by Georg Ebers
CHAPTER I. THE
CHAPTER IV. THE
CHAPTER V. THE
WALK TO THE SEA.
Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford
In the Art-Palace on green Isar's strand,
Before one picture long I kept my seat,
It held me spellbound by some magic band,
Nor when my home I sought, could I forget.
A year elapsed, came winter's frost and snow,
'Twas rarely now we saw the bright sun shine,
I plucked up courage and cried: "Be it so!"
Then southward wandered with those I call mine.
Like birds of passage built we there a nest
On a palm-shaded shore, all steeped in light,
Life was a holiday, enjoyed with zest
And grateful hearts, the while it winged its flight.
Oft on the sea's wide purplish-blue expanse,
With ever new delight I fixed my eyes,
Alma Tadema's picture, at each glance
Recalled to mind, a thousand times would rise.
Once a day dawned, glad as a bride's fair face,
Perfume, and light, and joy it did enfold,
Then-without search, flitted from out of space
Words for the tale that my friend's picture told.
CHAPTER I. THE HOUSE-KEEPER AND THE
"Salt sea-water or oil, it's all the same to you! Haven't I put my
lamp out long ago? Doesn't the fire on the hearth give light enough?
Are your eyes so drowsy that they don't see the dawn shining in upon
us more and more brightly? The olives are not yet pressed, and the
old oil is getting toward the dregs. Besides, you know how much fruit
those abominable thieves have stolen. But sparrows will carry grain
into the barn before you'll try to save your master's property!"
So Semestre, the ancient house-keeper of Lysander of Syracuse,
scolded the two maids, Chloris and Dorippe, who, unheeding the smoking
wicks of their lamps, were wearily turning the hand-mills.
Dorippe, the younger of the two, grasped her disordered black
tresses, over which thousands of rebellious little hairs seemed to
weave a veil of mist, drew from the mass of curls falling on her neck
a bronze arrow, with which she extinguished the feeble light of both
lamps, and, turning to the house-keeper, said:
"There, then! We can't yet tell a black thread from a white one,
and I must put out the lamps, as if this rich house were a beggar's
hut. Two hundred jars of shining oil were standing in the storehouses
a week ago. Why did the master let them be put on the ship and taken
to Messina by his brother and Mopsus?"
"And why isn't the fruit gathered yet?" asked Chloris. "The
olives are overripe, and the thieves have an easy task, now the
watchmen have gone to Messina as rowers. We must save by drops, while
we own more gnarled olive-trees than there are days in the year. How
many jars of oil might be had from the fruit that has dropped on the
ground alone! The harvest at neighbor Protarch's was over long ago,
and if I were like Lysander—"
"There would probably be an end of saving," cried the house-keeper,
interrupting the girl. "Well, I confess it wasn't easy for me to part
with the golden gift of the gods, but what could I do? Our master's
brother, Alciphron, wanted it, and there was a great barter.
Alciphron is clever, and has a lucky hand, in which the liquid gold
we press from the olives with so much toil, and keep so carefully,
becomes coined metal. He's like my own child, for I was his nurse.
Here in the country we increase our riches by care, patience and
frugality, while the city merchant must have farseeing eyes, and know
how to act speedily. Even when a boy, my Alciphron was the wisest of
Dionysius's three sons, and, if there was anything sweet to be
divided, always knew how to get the largest share. When his mother
was alive, she once told the lad to give her the best of some
freshly-baked cakes, that she might take it to the temple for an
offering, and what was his answer? 'It will be well for me to taste
them all, that I may be certain not to make a mistake;' and when
"Is Alciphron younger than our poor master?" interrupted Dorippe.
"They were sesame cakes with honey," replied the house-keeper,
whose hearing was impaired by age, and who therefore frequently
misunderstood words uttered in a low tone. "Is the linen ready for
"I didn't ask about the cakes," replied Dorippe, exchanging a
mischievous glance with Chloris; "I only wanted to know—"
"You girls are deaf; I've noticed it a long time," interrupted the
house-keeper. "You've grown hard of hearing, and I know why.
Hundreds of times I've forbidden you to throw yourselves on the dewy
grass in the evening, when you were heated by dancing. How often I
get absurd answers, when I ask you anything!"
The girls both laughed merrily.
The higher voice of one mingled harmoniously with the deeper tones
of her companion, and two pairs of dark eyes again met, full of joyous
mirth, for they well knew who was deaf, and who had quicker hearing
than even the nightingale, which, perched on the green fig-tree
outside, was exultingly hailing the sunrise, now with a clear,
flute-like warble, now with notes of melancholy longing.
The house-keeper looked with mingled astonishment and anger at the
two laughing girls, then clapped her hands loudly, exclaiming:
"To work, wenches! You, Chloris, prepare the morning meal; and
you, Dorippe, see if the master wants anything, and bring fresh wood
for the fire. Stop your silly giggling, for laughing before sunrise
causes tears at evening. I suppose the jests of the vineyard watchmen
are still lingering in your heads. Now go, and don't touch food till
you've arranged your hair."
The girls, nudging each other, left the women's apartment, into
which the dawn was now shining more brightly through the open roof.
It was a stately room, surrounded by marble columns, which bore
witness to the owner's wealth, for the floor was beautifully adorned
with bright- hued pictures, mosaic work executed in colored stones by
an artist from Syracuse. They represented the young god Dionysius,
the Hyades surrounding him, and in colored groups all the gifts of the
divinities who watch over fields and gardens, as well as those of the
Nysian god. Each individual design, as well as the whole picture, was
inclosed in a framework of delicate lines. The hearth, over which
Semestre now bent, to fan the glimmering embers with a goose-wing, was
made of yellow marble.
Dorippe now returned, curtly said that the master wanted to be
helped into the open air, when the sun was higher, and brought, as she
had been ordered, a fresh supply of gnarled olive-branches, and
pinecones, which, kindling rapidly, coaxed the wood to unite its blaze
Glittering sparks flew upward from the crackling branches toward
the open roof, and with them a column of warm smoke rose straight into
the pure, cool morning air; but as the door of the women's apartment
now opened, the draught swept the gray, floating pillar sideways,
directly toward Semestre, who was fanning the flames with her
Coughing violently, she wiped her eyes with the edge of her blue
peplum, and glanced angrily at the unbidden guest who ventured to
enter the women's apartment at this hour.
As soon as she recognized the visitor she nodded pleasantly, though
with a certain touch of condescension, and rose from her stool, but
instantly dropped back on it again, instead of going forward to meet
the new-comer. Then she planted herself still more firmly on her seat,
and, instead of uttering a friendly greeting, coughed and muttered a
few unintelligible words.
"Give me a little corner by your fire, it's a cold morning," cried
the old man in a deep voice. "Helios freezes his people before he
comes, that they may be doubly grateful for the warmth he bestows."
"You are right," replied Semestre, who had only understood a few of
the old man's words; "people ought to be grateful for a warm fire; but
why, at your age, do you go out so early, dressed only in your chiton,
without cloak or sandals, at a season when the buds have scarcely
opened on the trees. You people yonder are different from others in
many respects, but you ought not to go without a hat, Jason; your hair
is as white as mine."
"And wholly gone from the crown," replied the old man, laughing.
"It's more faithful to you women; I suppose out of gratitude for the
better care you bestow. I need neither hat, cloak, nor sandals! An
old countryman doesn't fear the morning chill. When a boy, I was as
white as your master's little daughter, the fair-faced Xanthe, but now
head, neck, arms, legs, every part of me not covered by the woolen
chiton, is brown as a wine-skin before it's hung up in the smoke, and
the dark hue is like a protecting garment, nay better, for it helps me
bear not only cold, but heat. There's nothing white about me now,
except the beard on my chin, the scanty hair on my head, and, thank
the gods, these two rows of sound teeth."
