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.
He must leave the city. He would have preferred to go on board the staunch Tacheia and be borne far away with his uncle and Daphne, but he was obliged to deny himself the fulfilment of this desire. He must now think solely of regaining his sight.
Obedient to the oracle, he would go to the desert where from the “starving sand” the radiant daylight was to rise anew for him.
There he would, at any rate, be permitted to recover the clearness of perception and feeling which he had lost in the delirium of the dissolute life of pleasure that he had led in the past. Pythagoras had already forbidden the folly of spoiling the present by remorse; and he, too, did not do this. It would have been repugnant to his genuinely Greek nature. Instead of looking backward with peevish regret, his purpose was to look with blithe confidence toward the future, and to do his best to render it better and more fruitful than the months of revel which lay behind him.
He could no longer imagine a life worth living without Daphne, and the thought that if his uncle were robbed of his wealth he would become her support cheered his heart. If the oracle did not fulfil its promise, he would again appeal to medical skill, and submit even to the most severe suffering which might be imposed upon him.
The drive to the great harbour was soon over, but the boat which lay waiting for him had a considerable distance to traverse, for the Tacheia was no longer at the landing place, but was tacking outside the Pharos, in order, if the warrant of arrest were issued, not to be stopped at the channel dominated by the lighthouse. He found the slender trireme pervaded by a restless stir. His uncle had long been expecting him with burning impatience.
He knew, through Philippus, what duty still detained the deceived artist, but he learned, at the same time, that his own imprisonment had been determined, and it would be advisable for him to leave the city behind him as quickly as possible. Yet neither Daphne nor he was willing to depart without saying farewell to Hermon.
But the danger was increasing every moment, and, warm as was the parting, the last clasp of the hand and kiss swiftly followed the first words of greeting.