“Even the last must die, as my sovereign commands; only I shall determine the mode of death according to my own judgment, and at the same time, mother, feel sure of your approval. Instead of lingering starvation, I shall use swift arrows. Now you know what you were obliged to learn. It would be wise, mother, for you to leave this abode of misery. Duty summons me to my ship.” He held out his hand to his parents and Hermon as he spoke, but the latter clasped it firmly, exclaiming in a tone of passionate emotion, “What is the name of the woman to whom, though she is not of their race, the lawless barbarians yielded?”
“Ledscha,” replied the admiral.
Hermon started as if stung by a scorpion, and asked, “Where is she?”
“On my ship,” was the reply, “if she has not yet been taken ashore with the others.”
“To be killed with the pitiable band there?” cried Thyone angrily, looking her son reproachfully in the face.
“No, mother,” replied Eumedes. “She will be taken to the others under the escort of trustworthy men in order, perhaps, to induce her to speak. It must be ascertained whether there were accomplices in the attack on the royal palaces, and lastly whence the woman comes.”
“I can tell you that myself,” replied Hermon. “Allow me to accompany you. I must see and speak to her.”
“The Arachne of Tennis?” asked Thyone. Hermon’s mute nod of assent answered the question, but she exclaimed: “The unhappy woman, who called down the wrath of Nemesis upon you, and who has now herself fallen a prey to the avenging goddess. What do you want from her?”
Hermon bent down to his old friend and whispered, “To lighten her terrible fate, if it is in my power.”
“Go, then,” replied the matron, and turned to her son, saying, “Let Hermon tell you how deeply this woman has influenced his life, and, when her turn comes, think of your mother.”
“She is a woman,” replied Eumedes, “and the King’s mandate only commands me to punish men. Besides, I promised her indulgence if she would make a confession.”
“And she?” asked Hermon.
“Neither by threats nor promises,” answered the admiral, “can this sinister, beautiful creature be induced to speak.”
“Certainly not,” said the artist, and a smile of satisfaction flitted over his face.
A short row took Hermon and Eumedes the admiral’s galley. Ledscha had already been carried ashore. There she was to be confronted with the men who were suspected of having showed the mutineers the way to the city.
Absorbed in his own thoughts, Hermon waited for the admiral, who at first was claimed by one official duty after another. The artist’s thoughts lingered with Daphne. To her father the loss of his house, nay, perhaps of his wealth, would seem almost unendurable, yet even were he beggared, provision was made for him and his daughter. He, Hermon, could again create, as in former days, and what happiness it would be if he were permitted to repay the man to whom he owed so much for the kindness bestowed upon him!