The lady Euryale’s silent prayer was interrupted by the return of Alexander. He brought the clothes which Seleukus’s wife had given him for Melissa. He was already dressed in his best, and crowned like all those who occupied the first seats in the Circus; but his festal garb accorded ill with the pained look on his features, from which every trace had vanished of the overflowing joy in life which had embellished them only this morning.
He had seen and heard things which made him feel that it would no longer be a sacrifice to give his life to save his sister.
Sad thoughts had flitted across his cheerful spirit like dark bats, even while he was talking with Melissa and her protectress, for he knew well how infinitely hard his father would find it to have to quit Alexandria; and if he himself fled with Melissa he would be obliged to give up the winning of fair Agatha. The girl’s Christian father had indeed received him kindly, but had given him to understand plainly enough that he would never allow a professed heathen to sue for his daughter’s hand. Besides this, he had met with other humiliations which placed themselves like a wall between him and his beloved, the only child of a rich and respected man. He had forfeited the right of appearing before Zeus as a suitor; for indeed he was no longer such as he had been only yesterday.
The news that Caracalla proposed to marry Melissa had been echoed by insolent tongues, with the addition that he, Alexander, had ingratiated himself with Caesar by serving him as a spy. No one had expressly said this to him; but, while he was hurrying through the city in Caesar’s chariot, on the ladies’ message, it had been made very plain to his apprehension. Honest men had avoided him—him to whom hitherto every one for whose regard he cared had held out a friendly hand; and much else that he had experienced in the course of this drive had been unpleasant enough to give rise to a change of his whole inner being.
The feeling that every one was pointing at him the finger of scorn, or of wrath, had never ceased to pursue him. And he had been under no illusion; for when he met the old sculptor Lysander, who only yesterday had so kindly told him and Melissa about Caesar’s mother, as he nodded from the chariot his greeting was not returned; and the honest artist had waved his hand with a gesture which no Alexandrian could fail to understand as meaning, “I no longer know you, and do not wish to be recognized by you.”
He had from his childhood loved Diodoros as a brother, and in one of the side streets, down which the chariot had turned to avoid the tumult in the Kanopic way, Alexander had seen his old friend. He had desired the charioteer to stop, and had leaped out on the road to speak to Diodoros and give him at once Melissa’s message; but the young man had turned his back with evident displeasure, and to the painter’s pathetic appeal, “But, at any rate, hear me!” he answered, sharply: “The less I hear of you and yours the better for me. Go on—go on, in Caesar’s chariot!”