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Title: The Sisters — Volume 1
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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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.

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THE SISTERS

By Georg Ebers

Volume 1.



Translated from the German by Clara Bell



DEDICATION TO HERR EDUARD von HALLBERGER

Allow me, my dear friend, to dedicate these pages to you. I present them
to you at the close of a period of twenty years during which a warm and
fast friendship has subsisted between us, unbroken by any disagreement.
Four of my works have first seen the light under your care and have
wandered all over the world under the protection of your name.  This, my
fifth book, I desire to make especially your own; it was partly written
in your beautiful home at Tutzing, under your hospitable roof, and I
desire to prove to you by some visible token that I know how to value
your affection and friendship and the many happy hours we have passed
together, refreshing and encouraging each other by a full and perfect
interchange of thought and sentiment.



PREFACE.

By a marvellous combination of circumstances a number of fragments of the
Royal Archives of Memphis have been preserved from destruction with the
rest, containing petitions written on papyrus in the Greek language;
these were composed by a recluse of Macedonian birth, living in the
Serapeum, in behalf of two sisters, twins, who served the god as "Pourers
out of the libations."

At a first glance these petitions seem scarcely worthy of serious
consideration; but a closer study of their contents shows us that we
possess in them documents of the greatest value in the history of
manners.  They prove that the great Monastic Idea--which under the
influence of Christianity grew to be of such vast moral and historical
significance--first struck root in one of the centres of heathen
religious practices; besides affording us a quite unexpected insight into
the internal life of the temple of Serapis, whose ruined walls have, in
our own day, been recovered from the sand of the desert by the
indefatigable industry of the French Egyptologist Monsieur Mariette.

I have been so fortunate as to visit this spot and to search through
every part of it, and the petitions I speak of have been familiar to me
for years.  When, however, quite recently, one of my pupils undertook to
study more particularly one of these documents--preserved in the Royal
Library at Dresden--I myself reinvestigated it also, and this study
impressed on my fancy a vivid picture of the Serapeum under Ptolemy
Philometor; the outlines became clear and firm, and acquired color, and
it is this picture which I have endeavored to set before the reader, so
far as words admit, in the following pages.

I did not indeed select for my hero the recluse, nor for my heroines the
twins who are spoken of in the petitions, but others who might have lived
at a somewhat earlier date under similar conditions; for it is proved by
the papyrus that it was not once only and by accident that twins were
engaged in serving in the temple of Serapis, but that, on the contrary,
pair after pair of sisters succeeded each other in the office of pouring
out libations.

I have not invested Klea and Irene with this function, but have simply
placed them as wards of the Serapeum and growing up within its precincts.
I selected this alternative partly because the existing sources of
knowledge give us very insufficient information as to the duties that
might have been required of the twins, partly for other reasons arising
out of the plan of my narrative.

Klea and Irene are purely imaginary personages, but on the other hand I
have endeavored, by working from tolerably ample sources, to give a
faithful picture of the historical physiognomy of the period in which
they live and move, and portraits of the two hostile brothers Ptolemy
Philometor and Euergetes II., the latter of whom bore the nickname of
Physkon: the Stout.  The Eunuch Eulaeus and the Roman Publius Cornelius
Scipio Nasica, are also historical personages.

I chose the latter from among the many young patricians living at the
time, partly on account of the strong aristocratic feeling which he
displayed, particularly in his later life, and partly because his
nickname of Serapion struck me.  This name I account for in my own way,
although I am aware that he owed it to his resemblance to a person of
inferior rank.

For the further enlightenment of the reader who is not familiar with this
period of Egyptian history I may suggest that Cleopatra, the wife of
Ptolemy Philometor--whom I propose to introduce to the reader--must not
be confounded with her famous namesake, the beloved of Julius Caesar and
Mark Antony.  The name Cleopatra was a very favorite one among the
Lagides, and of the queens who bore it she who has become famous through
Shakespeare (and more lately through Makart) was the seventh, the sister
and wife of Ptolemy XIV.  Her tragical death from the bite of a viper or
asp did not occur until 134 years later than the date of my narrative,
which I have placed 164 years B.C.

At that time Egypt had already been for 169 years subject to the rule of
a Greek (Macedonian) dynasty, which owed its name as that of the
Ptolemies or Lagides to its founder Ptolemy Soter, the son of Lagus.
This energetic man, a general under Alexander the Great, when his
sovereign--333 B.C.--had conquered the whole Nile Valley, was appointed
governor of the new Satrapy; after Alexander's death in 323 B.C., Ptolemy
mounted the throne of the Pharaohs, and he and his descendants ruled over
Egypt until after the death of the last and most famous of the
Cleopatras, when it was annexed as a province to the Roman Empire.

This is not the place for giving a history of the successive Ptolemies,
but I may remark that the assimilating faculty exercised by the Greeks
over other nations was potent in Egypt; particularly as the result of the
powerful influence of Alexandria, the capital founded by Alexander, which
developed with wonderful rapidity to be one of the most splendid centres
of Hellenic culture and of Hellenic art and science.

Long before the united rule of the hostile brothers Ptolemy Philometor
and Euergetes--whose violent end will be narrated to the reader of this
story--Greek influence was marked in every event and detail of Egyptian
life, which had remained almost unaffected by the characteristics of
former conquerors--the Hyksos, the Assyrians and the Persians; and, under
the Ptolemies, the most inhospitable and exclusive nation of early
antiquity threw open her gates to foreigners of every race.

Alexandria was a metropolis even in the modern sense; not merely an
emporium of commerce, but a focus where the intellectual and religious
treasures of various countries were concentrated and worked up, and
transmitted to all the nations that desired them.  I have resisted the
temptation to lay the scene of my story there, because in Alexandria the
Egyptian element was too much overlaid by the Greek, and the too splendid
and important scenery and decorations might easily have distracted the
reader's attention from the dramatic interest of the persons acting.

At that period of the Hellenic dominion which I have described, the kings
of Egypt were free to command in all that concerned the internal affairs
of their kingdom, but the rapidly-growing power of the Roman Empire
enabled her to check the extension of their dominion, just as she chose.

Philometor himself had heartily promoted the immigration of Israelites
from Palestine, and under him the important Jewish community in
Alexandria acquired an influence almost greater than the Greek; and this
not only in the city but in the kingdom and over their royal protector,
who allowed them to build a temple to Jehovah on the shores of the Nile,
and in his own person assisted at the dogmatic discussions of the
Israelites educated in the Greek schools of the city.  Euergetes II., a
highly gifted but vicious and violent man, was, on the contrary, just as
inimical to them; he persecuted them cruelly as soon as his brother's
death left him sole ruler over Egypt.  His hand fell heavily even on
the members of the Great Academy--the Museum, as it was called--
of Alexandria, though he himself had been devoted to the grave labors
of science, and he compelled them to seek a new home.  The exiled sons
of learning settled in various cities on the shores of the Mediterranean,
and thus contributed not a little to the diffusion of the intellectual
results of the labors in the Museum.

Aristarchus, the greatest of Philometor's learned contemporaries, has
reported for us a conversation in the king's palace at Memphis.  The
verses about "the puny child of man," recited by Cleopatra in chapter X.,
are not genuinely antique; but Friedrich Ritschl--the Aristarchus of our
own days, now dead--thought very highly of them and gave them to me, some
years ago, with several variations which had been added by an anonymous
hand, then still in the land of the living.  I have added to the first
verse two of these, which, as I learned at the eleventh hour, were
composed by Herr H. L. von Held, who is now dead, and of whom further
particulars may be learned from Varnhagen's 'Biographisclaen Denkmalen'.
Vol. VII.  I think the reader will thank me for directing his attention
to these charming lines and to the genius displayed in the moral
application of the main idea.  Verses such as these might very well have
been written by Callimachus or some other poet of the circle of the early
members of the Museum of Alexandria.

I was also obliged in this narrative to concentrate, in one limited
canvas as it were, all the features which were at once the conditions and
the characteristics of a great epoch of civilization, and to give them
form and movement by setting the history of some of the men then living
before the reader, with its complications and its denouement.  All the
personages of my story grew up in my imagination from a study of the
times in which they lived, but when once I saw them clearly in outline
they soon stood before my mind in a more distinct form, like people in a
dream; I felt the poet's pleasure in creation, and as I painted them
their blood grew warm, their pulses began to beat and their spirit to
take wings and stir, each in its appropriate nature.  I gave history her
due, but the historic figures retired into the background beside the
human beings as such; the representatives of an epoch became vehicles for
a Human Ideal, holding good for all time; and thus it is that I venture
to offer this transcript of a period as really a dramatic romance.

Leipzig November 13, 1879.

GEORG EBERS.



THE SISTERS.

CHAPTER I.

On the wide, desert plain of the Necropolis of Memphis stands the
extensive and stately pile of masonry which constitutes the Greek temple
of Serapis; by its side are the smaller sanctuaries of Asclepios, of
Anubis and of Astarte, and a row of long, low houses, built of unburnt
bricks, stretches away behind them as a troop of beggar children might
follow in the train of some splendidly attired king.

The more dazzlingly brilliant the smooth, yellow sandstone walls of the
temple appear in the light of the morning sun, the more squalid and mean
do the dingy houses look as they crouch in the outskirts.  When the winds
blow round them and the hot sunbeams fall upon them, the dust rises from
them in clouds as from a dry path swept by the gale.  Even the rooms
inside are never plastered, and as the bricks are of dried Nile-mud mixed
with chopped straw, of which the sharp little ends stick out from the
wall in every direction, the surface is as disagreeable to touch as it is
unpleasing to look at.  When they were first built on the ground between
the temple itself and the wall which encloses the precincts, and which,
on the eastern side, divides the acacia-grove of Serapis in half, they
were concealed from the votaries visiting the temple by the back wall of
a colonnade on the eastern side of the great forecourt; but a portion of
this colonnade has now fallen down, and through the breach, part of these
modest structures are plainly visible with their doors and windows
opening towards the sanctuary--or, to speak more accurately, certain
rudely constructed openings for looking out of or for entering by.  Where
there is a door there is no window, and where a gap in the wall serves
for a window, a door is dispensed with; none of the chambers, however, of
this long row of low one-storied buildings communicate with each other.

A narrow and well-trodden path leads through the breach in the wall; the
pebbles are thickly strewn with brown dust, and the footway leads past
quantities of blocks of stone and portions of columns destined for the
construction of a new building which seems only to have been intermitted
the night before, for mallets and levers lie on and near the various
materials.  This path leads directly to the little brick houses, and ends
at a small closed wooden door so roughly joined and so ill-hung that
between it and the threshold, which is only raised a few inches above the
ground, a fine gray cat contrives to squeeze herself through by putting
down her head and rubbing through the dust.  As soon as she finds herself
once more erect on her four legs she proceeds to clean and smooth her
ruffled fur, putting up her back, and glancing with gleaming eyes at the
house she has just left, behind which at this moment the sun is rising;
blinded by its bright rays she turns away and goes on with cautious and
silent tread into the court of the temple.

The hovel out of which pussy has crept is small and barely furnished; it
would be perfectly dark too, but that the holes in the roof and the rift
in the door admit light into this most squalid room.  There is nothing
standing against its rough gray walls but a wooden chest, near this a few
earthen bowls stand on the ground with a wooden cup and a gracefully
wrought jug of pure and shining gold, which looks strangely out of place
among such humble accessories.  Quite in the background lie two mats of
woven bast, each covered with a sheepskin.  These are the beds of the two
girls who inhabit the room, one of whom is now sitting on a low stool
made of palm-branches, and she yawns as she begins to arrange her long
and shining brown hair.  She is not particularly skilful and even less
patient over this not very easy task, and presently, when a fresh tangle
checks the horn comb with which she is dressing it, she tosses the comb
on to the couch.  She has not pulled it through her hair with any haste
nor with much force, but she shuts her eyes so tightly and sets her white
teeth so firmly in her red dewy lip that it might be supposed that she
had hurt herself very much.

A shuffling step is now audible outside the door; she opens wide her
tawny-hazel eyes, that have a look of gazing on the world in surprise,
a smile parts her lips and her whole aspect is as completely changed as
that of a butterfly which escapes from the shade into the sunshine where
the bright beams are reflected in the metallic lustre of its wings.

