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- The Sisters, v3 - 10/12 -
of assembly, which at every moment grew fuller and fuller. The temple- servants and the keepers of the beasts, the gate-keepers, the litter- bearers, the water-carriers-all streamed in from their interrupted meal, some wiping their mouths as they hurried in, or still holding in their hands a piece of bread, a radish, or a date which they hastily munched; the washer-men and women came in with hands still wet from washing the white robes of the priests, and the cooks arrived with brows still streaming from their unfinished labors. Perfumes floated round from the unwashed hands of the pastophori, who had been busied in the laboratories in the preparation of incense, while from the library and writing-rooms came the curators and scribes and the officials of the temple counting- house, their hair in disorder, and their light working-dress stained with red or black. The troop of singers, male and female, came in orderly array, just as they had been assembled for practice, and with them came the faded twins to whom Klea and Irene had been designated as successors by Asclepiodorus. Then came the pupils of the temple-school, tumbling noisily into the court-yard in high delight at this interruption to their lessons. The eldest of these were sent to bring in the great canopy under which the heads of the establishment might assemble.
Last of all appeared Asclepiodorus, who handed to a young scribe a complete list of all the inhabitants and members of the temple, that he might read it out. This he proceeded to do; each one answered with an audible "Here" as his name was called, and for each one who was absent information was immediately given as to his whereabouts.
Klea had joined the singing-women, and awaited in breathless anxiety a long-endlessly long-time for the name of her sister to be called; for it was not till the very smallest of the school-boys and the lowest of the neat-herds had answered, "Here," that the scribe read out, "Klea, the water-bearer," and nodded to her in answer as she replied "Here!"
Then his voice seemed louder than before as he read. "Irene, the water- bearer."
No answer following on these words, a slight movement, like the bowing wave that flies over a ripe cornfield when the morning breeze sweeps across the ears, was evident among the assembled inhabitants of the temple, who waited in breathless silence till Asclepiodorus stood forth, and said in a distinct and audible voice:
"You have all met here now at my call. All have obeyed it excepting those holy men consecrated to Serapis, whose vows forbid their breaking their seclusion, and Irene, the water-bearer. Once more I call, 'Irene,' a second, and a third time--and still no answer; I now appeal to you all assembled here, great and small, men and women who serve Serapis. Can any one of you give any information as to the whereabouts of this young girl? Has any one seen her since, at break of day, she placed the first libation from the Well of the Sun on the altar of the god? You are all silent! Then no one has met her in the course of this day? Now, one question more, and whoever can answer it stand forth and speak the words of truth.
"By which gate did this lady of rank depart who visited the temple early this morning?--By the eastern gate--good.
"Was she alone?--She was.
"By which gate did the epistolographer Eulaeus depart?--By the east.
"Was he alone?--He was.
"Did any one here present meet the chariot either of the lady or of Eulaeus?"
"I did," cried a car-driver, whose daily duty it was to go to Memphis with his oxen and cart to fetch provisions for the kitchen, and other necessaries.
"Speak," said the high-priest.
"I saw," replied the man, "the white horses of my Lord Eulaeus hard by the vineyard of Khakem; I know them well. They were harnessed to a closed chariot, in which besides himself sat a lady."
"Was it Irene?" asked Asclepiodorus.
"I do not know," replied the tarter, "for I could not see who sat in the chariot, but I heard the voice of Eulaeus, and then a woman's laugh. She laughed so heartily that I had to screw my mouth up myself, it tickled me so."
While Klea supposed this description to apply to Irene's merry laugh- which she had never thought of with regret till this moment--the high- priest exclaimed:
"You, keeper of the eastern gate, did the lady and Eulaeus enter and leave this sanctuary together?"
"No," was the answer. "She came in half an hour later than he did, and she quitted the temple quite alone and long after the eunuch."
"And Irene did not pass through your gate, and cannot have gone out by it?--I ask you in the name of the god we serve!"
"She may have done so, holy father," answered the gate-keeper in much alarm. "I have a sick child, and to look after him I went into my room several times; but only for a few minutes at a time-still, the gate stands open, all is quiet in Memphis now."
"You have done very wrong," said Asclepiodorus severely, "but since you have told the truth you may go unpunished. We have learned enough. All you gate-keepers now listen to me. Every gate of the temple must be carefully shut, and no one--not even a pilgrim nor any dignitary from Memphis, however high a personage he may be--is to enter or go out without my express permission; be as alert as if you feared an attack, and now go each of you to his duties."
