The walk to the sea.
While the priest of Aphrodite received Jason’s gift, praised the pig’s beauty, and promised to slay it immediately, but said he would only accept the lean animal Mopsus offered in Semestre’s name for the sake of its ornaments and the giver, Xanthe came out of her father’s house. She wore her handsomest garments, and had carefully arranged her beautiful fair hair reflecting as she did so on many different things, for maidens are fond of thinking when seated at the loom or spinning-wheel, or quietly occupied in adorning their tresses.
Semestre followed close behind, and gave her a small knife, saying:
“It is seemly to decorate the door of a welcome guest with flowers. The bushes are full of roses now, so go and cut as many as will be needed for a handsome garland, but gather only red or yellow flowers, no white ones, for they bring no good fortune. You will find the largest below near the bench by the sea.”
“Wait and hear me out.”
“The weather is delightful, there was a light breeze from the north during the night, so it may happen that the ship from Messina will arrive before noon.”
“Then let me go down.”
“Go and watch for the sails. If you see ours, hurry back and tell Chloris to call me, for I must go to the temple of Cypris.”
“You?” asked Xanthe, laughing.
“I, and you are the last person who should sneer at the errand; nay, you can accompany me.”
“No! I will cut the roses.”
These words were uttered in a tone the house-keeper knew well. Whenever Xanthe used it, she insisted upon having her own way, and did what she pleased, while Semestre, who usually never admitted that her hearing was no longer so keen as in former clays, in such cases willingly pleaded her deafness, in order to avoid a retreat.
To-day she particularly shrank from irritating the easily-excited girl, and therefore replied:
“What did you say? Wouldn’t it be better for you to go and cut the roses immediately, my dove? Make haste, for the vessel for which you are to watch bears your happiness. How beautiful the ornaments Leonax is bringing will look! We have never yet seen the like, I imagine. The people in Messina haven’t forgotten poor me either, for I heard whispers about a robe such as matrons wear. It is—it might be—well, we shall see.”
Tittering, and almost embarrassed, she fixed her eyes upon the ground, reminded Xanthe once more to have her called as soon as the ship from Messina appeared, and then, leaning on her myrtle-staff, tottered up the path leading to the temple of the goddess.
Xanthe did not go directly down to the sea, but approached her uncle’s house to seek Phaon with her eyes.
As she could not see him, either in the stables, or the walk lined with fig-trees trained upon espaliers beside the house, she turned quickly away, repressing out of pride her desire to call him.