Jason, as he spoke, passed his hard, brown finger over the upper
and then the under row of his teeth; but the housekeeper, puckering
her mouth in the attempt to hide many a blemish behind her own lips,
"Your teeth are as faithful to you as our hair is to us, for men
know how to use them more stoutly than women. Now show what you can
do. We have a nice curd porridge, seasoned with thyme, and some dried
lamb for breakfast. If the girl hurries, you needn't wait long.
Every guest, even the least friendly, is welcome to our house."
"I didn't come here to eat," replied the old man; "I've had my
breakfast. There's something on my mind I would like to discuss with
the clever house-keeper, nay, I ought to say the mistress of this
house, and faithful guardian of its only daughter."
Semestre turned her wrinkled face towards the old man, opened her
eyes to their widest extent, and then called eagerly to Dorippe, who
was busied about the hearth, "We want to be alone!"
The girl walked slowly toward the door, and tried to conceal
herself behind the projecting pillars to listen, but Semestre saw her,
rose from her seat, and drove her out of doors with her myrtle-staff,
"Let no one come in till I call. Even Xanthe must not interrupt
"You won't stay alone, for Aphrodite and all the Loves will soon
join such a pair," cried the girl, as she sprang across the threshold,
banging the door loudly behind her.
"What did she say?" asked Semestre, looking suspiciously after the
maiden. The vexations one has to endure from those girls, Jason,
can't be described, especially since they've grown deaf."
"Deaf?" asked the old man in astonishment.
"Yes, they scarcely understand a word correctly, and even Xanthe,
who has just reached her seventeenth year, is beginning to be hard of
A smile flitted over Jason's face, and, raising his voice to a
louder tone, he said, flatteringly:
"Every one can't have senses as keen as yours, Semestre; have you
time to listen to me?"
The house-keeper nodded assent, leaned against the column nearest
the hearth, rested both hands on her staff, and bent forward to
intimate that she would listen attentively, and did not wish to lose a
Jason stood directly opposite, and, while thus measuring each other
with their eyes, Semestre looked like a cautious cat awaiting the
attack of the less nimble but stronger shepherd's dog.
"You know," Jason began, that when, long ago, we two, you as nurse
and I as steward, came to this place, our present masters' fine
estates belonged undivided to their father. The gods gave the old man
three sons. The oldest, Alciphron, whom you nursed and watched
through his boyhood, went to a foreign land, became a great merchant
in Messina, and, after his father's death, received a large
inheritance in gold, silver and the city house at the port. The
country estates were divided between Protarch and Lysander. My
master, as the elder of the two, obtained the old house; yours built
this new and elegant mansion. One son, the handsome Phaon, has grown
up under our roof, while yours shelters the lovely Xanthe. My master
has gone to Messina, not only to sell our oil and yours, but to speak
to the guardian of a wealthy heiress, of whom his brother had written.
He wants her for Phaon's wife; but I think Phaon was created for
Xanthe and Xanthe for him. There's nothing lacking, except to have
"To have Hymen unite them," interrupted Semestre. "There's no
hurry about heiresses; they don't let themselves be plucked like
blackberries. If she has scorned her country suitor, it may well seem
desirable to Protarch and all of you that Xanthe should prove more
yielding, for then our property would be joined with yours."
"It would be just the same as during Dionysius's lifetime."
"And you alone would reap the profit."
"No, Semestre, it would be an advantage to both us and you; for,
since your master had that unlucky fall from the high wall of the
vineyard, the ruler's eye is lacking here, and many things don't go as
"People see what they want to see," cried Semestre. "Our estates
are no worse managed than yours."
"I only meant to say—"
"That your Phaon seems to you well fitted to supply my master's
place. I think differently, and, if Lysander continues to improve,
he'll learn to use his limbs again."
"An invalid needs rest, and, since the deaths of your mistress and
mine, quarrelling never ceases—"
"We never disturb the peace."
"And quarrelling is even more unpleasant to us than to you; but how
often the shepherds and vine-dressers fight over the spring, which
belongs to us both, and whose beautiful wall and marble bench are
already damaged, and will soon be completely destroyed, because your
master says mine ought to bear the expense of the work—"
"And I daily strengthen him in this belief. We repaired the
inclosing wall of the spring, and it's only fair to ask Protarch to
mend the masonry of the platform. We won't yield, and if you—"
"If we refuse to do Lysander's will, it will lead to the
quarrelling I would fain prevent by Phaon's marriage with your Xanthe.
Your master is in the habit of following your advice, as if you were
his own mother. You nurse the poor invalid like one, and if you would
"Lysander has other plans, and Phaon's father is seeking an heiress
for his son in Messina."
"But surely not for the youth's happiness, nor do I come to speak
to you in Protarch's name."
"So you invented the little plan yourself—I am afraid without
success, for I've already told you that my master has other views."
"Then try to win him to our side—no, not only to us, but to do
what is best for the prosperity of this house."
"Not for this house; only for yourselves. Your plan doesn't please
"I don't wish what you desire."
"'I don't wish;' that's a woman's most convincing reason.
"It is, for at least I desire nothing I haven't carefully
considered. And you know Alciphron, in Syracuse, our master's oldest
brother, did not ask for the heiress, who probably seemed to him too
insignificant for his own family, but wanted our girl for his son
Leonax. We joyfully gave our consent, and, within a few days, perhaps
to-morrow, the suitor will come from Messina with your master to see
"Still, I stick to it: your Xanthe belongs to our Phaon, and, if
you would act according to Dionysius's wishes, like fair-minded
"Isn't Alciphron—the best and wisest of men—also Dionysius's
child? I would give his first-born, rather than any one else, this
fruitful soil, and, when the rich father's favorite, when Leonax once
rules here by Xanthe's side, there'll be no lack of means to rebuild
the platform and renew a few marble benches."
Angered by these words, the old man indignantly exclaimed:
"You add mockery to wrong. We know the truth. To please
Alciphron, your foster-child, you would make us all beggars. If
Lysander gives his daughter to Leonax it will be your work, yours
alone, and we will—"
Semestre did not allow herself to be intimidated, but, angrily
raising her myrtle-staff, interrupted Jason by exclaiming in a loud,
You are right. This old heart clings to Alciphron, and throbs more
quickly at the mere mention of its darling's name; but verily you have
done little to win our affection. Last autumn the harvest of new wine
was more abundant than we expected. We lacked skins, and when we
asked you to help us with yours—"
"We said no, because we ourselves did not know what to do with the
"And who shamefully killed my gray cat?"
"It entered Phaon's dove-cote and killed the young of his best pair
of cropper pigeons."
"It was a marten, not the good, kind creature. You are unfriendly
in all your acts, for when our brown hen flew over to you yesterday
she was driven away with stones. Did Phaon mistake her for a vulture
with sharp beak and powerful talons?"
"A maid-servant drove her away, because, since your master has been
ill and no longer able to attend to business, your poultry daily feeds
upon our barley."
"I'm surprised you don't brand us as robbers!" cried Semestre.
"Yes, if you had beaten me yourself with a stick, you would say a dry
branch of a fig or olive tree had accidentally fallen on my back. I
know you well enough, and Leonax, Alciphron's son, not your sleepy
Phaon, whom people say is roaming about when he ought to be resting
quietly in the house, shall have our girl for his wife. It's not I
who say so, but Lysander, my lord and master."
"Your will is his," replied Jason. "Far be it from me to wound the
sick man with words, but ever since he has been ill you've played the
master, and he ought to be called the house-keeper. Ay, you have more
influence under his roof than any one else, but Aphrodite and Eros are
a thousand times more powerful, for you rule by pans, spits, and soft
pillows—they govern hearts with divine, irresistible omnipotence."
