At last she dropped it, and said in a hollow tone: “Now I understand everything. You met her when Bias gave her the bridal dowry which was to purchase my release from my husband. How it must have enraged her! I thought of it all, pondered and pondered how to spare her; but through whom, except Tabus, could I return to Hanno the property, won in battle by his blood, which he had thrown away for me? Tabus kept the family wealth. And she—the marriage bond which two persons formed was sacred and unassailable—the woman who broke her faith with her husband and turned from him—was an abomination to her. How she loved her sons and grandsons! I knew that she would never forgive the wrong I did Hanno. From resentment to me she cured the man whom I hated.”
“Yet probably also,” said Hermon, “because my blighted youth aroused her pity.”
“Perhaps so,” replied Ledscha hesitatingly, gazing thoughtfully into vacancy. “She was what her demons made her. Hard as steel and gentle as a tender girl. I have experienced it. Oh, that she should die with rancour against me in her faithful old heart! She could be so kind!—even when I confessed that you had won my love, she still held me dear. But there are many great and small demons, and most of them were probably subject to her. Tabus must have learned through them how deeply I offended her son Satabus, and how greatly his son Hanno’s life was darkened through me. That is why she thwarted my vengeance, and her spirits aided her. Thus all these things happened. I suspected it when I heard that she had succumbed to death, which I—yes, I here—had held back from her with severe toil through many a sleepless night. O these demons! They will continue to act in the service of the dead. Wherever I may go, they will pursue me and, at their mistress’s bidding, baffle what I hope and desire. I have learned this only too distinctly!”
“No, Ledscha, no,” Hermon protested. “Every power ceases with death, even that of the sorceress over spirits. You shall be freed, poor woman! You will be permitted to go wherever you desire; and I shall model no spider after your person, but the fairest of women. Thousands will see and admire her, and—if the Muse aids me—whoever, enraptured by her beauty, asks, ’Who was the model for this work which inflames the most obdurate heart?’ will be told, ’It was Ledscha, the daughter of Shalit, the Biamite, whom Hermon of Alexandria found worthy of carving in costly marble.”
Ledscha uttered a deep sigh of relief, and asked: “Is that true? May I believe it?”
“As true,” he answered warmly, “as that Selene, who promised to grant you in her full radiance the greatest happiness, is now shedding her mild, forgiving light upon us both.”
“The full moon,” she murmured softly, gazing upward at the shining disk.
Then she added in a louder tone: “Old Tabus’s demons promised me happiness—you know. It was the spider which so cruelly shadowed it for me on every full moon, every day, and every night. Will you now swear to model a statue from me, the statue of a beautiful human being that will arouse the delight of all who see it? Delight—do you hear?—not loathing—I ask again, will you?”