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- Arachne, Volume 8. - 3/11 -


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 Asiatics.

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 began.

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 of an hour--so ran the order--this portion of the festivities must be over, and it was fully obeyed.

The hands and feet of the woolly-headed blacks who, amid loud acclamations, carried on shore the cages in which lions, panthers, and leopards shook the bars with savage fury, moved as if they were winged. The slender, dark-brown Ethiopians who led giraffes, apes, gazelles, and greyhounds past the royal pair rushed along as if they were under the lash; and the sixty elephants which Eumedes and his men had caught in the land of Chatyth moved at a rapid pace past the royal state galley.

At the sight of them the King joined in the cheers of thousands of voices on the shore; these giant animals were to him auxiliaries who could put to flight a whole corps of hostile cavalry, and Arsinoe-Philadelphus, the Queen, sympathized with his pleasure.

She raised her voice with her royal husband, and it seemed to the spectators on the shore as if they had a share in the narrative when she listened to Eumedes's first brief report.

Only specimens of the gold and ivory, spices and rare woods, juniper trees and skins of animals which the ships brought home could be borne past their Majesties, and the black and brown men who carried them moved at a breathless rate.

The sun was still far from the meridian when the royal couple and their train withdrew from the scene of the reception ceremonial, and drove, in a magnificent chariot drawn by four horses, to the neighbouring city of Pithoin, where new entertainments and a long period of rest awaited them. Hermon had seen, as if through a veil of white mists, the objects that aroused the enthusiasm of the throng, and so, he said to himself, it had been during the whole course of his life. Only the surface of the phenomena on which he fixed his eyes had been visible to him; he had not learned to penetrate further into their nature, fathom them to their depths, until he became blind.

If the gods fulfilled his hope, if he regained his vision entirely, and even the last mists had vanished, he would hold firmly to the capacity he had gained, and use it in life as well as in art.

CHAPTER XIV.

The messenger from Philippus appeared in the afternoon. It was the young hipparch who had studied in Athens and accompanied the commandant of Pelusium to Tennis the year before. He came charged with the commission to convey the artist, in the carriage of the gray-haired comrade of Alexander, to the neighbouring city of Pithom, where Philippus, by the King's command, was now residing.

On the way the hipparch told the sculptor that the Lady Thyone had recently done things unprecedented for a woman of her age.

She had been present at the founding of the city of Arsinoe, as well as at the laying of the corner stone of the temple which was to be consecrated to the new god Serapis in the neighbourhood. The day before she had welcomed her returning son before the entry of the fleet into the canal, and to-day had remained from the beginning to the end of his reception by the King, without being unduly wearied.

Her first thought, after the close of the ceremony, had concerned her convalescing young friend. New entertainments, in which the Queen commanded her to participate, awaited her in Pithom, but pleasure at the return of her famous son appeared to double her power of endurance.

Pithom was the sacred name of the temple precincts of the desert city of Thekut--[The biblical Suchot]--near Heroopolis, where the citizens lived and pursued their business.

The travellers reached the place very speedily. Garlands of flowers and hangings adorned the houses. The sacred precinct Pithom, above which towered the magnificently restored temple of the god Turn, was also still adorned with many superb ones, as well as lofty masts, banners, and triumphal arches.

Before they reached it the equipage passed the sumptuous tents which had been erected for the royal pair and their attendants. If Hermon had not known how long the monarch intended to remain here, their size and number would have surprised him.

A regular messenger and carrier-dove service had been established between Alexandria and Pithom for the period of Ptolemy's relaxation; and the sovereign was accompanied not only by several of the chief councillors and secretaries, but artists and some of the Museum scientists with whom he was on specially intimate terms, who were to adorn the festival on the frontier with their presence, and cheer the invalid King, who needed entertainment. Singers and actors also belonged to the train.

As they passed the encampment of the troops who accompanied the sovereign, the hipparch could show Hermon a magnificent military spectacle.

Heroopolis was fortified, and belonged to the military colonies which Alexander the Great had established throughout all Egypt in order to win it over more quickly to Grecian customs. A Hellenic phalanx and Libyan mercenaries formed the garrison there, but at Pithom the King had gathered the flower of his troops around him, and this circumstance showed how little serious consideration the cautious ruler, who usually carefully regarded every detail, gave to the war with Cyrene, in which he took no personal part. The four thousand Gauls whom he had sent across the frontier as auxiliary troops promised to become perilous to the foe, who was also threatened in the rear by one of the most powerful Libyan tribes.

Therefore, the artist was assured by his military companion, Philadelphus could let the campaign take its course, and permit himself the brief period of rest in this strangely chosen place, which the leeches had advised.

The house where the aged couple lived with their son, Admiral Eumedes, was on the edge of the precincts of the temple. It belonged to the most distinguished merchant in the place, and consisted of a large open courtyard in the form of a square, surrounded by the building and its communicating wings.

When the hipparch led Hermon into this place a number of people had already assembled there. Soldiers and sailors stood in groups in the centre, awaiting the orders of the old general and his subordinate officers. Messengers and slaves, coming and going on various errands, were crossing it, and on the shady side benches and chairs stood under a light awning. Most of these were occupied by visitors who came to congratulate the mother of the fame-crowned admiral.

Thyone was reclining on a divan in their midst, submitting with a sigh to the social duties which her high position imposed upon her.

Her face was turned toward the large doorway of the main entrance, while she sometimes greeted newly introduced guests, sometimes bade farewell to departing ones, and meanwhile answered and asked questions.

She had been more wearied by the exertions of the last few days than her animated manner revealed. Yet as soon as Hermon, leaning on the young hipparch's arm, approached her, she rose and cordially extended both hands to him. True, the recovering man was still unable to see her features distinctly, but he felt the maternal kindness with which she received him, and what his eyes could not distinguish his ears taught him in her warm greetings. His heart dilated and, after he had kissed her dear old hand more than once with affectionate devotion, she led him among her guests and presented him to them as the son of her dearest friend.

A strange stir ran through the assembled group, nearly all whose members belonged to the King's train, and the low whispers and murmurs around him revealed to Hermon that the false wreaths he wore had by no means been forgotten in this circle.

A painful feeling of discomfort overwhelmed the man accustomed to the silence of the desert, and a voice within cried with earnest insistence, "Away from here!"


Arachne, Volume 8. - 3/11

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