus and Philemon had joined the others, and
Daphne had consented to go with Philippus and Thyone that evening, in
order, after offering sacrifice together to Selene, to sail for Pelusium,
Althea requested the grammateus to take her, into the open air.

Before leaving the tent, however, she dropped her ostrich-feather fan as
she passed Hermon, and, when he picked it up, whispered with a
significant glance at Daphne, "I see that what was learned of her heart
is turned to account promptly enough."

Then, laughing gaily, she continued loudly enough to be heard by her
companion also: "Yesterday our young artist maintained that the Muse
shunned abundance; but the works of his wealthy friend Myrtilus
contradicted him, and he changed his view with the speed of lightning."

"Would that this swift alteration had concerned the direction of his
art," replied Proclus in a tone audible to her alone.

Both left the tent as he spoke, and Hermon uttered a sigh of relief as he
looked after them. She attributed the basest motives to him, and Daphne's
opinion of her was scarcely too severe.

He no longer needed to fear her power of attraction, though, now that he
had seen her again, he better understood the spell which she had exerted
over him. Every movement of her lithe figure had an exquisite grace,
whose charm was soothing to the artist's eye. Only there was something
piercing in her gaze when it did not woo love, and, while making the base
charge, her extremely thin lips had showed her sharp teeth in a manner
that reminded him of the way the she-wolf among the King's wild beasts in
the Paneum gardens raised her lips when any one went near her cage.

Daphne was right. Ledscha would have been infinitely better as a model
for the Arachne. Everything in this proud creature was genuine and
original, which was certainly not the case with Althea. Besides, stern
austerity was as much a part of the Biamite as her hair and her hands,
yet what ardent passion he had seen glow in her eyes! The model so long
sought in vain he had found in Ledscha, who in so many respects resembled
Arachne. Fool that he was to have yielded to a swift and false ebullition
of feeling!

Since Myrtilus was again near him Hermon had devoted himself with fresh
eagerness to his artistic task, while a voice within cried more and more
loudly that the success of his new work depended entirely upon Ledscha.
He must try to regain her as a model for the Arachne! But while pondering
over the "how," he felt a rare sense of pleasure when Daphne spoke to him
or her glance met his.

At first he had devoted himself eagerly to his father's old friends, and
especially to Thyone, and had not found it quite easy to remain firm
when, in her frank, kindly, cordial manner, she tried to persuade him to
accompany her and the others to Pelusium. Yet he had succeeded in
refusing the worthy couple's invitation. But when he saw Philotas, whose
resemblance to the King, his cousin, had just been mentioned by one of
the officers, become more and more eager in his attentions to Daphne, and
heard him also invited by Philippus to share the nocturnal voyage, he
felt disturbed, and could not conceal from himself that the uneasiness
which constantly obtained a greater mastery over him arose from the fear
of losing his friend to the young aristocrat.

This was jealousy, and where it flamed so hotly love could scarcely be
absent. Yet, had the shaft of Eros really struck him, how was it possible
that the longing to win Ledscha back stirred so strongly within him that
he finally reached a resolution concerning her?

As soon as the guests left Tennis he would approach the Biamite again. He
had already whispered this intention to Myrtilus, when he heard Daphne's
companion say to Thyone, "Philotas will accompany us, and on this voyage
they will plight their troth if Aphrodite's powerful son accepts my
sacrifice."

He involuntarily looked at the pair who were intended for each other, and
saw Daphne lower her eyes, blushing, at a whisper from the young
Macedonian.

His blood also crimsoned his cheeks, and when, soon after, he asked his
friend whether she cared for his companionship, and Daphne assented in
the most eager way, he said that he would share the voyage to Pelusium.
Daphne's eyes had never yet beamed upon him so gladly and graciously.
Althea was right. She must love him, and it seemed as if this conviction
awoke a new star of happiness in his troubled soul.

If Philotas imagined that he could pluck the daughter of Archias like a
ripe fruit from a tree, he would find himself mistaken.

Hermon did not yet exactly understand himself, only he felt certain that
it would be impossible to surrender Daphne to another, and that for her
sake he would give up twenty Ledschas, though he cherished infinitely
great expectations from the Biamite for his art, which hitherto had been
more to him than all else.

Everything that he still had to do in Tennis he could intrust to his
conscientious Bias, to Myrtilus, and his slaves.

If he returned to the city of weavers, he would earnestly endeavour to
palliate the offence which he had inflicted on Ledscha, and, if possible,
obtain her forgiveness. Only one thing detained him--anxiety about his
friend, who positively refused to share the night voyage.

He had promised his uncle Archias to care for him like a brother, and his
own kind heart bade him stay with Myrtilus, and not leave him to the
nursing of his very skilful but utterly unreliable body-servant, after
the last night had proved to what severe attacks of his disease he was
still liable.

Myrtilus, however, earnestly entreated him not to deprive himself on his
account of a pleasure which he would gladly have shared. There was plenty
of time to pack the statues. As for himself, nothing would do him more
good just now than complete rest in his beloved solitude, which, as
Hermon knew, was more welcome to him than the gayest society. Nothing was
to be feared for him now. The thunderstorm had purified the air, and
another one was not to be expected soon in this dry region. He had always
been well here in sunny weather. Storms, which were especially harmful to
him, never came at this season of the year.

Myrtilus secretly thought that Hermon's departure would be desirable,
because the slave Bias had confided to him what dangers threatened his
friend from the incensed Biamite husbands.

Finally, Myrtilus turned to the others and begged them not to let Hermon
leave Pelusium quickly.

When, at parting, he was alone with him, he embraced him and said more
tenderly than usual: "You know how easy it will be for me to depart from
life; but it would be easier still if I could leave you behind without
anxiety, and that would happen if the hymeneal hymns at your marriage to
Daphne preceded the dirges which will soon resound above my coffin.
Yesterday I first became sure that she loves you, and, much good as you
have in your nature, you owe the best to her."

Hermon clasped him in his arms with passionate affection, and after
confessing that he, too, felt drawn with the utmost power toward Daphne,
and urging him to anticipate complete recovery instead of an early death,
he held out his hand to his friend; but Myrtilus clasped it a long time
in his own, saying earnestly: "Only this one frank warning: An Arachne
like the model which Althea presented yesterday evening would deal the
past of your art a blow in the face. No one at Rhodes--and this is just
what I prize in you--hated imitation more, yet what would using the
Arachne on the pedestal for a model be except showing the world not how
Hermon, but how Althea imagines the hapless transformed mortal? Even if
Ledscha withdraws from you, hold fast to her image. It will live on in
your soul. Recall it there, free it from whatever is superfluous, supply
whatever it lacks, animate it with the idea of the tireless artist, the
mocking, defiant mortal woman who ended her life as the weaver of weavers
in the insect world, as you have so often vividly described her to me.
Then, my dear fellow, you will remain loyal to yourself, and therefore
also to the higher truth, toward which every one of us who labours
earnestly strives, and, myself included, there is no one who wields
hammer and chisel in Greece who could contest the prize with you."



CHAPTER XV.

When the sun was approaching the western horizon the travellers started.

Light mists veiled the radiant right eye of the goddess of heaven. The
blood of the contending spirits of light and darkness, which usually dyed
the west of Egypt crimson at the departure of the great sun god, to-day
vanished from sight.

The sultry air was damp and oppressive, and experienced old Philippus,
who had commanded a fleet of considerable size under the first Ptolemies,
agreed with the captain of the vessel, who pointed to several small dark
clouds under the silvery stratus, and expressed the fear that Selene
would hardly illumine the ship's course during the coming night.

But before the departure the travellers had offered sacrifices to the
foam-born Cyprian Aphrodite and the Dioscuri, the protectors of mariners,
and the conversation took the gayest turn.

In the harbour of the neighbouring seaport Tanis they went aboard of the
commandant's state galley, one of the largest and finest in the royal
fleet, where a banquet awaited them.

Cushions were arranged on the high poop, and the sea was as smooth as the
silver dishes in which viands were offered to the guests.

True, not a breath stirred the still, sultry air, but the three long
double ranks of rowers in the hold of the ship provided for her swift
progress, and if no contrary wind sprang up she would run into the
harbour of Pelusium before the last goblet was emptied.

Soon after the departure it seemed as if the captain of the little vessel
had erred in his prediction, for the moon burst victoriously through the
black clouds, only its shining orb was surrounded by a dull, glimmering
halo.

Doubtless many a guest longed for a cool breeze, but when the mixed wine
had moistened the parched tongues the talk gained fresh animation.

Every one did his or her part, for the point in question was to induce
Philippus and his wife to visit Alexandria again and spend some time
there as beloved guests with Daphne in her father's house or in the
palace of Philotas, who jestingly, yet with many reasons, contested the
honour with the absent Archias.

The old warrior had remained away from the capital for several years; he
alone knew why. Now the act which had incensed him and the offence
inflicted upon him were forgotten, and, having passed seventy four years,
he intended to ask the commander in chief once more for the retirement
from the army which the monarch had several times refused, in order, as a
free man, to seek again the city which in his present position he had so
long avoided.

Thyone, it is true, thought that her husband's youthful vigour rendered
this step premature, but the visit to Alexandria harmonized with her own
wishes.

Proclus eagerly sided with her. "To him," said the man of manifold
knowledge, who as high priest of Apollo was fond of speaking in an
instructive tone, "experience showed that men like Philippus, who solely
on account of the number of their years withdrew their services from the
state, felt unhappy, and, like the unused ploughshare, became prematurely
rusty. What they lacked, and what Philippus would also miss, was not
merely the occupation, which might easily be supplied by another, but
still more the habit of command. One who had had thousands subject to his
will was readily overcome by the feeling that he was going down hill,
when only a few dozen of his own slaves and his wife obeyed him."

This word aroused the mirth of old Philippus, who praised all the good
qualities of Macedonian wives except that of obedience, while Thyone
protested that during her more than forty years of married life her
husband had become so much accustomed to her complete submission than he
no longer noticed it. If Philippus should command her to-morrow to leave
their comfortable palace in Pelusium to accompany him to Alexandria,
where they possessed no home of their own, he would see how willingly she
obeyed him.

While speaking, her bright, clear eyes, which seemed to float in the deep
hollows sunk by age, sparkled so merrily in her wrinkled face that
Philippus shook his finger gaily at her and showed plainly how much
pleasure the jest of the old companion of his wanderings gave him.

Yet he insisted upon his purpose of not entering Alexandria again until
he had resigned his office, and to do this at present was impossible,
since he was bound just now, as if with chains, to the important frontier
fortress. Besides, there had probably been little change in the capital
since the death of his beloved old companion in arms and master, the late
King.

This assertion evoked a storm of contradiction, and even the younger
officers, who usually imposed severe restraint upon themselves in the
general's presence, raised their voices to prove that they, too, had
looked around the flourishing capital with open eyes.

Yet it was not six decades since Philippus, then a lad of seventeen, had
been present at its foundation.

His father, who had commanded as hipparch a division of cavalry in the
army of Alexander the Great, had sent for the sturdy youth just at that
time to come to Egypt, that he might enter the army. The conqueror of the
world had himself assigned him, as a young Macedonian of good family, to
the corps of the Hetairoi; and how the vigorous old man's eyes sparkled
as, with youthful enthusiasm, he spoke of the divine vanquisher of the
world who had at that time condescended to address him, gazed at him
keenly yet encouragingly with his all-discerning but kindly blue eyes,
and extended his hand to him!

"That," he cried, "made this rough right hand precious to me. Often when,
in Asia, in scorching India, and later here also, wounded or exhausted,
it was ready to refuse its service, a spirit voice within cried, 'Do not
forget that he touched it'; and then, as if I had drunk the noble wine of
Byblus, a fiery stream flowed from my heart into the paralyzed hand, and,
as though animated with new life, I used it again and kept it worthy of
his touch. To have seen a darling of the gods like him, young men, makes
us greater. It teaches us how even we human beings are permitted to
resemble the immortals. Now he is transported among the gods, and the
Olympians received him, if any one, gladly. Whoever shared the deeds of
such a hero takes a small portion of his renown with him through life and
into the grave, and whom he touched, as befell me, feels himself
consecrated, and whatever is petty and base flows away from him like
water from the anointed body of the wrestler. Therefore I consider myself
fortunate above thousands of others, and if there is anything which still
tempts me to go to Alexandria, it is the desire to touch his dead body
once more. To do that before I die is my most ardent desire."

"Then gratify it!" cried Thyone with urgent impatience; but Proclus
turned to the matron, and, after exchanging a hasty glance with Althea,
said: "You probably know, my venerable friend, that Queen Arsinoe, who
most deeply honours your illustrious husband, had already arranged to
have him summoned to the capital as priest of Alexander. True, in this
position he would have had the burden of disposing of all the revenues
from the temples throughout Egypt; but, on the other hand, he would
always have his master's mortal remains near and be permitted to be their
guardian. What influences baffled the Queen's wish certainly have not
remained hidden from you here."

"You are mistaken," replied Philippus gravely. "Not the least whisper of
this matter reached my ears, and it is fortunate."

"Impossible!" Althea eagerly interrupted; "nothing else was talked of for
weeks in the royal palace. Queen Arsinoe--you might be jealous, Lady
Thyone--has been fairly in love with your hero ever since her last stay
in your house on her way home from Thrace, and she has not yet given up
her desire to see him in the capital as priest of Alexander. It seems to
her just and fair that the old companion of the greatest of the great
should have the highest place, next to her husband's, in the city whose
foundation he witnessed. Arsinoe speaks of you also with all the
affection natural to her feeling heart."

"This is as flattering as it is surprising," replied Thyone. "The
attention we showed her in Pelusium was nothing more than we owed to the
wife of the sovereign. But the court is not the principal attraction that
draws me to the capital. It would make Philippus happy--you have just
heard him say so--to remember his old master beside the tomb of
Alexander."

"And," added Daphne, "how amazed you will be when you see the present
form of the 'Soma', in which rests the golden coffin with the body of the
divine hero whom the fortunate Philippus aided to conquer the world!"

"You are jesting," interrupted the old warrior. "I aided him only as the
drops in the stream help to turn the wheel of the mill. As to his body,
true, I marched at the head of the procession which bore it to Memphis
and thence to Alexandria. In the Soma I was permitted to think of him
with devout reverence, and meantime I felt as if I had again seen him
with these eyes--exactly as he looked in the Egyptian fishing village of
Rhacotis, which he transformed into your magnificent Alexandria. What a
youth he was! Even what would have been a defect in others became a
beauty in him. The powerful neck which supported his divine head was a
little crooked; but what grace it lent him when he turned kindly to any
one! One scarcely noticed it, and yet it was like the bend of a
petitioner, and gave the wish which he expressed resistless power. When
he stood erect, the sharpest eye could not detect it. Would that he could
appear before me thus once more! Besides, the buildings which surrounded
the golden coffin were nearly completed at the time of our departure."

"But the statues, reliefs, and mosaic work were lacking," said Hermon.
"They were executed by Lysippus, Euphranor, and others of our greatest
artists; the paintings by Apelles himself, Antiphilus, and Nicias. Only
those who had won renown were permitted to take part in this work, and
the Ares rushing to battle, created by our Myrtilus, can be seen among
the others. The tomb of Alexander was not entirely completed until three
years ago."

"At the same time as the Paneum," added Philotas, completing the
sentence; and Althea, waving her beaker toward the old hero, remarked:
"When you have your quarters in the royal palace with your crowned
admirer, Arsinoe--which, I hope, will be very soon--I will be your
guide."

"That office is already bestowed on me by the Lady Thyone," Daphne
quietly replied.

"And you think that, in this case, obedience is the husband's duty?"
cried the other, with a sneering laugh.

"It would only be the confirmation of a wise choice," replied Philippus,
who disliked the Thracian's fawning manner.

Thyone, too, did not favour her, and had glanced indignantly at her when
Althea made her rude remark. Now she turned to Daphne, and her plain face
regained its pleasant expression as she exclaimed: "We really promised
your father to let him show us the way, child; but, unfortunately, we are
not yet in Alexandria and the Paneum."

"But you would set out to-morrow," Hermon protested, "if we could succeed
in fitly describing what now awaits you there. There is only one
Alexandria, and no city in the world can offer a more beautiful scene
than is visible from the mountain in the Paneum gardens."

"Certainly not," protested the young hipparch, who had studied in Athens.
"I stood on the Acropolis; I was permitted to visit Rhodes and Miletus--"

"And you saw nothing more beautiful there," cried Proclus. "The
aristocratic Roman envoys, who left us a short time ago, admitted the
same thing. They are just men, for the view from the Capitol of their
growing city is also to be seen. When the King's command led me to the
Tiber, many things surprised me; but, as a whole, how shall I compare the
two cities? The older Rome, with her admirable military power: a
barbarian who is just beginning to cultivate more refined
manners--Alexandria: a rich, aristocratic Hellene who, like you, my young
friend, completed her education in Ilissus, and unites to the elegant
taste and intellect of the Athenian the mysterious thoughtfulness of the
Egyptian, the tireless industry of the Jew, and the many-sided wisdom and
brilliant magnificence of the other Oriental countries."

"But who disdains to dazzle the eyes with Asiatic splendour," interrupted
Philotas.

"And yet what do we not hear about the unprecedented luxury in the royal
palace!" growled the gray-haired warrior.

"Parsimony--the gods be praised!--no one need expect from our royal
pair," Althea broke in; "but King Ptolemy uses his paternal wealth for
very different purposes than glittering gems and golden chambers. If you
disdain my guidance, honoured hero, at least accept that of some genuine
Alexandrian. Then you will understand Proclus's apt simile. You ought to
begin with the royal palaces in the Brucheium."

"No, no-with the harbour of Eunostus!" interrupted the grammateus.

"With the Soma!" cried the young hipparch, while Daphne wished to have
the tour begin in the Paneum gardens.

"They were already laid out when we left Alexandria," said Thyone.

"And they have grown marvellously, as if creative Nature had doubled her
powers in their behalf," Hermon added eagerly. "But man has also wrought
amazing miracles here. Industrious hands reared an actual mountain. A
winding path leads to the top, and when you stand upon the summit and
look northward you at first feel like the sailor who steps on shore and
hears the people speak a language which is new to him. It seems like a
jumble of meaningless sounds until he learns, not only to understand the
words, but also to distinguish the sentences. Temples and palaces,
statues and columns appear everywhere in motley confusion. Each one, if
you separate it from the whole and give it a careful examination, is
worthy of inspection, nay, of admiration. Here are light, graceful
creations of Hellenic, yonder heavy, sombre ones of Egyptian art, and in
the background the exquisite azure of the eternal sea, which the
marvellous structure of the heptastadium unites to the land; while on the
island of Pharos the lighthouse of Sostratus towers aloft almost to the
sky, and with a flood of light points out the way to mariners who
approach the great harbour at night. Countless vessels are also at anchor
in the Eunostus. The riches of the whole earth flow into both havens. And
the life and movement there and in the inland harbour on Lake Mareotis,
where the Nile boats land! From early until late, what a busy throng,
what an abundance of wares--and how many of the most valuable goods are
made in our own city! for whatever useful, fine, and costly articles
industrial art produces are manufactured here. The roof has not yet been
put on many a factory in which busy workers are already making beautiful
things. Here the weaver's shuttle flies, yonder gold is spun around
slender threads of sheep guts, elsewhere costly materials are embroidered
by women's nimble fingers with the prepared gold thread. There glass is
blown, or weapons and iron utensils are forged. Finely polished knives
split the pith of the papyrus, and long rows of workmen and workwomen gum
the strips together. No hand, no head is permitted to rest. In the Museum
the brains of the great thinkers and investigators are toiling. Here,
too, reality asserts its rights. The time for chimeras and wretched
polemics is over. Now it is observing, fathoming, turning to account,
nothing more!"

"Gently, my young friend," Proclus interrupted the artist. "I know that
you, too, sat at the feet of some of the philosophers in the Museum, and
still uphold the teachings of Straton, which your fellow-pupil, King
Ptolemy, outgrew long ago. Yet he, also, recognised in philosophy, first
of all, the bond which unites the widely sundered acquisitions of the
intellect, the vital breath which pervades them, the touchstone which
proves each true or false. If the praise of Alexandria is to be sung, we
must not forget the library to which the most precious treasures of
knowledge of the East and West are flowing, and which feeds those who
thirst for knowledge with the intellectual gains of former ages and other
nations. Honour, too, to our King, and, that I may be just, to his
illustrious wife; for wherever in the Grecian world a friend of the Muses
appears, whether he is investigator, poet, architect, sculptor, artist,
actor, or singer, he is drawn to Alexandria, and, that he may not be
idle, work is provided. Palaces spring from the earth quickly enough."

"Yet not like mushrooms," Hermon interrupted, "but as the noblest, most
carefully executed creations of art-sculpture and painting provide for
their decoration both without and within."

"And," Proclus went on, "abodes are erected for the gods as well as for
men, both Egyptian and Hellenic divinities, each in their own style, and
so beautiful that it must be a pleasure for them to dwell under the new
roof."

"Go to the gardens of the Paneum, friends!" cried young Philotas; and
Hermon, nodding to Thyone, added gaily: "Then you must climb the mountain
and keep your eyes open while you are ascending the winding path. You
will find enough to do to look at all the new sights. You will stand
there with dry feet, but your soul will bathe in eternal, imperishable,
divine beauty."

"The foe of beauty!" exclaimed Proclus, pointing to the sculptor with a
scornful glance; but Daphne, full of joyous emotion, whispered to Hermon
as he approached her: "Eternal, divine beauty! To hear it thus praised by
you makes me happy."

"Yes," cried the artist, "what else should I call what has so often
filled me with the deepest rapture? The Greek language has no more
fitting expression for the grand and lofty things that hovered before me,
and which I called by that chameleon of a word. Yet I have a different
meaning from what appears before you at its sound. Were I to call it
truth, you would scarcely understand me, but when I conjure before my
soul the image of Alexandria, with all that springs from it, all that is
moving, creating, and thriving with such marvellous freedom, naturalness,
and variety within it, it is not alone the beauty that pleases the eye
which delights me; I value more the sound natural growth, the genuine,
abundant life. To truth, Daphne, as I mean it."

He raised his goblet as he spoke and drank to her.

She willingly pledged him, but, after removing her lips from the cup, she
eagerly exclaimed: "Show it to us, with the mind which animates it, in
perfect form, and I should not know wherein it was to be distinguished
from the beauty which hitherto has been our highest goal."

Here the helmsman's loud shout, "The light of Pelusium!" interrupted the
conversation. The bright glare from the lighthouse of this city was
really piercing the misty night air, which for some time had again
concealed the moon.

There was no further connected conversation, for the sea was now rising
and falling in broad, leaden, almost imperceptible waves. The comfort of
most of Philippus's guests was destroyed, and the ladies uttered a sigh
of relief when they had descended from the lofty galley and the boats
that conveyed them ashore, and their feet once more pressed the solid
land. The party of travellers went to the commandant's magnificent palace
to rest, and Hermon also retired to his room, but sleep fled from his
couch.

No one on earth was nearer to his heart and mind than Daphne, and it
often seemed as if her kind, loyal, yet firm look was resting upon him;
but the memory of Ledscha also constantly forced itself upon his mind and
stirred his blood. When he thought of the menacing fire of her dark eyes,
she seemed to him as terrible as one of the unlovely creatures born of
Night, the Erinyes, Apate, and Eris.

Then he could not help recalling their meetings in the grove of Astarte,
her self-forgetting, passionate tenderness, and the wonderfully delicate
beauty of her foreign type. True, she had never laughed in his presence;
but what a peculiar charm there was in her smile! Had he really lost her
entirely and forever? Would it not yet be possible to obtain her
forgiveness and persuade her to pose as the model of his Arachne?

During the voyage to Pelusium he had caught Althea's eye again and again,
and rejected as an insult her demand to give her his whole love. The
success of the Arachne depended upon Ledscha, and on her alone. He had
nothing good to expect from the Demeter, and during the nocturnal
meditation, which shows everything in the darkest colours, his best plan
seemed to be to destroy the unsuccessful statue and not exhibit it for
the verdict of the judges.

But if he went to work again in Tennis to model the Arachne, did not love
for Daphne forbid him to sue afresh for Ledscha's favour?

What a terrible conflict of feelings!

But perhaps all this might gain a more satisfactory aspect by daylight.
Now he felt as though he had entangled himself in a snare. Besides, other
thoughts drove sleep from his couch.

The window spaces were closed by wooden shutters, and whenever they moved
with a low creaking or louder banging Hermon started and forgot
everything else in anxiety about his invalid friend, whose suffering
every strong wind brought on again, and often seriously increased.

Three times he sprang up from the soft wool, covered with linen sheets,
and looked out to convince himself that no storm had risen. But, though
masses of black clouds concealed the moon and stars, and the sea beat
heavily against the solid walls of the harbour, as yet only a sultry
breeze of no great strength blew on his head as he thrust it into the
night air.

This weather could scarcely be dangerous to Myrtilus, yet when the
morning relieved him from the torturing anxiety which he had found under
his host's roof instead of rest and sleep, gray and black clouds were
sweeping as swiftly over the port and the ramparts beside him as if they
were already driven by a tempest, and warm raindrops besprinkled his
face.

He went, full of anxiety, to take his bath, and, while committing the
care of the adornment of his outer man to one of the household slaves, he
determined that unless--as often happened in this country--the sun gained
the victory over the clouds, he would return to Tennis and join Myrtilus.

In the hall of the men he met the rest of the old hero's guests.

They received him pleasantly enough, Althea alone barely noticed his
greeting; she seemed to suspect in what way he thought of her.

Thyone and Daphne extended their hands to him all the more cordially.

Philippus did not appear until after breakfast. He had been detained by
important despatches from Alexandria, and by questions and communications
from Proclus. The latter desired to ascertain whether the influential
warrior who commanded the most important fortress in the country could be
persuaded to join a conspiracy formed by Arsinoe against her royal
husband, but he seemed to have left Philippus with very faint hopes.

Subordinate officers and messengers also frequently claimed the
commandant's attention. When the market place was filling, however, the
sturdy old soldier kindly fulfilled his duties as host by offering to
show his guests the sights of the fortified seaport.

Hermon also accompanied him at Daphne's side, but he made it easy for
Philotas to engross her attention; for, though the immense thickness of
the walls and the arrangement of the wooden towers which, crowned with
battlements, rose at long intervals, seemed to him also well worth
seeing, he gave them only partial attention.

While Philippus was showing the guests how safely the archers and
slingers could be concealed behind the walls and battlements and
discharge their missiles, and explaining the purpose of the great
catapults on the outermost dike washed by the sea, the artist was
listening to the ever-increasing roar of the waves which poured into the
harbour from the open sea, to their loud dashing against the strong mole,
to the shrill scream of the sea gulls, the flapping of the sails, which
were being taken in everywhere--in short, to all the sounds occasioned by
the rising violence of the wind.

There were not a few war ships in the port and among them perfect giants
of amazing size and unusual construction, but Hermon had already seen
many similar ones.

When, shortly after noon, the sun for a few brief moments pierced with
scorching rays the dark curtain that shrouded it from sight, and then
suddenly dense masses of clouds, driven from the sea by the tempest,
covered the day star, his eyes and cars were engrossed entirely by the
uproar of the elements.

The air darkened as if night was falling at this noontide hour, and with
savage fury the foaming mountain waves rushed like mad wild beasts in
fierce assault upon the mole, the walls, and the dikes of the fortified
port.

"Home!" cried Thyone, and again entered the litter which she had left to
inspect the new catapults.

Althea, trembling, drew her peplos together as the storm swept her light
figure before it, and, shrieking, struggled against the black slaves who
tried to lift her upon the war elephant which had borne her here.

Philotas gave his arm to Daphne. Hermon had ceased to notice her; he had
just gone to his gray-haired host with the entreaty that he would give
him a ship for the voyage to Tennis, where Myrtilus would need his
assistance.

"It is impossible in such weather," was the reply.

"Then I will ride!" cried Hermon resolutely, and Philippus scanned the
son of his old friend and companion in arms with an expression of quiet
satisfaction in his eyes, still sparkling brightly, and answered quickly,
"You shall have two horses, my boy, and a guide who knows the road
besides."

Then, turning swiftly to one of the officers who accompanied him, he
ordered him to provide what was necessary.

When, soon after, in the impluvium, the tempest tore the velarium that
covered the open space from its rings, and the ladies endeavoured to
detain Hermon, Philippus silenced them with the remark:

"A disagreeable ride is before him, but what urges him on is pleasing to
the gods. I have just ventured to send out a carrier dove," he added,
turning to the artist, "to inform Myrtilus that he may expect you before
sunset. The storm comes from the cast, otherwise it would hardly reach
the goal. Put even if it should be lost, what does it matter?"

Thyone nodded to her old husband with a look of pleasure, and her eyes
shone through tears at Hermon as she clasped his hand and, remembering
her friend, his mother, exclaimed: "Go, then, you true son of your
father, and tell your friend that we will offer sacrifices for his
welfare."

"A lean chicken to Aesculapius," whispered the grammateus to Althea. "She
holds on to the oboli."

"Which, at any rate, would be hard enough to dispose of in this wretched
place unless one were a dealer in weapons or a thirsty sailor," sighed
the Thracian. "As soon as the sky and sea are blue again, chains could
not keep me here. And the cooing around this insipid rich beauty into the
bargain!"

This remark referred to Philotas, who was just offering Daphne a
magnificent bunch of roses, which a mounted messenger had brought to him
from Alexandria.

The girl received it with a grateful glance, but she instantly separated
one of the most beautiful blossoms from its companions and handed it to
Hermon, saying, "For our suffering friend, with my affectionate
remembrances."

The artist pressed her dear hand with a tender look of love, intended to
express how difficult it was for him to leave her, and when, just at that
moment, a slave announced that the horses were waiting, Thyone whispered:
"Have no anxiety, my son! Your ride away from her through the tempest
will bring you a better reward than his slave's swift horse will bear the
giver of the roses."



CHAPTER XVI.

Hermon, with the rose for his friend fastened in the breast folds of his
chiton, mounted his horse gratefully, and his companion, a sinewy,
bronzed Midianite, who was also to attend to the opening of the fortress
gates, did the same.

Before reaching the open country the sculptor had to ride through the
whole city, with which he was entirely unfamiliar. Fiercely as the storm
was sweeping down the streets and squares, and often as the horseman was
forced to hold on to his travelling hat and draw his chlamys closer
around him, he felt the anxieties which had made his night sleepless and
saddened his day suddenly leave him as if by a miracle. Was it the
consciousness of having acted rightly? was it the friendly farewell which
Daphne had given him, and the hope Thyone had aroused, or the expectation
of seeing Ledscha once more, and at least regaining her good will, that
had restored his lost light-heartedness? He did not know himself, nor did
he desire to know.

While formerly he had merely glanced carelessly about him in Pelusium,
and only half listened to the explanations given by the veteran's deep
voice, now whatever he saw appeared in clear outlines and awakened his
interest, in spite of the annoyances caused by the storm.

Had he not known that he was in Pelusium, it would have been difficult
for him to determine whether the city he was crossing was an Egyptian, a
Hellenic, or a Syrian one; for here rose an ancient temple of the time of
the Pharaohs, with obelisks and colossal statues before the lofty pylons,
yonder the sanctuary of Poseidon, surrounded by stately rows of Doric
columns, and farther on the smaller temple dedicated to the Dioscuri, and
the circular Grecian building that belonged to Aphrodite.

In another spot, still close to the harbour, he saw the large buildings
consecrated to the worship of the Syrian Baal and Astarte.

Here he was obliged to wait awhile, for the tempest had excited the war
elephants which were returning from their exercising ground, and their
black keepers only succeeded with the utmost difficulty in restraining
them. Shrieking with fear, the few persons who were in the street besides
the soldiers, that were everywhere present, scattered before the huge,
terrified animals.

The costume and appearance of the citizens, too, gave no clew to the
country to which the place belonged; there were as many Egyptians among
them as Greeks, Syrians, and negroes. Asiatics appeared in the majority
only in the market place, where the dealers were just leaving their
stands to secure their goods from the storm. In front of the big building
where the famous Pelusinian xythus beer was brewed, the drink was being
carried away in jugs and wineskins, in ox-carts and on donkeys. Here,
too, men were loading camels, which were rarely seen in Egypt, and had
been introduced there only a short time before.

How forcibly all these things riveted Hermon's attention, now that no one
was at hand to explain them and no delay was permitted! He scarcely had
time for recollection and expectation.

Finally, the last gate was unlocked, and the ramparts and moats lay
behind him.

Thus far the wind had kept back the rain, and only scattered drops lashed
the riders' faces; but as soon as they entered the open country, it
seemed as though the pent-up floods burst the barriers which retained
them above, and a torrent of water such as only those dry regions know
rushed, not in straight or slanting lines, but in thick streams, whirled
by the hurricane, upon the marshy land which stretched from Pelusium to
Tennis, and on the horsemen.

The road led along a dike raised above fields which, at this season of
the year, were under water, and Hermon's companion knew it well.

For a time both riders allowed themselves to be drenched in silence. The
water ran down upon them from their broad-brimmed hats, and their
dripping horses trotted with drooping heads and steaming flanks one
behind the other until, at the very brick-kiln where Ledscha had recalled
her widowed sister's unruly slaves to obedience, the guide stopped with
an oath, and pointed to the water which had risen to the top of the dam,
and in some places concealed the road from their eyes.

Now it was no longer possible to trot, for the guide was obliged to seek
the traces of the dike with great caution. Meanwhile the force of the
pouring rain by no means lessened--nay, it even seemed to increase--and
the horses were already wading in water up to their fetlocks.

But if the votive stones, the little altars and statues of the gods, the
bushes and single trees along the sides of the dike road were overflowed
while the travellers were in the region of the marsh, they would be
obliged to interrupt their journey, for the danger of sinking into the
morass with their horses would then threaten them.

Even at the brick-kiln travellers, soldiers, and trains of merchandise
had stopped to wait for the end of the cloud-burst.

In front of the farmhouse, too, which Hermon and his companion next
reached, they saw dozens of people seeking shelter, and the Midianite
urged his master to join them for a short time at least. The wisest
course here was probably to yield, and Hermon was already turning his
horse's head toward the house when a Greek messenger dashed past the
beckoning refuge and also by him.

"Do you dare to ride farther?" the artist shouted in a tone of warning
inquiry to the man on the dripping bay, and the latter, without pausing,
answered: "Duty! On business for the King!"

Then Hermon turned his steed back toward the road, beat the water from
his soaked beard with the edge of his hand, and with a curt "Forward!"
announced his decision to his companion. Duty summoned him also, and what
another risked for the King he would not fail to do for his friend.

The Midianite, shaking his head, rode angrily after him; but, though the
violence of the rain was lessening, the wind began to blow with redoubled
force, beating and lashing the boundless expanse of the quickly formed
lake with such savage fury that it rolled in surges like the sea, and
sweeping over it dense clouds of foam like the sand waves tossed by the
desert tempests.

Sometimes moaning, sometimes whistling, the gusts of the hurricane drove
the water and the travellers before it, while the rain poured from the
sky to the earth, and wherever it struck splashed upward, making little
whirlpools and swiftly breaking bubbles.

What might not Myrtilus suffer in this storm! This thought strengthened
Hermon's courage to twice ride past other farmhouses which offered
shelter. At the third the horse refused to wade farther in such a
tempest, so there was nothing to be done except spring off and lead it to
the higher ground which the water had not yet reached.

The interior of the peasant hut was filled with people who had sought
shelter there, and the stifling atmosphere which the artist felt at the
door induced him to remain outside.

He had stood there dripping barely fifteen minutes when loud shouts and
yells were heard on the road from Pelusium by which he had come, and upon
the flooded dike appeared a body of men rushing forward with marvellous
speed.

The nearer they came the fiercer and more bewildering sounded the loud,
shrill medley of their frantic cries, mingled with hoarse laughter, and
the spectacle presented to the eyes was no less rough and bold.

The majority seemed to be powerful men. Their complexions were as light
as the Macedonians; their fair, red, and brown locks were thick, unkempt,
and bristling. Most of the reckless, defiantly bold faces were
smooth-shaven, with only a mustache on the upper lip, and sometimes a
short imperial. All carried weapons, and a fleece covered the shoulders
of many, while chains, ornamented with the teeth of animals, hung on
their white muscular chests.

"Galatians," Hermon heard one man near him call to another. "They came to
the fortress as auxiliary troops. Philippus forbade them to plunder on
pain of death, and showed them--the gods be thanked!--that he was in
earnest. Otherwise it would soon look here as though the plagues of
locusts, flood, and fire had visited us at once. Red-haired men are not
the only sons of Typhon!"

And Hermon thought that he had indeed never seen any human beings equally
fierce, bold to the verge of reckless madness, as these Gallic warriors.
The tempest which swept them forward, and the water through which they
waded, only seemed to increase their enjoyment, for sheer delight rang in
their exulting shouts and yells.

Oh, yes! To march amid this uproar of the elements was a pleasure to the
healthy men. It afforded them the rarest, most enlivening delight. For a
long time nothing had so strongly reminded them of the roaring of the
wind and the rushing of the rain in their northern home. It seemed a
delicious relief, after the heat and dryness of the south, which they had
endured with groans.

When they perceived the eyes fixed upon them they swung their weapons,
arched their breasts with conscious vanity, distorted their faces into
terrible threatening grimaces, or raised bugle horns to their lips, drew
from them shrill, ear-piercing notes and gloated, with childish delight,
in the terror of the gaping crowd, on whom the restraint of authority
sternly forbade them to show their mettle.

Lust of rapine and greed for booty glittered in many a fiery, longing
look, but their leaders kept them in check with the sword. So they rushed
on without stopping, like a thunderstorm pregnant with destruction which
the wind drives over a terrified village.

Hermon also had to take the road they followed, and, after giving the
Gauls a long start, he set out again.

But though he succeeded in passing the marshy region without injury,
there had been delay after delay; here the horses had left the flooded
dike road and floundered up to their knees in the morass, there trees
from the roadside, uprooted by the storm, barred the way.

As night closed in the rain ceased and the wind began to subside, but
dark clouds covered the sky, and the horsemen were still an hour's ride
from the place where the road ended at the little harbour from which
travellers entered the boat which conveyed them to Tennis.

The way no longer led through the marsh, but through tilled lands, and
crossed the ditches which irrigated the fields on wooden bridges.

On their account, in the dense darkness which prevailed, caution was
necessary, and this the guide certainly did not lack. He rode at a slow
walk in front of the artist, and had just pointed out to him the light at
the landing place of the boat which went to Tennis, when Hermon was
suddenly startled by a loud cry, followed by clattering and splashing.

With swift presence of mind he sprang from his horse and found his
conjecture verified. The bridge had broken down, and horse and rider had
fallen into the broad canal.

"The Galatians!" reached Hermon from the dark depths, and the exclamation
relieved him concerning the fate of the Midianite.

The latter soon struggled up to the road uninjured. The bridge must have
given way under the feet of the savage horde, unless the Gallic monsters,
with brutal malice, had intentionally shattered it.

The first supposition, however, seemed to be the correct one, for as
Hermon approached the canal he heard moans of pain. One of the Gauls had
apparently met with an accident in the fall of the bridge and been
deserted by his comrades. With the skill acquired in the wrestling
school, Hermon descended into the canal to look for the wounded man,
while his guide undertook to get the horses ashore.

The deep darkness considerably increased the difficulty of carrying out
his purpose, but the young Greek went up to his neck in the water he
could not become wetter than he was already. So he remained in the ditch
until he found the injured man whose groans of suffering pierced his
compassionate heart.

He was obliged to release the luckless Gaul from the broken timbers of
the bridge, and, when Hermon had dragged him out on the opposite bank of
the canal, he made no answer to any question. A falling beam had probably
struck him senseless.

His hair, which Hermon's groping fingers informed him was thick and
rough, seemed to denote a Gaul, but a full, long beard was very rarely
seen in this nation, and the wounded man wore one. Nor could anything be
discovered from the ornaments or weapons of this fierce barbarian.

But to whatever people he might belong, he certainly was not a Greek. The
thoroughly un-Hellenic wrapping up of the legs proved that.

No matter! Hermon at any rate was dealing with some one who was severely
injured, and the self-sacrificing pity with which even suffering animals
inspired him, and which in his boyhood had drawn upon him the jeers of
the companions of his own age, did not abandon him now.

Reluctantly obeying his command, the Midianite helped him bandage the
sufferer's head, in which a wound could be felt, as well as it could be
done in the darkness, and lift him on the artist's horse. During this
time fresh groans issued from the bearded lips of the injured warrior,
and Hermon walked by his side, guarding the senseless man from the danger
of falling from the back of the horse as it slowly followed the
Midianite's.

This tiresome walk, however, did not last long; the landing place was
reached sooner than Hermon expected, and the ferryboat bore the
travellers and the horses to Tennis.

By the flickering light of the captain's lantern it was ascertained that
the wounded man, in spite of his long dark beard, was probably a Gaul.
The stupor was to be attributed to the fall of a beam on his head, and
the shock, rather than to the wound. The great loss of blood sustained by
the young and powerful soldier had probably caused the duration of the
swoon.

During the attempts at resuscitation a sailor boy offered his assistance.
He carefully held the lantern, and, as its flickering light fell for
brief moments upon the artist's face, the lad of thirteen or fourteen
asked if he was Hermon of Alexandria.

A curt "If you will permit," answered the question, considered by the
Hellenes an unseemly one, especially from such a youth; but the sculptor
paid no further attention to him, for, while devoting himself honestly to
the wounded man, his anxiety about his invalid friend increased, and
Ledscha's image also rose again before him.

At last the ferryboat touched the land, and when Hermon looked around for
the lad he had already leaped ashore, and was just vanishing in the
darkness.

It was probably within an hour of midnight.

The gale was still blowing fiercely over the water, driving the black
clouds across the dark sky, sometimes with long-drawn, wailing sounds,
sometimes with sharp, whistling ones. The rain had wholly ceased, and
seemed to have exhausted itself here in the afternoon.

As Archias's white house was a considerable distance from the landing
place of the ferryboat, Hermon had the wounded warrior carried to it by
Biamite sailors, and again mounted his horse to ride to Myrtilus at as
swift a trot as the soaked, wretched, but familiar road would permit.

Considerable time had been spent in obtaining a litter for the Gaul, yet
Hermon was surprised to meet the lad who had questioned him so boldly on
the ferryboat coming, not from the landing place, but running toward it
again from the city, and then saw him follow the shore, carrying a
blazing torch, which he waved saucily. The wind blew aside the flame and
smoke which came from the burning pitch, but it shone brightly through
the gloom and permitted the boy to be distinctly seen. Whence had the
nimble fellow come so quickly? How had he succeeded, in this fierce gale,
in kindling the torch so soon into a powerful flame? Was it not foolish
to let a child amuse itself in the middle of the night with so dangerous
a toy?

Hermon hastily thought over these questions, but the supposition that the
light of the torch might be intended for a signal did not occur to him.

Besides, the boy and the light in his hand occupied his mind only a short
time. He had better things to think of. With what longing Myrtilus must
now be expecting his arrival! But the Gaul needed his aid no less
urgently than his friend. Accurately as he knew what remedies relieved
Myrtilus in severe attacks of illness, he could scarcely dispense with an
assistant or a leech for the other, and the idea swiftly flashed upon him
that the wounded man would afford him an opportunity of seeing Ledscha
again.

She had told him more than once about the healing art possessed by old
Tabus on the Owl's Nest. Suppose he should now seek the angry girl to
entreat her to speak to the aged miracle-worker in behalf of the sorely
wounded young foreigner?

Here he interrupted himself; something new claimed his attention.

A dim light glimmered through the intense darkness from a bit of rising
ground by the wayside. It came from the Temple of Nemesis--a pretty
little structure belonging to the time of Alexander the Great, which he
had often examined with pleasure. Several steps led to the anteroom,
supported by Ionic columns, which adjoined the naos.

Two lamps were burning at the side of the door leading into the little
open cella, and at the back of the consecrated place the statue of the
winged goddess was visible in the light of a small altar fire.

In her right hand she held the bridle and scourge, and at her feet stood
the wheel, whose turning indicates the influence exerted by her power
upon the destiny of mortals. With stern severity that boded evil, she
gazed down upon her left forearm, bent at the elbow, which corresponds
with the ell, the just measure.

Hermon certainly now, if ever, lacked both time and inclination to
examine again this modest work of an ordinary artist, yet he quickly
stopped his weary horse; for in the little pronaos directly in front of
the cella door stood a slender figure clad in a long floating dark robe,
extending its hands through the cella door toward the statue in fervent
prayer. She was pressing her brow against the left post of the door, but
at her feet, on the right side, cowered another figure, which could
scarcely be recognised as a human being.

This, too, was a woman.

Deeply absorbed in her own thoughts, she was also extending her arms
toward the statue of Nemesis.

Hermon knew them both.

At first he fancied that his excited imagination was showing him a
threatening illusion. But no!

The erect figure was Ledscha, the crouching one Gula, the sailor's wife
whose child he had rescued from the flames, and who had recently been
cast out by her husband.