Semestre laughed scornfully, and, striking the hard stone floor
with her myrtle-staff, exclaimed:
"My spit is enough, and perhaps Eros is helping it with his arrows,
for Xanthe no longer asks for your Phaon, any more than I fretted for
a person now standing before me when he was young. Eros loves harder
work. People who grow up together and meet every day, morning, noon,
and night, get used to each other as the foot does to the sandal, and
the sandal to the foot, but the heart remains untouched. But when a
handsome stranger, with perfumed locks and costly garments, suddenly
meets the maiden, Aphrodite's little son fits an arrow to his golden
"But he doesn't shoot," cried Jason, "when he knows that another
shaft has already pierced the maiden's heart. Any man can win any
girl, except one whose soul is filled with love for another."
"The gray-headed old bachelor speaks from experience," retorted
Semestre, quickly. "And your Phaon! If he really loved our girl, how
could he woo another or have her wooed for him? It comes to the same
thing. But I don't like to waste so many words. I know our Xanthe
better than you, and she no more cares for her playfellow than the
column on the right side of the hearth yearns toward the one on the
left, though they have stood together under the same roof so long."
"Do you know what the marble feels?"
"Nothing, Jason, nothing at all; that is, just as much as Xanthe
feels for Phaon. But what's that noise outside the door?"
The house-keeper was still talking, when one of the folding doors
opened a little, and Dorippe called through the crack:
"May we come in? Here's a messenger from Protarch."
"Admit him," cried Semestre, eagerly. The door flew wide open, and
the two girls entered the women's apartment with Mopsus, the brother
of the lively Chloris. The latter was clinging to his arm, and as he
came into the hall removed the broad-brimmed travelling-hat from his
brown locks, while dark-skinned Dorippe went behind him and pushed the
hesitating youth across the threshold, as a boat is launched into the
In reply to the house-keeper's excited questions, he related that
Protarch had sold his master's oil at Messina for as high a price as
his own, bought two new horses for his neighbor Cleon, and sent Mopsus
himself forward with them. If the wind didn't change, he would arrive
While speaking, he drew from the girdle which confined his blue
chiton, bordered with white, around his waist, a strip of papyrus, and
handed it to Semestre with a greeting from his master.
The house-keeper looked at both sides of the yellow sheet, turned
it over and over, held it close to her eyes, and then glanced
hesitatingly at Jason. He would know that she could not read; but
Xanthe could decipher written sentences, and the young girl must soon
appear at breakfast.
"Shall I read it?" asked the old man.
"I could do so myself, if I chose," replied the house-keeper,
drawing her staff over the floor in sharp and blunt angles, as if she
were writing. "I could, but I don't like to hear news on an empty
stomach, and what is said in this letter concerns myself, I should
suppose, and nobody else. Go and call Xanthe to breakfast, Dorippe."
"I know what is in it," cried the girl, reluctant to part from her
companion's brother, whom she loved, and who still had a great deal
to tell her about his journey to Messina. "Mopsus has told us. Our
master's nephew, Leonax, Alciphron's son, will accompany his uncle and
stay for a week or longer as a guest, not over yonder with Protarch,
but here in our house. He is a, handsome youth, even taller than
Phaon, and Mopsus says Alciphron's wife, by our master's request,
dipped deep into his purse at Messina, and bought from her husband's
merchant friends gold bracelets and women's garments, such as matrons
At these words a smile of joy and hope flitted over Semestre's
wrinkled face, like a spring breeze sweeping across a leafless garden.
She no longer thought of the harm a piece of news might do her empty
stomach, and, while mentally seeing the flutter of a matron's
beautiful blue garment and the flash of Xanthe's rich dowry, eagerly
asked the welcome messenger:
"Does she speak the truth? And what is this about the robes?"
"I brought the clothes myself," replied Mopsus, "and packed them in
a beautiful chest inlaid with ivory, like those newlywedded youths
receive with the bridal dowry. Praxilla, the handsome sister of
Alciphron's wife, also gave—"
"Go and call Xanthe!" cried Semestre, interrupting the messenger.
She had laughed softly several times while listening to his tale,
and, when the girls hastily withdrew with Mopsus, cast a triumphant
glance at Jason.
Then, remembering how much was to be done to make fitting
preparation for the young suitor Leonax, she called loudly:
"Dorippe—Chloris! Chloris—Dorippe !" Neither of the maidens
seemed to hear, and, when obliged to resign all hope of an answer, she
shrugged her shoulders, and turning to Jason said:
"So young and so deaf; it is sad. Poor girls!"
"They like Mopsus better than you, and don't wish to hear," replied
Jason, laughing. "They can't," said Semestre, angrily. "Mopsus is
a bold, good-for-nothing fellow, whom I've often wanted to drive out
of the house, but I should like to see the person who refused me
obedience. As for your proposal, you have now heard distinctly enough
that our girl is intended for Leonax."
"But suppose Xanthe doesn't want Leonax, and prefers Phaon to the
"Alciphron's son a 'stranger' on the estates of his ancestors!"
exclaimed Semestre. "What don't we hear? But I must go to work to
prepare the best possible reception for Leonax, that he may feel from
the first he is no stranger here, but perfectly at home. Now go, if
you choose, and offer sacrifices to Aphrodite, that she may join the
hearts of Xanthe and Phaon. I'll stick to my spit."
"Then you'll be in the right place," cried Jason, "but you're
not yet turning it for Leonax's wedding-feast."
"And I promise you I'll prepare the roast for Phaon's," retorted
Semestre, "but not until the sacrifice of an animal I'm fattening
myself induces the foam-born goddess to kindle in Xanthe's heart sweet
love for Leonax."
CHAPTER II. XANTHE.
"Xanthe, Xanthe!" called Semestre, a short time after. "Xanthe!
Where is the girl?"
The old woman had gone into the garden. Knowing how to use time to
advantage, and liking to do two things at once, while looking for her
nursling and repeatedly shouting the girl's name, she was gathering
vegetables and herbs, on which the dew of early morning still
While thus occupied, she was thinking far more of her favorite's
son and the roast meats, cakes, and sauces to be prepared for him,
than of Xanthe.
She wanted to provide for Leonax all the dishes his father had
specially liked when a child, for what a father relishes, she
considered, will please his children.
Twenty times she had stooped to pluck fresh lavender, green
lettuce, and young, red turnips, and each time, while straightening
herself again by her myrtle-staff, as well as a back bent by age would
allow, called "Xanthe, Xanthe!"
Though she at last threw her head back so far that the sun shone
into her open mouth, and the power of her lungs was not small, no
answer came. This did not make her uneasy, for the girl could not be
far away, and Semestre was used to calling her name more than once
before she obeyed.
True, to-day the answer was delayed longer than usual. The maiden
heard the old woman's shrill, resounding voice very clearly, but
heeded it no more than the cackling of the hens, the screams of the
peacocks, and the cooing of the doves in the court-yard.
The house-keeper, she knew, was calling her to breakfast, and the
bit of dry bread she had taken with her was amply sufficient to
satisfy her hunger. Nay, if Semestre had tempted her with the
sweetest cakes, she would not have left her favorite nook by the
This spring gushed from the highest rock on her father's estate.
She often went there, especially when her heart was stirred, and it
was a lovely spot.
The sparkling water rushed from a cleft in the rocks, and, on the
left of the little bench, where Xanthe sat, formed a clear,
transparent pool, whose edges were inclosed by exquisitely-polished,
white-marble blocks. Every reddish pebble, every smooth bit of snowy
quartz, every point and furrow and stripe on the pretty shells on its
sandy bottom, was as distinctly visible as if held before the eyes on
the palm of the hand, and yet the water was so deep that the gold
circlet sparkling above the elbow on Xanthe's round arm, nay, even the
gems confining her peplum on the shoulder, would have been wet had she
tried to touch the bottom of the basin with the tips of her fingers.
