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- Arachne, Volume 8. - 10/11 -
Then she added in a louder tone: "Old Tabus's demons promised me happiness--you know. It was the spider which so cruelly shadowed it for me on every full moon, every day, and every night. Will you now swear to model a statue from me, the statue of a beautiful human being that will arouse the delight of all who see it? Delight--do you hear?--not loathing--I ask again, will you?"
"I will, and I shall succeed," he said earnestly, holding out his hand across the rope. She clasped it, looked up to the full moon again, and whispered: "This time--I will believe it--you will keep your promise better than when you were in Tennis. And I--I will cease to wish you evil, and I will tell you why. Bend your ear nearer, that I may confess it openly." Hermon willingly obeyed the request, but she leaned her head against his, and he felt her laboured breathing and the warm tears that coursed silently down her cheeks as she said, in a low whisper: "Because the moon is full, and will yet bring me what the demons promised, and because, though strong, I am still a woman. Happiness! How long ago I ceased to expect it!--but now-yes, it is what I now feel! I am happy, and yet can not tell why. My love--oh, yes! It was more ardent than the burning hate. Now you know it, too, Hermon. And I--I shall be free, you say? And Tabus, how she lauded rest--eternal rest! Oh dearest--this sorely tortured heart, too--you can not even imagine how weary I am!"
Here she was silent, but the man into whose face she was gazing with loving devotion felt a sudden movement at his side as she uttered the exclamation.
He did not notice it, for the sweet tone of her voice was penetrating the inmost depths of his heart. It sounded as though she was speaking from the happiest of dreams.
"Ledscha!" he exclaimed warmly, extending his arm toward her--but she had already stepped back from his side, and he now perceived the terrible object--she had snatched his sword from its sheath, and as, seized by sudden terror, he gazed at her, he saw the shining blade glitter in the moonlight and suddenly vanish.
In an instant he swung his agile body over the rope and rushed to her. But she had already sunk to her knees, and while he clasped her in is arms to support her, he heard her call his own name tenderly, then murmur it in a lower tone, and the words "Full moon" and "Happiness" escape her lips.
Then she was silent, and her beautiful head dropped on her breast like a flower broken by a tempest.
"It was best so for her and for us," said Eumedes, after gazing long at Ledscha's touchingly beautiful, still, dead face.
Then he ordered her to be buried at once and shouted to the guards: "Everything must be over on this strip of land early to-morrow morning! Let all who bear arms begin at once. Selene will light the men brightly enough for the work."
The terrible order given in mercy was fulfilled, and hunger and thirst were robbed of their numerous prey. When the new day dawned the friends were still on deck, engaged in grave conversation. The cloudless sky now arched in radiant light above the azure sea. White seagulls came flying from the right across the ship, and sportive dolphins gambolled around her keel.
The flutes of the musicians, marking time for the rowers, echoed gaily up from the hold, and, obedient to quick words of command, the seamen were spreading the sails.
The voyage began with a favourable wind. As Hermon looked back for the last time, the flat, desolate tongue of land appeared like a line of gray mist in the southeastern horizon; but over it hovered, like a gloomy thundercloud, the flocks of vultures and ravens, whose numbers were constantly increasing. Their greedy screaming could still be heard, though but faintly, yet the eye could no longer distinguish anything in the fast-vanishing abode of horror, save the hovering whirl of dark spots--ravens and vultures, vultures and ravens.
Whatever human life had moved there yesterday, now rested from bloody greed for booty, after victory and defeat, mortal terror, fury, and despair.
Eumedes pointed out the quiet grave by the sea to his parents, saying: "The King's command is fulfilled. Not even the one man who is usually spared to carry the news remains out of the four thousand."
"I thank you," exclaimed Alexander's gray-haired comrade, shaking his son's right hand, but Thyone laid her hand on Hermon's arm, saving: "Where the birds are darkening the air behind us lies buried what incensed Nemesis against you. You must leave the soil of Egypt. True, it is said that to live in foreign lands, far from the beloved home, darkens the existence; yet Pergamus, too, is Grecian soil, and there I see the two noblest of stars illumine your path with their pure light -art and love."
And his old friend's premonition was fulfilled.
The story of Arachne is ended. It closed on the Nile. Hermon's new life began in Pergamus.
As Daphne's husband, under the same roof with the wonderfully invigorated Myrtilus, his Uncle Archias, and faithful Bias, Hermon found in the new home what had hovered before the blind man as the fairest goal of existence in art, love, and friendship.