"Ledscha!" escaped his lips in a muttered tone, and he involuntarily
extended his hands toward her as she was doing toward the goddess.

But she did not seem to hear him, and the other woman also retained the
same attitude, as if hewn from stone.

Then he called the supplicant's name loud tone, and the next instant
still more loudly; and now she turned, and, in the faint light of the
little lamp, showed the marvellously noble outlines of her profile. He
called again, and this time Ledscha heard anguished yearning in his deep
tones; but they seemed to have lost their influence over her, for her
large dark eyes gazed at him so repellently and sternly that a cold
tremor ran down his spine.

Swinging himself from his horse, he ascended the steps of the temple, and
in the most tender tones at his command exclaimed: "Ledscha! Severely as
I have offended you, Ledscha--oh, do not say no! Will you hear me?"

"No!" she answered firmly, and, before he could speak, continued: "This
place is ill chosen for another meeting! Your presence is hateful to me!
Do not disturb me a moment longer!"

"As you command," he began hesitatingly; but she swiftly interrupted with
the question, "Do you come from Pelusium, and are you going directly
home?"

"I did not heed the storm on account of Myrtilus's illness," he answered
quietly, "and if you demand it, I will return home at once; but first let
me make one more entreaty, which will be pleasing also to the gods."

"Get your response from yonder deity!" she impatiently interrupted,
pointing with a grand, queenly gesture, which at any other time would
have delighted his artist eye, to the statue of Nemesis in the cella.

Meanwhile Gula had also turned her face toward Hermon, and he now
addressed her, saying with a faint tone of reproach: "And did hatred lead
you also, Gula, to this sanctuary at midnight to implore the goddess to
destroy me in her wrath?"

The young mother rose and pointed to Ledscha, exclaiming, "She desires
it."

"And I?" he asked gently. "Have I really done you so much evil?"

She raised her hand to her brow as if bewildered; her glance fell on the
artist's troubled face, and lingered there for a short time. Then her
eyes wandered to Ledscha, and from her to the goddess, and finally back
again to the sculptor. Meanwhile Hermon saw how her young figure was
trembling, and, before he had time to address a soothing-word to her, she
sobbed aloud, crying out to Ledscha: "You are not a mother! My child, he
rescued it from the flames. I will not, and I can not--I will no longer
pray for his misfortune!"

She drew her veil over her pretty, tear-stained face as she spoke, and
darted lightly down the temple steps close beside him to seek shelter in
her parents' house, which had been unwillingly opened to the cast-off
wife, but now afforded her a home rich in affection.

Immeasurably bitter scorn was depicted in Ledscha's features as she gazed
after Gula. She did not appear to notice Hermon, and when at last he
appealed to her and briefly urged her to ask the old enchantress on the
Owl's Nest for a remedy for the wounded Gaul, she again leaned against
the post of the cella door, extended both arms with passionate fervour
toward the goddess, and remained standing there motionless, deaf to his
petition.

His blood seethed in his veins, and he was tempted to go nearer and force
her to hear him; but before he had ascended the first of the flight of
steps leading to the pronaos, he heard the footsteps of the men who were
bearing the wounded warrior after him.

They must not see him here with one of their countrywomen at this hour,
and manly pride forbade him to address her again as a supplicant.

So he went back to the road, mounted his horse, and rode on without
vouchsafing a word of farewell to the woman who was invoking destruction
upon his head. As he did so his eyes again rested on the stern face of
Nemesis, and the wheel whose turning determined the destiny of men at her
feet.

Assailed by horrible fears, and overpowered by presentiments of evil, he
pursued his way through the darkness.

Perhaps Myrtilus had succumbed to the terrible attack which must have
visited him in such a storm, and life without his friend would be bereft
of half its charm. Orphaned, poor, a struggler who had gained no complete
victory, it had been rich only in disappointments to him, in spite of his
conviction that he was a genuine artist, and was fighting for a good
cause. Now he knew that he had also lost the woman by whose assistance he
was certain of a great success in his own much-disputed course, and
Ledscha, if any one, was right in expecting a favourable hearing from the
goddess who punished injustice.

He did not think of Daphne again until he was approaching the place where
her tents had stood, and the remembrance of her fell like a ray of light
into his darkened soul.

Yet on that spot had also been erected the wooden platform from which
Althea had showed him the transformation into the spider, and the
recollection of the foolish error into which the Thracian had drawn him
disagreeably clouded the pleasant thought of Daphne.



CHAPTER XVII.

Complete darkness enfolded the white house. Hermon saw only two windows
lighted, the ones in his friend's studio, which looked out into the open
square, while his own faced the water.

What did this mean?

It must be nearly midnight, and he could no longer expect Myrtilus to be
still at work. He had supposed that he should find him in his chamber,
supported by his slaves, struggling for breath. What was the meaning of
the light in the workrooms now?

Where was his usually efficient Bias? He never went to rest when his
master was to return home, yet the carrier dove must have announced his
coming!

But Hermon had also enjoined the care of Myrtilus upon the slave, and he
was undoubtedly beside the sufferer's couch, supporting him in the same
way that he had often seen his master.

He was now riding across the open space, and he heard the men who carried
the Gaul talking close behind him.

Was the wounded barbarian the sole acquisition of this journey?

The beat of his horse's hoofs and the voices of the Biamites echoed
distinctly enough amid the stillness of the night, which was interrupted
only by the roaring of the wind. And this disturbance of the deep silence
around had entered the lighted windows before him, for a figure appeared
at one of them, and--could he believe his own eyes?--Myrtilus looked down
into the square, and a joyous welcome rang from his lips as loudly as in
his days of health.

The darkness of the night suddenly seemed to Hermon to be illumined. A
leap to the ground, two bounds up the steps leading to the house, an
eager rush through the corridor that separated him from the room in which
Myrtilus was, the bursting instead of opening of the door, and, as if
frantic with happy surprise, he impetuously embraced his friend, who,
burin and file in hand, was just approaching the threshold, and kissed
his brow and cheeks in the pure joy of his heart.

Then what questions, answers, tidings! In spite of the torrents of rain
and the gale, the invalid's health had been excellent. The solitude had
done him good. He knew nothing about the carrier dove. The hurricane had
probably "blown it away," as the breeders of the swift messengers said.

Question and reply now followed one another in rapid succession, and both
were soon acquainted with everything worth knowing; nay, Hermon had even
delivered Daphne's rose to his friend, and informed him what had befallen
the Gaul who was being brought into the house.

Bias and the other slaves had quickly appeared, and Hermon soon rendered
the wounded man the help he needed in an airy chamber in the second story
of the house, which, owing to the heat that prevailed in summer so close
under the roof, the slaves had never occupied.

Bias assisted his master with equal readiness and skill, and at last the
Gaul opened his eyes and, in the language of his country, asked a few
brief questions which were incomprehensible to the others. Then,
groaning, he again closed his lids.

Hitherto Hermon had not even allowed himself time to look around his
friend's studio and examine what he had created during his absence. But,
after perceiving that his kind act had not been in vain, and consuming
with a vigorous appetite the food and wine which Bias set before him, he
obliged Myrtilus--for another day was coming--to go to rest, that the
storm might not still prove hurtful to him.

Yet he held his friend's hand in a firm clasp for a long time, and, when
the latter at last prepared to go, he pressed it so closely that it
actually hurt Myrtilus. But he understood his meaning, and, with a loving
glance that sank deep into Hermon's heart, called a last good night.

After two sleepless nights and the fatiguing ride which he had just
taken, the sculptor felt weary enough; but when he laid his hand on the
Gaul's brow and breast, and felt their burning heat, he refused Bias's
voluntary offer to watch the sufferer in his place.

If to amuse or forget himself he had caroused far more nights in
succession in Alexandria, why should he not keep awake when the object in
question was to wrest a young life from the grasp of death? This man and
his life were now his highest goal, and he had never yet repented his
foolish eccentricity of imposing discomforts upon himself to help the
suffering.

Bias, on his part, was very willing to go to rest. He had plenty of cause
for weariness; Myrtilus's unscrupulous body-servant had stolen off with
the other slaves the night before, and did not return, with staggering
gait, until the next morning, but, in order to keep his promise to his
master, he had scarcely closed his eyes, that he might be at hand if
Myrtilus should need assistance.

So Bias fell asleep quickly enough in his little room in the lower story,
while his master, by the exertion of all his strength of will, watched
beside the couch of the Gaul.

Yet, after the first quarter of an hour, his head, no matter how he
struggled to prevent it, drooped again and again upon his breast. But
just as slumber was completely overpowering him his patient made him
start up, for he had left his bed, and when Hermon, fully roused, looked
for him, was standing in the middle of the room, gazing about him.

The artist thought that fever had driven the wounded warrior from his
couch, as it formerly did his fellow-pupil Lycon, whom, in the delirium
of typhus, he could keep in bed only by force. So he led the Gaul
carefully back to the couch he had deserted, and, after moistening the
bandage with healing balm from Myrtilus's medicine chest, ordered him to
keep quiet.

The barbarian yielded as obediently as a child, but at first remained in
a sitting posture and asked, in scarcely intelligible broken Greek, how
he came to this place.

After Hermon had satisfied his curiosity, he also put a few questions,
and learned that his charge not only wore a mustache, like his fellow
countrymen, but also a full beard, because the latter was the badge of
the bridge builders, to which class he belonged. While examining the one
crossing the canal, it had fallen in upon him.

He closed his eyes as he spoke, and Hermon wondered if it was not time
for him to lie down also; but the wounded man's brow was still burning,
and the Gallic words which he constantly muttered were probably about the
phantoms of fever, which Hermon recognised from Lycon's illness.

So he resolved to wait and continue to devote the night, which he had
already intended to give him, to the sufferer. From the chair at the foot
of the bed he looked directly into his face. The soft light of the lamp,
which with two others hung from a tall, heavy bronze stand in the shape
of an anchor, which Bias had brought, shone brightly enough to allow him
to perceive how powerful was the man whose life he had saved. His own
face was scarcely lighter in hue than the barbarian's, and how sharp was
the contrast between his long, thick black beard and his white face and
bare arched chest!

Hermon had noticed this same contrast in his own person. Otherwise the
Gaul did not resemble him in a single feature, and he might even have
refused to compare his soft, wavy beard with the harsh, almost bristly
one of the barbarian. And what a defiant, almost evil expression his
countenance wore when--perhaps because his wound ached--he closed his
lips more firmly! The children who so willingly let him, Hermon, take
them in his arms would certainly have been afraid of this savage-looking
fellow.

Yet in build, and at any rate in height and breadth of shoulders, there
was some resemblance between him and the Gaul.

As a bridge builder, the injured man belonged, in a certain sense, to the
ranks of the artists, and this increased Hermon's interest in his
patient, who was now probably out of the most serious danger.

True, the Greek still cast many a searching glance at the barbarian, but
his eyes closed more and more frequently, and at last the idea took
possession of him that he himself was the wounded man on the couch, and
some one else, who again was himself, was caring for him.

He vainly strove to understand the impossibility of this division of his
own being, but the more eagerly he did so the greater became his
bewilderment.

Suddenly the scene changed; Ledscha had appeared.

Bending over him, she lavished words of love; but when, in passionate
excitement, he sprang from the couch to draw her toward him, she changed
into the Nemesis to whose statue she had just prayed.

He stood still as if petrified, and the goddess, too, did not stir. Only
the wheel which had rested at her feet began to move, and rolled, with a
thundering din, sometimes around him, sometimes around the people who, as
if they had sprung from the ground, formed a jeering company of
spectators, and clapped their hands, laughed, and shouted whenever it
rolled toward him and he sprang back in fear.

Meanwhile the wheel constantly grew larger, and seemed to become heavier,
for the wooden beams over which it rolled splintered, crashing like thin
laths, and the spectators' shouts of applause sounded ruder and fiercer.

Then mortal terror suddenly seized him, and while he shouted for help to
Myrtilus, Daphne, and her father Archias, his slave Bias, the old comrade
of Alexander, Philippus, and his wife, he awoke, bathed in perspiration,
and looked about him.

But he must still be under the spell of the horrible dream, for the
rattling and clattering around him continued, and the bed where the
wounded Gaul had lain was empty.

Hermon involuntarily dipped his hand into the water which stood ready to
wet the bandages, and sprinkled his own face with it; but if he had ever
beheld life with waking eyes, he was doing so now. Yet the barbarian had
vanished, and the noise in the house still continued.

Was it possible that rats and mice--? No! That was the shriek of a
terrified human being--that a cry for help! This sound was the imperious
command of a rough man's voice, that--no, he was not mistaken--that was
his own name, and it came from the lips of his Myrtilus, anxiously,
urgently calling for assistance.

Then he suddenly realized that the white house had been attacked, that
his friend must be rescued from robbers or the fury of a mob of Biamites,
and, like the bent wood of a projectile when released from the noose
which holds it to the ground, the virile energy that characterized him
sprang upward with mighty power. The swift glance that swept the room was
sent to discover a weapon, and before it completed the circuit Hermon had
already grasped the bronze anchor with the long rod twined with leaves
and the teeth turned downward. Only one of the three little vessels
filled with oil that hung from it was burning. Before swinging the heavy
standard aloft, he freed it from the lamps, which struck the floor with a
clanging noise.

The man to whom he dealt a blow with this ponderous implement would
forget to rise. Then, as if running for a prize in the gymnasium, he
rushed through the darkness to the staircase, and with breathless haste
groped his way down the narrow, ladderlike steps. He felt himself an
avenging, punishing power, like the Nemesis who had pursued him in his
dreams. He must wrest the friend who was to him the most beloved of
mortals from the rioters. To defeat them himself seemed a small matter.
His shout--"I am coming, Myrtilus! Snuphis, Bias, Dorcas, Syrus! here,
follow me!" was to summon the old Egyptian doorkeeper and the slaves, and
inform his friend of the approach of a deliverer.

The loudest uproar echoed from his own studio. Its door stood wide open,
and black smoke, mingled with the deep red and yellow flames of burning
pitch, poured from it toward him.

"Myrtilus!" he shouted at the top of his voice as he leaped across the
threshold into the tumult which filled the spacious apartment, at the
same time clashing the heavy iron anchor down upon the head of the
broad-shouldered, half-naked fellow who was raising a clumsy lance
against him.

The pirate fell as though struck by lightning, and he again shouted
"Myrtilus!" into the big room, so familiar to him, where the conflict was
raging chaotically amid a savage clamour, and the smoke did not allow him
to distinguish a single individual.

For the second time he swung the terrible weapon, and it struck to the
floor the monster with a blackened face who had rushed toward him, but at
the same time the anchor broke in two.

Only a short metal rod remained in his hand, and, while he raised his
arm, determined to crush the temples of the giant carrying a torch who
sprang forward to meet him, it suddenly seemed as if a vulture with
glowing plumage and burning beak was attacking his face, and the terrible
bird of prey was striking its hard, sharp, red-hot talons more and more
furiously into his lips, cheeks, and eyes.

At first a glare as bright as sunshine had flashed before his gaze; then,
where he had just seen figures and things half veiled by the smoke, he
beheld only a scarlet surface, which changed to a violet, and finally a
black spot, followed by a violet-blue one, while the vulture continued to
rend his face with beak and talons.

Then the name "Myrtilus!" once more escaped his lips; this time, however,
it did not sound like the encouraging shout of an avenging hero, but the
cry for aid of one succumbing to defeat, and it was soon followed by a
succession of frantic outbursts of suffering, terror, and despair.

But now sharp whistles from the water shrilly pierced the air and
penetrated into the darkened room, and, while the tumult around Hermon
gradually died away, he strove, tortured by burning pain, to grope his
way toward the door; but here his foot struck against a human body, there
against something hard, whose form he could not distinguish, and finally
a large object which felt cool, and could be nothing but his Demeter.

But she seemed doomed to destruction, for the smoke was increasing every
moment, and constantly made his open wounds smart more fiercely.

Suddenly a cooler air fanned his burning face, and at the same time he
heard hurrying steps approach and the mingled cries of human voices.

Again he began to shout the names of his friends, the slaves, and the
porter; but no answer came from any of them, though hasty questions in
the Greek language fell upon his ear.

The strategist, with his officers, the nomarch of the district with his
subordinates, and many citizens of Tennis had arrived. Hermon knew most
of them by their voices, but their figures were not visible. The red,
violet, and black cloud before him was all he could see.

Yet, although the pain continued to torture him, and a voice in his soul
told him that he was blinded, he did not allow the government officials
who eagerly surrounded him to speak, only pointed hastily to his eyes,
and then bade them enter Myrtilus's studio. The Egyptian Chello, the
Tennis goldsmith, who had assisted the artists in the preparation of the
noble metal, and one of the police officers who had been summoned to rid
the old house of the rats and mice which infested it, both knew the way.

They must first try to save Myrtilus's work and, when that was
accomplished, preserve his also from destruction by the flames.

Leaning on the goldsmith's arm, Hermon went to his friend's studio; but
before they reached it smoke and flames poured out so densely that it was
impossible even to gain the door.

"Destroyed--a prey to the flames!" he groaned. "And he--he--he--"

Then like a madman he asked if no one had seen Myrtilus, and where he
was; but in vain, always in vain.

At last the goldsmith who was leading him asked him to move aside, for
all who had flocked to the white house when it was seized by the flames
had joined in the effort to save the statue of Demeter, which they had
found unharmed in his studio.

Seventeen men, by the exertion of all their strength, were dragging the
heavy statue from the house, which was almost on the point of falling in,
into the square. Several others were bearing corpses into the open
air-the old porter Snuphis and Myrtilus's body servant. Some motionless
forms they were obliged to leave behind. Both the bodies had deep wounds.
There was no trace of Myrtilus and Bias.

Outside the storm had subsided, and a cool breeze blew refreshingly into
Hermon's face. As he walked arm in arm with the notary Melampus, who had
invited him to his house, and heard some one at his side exclaim, "How
lavishly Eos is scattering her roses to-day!" he involuntarily lifted the
cloth with which he had covered his smarting face to enjoy the beautiful
flush of dawn, but again beheld nothing save a black and violet-blue
surface.

Then drawing his hand from his guide's arm, he pressed it upon his poor,
sightless, burning eyes, and in helpless rage, like a beast of prey which
feels the teeth of the hunter's iron trap rend his flesh, groaned
fiercely, "Blind! blind!" and again, and yet again, "Blind!"

While the morning star was still paling, the lad who after Hermon's
landing had raced along the shore with the burning torch glided into the
little pronaos of the Temple of Nemesis.

Ledscha was still standing by the doorpost of the cella with uplifted
hand, so deeply absorbed in fervent prayer that she did not perceive the
approach of the messenger until he called her.

"Succeeded?" she asked in a muffled tone, interrupting his hasty
greeting.

"You must give the goddess what you vowed," was the reply. "Hanno sends
you the message. And also, 'You must come with me in the boat quickly-at
once!'"

"Where?" the girl demanded.

"Not on board the Hydra yet," replied the boy hurriedly. "First only to
the old man on the Megara. The dowry is ready for your father. But there
is not a moment to lose."

"Well, well!" she gasped hoarsely. "But, first, shall I find the man with
the black beard on board of one of the ships?"

"Certainly!" answered the lad proudly, grasping her arm to hurry her; but
she shook him off violently, turned toward the cella again, and once more
lifted her hands and eyes to the statue of Nemesis.

Then she took up the bundle she had hidden behind a pillar, drew from it
a handful of gold coins, which she flung into the box intended for
offerings, and followed the boy.

"Alive?" she asked as she descended the steps; but the lad understood the
meaning of the question, and exclaimed: "Yes, indeed! Hanno says the
wounds are not at all dangerous."

"And the other?"

"Not a scratch. On the Hydra, with two severely wounded slaves. The
porter and the others were killed."

"And the statues?"

"They-such things can't be accomplished without some little
blunder-Labaja thinks so, too."

"Did they escape you?"

"Only one. I myself helped to smash the other, which stood in the
workroom that looks out upon the water. The gold and ivory are on the
ship. We had horrible work with the statue which stood in the room whose
windows faced the square. They dragged the great monster carefully into
the studio that fronts upon the water. But probably it is still standing
there, if the thing is not already--just see how the flames are whirling
upward!--if it is not already burned with the house."

"What a misfortune!" Ledscha reproachfully exclaimed.

"It could not be helped," the boy protested. "People from Tennis suddenly
rushed in. The first--a big, furious fellow-killed our Loule and the
fierce Judas. Now he has to pay for it. Little Chareb threw the black
powder into his eyes, while Hanno himself thrust the torch in his face."

"And Bias, the blackbeard's slave?"

"I don't know. Oh, yes! Wounded, I believe, on board the ship."

Meanwhile the lad, a precocious fourteen-year-old cabin-boy from the
Hydra, pointed to the boat which lay ready, and took Ledscha's bundle in
his hand; but she sprang into the light skiff before him and ordered it
to be rowed to the Owl's Nest, where she must bid Mother Tabus good-bye.
The cabin-boy, however, declared positively that the command could not be
obeyed now, and at his signal two black sailors urged it with swift oar
strokes toward the northwest, to Satabus's ship. Hanno wished to receive
his bride as a wife from his father's hand.

Ledscha had not insisted upon the fulfilment of her desire, but as the
boat passed the Pelican Island her gaze rested on the lustreless waning
disk of the moon. She thought of the torturing night, during which she
had vainly waited here for Hermon, and a triumphant smile hovered around
her lips; but soon the heavy eyebrows of the girl who was thus leaving
her home contracted in a frown--she again fancied she saw, where the moon
was just fading, the body of a gigantic, hideous spider. She banished the
illusion by speaking to the boy--spiders in the morning mean misfortune.

The early dawn, which was now crimsoning the east, reminded her of the
blood which, as an avenger, she must yet shed.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARK:

Camels, which were rarely seen in Egypt



ARACHNE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 5.



CHAPTER I.

While the market place in Tennis was filling, Archias's white house had
become a heap of smouldering ruins. Hundreds of men and women were
standing around the scene of the conflagration, but no one saw the statue
of Demeter, which had been removed from Hermon's studio just in time. The
nomarch had had it locked up in the neighbouring temple of the goddess.

It was rumoured that the divinity had saved her own statue by a miracle;
Pamaut, the police officer, said that he had seen her himself as,
surrounded by a brilliant light, she soared upward on the smoke that
poured from the burning house. The strategist and the nomarch used every
means in their power to capture the robbers, but without the least
success.

As it had become known that Paseth, Gula's husband, had cast off his wife
because she had gone to Hermon's studio, the magistrates believed that
the attack had been made by the Biamites; yet Paseth was absent from the
city during the assault, and the innocence of the others could also be
proved.

Since, for two entire years, piracy had entirely ceased in this
neighbourhood, no one thought of corsairs, and the bodies of the
incendiaries having been consumed by the flames with the white house, it
could not be ascertained to what class the marauders belonged.

The blinded sculptor could only testify that one of the robbers was a
negro, or at any rate had had his face blackened, and that the size of
another had appeared to him almost superhuman. This circumstance gave
rise to the fable that, during the terrible storm of the previous clay,
Hades had opened and spirits of darkness had rushed into the studio of
the Greek betrayer.

The strategist, it is true, did not believe such tales, but the
superstition of the Biamites, who, moreover, aided the Greeks reluctantly
to punish a crime which threatened to involve their own countrymen, put
obstacles in the way of his measures.

Not until he heard of Ledscha's disappearance, and was informed by the
priest of Nemesis of the handsome sum which had been found in the
offering box of the temple shortly after the attack, did he arrive at a
conjecture not very far from the real state of affairs; only it was still
incomprehensible to him what body of men could have placed themselves at
the disposal of a girl's vengeful plan.

On the second day after the fire, the epistrategus of the whole Delta,
who had accidentally come to the border fortress, arrived at Tennis on
the galley of the commandant of Pelusium, and with him Proclus, the
grammateus of the Dionysian artists, the Lady Thyone, Daphne, and her
companion Chrysilla.

The old hero Philippus was detained in the fortress by the preparations
for war.

Althea had returned to Alexandria, and Philotas, who disliked her, had
gone there himself, as Chrysilla intimated to him that he could hope for
no success in his suit to her ward so long as Daphne had to devote
herself to the care of the blinded Hermon.

The epistrategus proceeded with great caution, but his efforts also
remained futile. He ordered a report to be made of all the vessels which
had entered the harbours and bays of the northeastern Delta, but those
commanded by Satabus and his sons gave no cause for investigation; they
had come into the Tanite arm of the Nile as lumber ships from Pontus, and
had discharged beams and planks for the account of a well-known
commercial house in Sinope.

Yet the official ordered the Owl's Nest to be searched. In doing this he
made himself guilty of an act of violence, as the island's right of
asylum still existed, and this incensed the irritable and refractory
Biamites the more violently, the deeper was the reverent awe with which
the nation regarded Tabus, who, according to their belief, was over a
hundred years old. The Biamites honoured her not only as an enchantress
and a leech, but as the ancestress of a race of mighty men. By molesting
this aged woman, and interfering with an ancient privilege, the
epistrategus lost the aid of the hostile fishermen, sailors, and weavers.
Any information from their ranks to him was regarded as treachery; and,
besides, his stay in Tennis could be but brief, as the King, on account
of the impending war, had summoned him back to the capital.

On the third day after his arrival he left Tennis and sailed from Tanis
for Alexandria. He had had little time to attend to Thyone and her
guests.

Proclus, too, could not devote himself to them until after the departure
of the epistrategus, since he had gone immediately to Tanis, where, as
head of the Dionysian artists of all Egypt, he had been occupied in
attending to the affairs of the newly established theatre.

On his return to Tennis he had instantly requested to be conducted to the
Temple of Demeter, to inspect the blinded Hermon's rescued work.

He had entered the cella of the sanctuary with the expectation of finding
a peculiar, probably a powerful work, but one repugnant to his taste, and
left it fairly overpowered by the beauty of this noble work of art.

What he had formerly seen of Hermon's productions had prejudiced him
against the artist, whose talent was great, but who, instead of
dedicating it to the service of the beautiful and the sublime, chose
subjects which, to Proclus, did not seem worthy of artistic treatment,
or, when they were, sedulously deprived them of that by which, in his
eyes, they gained genuine value. In Hermon's Olympian Banquet he--who
also held the office of a high priest of Apollo in Alexandria--had even
seen an insult to the dignity of the deity. In the Street Boy Eating
Figs, the connoisseur's eye had recognised a peculiar masterpiece, but he
had been repelled by this also; for, instead of a handsome boy, it
represented a starving, emaciated vagabond.

True to life as this figure might be, it seemed to him reprehensible, for
it had already induced others to choose similar vulgar subjects.

When recently at Althea's performance he had met Hermon and saw how
quickly his beautiful travelling companion allowed herself to be induced
to bestow the wreath on the handsome, black-bearded fellow, it vexed him,
and he had therefore treated him with distant coldness, and allowed him
to perceive the disapproval which the direction taken by his art had
awakened in his mind.

In the presence of Hermon's Demeter, the opinion of the experienced man
and intelligent connoisseur had suddenly changed.

The creator of this work was not only one of the foremost artists of his
day, nay, he had also been permitted to fathom the nature of the deity
and to bestow upon it a perfect form.

This Demeter was the most successful personification of the divine
goodness which rewards the sowing of seed with the harvest. When Hermon
created it, Daphne's image had hovered before his mind, even if he had
not been permitted to use her as a model, and of all the maidens whom he
knew there was scarcely one better suited to serve as the type for the
Demeter.

So what he had seen in Pelusium, and learned from women, was true. The
heart and mind of the artist who had created this work were not filled
with the image of Althea--who during the journey had bestowed many a mark
of favour upon the aging man, and with whom he was obliged to work hand
in hand for Queen Arsinoe's plans--but the daughter of Archias, and this
circumstance also aided in producing his change of view.

Hermon's blindness, it was to be hoped, would be cured.

Duty, and perhaps also interest, commanded him to show him frankly how
highly he estimated his art and his last work.

After the arrival of Thyone and Daphne, Hermon had consented to accompany
them on board the Proserpina, their spacious galley. True, he had yielded
reluctantly to this arrangement of his parents' old friend, and neither
she nor Daphne had hitherto succeeded in soothing the fierce resentment
against fate which filled his soul after the loss of his sight and his
dearest friend. As yet every attempt to induce him to bear his terrible
misfortune with even a certain degree of composure had failed.

The Tennis leech, trained by the Egyptian priests at Sais in the art of
healing, who was attached as a pastophorus to the Temple of Isis, in the
city of weavers, had covered the artist's scorched face with bandages,
and earnestly adjured him never in his absence to raise them, and to keep
every ray of light from his blinded eyes. But the agitation which had
mastered Hermon's whole being was so great that, in spite of the woman's
protestations, he lifted the covering again and again to see whether he
could not perceive once more at least a glimmer of the sunlight whose
warming power he felt. The thought of living in darkness until the end of
his life seemed unendurable, especially as now all the horrors which,
hitherto, had only visited him in times of trial during the night
assailed him with never-ceasing cruelty.

The image of the spider often forced itself upon him, and he fancied that
the busy insect was spreading its quickly made web over his blinded eyes,
which he was not to touch, yet over which he passed his hand to free them
from the repulsive veil.

The myth related that because Athene's blow had struck the ambitious
weaver Arachne, she had resolved, before the goddess transformed her into
a spider, to put an end to her disgrace.

How infinitely harder was the one dealt to him! How much better reason he
had to use the privilege in which man possesses an advantage over the
immortals, of putting himself to death with his own hand when he deems
the fitting time has come! What should he, the artist, to whom his eyes
brought whatever made life valuable, do longer in this hideous black
night, brightened by no sunbeam?

He was often overwhelmed, too, by the remembrance of the terrible end of
the friend in whom he saw the only person who might have given him
consolation in this distress, and the painful thought of his poverty.

He was supported solely by what his art brought and his wealthy uncle
allowed him. The Demeter which Archias had ordered had been partially
paid for in advance, and he had intended to use the gold--a considerable
sum--to pay debts in Alexandria. But it was consumed with the rest of his
property--tools, clothing, mementoes of his dead parents, and a few books
which contained his favourite poems and the writings of his master,
Straton.

These precious rolls had aided him to maintain the proud conviction of
owing everything which he attained or possessed solely to himself. It had
again become perfectly clear to him that the destiny of earth-born
mortals was not directed by the gods whom men had invented after their
own likeness, in order to find causes for the effects which they
perceived, but by deaf and blind chance. Else how could even worse
misfortune, according to the opinion of most people, have befallen the
pure, guiltless Myrtilus, who so deeply revered the Olympians and
understood how to honour them so magnificently by his art, than himself,
the despiser of the gods?

But was the death for which he longed a misfortune?

Was the Nemesis who had so swiftly and fully granted the fervent prayer
of an ill-used girl also only an image conjured up by the power of human
imagination?

It was scarcely possible!

Yet if there was one goddess, did not that admit the probability of the
existence of all the others?

He shuddered at the idea; for if the immortals thought, felt, acted, how
terribly his already cruel fate would still develop! He had denied and
insulted almost all the Olympians, and not even stirred a finger to the
praise and honour of a single one.

What marvel if they should choose him for the target of their resentment
and revenge?

He had just believed that the heaviest misfortune which can befall a man
and an artist had already stricken him. Now he felt that this, too, had
been an error; for, like a physical pain, he realized the collapse of the
proud delusion of being independent of every power except himself, freely
and arbitrarily controlling his own destiny, owing no gratitude except to
his own might, and being compelled to yield to nothing save the
enigmatical, pitiless power of eternal laws or their co-operation, so
incomprehensible to the human intellect, called "chance," which took no
heed of merit or unworthiness.

Must he, who had learned to silence and to starve every covetous desire,
in order to require no gifts from his own uncle and his wealthy kinsman
and friend, and be able to continue to hold his head high, as the most
independent of the independent, now, in addition to all his other woe, be
forced to believe in powers that exercised an influence over his every
act? Must he recognise praying to them and thanking them as the demand of
justice, of duty, and wisdom? Was this possible either?

And, believing himself alone, since he could not see Thyone and Daphne,
who were close by him, he struck his scorched brow with his clinched
fist, because he felt like a free man who suddenly realizes that a rope
which he can not break is bound around his hands and feet, and a giant
pulls and loosens it at his pleasure.

Yet no! Better die than become for gods and men a puppet that obeys every
jerk of visible and invisible hands.

Starting up in violent excitement, he tore the bandage from his face and
eyes, declaring, as Thyone seriously reprimanded him, that he would go
away, no matter where, and earn his daily bread at the handmill, like the
blind Ethiopian slave whom he had seen in the cabinetmaker's house at
Tennis.

Then Daphne spoke to him tenderly, but her soothing voice caused him
keener pain than his old friend's stern one.

To sit still longer seemed unendurable, and, with the intention of
regaining his lost composure by pacing to and fro, he began to walk; but
at the first free step he struck against the little table in front of
Thyone's couch, and as it upset and the vessels containing water fell
with it, clinking and breaking, he stopped and, as if utterly crushed,
groped his way back, with both arms outstretched, to the armchair he had
quitted.

If he could only have seen Daphne press her handkerchief first to her
eyes, from which tears were streaming, and then to her lips, that he
might not hear her sobs, if he could have perceived how Thyone's wrinkled
old face contracted as if she were swallowing a colocynth apple, while at
the same time she patted his strong shoulder briskly, exclaiming with
forced cheerfulness: "Go on, my boy! The steed rears when the hornet
stings! Try again, if it only soothes you! We will take everything out of
your way. You need not mind the water-jars. The potter will make new
ones!"

Then Hermon threw back his burning head, rested it against the back of
the chair, and did not stir until the bandage was renewed.

How comfortable it felt!

He knew, too, that he owed it to Daphne; the matron's fingers could not
be so slender and delicate, and he would have been more than glad to
raise them to his lips and thank her; but he denied himself the pleasure.

If she really did love him, the bond between them must now be severed;
for, even if her goodness of heart extended far enough to induce her to
unite her blooming young existence to his crippled one, how could he have
accepted the sacrifice without humiliating himself? Whether such a
marriage would have made her happy or miserable he did not ask, but he
was all the more keenly aware that if, in this condition, he became her
husband, he would be the recipient of alms, and he would far rather, he
mentally repeated, share the fate of the negro at the handmill.

The expression of his features revealed the current of his thoughts to
Daphne, and, much as she wished to speak to him, she forced herself to
remain silent, that the tones of her voice might not betray how deeply
she was suffering with him; but he himself now longed for a kind word
from her lips, and he had just asked if she was still there when Thyone
announced a visit from the grammateus Proclus.

He had recently felt that this man was unfriendly to him, and again his
anger burst forth. To be exposed in the midst of his misery to the scorn
of a despiser of his art was too much for his exhausted patience.

But here he was interrupted by Proclus himself, who had entered the
darkened cabin where the blind man remained very soon after Thyone.

Hermon's last words had betrayed to the experienced courtier how well he
remembered his unkind remarks, so he deferred the expression of his
approval, and began by delivering the farewell message of the
epistrategus, who had been summoned away so quickly.

He stated that his investigations had discovered nothing of importance,
except, perhaps, the confirmation of the sorrowful apprehension that the
admirable Myrtilus had been killed by the marauders. A carved stone had
been found under the ashes, and Chello, the Tennis goldsmith, said he had
had in his own workshop the gem set in the hapless artist's shoulder
clasp, and supplied it with a new pin.

While speaking, he took Hermon's hand and gave him the stone, but the
artist instantly used his finger tips to feel it.

Perhaps it really did belong to the clasp Myrtilus wore, for, although
still unpractised in groping, he recognised that a human head was carved
in relief upon the stone, and Mrytilus's had been adorned with the
likeness of the Epicurean.

The damaged little work of art, in the opinion of Proclus and Daphne,
appeared to represent this philosopher, and at the thought that his
friend had fallen a victim to the flames Hermon bowed his head and
exerted all his strength of will in order not to betray by violent sobs
how deeply this idea pierced his heart.

Thyone, shrugging her shoulders mournfully, pointed to the suffering
artist. Proclus nodded significantly, and, moving nearer to Hermon,
informed him that he had sought out his Demeter and found the statue
uninjured. He was well aware that it would be presumptuous to offer
consolation in so heavy an affliction, and after the loss of his dearest
friend, yet perhaps Hermon would be glad to hear his assurance that he,
whose judgment was certainly not unpractised, numbered his work among the
most perfect which the sculptor's art had created in recent years.

"I myself best know the value of this Demeter," the sculptor broke in
harshly. "Your praise is the bit of honey which is put into the mouth of
the hurt child."

"No, my friend," Proclus protested with grave decision. "I should express
no less warmly the ardent admiration with which this noble figure of the
goddess fills me if you were well and still possessed your sight. You
were right just now when you alluded to my aversion, or, let us say, lack
of appreciation of the individuality of your art; but this noble work
changes everything, and nothing affords me more pleasure than that I am
to be the first to assure you how magnificently you have succeeded in
this statue."

"The first!" Hermon again interrupted harshly. "But the second and third
will be lacking in Alexandria. What a pleasure it is to pour the gifts of
sympathy upon one to whom we wish ill! But, however successful my Demeter
may be, you would have awarded the prize twice over to the one by
Myrtilus."

"Wrong, my young friend!" the statesman protested with honest zeal. "All
honour to the great dead, whose end was so lamentable; but in this
contest--let me swear it by the goddess herself!--you would have remained
victor; for, at the utmost, nothing can rank with the incomparable save a
work of equal merit, and--I know life and art--two artists rarely or
never succeed in producing anything so perfect as this masterpiece at the
same time and in the same place."

"Enough!" gasped Hermon, hoarse with excitement; but Proclus, with
increasing animation, continued: "Brief as is our acquaintance, you have
probably perceived that I do not belong to the class of flatterers, and
in Alexandria it has hardly remained unknown to you that the younger
artists number me, to whom the office of judge so often falls, among the
sterner critics. Only because I desire their best good do I frankly point
out their errors. The multitude provides the praise. It will soon flow
upon you also in torrents, I can see its approach, and as this blindness,
if the august Aesculapius and healing Isis aid, will pass away like a
dreary winter night, it would seem to me criminal to deceive you about
your own ability and success. I already behold you creating other works
to the delight of gods and men; but this Demeter extorts boundless,
enthusiastic appreciation; both as a whole, and in detail, it is
faultless and worthy of the most ardent praise. Oh, how long it is, my
dear, unfortunate friend, since I could congratulate any other
Alexandrian with such joyful confidence upon the most magnificent
success! Every word--you may believe it!--which comes to you in
commendation of this last work from lips unused to eulogy is sincerely
meant, and as I utter it to you I shall repeat it in the presence of the
King, Archias, and the other judges."

Daphne, with hurried breath, deeply flushed cheeks, and sparkling eyes,
had fairly hung upon the lips of the clever connoisseur. She knew
Proclus, and his dreaded, absolutely inconsiderate acuteness, and was
aware that this praise expressed his deepest conviction. Had he been
dissatisfied with the statue of Demeter, or even merely superficially
touched by its beauty, he might have shrunk from wounding the unfortunate
artist by censure, and remained silent; but only something grand,
consummate, could lead him to such warmth of recognition.

She now felt it a misfortune that she and Thyone had hitherto been
prevented, by anxiety for their patient, from admiring his work. Had it
still been light, she would have gone to the temple of Demeter at once;
but the sun had just set, and Proclus was obliged to beg her to have
patience.

As the cases were standing finished at the cabinetmaker's, the statue had
been packed immediately, under his own direction, and carried on board
his ship, which would convey it with him to the capital the next day.

While this arrangement called forth loud expressions of regret from
Daphne and the vivacious matron, Hermon assented to it, for it would at
least secure the ladies, until their arrival in Alexandria, from a
painful disappointment.

"Rather," Proclus protested with firm dissent, "it will rob you for some
time of a great pleasure, and you, noble daughter of Archias, probably of
the deepest emotion of gratitude with which the favour of the immortals
has hitherto rendered you happy; yet the master who created this genuine
goddess owes the best part of it to your own face."

"He told me himself that he thought of me while at work," Daphne
admitted, and a flood of the warmest love reached Hermon's ears in her
agitated tones, while, greatly perplexed, he wondered with increasing
anxiety whether the stern critic Proclus had really been serious in the
extravagant eulogium, so alien to his reputation in the city.

Myrtilus, too, had admired the head of his Demeter, and--this he himself
might admit--he had succeeded in it, and yet ought not the figure, with
its too pronounced inclination forward, which, it is true, corresponded
with Daphne's usual bearing, and the somewhat angular bend of the arms,
have induced this keen-sighted connoisseur to moderate the exalted strain
of his praise? Or was the whole really so admirable that it would have
seemed petty to find fault with the less successful details? At any rate,
Proclus's eulogy ought to give him twofold pleasure, because his art had
formerly repelled him, and Hermon tried to let it produce this effect
upon him. But it would not do; he was continually overpowered by the
feeling that under the enthusiastic homage of the intriguing Queen
Arsinoe's favourite lurked a sting which he should some day feel. Or
could Proclus have been persuaded by Thyone and Daphne to help them
reconcile the hapless blind man to his hard fate?

Hermon's every movement betrayed the great anxiety which filled his mind,
and it by no means escaped Proclus's attention, but he attributed it to
the blinded sculptor's anguish in being prevented, after so great a
success, from pursuing his art further.

Sincerely touched, he laid his slender hand on the sufferer's muscular
arm, saying: "A more severe trial than yours, my young friend, can
scarcely be imposed upon the artist who has just attained the highest
goal, but three things warrant you to hope for recovery--your vigorous
youth, the skill of our Alexandrian leeches, and the favour of the
immortal gods. You shrug your shoulders? Yet I insist that you have won
this favour by your Demeter. True, you owe it less to yourself than to
yonder maiden. What pleasure it affords one whom, like myself, taste and
office bind to the arts, to perceive such a revolution in an artist's
course of creation, and trace it to its source! I indulged myself in it
and, if you will listen, I should like to show you the result."

"Speak," replied Hermon dully, bowing his head as if submitting to the
inevitable, while Proclus began:

"Hitherto your art imitated, not without success, what your eyes showed
you, and if this was filled with the warm breath of life, your work
succeeded. All respect to your Boy Eating Figs, in whose presence you
would feel the pleasure he himself enjoyed while consuming the sweet
fruit. Here, among the works of Egyptian antiquity, there is imminent
danger of falling under the tyranny of the canon of proportions which can
be expressed in figures, or merely even the demands of the style hallowed
by thousands of years, but in a subject like the 'Fig-eater' such a
reproach is not to be feared. He speaks his own intelligible language,
and whoever reproduces it without turning to the right or left has won,
for he has created a work whose value every true friend of art, no matter
to what school he belongs, prizes highly.

"To me personally such works of living reality are cordially welcome. Yet
art neither can nor will be satisfied with snatches of what is close at
hand; but you are late-born, sons of a time when the two great tendencies
of art have nearly reached the limits of what is attainable to them. You
were everywhere confronted with completed work, and you are right when
you refuse to sink to mere imitators of earlier works, and therefore
return to Nature, with which we Hellenes, and perhaps the Egyptians also,
began. The latter forgot her; the former--we Greeks--continued to cling
to her closely."

"Some few," Hermon eagerly interrupted the other, "still think it worth
the trouble to take from her what she alone can bestow. They save
themselves the toilsome search for the model which others so successfully
used before them, and bronze and marble still keep wonderfully well.
Bring out the old masterpieces. Take the head from this one, the arm from
that, etc. The pupil impresses the proportions on his mind. Only so far
as the longing for the beautiful permits do even the better ones remain
faithful to Nature, not a finger's breadth more."

"Quite right," the other went on calmly. "But your objection only brings
one nearer the goal. How many who care only for applause content
themselves to-day, unfortunately, with Nature at second hand! Without
returning to her eternally fresh, inexhaustible spring, they draw from
the conveniently accessible wells which the great ancients dug for them."

"I know these many," Hermon wrathfully exclaimed. "They are the brothers
of the Homeric poets, who take verses from the Iliad and Odyssey to piece
out from them their own pitiful poems."

"Excellent, my son!" exclaimed Thyone, laughing, and Daphne remarked that
the poet Cleon had surprised her father with such a poem a few weeks
before. It was a marvellous bit of botchwork, and yet there was a certain
meaning in the production, compiled solely from Homeric verses.

"Diomed's Hecuba," observed Proclus, "and the Aphrodite by Hippias, which
were executed in marble, originated in the same way, and deserve no
better fate, although they please the great multitude. But, praised be my
lord, Apollo, our age can also boast of other artists. Filled with the
spirit of the god, they are able to model truthfully and faithfully even
the forms of the immortals invisible to the physical eye. They stand
before the spectator as if borrowed from Nature, for their creators have
filled them with their own healthy vigour. Our poor Myrtilus belonged to
this class and, after your Demeter, the world will include you in it
also."

"And yet," answered Hermon in a tone of dissent, "I remained faithful to
myself, and put nothing, nothing at all of my own personality, into the
forms borrowed from Nature."

