The embrace with which the venerable hero of the festival seemed to absolve Hermon was greeted with loud applause; but the kind words which Euphranor, in the weak voice of age, had addressed to the blind man had been unintelligible to the large circle of guests.
When he again descended to the arena new plaudits rose; but soon hisses and other signs of disapproval blended with them, which increased in strength and number when a well known critic, who had written a learned treatise concerning the relation of the Demeter to Hermon’s earlier works, expressed his annoyance in a loud whistle. The dissatisfied and disappointed spectators now vied with one another to silence those who were cheering by a hideous uproar while the latter expressed more and more loud the sincere esteem with which they were inspired by the confession of the artist who, though cruelly prevented from winning fresh fame, cast aside the wreath which a dead man had, as were, proffered from his tomb.
Probably every man thought that, in the same situation, he would have done the same yet not only justice—nay, compassion—dictated showing the blind artist that they believed in and would sustain him. The ill-disposed insisted that Hermon had only done what duty commanded the meanest man, and the fact that he had deceived all Alexandria still remained. Not a few joined this party, for larger possession excite envy perhaps even more frequently than greater fame.
Soon the approving and opposing voices mingled in an actual conflict. But before the famous sculptor Chares, the great and venerable artist Nicias, and several younger friends of Hermon quelled this unpleasant disturbance of the beautiful festival, the blind man, leaning on the arm of his fellow-artist Soteles, had left the palaestra.
At the exit he, parted from his friend, who had been made happy by the ability to absolve his more distinguished leader from the reproach of having become faithless to their common purpose, and who intended to intercede further in his behalf in the palaestra.
Hermon no longer needed him; for, besides his slave Patran, he found the steward Gras, who, by his master’s order, guided the blind man to Archias’s closed harmamaxa, which was waiting outside the building.
The sculptor’s head was burning feverishly when he entered the vehicle. He had never imagined that the consequences of his explanation would be so terrible. During the drive—by no means a long one—to the great harbour, he strove to collect his thoughts. Groaning aloud, he covered his ears with his hands to shut out the shouts and hisses from the palaestra, which in reality were no longer audible.
True, he would not need to expose himself to this uproar a second time, yet if he remained in Alexandria the witticisms, mockery, and jibes of the whole city, though in a gentler form, would echo hundreds of times around him.