With proud self-reliance he threw back his head, saying to himself that, though Myrtilus should permit him ten times over to deck him self with his feathers, he would reject them. He would remain himself, and was conscious of possessing powers which perhaps surpassed his friend’s. He was as well qualified to create a genuine work of art as the best sculptor, only hitherto the Muse had denied him success in awakening pleasure, and blindness would put an end to creating anything of his own.
The more vividly he recalled to memory his own work and his friend’s, the more probable appeared his disquieting supposition.
He also saw Myrtilus’s figure before him, and in imagination heard his friend again promise that, with the Arachne, he would wrest the prize even from him.
During the terrible events of the last hours he had thought but seldom and briefly of the weaver, whom it had seemed a rare piece of good fortune to be permitted to represent. Now the remembrance of her took possession of his soul with fresh power.
The image of Arachne illumined by the lamplight, which Althea had showed him, appeared like worthless jugglery, and he soon drove it back into the darkness which surrounded him. Ledscha’s figure, however, rose before him all the more radiantly. The desire to possess her had flown to the four winds; but he thought he had never before beheld anything more peculiar, more powerful, or better worth modelling than the Biamite girl as he saw her in the Temple of Nemesis, with uplifted hand, invoking the vengeance of the goddess upon him, and there—he discovered it now—Daphne was not at all mistaken. Images never presented themselves as distinctly to those who could see as to the blind man in his darkness. If he was ever permitted to receive his sight, what a statue of the avenging goddess he could create from this greatest event in the history of his vision!
After this work—of that he was sure—he would no longer need the borrowed fame which, moreover, he rejected with honest indignation.
It must be late, for Hermon felt the cool breeze, which in this region rose between midnight and sunrise, on his burned face and, shivering, drew his mantle closer round him.
Yet it seemed impossible to return to the cabin; the memory of Ledscha imploring vengeance, and the stern image of the avenging goddess in the cella of the little Temple of Nemesis, completely mastered him. In the close cabin these terrible visions, united with the fear of having reaped undeserved praise, would have crouched upon his breast like harpies and stifled or driven him mad. After what had happened, to number the swift granting of the insulted Biamite’s prayer among the freaks of chance was probably a more arbitrary and foolish proceeding than, with so many others, to recognise the incomprehensible power of Nemesis. Ledscha had loosed it against him and his health, perhaps even his life, and he imagined that she was standing before him with the bridle and wheel, threatening him afresh.