"What need of that was there?" asked Proclus with a subtle smile. "Your
model spared you the task. And this at last brings me to the goal I
desired to reach. As the great Athenians created types for eternity, so
also does Nature at times in a happy hour, for her own pleasure, and such
a model you found in our Daphne.-No contradiction, my dear young lady!
The outlines of the figure--By the dog! Hermon might possibly have found
forms no less beautiful in the Aphrosion, but how charming and lifelike
is the somewhat unusual yet graceful pose of yours! And then the heart,
the soul! In your companionship our artist had nothing to do except
lovingly to share your feelings in order to have at his disposal
everything which renders so dear to us all the giver of bread, the
preserver of peace, the protector of marriage, the creator and supporter
of the law of moderation in Nature, as well as in human existence. Where
would all these traits be found more perfectly united in a single human
being than in your person, Daphne, your quiet, kindly rule?"

"Oh, stop!" the girl entreated. "I am only too well aware--"

"That you also are not free from human frailties," Proclus continued,
undismayed. "We will take them, great or small as they may be, into the
bargain. The secret ones do not concern the sculptor, who does not or
will not see them. What he perceives in you, what you enable him to
recognise through every feature of your sweet, tranquillizing face, is
enough for the genuine artist to imagine the goddess; for the distinction
between the mortal and the immortal is only the degree of perfection, and
the human intellect and artist soul can find nothing more perfect in the
whole domain of Demeter's jurisdiction than is presented to them in your
nature. Our friend yonder seized it, and his magnificent work of art
proves how nearly it approaches the purest and loftiest conception we
form of the goddess whom he had to represent. It is not that he deified
you, Daphne; he merely bestowed on the divinity forms which he recognised
in you."

Just at that moment, obeying an uncontrollable impulse, Hermon pulled the
bandage from his eyes to see once more the woman to whom this warm homage
was paid.

Was the experienced connoisseur of art and the artist soul in the right?

He had told himself the same thing when he selected Daphne for a model,
and her head reproduced what Proclus praised as the common possession of
Daphne and Demeter. Truthful Myrtilus had also seen it. Perhaps his work
had really been so marvellously successful because, while he was engaged
upon it, his friend had constantly stood before his mind in all the charm
of her inexhaustible goodness.

Animated by the ardent desire to gaze once more at the beloved face, to
which he now owed also this unexpectedly great success, he turned toward
the spot whence her voice had reached him; but a wall of violet mist,
dotted with black specks, was all that his blinded eyes showed him, and
with a low groan he drew the linen cloth over the burns.

This time Proclus also perceived what was passing in the poor artist's
mind, and when he took leave of him it was with the resolve to do his
utmost to brighten with the stars of recognition and renown the dark
night of suffering which enshrouded this highly gifted sculptor, whose
unexpectedly great modesty had prepossessed him still more in his favour.



CHAPTER II.

After the grammateus had retired, Daphne insisted upon leaving Tennis the
next day.

The desire to see Hermon's masterpiece drew her back to Alexandria even
more strongly than the knowledge of being missed by her father.

Only the separation from Thyone rendered the departure difficult, for the
motherless girl had found in her something for which she had long
yearned, and most sorely missed in her companion Chrysilla, who from
expediency approved of everything she did or said.

The matron, too, had become warmly attached to Daphne, and would gladly
have done all that lay in her power to lighten Hermon's sad fate, yet she
persisted in her determination to return speedily to her old husband in
Pelusium.

But she did not fully realize how difficult this departure would be for
her until the blind man, after a long silence, asked whether it was
night, if the stars were in the sky, and if she really intended to leave
him.

Then burning sympathy filled her compassionate soul, and she could no
longer restrain her tears. Daphne, too, covered her face, and imposed the
strongest restraint upon herself that she might not sob aloud.

So it seemed a boon to both when Hermon expressed the desire to spend
part of the night on deck.

This desire contained a summons to action, and to be able to bestir
themselves in useful service appeared like a favour to Thyone and Daphne.

Without calling upon a slave, a female servant, or even Chrysilla for the
smallest office, the two prepared a couch on deck for the blind man, and,
leaning on the girl's stronger arm, he went up into the open air.

There he stretched both arms heavenward, inhaled deep breaths of the cool
night breeze, and thirstily emptied the goblet of wine which Daphne mixed
and gave him with her own hand.

Then, with a sigh of relief, he said: "Everything has not grown black
yet. A delightful feeling of pleasure takes possession even of the blind
man when the open air refreshes him and the wine warms his blood in the
sunshine of your kindness."

"And much better things are still in prospect," Daphne assured him. "Just
think what rapture it will be when you are permitted to see the light
again after so long a period of darkness!"

"When--" repeated Hermon, his head drooping as he spoke.

"It must, it must be so!" rang with confident assurance from Thyone's
lips.

"And then," added Daphne, gazing sometimes upward to the firmament strewn
with shining stars, sometimes across the broad, rippling expanse of the
water, in which the reflection of the heavenly bodies shimmered in
glittering, silvery radiance, "yes, Hermon, who would not be glad to
exchange with you then? You may shake your head, but I would take your
place quickly and with joyous courage. There is a proof of the existence
of the gods, which so exactly suits the hour when you will again see,
enjoy, admire what this dreary darkness now hides from you. It was a
philosopher who used it; I no longer know which one. How often I have
thought of it since this cruel misfortune befell you! And now--"

"Go on," Hermon interrupted with a smile of superiority. "You are
thinking of Aristotle's man who grew up in a dark cave. The conditions
which must precede the devout astonishment of the liberated youth when he
first emerged into the light and the verdant world would certainly exist
in me."

"Oh, not in that way," pleaded the wounded girl; and Thyone exclaimed:
"What is the story of the man you mention? We don't talk about Aristotle
and such subjects in Pelusium."

"Perhaps they are only too much discussed in Alexandria," said the blind
artist. "The Stagirite, as you have just heard, seeks to prove the
existence of the gods by the man of whom I spoke."

"No, he does prove it," protested Daphne. "Just listen, Mother Thyone. A
little boy grows up from earliest childhood into a youth in a dark cave.
Then suddenly its doors are opened to him. For the first time he sees the
sun, moon, and stars, flowers and trees, perhaps even a beautiful human
face. But at the moment when all these things rush upon him like so many
incomprehensible marvels, must he not ask himself who created all this
magnificence? And the answer which comes to him--"

"There is only one," cried the matron; "the omnipotent gods. Do you shrug
your shoulders at that, son of the pious Erigone? Why, of course! The
child who still feels the blows probably rebels against his earthly
father. But if I see aright, the resentment will not last when you, like
the man, go out of the cave and your darkness also passes away. Then the
power from which you turned defiantly will force itself upon you, and you
will raise your hands in grateful prayer to the rescuing divinity. As to
us women, we need not be drawn out of a cave to recognise it. A mother
who reared three stalwart sons--I will say nothing of the daughters--can
not live without them. Why are they so necessary to her? Because we love
our children twice as much as ourselves, and the danger which threatens
them alarms the poor mother's heart thrice as much as her own. Then it
needs the helping powers. Even though they often refuse their aid, we may
still be grateful for the expectation of relief. I have poured forth many
prayers for the three, I assure you, and after doing so with my whole
soul, then, my son, no matter how wildly the storm had raged within my
breast, calmness returned, and Hope again took her place at the helm. In
the school of the denier of the gods, you forgot the immortals above and
depended on yourself alone. Now you need a guide, or even two or three of
them, in order to find the way. If your mother were still alive, you
would run back to her to hide your face in her lap. But she is dead, and
if I were as proud as you, before clasping the sustaining hand of another
mortal I would first try whether one would not be voluntarily extended
from among the Olympians. If I were you, I would begin with Demeter, whom
you honoured by so marvellous a work."

Hermon waved his hand as if brushing away a troublesome fly, exclaiming
impatiently: "The gods, always the gods! I know by my own mother, Thyone,
what you women are, though I was only seven years old when I was bereft
of her by the same powers that you call good and wise, and who have also
robbed me of my eyesight, my friend, and all else that was dear. I thank
you for your kind intention, and you, too, Daphne, for recalling the
beautiful allegory. How often we have argued over its meaning! If we
continued the discussion, perhaps it might pleasantly shorten the next
few hours, which I dread as I do my whole future existence, but I should
be obliged in the outset to yield the victory to you. The great
Herophilus is right when he transfers the seat of thought from the heart
to the head. What a wild tumult is raging here behind my brow, and how
one voice drowns another! The medley baffles description. I could more
easily count with my blind eyes the cells in a honeycomb than refute with
my bewildered brain even one shrewd objection. It seems to me that we
need our eyes to understand things. We certainly do to taste. Whatever I
eat and drink--langustae and melons, light Mareotic wine and the dark
liquor of Byblus my tongue can scarcely distinguish it. The leech assures
me that this will pass away, but until the chaos within merges into
endurable order there is nothing better for me than solitude and rest,
rest, rest."

"We will not deny them to you," replied Thyone, glancing significantly at
Daphne. "Proclus's enthusiastic judgment was sincerely meant. Begin by
rejoicing over it in the inmost depths of your heart, and vividly
imagining what a wealth of exquisite joys will be yours through your last
masterpiece."

"Willingly, if I can," replied the blind man, gratefully extending his
hand. "If I could only escape the doubt whether the most cruel tyrant
could devise anything baser than to rob the artist, the very person to
whom it is everything, of his sight."

"Yes, it is terrible," Daphne assented. "Yet it seems to me that a richer
compensation for the lost gift is at the disposal of you artists than of
us other mortals, for you understand how to look with the eyes of the
soul. With them you retain what you have seen, and illumine it with a
special radiance. Homer was blind, and for that very reason, I think, the
world and life became clear and transfigured for him though a veil
concealed both from his physical vision."

"The poet!" Hermon exclaimed. "He draws from his own soul what sight, and
sight alone, brings to us sculptors. And, besides, his spirit remained
free from the horrible darkness that assailed mine. Joy itself, Daphne,
has lost its illuminating power within. What, girl, what is to become of
the heart in which even hope was destroyed?"

"Defend it manfully and keep up your courage," she answered softly; but
he pressed her hand firmly, and, in order not to betray how
self-compassion was melting his own soul, burst forth impetuously: "Say
rather: Crush the wish whose fulfilment is self-humiliation! I will go
back to Alexandria. Even the blind and crippled can find ways to earn
their bread there. Now grant me rest, and leave me alone!"

Thyone drew the girl away with her into the ship's cabin.

A short time after, the steward Gras went to Hermon to entreat him to
yield to Thyone's entreaties and leave the deck.

The leech had directed the sufferer to protect himself from draughts and
dampness, and the cool night mists were rising more and more densely from
the water.

Hermon doubtless felt them, but the thought of returning to the close
cabin was unendurable. He fancied that his torturing thoughts would
stifle him in the gloom where even fresh air was denied him.

He allowed the careful Bithynian to throw a coverlet over him and draw
the hood of his cloak over his head, but his entreaties and warnings were
futile.

The steward's watchful nursing reminded Hermon of his own solicitude for
his friend and of his faithful slave Bias, both of whom he had lost. Then
he remembered the eulogy of the grammateus, and it brought up the
question whether Myrtilus would have agreed with him. Like Proclus, his
keen-sighted and honest friend had called Daphne the best model for the
kindly goddess. He, too, had given to his statue the features of the
daughter of Archias, and admitted that he had been less successful. But
the figure! Perhaps he, Hermon, in his perpetual dissatisfaction with
himself had condemned his own work too severely, but that it lacked the
proper harmony had escaped neither Myrtilus nor himself. Now he recalled
the whole creation to his remembrance, and its weaknesses forced
themselves upon him so strongly and objectionably that the extravagant
praise of the stern critic awakened fresh doubts in his mind.

Yet a man like the grammateus, who on the morrow or the day following it
would be obliged to repeat his opinion before the King and the judges,
certainly would not have allowed himself to be carried away by mere
compassion to so great a falsification of his judgment.

Or was he himself sharing the experience of many a fellow-artist? How
often the creator deceived himself concerning the value of his own work!
He had expected the greatest success from his Polyphemus hurling the rock
at Odysseus escaping in the boat, and a gigantic smith had posed for a
model. Yet the judges had condemned it in the severest manner as a work
far exceeding the bounds of moderation, and arousing positive dislike.
The clay figure had not been executed in stone or metal, and crumbled
away. The opposite would probably now happen with the Demeter. Her
bending attitude had seemed to him daring, nay, hazardous; but the acute
critic Proclus had perceived that it was in accord with one of Daphne's
habits, and therefore numbered it among the excellences of the statue.

If the judges who awarded the prize agreed with the verdict of the
grammateus, he must accustom himself to value his own work higher,
perhaps even above that of Myrtilus.

But was this possible?

He saw his friend's Demeter as though it was standing before him, and
again he recognised in it the noblest masterpiece its maker had ever
created. What praise this marvellous work would have deserved if his own
really merited such high encomiums!

Suddenly an idea came to him, which at first he rejected as
inconceivable; but it would not allow itself to be thrust aside, and its
consideration made his breath fail.

What if his own Demeter had been destroyed and Myrtilus's statue saved?
If the latter was falsely believed to be his work, then Proclus's
judgment was explained--then--then---

Seized by a torturing anguish, he groaned aloud, and the steward Gras
inquired what he wanted.

Hermon hastily grasped the Bithynian's arm, and asked what he knew about
the rescue of his statue.

The answer was by no means satisfying. Gras had only heard that, after
being found uninjured in his studio, it had been dragged with great
exertion into the open air. The goldsmith Chello had directed the work.

Hermon remembered all this himself, yet, with an imperious curtness in
marked contrast to his usual pleasant manner to this worthy servant, he
hoarsely commanded him to bring Chello to him early the next morning, and
then again relapsed into his solitary meditations.

If the terrible conjecture which had just entered his mind should be
confirmed, no course remained save to extinguish the only new light which
now illumined the darkness of his night, or to become a cheat.

Yet his resolution was instantly formed. If the goldsmith corroborated
his fear, he would publicly attribute the rescued work to the man who
created it. And he persisted in this intention, indignantly silencing the
secret voice which strove to shake it. It temptingly urged that Myrtilus,
so rich in successes, needed no new garland. His lost sight would permit
him, Hermon, from reaping fresh laurels, and his friend would so gladly
bestow this one upon him. But he angrily closed his ears to these
enticements, and felt it a humiliation that they dared to approach him.

With proud self-reliance he threw back his head, saying to himself that,
though Myrtilus should permit him ten times over to deck him self with
his feathers, he would reject them. He would remain himself, and was
conscious of possessing powers which perhaps surpassed his friend's. He
was as well qualified to create a genuine work of art as the best
sculptor, only hitherto the Muse had denied him success in awakening
pleasure, and blindness would put an end to creating anything of his own.

The more vividly he recalled to memory his own work and his friend's, the
more probable appeared his disquieting supposition.

He also saw Myrtilus's figure before him, and in imagination heard his
friend again promise that, with the Arachne, he would wrest the prize
even from him.

During the terrible events of the last hours he had thought but seldom
and briefly of the weaver, whom it had seemed a rare piece of good
fortune to be permitted to represent. Now the remembrance of her took
possession of his soul with fresh power.

The image of Arachne illumined by the lamplight, which Althea had showed
him, appeared like worthless jugglery, and he soon drove it back into the
darkness which surrounded him. Ledscha's figure, however, rose before him
all the more radiantly. The desire to possess her had flown to the four
winds; but he thought he had never before beheld anything more peculiar,
more powerful, or better worth modelling than the Biamite girl as he saw
her in the Temple of Nemesis, with uplifted hand, invoking the vengeance
of the goddess upon him, and there--he discovered it now--Daphne was not
at all mistaken. Images never presented themselves as distinctly to those
who could see as to the blind man in his darkness. If he was ever
permitted to receive his sight, what a statue of the avenging goddess he
could create from this greatest event in the history of his vision!

After this work--of that he was sure--he would no longer need the
borrowed fame which, moreover, he rejected with honest indignation.



CHAPTER III.

It must be late, for Hermon felt the cool breeze, which in this region
rose between midnight and sunrise, on his burned face and, shivering,
drew his mantle closer round him.

Yet it seemed impossible to return to the cabin; the memory of Ledscha
imploring vengeance, and the stern image of the avenging goddess in the
cella of the little Temple of Nemesis, completely mastered him. In the
close cabin these terrible visions, united with the fear of having reaped
undeserved praise, would have crouched upon his breast like harpies and
stifled or driven him mad. After what had happened, to number the swift
granting of the insulted Biamite's prayer among the freaks of chance was
probably a more arbitrary and foolish proceeding than, with so many
others, to recognise the incomprehensible power of Nemesis. Ledscha had
loosed it against him and his health, perhaps even his life, and he
imagined that she was standing before him with the bridle and wheel,
threatening him afresh.

Shivering, as if chilled to the bone, overwhelmed by intense horror, he
turned his blinded eyes upward to the blackness above and raised his
hand, for the first time since he had joined the pupils of Straton in the
Museum, to pray. He besought Nemesis to be content, and not add to
blindness new tortures to augment the terrible ones which rent his soul,
and he did so with all the ardour of his passionate nature.

The steward Gras had received orders to wake the Lady Thyone if anything
unusual happened to the blind man, and when he heard the unfortunate
artist groan so pitifully that it would have moved a stone, and saw him
raise his hand despairingly to his head, he thought it was time to utter
words of consolation, and a short time after the anxious matron followed
him.

Her low exclamation startled Hermon. To be disturbed in the first prayer
after so long a time, in the midst of the cries of distress of a
despairing soul, is scarcely endurable, and the blind man imposed little
restraint upon himself when his old friend asked what had occurred, and
urged him not to expose himself longer to the damp night air.

At first he resolutely resisted, declaring that he should lose his senses
alone in the close cabin.

Then, in her cordial, simple way, she offered to bear him company in the
cabin. She could not sleep longer, at any rate; she must leave him early
in the morning, and they still had many things to confide to each other.

Touched by so much kindness, he yielded and, leaning on the Bithynian's
arm, followed her, not into his little cabin, but into the captain's
spacious sitting room.

Only a single lamp dimly lighted the wainscoting, composed of ebony,
ivory, and tortoise shell, the gay rug carpet, and the giraffe and
panther skins hung on the walls and doors and flung on the couches and
the floor.

Thyone needed no brilliant illumination for this conversation, and the
blinded man was ordered to avoid it.

The matron was glad to be permitted to communicate to Hermon so speedily
all that filled her own heart.

While he remained on deck, she had gone to Daphne's cabin.

She had already retired, and when Thyone went to the side of the couch
she found the girl, with her cheeks wet with tears, still weeping, and
easily succeeded in leading the motherless maiden to make a frank
confession.

Both cousins had been dear to her from childhood; but while Myrtilus,
though often impeded by his pitiable sufferings, had reached by a smooth
pathway the highest recognition, Hermon's impetuous toiling and striving
had constantly compelled her to watch his course with anxious solicitude
and, often unobserved, extend a helping hand.

Sympathy, disapproval, and fear, which, however, was always blended with
admiration of his transcendent powers, had merged into love. Though he
had disdained to return it, it had nevertheless been perfectly evident
that he needed her, and valued her and her opinion. Often as their views
differed, the obstinate boy and youth had never allowed any one except
herself a strong influence over his acts and conduct. But, far as he
seemed to wander from the paths which she believed the right ones, she
had always held fast to the conviction that he was a man of noble nature,
and an artist who, if he only once fixed his eyes upon the true goal,
would far surpass by his mighty power the other Alexandrian sculptors,
whatever names they bore, and perhaps even Myrtilus.

To the great vexation of her father who, after her mother's death, in an
hour when his heart was softened, had promised that he would never impose
any constraint upon her in the choice of a husband, she had hitherto
rejected every suitor. She had showed even the distinguished Philotas in
Pelusium, without the least reserve, that he was seeking her in vain; for
just at that time she thought she had perceived that Hermon returned her
love, and after his abrupt departure it had become perfectly evident that
the happiness of her life depended upon him.

The terrible misfortune which had now befallen him had only bound her
more firmly to the man she loved. She felt that she belonged to him
indissolubly, and the leech's positive assurance that his blindness was
incurable had only increased the magic of the thought of being and
affording tenfold more to the man bereft of sight than when, possessing
his vision, the world, life, and art belonged to him. To be able to
lavish everything upon the most beloved of mortals, and do whatever her
warm, ever-helpful heart prompted, seemed to her a special favour of the
gods in whom she believed.

That it was Demeter, to the ranks of whose priestesses she belonged, who
was so closely associated with his blinding, also seemed to her no mere
work of chance. The goddess on whom Hermon had bestowed the features of
her own face had deprived him of sight to confer upon her the happiness
of brightening and beautifying the darkness of his life.

If she saw aright, and it was only the fear of obtaining, with herself,
her wealth, that still kept him from her, the path which would finally
unite them must be found at last. She hoped to conquer also her father's
reluctance to give his only child in marriage to a blind man, especially
as Hermon's last work promised to give him the right to rank with the
best artists of his age.

The matron had listened to this confession with an agitated heart. She
had transported herself in imagination into the soul of the girl's
mother, and brought before her mind what objections the dead woman would
have made to her daughter's union with a man deprived of sight; but
Daphne had firmly insisted upon her wish, and supported it by many a
sensible and surprising answer. She was beyond childhood, and her
three-and-twenty years enabled her to realize the consequences which so
unusual a marriage threatened to entail.

As for Thyone herself, she was always disposed to look on the bright
side, and the thought that this vigorous young man, this artist crowned
with the highest success, must remain in darkness to the end of his life,
was utterly incompatible with her belief in the goodness of the gods. But
if Hermon was cured, a rare wealth of the greatest happiness awaited him
in the union with Daphne.

The mood in which she found the blind man had wounded and troubled her.
Now she renewed the bandage, saying: "How gladly I would continue to use
my old hands for you, but this will be the last time in a long while that
I am permitted to do this for the son of my Erigone; I must leave you
to-morrow."

Hermon clasped her hand closely, exclaiming with affectionate warmth:
"You must not go, Thyone! Stay here, even if it is only a few days
longer."

What pleasure these words gave her, and how gladly she would have
fulfilled his wish! But it could not be, and he did not venture to detain
her by fresh entreaties after she had described how her aged husband was
suffering from her absence.

"I often ask myself what he still finds in me," she said. "True, so long
a period of wedded life is a firm tie. If I am gone and he does not find
me when he returns home from inspections, he wanders about as if lost,
and does not even relish his food, though the same cook has prepared it
for years. And he, who forgets nothing and knows by name a large number
of the many thousand men he commands, would very probably, when I am
away, join the troops with only sandals on his feet. To miss my ugly old
face really can not be so difficult! When he wooed me, of course I looked
very different. And so--he confessed it himself--so he always sees me,
and most plainly when I am absent from his sight. But that, Hermon, will
be your good fortune also. All you now know as young and beautiful will
continue so to you as long as this sorrowful blindness lasts, and on that
very account you must not remain alone, my boy--that is, if your heart
has already decided in favour of any one--and that is the case, unless
these old eyes deceive me."

"Daphne," he answered dejectedly, "why should I deny that she is dear to
me? And yet, how dare the blind man take upon himself the sin of binding
her young life--"

"Stop! stop!" Thyone interrupted with eager warmth. "She loves you, and
to be everything to you is the greatest happiness she can imagine."

"Until repentance awakes, and it is too late," he answered gravely. "But
even were her love strong enough to share her husband's misfortune
patiently--nay, perhaps with joyous courage--it would still be
contemptible baseness were I to profit by that love and seek her hand."

"Hermon!" the matron now exclaimed reproachfully; but he repeated with
strong emphasis: "Yes, it would be baseness so great that even her most
ardent love could not save me from the reproach of having committed it. I
will not speak of her father, to whom I am so greatly indebted. It may be
that it might satisfy Daphne, full of kindness as she is, to devote
herself, body and soul, to the service of her helpless companion. But I?
Far from thinking constantly, like her, solely of others and their
welfare, I should only too often, selfish as I now am, be mindful of
myself. But when I realize who I am, I see before me a blind man who is
poorer than a beggar, because the scorching flames melted even the gold
which was to help him pay his debts."

"Folly!" cried the matron. "For what did Archias gather his boundless
treasures? And when his daughter is once yours--"

"Then," Hermon went on bitterly, "the blinded artist's poverty will be
over. That is your opinion, and the majority of people will share it. But
I have my peculiarities, and the thought of being rescued from hunger and
thirst by the woman I love, and who ought to see in me the man from whom
she receives the best gifts--to be dependent on her as the recipient of
her alms--seems to me worse than if I were once more to lose my sight. I
could not endure it at all! Every mouthful would choke me. Just because
she is so dear to me, I can not seek her hand; for, in return for her
great self-sacrificing love, I could give her nothing save the keen
discontent which seizes the proud soul that is forced constantly to
accept benefits, as surely as the ringing sound follows the blow upon the
brass. My whole future life would become a chain of humiliations, and do
you know whither this unfortunate marriage would lead? My teacher Straton
once said that a man learns to hate no one more easily than the person
from whom he receives benefits which it is out of his power to repay.
That is wise, and before I will see my great love for Daphne transformed
to hate, I will again try the starving which, while I was a sculptor at
Rhodes, I learned tolerably well."

"But would not a great love," asked Thyone, "suffice to repay tenfold the
perishable gifts that can be bought with gold and silver?"

"No, and again no!" Hermon answered in an agitated tone. "Something else
would blend with the love I brought to the marriage, something that must
destroy all the compensation it might offer; for I see myself becoming a
resentful misanthrope if I am compelled to relinquish the pleasure of
creating and, condemned to dull inaction, can do nothing except allow
myself to be tended, drink, eat, and sleep. The gloomy mood of her
unfortunate husband would sadden Daphne's existence even more than my
own; for, Thyone, though I should strive with all my strength to bear
patiently, with her dear aid, the burden imposed upon me, and move on
through the darkness with joyous courage, like many another blind man, I
could not succeed."

"You are a man," the matron exclaimed indignantly, "and what thousands
have done before you--"

"There," he loudly protested, "I should surely fail; for, you dear woman,
who mean so kindly by me, my fate is worse than theirs. Do you know what
just forced from my lips the exclamation of pain which alarmed you? I,
the only child of the devout Erigone, for whose sake you are so well
disposed toward me, am doomed to misfortune as surely as the victim
dragged to the altar is certain of death. Of all the goddesses, there is
only one in whose power I believe, and to whom I just raised my hands in
prayer. It is the terrible one to whom I was delivered by hate and the
deceived love which is now dragging me by the hair, and will rob and
torture me till I despair of life. I mean the gray daughter of Night,
whom no one escapes, dread Nemesis."

Thyone sank down into the chair by the blind artist's side, asking
softly, "And what gave you into her avenging hands, hapless boy?"

"My own abominable folly," he answered mournfully and, with the feeling
that it would relieve his heart to pour out to this true friend what he
would usually have confided only to his Myrtilus, he hurriedly related
how he had recognised in Ledscha the best model for his Arachne, how he
had sought her love, and then, detained by Althea, left her in the lurch
and most deeply offended and insulted her. Lastly, he gave a brief but
vivid description of his meeting with the vengeful barbarian girl in the
Temple of Nemesis, how Ledscha had invoked upon him the wrath of the
terrible goddess, and how the most horrible punishment had fallen upon
him directly after the harsh accusation of the Biamite.

The matron had listened to this confession in breathless suspense. Now
she fixed her eyes on the floor, shook her gray head gently, and said
anxiously: "Is that it? It certainly puts things in a different light. As
the son of your never-to-be-forgotten mother, you are indeed dear to my
heart; but Daphne is not less dear to me, and though in your marriage I
just saw happiness for you both, that is now past. What is poverty, what
is blindness! Eros would reconcile far more difficult problems, but his
arrows are shattered on the armour of Nemesis. Where there is a pair of
lovers, and she raises her scourge against one of them, the other will
also be struck. Until you feel that you are freed from this persecutor,
it would be criminal to bind a loving woman to you and your destiny. It
is not easy to find the right path for you both, for even Nemesis and her
power do not make the slightest change in the fact that you need faithful
care and watching in your blindness. Daylight brings wisdom, and we will
talk further to-morrow."

She rose as she spoke; but Hermon detained her, while from his lips
escaped the anxious question, "So you will take Daphne away from me, and
leave me alone in my blindness?"

"You in your blindness?" cried Thyone, and the mere reproachful tone of
the question banished the fear. "I would as quickly deprive my own son of
my support as I would you just at this time, my poor boy; but whether my
conscience will permit me to let Daphne remain near you only grant me, I
repeat it, until sunrise to-morrow for reflection. My old heart will then
find the right way."

"Yet whatever you may decide concerning us," pleaded the blind man, "tell
Daphne that, on the eve of losing her, I first felt in its full power how
warmly I love her. Even without Nemesis, the joy of making her mine would
have been denied me. Fate will never permit me to possess her; yet never
again to hear her gentle voice, never more to feel her dear presence,
would be blinding me a second time."

"It need not be imposed upon you long," said the matron soothingly.

Then she went close to him, laid her hand on his shoulder, and said: "The
power of the goddess who punishes the misdeeds of the reckless is called
irresistible and uncontrollable; but one thing softens even her, and
checks her usually resistless wheel: it is a mother's prayer. I heard
this from my own mother, and experienced it myself, especially in my
oldest son Eumedes, who from the wildest madcap became an ornament of his
class, and to whom the King--you doubtless know it--intrusted the command
of the fleet which is to open the Ethiopian land of elephants to the
Egyptian power. You, Hermon, are an orphan, but for you, too, the souls
of your parents live on. Only I do not know whether you still honour and
pray to them."

"I did until a few years ago," replied Hermon.

"But later you neglected this sacred duty," added Thyone. "Yet how was
that possible? In our barren Pelusium I could not help thinking hundreds
of times of the grove which Archias planted in your necropolis for the
dead members of his family, and how often, while we were in Alexandria,
it attracted me to think in its shade of your never-to-be-forgotten
mother. There I felt her soul near me; for there was her home, and in
imagination I saw her walking and resting under the trees. And you--her
beloved child--you remained aloof from this hallowed spot! Even at the
festival of the dead you omitted prayers and sacrifices?"

The blind artist assented to this question by a silent bend of the head;
but the matron indignantly exclaimed: "And did not you know, unhappy man,
that you were thus casting away the shield which protects mortals from
the avenging gods? And your glorious mother, who would have given her
life for you? Yet you loved her, I suppose?"

"Thyone!" Hermon cried, deeply wounded, holding out his right hand as if
in defence. "Well, well!" said the matron. "I know that you revere her
memory. But that alone is not sufficient. On memorial festivals, and
especially on the birthdays, a mother's soul needs a prayer and a gift
from the son, a wreath, a fillet, fragrant ointment, a piece of honey, a
cup of wine or milk--all these things even the poor man spares from his
penury--yet a warm prayer, in pure remembrance and love, would suffice to
rob the wrath of Nemesis, which the enraged barbarian girl let loose upon
you, of its power. Only your mother, Hermon, the soul of the noble woman
who bore you, can restore to you what you have lost. Appeal for aid to
her, son of Erigone, and she will yet make everything right."

Bending quickly over the artist as she spoke, she kissed his brow and
moved steadily away, though he called her name with yearning entreaty.

A short time after, the steward Gras led Hermon to his cabin, and while
undressing him reported that a messenger from Pelusium had announced that
the commandant Philippus was coming to Tennis the next morning, before
the market place filled, to take his wife with him to Alexandria, where
he was going by the King's command.

Hermon only half listened, and then ordered the Bithynian to leave him.

After he had reclined on the couch a short time, he softly called the
names of the steward, Thyone, and Daphne. As he received no answer, and
thus learned that he was alone, he rose, drew himself up to his full
height, gazed heavenward with his bandaged eyes, stretched both hands
toward the ceiling of the low cabin, and obeyed his friend's bidding.

Thoroughly convinced that he was doing right, and ashamed of having so
long neglected what the duty of a son commanded, he implored his mother's
soul for forgiveness.

While doing so he again found that the figure which he recalled to his
memory appeared before him with marvellous distinctness. Never had she
been so near him since, when a boy of seven, she clasped him for the last
time to her heart. She tenderly held out her arms to him, and he rushed
into her embrace, shouting exultantly while she hugged and kissed him.
Every pet name which he had once been so glad to hear, and during recent
years had forgotten, again fell from her lips. As had often happened in
days long past, he again saw his mother crown him for a festival. Pleased
with the little new garment which she herself had woven for him and
embroidered with a tiny tree with red apples, beneath which stood a
bright-plumaged duckling, she led him by the hand in the necropolis to
the empty tomb dedicated to his father.

It was a building the height of a man, constructed of red Cyprian marble,
on which, cast in bronze, shield, sword, and lance, as well as a
beautiful helmet, lay beside a sleeping lion. It was dedicated to the
memory of the brave hipparch whom he had been permitted to call his
father, and who had been burned beside the battlefield on which he had
found a hero's death.

Hermon now again beheld himself, with his mother, garlanding, anointing,
and twining with fresh fillets the mausoleum erected by his uncle Archias
to his brave brother. The species of every flower, the colour of the
fillets-nay, even the designs embroidered on his little holiday
robe--again returned to his mind, and, while these pleasant memories
hovered around him, he appealed to his mother in prayer.

She stood before him, young and beautiful, listening without reproach or
censure as he besought her forgiveness and confided to her his sins, and
how severely he was punished by Nemesis.

During this confession he felt as though he was kneeling before the
beloved dead, hiding his face in her lap, while she bent over him and
stroked his thick, black hair. True, he did not hear her speak; but when
he looked up again he could see, by the expression of her faithful blue
eyes, that his manly appearance surprised her, and that she rejoiced in
his return to her arms.

She listened compassionately to his laments, and when he paused pressed
his head to her bosom and gazed into his face with such joyous confidence
that his heart swelled, and he told himself that she could not look at
him thus unless she saw happiness in store for him.

Lastly, he began also to confide that he loved no woman on earth more
ardently than the very Daphne whom, when only a pretty little child, she
had carried in her arms, yet that he could not seek the wealthy heiress
because manly pride forbade this to the blind beggar.

Here the anguish of renunciation seized him with great violence, and when
he wished to appeal again to his mother his exhausted imagination refused
its service, and the vision would not appear.

Then he groped his way back to the bed, and, as he let his head sink upon
the pillows, he fancied that he would soon be again enwrapped in the
sweet slumber of childhood, which had long shunned his couch.

It was years since he had felt so full of peace and hope, and he told
himself, with grateful joy, that every childlike emotion had not yet died
within him, that the stern conflicts and struggles of the last years had
not yet steeled every gentle emotion.



CHAPTER IV.

The sun of the following day had long passed its meridian when Hermon at
last woke. The steward Gras, who had grown gray in the service of
Archias, was standing beside the couch.

There was nothing in the round, beardless face of this well-fed yet
active man that could have attracted the artist, yet the quiet tones of
his deep voice recalled to memory the clear, steadfast gaze of his gray
eyes, from which so often, in former days, inviolable fidelity, sound
sense, caution, and prudence had looked forth at him.

What the blind man heard from Gras surprised him--nay, at first seemed
impossible. To sleep until the afternoon was something unprecedented for
his wakeful temperament; but what was he to say to the tidings that the
commandant of Pelusium had arrived in his state galley early in the
morning and taken his wife, Daphne, and Chrysilla away with him to
Alexandria?

Yet it sounded credible enough when the Bithynian further informed him
that the ladies had left messages of remembrance for him, and said that
Archias's ship, upon which he was, would be at his disposal for any
length of time he might desire. Gras was commissioned to attend him. The
Lady Thyone especially desired him to heed her counsel.

While the steward was communicating this startling news as calmly as if
everything was a matter of course, the events of the preceding night came
back to Hermon's memory with perfect distinctness, and again the fear
assailed him that the rescued Demeter was the work of Myrtilus, and not
his own.

So the first question he addressed to Gras concerned the Tennis
goldsmith, and it was a keen disappointment to Hermon when he learned
that the earliest time he could expect to see him would be the following
day. The skilful artisan had been engaged for weeks upon the gold
ornaments on the new doors of the holy of holies in the Temple of Amon at
Tanis. Urgent business had called him home from the neighbouring city
just before the night of the attack; but yesterday evening he had
returned to Tanis, where his wife said he would have only two days' work
to do.

This answer, however, by no means appeased Hermon's impatience. He
commanded that a special messenger should be sent to summon the
goldsmith, and the Bithynian received the order with a slight shake of
his round head.

What new trouble had befallen the usually alert young artist that he
received this unexpected change in his situation as apathetically as a
horse which is led from one stall to another, and, instead of questioning
him, thought only of hastening his interview with the goldsmith? If his
mistress, who had left him full of anxiety from the fear that her
departure would deeply agitate the blind man, should learn how
indifferently he had received it! He, Gras, certainly would not betray
it. Eternal gods--these artists! He knew them. Their work was dearer to
their hearts than their own lives, love, or friendship.

During breakfast, of which the steward was obliged to remind him, Hermon
pondered over his fate; but how could he attain any degree of clearness
of vision until he secured accurate information concerning the statue of
Demeter? Like a dark cloud, which sweeps over the starry sky and prevents
the astronomer from seeing the planets which he desires to observe, the
fear that Proclus's praise had been bestowed upon the work of Myrtilus
stood between him and every goal of his thought.

Only the fact that he still remained blind, and not even the faintest
glimmer of light pierced the surrounding darkness, while the sun
continued its course with glowing radiance, and that, blinded and
beggared, he must despise himself if he sought to win Daphne, was
certain. No reflection could alter it.

Again the peace of mind which he thought he had regained during slumber
was destroyed. Fear of the artisan's statement even rendered it
impossible to pray to his mother with the affectionate devotion he had
felt the day before.

The goldsmith had directed the rescue of the Demeter, yet he would
scarcely have been able to distinguish it from the statue by Myrtilus;
for though, like his friend, he had often employed his skilful hands in
the arrangement of the gold plates at the commencement of the work, the
Egyptian had been summoned to Tennis before the statues had attained
recognisable form. He had not entered the studios for several months,
unless Bias had granted him admittance without informing his master. This
was quite possible, for the slave's keen eyes certainly had not failed to
notice how little he and Myrtilus valued the opinion of the honest,
skilful, but extremely practical and unimaginative man, who could not
create independently even the smallest detail.

So it was impossible to determine at present whether Chello had seen the
finished statues or not, yet Hermon desired the former with actual
fervour, that he might have positive certainty.

While reflecting over these matters, the image of the lean Egyptian
goldsmith, with his narrow, brown, smooth-shaven face and skull,
prominent cheek bones, receding brow, projecting ears and, with all its
keenness, lustreless glance, rose before him as if he could see his
bodily presence. Not a single word unconnected with his trade, the
weather, or an accident, had ever reached the friends' ears from Chello's
thick lips, and this circumstance seemed to warrant Hermon in the
expectation of learning from him the pure, unadulterated truth.

Rarely had a messenger of love been awaited with such feverish suspense
as the slave whom Gras had despatched to Tanis to induce the goldsmith to
return home. He might come soon after nightfall, and Hermon used the
interval to ask the Bithynian the questions which he had long expected.

The replies afforded little additional information. He learned only that
Philippus had been summoned to Alexandria by the King, and that the Lady
Thyone and her husband had talked with the leech and assented to his
opinion that it would be better for Hermon to wait here until the burns
on his face were healed before returning to Alexandria.

For Daphne's sake this decision had undoubtedly been welcome to the
matron, and it pleased him also; for he still felt so ill physically, and
so agitated mentally, that he shrank from meeting his numerous
acquaintances in the capital.

The goldsmith! the goldsmith! It depended upon his decision whether he
would return to Alexandria at all.

Soon after Hermon had learned from Gras that the stars had risen, he was
informed that he must wait patiently for his interview with the Egyptian,
as he had been summoned to the capital that very day by a messenger from
Proclus.

Then the steward had fresh cause to marvel at his charge, for this news
aroused the most vehement excitement.

In fact, it afforded the prospect of a series--perhaps a long one--of the
most torturing days and nights. And the dreaded hours actually came--nay,
the anguish of uncertainty had become almost unendurable, when, on the
seventh day, the Egyptian at last returned from Alexandria. They had
seemed like weeks to Hermon, had made his face thinner, and mingled the
first silver hairs in his black beard.

The calls of the cheerful notary and the daily visits of the leech, an
elderly man, who had depressed rather than cheered him by informing him
of many cases like his own which all proved incurable, had been his sole
diversion. True, the heads of the Greek residents of Tennis had also
sometimes sought him: the higher government officials, the lessees of the
oil monopoly and the royal bank, as well as Gorgias, who, next to Archias
the Alexandrian, owned the largest weaving establishments, but the tales
of daily incidents with which they entertained Hermon wearied him. He
listened with interest only to the story of Ledscha's disappearance, yet
he perceived, from the very slight impression it made upon him, how
little he had really cared for the Biamite girl.

His inquiries about Gula called down upon him many well-meant jests. She
was with her parents; while Taus, Ledscha's young sister, was staying at
the brick-kiln, where the former had reduced the unruly slaves to
submission.

Care had been taken to provide for his personal safety, for the attack
might perhaps yet prove to have been connected with the jealousy of the
Biamite husbands.

The commandant of Pelusium had therefore placed a small garrison of
heavily armed soldiers and archers in Tennis, for whom tents had been
pitched on the site of the burned white house.

Words of command and signals for changing the guards often reached Hermon
when he was on the deck of his ship, and visitors praised the wise
caution and prompt action of Alexander the Great's old comrade.

The notary, a vivacious man of fifty, who had lived a long time in
Alexandria and, asserting that he grew dull and withered in little
Tennis, went to the capital as frequently as possible, had often called
upon the sculptor at first, and been disposed to discuss art and the
other subjects dear to Hermon's heart, but on the third day he again set
off for his beloved Alexandria. When saying farewell, he had been
unusually merry, and asked Hermon to send him away with good wishes and
offer sacrifices for the success of his business, since he hoped to bring
a valuable gift on his return from the journey.

The blind artist was glad to have other visits for a short time, but he
preferred to be alone and devote his thoughts to his own affairs.

He now knew that his love was genuine. Daphne seemed the very incarnation
of desirable, artless, heart-refreshing womanliness, but his memory could
not dwell with her long; anxiety concerning Chello's report only too
quickly interrupted it, as soon as he yielded to its charm.

He did not think at all of the future. What was he to appoint for a time
which the words of a third person might render unendurable?

When Gras at last ushered in the goldsmith, his heart throbbed so
violently that it was difficult for him to find the words needed for the
questions he desired to ask.

The Egyptian had really been summoned to Alexandria by Proclus, not on
account of the Demeter, but the clasp said to belong to Myrtilus, found
amid the ruins of the fallen house, and he had been able to identify it
with absolute positiveness as the sculptor's property.

He had been referred from one office to another, until finally the Tennis
notary and Proclus opened the right doors to him.

Now the importance of his testimony appeared, since the will of the
wealthy young sculptor could not be opened until his death was proved,
and the clasp which had been found aided in doing so.

Hermon's question whether he had heard any particulars about this will
was answered by the cold-hearted, dull-brained man in the negative.

He had done enough, he said, by expressing his opinion. He had gone to
Alexandria unwillingly, and would certainly have stayed in Tennis if he
could have foreseen what a number of tiresome examinations he would be
obliged to undergo. He had been burning with impatience to quit the
place, on account of the important work left behind in Tanis, and he did
not even know whether he would be reimbursed for his travelling expenses.

During this preliminary conversation Hermon gained the composure he
needed.

He began by ascertaining whether Chello remembered the interior
arrangement of the burned white house, and it soon appeared that he
recollected it accurately.

Then the blind man requested him to tell how the rescue of the statue had
been managed, and the account of the extremely prosaic artisan described
so clearly and practically how, on entering the burning building, he
found Myrtilus's studio already inaccessible, but the statue of Demeter
in Hermon's still uninjured, that the trustworthiness of his story could
not be doubted.

One circumstance only appeared strange, yet it was easily explained.
Instead of standing on the pedestal, the Demeter was beside it, and even
the slow-witted goldsmith inferred from this fact that the robbers had
intended to steal it and placed it on the floor for that purpose, but
were prevented from accomplishing their design by the interference of
Hermon and the people from Tennis.

After the Egyptian, in reply to the artist's inquiry concerning what
other works of art and implements he had seen in the studio, had answered
that nothing else could be distinguished on account of the smoke, he
congratulated the sculptor on his last work. People were already making a
great stir about the new Demeter. It had been discussed not only in the
workshop of his brother, who, like himself, followed their father's
calling, but also in the offices, at the harbour, in the barbers' rooms
and the cookshops, and he, too, must admit that, for a Greek goddess,
that always lacked genuine, earnest dignity, it really was a pretty bit
of work.

Lastly, the Egyptian asked to whom he should apply for payment for the
remainder of his labour.

The strip of gold, from which Hermon had ordered the diadem to be made,
had attracted his attention on the head of his Demeter, and compensation
for the work upon this ornament was still due.

Hermon, deeply agitated, asked, with glowing cheeks, whether Chello
really positively remembered having prepared for him the gold diadem
which he had seen in Alexandria, and the Egyptian eagerly assured him
that he had done so. Hitherto he had found the sculptors honest men, and
Hermon would not withhold the payment for his well-earned toil.

