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- The Emperor, Part 1, Volume 5. - 10/12 -
women sprang upon us, and I felt one clasping me tightly and trying to throw me down. It was a horrible moment but I defended myself bravely and had succeeded in keeping on my feet when your father sprang forward, set me free and led me away. What happened after I could not tell you now; it was one of those wild happy dreams in which you must hold your heart with both hands for fear it should crack with joy, or fly out and away up to the sky and in the very eye of the sun. Late in the evening I got home and a week after I was Euphorion's wife."
"We have exactly followed your example," said Pollux, "and if Arsinoe grows to be like my dear old woman I shall be quite satisfied."
"Happy and contented," replied Doris. "Keep you health, snap your fingers at care and sorrow, do your duty on work-days and drink till you are jolly in honor of the god on holidays, and then all will be well. Those who do all they are able and enjoy as much as they can get, make good use of their lives and need feel no remorse in their last hours. What is past is done for, and when Atropos cuts our thread some one else will stand in our place and joys will begin all over again. May the gods bless you!"
"You are right," said Pollux embracing his mother, and two together can turn the work out of hand more lightly and enjoy the pleasures of existence better than each alone--can they not?"
"I am sure of it; and you have chosen the right mate," cried the old woman. "You are a sculptor and used to simple things; you need no riches, only a sweet face which may every day rejoice your heart, and that you have found."
"There is nowhere a sweeter or a lovelier," said Pollux.
"No, that there is not," continued Doris. "First I cast my eyes on Selene. She need not be ashamed to show herself either, and she is a pattern for girls; but then as Arsinoe grew older, whenever she passed this way I thought to myself: 'that girl is growing up for my boy,' and now that you have won her I feel as if I were once more as young as your sweetheart herself. My old heart beats as happily as if the little Loves were touching it with their wings and rosy fingers. If my feet had not grown so heavy with constantly standing over the hearth and at washing-- really and truly I could take Euphorion by the arm and dance through the streets with him to-day."
"Where is father?"
"In the morning! where?"
"There is some sect that are celebrating their mysteries. They pay well and he had to sing dismal hymns for them behind a curtain; the wildest stuff, in which he does not follow a word, and that I do not understand a half of."
"It is a pity for I wanted to speak to him."
"He will not be back till late."
"There is plenty of time."
"So much the better, otherwise I might have told him what you had to say."
"Your advice is as good as his. I think of giving up working under Papias and standing on my own feet."
"You are quite right; the Roman architect told me yesterday that a great future was open to you."
"There are only my poor sister and the children to be considered. If, during the first few months I should find myself falling short--"
"We will manage to pull through. It is high time that you yourself should reap from what you sow."
"So it seems to me, for my own sake and Arsinoe's; if only Keraunus--"
"Aye--there will be a battle to fight with him."
"A hard one, a hard one," sighed Pollux.
"The thought of the old man troubles my happiness."
"Folly!" cried Doris. "Avoid all useless anxiety. It is almost as injurious as remorse gnawing at your heart. Take a workshop of your own, do some great work in a joyful spirit, something to astonish the world, and I will wager anything that the old fool of a steward will only be vexed to think that he destroyed the first work of the celebrated Pollux, instead of treasuring it in his cabinet of curiosities. Just imagine that no such person exists in the world and enjoy your happiness."
"I will stick to that."
"One thing more my lad: take good care of Arsinoe. She is young and inexperienced and you must not persuade her to do anything you would advise her not to do if she were betrothed to your brother instead of to yourself."
Doris had not done speaking when Antinous came into the gate-house and delivered the commands of the architect Claudius Venator, to escort him through the city. Pollux hesitated with his answer, for he had still much to do in the palace, and he hoped to see Arsinoe again in the course of the day. After such a morning what could noon and evening be to him without her? Dame Doris noticed his indecision and cried:
"Yes, go; the festival is for pleasure, besides, the architect can perhaps advise you on many points, and recommend you to his friends."
"Your mother is right," said Antinous. "Claudius Venator can be very touchy, but he can also be grateful, and I wish you sincerely well--"
"Good then, I will come," Pollux interposed while the Bithynian was still speaking, for he felt himself strongly attracted by Hadrian's imposing personality and considered that under the circumstances, it might be very desirable to revel with him for a while.
"I will come, but first I must let Pontius know that I am going to fly from the heat of the fray for a few hours to-day."
"Leave that to Venator," replied the favorite, "and you must find some amusing disguise and procure masks for him and for me and, if you like, for yourself too. He wants to join the revel as a satyr and I in some other disguise."
"Good," replied the sculptor. "I will go at once and order what is requisite. A quantity of dresses for the Dionysiac processions are lying in our workshop and in half an hour I will be back with the things."
"But pray make haste," Antinous begged him. "My master cannot bear to be kept waiting, and besides--one thing--"
At these words Antinous had grown embarrassed and had gone quite close up to the artist. He laid his hand on his shoulder and said in a low voice but impressively:
"Venator stands very near to Caesar. Beware of saying anything before him that is not in Hadrian's favor."
"Is your master Caesar's spy?" asked Pollux, looking suspiciously at Antinous. "Pontius has already, given me a similar warning, and if that is the case--"
"No, no," interrupted the lad hastily.
"Anything but that; but the two have no secrets from each other and Venator talks a good deal--cannot hold his tongue--"
"I thank you and will be on my guard."
"Aye do so--I mean it honestly." The Bithynian held out his hand to the artist with an expression of warm regard on his handsome features and with an indescribably graceful gesture. Pollux took it heartily, but dame Doris, whose old eyes had been fixed as if spellbound on Antinous, seized her son's arm and quite excited by the sight of his beauty cried out:
"Oh! what a splendid creature! moulded by the gods! sacred to the gods! Pollux, boy! you might almost think one of the immortals had come down to earth."
"Look at my old woman!" exclaimed Pollux laughing, "but in truth friend, she has good reasons for her ecstasies, I could follow her example."
"Hold him fast, hold him fast!" cried Doris. "If he only will let you take his likeness you can show the world a thing worth seeing."
"Will you?" interrupted Pollux turning to Hadrian's favorite.
"I have never yet been able to keep still for any artist," said Antinous. "But I will do any thing you wish to please you. It only vexes me that you too should join in the chorus with the rest of the world. Farewell for the present, I must go back to my master."
As soon as the youth had left the house Doris exclaimed:
"Whether a work of art is good for any thing or not I can only guess at, but as to what is beautiful that I know as well as any other woman in Alexandria. If that boy will stand as your model you will produce something that will delight men and turn the heads of the women, and you will be sought after even in a workshop of your own. Eternal gods! such beauty as that is sublime. Why are there no means of preserving such a face and such a form from old age and wrinkles?"
"I know the means, mother," said Pollux, as he went to the door. "It is called Art: to her it is given to bestow eternal youth on this mortal Adonis."
The old woman glanced at her son with pardonable pride, and confirmed his words by an assenting nod. While she fed her birds, with many coaxing words, and made one which was a special favorite pick crumbs from her lips, the young sculptor was hurrying through the streets with long steps.
He was greeted as he went with many a cross word, and many exclamations rose from the crowd he left behind him, for he pushed his way by the weight of his tall person and his powerful arms, and saw and heard, as he went, little enough of what was going around him. He thought of Arsinoe, and between whiles of Antinous and of the attitude in which he best might represent him--whether as hero or god.
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