When Felix at last looked up, the lamp was low, the moonbeams had entered and fell upon the polished floor, and from the window he could see a long white ghostly line of mist where a streamlet ran at the base of the slope by the forest. The songs were silent; there was no sound save the distant neigh of a horse and the heavy tramp of a guest coming along the gallery. Half bewildered by poring over the magic scroll, full of the signs and the demons, and still with a sense of injury and jealousy cankering his heart, Felix retired to his couch, and, weary beyond measure, instantly fell asleep.
In his unsettled state of mind it did not once occur to him to ask himself how the manuscript came to be upon his table. Rare as they were, books were not usually put upon the tables of guests, and at an ordinary time he would certainly have thought it peculiar. The fact was, that Aurora, whom all day he had inwardly accused of forgetting him, had placed it there for him with her own hands. She, too, was curious in books and fond of study. She had very recently bought the volume from a merchant who had come thus far, and who valued it the least of all his wares.
She knew that Felix had read and re-read every other scrap of writing there was in the castle, and thought that this strange book might interest him, giving, as it did, details of those powers of the air in which almost all fully believed. Unconscious of this attention, Felix fell asleep, angry and bitter against her. When, half an hour afterwards, Oliver blundered into the room, a little unsteady on his legs, notwithstanding his mighty strength, he picked up the roll, glanced at it, flung it down with contempt, and without a minute’s delay sought and obtained slumber.
At ten in the morning next day the feast began with a drama from Sophocles, which was performed in the open air. The theatre was in the gardens between the wall and the inner stockade; the spectators sat on the slope, tier above tier; the actors appeared upon a green terrace below, issuing from an arbour and passing off behind a thick box-hedge on the other side of the terrace. There was no scenery whatever.
Aurora had selected the Antigone. There were not many dramatists from whom to choose, for so many English writers, once famous, had dropped out of knowledge and disappeared. Yet some of the far more ancient Greek and Roman classics remained because they contained depth and originality of ideas in small compass. They had been copied in manuscripts by thoughtful men from the old printed books before they mouldered away, and their manuscripts being copied again, these works were handed down. The books which came into existence with printing had never been copied by the pen, and had consequently nearly disappeared. Extremely long and diffuse, it was found, too, that so many of them were but enlargements of ideas or sentiments which had been expressed in a few words by the classics. It is so much easier to copy an epigram of two lines than a printed book of hundreds of pages, and hence it was that Sophocles had survived while much more recent writers had been lost.