The artist strenuously denied such an intention; but when, in his desire
to have the most absolute assurance, he again asked questions about the
diadem, the Egyptian thought that the blind sculptor doubted the justice
of his demand, and wrathfully insisted upon his claim, until Gras managed
to whisper, undetected by Hermon, that he would have the money ready for
him.

This satisfied the angry man. He honestly believed that he had prepared
the gold for the ornament on the head of the Demeter in Alexandria; yet
the statue chiselled by Myrtilus had also been adorned with a diadem, and
Chello had wrought the strip of gold it required. Only it had escaped his
memory, because he had been paid for the work immediately after its
delivery.

Glad to obey his mistress's orders to settle at once any debts which the
artist might have in Tennis, the steward followed the goldsmith while
Hermon, seizing the huge goblet which had just been filled with wine and
water for him drained it at one long draught. Then, with sigh of relief,
he restored it to its place, raised his hand and his blinded eyes
heavenward, and offered a brief, fervent thanksgiving to his mother's
soul and the great Demeter, whom, he might now believe it himself, he had
honoured with a masterpiece which had extorted warm admiration even from
a connoisseur unfriendly his art.

When Gras returned, he said, with a grin of satisfaction, that the
goldsmith was like all the rest of his countrymen. The artists did not
owe him another drachm; the never-to-be-forgotten Myrtilus had paid for
the work ordered by Hermon also.

Then, for the first time since he had been led on board the ship, a gay
laugh rang fro the blind man's lips, rising in deep, pure, joyous tones
from his relieved breast.

The faithful gray eyes of honest Gras glittered with tears at the musical
tones, and how ardently he wished for his beloved mistress when the
sculptor, not content with this, exclaimed as gleefully as in happier
days: "Hitherto I have had no real pleasure from my successful work, old
Gras, but it is awaking now! If my Myrtilus were still alive, and these
miserable eyes yet possessed the power of rejoicing in the light and in
beautiful human forms, by the dog! I would have the mixing vessels
filled, wreath after wreath brought, boon companions summoned, and with
flute-playing, songs, and fiery words, offer the Muses, Demeter, and
Dionysus their due meed of homage!"

Gras declared that this wish might easily be fulfilled. There was no lack
of wine or drinking cups on the vessel, the flute-players whom he had
heard in the Odeum at Tanis did not understand their business amiss,
flowers and wreaths could be obtained, and all who spoke Greek in Tennis
would accept his invitation.

But the Bithynian soon regretted this proposal, for it fell like a
hoar-frost upon the blind man's happy mood. He curtly declined. He would
not play host where he was himself a guest, and pride forbade him to use
the property of others as though it were his own.

He could not regain his suddenly awakened pleasure in existence before
Gras warned him it was time to go to rest. Not until he was alone in the
quiet cabin did the sense of joy in his first great success overpower him
afresh.

He might well feel proud delight in the work which he had created, for he
had accomplished it without being unfaithful to the aims he had set
before him.

It had been taken from his own studio, and the skilful old artisan had
recognised his preliminary work upon the diadem which he, Hermon, had
afterward adorned with ornaments himself. But, alas! this first must at
the same time be his last great success, and he was condemned to live on
in darkness.

Although abundant recognition awaited him in Alexandria, his quickly
gained renown would soon be forgotten, and he would remain a beggared
blind man. But it was now allowable for him to think secretly of
possessing Daphne; perhaps she would wait for him and reject other
suitors until he learned in the capital whether he might not hope to
recover his lost sight. He was at least secure against external want; the
generous Archias would hardly withhold from him the prize he had intended
for the successful statue, although the second had been destroyed. The
great merchant would do everything for his fame-crowned nephew, and he,
Hermon, was conscious that had his uncle been in his situation he would
have divided his last obol with him. Refusal of his assistance would have
been an insult to his paternal friend and guardian.

Lastly, he might hope that Archias would take him to the most skilful
leeches in Alexandria and, if they succeeded in restoring his lost power
of vision, then--then Yet it seemed so presumptuous to lull himself in
this hope that he forbade himself the pleasure of indulging it.

Amid these consoling reflections, Hermon fell asleep, and awoke fresher
and more cheerful than he had been for some time.

He had to spend two whole weeks more in Tennis, for the burns healed
slowly, and an anxious fear kept him away from Alexandria.

There the woman he loved would again meet him and, though he could assure
Thyone that Nemesis had turned her wheel away from him, he would have
been permitted to treat Daphne only with cool reserve, while every fibre
of his being urged him to confess his love and clasp her in his arms.

Gras had already written twice to his master, telling him with what
gratifying patience Hermon was beginning to submit to his great
misfortune, when the notary Melampus returned from Alexandria with news
which produced the most delightful transformation in the blind artist's
outer life.

More swiftly than his great corpulence usually permitted the jovial man
to move, he ascended to the deck, calling: "Great, greater, the greatest
of news I bring, as the heaviest but by no means the most dilatory of
messengers of good fortune from the city of cities. Prick up your ears,
my friend, and summon all your strength, for there are instances of the
fatal effect of especially lavish gifts from the blind and yet often sure
aim of the goddess of Fortune. The Demeter, in whom you proved so
marvellously that the art of a mortal is sufficient to create immortals,
is beginning to show her gratitude. She is helping to twine wreaths for
you in Alexandria."

Here the vivacious man suddenly hesitated and, while wiping his plump
cheeks, perspiring brow, and smooth, fat double chin with his kerchief,
added in a tone of sincere regret: "That's the way with me! In one thing
which really moves me, I always forget the other. The fault sticks to me
like my ears and nose. When my mother gave me two errands, I attended to
the first in the best possible way, but overlooked the second entirely,
and was paid for it with my father's staff, yet even the blue wales made
no change in the fault. But for that I should still be in the city of
cities; but it robbed me of my best clients, and so I was transferred to
this dullest of holes. Even here it clings to me. My detestable
exultation just now proves it. Yet I know how dear to you was the dead
man who manifests his love even from the grave. But you will forgive me
the false note into which my weakness led me; it sprang from regard for
you, my young friend. To serve your cause, I forgot everything else. Like
my mother's first errand, it was performed in the best possible way. You
will learn directly. By the lightnings of Father Zeus and the owl of
Athene, the news I bring is certainly great and beautiful; but he who
yearned to make you happy was snatched from you and, though his noble
legacy must inspire pleasure and gratitude, it will nevertheless fill
your poor eyes with sorrowful tears."

Melampus turned, as he spoke, to the misshapen Egyptian slave who
performed the duties of a clerk, and took several rolls from the
drumshaped case that hung around his neck; but his prediction concerning
Hermon was speedily fulfilled, for the notary handed him the will of his
friend Myrtilus.

It made him the heir of his entire fortune and, however happy the
unexpected royal gift rendered the blind man, however cheering might be
the prospects it opened to him for the future and the desire of his
heart, sobs nevertheless interrupted the affectionate words which
commenced the document Melampus read aloud to him.

Doubtless the tears which Hermon dedicated to the most beloved of human
beings made his blinded eyes smart, but he could not restrain them, and
even long after the notary had left him, and the steward had
congratulated him on his good fortune, the deep emotion of his tender
heart again and again called forth a fresh flood of tears consecrated to
the memory of his friend.

The notary had already informed the grammateus of the disposition which
Myrtilus had made of his property in Hermon's favour a few days before,
but, by the advice of the experienced Proclus, the contents of the will
had been withheld from the sculptor; the unfortunate man ought to be
spared any disappointment, and proof that Myrtilus was really among the
victims of the accident must first be obtained.

The clasp found in the ruins of the white house appeared to furnish this,
and the notary had put all other business aside and gone to Alexandria to
settle the matter.

The goldsmith Chello, who had fastened a new pin to the clasp, and could
swear that it had belonged to Myrtilus, had been summoned to the capital
as a witness, and, with the aid of the influential grammateus of the
Dionysian games and priest of Apollo, the zeal of Melampus had
accomplished in a short time the settlement of this difficult affair,
which otherwise might perhaps have consumed several months.

The violent death of Myrtilus had been admitted as proved by the
magistrate, who had been prepossessed in Hermon's favour by his
masterpiece. Besides, no doubts could be raised concerning the validity
of a will attested by sixteen witnesses. The execution of this last
testament had been intrusted to Archias, as Myrtilus's nearest relative,
and several other distinguished Alexandrians.

The amount of the fortune bequeathed had surprised even these wealthy
men, for under the prudent management of Archias the property inherited
by the modest young sculptor had trebled in value.

The poor blind artist had suddenly become a man who might be termed
"rich," even in the great capital.

Again the steward shook his head; this vast, unexpected inheritance did
not seem to make half so deep an impression upon the eccentric blind man
as the news received a short time ago that his trivial debt to the
goldsmith Chello was already settled. But Hermon must have dearly loved
the friend to whom he owed this great change of fortune, and grief for
him had cast joy in his immense new wealth completely into the shade.

This conjecture was confirmed on the following morning, for the blind man
had himself led to the Greek necropolis to offer sacrifices to the gods
of the nether world and to think of his friend.

When, soon after noon, the lessee of the royal bank appeared on the ship
to offer him as many drachmae or talents as he might need for present
use, he asked for a considerable sum to purchase a larger death-offering
for his murdered friend. The next morning he went with the architect of
the province to the scene of the conflagration, and had him mark the spot
of ground on which he desired to erect to his Myrtilus a monument to be
made in Alexandria.

At sunset, leaning on the steward's arm, he went to the Temple of
Nemesis, where he prayed and commissioned the priest to offer a costly
sacrifice to the goddess in his name.

On the return home, Hermon suddenly stood still and mentioned to Gras the
sum which he intended to bestow upon the blind in Tennis. He knew now
what it means to live bereft of light, and, he added in a low tone, to be
also poor and unable to earn his daily bread.

On the ship he asked the Bithynian whether his burned face had become
presentable again, and no longer made a repulsive impression.

This Gras could truthfully assure him. Then the artist's features
brightened, and the Bithynian heard genuine cheerfulness ring in the
tones of his voice as he exclaimed: "Then, old Gras, we will set out for
Alexandria as soon as the ship is ready to sail. Back to life, to the
society of men of my own stamp, to reap the praise earned by my own
creations, and to the only divine maiden among mortals--to Daphne!"

"The day after to-morrow!" exclaimed the steward in joyous excitement;
and soon after the carrier dove was flying toward the house of Archias,
bearing the letter which stated the hour when his fame-crowned blind
nephew would enter the great harbour of Alexandria.

The evening of the next day but one the Proserpina was bearing Hermon
away from the city of weavers toward home.

As the evening breeze fanned his brow, his thoughts dwelt sadly on his
Myrtilus. Hitherto it had always seemed as if he was bound, and must
commit some atrocious deed to use the seething power condemned to
inaction. But as the galley left the Tanitic branch of the Nile behind,
and the blind man inhaled the cool air upon the calm sea, his heart
swelled, and for the first time he became fully aware that, though the
light of the sun would probably never shine for him again, and therefore
the joy of creating, the rapture of once more testing his fettered
strength, would probably be forever denied him, other stars might perhaps
illumine his path, and he was going, in a position of brilliant
independence, toward his native city, fame, and--eternal gods!--love.

Daphne had conquered, and he gave only a passing thought to Ledscha and
the hapless weaver Arachne.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Chance, which took no heed of merit or unworthiness
     Deceived himself concerning the value of his own work
     Gods whom men had invented after their own likeness
     Hate the person from whom he receives benefits



ARACHNE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 6.



CHAPTER V.

At the third hour after sunrise a distinguished assemblage of people
gathered at the landing place east of the Temple of Poseidon in the great
harbour of Alexandria.

Its members belonged to the upper classes, for many had come in carriages
and litters, and numerous pedestrians were accompanied by slaves bearing
in delicately woven baskets and cornucopias a laurel wreath, a papyrus
crown, or bright-hued flowers.

The most aristocratic among the gentlemen had gathered on the western
side of the great sanctuary, between the cella and the long row of Doric
columns which supported the roof of the marble temple.

The Macedonian Council of the city was already represented by several of
its members. Among their number was Archias, Daphne's father, a man of
middle height and comfortable portliness, from whose well-formed,
beardless face looked forth a pair of shrewd eyes, and whose quick
movements revealed the slight irritability of his temperament.

Several members of the Council and wealthy merchants surrounded him,
while the grammateus Proclus first talked animatedly with other
government officials and representatives of the priesthood, and then with
Archias. The head of the Museum, who bore the title of "high priest," had
also appeared there with several members of this famous centre of the
intellectual life of the capital. They shared the shade of this part of
the temple with distinguished masters of sculpture and painting,
architecture and poetry, and conversed together with the graceful
animation of Greeks endowed with great intellectual gifts.

Among them mingled, distinguishable neither by costume nor language, a
number of prominent patrons of art in the great Jewish community. Their
principal, the alabarch, was talking eagerly with the philosopher
Hegesias and the Rhodian leech Chrysippus; Queen Arsinoe's favourite,
whom at Althea's instigation she had sent with Proclus to receive the
returning traveller.

Sometimes all gazed toward the mouth of the harbour, where the expected
ship must soon pass the recently completed masterpiece of Sostratus, the
towering lighthouse, still shining in its marble purity.

Soon many Alexandrians also crowded the large platform in front of the
Temple of Poseidon, and the very wide marble staircase leading from it to
the landing place.

Beneath the bronze statues of the Dioscuri, at the right and left of the
topmost step, had also gathered the magnificent figures of the Phebi and
the younger men from the wrestling school of Timagetes, with garlands on
their curling locks, as well as many younger artists and pupils of the
older masters.

The statues of the gods and goddesses of the sea and their lofty
pedestals, standing at the sides of the staircase, cast upon the marble
steps, gleaming in the radiance of the morning sun, narrow shadows, which
attracted the male and female chorus singers, who, also wearing beautiful
garlands, had come to greet the expected arrival with solemn chants.

Several actors were just coming from rehearsal in the theatre of
Dionysus, east of the Temple of Poseidon, of which, like all the stages
in the city, Proclus was chief manager.

A pretty dancing girl, who hung on the arm of the youngest, extended her
hand with a graceful gesture toward the staircase, and asked:

"Whom can they be expecting there? Probably some huge new animal for the
Museum which has been caught somewhere for the King, for yonder stiff
wearer of a laurel crown, who throws his head back as though he would
like to eat the Olympians and take the King for a luncheon into the
bargain, is Straton, the denier of the gods, and the little man with the
bullethead is the grammarian Zoilus."

"Of course," replied her companion. "But there, too, is Apollodorus, the
alabarch of the Jews, and the heavy money-bag Archias--"

"Why look at them!" cried the younger mime. "It's far better worth while
to stretch your neck for those farther in front. They are genuine friends
of the Muses--the poets Theocritus and Zenodotus."

"The great Athene, Apollo, and all his nine Pierides, have sent their
envoys," said the older actor pathetically, "for there, too, are the
sculptors Euphranor and Chares, and the godlike builder of the
lighthouse, Sostratus in person."

"A handsome man," cried the girl flute-player, "but vain, I tell you,
vain--"

"Self-conscious, you ought to say," corrected her companion.

"Certainly," added the older actor, patting his smooth cheeks and chin
with a rose he held in his hand.  "Who can defend himself against the
highest merit, self-knowledge? But the person who is to have this
reception, by the staff of Dionysus! if modesty flies away from him
like the bird from a girl, it ought Just look there! The tall,
broad-shouldered fellow yonder is Chrysippus, the right hand of Arsinoe,
as our grammateus Proclus is her left. So probably some prince is
expected."

"The gentlemen of the Museum and the great artists yonder would not stir
a foot, far less lose so precious a morning hour, for any mere wearer of
a crown or sceptre," protested the other actor; "it must be--"

"That the King or the Queen command it," interrupted the older player.
"Only Arsinoe is represented here. Or do you see any envoy of Ptolemy?
Perhaps they will yet arrive. If there were ambassadors of the great
Roman Senate--"

"Or," added the dancer, "envoys from King Antiochus. But--goose that I
am!--then they would not be received here, but in the royal harbour at
the Lochias. See if I don't prove to be right! Divine honours are to be
paid to some newly attracted hero of the intellect. But--just follow my
finger! There--yonder--it comes floating along at the left of the island
of Antirrhodus. That may be his galley! Magnificent! Wonderfully
beautiful! Brilliant! Like a swan! No, no, like a swimming peacock! And
the silver embroidery on the blue sails! It glitters and sparkles like
stars in the azure sky."

Meanwhile the elder actor, shading his eyes with his hand, had been
gazing at the harbour, where, amid the innumerable vessels, the expected
one, whose sails were just being reefed, was steered by a skilful hand.
Now he interrupted the blond beauty with the exclamation: "It is
Archias's Proserpina! I know it well." Then, in a declamatory tone, he
continued: "I, too, was permitted on the deck of the glittering vessel,
lightly rocked by the crimson waves, to reach my welcome goal; as the
guest of peerless Archias, I mean. The most magnificent festival in his
villa! There was a little performance there in which Mentor and I allowed
ourselves to be persuaded to take part. But just see how the beautiful
ship uses the narrow passage between the two triremes, as if it had the
bloodleech's power of contraction! But to return to the festival of
Archias: the oyster ragout served there, the pheasant pasties--"

Here he interrupted himself, exclaiming in surprise: "By the club of
Hercules, the Proserpina is to be received with a full chorus! And there
is the owner himself descending the stairs! Whom is she bringing?"

"Come! come!" cried the dancing girl to her companion, dragging him after
her, "I shall die of curiosity."

The singing and shouting of many voices greeted the actors as they
approached the platform of the Temple of Poseidon.

When from this spot the dancer fixed her eyes upon the landing place, she
suddenly dropped her companion's arm, exclaiming: "It is the handsome
blind sculptor, Hermon, the heir of the wealthy Myrtilus. Do you learn
this now for the first time, you jealous Thersites? Hail, hail, divine
Hermon! Hail, noble victim of the ungrateful Olympians! Hail to thee,
Hermon, and thy immortal works! Hail, hail, hail!"

Meanwhile she waved her handkerchief with frenzied eagerness, as if she
could thus force the blind man to see her, and a group of actors whom
Proclus, the grammateus of the Dionysian arts, had sent here to receive
Hermon worthily, followed her example.

But her cries were drowned by the singing of the chorus and by thousands
of shouting voices, while Hermon was embraced by Archias on board the
galley, and then, by his guidance, stepped on shore and ascended the
staircase of the Temple of Poseidon.

Before the ship entered the harbour, the artist had had a large goblet of
unmixed wine given to him, that he might conquer the emotion that had
overpowered him.

Though his blind eyes did not show him even the faintest outline of a
figure, he felt as if he was flooded with brilliant sunshine.

While the Proserpina was bearing him past the lighthouse, Gras told him
that they had now reached the great harbour, and at the same time he
heard the shouts, whistles, signals, and varying sounds of the landing
place with its crowded shipping, and of the capital.

His blood surged in his veins, and before his mind rose the vision of the
corn-flower blue sky, mirrored in the calm surface of the bluest of seas.
The pharos built by Sostratus towered in dazzling whiteness above the
tide, and before him rose the noble temple buildings, palaces, and
porticoes of the city of Alexandria, with which he was familiar, and
before and between them statue after statue of marble and bronze, the
whole flooded with radiant golden light.

True, darkness sometimes swallowed this wonderful picture, but an effort
of the will was sufficient to show it to him again.

"The Temple of Poseidon!" cried Gras. "The Proserpina is to land at the
foot of the steps." And now Hermon listened to the sounds from the shore,
whose hum and buzz transported him into the midst of the long-missed city
of commerce, knowledge, and arts.

Then the captain's shouts of command fell imperiously upon his ears, the
strokes of the oars ceased, their blades sank with a loud splash into the
water, and at the same instant from the temple steps Hermon was greeted
by the solemn notes of the chorus, from whose rhythm his own name rang
forth again and again like so many shouts of victory.

He thought his heart would fairly burst through his arched chest, and the
passionate violence of its throbbing did not lessen when Gras exclaimed:
"Half Alexandria has assembled to greet you. Ah, if you could only see
it! How the kerchiefs are waving! Laurel after laurel in every hand! All
the distinguished people in the capital have gathered on the sacred soil
of the Temple of Poseidon. There is Archias, too; there are the artists
and the famous gentlemen of the Museum, the members of the Ephebi, and
the priests of the great gods."

Hermon listened with his hand pressed on his breast, and while doing so
the power of his imagination showed the vast, harmoniously noble
structure of the many-pillared Temple of Poseidon, surrounded by as many
thousands as there were in reality hundreds. From all parts of the
sanctuary, even from the tops of the roofs, he beheld laurel branches and
kerchiefs waving and tossing, and wreaths flung on the ground before him.
If this picture was correct, the whole city was greeting him, headed by
the men whom he honoured as great and meritorious, and in front of them
all Daphne, with drooping head, full of feminine grace and heart-winning
goodness.

While the chorus continued their song, and the welcoming shouts grew
louder, the brilliant picture faded away, but in return he felt friendly
arms clasp him. First Archias, then Proclus, and after him a succession
of fellow-artists-the greatest of all--drew him into a warm embrace.

Finally he felt himself led away, placed his feet as his Uncle Archias
whispered directions, and as they gropingly obeyed them ascended the
temple steps and stood in utter darkness upon the platform listening to
the speeches which so many had prepared.

All the distinguished men in the city expressed their sympathy, their
pity, their admiration, their hopes, or sent assurances of them to him.
The Rhodian Chrysippus, despatched by the Queen, delivered the wreath
which the monarch bestowed, and informed Hermon, with her greetings, that
Arsinoe deemed his Demeter worthy of the laurel.

The most famous masters of his art, the great scholars from the Museum,
the whole priesthood of Demeter, which included Daphne, the servants of
Apollo, his dear Ephebi, the comrades of his physical exercises--all whom
he honoured, admired, loved-loaded him with praises and good wishes, as
well as the assurance of their pride in numbering him among them.

No form, no colour from the visible world, penetrated the darkness
surrounding him, not even the image of the woman he loved. Only his ears
enabled him to receive the praises, honours, congratulations lavished
here and, though he sometimes thought he had received enough, he again
listened willingly and intently when a new speaker addressed him in warm
words of eulogy. What share compassion for his unprecedentedly sorrowful
fate had in this extravagantly laudatory and cordial greeting, he did not
ask; he only felt with a throbbing heart that he now stood upon a summit
which he had scarcely ventured to hope ever to attain. His dreams of
outward success which had not been realized, because he deemed it treason
to his art to deviate from the course which he believed right and best
adapted to it, he now, without having yielded to the demands of the old
school, heard praised as his well-earned possessions.

He felt as if he breathed the lighter, purer air of the realms of the
blessed, and the laurel crown which the Queen's envoy pressed upon his
brow, the wreaths which his fellow-artists presented to him by hands no
less distinguished than those of the great sculptor Protogenes, and
Nicias, the most admired artist after the death of Apelles, seemed, like
the wings on the hat and shoes of Hermes, messenger of the gods, to raise
him out of himself and into the air.

Darkness surrounded him, yet a bright dazzling light issued from his soul
and illuminated his whole being with the warm golden radiance of the sun.

Not even the faintest shadow dimmed it until Soteles, his fellow-student
at Rhodes, who sustained him with ardent earnestness in the struggle to
prefer truth to beauty, greeted him.

He welcomed him and wished that he might recover his lost sight as warmly
as his predecessors. He praised the Demeter, too, but added that this was
not the place to say what he missed in her. Yet that she did lack it
awakened in him an emotion of pain, for this, Hermon's last work,
apparently gave the followers of the ancients a right to number him in
their ranks.

His cautious expression of regret must refer to the head of his Demeter.
Yet surely it was not his fault that Daphne's features bore the impress
of that gentle, winning kindness which he himself and Soteles, imitating
him, had often condemned as weak and characterless.

The correctness of his belief was instantly proved to him by the address
of gray-haired, highly praised Euphranor, who spoke of the Demeter's
countenance with warm admiration. And how ardently the poets Theocritus
and Zenodotus extolled his work to the skies!

Amid so much laudation, one faint word of dissatisfaction vanished like a
drop of blood that falls into a clear stream.

The welcome concluded with a final chant by the chorus, and continued to
echo in Hermon's ears as he entered his uncle's chariot and drove away
with him, crowned with laurel and intoxicated as if by fiery wine.

Oh, if he could only have seen his fellow-citizens who so eagerly
expressed their good will, their sympathy, their admiration! But the
black and coloured mist before his eyes revealed no human figure, not
even that of the woman he loved, who, he now learned for the first time
from her father, had appeared among the priestesses of Demeter to greet
him.

Doubtless he was gladdened by the sound of her voice, the clasp of her
hand, the faint fragrance of violets exhaling from her fair hair, which
he had often remembered with so much pleasure when alone in Tennis; but
the time to devote himself to her fully and completely had not yet come,
for what manifold and powerful impressions, how much that was elevating,
delightful, and entertaining awaited him immediately!

The Queen's envoy had expressed his mistress's desire to receive the
creator of the Demeter, the Ephebi and his fellow-artists had invited him
to a festival which they desired to give in his honour, and on the way
Archias informed him that many of his wealthy friends in the Macedonian
Council expected that he, the honoured hero of the day, would adorn with
his presence a banquet in their houses.

What a rich, brilliant life awaited him in spite of his blindness! When
he entered his uncle's magnificent city home, and not only all the
servants and clients of the family, but also a select party of ladies and
gentlemen greeted him with flowers and hundreds of other tokens of
affection and appreciation, he gave himself up without reserve to this
novel excess of fame and admiration.

Notwithstanding his blindness, he felt, after the burns on his face had
healed, thoroughly well, as strong as a giant--nay, more vigorous and
capable of enjoyment than ever. What prevented him from revelling to the
full in the superabundant gifts which Fate, recently so cruel, now
suddenly cast into his lap with lavish kindness?

Yet many flattering and pleasant things as he had experienced that day,
he was far from feeling satiety. On entering the hall of the men in his
uncle's dwelling, the names of famous men and proud beauties had been
repeated to him. Formerly they had taken little notice of him, yet now
even the most renowned received him like an Olympian victor.

What did all these vain women really care for him? Yet their favour was
part of the triumph whose celebration he must permit to-day. His heart
held but one being for whom it yearned, and with whom thus far he had
been able only to exchange a few tender greetings.

The time for a long conversation had not yet arrived, but he asked Thyone
to lead him to her and, while she listened anxiously, described with
feverish animation the incidents of the last few days. But he soon
lowered his voice to assure her that he had not ceased to think of her
even for a single hour, and the feeling of happiness which, in spite of
his misfortune, had filled and lent wings to his soul, was not least due
to the knowledge of being near her again.

And her presence really benefited him almost as much as he had
anticipated during the hours of solitary yearning in Tennis; he felt it a
great favour of Fate to be permitted to strive to possess her, felt even
during the delirium of this reception that he loved her. What a
tremendous longing to clasp her at once in his arms as his betrothed
bride overwhelmed him; but her father's opposition to the union of his
only child with a blind man must first be conquered, and the great
agitation in his soul, as well as the tumult around him, seemed like a
mockery of the quiet happiness which hovered before him when he thought
of his marriage with Daphne. Not until everything was calmer would the
time come to woo her. Until then both must be satisfied with knowing from
each other's lips their mutual love, and he thought he perceived in the
tone of her voice the deep emotion of her heart.

Perhaps this had prevented Daphne's expressing her congratulations upon
the success of his Demeter as eagerly and fully as he had expected.
Painfully disturbed by her reserve, he had just attempted to induce her
to give a less superficial opinion of his work, when the curtains of the
dining room parted-the music of flutes, singing, and pleasant odours
greeted him and the guests. Archias summoned them to breakfast, and a
band of beautiful boys, with flowers and garlands of ivy, obeyed the
command to crown them.

Then Thyone approached the newly united pair and, after exchanging a few
words with Daphne, whispered in an agitated voice to the blind sculptor,
over whose breast a brown-locked young slave was just twining a garland
of roses: "Poverty no longer stands between you and the object of your
love; is it Nemesis who even now still seals your lips?"

Hermon stretched out his hand to draw her nearer to him and murmur softly
that her counsel had aided him to break the power of the terrible
goddess, but he grasped the empty air. At the same time the deep voice of
his love's father, whose opposition threatened to cloud his new
happiness, singing, flute-playing, and the laughter of fair women greeted
him and, only half master of his own will, he assented, by a slight bend
of the head, to the matron's question. A light shiver ran through his
frame with the speed of lightning, and the Epicurean's maxim that fear
and cold are companions darted through his brain. But what should he
fear? He had endured severe trials, it is true, for the sake of remaining
faithful to truth in art and life; but who probably ever reached the age
of manhood without once deviating from it? Besides, he was surely aware
that, had he been obliged to answer Thyone in words, he would not have
been guilty of the falsehood. His reply had consisted of a slight motion
of the head, and it negatived nothing; it was merely intended to defer
for a short time the thing he most desired.

Yet the rash answer weighed heavily on his mind; but it could no longer
be recalled that day, and was believed, for Thyone whispered, "We shall
succeed in reconciling the terrible being."

Again the light tremour ran through him, but it lasted only an instant;
for Chrysilla, the representative of the dead mistress of the house,
whose duty it was to assign the guests their places, called to Hermon,
"The beautiful Glycera does you the honour of choosing you for a
neighbour" and, before the sentence was finished, Archias himself seized
his arm and led him to the cushions at the side of the much-courted
beauty.

The guests began the banquet in a very joyous mood.

Greek gaiety, and the quick intellect and keen wit of the Alexandrians,
combined with the choicest viands of the luxurious capital, where the
wines and dainties of all the countries of the Mediterranean found
sellers and buyers, and the cook's vocation was developed into a fine
art, to spice this banquet with a hundred charms for the mind and senses.
To-day the principal place in this distinguished circle of famous men,
great and wealthy nobles, beautiful and aristocratic women, was awarded
to the blind sculptor. He was pledged by every one who had admired his
Demeter, who compassionated his sad fate, or who desired to be agreeable
to him or his host.

Every kind remark about his person, his blindness, and his masterpiece
was repeated to him and, after the wine and the effort to attract
Daphne's attention and shine in the presence of his beautiful neighbour
had heated and winged his thoughts, he found an apt reply to each
noteworthy word.

When the dessert was finally eaten, and after sunset, in the brilliant
light of the lamps and candles, greater attention was paid to the mixing
vessels, all remained silent to listen to his fervid speech.

Glycera had asked him, at the beginning of the banquet, to tell her about
the attack in Tennis. Now he yielded to her wish that he should repeat
the captivating tale to the others, and the spirits of the wine helped
him to perform the task with such animation that his hearers listened to
his description in breathless suspense, and many eyes rested on the
handsome face of the great blind artist as if spellbound.

When he paused, loud applause rewarded him, and as it reached him from
every part of the spacious room, his deep, resonant voice put him in
communication even with the more distant guests, and he might have been
taken for the symposiarch or director of the banquet.

This conspicuous position of the feted artist did not please every one,
and a rhetorician, famed for his sharp tongue, whispered to his
neighbour, one of Hermon's older fellow-artists, "What his eyes have lost
seems to benefit his tongue." The sculptor answered: "At any rate, the
impetuous young artist might succeed better in proving himself, by its
assistance, a good entertainer, than in creating more mediocre
masterpieces like the Demeter."

Similar remarks were made on other cushions; but when the philosopher
Hegesias asked the famous sculptor Euphranor what he thought of Hermon's
Demeter, the kindly old man answered, "I should laud this noble work as a
memorable event, even if it did not mark the end, as well as the
beginning, of its highly gifted creator's new career."

Nothing of this kind was uttered near Hermon. Everything that reached him
expressed delight, admiration, sympathy, and hope. At dessert the
beautiful Glycera divided her apple, whispering as she gave him one half,
"Let the fruit tell you what the eyes can no longer reveal, you poor and
yet so abundantly rich darling of the gods."

He murmured in reply that his happiness would awake the envy of the
immortals if, in addition, he were permitted to feast upon the sight of
her beauty.

Had he been able to see himself, Hermon, who, as a genuine Greek, was
accustomed to moderate his feelings in intercourse with others, would
have endeavoured to express the emotions of joy which filled his heart
with more reserve, and to excel his companions at the festival less
recklessly.

His enthusiastic delight carried many away with him; others, especially
Daphne, were filled with anxious forebodings by his conduct, and others
still with grave displeasure.

Among the latter was the famous leech Erasistratus, who shared Archias's
cushions, and had been solicited by the latter to try to restore his
blind nephew's sight. But the kindly physician, who gladly aided even the
poorest sufferer, curtly and positively refused. To devote his time and
skill to a blind man who, under the severest of visitations, lulled
himself so contentedly in happiness, he considered unjust to others who
desired recovery more ardently.

"When the intoxication of this unbridled strength passes away, and is
followed by a different mood," remarked the merchant, "we will talk of
this matter again," and the confident tone of his deep voice gave the
simple sentence such significance that the learned leech held out his
hand, saying: "Only where deep, earnest longing for recovery fills the
sufferer's mind will the gods aid the physician. We will wait for the
change which you predict, Archias!"

The guests did not disperse until late, and the best satisfied of all was
the grammateus Proclus, who had taken advantage of the rich merchant's
happy mood, and his own warm intercession in behalf of his nephew's work,
to persuade Archias to advance Queen Arsinoe a large sum of money for an
enterprise whose object he still carefully concealed.

The highly honoured blind artist spent the night under his uncle's roof.



CHAPTER VI.

Hermon rose from his couch the next morning alert and ready for new
pleasures.

He had scarcely left the bath when envoys from the Ephebi and the younger
artists invited him to the festivities which they had arranged in his
honour. He joyously accepted, and also promised messengers from many of
Archias's friends, who wished to have the famous blind sculptor among
their guests, to be present at their banquets.

He still felt as if he were intoxicated, and found neither disposition
nor time for quiet reflection. His great strength, fettered as it were by
his loss of sight, now also began to stir. Fate itself withheld him from
the labour which he loved, yet in return it offered him a wealth of
varying pleasure, whose stimulating power he had learned the day before.
He still relished the draught from the beaker of homage proffered by his
fellow-citizens; nay, it seemed as if it could not lose its sweetness for
a long time.

He joined the ladies before noon, and his newly awakened feeling of joy
beamed upon them scarcely less radiantly than yesterday. Though Thyone
might wonder that a man pursued by Nemesis could allow himself to be
borne along so thoughtlessly by the stream of pleasure, Daphne certainly
did not grudge him the festal season which, when it had passed, could
never return to the blind artist. When it was over, he would yearn for
the quiet happiness at her side, which gazed at him like the calm eyes of
the woman he loved. With her he would cast anchor for the remainder of
his life; but first must come the period when he enjoyed the compensation
now awarded to him for such severe sufferings.

His heart was full of joy as he greeted Daphne and the Lady Thyone, whom
he found with her; but his warm description of the happy emotion which
had overpowered him at the abundant honours lavished upon him was
interrupted by Archias.

In his usual quick, brisk manner, he asked whether Hermon wished to
occupy the beautiful villa with the magnificent garden on Lake Mareotis,
inherited from Myrtilus, which could scarcely be reached in a vehicle
from the Brucheium in less than an hour, or the house situated in the
centre of the city, and Hermon promptly decided in favour of the latter.

His uncle, and probably the ladies also, had expected the contrary. Their
silence showed this plainly enough, and Hermon therefore added in a tone
of explanation that later the villa would perhaps suit his condition
better, but now he thought it would be a mistake to retire to the quiet
which half the city was conspiring to disturb. No one contradicted him,
and he left the women's apartment with a slight feeling of vexation,
which, however, was soon jested away by the gay friends who sought him.

When he removed to the city house the next day, he had not yet found time
for a serious talk with Daphne. His uncle, who had managed the estate of
Myrtilus, and wished to give Hermon an account of his inheritance, was
refused by the blind artist, who assured him that he knew Archias had
greatly increased rather than diminished his property, and thanked him
sincerely and warmly. In the convenient and spacious city house the young
sculptor very soon thought he had good reason to be satisfied with his
choice.

Most of his friends were busy artists, and what loss of time every visit
to the remote villa would have imposed upon them, what haste he himself
would have been obliged to use to reach home from the bath, where he
often spent many hours, from the wrestling school, from the meetings of
fashionable people in the Paneum gardens, and at sunset by the seashore
on the royal highway in the Brucheium. All these places were very far
from the villa. It would have required whole hours, too, to reach a
famous cookshop in the Canopus, at whose table he liked to assemble
beloved guests or revel with his friends. The theatre, the Odeum, most of
the public buildings, as well as the houses of his best friends, and
especially the beautiful Glycera, were easily reached from his city home,
and, among the temples, that of Demeter, which he often visited to pray,
offer sacrifices, and rejoice in the power of attraction which his statue
of the goddess exerted upon the multitude. It stood at the back of the
cella in a place accessible to the priesthood alone, visible only through
the open doors, upon a pedestal which his fellow-artists pronounced
rather too high. Yet his offer to have it made smaller was not accepted,
because had it been lower the devout supplicants who stood there to pray
could not have raised their eyes to it.

It was not only at the festivals of the dead that he went to the Greek
cemetery, where he had had a magnificent monument erected for his dead
mother. If his head ached after a nocturnal carouse, or the disagreeable
alarming chill stole over him which he had felt for the first time when
he falsely answered Thyone that he was still under the ban of Nemesis, he
went to the family monuments, supplied them with gifts, had sacrifices
offered to the souls of the beloved dead, and in this way sometimes
regained a portion of his lost peace of mind.

The banquet in the evening always dispelled whatever still oppressed him
on his return home from these visits, for, though months had elapsed
since his brilliant reception, he was still numbered, especially in
artist circles, with the most honoured men; he, the blind man, no longer
stood in any one's way; conversation gained energy and meaning through
the vivacity of his fervid intellect, which seemed actually deepened by
his blindness when questions concerning art were at issue, and from a
modest fellow-struggler he had become a patron bestowing orders.

The sculptor Soteles, who had followed his footsteps since the
apprenticeship in Rhodes, was intrusted with the erection of the monument
to Myrtilus in Tennis, and another highly gifted young sculptor, who
pursued his former course, with the execution of the one to his mother.

From a third he ordered a large new mixing vessel of chased silver for
the society of Ephebi, whose members had lauded him, at the magnificent
festival given in his honour, with genuine youthful fervour.

In the designs for these works his rich and bold gift of invention and
the power of his imagination proved their full value, and even his older
fellow-artists followed him with sincere admiration when, in spite of his
darkened eyes, he brought before them distinctly, and often even with the
charcoal or wax tablet in his hand, what he had in mind. What magnificent
things might not this man have created had he retained his sight, what
masterpieces might not have been expected! and his former works, which
had been condemned as unlovely, offensive, and exaggerated, were now
loudly admired; nay, the furious Maenads struggling on the ground and the
Street Boy Eating Figs, which were no longer his property, were sold at
high prices. No meeting of artists was complete without Hermon, and the
great self-possession which success and wealth bestowed, besides his
remarkable talent and the energy peculiar to him, soon aided him to great
influence among the members of his profession; nay, he would speedily
have reached the head of their leaders had not the passionate impetuosity
of his warlike nature led the more cautious to seek to restrain the
powerful enthusiast.

Archias's wealthy friends had no such apprehension. To them the lauded
blind artist was not much more than a costly dish certain to please their
guests; yet this, too, was no trifle in social circles which spent small
fortunes for a rare fish.

At the banquets of these princes of commerce he often met Daphne, still
more frequently the beautiful Glycera, whose husband, an old ship-owner
of regal wealth, was pleased to see famous men harnessed to his young
wife's chariot of victory. Hermon's heart had little to do with the
flirtation to which Glycera encouraged him at every new meeting, and the
Thracian Althea only served to train his intellect to sharp debates. But
in this manner he so admirably fulfilled her desire to attract attention
that she more than once pointed out to the Queen, her relative, the
remarkably handsome blind man whose acquaintance she had made on a night
of mad revel during the last Dionysia but one. Althea even thought it
necessary to win him, in whom she saw the future son-in-law of the
wealthy Archias, for through the graminateus Proclus the merchant had
been persuaded to advance the King's wife hundreds of talents, and
Arsinoe cherished plans which threatened to consume other large sums.

Thyrone watched Hermon's conduct with increasing indignation, while
Daphne perceived that these women had no more power to estrange her lover
from her than the bedizened beauties who were never absent from the
artists' festivals. How totally different was his intercourse with her!
His love and respect were hers alone; yet she saw in him a soul-sick man,
and persistently rejected Philotas, who wooed her with the same zeal as
before, and the other suitors who were striving to win the wealthy
heiress. She had confessed her feelings to her father, her best friend,
and persuaded him to have patience a little longer, and wait for the
change which he himself expected in his nephew.

This had not been difficult, for Archias loved Hermon, in spite of the
many anxieties he had caused him, as if he were his own son and, knowing
his daughter, he was aware that she could be happy with the man who
possessed her heart though he was deprived of sight.

The fame which Hermon had won by great genius and ability had gratified
him more than he expressed, and he could not contradict Daphne when she
asserted that, in spite of the aimless life of pleasure to which he
devoted himself, he had remained the kind-hearted, noble man he had
always been.

In fact, he used, unasked and secretly, a considerable portion of his
large revenues to relieve the distress of the poor and suffering. Archias
learned this as the steward of his nephew's property, and when to do good
he made new demands upon him, he gladly fulfilled them; only he
constantly admonished the blind man to think of his own severe sufferings
and his cure. Daphne did the same, and he willingly obeyed her advice;
for, loudly and recklessly as he pursued pleasure in social circles, he
showed himself tenderly devoted to her when he found her alone in her
father's house. Then, as in better days, he opened his heart to her
naturally and modestly and, though he refrained from vows of love, he
showed her that he did not cease to seek with her, and her alone, what
his noisy pleasures denied. Then he also found the old tone of affection,
and of late he came more frequently, and what he confided to no one else
implied to her, at least by hints.

Satiety and dissatisfaction were beginning to appear, and what he had
attempted to do for the cure of his eyes had hitherto been futile. The
remedies of the oculists to whom he had been directed by Daphne herself
had proved ineffectual. The great physician Erasistratus, from whom he
first sought help, had refrained, at her entreaty and her father's, from
refusing to aid him, but indignantly sent him away when he persisted in
the declaration that it would be impossible for him to remain for months
secluded from all society and subsist for weeks on scanty fare.

He would submit even to that, he assured Daphne, after she represented to
him what he was losing by such lack of resignation, when the time of rest
had come for which he longed, but from which many things still withheld
him. Yesterday the King had invited him to the palace for the first time,
and to decline such an honour was impossible.

In fact, he had long wished for this summons, because he had been
informed that no representative of the sovereign had been present at his
reception. Only his wife Arsinoe had honoured him by a wreath and
congratulations. This lack of interest on the part of the King had
wounded him, and the absence of an invitation from the royal connoisseur
had cast a shadow into the midst of many a mirthful hour. He had
doubtless been aware what great and important affairs of state were
claiming the conscientious sovereign just at this time, and how almost
unbearable his restless, unloving spouse was rendering his domestic life;
yet Hermon thought Ptolemy might have spared a short time for an event in
the art life of the city, as his Demeter had been called hundreds of
times.

Now the long-desired command to appear before the sovereign had finally
reached him, and, in the secure belief that it would bring fresh
recognition and rare honours, he entered the royal palace.

Proclus, who neglected no opportunity of serving the nephew of the rich
man whose aid he constantly required for the Queen's finances, was his
guide, and described the decoration of the inner apartments of the royal
residence. Their unostentatious simplicity showed the refined taste of
their royal occupant. There was no lack of marble and other rare kinds of
stone, and the numerous bas-reliefs which covered the walls like the most
superb tapestry were worthy of special attention. In the oblong apartment
through which the blind man was guided these marble pictures represented
in magnificent work scenes from the campaigns in which Ptolemy, the
King's father, had participated as Alexander's general. Others showed
Athene, Apollo, the Muses, and Hermes, surrounding or hastening toward
the throne of the same monarch, and others again Greek poets and
philosophers. Magnificent coloured mosaic pictures covered the floor and
many flat spaces above door and windows, but gold and silver had been
sparingly used.

Masterpieces of painting and sculpture were the ornaments of the room. In
the antechamber, where Hermon waited for the King, Proclus mentioned one
of the finest statues of Alexander by Lysippus, and an exquisite Eros by
Praxiteles.

The period of waiting, however, became so long to the spoiled artist that
he anticipated the monarch's appearance with painful discomfort, and the
result of the few minutes which Ptolemy II devoted to his reception was
far behind the hopes he had fixed upon them.

In former days he had often seen the narrow-shouldered man of barely
medium height who, to secure his own safety, had had two brothers killed
and sent another into exile, but now ruled Egypt shrewdly and prudently,
and developed the prosperity of Alexandria with equal energy and
foresight.

Now, for the first time, Hermon heard him speak. He could not deny that
his voice was unusually pleasant in tone, yet it unmistakably issued from
the lips of a sufferer.

The brief questions with which he received the blind artist were kindly,
and as natural as though addressing an equal, and every remark made in
connection with Hermon's answers revealed a very quick and keen
intellect.