The water was green and clear as crystal, into which, while molten,
bits of emeralds had been cast to change them into liquid drops.
Farther on it flowed through a channel choked with all kinds of
plants. Close by the edges of the rivulet, which rushed swiftly down
to the valley, drooped delicate vines, that threw their tendrils over
the stones and flourished luxuriantly in the rocks amid thick, moist
clumps of moss. Dainty green plants, swayed to and fro by the plashing
water, grew everywhere on the bottom of the brook, and, wherever on
its course it could flow more smoothly, ferns, nodding gracefully,
surrounded it like ostrich-feathers waving about the cradle of a royal
Xanthe liked to watch the stream disappear in the myrtle-grove.
When, sitting in her favorite nook, she turned her eyes downward,
she overlooked the broad gardens and fields of her father and uncle,
stretching on the right and left of the stream along the gentle slope
of the mountain, and the narrow plain by the sea.
The whole scene resembled a thick woolen carpet, whose green
surface was embroidered with white and yellow spots, or one of the
baskets young maidens bear on their heads at the feast of Demeter, and
in which, piled high above the edge, light and dark-hued fruit gleams
forth from leaves of every tint.
Groves of young pomegranate and myrtletrees, with vigorous shoots,
stood forth in strong relief against the silvery gray-green foliage of
the gnarled olive-trees.
Fragrant roses, glowing with a scarlet hue, as if the sun's fiery
kiss had called them to life, adorned bushes and hedges, while,
blushing faintly, as if a child's lips had waked them from slumber,
the blossoms of the peach and almond glimmered on the branches of the
Tiny young green leaves were growing from the oddly-interwoven
branches of the fig-trees, to which clung the swelling pouches of the
fruit. Golden lemons glittered amid their strong, brilliant foliage,
which had survived the winter season; and long rows of blackish-green
cypresses rose straight and tall, like the grave voices of the chorus
amid the joyous revel. To Xanthe, gazing downward, her father's
pine-wood seemed like a camp full of arched, round tents, and, if she
allowed her eyes to wander farther, she beheld the motionless sea,
whose broad surface, on this pleasant morning, sparkled like polished
sapphire, and everywhere seemed striving to surpass with its own blue
the color of the clear sky. Ever and anon, like a tiny silver cloud
floating across the firmament, white sails glided by.
Pleasant green hills framed this lovely view. On their
well-cultivated slopes appeared here the white, glimmering walls of a
temple; yonder villages, houses, and cottages, like the herds and
single sheep that he half concealed by dense foliage.
Garlands of flowers surround the heads of happy mortals, and here
the house of every wealthy land-owner was inclosed by a hedge or
Behind the hills rose the sharply-cut outlines of the naked cliffs
of the lofty, distant mountains, and the snowy head of sleeping Mount
Etna gleamed brightly through the mist.
Now, in the early morning, sea and garden, hills and distant
mountains were covered with a delicate veil of indescribable hue. It
seemed as if the sea had furnished the warp of this fabric, and the
golden sun the woof.
The scene was wondrously beautiful, but Xanthe had not gone to the
spring to gaze at the landscape; nay, she scarcely knew that it was
When the sea shone with the hue of the sky and lay motionless, as
it did to-day, she thought Glaucus, the god of the blue sea, was
sunning himself in pleasant slumber.
On other bright days when the waves and surges swelled, white foam
crowned their crests, and a never-ending succession of breakers dashed
upon the shore, she believed the fifty daughters of Nereus were
pursuing their sports under the clear water.
They were all lovely women, and full of exuberant gayety.
Some rocked quietly on the gleaming waves, others boldly swung
themselves on the backs of the bearded Tritons, and merrily urged them
through the flood.
When the surf beat roaring on the strand, Xanthe thought she could
hear these creatures guiding their course with their scaly tails and
blowing into shells, and many a glimmering foam-crest on a deep-blue
wave was no transparent bubble-no, the girl distinctly saw that it was
the white neck, the gleaming arm, or the snowy foot of one of Nereus's
daughters. She believed that she clearly distinguished them sporting
joyously up and down through the azure water, now plunging into the
depths with their feet, and now with their heads foremost, anon
floating gently on the surface of the waves. One held out her hand to
another, and in so doing their beautiful, rounded arms often gleamed
beneath the crest of a surge.
Every day they practised new games, as the sea never looks
precisely the same; each hour it changed its hue, here, there, and
everywhere, Light streaks, like transparent bluish-green gauze, often
ran through the darker surface, which resembled a purplish-blue mantle
of some costly Phoenician stuff; the waves could flash black as the
eye of night, and white as Leucothea's neck.
Then Amphitrite appeared, with floating hair and resonant voice,
and beside her Poseidon with his four steeds.
Frowning sullenly, he struck them sharply with his lash, which
whistled through the air, and angrily thrust his trident deep into the
sea. Instantly the waves took hues of lighter brown, deeper yellow,
and cloudy gray, and the sea wore the aspect of a shallow pond with
muddy bottom, into which workmen hurl blocks of stone. The purity of
the water was sadly dimmed, and the billows dashed foaming toward the
sky, threatening in their violent assault to shatter the marble dike
erected along the shore. The Nereids, trembling, took refuge in the
ever-calm depths, the Tritons no longer used their hollow shells to
blow gentle harmonies; nay, they sent forth crashing war-songs, as if
some hostile citadel were to be assailed; while Amphitrite thrust both
hands into her long, fluttering hair, and with out-stretched head
uttered her furious roar.
But to-day the sea was calm, and when Xanthe had reached the spring
the edges of the milk-white, light, fleecy clouds, towering one above
another on the summits of the loftier mountains, were still glowing
with a rosy light. It was the edge of the garment of the vanishing
Eos, the leaves of the blossoms scattered by the Hours in the pathway
of the four steeds of Helios, as they rose from the waves.
To day and at this hour the morning sunlight fell serenely on the
tall cypresses upon the hill, the trees in the garden swayed in the
soft breath of the morning breeze, and Xanthe nodded to them, for she
thought the beautiful Dryads living in the trees were greeting each
Often, with a brief prayer, she laid flowers or a round cake on the
altar that stood beside her seat, and which her ancestor had erected
to the nymph of the spring—but today she had not come for this.
Then what brought her to the hill so early? Did she visit the
spring to admire her own image in its mirror-like surface?
At home she was rarely permitted such an indulgence, for, whenever
she looked in the polished metal-disk, Semestre used to say:
"If a girl often peers into such useless things, she'll certainly
see a fool's image in them."
Forbidden things are charming, yet Xanthe rarely looked into this
liquid mirror, though she might have enjoyed gazing at it frequently,
for her figure was tall and slender as the trunk of a cypress, her
thick fair hair glittered like gold, the oval of her face was
exquisitely rounded, long lashes shaded the large blue eyes that could
conceal no emotion which stirred her soul, and when she was alone
seemed to ask: "What have the gods allotted for my future?" Yet in
their gaze might often be read the answer "Something delightful,
And yet Xanthe did not come to the spring to paint pictures of her
future; on the contrary, she came to be sad, and shed tears unrebuked.
She did not weep passionately, but the big salt drops welled slowly
from her eyes and ran down her young cheeks, as drop after drop of
shining sap flows down the trunk of a wounded birch-tree.
Yes, Xanthe felt very sorrowful, yet everything that surrounded her
was so bright, and at her home laughter was rarely silent, while her
own often rang out no less merrily than that of lively Chloris and
dark- skinned Dorippe.
Her sick father, now slowly recovering, could refuse her nothing,
and, if Semestre tried to do so, Xanthe usually succeeded in having
her own way. There was no lack of festivals and joyous dances, and to
none of her companions did the youths present more beautiful ribbons,
to no one in the circle did they prefer to offer their hands. She was
the fairest of all the maidens far and near, and Ismene, Phryxus's
wife, had said that her laughter was gay enough to make a cripple
dance. Ismene had a daughter herself just Xanthe's age, so it must
probably have been true.
