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- Arachne, Volume 8. - 2/11 -
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 exiled mother.
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 Heroopolis.
Lastly, the monarch had been endeavouring to form new connections with the coast countries of eastern Africa, and open them to Egyptian commerce.
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 bringing?"
"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 before Daphne."
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
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