Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Emperor, Part 2, Volume 6. - 4/9 -
do not leave me alone."
And the happier girl, whose best offerings were thus disdained by her only female friend, went weeping away to await her father's return outside the door of the widow's house.
When Hannah went to lay fresh handkerchiefs on Selene's wounds she saw that she had been crying, but she did not enquire into the reason of her tears. Towards evening the widow explained to her patient that she must leave her alone for half an hour, for that she and Mary were going out to pray to their God with their brethren and sisters, and they would pray for her also.
"Leave me, only leave me," said Selene, "as it is, so it is--there are no gods."
"Gods?" replied Hannah. "No. But there is one good and loving Father in Heaven, and you soon shall learn to know him."
"I know him, well!" muttered the sick girl with keen irony.
No sooner was she alone than she sat up in bed, and flung the flowers, which had been lying on it, far from her across the room, twisted the pin of the brooch till it was broken, and did not stir a finger to save the gold setting and engraved stone when they fell between the bed and wall of the room. Then she lay staring at the ceiling, and did not stir again. It was now quite dark. The lilies and honeysuckle in the great nosegay outside the window began to smell more strongly, and their perfume forced itself inexorably on her senses, rendered painfully acute by fever. She perceived it at every breath she drew, and not for a minute would it let her forget her wrecked happiness, and the wretchedness of her heart, till the heavy sweetness of the flowers became more unendurable than the most pungent odor, and she drew the coverlet over her head to escape this new torment; but she soon cast it off again, for she thought she should be suffocated under it. An intolerable restlessness took possession of her, while the pain in her injured foot throbbed madly, the cut in her head seemed to burn, and her temples beat with an agonizing headache that contracted the muscles of her eyes. Every nerve in her body, every thought of her brain was a separate torture, and at the same time she felt herself without a stay, without protection, and wholly abandoned to some cruel influence, which tossed and tore her soul as the storm tosses the crowns of the palm-trees.
Without tears, incapable of lying still and yet punished for the slightest movement by some fresh pain, racked in every joint, not strong enough in her bewilderment to carry through a single connected thought, and yet firmly convinced that the perfume she was forced to inhale at every breath was poisoning her--destroying her--driving her mad--she lifted her damaged foot out of bed, dragged the other after it, and sat up on her couch regardless of the pain she felt, and the warnings of the physician. Her long hair fell dishevelled over her face, her arms, and her hands, in which she held her aching head; and in this new attitude the excitement of her brain and heart took fresh development.
She sat gazing at the floor with a freezing gaze, and bitter enmity towards her sister, hatred towards Pollux, contempt for her father's miserable weakness, and her own utter blindness, rang wild changes in her soul. Outside all lay in peaceful calm, and from the house in which Paulina lived the evening breeze now and again bore the pure tones of a pious hymn upon her ear. Selene never heeded it, but as the same air wafted the scent of the flowers in her face even stronger than before, she clutched her hair in her fingers and pulled it so violently that she actually groaned with the pain she gave herself.
The question as to whether her hair was less abundant and beautiful than her sister's suddenly occurred to her, and like a flash in the darkness the wish shot through her soul that she could fling Arsinoe to the ground by the hair, with the hand which was now hurting herself.
That perfume! that horrible perfume!
She could bear it no longer. She stood up on her uninjured foot, and with very short steps she dragged herself half crying to the window, and flung the nosegay with the great jar of burnt clay down on to the ground. The vessel was broken.--It had cost poor Hannah many hardly-saved pieces not long since. Selene stood on one foot, leaning, to recover herself, against the right-hand post of the window-opening, and there she could hear more distinctly than from her couch, the voice of the waves as they broke on the stone quay just behind dame Hannah's little house. The child of the Lochias was familiar with their tones, but the clashing and gurgling of the cool, moist element against the stones had never affected her before as they did now. Her fevered blood was on fire, her foot was burning, her head was hot, and hatred seemed to consume her soul as in a slow fire; she felt as if every wave that broke upon the seawall was calling out to her: "I am cool, I am moist, I can extinguish the flame that is consuming you. I can refresh and revive you."
What had the world to offer her but new torment and new misery? But the sea--the blue dark sea was wide, and cold, and deep, and its waves promised her in insidious tones to relieve her at once of the rage of her fever, and of the burden of her life. Selene did not pause, did not reflect; she remembered neither the children whom she had so long cared for as a mother, nor her father, whose comfort and support she was--vague voices in her brain seemed to be whispering to her that the world was evil and cruel, and the abode of all the torment and care that gnawed at her heart. She felt as if she bad been plunged to the temples in a pool of fire, and, like some poor wretch whose garments have been caught by the flames, she had an instinct to fly to the water, at the bottom of which she might hope to find the fulfilment of her utmost longing, sweet cold death, in which all is forgotten.
