Outside the door of the tent Hermon was trying to banish Althea’s image from his mind. How foolishly he had overestimated last night the value of this miserable actress, who as a woman had lost all charm for him—even as a model for his Arachne!
He would rather have appeared before his pure friend with unsightly stains on his robe than while mastered by yearning for the Thracian.
The first glance at Daphne’s beloved face, the first words of her greeting, taught him that he should find with her everything for which he longed.
In simple, truthful words she reproached him for having neglected her to the verge of incivility the evening before, but there was no trace of bitterness or resentment in the accusation, and she gave Hermon little time for apology, but quickly gladdened him with words of forgiveness.
In the opinion of her companion Chrysilla, Daphne ought to have kept the capricious artist waiting much longer for pardon. True, the cautious woman took no part in the conversation afterward, but she kept her charge in sight while she was skilfully knotting the fringe into a cloth which she had woven herself. On account of her favourite Philotas, it was well for Daphne to be aware that she was watched.
Chrysilla was acquainted with life, and knew that Eros never mingles more arbitrarily in the intercourse of a young couple than when, after a long separation, there is anything whatever to forgive.
Besides, many words which the two exchanged escaped her hearing, for they talked in low tones, and it was hot in the tent. Often the fatigue she felt after the sleepless night bowed her head, still comely with its unwrinkled face, though she was no longer young; then she quickly raised it again.
Neither Daphne nor Hermon noticed her. The former at once perceived that something was weighing on the sculptor’s mind, but he did not need any long inquiry. He had come to confide his troubles to her, and she kindly lightened the task for him by asking why he had not gone to breakfast with the Pelusinians.
“Because I am not fit for gay company today,” was the reply.
“Again dissatisfied with Fate?”
“True, it has given me small cause for contentment of late.”
“Put in place of Fate the far-seeing care of the gods, and you will accept what befalls you less unkindly.”
“Let us stick to us mortals, I entreat you.”
“Very well, then. Your Demeter does not fully satisfy you.”
A discontented shrug of the shoulders was the reply.
“Then work with twofold zeal upon the Arachne.”
“Although one model I hoped to obtain forsook me, and my soul is estranged from the other.”
“Althea?” she asked eagerly, and he nodded assent.
Daphne clapped her hands joyfully, exclaiming so loudly that Chrysilla’s head sprang up with a jerk. “It could not help being so! O Hermon! how anxious I have been! Now, I thought, when this horrible woman represented the transformation into the spider with such repulsive accuracy, Hermon will believe that this is the true, and therefore the right, ideal; nay, I was deceived myself while gazing. But, eternal gods! as soon as I imagined this Arachne in marble or chryselephantine work, what a painful feeling overpowered me!”