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- The Emperor, Part 2, Volume 10. - 10/13 -
restored fugitive. The singer too loudly expressed his joy alike in verse and in prose, and fetched his best theatrical dress out of the chest to put it on his son in the place of his ragged chiton.
A mighty torrent of curses and execrations flowed from the old man's lips as Pollux told his story. The sculptor found it difficult to bring it to an end, for his father interrupted him at every word, and all the while he was talking his mother forced him to eat and drink incessantly, even when he could no more. After he had assured her that he was long since replete, she pushed two more pots on to the fire, for he must have been half-starved in prison, and what he did not want now he would find room for two hours hence. Euphorion himself conducted Pollux to the bath in the evening, and as they went home together he never for an instant left his side; the sense of being near him did him good and was like some comfortable physical sensation.
The singer was not usually inquisitive, but on this occasion he never ceased asking questions till Doris led her son to the bed she had freshly made for him. After the artist had gone to rest, the old woman once more slipped into his room, kissed his forehead, and said:
"To-day you have still been thinking too much of that hideous prison--but to-morrow my boy, to-morrow you will be the same as before, will you not?"
"Only leave me alone mother; I shall soon be better," he replied. "This bed is as good as a sleeping-draught; the plank in the prison was quite a different thing."
"You have never asked once for your Arsinoe," said Doris.
"What can she matter to me? Only let me sleep." But the next morning Pollux was just the same as he had been the previous evening, and as the days went on his condition remained unchanged. His head drooped on his breast, he never spoke but when he was spoken to, and when Doris or Euphorion tried to talk to him of the future, he would ask: "Am I a burden to you?" or begged them not to worry him.
Still, he was gentle and kind, took his sister's children in his arms, played with the Graces, whistled to the birds, went in and out, and played a valiant part at every meal. Now and again he would ask after Arsinoe. Once he allowed himself to be guided to the house where she lived, but he would not knock at Paulina's door and seemed overawed by the grandeur of the house. After he had been brooding and dreaming for a week, so idle, listless, and absent that his mother's heart was filled with anxious fears every time she looked at him, his brother Teuker hit upon a happy idea.
The young gem-cutter was not usually a frequent visitor to his parents' house, but since the return of the hapless Pollux he called there almost daily. His apprenticeship was over and he seemed on the high-road to become a great master in his art; nevertheless he esteemed his brother's gifts as far beyond his own and had tried to devise some means of reawakening the dormant energies of the luckless man's brain.
"It was at this table," said Teuker to his mother, "that Pollux used to sit. This evening I will bring in a lump of clay and a good piece of modelling wax. Just put it all on the table and lay his tools by the side of it; perhaps when he sees them he will take a fancy again to work. If he can only make up his mind to model even a doll for the children he will soon get into the vein again, and he will go on from small things to great."
Teuker brought the materials, Doris set them out with the modelling tools, and next morning watched her son's proceedings with an anxious heart. He got up late, as be had always done since his return home, and sat a long time over the bowl of porridge which his mother had prepared for his breakfast. Then he sauntered across to his table, stood in front of it awhile, broke off a piece of clay and kneaded and moulded it in his fingers into balls and cylinders, looked at one of them more closely and then, flinging it on the ground, he said, as he leaned across the table supporting himself on both hands to put his face near his mother's:
"You want me to work again; but it is of no use--I could do no good with it."
The old woman's eyes filled with tears, but she did not answer him. In the evening Pollux begged her to put away the tools.
When he was gone to bed she did so, and while she was moving about with a light in the dark, lumber-room in which she had kept them with other disused things, her eye fell on the unfinished wax model which had been the last work of her ill-starred son. A new idea struck her. She called Euphorion, made him throw the clay into the court-yard and place the model on the table by the side of the wax. Then she put out the very same tools as he had been using on the fateful day of their expulsion from Lochias, close to the cleverly-sketched portrait, and begged her husband to go out with her quite early next morning and to remain absent till mid-day.
"You will see," she said, "when he is standing face to face with his last work and there is no one by to disturb him or look at him, he will find the ends of the threads that have been cut and perhaps be able to gather them up again and go on with the work where it was interrupted."
The mother's heart had hit upon the right idea. When Pollux had eaten his breakfast he went to his table exactly as he had done the clay before; but the sight of the work in hand had quite a different effect to the mere raw clay and wax. His eyes sparkled; he walked round the table with an attentive gaze examining his work as keenly and as eagerly as if it were some fine thing he saw for the first time. Memory revived in his mind. He laughed aloud, clasped his hands and said to himself, "Capital! Something may be made of that!"
