ARACHNE - VOLUME 8.
ARACHNE - VOLUME 8.
Hermon filled with longing went down toward evening to the shore.
The sun was setting and the riot of colours in the western horizon
seemed like a mockery of the torturing anxiety which had mastered his
He did not notice the boat that was approaching the land; many travellers
who intended to go through Arabia Petrea landed here and for several
days--he knew why--there had been more stir in these quiet waters.
Suddenly he was surprised by the ringing shout with which he had formerly
announced his approach to Myrtilus.
Unconsciously agitated by joy as if the sunset glow before him had
suddenly been transformed into the dawn of a happy day he answered by a
loud cry glad with hope. Although his dim eyes did not yet permit him to
distinguish who was standing erect in the boat waving greetings to him
he thought he knew whom this exquisite evening was bringing.
Soon his own name reached him. It was his "wise Bias" who shouted and
soon with a throbbing heart he held out both hands to him.
The freedman had performed his commission in the best possible manner
and was now no longer bound to silence by oath.
Ledscha had left him and Myrtilus to themselves and as Bias thought he
had heard had sailed with the Gaul Lutarius for Paraetonium the
frontier city between the kingdom of Egypt and that of Cyrene.
Myrtilus felt stronger than he had done for a long time and had sent him
back to the blind friend who would need him more than he did.
But worthy Bias also brought messages from Archias and Daphne. They were
well and his uncle now had scarcely any cause to fear pursuers.
Before the landing of the boat the shade had covered Hermon's eyes; but
when after the freedman's first timid question about his sight he
raised it again at the same time reporting and showing what progress he
had already made toward recovery the excess of joy overpowered the
freedman and sometimes laughing sometimes weeping he kissed the
convalescent's hands and simple robe. It was some time before he calmed
himself again then laying his forefinger on the side of his nose he
said: "Therein the immortals differ from human beings. We sculptors can
only create good work with good tools but the immortals often use the
very poorest of all to accomplish the best things. You owe your sight to
the hate of this old witch and mother of pirates so may she find peace
in the grave. She is dead. I heard it from a fellow-countryman whom I
met in Herocipolis. Her end came soon after our visit."
Then Bias related what he knew of Hermon's uncle of Daphne and
Two letters were to give him further particulars.
They came from the woman he loved and from his friend and as soon as
Bias had lighted the lamp in the tent at the same time telling his
master in advance many items of news they contained he set about the
difficult task of reading.
He had certainly scarcely become a master of this art on board the Hydra
yet his slow performance did all honour to the patience of his teacher
He began with Daphne's letter but by the desire of prudent Archias it
communicated few facts. But the protestations of love and expressions of
longing which filled it pierced the freedman's soul so deeply that his
voice more than once failed while reading them.
Myrtilus's letter on the contrary gave a minute description of his mode
of life and informed his friend what he expected for him and himself in
the future. The contents of both relieved Hermon's sorely troubled
heart made life with those who were dearest to him possible and
explained many things which the reports of the slave had not rendered
Archias had gone with Daphne to the island of Lesbos his mother's native
city. The ships which conveyed travellers to Pergamus where Myrtilus
was living touched at this port and Bias to whom Hermon had confided
the refuge of the father and daughter had sought them there and found
them in a beautiful villa.
After being released from his oath Myrtilus had put himself into
communication with his uncle and just before Bias's departure the
merchant had come to Pergamus with his daughter. As he had the most
cordial reception from the Regent Philetaerus he seemed inclined to
settle permanently there.
As for Myrtilus he had cast anchor with Ledscha in the little Mysian
seaport town of Pitane near the mouth of the Caicus River on which
farther inland was the rapidly growing city of Pergamus.
She had found a hospitable welcome in the family of a seafarer who were
relatives while the Gaul continued his voyage to obtain information
about his tribe in Syria. But he had already returned when Bias reached
Pitane with the two talents intended for him. Myrtilus had availed
himself of Ledscha's permission long before and gone to Pergamus where
he had lived and worked in secrecy until after the freedman's return
from Ledscha who at once left Pitane with the Gaul he was released from
During the absence of Bias he had modelled a large relief a triumphal
procession of Dionysus and as the renown of his name had previously
reached Pergamus the artists and the most distinguished men in the city
flocked to his studio to admire the work of the famous Alexandrian.
Soon Philetoerus who had founded the Pergamenian kingdom seven years
before and governed it with great wisdom came to Myrtilus.
Like his nephew and heir Eumenes he was a friend to art and induced the
laurel-crowned Alexandrian to execute the relief modelled in clay in
marble for the Temple of Dionysus at Pergamus.
