On her way to the sea she met her uncle’s high-shouldered slave. Xanthe stopped and questioned him.
Semestre had told no lie. Phaon had not yet returned from a nocturnal excursion, and for several days had not reached home until just before sunrise.
No, he was not the man to offer support to her sick father. He was looking for a wealthy heiress, and forgot his relatives for the sake of dissolute young men and worthless wenches.
This thought hurt her sorely, so sorely that she wanted to weep as she had done by the spring.
But she forced back her tears; not one wet her cheeks, yet it seemed as if her poor heart had obtained eyes to shed them.
The little knife in her hand reminded her of her task of cutting roses, and watching for the ship which was to bring her uncle’s son from Messina.
If Leonax was what Semestre described him, she would not repel him like the other suitors, whom she had rejected with laughing lips.
Yes, she would become his wife, not only for her father’s sake, but to punish Phaon.
Sorrow and pain never felt before filled her heart after making this resolution. Wholly engrossed by these conflicting emotions, instead of going down to the sea, she walked straight on till she reached the great gate that led to her own home. There she remembered the object of her errand, and was just turning back, when the conjurer, who was resting outside the gate with his cart in the shadow of the fence, called:
“You are obeying my advice, beautiful Xanthe, and move as thoughtfully as a sophist.”
“Then you must not disturb me,” cried the girl, raising her head defiantly. “Pardon me if I do so,” replied the other, “but I wanted to tell you that I might perhaps know of aid for your father. In my home—”
“Where is your home?”
“Messina!” exclaimed Xanthe, eagerly.
“A very experienced physician lives there,” interrupted the conjurer.
“No one has helped my father.”
“Then come in and speak to him.”
“I’m afraid of the cross old woman.”
“She has gone out, and you will find father alone.”
“Then I’ll go to him.”
“Did you say you were from Messina?”
“That is my home.”
“Do you know my uncle Alciphron, the merchant?”
“Certainly. He owns the most ships in the place.”
“And his son Leonax, too?”
“I often saw him, for my hut stands opposite to the landing-place of your uncle’s vessels, and the youth always superintends the loading and unloading. He, if any one, belongs to those spoiled children of fortune who disgust poor dwarfs like me with life, and make us laugh when people say there are just gods above.”
“You are blaspheming.”
“I only say what others think.”
“Yet you too were young once.”