Then he turned quickly toward the house, to which a signal from his slave Bias summoned him.
As soon as Hermon had disappeared behind the door Daphne begged Myrtilus to accompany her into the tent.
After taking their seats there, the anxious exclamation escaped her lips: “How excited he became again! The stay in Tennis does not seem to agree with you—you are coughing, and father expected so much benefit to your ailment from the pure moist air, and to Hermon still more from the lonely life here in your society. But I have rarely seen him more strongly enlisted in behalf of the tendency opposed to beauty.”
“Then your father must be satisfied with the good effect which our residence here has exerted upon me,” replied Myrtilus. “I know that he was thinking of my illness when he proposed to us to complete his commissions here. Hermon—the good fellow!—could never have been induced to leave his Alexandria, had not the hope of thereby doing me a kindness induced him to follow me. I will add it to the many for which I am already indebted to his friendship. As for art, he will go his own way, and any opposition would be futile. A goddess—he perceives it himself—was certainly the most unfortunate subject possible for his—”
“Is his Demeter a complete failure?” asked Daphne anxiously.
“Certainly not,” replied Myrtilus eagerly.
“The head is even one of his very best. Only the figure awakens grave doubts. In the effort to be faithful to reality, the fear of making concessions to beauty, he lapsed into ungraceful angularity and a sturdiness which, in my opinion, would be unpleasing even in a mortal woman. The excess of unbridled power again makes it self visible in the wonderfully gifted man. Many things reached him too late, and others too soon.”
Daphne eagerly asked what he meant by these words, and Myrtilus replied: “Surely you know how he became a sculptor. Your father had intended him to be his successor in business, but Hermon felt the vocation to become an artist—probably first in my studio—awake with intense force. While I early placed myself under the instruction of the great Bryaxis, he was being trained for a merchant’s life. When he was to guide the reed in the countinghouse, he sketched; when he was sent to the harbour to direct the loading of the ships, he became absorbed in gazing at the statues placed there. In the warehouse he secretly modelled, instead of attending to the bales of goods. You are certainly aware what a sad breach occurred then, and how long Hermon was restrained before he succeeded in turning his back upon trade.”
“My father meant so kindly toward him,” Daphne protested. “He was appointed guardian to you both. You are rich, and therefore he aided in every possible way your taste for art; but Hermon did not inherit from his parents a single drachm, and so my father saw the most serious struggles awaiting him if he devoted himself to sculpture. And, besides, he had destined his nephew to become his successor, the head of one of the largest commercial houses in the city.”