A hasty hand knocks at the ill-hung door, so roughly that it trembles on
its hinges, and the instant after a wooden trencher is shoved in through
the wide chink by which the cat made her escape; on it are a thin round
cake of bread and a shallow earthen saucer containing a little olive-oil;
there is no more than might perhaps be contained in half an ordinary egg-
shell, but it looks fresh and sweet, and shines in clear, golden purity.
The girl goes to the door, pulls in the platter, and, as she measures the
allowance with a glance, exclaims half in lament and half in reproach:

"So little! and is that for both of us?"

As she speaks her expressive features have changed again and her flashing
eyes are directed towards the door with a glance of as much dismay as
though the sun and stars had been suddenly extinguished; and yet her only
grief is the smallness of the loaf, which certainly is hardly large
enough to stay the hunger of one young creature--and two must share it;
what is a mere nothing in one man's life, to another may be of great
consequence and of terrible significance.

The reproachful complaint is heard by the messenger outside the door, for
the old woman who shoved in the trencher over the threshold answers
quickly but not crossly.

"Nothing more to-day, Irene."

"It is disgraceful," cries the girl, her eyes filling with tears, "every
day the loaf grows smaller, and if we were sparrows we should not have
enough to satisfy us.  You know what is due to us and I will never cease
to complain and petition.  Serapion shall draw up a fresh address for us,
and when the king knows how shamefully we are treated--"

"Aye! when he knows," interrupted the old woman.  But the cry of the poor
is tossed about by many winds before it reaches the king's ear.  I might
find a shorter way than that for you and your sister if fasting comes so
much amiss to you.  Girls with faces like hers and yours, my little
Irene, need never come to want."

"And pray what is my face like?"  asked the girl, and her pretty features
once more seemed to catch a gleam of sunshine.

"Why, so handsome that you may always venture to show it beside your
sister's; and yesterday, in the procession, the great Roman sitting by
the queen looked as often at her as at Cleopatra herself.  If you had
been there too he would not have had a glance for the queen, for you are
a pretty thing, as I can tell you.  And there are many girls would sooner
hear those words then have a whole loaf--besides you have a mirror I
suppose, look in that next time you are hungry."

The old woman's shuffling steps retreated again and the girl snatched up
the golden jar, opened the door a little way to let in the daylight and
looked at herself in the bright surface; but the curve of the costly vase
showed her features all distorted, and she gaily breathed on the hideous
travestie that met her eyes, so that it was all blurred out by the
moisture.  Then she smilingly put down the jar, and opening the chest
took from it a small metal mirror into which she looked again and yet
again, arranging her shining hair first in one way and then in another;
and she only laid it down when she remembered a certain bunch of violets
which had attracted her attention when she first woke, and which must
have been placed in their saucer of water by her sister some time the day
before.  Without pausing to consider she took up the softly scented
blossoms, dried their green stems on her dress, took up the mirror again
and stuck the flowers in her hair.

How bright her eyes were now, and how contentedly she put out her hand
for the loaf.  And how fair were the visions that rose before her young
fancy as she broke off one piece after another and hastily eat them after
slightly moistening them with the fresh oil.  Once, at the festival of
the New Year, she had had a glimpse into the king's tent, and there she
had seen men and women feasting as they reclined on purple cushions.  Now
she dreamed of tables covered with costly vessels, was served in fancy by
boys crowned with flowers, heard the music of flutes and harps and--for
she was no more than a child and had such a vigorous young appetite--
pictured herself as selecting the daintiest and sweetest morsels out of
dishes of solid gold and eating till she was satisfied, aye so perfectly
satisfied that the very last mouthful of bread and the very last drop of
oil had disappeared.

But so soon as her hand found nothing more on the empty trencher the
bright illusion vanished, and she looked with dismay into the empty oil-
cup and at the place where just now the bread had been.

"Ah!" she sighed from the bottom of her heart; then she turned the
platter over as though it might be possible to find some more bread and
oil on the other side of it, but finally shaking her head she sat looking
thoughtfully into her lap; only for a few minutes however, for the door
opened and the slim form of her sister Klea appeared, the sister whose
meagre rations she had dreamily eaten up, and Klea had been sitting up
half the night sewing for her, and then had gone out before sunrise to
fetch water from the Well of the Sun for the morning sacrifice at the
altar of Serapis.

Klea greeted her sister with a loving glance but without speaking; she
seemed too exhausted for words and she wiped the drops from her forehead
with the linen veil that covered the back of her head as she seated
herself on the lid of the chest.  Irene immediately glanced at the empty
trencher, considering whether she had best confess her guilt to the
wearied girl and beg for forgiveness, or divert the scolding she had
deserved by some jest, as she had often succeeded in doing before.  This
seemed the easier course and she adopted it at once; she went up to her
sister quickly, but not quite unconcernedly, and said with mock gravity:

"Look here, Klea, don't you notice anything in me?  I must look like a
crocodile that has eaten a whole hippopotamus, or one of the sacred
snakes after it has swallowed a rabbit.  Only think when I had eaten my
own bread I found yours between my teeth--quite unexpectedly--but now--"

Klea, thus addressed, glanced at the empty platter and interrupted her
sister with a low-toned exclamation.  "Oh! I was so hungry."

The words expressed no reproof, only utter exhaustion, and as the young
criminal looked at her sister and saw her sitting there, tired and worn
out but submitting to the injury that had been done her without a word of
complaint, her heart, easily touched, was filled with compunction and
regret.  She burst into tears and threw herself on the ground before her,
clasping her knees and crying, in a voice broken with sobs:

"Oh Klea! poor, dear Klea, what have I done! but indeed I did not mean
any harm.  I don't know how it happened.  Whatever I feel prompted to do
I do, I can't help doing it, and it is not till it is done that I begin
to know whether it was right or wrong.  You sat up and worried yourself
for me, and this is how I repay you--I am a bad girl!  But you shall not
go hungry--no, you shall not."

"Never mind; never mind," said the elder, and she stroked her sister's
brown hair with a loving hand.

But as she did so she came upon the violets fastened among the shining
tresses.  Her lips quivered and her weary expression changed as she
touched the flowers and glanced at the empty saucer in which she had
carefully placed them the clay before.  Irene at once perceived the
change in her sister's face, and thinking only that she was surprised at
her pretty adornment, she said gaily:  "Do you think the flowers becoming
to me?"

Klea's hand was already extended to take the violets out of the brown
plaits, for her sister was still kneeling before her, but at this
question her arm dropped, and she said more positively and distinctly
than she had yet spoken and in a voice, whose sonorous but musical tones
were almost masculine and certainly remarkable in a girl:

"The bunch of flowers belongs to me; but keep it till it is faded, by
mid-day, and then return it to me."

"It belongs to you?"  repeated the younger girl, raising her eyes in
surprise to her sister, for to this hour what had been Klea's had been
hers also.  "But I always used to take the flowers you brought home; what
is there special in these?"

"They are only violets like any other violets," replied Klea coloring
deeply.  "But the queen has worn them."

"The queen!"  cried her sister springing to her feet and clasping her
hands in astonishment.  "She gave you the flowers?  And you never told me
till now?  To be sure when you came home from the procession yesterday
you only asked me how my foot was and whether my clothes were whole and
then not another mortal word did you utter.  Did Cleopatra herself give
you this bunch?"

"How should she?"  retorted Klea.  "One of her escort threw them to me;
but drop the subject pray!  Give me the water, please, my mouth is
parched and I can hardly speak for thirst."

The bright color dyed her cheeks again as she spoke, but Irene did not
observe it, for--delighted to make up for her evil doings by performing
some little service--she ran to fetch the water-jar; while Klea filled
and emptied her wooden bowl she said, gracefully lifting a small foot, to
show to her sister:

"Look, the cut is almost healed and I can wear my sandal again.  Now I
shall tie it on and go and ask Serapion for some bread for you and
perhaps he will give us a few dates.  Please loosen the straps for me a
little, here, round the ankle, my skin is so thin and tender that a
little thing hurts me which you would hardly feel.  At mid-day I will go
with you and help fill the jars for the altar, and later in the day I can
accompany you in the procession which was postponed from yesterday.  If
only the queen and the great foreigner should come again to look on at
it!  That would be splendid!  Now, I am going, and before you have drunk
the last bowl of water you shall have some bread, for I will coax the old
man so prettily that he can't say 'no.'"

Irene opened the door, and as the broad sunlight fell in it lighted up
tints of gold in her chestnut hair, and her sister looking after her
could almost fancy that the sunbeams had got entangled with the waving
glory round her head.  The bunch of violets was the last thing she took
note of as Irene went out into the open air; then she was alone and she
shook her head gently as she said to herself:  "I give up everything to
her and what I have left she takes from me.  Three times have I met the
Roman, yesterday he gave me the violets, and I did want to keep those for
myself--and now--"  As she spoke she clasped the bowl she still held in
her hand closely to her and her lips trembled pitifully, but only for an
instant; she drew herself up and said firmly:  "But it is all as it
should be."

Then she was silent; she set down the water-jar on the chest by her side,
passed the back of her hand across her forehead as if her head were
aching, then, as she sat gazing down dreamily into her lap, her weary
head presently fell on her shoulder and she was asleep.



CHAPTER II.

The low brick building of which the sisters' room formed a part, was
called the Pastophorium, and it was occupied also by other persons
attached to the service of the temple, and by numbers of pilgrims.  These
assembled here from all parts of Egypt, and were glad to pass a night
under the protection of the sanctuary.

Irene, when she quitted her sister, went past many doors--which had been
thrown open after sunrise--hastily returning the greetings of many
strange as well as familiar faces, for all glanced after her kindly as
though to see her thus early were an omen of happy augury, and she soon
reached an outbuilding adjoining the northern end of the Pastophorium;
here there was no door, but at the level of about a man's height from
the ground there were six unclosed windows opening on the road.  From the
first of these the pale and much wrinkled face of an old man looked down
on the girl as she approached.  She shouted up to him in cheerful accents
the greeting familiar to the Hellenes "Rejoice!"  But he, without moving
his lips, gravely and significantly signed to her with his lean hand and
with a glance from his small, fixed and expressionless eyes that she
should wait, and then handed out to her a wooden trencher on which lay a
few dates and half a cake of bread.

"For the altar of the god?"  asked the girl.  The old man nodded assent,
and Irene went on with her small load, with the assurance of a person who
knows exactly what is required of her; but after going a few steps and
before she had reached the last of the six windows she paused, for she
plainly heard voices and steps, and presently, at the end of the
Pastophorium towards which she was proceeding and which opened into a
small grove of acacias dedicated to Serapis--which was of much greater
extent outside the enclosing wall--appeared a little group of men whose
appearance attracted her attention; but she was afraid to go on towards
the strangers, so, leaning close up to the wall of the houses, she
awaited their departure, listening the while to what they were saying.

In front of these early visitors to the temple walked a man with a long
staff in his right hand speaking to the two gentlemen who followed, with
the air of a professional guide, who is accustomed to talk as if he were
reading to his audience out of an invisible book, and whom the hearers
are unwilling to interrupt with questions, because they know that his
knowledge scarcely extends beyond exactly what he says.  Of his two
remarkable-looking hearers one was wrapped in a long and splendid robe
and wore a rich display of gold chains and rings, while the other wore
nothing over his short chiton but a Roman toga thrown over his left
shoulder.

His richly attired companion was an old man with a full and beardless
face and thin grizzled hair.  Irene gazed at him with admiration and
astonishment, but when she had feasted her eyes on the stuffs and
ornaments he wore, she fixed them with much greater interest and
attention on the tall and youthful figure at his side.

"Like Hui, the cook's fat poodle, beside a young lion," thought she to
herself, as she noted the bustling step of the one and the independent
and elastic gait of the other.  She felt irresistibly tempted to mimic
the older man, but this audacious impulse was soon quelled for scarcely
had the guide explained to the Roman that it was here that those pious
recluses had their cells who served the god in voluntary captivity, as
being consecrated to Serapis, and that they received their food through
those windows--here he pointed upwards with his staff when suddenly a
shutter, which the cicerone of this ill-matched pair had touched with his
stick, flew open with as much force and haste as if a violent gust of
wind had caught it, and flung it back against the wall.--And no less
suddenly a man's head-of ferocious aspect and surrounded by a shock of
gray hair like a lion's mane--looked out of the window and shouted to him
who had knocked, in a deep and somewhat overloud voice.

