“So young and so deaf; it is sad. Poor girls!”
“They like Mopsus better than you, and don’t wish to hear,” replied Jason, laughing. “They can’t,” said Semestre, angrily. “Mopsus is a bold, good-for-nothing fellow, whom I’ve often wanted to drive out of the house, but I should like to see the person who refused me obedience. As for your proposal, you have now heard distinctly enough that our girl is intended for Leonax.”
“But suppose Xanthe doesn’t want Leonax, and prefers Phaon to the stranger?”
“Alciphron’s son a ‘stranger’ on the estates of his ancestors!” exclaimed Semestre. “What don’t we hear? But I must go to work to prepare the best possible reception for Leonax, that he may feel from the first he is no stranger here, but perfectly at home. Now go, if you choose, and offer sacrifices to Aphrodite, that she may join the hearts of Xanthe and Phaon. I’ll stick to my spit.”
“Then you’ll be in the right place,” cried Jason, “but you’re not yet turning it for Leonax’s wedding-feast.”
“And I promise you I’ll prepare the roast for Phaon’s,” retorted Semestre, “but not until the sacrifice of an animal I’m fattening myself induces the foam-born goddess to kindle in Xanthe’s heart sweet love for Leonax.”
“Xanthe, Xanthe!” called Semestre, a short time after. “Xanthe! Where is the girl?”
The old woman had gone into the garden. Knowing how to use time to advantage, and liking to do two things at once, while looking for her nursling and repeatedly shouting the girl’s name, she was gathering vegetables and herbs, on which the dew of early morning still glittered brightly.
While thus occupied, she was thinking far more of her favorite’s son and the roast meats, cakes, and sauces to be prepared for him, than of Xanthe.
She wanted to provide for Leonax all the dishes his father had specially liked when a child, for what a father relishes, she considered, will please his children.
Twenty times she had stooped to pluck fresh lavender, green lettuce, and young, red turnips, and each time, while straightening herself again by her myrtle-staff, as well as a back bent by age would allow, called “Xanthe, Xanthe!”
Though she at last threw her head back so far that the sun shone into her open mouth, and the power of her lungs was not small, no answer came. This did not make her uneasy, for the girl could not be far away, and Semestre was used to calling her name more than once before she obeyed.
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.