Daphne, joyously excited, held out her hand to the artist, exclaiming: “Oh, how kind that is! Yet how was it possible, since I posed neither to him nor to you?”
“Hermon had finished your bust only a short time before, and you permitted me to use your head for my statue of the goddess of Peace, which went down with the ship on the voyage to Ostia. This was at the disposal of us both in three or four reproductions, and, besides, it hovered before our mental vision clearly enough. When the time to show you our work arrives, you will be surprised to discover how differently two persons see and copy the same object.”
“Now that I know so much, and have a certain share in your works, I insist upon seeing them!” cried Daphne with far greater impetuosity than usual. “Tell Hermon so, and remind him that I shall at any rate expect him to meet the Pelusinian guests at the banquet. Threaten him seriously with my grave displeasure if he persists in leaving it speedily.”
“I will not fail to do my part,” replied Myrtilus; “but as to your wish to see the two Demeters—”
“That will come to pass,” interrupted Daphne, “as soon as we three are together again like a clover leaf.” She returned the sculptor’s farewell greeting as she spoke, but before he reached the entrance to the tent she again detained him with the exclamation: “Only this one thing more: Does Hermon deceive himself when he hopes so confidently for success with the weaver, Arachne?”
“Hardly—if the model whom he desires does not fail him.”
“Is she beautiful, and did he find her here in Tennis?” asked Daphne, trying to assume an indifferent manner; but Myrtilus was not deceived, and answered gaily: “That’s the way people question children to find out things. Farewell until the banquet, fair curiosity!”
The slave Bias had not gone to the hunting party with his master. He had never been fit for such expeditions, since the Egyptian guard who took him to the slave market for sale crippled the arch-traitor’s son’s left leg by a blow, but he was all the more useful in the house, and even the keenest eye could scarcely now perceive the injury which lessened his commercial value.
He had prepared everything his master would need to shoot the birds very early in the morning, and after helping the men push the boats into the water, he, too, remained out of doors.
The old Nubian doorkeeper’s little badger dog ran to meet him, as usual, barking loudly, and startled a flock of sparrows, which flew up directly in front of Bias and fluttered to and fro in confusion.
The slave regarded this as an infallible omen, and when Stephanion, Daphne’s maid, who had grown gray in the household of Archias, and though a freed woman still worked in the old way, came out of the tent, he called to her the gay Greek greeting, “Rejoice!” pointed to the sparrows, and eagerly continued: “How one flies above another! how they flutter and chirp and twitter! It will be a busy day.”