"If my shutter had been your back, you impudent rascal, your stick would
have hit the right thing.  Or if I had a cudgel between my teeth instead
of a tongue, I would exercise it on you till it was as tired as that of a
preacher who has threshed his empty straw to his congregation for three
mortal hours.  Scarcely is the sun risen when we are plagued by the
parasitical and inquisitive mob.  Why! they will rouse us at midnight
next, and throw stones at our rotten old shutters.  The effects of my
last greeting lasted you for three weeks--to-day's I hope may act a
little longer.  You, gentlemen there, listen to me.  Just as the raven
follows an army to batten on the dead, so that fellow there stalks on in
front of strangers in order to empty their pockets--and you, who call
yourself an interpreter, and in learning Greek have forgotten the little
Egyptian you ever knew, mark this: When you have to guide strangers take
them to see the Sphinx, or to consult the Apis in the temple of Ptah, or
lead them to the king's beast-garden at Alexandria, or the taverns at
Hanopus, but don't bring them here, for we are neither pheasants, nor
flute-playing women, nor miraculous beasts, who take a pleasure in being
stared at.  You, gentlemen, ought to choose a better guide than this
chatter-mag that keeps up its perpetual rattle when once you set it
going.  As to yourselves I will tell you one thing: Inquisitive eyes are
intrusive company, and every prudent house holder guards himself against
them by keeping his door shut."

Irene shrank back and flattened herself against the pilaster which
concealed her, for the shutter closed again with a slam, the recluse
pulling it to with a rope attached to its outer edge, and he was hidden
from the gaze of the strangers; but only for an instant, for the rusty
hinges on which the shutter was hanging were not strong enough to bear
such violent treatment, and slowly giving way it was about to fall.  The
blustering hermit stretched out an arm to support it and save it; but it
was heavy, and his efforts would not have succeeded had not the young man
in Roman dress given his assistance and lifted up the shutter with his
hand and shoulder, without any effort, as if it were made of willow laths
instead of strong planks.

"A little higher still," shouted the recluse to his assistant.  "Let us
set the thing on its edge!  so, push away, a little more.  There, I have
propped up the wretched thing and there it may lie.  If the bats pay me a
visit to-night I will think of you and give them your best wishes."

"You may save yourself that trouble," replied the young man with cool
dignity.  "I will send you a carpenter who shall refix the shutter, and
we offer you our apologies for having been the occasion of the mischief
that has happened."

The old man did not interrupt the speaker, but, when he had stared at him
from head to foot, he said: "You are strong and you speak fairly, and I
might like you well enough if you were in other company.  I don't want
your carpenter; only send me down a hammer, a wedge, and a few strong
nails.  Now, you can do nothing more for me, so pack off"

"We are going at once," said the more handsomely dressed visitor in a
thin and effeminate voice.  "What can a man do when the boys pelt him
with dirt from a safe hiding-place, but take himself off"

"Be off, be off," said the person thus described, with a laugh.
"As far off as Samothrace if you like, fat Eulaeus; you can scarcely have
forgotten the way there since you advised the king to escape thither with
all his treasure.  But if you cannot trust yourself to find it alone,
I recommend you your interpreter and guide there to show you the road."

The Eunuch Eulaeus, the favorite councillor of King Ptolemy--called
Philometor (the lover of his mother)--turned pale at these words, cast a
sinister glance at the old man and beckoned to the young Roman; he
however was not inclined to follow, for the scolding old oddity had taken
his fancy--perhaps because he was conscious that the old man, who
generally showed no reserve in his dislikes, had a liking for him.
Besides, he found nothing to object to in his opinion of his companions,
so he turned to Eulaeus and said courteously:

"Accept my best thanks for your company so far, and do not let me detain
you any longer from your more important occupations on my account."

Eulaeus bowed and replied, "I know what my duty is.  The king entrusted
me with your safe conduct; permit me therefore to wait for you under the
acacias yonder."

When Eulaeus and the guide had reached the green grove, Irene hoped to
find an opportunity to prefer her petition, but the Roman had stopped in
front of the old man's cell, and had begun a conversation with him which
she could not venture to interrupt.  She set down the platter with the
bread and dates that had been entrusted to her on a projecting stone by
her side with a little sigh, crossed her arms and feet as she leaned
against the wall, and pricked up her ears to hear their talk.

"I am not a Greek," said the youth, "and you are quite mistaken in
thinking that I came to Egypt and to see you out of mere curiosity."

"But those who come only to pray in the temple," interrupted the other,
"do not--as it seems to me--choose an Eulaeus for a companion, or any
such couple as those now waiting for you under the acacias, and invoking
anything rather than blessings on your head; at any rate, for my own
part, even if I were a thief I would not go stealing in their company.
What then brought you to Serapis?"

"It is my turn now to accuse you of curiosity!"

"By all means," cried the old man, "I am an honest dealer and quite
willing to take back the coin I am ready to pay away.  Have you come to
have a dream interpreted, or to sleep in the temple yonder and have a
face revealed to you?"

"Do I look so sleepy," said the Roman, "as to want to go to bed again
now, only an hour after sunrise?"

"It may be," said the recluse, "that you have not yet fairly come to the
end of yesterday, and that at the fag-end of some revelry it occurred to
you that you might visit us and sleep away your headache at Serapis."

"A good deal of what goes on outside these walls seems to come to your
ears," retorted the Roman, "and if I were to meet you in the street
I should take you for a ship's captain or a master-builder who had to
manage a number of unruly workmen.  According to what I heard of you and
those like you in Athens and elsewhere, I expected to find you something
quite different."

"What did you expect?"  said Serapion laughing.  "I ask you
notwithstanding the risk of being again considered curious."

"And I am very willing to answer," retorted the other, "but if I were to
tell you the whole truth I should run into imminent danger of being sent
off as ignominiously as my unfortunate guide there."

"Speak on," said the old man, "I keep different garments for different
men, and the worst are not for those who treat me to that rare dish--a
little truth.  But before you serve me up so bitter a meal tell me, what
is your name?"

"Shall I call the guide?"  said the Roman with an ironical laugh.  "He
can describe me completely, and give you the whole history of my family.
But, joking apart, my name is Publius."

"The name of at least one out of every three of your countrymen."

"I am of the Cornelia gens and of the family of the Scipios," continued
the youth in a low voice, as though he would rather avoid boasting of his
illustrious name.

"Indeed, a noble gentleman, a very grand gentleman!"  said the recluse,
bowing deeply out of his window.  "But I knew that beforehand, for at
your age and with such slender ankles to his long legs only a nobleman
could walk as you walk.  Then Publius Cornelius--"

"Nay, call me Scipio, or rather by my first name only, Publius," the
youth begged him.  "You are called Serapion, and I will tell you what you
wish to know.  When I was told that in this temple there were people who
had themselves locked into their little chambers never to quit them,
taking thought about their dreams and leading a meditative life, I
thought they must be simpletons or fools or both at once."

"Just so, just so," interrupted Serapion.  "But there is a fourth
alternative you did not think of.  Suppose now among these men there
should be some shut up against their will, and what if I were one of
those prisoners?  I have asked you a great many questions and you have
not hesitated to answer, and you may know how I got into this miserable
cage and why I stay in it.  I am the son of a good family, for my father
was overseer of the granaries of this temple and was of Macedonian
origin, but my mother was an Egyptian.  I was born in an evil hour, on
the twenty-seventh day of the month of Paophi, a day which it is said in
the sacred books that it is an evil day and that the child that is born
in it must be kept shut up or else it will die of a snake-bite.  In
consequence of this luckless prediction many of those born on the same
day as myself were, like me, shut up at an early age in this cage.  My
father would very willingly have left me at liberty, but my uncle,
a caster of horoscopes in the temple of Ptah, who was all in all in my
mother's estimation, and his friends with him, found many other evil
signs about my body, read misfortune for me in the stars, declared that
the Hathors had destined me to nothing but evil, and set upon her so
persistently that at last I was destined to the cloister--we lived here
at Memphis.  I owe this misery to my dear mother and it was out of pure
affection that she brought it upon me.  You look enquiringly at me--aye,
boy! life will teach you too the lesson that the worst hate that can be
turned against you often entails less harm upon you than blind tenderness
which knows no reason.  I learned to read and write, and all that is
usually taught to the priests' sons, but never to accommodate myself to
my lot, and I never shall.--Well, when my beard grew I succeeded in
escaping and I lived for a time in the world.  I have been even to Rome,
to Carthage, and in Syria; but at last I longed to drink Nile-water once
more and I returned to Egypt.  Why?  Because, fool that I was, I fancied
that bread and water with captivity tasted better in my own country than
cakes and wine with freedom in the land of the stranger.

"In my father's house I found only my mother still living, for my father
had died of grief.  Before my flight she had been a tall, fine woman,
when I came home I found her faded and dying.  Anxiety for me, a
miserable wretch, had consumed her, said the physician--that was the
hardest thing to bear.  When at last the poor, good little woman, who
could so fondly persuade me--a wild scamp--implored me on her death-bed
to return to my retreat, I yielded, and swore to her that I would stay in
my prison patiently to the end, for I am as water is in northern
countries, a child may turn me with its little hand or else I am as hard
and as cold as crystal.  My old mother died soon after I had taken this
oath.  I kept my word as you see--and you have seen too how I endure my
fate."

"Patiently enough," replied Publius, "I should writhe in my chains far
more rebelliously than you, and I fancy it must do you good to rage and
storm sometimes as you did just now."

"As much good as sweet wine from Chios!"  exclaimed the anchorite,
smacking his lips as if he tasted the noble juice of the grape, and
stretching his matted head as far as possible out of the window.  Thus it
happened that he saw Irene, and called out to her in a cheery voice:

"What are you doing there, child?  You are standing as if you were
waiting to say good-morning to good fortune."

The girl hastily took up the trencher, smoothed down her hair with her
other hand, and as she approached the men, coloring slightly, Publius
feasted his eyes on her in surprise and admiration.

But Serapion's words had been heard by another person, who now emerged
from the acacia-grove and joined the young Roman, exclaiming before he
came up with them:

"Waiting for good fortune! does the old man say?  And you can hear it
said, Publius, and not reply that she herself must bring good fortune
wherever she appears."

The speaker was a young Greek, dressed with extreme care, and he now
stuck the pomegranate-blossom he carried in his hand behind his ear, so
as to shake hands with his friend Publius; then he turned his fair,
saucy, almost girlish face with its finely-cut features up to the
recluse, wishing to attract his attention to himself by his next speech.

"With Plato's greeting 'to deal fairly and honestly' do I approach you!"
he cried; and then he went on more quietly: "But indeed you can hardly
need such a warning, for you belong to those who know how to conquer
true--that is the inner--freedom; for who can be freer than he who needs
nothing?  And as none can be nobler than the freest of the free, accept
the tribute of my respect, and scorn not the greeting of Lysias of
Corinth, who, like Alexander, would fain exchange lots with you, the
Diogenes of Egypt, if it were vouchsafed to him always to see out the
window of your mansion--otherwise not very desirable--the charming form
of this damsel--"

"That is enough, young man," said Serapion, interrupting the Greek's flow
of words.  "This young girl belongs to the temple, and any one who is
tempted to speak to her as if she were a flute-player will have to deal
with me, her protector.  Yes, with me; and your friend here will bear me
witness that it may not be altogether to your advantage to have a quarrel
with such as I.  Now, step back, young gentlemen, and let the girl tell
me what she needs."

When Irene stood face to face with the anchorite, and had told him
quickly and in a low voice what she had done, and that her sister Klea
was even now waiting for her return, Serapion laughed aloud, and then
said in a low tone, but gaily, as a father teases his daughter:

"She has eaten enough for two, and here she stands, on her tiptoes,
reaching up to my window, as if it were not an over-fed girl that stood
in her garments, but some airy sprite.  We may laugh, but Klea, poor
thing, she must be hungry?"

