What great thing had he revealed? There had been reckless gaiety at every festival of Dionysus since he had been in the artist’s service, and the slaves had indulged in the festal mirth no less freely than the masters. To intoxicate themselves with wine, the gift of the god to whom they were paying homage, was not only permitted, but commanded, and the juice of the grape proved its all-equalizing power.
There had been no lack of pretty companions even for him, the bondman, and the most beautiful of all had made eyes at his master, the tall, slender man with the splendid black beard.
The reckless Lesbian who had favoured Hermon at the last Dionysia had played pranks with him madly enough, but then had suddenly vanished. By his master’s orders Bias had tried to find her again, but, in spite of honest search, in vain.
Just now he had met, as Althea’s maid, the little Syrian Margula, who had been in her company, and raced along in the procession of bacchanals in his, Bias’s, arms. True, she could not be persuaded to make a frank confession, but he, Bias, would let his right hand wither if Hermon’s companion at the Dionysia was any other than Althea. His master would own that he was right if he imagined her with black hair instead of red. Plenty of people in Alexandria practised the art of dyeing, and it was well known that Queen Arsinoe herself willingly mingled in the throng at the Dionysia with a handsome Ephebi, who did not suspect the identity of his companion.
This was the information which had so deeply agitated Hermon, and then led him, after pacing to and fro a short time, to go first to Myrtilus and then to Daphne.
He had found his friend sleeping, and though every fibre of his being urged him to speak to him, he forced himself to leave the sufferer undisturbed.
Yet so torturing a sense of dissatisfaction with himself, so keen a resentment against his own adverse destiny had awaked within him, that he could no longer endure to remain in the presence of his work, with which he was more and more dissatisfied.
Away from the studio!
There was a gay party on board the galley of his parents’ old friends. Wine should bring him forgetfulness, too, bless him again with the sense of joyous existence which he knew so well, and which he now seemed on the point of losing.
When he had once talked and drunk himself into the right mood, life would wear a less gloomy face.
No! It should once more be a gay and reckless one.
He would meet her, with whom he had once caroused and revelled madly enough in the intoxication of the last Dionysia, and, instead of allowing himself to be fooled any longer and continuing to bow respectfully before her, would assert all the rights she had formerly so liberally granted.
He would enjoy to-day, forget to-morrow, and be gay with the gay.
Eager for new pleasure, he drew a long breath as he went out into the open air, pressed his hands upon his broad chest, and with his eyes fixed upon the commandant of Pelusium’s galley, bedecked with flags, walked swiftly toward the landing place.