His dull weariness slipped off him, as it were; a confident smile parted his lips and he seized the wax with a firm hand. But he did not begin to work at once; he only tried whether his fingers had not lost their cunning, and whether the yielding material was obedient to his will. The wax was no less docile to his touch than in former days, as he pinched or pulled it. Perhaps then the tormenting thought that blighted his life, the dread that in the prison he had ceased to be an artist, and had lost all his faculty was nothing more than a mad delusion! He must at any rate try how he could get on at the work.
No one was by to observe him--he might dare the attempt at once. The sweat of anguish stood in large beads on his brow as he finally concentrated his volition, shook back the hair from his face and took up a lump of the wax in both hands. There stood the portrait of Antinous with the head only half-finished. Now--could he succeed in modelling that lovely head free-hand and from memory?
His breath came fast, and his hands trembled as he set to work; but soon his hand was as steady as ever, his eye was calm and keen again, and the work progressed. The fine features of the young Bithynian were distinct to his mind's eye, and when, about four hours after, his mother looked in at the window to see what Pollux was doing, whether her little stratagem had succeeded, she cried out with surprise, for the favorite's bust, a likeness in every feature, stood on a plinth side by side with the original sketch. Before she could cross the threshold her son had run to meet her, lifted her in his arms, and kissing her forehead and lips he exclaimed, radiant with delight:
"Mother, I still can work. Mother, mother, I am not lost!"
In the afternoon his brother came in and saw what he had been doing, and now--and not till now--could Teuker honestly be glad to have found his brother again.
While the two artists were sitting together, and the gem-cutter was suggesting to the sculptor, who had complained of the bad light in his parent's house, that he should carry the statue to his master's workshop --which was much lighter--to complete it, Euphorion had quietly gone to some remote corner of his provision-shed and brought to light an amphora full of noble Chian wine which had been given to him by a rich merchant, for whose wedding he had performed the part of Hymenaeus with a chorus of youths. For twenty years had he still preserved this jar of wine for some specially happy occasion. This jar and his best lute were the only objects which Euphorion had carried with his own hand from Lochias to his daughter's house and then again to his own new abode. With an air of dignified pride the singer set the old amphora before his sons, but Doris laid hands upon it at once and said:
"I am glad to bestow the good gift upon you, and would willingly drink a cup of it with you; but a prudent general does not celebrate his triumph before he has won the battle. As soon as the statue of the beautiful lad is completed, I myself, will wreathe this venerable jar with ivy, and beg you spare it to us, my dear old man--but not before."
"Mother is right," said Pollux. "And if the amphora is really destined for me, if you will allow it, my father shall not remove the pitch wig from its venerable head, till Arsinoe is mine once more!"
"That is well my boy," cried Doris, "and then I will crown, not merely the jar but all of us too, with nothing but sweet roses."
The next day Pollux, with his unfinished statue, removed to the workshop of his brother's master. The worthy man cleared the best place for the young sculptor, for he thought highly of him and wished to make good, as far as lay in his power, the injustice the poor fellow had suffered from the treachery of Papias. Now, from sunrise till evening fell, Pollux was constant to his work. He gave himself up to the resuscitated pleasure and power of creation with real passion. Instead of using wax he had recourse to clay, and formed a tall figure which represented Antinous as the youthful Bacchus, as the god might have appeared to the pirates. A mantle fell in light folds from his left shoulder to his ankles, leaving the broad breast and right aria entirely free; vine-leaves and grapes wreathed his flowing locks, and a pine-cone, flame-shaped, crowned his brow. The left arm was raised in a graceful curve, and his fingers lightly grasped a thyrsus which rested on the ground and stood taller than the god's head; by the side of this magnificent figure stood a mighty wine-jar, half hidden by the drapery.
For a whole week Pollux had devoted himself to this task during all the hours of daylight with unflagging zeal and diligence. Before night fell he was accustomed to leave his work and walk up and down in front of Paulina's house, but for the present he refrained from knocking at the door and asking after the girl he loved. He had heard from his mother how anxiously she was guarded from him and his; still Paulina's severity would certainly not have hindered the artist from making the attempt to possess himself of his dearest treasure. What held him back from even approaching Arsinoe, was the vow he had made to himself never to tempt her to quit her new and sheltered home till he had acquired a firm certainty of being once for all an artist, a true artist, who might hope to do something great, and who might dare to link the fate of the woman he loved, with his own.
When, on the eighth morning of his labors, he was taking a few minutes rest, his brother's master came past the rapidly advancing work, and after contemplating it for some time exclaimed:
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