Irene made no reply, but she stood taller on tiptoe than ever, put her
face up to Serapion, nodding her pretty head at him again and again, and
as she looked roguishly and yet imploringly into his eyes Serapion went
on:

"And so I am to give my breakfast to Klea, that is what you want; but
unfortunately that breakfast is a thing of the past and beyond recall;
nothing is left of it but the date-stones.  But there, on the trencher
in your hand, is a nice little meal."

"That is the offering to Serapis sent by old Phibis," answered the girl.

"Hm, hm--oh! of course!"  muttered the old man.  "So long as it is for a
god--surely he might do without it better than a poor famishing girl."

Then he went on, gravely and emphatically, as a teacher who has made an
incautious speech before his pupils endeavors to rectify it by another of
more solemn import.

"Certainly, things given into our charge should never be touched;
besides, the gods first and man afterwards.  Now if only I knew what to
do.  But, by the soul of my father!  Serapis himself sends us what we
need.  Step close up to me, noble Scipio--or Publius, if I may so call
you--and look out towards the acacias.  Do you see my favorite, your
cicerone, and the bread and roast fowls that your slave has brought him
in that leathern wallet?  And now he is setting a wine-jar on the carpet
he has spread at the big feet of Eulaeus--they will be calling you to
share the meal in a minute, but I know of a pretty child who is very
hungry--for a little white cat stole away her breakfast this morning.
Bring me half a loaf and the wing of a fowl, and a few pomegranates if
you like, or one of the peaches Eulaeus is so judiciously fingering.
Nay--you may bring two of them, I have a use for both."

"Serapion!"  exclaimed Irene in mild reproof and looking down at the
ground; but the Greek answered with prompt zeal, "More, much more than
that I can bring you.  I hasten--"

"Stay here," interrupted Publius with decision, holding him back by the
shoulder.  "Serapion's request was addressed to me, and I prefer to do my
friend's pleasure in my own person."

"Go then," cried the Greek after Publius as he hurried away.  "You will
not allow me even thanks from the sweetest lips in Memphis.  Only look,
Serapion, what a hurry he is in.  And now poor Eulaeus has to get up; a
hippopotamus might learn from him how to do so with due awkwardness.
Well! I call that making short work of it--a Roman never asks before he
takes; he has got all he wants and Eulaeus looks after him like a cow
whose calf has been stolen from her; to be sure I myself would rather eat
peaches than see them carried away!  Oh if only the people in the Forum
could see him now!  Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, own grandson to the
great Africanus, serving like a slave at a feast with a dish in each
hand!  Well Publius, what has Rome the all conquering brought home this
time in token of victory?"

"Sweet peaches and a roast pheasant," said Cornelius laughing, and he
handed two dishes into the anchorite's window; "there is enough left
still for the old man."

"Thanks, many thanks!"  cried Serapion, beckoning to Irene, and he gave
her a golden-yellow cake of wheaten bread, half of the roast bird,
already divided by Eulaeus, and two peaches, and whispered to her:
"Klea may come for the rest herself when these men are gone.  Now thank
this kind gentleman and go."

For an instant the girl stood transfixed, her face crimson with confusion
and her glistening white teeth set in her nether lip, speechless, face to
face with the young Roman and avoiding the earnest gaze of his black
eyes.  Then she collected herself and said:

"You are very kind.  I cannot make any pretty speeches, but I thank you
most kindly."

"And your very kind thanks," replied Publius, "add to the delights of
this delightful morning.  I should very much like to possess one of the
violets out of your hair in remembrance of this day--and of you."

"Take them all," exclaimed Irene, hastily taking the bunch from her hair
and holding them out to the Roman; but before he could take them she drew
back her hand and said with an air of importance:

"The queen has had them in her hand.  My sister Klea got them yesterday
in the procession."

Scipio's face grew grave at these words, and he asked with commanding
brevity and sharpness:

"Has your sister black hair and is she taller than you are, and did she
wear a golden fillet in the procession?  Did she give you these flowers?
Yes--do you say?  Well then, she had the bunch from me, but although she
accepted them she seems to have taken very little pleasure in them, for
what we value we do not give away--so there they may go, far enough!"

With these words he flung the flowers over the house and then he went on:

"But you, child, you shall be held guiltless of their loss.  Give me your
pomegranate-flower, Lysias!"

"Certainly not," replied the Greek.  "You chose to do pleasure to your
friend Serapion in your own person when you kept me from going to fetch
the peaches, and now I desire to offer this flower to the fair Irene with
my own hand."

"Take this flower," said Publius, turning his back abruptly on the girl,
while Lysias laid the blossom on the trencher in the maiden's hand; she
felt the rough manners of the young Roman as if she had been touched by a
hard hand; she bowed silently and timidly and then quickly ran home.

Publius looked thoughtfully after her till Lysias called out to him:

"What has come over me?  Has saucy Eros perchance wandered by mistake
into the temple of gloomy Serapis this morning?"

"That would not be wise," interrupted the recluse, "for Cerberus, who
lies at the foot of our God, would soon pluck the fluttering wings of the
airy youngster," and as he spoke he looked significantly at the Greek.

"Aye! if he let himself be caught by the three-headed monster," laughed
Lysias.  "But come away now, Publius; Eulaeus has waited long enough."

"You go to him then," answered the Roman, "I will follow soon; but first
I have a word to say to Serapion."

Since Irene's disappearance, the old man had turned his attention to the
acacia-grove where Eulaeus was still feasting.  When the Roman addressed
him he said, shaking his great head with dissatisfaction:

"Your eyes of course are no worse than mine.  Only look at that man
munching and moving his jaws and smacking his lips.  By Serapis!  you can
tell the nature of a man by watching him eat.  You know I sit in my cage
unwillingly enough, but I am thankful for one thing about it, and that is
that it keeps me far from all that such a creature as Eulaeus calls
enjoyment--for such enjoyment, I tell you, degrades a man."

"Then you are more of a philosopher than you wish to seem," replied
Publius.

"I wish to seem nothing," answered the anchorite.

"For it is all the same to me what others think of me.  But if a man who
has nothing to do and whose quiet is rarely disturbed, and who thinks his
own thoughts about many things is a philosopher, you may call me one if
you like.  If at any time you should need advice you may come here again,
for I like you, and you might be able to do me an important service."

"Only speak," interrupted the Roman, "I should be glad from my heart to
be of any use to you."

"Not now," said Serapion softly.  "But come again when you have time--
without your companions there, of course--at any rate without Eulaeus,
who of all the scoundrels I ever came across is the very worst.  It may
be as well to tell you at once that what I might require of you would
concern not myself but the weal or woe of the water-bearers, the two
maidens you have seen and who much need protection."

"I came here for my parents' sake and for Klea's, and not on your
account," said Publius frankly.  "There is something in her mien and in
her eyes which perhaps may repel others but which attracts me.  How came
so admirable a creature in your temple?"

"When you come again," replied the recluse, "I will tell you the history
of the sisters and what they owe to Eulaeus.  Now go, and understand me
when I say the girls are well guarded.  This observation is for the
benefit of the Greek who is but a heedless fellow; but you, when you
know who the girls are, will help me to protect them."

"That I would do as it is, with real pleasure," replied Publius; he took
leave of the recluse and called out to Eulaeus.

"What a delightful morning it has been!"

"It would have been pleasanter for me," replied Eulaeus, "if you had not
deprived me of your company for such a long time."

"That is to say," answered the Roman, "that I have stayed away longer
than I ought."

"You behave after the fashion of your race," said the other bowing low.
"They have kept even kings waiting in their ante-chambers."

"But you do not wear a crown," said Publius evasively.  "And if any one
should know how to wait it is an old courtier, who--"

"When it is at the command of his sovereign," interrupted Eulaeus, the
old courtier may submit, even when youngsters choose to treat him with
contempt."

"That hits us both," said Publius, turning to Lysias.  "Now you may
answer him, I have heard and said enough."



CHAPTER III.

Irene's foot was not more susceptible to the chafing of a strap than her
spirit to a rough or an unkind word; the Roman's words and manner had
hurt her feelings.

She went towards home with a drooping head and almost crying, but before
she had reached it her eyes fell on the peaches and the roast bird she
was carrying.  Her thoughts flew to her sister and how much the famishing
girl would relish so savory a meal; she smiled again, her eyes shone with
pleasure, and she went on her way with a quickened step.  It never once
occurred to her that Klea would ask for the violets, or that the young
Roman could be anything more to her sister than any other stranger.

She had never had any other companion than Klea, and after work, when
other girls commonly discussed their longings and their agitations and
the pleasures and the torments of love, these two used to get home so
utterly wearied that they wanted nothing but peace and sleep.  If they
had sometimes an hour for idle chat Klea ever and again would tell some
story of their old home, and Irene, who even within the solemn walls of
the temple of Serapis sought and found many innocent pleasures, would
listen to her willingly, and interrupt her with questions and with
anecdotes of small events or details which she fancied she remembered of
her early childhood, but which in fact she had first learnt from her
sister, though the force of a lively imagination had made them seem a
part and parcel of her own experience.

Klea had not observed Irene's long absence since, as we know, shortly
after her sister had set out, overpowered by hunger and fatigue she had
fallen asleep.  Before her nodding head had finally sunk and her drooping
eyelids had closed, her lips now and then puckered and twitched as if
with grief; then her features grew tranquil, her lips parted softly and a
smile gently lighted up her blushing cheeks, as the breath of spring
softly thaws a frozen blossom.  This sleeper was certainly not born for
loneliness and privation, but to enjoy and to keep love and happiness.

It was warm and still, very still in the sisters' little room.  The buzz
of a fly was audible now and again, as it flew round the little oil-cup
Irene had left empty, and now and again the breathing of the sleeper,
coming more and more rapidly.  Every trace of fatigue had vanished from
Klea's countenance, her lips parted and pouted as if for a kiss, her
cheeks glowed, and at last she raised both hands as if to defend herself
and stammered out in her dream, "No, no, certainly not--pray, do not! my
love--"  Then her arm fell again by her side, and dropping on the chest
on which she was sitting, the blow woke her.  She slowly opened her eyes
with a happy smile; then she raised her long silken lashes till her eyes
were open, and she gazed fixedly on vacancy as though something strange
had met her gaze.  Thus she sat for some time without moving; then she
started up, pressed her hand on her brow and eyes, and shuddering as if
she had seen something horrible or were shivering with ague, she murmured
in gasps, while she clenched her teeth:

"What does this mean?  How come I by such thoughts?  What demons are these
that make us do and feel things in our dreams which when we are waking we
should drive far, far from our thoughts?  I could hate myself, despise
and hate myself for the sake of those dreams since, wretch that I am!
I let him put his arm round me--and no bitter rage--ah! no--something
quite different, something exquisitely sweet, thrilled through my soul."

As she spoke, she clenched her fists and pressed them against her
temples; then again her arms dropped languidly into her lap, and shaking
her head she went on in an altered and softened voice:

"Still-it was only in a dream and--Oh! ye eternal gods--when we are
asleep--well! and what then?  Has it come to this; to impure thoughts I
am adding self-deception!  No, this dream was sent by no demon, it was
only a distorted reflection of what I felt yesterday and the day before,
and before that even, when the tall stranger looked straight into my
eyes--four times he has done so now--and then--how many hours ago, gave
me the violets.  Did I even turn away my face or punish his boldness with
an angry look?  Is it not sometimes possible to drive away an enemy with
a glance?  I have often succeeded when a man has looked after us; but
yesterday I could not, and I was as wide awake then as I am at this
moment.  What does the stranger want with me?  What is it he asks with
his penetrating glance, which for days has followed me wherever I turn,
and robs me of peace even in my sleep?  Why should I open my eyes--the
gates of the heart--to him?  And now the poison poured in through them is
seething there; but I will tear it out, and when Irene comes home I will
tread the violets into the dust, or leave them with her; she will soon
pull them to pieces or leave them to wither miserably--for I will remain
pure-minded, even in my dreams--what have I besides in the world?"

At these words she broke off her soliloquy, for she heard Irene's voice,
a sound that must have had a favorable effect on her spirit, for she
paused, and the bitter expression her beautiful features had but just now
worn disappeared as she murmured, drawing a deep breath:

"I am not utterly bereft and wretched so long as I have her, and can hear
her voice."

