MASTER AND SLAVE
Now a hush of expectancy fell upon the crowd, till presently two attendants appeared, each of them holding in his hand a flaming torch, and between them the captive Pearl-Maiden. So beautiful did she look as she advanced thus with bowed head, the red light of the torches falling upon her white robe and breast and reflected in a faint, shimmering line from the collar of pearls about her neck, that even that jaded company clapped as she came. In another moment she had mounted the two steps and was standing on the block of marble. The crowd pressed closer, among them the merchant of Egypt, Demetrius, and the veiled woman with the basket, who was now attended by a little man dressed as a slave and bearing on his back another basket, the weight of which he seemed to find irksome, since from time to time he groaned and twisted his shoulders. Also the chamberlain, Saturius, secure in the authority of his master, stepped over the rope and against the rule began to walk round and round the captive, examining her critically.
“Look at her!” said the auctioneer. “Look for yourselves. I have nothing to say, words fail me—unless it is this. For more than twenty years I have stood in this rostrum, and during that time I suppose that fifteen or sixteen thousand young women have been knocked down to my hammer. They have come out of every part of the world; from the farthest East, from the Grecian mountains, from Egypt and Cyprus, from the Spanish plains, from Gaul, from the people of the Teutons, from the island of the Britons, and other barbarous places that lie still further north. Among them were many beautiful women, of every style and variety of loveliness, yet I tell you honestly, my patrons, I do not remember one who came so near perfection as this maiden whom I have the honour to sell to-night. I say again—look at her, look at her, and tell me with what you can find fault.
“What do you say? Oh! yes, I am informed that her teeth are quite sound, there is no blemish to conceal, none at all, and the hair is all her own. That gentleman says that she is rather small. Well, she is not built upon a large scale, and to my mind that is one of her attractions. Little and good, you know, little and good. Only consider the proportions. Why, the greatest sculptors, ancient or modern, would rejoice to have her as model, and I hope that in the interests of the art-loving public”—here he glanced at the Chamberlain, Saturius—“that the fortunate person into whose hands she passes will not be so selfish as to deny them this satisfaction.