What did it mean?
A sudden flush crimsoned her face, now slightly tanned, to the brow, and her lips were compressed, giving her mouth an expression of repellent, almost cruel harshness.
But the tension of her charming features, whose lines, though sharp, were delicately outlined, soon vanished. There was still plenty of time before the darkness would permit Hermon to join her unnoticed. A reception, from which he could not be absent, was evidently about to take place.
Yes, that was certainly the case; for now the magnificent galley had approached as near the land as the shallow water permitted, and the whistle of the rowers’ flute-player, shouts of command, and the barking of dogs could be heard.
Then a handkerchief waved a greeting from the vessel to the men on shore, but the hand that held it was a woman’s. Ledscha would have recognised it had the twilight been far deeper.
The features of the new arrival could no longer be distinguished; but she must be young. An elderly woman would not have sprung so nimbly into the skiff that was to convey her to the land.
The man who assisted her in doing so was the same sculptor, Hermon, for whom she had watched with so much longing.
Again the blood mounted into Ledscha’s cheeks, and when she saw the stranger lay her hand upon the shoulder of the Alexandrian who, only yesterday, had assured the young girl of his love with ardent vows, and allow him to lift her out of the boat, she buried her little white teeth deeply in her lips.
She had never seen Hermon in the society of a woman of his own class, and, full of jealous displeasure; perceived with what zealous assiduity he who bowed before no one in Tennis, paid court to the stranger no less eagerly than did his friend Myrtilus.
The whole scene passed like a shadow in the dusk before Ledscha’s eyes, half dimmed by uneasiness, perplexity, and suddenly inflamed jealousy.
The Egyptian twilight is short, and when Hermon disappeared with the new-comer it was no longer possible to recognise the man who entered the very boat in which she was to have taken the nocturnal voyage with her lover, and which was now rowed toward the Owl’s Nest.
Surely it would bring her a message from Hermon; and as the stranger, who was now joined by a number of other women and two packs of barking dogs, with their keepers, vanished in the darkness, the skiff already touched the shore close at her side.
In spite of the surrounding gloom, Ledscha recognised the man who left the boat.
The greeting he shouted told her that it was Hermon’s slave, Pias, a Biamite, whom she had met in the house of some neighbours who were his relatives and had sharply rebuffed when he ventured to accost her more familiarly than was seemly for one in bondage.
True, in his childhood this man had lived near Tennis as the son of a free papyrus raiser, but when still a lad was sold into slavery in Alexandria with his father, who had been seized for taking part in an insurrection against the last king.