He did not long miss the gay varied life of Alexandria, because he found a rich compensation for it, and because Pergamus, too, was a rapidly growing city, whose artistic decoration was inferior to no other in Greece.
Of the numerous works which Hermon completed in the service of the first three art-loving rulers of the new Pergamenian kingdom, Philetaerus, Eumenes, and Attalus, nothing was preserved except the head of a Gaul. This noble masterpiece proves how faithful Hermon remained to truth, which he had early chosen for the guiding star of his art. It is the modest remnant of the group in which Hermon perpetuated in marble the two Gallic brothers whom he saw before his last meeting with Ledscha, as they offered their breasts to the fatal shafts.
One had gazed defiantly at the arrows of the conquerors; the other, whose head has been preserved, feeling the inevitable approach of death, anticipates, with sorrowful emotion, the end so close at hand. Philetaerus had sent this touching work to King Ptolemy to thank him for the severity with which he had chastised the daring of the barbarians, who had not spared his kingdom also. The Gaul's head was again found on Egyptian soil.
[Copied in Th. Schrieber's The Head of the Gaul in the Museum of Ghizeh in Cairo. Leipsic, 1896. With appendix. By H. Curschmann.]
Hermon also took other subjects in Pergamus from the domain of real life, though, in most of his work he crossed the limits which he had formerly imposed upon himself. But one barrier, often as he rushed forward to its outermost verge, he never dared to pass--moderation, the noblest demand, to which his liberty-loving race subjected themselves willingly in life as well as in art. The whole infinite, limitless world of the ideal had opened itself to the blind man.
He made himself at home in it by remaining faithful to the rule which he had found in the desert for his creative work, and the genuine happiness which he enjoyed through Daphne's love and the great fame his sculptures brought him increased the strong individuality of his power.
The fruits of his tireless industry, the much-admired god of light, Phoebus Apollo, slaying the dragons of darkness, as well as his bewitching Arachne, gazing proudly at the fabric with which she thinks she has surpassed the skill of the goddess, were overtaken by destruction. In this statue Bias recognised his countrywoman Ledscha, and often gazed long at it with devout ecstasy. Even Hermon's works of colossal size vanished from the earth: the Battle of the Amazons and the relief containing numerous figures: the Sea Gods, which the Regent Eumenes ordered for the Temple of Poseidon in Pergamus.
The works of his grandson and grandson's pupils, however, are preserved on the great altar of victory in Pergamus.
The power and energy natural to Hermon, the skill he had acquired in Rhodes, everything in the changeful life of Alexandria which had induced him to consecrate his art to reality, and to that alone, and whatever he had, finally, in quiet seclusion, recognised as right and in harmony with the Greek nature and his own, blend in those works of his successor, which a gracious dispensation of Providence permits us still to admire at the present day, and which we call in its entirety, the art of Pergamus.
The city was a second beloved home to him, as well as to his wife and Myrtilus. The rulers of the country took the old Alexandrian Archias into their confidence and knew how to honour him by many a distinction. He understood how to value the happiness of his only daughter, the beautiful development of his grandchildren, and the high place that Hermon and Myrtilus, whom he loved as if they were his own sons, attained among the artists of their time. Yet he struggled vainly against the longing for his dear old home. Therefore Hermon deemed it one of the best days of his life when his turn came to make Daphne's father a happy man.
King Ptolemy Philadelphus had sent laurel to the artist who had fallen under suspicion in Egypt, and his messenger invited him and Myrtilus, and with them also the exiled merchant, to return to his presence. In gratitude for the pleasure which Hermon's creation afforded him and his wife, the cause that kept the fugitive Archias from his home should be forgiven and forgotten.
The gray-haired son of the capital returned with the Bithynian Gras to his beloved Alexandria, as if his lost youth was again restored. There he found unchanged the busy, active life, the Macedonian Council, the bath, the marketplace, the bewitching conversation, the biting wit, the exquisite feasts of the eyes--in short, everything for which his heart had longed even amid the happiness and love of his dear ones in Pergamus.
For two years he endeavoured to enjoy everything as before; but when the works of the Pergamenian artists, obtained by Ptolemy, had been exhibited in the royal palaces, he returned home with a troubled mind. Like the rest of the world, he thought that the reliefs of Myrtilus, representing scenes of rural life, were wonderful.
The Capture of Proserpina, a life-size marble group by his son-in-law
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