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- Arachne, Volume 8. - 5/11 -
this warm-blooded young artist voluntarily submitted to live in accord with reason and Nature--the guiding stars of his own existence.
But Hermon opened his soul to his learned friend, and what Erasistratus thus learned strengthened the conviction of this great alleviator of physical pain that suffering and knowledge of self were the best physicians for the human soul. The scientist, who saw in the arts the noblest ornament of mortal life, anticipated with eager interest Hermon's future creative work.
On the seventh day the leech removed the bandage from his patient's eyes, and the cry of rapture with which Hermon clasped him in his arms richly rewarded him for his trouble and solicitude.
The restored man beheld in sharp, clear, undimmed outlines everything at which the physician desired him to look.
Now Erasistratus could write to his friend Herophilus in Alexandria that the operation was successful.
The sculptor was ordered to avoid the dazzling sunlight a fortnight longer, then he might once more use his eyes without restriction, and appeal to the Muse to help in creating works of art.
Thyone was present at this explanation. After she had conquered the great emotion which for a time sealed her lips, her first question, after the physician's departure, was: "And Nemesis? She too, I think, has fled before the new light?"
Hermon pressed her hand still more warmly, exclaiming with joyous confidence: "No, Thyone! True, I now have little reason to fear the avenging goddess who pursues the criminal, but all the more the other Nemesis, who limits the excess of happiness. Will she not turn her swift wheel, when I again, with clear eyes, see Daphne, and am permitted to work in my studio once more with keen eyes and steady hand?"
Now the barriers which had hitherto restricted Hermon's social intercourse also fell. Eumedes, the commander of the fleet, often visited him, and while exchanging tales of their experiences they became friends.
When Hermon was alone with Thyone and her gray-haired husband, the conversation frequently turned upon Daphne and her father.
Then the recovered artist learned to whom Archias owed his escape from being sentenced to death and having his property confiscated. Papers, undeniably genuine, had proved what large sums had been advanced by the merchant during the period of the first Queen Arsinoe's conspiracy, and envious foes had done their best to prejudice the King and his sister- wife against Archias. Then the gray-haired hero fearlessly interceded for his friend, and the monarch did not remain deaf to his representations. King Ptolemy was writing the history of the conqueror of the world, and needed the aged comrade of Alexander, the sole survivor who had held a prominent position in the great Macedonian's campaigns. It might be detrimental to his work, on which he set great value, if he angered the old warrior, who was a living source of history. Yet the King was still ill-disposed to the merchant, for while he destroyed Archias's death sentence which had been laid before him for his signature, he said to Philippus: "The money-bag whose life I give you was the friend of my foe. Let him beware that my arm does not yet reach him from afar!"
Nay, his resentment went so far that he refused to receive Hermon, when Eumedes begged permission to present the artist whose sight had been so wonderfully restored.
"To me he is still the unjustly crowned conspirator," Philadelphus replied. "Let him create the remarkable work which I formerly expected from him, and perhaps I shall have a somewhat better opinion of him, deem him more worthy of our favour."
Under these circumstances it was advisable for Archias and Daphne to remain absent from Alexandria, and the experienced couple could only approve Hermon's decision to go to Pergamus as soon as Erasistratus dismissed him. A letter from Daphne, which reached Thyone's hands at this time, increased the convalescent's already ardent yearning to the highest pitch. The girl entreated her maternal friend to tell her frankly the condition of her lover's health. If he had recovered, he would know how to find her speedily; if the blindness was incurable, she would come herself to help him bear the burden of his darkened existence. Chrysilla would accompany her, but she could leave her father alone in Pergamus a few months without anxiety, for he had a second son there in his nephew Myrtilus, and had found a kind friend in Philetaerus, the ruler of the country.
From this time Hermon daily urged Erasistratus to grant him entire liberty, but the leech steadfastly refused, though he knew whither his young friend longed to go.
Not until the beginning of the fourth week after the operation did he himself lead Hermon into the full sunlight, and when the recovered artist came out of the house he raised his hands in mute prayer, gushing from the inmost depths of his heart.
The King was to return to Alexandria in a few days, and at the same time Philippus and Thyone were going back to Pelusium. Hermon wished to accompany them there and sail thence on a ship bound for Pergamus.
With Eumedes he visited the unfamiliar scenes around him, and his newly restored gift of sight presented to him here many things that formerly he would scarcely have noticed, but which now filled him with grateful joy. Gratitude, intense gratitude, had taken possession of his whole being. This feeling mastered him completely and seemed to be fostered and strengthened by every breath, every heart throb, every glance into his own soul and the future.