Irene, on her road home, had given the modest offerings of the anchorite
Phibis into the charge of one of the temple-servants to lay before the
altar of Serapis, and now as she came into the room she hid the platter
with the Roman's donation behind her, and while still in the doorway,
called out to her sister:

"Guess now, what have I here?"

"Bread and dates from Serapion," replied Klea.

"Oh, dear no!"  cried the other, holding out the plate to her sister,
"the very nicest dainties, fit for gods and kings.  Only feel this peach,
does not it feel as soft as one of little Philo's cheeks?  If I could
always provide such a substitute you would wish I might eat up your
breakfast every day.  And now do you know who gave you all this?  No,
that you will never guess!  The tall Roman gave them me, the same you
had the violets from yesterday."

Klea's face turned crimson, and she said shortly and decidedly:

"How do you know that?"

"Because he told me so himself," replied Irene in a very altered tone,
for her sister's eyes were fixed upon her with an expression of stern
gravity, such as Irene had never seen in her before.

"And where are the violets?"  asked Klea.

"He took them, and his friend gave me this pomegranate-flower," stammered
Irene.  "He himself wanted to give it me, but the Greek--a handsome,
merry man--would not permit it, and laid the flower there on the platter.
Take it--but do not look at me like that any longer, for I cannot bear
it!"

"I do not want it," said her sister, but not sharply; then, looking down,
she asked in a low voice: "Did the Roman keep the violets?"

"He kept--no, Klea--I will not tell you a lie!  He flung them over the
house, and said such rough things as he did it, that I was frightened and
turned my back upon him quickly, for I felt the tears coming into my
eyes.  What have you to do with the Roman?  I feel so anxious, so
frightened--as I do sometimes when a storm is gathering and I am afraid
of it.  And how pale your lips are!  that comes of long fasting, no doubt
--eat now, as much as you can.  But Klea!  why do you look at me so--and
look so gloomy and terrible?  I cannot bear that look, I cannot bear it!"

Irene sobbed aloud, and her sister went up to her, stroked her soft hair
from her brow, kissed her kindly, and said:

"I am not angry with you, child, and did not mean to hurt you.  If only
I could cry as you do when clouds overshadow my heart, the blue sky would
shine again with me as soon as it does with you.  Now dry your eyes, go
up to the temple, and enquire at what hour we are to go to the singing-
practice, and when the procession is to set out."

Irene obeyed; she went out with downcast eyes, but once out she looked up
again brightly, for she remembered the procession, and it occurred to her
that she would then see again the Roman's gay acquaintance, and turning
back into the room she laid her pomegranate-blossom in the little bowl
out of which she had formerly taken the violets, kissed her sister as
gaily as ever, and then reflected as to whether she would wear the flower
in her hair or in her bosom.  Wear it, at any rate, she must, for she
must show plainly that she knew how to value such a gift.

As soon as Klea was alone she seized the trencher with a vehement
gesture, gave the roast bird to the gray cat, who had stolen back into
the room, turning away her head, for the mere smell of the pheasant was
like an insult.  Then, while the cat bore off her welcome spoils into a
corner, she clutched a peach and raised her hand to fling it away through
a gap in the roof of the room; but she did not carry out her purpose, for
it occurred to her that Irene and little Philo, the son of the gate-
keeper, might enjoy the luscious fruit; so she laid it back on the dish
and took up the bread, for she was painfully hungry.

She was on the point of breaking the golden-brown cake, but acting on a
rapid impulse she tossed it back on the trencher saying to herself: "At
any rate I will owe him nothing; but I will not throw away the gifts of
the gods as he threw away my violets, for that would be a sin.  All is
over between him and me, and if he appears to-day in the procession, and
if he chooses to look at me again I will compel my eyes to avoid meeting
his--aye, that I will, and will carry it through.  But, Oh eternal gods!
and thou above all, great Serapis, whom I heartily serve, there is
another thing I cannot do without your aid.  Help me, oh! help me to
forget him, that my very thoughts may remain pure."

With these words she flung herself on her knees before the chest, pressed
her brow against the hard wood, and strove to pray.

Only for one thing did she entreat the gods; for strength to forget the
man who had betrayed her into losing her peace of mind.

But just as swift clouds float across the sky, distracting the labors of
the star-gazer, who is striving to observe some remote planet--as the
clatter of the street interrupts again and again some sweet song we fain
would hear, marring it with its harsh discords--so again and again the
image of the young Roman came across Klea's prayers for release from that
very thought, and at last it seemed to her that she was like a man who
strives to raise a block of stone by the exertion of his utmost strength,
and who weary at last of lifting the stone is crushed to the earth by its
weight; still she felt that, in spite of all her prayers and efforts, the
enemy she strove to keep off only came nearer, and instead of flying from
her, overmastered her soul with a grasp from which she could not escape.

Finally she gave up the unavailing struggle, cooled her burning face with
cold water, and tightened the straps of her sandals to go to the temple;
near the god himself she hoped she might in some degree recover the peace
she could not find here.

Just at the door she met Irene, who told her that the singing-practice
was put off, on account of the procession which was fixed for four hours
after noon.  And as Klea went towards the temple her sister called after
her.

"Do not stay too long though, water will be wanted again directly for the
libations."

"Then will you go alone to the work?" asked Klea; "there cannot be very
much wanted, for the temple will soon be empty on account of the
procession.  A few jars-full will be enough.  There is a cake of bread
and a peach in there for you; I must keep the other for little Philo."



CHAPTER IV.

Klea went quickly on towards the temple, without listening to Irene's
excuses.  She paid no heed to the worshippers who filled the forecourt,
praying either with heads bent low or with uplifted arms or, if they were
of Egyptian extraction, kneeling on the smooth stone pavement, for, even
as she entered, she had already begun to turn in supplication to the
divinity.

She crossed the great hall of the sanctuary, which was open only to the
initiated and to the temple-servants, of whom she was one.  Here all
around her stood a crowd of slender columns, their shafts crowned with
gracefully curved flower calyxes, like stems supporting lilies, over her
head she saw in the ceiling an image of the midnight sky with the bright,
unresting and ever-restful stars; the planets and fixed stars in their
golden barks looked down on her silently.  Yes! here were the twilight
and stillness befitting a personal communion with the divinity.

The pillars appeared to her fancy like a forest of giant growth, and it
seemed to her that the perfume of the incense emanated from the gorgeous
floral capitals that crowned them; it penetrated her senses, which were
rendered more acute by fasting and agitation, with a sort of
intoxication.  Her eyes were raised to heaven, her arms crossed over her
bosom as she traversed this vast hall, and with trembling steps
approached a smaller and lower chamber, where in the furthest and darkest
background a curtain of heavy and costly material veiled the brazen door
of the holy of holies.

Even she was forbidden to approach this sacred place; but to-day she was
so filled with longing for the inspiring assistance of the god, that she
went on to the holy of holies in spite of the injunction she had never
yet broken, not to approach it.  Filled with reverent awe she sank down
close to the door of the sacred chamber, shrinking close into the angle
formed between a projecting door-post and the wall of the great hall.

The craving desire to seek and find a power outside us as guiding the
path of our destiny is common to every nation, to every man; it is as
surely innate in every being gifted with reason--many and various as
these are--as the impulse to seek a cause when we perceive an effect, to
see when light visits the earth, or to hear when swelling waves of sound
fall on our ear.  Like every other gift, no doubt that of religious
sensibility is bestowed in different degrees on different natures.
In Klea it had always been strongly developed, and a pious mother had
cultivated it by precept and example, while her father always had taught
her one thing only: namely to be true, inexorably true, to others as to
herself.

Afterwards she had been daily employed in the service of the god whom she
was accustomed to regard as the greatest and most powerful of all the
immortals, for often from a distance she had seen the curtain of the
sanctuary pushed aside, and the statue of Serapis with the Kalathos on
his head, and a figure of Cerberus at his feet, visible in the half-light
of the holy of holies; and a ray of light, flashing through the darkness
as by a miracle, would fall upon his brow and kiss his lips when
his goodness was sung by the priests in hymns of praise.  At other times
the tapers by the side of the god would be lighted or extinguished
spontaneously.

Then, with the other believers, she would glorify the great lord of the
other world, who caused a new sun to succeed each that was extinguished,
and made life grow up out of death; who resuscitated the dead, lifting
them up to be equal with him, if on earth they had reverenced truth and
were found faithful by the judges of the nether world.

Truth--which her father had taught her to regard as the best possession
of life--was rewarded by Serapis above all other virtues; hearts were
weighed before him in a scale against truth, and whenever Klea tried to
picture the god in human form he wore the grave and mild features of her
father, and she fancied him speaking in the words and tones of the man to
whom she owed her being, who had been too early snatched from her, who
had endured so much for righteousness' sake, and from whose lips she had
never heard a single word that might not have beseemed the god himself.
And, as she crouched closely in the dark angle by the holy of holies, she
felt herself nearer to her father as well as to the god, and accused
herself pitilessly, in that unmaidenly longings had stirred her heart,
that she had been insincere to herself and Irene, nay in that if she
could not succeed in tearing the image of the Roman from her heart she
would be compelled either to deceive her sister or to sadden the innocent
and careless nature of the impressionable child, whom she was accustomed
to succor and cherish as a mother might.  On her, even apparently light
matters weighed oppressively, while Irene could throw off even grave and
serious things, blowing them off as it were into the air, like a feather.
She was like wet clay on which even the light touch of a butterfly leaves
a mark, her sister like a mirror from which the breath that has dimmed it
instantly and entirely vanishes.

"Great God!"  she murmured in her prayer, "I feel as if the Roman had
branded my very soul.  Help thou me to efface the mark; help me to become
as I was before, so that I may look again in Irene's eyes without
concealment, pure and true, and that I may be able to say to myself, as I
was wont, that I had thought and acted in such a way as my father would
approve if he could know it."

She was still praying thus when the footsteps and voices of two men
approaching the holy of holies startled her from her devotions; she
suddenly became fully conscious of the fact that she was in a forbidden
spot, and would be severely punished if she were discovered.

"Lock that door," cried one of the new-comers to his companion, pointing
to the door which led from the prosekos into the pillared hall, "none,
even of the initiated, need see what you are preparing here for us--"

Klea recognized the voice of the high-priest, and thought for a moment of
stepping forward and confessing her guilt; but, though she did not
usually lack courage, she did not do this, but shrank still more closely
into her hiding-place, which was perfectly dark when the brazen door of
the room; which had no windows, was closed.  She now perceived that the
curtain and door were opened which closed the inmost sanctuary, she heard
one of the men twirling the stick which was to produce fire, saw the
first gleam of light from it streaming out of the holy of holies, and
then heard the blows of a hammer and the grating sound of a file.

The quiet sanctum was turned into a forge, but noisy as were the
proceedings within, it seemed to Klea that the beating of her own heart
was even louder than the brazen clatter of the tools wielded by Krates;
he was one of the oldest of the priests of Serapis, who was chief in
charge of the sacred vessels, who was wont never to speak to any one but
the high-priest, and who was famous even among his Greek fellow-
countrymen for the skill with which he could repair broken metal-work,
make the securest locks, and work in silver and gold.

When the sisters first came into the temple five years since, Irene had
been very much afraid of this man, who was so small as almost to be a
dwarf, broad shouldered and powerfully knit, while his wrinkled face
looked like a piece of rough cork-bark, and he was subject to a painful
complaint in his feet which often prevented his walking; her fears had
not vexed but only amused the priestly smith, who whenever he met the
child, then eleven years old, would turn his lips up to his big red nose,
roll his eyes, and grunt hideously to increase the terror that came over
her.

He was not ill-natured, but he had neither wife nor child, nor brother,
nor sister, nor friend, and every human being so keenly desires that
others should have some feeling about him, that many a one would rather
be feared than remain unheeded.

After Irene had got over her dread she would often entreat the old man--
who was regarded as stern and inaccessible by all the other dwellers in
the temple--in her own engaging and coaxing way to make a face for her,
and he would do it and laugh when the little one, to his delight and her
own, was terrified at it and ran away; and just lately when Irene, having
hurt her foot, was obliged to keep her room for a few days, an unheard of
thing had occurred: he had asked Klea with the greatest sympathy how her
sister was getting on, and had given her a cake for her.

