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- Cleopatra, Volume 4. - 2/9 -
Dionysus, that the young man was one of those who, when intoxicated, weep and lament; but this time something unusual must have occurred, for in the first place his handsome face was coloured black and looked hideous, since his tears had washed away the soot in many places, and then he talked nothing but a confused jargon. It was a pity.
When an attempt was made, with the help of the garden slave, to carry him to his room, he dealt blows and kicks like a lunatic. Didymus now also believed that he was possessed by demons, as often happens to those who, in falling, strike their heads against the ground, and thus wake the demons in the earth. Well, yes, they might be demons, but only those of wine. The student was just "crazy drunk," as people say. But the old gentleman was very fond of his pupil, and had ordered him, Pliryx, to go to Olympus, who, ever since he could remember, had been the family physician.
"The Queen's leech?" asked Gorgias, disapprovingly, and when the slave assented, the architect exclaimed in a positive tone: "It is not right to force the old man out of doors in such a north wind. Age is not specially considerate to age. Now that the statues stand yonder, I can leave my post for half an hour and will go with you. I don't think a leech is needed to drive out these demons."
"True, my lord, true!" cried the slave, "but Olympus is our friend. He visits few patients, but he will come to our house in any weather. He has litters, chariots, and splendid mules. The Queen gives him whatever is best and most comfortable. He is skilful, and perhaps can render speedy help. People must use what they have."
"Only where it is necessary," replied the architect. "There are my two mules; follow me on the second. If I don't drive out the demons, you will have plenty of time to trot after Olympus."
This proposal pleased the old slave, and a short time after Gorgias entered the venerable philosopher's tablinum.
Helena welcomed him like an intimate friend. Whenever he appeared she thought the peril was half over. Didymus, too, greeted him warmly, and conducted him to the little room where the youth possessed by demons lay on a divan.
He was still groaning and whimpering. Tears were streaming down his cheeks, and, whenever any member of the household approached, he pushed him away.
When Gorgias held his hands and sternly ordered him to confess what wrong he had done, he sobbed out that he was the most ungrateful wretch on earth. His baseness would ruin his kind parents, himself, and all his friends.
Then he accused himself of having caused the destruction of Didymus's granddaughter. He would not have gone to Antyllus again had not his recent generosity bound him to him, but now he must atone-ay, atone. Then, as if completely crushed, he continued to mumble the word, "atone!" and for a time nothing more could be won from him.
Didymus, however, had the key to the last sentence. A few weeks before, Philotas and several other pupils of the rhetorician whose lectures in the museum he attended had been invited to breakfast with Antyllus. When the young student loudly admired the beautiful gold and silver beakers in which the wine was served, the reckless host cried: "They are yours; take them with you." When the guests departed the cup-bearer asked Philotas, who had been far from taking the gift seriously, to receive his property. Antyllus had intended to bestow the goblets; but he advised the youth to let him pay their value in money, for among them were several ancient pieces of most artistic workmanship, which Antony, the extravagant young fellow's father, might perhaps be unwilling to lose.
Thereupon several rolls of gold solidi were paid to the astonished student--and they had been of little real benefit, since they had made it possible for him to keep pace with his wealthy and aristocratic classmates and share many of their extravagances. Yet he had not ceased to fulfil his duty to Didymus.
Though he sometimes turned night into day, he gave no serious cause for reproof. Small youthful errors were willingly pardoned; for he was a good-looking, merry young fellow, who knew how to make himself agreeable to the entire household, even to the women.
What had befallen the poor youth that day? Didymus was filled with compassion for him, and, though he gladly welcomed Gorgias, he gave him to understand that the leech's absence vexed him.
But, during a long bachelor career in Alexandria, a city ever gracious to the gifts of Bacchus, Gorgias had become familiar with attacks like those of Philotas and their treatment, and after several jars of water had been brought and he had been left alone a short time with the sufferer, the philosopher secretly rejoiced that he had not summoned the grey-haired leech into the stormy night for Gorgias led forth his pupil with dripping hair, it is true, but in a state of rapid convalescence.
The youth's handsome face was freed from soot, but his eyes were bent in confusion on the ground, and he sometimes pressed his hand upon his aching brow. It needed all the old philosopher's skill in persuasion to induce him to speak, and Philotas, before he began, begged Helena to leave the room.
He intended to adhere strictly to the truth, though he feared that the reckless deed into which he had suffered himself to be drawn might have a fatal effect upon his future life.
