“That is,” said her mother, “if everybody was as courteous and as well bred as Gorgias, Lysias, and the others, we would gladly continue to receive them. But since there are rude fellows like Antyllus—”
“You have understood the story correctly,” Barine interrupted. “We are certainly at liberty to invite to our house those who have learned to read our inscription. To-morrow visitors will be informed that we can no longer receive them as before.”
“Antyllus’s conduct affords an excellent pretext,” her mother added. “Every fair-minded person must understand—”
“Certainly,” said Barine, “and if you, shrewdest of women, will do your part—
“Then for the first time we can act as we please in our own home. Believe me, child—if you only do not—”
“No ifs!—not this time!” cried the young beauty, raising her hand beseechingly. “It gives me such delight to think of the new life, and if matters come to pass as I hope and wish—then—do not you also believe, mother, that the gods owe me reparation?”
“For what?” asked the deep voice of Archibius, who had entered unannounced, and was now first noticed by the widow and her daughter.
Barine hastily rose and held out both hands to her old friend, exclaiming, “Since they bring you to us, they are already beginning the payment.”
An artist, especially a great artist, finds it easy to give his house an attractive appearance. He desires comfort in it, and only the beautiful is comfortable to him. Whatever would disturb harmony offends his eye, and to secure the noblest ornament of his house he need not invite any stranger to cross its threshold. The Muse, the best of assistants, joins him unbidden.
Leonax, Barine’s father, had been thus aided to transform the interior of his house into a very charming residence. He had painted on the walls of his own work-room incidents in the life of Alexander the Great, the founder of his native city, and on the frieze a procession of dancing Cupids.
Here Barine now received her guests, and the renown of these paintings was not one of the smallest inducements which had led Antony to visit the young beauty and to take his son, in whom he wished to awaken at least a fleeting pleasure in art. He also knew how to prize her beauty and her singing, but the ardent passion which had taken possession of him in his mature years was for Cleopatra alone. He whose easily won heart and susceptible fancy had urged him from one commonplace love to another had been bound by the Queen with chains of indestructible and supernatural power. By her side a Barine seemed to him merely a work of art endowed with life and a voice that charmed the ear. Yet he owed her some pleasant hours, and he could not help bestowing gifts upon any one to whom he was indebted for anything pleasant. He liked to be considered the most generous spendthrift