Then why, in the name of all the gods, was Xanthe sad?
Is any cause required to explain it?
Must a maiden have met with misfortune, to make her feel a longing
to weep? Certainly not.
Nay, the gayest rattle-brain is the least likely to escape such a
When the sky has long shone with unclouded splendor, and the air is
so wonderfully clear that even the most distant mountain-peaks are
distinctly visible, rain is not long delayed; and who can laugh
heartily a long time without finally shedding tears like a mourner?
Whoever endures a severe though not the deepest affliction, whoever
is permitted to reach the topmost summit of joy, and a girl who feels
love- these three Heaven favors with the blessing of tears.
Had Eros's arrow struck Xanthe's young heart too?
It was possible, though she would not confess it even to herself,
and only yesterday had denied it, without the quiver of an eyelash.
Yet, if she did love a youth, and for his sake had climbed to the
spring, he must doubtless dwell in the reddish house, standing on a
beautiful level patch of ground on the right of the brook, between the
sea and the pool; for she glanced toward it again and again, and,
except the servants, no one lived under its roof save the aged steward
Jason, and Phaon, her uncle's son. Protarch himself had gone to
Messina, with his own and her father's oil.
To age is allotted the alms of reverence, to youth the gift of
love, and, of the three men who lived in the house on Xanthe's
right-hand, only one could lay claim to such a gift, and he had an
unusually good right to do so.
Xanthe was thinking of Phaon as she sat beside the spring, but her
brow wore such a defiant frown that she did not bear the most distant
resemblance to a maiden giving herself up to tender emotions.
Now the door of the reddish house opened, and, rising hastily, she
looked toward it. A slave came cautiously out, bearing a large jar
with handles, made of brown clay, adorned with black figures.
What had the high-shouldered graybeard done, that she stamped her
foot so angrily on the ground, and buried the upper row of her
snow-white teeth deep in her under-lip, as if stifling some pang?
No one is less welcome than the unbidden intruder, who meets us in
the place of some one for whom we ardently long, and Xanthe did not
wish to see the slave, but Phaon, his master's son.
She had nothing to say to the youth; she would have rushed away if
he had ventured to seek her by the spring, but she wanted to see him,
wanted to learn whether Semestre had told the truth, when she said
Phaon intended to marry a wealthy heiress, whose hand his father was
seeking in Messina. The house-keeper had declared the night before
that he only wooed the ugly creature for the sake of her money, and
now took advantage of his father's absence to steal out of the house
evening after evening, as soon as the fire was lighted on the hearth.
And the fine night-bird did not return till long past sunrise, no
doubt from mad revels with that crazy Hermias and other wild fellows
from Syracuse. They probably understood how to loosen his slow
Then the old woman described what occurred at such banquets, and
when she mentioned the painted flute-players, with whom the dissipated
city youths squandered their fathers' money, and the old house-keeper
called attention to the fact that Phaon already wandered about as
stupidly and sleepily as if he were a docile pupil of the notorious
Hermias, Xanthe fairly hated her, and almost forgot the respect she
owed to her gray hair, and told her to her face she was a liar and
But the girl had been unable to speak, for Phaon's secret courtship
of the Messina heiress had deeply wounded her pride, and he really did
look more weary and dreamy than usual.
Semestre's praises of her cousin, the young Leonax, Xanthe had
heard as little as the chirping of the crickets on the hearth, and
before the house-keeper had finished speaking she rose, and, without
bidding her good-night, turned her back and left the women's
Ere lying down to rest in her own room, she paced up and down
before her couch, then began to loosen her thick hair so carelessly
that the violent pulling actually hurt her, and tied so tightly under
her chin the pretty scarlet kerchief worn over her golden tresses at
night to prevent them from tangling, that she was obliged to unfasten
it again to keep from stifling.
The sandals, from which she had released her slender feet, and
which, obedient to her dead mother's teaching, she usually placed
beside the chair where her clothes lay smoothly folded, she flung into
a corner of the room, still thinking of Phaon, the Messina heiress,
and her playfellow's shameful conduct. She had intended to discover
whether Semestre spoke the truth, and in the stillness of the night
consider what she must do to ascertain how much Phaon was concerned in
his father's suit.
But the god Morpheus willed otherwise, for scarcely had Xanthe laid
down to rest, extinguished her little lamp, and wrapped herself
closely in the woolen coverlet, when sleep overpowered her.
The young girl waked just before sunrise, instantly thought of
Phaon, of the heiress, and of Semestre's wicked words, and hastily
went out to the spring.
From there she could see whether her uncle's son returned home from
the city with staggering steps, or would, as usual, come out of the
house early in the morning to curry and water his brown steeds, which
no slave was ever permitted to touch.
But he did not appear, and, in his place, the high-shouldered
servant entered the court-yard.
If the young girl was usually sad here, because she liked to be
melancholy, to-day grief pierced her heart like a knife, and the bit
of white bread she raised to her lips because, with all her sorrow,
she was hungry, tasted bitter, as if dipped in wormwood.
She had no need to salt it; the tears that fell on it did that.
Xanthe heard the house-keeper's calls, but did not obey
immediately, and perhaps would not have heeded them at all if she had
not noticed—yes, she was not mistaken—that, in the full meaning of
the words, she had begun to weep like a chidden child.
She was weeping for anger; and soon it vexed her so much to think
that she should cry, that fresh tears streamed down her cheeks.
But not many, for, ere her beautiful eyes grew red, they were dry
again, as is the custom of eyes when they are young and see anything
Two children, a vineyard-watchman's son and a herdsman's little
daughter, approached the spring, talking loudly together.
They had decked themselves with fresh, green vines twined about
their necks and bosoms, and were now going to sail a little boat made
of bark in the tiny, walled pool into which the spring flowed.
The boy had been the owner of the boat, but had given it to the
little girl the day before, and now refused to deliver it, unless she
would give him in exchange the shining shells her big brother had
found, cleaned, and fastened around her little brown arm with a
string. The boy persisted in his demand, stretching out his hand for
the shells, while the little girl, with sobs and tears, defended
Xanthe, unobserved by the children, became a witness of this
contest between might and right, hastily stepped between the
combatants, gave the boy a blow on the shoulder, took the boat away,
handed it to the little maiden, and, turning to the latter, said:
"Now, play quietly together, and, if Syrus doesn't let you keep the
boat and the shells, come to me, poor Stephanion."
So saying, she wiped the little girl's eyes with her own skirt,
seized her by the shoulder, grasped the boy's black curls, pressed the
two little ones toward each other with gentle violence, and commanded:
"Now, kiss each other!"
The little girl dutifully obeyed the bidding, but the kiss the boy
gave his playmate strongly resembled a blow with the mouth.
Xanthe laughed merrily, turned her back on the children, and went
slowly down into the valley.
During her walk all sorts of little incidents flashed through her
mind with the speed of lightning; memories of the days when she
herself was a little girl and Phaon had played with her daily, as the
curly-headed Syrus now did with the herdsman's daughter.
But all the scenes swiftly conjured up before her mental vision
were very different from that just witnessed.
Once, when she had said that the brook couldn't bear to the sea all
the leaves and flowers she tossed in, Phaon only smiled quietly, but
the next day she found, fastened to an axis, a wooden cross he had
carved himself and fixed between some stones The stream swept against
the broad surfaces of the spokes and forced it to turn constantly.
For weeks both enjoyed the successful toy, but he did not ask a
word of thanks, nor did she utter any, only eagerly showed her
pleasure, and that was enough for Phaon.