Besides, he hoped to obtain wise counsel from the architect, to whom he owed his speedy recovery, and whose grave, kindly manner inspired him with confidence; and, moreover, he was so greatly indebted to Didymus that duty required him to make a frank confession--yet he dared not acknowledge one of the principal motives of his foolish act.
The plot into which he had been led was directed against Barine, whom he had long imagined he loved with all the fervour of his twenty years. But, just before he went to the fatal banquet, he had heard that the young beauty was betrothed to Dion. This had wounded him deeply; for in many a quiet hour it had seemed possible to win her for himself and lead her as his wife to his home in Amphissa. He was very little younger than she, and if his parents once saw her, they could not fail to approve his choice. And the people in Amphissa! They would have gazed at Barine as if she were a goddess.
And now this fine gentleman had come to crush his fairest hopes. No word of love had ever been exchanged between him and Barine, but how kindly she had always looked at him, how willingly she had accepted trivial services! Now she was lost. At first this had merely saddened him, but after he had drunk the wine, and Antyllus, Antony's son, in the presence of the revellers, over whom Caesarion presided as "symposiarch"-- [Director of a banquet.]--had accused Barine of capturing hearts by magic spells, he had arrived at the conviction that he, too, had been shamefully allured and betrayed.
He had served for a toy, he said to himself, unless she had really loved him and merely preferred Dion on account of his wealth. In any case, he felt justified in cherishing resentment against Barine, and with the number of goblets which he drained his jealous rage increased.
When urged to join in the escapade which now burdened his conscience he consented with a burning brain in order to punish her for the wrong which, in his heated imagination, she had done him.
All this he withheld from the older men and merely briefly described the splendid banquet which Caesarion, pallid and listless as ever, had directed, and Antyllus especially had enlivened with the most reckless mirth.
The "King of kings" and Antony's son had escaped from their tutors on the pretext of a hunting excursion, and the chief huntsman had not grudged them the pleasure--only they were obliged to promise him that they would be ready to set out for the desert early the next morning.
When, after the banquet, the mixing-vessels were brought out and the beakers were filled more rapidly, Antyllus whispered several times to Caesarion and then turned the conversation upon Barine, the fairest of the fair, destined by the immortals for the greatest and highest of mankind. This was the "King of kings," Caesarion, and he also claimed the favour of the gods for himself. But everybody knew that Aphrodite deemed herself greater than the highest of kings, and therefore Barine ventured to close her doors upon their august symposiarch in a manner which could not fail to be unendurable, not only to him but to all the youth of Alexandria. Whoever boasted of being one of the Ephebi might well clench his fist with indignation, when he heard that the insolent beauty kept young men at a distance because she considered only the older ones worthy of her notice. This must not be! The Ephebi of Alexandria must make her feel the power of youth. This was the more urgently demanded, because Caesarion would thereby be led to the goal of his wishes.
Barine was going into the country that very evening. Insulted Eros himself was smoothing their way. He commanded them to attack the arrogant fair one's carriage and lead her to him who sought her in the name of youth, in order to show her that the hearts of the Ephebi, whom she disdainfully rejected, glowed more ardently than those of the older men on whom she bestowed her favours.
Here Gorgias interrupted the speaker with a loud cry of indignation, but old Didymus's eyes seemed to be fairly starting from their sockets as he hoarsely shouted an impatient:
And Philotas, now completely sobered, described with increasing animation the wonderful change that had taken place in the quiet Caesarion, as if some magic spell had been at work; for scarcely had the revellers greeted Antyllus's words with shouts of joy, declaring themselves ready to avenge insulted youth upon Barine, than the "King of kings" suddenly sprang from the cushions on which he had listlessly reclined, and with flashing eyes shouted that whoever called himself his friend must aid him in the attack.
Here he was urged to still greater haste by another impatient "Go on!" from his master, and hurriedly continued his story, describing how they had blackened their faces and armed themselves with Antyllus's swords and lances. As the sun was setting they went in a covered boat through the Agathodamon Canal to Lake Mareotis. Everything must have been arranged in advance; for they landed precisely at the right hour.
As, during the trip, they had kept up their courage by swallowing the most fiery wine, Philotas had staggered on shore with difficulty and then been dragged forward by the others. After this he knew nothing more, except that he had rushed with the rest upon a large harmamaxa,--[A closed Asiatic travelling-carriage with four wheels]--and in so doing fell. When he rose from the earth all was over.
As if in a dream he saw Scythians and other guardians of the peace seize
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