“The Nemesis of the barbarians!” he retorted contemptuously. “She only placed herself at the service of my art reluctantly; but you, Althea, if you will loan yourself to me as a model, I shall succeed in doing my very best; for you have just permitted me to behold a miracle, Arachne herself, whom you became, you enchantress. It was real, actual life, and that—that is the highest goal.”
“The highest?” she asked hesitatingly. “You will have to represent the female form, and beauty, Hermon, beauty?”
“Will be there, allied with truth,” flamed Hermon, “if you, you peerless, more than beautiful creature, keep your word to me. But you will! Let me be sure of it. Is a little love also blended with the wish to serve the artist?”
“A little love?” she repeated scornfully.
“This matter concerns love complete and full—or none. We will see each other again to-morrow. Then show me what the model Althea is worth to you.”
With these words she vanished in the darkness, while the call of her name again rang from the tents.
“Althea!” he cried in a tone of mournful reproach as he perceived her disappearance, hurrying after her; but the dense gloom soon forced him to give up the pursuit.
Ledscha, too, left her place beneath the sycamore.
She had seen and heard enough.
Duty now commanded her to execute vengeance, and the bold Hanno was ready to risk his life for her.
The following day the sun shone radiantly, with scorching brilliancy, upon Tennis and the archipelago, which at this season of the year surrounded the little city of weavers.
Young Philotas, without going to rest, had set out at dawn in pursuit of game, accompanied by a numerous hunting party, to which several of the Pelusinian officers belonged. He, too, had brought home a great quantity of booty, with which he had expected to awaken Daphne’s admiration, and to lay as a token of homage at her feet. He had intended to lead before her garlanded slaves bearing, tied by ropes, bunches of slaughtered wild fowl, but his reception was very different from what he had anticipated.
Instead of praising his exploit, he had been indignantly requested to remove the poor, easily killed victims from her presence; and, wounded and disappointed, he had retired to his magnificent Nile boat, where, spent by his sleepless night, he slumbered so soundly on his soft cushions that he did not appear at the breakfast which the gray-haired commander of Pelusium had invited him to attend on his galley.
While the others were still feasting there, Daphne was enjoying an hour alone with her companion Chrysilla.
She had remained absent from Philippus’s banquet, and her pale cheeks showed the ill effects produced by the excitement of the previous night.
A little before noon Hermon came to see her. He, too, had not gone to the Pelusinian’s breakfast.