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- The Emperor, Part 1, Volume 5. - 6/12 -
so odd; what most delights me is averse to her."
"Well Selene is of course the moon, and you are the sun."
"And what are you?" asked Arsinoe.
"I am tall Pollux, and to-night I feel as if I might some day be great Pollux."
"If you succeed I shall grow with you."
"That will be your right, since it is only through you that I can ever succeed in that which I propose to do.
"And how should a simple little thing, such as I am, be able to help an artist?"
"By living, and by loving him," cried the sculptor, lifting her up in his arms before she could prevent him.
Outside the garden-gate the old slave-woman was sitting asleep. She had learnt from the porter that her young mistress had been admitted with her companion, but she herself had been forbidden to enter the grounds. A curbstone had served her for a seat, and as she waited her eyes had closed, in spite of the increasing noise in the street. Arsinoe did not waken her, but asked Pollux, with a roguish laugh:
"We shall find our way alone, shall we not?"
"If Eros does not lead us astray," answered the artist. And so, as they went on their way, they jested and exchanged little tender speeches.
The nearer they got to Lochias and to the main lines of traffic which intersected at right angles the Canopic way--the widest and longest road in the city--the fuller was the stream of people that flowed onwards in the direction in which they were going; but this circumstance favored them, for those who wish to be unobserved, when they cannot be absolutely alone, have only to mix with the crowd. As they were borne towards the focus and centre of the festive doings, they clung closely together, she to him, and he to her, so that they might not be torn apart by any of the rushing and tumultuous processions of excited Thracian women who, faithful to their native usages, came storming by with a young bull, on this particular night of the year, that following the shortest day. They had hardly gone a hundred paces beyond the Moon-street when they heard proceeding from it a wild roving song of tipsy jollity, and loud above it the sound of drums and pipes, cymbals and noisy shouting, and at the same time in the King's street, a road which crossed the Bruchiom and opened on Lochias, a merry troup came towards them.
At their head, among other acquaintances, came Teuker, the gem-cutter, the younger brother of Pollux. Crowned with ivy, and flourishing a thyrsus he came dancing on, and behind him, leaping and shouting, a train of men and women, all excited to the verge of folly, singing, hollooing, and dancing.
Garlands of vine, ivy and asphodel fluttered from a hundred heads; poplar, lotus, and laurel wreaths overhung their heated brows; panther- skins, deer and goatskins hung from their bare shoulders and waved in the wind as their bearers hurried onwards. This procession had been first formed by some artists and rich youths returning with some women from a banquet, with a band of music; every one who met this festal party had joined it or had been forced to enlist with it. Respectable citizens and their wives, laborers, maid-servants, slaves, soldiers and sailors, officers, women flute-players, artisans, ship-captains, the whole chorus of a theatre invited by a friend of art, excited women who dragged with them a goat that was to be slaughtered to Dionysus--none had been able to resist the temptation to join the procession. It turned down the Moon- street, keeping to the middle of the road which was planted with elms, and had on each side of it a raised foot-way, which at this time of night no one used. How clear was the sound of the double-pipes, how bravely the girls hit the calf-skin of the tambourines with their soft fists, how saucily the wind tossed and tangled the dishevelled hair of the riotous women and played with the smoke of the torches which were wielded in the air by audacious youths, disguised as Pan or as Satyrs, and shouting as they went.
Here a girl, holding her tambourine high in the air, rattled the little bells on its hoop, as she flew along, as violently as though she wanted to shake the hollow metal balls out of their frame, and send them whistling through the air on their own account-there, side by side with his comrades, who were excited almost to madness, a handsome lad came skipping along in elaborately graceful leaps, but carrying over his arm, with comic care, a long bull's-tail that he had tied on, and blowing alternately up and down the short scale from the shortest to the longest of the reeds composing his panpipes. Through the noisy crowd as they rushed by, sounded, now and again, a loud roar, that might as easily have been caused by pain as joy; but it was each time hastily drowned in mad laughter, extravagant singing and jubilant music.
Old and young, great and small, all in short that came near this rabble train, were carried off with irresistible force to follow it with shouts of triumph. Even Pollux and Arsinoe had for some time ceased to walk soberly side by side, but moved their feet, laughingly in time to the merry measure.
