He did not think of Daphne again until he was approaching the place where her tents had stood, and the remembrance of her fell like a ray of light into his darkened soul.
Yet on that spot had also been erected the wooden platform from which Althea had showed him the transformation into the spider, and the recollection of the foolish error into which the Thracian had drawn him disagreeably clouded the pleasant thought of Daphne.
Complete darkness enfolded the white house. Hermon saw only two windows lighted, the ones in his friend’s studio, which looked out into the open square, while his own faced the water.
What did this mean?
It must be nearly midnight, and he could no longer expect Myrtilus to be still at work. He had supposed that he should find him in his chamber, supported by his slaves, struggling for breath. What was the meaning of the light in the workrooms now?
Where was his usually efficient Bias? He never went to rest when his master was to return home, yet the carrier dove must have announced his coming!
But Hermon had also enjoined the care of Myrtilus upon the slave, and he was undoubtedly beside the sufferer’s couch, supporting him in the same way that he had often seen his master.
He was now riding across the open space, and he heard the men who carried the Gaul talking close behind him.
Was the wounded barbarian the sole acquisition of this journey?
The beat of his horse’s hoofs and the voices of the Biamites echoed distinctly enough amid the stillness of the night, which was interrupted only by the roaring of the wind. And this disturbance of the deep silence around had entered the lighted windows before him, for a figure appeared at one of them, and—could he believe his own eyes?—Myrtilus looked down into the square, and a joyous welcome rang from his lips as loudly as in his days of health.
The darkness of the night suddenly seemed to Hermon to be illumined. A leap to the ground, two bounds up the steps leading to the house, an eager rush through the corridor that separated him from the room in which Myrtilus was, the bursting instead of opening of the door, and, as if frantic with happy surprise, he impetuously embraced his friend, who, burin and file in hand, was just approaching the threshold, and kissed his brow and cheeks in the pure joy of his heart.
Then what questions, answers, tidings! In spite of the torrents of rain and the gale, the invalid’s health had been excellent. The solitude had done him good. He knew nothing about the carrier dove. The hurricane had probably “blown it away,” as the breeders of the swift messengers said.
Question and reply now followed one another in rapid succession, and both were soon acquainted with everything worth knowing; nay, Hermon had even delivered Daphne’s rose to his friend, and informed him what had befallen the Gaul who was being brought into the house.