It was long since Hermon had felt so free and light-hearted as during this voyage.
He firmly believed in his recovery.
A few days before he had escaped death in the royal palace as if by a miracle, and he owed his deliverance to the woman he loved.
In the Temple of Nemesis at Tennis the conviction that the goddess had ceased to persecute him took possession of his mind.
True, his blind eyes had been unable to see her menacing statue, but not even the slightest thrill of horror had seized him in its presence. In Alexandria, after his departure from Proclus’s banquet, she had desisted from pursuing him. Else how would she have permitted him to escape uninjured when he was already standing upon the verge of an abyss, and a wave of her hand would have sufficed to hurl him into the death-dealing gulf?
But his swift confession, and the transformation which followed it, had reconciled him not only with her, but also with the other gods; for they appeared to him in forms as radiant and friendly as in the days of his boyhood, when, while Bias took the helm on the long voyage through the canal and the Bitter Lakes, he recalled the visible world to his memory and, from the rising sun, Phoebus Apollo, the lord of light and purity, gazed at him from his golden chariot, drawn by four horses, and Aphrodite, the embodiment of all beauty, rose before him from the snowy foam of the azure waves. Demeter, in the form of Daphne, appeared, dispensing prosperity, above the swaying golden waves of the ripening grain fields and bestowing peace beside the domestic hearth. The whole world once more seemed peopled with deities, and he felt their rule in his own breast.
The place of which Bias had told him was situated on a lofty portion of the shore. Beside the springs which there gushed from the soil of the desert grew green palm trees and thorny acacias. Farther on flourished the fragrant betharan. About a thousand paces from this spot the faithful freedman pitched the little tent obtained in Tennis under the shade of several tall palm trees and a sejal acacia.
Not far from the springs lived the same family of Amalekites whom Bias had known from boyhood. They raised a few vegetables in little beds, and the men acted as guards to the caravans which came from Egypt through the peninsula of Sinai to Petrea and Hebron. The daughter of the aged sheik whose men accompanied the trains of goods, a pleasant, middle-aged woman, recognised the Biamite, who when a boy had recovered under her mother’s nursing, and promised Bias to honour his blind master as a valued guest of the tribe.
Not until after he had done everything in his power to render life in the wilderness endurable, and had placed a fresh bandage over his eyes, would Bias leave his master.
The freedman entered the boat weeping, and Hermon, deeply agitated, turned his face toward him.