Groaning and tottering she pushed her way through the door into the garden and hobbled down to the sea, grasping her temples in her hands.
The Alexandrians were a stiff-necked generation. Only some phenomenal sight far transcending their every-day experience could avail to make them turn their heads to stare at it, but just now there was something to look at, at every moment and in every street of the city. To-day too each one thought only of himself and of his own pleasure. Some particularly pretty, tall, or well-dressed figure would give rise to a smile or an exclamation of approval, but before one sight had been thoroughly enjoyed the inquisitive eye was seeking a fresh one.
Thus it happened that no one paid any special attention to Hadrian and his companions who allowed themselves to be unresistingly carried along the streets by the current of the crowd; and yet each one of them was, in his way, a remarkable object. Hadrian was dressed as Silenus, Pollux as a faun. Both wore masks and the disguise of the younger man was as well suited to his pliant and vigorous figure as that of the elder to his powerful stately person. Antinous followed his master, dressed as Eros. He wore a crimson mantle and was crowned with roses, while the silver quiver on his shoulder and the bow in his hand clearly symbolized the god he was intended to represent. He too wore a mask, but his figure attracted many gazers, and many a greeting of "Long live the god of love" or "Be gracious to me oh! son of Aphrodite" was spoken as he passed.
Pollux had obtained all the things requisite for these disguises from the store of drapery belonging to his master. Papias had been out, but the young man did not deem it necessary to ask his consent, for he and the other assistants had often used the things for similar purposes with his full permission. Only as he took the quiver intended for Antinous, Pollux hesitated a little for it was of solid silver and had been given to his master by the wife of a wealthy cone-dealer, whom he had represented in marble as Artemis equipped for the chase.
"The Roman's handsome companion," thought the young artist as he placed the costly object in with the others in a basket, which a squinting apprentice was to carry behind him--"The Roman's handsome companion must be made a splendid Eros--and before sunrise the useless thing will be hanging on its hook again."
Indeed Pollux had not much time to admire the splendid appearance of the god of love he had so richly adorned, for the Roman architect was possessed by such thirst for knowledge and such inexhaustible curiosity as to the minutest details that even Pollux who was born in Alexandria, and had grown up there with his eyes very wide open, was often unable to answer his indefatigable questioning.
The grey-bearded master wanted to see every thing and to be informed on every subject. Not content with making acquaintance with the main streets and squares the public sites and buildings, he peeped into the handsomest of the private houses and asked the names, rank and fortunes of the owners. The decided way in which he told Pollux the way he wished to be conducted proved to the artist that he was thoroughly familiar with the plan of the city. And when the sagacious and enlightened man expressed his approval, nay his admiration of the broad clean streets of the town, the handsome open places, and particularly handsome buildings which abounded on all sides, the young Alexandrian who was proud of his city was delighted.
First Hadrian made him lead him along the seashore by the Bruchiom to the temple of Poseidon, where he performed some devotions, then he looked into the garden of the palace and the courts of the adjoining museum. The Caesareum with its Egyptian gateway excited his admiration no less than the theatre, surrounded with pillared arcades in stories, and decorated with numerous statues. From thence deviating to the left they once more approached the sea to visit the great Emporium, to see the forest of masts of Eunostus, and the finely-constructed quays. They left the viaduct known as the Heptastadion to their right and the harbor of Kibotus, swarming with small merchant craft, did not detain them long.
Here they turned backs on the sea following a street which led inland through the quarter called Khakotis inhabited only by native Egyptians, and here the Roman found much to see that was noteworthy. First he and his companions met a procession of the priests who serve the gods of the Nile valley, carrying reliquaries and sacred vessels, with images of the gods and sacred animals, and tending towards the Serapeum which towered high above the streets in the vicinity. Hadrian did not visit the temple, but he inspected the chariots which carried people along an inclined road which led up the hill on which was the sanctuary, and watched devotees on foot who mounted by an endless flight of steps constructed on purpose; these grew wider towards the top, terminating in a platform where four mighty pillars bore up a boldly-curved cupola. Nothing looked down upon the temple-building which with its halls, galleries and rooms rose behind this huge canopy.
The priests with their white robes, the meagre, half-naked Egyptians with their pleated aprons and headcloths, the images of beasts and the wonderfully-painted houses in this quarter of the city, particularly attracted Hadrian's attention and made him ask many questions, not all of which could Pollux answer.
Their walk which now took them farther and farther from the sea extended to the extreme south of the town and the shores of lake Mareotis. Nile boats and vessels of every form and size lay at anchor in this deep and
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything