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- The Emperor, Part 1, Volume 2. - 3/12 -
sister were forbidden to come to see us and to play with me."
"That has spoilt many pleasant hours for me, too."
"It was nice when we used to dress up in my father's theatrical finery and cloaks."
"And when you made us dolls out of clay.".
"Or when we performed the Olympian games."
"I was always the teacher when we played at school with our little brothers and sisters."
"Arsinoe gave you most trouble."
"Oh! and what fun when we went fishing!"
"And when we brought home the fishes and mother gave us meal and raisins to cook them."
"Do you remember the festival of Adonis, and how I stopped the runaway horse of that Numidian officer?"
"The horse had knocked over Arsinoe, and when we got home mother gave you an almond-cake."
"And your ungrateful sister bit a great piece out of it and left me only a tiny morsel. Is Arsinoe as pretty as she promised to become? It is two years since I last saw her; at our place we never have time to leave work till it is dark. For eight months I had to work for the master at Ptolemais, and often saw the old folks but once in the month."
"We go out very little, too, and we are not allowed to go into your parents' house. My sister--"
"Is she pretty?"
"Yes, I think she is. Whenever she can get hold of a piece of ribbon she plaits it in her hair, and the men in the street turn round to look at her. She is sixteen now."
"Sixteen! What, little Arsinoe! Why, how long then is it since your mother died?"
"Four years and eight months."
"You remember the date very exactly; such a mother is not easily forgotten, indeed. She was a good woman and a kinder I never met. I know, too, that she tried to mollify your father's feeling, but she could not succeed, and then she need must die!"
"Yes," said Selene gloomily. "How could the gods decree it! They are often more cruel than the hardest hearted man."
"Your poor little brothers and sisters!"
The girl bowed her head sadly and Pollux stood for some time with his eyes fixed on the ground. Then he raised his head and exclaimed:
"I have something for you that will please you."
"Nothing ever pleases me now she is dead."
"Yes, yes indeed," replied the young sculptor eagerly. "I could not forget the good soul, and once in my idle moments I modelled her bust from memory. To-morrow I will bring it to you."
"Oh!" cried Selene, and her large heavy eyes brightened with a sunny gleam.
"Now, is not it true, you are pleased?"
"Yes indeed, very much. But when my father learns that it is you who have given me the portrait--"
"Is he capable of destroying it?"
"If he does not destroy it, he will not suffer it in the house as soon as he knows that you made it." Pollux took the handkerchief from the steward's head, moistened it afresh, and exclaimed as he rearranged it on the forehead of the sleeping man:
"I have an idea. All that matters is that my bust should serve to remind you often of your mother; the bust need not stand in your rooms. The busts of the women of the house of Ptolemy stand on the rotunda, which you can see from your balcony, and which you can pass whenever you please; some of them are badly mutilated and must be got rid of. I will undertake to restore the Berenice and put your mother's head on her shoulders. Then you have only to go out and look at her. Will that do?"
"Yes, Pollux; you are a good man."
"So I told you just now. I am beginning to improve. But time--time! if I am to undertake to repair Berenice I must begin by saving the minutes."
"Go back to your work now; I know how to apply a wet compress only too well."
With these words Selene threw back her mantle over her shoulders so as to leave her hands free for use, and stood with her slender figure, her pale face, and the fine broadly-flowing folds of rich stuff, like a statue in the eyes of the young sculptor.
"Stop--stay so--just so," cried Pollux to the astonished girl, so loudly and eagerly that she was startled.
"Your cloak hangs with a wonderfully-free flow from your shoulders--in the name of all the gods do not touch it. If only I might model from it I should in a few minutes gain a whole day for our Berenice. I will wet the handkerchief at intervals in the pauses." Without waiting for Selene's answer the sculptor hastened into his nook and returned first with one of the lamps he worked by in each hand, and some small tools in his mouth, and then fetched his wax model which he placed on the outer side of the table, behind which the steward was sleeping. The tapers were put out, the lamps pushed aside, and raised or lowered, and when at last a tolerably suitable light was procured Pollux threw himself on a stool, straddled his legs, craned his head forward as far as his neck would allow, looking, with his hooked nose, like a vulture that strives to descry his distant prey-cast his eyes down, raised them again to take in something fresh, and after a long gaze looked down again while his fingers and nails moved over the surface of the wax-figure, sinking into the plastic material, applying new pieces to apparently complete portions, removing others with a decided nip and rounding them off with bewildering rapidity to use them for a fresh purpose.
He seemed to be seized with cramp in his hands, but still under his knotted brow his eye shone earnest, resolute and calm, and yet full of profound and speechless inspiration. Selene had said not a word that permitted his using her as a model; but, as if his enthusiasm was infectious, she remained motionless, and when, as he worked, his gaze met hers she could detect the stern earnestness which at this moment possessed her eager companion.
Neither of them opened their lips for some time. At last he stood back from his work, stooping low to look first at Selene and then at his statuette with keen examination from head to foot; and then, drawing a deep breath, and rubbing the wax over with his finger, he said:
"There, that is how it must go! Now I will wet your father's handkerchief and then we can go on again. If you are tired you can rest."
She availed herself but little of this permission and presently he began work again. As he proceeded carefully to replace some folds of her drapery which had fallen out of place, she moved her foot as if to draw back, but he begged her earnestly to stand still and she obeyed his request.
Pollux now used his fingers and modelling tools more calmly; his gaze was less wistful and he began to talk again.
"You are very pale," he said. "To be sure the lamp-light and a sleepless night have something to do with it."
"I look just the same by daylight, but I am not ill."
"I thought Arsinoe would have been like your mother, but now I see many features of her face in yours again. The oval of their form is the same and, in both, the line of the nose runs almost straight to the forehead; you have her eyes and the same bend of the brow, but your mouth is smaller and more sharply cut, and she could hardly have made such a heavy knot of her hair. I fancy, too, that yours is lighter than hers."
"As a girl she must have had still more hair, and perhaps she may have been as fair as I was--I am brown now."
"Another thing you inherit from her is that your hair, without being curly, lies upon your head in such soft waves."
"It is easy to keep in order."
"Are not you taller than she was?"
"I fancy so, but as she was stouter she looked shorter. Will you soon have done?"
"You are getting tired of standing?"
"Then have a little more patience. Your face reminds me more and more of our early years; I should be glad to see Arsinoe once more. I feel at this moment as if time had moved backwards a good piece. Have you the same feeling?"
Selene shook her head.
"You are not happy?"
"I know full well that you have very heavy duties to perform for your age."
"Things go as they may."
"Nay, nay. I know you do not let things go haphazard. You take care of your brothers and sisters like a mother."
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