While Krates was at his work not a word passed between him and the high-
priest.  At length he laid down the hammer, and said:

"I do not much like work of this kind, but this, I think, is successful
at any rate.  Any temple-servant, hidden here behind the altar, can now
light or extinguish the lamps without the illusion being detected by the
sharpest.  Go now and stand at the door of the great hall and speak the
word."

Klea heard the high-priest accede to this request and cry in a
chanting voice: "Thus he commands the night and it becomes day, and the
extinguished taper and lo! it flames with brightness.  If indeed thou art
nigh, Oh Serapis! manifest thyself to us."

At these words a bright stream of light flashed from the holy of holies,
and again was suddenly extinguished when the high-priest sang: "Thus
showest thou thyself as light to the children of truth, but dost punish
with darkness the children of lies."

"Again?"  asked Krates in a voice which conveyed a desire that the answer
might be 'No.'

"I must trouble you," replied the high-priest.  "Good! the performance
went much better this time.  I was always well assured of your skill; but
consider the particular importance of this affair.  The two kings and the
queen will probably be present at the solemnity, certainly Philometor and
Cleopatra will, and their eyes are wide open; then the Roman who has
already assisted four times at the procession will accompany them, and if
I judge him rightly he, like many of the nobles of his nation, is one of
those who can trust themselves when it is necessary to be content with
the old gods of their fathers; and as regards the marvels we are able to
display to them, they do not take them to heart like the poor in spirit,
but measure and weigh them with a cool and unbiassed mind.  People of
that stamp, who are not ashamed to worship, who do not philosophize but
only think just so much as is necessary for acting rightly, those are the
worst contemners of every supersensual manifestation."

"And the students of nature in the Museum?"  asked Krates.  "They believe
nothing to be real that they cannot see and observe."

"And for that very reason," replied the high-priest, "they are often
singularly easy to deceive by your skill, since, seeing an effect without
a cause, they are inclined to regard the invisible cause as something
supersensual.  Now, open the door again and let us get out by the side
door; do you, this time, undertake the task of cooperating with Serapis
yourself.  Consider that Philometor will not confirm the donation of the
land unless he quits the temple deeply penetrated by the greatness of our
god.  Would it be possible, do you think, to have the new censer ready in
time for the birthday of King Euergetes, which is to be solemnly kept at
Memphis?"

"We will see," replied Krates, "I must first put together the lock of the
great door of the tomb of Apis, for so long as I have it in my workshop
any one can open it who sticks a nail into the hole above the bar, and
any one can shut it inside who pushes the iron bolt.  Send to call me
before the performance with the lights begins; I will come in spite of my
wretched feet.  As I have undertaken the thing I will carry it out, but
for no other reason, for it is my opinion that even without such means of
deception--"

"We use no deception," interrupted the high-priest, sternly rebuking his
colleague.  "We only present to short-sighted mortals the creative power
of the divinity in a form perceptible and intelligible to their senses."

With these words the tall priest turned his back on the smith and quitted
the hall by a side door; Krates opened the brazen door, and as he
gathered together his tools he said to himself, but loud enough for Klea
to hear him distinctly in her hiding-place:

"It may be right for me, but deceit is deceit, whether a god deceives
a king or a child deceives a beggar."

"Deceit is deceit," repeated Klea after the smith when he had left the
hall and she had emerged from her corner.

She stood still for a moment and looked round her.  For the first time
she observed the shabby colors on the walls, the damage the pillars had
sustained in the course of years, and the loose slabs in the pavement.

The sweetness of the incense sickened her, and as she passed by an old
man who threw up his arms in fervent supplication, she looked at him with
a glance of compassion.

When she had passed out beyond the pylons enclosing the temple she turned
round, shaking her head in a puzzled way as she gazed at it; for she knew
that not a stone had been changed within the last hour, and yet it looked
as strange in her eyes as some landscape with which we have become
familiar in all the beauty of spring, and see once more in winter with
its trees bare of leaves; or like the face of a woman which we thought
beautiful under the veil which hid it, and which, when the veil is
raised, we see to be wrinkled and devoid of charm.

When she had heard the smith's words, "Deceit is deceit," she felt her
heart shrink as from a stab, and could not check the tears which started
to her eyes, unused as they were to weeping; but as soon as she had
repeated the stern verdict with her own lips her tears had ceased, and
now she stood looking at the temple like a traveller who takes leave of a
dear friend; she was excited, she breathed more freely, drew herself up
taller, and then turned her back on the sanctuary of Serapis, proudly
though with a sore heart.

Close to the gate-keeper's lodge a child came tottering towards her with
his arms stretched up to her.  She lifted him up, kissed him, and then
asked the mother, who also greeted her, for a piece of bread, for her
hunger was becoming intolerable.  While she ate the dry morsel the child
sat on her lap, following with his large eyes the motion of her hand and
lips.  The boy was about five years old, with legs so feeble that they
could scarcely support the weight of his body, but he had a particularly
sweet little face; certainly it was quite without expression, and it was
only when he saw Klea coming that tiny Philo's eyes had lighted up with
pleasure.

"Drink this milk," said the child's mother, offering the young girl an
earthen bowl.  "There is not much and I could not spare it if Philo would
eat like other children, but it seems as if it hurt him to swallow.  He
drinks two or three drops and eats a mouthful, and then will take no more
even if he is beaten."

"You have not been beating him again?"  said Klea reproachfully, and
drawing the child closer to her.  "My husband--" said the woman, pulling
at her dress in some confusion.  "The child was born on a good day and in
a lucky hour, and yet he is so puny and weak and will not learn to speak,
and that provokes Pianchi."

"He will spoil everything again!"  exclaimed Klea annoyed.  "Where is
he?"

"He was wanted in the temple."

"And is he not pleased that Philo calls him 'father,' and you 'mother,'
and me by my name, and that he learns to distinguish many things?"  asked
the girl.

"Oh, yes of course," said the woman.  "He says you are teaching him to
speak just as if he were a starling, and we are very much obliged to
you."

"That is not what I want," interrupted Klea.  "What I wish is that you
should not punish and scold the boy, and that you should be as glad as I
am when you see his poor little dormant soul slowly waking up.  If he
goes on like this, the poor little fellow will be quite sharp and
intelligent.  What is my name, my little one?"

"Ke-ea," stammered the child, smiling at his friend.  "And now taste this
that I have in my hand; what is it?--I see you know.  It is called--
whisper in my ear.  That's right, mil--mil-milk! to be sure, my tiny,
it is milk.  Now open your little mouth and say it prettily after me--
once more--and again--say it twelve times quite right and I will give you
a kiss--Now you have earned a pretty kiss--will you have it here or here?
Well, and what is this?  your ea-?  Yes, your ear.  And this?--your nose,
that is right."

The child's eyes brightened more and more under this gentle teaching,
and neither Klea nor her pupil were weary till, about an hour later,
the re-echoing sound of a brass gong called her away.  As she turned to
go the little one ran after her crying; she took him in her arms and
carried him back to his mother, and then went on to her own room to
dress herself and her sister for the procession.  On the way to the
Pastophorium she recalled once more her expedition to the temple and
her prayer there.

"Even before the sanctuary," said she to herself, "I could not succeed in
releasing my soul from its burden--it was not till I set to work to
loosen the tongue of the poor little child.  Every pure spot, it seems to
me, may be the chosen sanctuary of some divinity, and is not an infant's
soul purer than the altar where truth is mocked at?"

In their room she found Irene; she had dressed her hair carefully and
stuck the pomegranate-flower in it, and she asked Klea if she thought she
looked well.

"You look like Aphrodite herself," replied Klea kissing her forehead.
Then she arranged the folds of her sister's dress, fastened on the
ornaments, and proceeded to dress herself.  While she was fastening her
sandals Irene asked her, "Why do you sigh so bitterly?"  and Klea
replied, "I feel as if I had lost my parents a second time."



CHAPTER V.

The procession was over.

At the great service which had been performed before him in the Greek
Serapeum, Ptolemy Philometor had endowed the priests not with the whole
but with a considerable portion of the land concerning which they had
approached him with many petitions.  After the court had once more
quitted Memphis and the procession was broken up, the sisters returned to
their room, Irene with crimson cheeks and a smile on her lips, Klea with
a gloomy and almost threatening light in her eyes.

As the two were going to their room in silence a temple-servant called to
Klea, desiring her to go with him to the high-priest, who wished to speak
to her.  Klea, without speaking, gave her water-jar to Irene and was
conducted into a chamber of the temple, which was used for keeping the
sacred vessels in.  There she sat down on a bench to wait.  The two men
who in the morning had visited the Pastophorium had also followed in the
procession with the royal family.  At the close of the solemnities
Publius had parted from his companion without taking leave, and without
looking to the right or to the left, he had hastened back to the
Pastophorium and to the cell of Serapion, the recluse.

The old man heard from afar the younger man's footstep, which fell on the
earth with a firmer and more decided tread than that of the softly-
stepping priests of Serapis, and he greeted him warmly with signs and
words.

Publius thanked him coolly and gravely, and said, dryly enough and with
incisive brevity:

"My time is limited.  I propose shortly to quit Memphis, but I promised
you to hear your request, and in order to keep my word I have come to see
you; still--as I have said--only to keep my word.  The water-bearers of
whom you desired to speak to me do not interest me--I care no more about
them than about the swallows flying over the house yonder."

"And yet this morning you took a long walk for Klea's sake," returned
Serapion.

"I have often taken a much longer one to shoot a hare," answered the
Roman.  "We men do not pursue our game because the possession of it is
any temptation, but because we love the sport, and there are sporting
natures even among women.  Instead of spears or arrows they shoot with
flashing glances, and when they think they have hit their game they turn
their back upon it.  Your Klea is one of this sort, while the pretty
little one I saw this morning looks as if she were very ready to be
hunted, I however, no more wish to be the hunter of a young girl than to
be her game.  I have still three days to spend in Memphis, and then I
shall turn my back forever on this stupid country."

"This morning," said Serapion, who began to suspect what the grievance
might be which had excited the discontent implied in the Roman's speech,
"This morning you appeared to be in less hurry to set out than now, so to
me you seem to be in the plight of game trying to escape; however, I know
Klea better than you do.  Shooting is no sport of hers, nor will she let
herself be hunted, for she has a characteristic which you, my friend
Publius Scipio, ought to recognize and value above all others--she is
proud, very proud; aye, and so she may be, scornful as you look--as if
you would like to say 'how came a water-carrier of Serapis by her pride,
a poor creature who is ill-fed and always engaged in service, pride which
is the prescriptive right only of those, whom privilege raises above the
common herd around them?--But this girl, you may take my word for it, has
ample reason to hold her head high, not only because she is the daughter
of free and noble parents and is distinguished by rare beauty, not
because while she was still a child she undertook, with the devotion
and constancy of the best of mothers, the care of another child--her
own sister, but for a reason which, if I judge you rightly, you will
understand better than many another young man; because she must uphold
her pride in order that among the lower servants with whom unfortunately
she is forced to work, she may never forget that she is a free and noble
lady.  You can set your pride aside and yet remain what you are, but if
she were to do so and to learn to feel as a servant, she would presently
become in fact what by nature she is not and by circumstances is
compelled to be.  A fine horse made to carry burdens becomes a mere cart-
horse as soon as it ceases to hold up its head and lift its feet freely.
Klea is proud because she must be proud; and if you are just you will not
contemn the girl, who perhaps has cast a kindly glance at you--since the
gods have so made you that you cannot fail to please any woman--and yet
who must repel your approaches because she feels herself above being
trifled with, even by one of the Cornelia gens, and yet too lowly to dare
to hope that a man like you should ever stoop from your height to desire
her for a wife.  She has vexed you, of that there can be no doubt; how,
I can only guess.  If, however, it has been through her repellent pride,
that ought not to hurt you, for a woman is like a soldier, who only puts
on his armor when he is threatened by an opponent whose weapons he
fears."