The assembly dispersed; these to one side, those to another.
Klea did not perceive that many looked at her with suspicion as though she were responsible for her sister's conduct, and others with compassion; she did not even notice the twin-sisters, whose place she and Irene were to have filled, and this hurt the feelings of the good elderly maidens, who had to perform so much lamenting which they did not feel at all, that they eagerly seized every opportunity of expressing their feelings when, for once in a way, they were moved to sincere sorrow. But neither these sympathizing persons nor any other of the inhabitants of the temple, who approached Klea with the purpose of questioning or of pitying her, dared to address her, so stern and terrible was the solemn expression of her eyes which she kept fixed upon the ground.
At last she remained alone in the great court; her heart beat faster unusual, and strange and weighty thoughts were stirring in her soul. One thing was clear to her: Eulaeus--her father's ruthless foe and destroyer--was now also working the fall of the child of the man he had ruined, and, though she knew it not, the high-priest shared her suspicions. She, Klea, was by no means minded to let this happen without an effort at defence, and it even became clearer and clearer to her mind that it was her duty to act, and without delay. In the first instance she would ask counsel of her friend Serapion; but as she approached his cell the gong was sounded which summoned the priests to service, and at the same time warned her of her duty of fetching water.
Mechanically, and still thinking of nothing but Irene's deliverance, she fulfilled the task which she was accustomed to perform every day at the sound of this brazen clang, and went to her room to fetch the golden jars of the god.
As she entered the empty room her cat sprang to meet her with two leaps of joy, putting up her back, rubbing her soft head against her feet with her fine bushy tail ringed with black stripes set up straight, as cats are wont only when they are pleased. Klea was about to stroke the coaxing animal, but it sprang back, stared at her shyly, and, as she could not help thinking, angrily with its green eyes, and then shrank back into the corner close to Irene's couch.
"She mistook me!" thought Klea. "Irene is more lovable than I even to a beast, and Irene, Irene--" She sighed deeply at the name, and would have sunk down on her trunk there to consider of new ways and means--all of which however she was forced to reject as foolish and impracticable-- but on the chest lay a little shirt she had begun to make for little Philo, and this reminded her again of the sick child and of the duty of fetching the water.
Without further delay she took up the jars, and as she went towards the well she remembered the last precepts that had been given her by her father, whom she had once been permitted to visit in prison. Only a few detached sentences of this, his last warning speech, now came into her mind, though no word of it had escaped her memory; it ran much as follows:
"It may seem as though I had met with an evil recompense from the gods for my conduct in adhering to what I think just and virtuous; but it only seems so, and so long as I succeed in living in accordance with nature, which obeys an everlasting law, no man is justified in accusing me. My own peace of mind especially will never desert me so long as I do not set myself to act in opposition to the fundamental convictions of my inmost being, but obey the doctrines of Zeno and Chrysippus. This peace every one may preserve, aye, even you, a woman, if you constantly do what you recognize to be right, and fulfil the duties you take upon yourself. The very god himself is proof and witness of this doctrine, for he grants to him who obeys him that tranquillity of spirit which must be pleasing in his eyes, since it is the only condition of the soul in which it appears to be neither fettered and hindered nor tossed and driven; while he, on the contrary, who wanders from the paths of virtue and of her daughter, stern duty, never attains peace, but feels the torment of an unsatisfied and hostile power, which with its hard grip drags his soul now on and now back.
"He who preserves a tranquil mind is not miserable, even in misfortune, and thankfully learns to feel con tented in every state of life; and that because he is filled with those elevated sentiments which are directly related to the noblest portion of his being--those, I mean--of justice and goodness. Act then, my child, in conformity with justice and duty, regardless of any ulterior object, without considering whether your action will bring you pleasure or pain, without fear of the judgment of men or the envy of the gods, and you will win that peace of mind which distinguishes the wise from the unwise, and may be happy even in adverse circumstances; for the only real evil is the dominion of wickedness, that is to say the unreason which rebels against nature, and the only true happiness consists in the possession of virtue. He alone, however, can call virtue his who possesses it wholly, and sins not against it in the smallest particular; for there is no difference of degrees either in good or in evil, and even the smallest action opposed to duty, truth or justice, though punishable by no law, is a sin, and stands in opposition to virtue.
"Irene," thus Philotas had concluded his injunctions, "cannot as yet understand this doctrine, but you are grave and have sense beyond your
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