He had seen the Demeter, and praised the conception of the goddess
because it corresponded with her nature. The sanctity which, as it were,
pervaded the figure of the divine woman pleased him, because it made the
supplicants in the temple feel that they were in the presence of a being
who was elevated far above them in superhuman majesty.

"True," he added, "your Demeter is by no means a powerful helper in time
of need. She is a goddess such as Epicurus imagines the immortals.
Without interfering with human destiny, she stands above it in sublime
grandeur and typical dignity. You belong, if I see correctly, to the
Epicureans?"

"No," replied Hermon. "Like my lord and King, I, too, number myself among
the pupils of the wise Straton."

"Indeed?" asked Ptolemy in a drawling tone, at the same time casting a
glance of astonishment at the blind man's powerful figure and
well-formed, intellectual face. Then he went on eagerly: "I shall
scarcely be wrong in the inference that you, the creator of the
Fig-eater, had experienced a far-reaching mental change before your
unfortunate loss of sight?"

"I had to struggle hard," replied Hermon, "but I probably owe the success
of the Demeter to the circumstance that I found a model whose mind and
nature correspond with those of the goddess to a rare degree."

The monarch shook his fair head, and protested in a tone of positive
superior knowledge: "As to the model, however well selected it may be, it
was not well chosen for this work, far less for you. I have watched your
battle against beauty in behalf of truth, and rejoiced, though I often
saw you and your little band of young disciples shoot beyond the mark.
You brought something new, whose foundation seemed to me sound, and on
which further additions might be erected. When the excrescences fell off,
I thought, this Hermon, his shadow Soteles, and the others who follow him
will perhaps open new paths to the declining art which is constantly
going back to former days. Our time will become the point of departure of
a new art. But for that very reason, let me confess it, I regret to see
you fall back from your bold advance. You now claim for your work that it
cleaves strictly to Nature, because the model is taken from life itself.
It does not become me to doubt this, yet the stamp of divinity which your
Demeter bears is found in no mortal woman. Understand me correctly! This
is certainly no departure from the truth, for the ideal often deserves
this lofty name better than anything the visible world offers to the eye;
but hitherto you have done honour to another truth. If I comprehend your
art aright, its essence is opposed to the addition of superhuman dignity
and beauty, with which you, or the model you used, strove to ennoble and
deify your Demeter. Admirably as you succeeded in doing so, it forces
your work out of the sphere of reality, whose boundary I never before saw
you cross by a single inch. Whether this occurred unconsciously to you in
an hour of mental ecstasy, or whether you felt that you still lacked the
means to represent the divine, and therefore returned to the older
methods, I do not venture to decide. But at the first examination of your
work I was conscious of one thing: It means for you a revolution, a
rupture with your former aspirations; and as--I willingly confess it--you
had been marvellously successful, it would have driven you, had your
sight been spared, out of your own course and into the arms of the
ancients, perhaps to your material profit, but scarcely to the advantage
of art, which needs a renewal of its vital energies."

"Let me assure you, my lord," Hermon protested, "that had I remained able
to continue to create, the success of the Demeter would never, never have
rendered me faithless to the conviction and method of creation which I
believed right; nay, before losing my sight, my whole soul was absorbed
in a new work which would have permitted me to remain wholly and
completely within the bounds of reality."

"The Arachne?" asked the King.

"Yes, my lord," cried Hermon ardently. "With its completion I expected to
render the greatest service, not only to myself, but to the cause of
truth."

Here Ptolemy interrupted with icy coldness: "Yet you were certainly
wrong; at least, if the Thracian Althea, who is the personification of
falsehood, had continued to be the model." Then he changed his tone, and
with the exclamation: "You are protected from the needs of life, unless
your rich uncle throws his property into the most insatiable of gulfs.
May Straton's philosophy help you better to sustain your courage in the
darkness which surrounds you than it has aided me to bear other trials!"
he left the room.

Thus ended the artist's conversation with the King, from which Hermon had
expected such great results and, deeply agitated, he ordered the driver
of his horses to take him to Daphne. She was the only person to whom he
could confide what disappointment this interview had caused him.

Others had previously reproached him, as the King had just done, with
having, in the Demeter, become faithless to his artistic past. How false
and foolish this was! Many a remark from the critics would have been
better suited to Myrtilus's work than to his. Yet his fear in Tennis had
not been true. Only Daphne's sweet face did not suit his more vigorous
method of emphasizing distinctions.

What a many-hued chameleon was the verdict upon works of plastic art!
Once--on his return to the capital--thousands had united in the same one,
and now how widely they differed again!

His earlier works, which were now lauded to the skies, had formerly
invited censure and vehement attacks.

What would he not have given for the possibility of seeing his admired
work once more!

As his way led past the Temple of Demeter, he stopped near it and was
guided to the sanctuary.

It was filled with worshippers, and when, in his resolute manner, he told
the curator and the officiating priest that he wished to enter the cella,
and asked for a ladder to feel the goddess, he was most positively
refused.

What he requested seemed a profanation of the sacred image, and it would
not do to disturb the devout throng. His desire to lower the pedestal
could not be gratified.

The high priest who came forward upheld his subordinates and, after a
short dispute, Hermon left the sanctuary with his wish unfulfilled.

Never had he so keenly lamented his lost vision as during the remainder
of the drive, and when Daphne received him he described with passionate
lamentation how terribly blindness embittered his life, and declared
himself ready to submit to the severest suffering to regain his sight.

She earnestly entreated him to apply to the great physician Erasistratus
again, and Hermon willingly consented. He had promised to attend a
banquet given that day by the wealthy ship-owner Archon. The feast lasted
until early morning, but toward noon Hermon again appeared in his uncle's
house, and met Daphne full of joyous confidence, as if he were completely
transformed.

While at Archon's table he had determined to place his cure in the hands
of higher powers. This was the will of Fate; for the guest whose cushion
he shared was Silanus, the host's son, and the first thing he learned
from him was the news that he was going the next day, with several
friends, to the oracle of Amon in the Libyan Desert, to ask it what
should be done for his mother, who had been for several years an invalid
whom no physician could help. He had heard from many quarters that the
counsel of the god, who had greeted Alexander the Great as his son, was
infallible.

Then Hermon had been most urgently pressed by the young man to accompany
him. Every comfort would be provided. One of his father's fine ships
would convey them to Paraetonium, where tents, saddle horses, and guides
for the short land journey would be ready.

So he had promised to go with Silanus, and his decision was warmly
approved by his uncle, Daphne, and the gray-haired Pelusinian couple.
Perhaps the god would show the blind man the right path to recovery. He
would always be able to call the skill of the Alexandrian leeches to his
aid.

Soon after Hermon went on board Archon's splendidly equipped vessel and,
instead of a tiresome journey, began a new and riotous period of
festivity.

Lavish provision had been made for gay companions of both sexes, merry
entertainment by means of dancing, music, and song, well filled dishes
and mixing vessels, and life during the ride through the coast and desert
regions was not less jovial and luxurious than on the ship.

It seemed to the blind man like one vast banquet in the dark, interrupted
only by sleep.

The hope of counsel from the gods cheered the depressed mood which had
weighed upon him for several weeks, and rich young Silanus praised the
lucky fate which had enabled him to find a travelling companion whose
intellect and wit charmed him and the others, and often detained them
over the wine until late into the night.

Here, too, Hermon felt himself the most distinguished person, the
animating and attracting power, until it was said that the voyage was
over, and the company pitched their tents in the famous oasis near the
Temple of Amon.

The musicians and dancers, with due regard to propriety, had been left
behind in the seaport of Paraetonium. Yet the young travellers were
sufficiently gay while Silanus and Hermon waited for admission to the
place of the oracle. A week after their arrival it was opened to them,
yet the words repeated to them by the priest satisfied neither Hermon nor
Archon's son, for the oracle advised the latter to bring his mother
herself to the oasis by the land road if she earnestly desired recovery,
while to Hermon was shouted the ambiguous saying:

  "Only night and darkness spring from the rank marsh of pleasure;
   Morning and day rise brightly from the starving sand."

Could Silanus's mother, who was unable to move, endure the desert
journey? And what was the meaning of the sand, from which morning and
day--which was probably the fresh enjoyment of the light--were to rise
for Hermon? The sentence of the oracle weighed heavily upon him, as well
as on Archon's son, who loved his mother, and the homeward journey became
to the blind man by no means a cheerful but rather a very troubled dream.

Thoughtful, very disturbed, dissatisfied with himself, and resolved to
turn his back upon the dreary life of pleasure which for so long a time
had allowed him no rest, and now disgusted him, he kept aloof from his
travelling companions, and rejoiced when, at Alexandria, he was led
ashore in the harbour of Eunostus.



CHAPTER VII.

Hermon entered his house with drooping head.

Here he was informed that the grammateus of the Dionysian artists had
already called twice to speak to him concerning an important matter. When
he came from the bath, Proclus visited him again. His errand was to
invite him to a banquet which was to take place that evening at his
residence in a wing of the royal palace.

But Hermon was not in the mood to share a joyous revel, and he frankly
said so, although immediately after his return he had accepted the
invitation to the festival which the whole fellowship of artists would
give the following day in honour of the seventieth birthday of the old
sculptor Euphranor. The grammateus alluded to this, and most positively
insisted that he could not release him; for he came not only by his own
wish, but in obedience to the command of Queen Arsinoe, who desired to
tell the creator of the Demeter how highly she esteemed his work and his
art. She would appear herself at dessert, and the banquet must therefore
begin at an unusually early hour. He, Proclus, was to have the high
honour of including the royal lady among his guests solely on Hermon's
account, and his refusal would be an insult to the Queen.

So the artist found himself obliged to relinquish his opposition. He did
this reluctantly; but the Queen's attention to him and his art flattered
his vanity and, if he was to abandon the intoxicating and barren life of
pleasure, it could scarcely be done more worthily than at a festival
where the King's consort intended to distinguish him in person.

The banquet was to begin in a few hours, yet he could not let the day
pass without seeing Daphne and telling her the words of the oracle. He
longed, with ardent yearning, for the sound of her voice, and still more
to unburden his sorely troubled soul to her.

Oh, if only his Myrtilus still walked among the living! How totally
different, in spite of his lost vision, would his life have been!

Daphne was now the only one whom he could put in his place.

Since his return from the oracle, the fear that the rescued Demeter might
yet be the work of Myrtilus had again mastered him. However loudly
outward circumstances might oppose this, he now felt, with a certainty
which surprised him, that this work was not his own. The approval, as
well as the doubts, which it aroused in others strengthened his opinion,
although even now he could not succeed in bringing it into harmony with
the facts. How deep had been the intoxication in which he had so long
reeled from one day to the next, since it had succeeded in keeping every
doubt of the authorship of this work far from him!

Now he must obtain certainty, and Daphne could help him to it; for, as a
priestess of Demeter, she possessed the right to procure him access to
the cella and get permission for him to climb the lofty pedestal and feel
the statue with his fingers, whose sense of touch had become much keener.

He would frankly inform her of his fear, and her truthful nature would
find the doubt that gnawed his heart as unendurable as he himself.

It would have been a grave crime to woo her before he was relieved of
this uncertainty, and he would utter the decisive words that very day,
and ask her whether her love was great enough to share the joys and
sorrows of life with him, the blind man, who perhaps must also divest
himself of a false fame.

Time pressed.

He called at Archias's house with a wreath on his head and in festal
robes; but Daphne was in the temple, whither old Philippus and Thyone had
gone, and his uncle was attending a late session of the Council.

He would have liked to follow Daphne to the sanctuary, but the late hour
forbade it, and he therefore only charged Gras to tell his young mistress
that he was going to Proclus's banquet, and would return early the next
morning to discuss a most important subject with her.

Then he went directly to the neighbouring palace. The Queen might have
appeared already, and it would not do to keep her waiting.

He was aware that she lived at variance with her husband, but how could
he have suspected that she cherished the more than bold design of hurling
the sovereign from his throne and seizing the Egyptian crown herself.

Proclus and Althea were among the conspirators who supported Arsinoe, and
the Queen thought it would be an easy matter to win over to her cause and
herself the handsome sculptor, whom she remembered at the last Dionysia.

The wealthy blind artist, so highly esteemed among the members of his
profession, might become valuable to the conspiracy, for she knew what
enthusiastic devotion the Alexandrian artists felt for the King, and
everything depended upon forming a party in her own favour among them.
This task was to fall to Hermon, and also another, still more important
one; for he, his nephew and future son-in-law, if any one, could persuade
the wealthy Archias to lend the plot his valuable aid. Hitherto the
merchant had been induced, it is true, to advance large sums of money to
the Queen, but the loyal devotion which he showed to her royal husband
had rendered it impossible to give him even a hint of the conspiracy.
Althea, however, declared that the blind man's marriage to Daphne was
only a question of time, and Proclus added that the easily excited nephew
would show himself more pliant than the uncle if Arsinoe exerted upon him
the irresistible charm of her personality.

When Hermon entered the residence of the grammateus in the palace, the
guests had already assembled. The Queen was not to appear until after the
feast, when the mixing jars were filled. The place by Hermon's side,
which Althea had chosen for herself, would then be given up to Arsinoe.

The sovereign was as unaccustomed to the society of a blind artist as
Hermon was to that of a queen, and both eagerly anticipated the
approaching meeting.

Yet it was difficult for Hermon to turn a bright face toward his
companion. The sources of anxiety and grief which had previously burdened
his mind would not vanish, even under the roof of the royal palace.

Althea's presence reminded him of Tennis, Ledscha, and Nemesis, who for
so long a time seemed to have suspended her persecution, but since he had
returned from the abode of the oracle was again asserting the old right
to him. During many a sleepless hour of the night he had once more heard
the rolling of her terrible wheel.

Even before the journey to the oasis of Amon, everything life could offer
him, the idle rake, in his perpetual darkness, had seemed shallow and
scarcely worth stretching out his hand for it.

True, an interesting conversation still had power to charm him, but often
during its continuance the full consciousness of his misfortune forced
itself upon his mind; for the majority of the subjects discussed by the
artists came to them through the medium of sight, and referred to new
creations of architecture, sculpture, and painting, from whose enjoyment
his blindness debarred him.

When returning home from a banquet, if his way lay through the city, he
was reminded of the superb buildings, marble terraces and fountains,
statues and porticoes, which had formerly satiated his eyes with delight,
and must now be illumined with a brilliant radiance by the morning
sunbeams, though a hostile fate shut them out from his eyes, starving and
thirsting for beautiful forms.

But it had seemed to him still harder to bear that his blinded eyes
refused to show him the most beautiful of all beautiful things, the human
form, when he lingered among the Ephebi or the spectators of a festal
procession, or visited the gymnasium, the theatre, the Aphrodisium, or
the Paneum gardens, where the beautiful women met at sunset.

The Queen was to appear immediately, and when she took her place near him
his blindness would again deprive him of the sight of her delicately cut
features, prevent his returning the glances from her sparkling eyes, and
admiring the noble outlines of her thinly veiled figure.

Would his troubled spirit at least permit him to enjoy and enter without
restraint into the play of her quick wit?

Perhaps her arrival would relieve him from the discomfort which oppressed
him here.

A stranger, out of his own sphere, he felt chilled among these closely
united men and women, to whom no tie bound him save the presence of the
same host.

He was not acquainted with a single individual except the mythograph
Crates, who for several months had been one of the members of the Museum,
and who had attached himself to Hermon at Straton's lectures.

The artist was surprised to find this man in such a circle, but he
learned from Althea that the young member of the Museum was a relative of
Proclus, and a suitor of the beautiful Nico, one of the Queen's ladies in
waiting, who was among the guests.

Crates had really been invited in order to win him over to the Queen's
cause; but charming fair-haired Nico had been commissioned by the
conspirators to persuade him to sing Arsinoe's praises among his
professional associates.

The rest of the men present stood in close connection with Arsinoe, and
were fellow-conspirators against her husband's throne and life. The
ladies whom Proclus had invited were all confidants of Arsinoe, the wives
and daughters of his other guests. All were members of the highest class
of society, and their manners showed the entire freedom from restraint
that existed in the Queen's immediate circle. Althea profited by the
advantage of being Hermon's only acquaintance here. So, when he took his
place on the cushion at her side, she greeted him familiarly and
cordially, as she had treated him for a long time, wherever they met, and
in a low voice told him, sometimes in a kindly tone, sometimes with
biting sarcasm, the names and characters of the other guests.

The most aristocratic was Amyntas, who stood highest of all in the
Queen's favour because he had good reason to hate the other Arsinoe, the
sister of the King. His son had been this royal dame's first husband, and
she had deserted him to marry Lysimachus, the aged King of Thrace.

The Rhodian Chrysippus, her leech and trusted counsellor, also possessed
great influence over the Queen.

"The noble lady," whispered Althea, "needs the faithful devotion of every
well-disposed subject, for perhaps you have already learned how cruelly
the King embitters the life of the mother of his three children. Many a
caprice can be forgiven the suffering Ptolemy, who recently expressed a
wish that he could change places with the common workmen whom he saw
eating their meal with a good appetite, and who is now tortured by the
gout; yet he watches the hapless woman with the jealousy of a tiger,
though he himself is openly faithless to her. What is the Queen to him,
since the widow of Lysimachus returned from Thrace--no, from Cassandrea,
Ephesus, and sacred Samothrace, or whatever other places there are which
would no longer tolerate the murderess?"

"The King's sister--the object of his love?" cried Hermon incredulously.
"She must be forty years old now."

"Very true," Althea assented. "But we are in Egypt, where marriages
between brothers and sisters are pleasing to gods and men; and besides,
we make our own moral laws here. Her age! We women are only as old as we
look, and the leeches and tiring women of this beauty of forty practise
arts which give her the appearance of twenty-five, yet perhaps the King
values her intellect more than her person, and the wisdom of a hundred
serpents is certainly united in this woman's head. She will make our poor
Queen suffer unless real friends guard her from the worst. The three most
trustworthy ones are here: Amyntas, the leech Chrysippus, and the
admirable Proclus. Let us hope that you will make this three-leaved
clover the luck-promising four-leaved one. Your uncle, too, has often
with praiseworthy generosity helped Arsinoe in many an embarrassment.
Only make the acquaintance of this beautiful royal lady, and the last
drop of your blood will not seem too precious to shed for her!
Besides--Proclus told me so in confidence--you have little favour to
expect from the King. How long he kept you waiting for the first word
concerning a work which justly transported the whole city with delight!
When he did finally summon you, he said things which must have wounded
you."

"That is going too far," replied Hermon.

"Then he kept back his real opinion," Althea protested. "Had I not made
it a rule to maintain absolute silence concerning everything I hear in
conversation from those with whom I am closely associated--"

Here she was interrupted by Chrysippus, who asked if Althea had told her
neighbour about his Rhodian eye-salve.

He winked at her and made a significant gesture as he spoke, and then
informed the blind artist how graciously Arsinoe had remembered him when
she heard of the remedy by whose aid many a wonderful cure of blind eyes
had been made in Rhodes. The royal lady had inquired about him and his
sufferings with almost sisterly interest, and Althea eagerly confirmed
the statement.

Hermon listened to the pair in silence.

He had not been able to see them, it is true, yet he had perceived their
design as if the loss of sight had sharpened his mental vision. He
imagined that he could see the favourite and Althea nudge each other with
sneering gestures, and believed that their sole purpose was to render
him--he knew not for what object--the obedient tool of the Queen, who had
probably also succeeded in persuading his usually cautious uncle to
render her great services.

The remembrance of Arsinoe's undignified conduct at the Dionysia, and the
shameful stories of her which he had heard returned to his mind. At the
same time he saw Daphne rise before him in her aristocratic dignity and
kindly goodness, and a smile of satisfaction hovered around his lips as
he said to himself: "The spider Althea again! But, in spite of my
blindness, I will be caught neither in her net nor in the Queen's. They
are the last to bar the way which leads to Daphne and real happiness."

The Rhodian was just beginning to praise Arsinoe also as a special friend
and connoisseur of the sculptor's art when Crates, Hermon's
fellow-student, asked the blind artist, in behalf of his beautiful
companion, why his Demeter was placed upon a pedestal which, to others as
well as himself, seemed too high for the size of the statue.

Hermon replied that he had heard several make this criticism, but the
priests of the goddess refused to take it into account.

Here he hesitated, for, like a blow from an invisible hand, the thought
darted through his mind that perhaps, on the morrow, he would see himself
compelled before the whole world to cast aside the crown of fame which he
owed to the statue on the lofty pedestal. He did not have even the
remotest idea of continuing to deck himself with false renown if his
dread was realized; yet he doubtless imagined how this whole aristocratic
circle, with the Queen, Althea, and Proclus at its head, would turn with
reckless haste from the hapless man who had led them into such a shameful
error.

Yet what mattered it, even if these miserable people considered
themselves deceived and pointed the finger of scorn at him? Better people
would thereby be robbed of the right to accuse him of faithlessness to
himself. This thought darted through his heated brain like a flash of
lightning, and when, in spite of his silence, the conversation was
continued and Althea told the others that only Hermon's blindness had
prevented the creation of a work which could have been confidently
expected far to surpass the Demeter, since it seemed to have been exactly
suited to his special talent, he answered his beautiful companion's
remark curtly and absently.

She perceived this with annoyance and perplexity.

A woman who yearns for the regard of all men, and makes love a toy,
easily lessens the demands she imposes upon individuals. Only, even
though love has wholly disappeared, she still claims consideration, and
Althea did not wish to lose Hermon's regard.

When Amyntas, the head of the conspirators, attracted the attention of
the company by malicious remarks about the King's sister, the Thracian
laid her hand on the blind artist's arm, whispering: "Has the image of
the Arachne which, at Tennis, charmed you even in the presence of the
angry Zeus, completely vanished from your memory? How indifferent you
look! But I tell you"--her deep blue eyes flashed as she spoke--"that so
long as you were still a genuine creating artist the case was different.
Even while putting the last touches of the file to the Demeter, for which
Archias's devout daughter posed as your model, another whom you could not
banish from your mind filled your imagination. Though so loud a denial is
written on your face, I persist in my conviction, and that no idle
delusion ensnares me I can prove!"

Hermon raised his sightless eyes to her inquiringly, but she went on with
eager positiveness: "Or, if you did not think of the weaver while carving
the goddess, how did you happen to engrave a spider on the ribbon twined
around the ears of grain in Demeter's hand? Not the smallest detail of a
work produced by the hand of a valued friend escapes my notice, and I
perceived it before the Demeter came to the temple and the lofty
pedestal. Now I would scarcely be able to discover it in the dusky cella,
yet at that time I took pleasure in the sight of the ugly insect, not
only because it is cleverly done, but because it reminded me of
something"--here she lowered her voice still more--"that pleased me,
though probably it would seem less flattering to the daughter of Archias,
who perhaps is better suited to act as guide to the blind. How bewildered
you look! Eternal gods! Many things are forgotten after long months have
passed, but it will be easy for me to sharpen your memory. 'At the time
Hermon had just finished the Demeter,' the spider called to me, 'he
scratched me on the gold.' But at that very time--yes, my handsome
friend, I can reckon accurately--you had met me, Althea, in Tennis, I had
brought the spider-woman before your eyes. Was it really nothing but
foolish vanity that led me to the conviction that you were thinking of me
also when you engraved on the ribbon the despised spider-for which,
however, I always felt a certain regard--with the delicate web beneath
its slender legs?"

Hitherto Hermon had listened to every word in silence, labouring for
breath. He was transported as if by magic to the hour of his return from
Pelusium; he saw himself enter Myrtilus's studio and watch his friend
scratch something, he did not know what, upon the ribbon which fastened
the bunch of golden grain. It was--nay, it could have been nothing
else--that very spider. The honoured work was not his, but his dead
friend's. How the exchange had occurred he could not now understand, but
to disbelieve that it had taken place would have been madness or
self-deception.

Now he also understood the doubts of Soteles and the King. Not
he--Myrtilus, and he alone, was the creator of the much-lauded Demeter!

This conviction raised a hundred-pound weight from his soul.

What was applause! What was recognition! What were fame and laurel
wreaths! He desired clearness and truth for himself and all the world
and, as if frantic, he suddenly sprang from his cushions, shouting to the
startled guests: "I myself and this whole great city were deceived! The
Demeter is not mine, not the work of Hermon! The dead Myrtilus created
it!"

Then pressing his hand to his brow, he called his student friend to his
side, and, as the scholar anxiously laid his arm on his shoulder,
whispered: "Away, away from here! Only let me get out of doors into the
open air!"

Crates, bewildered and prepared for the worst, obeyed his wish; but
Althea and the other guests left behind felt more and more impressed by
the suddenly awakened conviction that the hapless blind man had now also
become the victim of madness.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARK:

Aimless life of pleasure



ARACHNE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 7.



CHAPTER VIII.

Without a word of explanation, Hermon dragged his guide along in
breathless haste. No one stopped them.

The atrium, usually swarming with guards, servants, and officials until a
far later hour, was completely deserted when the blind man hurried
through it with his friend.

The door leading into the outer air stood open, but Hermon, leaning on
the scholar's arm, had scarcely crossed the threshold and entered the
little courtyard encircled with ornamental plants, which separated this
portion of the palace from the street, when both were surrounded by a
band of armed Macedonian soldiers, whose commander exclaimed: "In the
name of the King! Not a sound, if you value your lives!"

Incensed, and believing that there was some mistake, Hermon announced
himself as a sculptor and Crates as a member of the Museum, but this
statement did not produce the slightest effect upon the warrior; nay,
when the friends answered the officer's inquiry whether they were coming
from Proclus's banquet in the affirmative; he curtly commanded them to be
put in chains.

To offer resistance would have been madness, for even Hermon perceived,
by the loud clanking of weapons around them, the greatly superior power
of the enemy, and they were acting by the orders of the King. "To the
prison near the place of execution!" cried the officer; and now not only
the mythograph, but Hermon also was startled--this dungeon opened only to
those sentenced to death.

Was he to be led to the executioner's block? A cold shudder ran through
his frame; but the next moment he threw back his waving locks, and his
chest heaved with a long breath.

What pleasure had life to offer him, the blind man, who was already dead
to his art? Ought he not to greet this sudden end as a boon from the
immortals?

Did it not spare him a humiliation as great and painful as could be
imagined?

He had already taken care that the false renown should not follow him to
the grave, and Myrtilus should have his just due, and he would do
whatever else lay in his power to further this object. Wherever the
beloved dead might be, he desired to go there also. Whatever might await
him, he desired no better fate. If he had passed into annihilation, he,
Hermon, wished to follow him thither, and annihilation certainly meant
redemption from pain and misery. But if he were destined to meet his
Myrtilus and his mother in the world beyond the grave, what had he not to
tell them, how sure he was of finding a joyful reception there from both!
The power which delivered him over to death just at that moment was not
Nemesis--no, it was a kindly deity.

Only his heart grew heavy at the thought of leaving Daphne to the
tireless wooer Philotas or some other--everything else from which it is
usually hard to part seemed like a burden that we gladly cast aside.

"Forward!" he called blithely and boldly to the officer; while Crates,
with loud lamentations, was protesting his innocence to the warrior who
was putting fetters upon him.

A chain was just being clasped around Hermon's wrists also when he
suddenly started. His keen ear could not deceive him, and yet a demon
must be mocking him, for the voice that had called his name was the
girl's of whom, in the presence of welcome death, he had thought with
longing regret.

Yet it was no illusion that deceived him. Again he heard the beloved
voice, and this time it addressed not only him, but with the utmost haste
the commander of the soldiers.

Sometimes with touching entreaty, sometimes with imperious command, she
protested, after giving him her name, that this matter could be nothing
but an unfortunate mistake. Lastly, with earnest warmth, she besought
him, before taking the prisoners away, to permit her to speak to the
commanding general, Philippus, her father's guest, who, she was certain,
was in the palace. The blood of these innocent men would be on his head
if he did not listen to her representations.

"Daphne!" cried Hermon in grateful agitation; but she would not listen to
him, and followed the soldier whom the captain detailed to guide her into
the palace.

After a few moments, which the blind artist used to inspire the
despairing scholar with courage, the girl returned, and she did not come
alone. The gray-haired comrade of Alexander accompanied her, and after a
few minutes both prisoners were released from their fetters. Philippus
hastily refused their thanks and, after addressing a few words to the
officer, he changed his tone, and his deep voice sounded paternally
cordial as he exclaimed to Daphne: "Fifteen minutes more, you dear,
foolhardy girl, and it would have been too late. To-morrow you shall
confess to me who treacherously directed you to this dangerous path."

Lastly, he turned to the prisoners to explain that they would be
conducted to the adjacent barracks of the Diadochi, and spend the night
there.

Early the next morning they should be examined, and, if they could clear
themselves from the suspicion of belonging to the ranks of the
conspirators, released.

Daphne again pleaded for the liberation of the prisoners, but Philippus
silenced her with the grave exclamation, "The order of the King!"

The old commander offered no objection to her wish to accompany Hermon to
prison. Daphne now slipped her arm through her cousin's, and commanded
the steward Gras, who had brought her here, to follow them.

The goal of the nocturnal walk, which was close at hand, was reached at
the end of a few minutes, and the prisoners were delivered to the
commander of the Diadochi. This kindly disposed officer had served under
Hermon's father, and when the names of the prisoners were given, and the
officer reported to him that General Philippus recommended them to his
care as innocent men, he had a special room opened for the sculptor and
his fair guide, and ordered Crates to enter another.

He could permit the beautiful daughter of the honoured Archias to remain
with Hermon for half an hour, then he must beg her to allow herself to be
escorted to her home, as the barracks were closed at that time.

As soon as the captive artist was alone with the woman he loved, he
clasped her hand, pouring forth incoherent words of the most ardent
gratitude, and when he felt her warmly return the pressure, he could not
restrain the desire to clasp her to his heart. For the first time his
lips met hers, he confessed his love, and that he had just regarded death
as a deliverer; but his life was now gaining new charm through her
affection.

Then Daphne herself threw her arms around his neck with fervent devotion.

The love that resistlessly drew his heart to her was returned with equal
strength and ardour. In spite of his deep mental distress, he could have
shouted aloud in his delight and gratitude. He might now have been
permitted to bind forever to his life the woman who had just rescued him
from the greatest danger, but the confession he must make to his
fellow-artists in the palaestra the following morning still sealed his
lips. Yet in this hour he felt that he was united to her, and ought not
to conceal what awaited him; so, obeying a strong impulse, he exclaimed:
"You know that I love you! Words can not express the strength of my
devotion, but for that very reason I must do what duty commands before I
ask the question, 'Will you join your fate to mine?'"

"I love you and have loved you always!" Daphne exclaimed tenderly. "What
more is needed?"

But Hermon, with drooping head, murmured: "To-morrow I shall no longer be
what I am now. Wait until I have done what duty enjoins; when that is
accomplished, you shall ask yourself what worth the blind artist still
possesses who bartered spurious fame for mockery and disgrace in order
not to become a hypocrite."

Then Daphne raised her face to his, asking, "So the Demeter is the work
of Myrtilus?"

"Certainly," he answered firmly. "It is the work of Myrtilus."

"Oh, my poor, deceived love!" cried Daphne, strongly agitated, in a tone
of the deepest sorrow. "What a terrible ordeal again awaits you! It must
indeed distress me--and yet Do not misunderstand me! It seems
nevertheless as if I ought to rejoice, for you and your art have not
spoken to me even a single moment from this much-lauded work."

"And therefore," he interrupted with passionate delight, "therefore alone
you withheld the enthusiastic praise with which the others intoxicated
me? And I, fool, blinded also in mind, could be vexed with you for it!
But only wait, wait! Soon-to-morrow even--there will be no one in
Alexandria who can accuse me of deserting my own honest aspiration, and,
if the gods will only restore my sight and the ability to use my hands as
a sculptor, then, girl, then--"

Here he was interrupted by a loud knocking at the door.

The time allowed had expired.

Hermon again warmly embraced Daphne, saying: "Then go! Nothing can cloud
what these brief moments have bestowed. I must remain blind; but you have
restored the lost sight to my poor darkened soul. To-morrow I shall stand
in the palaestra before my comrades, and explain to them what a malicious
accident deceived me, and with me this whole great city. Many will not
believe me, and even your father will perhaps consider it a disgrace to
give his arm to his scorned, calumniated nephew to guide him home. Bring
this before your mind, and everything else that you must accept with it,
if you consent, when the time arrives, to become mine. Conceal and
palliate nothing! But should the Lady Thyone speak of the Eumenides who
pursued me, tell her that they had probably again extended their arms
toward me, but when I return to-morrow from the palaestra I shall be
freed from the terrible beings."

Lastly, he asked to be told quickly how she had happened to come to the
palace at the right time at so late an hour, and Daphne informed him as
briefly and modestly as if the hazardous venture which, in strong
opposition to her retiring, womanly nature, she had undertaken, was a
mere matter of course.

When Thyone in her presence heard from Gras that Hermon intended to go to
Proclus's banquet, she started up in horror, exclaiming, "Then the
unfortunate man is lost!"

Her husband, who had long trusted even the gravest secrets to his
discreet old wife, had informed her of the terrible office the King had
confided to him. All the male guests of Proclus were to be executed; the
women--the Queen at their head--would be sent into exile.

Then Daphne, on her knees, besought the matron to tell her what
threatened Hermon, and succeeded in persuading her to speak.

The terrified girl, accompanied by Gras, went first to her lover's house
and, when she did not find him there, hastened to the King's palace.

If Hermon could have seen her with her fluttering hair, dishevelled by
the night breeze, and checks blanched by excitement and terror, if he had
been told how she struggled with Thyone, who tried to detain her and lock
her up before she left her father's house, he would have perceived with
still prouder joy, had that been possible, what he possessed in the
devoted love of this true woman.

Grateful and moved by joyous hopes, he informed Daphne of the words of
the oracle, which had imprinted themselves upon his memory.

She, too, quickly retained them, and murmured softly:

"Noise and dazzling radiance are hostile to the purer light, Morning and
day will rise quietly from the starving sand."

What could the verse mean except that the blind man would regain the
power to behold the light of clay amid the sands of the silent desert?

Perhaps it would be well for him to leave Alexandria now, and she
described how much benefit she had received while hunting from the
silence of the wilderness, when she had left the noise of the city behind
her. But before she had quite finished, the knocking at the door was
repeated.

The lovers took leave of each other with one last kiss, and the final
words of the departing girl echoed consolingly in the blind man's heart,
"The more they take from you, the more closely I will cling to you."

Hermon spent the latter portion of the night rejoicing in the
consciousness of a great happiness, yet also troubled by the difficult
task which he could not escape.

When the market place was filling, gray-haired Philippus visited him.

He desired before the examination, for which every preparation had been
made, to understand personally the relation of his dead comrade's son to
the defeated conspiracy, and he soon perceived that Hermon's presence at
the banquet was due solely to an unlucky accident or in consequence of
the Queen's desire to win him over to her plot.

Yet he was forced to advise the blind sculptor to leave Alexandria. The
suspicion that he had been associated with the conspirators was the more
difficult to refute, because his Uncle Archias had imprudently allowed
himself to be persuaded by Proclus and Arsinoe to lend the Queen large
sums, which had undoubtedly been used to promote her abominable plans.

Philippus also informed him that he had just come from Archias, whom he
had earnestly urged to fly as quickly as possible from the persecution
which was inevitable; for, secure as Hermon's uncle felt in his
innocence, the receipts for the large sums loaned by him, which had just
been found in Proclus's possession, would bear witness against him. Envy
and ill will would also have a share in this affair, and the usually
benevolent King knew no mercy where crime against his own person was
concerned. So Archias intended to leave the city on one of his own ships
that very day. Daphne, of course, would accompany him.

The prisoner listened in surprise and anxiety.

His uncle driven from his secure possessions to distant lands! Daphne
taken from him, he knew not whither nor for how long a time, after he had
just been assured of her great love! He himself on the way to expose
himself to the malice and mockery of the whole city!

His heart contracted painfully, and his solicitude about his uncle's fate
increased when Philippus informed him that the conspirators had been
arrested at the banquet and, headed by Amyntas, the Rhodian, Chrysippus,
and Proclus, had perished by the executioner's sword at sunrise.

The Queen, Althea, and the other ladies were already on the way to
Coptos, in Upper Egypt, whither the King had exiled them.

Ptolemy had intrusted the execution of this severe punishment to
Alexander's former comrade as the most trustworthy and discreet of his
subjects, but rejected, with angry curtness, Philippus's attempt to
uphold the innocence of his friend Archias.

The old man's conversation with Hermon was interrupted by the
functionaries who subjected him and Crates to the examination. It lasted
a long time, and referred to every incident in the artist's life since
his return to Alexandria. The result was favourable, and the prisoner was
dismissed from confinement with the learned companion of his fate.

When, accompanied by Philippus, Hermon reached his house, it was so late
that the artists' festival in honour of the sculptor Euphranor, who
entered his seventieth year of life that day, must have already
commenced.

On the way the blind man told the general what a severe trial awaited
him, and the latter approved his course and, on bidding him farewell,
with sincere emotion urged Hermon to take courage.

After hastily strengthening himself with a few mouthfuls of food and a
draught of wine, his slave Patran, who understood writing, wished to put
on the full laurel wreath; but Hermon was seized with a painful sense of
dissatisfaction, and angrily waved it back.

Without a single green leaf on his head, he walked, leaning on the
Egyptian's arm, into the palaestra, which was diagonally opposite to his
house.

Doubtless he longed to hasten at once to Daphne, but he felt that he
could not take leave of her until he had first cast off, as his heart and
mind dictated, the terrible burden which oppressed his soul. Besides, he
knew that the object of his love would not part from him without granting
him one last word.

On the way his heart throbbed almost to bursting.

Even Daphne's image, and what threatened her father, and her with him,
receded far into the background. He could think only of his design, and
how he was to execute it.

Yet ought he not to have the laurel wreath put on, in order, after
removing it, to bestow it on the genius of Myrtilus?

Yet no!

Did he still possess the right to award this noble branch to any one? He
was appearing before his companions only to give truth its just due. It
was repulsive to endow this explanation of an unfortunate error with a
captivating aspect by any theatrical adornment. To be honest, even for
the porter, was a simple requirement of duty, and no praiseworthy merit.

The guide forced a path for him through carriages, litters, and whole
throngs of slaves and common people, who had assembled before the
neighbouring palaestra.

The doorkeepers admitted the blind man, who was well known here, without
delay; but he called to the slave: "Quick, Patran, and not among the
spectators--in the centre of the arena!"

The Egyptian obeyed, and his master crossed the wide space, strewn with
sand, and approached the stage which had been erected for the festal
performances.

Even had his eyes retained the power of sight, his blood was coursing so
wildly through his veins that he might perhaps have been unable to
distinguish the statues around him and the thousands of spectators, who,
crowded closely together, richly garlanded, their cheeks glowing with
enthusiasm, surrounded the arena.

"Hermon!" shouted his friend Soteles in joyful surprise in the midst of
this painful walk. "Hermon!" resounded here, there, and everywhere as,
leaning on his friend's arm, he stepped upon the stage, and the
acclamations grew louder and louder as Soteles fulfilled the sculptor's
request and led him to the front of the platform.

Obeying a sign from the director of the festival, the chorus, which had
just sung a hymn to the Muses, was silent.

Now the sculptor began to speak, and noisy applause thundered around him
as he concluded the well-chosen words of homage with which he offered
cordial congratulations to the estimable Euphranor, to whom the festival
was given; but the shouts soon ceased, for the audience had heard his
modest entreaty to be permitted to say a few words, concerning a personal
matter, to those who were his professional colleagues, as well as to the
others who had honoured him with their interest and, only too loudly,
with undeserved applause. The more closely what he had to say concerned
himself, the briefer he would make his story.

And, in fact, he did not long claim the attention of his hearers. Clearly
and curtly he stated how it had been possible to mistake Mrytilus's work
for his, how the Tennis goldsmith had dispelled his first suspicion, and
how vainly he had besought the priests of Demeter to be permitted to feel
his statue. Then, without entering into details, he informed them that,
through an accident, he had now reached the firm conviction that he had
long worn wreaths which belonged to another. But, though the latter could
not rise from the grave, he still owed it to truth, to whose service he
had dedicated his art from the beginning, and to the simple honesty, dear
alike to the peasant and the artist, to divest himself of the fame to
which he was not entitled. Even while he believed himself to be the
creator of the Demeter, he had been seriously troubled by the praise of
so many critics, because it had exposed him to the suspicion of having
become faithless to his art and his nature. In the name of the dead, he
thanked his dear comrades for the enthusiastic appreciation his
masterpiece had found. Honour to Myrtilus and his art, but he trusted
this noble festal assemblage would pardon the unintentional deception,
and aid his prayer for recovery. If it should be granted he hoped to show
that Hermon had not been wholly unworthy to adorn himself for a short
time with the wreaths of Myrtilus.

When he closed, deep silence reigned for a brief interval, and one man
looked at another irresolutely until the hero of the day, gray-haired
Euphranor, rose and, leaning on the arm of his favourite pupil, walked
through the centre of the arena to the stage, mounted it, embraced Hermon
with paternal warmth, and made him happy by the words: "The deception
that has fallen to your lot, my poor young friend, is a lamentable one;
but honour to every one who honestly means to uphold the truth. We will
beseech the immortals with prayers and sacrifices to restore sight to
your artist eyes. If I am permitted, my dear young comrade, to see you
continue to create, it will be a source of joy to me and all of us; yet
the Muses, even though unasked, lead into the eternal realm of beauty the
elect who consecrates his art to truth with the right earnestness."

The embrace with which the venerable hero of the festival seemed to
absolve Hermon was greeted with loud applause; but the kind words which
Euphranor, in the weak voice of age, had addressed to the blind man had
been unintelligible to the large circle of guests.

When he again descended to the arena new plaudits rose; but soon hisses
and other signs of disapproval blended with them, which increased in
strength and number when a well known critic, who had written a learned
treatise concerning the relation of the Demeter to Hermon's earlier
works, expressed his annoyance in a loud whistle. The dissatisfied and
disappointed spectators now vied with one another to silence those who
were cheering by a hideous uproar while the latter expressed more and
more loud the sincere esteem with which they were inspired by the
confession of the artist who, though cruelly prevented from winning fresh
fame, cast aside the wreath which a dead man had, as were, proffered from
his tomb.

Probably every man thought that, in the same situation, he would have
done the same yet not only justice--nay, compassion--dictated showing the
blind artist that they believed in and would sustain him. The
ill-disposed insisted that Hermon had only done what duty commanded the
meanest man, and the fact that he had deceived all Alexandria still
remained. Not a few joined this party, for larger possession excite envy
perhaps even more frequently than greater fame.

Soon the approving and opposing voices mingled in an actual conflict. But
before the famous sculptor Chares, the great and venerable artist Nicias,
and several younger friends of Hermon quelled this unpleasant disturbance
of the beautiful festival, the blind man, leaning on the arm of his
fellow-artist Soteles, had left the palaestra.

At the exit he, parted from his friend, who had been made happy by the
ability to absolve his more distinguished leader from the reproach of
having become faithless to their common purpose, and who intended to
intercede further in his behalf in the palaestra.

Hermon no longer needed him; for, besides his slave Patran, he found the
steward Gras, who, by his master's order, guided the blind man to
Archias's closed harmamaxa, which was waiting outside the building.



CHAPTER IX.

The sculptor's head was burning feverishly when he entered the vehicle.
He had never imagined that the consequences of his explanation would be
so terrible. During the drive--by no means a long one--to the great
harbour, he strove to collect his thoughts. Groaning aloud, he covered
his ears with his hands to shut out the shouts and hisses from the
palaestra, which in reality were no longer audible.

True, he would not need to expose himself to this uproar a second time,
yet if he remained in Alexandria the witticisms, mockery, and jibes of
the whole city, though in a gentler form, would echo hundreds of times
around him.

He must leave the city. He would have preferred to go on board the
staunch Tacheia and be borne far away with his uncle and Daphne, but he
was obliged to deny himself the fulfilment of this desire. He must now
think solely of regaining his sight.

Obedient to the oracle, he would go to the desert where from the
"starving sand" the radiant daylight was to rise anew for him.

There he would, at any rate, be permitted to recover the clearness of
perception and feeling which he had lost in the delirium of the dissolute
life of pleasure that he had led in the past. Pythagoras had already
forbidden the folly of spoiling the present by remorse; and he, too, did
not do this. It would have been repugnant to his genuinely Greek nature.
Instead of looking backward with peevish regret, his purpose was to look
with blithe confidence toward the future, and to do his best to render it
better and more fruitful than the months of revel which lay behind him.

He could no longer imagine a life worth living without Daphne, and the
thought that if his uncle were robbed of his wealth he would become her
support cheered his heart. If the oracle did not fulfil its promise, he
would again appeal to medical skill, and submit even to the most severe
suffering which might be imposed upon him.

The drive to the great harbour was soon over, but the boat which lay
waiting for him had a considerable distance to traverse, for the Tacheia
was no longer at the landing place, but was tacking outside the Pharos,
in order, if the warrant of arrest were issued, not to be stopped at the
channel dominated by the lighthouse. He found the slender trireme
pervaded by a restless stir. His uncle had long been expecting him with
burning impatience.