If she began to build a house of sand and stones with him, and it
was not finished at once, when they went to play next day she found it
roofed and supplied with a little garden, where twigs were stuck in
the sand for trees, and red and blue buds for flowers. He had made
the seat by the spring for her, and also the little steps on the
seashore, by whose aid it was possible to enter dryshod the boat her
playfellow had painted with brilliant hues of red and blue, because a
neighbor's gay skiff had pleased her fancy.
She now thought of these and many similar acts, and that he had
never promised her anything, only placed the finished article before
her as a matter of course.
It had never entered his mind to ask compensation for his gifts or
thanks for his acts, like curly-headed Syrus. Silently he rendered
her service after service; but, unfortunately, at this hour Xanthe was
not disposed to acknowledge it.
People grow angry with no one more readily than the person from
whom they have received many favors which they are unable to repay;
women, no matter whether young or old, resemble goddesses in the fact
that they cheerfully accept every gift from a man as an offering that
is their due, so long as they are graciously disposed toward the
giver, but to-day Xanthe was inclined, to be vexed with her playmate.
A thousand joys and sorrows, shared in common, bound them to each
other, and in the farthest horizons of her recollections lay an event
which had given her affection for him a new direction. His mother and
hers had died on the same day, and since then Xanthe had thought it
her duty to watch over and care for him, at first, probably, only as a
big live doll, afterward in a more serious way. And now he was
deceiving her and going to ruin. Yet Phaon was so entirely different
from the wild fellows in Syracuse.
From a child he had been one of those who act without many words.
He liked to wander dreamily in lonely paths, with his large, dark
eyes fixed on the ground.
He rarely spoke, unless questioned. Never did he boast of being
able to accomplish, or having successfully performed, this or that
He was silent at his work, and, even while engaged in merry games,
set about a task slowly, but completed whatever he undertook.
He was welcome in the wrestling-ring and at the dance, for the
youths respected his strength, grace, dexterity, and the quiet way in
which he silenced wranglers and boasters; while the maidens liked to
gaze into the handsome dreamer's eyes, and admired him, though even in
the maddest whirl of the dance he remained passionless, moving lightly
in perfect time to the measures of the tambourine and double flute.
True, many whom he forgot to notice railed at his silent ways, and
even Xanthe had often been sorely vexed when his tongue failed to
utter a single word of the significant stories told by his eyes. Ay,
they under stood how to talk! When his deep, ardent gaze rested upon
her, unwavering, but glowing and powerful as the lava-stream that
sweeps every obstacle from its still, noiseless course, she believed
he was not silent from poverty of mind and heart, but because the
feelings that moved him were so mighty that no mortal lips could
clothe them in words.
Nevertheless, to-day Xanthe was angry with her playfellow, and a
maiden's wrath has two eyes—one blind, the other keener than a
What she usually prized and valued in Phaon she now did not see at
all, but distinguished every one of his defects.
True, he had shown her much affection without words, but he was
certainly as mute as a fish, and would, doubtless, have boasted and
asked for thanks like anybody else, if indolence had not fettered his
Only a short time ago she was obliged to give her hand to lanky
Iphis, because Phaon came forward too slowly. He was sleepy, a
foolish dreamer, and she would tell him it would be better for him to
stretch himself comfortably on his couch and continue to practise
silence, rather than woo foreign maidens and riot all night with
CHAPTER III. LYSANDER.
As Xanthe approached her father's house, Semestre's call and the
gay notes of a monaulus—[A musical instrument, played like our
flageolet or clarinet]—greeted her.
A conjurer had obtained admittance, and was showing his laughing
audience the tricks of his trained cocks and hens.
He was a dwarfish, bow-legged little man, with a short neck, on
which rested a big head with a very prominent forehead, that shaded
his small piercing eyes like a balcony.
The feathered actors lived in a two-wheeled cart, drawn from
village to village, and city to city, by a tiny, gayly-decked donkey.
Three cocks and four hens were now standing on the roof of the
cart, looking very comical, for their clever owner, who doubtless knew
what pleases the eyes of children and peasants, had colored their
white feathers, here and there, with brilliant red and glaring yellow.
Beside the cart stood a pale, sorrowful-looking boy, playing a
merry tune on the monaulus. Lysander, Xanthe's father, had been
helped out of the house into the sunlight, and, seated in his
arm-chair of polished olive- wood, was gazing at the show.
As soon as he saw his daughter, he beckoned to her, and stroking
her hair, while she pressed her lips to his forehead, said:
"An amusing sight! The two hens obey the little man as if they
were dutiful children. I'm glad he came, for a person like me,
forbidden by fate to enjoy the comical things to be seen out of doors,
must be grateful when they come in his way. Your feet are twitching,
Dorippe. Whenever a flute raises its voice, it moves young girls'
limbs, as the wind stirs the leaves of the poplars. You would
doubtless like to begin to dance at once."
At these words, Mopsus, keeping time to the music, advanced toward
his sweetheart, but Semestre stepped before him, exclaiming half to
the lad and half to her master:
"There must be no jumping about now. Whoever dances in the morning
will break a leg at night."
Lysander nodded assent.
"Then go into the house, Chloris, and fetch this king of hens a jug
of wine, some bread, and two cheeses."
"How many cheeses?" asked the housekeeper."
"Two," replied Lysander.
"One will be more than enough," cried Semestre.—" Bring only one,
Chloris." The invalid smilingly shrugged his shoulders, clasped
Xanthe's hand as she stood beside him, and said in so low a tone that
the old woman could not hear:
"Haven't I grown like little thick-skull's hens? Semestre commands
and I must obey. There she goes after Chloris, to save the second
Xanthe smiled assent. Her father raised his voice and called to
"Well, my little friend, show what your actors can do.—You young
people, Mopsus and Dorippe, for aught I care, can dance as long as the
monaulus sounds, and Semestre stays in the house."
"We want first to see what the hens can do," cried the dark-haired
girl, clinging to her lover's arm, and turning with Mopsus toward the
exhibition, which now began again.
There was many an exclamation of astonishment, many a laugh, for,
when the little man ordered his largest cock to show its skill in
riding, it jumped nimbly on the donkey's back; when he ordered it to
clean its horse, it pulled a red feather out of the ornaments on the
ass's head; and finally proved itself a trumpeter, by stretching its
neck and beginning to crow.
The hens performed still more difficult feats, for they drew from a
wooden box for each spectator a leaf of a tree, on which certain
characters were visible.
The scrawl was intelligible only to the conjurer, but was said to
contain infallible information about the future, and the little man
offered to interpret the writing to each individual.
This trainer of hens was a clever dwarf, with very quick ears. He
had distinctly understood that, through Semestre, he was to lose a
nice cheese, and, when the housekeeper returned, ordered a hen to tell
each person present how many years he or she had lived in the world.
The snow-white bird, with the yellow head, scratched seventeen
times before Xanthe, and, on reaching Mopsus, twenty-three times,
which was perfectly correct.
"Now tell us this honorable lady's age too," said the conjurer to
Semestre told Chloris to repeat what the little man had said, and
was already reflecting whether she should not let him have the second
cheese, in consideration of the "honorable lady," when the hen began
to scratch again.
Up to sixty she nodded assent, as she watched the bird's claw; at
sixty- five she compressed her lips tightly, at seventy the lines on
her brow announced a coming storm, at eighty she struck the ground
violently with her myrtle-staff, and, as the hen, scratching faster
and faster, approached ninety, and a hundred, and she saw that all the
spectators were laughing, and her master was fairly holding his sides,
rushed angrily into the house.
As soon as she had vanished behind the doors, Lysander threw the
man half a drachm, and, clapping his hands, exclaimed:
"Now, children, kick up your heels; we sha'n't see Semestre again
immediately. You did your business well, friend: but now come here
and interpret your hen's oracles."
