“I will not fail to do my part,” replied Myrtilus; “but as to your wish to see the two Demeters—”
“That will come to pass,” interrupted Daphne, “as soon as we three are together again like a clover leaf.” She returned the sculptor’s farewell greeting as she spoke, but before he reached the entrance to the tent she again detained him with the exclamation: “Only this one thing more: Does Hermon deceive himself when he hopes so confidently for success with the weaver, Arachne?”
“Hardly—if the model whom he desires does not fail him.”
“Is she beautiful, and did he find her here in Tennis?” asked Daphne, trying to assume an indifferent manner; but Myrtilus was not deceived, and answered gaily: “That’s the way people question children to find out things. Farewell until the banquet, fair curiosity!”
The slave Bias had not gone to the hunting party with his master. He had never been fit for such expeditions, since the Egyptian guard who took him to the slave market for sale crippled the arch-traitor’s son’s left leg by a blow, but he was all the more useful in the house, and even the keenest eye could scarcely now perceive the injury which lessened his commercial value.
He had prepared everything his master would need to shoot the birds very early in the morning, and after helping the men push the boats into the water, he, too, remained out of doors.
The old Nubian doorkeeper’s little badger dog ran to meet him, as usual, barking loudly, and startled a flock of sparrows, which flew up directly in front of Bias and fluttered to and fro in confusion.
The slave regarded this as an infallible omen, and when Stephanion, Daphne’s maid, who had grown gray in the household of Archias, and though a freed woman still worked in the old way, came out of the tent, he called to her the gay Greek greeting, “Rejoice!” pointed to the sparrows, and eagerly continued: “How one flies above another! how they flutter and chirp and twitter! It will be a busy day.”
Stephanion thought this interpretation of the ordinary action of the birds very consistent with Bias’s wisdom, which was highly esteemed in the household of Archias, and it also just suited her inclination to chat with him for a while, especially as she had brought a great deal of news from Alexandria.
By way of introduction she mentioned the marriages and deaths in their circle of acquaintances, bond and free, and then confided to the slave what had induced her mistress to remain so long absent from her father, whom she usually left alone for only a few hours at the utmost.
Archias himself had sent her here, after young Philotas, who was now apparently wooing her with better success than other suitors, had spoken of the enormous booty which one of his friends had brought from a shooting expedition at Tennis, and Daphne had expressed a wish to empty her quiver there too.