“A native of the country,” answered Hermon in an embarrassed tone.
“And for my sake you allowed her to wait for you in vain?”
“It is as you say.”
“And you had promised to seek her?”
“Certainly; but before the appointed hour came I met you. You rose before me like a new sun, shedding a new light that was full of promise. Everything else sank into darkness, and, if you will fulfil the hope which you awakened in this heart—”
Just at that moment another flash of lightning blazed, and, while the thunder still shook the air, Althea continued his interrupted protestation: “Then you will give yourself to me, body and soul—but Zeus, who hears oaths, is reminding us of his presence—and what will await you if the Biamite whom you betrayed invokes the wrath of Nemesis against you?”
“The Nemesis of the barbarians!” he retorted contemptuously. “She only placed herself at the service of my art reluctantly; but you, Althea, if you will loan yourself to me as a model, I shall succeed in doing my very best; for you have just permitted me to behold a miracle, Arachne herself, whom you became, you enchantress. It was real, actual life, and that—that is the highest goal.”
“The highest?” she asked hesitatingly. “You will have to represent the female form, and beauty, Hermon, beauty?”
“Will be there, allied with truth,” flamed Hermon, “if you, you peerless, more than beautiful creature, keep your word to me. But you will! Let me be sure of it. Is a little love also blended with the wish to serve the artist?”
“A little love?” she repeated scornfully.
“This matter concerns love complete and full—or none. We will see each other again to-morrow. Then show me what the model Althea is worth to you.”
With these words she vanished in the darkness, while the call of her name again rang from the tents.
“Althea!” he cried in a tone of mournful reproach as he perceived her disappearance, hurrying after her; but the dense gloom soon forced him to give up the pursuit.
Ledscha, too, left her place beneath the sycamore.
She had seen and heard enough.
Duty now commanded her to execute vengeance, and the bold Hanno was ready to risk his life for her.
The following day the sun shone radiantly, with scorching brilliancy, upon Tennis and the archipelago, which at this season of the year surrounded the little city of weavers.
Young Philotas, without going to rest, had set out at dawn in pursuit of game, accompanied by a numerous hunting party, to which several of the Pelusinian officers belonged. He, too, had brought home a great quantity of booty, with which he had expected to awaken Daphne’s admiration, and to lay as a token of homage at her feet. He had intended to lead before her garlanded slaves bearing, tied by ropes, bunches of slaughtered wild fowl, but his reception was very different from what he had anticipated.