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- The Emperor, Part 2, Volume 6. - 3/9 -
But to-day I am glad to have as much money as I could wish. Sweet child! She must have a new dress of course for the sake of appearance, but really her beauty did not suffer from the washed-out rag of a dress. And she belongs to me, for I have seen her at the factory among the workwomen, of that I am certain."
Keraunus had gone out with his daughter and once outside the prefect's house, he could not help chuckling aloud, while he patted his daughter on the shoulder, and whispered to her:
"I told you so child! we shall be rich yet, we shall rise in life again and need not be behind the other citizens in any thing."
"Yes, father, but it is just because you believe that, that you ought to have given the cup to the old man."
"No," replied Keraunus, "business is business, but by and bye I will repay him tenfold for all he does for you now, by giving him my painting by Apelles. And Julia shall have the pair of sandal-straps set with cut- gems that came off a sandal of Cleopatra's."
Arsinoe looked down, for she knew what these treasures were worth, and said:
"We can consider all that later."
Then she and her father got into the litters that had been waiting for them, and without which Keraunus thought he could no longer exist, and they were carried to the garden of Pudeus' widow.
Their visit came to interrupt Selene's blissful dreams. Keraunus behaved with icy coldness to dame Hannah, for it afforded him a certain satisfaction to make a display of contempt for every thing Christian. When he expressed his regret that Selene should have been obliged to remain in her house, the widow replied:
"She is better here than in the street, at any rate." And when Keraunus went on to say that he would take nothing as a gift and would pay her for her care of his daughter, Hannah answered:
"We are happy to do all we can for your child, and Another will reward us."
"That I certainly forbid," exclaimed the steward wrathfully.
"We do not understand each other," said the Christian pleasantly. "I do not allude to any mortal being, and the reward we work for is not gold and possessions, but the happy consciousness of having mitigated the sufferings of a fellow-creature."
Keraunus shrugged his shoulders, and after desiring Selene to ask the physician when she might be taken home, he went away.
"I will not leave you here an instant longer than is necessary," he said as urgently as though she were in some infected house; he kissed her forehead, bowed to Hannah as loftily as though he had just bestowed an alms upon her, and departed, without listening to Selene's assurances that she was extremely happy and comfortable with the widow.
The ground had long burnt under his feet, and the money in his pocket, he was now possessed of ample means to acquire a good new slave, perhaps, if he threw old Sebek into the bargain, they might even suffice to procure him a handsome Greek, who might teach the children to read and write. He could direct his first attention to the external appearance of the new member of his household, if he were a scholar as well, he would feel justified in the high price he expected to be obliged to pay for him.
As Keraunus approached the slave-market he said, not without some conscious emotion at his own paternal devotion:
"All for the credit of the house, all, and only, for the children."
Arsinoe carried out her intention of staying with Selene; her father was to fetch her on his way home. After he was gone, Hannah and Mary left the two sisters together, for they supposed that they must wish to discuss a variety of things without the presence of strangers.
As soon as the girls were alone Arsinoe began: "Your cheeks are rosy, Selene, and you look cheerful--ah! and I, I am so happy--so happy!"
"Because you are to fill the part of Roxana?"
"That is very nice too, and who would have thought only yesterday morning that we should be so rich today. We hardly know what to do with all the money."
"Yes, for father has sold two objects out of his collection for six thousand drachmae."
"Oh!" cried Selene clasping her hands, "then we can pay our most pressing debts."
"To be sure, but that is not nearly all."
"Where shall I begin? Ah! Selene, my heart is so full. I am tired, and yet I could dance and sing and shout all day and all the night through till to-morrow. When I think how happy I am, my head turns, and I feel as if I must use all my self-control to keep myself from turning giddy. You do not know yet how you feel when the arrow of Eros has pierced you. Ah! I love Pollux so much, and he loves me too."
At these words all the color fled from Selene's cheeks, and her pale lips brought out the words:
"Pollux? The son of Euphorion, Pollux the sculptor?"