He knew, through Philippus, what duty still detained the deceived artist,
but he learned, at the same time, that his own imprisonment had been
determined, and it would be advisable for him to leave the city behind
him as quickly as possible. Yet neither Daphne nor he was willing to
depart without saying farewell to Hermon.

But the danger was increasing every moment, and, warm as was the parting,
the last clasp of the hand and kiss swiftly followed the first words of
greeting.

So the blind artist learned only that Archias was going to the island of
Lesbos, his mother's home, and that he had promised his daughter to give
Hermon time to recover his sight. The property bequeathed to him by
Myrtilus had been placed by the merchant in the royal bank, and he had
also protected himself against any chance of poverty. Hermon was to send
news of his health to Lesbos from time to time if a safe opportunity
offered and, when Daphne knew where he was to be found, she could let him
have tidings. Of course, for the present great caution must be exercised
in order not to betray the abode of the fugitives.

Hermon, too, ought to evade the pursuit of the incensed King as quickly
as possible.

Not only Daphne's eyes, but her father's also, overflowed with tears at
this parting, and Hermon perceived more plainly than ever that he was as
dear to his uncle as though he were his own son.

The low words which the artist exchanged with the woman whose love, even
during the period of separation, would shed light and warmth upon his
darkened life, were deeply impressed upon the souls of both.

For the present, faithful Gras was to remain in charge of his master's
house in Alexandria. Leaning on his arm, the blind man left the Tacheia,
which, as soon as both had entered the boat, was urged forward by
powerful strokes of the oars.

The Bithynian informed Hermon that kerchiefs were waving him a farewell
from the trireme, that the sails had been unfurled, and the wind was
driving the swift vessel before it like a swallow.

At the Pharos Gras reported that a royal galley was just passing them,
undoubtedly in pursuit of the Tacheia; but the latter was the swiftest of
all the Greek vessels, and they need not fear that she would be overtaken
by the war ship.

With a sore heart and the desolate feeling of being now utterly alone,
Hermon again landed and ordered that his uncle's harmamaxa should convey
him to the necropolis. He desired to seek peace at his mother's grave,
and to take leave of these beloved tombs.

Guided by the steward, he left them cheered and with fresh confidence in
the future, and the faithful servant's account of the energy with which
Daphne had aided the preparations for departure benefited him like a
refreshing bath.

When he was again at home, one visitor after another was announced, who
came there from the festival in the palaestra, and, in spite of his great
reluctance to receive them, he denied no one admittance, but listened
even to the ill-disposed and spiteful.

In the battle which he had commenced he must not shrink from wounds, and
he was struck by many a poisoned shaft. But, to make amends, a clear
understanding was effected between him and those whom he esteemed.

The last caller left him just before midnight.

Hermon now made many preparations for departure.

He intended to go into the desert with very little luggage, as the oracle
seemed to direct. How long a time his absence would extend could not be
estimated, and the many poor people whom he had fed and supported must
not suffer through his departure. The arrangements required to effect
this he dictated to the slave, who understood writing. He had gained in
him an extremely capable servant, and Patran expressed his readiness to
follow him into the desert; but the wry face which, sure that the blind
man could not see him, he made while saying so, seemed to prove the
contrary.

Weary, and yet too excited to find sleep, Hermon at last went to rest.

If his Myrtilus had been with him now, what would he not have had to say
to express his gratitude, to explain! How overjoyed he would have been at
the fulfilment of his wish to see him united to Daphne, at least in
heart; with what fiery ardour he would have upbraided those who believed
him capable of having appropriated what belonged to another!

But Myrtilus was no more, and who could tell whether his body had not
remained unburied, and his soul was therefore condemned to be borne
restlessly between heaven and earth, like a leaf driven by the wind? Yet,
if the earth covered him, where was the spot on which sacrifices could be
offered to his soul, his tombstone could be anointed, and he himself
remembered?

Then a doubt which had never before entered his mind suddenly took
possession of Hermon.

Since for so many months he had firmly believed his friend's work to be
his own, he might also have fallen into another delusion, and Myrtilus
might still dwell among the living.

At this thought the blind man, with a swift movement, sat erect upon his
couch; it seemed as if a bright light blazed before his eyes in the dark
room.

The reasons which had led the authorities to pronounce Myrtilus dead
rendered his early end probable, it is true, yet by no means proved it
absolutely. He must hold fast to that.

He who, ever since he returned to Alexandria from Tennis, had squandered
precious time as if possessed by evil demons, would now make a better use
of it. Besides, he longed to leave the capital. What! Suppose he should
now, even though it were necessary to delay obeying the oracle's command,
search, traverse, sail through the world in pursuit of Myrtilus, even, if
it must be, to the uttermost Thule?

But he fell back upon the couch as quickly as he had started up.

"Blind! blind!" he groaned in dull despair. How could he, who was not
able even to see his hand before his eyes, succeed in finding his friend?

And yet, yet----

Had his mind been darkened with his eyes, that this thought came to him
now for the first time, that he had not sent messengers to all quarters
of the globe to find some trace of the assailants and, with them, of the
lost man?

Perhaps it was Ledscha who had him in her power, and, while he was
pondering and forming plans for the best way of conducting
investigations, the dimmed image of the Biamite again returned distinctly
to his mind, and with it that of Arachne and the spider, into which the
goddess transformed the weaver.

Half overcome by sleep, he saw himself, staff in hand, led by Daphne,
cross green meadows and deserts, valleys and mountains, to seek his
friend; yet whenever he fancied he caught sight of him, and Ledscha with
him, in the distance, the spider descended from above and, with magical
speed, wove a net which concealed both from his gaze.

Groaning and deeply disturbed, half awake, he struggled onward, always
toward one goal, to find his Myrtilus again, when suddenly the sound of
the knocker on the entrance door and the barking of Lycas, his Arabian
greyhound, shook the house.

Recalled to waking life, he started up and listened.

Had the men who were to arrest him or inquisitive visitors not allowed
themselves to be deterred even by the late hour?

He listened angrily as the old porter sternly accosted the late guest;
but, directly after, the gray-haired native of the region near the First
Cataract burst into the strange Nubian oaths which he lavished liberally
whenever anything stirred his aged soul.

The dog, which Hermon had owned only a few months, continued to bark; but
above his hostile baying the blind man thought he recognised a name at
whose sound the blood surged hotly into his cheeks. Yet he could scarcely
have heard aright!

Still he sprang from the couch, groped his way to the door, opened it,
and entered the impluvium that adjoined his bedroom. The cool night air
blew upon him from the open ceiling. A strong draught showed that the
door leading from the atrium was being opened, and now a shout, half
choked by weeping, greeted him: "Hermon! My clear, my poor beloved
master!"

"Bias, faithful Bias!" fell from the blind man's lips, and when he felt
the returned slave sink down before him, cover his hand with kisses and
wet it with tears, he raised him in his strong arms, clasped him in a
warm embrace, kissed his checks, and gasped, "And Myrtilus, my Myrtilus,
is he alive?"

"Yes, yes, yes," sobbed Bias. "But you, my lord-blind, blind! Can it be
true?"

When Hermon released him to inquire again about his friend, Bias
stammered: "He isn't faring so badly; but you, you, bereft of light and
also of the joy of seeing your faithful Bias again! And the immortals
prolong one's years to experience such evils! Two griefs always belong to
one joy, like two horses to a chariot."

"My wise Bias! Just as you were of old!" cried Hermon in joyful
excitement.

Then he quieted the hound and ordered one of the attendants, who came
hurrying in, to bring out whatever dainty viands the house contained and
a jar of the best Byblus wine from the cellar.

Meanwhile he did not cease his inquiries about his friend's health, and
ordered a goblet to be brought him also, that he might pledge the slave
and give brief answers to his sympathizing questions about the cause of
the blindness, the noble Archias, the gracious young mistress Daphne, the
famous Philippus and his wife, the companion Chrysilla, and the steward
Gras. Amid all this he resolved to free the faithful fellow and, while
Bias was eating, he could not refrain from telling him that he had found
a mistress for him, that Daphne was the wife whom he had chosen, but the
wedding was still a long way off.

He controlled his impatience to learn the particulars concerning his
friend's fate until Bias had partially satisfied his hunger.

A short time ago Hermon would have declared it impossible that he could
ever become so happy during this period of conflict and separation from
the object of his love.

The thought of his lost inheritance doubtless flitted through his mind,
but it seemed merely like worthless dust, and the certainty that Myrtilus
still walked among the living filled him with unclouded happiness. Even
though he could no longer see him, he might expect to hear his beloved
voice again. Oh, what delight that he was permitted to have his friend
once more, as well as Daphne, that he could meet him so freely and
joyously and keep the laurel, which had rested with such leaden weight
upon his head, for Myrtilus, and for him alone!

But where was he?

What was the name of the miracle which had saved him, and yet kept him
away from his embrace so long?

How had Myrtilus and Bias escaped the flames and death on that night of
horror?

A flood of questions assailed the slave before he could begin a connected
account, and Hermon constantly interrupted it to ask for details
concerning his friend and his health at each period and on every
occasion.

Much surprised by his discreet manner, the artist listened to the
bondman's narrative; for though Bias had formerly allowed himself to
indulge in various little familiarities toward his master, he refrained
from them entirely in this story, and the blind man's misfortune invested
him in his eyes with a peculiar sacredness.



CHAPTER X.

He had arrived wounded on the pirate ship with his master's friend, the
returned bondman began. When he had regained consciousness, he met
Ledscha on board the Hydra, as the wife of the pirate Hanno. She had
nursed Myrtilus with tireless solicitude, and also often cared for his,
Bias's, wounds. After the recovery of the prisoners, she became their
protectress, and placed Bias in the service of the Greek artist.

They, the Gaul Lutarius, and one of the sculptor's slaves, were the only
ones who had been brought on board the Hydra alive from the attack in
Tennis, but the latter soon succumbed to his wounds.

Hermon owed it solely to the bridge-builder that he had escaped from the
vengeance of his Biamite foe, for the tall Gaul, whose thick beard
resembled Hermon's in length and blackness, was mistaken by Hanno for the
person whom Ledscha had directed him to deliver alive into her power.

The pirate had surrendered the wrong captive to the woman he loved and,
as Bias declared, to his serious disadvantage; for, though Hanno and the
Biamite girl were husband and wife, no one could help perceiving the cold
dislike with which Ledscha rebuffed the giant who read her every wish in
her eyes. Finally, the captain of the pirate ship, a silent man by
nature, often did not open his lips for days except to give orders to the
crew. Frequently he even refused to be relieved from duty, and remained
all night at the helm.

Only when, at his own risk, or with the vessels of his father and
brother, he attacked merchant ships or defended himself against a war
galley, did he wake to vigorous life and rush with gallant recklessness
into battle.

A single man on the Hydra was little inferior to him in strength and
daring--the Gaul Lutarius. He had been enrolled among the pirates, and
when Hanno was wounded in an engagement with a Syrian war galley, was
elected his representative. During this time Ledscha faithfully performed
her duty as her young husband's nurse, but afterward treated him as
coldly as before.

Yet she devoted herself eagerly to the ship and the crew, and the fierce,
lawless fellows cheerfully submitted to the sensible arrangements of
their captain's beautiful, energetic wife. At this period Bias had often
met Ledscha engaged in secret conversation with the Gaul, yet if any
tender emotion really attracted her toward any one other than her
husband, Myrtilus would have been suspected rather than the black-bearded
bridge-builder; for she not only showed the sculptor the kindest
consideration, but often entered into conversation with him, and even
persuaded him, when the sea was calm, or the Hydra lay at anchor in one
of the hidden bays known to the pirates, to practise his art, and at last
to make a bust of her. She had succeeded in getting him clay, wax, and
tools for the purpose. After asking which goddess had ill-treated the
weaver Arachne, she commanded him to make a head of Athene, adorned with
the helmet, modelled from her own. During this time she frequently
inquired whether her features really were not beautiful enough to be
copied for the countenance of a goddess, and when he eagerly assured her
of the fact, made him swear that he was not deceiving her with flattery.

Neither Bias nor Myrtilus had ever been allowed to remain on shore; but,
on the whole, the slave protested, Myrtilus's health, thanks to the pure
sea air on the Hydra, had improved, in spite of the longing which often
assailed him, and the great excitements to which he was sometimes
exposed.

There had been anxious hours when Hanno's father and brothers visited the
Hydra to induce her captain to make money out of the captive sculptor,
and either sell him at a high price or extort a large ransom from him;
but Bias had overheard how resolutely Ledscha opposed these proposals,
and represented to old Satabus of what priceless importance Myrtilus
might become to them if either should be captured and imprisoned.

The greatest excitements, of course, had been connected with the battles
of the pirates. Myrtilus, who, in spite of his feeble health, by no means
lacked courage, found it especially hard to bear that during the
conflicts he was locked up with Bias, but even Ledscha could neither
prevent nor restrict these measures.

Bias could not tell what seas the Hydra had sailed, nor at what--usually
desolate-shores she had touched. He only knew that she had gone to Sinope
in Pontus, passed through the Propontis, and then sought booty near the
coasts of Asia Minor. Ledscha had refused to answer every question that
referred to these things.

Latterly, the young wife had become very grave, and apparently completely
severed her relations with her husband; but she also studiously avoided
the Gaul and, if they talked to each other at all, it was in hurried
whispers.

So events went on until something occurred which was to affect the lives
of the prisoners deeply. It must have been just beyond the outlet from
the Hellespont into the AEgean Sea; for, in order to pass through the
narrow straits leading thither from Pontus, the Hydra had been most
skilfully given the appearance of a peaceful merchant vessel.

The slave's soul must have been greatly agitated by this experience, for
while, hitherto, whenever he was interrupted by Hermon he had retained
his composure, and could not refrain from occasionally connecting a
practical application with his report, now, mastered by the power of the
remembrance, he uttered what he wished to tell his master in an oppressed
tone, while bright drops of perspiration bedewed the speaker's brow.

A large merchant ship had approached them, and three men came on board
the Hydra--old Satabus, his son Labaja, and a gray-haired, bearded
seafarer of tall stature and dignified bearing, Schalit, Ledscha's
father.

The meeting between the Biamite ship-owner and his child, after so long a
separation, was a singular one; for the young wife held out her hand to
her father timidly, with downcast eyes, and he refused to take it.
Directly after, however, as if constrained by an irresistible impulse, he
drew his unruly daughter toward him and kissed her brow and cheeks.

Roast meat and the best wine had been served in the large ship's cabin;
but though Myrtilus and Bias had been locked up as if a bloody battle was
expected, the loud, angry uproar of men's deep voices reached them, and
Ledscha's shrill tones shrieking in passionate wrath blended in the
strife. Furniture must have been upset and dishes broken, yet the giants
who were disputing here did not come to blows.

At last the savage turmoil subsided.

When Bias and his master were again released, Ledscha was standing, in
the dusk of evening, at the foot of the mainmast, pressing her brow
against the wood as if she needed some support to save herself from
falling.

She checked Myrtilus's words with an imperious "Let me alone!" The next
day she had paced restlessly up and down the deck like a caged beast of
prey, and would permit no one to speak to her.

At noon Hanno was about to get into a boat to go to her father's ship,
and she insisted upon accompanying him. But this time the corsair seemed
completely transformed, and with the pitiless sternness, which he so well
knew how to use in issuing commands, ordered her to remain on the Hydra.

She, however, by no means obeyed her husband's mandate without
resistance, and, at the recollection of the conflict which now occurred
between the pair, in which she raged like a tigress, the narrator's
cheeks crimsoned.

The quarrel was ended by the powerful seaman's taking in his arms his
lithe, slender wife, who resisted him with all her strength and had
already touched the side of the boat with her foot, and putting her down
on the deck of his ship.

Then Hanno leaped back into the skiff, while Ledscha, groaning with rage,
retired to the cabin.

An hour after she again appeared on deck, called Myrtilus and Bias and,
showing them her eyes, reddened by tears, told them, as if in apology for
her weakness, that she had not been permitted to bid her father farewell.
Then, pallid as a corpse, she had turned the conversation upon Hermon,
and informed Myrtilus that an Alexandrian pilot had told her father that
he was blind, and her brother-in-law Labaja had heard the same thing.
While saying this, her lips curled scornfully, but when she saw how
deeply their friend's misfortune moved her two prisoners, she waved her
hand, declaring that he did not need their sympathy; the pilot had
reported that he was living in magnificence and pleasure, and the people
in the capital honoured and praised him as if he were a god.

Thereupon she had laughed shrilly and reviled so bitterly the
contemptible blind Fortune that remains most loyal to those who deserve
to perish in the deepest misery, that Bias avoided repeating her words to
his master.

The news of Myrtilus's legacy had not reached her ears, and Bias, too,
had just heard of it for the first time.

Ledscha's object had been to relieve her troubled soul by attacks upon
the man whom she hated, but she suddenly turned to the master and servant
to ask if they desired to obtain their liberty.

Oh, how quickly a hopeful "Yes" reached the ears of the gloomy woman! how
ready both were to swear, by a solemn oath, to fulfil the conditions the
Biamite desired to impose!

As soon as opportunity offered, both were to leave the Hydra with one
other person who, like Bias and herself, understood how to mange a boat.

The favourable moment soon came. One moonless night, when the steering of
the Hydra was intrusted to the Gaul, Ledscha waked the two prisoners and,
with the Gaul Lutarius, Myrtilus, and the slave, entered the boat, which
conveyed them to the shore without accident or interruption.

Bias knew the name of the place where it had anchored, it is true, but
the oath which Ledscha had made him swear there was so terrible that he
would not have broken it at any cost.

This oath required the slave, who, three days after their landing, was
sent to Alexandria by the first ship that sailed for that port, to
maintain the most absolute secrecy concerning Myrtilus's hiding place
until he was authorized to speak. Bias was to go to Alexandria without
delay, and there obtain from Archias, who managed Myrtilus's property,
the sums which Ledscha intended to use in the following manner: Two attic
talents Bias was to bring back. These were for the Gaul, probably in
payment for his assistance. Two more were to be taken by the slave to the
Temple of Nemesis. Lastly, Bias was to deliver five talents to old Tabus,
who kept the treasure of the pirate family on the Owl's Nest, and tell
her that Ledscha, in this money, sent back the bridal dowry which Hanno
had paid her father for his daughter. With this she released herself from
the husband who inspired her with feelings very unlike love.

Hermon asked to have this commission repeated, and received the
directions Myrtilus had given to the slave. The blind man's hope that
they must also include greetings and news from his friend's hand was
destroyed by Bias, whom Myrtilus, in the leisure hours on the Hydra, had
taught to read. This was not so difficult a task for the slave, who
longed for knowledge, and had already tried it before. But with writing,
on the other hand, he could make no headway. He was too old, and his hand
had become too clumsy to acquire this difficult art.

In reply to Hermon's anxious question whether his friend needed anything
in his present abode, the slave reported that he was at liberty to move
about at will, and was not even obliged to share Ledscha's lodgings. He
lacked nothing, for the Biamite, besides some gold, had left with him
also gems and pearls of such great value that they would suffice to
support him several years. As for himself, she had supplied him more than
abundantly with money for travelling expenses.

Myrtilus was awaiting his return in a city prospering under a rich and
wise regent, and sent whole cargoes of affectionate remembrances. The
sculptor, too, was firmly resolved to keep the oath imposed upon him.

As soon as he, Bias, had performed the commission intrusted to him, he
and Myrtilus would be released from their vow, and Hermon would learn his
friend's residence.



CHAPTER XI.

No morning brightened Hermon's night of darkness.

When the returned slave had finished his report, the sun was already
shining into his master's room.

Without lying down again, the latter went at once to the Tennis notary,
who had moved to Alexandria two months before, and with his assistance
raised the money which his friend needed.

Worthy Melampus had received the news that Myrtilus was still alive in a
very singular manner. Even now he could grasp only one thing at a time,
and he loved Hermon with sincere devotion. Therefore the lawyer who had
so zealously striven to expedite the blind man's entering into possession
of his friend's inheritance would very willingly have permitted
Myrtilus--doubtless an invalid--to continue to rest quietly among the
dead. Yet his kind heart rejoiced at the deliverance of the famous young
artist, and so during Hermon's story he had passed from sincere regret to
loud expressions of joyous sympathy.

Lastly, he had placed his whole property at the disposal of Hermon, who
had paid him liberally for his work, to provide for the blind sculptor's
future. This generous offer had been declined; but he now assisted Hermon
to prepare the emancipation papers for his faithful Bias, and found a
ship that was bound to Tanis. Toward evening he accompanied Hermon to the
harbour and, after a cordial farewell from his helpful friend, the
artist, with the new "freedman" Bias and the slave clerk Patran, went on
board the vessel, now ready to sail.

The voyage was one of the speediest, yet the end came too soon for both
master and servant--Hermon had not yet heard enough of the friend beyond
his reach, and Bias was far from having related everything he desired to
tell about Myrtilus and Ledscha; yet he was now permitted to express
every opinion that entered his mind, and this had occupied a great deal
of time.

Bias also sought to know much more about Hermon's past and future than he
had yet learned, not merely from curiosity, but because he foresaw that
Myrtilus would not cease to question him about his blind friend.

The misfortune must have produced a deep and lasting effect upon the
artist's joyous nature, for his whole bearing was pervaded by such
earnestness and dignity that years, instead of months, seemed to have
elapsed since their separation.

It was characteristic of Daphne that her lover's blindness did not
alienate her from him; yet why had not the girl, who still desired to
become his wife, been able to wed the helpless man who had lost his
sight? If the father did not wish to be separated from his daughter,
surely he could live with the young couple. A home was quickly made
everywhere for the rich, and, if Archias was tired of his house in
Alexandria, as Hermon had intimated, there was room enough in the world
for a new one.

But that was the way with things here below! Man was the cause of man's
misfortune! Daphne and Hermon remained the same; but Archias from an
affectionate father had become transformed into an entirely different
person. If the former had been allowed to follow their inclinations, they
would now be united and happy, while, because a third person so willed,
they must go their way solitary and wretched.

He expressed this view to his master, and insisted upon his opinion until
Hermon confided to him what had driven Archias from Alexandria.

Patran, Bias's successor, was by no means satisfactory to him. Had Hermon
retained his sight, he certainly would not have purchased him, in spite
of his skill as a scribe, for the Egyptian had a "bad face."

Oh, if only he could have been permitted to stay with his benefactor
instead of this sullen man! How carefully he would have removed the
stones from his darkened pathway!

During the voyage he was obliged to undergo severe struggles to keep the
oath of secrecy imposed upon him; but perjury threatened him with the
most horrible tortures, not to mention the sorceress Tabus, whom he was
to meet.

So Myrtilus's abode remained unknown to Hermon.

Bias approved his master's intention of going into the desert. He had
often seen the oracle of Amon tested, and he himself had experienced the
healthfulness of the desert air. Besides, it made him proud to see that
Hermon was disposed to follow his suggestion of pitching his tent in a
spot which he designated. This was at the end of the arm of the sea at
Clysma. Several trees grew there beside small springs, and a peaceful
family of Amalekites raised vegetables in their little garden, situated
on higher ground, watered by the desert wells.

When a boy, before the doom of slavery had been pronounced upon him and
his father, his mother, by the priest's advice, took him there to recover
from the severe attack of fever which he could not shake off amid the
damp papyrus plantations surrounding his parents' house. In the dry, pure
air of the desert he recovered, and he would guide Hermon there before
returning to Myrtilus.

From Tanis they reached Tennis in a few hours, and found shelter in the
home of the superintendent of Archias's weaving establishments, whose
hospitality Myrtilus and Hermon had enjoyed before their installation in
the white house, now burned to the ground. The Alexandrian bills of
exchange were paid in gold by the lessee of the royal bank, who was a
good friend of Hermon. Toward evening, both rowed to the Owl's Nest,
taking the five talents with which the runaway wife intended to purchase
freedom from her husband.

As the men approached the central door of the pirates' house, a
middy-aged Biamite woman appeared and rudely ordered them to leave the
island. Tabus was weak, and refused to see visitors. But she was
mistaken; for when Bias, in the dialect of his tribe, shouted loudly that
messengers from the wife of her grandson Hanno had arrived, there was a
movement at the back of the room, and broken sentences, gasped with
difficulty, expressed the old dame's wish to receive the strangers.

On a sheep's-wool couch, over which was spread a wolfskin, the last gift
of her son Satabus, lay the sorceress, who raised herself as Hermon
passed through the door.

After his greeting, she pointed to her deaf ear and begged him to speak
louder. At the same time she gazed into his eyes with a keen, penetrating
glance, and interrupted him by the question: "The Greek sculptor whose
studio was burned over his head? And blind? Blind still?"

"In both eyes," Bias answered for his master.

"And you, fellow?" the old dame asked; then, recollecting herself,
stopped the reply on the servant's lips with the hasty remark: "You are
the blackbeard's slave--a Biamite? Oh, I remember perfectly! You
disappeared with the burning house."

Then she gazed intently and thoughtfully from one to the other, and at
last, pointing to Bias, muttered in a whisper: "You alone come from Hanno
and Ledscha, and were with them on the Hydra? Very well. What news have
you for the old woman from the young couple?"

The freedman began to relate what brought him to the Owl's Nest, and the
gray-haired crone listened eagerly until he said that Ledscha lived
unhappily with her husband, and therefore had left him. She sent back to
her, as the head of Hanno's family, the bridal dowry with which Hanno had
bought her from her father as his wife.

Then Tabus struggled into a little more erect posture, and asked: "What
does this mean? Five talents--and gold, not silver talents? And she sends
the money to me? To me? And she ran away from her husband? But no--no!
Once more--you are a Biamite--repeat it in our own language--and loudly.
This ear is the better one."

Bias obeyed, and the old dame listened to the end without interrupting
him: then raising her brown right hand, covered with a network of
blue-black veins, she clinched it into a fist, which she shook far more
violently than Bias would have believed possible in her weak condition.
At the same time she pressed her lips so tightly together that her
toothless mouth deepened into a hole, and her dim eyes shone with a keen,
menacing light. For some time she found no reply, though strange,
rattling, gasping sounds escaped her heaving breast.

At last she succeeded in uttering words, and shrieked shrilly:
"This--this--away with the golden trash! With the bridal dowry of the
family rejected, and once more free, the base fool thinks she would be
like the captive fox that gnawed the rope! Oh, this age, these people!
And this, this is the haughty, strong Ledscha, the daughter of the
Biamites, who--there stands the blind girl--deceiver!--who so admirably
avenged herself?"

Here her voice failed, and Hermon began to speak to assure her that she
understood Ledscha's wish aright. Then he asked her for a token by which
she acknowledged the receipt of the gold, which he handed her in a stout
linen bag.

But his purpose was not fulfilled, for suddenly, flaming with passionate
wrath, she thrust the purse aside, groaning: "Not an obol of the accursed
destruction of souls shall come back to Hanno, nor even into the family
store. Until his heart and hers stop beating, the most indissoluble bond
will unite both. She desires to ransom herself from a lawful marriage
concluded by her father, as if she were a captive of war; perhaps she
even wants to follow another. Hanno, brave lad, was ready to go to death
for her sake, and she rewards him by bringing shame on his head and
disgrace on us all. Oh, these times, this world! Everything that is
inviolable and holy trampled in the dust! But they are not all so! In
spite of Grecian infidelity, marriage is still honoured among our people.
But she who mocks what is sacred, and tramples holy customs under foot,
shall be accursed, execrated, given over to want, hunger, disease,
death!"

With rattling breath and closed eyes she leaned farther back against the
cushions that supported her; but Bias, in their common language, tried to
soothe her, and informed her that, though Ledscha had probably run away
from her husband, she had by no means renounced her vengeance. He was
bringing two talents with him to place in the Temple of Nemesis.

"Of Nemesis?" repeated the old dame. Then she tried to raise herself and,
as she constantly sank back again, Bias aided her. But she had scarcely
recovered her sitting posture when she gasped to the freedman: "Nemesis,
who helped, and is to continue to help her to destroy her foe? Well,
well! Five talents--a great sum, a great sum! But the more the better! To
Nemesis with them, to Ate and the Erinyes! The talons of the avenging
goddess shall tear the beautiful face, the heart, and the liver of the
accursed one! A twofold malediction on her who has wronged the son of my
Satabus!"

While speaking, her head nodded swiftly up and down, and when at last she
bowed it wearily, her visitors heard her murmur the names of Satabus and
Hanno, sometimes tenderly, sometimes mournfully.

Finally she asked whether any one else was concerned in Ledscha's flight;
and when she learned that a Gallic bridge-builder accompanied the
fugitive wife, she again started up as if frantic, exclaiming: "Yes, to
Nemesis with the gold! We neither need nor want it, and Satabus, my son,
he will bless me for renunciation--"

Here exhaustion again silenced her. She gazed mutely and thoughtfully
into vacancy, until at last, turning to Bias, she began more calmly: "You
will see her again, man, and must tell her what the clan of Tabus bought
with her talents. Take her my curse, and let her know that her friends
would be my foes, and her foes should find in Tabus a benefactress!"

Then, deeply buried in thought, she again fixed her eyes on the floor;
but at last she called to Hermon, saying: "You, blind Greek--am I not
right?--the torch was thrust into your face, and you lost the sight of
both eyes?"

The artist assented to this question; but she bade him sit down before
her, and when he bent his face near her she raised one lid after the
other with trembling fingers, yet lightly and skilfully, gazed long and
intently into his eyes, and murmured: "Like black Psoti and lawless
Simeon, and they are both cured."

"Can you restore me?" Hermon now asked in great excitement. "Answer me
honestly, you experienced woman! Give me back my sight, and demand
whatever gold and valuables I still possess--"

"Keep them," Tabus contemptuously interrupted. "Not for gold or goods
will I restore you the best gift man can lose. I will cure you because
you are the person to whom the infamous wretch most ardently wished the
sorest trouble. When she hoped to destroy you, she perceived in this deed
the happiness which had been promised to her on a night when the full
moon was shining. To-day--this very night--the disk between Astarte's
horns rounds again, and presently--wait a little while!--presently you
shall have what the light restores you--" Then she called the Biamite
woman, ordered her to bring the medicine chest, and took from it one
vessel after another. The box she was seeking was among the last and,
while handing it to Bias, she muttered: "Oh, yes, certainly--it does one
good to destroy a foe, but no less to make her foe happy!"

Turning to the freedman, she went on in a louder tone: "You, slave, shall
inform Hanno's wife that old Tabus gave the sculptor, whose blindness she
caused, the remedy which restored the sight of black Psoti, whom she
knew." Here she paused, gazed upward, and murmured almost unintelligibly:
"Satabus, Hanno! If this is the last act of the old mother, it will give
ye pleasure."

Then she told Hermon to kneel again, and ordered the slave to hold the
lamp which her nurse Tasia had just lighted at the hearth fire.

"The last," she said, looking into the box, "but it will be enough. The
odour of the herb in the salve is as strong as if it had been prepared
yesterday."

She laid the first bandage on Hermon's eyes with her own weak fingers, at
the same time muttering an incantation; but it did not seem to satisfy
her. Great excitement had taken possession of her, and as the silver
light of the full moon shone into her room she waved her hands before the
artist's eyes and fixed her gaze upon the threshold illumined by the
moonbeams, ejaculating sentences incomprehensible to the blind man. Bias
supported her, for she had risen to her full height, and he felt how she
tottered and trembled.

Yet her strength held out to whisper to Hermon: "Nearer, still nearer! By
the light of the august one whose rays greet us, let it be said: You will
see again. Await your recovery patiently in a quiet place in the pure
air, not in the city. Refrain from everything with which the Greeks
intoxicate themselves. Shun wine, and whatever heats the blood. Recovery
is coming; I see it drawing near. You will see again as surely as I now
curse the woman who abandoned the husband to whom she vowed fidelity. She
rejoiced over your blindness, and she will gnash her teeth with rage and
grief when she hears that it was Tabus who brought light into the
darkness that surrounds you."

With these words she pushed off the freedman's supporting arms and sank
back upon the couch.

Again Hermon tried to thank her; but she would not permit it, and said in
an almost inaudible tone: "I really did not give the salve to do you
good--the last act of all--"

Finally she murmured a few words of direction for its use, and added that
he must keep the sunlight from his blind eyes by bandages and shades, as
if it were a cruel foe.

When she paused, and Bias asked her another question, she pointed to the
door, exclaiming as loudly as her weakness permitted, "Go, I tell you,
go!"

Hermon obeyed and left her, accompanied by the freedman, who carried the
box of salve so full of precious promise.

The next morning Bias delivered to the astonished priest of Nemesis the
large gifts intended for the avenging goddess.

Before Hermon entered the boat with him and his Egyptian slave, the
freedman told his master that Gula was again living in perfect harmony
with the husband who had cast her off, and Taus, Ledscha's younger
sister, was the wife of the young Biamite who, she had feared, would give
up his wooing on account of her visit to Hermon's studio.

After a long voyage through the canal which had been dug a short time
before, connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, the three men
reached Clysma. Opposite to it, on the eastern shore of the narrow
northern point of the Erythraean sea--[Red Sea]--lay the goal of their
journey, and thither Bias led his blind master, followed by the slave, on
shore.



CHAPTER XII.

It was long since Hermon had felt so free and light-hearted as during
this voyage.

He firmly believed in his recovery.

A few days before he had escaped death in the royal palace as if by a
miracle, and he owed his deliverance to the woman he loved.

In the Temple of Nemesis at Tennis the conviction that the goddess had
ceased to persecute him took possession of his mind.

True, his blind eyes had been unable to see her menacing statue, but not
even the slightest thrill of horror had seized him in its presence. In
Alexandria, after his departure from Proclus's banquet, she had desisted
from pursuing him. Else how would she have permitted him to escape
uninjured when he was already standing upon the verge of an abyss, and a
wave of her hand would have sufficed to hurl him into the death-dealing
gulf?

But his swift confession, and the transformation which followed it, had
reconciled him not only with her, but also with the other gods; for they
appeared to him in forms as radiant and friendly as in the days of his
boyhood, when, while Bias took the helm on the long voyage through the
canal and the Bitter Lakes, he recalled the visible world to his memory
and, from the rising sun, Phoebus Apollo, the lord of light and purity,
gazed at him from his golden chariot, drawn by four horses, and
Aphrodite, the embodiment of all beauty, rose before him from the snowy
foam of the azure waves. Demeter, in the form of Daphne, appeared,
dispensing prosperity, above the swaying golden waves of the ripening
grain fields and bestowing peace beside the domestic hearth. The whole
world once more seemed peopled with deities, and he felt their rule in
his own breast.

The place of which Bias had told him was situated on a lofty portion of
the shore. Beside the springs which there gushed from the soil of the
desert grew green palm trees and thorny acacias. Farther on flourished
the fragrant betharan. About a thousand paces from this spot the faithful
freedman pitched the little tent obtained in Tennis under the shade of
several tall palm trees and a sejal acacia.

Not far from the springs lived the same family of Amalekites whom Bias
had known from boyhood. They raised a few vegetables in little beds, and
the men acted as guards to the caravans which came from Egypt through the
peninsula of Sinai to Petrea and Hebron. The daughter of the aged sheik
whose men accompanied the trains of goods, a pleasant, middle-aged woman,
recognised the Biamite, who when a boy had recovered under her mother's
nursing, and promised Bias to honour his blind master as a valued guest
of the tribe.

Not until after he had done everything in his power to render life in the
wilderness endurable, and had placed a fresh bandage over his eyes, would
Bias leave his master.

The freedman entered the boat weeping, and Hermon, deeply agitated,
turned his face toward him.

When he was left alone with his Egyptian slave, with whom he rarely
exchanged a word, he fancied that, amid the murmur of the waves washing
the strand at his feet, blended the sounds of the street which led past
his house in Alexandria, and with them all sorts of disagreeable memories
crowded upon him; but soon he no longer heard them, and the next night
brought refreshing sleep.

Even on the second day he felt that the profound silence which surrounded
him was a benefit. The stillness affected him like something physical.

The life was certainly monotonous, and at first there were hours when the
course of the new existence, so devoid of any change, op pressed him, but
he experienced no tedium. His mental life was too rich, and the
unburdening of his anxious soul too great a relief for that.

He had shunned serious thought since he left the philosopher's school;
but here it soon afforded him the highest pleasure, for never had his
mind moved so freely, so undisturbed by any limit or obstacle.

He did not need to search for what he hoped to find in the wilderness.
His whole past life passed before him as if by its own volition. All that
he had ever experienced, learned, thought, felt, rose before his mind
with wonderful distinctness, and when he overlooked all his mental
possessions, as if from a high watch-tower in the bright sunshine, he
began to consider how he had used the details and how he could continue
to do so.

Whatever he had seen incorrectly forced itself resistlessly upon him, yet
here also the Greek nature, deeply implanted in his soul, guarded him,
and it was easy for him to avoid self-torturing remorse. He only desired
to utilize for improvement what he recognised as false.

When in this delicious silence he listened to the contradictory demands
of his intellect and his senses, it often seemed as though he was present
at a discussion between two guests who were exchanging their opinions
concerning the subject that occupied his mind.

Here he first learned to deepen sound intellectual power and listen to
the demands of the heart, or to repulse and condemn them.

Ah, yes, he was still blind; but never had he observed and recognised
human life and its stage, down to the minutest detail, which his eyes
refused to show him, so keenly as during these clays. The phenomena which
had attracted or repelled his vision here appeared nearer and more
distinctly.

What he called "reality" and believed he understood thoroughly and
estimated correctly, now disclosed many a secret which had previously
remained concealed.

How defective his visual perception had been! how necessary it now seemed
to subject his judgment to a new test! Doubtless a wealth of artistic
subjects had come to him from the world of reality which he had placed
far above everything else, but a greater and nobler one from the sphere
which he had shunned as unfruitful and corrupting.

As if by magic, the world of ideality opened before him in this exquisite
silence. He again found in his own soul the joyous creative forces of
Nature, and the surrounding stillness increased tenfold his capacity of
perceiving it; nay, he felt as if creative energy dwelt in solitude
itself.

His mind had always turned toward greatness. The desire to impress his
works with the stamp of his own overflowing power had carried him far
beyond moderation in modelling his struggling Maenads.

Now, when he sought for subjects, beside the smaller and more simple ones
appeared mighty and manifold ones, often of superhuman grandeur.

Oh, if a higher power would at some future day permit him to model with
his strong hands this battle of the Amazons, this Phoebus Apollo, radiant
in beauty and the glow of victory, conquering the dragons of darkness!

Arachne, too, returned to his mind, and also Demeter. But she did not
hover before him as the peaceful dispenser of blessings, the preserver of
peace, but as the maternal earth goddess, robbed of her daughter
Proserpina. How varied in meaning was this myth!--and he strove to follow
it in every direction.

Nothing more could come to the blind artist from Nature by the aid of his
physical vision. The realm of reality was closed to him; but he had found
the key to that of the ideal, and what he found in it proved to be no
less true than the objects the other had offered.

How rich in forms was the new world which forced itself unbidden on his
imagination! He who, a short time before, had believed whatever could not
be touched by the hands was useless for his art, now had the choice among
a hundred subjects, full of glowing life, which were attainable by no
organ of the senses. He need fear to undertake none, if only it was
worthy of representation; for he was sure of his ability, and difficulty
did not alarm him, but promised to lend creating for the first time its
true charm.

And, besides, without the interest of animated conversation, without
festal scenes where, with garlanded head and intoxicating pleasure
soaring upward from the dust of earth, existence had seemed to him
shallow and not worth the trouble it imposed upon mortals, solitude now
offered him hours as happy as he had ever experienced while revelling
with gay companions.

At first many things had disturbed them, especially the dissatisfied,
almost gloomy disposition of his Egyptian slave, who, born in the city
and accustomed to its life, found it unbearable to stay in the desert
with the strange blind master, who lived like a porter, and ordered him
to prepare his wretched fare with the hands skilled in the use of the
pen.

But this living disturber of the peace was not to annoy the recluse long.
Scarcely a fortnight after Bias's departure, the slave Patran, who had
cost so extravagant a sum, vanished one morning with the sculptor's money
and silver cup.

This rascally trick of a servant whom he had treated with almost
brotherly kindness wounded Hermon, but he soon regarded the morose
fellow's disappearance as a benefit.

When for the first time he drank water from an earthen jug, instead of a
silver goblet, he thought of Diogenes, who cast his cup aside when he saw
a boy raise water to his lips in his hand, yet with whom the great
Macedonian conqueror of the world would have changed places "if he had
not been Alexander."

The active, merry son of Bias's Amalekite friend gladly rendered him the
help and guidance for which he had been reluctant to ask his ill-tempered
slave, and he soon became accustomed to the simple fare of the nomads.
Bread and milk, fruits and vegetables from his neighbour's little garden,
satisfied him, and when the wine he had drunk was used, he contented
himself, obedient to old Tabus's advice, with pure water.

As he still had several gold coins on his person, and wore two costly
rings on his finger, he doubtless thought of sending to Clysma for meat,
poultry, and wine, but he had refrained from doing so through the advice
of the Amalekite woman, who anointed his eyes with Tabus's salve and
protected them by a shade of fresh leaves from the dazzling rays of the
desert sun. She, like the sorceress on the Owl's Nest, warned him against
all viands that inflamed the blood, and he willingly allowed her to take
away what she and her gray-haired father, the experienced head of the
tribe, pronounced detrimental to his recovery.

At first the "beggar's fare" seemed repulsive, but he soon felt that it
was benefiting him after the riotous life of the last few months.

One day, when the Amalekite took off his bandage, he thought he saw a
faint glimmer of light, and how his heart exulted at this faint foretaste
of the pleasure of sight!

In an instant hope sprang up with fresh power in his excitable soul, and
his lost cheerfulness returned to him like a butterfly to the newly
opened flower. The image of his beloved Daphne rose before him in sunny
radiance, and he saw himself in his studio in the service of his art.

He had always been fond of children, and the little ones in the Amalekite
family quickly discovered this, and crowded around their blind friend,
who played all sorts of games with them, and in spite of the bandaged
eyes, over which spread a broad shade of green leaves, could make
whistles with his skilful artist hands from the reeds and willow branches
they brought.

He saw before him the object to which his heart still clung as distinctly
as if he need only stretch out his hand to draw it nearer, and
perhaps--surely and certainly, the Amalekite said--the time would come
when he would behold it also with his bodily eyes.

If the longing should be fulfilled! If his eyes were again permitted to
convey to him what formerly filled his soul with delight! Yes,
beauty--was entitled to a higher place than truth, and if it again
unfolded itself to his gaze, how gladly and gratefully he would pay
homage to it with his art!

The hope that he might enjoy it once more now grew stronger, for the
glimmer of light became brighter, and one day, when his skilful nurse
again took the bandage from his milk-white pupils, he saw something long
appear, as if through, a mist. It was only the thorny acacia tree at his
tent; but the sight of the most beautiful of beautiful things never
filled him with more joyful gratitude.

Then he ordered the less valuable of his two rings to be sold to offer a
sacrifice to health-bestowing Isis, who had a little temple in Clysma.

How fervently he now prayed also to the great Apollo, the foe of darkness
and the lord of everything light and pure! How yearningly he besought
Aphrodite to bless him again with the enjoyment of eternal beauty, and
Eros to heal the wound which his arrow had inflicted upon his heart and
Daphne's, and bring them together after so much distress and need!

When, after the lapse of another week, the bandage was again removed, his
inmost soul rejoiced, for his eyes showed him the rippling emerald-green
surface of the Red Sea, and the outlines of the palms, the tents, the
Amalekite woman, her boy, and her two long-eared goats.

How ardently he thanked the gracious deities who, in spite of Straton's
precepts, were no mere figments of human imagination and, as if he had
become a child again, poured forth his overflowing heart with mute
gratitude to his mother's soul!

The artist nature, yearning to create, began to stir within more
ceaselessly than ever before. Already he saw clay and wax assuming forms
beneath his skilful hands; already he imagined himself, with fresh power
and delight, cutting majestic figures from blocks of marble, or, by
hammering, carving, and filing, shaping them from gold and ivory.

And he would not take what he intended to create solely from the world of
reality perceptible to the senses. Oh, no! He desired to show through his
art the loftiest of ideals. How could he still shrink from using the
liberty which he had formerly rejected, the liberty of drawing from his
own inner consciousness what he needed in order to bestow upon the ideal
images he longed to create the grandeur, strength, and sublimity in which
he beheld them rise before his purified soul!

Yet, with all this, he must remain faithful to truth, copy from Nature
what he desired to represent. Every finger, every lock of hair, must
correspond with reality to the minutest detail, and yet the whole must be
pervaded and penetrated, as the blood flows through the body, by the
thought that filled his mind and soul.

A reflected image of the ideal and of his own mood, faithful to truth,
free, and yet obedient to the demands of moderation--in this sentence
Hermon summed up the result of his solitary meditations upon art and
works of art. Since he had found the gods again, he perceived that the
Muse had confided to him a sacerdotal office. He intended to perform its
duties, and not only attract and please the beholder's eyes through his
works, but elevate his heart and mind, as beauty, truth, grandeur, and
eternity uplifted his own soul. He recognised in the tireless creative
power which keeps Nature ever new, fresh, and bewitching, the presence of
the same deity whose rule manifested itself in the life of his own soul.

