True, to-day the answer was delayed longer than usual. The maiden heard the old woman’s shrill, resounding voice very clearly, but heeded it no more than the cackling of the hens, the screams of the peacocks, and the cooing of the doves in the court-yard.
The house-keeper, she knew, was calling her to breakfast, and the bit of dry bread she had taken with her was amply sufficient to satisfy her hunger. Nay, if Semestre had tempted her with the sweetest cakes, she would not have left her favorite nook by the spring now.
This spring gushed from the highest rock on her father’s estate. She often went there, especially when her heart was stirred, and it was a lovely spot.
The sparkling water rushed from a cleft in the rocks, and, on the left of the little bench, where Xanthe sat, formed a clear, transparent pool, whose edges were inclosed by exquisitely-polished, white-marble blocks. Every reddish pebble, every smooth bit of snowy quartz, every point and furrow and stripe on the pretty shells on its sandy bottom, was as distinctly visible as if held before the eyes on the palm of the hand, and yet the water was so deep that the gold circlet sparkling above the elbow on Xanthe’s round arm, nay, even the gems confining her peplum on the shoulder, would have been wet had she tried to touch the bottom of the basin with the tips of her fingers.
The water was green and clear as crystal, into which, while molten, bits of emeralds had been cast to change them into liquid drops.
Farther on it flowed through a channel choked with all kinds of plants. Close by the edges of the rivulet, which rushed swiftly down to the valley, drooped delicate vines, that threw their tendrils over the stones and flourished luxuriantly in the rocks amid thick, moist clumps of moss. Dainty green plants, swayed to and fro by the plashing water, grew everywhere on the bottom of the brook, and, wherever on its course it could flow more smoothly, ferns, nodding gracefully, surrounded it like ostrich-feathers waving about the cradle of a royal babe.
Xanthe liked to watch the stream disappear in the myrtle-grove.
When, sitting in her favorite nook, she turned her eyes downward, she overlooked the broad gardens and fields of her father and uncle, stretching on the right and left of the stream along the gentle slope of the mountain, and the narrow plain by the sea.
The whole scene resembled a thick woolen carpet, whose green surface was embroidered with white and yellow spots, or one of the baskets young maidens bear on their heads at the feast of Demeter, and in which, piled high above the edge, light and dark-hued fruit gleams forth from leaves of every tint.
Groves of young pomegranate and myrtletrees, with vigorous shoots, stood forth in strong relief against the silvery gray-green foliage of the gnarled olive-trees.
Fragrant roses, glowing with a scarlet hue, as if the sun’s fiery kiss had called them to life, adorned bushes and hedges, while, blushing faintly, as if a child’s lips had waked them from slumber, the blossoms of the peach and almond glimmered on the branches of the trees.