As the excited artist uttered this challenge a defiant glance rested upon his comrade and Daphne. But Myrtilus, with a soothing gesture of the hand, answered: “What is the cause of this heat? I at least watch your work with interest, and do not dispute your art so long as it does not cross the boundaries of the beautiful, which to me are those of art.”
Here the conversation was interrupted; the steward Gras brought a letter which a courier from Pelusium had just delivered.
Thyone, the wife of Philippus, the commander of the strong border fortress of Pelusium, near Tennis, had written it. She and her husband had been intimate friends of Hermon’s father, who had served under the old general as hipparch, and through him had become well acquainted with his wealthy brother Archias and his relatives.
The Alexandrian merchant had informed Philippus—whom, like all the world, he held in the highest honour as one of the former companions of Alexander the Great—of his daughter’s journey, and his wife now announced her visit to Daphne. She expected to reach Tennis that evening with her husband and several friends, and mentioned especially her anticipation of meeting Hermon, the son of her beloved Erigone and her husband’s brave companion in arms.
Daphne and Myrtilus received the announcement with pleasure; but Hermon, who only the day before had spoken of the old couple with great affection, seemed disturbed by the arrival of the unexpected guests. To avoid them entirely appeared impossible even to him, but he declared in an embarrassed tone, and without giving any reason, that he should scarcely be able to devote the entire evening to Daphne and the Pelusinians.
Then he turned quickly toward the house, to which a signal from his slave Bias summoned him.
As soon as Hermon had disappeared behind the door Daphne begged Myrtilus to accompany her into the tent.
After taking their seats there, the anxious exclamation escaped her lips: “How excited he became again! The stay in Tennis does not seem to agree with you—you are coughing, and father expected so much benefit to your ailment from the pure moist air, and to Hermon still more from the lonely life here in your society. But I have rarely seen him more strongly enlisted in behalf of the tendency opposed to beauty.”