Without a word of explanation, Hermon dragged his guide along in breathless haste. No one stopped them.
The atrium, usually swarming with guards, servants, and officials until a far later hour, was completely deserted when the blind man hurried through it with his friend.
The door leading into the outer air stood open, but Hermon, leaning on the scholar’s arm, had scarcely crossed the threshold and entered the little courtyard encircled with ornamental plants, which separated this portion of the palace from the street, when both were surrounded by a band of armed Macedonian soldiers, whose commander exclaimed: “In the name of the King! Not a sound, if you value your lives!”
Incensed, and believing that there was some mistake, Hermon announced himself as a sculptor and Crates as a member of the Museum, but this statement did not produce the slightest effect upon the warrior; nay, when the friends answered the officer’s inquiry whether they were coming from Proclus’s banquet in the affirmative; he curtly commanded them to be put in chains.
To offer resistance would have been madness, for even Hermon perceived, by the loud clanking of weapons around them, the greatly superior power of the enemy, and they were acting by the orders of the King. “To the prison near the place of execution!” cried the officer; and now not only the mythograph, but Hermon also was startled—this dungeon opened only to those sentenced to death.
Was he to be led to the executioner’s block? A cold shudder ran through his frame; but the next moment he threw back his waving locks, and his chest heaved with a long breath.
What pleasure had life to offer him, the blind man, who was already dead to his art? Ought he not to greet this sudden end as a boon from the immortals?
Did it not spare him a humiliation as great and painful as could be imagined?
He had already taken care that the false renown should not follow him to the grave, and Myrtilus should have his just due, and he would do whatever else lay in his power to further this object. Wherever the beloved dead might be, he desired to go there also. Whatever might await him, he desired no better fate. If he had passed into annihilation, he, Hermon, wished to follow him thither, and annihilation certainly meant redemption from pain and misery. But if he were destined to meet his Myrtilus and his mother in the world beyond the grave, what had he not to tell them, how sure he was of finding a joyful reception there from both! The power which delivered him over to death just at that moment was not Nemesis—no, it was a kindly deity.
Only his heart grew heavy at the thought of leaving Daphne to the tireless wooer Philotas or some other—everything else from which it is usually hard to part seemed like a burden that we gladly cast aside.