The heir to the throne of Philetaerus who was now advancing in years
was especially friendly to Myrtilus and did everything in his power to
bind him to Pergamus.
He succeeded for in the beautiful house located in an extremely
healthful site which Eumenes had assigned for a residence and studio to
the Alexandrian artist whose work he most ardently admired and whom he
regarded as the most welcome of guests Myrtilus felt better physically
than he had for years. Besides he thought that for many reasons his
friend would be less willing to settle in Alexandria and that the
presence of his uncle and Daphne would attract him to Pergamus.
Moreover Hermon surely knew that if he came to him as a blind man he
would find a brother; if he came restored to sight he would also find a
brother and likewise a fellow-artist with whom he could live and work.
Myrtilus had told the heir to the throne of Pergamus of his richly gifted
blind relative and of the peculiarity of his art and Eumenes eagerly
endeavoured to induce his beloved guest to persuade his friend to remove
to his capital where there was no lack of distinguished leeches.
If Hermon remained blind he would honour him; if he recovered his sight
he would give him large commissions.
How deeply these letters moved the heart of the recovering man! What
prospects they opened for his future life for love friendship and not
least for his art!
If he could see--if he could only see again! This exclamation blended
with everything he thought felt and uttered. Even in sleep it haunted
him. To regain the clearness of vision he needed for his work he would
willingly have submitted to the severest tortures.
In Alexandria alone lived the great leeches who could complete the work
which the salve of an ignorant old woman had begun. Thither he must go
though it cost him liberty and life. The most famous surgeon of the
Museum at the capital had refused his aid under other circumstances.
Perhaps he would relent if Philippus a friend of Erasistratus smoothed
the way for him and the old hero was now living very near. The ships
whose number on the sea at his feet was constantly increasing were
attracted hither by the presence of the Egyptian King and Queen on the
isthmus which connects Asia and Africa. The priest of Apollo at Clysma
and other distinguished Greeks whom he met there had told him the day
before yesterday and on two former visits to the place what was going
on in the world and informed him how great an honour awaited the eastern
frontier in these days. The appearance of their Majesties in person must
not only mean the founding of a city the reception of a victorious naval
commander and the consecration of a restored temple but also have still
During the last few years severe physical suffering had brought the
unfortunate second king of the house of Ptolemy to this place to seek
the aid of the ancient Egyptian gods and besides the philosophy busy
himself with the mystic teachings and magic arts of their priesthood.
Only a short period of life seemed allotted to the invalid ruler and the
service of the time-honoured god of the dead to whom he had erected one
of the most magnificent temples in the world at Alexandria to which
Egyptians and Hellenes repaired with equal devotion opened hopes for the
life after death which seemed to him worthy of examination.
For this reason also he desired to secure the favour of the Egyptian
For this purpose for the execution of his wise and beneficent
arrangements as well as for the gratification of his expensive tastes
large sums of money were required; therefore he devoted himself with
especial zeal to enlarging the resources of his country already so rich
In all these things he had found an admirable assistant in his sister
Arsinoe. As the daughter of the father and mother to whom he himself
owed existence he could claim for her unassailable legitimacy the same
recognition from the priesthood and the same submission from the people
rendered to his own person whom the religion of the country commanded
them to revere as the representative of the sun god.
As marriages between brothers and sisters had been customary from ancient
times and were sanctioned by religion and myth he had married the
second Arsinoe his sister immediately after the banishment of the first
Queen of this name.
After the union with her he called himself Philadelphus--brotherly love
--and honoured his sister and wife with the same name.
True this led the sarcastic Alexandrians to utter many a biting more or
less witty jest but he never had cause to regret his choice; in spite of
her forty years and more than one bloody deed which before her marriage
to him she had committed as Queen of Thrace and as a widow the second
Arsinoe was always a pattern of regally aristocratic dignified bearing
and haughty womanly beauty.
Though the first Philadelphus could expect no descendants from her he
had provided for securing them through her for he had induced her to
adopt the first Arsinoe's three children who had been taken from their
Arsinoe was now accompanying her royal husband Philadelphus to the
eastern frontier. There the latter expected to name the city to be newly
founded "Arsinoe" for her and-to show his esteem for the priesthood--to
consecrate in person the new Temple of Tum in the city of Pithom near
Lastly the monarch had been endeavouring to form new connections with
the coast countries of eastern Africa and open them to Egyptian
Admiral Eumedes the oldest son of Philippus and Thyone had succeeded in
doing this most admirably for the distinguished commander had not only
founded on the Ethiopian shore of the Red Sea a city which he named for
the King "Ptolemais" but also won over the princes and tribes of that
region to Egypt.
