“That is perfectly true,” answered Bias, “but she had to atone cruelly for this triumph; the goddess struck her on the forehead with the weaver’s shuttle, and when, in her shame and rage, she tried to hang herself, she was transformed into the spider.”
Ledscha stood still, and, while drawing the veil over her pallid face, asked with quivering lips, “And is there no other Arachne?”
“Not among mortals,” was the reply, “but even here in this house there are more than enough of the disagreeable, creeping creatures which bear the same name.”
Ledscha now went clown the steps which led to the lawn, and Bias saw that she stumbled on the last one and would have fallen had not her lithe body regained its balance in time.
“A bad omen!” thought the slave. “If I had the power to build a wall between my master and the spider yonder, it should be higher than the lighthouse of Sostratus. To heed omens guides one safely through life. I know what I know, and will keep my eyes open, for my master too.”
Hermon had intended to add a few more touches to his Demeter, but he could not do it. Ledscha, her demand, and the resentment with which she had left him, were not to be driven from his mind.
There was no doubt that he must seek her if he was not to lose her, yet he reproached himself for having acted like a thoughtless fool when he proposed to divide the night between her and Daphne.
There was something offensive in the proposal to so proud a creature. He ought to have promised positively to come, and then left the banquet somewhat earlier. It would have been easy to apologize for his late arrival, and Ledscha would have had no cause to be angry with him.
Now she had, and her resentment awakened in him—though he certainly did not lack manly courage—an uncomfortable feeling closely allied to anxiety.
Angered by his own conduct, he asked himself whether he loved the barbarian, and could find no satisfactory answer.
At their first meeting he had felt that she was far superior to the other Biamite maidens, not only in beauty but in everything else. The very acerbity of her nature had seemed charming. To win this wonderful, pliant creature, slender as a cypress, whose independence merged into fierce obstinacy, had appeared to him worth any sacrifice; and having perceived in her an admirable model for his Arachne, he had also determined to brave the dangers which might easily arise for the Greek from a love affair with a Biamite girl, whose family was free and distinguished.
It had been easier for him to win her heart than he expected; yet at none of the meetings which she granted him had he rejoiced in the secret bond between them.
Hitherto her austere reserve had been invincible, and during the greater part of their interviews he had been compelled to exert all his influence to soothe, appease her, and atone for imprudent acts which he had committed.