“Oh, stop!” the girl entreated. “I am only too well aware—”
“That you also are not free from human frailties,” Proclus continued, undismayed. “We will take them, great or small as they may be, into the bargain. The secret ones do not concern the sculptor, who does not or will not see them. What he perceives in you, what you enable him to recognise through every feature of your sweet, tranquillizing face, is enough for the genuine artist to imagine the goddess; for the distinction between the mortal and the immortal is only the degree of perfection, and the human intellect and artist soul can find nothing more perfect in the whole domain of Demeter’s jurisdiction than is presented to them in your nature. Our friend yonder seized it, and his magnificent work of art proves how nearly it approaches the purest and loftiest conception we form of the goddess whom he had to represent. It is not that he deified you, Daphne; he merely bestowed on the divinity forms which he recognised in you.”
Just at that moment, obeying an uncontrollable impulse, Hermon pulled the bandage from his eyes to see once more the woman to whom this warm homage was paid.
Was the experienced connoisseur of art and the artist soul in the right?
He had told himself the same thing when he selected Daphne for a model, and her head reproduced what Proclus praised as the common possession of Daphne and Demeter. Truthful Myrtilus had also seen it. Perhaps his work had really been so marvellously successful because, while he was engaged upon it, his friend had constantly stood before his mind in all the charm of her inexhaustible goodness.
Animated by the ardent desire to gaze once more at the beloved face, to which he now owed also this unexpectedly great success, he turned toward the spot whence her voice had reached him; but a wall of violet mist, dotted with black specks, was all that his blinded eyes showed him, and with a low groan he drew the linen cloth over the burns.
This time Proclus also perceived what was passing in the poor artist’s mind, and when he took leave of him it was with the resolve to do his utmost to brighten with the stars of recognition and renown the dark night of suffering which enshrouded this highly gifted sculptor, whose unexpectedly great modesty had prepossessed him still more in his favour.
After the grammateus had retired, Daphne insisted upon leaving Tennis the next day.
The desire to see Hermon’s masterpiece drew her back to Alexandria even more strongly than the knowledge of being missed by her father.
Only the separation from Thyone rendered the departure difficult, for the motherless girl had found in her something for which she had long yearned, and most sorely missed in her companion Chrysilla, who from expediency approved of everything she did or said.