From a child he had been one of those who act without many words. He liked to wander dreamily in lonely paths, with his large, dark eyes fixed on the ground.
He rarely spoke, unless questioned. Never did he boast of being able to accomplish, or having successfully performed, this or that feat.
He was silent at his work, and, even while engaged in merry games, set about a task slowly, but completed whatever he undertook.
He was welcome in the wrestling-ring and at the dance, for the youths respected his strength, grace, dexterity, and the quiet way in which he silenced wranglers and boasters; while the maidens liked to gaze into the handsome dreamer’s eyes, and admired him, though even in the maddest whirl of the dance he remained passionless, moving lightly in perfect time to the measures of the tambourine and double flute.
True, many whom he forgot to notice railed at his silent ways, and even Xanthe had often been sorely vexed when his tongue failed to utter a single word of the significant stories told by his eyes. Ay, they under stood how to talk! When his deep, ardent gaze rested upon her, unwavering, but glowing and powerful as the lava-stream that sweeps every obstacle from its still, noiseless course, she believed he was not silent from poverty of mind and heart, but because the feelings that moved him were so mighty that no mortal lips could clothe them in words.
Nevertheless, to-day Xanthe was angry with her playfellow, and a maiden’s wrath has two eyes—one blind, the other keener than a falcon’s.
What she usually prized and valued in Phaon she now did not see at all, but distinguished every one of his defects.
True, he had shown her much affection without words, but he was certainly as mute as a fish, and would, doubtless, have boasted and asked for thanks like anybody else, if indolence had not fettered his stiff tongue.
Only a short time ago she was obliged to give her hand to lanky Iphis, because Phaon came forward too slowly. He was sleepy, a foolish dreamer, and she would tell him it would be better for him to stretch himself comfortably on his couch and continue to practise silence, rather than woo foreign maidens and riot all night with dissipated companions.
As Xanthe approached her father’s house, Semestre’s call and the gay notes of a monaulus—[A musical instrument, played like our flageolet or clarinet]—greeted her.
A conjurer had obtained admittance, and was showing his laughing audience the tricks of his trained cocks and hens.
He was a dwarfish, bow-legged little man, with a short neck, on which rested a big head with a very prominent forehead, that shaded his small piercing eyes like a balcony.
The feathered actors lived in a two-wheeled cart, drawn from village to village, and city to city, by a tiny, gayly-decked donkey.