The recluse had rather whispered than spoken these words, remembering
that he had neighbors; and as he ceased the drops stood on his brow, for
whenever any thing disturbed him he was accustomed to allow his powerful
voice to be heard pretty loudly, and it cost him no small effort to
moderate it for so long.

Publius had at first looked him in the face, and then had gazed at the
ground, and he had heard Serapion to the end without interrupting him;
but the color had flamed in his cheeks as in those of a schoolboy, and
yet he was an independent and resolute youth who knew how to conduct
himself in difficult straits as well as a man in the prime of life.
In all his proceedings he was wont to know very well, exactly what he
wanted, and to do without any fuss or comment whatever he thought right
and fitting.

During the anchorite's speech the question had occurred to him, what did
he in fact expect or wish of the water-bearer; but the answer was
wanting, he felt somewhat uncertain of himself, and his uncertainty and
dissatisfaction with himself increased as all that he heard struck him
more and more.  He became less and less inclined to let himself be thrown
over by the young girl who for some days had, much against his will, been
constantly in his thoughts, whose image he would gladly have dismissed
from his mind, but who, after the recluse's speech, seemed more desirable
than ever.  "Perhaps you are right," he replied after a short silence,
and he too lowered his voice, for a subdued tone generally provokes an
equally subdued answer.  "You know the maiden better than I, and if you
describe her correctly it would be as well that I should abide by my
decision and fly from Egypt, or, at any rate, from your protegees, since
nothing lies before me but a defeat or a victory, which could bring me
nothing but repentance.  Klea avoided my eye to-day as if it shed poison
like a viper's tooth, and I can have nothing more to do with her: still,
might I be informed how she came into this temple? and if I can be of any
service to her, I will-for your sake.  Tell me now what you know of her
and what you wish me to do."

The recluse nodded assent and beckoned Publius to come closer to him, and
bowing down to speak into the Roman's ear, he said softly: "Are you in
favor with the queen?"  Publius, having said that he was, Serapion, with
an exclamation of satisfaction, began his story.

"You learned this morning how I myself came into this cage, and that my
father was overseer of the temple granaries.  While I was wandering
abroad he was deposed from his office, and would probably have died in
prison, if a worthy man had not assisted him to save his honor and his
liberty.  All this does not concern you, and I may therefore keep it to
myself; but this man was the father of Klea and Irene, and the enemy by
whose instrumentality my father suffered innocently was the villain
Eulaeus.  You know--or perhaps indeed you may not know--that the priests
have to pay a certain tribute for the king's maintenance; you know?  To
be sure, you Romans trouble yourselves more about matters of law and
administration than the culture of the arts or the subtleties of thought.
Well, it was my father's duty to pay these customs over to Eulaeus, who
received them; but the beardless effeminate vermin, the glutton--may
every peach he ever ate or ever is to eat turn to poison!--kept back half
of what was delivered to him, and when the accountants found nothing but
empty air in the king's stores where they hoped to find corn and woven
goods, they raised an alarm, which of course came to the ears of the
powerful thief at court before it reached those of my poor father.  You
called Egypt a marvellous country, or something like it; and so in truth
it is, not merely on account of the great piles there that you call
Pyramids and such like, but because things happen here which in Rome
would be as impossible as moonshine at mid-day, or a horse with his tail
at the end of his nose!  Before a complaint could be laid against Eulaeus
he had accused my father of the peculation, and before the Epistates and
the assessor of the district had even looked at the indictment, their
judgment on the falsely accused man was already recorded, for Eulaeus had
simply bought their verdict just as a man buys a fish or a cabbage in the
market.  In olden times the goddess of justice was represented in this
country with her eyes shut, but now she looks round on the world like a
squinting woman who winks at the king with one eye, and glances with the
other at the money in the hand of the accuser or the accused.  My poor
father was of course condemned and thrown into prison, where he was
beginning to doubt the justice of the gods, when for his sake the
greatest wonder happened, ever seen in this land of wonders since first
the Greeks ruled in Alexandria.  An honorable man undertook without fear
of persons the lost cause of the poor condemned wretch, and never rested
till he had restored him to honor and liberty.  But imprisonment,
disgrace and indignation had consumed the strength of the ill-used man
as a worm eats into cedar wood, and he fell into a decline and died.  His
preserver, Klea's father, as the reward of his courageous action fared
even worse; for here by the Nile virtues are punished in this world, as
crimes are with you.  Where injustice holds sway frightful things occur,
for the gods seem to take the side of the wicked.  Those who do not
hope for a reward in the next world, if they are neither fools nor
philosophers--which often comes to the same thing--try to guard
themselves against any change in this.

"Philotas, the father of the two girls, whose parents were natives of
Syracuse, was an adherent of the doctrines of Zeno--which have many
supporters among you at Rome too--and he was highly placed as an
official, for he was president of the Chrematistoi, a college of judges
which probably has no parallel out of Egypt, and which has been kept up
better than any other.  It travels about from province to province
stopping in the chief towns to administer justice.  When an appeal is
brought against the judgment of the court of justice belonging to any
place--over which the Epistates of the district presides--the case is
brought before the Chrematistoi, who are generally strangers alike to
the accuser and accused; by them it is tried over again, and thus the
inhabitants of the provinces are spared the journey to Alexandria or--
since the country has been divided--to Memphis, where, besides, the
supreme court is overburdened with cases.

"No former president of the Chrematistoi had ever enjoyed a higher
reputation than Philotas.  Corruption no more dared approach him than a
sparrow dare go near a falcon, and he was as wise as he was just, for he
was no less deeply versed in the ancient Egyptian law than in that of the
Greeks, and many a corrupt judge reconsidered matters as soon as it
became known that he was travelling with the Chrematistoi, and passed a
just instead of an unjust sentence.

"Cleopatra, the widow of Epiphanes, while she was living and acting as
guardian of her sons Philometor and Euergetes--who now reign in Memphis
and Alexandria--held Philotas in the highest esteem and conferred on him
the rank of 'relation to the king'; but she was just dead when this
worthy man took my father's cause in hand, and procured his release from
prison.

"The scoundrel Eulaeus and his accomplice Lenaeus then stood at the
height of power, for the young king, who was not yet of age, let himself
be led by them like a child by his nurse.

"Now as my father was an honest man, no one but Eulaeus could be the
rascal, and as the Chrematistoi threatened to call him before their
tribunal the miserable creature stirred up the war in Caelo-Syria against
Antiochus Epiphanes, the king's uncle.

"You know how disgraceful for us was the course of that enterprise, how
Philometor was defeated near Pelusium, and by the advice of Eulaeus
escaped with his treasure to Samothrace, how Philometor's brother
Euergetes was set up as king in Alexandria, how Antiochus took Memphis,
and then allowed his elder nephew to continue to reign here as though he
were his vassal and ward.

"It was during  this  period  of humiliation, that Eulaeus was able to
evade Philotas, whom he may very well have feared, as though his own
conscience walked the earth on two legs in the person of the judge, with
the sword of justice in his hand, and telling all men what a scoundrel he
was.

"Memphis had opened her gates to Antiochus without offering much
resistance, and the Syrian king, who was a strange man and was fond of
mixing among the people as if he himself were a common man, applied to
Philotas, who was as familiar with Egyptian manners and customs as with
those of Greece, in order that he might conduct him into the halls of
justice and into the market-places; and he made him presents as was his
way, sometimes of mere rubbish and sometimes of princely gifts.

"Then when Philometor was freed by the Romans from the protection of the
Syrian king, and could govern in Memphis as an independent sovereign,
Eulaeus accused the father of these two girls of having betrayed Memphis
into the hands of Antiochus, and never rested till the innocent man was
deprived of his wealth, which was considerable, and sent with his wife to
forced labor in the gold mines of Ethiopia.

"When all this occurred I had already returned to my cage here; but I
heard from my brother Glaucus--who was captain of the watch in the
palace, and who learned a good many things before other people did--
what was going on out there, and I succeeded in having the daughters
of Philotas secretly brought to this temple, and preserved from sharing
their parents' fate.  That is now five years ago, and now you know how it
happens, that the daughters of a man of rank carry water for the altar of
Serapis, and that I would rather an injury should be done to me than to
them, and that I would rather see Eulaeus eating some poisonous root than
fragrant peaches."

"And is Philotas still working in the mines?"  asked the Roman, clenching
his teeth with rage.

"Yes, Publius," replied the anchorite.  "A 'yes' that it is easy to say,
and it is just as easy too to clench one's fists in indignation--but it
is hard to imagine the torments that must be endured by a man like
Philotas; and a noble and innocent woman--as beautiful as Hera and
Aphrodite in one--when they are driven to hard and unaccustomed labor
under a burning sun by the lash of the overseer.  Perhaps by this time
they have been happy enough to die under their sufferings and their
daughters are already orphans, poor children!  No one here but the high-
priest knows precisely who they are, for if Eulaeus were to learn the
truth he would send them after their parents as surely as my name is
Serapion."

"Let him try it!" cried Publius, raising his right fist threateningly.

"Softly, softly, my friend," said the recluse, "and not now only, but
about everything which you under take in behalf of the sisters, for a man
like Eulaeus hears not only with his own ears but with those of thousand
others, and almost everything that occurs at court has to go through his
hands as epistolographer.  You say the queen is well-disposed towards
you.  That is worth a great deal, for her husband is said to be guided by
her will, and such a thing as Eulaeus cannot seem particularly estimable
in Cleopatra's eyes if princesses are like other women--and I know them
well."

"And even if he were," interrupted Publius with glowing cheeks, "I would
bring him to ruin all the same, for a man like Philotas must not perish,
and his cause henceforth is my own.  Here is my hand upon it; and if I am
happy in having descended from a noble race it is above all because the
word of a son of the Cornelii is as good as the accomplished deed of any
other man."

The recluse grasped the right hand the young man gave him and nodded to
him affectionately, his eyes radiant, though moistened with joyful
emotion.  Then he hastily turned his back on the young man, and soon
reappeared with a large papyrus-roll in his hand.  "Take this," he said,
handing it to the Roman, "I have here set forth all that I have told you,
fully and truly with my own hand in the form of a petition.  Such
matters, as I very well know, are never regularly conducted to an issue
at court unless they are set forth in writing.  If the queen seems
disposed to grant you a wish give her this roll, and entreat her for a
letter of pardon.  If you can effect this, all is won."

Publius took the roll, and once more gave his hand to the anchorite, who,
forgetting himself for a moment, shouted out in his loud voice:

"May the gods bless thee, and by thy means work the release of the
noblest of men from his sufferings!  I had quite ceased to hope, but if
you come to our aid all is not yet wholly lost."



CHAPTER VI.

"Pardon me if I disturb you."

With these words the anchorite's final speech was interrupted by Eulaeus,
who had come in to the Pastophorium softly and unobserved, and who now
bowed respectfully to Publius.

"May I be permitted to enquire on what compact one of the noblest of the
sons of Rome is joining hands with this singular personage?"

"You are free to ask," replied Publius shortly and drily, "but every one
is not disposed to answer, and on the present occasion I am not.  I will
bid you farewell, Serapion, but not for long I believe."

"Am I permitted to accompany you?"  asked Eulaeus.

"You have followed me without any permission on my part."

"I did so by order of the king, and am only fulfilling his commands in
offering you my escort now."

"I shall go on, and I cannot prevent your following me."

"But I beg of you," said Eulaeus, "to consider that it would ill-become
me to walk behind you like a servant."

"I respect the wishes of my host, the king, who commanded you to follow
me," answered the Roman.  "At the door of the temple however you can get
into your chariot, and I into mine; an old courtier must be ready to
carry out the orders of his superior."

"And does carry them out," answered Eulaeus with deference, but his eyes
twinkled--as the forked tongue of a serpent is rapidly put out and still
more rapidly withdrawn--with a flash first of threatening hatred, and
then another of deep suspicion cast at the roll the Roman held in his
hand.

Publius heeded not this glance, but walked quickly towards the acacia-
grove; the recluse looked after the ill-matched pair, and as he watched
the burly Eulaeus following the young man, he put both his hands on his
hips, puffed out his fat cheeks, and burst into loud laughter as soon as
the couple had vanished behind the acacias.