So long as he denied its existence, he had recognised no being more
powerful than himself; now that he again felt insignificant beside it, he
knew himself to be stronger than ever before, that the greatest of all
powers had become his ally. Now it was difficult for him to understand
how he could have turned away from the deity. As an artist he, too, was a
creator, and, while he believed those who considered the universe had
come into existence of itself, instead of having been created, he had
robbed himself of the most sublime model. Besides, the greatest charm of
his noble profession was lost to him. Now he knew it, and was striving
toward the goal attainable by the artist alone among mortals--to hold
intercourse with the deity, and by creations full of its essence elevate
the world to its grandeur and beauty.

One day, at the end of the second month of his stay in the desert, when
the Amalekite woman removed the bandage, her boy, whose form he
distinguished as if through a veil, suddenly exclaimed: "The white cover
on your eyes is melting! They are beginning to sparkle a little, and soon
they will be perfectly well, and you can carve the lion's head on my
cane."

Perhaps the artist might really have succeeded in doing so, but he
forbade himself the attempt.

He thought that the time for departure had now arrived, and an
irresistible longing urged him back to the world and Daphne.

But he could not resist the entreaties of the old sheik and his daughter
not to risk what he had gained, so he continued to use the shade of
leaves, and allowed himself to be persuaded to defer his departure until
the dimness which still prevented his seeing anything distinctly passed
away.

True, the beautiful peace which he had enjoyed of late was over and,
besides, anxiety for the dear ones in distant lands was constantly
increasing. He had had no news of them for a long time, and when he
imagined what fate might have overtaken Archias, and his daughter with
him, if he had been carried back to the enraged King in Alexandria, a
terrible dread took possession of him, which scattered even joy in his
wonderful recovery to the four winds, and finally led him to the
resolution to return to the world at any risk and devote himself to those
whose fate was nearer to his heart than his own weal and woe.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Forbidden the folly of spoiling the present by remorse
     Two griefs always belong to one joy



ARACHNE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 8.



CHAPTER XIII.

Hermon, filled with longing, went down toward evening to the shore.

The sun was setting, and the riot of colours in the western horizon
seemed like a mockery of the torturing anxiety which had mastered his
soul.

He did not notice the boat that was approaching the land; many travellers
who intended to go through Arabia Petrea landed here, and for several
days--he knew why--there had been more stir in these quiet waters.

Suddenly he was surprised by the ringing shout with which he had formerly
announced his approach to Myrtilus.

Unconsciously agitated by joy, as if the sunset glow before him had
suddenly been transformed into the dawn of a happy day, he answered by a
loud cry glad with hope. Although his dim eyes did not yet permit him to
distinguish who was standing erect in the boat, waving greetings to him,
he thought he knew whom this exquisite evening was bringing.

Soon his own name reached him. It was his "wise Bias" who shouted, and
soon, with a throbbing heart, he held out both hands to him.

The freedman had performed his commission in the best possible manner,
and was now no longer bound to silence by oath.

Ledscha had left him and Myrtilus to themselves and, as Bias thought he
had heard, had sailed with the Gaul Lutarius for Paraetonium, the
frontier city between the kingdom of Egypt and that of Cyrene.

Myrtilus felt stronger than he had done for a long time, and had sent him
back to the blind friend who would need him more than he did.

But worthy Bias also brought messages from Archias and Daphne. They were
well, and his uncle now had scarcely any cause to fear pursuers.

Before the landing of the boat, the shade had covered Hermon's eyes; but
when, after the freedman's first timid question about his sight, he
raised it again, at the same time reporting and showing what progress he
had already made toward recovery, the excess of joy overpowered the
freedman, and sometimes laughing, sometimes weeping, he kissed the
convalescent's hands and simple robe. It was some time before he calmed
himself again, then laying his forefinger on the side of his nose, he
said: "Therein the immortals differ from human beings. We sculptors can
only create good work with good tools, but the immortals often use the
very poorest of all to accomplish the best things. You owe your sight to
the hate of this old witch and mother of pirates, so may she find peace
in the grave. She is dead. I heard it from a fellow-countryman whom I met
in Herocipolis. Her end came soon after our visit."

Then Bias related what he knew of Hermon's uncle, of Daphne, and
Myrtilus.

Two letters were to give him further particulars.

They came from the woman he loved and from his friend, and as soon as
Bias had lighted the lamp in the tent, at the same time telling his
master in advance many items of news they contained, he set about the
difficult task of reading.

He had certainly scarcely become a master of this art on board the Hydra,
yet his slow performance did all honour to the patience of his teacher
Myrtilus.

He began with Daphne's letter, but by the desire of prudent Archias it
communicated few facts. But the protestations of love and expressions of
longing which filled it pierced the freedman's soul so deeply that his
voice more than once failed while reading them.

Myrtilus's letter, on the contrary, gave a minute description of his mode
of life, and informed his friend what he expected for him and himself in
the future. The contents of both relieved Hermon's sorely troubled heart,
made life with those who were dearest to him possible, and explained many
things which the reports of the slave had not rendered perfectly clear.

Archias had gone with Daphne to the island of Lesbos, his mother's native
city. The ships which conveyed travellers to Pergamus, where Myrtilus was
living, touched at this port, and Bias, to whom Hermon had confided the
refuge of the father and daughter, had sought them there, and found them
in a beautiful villa.

After being released from his oath, Myrtilus had put himself into
communication with his uncle, and just before Bias's departure the
merchant had come to Pergamus with his daughter. As he had the most
cordial reception from the Regent Philetaerus, he seemed inclined to
settle permanently there.

As for Myrtilus, he had cast anchor with Ledscha in the little Mysian
seaport town of Pitane, near the mouth of the Caicus River, on which,
farther inland, was the rapidly growing city of Pergamus.

She had found a hospitable welcome in the family of a seafarer who were
relatives, while the Gaul continued his voyage to obtain information
about his tribe in Syria. But he had already returned when Bias reached
Pitane with the two talents intended for him. Myrtilus had availed
himself of Ledscha's permission long before and gone to Pergamus, where
he had lived and worked in secrecy until, after the freedman's return
from Ledscha, who at once left Pitane with the Gaul, he was released from
his oath.

During the absence of Bias he had modelled a large relief, a triumphal
procession of Dionysus, and as the renown of his name had previously
reached Pergamus, the artists and the most distinguished men in the city
flocked to his studio to admire the work of the famous Alexandrian.

Soon Philetoerus, who had founded the Pergamenian kingdom seven years
before, and governed it with great wisdom, came to Myrtilus.

Like his nephew and heir Eumenes, he was a friend to art, and induced the
laurel-crowned Alexandrian to execute the relief, modelled in clay, in
marble for the Temple of Dionysus at Pergamus.

The heir to the throne of Philetaerus, who was now advancing in years,
was especially friendly to Myrtilus, and did everything in his power to
bind him to Pergamus.

He succeeded, for in the beautiful house, located in an extremely
healthful site, which Eumenes had assigned for a residence and studio to
the Alexandrian artist, whose work he most ardently admired, and whom he
regarded as the most welcome of guests, Myrtilus felt better physically
than he had for years. Besides, he thought that, for many reasons, his
friend would be less willing to settle in Alexandria, and that the
presence of his uncle and Daphne would attract him to Pergamus.

Moreover, Hermon surely knew that if he came to him as a blind man he
would find a brother; if he came restored to sight, he would also find a
brother, and likewise a fellow-artist with whom he could live and work.

Myrtilus had told the heir to the throne of Pergamus of his richly gifted
blind relative, and of the peculiarity of his art, and Eumenes eagerly
endeavoured to induce his beloved guest to persuade his friend to remove
to his capital, where there was no lack of distinguished leeches.

If Hermon remained blind, he would honour him; if he recovered his sight,
he would give him large commissions.

How deeply these letters moved the heart of the recovering man! What
prospects they opened for his future life, for love, friendship, and, not
least, for his art!

If he could see--if he could only see again! This exclamation blended
with everything he thought, felt, and uttered. Even in sleep it haunted
him. To regain the clearness of vision he needed for his work, he would
willingly have submitted to the severest tortures.

In Alexandria alone lived the great leeches who could complete the work
which the salve of an ignorant old woman had begun. Thither he must go,
though it cost him liberty and life. The most famous surgeon of the
Museum at the capital had refused his aid under other circumstances.
Perhaps he would relent if Philippus, a friend of Erasistratus, smoothed
the way for him, and the old hero was now living very near. The ships,
whose number on the sea at his feet was constantly increasing, were
attracted hither by the presence of the Egyptian King and Queen on the
isthmus which connects Asia and Africa. The priest of Apollo at Clysma,
and other distinguished Greeks whom he met there, had told him the day
before yesterday, and on two former visits to the place, what was going
on in the world, and informed him how great an honour awaited the eastern
frontier in these days. The appearance of their Majesties in person must
not only mean the founding of a city, the reception of a victorious naval
commander, and the consecration of a restored temple, but also have still
deeper causes.

During the last few years severe physical suffering had brought the
unfortunate second king of the house of Ptolemy to this place to seek the
aid of the ancient Egyptian gods, and, besides the philosophy, busy
himself with the mystic teachings and magic arts of their priesthood.

Only a short period of life seemed allotted to the invalid ruler, and the
service of the time-honoured god of the dead, to whom he had erected one
of the most magnificent temples in the world at Alexandria, to which
Egyptians and Hellenes repaired with equal devotion, opened hopes for the
life after death which seemed to him worthy of examination.

For this reason also he desired to secure the favour of the Egyptian
priesthood.

For this purpose, for the execution of his wise and beneficent
arrangements, as well as for the gratification of his expensive tastes,
large sums of money were required; therefore he devoted himself with
especial zeal to enlarging the resources of his country, already so rich
by nature.

In all these things he had found an admirable assistant in his sister
Arsinoe. As the daughter of the father and mother to whom he himself owed
existence, he could claim for her unassailable legitimacy the same
recognition from the priesthood, and the same submission from the people
rendered to his own person, whom the religion of the country commanded
them to revere as the representative of the sun god.

As marriages between brothers and sisters had been customary from ancient
times, and were sanctioned by religion and myth, he had married the
second Arsinoe, his sister, immediately after the banishment of the first
Queen of this name.

After the union with her, he called himself Philadelphus--brotherly
love--and honoured his sister and wife with the same name.

True, this led the sarcastic Alexandrians to utter many a biting, more or
less witty jest, but he never had cause to regret his choice; in spite of
her forty years, and more than one bloody deed which before her marriage
to him she had committed as Queen of Thrace and as a widow, the second
Arsinoe was always a pattern of regally aristocratic, dignified bearing
and haughty womanly beauty.

Though the first Philadelphus could expect no descendants from her, he
had provided for securing them through her, for he had induced her to
adopt the first Arsinoe's three children, who had been taken from their
exiled mother.

Arsinoe was now accompanying her royal husband Philadelphus to the
eastern frontier. There the latter expected to name the city to be newly
founded "Arsinoe" for her, and-to show his esteem for the priesthood--to
consecrate in person the new Temple of Tum in the city of Pithom, near
Heroopolis.

Lastly, the monarch had been endeavouring to form new connections with
the coast countries of eastern Africa, and open them to Egyptian
commerce.

Admiral Eumedes, the oldest son of Philippus and Thyone, had succeeded in
doing this most admirably, for the distinguished commander had not only
founded on the Ethiopian shore of the Red Sea a city which he named for
the King "Ptolemais," but also won over the princes and tribes of that
region to Egypt.

He was now returning from Ethiopia with a wealth of treasures.

After the brilliant festivals the invalid King, with his new wife, was to
give himself up to complete rest for a month in the healthful air of the
desert region which surrounded Pithom, far from the tumult of the capital
and the exhausting duties of government.

The magnificent shows which were to be expected, and the presence of the
royal pair, had attracted thousands of spectators on foot or horseback,
and by water, and the morning after Bias's return the sea near Clysma was
swarming with vessels of all kinds and sizes.

It was more than probable that Philippus, the father, and Thyone, the
mother of the famous returning Admiral Eumedes, would not fail to be
present at his reception on his native soil, and therefore Hermon wished
to seek out his dear old friends in Heroopolis, where the greeting was to
take place, and obtain their advice.

The boat on which the freedman had come was at the disposal of his master
and himself. Before Hermon entered it, he took leave, with an agitated
heart and open hand, of his Amalekite friends and, in spite of the mist
which still obscured everything he beheld, he perceived how reluctantly
the simple dwellers in the wilderness saw him depart.

When the master and servant entered the boat, in spite of the sturdy
sailors who manned it, it proved even more difficult than they had feared
to make any progress; for the whole narrow end of the arm of the sea,
which here extended between Egypt and Arabia Petrea, was covered with war
galleys and transports, boats and skiffs. The two most magnificent state
galleys from Heroopolis were coming here, bearing the ambassadors who, in
the King's name, were to receive the fleet and its commander. Other large
and small, richly equipped, or unpretending ships and boats were filled
with curious spectators.

What a gay, animated scene! What brilliant, varied, strange, hitherto
unseen objects were gathered here: vessels of every form and size, sails
white, brown, and black, and on the state galleys and boats purple, blue,
and every colour, adorned with more or less costly embroidery! What
rising and falling of swiftly or slowly moving oars!

"From Alexandria!" cried Bias, pointing to a state galley which the King
was sending to the commander of the southern fleet.

"And there," remarked Hermon, proud of his regained power of
distinguishing one thing from another, and letting his eyes rest on one
of the returning transports, on whose deck stood six huge African
elephants, whose trumpeting mingled with the roaring of the lions and
tigers on the huge freight vessels, and the exulting shouts of the men
and women in the ships and boats.

"After the King's heart!" exclaimed Bias. "He probably never received at
one time before so large an accession to his collection of rare animals.
What is the transport with the huge lotus flower on the prow probably
bringing?"

"Oh, and the monkeys and parrots over yonder!" joyously exclaimed the
Amalekite boy who had been Hermon's guide, and had accompanied him into
the boat. Then he suddenly lowered his voice and, fearing that his
delight might give pain to the less keen-sighted man whom he loved, he
asked, "You can see them, my lord, can't you?"

"Certainly, my boy, though less plainly than you do," replied Hermon,
stroking the lad's dark hair.

Meanwhile the admiral's ship had approached the shore.

Bias pointed to the poop, where the commander Eumedes was standing
directing the course of the fleet.

As if moulded in bronze, a man thoroughly equal to his office, he seemed,
in spite of the shouts, greetings, and acclamations thundering around
him, to close his eyes and ears to the vessels thronging about his ship
and devote himself body and soul to the fulfilment of his duty. He had
just embraced his father and mother, who had come here to meet him.

"The King undoubtedly sent by his father the laurel wreath on his
helmet," observed Bias, pointing to the admiral. "So many honours while
he is still so young! When you went to the wrestling school in
Alexandria, Eumedes was scarcely eight years older than you, and I
remember how he preferred you to the others. A sign, and he will notice
us and allow you to go on his ship, or, at any rate, send us a boat in
which we can enter the canal."

"No, no," replied Hermon. "My call would disturb him now."

"Then let us make ourselves known to the Lady Thyone or her husband," the
freedman continued. "They will certainly take us on their large state
galley, from which, though your eyes do not yet see as far as a falcon's,
not a ship, not a man, not a movement will escape them."

But Hermon added one more surprise to the many which he had already
given, for he kindly declined Bias's well-meant counsel, and, resting his
hand on the Amalekite boy's shoulder, said modestly: "I am no longer the
Hermon whom Eumedes preferred to the others. And the Lady Thyone must not
be reminded of anything sad in this festal hour for the mother's heart. I
shall meet her to-morrow, or the day after, and yet I had intended to let
no one who is loyal to me look into my healing eyes before Daphne."

Then he felt the freedman's hand secretly press his, and it comforted
him, after the sorrowful thoughts to which he had yielded, amid the
shouts of joy ringing around him. How quietly, with what calm dignity,
Eumedes received the well-merited homage, and how disgracefully the false
fame had bewildered his own senses!

Yet he had not passed through the purifying fire of misfortune in vain!
The past should not cloud the glad anticipation of brighter days!

Drawing a long breath, he straightened himself into a more erect posture,
and ordered the men to push the boat from the shore. Then he pressed a
farewell kiss on the Amalekite boy's forehead, the lad sprang ashore, and
the journey northward began.

At first the sailors feared that the crowd would be too great, and the
boat would be refused admission to the canal; but the helmsman succeeded
in keeping close behind a vessel of medium size, and the Macedonian
guards of the channel put no obstacle in their countryman's way, while
boats occupied by Egyptians and other barbarians were kept back.

In the Bitter Lakes, whose entire length was to be traversed, the ships
had more room, and after a long voyage through dazzling sunlight, and
along desolate shores, the boat anchored at nightfall at Heroopolis.

Hermon and Bias obtained shelter on one of the ships which the sovereign
had placed at the disposal of the Greeks who came to participate in the
festivals to be celebrated.

Before his master went to rest, the freedman--whom he had sent out to
look for a vessel bound to Pelusium and Alexandria the next day or the
following one--returned to the ship.

He had talked with the Lady Thyone, and told Hermon from her that she
would visit or send for him the next day, after the festival.

His own mother, the freedman protested, could not have rejoiced more
warmly over the commencement of his recovery, and she would have come
with him at once had not Philippus prevented his aged wife, who was
exhausted by the long journey.

The next morning the sun poured a wealth of radiant light upon the
desert, the green water of the harbour, and the gray and yellow walls of
the border fortress.

Three worlds held out their hands to one another on this water way
surrounded by the barren wilderness--Egypt, Hellas, and Semitic Asia.

To the first belonged the processions of priests, who, with images of the
gods, consecrated vessels, and caskets of relics, took their places at
the edge of the harbour. The tawny and black, half-naked soldiers who,
with high shields, lances, battle-axes and bows, gathered around
strangely shaped standards, joined them, amid the beating of drums and
blare of trumpets, as if for their protection. Behind them surged a vast
multitude of Egyptians and dark-skinned Africans.

On the other side of the canal the Asiatics were moving to and fro. The
best places for spectators had been assigned to the petty kings and
princes of tribes, Phoenician and Syrian merchants, and well-equipped,
richly armed warriors. Among them thronged owners of herds and seafarers
from the coast. Until the reception began, fresh parties of bearded sons
of the desert, in floating white bernouse, mounted on noble steeds, were
constantly joining the other Asiatics.

The centre was occupied by the Greeks. The appearance of every individual
showed that they were rulers of the land, and that they deserved to be.
How free and bold was their bearing! how brightly and joyously sparkled
the eyes of these men, whose wreaths of green leaves and bright-hued
flowers adorned locks anointed for the festivals! Strong and slender,
they were conspicuous in their stately grace among the lean Egyptians,
unbridled in their jests and jeers, and the excitable Asiatics.

Now the blare of trumpets and the roll of drums shook the air like
echoing lightning and heavy peals of thunder; the Egyptian priests sang a
hymn of praise to the God King and Goddess Queen, and the aristocratic
priestesses of the deity tinkled the brass rings on the sistrum. Then a
chorus of Hellenic singers began a polyphonous hymn, and amid its full,
melodious notes, which rose above the enthusiastic shouts of "Hail!" from
the multitude, King Ptolemy and his sister-wife showed themselves to the
waiting throng. Seated on golden thrones borne on the broad shoulders of
gigantic black Ethiopians, and shaded by lofty canopies, both were raised
above the crowd, whom they saluted by gracious gestures.

The athletic young bearers of the large round ostrich-feather fans which
protected them from the sunbeams were followed in ranks by the monarch's
"relatives" and "friends," the dignitaries, the dark and fair-haired
bands of the guards of Grecian youths and boys, as well as divisions of
the picked corps of the Hetairoi, Diadochi, and Epigoni, in beautiful
plain Macedonian armour.

They were followed in the most informal manner by scholars from the
Museum, many Hellenic artists, and wealthy gentlemen of Alexandria of
Greek and Jewish origin, whom the King had invited to the festival.

In his train they went on board the huge galley on which the reception
was to take place. Scarcely had the last one stepped on the deck when it
began.

Eumedes came from the admiral's galley to the King's. Ptolemy embraced
him like a friend, and Arsinoe added a wreath of fresh roses to the
laurel crown which the sovereign had sent the day before.

At the same time thundering plaudits echoed from the walls of the
fortifications and broke, sometimes rising, sometimes falling, against
the ships and masts in the calm water of the harbour.

The King had little time to lose. Even festal joy must move swiftly.
There were many and varied things to be seen and done; but in the course
of an hour--so ran the order--this portion of the festivities must be
over, and it was fully obeyed.

The hands and feet of the woolly-headed blacks who, amid loud
acclamations, carried on shore the cages in which lions, panthers, and
leopards shook the bars with savage fury, moved as if they were winged.
The slender, dark-brown Ethiopians who led giraffes, apes, gazelles, and
greyhounds past the royal pair rushed along as if they were under the
lash; and the sixty elephants which Eumedes and his men had caught in the
land of Chatyth moved at a rapid pace past the royal state galley.

At the sight of them the King joined in the cheers of thousands of voices
on the shore; these giant animals were to him auxiliaries who could put
to flight a whole corps of hostile cavalry, and Arsinoe-Philadelphus, the
Queen, sympathized with his pleasure.

She raised her voice with her royal husband, and it seemed to the
spectators on the shore as if they had a share in the narrative when she
listened to Eumedes's first brief report.

Only specimens of the gold and ivory, spices and rare woods, juniper
trees and skins of animals which the ships brought home could be borne
past their Majesties, and the black and brown men who carried them moved
at a breathless rate.

The sun was still far from the meridian when the royal couple and their
train withdrew from the scene of the reception ceremonial, and drove, in
a magnificent chariot drawn by four horses, to the neighbouring city of
Pithoin, where new entertainments and a long period of rest awaited them.
Hermon had seen, as if through a veil of white mists, the objects that
aroused the enthusiasm of the throng, and so, he said to himself, it had
been during the whole course of his life. Only the surface of the
phenomena on which he fixed his eyes had been visible to him; he had not
learned to penetrate further into their nature, fathom them to their
depths, until he became blind.

If the gods fulfilled his hope, if he regained his vision entirely, and
even the last mists had vanished, he would hold firmly to the capacity he
had gained, and use it in life as well as in art.



CHAPTER XIV.

The messenger from Philippus appeared in the afternoon. It was the young
hipparch who had studied in Athens and accompanied the commandant of
Pelusium to Tennis the year before. He came charged with the commission
to convey the artist, in the carriage of the gray-haired comrade of
Alexander, to the neighbouring city of Pithom, where Philippus, by the
King's command, was now residing.

On the way the hipparch told the sculptor that the Lady Thyone had
recently done things unprecedented for a woman of her age.

She had been present at the founding of the city of Arsinoe, as well as
at the laying of the corner stone of the temple which was to be
consecrated to the new god Serapis in the neighbourhood. The day before
she had welcomed her returning son before the entry of the fleet into the
canal, and to-day had remained from the beginning to the end of his
reception by the King, without being unduly wearied.

Her first thought, after the close of the ceremony, had concerned her
convalescing young friend. New entertainments, in which the Queen
commanded her to participate, awaited her in Pithom, but pleasure at the
return of her famous son appeared to double her power of endurance.

Pithom was the sacred name of the temple precincts of the desert city of
Thekut--[The biblical Suchot]--near Heroopolis, where the citizens lived
and pursued their business.

The travellers reached the place very speedily. Garlands of flowers and
hangings adorned the houses. The sacred precinct Pithom, above which
towered the magnificently restored temple of the god Turn, was also still
adorned with many superb ones, as well as lofty masts, banners, and
triumphal arches.

Before they reached it the equipage passed the sumptuous tents which had
been erected for the royal pair and their attendants. If Hermon had not
known how long the monarch intended to remain here, their size and number
would have surprised him.

A regular messenger and carrier-dove service had been established between
Alexandria and Pithom for the period of Ptolemy's relaxation; and the
sovereign was accompanied not only by several of the chief councillors
and secretaries, but artists and some of the Museum scientists with whom
he was on specially intimate terms, who were to adorn the festival on the
frontier with their presence, and cheer the invalid King, who needed
entertainment. Singers and actors also belonged to the train.

As they passed the encampment of the troops who accompanied the
sovereign, the hipparch could show Hermon a magnificent military
spectacle.

Heroopolis was fortified, and belonged to the military colonies which
Alexander the Great had established throughout all Egypt in order to win
it over more quickly to Grecian customs. A Hellenic phalanx and Libyan
mercenaries formed the garrison there, but at Pithom the King had
gathered the flower of his troops around him, and this circumstance
showed how little serious consideration the cautious ruler, who usually
carefully regarded every detail, gave to the war with Cyrene, in which he
took no personal part. The four thousand Gauls whom he had sent across
the frontier as auxiliary troops promised to become perilous to the foe,
who was also threatened in the rear by one of the most powerful Libyan
tribes.

Therefore, the artist was assured by his military companion, Philadelphus
could let the campaign take its course, and permit himself the brief
period of rest in this strangely chosen place, which the leeches had
advised.

The house where the aged couple lived with their son, Admiral Eumedes,
was on the edge of the precincts of the temple. It belonged to the most
distinguished merchant in the place, and consisted of a large open
courtyard in the form of a square, surrounded by the building and its
communicating wings.

When the hipparch led Hermon into this place a number of people had
already assembled there. Soldiers and sailors stood in groups in the
centre, awaiting the orders of the old general and his subordinate
officers. Messengers and slaves, coming and going on various errands,
were crossing it, and on the shady side benches and chairs stood under a
light awning. Most of these were occupied by visitors who came to
congratulate the mother of the fame-crowned admiral.

Thyone was reclining on a divan in their midst, submitting with a sigh to
the social duties which her high position imposed upon her.

Her face was turned toward the large doorway of the main entrance, while
she sometimes greeted newly introduced guests, sometimes bade farewell to
departing ones, and meanwhile answered and asked questions.

She had been more wearied by the exertions of the last few days than her
animated manner revealed. Yet as soon as Hermon, leaning on the young
hipparch's arm, approached her, she rose and cordially extended both
hands to him. True, the recovering man was still unable to see her
features distinctly, but he felt the maternal kindness with which she
received him, and what his eyes could not distinguish his ears taught him
in her warm greetings. His heart dilated and, after he had kissed her
dear old hand more than once with affectionate devotion, she led him
among her guests and presented him to them as the son of her dearest
friend.

A strange stir ran through the assembled group, nearly all whose members
belonged to the King's train, and the low whispers and murmurs around him
revealed to Hermon that the false wreaths he wore had by no means been
forgotten in this circle.

A painful feeling of discomfort overwhelmed the man accustomed to the
silence of the desert, and a voice within cried with earnest insistence,
"Away from here!"

But he had no time to obey it; an unusually tall, broad-shouldered man,
with a thick gray beard and grave, well-formed features, in whom he
thought he recognised the great physician Erasistratus, approached
Thyone, and asked, "The recluse from the desert with restored sight?"

"The same," replied the matron, and whispered to the other, who was
really the famous scientist and leech whom Hermon had desired to seek in
Alexandria. "Exhaustion will soon overcome me, and how many important
matters I had to discuss with you and the poor fellow yonder!"

The physician laid his hand on the matron's temples, and, raising his
voice, said in a tone of grave anxiety: "Exhaustion! It would be better
for you, honoured lady, to keep your bed."

"Surely and certainly!" the wife of the chief huntsman instantly
assented. "We have already taxed your strength far too long, my noble
friend."

This welcome confession produced a wonderful effect upon the other
visitors, and very soon the last one had vanished from the space under
the awning and the courtyard. Not a single person had vouchsafed Hermon a
greeting; for the artist, divested of the highest esteem, had been
involved in the ugly suspicion of having driven his uncle from
Alexandria, and the monarch was said to have spoken unfavourably of him.

When the last one had left the courtyard, the leech exchanged a quick
glance of understanding, which also included Hermon, with Thyone, and the
majordomo received orders to admit no more visitors, while Erasistratus
exclaimed gaily, "It is one of the physician's principal duties to keep
all harmful things--including living ones--from his patient."

Then he turned to Hermon and had already begun to question him about his
health, when the majordomo announced another visitor. "A very
distinguished gentleman, apparently," he said hastily; "Herophilus of
Chalcedon, who would not be denied admittance."

Again the eyes of Erasistratus and the matron met, and the former
hastened toward his professional colleague.

The two physicians stopped in the middle of the courtyard and talked
eagerly together, while Thyone, with cordial interest, asked Hermon to
tell her what she had already partially learned through the freedman
Bias.

Finally Erasistratus persuaded the matron, who seemed to have forgotten
her previous exhaustion, to share the consultation, but the
convalescent's heart throbbed faster as he watched the famous leeches.

If these two men took charge of his case, the most ardent desire of his
soul might be fulfilled, and Thyone was certainly trying to induce them
to undertake his treatment; what else would have drawn her away from him
before she had said even one word about Daphne?

The sculptor saw, as if through a cloud of dust, the three consulting
together in the centre of the courtyard, away from the soldiers and
messengers.

Hermon had only seen Erasistratus indistinctly, but before his eyes were
blinded he had met him beside the sick-bed of Myrtilus, and no one who
had once beheld it could forget the manly bearded face, with the grave,
thoughtful eyes, whose gaze deliberately sought their goal.

The other also belonged to the great men in the realm of intellect.
Hermon knew him well, for he had listened eagerly in the Museum to the
lectures of the famous Herophilus, and his image also had stamped itself
upon his soul.

Even at that time the long, smooth hair of the famous investigator had
turned gray. From the oval of his closely shaven, well-formed face, with
the long, thin, slightly hooked nose, a pair of sparkling eyes had gazed
with penetrating keenness at the listeners. Hermon had imagined Aristotle
like him, while the bust of Pythagoras, with which he was familiar,
resembled Erasistratus.

The convalescent could scarcely expect anything more than beneficial
advice from Herophilus; for this tireless investigator rarely rendered
assistance to the sick in the city, because the lion's share of his time
and strength were devoted to difficult researches. The King favoured
these by placing at his disposal the criminals sentenced to death. In his
work of dissection he had found that the human brain was the seat of the
soul, and the nerves originated in it.

Erasistratus, on the contrary, devoted himself to a large medical
practice, though science owed him no less important discoveries.

The circle of artists had heard what he taught concerning the blood in
the veins and the air bubbles in the arteries, how he explained the
process of breathing, and what he had found in the investigation of the
beating of the heart.

But he performed his most wonderful work with the knife in his hand as a
surgeon. He had opened the body of one of Archias's slaves, who had been
nursed by Daphne, and cured him after all other physicians had given him
up.

When this man's voice reached Hermon, he repeated to himself the words of
refusal with which the great physician had formerly declined to devote
his time and skill to him. Perhaps he was right then--and how differently
he treated him to-day!

Thyone had informed the famous scientist of everything which she knew
from Hermon, and had learned of the last period of his life through Bias.

She now listened with eager interest, sometimes completing Hermon's
acknowledgments by an explanatory or propitiating word, as the leeches
subjected him to a rigid examination, but the latter felt that his
statements were not to serve curiosity, but an honest desire to aid him.
So he spoke to them with absolute frankness.

When the examination was over, Erasistratus exclaimed to his professional
colleague: "This old woman! Precisely as I would have prescribed. She
ordered the strictest diet with the treatment. She rejected every strong
internal remedy, and forbade him wine, much meat, and all kinds of
seasoning. Our patient was directed to live on milk and the same simple
gifts of Nature which I would have ordered for him. The herb juice in the
clever sorceress's salve proved the best remedy. The incantations could
do no harm. On the contrary, they often produce a wonderful effect on the
mind, and from it proceed further."

Here Erasistratus asked to have a description of the troubles which still
affected Hermon's vision, and the passionate eagerness with which the
leeches gazed into his eyes strengthened the artist's budding hope. Never
had he wished more ardently that Daphne was back at his side.

He also listened with keen attention when the scientists finally
discussed in low tones what they had perceived, and caught the words,
"White scar on the cornea," "leucoma," and "operation." He also heard
Herophilus declare that an injury of the cornea by the flame of the torch
was the cause of the blindness. In the work which led him to the
discovery of the retina in the eye he had devoted himself sedulously to
the organs of sight. This case seemed as if it had been created for his
friend's keen knife.

What expectations this assurance aroused in the half-cured man, who felt
as if the goal was already gained, when, shortly after, Erasistratus, the
greatest physician of his time, offered to make the attempt in Alexandria
to remove, by a few little incisions, what still dimmed his impaired
vision!

Hermon, deeply agitated, thanked the leech, and when Thyone perceived
what was passing in his mind she ventured to ask the question whether it
would not be feasible to perform the beneficent work here, and, if
possible, the next day, and the surgeon was ready to fulfil the wish of
the matron and the sufferer speedily. He would bring the necessary
instruments with him. It only depended upon whether a suitable room could
be found in the crowded city, and Thyone believed that such a one could
not be lacking in the great building at her disposal.

A short conversation with the steward confirmed this opinion.

Then Erasistratus appointed the next morning for the operation. During
the ceremony of consecrating the temple it would be quiet in the house
and its vicinity. The preliminary fasting which he imposed upon his
patients Hermon had already undergone.

"The pure desert air here," he added, "will be of the utmost assistance
in recovery. The operation is slight, and free from danger. A few days
will determine its success. I shall remain here with their Majesties,
only"--and here he hesitated doubtfully--"where shall I find a
competent assistant?"

Herophilus looked his colleague in the face with a sly smile, saying, "If
you credit the old man of Chalcedon with the needful skill, he is at your
disposal."

"Herophilus!" cried Thyone, and tears of emotion wet her aged eyes, which
easily overflowed; but when Hermon tried to give expression to his
fervent gratitude in words, Erasistratus interrupted him, exclaiming, as
he grasped his comrade's hand, "It honours the general in his purple
robe, when he uses the spade in the work of intrenchment."

Many other matters were discussed before the professional friends
withdrew, promising to go to work early the next morning.

They kept their word, and while the temple of the god Turn resounded with
music and the chanting of hymns by the priests, whose dying notes entered
the windows of the sick-room, while Queen Arsinoe-Philadelphus led the
procession, and the King, who was prevented by the gout from entering and
passing around the sanctuary at her side, ordered a monument to be
erected in commemoration of this festival, the famous leeches toiled
busily.

When the music and the acclamations of the crowd died away, their task
was accomplished. The great Herophilus had rendered his equally
distinguished colleague the aid of an apprentice. When Hermon's lips
again tried to pour forth his gratitude, Herophilus interrupted him with
the exclamation: "Use the sight you have regained, young master, in
creating superb works of art, and I shall be in your debt, since, with
little trouble, I was permitted to render a service to the whole Grecian
world."

Hermon spent seven long days and nights full of anxious expectation in a
darkened room. Bias and a careful old female slave of the Lady Thyone
watched him faithfully. Philippus, his wife, and his famous son Eumedes
were allowed to pay him only brief visits; but Erasistratus watched the
success of the operation every morning. True, it had been by no means
dangerous, and certainly would not have required his frequent visits, but
it pleased the investigator, reared in the school of Stoics, to watch how
this warm-blooded young artist voluntarily submitted to live in accord
with reason and Nature--the guiding stars of his own existence.

But Hermon opened his soul to his learned friend, and what Erasistratus
thus learned strengthened the conviction of this great alleviator of
physical pain that suffering and knowledge of self were the best
physicians for the human soul. The scientist, who saw in the arts the
noblest ornament of mortal life, anticipated with eager interest Hermon's
future creative work.

On the seventh day the leech removed the bandage from his patient's eyes,
and the cry of rapture with which Hermon clasped him in his arms richly
rewarded him for his trouble and solicitude.

The restored man beheld in sharp, clear, undimmed outlines everything at
which the physician desired him to look.

Now Erasistratus could write to his friend Herophilus in Alexandria that
the operation was successful.

The sculptor was ordered to avoid the dazzling sunlight a fortnight
longer, then he might once more use his eyes without restriction, and
appeal to the Muse to help in creating works of art.

Thyone was present at this explanation. After she had conquered the great
emotion which for a time sealed her lips, her first question, after the
physician's departure, was: "And Nemesis? She too, I think, has fled
before the new light?"

Hermon pressed her hand still more warmly, exclaiming with joyous
confidence: "No, Thyone! True, I now have little reason to fear the
avenging goddess who pursues the criminal, but all the more the other
Nemesis, who limits the excess of happiness. Will she not turn her swift
wheel, when I again, with clear eyes, see Daphne, and am permitted to
work in my studio once more with keen eyes and steady hand?"

Now the barriers which had hitherto restricted Hermon's social
intercourse also fell. Eumedes, the commander of the fleet, often visited
him, and while exchanging tales of their experiences they became friends.

When Hermon was alone with Thyone and her gray-haired husband, the
conversation frequently turned upon Daphne and her father.

Then the recovered artist learned to whom Archias owed his escape from
being sentenced to death and having his property confiscated. Papers,
undeniably genuine, had proved what large sums had been advanced by the
merchant during the period of the first Queen Arsinoe's conspiracy, and
envious foes had done their best to prejudice the King and his
sister-wife against Archias. Then the gray-haired hero fearlessly
interceded for his friend, and the monarch did not remain deaf to his
representations. King Ptolemy was writing the history of the conqueror of
the world, and needed the aged comrade of Alexander, the sole survivor
who had held a prominent position in the great Macedonian's campaigns. It
might be detrimental to his work, on which he set great value, if he
angered the old warrior, who was a living source of history. Yet the King
was still ill-disposed to the merchant, for while he destroyed Archias's
death sentence which had been laid before him for his signature, he said
to Philippus: "The money-bag whose life I give you was the friend of my
foe. Let him beware that my arm does not yet reach him from afar!"

Nay, his resentment went so far that he refused to receive Hermon, when
Eumedes begged permission to present the artist whose sight had been so
wonderfully restored.

"To me he is still the unjustly crowned conspirator," Philadelphus
replied. "Let him create the remarkable work which I formerly expected
from him, and perhaps I shall have a somewhat better opinion of him, deem
him more worthy of our favour."

Under these circumstances it was advisable for Archias and Daphne to
remain absent from Alexandria, and the experienced couple could only
approve Hermon's decision to go to Pergamus as soon as Erasistratus
dismissed him. A letter from Daphne, which reached Thyone's hands at this
time, increased the convalescent's already ardent yearning to the highest
pitch. The girl entreated her maternal friend to tell her frankly the
condition of her lover's health. If he had recovered, he would know how
to find her speedily; if the blindness was incurable, she would come
herself to help him bear the burden of his darkened existence. Chrysilla
would accompany her, but she could leave her father alone in Pergamus a
few months without anxiety, for he had a second son there in his nephew
Myrtilus, and had found a kind friend in Philetaerus, the ruler of the
country.

From this time Hermon daily urged Erasistratus to grant him entire
liberty, but the leech steadfastly refused, though he knew whither his
young friend longed to go.

Not until the beginning of the fourth week after the operation did he
himself lead Hermon into the full sunlight, and when the recovered artist
came out of the house he raised his hands in mute prayer, gushing from
the inmost depths of his heart.

The King was to return to Alexandria in a few days, and at the same time
Philippus and Thyone were going back to Pelusium. Hermon wished to
accompany them there and sail thence on a ship bound for Pergamus.

With Eumedes he visited the unfamiliar scenes around him, and his newly
restored gift of sight presented to him here many things that formerly he
would scarcely have noticed, but which now filled him with grateful joy.
Gratitude, intense gratitude, had taken possession of his whole being.
This feeling mastered him completely and seemed to be fostered and
strengthened by every breath, every heart throb, every glance into his
own soul and the future.

Besides, many beauties, nay, even many marvels, presented themselves to
his restored eyes. The whole wealth of the magic of beauty, intellect,
and pleasure in life, characteristic of the Greek nature, appeared to
have followed King Ptolemy and Queen Arsinoe-Philadelphus hither. Gardens
had been created on the arid, sandy soil, whose gray and yellow surface
extended in every direction, the water on the shore of the canal which
united Pithom with the Nile not sufficing to render it possible to make
even a narrow strip of arable land. Fresh water flowed from beautiful
fountains adorned with rich carvings, and the pure fluid filled large
porphyry and marble basins. Statues, single and in groups, stood forth in
harmonious arrangement against green masses of leafage, and Grecian
temples, halls, and even a theatre, rapidly constructed in the noblest
forms from light material, invited the people to devotion, to the
enjoyment of the most exquisite music, and to witness the perfect
performance of many a tragedy and comedy.

Statues surrounded the hurriedly erected palaestra where the Ephebi every
morning practised their nude, anointed bodies in racing, wrestling, and
throwing the discus. What a delight it was to Hermon to feast his eyes
upon these spectacles! What a stimulus to the artist, so long absorbed in
his own thoughts, who had so recently returned from the wilderness to the
world of active life, when he was permitted, in Erasistratus's tent, to
listen to the great scholars who had accompanied the King to the desert!
Only the regret that Daphne was not present to share his pleasure clouded
Hermon's enjoyment, when Eumedes related to his parents, himself, and a
few chosen friends the adventures encountered, and the experiences
gathered in distant Ethiopia, on land and water, in battle and the chase,
as investigator and commander.

The utmost degree of variety had entered into the simplicity of the
monotonous desert, the most refined abundance for the intellect and the
need of beauty appeared amid its barrenness.

The poet Callimachus had just arrived with a new chorus of singers,
tablets by Antiphilus and Nicias had come to beautify the last days of
the residence in the desert--when doves, the birds of Aphrodite, flew
with the speed of lightning into Pithom, but instead of bringing a new
message of love and announcing the approach of fresh pleasure, they bore
terrible tidings which put joy to flight and stifled mirthfulness.

The unbridled greed of rude barbarians had chosen Alexandria for its
goal, and startled the royal pair and their chosen companions from the
sea of pleasure where they would probably have remained for weeks.

The four thousand Gauls who had been obtained to fight against Cyrene
were in the act of rushing rapaciously upon the richest city in the
world. The most terrible danger hung like a black cloud over the capital
founded by Alexander, whose growth had been so rapid. True, General
Satvrus asserted that he was strong enough, with the troops at his
disposal, to defeat the formidable hordes; but a second dove, sent by the
epitropus who had remained in Alexandria, alluded to serious disaster
which it would scarcely be possible to avert.

The doves now flew swiftly to and fro; but before the third arrived,
Eumedes, the commander of the fleet just from Ethiopia, was already on
the way to Alexandria with all the troops assembled on the frontier.

The King and Queen, with the corps of pages and the corps of youths,
entered the boats waiting for them to return, drawn by teams of four
swift horses, to Memphis, to await within the impregnable fortress of the
White Castle the restoration of security in the capital.

The Greeks prized the most valiant fearlessness so highly that no shadow
could be suffered to rest upon the King's, and therefore the monarch's
hurried departure was made in a way which permitted no thought of flight,
and merely resembled impatient yearning for new festivals and the earnest
desire to fulfil grave duties in another portion of the kingdom.

Many of the companions of the royal pair, among them Erasistratus,
accompanied them. Hermon bade him farewell with a troubled heart, and the
leech, too, parted with regret from the artist to whom, a year before, he
had refused his aid.



CHAPTER XV.

Hermon went, with Philippus and Thyone, on board the ship which was to
convey them through the new canal to Pelusium, where the old commandant
had to plan all sorts of measures. In the border fortress the artist was
again obliged to exercise patience, for no ship bound to Pergamus or
Lesbos could be found in the harbour. Philippus had as much work as he
could do, but all his arrangements were made when carrier doves announced
that the surprise intended by the Gauls had been completely thwarted, and
his son Eumedes was empowered to punish them.

The admiral would take his fleet to the Sebennytic mouth of the Nile.

Another dove came from King Ptolemy, and summoned the old general at once
to the capital. Philippus resolved to set off without delay and, as the
way led past that mouth of the Nile, met his son on the voyage.

Hermon must accompany him and his wife to Alexandria, whence, without
entering the city, he could sail for Pergamus; ships bound to all the
ports in the Mediterranean were always in one of the harbours of the
capital. A galley ready to weigh anchor was constantly at the disposal of
the commandant of the fortress, and the next noon the noble pair, with
Hermon and his faithful Bias, went on board the Galatea.

The weather was dull, and gray clouds were sweeping across the sky over
the swift vessel, which hugged the coast, and, unless the wind shifted,
would reach the narrow tongue of land pierced by the Sebennytic mouth of
the Nile before sunrise.

Though the general and his wife went to rest early, Hermon could not
endure the close air of the cabin. Wrapped in his cloak he went on deck.
The moon, almost full, was sailing in the sky, sometimes covered by dark
clouds, sometimes leaving them behind. Like a swan emerging from the
shadow of the thickets along the shore upon the pure bosom of the lake,
it finally floated into the deep azure of the radiant firmament. Hermon's
heart swelled.

