The image of Arachne illumined by the lamplight, which Althea had showed him, appeared like worthless jugglery, and he soon drove it back into the darkness which surrounded him. Ledscha’s figure, however, rose before him all the more radiantly. The desire to possess her had flown to the four winds; but he thought he had never before beheld anything more peculiar, more powerful, or better worth modelling than the Biamite girl as he saw her in the Temple of Nemesis, with uplifted hand, invoking the vengeance of the goddess upon him, and there—he discovered it now— Daphne was not at all mistaken. Images never presented themselves as distinctly to those who could see as to the blind man in his darkness. If he was ever permitted to receive his sight, what a statue of the avenging goddess he could create from this greatest event in the history of his vision!
After this work—of that he was sure—he would no longer need the borrowed fame which, moreover, he rejected with honest indignation.
It must be late, for Hermon felt the cool breeze, which in this region rose between midnight and sunrise, on his burned face and, shivering, drew his mantle closer round him.
Yet it seemed impossible to return to the cabin; the memory of Ledscha imploring vengeance, and the stern image of the avenging goddess in the cella of the little Temple of Nemesis, completely mastered him. In the close cabin these terrible visions, united with the fear of having reaped undeserved praise, would have crouched upon his breast like harpies and stifled or driven him mad. After what had happened, to number the swift granting of the insulted Biamite’s prayer among the freaks of chance was probably a more arbitrary and foolish proceeding than, with so many others, to recognise the incomprehensible power of Nemesis. Ledscha had loosed it against him and his health, perhaps even his life, and he imagined that she was standing before him with the bridle and wheel, threatening him afresh.
Shivering, as if chilled to the bone, overwhelmed by intense horror, he turned his blinded eyes upward to the blackness above and raised his hand, for the first time since he had joined the pupils of Straton in the Museum, to pray. He besought Nemesis to be content, and not add to blindness new tortures to augment the terrible ones which rent his soul, and he did so with all the ardour of his passionate nature.
The steward Gras had received orders to wake the Lady Thyone if anything unusual happened to the blind man, and when he heard the unfortunate artist groan so pitifully that it would have moved a stone, and saw him raise his hand despairingly to his head, he thought it was time to utter words of consolation, and a short time after the anxious matron followed him.
Her low exclamation startled Hermon. To be disturbed in the first prayer after so long a time, in the midst of the cries of distress of a despairing soul, is scarcely endurable, and the blind man imposed little restraint upon himself when his old friend asked what had occurred, and urged him not to expose himself longer to the damp night air.