The beat of his horse’s hoofs and the voices of the Biamites echoed distinctly enough amid the stillness of the night, which was interrupted only by the roaring of the wind. And this disturbance of the deep silence around had entered the lighted windows before him, for a figure appeared at one of them, and—could he believe his own eyes?—Myrtilus looked down into the square, and a joyous welcome rang from his lips as loudly as in his days of health.
The darkness of the night suddenly seemed to Hermon to be illumined. A leap to the ground, two bounds up the steps leading to the house, an eager rush through the corridor that separated him from the room in which Myrtilus was, the bursting instead of opening of the door, and, as if frantic with happy surprise, he impetuously embraced his friend, who, burin and file in hand, was just approaching the threshold, and kissed his brow and cheeks in the pure joy of his heart.
Then what questions, answers, tidings! In spite of the torrents of rain and the gale, the invalid’s health had been excellent. The solitude had done him good. He knew nothing about the carrier dove. The hurricane had probably “blown it away,” as the breeders of the swift messengers said.
Question and reply now followed one another in rapid succession, and both were soon acquainted with everything worth knowing; nay, Hermon had even delivered Daphne’s rose to his friend, and informed him what had befallen the Gaul who was being brought into the house.
Bias and the other slaves had quickly appeared, and Hermon soon rendered the wounded man the help he needed in an airy chamber in the second story of the house, which, owing to the heat that prevailed in summer so close under the roof, the slaves had never occupied.
Bias assisted his master with equal readiness and skill, and at last the Gaul opened his eyes and, in the language of his country, asked a few brief questions which were incomprehensible to the others. Then, groaning, he again closed his lids.
Hitherto Hermon had not even allowed himself time to look around his friend’s studio and examine what he had created during his absence. But, after perceiving that his kind act had not been in vain, and consuming with a vigorous appetite the food and wine which Bias set before him, he obliged Myrtilus—for another day was coming—to go to rest, that the storm might not still prove hurtful to him.
Yet he held his friend’s hand in a firm clasp for a long time, and, when the latter at last prepared to go, he pressed it so closely that it actually hurt Myrtilus. But he understood his meaning, and, with a loving glance that sank deep into Hermon’s heart, called a last good night.
After two sleepless nights and the fatiguing ride which he had just taken, the sculptor felt weary enough; but when he laid his hand on the Gaul’s brow and breast, and felt their burning heat, he refused Bias’s voluntary offer to watch the sufferer in his place.