How he rejoiced that he was again permitted to behold the starry sky, and
satiate his soul with the beauty of creation! What delight it gave him
that the eternal wanderers above were no longer soulless forms, that he
again saw in the pure silver disk above friendly Selene, in the rolling
salt waves the kingdom of Poseidon! To-morrow, when the deep blue water
was calm, he would greet the sea-god Glaucus, and when snowy foam crowned
the crests of the waves, white-armed Thetis. The wind was no longer an
empty sound to him; no, it, too, came from a deity. All Nature had
regained a new, divine life. Doubtless he felt much nearer to his
childhood than before, but he was infinitely less distant from the
eternal divinity. And all the forms, so full of meaning, which appeared
to him from Nature, and from every powerful emotion of his own soul, were
waiting to be represented by his art in the noblest of forms, those of
human beings. There were few with whose nature he had not become familiar
in the darkness and solitude that once surrounded him.

When he began to create again, he had only to summon them, and he
awaited, with the suspense of the general who is in command of new troops
on the eve of battle, the success of his own work after the great
transformation which had taken place in him.

What a stress and tumult!

He had controlled it since the first hour when he regained his full
vision. He would fain have transformed the moon into the sun, the ship
into the studio, and begun to model.

He knew, too, what he desired to create.

He would model an Apollo trampling under foot the slain dragon of
darkness.

He would succeed in this work now. And as he looked up and saw Selene
just emerging again from the black cloud island, the thought entered his
mind that it was a moonlight night like this when all the unspeakably
terrible misfortune occurred--which was now past.

Yet neither the calm wanderer above nor a resentful woman had exposed him
to the persecution of Nemesis. In the stillness of the desert he had
perceived what had brought all this terrible suffering upon him; but he
would not repeat it to himself now, for he felt within his soul the power
to remain faithful to his best self in the future.

With clear eyes he gazed keenly and blithely at the new life. Nothing,
least of all, futile self-torturing regret for faults committed, should
cloud the fair morning dawning anew for him, which summoned him to active
work, to gratitude and love.

Uttering a sigh of relief, he paced the deck--now brilliantly illuminated
by silvery light--with long strides.

The moon above his head reminded him of Ledscha. He was no longer angry
with her. The means by which she had intended to destroy him had been
transformed into a benefit, and while in the desert he had perceived how
often man finally blesses, as the highest gain, what he at first regarded
as the most cruel affliction.

How distinctly the image of the Biamite again stood before his agitated
soul!

Had he not loved her once?

Or how had it happened that, though his heart was Daphne's, and hers
alone, he had felt wounded and insulted when his Bias, who was leaning
over the railing of the deck yonder, gazing at the glittering waves, had
informed him that Ledscha had been accompanied in her flight from her
unloved husband by the Gaul whose life he, Hermon, had saved? Was this
due to jealousy or merely wounded vanity at being supplanted in a heart
which he firmly believed belonged, though only in bitter hate, solely to
him?

She certainly had not forgotten him, and while the remembrance of her
blended with the yearning for Daphne which never left him, he sat down
and gazed out into the darkness till his head drooped on his breast.

Then a dream showed the Biamite to the slumbering man, yet no longer in
the guise of a woman, but as the spider Arachne. She increased before his
eyes to an enormous size and alighted upon the pharos erected by
Sostratus. Uninjured by the flames of the lighthouse, above which she
hovered, she wove a net of endlessly long gray threads over the whole
city of Alexandria, with its temples, palaces, and halls, harbours and
ships, until Daphne suddenly appeared with a light step and quietly cut
one after the other.

Suddenly a shrill whistle aroused him. It was the signal of the
flute-player to relieve the rowers.

A faint yellow line was now tingeing the eastern horizon of the gray,
cloudy sky. At his left extended the flat, dull-brown coast line, which
seemed to be lower than the turbid waves of the restless sea. The cold
morning wind was blowing light mists over the absolutely barren shore.
Not a tree, not a bush, not a human dwelling was to be seen in this
dreary wilderness. Wherever the eye turned, there was nothing but sand
and water, which united at the edge of the land. Long lines of surf
poured over the arid desert, and, as if repelled by the desolation of
this strand, returned to the wide sea whence they came.

The shrill screams of the sea-gulls behind the ship, and the hoarse,
hungry croaking of the ravens on the shore blended with the roaring of
the waves. Hermon shuddered at this scene. Shivering, he wrapped his
cloak closer around him, yet he did not go to the protecting cabin, but
followed the nauarch, who pointed out to him the numerous vessels which,
in a wide curve, surrounded the place where the Sebennytic arm of the
Nile pierced the tongue of land to empty into the sea.

The experienced seaman did not know what ships were doing there, but it
was hardly anything good; for ravens in a countless multitude were to be
seen on the shore and all moved toward the left.

Philippus's appearance on deck interrupted the nauarch. He anxiously
showed the birds to the old hero also, and the latter's only reply was,
"Watch the helm and sails!"

Yonder squadron, Philippus said to the artist, was a part of his son's
fleet; what brought it there was a mystery to him too.

After the early meal, the galley of Eumedes approached his father's
trireme. Two other galleys, not much inferior in size, were behind, and
probably fifty smaller vessels were moving about the mouth of the Nile
and the whole dreary tongue of land.

All belonged to the royal war fleet, and the deck of every one was
crowded with armed soldiers.

On one a forest of lances bristled in the murky air, and upon its
southward side a row of archers, each man holding his bow in his hand,
stood shoulder to shoulder.

At what mark were their arrows to be aimed? The men on board the Galatea
saw it distinctly, for the shore was swarming with human figures, here
standing crowded closely together, like horses attacked by a pack of
wolves; yonder running, singly or in groups, toward the sea or into the
land. Dark spots on the light sand marked the places where others had
thrown themselves on the ground, or, kneeling, stretched out their arms
as if in defence.

Who were the people who populated this usually uninhabited, inhospitable
place so densely and in so strange a manner?

This could not be distinguished from the Galatea with the naked eye, but
Philippus thought that they were the Gauls whose punishment had been
intrusted to his son, and it soon proved that the old general was right;
for just as the Galatea was approaching the shore, a band of twenty or
thirty men plunged into the sea. They were Gauls. The light complexions
and fair and red bristling hair showed this--Philippus knew them, and
Hermon remembered the hordes of men who had rushed past him on the ride
to Tennis.

But the watchers were allowed only a short time for observation; brief
shouts of command rang from the ships near them, long bows were raised in
the air, and one after another of the light-hued forms in the water threw
up its arms, sprang up, or sank motionless into the waves around them,
which were dyed with a crimson stain.

The artist shuddered; the gray-haired general covered his head with his
cloak, and the Lady Thyone followed his example, uttering her son's name
in a tone of loud lamentation.

The nauarch pointed to the black birds in the air and close above the
shore and the water; but the shout, "A boat from the admiral's galley!"
soon attracted the attention of the voyagers on the Galatea in a new
direction.

Thirty powerful rowers were urging the long, narrow boat toward them.
Sometimes raised high on the crest of a mountain wave, sometimes sinking
into the hollow, it completed its trip, and Eumedes mounted a swinging
rope ladder to the Galatea's deck as nimbly as a boy.

Here the young commander of the fleet hastened toward his parents. His
mother sobbed aloud at his anything but cheerful greeting; Philippus said
mournfully, "I have heard nothing yet, but I know all."

"Father," replied the admiral, and raising the helmet from his head,
covered with brown curls, he added mournfully: "First as to these men
here. It will teach you to understand the other terrible things. Your
Uncle Archias's house was destroyed; yonder men were the criminals."

"In the capital!" Philippus exclaimed furiously, and Hermon cried in no
less vehement excitement: "How did my uncle get the ill will of these
monsters? But as the vengeance is in your hands, they will atone for this
breach of the peace!"

"Severely, perhaps too severely," replied Eumedes gloomily, and Philippus
asked his son how this evil deed could have happened, and the purport of
the King's command.

The admiral related what had occurred in the capital since his departure
from Pithom.

The four thousand Gauls who had been sent by King Antiochus to the
Egyptian army as auxiliary troops against Cyrene refused, before reaching
Paraetonium, on the western frontier of the Egyptian kingdom, to obey
their Greek commanders. As they tried to force them to continue their
march, the barbarians left them bound in the road. They spared their
lives, but rushed with loud shouts of exultation toward Alexandria, which
was close at hand.

They had learned that the city was almost stripped of troops, and the
most savage instinct urged them toward the wealthy capital.

Without encountering any resistance, they broke through the necropolis
into Alexandria, crossed the Draco canal, and marched past the unfinished
Temple of Serapis through the Rhakotis. At the Canopic Way they turned
eastward and rushed through this main artery of traffic till, in the
Brucheium, they hastened in a northerly direction toward the sea.

South of the Theatre of Dionysus they halted. One division turned toward
the market-place, another toward the royal palaces.

Until they reached the Brucheium the hordes, so eager for booty, had
refrained from plunder and pillage.

Their whole strength was to be reserved, as the examination proved, for
the attack upon the royal palaces. Several people who were thoroughly
familiar with Alexandria had acted as guides.

The instigator of the mutiny was said to be a Gallic captain who had
taken part in the surprise of Delphi, but, having ventured to punish
disobedient soldiers, he was killed. A bridge-builder from the ranks, and
his wife, who was not of Gallic blood, had taken his place.

This woman, a resolute and obstinate but rarely beautiful creature, when
the division that was to attack the royal palaces was marching past the
house which Hermon had occupied as the heir of Myrtilus, pressed forward
herself across the threshold, to order the mutineers who followed her to
destroy and steal whatever came in their way. The bridge-builder went to
the market-place, and in pillaging the wealthy merchants' houses began
with Archias's. Meanwhile it was set on fire and, with the large
warehouses adjoining it, was burned to the foundation walls.

But the robbers were to obtain no permanent success, either in the
market-place or in Myrtilus's house, which was diagonally opposite to the
palaestra; for General Satyrus, at the first tidings of their approach,
had collected all the troops at his disposal and the crews of several war
galleys, and imprisoned the division in the market-place as though in a
mouse-trap. The bands to which the woman belonged were forced by the
cavalry into the palaestra and the neighbouring Maander, and kept there
until Eumedes brought re-enforcements and compelled the Gauls to
surrender.

The King sent from Memphis the order to take the vanquished men to the
tongue of land where they now were, and could easily be imprisoned
between the sea and the Sebennytic inland lake. They were guilty of death
to the last man, and starvation was to perform the executioner's office
upon them.

He, Eumedes, the admiral concluded, was in the King's service, and must
do what his commander in chief ordered.

"Duty," sighed Philippus; "yet what a punishment!"

He held out his hand to his son as he spoke, but the Lady Thyone shook
her head mournfully, saying: "There are four thousand over yonder; and
the philosopher and historian on the throne, the admirable art critic who
bestows upon his capital and Egypt all the gifts of peace, who
understands how to guard and develop it better than any one else--yet
what influence the gloomy powers exert upon him!"

Here she hesitated, and went on in a low whisper: "The blood of two
brothers stains his hand and his conscience. The oldest, to whom the
throne would have belonged, he exiled. And our friend, Demetrius
Phalereus, his father's noble councillor! Because you, Philippus,
interceded for him--though you were in a position of command, because
Ptolemy knows your ability--you were sent to distant Pelusium, and there
we should be still--"

"Guard your tongue, wife!" interrupted the old general in a tone of grave
rebuke. "The vipers on the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt symbolize the
King's swift power over life and death. To the Egyptians the Philadelphi,
Ptolemy and Arsinoe, are gods, and what cause have we to reproach them
except that they use their omnipotence?"

"And, mother," Eumedes eagerly added, "do not the royal pair on the
throne merely follow the example of far greater ones among the immortal
gods? When the very Gauls who are devoted to death yonder, greedy for
booty, attacked Delphi, four years ago, it was the august brother and
sister, Apollo and Artemis, who sent them to Hades with their arrows,
while Zeus hurled his thunderbolts at them and ordered heavy boulders to
fall upon them from the shaken mountains. Many of the men over there fled
from destruction at Delphi. Unconverted, they added new crimes to the old
ones, but now retribution will overtake them. The worse the crime, the
more bloody the vengeance.

"Even the last must die, as my sovereign commands; only I shall determine
the mode of death according to my own judgment, and at the same time,
mother, feel sure of your approval. Instead of lingering starvation, I
shall use swift arrows. Now you know what you were obliged to learn. It
would be wise, mother, for you to leave this abode of misery. Duty
summons me to my ship." He held out his hand to his parents and Hermon as
he spoke, but the latter clasped it firmly, exclaiming in a tone of
passionate emotion, "What is the name of the woman to whom, though she is
not of their race, the lawless barbarians yielded?"

"Ledscha," replied the admiral.

Hermon started as if stung by a scorpion, and asked, "Where is she?"

"On my ship," was the reply, "if she has not yet been taken ashore with
the others."

"To be killed with the pitiable band there?" cried Thyone angrily,
looking her son reproachfully in the face.

"No, mother," replied Eumedes. "She will be taken to the others under the
escort of trustworthy men in order, perhaps, to induce her to speak. It
must be ascertained whether there were accomplices in the attack on the
royal palaces, and lastly whence the woman comes."

"I can tell you that myself," replied Hermon. "Allow me to accompany you.
I must see and speak to her."

"The Arachne of Tennis?" asked Thyone. Hermon's mute nod of assent
answered the question, but she exclaimed: "The unhappy woman, who called
down the wrath of Nemesis upon you, and who has now herself fallen a prey
to the avenging goddess. What do you want from her?"

Hermon bent down to his old friend and whispered, "To lighten her
terrible fate, if it is in my power."

"Go, then," replied the matron, and turned to her son, saying, "Let
Hermon tell you how deeply this woman has influenced his life, and, when
her turn comes, think of your mother."

"She is a woman," replied Eumedes, "and the King's mandate only commands
me to punish men. Besides, I promised her indulgence if she would make a
confession."

"And she?" asked Hermon.

"Neither by threats nor promises," answered the admiral, "can this
sinister, beautiful creature be induced to speak."

"Certainly not," said the artist, and a smile of satisfaction flitted
over his face.



CHAPTER XVI.

A short row took Hermon and Eumedes the admiral's galley. Ledscha had
already been carried ashore. There she was to be confronted with the men
who were suspected of having showed the mutineers the way to the city.

Absorbed in his own thoughts, Hermon waited for the admiral, who at first
was claimed by one official duty after another. The artist's thoughts
lingered with Daphne. To her father the loss of his house, nay, perhaps
of his wealth, would seem almost unendurable, yet even were he beggared,
provision was made for him and his daughter. He, Hermon, could again
create, as in former days, and what happiness it would be if he were
permitted to repay the man to whom he owed so much for the kindness
bestowed upon him!

He longed to give to the woman he loved again and again, and it would
have seemed to him a favour of fortune if the flames had consumed even
the last drachm of her wealthy father.

Completely engrossed by these reflections, he forgot the horrors before
him, but when he raised his eyes and saw the archers continuing their
terrible work he shuddered.

The admiral's galley lay so near the shore that he distinguished the
figures of the Gauls separately. Some, obeying the instinct of self
preservation, fled from the places which could be reached by the arrows
of the archers on the ships, but others pressed toward the shafts. A
frightful, heart-rending spectacle, yet how rich in food for the
long-darkened eyes of the artist! Two brothers of unusual height, who,
nude like all their comrades in death, offered their broad, beautifully
arched chests to the arrows, would not leave his memory. It was a
terrible sight, yet grand and worthy of being wrested from oblivion by
art, and it impressed itself firmly on his mind.

After noon Eumedes could at last devote himself to his young friend.
Although the wind drove showers of fine rain before it, the admiral
remained on deck with the sculptor. What cared they for the inclement
weather, while one was recalling to mind and telling his friend how the
hate of an offended woman had unchained the gloomy spirits of revenge
upon him, the other, who had defied death on land water, listened to his
story, sometimes in surprise, sometimes with silent horror?

After the examination to which she had been subjected, Eumedes had
believed Ledscha to be as Hermon described her. He found nothing petty in
this beautiful, passionate creature who avenged the injustice inflicted
upon her as Fate took vengeance, who, with unsparing energy, anticipated
the Nemesis to whom she appealed, compelled men's obedience, and instead
of enriching herself cast away the talents extorted to bring down fresh
ruin upon the man who had transformed her love to hate.

While the friends consulted together with lowered voices, their
conjecture became conviction that it was the Biamite's inextinguishable
hate which had led her to the Gauls and induced her to share the attack
upon the capital.

The assault upon the houses of Archias and Myrtilus was a proof of this,
for the latter was still believed to be Hermon's property. She had
probably supposed that the merchant's palace sheltered Daphne, in whom,
even at Tennis, she had seen and hated her successful rival.

Only the undeniable fact that Ledscha was the bridge-builder's companion
presented an enigma difficult to solve. The freedman Bias had remained on
Philippus's galley, and could not now be appealed to for a confirmation
of his assertions, but Hermon distinctly remembered his statement that
Ledscha had allowed the Gaul, after he had received the money intended
for him, to take her from Pitane to Africa.

When the short November day was drawing to a close, and the friends had
strengthened themselves with food and drink, the rain ceased and, as the
sun set, its after-glow broke through the rifts and fissures in the black
wall of clouds in the western horizon like blazing flames in the
conflagration of a solid stone building. Yet the glow vanished swiftly
enough. The darkness of night spread over the sea and the arid strip of
land in the south, but the greedy croaking of the ravens and vultures
echoed more and more loudly from the upper air. From time to time the
outbursts of rage and agony of despairing men, and horrible jeering
laughter, drowned the voices of the flocks of birds and the roaring of
the tempestuous sea. Sometimes, too, a sharp word of command, or a signal
heard for a long distance, pierced through the awful sounds.

Here and there, and at last everywhere on the squadron, which surrounded
the tongue of land in a shallow curve, dim lights began to appear on the
masts and prows of the ships; but darkness brooded over the coast. Only
in the three fortified guardhouses, which had been hastily erected here,
the feeble light of a lantern illumined the gloom.

Twinkling lights also appeared in the night heavens between the swiftly
flying clouds. One star after another began to adorn the blue islands in
the cloudy firmament, and at last the full moon burst through the heavy
banks of dark clouds, and shone in pure brilliancy above their heads,
like a huge silver vessel in the black catafalque of a giant.

At the end of the first hour after sunset Eumedes ordered the boat to be
manned.

Armed as if for battle, he prepared for the row to the scene of misery,
and requested Hermon to buckle a coat of mail under his chlamys and put
on the sword he gave him. True, a division of reliable Macedonian
warriors was to accompany them, and Ledscha was in a well-guarded place,
yet it might perhaps be necessary to defend themselves against an
outburst of despair among the condemned prisoners. On the short trip, the
crests of the tossing waves sometimes shone with a flickering light,
while elsewhere long shadows spread like dark sails over the sea. The
flat coast on which both men soon stepped was brightly illumined by the
moonbeams, and the forms of the doomed men stood forth, like the black
figures on the red background of a vase, upon the yellowish-brown sand on
which they were standing, running, walking, or lying.

At the western end of the tongue of land a sand hill had been surrounded
by a wall and moat, guarded by heavily armed soldiers and several
archers. The level ground below had been made secure against any attack,
and on the right side was a roof supported by pillars.

The officials intrusted with the examination of the ringleaders had
remained during the day in this hastily erected open hut. The latter,
bound to posts, awaited their sentence.

The only woman among them was Ledscha, who crouched, unfettered, on the
ground behind the enclosure, which consisted of short stakes fastened by
a rope.

Without presenting any serious obstacle, it merely indicated how far the
prisoners might venture to go. Whoever crossed it must expect to be
struck down by an arrow from the wall. This earthwork, it is true,
menaced those held captive here, but they also owed it a debt of
gratitude, for it shut from their eyes the horrible incidents on the
sandy plain between the sea and the inland lake.

This spot was now made as light as day by the rays of the full moon which
floated in the pure azure sky far above the black cloud mountains, like a
white lotus flower on clear waters, and poured floods of silvery radiance
upon the earth.

Eumedes commanded the Macedonians who formed his escort to remain at the
fortress on the dune, and, pointing out Ledscha by a wave of the hand, he
whispered to Hermon: "By the girdle of Aphrodite! she is terribly
beautiful! For whom is the Medea probably brewing in imagination the
poisoned draught?"

Then he gave the sculptor permission to promise her immunity from
punishment if she would consent at least to explain the Gauls' connection
with the royal palaces; but Hermon strenuously refused to undertake this
or a similar commission to Ledscha.

Eumedes had expected the denial, and merely expressed to his friend his
desire to speak to the Biamite after his interview was over. However
refractory she might be, his mother's intercession should benefit her.
Hermon might assure her that he, the commander, meant to deal leniently.
He pressed the artist's hand as he spoke, and walked rapidly away to
ascertain the condition of affairs in the other guardhouses.

Never had the brave artist's heart throbbed faster in any danger than on
the eve of this meeting; but it was no longer love that thrilled it so
passionately, far less hate or the desire to let his foe feel that her
revenge was baffled.

It was easy for the victor to exercise magnanimity, and easiest of all
for the sculptor in the presence of so beautiful an enemy, and Hermon
thought he had never seen the Biamite look fairer. How exquisitely
rounded was the oval, how delicately cut the profile of her face, how
large were the widely separated, sparkling eyes, above which, even in the
pale moonlight, the thick black brows were visible, united under the
forehead as if for a dark deed to be performed in common!

Time had rather enhanced than lessened the spell of this wonderful young
creature. Now she rose from the ground where she had been crouching and
paced several times up and down the short path at her disposal; but she
started suddenly, for one of the Gauls bound to the posts, in whom Hermon
recognised the bridge-builder, Lutarius, called her name, and when she
turned her face toward him, panted in broken Greek like one overwhelmed
by despair: "Once more--it shall be the last time--I beseech you! Lay
your hand upon my brow, and if that is too much, speak but one kind word
to me before all is over! I only want to hear that you do not hate me
like a foe and despise me like a dog. What can it cost you? You need only
tell me in two words that you are sorry for your harshness."

"The same fate awaits us both," cried Ledscha curtly and firmly. "Let
each take care of himself. When my turn comes and my eyes grow dim in
death, I will thank them that they will not show you to me again, base
wretch, throughout eternity."

Lutarius shrieked aloud in savage fury, and tore so frantically at the
strong ropes which bound him that the firm posts shook, but Ledscha
turned away and approached the hut.

She leaned thoughtfully against one of the pillars that supported the
roof, and the artist's eyes watched her intently; every movement seemed
to him noble and worth remembering.

With her hand shading her brow, she gazed upward to the full moon.

Hermon had already delayed speaking to her too long, but he would have
deemed it criminal to startle her from this attitude. So must Arachne
have stood when the goddess, in unjust anger, raised the weaver's shuttle
against the more skilful mortal; for while Ledscha's brow frowned
angrily, a triumphant smile hovered around her mouth. At the same time
she slightly opened her exquisitely formed lips, and the little white
teeth which Hermon had once thought so bewitchingly beautiful glittered
between them.

Like the astronomer who fixes his gaze and tries to imprint upon his
memory some rare star in the firmament which a cloud is threatening to
obscure, he now strove to obtain Ledscha's image. He would and could
model her in this attitude, exactly as she stood there, without her veil,
which had been torn from her during the hand-to-hand conflict when she
was captured, with her thick, half-loosened tresses falling over her left
shoulder; nav, even with the slightly hooked nose, which was opposed to
the old rule of art that permitted only the straight bridge of the nose
to be given to beautiful women. Her nature harmonized with the ideal.
even in the smallest detail; here any deviation from reality must tend to
injure the work.

She remained motionless for minutes in the same attitude, as if she knew
that she was posing to an artist; but Hermon gazed at her as if spell
bound till the fettered Gaul again called her name.

Then she left the supporting pillar, approached the barrier, stopped at
the rope which extended from one short stake to another, and gazed at the
man who was following her outside of the rope.

It was a Greek who stood directly opposite to her. A black beard adorned
his grave, handsome countenance. He, too, had a chlamys, such as she had
formerly seen on another. Only the short sword, which he wore suspended
at his right side in the Hellenic fashion, would not suit that other; but
suddenly a rush of hot blood crimsoned her face. As if to save herself
from falling, she flung out both arms and clutched a stake with her right
and her left hand, thrusting her head and the upper portion of her body
across the rope toward the man whose appearance had created so wild a
tumult in her whole being.

At last she called Hermon's name in such keen suspense that it fell upon
his ear like a shrill cry.

"Ledscha," he answered warmly, extending both hands to her in sincere
sympathy; but she did not heed the movement, and her tone of calm
self-satisfaction surprised him as she answered: "So you seek me in
misfortune? Even the blind man knows how to find me here."

"I would far rather have met you again in the greatest happiness!" he
interrupted gently. "But I am no longer blind. The immortals again permit
me, as in former days, to feast my eyes upon your marvellous beauty."

A shrill laugh cut short his words, and the "Not blind!" which fell again
and again from her lips sounded more like laughter than speech.

There are tears of grief and of joy, and the laugh which is an
accompaniment of pleasure is also heard on the narrow boundary between
suffering and despair.

It pierced the artist's heart more deeply than the most savage outburst
of fury, and when Ledscha gasped: "Not blind! Cured! Rich and possessed
of sight, perfect sight!" he understood her fully for the first time, and
could account for the smile of satisfaction which had just surprised him
on her lips.

He gazed at her, absolutely unable to utter a word; but she went on
speaking, while a low, sinister laugh mingled with her tones: "So this is
avenging justice! It allows us women to be trampled under foot, and holds
its hands in its lap! My vengeance! How I have lauded Nemesis! How
exquisitely my retaliation seemed to have succeeded! And now? It was mere
delusion and deception. He who was blind sees. He who was to perish in
misery is permitted, with a sword at his side, to gloat over our
destruction. Listen, if the good news has not already reached you! I,
too, am condemned to death. But what do I care for myself? Even less than
those to whom we pray and offer sacrifices for the betrayed woman. Now I
am learning to know them! Thus Nemesis thanks me for the lavish gifts I
have bestowed upon her? Just before my end she throws you, the rewarded
traitor, into my way! I must submit to have the hated foe, whose blinding
was the sole pleasure in my ruined life, look me in the face with
insolent joy."

Hermon's quick blood boiled.

With fierce resentment he grasped her hand, which lay on the rope,
pressed it violently in his strong clasp, and exclaimed, "Stop, mad
woman, that I may not be forced to think of you as a poisonous serpent
and repulsive spider!"

Ledscha had vainly endeavoured to withdraw her hand while he was
speaking. Now he himself released it; but she looked up at him in
bewilderment, as if seeking aid, and said sadly: "Once--you know that
yourself--I was different--even as long as I supposed my vengeance had
succeeded. But now? The false goddess has baffled every means with which
I sought to punish you. Who averted the sorest ill treatment from my
head? And I was even defrauded of the revenge which it was my right, nay,
my duty, to exercise."

She finished the sentence with drooping head, as if utterly crushed, and
this time she did not laugh, but Hermon felt his wrath transformed to
sympathy, and he asked warmly and kindly if she would let nothing appease
her, not even if he begged her forgiveness for the wrong he had done her,
and promised to obtain her life, nay, also her liberty.

Ledscha shook her head gently, and gravely answered: "What is left me
without hate? What are the things which others deem best and highest to a
miserable wretch like me?"

Here Hermon pointed to the bridge-builder, bound to the post, saying,
"Yonder man led you away from the husband whom you had wedded, and from
him you received compensation for the love you had lost."

"From him?" she cried furiously, and, raising her voice in a tone of the
most intense loathing: "Ask yonder scoundrel himself! Because I needed a
guide, I permitted him to take me away from my unloved husband and from
the Hydra. Because he would help me to shatter the new and undeserved
good fortune which you--yes, you--do you hear?--enjoyed, I remained with
him among the Gauls. More than one Alexandrian brought me the news that
you were revelling in golden wealth, and the wretch promised to make you
and your uncle beggars if the surprise succeeded. He did this, though he
knew that it was you who took him up from the road and saved his life;
for nothing good and noble dwells in his knavish soul. He yearned for me,
and still more ardently for the Alexandrians' gold. Worse than the wolf
that licked the hand of the man who bandaged its wounds, he would have
shown his teeth to the preserver of his life. I have learned this, and if
he dies here of starvation and thirst he will receive only what he
deserves. He knows, too, what I think of him. The greedy beast of prey
was not permitted even to touch my hand. Just ask him! There he is. Let
him tell you how I listened to his vows of love. Before I would have
permitted yonder wretch to recall to life what you crushed in this
heart--"

Here Lutarius interrupted her with a flood of savage, scarcely
intelligible curses, but very soon one of the guards, who came out of the
hut, stopped him with a lash.

When the Gaul, howling under the blows, was silenced, Hermon asked, "So
your mad thirst for vengeance also caused this suicidal attack?"

"No," she answered simply; "but when they determined upon the assault,
and had killed their leader, Belgius, yonder monster stole to their head.
So it happened--I myself do not know how--that they also obeyed me, and I
took advantage of it and induced them to begin with your house and
Archias's. When they had captured the royal palaces, they intended to
assail the Temple of Demeter also."

"Then you thought that even the terrible affliction of blindness would
not suffice to punish the man you hated?" asked Hermon.

"No," she answered firmly; "for you could buy with your gold everything
life offers except sight, while in me--yes, in me--gloom darker than the
blackest night shrouded my soul. Through your fault I was robbed of all,
all that is clear to woman's heart: my father's house, his love, my
sister. Even the pleasure in myself which had been awakened by your sweet
flatteries was transformed by you into loathing."

"By me?" cried Hermon, amazed by the injustice of this severe reproach;
but Ledscha answered his question with the resolute assertion, "By you
and you alone!" and then impatiently added: "You, who, by your art, could
transform mortal women into goddesses, wished to make me a humiliated
creature, with the rope which was to strangle her about her neck, and at
the same time the most repulsive of creeping insects. 'The hideous, gray,
eight-legged spider!' I exclaimed to myself, when I raised my arms and
saw my shadow on the sunlit ground. 'The spider!' I thought, when I shook
the distaff to draw threads from the flax in leisure hours. 'Your image!'
I said, when I saw spiders hanging in dusty corners, and catching flies
and gnats. All these things made me a horror to myself. And at the same
time to know that the Demeter, on whom you bestowed the features of the
daughter of Archias, was kindling the whole great city of Alexandria with
enthusiasm, and drawing countless worshippers to her sanctuary! She, an
object of adoration to thousands, I--the much-praised beauty--a horror to
myself! This is what fed my desire for vengeance with fresh food by day
and night; this urged me to remain with yonder wretch; for he had
promised, after pillaging the royal palaces, to shatter your Demeter, the
image of the daughter of Archias, which they lauded and which brought you
fame and honour--it was to be done before my eyes--into fragments."

"Mad woman!" Hermon again broke forth indignantly, and hastily told her
how she had been misinformed.

Ledscha's large black eyes dilated as if some hideous spectre was rising
from the ground before her, while she heard that the Demeter was the work
of Myrtilus and not his; that his friend's legacy had long since ceased
to belong to him, and that he was again as poor as when he was in Tennis
during the time of their love.

"And the blindness?" she asked sadly.

"It transformed life for me into one long night, illumined by no single
ray of light," was the reply; "but, the immortals be praised, I was cured
of it, and it was old Tabus, on the Owl's Nest at Tennis, whose wisdom
and magic arts you so often lauded, who gave the remedy and advice to
which I owe my recovery."

Here he hesitated, for Ledscha had seized the rope with one hand and the
stake at her right with the other, in order not to fall upon her knees;
but Hermon perceived how terribly his words agitated her, and spoke to
her soothingly. Ledscha did not seem to hear him, for while still
clinging to the rope she looked sometimes at the sand at her feet,
sometimes up to the full moon, which was now flooding both sky and earth
with light.

At last she dropped it, and said in a hollow tone: "Now I understand
everything. You met her when Bias gave her the bridal dowry which was to
purchase my release from my husband. How it must have enraged her! I
thought of it all, pondered and pondered how to spare her; but through
whom, except Tabus, could I return to Hanno the property, won in battle
by his blood, which he had thrown away for me? Tabus kept the family
wealth. And she--the marriage bond which two persons formed was sacred
and unassailable--the woman who broke her faith with her husband and
turned from him--was an abomination to her. How she loved her sons and
grandsons! I knew that she would never forgive the wrong I did Hanno.
From resentment to me she cured the man whom I hated."

"Yet probably also," said Hermon, "because my blighted youth aroused her
pity."

"Perhaps so," replied Ledscha hesitatingly, gazing thoughtfully into
vacancy. "She was what her demons made her. Hard as steel and gentle as a
tender girl. I have experienced it. Oh, that she should die with rancour
against me in her faithful old heart! She could be so kind!--even when I
confessed that you had won my love, she still held me dear. But there are
many great and small demons, and most of them were probably subject to
her. Tabus must have learned through them how deeply I offended her son
Satabus, and how greatly his son Hanno's life was darkened through me.
That is why she thwarted my vengeance, and her spirits aided her. Thus
all these things happened. I suspected it when I heard that she had
succumbed to death, which I--yes, I here--had held back from her with
severe toil through many a sleepless night. O these demons! They will
continue to act in the service of the dead. Wherever I may go, they will
pursue me and, at their mistress's bidding, baffle what I hope and
desire. I have learned this only too distinctly!"

"No, Ledscha, no," Hermon protested. "Every power ceases with death, even
that of the sorceress over spirits. You shall be freed, poor woman! You
will be permitted to go wherever you desire; and I shall model no spider
after your person, but the fairest of women. Thousands will see and
admire her, and--if the Muse aids me--whoever, enraptured by her beauty,
asks, 'Who was the model for this work which inflames the most obdurate
heart?' will be told, 'It was Ledscha, the daughter of Shalit, the
Biamite, whom Hermon of Alexandria found worthy of carving in costly
marble."

Ledscha uttered a deep sigh of relief, and asked: "Is that true? May I
believe it?"

"As true," he answered warmly, "as that Selene, who promised to grant you
in her full radiance the greatest happiness, is now shedding her mild,
forgiving light upon us both."

"The full moon," she murmured softly, gazing upward at the shining disk.

Then she added in a louder tone: "Old Tabus's demons promised me
happiness--you know. It was the spider which so cruelly shadowed it for
me on every full moon, every day, and every night. Will you now swear to
model a statue from me, the statue of a beautiful human being that will
arouse the delight of all who see it? Delight--do you hear?--not
loathing--I ask again, will you?"

"I will, and I shall succeed," he said earnestly, holding out his hand
across the rope. She clasped it, looked up to the full moon again, and
whispered: "This time--I will believe it--you will keep your promise
better than when you were in Tennis. And I--I will cease to wish you
evil, and I will tell you why. Bend your ear nearer, that I may confess
it openly." Hermon willingly obeyed the request, but she leaned her head
against his, and he felt her laboured breathing and the warm tears that
coursed silently down her cheeks as she said, in a low whisper: "Because
the moon is full, and will yet bring me what the demons promised, and
because, though strong, I am still a woman. Happiness! How long ago I
ceased to expect it!--but now-yes, it is what I now feel! I am happy, and
yet can not tell why. My love--oh, yes! It was more ardent than the
burning hate. Now you know it, too, Hermon. And I--I shall be free, you
say? And Tabus, how she lauded rest--eternal rest! Oh dearest--this
sorely tortured heart, too--you can not even imagine how weary I am!"

Here she was silent, but the man into whose face she was gazing with
loving devotion felt a sudden movement at his side as she uttered the
exclamation.

He did not notice it, for the sweet tone of her voice was penetrating the
inmost depths of his heart. It sounded as though she was speaking from
the happiest of dreams.

"Ledscha!" he exclaimed warmly, extending his arm toward her--but she had
already stepped back from his side, and he now perceived the terrible
object--she had snatched his sword from its sheath, and as, seized by
sudden terror, he gazed at her, he saw the shining blade glitter in the
moonlight and suddenly vanish.

In an instant he swung his agile body over the rope and rushed to her.
But she had already sunk to her knees, and while he clasped her in is
arms to support her, he heard her call his own name tenderly, then murmur
it in a lower tone, and the words "Full moon" and "Happiness" escape her
lips.

Then she was silent, and her beautiful head dropped on her breast like a
flower broken by a tempest.



CHAPTER XVII.

"It was best so for her and for us," said Eumedes, after gazing long at
Ledscha's touchingly beautiful, still, dead face.

Then he ordered her to be buried at once and shouted to the guards:
"Everything must be over on this strip of land early to-morrow morning!
Let all who bear arms begin at once. Selene will light the men brightly
enough for the work."

The terrible order given in mercy was fulfilled, and hunger and thirst
were robbed of their numerous prey. When the new day dawned the friends
were still on deck, engaged in grave conversation. The cloudless sky now
arched in radiant light above the azure sea. White seagulls came flying
from the right across the ship, and sportive dolphins gambolled around
her keel.

The flutes of the musicians, marking time for the rowers, echoed gaily up
from the hold, and, obedient to quick words of command, the seamen were
spreading the sails.

The voyage began with a favourable wind. As Hermon looked back for the
last time, the flat, desolate tongue of land appeared like a line of gray
mist in the southeastern horizon; but over it hovered, like a gloomy
thundercloud, the flocks of vultures and ravens, whose numbers were
constantly increasing. Their greedy screaming could still be heard,
though but faintly, yet the eye could no longer distinguish anything in
the fast-vanishing abode of horror, save the hovering whirl of dark
spots--ravens and vultures, vultures and ravens.

Whatever human life had moved there yesterday, now rested from bloody
greed for booty, after victory and defeat, mortal terror, fury, and
despair.

Eumedes pointed out the quiet grave by the sea to his parents, saying:
"The King's command is fulfilled. Not even the one man who is usually
spared to carry the news remains out of the four thousand."

"I thank you," exclaimed Alexander's gray-haired comrade, shaking his
son's right hand, but Thyone laid her hand on Hermon's arm, saving:
"Where the birds are darkening the air behind us lies buried what
incensed Nemesis against you. You must leave the soil of Egypt. True, it
is said that to live in foreign lands, far from the beloved home, darkens
the existence; yet Pergamus, too, is Grecian soil, and there I see the
two noblest of stars illumine your path with their pure light-art and
love."

And his old friend's premonition was fulfilled.

          .......................

The story of Arachne is ended. It closed on the Nile. Hermon's new life
began in Pergamus.

As Daphne's husband, under the same roof with the wonderfully invigorated
Myrtilus, his Uncle Archias, and faithful Bias, Hermon found in the new
home what had hovered before the blind man as the fairest goal of
existence in art, love, and friendship.

He did not long miss the gay varied life of Alexandria, because he found
a rich compensation for it, and because Pergamus, too, was a rapidly
growing city, whose artistic decoration was inferior to no other in
Greece.

Of the numerous works which Hermon completed in the service of the first
three art-loving rulers of the new Pergamenian kingdom, Philetaerus,
Eumenes, and Attalus, nothing was preserved except the head of a Gaul.
This noble masterpiece proves how faithful Hermon remained to truth,
which he had early chosen for the guiding star of his art. It is the
modest remnant of the group in which Hermon perpetuated in marble the two
Gallic brothers whom he saw before his last meeting with Ledscha, as they
offered their breasts to the fatal shafts.

One had gazed defiantly at the arrows of the conquerors; the other, whose
head has been preserved, feeling the inevitable approach of death,
anticipates, with sorrowful emotion, the end so close at hand.
Philetaerus had sent this touching work to King Ptolemy to thank him for
the severity with which he had chastised the daring of the barbarians,
who had not spared his kingdom also. The Gaul's head was again found on
Egyptian soil.

   [Copied in Th. Schrieber's The Head of the Gaul in the Museum of
   Ghizeh in Cairo. Leipsic, 1896. With appendix. By H. Curschmann.]

Hermon also took other subjects in Pergamus from the domain of real life,
though, in most of his work he crossed the limits which he had formerly
imposed upon himself. But one barrier, often as he rushed forward to its
outermost verge, he never dared to pass--moderation, the noblest demand,
to which his liberty-loving race subjected themselves willingly in life
as well as in art. The whole infinite, limitless world of the ideal had
opened itself to the blind man.

He made himself at home in it by remaining faithful to the rule which he
had found in the desert for his creative work, and the genuine happiness
which he enjoyed through Daphne's love and the great fame his sculptures
brought him increased the strong individuality of his power.

The fruits of his tireless industry, the much-admired god of light,
Phoebus Apollo, slaying the dragons of darkness, as well as his
bewitching Arachne, gazing proudly at the fabric with which she thinks
she has surpassed the skill of the goddess, were overtaken by
destruction. In this statue Bias recognised his countrywoman Ledscha, and
often gazed long at it with devout ecstasy. Even Hermon's works of
colossal size vanished from the earth: the Battle of the Amazons and the
relief containing numerous figures: the Sea Gods, which the Regent
Eumenes ordered for the Temple of Poseidon in Pergamus.

The works of his grandson and grandson's pupils, however, are preserved
on the great altar of victory in Pergamus.

The power and energy natural to Hermon, the skill he had acquired in
Rhodes, everything in the changeful life of Alexandria which had induced
him to consecrate his art to reality, and to that alone, and whatever he
had, finally, in quiet seclusion, recognised as right and in harmony with
the Greek nature and his own, blend in those works of his successor,
which a gracious dispensation of Providence permits us still to admire at
the present day, and which we call in its entirety, the art of Pergamus.

The city was a second beloved home to him, as well as to his wife and
Myrtilus. The rulers of the country took the old Alexandrian Archias into
their confidence and knew how to honour him by many a distinction. He
understood how to value the happiness of his only daughter, the beautiful
development of his grandchildren, and the high place that Hermon and
Myrtilus, whom he loved as if they were his own sons, attained among the
artists of their time. Yet he struggled vainly against the longing for
his dear old home. Therefore Hermon deemed it one of the best days of his
life when his turn came to make Daphne's father a happy man.

King Ptolemy Philadelphus had sent laurel to the artist who had fallen
under suspicion in Egypt, and his messenger invited him and Myrtilus, and
with them also the exiled merchant, to return to his presence. In
gratitude for the pleasure which Hermon's creation afforded him and his
wife, the cause that kept the fugitive Archias from his home should be
forgiven and forgotten.

The gray-haired son of the capital returned with the Bithynian Gras to
his beloved Alexandria, as if his lost youth was again restored. There he
found unchanged the busy, active life, the Macedonian Council, the bath,
the marketplace, the bewitching conversation, the biting wit, the
exquisite feasts of the eyes--in short, everything for which his heart
had longed even amid the happiness and love of his dear ones in Pergamus.

For two years he endeavoured to enjoy everything as before; but when the
works of the Pergamenian artists, obtained by Ptolemy, had been exhibited
in the royal palaces, he returned home with a troubled mind. Like the
rest of the world, he thought that the reliefs of Myrtilus, representing
scenes of rural life, were wonderful.

The Capture of Proserpina, a life-size marble group by his son-in-law
Hermon, seemed to him no less perfect; but it exerted a peculiar
influence upon his paternal heart, for, in the Demeter, he recognised
Daphne, in the Proserpina her oldest daughter Erigone, who bore the name
of Hermon's mother and resembled her in womanly charm. How lovely this
budding girl, who was his grand-daughter, seemed to the grandfather! How
graceful, in spite of the womanly dignity peculiar to her, was the
mother, encircling her imperilled child with her protecting arm!

No work of sculpture had ever produced such an effect upon the old patron
of art.

Gras heard him, in his bedroom, murmur the names "Daphne" and "Erigone,"
and therefore it did not surprise him when, the next morning, he received
the command to prepare everything for the return to Pergamus. It pleased
the Bithynian, for he cared more for Daphne, Hermon, and their children
than all the pleasures of the capital.

A few weeks later Archias found himself again in Pergamus with his
family, and he never left it, though he reached extreme old age, and was
even permitted to gaze in wondering admiration at the first attempts of
the oldest son of Hermon and Daphne, and to hear them praised by others.

This grandson of the Alexandrian Archias afterward became the master who
taught the generation of artists who created the Pergamenian works, in
examining which the question forced itself upon the narrator of this
story: How do these sculptures possess the qualities which distinguish
them so strongly from the other statues of later Hellenic antiquity?

Did the great weaver Imagination err when she blended them, through the
mighty wrestler Hermon, with a tendency of Alexandrian science and art,
which we see appearing again among us children of a period so much later?

Science, which is now once more pursuing similar paths, ought and will
follow them further, but Hermon's words remain applicable to the present
clay: "We will remain loyal servants of the truth; yet it alone does not
hold the key to the holy of holies of art. To him for whom Apollo, the
pure among the gods, and the Muses, friends of beauty, do not open it at
the same time with truth, its gates will remain closed, no matter how
strongly and persistently he shakes them."



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARK:

     Regular messenger and carrier-dove service had been established

     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS FOR THE ENTIRE ARACHNE:

     Aimless life of pleasure
     Camels, which were rarely seen in Egypt
     Cast my warning to the winds, pity will also fly away with it
     Cautious inquiry saves recantation
     Forbidden the folly of spoiling the present by remorse
     Must--that word is a ploughshare which suits only loose soil
     Nature is sufficient for us
     Regular messenger and carrier-dove service had been established
     Tender and uncouth natural sounds, which no language knows
     There is nothing better than death, for it is peace
     There are no gods, and whoever bows makes himself a slave
     Tone of patronizing instruction assumed by the better informed
     Two griefs always belong to one joy
     Wait, child! What is life but waiting?
     Waiting is the merchant's wisdom
     Woman's hair is long, but her wit is short





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