He was now returning from Ethiopia with a wealth of treasures.
After the brilliant festivals the invalid King with his new wife was to
give himself up to complete rest for a month in the healthful air of the
desert region which surrounded Pithom far from the tumult of the capital
and the exhausting duties of government.
The magnificent shows which were to be expected and the presence of the
royal pair had attracted thousands of spectators on foot or horseback
and by water and the morning after Bias's return the sea near Clysma was
swarming with vessels of all kinds and sizes.
It was more than probable that Philippus the father and Thyone the
mother of the famous returning Admiral Eumedes would not fail to be
present at his reception on his native soil and therefore Hermon wished
to seek out his dear old friends in Heroopolis where the greeting was to
take place and obtain their advice.
The boat on which the freedman had come was at the disposal of his master
and himself. Before Hermon entered it he took leave with an agitated
heart and open hand of his Amalekite friends and in spite of the mist
which still obscured everything he beheld he perceived how reluctantly
the simple dwellers in the wilderness saw him depart.
When the master and servant entered the boat in spite of the sturdy
sailors who manned it it proved even more difficult than they had feared
to make any progress; for the whole narrow end of the arm of the sea
which here extended between Egypt and Arabia Petrea was covered with war
galleys and transports boats and skiffs. The two most magnificent state
galleys from Heroopolis were coming here bearing the ambassadors who in
the King's name were to receive the fleet and its commander. Other
large and small richly equipped or unpretending ships and boats were
filled with curious spectators.
What a gay animated scene! What brilliant varied strange hitherto
unseen objects were gathered here: vessels of every form and size sails
white brown and black and on the state galleys and boats purple blue
and every colour adorned with more or less costly embroidery! What
rising and falling of swiftly or slowly moving oars!
"From Alexandria!" cried Bias pointing to a state galley which the King
was sending to the commander of the southern fleet.
"And there" remarked Hermon proud of his regained power of
distinguishing one thing from another and letting his eyes rest on one
of the returning transports on whose deck stood six huge African
elephants whose trumpeting mingled with the roaring of the lions and
tigers on the huge freight vessels and the exulting shouts of the men
and women in the ships and boats.
"After the King's heart!" exclaimed Bias. "He probably never received at
one time before so large an accession to his collection of rare animals.
What is the transport with the huge lotus flower on the prow probably
"Oh and the monkeys and parrots over yonder!" joyously exclaimed the
Amalekite boy who had been Hermon's guide and had accompanied him into
the boat. Then he suddenly lowered his voice and fearing that his
delight might give pain to the less keen-sighted man whom he loved he
asked "You can see them my lord can't you?"
"Certainly my boy though less plainly than you do" replied Hermon
stroking the lad's dark hair.
Meanwhile the admiral's ship had approached the shore.
Bias pointed to the poop where the commander Eumedes was standing
directing the course of the fleet.
As if moulded in bronze a man thoroughly equal to his office he seemed
in spite of the shouts greetings and acclamations thundering around
him to close his eyes and ears to the vessels thronging about his ship
and devote himself body and soul to the fulfilment of his duty. He had
just embraced his father and mother who had come here to meet him.
"The King undoubtedly sent by his father the laurel wreath on his
helmet" observed Bias pointing to the admiral. "So many honours while
he is still so young! When you went to the wrestling school in
Alexandria Eumedes was scarcely eight years older than you and I
remember how he preferred you to the others. A sign and he will notice
us and allow you to go on his ship or at any rate send us a boat in
which we can enter the canal."
"No no" replied Hermon. "My call would disturb him now."
"Then let us make ourselves known to the Lady Thyone or her husband" the
freedman continued. "They will certainly take us on their large state
galley from which though your eyes do not yet see as far as a falcon's
not a ship not a man not a movement will escape them."
But Hermon added one more surprise to the many which he had already
given for he kindly declined Bias's well-meant counsel and resting his
hand on the Amalekite boy's shoulder said modestly: "I am no longer the
Hermon whom Eumedes preferred to the others. And the Lady Thyone must
not be reminded of anything sad in this festal hour for the mother's
heart. I shall meet her to-morrow or the day after and yet I had
intended to let no one who is loyal to me look into my healing eyes
Then he felt the freedman's hand secretly press his and it comforted
him after the sorrowful thoughts to which he had yielded amid the
shouts of joy ringing around him. How quietly with what calm dignity
Eumedes received the well-merited homage and how disgracefully the false
fame had bewildered his own senses!