When once Serapion's midriff was fairly tickled it was hard to reduce it
to calm again, and he was still laughing when Klea appeared in front of
his cell some few minutes after the departure of the Roman.  He was about
to receive his young friend with a cheerful greeting, but, glancing at
her face, he cried anxiously;

"You look as if you had met with a ghost; your lips are pale instead of
red, and there are dark shades round your eyes.  What has happened to
you, child?  Irene went with you to the procession, that I know.  Have
you had bad news of your parents?  You shake your head.  Come, child,
perhaps you are thinking of some one more than you ought; how the color
rises in your cheeks!  Certainly handsome Publius, the Roman, must have
looked into your eyes--a splendid youth is he--a fine young man--
a capital good fellow--"

"Say no more on that subject," Klea exclaimed, interrupting her friend
and protector, and waving her hand in the air as if to cut off the other
half of Serapion's speech.  "I can hear nothing more about him."

"Has he addressed you unbecomingly?"  asked the recluse.

"Yes!" said Klea, turning crimson, and with a vehemence quite foreign
to her usual gentle demeanor, "yes, he persecutes me incessantly with
challenging looks."

"Only with looks?"  said the anchorite.  "But we may look even at the
glorious sun and at the lovely flowers as much as we please, and they are
not offended."

"The sun is too high and the soulless flowers too humble for a man to
hurt them," replied Klea.  "But the Roman is neither higher nor lower
than I, the eye speaks as plain a language as the tongue, and what his
eyes demand of me brings the blood to my cheeks and stirs my indignation
even now when I only think of it."

"And that is why you avoid his gaze so carefully?"

"Who told you that?"

"Publius himself; and because he is wounded by your hard-heartedness he
meant to quit Egypt; but I have persuaded him to remain, for if there is
a mortal living from whom I expect any good for you and yours--"

"It is certainly not he," said Klea positively.  "You are a man, and
perhaps you now think that so long as you were young and free to wander
about the world you would not have acted differently from him--it is a
man's privilege; but if you could look into my soul or feel with the
heart of a woman, you would think differently.  Like the sand of the
desert which is blown over the meadows and turns all the fresh verdure to
a hideous brown-like a storm that transforms the blue mirror of the sea
into a crisped chaos of black whirl pools and foaming ferment, this man's
imperious audacity has cruelly troubled my peace of heart.  Four times
his eyes pursued me in the processions; yesterday I still did not
recognize my danger, but to-day--I must tell you, for you are like a
father to me, and who else in the world can I confide in?--to-day I was
able to avoid his gaze, and yet all through long endless hours of the
festival I felt his eyes constantly seeking mine.  I should have been
certain I was under no delusion, even if Publius Scipio--but what
business has his name on my lips?--even if the Roman had not boasted to
you of his attacks on a defenceless girl.  And to think that you, you of
all others, should have become his ally!  But you would not, no indeed
you would not, if you knew how I felt at the procession while I was
looking down at the ground, and knew that his very look desecrated me
like the rain that washed all the blossoms off the young vine-shoots last
year.  It was just as if he were drawing a net round my heart--but, oh!
what a net!  It was as if the flax on a distaff had been set on fire, and
the flames spun out into thin threads, and the meshes knotted of the
fiery yarn.  I felt every thread and knot burning into my soul, and could
not cast it off nor even defend myself.  Aye! you may look grieved and
shake your head, but so it was, and the scars hurt me still with a pain
I cannot utter."

"But Klea," interrupted Serapion, "you are quite beside yourself--like
one possessed.  Go to the temple and pray, or, if that is of no avail,
go to Asclepios or Anubis and have the demon cast out."

"I need none of your gods!"  answered the girl in great agitation.
"Oh!  I wish you had left me to my fate, and that we had shared the lot
of our parents, for what threatens us here is more frightful than having
to sift gold-dust in the scorching sun, or to crush quartz in mortars.
I did not come to you to speak about the Roman, but to tell you what the
high-priest had just disclosed to me since the procession ended."

"Well?"  asked Serapion eager and almost frightened, stretching out his
neck to put his head near to the girl's, and opening his eyes so wide
that the loose skin below them almost disappeared.

"First he told me," replied Klea, "how meagrely the revenues of the
temple are supplied--"

"That is quite true," interrupted the anchorite, "for Antiochus carried
off the best part of its treasure; and the crown, which always used to
have money to spare for the sanctuaries of Egypt, now loads our estates
with heavy tribute; but you, as it seems to me, were kept scantily
enough, worse than meanly, for, as I know--since it passed through my
hands--a sum was paid to the temple for your maintenance which would have
sufficed to keep ten hungry sailors, not speak of two little pecking
birds like you, and besides that you do hard service without any pay.
Indeed it would be a more profitable speculation to steal a beggar's rags
than to rob you!  Well, what did the high-priest want?"

"He says that we have been fed and protected by the priesthood for five
years, that now some danger threatens the temple on our account, and that
we must either quit the sanctuary or else make up our minds to take the
place of the twin-sisters Arsinoe and Doris who have hitherto been
employed in singing the hymns of lamentation, as Isis and Nephthys, by
the bier of the deceased god on the occasion of the festivals of the
dead, and in pouring out the libations with wailing and outcries when the
bodies were brought into the temple to be blessed.  These maidens,
Asclepiodorus says, are now too old and ugly for these duties, but the
temple is bound to maintain them all their lives.  The funds of the
temple are insufficient to support two more serving maidens besides them
and us, and so Arsinoe and Doris are only to pour out the libations for
the future, and we are to sing the laments, and do the wailing."

"But you are not twins!"  cried Serapion.  "And none but twins--so say
the ordinances--may mourn for Osiris as Isis and Neplithys."

"They will make twins of us!"  said Klea with a scornful turn of her lip.
"Irene's hair is to be dyed black like mine, and the soles of her sandals
are to be made thicker to make her as tall as I am."

"They would hardly succeed in making you smaller than you are, and it is
easier to make light hair dark than dark hair light," said Serapion with
hardly suppressed rage.  "And what answer did you give to these
exceedingly original proposals?"

"The only one I could very well give.  I said no--but I declared myself
ready, not from fear, but because we owe much to the temple, to perform
any other service with Irene, only not this one."

"And Asclepiodorus?"

"He said nothing unkind to me, and preserved his calm and polite demeanor
when I contradicted him, though he fixed his eyes on me several times in
astonishment as if he had discovered in me something quite new and
strange.  At last he went on to remind me how much trouble the temple
singing-master had taken with us, how well my low voice went with Irene's
high one, how much applause we might gain by a fine performance of the
hymns of lamentation, and how he would be willing, if we undertook the
duties of the twin-sisters, to give us a better dwelling and more
abundant food.  I believe he has been trying to make us amenable by
supplying us badly with food, just as falcons are trained by hunger.
Perhaps I am doing him an injustice, but I feel only too much disposed
to-day to think the worst of him and of the other fathers.  Be that as it
may; at any rate he made me no further answer when I persisted in my
refusal, but dismissed me with an injunction to present myself before him
again in three days' time, and then to inform him definitively whether
I would conform to his wishes, or if I proposed to leave the temple.
I bowed and went towards the door, and was already on the threshold when
he called me back once more, and said: 'Remember your parents and their
fate!'  He spoke solemnly, almost threateningly, but he said no more and
hastily turned his back on me.  What could he mean to convey by this
warning?  Every day and every hour I think of my father and mother,
and keep Irene in mind of them."

The recluse at these words sat muttering thoughtfully to himself for a
few minutes with a discontented air; then he said gravely:

"Asclepiodorus meant more by his speech than you think.  Every sentence
with which he dismisses a refractory subordinate is a nut of which the
shell must be cracked in order to get at the kernel.  When he tells you
to remember your parents and their sad fate, such words from his lips,
and under the present circumstances, can hardly mean anything else than
this: that you should not forget how easily your father's fate might
overtake you also, if once you withdrew yourselves from the protection of
the temple.  It was not for nothing that Asclepiodorus--as you yourself
told me quite lately, not more than a week ago I am sure--reminded you
how often those condemned to forced labor in the mines had their
relations sent after them.  Ah!  child, the words of Asclepiodorus have a
sinister meaning.  The calmness and pride, with which you look at me make
me fear for you, and yet, as you know, I am not one of the timid and
tremulous.  Certainly what they propose to you is repulsive enough, but
submit to it; it is to be hoped it will not be for long.  Do it for my
sake and for that of poor Irene, for though you might know how to assert
your dignity and take care of yourself outside these walls in the rough
and greedy world, little Irene never could.  And besides, Klea, my
sweetheart, we have now found some one, who makes your concerns his, and
who is great and powerful--but oh! what are three clays?  To think of
seeing you turned out--and then that you may be driven with a dissolute
herd in a filthy boat down to the burning south, and dragged to work
which kills first the soul and then the body!  No, it is not possible!
You will never let this happen to me--and to yourself and Irene; no, my
darling, no, my pet, my sweetheart, you cannot, you will not do so.  Are
you not my children, my daughters, my only joy?  and you, would you go
away, and leave me alone in my cage, all because you are so proud!"

The strong man's voice failed him, and heavy drops fell from his eyes one
after another down his beard, and on to Klea's arm, which he had grasped
with both hands.

The girl's eyes too were dim with a mist of warm tears when she saw her
rough friend weeping, but she remained firm and said, as she tried to
free her hand from his:

"You know very well, father Serapion, that there is much to tie me to
this temple; my sister, and you, and the door-keeper's child, little
Philo.  It would be cruel, dreadful to have to leave you; but I would
rather endure that and every other grief than allow Irene to take the
place of Arsinoe or the black Doris as wailing woman.  Think of that
bright child, painted and kneeling at the foot of a bier and groaning
and wailing in mock sorrow!  She would become a living lie in human form,
an object of loathing to herself, and to me--who stand in the place of a
mother to her--from morning till night a martyrizing reproach!  But what
do I care about myself--I would disguise myself as the goddess without
even making a wry face, and be led to the bier, and wail and groan so
that every hearer would be cut to the heart, for my soul is already
possessed by sorrow; it is like the eyes of a man, who has gone blind
from the constant flow of salt tears.  Perhaps singing the hymns of
lamentation might relieve my soul, which is as full of sorrow as an
overbrimming cup; but I would rather that a cloud should for ever darken
the sun, that mists should hide every star from my eyes, and the air I
breathe be poisoned by black smoke than disguise her identity, and darken
her soul, or let her clear laugh be turned to shrieks of lamentation, and
her fresh and childlike spirit be buried in gloomy mourning.  Sooner will
I go way with her and leave even you, to perish with my parents in misery
and anguish than see that happen, or suffer it for a moment."

As she spoke Serapion covered his face with his hands, and Klea, hastily
turning away from him, with a deep sigh returned to her room.

Irene was accustomed when she heard her step to hasten to meet her, but
to-day no one came to welcome her, and in their room, which was beginning
to be dark as twilight fell, she did not immediately catch sight of her
sister, for she was sitting all in a heap in a corner of the room, her
face hidden, in her hands and weeping quietly.

"What is the matter?"  asked Klea, going tenderly up to the weeping
child, over whom she bent, endeavoring to raise her.

"Leave me," said Irene sobbing; she turned away from her sister with an
impatient gesture, repelling her caress like a perverse child; and then,
when Klea tried to soothe her by affectionately stroking her hair, she
sprang up passionately exclaiming through her tears:

"I could not help crying--and, from this hour, I must always have to cry.
The Corinthian Lysias spoke to me so kindly after the procession, and
you--you don't care about me at all and leave me alone all this time in
this nasty dusty hole!  I declare I will not endure it any longer, and if
you try to keep me shut up, I will run away from this temple, for outside
it is all bright and pleasant, and here it is dingy and horrid!"



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

A mere nothing in one man's life, to another may be great
A subdued tone generally provokes an equally subdued answer
Air of a professional guide
Before you serve me up so bitter a meal (the truth)
Blind tenderness which knows no reason
By nature she is not and by circumstances is compelled to be
Deceit is deceit
Desire to seek and find a power outside us
Inquisitive eyes are intrusive company
Many a one would rather be feared than remain unheeded
Not yet fairly come to the end of yesterday
The altar where truth is mocked at
Virtues are punished in this world
Who can be freer than he who needs nothing
Who only puts on his armor when he is threatened





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