The conjurer bowed, by bending his big head and quickly raising it
again, for his short back seemed to be immovable, approached the
master of the house, and with his little round fingers grasped at the
leaf in Lysander's hand; but the latter hastily drew it back, saying:
"First this girl, then I, for her future is long, while mine—"
"Yours," interrupted the dwarf, standing before Lysander—"yours
will be a pleasant one, for the hen has drawn for you a leaf that
means peaceful happiness."
"A violet-leaf!" exclaimed Xanthe. "Yes, a violet-leaf," repeated
the conjurer. "Put it in my hand. There are—just look here—there
are seven lines, and seven—everybody knows that—seven is the number
of health. Peaceful happiness in good health, that is what your
oracle says." "The gods owe me that, after suffering so long," sighed
Lysander. "At any rate, come back here in a year, and if your cackling
Pythia and this little leaf tell the truth, and I am permitted to
bring it to you without support or crutch, I'll give you a stout piece
of cloth for a new cloak; yet nay, better try your luck in six months,
for your chiton looks sicker than I, and will hardly last a whole
"Not half a one," replied the conjurer, with a sly smile. "Give me
the piece of stuff to-day, that, when I come back in a month, I may
have suitable garments when I amuse the guests at the feast given for
your recovery. I'm no giant, and shall not greatly impair your
"We'll see what can be done," replied Lysander, laughing, "and if,
when you return in a month, I don't turn you from the door as a bad
prophet, in spite of your fine clothes, your flute-player shall have a
piece of linen for his thin limbs. But now foretell my daughter's
The dwarf took Xanthe's leaf from her hand, and said:
"This comes from an olive-tree, is particularly long, and has a
light and dark side. You will live to a great age, and your life will
be more or less happy as you shape it."
"As you shape it," repeated the girl. "That's a real hen's oracle.
'As people do, so things will be,' my nurse used to say every third
word." Disappointed and angry, she threw the leaf on the ground, and
turned her back on the little man.
The conjurer watched her keenly and searchingly, as not without
difficulty he picked up the leaf. Then glancing pleasantly at her
father, he called her back, pointed with his finger to the inner
surface, and said:
"Just look at these lines, with the little strokes here at the end.
That's a snail with horns. A slow creature! It warns people not to
be over-hasty. If you feel inclined to run, check your steps and ask
where the path will lead."
"And move through life like a cart creaping down into the valley
with drags on the wheels," interrupted Xanthe. "I expected something
unlike school-masters' lessons from the clever hen that loaded
Semestre with so many years."
"Only question her about what is in your heart," replied the little
man, "and she won't fail to answer."
The young girl glanced irresolutely at the conjurer, but repressed
the desire to learn more of the future, fearing her father's laughter.
She knew that, when Lysander was well and free from pain, nothing
pleased him so much as to tease her till she wept.
The invalid guessed what was passing in his little daughter's mind,
and said, encouragingly:
"Ask the hen. I'll stop both ears while you question the oracle.
Yes, yes, one can scarcely hear his own voice for the monaulus and
the shouts of the crazy people yonder.
"Such sounds lure those who are fond of dancing, as surely as a
honey-comb brings flies. By the dog! there are four merry couples
already! Only I miss Phaon. You say the couch in my brother's house
has grown too hard for him, and he has found softer pillows in
Syracuse. With us the day began long ago, but in the city perhaps
they haven't quite finished with yesterday. I'm sorry for the fine
"Is it true," asked Xanthe, blushing, "that my uncle is seeking a
rich bride for him in Messina?"
"Probably, but in courtship one does not always reach the desired
goal. Has Phaon told you nothing about his father's wishes? Question
the conjurer, or he'll get his new clothes with far too little
trouble. Save me the reproach of being a spendthrift."
"I don't wish to do so; what is the use of such folly?" replied
Xanthe, with flushed cheeks, preparing to go into the house.
Her father shrugged his shoulders, and, turning his head, called
"Do as you please, but cut a piece from the brown woolen cloth, and
bring it to the conjurer."
The young girl disappeared in the house. The tune which the boy
drew from the monaulus again and again sounded monotonous, but the
young people constantly grew more mirthful; higher and higher sprang
the bounding feet.
The ribbons fluttered as if a storm had seized them; many a gay
garment waved; and there was no end to the shouts and clapping of
hands in time with the music.
When Mopsus, or any other lad, raised his voice unusually loud, or
a young girl laughed in the overflowing joy of her heart, Lysander's
eyes sparkled like sunshine, and he often raised his hands and swayed
merrily to and fro to the measure of the music.
Your heart really dances with the young people," said the conjurer.
"But it lacks feet," replied Lysander, and then he told him about
his fall, and the particulars of his sufferings, the danger in which
he had been, the remedies used, and the final convalescence. He did
this with great pleasure, for it always relieved his mind when he was
permitted to tell the story of his life to a sympathizing auditor, and
few had listened more attentively than did the conjurer, partly from
real interest, partly in anticipation of the cloth.
The little man frequently interrupted Lysander with intelligent
questions, and did not lose patience when the speaker paused to wave
his hand to the merry group.
"How they laugh and enjoy themselves!" the invalid again
exclaimed. "They are all young, and before I had this fall—"
The sentence was not finished, for the notes of the monaulus
suddenly ceased, the dancers stopped, and, instead of the music and
laughter, Semestre's voice was heard; but at the same time Xanthe,
carrying a small piece of brown cloth over her arm, approached the
sick man. The latter at first looked at his daughter's flushed face
with some surprise, then again glanced toward the scene of the
interrupted dance, for something was happening there which he could
not fully approve, though it forced him to laugh aloud.
The young people, whose sport had been interrupted, had recovered
from their fright and joined in a long chain.
Mopsus led the saucy band.
A maiden followed each youth, and the whole party were united, for
each individual grasped the person in front with both hands.
Singing a rhythmical dancing-tune, with the upper portion of the
body bent forward, and executing dainty steps with their feet, they
circled faster and faster around the furious house-keeper.
The latter strove to catch first Chloris, then Dorippe, then some
other maiden, but ere she succeeded the chain separated, joining again
behind her ere she could turn. Mopsus and his dark-haired sweetheart
were again the leaders. When the ring broke the youths and maidens
quickly grasped each other again, and the chain of singing, laughing
lads and lasses once more whirled around the old woman.
For some time the amused master of the house could not succeed in
shaking his head disapprovingly; but when the old housekeeper, who had
never ceased scolding and shaking her myrtle-staff, began to totter
from anger and excitement, Lysander thought the jest was being carried
too far, and, turning to his daughter, exclaimed:
"Go, rescue Semestre and drive those crazy people away. Fun must
not go beyond proper bounds."
Xanthe instantly obeyed the command the chain parted, the youths
hurrying one way, the maidens another; the lads escaped, and so did
all the girls except dark-haired Dorippe, who was caught by Semestre
and driven into the house with angry words and blows.
"There will be tears after the morning dance," said Lysander, "and
I advise you, friend, if you want to avoid a scolding yourself, to
leave the place at once with your feathered artists. Give the man the
Xanthe handed the brown woolen stuff to the conjurer.
She blushed faintly as she did so, for, while attempting to cut
from the piece a sufficient quantity, Semestre had snatched the knife
from her hand, exclaiming rudely:
"Half that is twice too much for the insolent rascal."
The little man took the scanty gift, spread it out to its full
extent, and, turning to Lysander, said:
"At our age people rarely experience new emotions, but to-day, for
the first time since I stopped growing, I wish I was still smaller
than I am now."
The invalid had shaken his head discontentedly at sight of the tiny
piece, and, as the conjurer was refolding it over his knee, loosed
from his shoulders the chlamys he himself wore, saying gravely:
"Take this cloak, for what Lysander promises he does not perform
The last words were addressed to Semestre as well as the dwarf, for
the old house-keeper, with panting breath and trembling hands, now
approached her master.