"Yes, our dear, kind, tall Pollux!" cried Arsinoe. "Now prick up your ears, and you shall hear how it all came to pass. Last night on our way to see you he confessed how much he loved me, and now you must advise me how to win over my father to our side, and very soon too. By-and-bye he will of course say yes, for Pollux can do anything he wants, and some day he will be a great man, as great as Papias, and Aristaeus, and Kealkes all put together. His youthful trick with that silly caricature--but how pale you are, Selene!"
"It is nothing--nothing at all--a pain--go on," said Selene.
"Dame Hannah begged me not to let you talk much."
"Only tell me everything; I will be quiet."
"Well, you have seen the lovely head of mother that he made," Arsinoe went on. "Standing by that we saw each other and talked for the first time after long years, and I felt directly that there was not a dearer man than he in the whole world, wide as it is. And he fell in love too with a stupid little thing like me. Yesterday evening he came here with me; and then as I went home, taking his arm in the dark through the streets, then--Oh, Selene, it was splendid, delightful! You cannot imagine!--Does your foot hurt you very much, poor dear? Your eyes are full of tears."
"Go on, tell me all, go on."
And Arsinoe did as she was desired, sparing the poor girl nothing that could widen and deepen the wound in her soul. Full of rapturous memories she described the place in the streets where Pollux had first kissed her. The shrubs in the garden where she had flung herself into his arms, her blissful walk in the moonlight, and all the crowd assembled for the festival, and finally how, possessed by the god, they had together joined the procession, and danced through the streets. She described, with tears in her eyes, how painful their parting had been, and laughed again, as she told how an ivy leaf in her hair had nearly betrayed everything to her father. So she talked and talked, and there was something that intoxicated her in her own words.
How they were affecting Selene she did not observe. How could she know that it was her narrative and no other suffering which made her sister's lips quiver so sorrowfully? Then, when she went on to speak of the splendid garments which Julia was having made for her, the suffering girl listened with only half an ear, but her attention revived when she heard how much old Plutarch had offered for the ivory cup, and that her father proposed to exchange their old slave for a more active one.
"Our good black mouse-catching old stork looks shabby enough it is true," said Arsinoe, "still I am very sorry he should go away. If you had been at home, perhaps father would have waited to consider."
Selene laughed drily, and her lips curled scornfully as she said:
"That is the way! go on! two days before you are turned out of house and home you ride in a chariot and pair!"
"You always see the worst side," said Arsinoe with annoyance. "I tell you it will all turn out far better and nicer and more happily than we expect. As soon as we are a little richer we will buy back the old man, and keep him and feed him till he dies."
Selene shrugged her shoulders, and her sister jumped up from her seat with her eyes full of tears. She had been so happy in telling how happy she was that she firmly believed that her story must bring brightness into the gloom of the sick girl's soul, like sunshine after a dark night; and Selene had nothing to give her but scornful words and looks. If a friend refuses to share in joys it is hardly less wounding than if he were to abandon us in trouble.
"How you always contrive to embitter my happiness!" cried Arsinoe. "I know very well that nothing that I can do can ever be right in your eyes; still, we are sisters, and you need not set your teeth and grudge your words, and shrug your shoulders when I tell you of things which, even a stranger, if I were to confide them to her, would rejoice over with me. You are so cold and heartless! I dare say you will betray me to my father--"
But Arsinoe did not finish her sentence, for Selene looked up at her with a mixture of suffering and alarm, and said:
"I cannot be glad--I am in too much pain." As she spoke the tears ran down her cheeks and as soon as Arsinoe saw them she felt a return of pity for the sick girl, bent over and kissed her cheeks once, twice, thrice; but Selene pushed her aside and murmured piteously:
"Leave me--pray leave me; go away, I can bear it no longer." She turned her face to the wall, sobbing aloud. Arsinoe attempted once more to show her some marks of affection, but her sister pushed her away still more decidedly, crying out loudly, as if in desperation: "I shall die if you
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