True, Philotas himself had been eager to guide the hunting party, but Daphne declined his escort because—so the maid asserted—she cared far more about meeting her cousins, the sculptors, than for the chase. Her mistress had frankly told her so, but her father was delighted to hear her express a wish, because for several months she had been so quiet and listless that she, Stephanion, had become anxious about her. Meanwhile, Daphne had tried honestly to conceal her feelings from the old man, but such games of hide and seek were useless against the master’s keen penetration. He spared no pains in the preparations for the journey, and the girl now seemed already transformed. This was caused solely by meeting her cousins again; but if any one should ask her whether Daphne preferred Myrtilus or Hermon, she could not give a positive answer.
“Cautious inquiry saves recantation,” replied Bias importantly. “Yet you may believe my experience, it is Myrtilus. Fame inspires love, and what the world will not grant my master, in spite of his great talent, it conceded to the other long ago. And, besides, we are not starving; but Myrtilus is as rich as King Croesus of Sardis. Not that Daphne, who is stifling in gold herself, would care about that, but whoever knows life knows—where doves are, doves will fly.”
Stephanion, however, was of a different opinion, not only because Daphne talked far more about the black-bearded cousin than the fair one, but because she knew the girl, and was seldom mistaken in such matters. She would not deny that Daphne was also fond of Myrtilus. Yet probably neither of the artists, but Philotas, would lead home the bride, for he was related to the royal family—a fine, handsome man; and, besides, her father preferred him to the other suitors who hovered around her as flies buzzed about honey. Of course, matters would be more favourable to Philotas in any other household. Who else in Alexandria would consult the daughter long, when he was choosing her future husband? But Archias was a white raven among fathers, and would never force his only child to do anything.
Marrying and loving, however, were two different affairs. If Eros had the final decision, her choice might perhaps fall on one of the artists.
Here she was interrupted by the slave’s indignant exclamation: “What contradictions! ‘Woman’s hair is long, but her wit is short,’ says the proverb. ‘Waiting is the merchant’s wisdom,’ I have heard your master say more than once, and to obey the words of shrewd people is the best plan for those who are not so wise. Meanwhile, I am of the opinion that curiosity alone brought Daphne—who, after all, is only a woman—to this place. She wants to see the statues of Demeter which her father ordered from us.”
“And the Arachne?” asked the maid. This was an opportune question to the slave—how often he had heard the artists utter the word “Arachne!”—and his pride of education had suffered from the consciousness that he knew nothing about her except the name, which in Greek meant “the spider.”