Besides, many beauties, nay, even many marvels, presented themselves to his restored eyes. The whole wealth of the magic of beauty, intellect, and pleasure in life, characteristic of the Greek nature, appeared to have followed King Ptolemy and Queen Arsinoe-Philadelphus hither. Gardens had been created on the arid, sandy soil, whose gray and yellow surface extended in every direction, the water on the shore of the canal which united Pithom with the Nile not sufficing to render it possible to make even a narrow strip of arable land. Fresh water flowed from beautiful fountains adorned with rich carvings, and the pure fluid filled large porphyry and marble basins. Statues, single and in groups, stood forth in harmonious arrangement against green masses of leafage, and Grecian temples, halls, and even a theatre, rapidly constructed in the noblest forms from light material, invited the people to devotion, to the enjoyment of the most exquisite music, and to witness the perfect performance of many a tragedy and comedy.
Statues surrounded the hurriedly erected palaestra where the Ephebi every morning practised their nude, anointed bodies in racing, wrestling, and throwing the discus. What a delight it was to Hermon to feast his eyes upon these spectacles! What a stimulus to the artist, so long absorbed in his own thoughts, who had so recently returned from the wilderness to the world of active life, when he was permitted, in Erasistratus's tent, to listen to the great scholars who had accompanied the King to the desert! Only the regret that Daphne was not present to share his pleasure clouded Hermon's enjoyment, when Eumedes related to his parents, himself, and a few chosen friends the adventures encountered, and the experiences gathered in distant Ethiopia, on land and water, in battle and the chase, as investigator and commander.
The utmost degree of variety had entered into the simplicity of the monotonous desert, the most refined abundance for the intellect and the need of beauty appeared amid its barrenness.
The poet Callimachus had just arrived with a new chorus of singers, tablets by Antiphilus and Nicias had come to beautify the last days of the residence in the desert--when doves, the birds of Aphrodite, flew with the speed of lightning into Pithom, but instead of bringing a new message of love and announcing the approach of fresh pleasure, they bore terrible tidings which put joy to flight and stifled mirthfulness.
The unbridled greed of rude barbarians had chosen Alexandria for its goal, and startled the royal pair and their chosen companions from the sea of pleasure where they would probably have remained for weeks.
The four thousand Gauls who had been obtained to fight against Cyrene were in the act of rushing rapaciously upon the richest city in the world. The most terrible danger hung like a black cloud over the capital founded by Alexander, whose growth had been so rapid. True, General Satvrus asserted that he was strong enough, with the troops at his disposal, to defeat the formidable hordes; but a second dove, sent by the epitropus who had remained in Alexandria, alluded to serious disaster which it would scarcely be possible to avert.
The doves now flew swiftly to and fro; but before the third arrived, Eumedes, the commander of the fleet just from Ethiopia, was already on the way to Alexandria with all the troops assembled on the frontier.
The King and Queen, with the corps of pages and the corps of youths, entered the boats waiting for them to return, drawn by teams of four swift horses, to Memphis, to await within the impregnable fortress of the White Castle the restoration of security in the capital.
The Greeks prized the most valiant fearlessness so highly that no shadow could be suffered to rest upon the King's, and therefore the monarch's hurried departure was made in a way which permitted no thought of flight, and merely resembled impatient yearning for new festivals and the earnest desire to fulfil grave duties in another portion of the kingdom.
Many of the companions of the royal pair, among them Erasistratus, accompanied them. Hermon bade him farewell with a troubled heart, and the leech, too, parted with regret from the artist to whom, a year before, he had refused his aid.
Hermon went, with Philippus and Thyone, on board the ship which was to convey them through the new canal to Pelusium, where the old commandant had to plan all sorts of measures. In the border fortress the artist was again obliged to exercise patience, for no ship bound to Pergamus or Lesbos could be found in the harbour. Philippus had as much work as he could do, but all his arrangements were made when carrier doves announced that the surprise intended by the Gauls had been completely thwarted, and his son Eumedes was empowered to punish them.
The admiral would take his fleet to the Sebennytic mouth of the Nile.
Another dove came from King Ptolemy, and summoned the old general at once to the capital. Philippus resolved to set off without delay and, as the way led past that mouth of the Nile, met his son on the voyage.
Hermon must accompany him and his wife to Alexandria, whence, without
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