Yet he had not passed through the purifying fire of misfortune in vain!
The past should not cloud the glad anticipation of brighter days!
Drawing a long breath he straightened himself into a more erect posture
and ordered the men to push the boat from the shore. Then he pressed a
farewell kiss on the Amalekite boy's forehead the lad sprang ashore and
the journey northward began.
At first the sailors feared that the crowd would be too great and the
boat would be refused admission to the canal; but the helmsman succeeded
in keeping close behind a vessel of medium size and the Macedonian
guards of the channel put no obstacle in their countryman's way while
boats occupied by Egyptians and other barbarians were kept back.
In the Bitter Lakes whose entire length was to be traversed the ships
had more room and after a long voyage through dazzling sunlight and
along desolate shores the boat anchored at nightfall at Heroopolis.
Hermon and Bias obtained shelter on one of the ships which the sovereign
had placed at the disposal of the Greeks who came to participate in the
festivals to be celebrated.
Before his master went to rest the freedman--whom he had sent out to
look for a vessel bound to Pelusium and Alexandria the next day or the
following one--returned to the ship.
He had talked with the Lady Thyone and told Hermon from her that she
would visit or send for him the next day after the festival.
His own mother the freedman protested could not have rejoiced more
warmly over the commencement of his recovery and she would have come
with him at once had not Philippus prevented his aged wife who was
exhausted by the long journey.
The next morning the sun poured a wealth of radiant light upon the
desert the green water of the harbour and the gray and yellow walls of
the border fortress.
Three worlds held out their hands to one another on this water way
surrounded by the barren wilderness--Egypt Hellas and Semitic Asia.
To the first belonged the processions of priests who with images of the
gods consecrated vessels and caskets of relics took their places at
the edge of the harbour. The tawny and black half-naked soldiers who
with high shields lances battle-axes and bows gathered around
strangely shaped standards joined them amid the beating of drums and
blare of trumpets as if for their protection. Behind them surged a vast
multitude of Egyptians and dark-skinned Africans.
On the other side of the canal the Asiatics were moving to and fro. The
best places for spectators had been assigned to the petty kings and
princes of tribes Phoenician and Syrian merchants and well-equipped
richly armed warriors. Among them thronged owners of herds and seafarers
from the coast. Until the reception began fresh parties of bearded sons
of the desert in floating white bernouse mounted on noble steeds were
constantly joining the other Asiatics.
The centre was occupied by the Greeks. The appearance of every
individual showed that they were rulers of the land and that they
deserved to be. How free and bold was their bearing! how brightly and
joyously sparkled the eyes of these men whose wreaths of green leaves
and bright-hued flowers adorned locks anointed for the festivals! Strong
and slender they were conspicuous in their stately grace among the lean
Egyptians unbridled in their jests and jeers and the excitable
Now the blare of trumpets and the roll of drums shook the air like
echoing lightning and heavy peals of thunder; the Egyptian priests sang a
hymn of praise to the God King and Goddess Queen and the aristocratic
priestesses of the deity tinkled the brass rings on the sistrum. Then a
chorus of Hellenic singers began a polyphonous hymn and amid its full
melodious notes which rose above the enthusiastic shouts of "Hail!" from
the multitude King Ptolemy and his sister-wife showed themselves to the
waiting throng. Seated on golden thrones borne on the broad shoulders of
gigantic black Ethiopians and shaded by lofty canopies both were raised
above the crowd whom they saluted by gracious gestures.
The athletic young bearers of the large round ostrich-feather fans which
protected them from the sunbeams were followed in ranks by the monarch's
"relatives" and "friends" the dignitaries the dark and fair-haired
bands of the guards of Grecian youths and boys as well as divisions of
the picked corps of the Hetairoi Diadochi and Epigoni in beautiful
plain Macedonian armour.
They were followed in the most informal manner by scholars from the
Museum many Hellenic artists and wealthy gentlemen of Alexandria of
Greek and Jewish origin whom the King had invited to the festival.
In his train they went on board the huge galley on which the reception
was to take place. Scarcely had the last one stepped on the deck when it
Eumedes came from the admiral's galley to the King's. Ptolemy embraced
him like a friend and Arsinoe added a wreath of fresh roses to the
laurel crown which the sovereign had sent the day before.
At the same time thundering plaudits echoed from the walls of the
fortifications and broke sometimes rising sometimes falling against
the ships and masts in the calm water of the harbour.
The King had little time to lose. Even festal joy must move swiftly.
There were many and varied things to be seen and done; but in the course