When she wept in the morning beside the spring, it was not, she now thought, because of the heiress from Messina; no, the tears that had sprung to her eyes were like those a mother sheds for her erring son.
She seemed to herself extremely venerable, and would have thought it only natural if gray hair instead of golden had adorned the head over which scarcely seventeen years had passed.
She even assumed the gait of a dignified matron, but it was hardly like a mother, when, on her way to the rose-bushes by the sea, she studiously strove to misunderstand and pervert everything good in Phaon, and call his quiet nature indolence, his zeal to be useful to her weakness, his taciturn manner mere narrow-mindedness, and even his beautiful, dreamy eyes sleepy.
With all this, the young girl found little time to think of the new suitor; she must first shatter the old divine image, but every blow of the hammer hurt her as if it fell upon herself.
The rose-bush to which Xanthe went grew on the dike that belonged in common to her father and uncle, beside a bench of beautifully-polished white marble.
Many a winter had loosened the different blocks, and bordered them with yellow edges.
Even at a distance the girl saw that the seat was not vacant. The brook that flowed from the spring to the sea ran beneath it, and the maid-servants were in the habit of washing the household linen in its swift current.
Were they now using the bench to spread out the garments they had rinsed?
No! A man lay on the hard marble, a man who had drawn his light cloak over his face to protect himself from the rays of the sun, now rising higher and higher.
His sandaled feet and ankles, bandaged as if for journeying, appeared beneath the covering.
By these feet Xanthe quickly recognized the sleeping youth.
It was Phaon. She would have known him, even if she had seen only two of his fingers.
The sun would soon reach its meridian height, and there he lay asleep.
At first it had startled her to find him here, but she soon felt nothing but indignation, and again the image of the flute-playing women, with whom he must have revelled until thus exhausted, rose before her mind.
“Let him sleep,” she murmured proudly and contemptuously; she passed him, cut a handful of roses from the bushes covered with crimson and yellow blossoms, sat down on the vacant space beside his head, watched for the ship from Messina, and, as it did not come, began to weave the garland.
She could do the work here as well as anywhere else, and told herself that it was all the same to her whether Phaon or her father’s linen lay there. But her heart belied these reflections, for it throbbed so violently that it ached.
And why would not her fingers move; why could her eyes scarcely distinguish the red roses from the yellow ones?