"How nice it sounds," cried the artist. "I could dance and be merry too Arsinoe, dance and make merry with you like a madman!"
Before she could find time to say 'yes' or 'no,' he shouted a loud "To, To, Dionysus," and flung her up in the air. She too was caught by the spirit of the thing, and waving her hand above her head she joined in his shout of triumph, and let him drag her along to a corner of the Moon- street where a seller of garlands offered her wares for sale. There she let him wreathe her with ivy, she stuck a laurel wreath on his head, twisted a streamer of ivy round his neck and breast, and laughed loudly as she flung a large silver coin into the flower-woman's lap and clung tightly to his arm. It was all done in swift haste without reflection, as if in a fit of intoxication, and with trembling hands.
The procession was drawing to an end. Six women and girls in wreaths closed it, walking arm in arm with loud singing. Pollux drew his sweetheart behind this jovial crew, threw his arm around Arsinoe once more, while she put hers round him, and then both of them stepped out in a brisk dance-step flinging their arms left free, throwing back their heads, shouting and singing loudly, and forgetting all that surrounded them; they felt as though they were bound to each other by a glory of sunbeams, while some god lifted them above the earth and bore them up through a realm of delight and joy beyond the myriad stars and through the translucent ether; thus they let themselves be led away through the Moon-street into the Canopic way and so back to the sea, and as far as the temple of Dionysus.
There they paused breathless and it suddenly struck them that he was Pollux and she Arsinoe, and that she must get back again to her father and the children.
"Come home," she said softly, and as she spoke she dropped her arm and began to gather up her loosened hair.
"Yes, yes," he said as if in a dream. He released her, struck his hand against his brow, and turning to the open cella of the temple he said:
"Long have I known that thou art mighty O Dionysus, and that thou O Aphrodite art lovely, and that thou art sweet O Eros! but how inestimable your gifts, that I have learnt to-day for the first time."
"We were indeed full of the deity," said Arsinoe. "But here comes another procession and I must go home."
"Then let us go by the Little Harbor," answered Pollux.
"Yes--I must pick the leaves out of my hair and no one will see us there."
"I will help you--"
"No, you are not to touch me," said Arsinoe decidedly. She grasped her abundant soft and shiny hair, and cleared it of the leaves that had got entangled in it, as tiny beetles do in a double flower. Finally she hid her hair under her veil, which had slipped off her head long since, but, almost by a miracle, had caught and remained hanging on the brooch of her peplum. Pollux stood looking at her, and overmastered by the passion that possessed him, he exclaimed:
"Eternal gods! how I love you! Till now my soul has been like a careless child, to-day it is grown to heroic stature.--Wait--only wait, it will soon learn to use its weapons."
"And I will help it in the fight," she said happily, as she put her hand through his arm again, and they hurried back to the old palace, dancing rather than walking.
The late December sun was already giving warning of his approaching rising by cold yellowish-grey streaks in the sky as Pollux and his companion entered the gate, which had long since been opened for the workmen. In the hall of the Muses they took a first farewell, in the passage leading to the steward's room, a second--sad and yet most happy; but this was but a short one for the gleam of a lamp made them start apart, and Arsinoe instantly fled.
The disturber was Antinous who was waiting here for the Emperor who was still gazing at the stars from the watch-tower Pontius had erected for him. As she vanished he turned to Pollux and said gaily:
"I need your forgiveness for I have disturbed you in an interview with your sweetheart."
"She will be my wife," said the sculptor proudly.
"So much the better!" replied the favorite, and he drew a deep breath, as though the artist's words had relieved his mind of a burden.
"Ah! so much the better. Can you tell me where to find the fair Arsinoe's sister?"
"To be sure," replied the artist, and he felt pleased that the young Bithynian should cling to his arm. Within the next hour, Pollux, from whose lips there flowed a stream of eager and enthusiastic words, like water from a spring, had completely won the heart of the Emperor's favorite.
The girl found both her father and Helios, who no longer looked like a sick patient--fast asleep. The old slave-woman came in a few minutes after her, and when at last, after unbinding her hair, Arsinoe threw herself on her bed she fell asleep instantly, and in her dreams found herself once more by the side of her Pollux, while they both were flying to the sound of drums, flutes, and cymbals high above the dusty ways of earth, like leaves swept on by the wind.
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