Thoughtful, very disturbed, dissatisfied with himself, and resolved to turn his back upon the dreary life of pleasure which for so long a time had allowed him no rest, and now disgusted him, he kept aloof from his travelling companions, and rejoiced when, at Alexandria, he was led ashore in the harbour of Eunostus.
Hermon entered his house with drooping head.
Here he was informed that the grammateus of the Dionysian artists had already called twice to speak to him concerning an important matter. When he came from the bath, Proclus visited him again. His errand was to invite him to a banquet which was to take place that evening at his residence in a wing of the royal palace.
But Hermon was not in the mood to share a joyous revel, and he frankly said so, although immediately after his return he had accepted the invitation to the festival which the whole fellowship of artists would give the following day in honour of the seventieth birthday of the old sculptor Euphranor. The grammateus alluded to this, and most positively insisted that he could not release him; for he came not only by his own wish, but in obedience to the command of Queen Arsinoe, who desired to tell the creator of the Demeter how highly she esteemed his work and his art. She would appear herself at dessert, and the banquet must therefore begin at an unusually early hour. He, Proclus, was to have the high honour of including the royal lady among his guests solely on Hermon’s account, and his refusal would be an insult to the Queen.
So the artist found himself obliged to relinquish his opposition. He did this reluctantly; but the Queen’s attention to him and his art flattered his vanity and, if he was to abandon the intoxicating and barren life of pleasure, it could scarcely be done more worthily than at a festival where the King’s consort intended to distinguish him in person.
The banquet was to begin in a few hours, yet he could not let the day pass without seeing Daphne and telling her the words of the oracle. He longed, with ardent yearning, for the sound of her voice, and still more to unburden his sorely troubled soul to her.
Oh, if only his Myrtilus still walked among the living! How totally different, in spite of his lost vision, would his life have been!
Daphne was now the only one whom he could put in his place.
Since his return from the oracle, the fear that the rescued Demeter might yet be the work of Myrtilus had again mastered him. However loudly outward circumstances might oppose this, he now felt, with a certainty which surprised him, that this work was not his own. The approval, as well as the doubts, which it aroused in others strengthened his opinion, although even now he could not succeed in bringing it into harmony with the facts. How deep had been the intoxication in which he had so long reeled from one day to the next, since it had succeeded in keeping every doubt of the authorship of this work far from him!