Kind words were not to be expected from her mouth now, but even
more bitter and vehement reproaches sprang to her lips as she saw her
master give his scarcely-worn chlamys to a strolling vagrant, and also
presume to reward her economy with taunts.
She had carefully woven the cloak with her own hands, and that, she
cried, was the way her labor was valued! There was plenty of cloth in
the chests, which Lysander could divide among the buffoons at the next
fair in Syracuse. In other countries, even among wild barbarians,
white hairs were honored, but here the elders taught the young people
to insult them with jeers and mockery.
At these words the invalid's face turned pale, a dark shadow
appeared under his eyes, and an expression of pain hovered around his
mouth. He looked utterly exhausted.
Every feature betrayed how the old woman's shrill voice and
passionate words disturbed him, but he could not silence her by loud
rebukes, for his voice failed, and he therefore sought to make peace
by the soothing gestures of his thin hands and his beseeching eyes.
Xanthe felt and saw that her father was suffering, and exclaimed in
a fearless, resolute tone:
"Silence, Semestre! your scolding is hurting my father."
These words increased the house-keeper's wrath instead of lessening
it. In a half-furious, half-whining tone, she exclaimed:
"So it comes to this! The child orders the old woman. But you
shall know, Lysander, that I won't allow myself to be mocked like a
fool. That impudent Mopsus is your freed-woman's child, and served
this house for high wages, but he shall leave it this very day, so
surely as I hope to live until the vintage. He or I! If you wish to
keep him, I'll go to Agrigentum and live with my daughter and
grandchildren, who send to me by every messenger. If this insolent
fellow is more to you than I am, I'll leave this place of ingratitude.
"It is beautiful in Agrigentum !" interrupted the conjurer,
pointing with his finger impressively in the direction of this famous
"It is delightful there," cried the old woman, "so long as one
doesn't meet pygmies like you in the streets."
The house-keeper was struggling for breath, and her master took
advantage of the pause to murmur beseechingly, like a child who is to
be deprived of something it loves:
"Mopsus must go—merry Mopsus? Nobody knows how to lift and
support me so well."
These words softened Semestre's wrath, and, lowering her voice, she
"You will no longer need the lad for that purpose; Leonax,
Alciphron's son, is coming to-day. He'll lift and support you as if
you were his own father. The people in Messina are friendly and honor
age, for, while you jeer at me, they remember the old woman, and will
send me a beautiful matron's-robe for the future wedding."
The invalid looked inquiringly at his daughter, and the latter
"Semestre has told me. She informed me, while I was cutting the
cloth, that Leonax would come as a suitor."
"May he fare better than Alkamenes and the others, whom you sent
home! You know I will not force your inclinations, but, if I am to
lose Mopsus, I should like a pleasant son. Why has Phaon fallen into
such foolish, evil ways? The young Leonax—"
"Is of a different stamp," interrupted Semestre—" Now come, my
dove, I have a thousand things to do."
"Go," replied Xanthe. "I'll come directly.—You will feel better,
father, if you rest now. Let me help you into the house, and lie down
on the cushion for a time."
The young girl tried to lift her father, but her strength was too
feeble to raise the wearied man. At last, with the conjurer's help,
he succeeded in rising, and the latter whispered earnestly in his ear:
"My hens tell me many things, but another oracle behind my forehead
says, you are on the high-road to recovery, but you won't reach the
goal, unless you treat the old woman, who is limping into the house
yonder, as I do the birds I train."
"And what do you do?"
"Teach them to obey me, and if I see that they assert their own
wills, sell them and seek others."
"You are not indebted to the stupid creatures for anything?"
"But I owe so much the more to the others, who do their duty."
"Quite true, and therefore you feed and keep them."
"Until they begin to grow old and refuse obedience."
"Then I give them to a peasant, on whose land they lay eggs, eat
and die. The right farmer for your hens lives in Agrigentum."
Lysander shrugged his shoulders; and, as, leaning on his daughter,
he tottered slowly forward, almost falling on the threshold, Xanthe
took a silent vow to give him a son on whom he could firmly depend—a
stalwart, reliable man.
CHAPTER IV. THE TWO SUCKING-PIGS.
Fifteen minutes had passed, and the old house-keeper's face still
glowed —no longer from anger, but because, full of zeal, she now
moulded cakes before the bright flames on the hearth, now basted the
roast on the spit with its own juices.
Beside her stood old Jason, who could not give up his young
master's cause for lost, and exposed himself once more to the arrows
of Semestre's angry words, because he bitterly repented having
irritated instead of winning her.
Unfortunately, his soothing speeches fell on hard ground, for
Semestre scarcely vouchsafed a reply, and at last distinctly intimated
that he interrupted her.
"Attention," she said, "is the mother of every true success. It is
even more needful in cooking than in weaving; and if Leonax, for whom
my hands are busy, resembles his father, he knows how to distinguish
bad from good."
"Alciphron," replied Jason, "liked the figs on our arbor by the
house better than yours."
"And while he was enjoying them," cried the old woman, "you beat
him with a hazel rod. I can hear him cry now, poor little dear."
"Too many figs are bad for the stomach," replied the old man, very
slowly and distinctly, but not too loud, that he might not remind her
of her deafness. Then seeing Semestre smile, he drew nearer, and with
winning cheerfulness continued: "Be sensible, and don't try to part
the children, who belong to each other. Xanthe, too, is fond of figs,
and, if Leonax shares his father's taste, how will the sweet fruit of
your favorite trees fare, if Hymen unites them in marriage? Phaon
doesn't care for sweet things. But seriously: though his father may
seek twenty brides for him, he himself wants no one but Xanthe. And
can you deny that he is a handsome, powerful fellow?"
"So is the other," cried Semestre, wholly unmoved by these words.
"Have you seen your favorite this morning? No! Do you know where he
slept last night and the night before?"
"On his couch, I suppose."
"In your house?"
"I don't run after the youth, now he is grown up."
"Neither shall we! You are giving yourself useless trouble, Jason,
and I earnestly beg you not to disturb me any longer now, for a dark
spot is already appearing on the roast. Quick, Chloris—lift the spit
from the fire!"
"I should like to bid Lysander good-morning."
"He is tired, and wants to see no one. The servants have vexed
"Then I'll stay awhile in the garden."
"To try your luck with Xanthe? I tell you, it's trouble wasted,
for she's dressing her hair to receive our guest from Messina; and, if
she were standing where those cabbage-leaves be, she wouldn't
contradict me if I were to repeat what you heard from my lips this
morning at sunrise. Our girl will never become Phaon's wife until I
myself offer a sacrifice to Aphrodite, that she may fill Xanthe's
heart with love for him."
Jason shrugged his shoulders, and was preparing to turn his back on
the old woman, when Dorippe entered and approached the hearth. Her
eyes were red with weeping, and in her arms she carried a round,
yellowish-white creature that, struggling and stretching it's little
legs in the air, squealed in a clear, shrill voice, even more loudly
and piteously than a hungry babe.
It was a pretty, well-fattened sucking pig.
Jason looked at it significantly, but Semestre snatched it out of
the girl's arms, pressed it to her own bosom, turned her back upon the
old man with resolute meaning, and said, just loud enough for him
alone to hear:
"A roast for the banquet."
As soon as Jason had left the room, she put the nicely-washed pig
on a little wooden bench, ordered Chloris to see that it did not soil
itself; drew from a small box, standing beside the loom, one blue
ribbon and two red ones; tied the former carefully around the little
creature's curly tail, and the latter about its cars; lifted the pig
again, looked at it as a mother gazes at her prettily-dressed darling,
patted its fattest parts with her right-hand, and ordered Dorippe to
carry it to Aphrodite's temple immediately.
It's a beautiful creature, absolutely faultless, and the priest
must slay it at once in Honor of the gracious goddess. I will come
myself, as soon as everything is ready here; and, after such a gift,
foam-born Cypris will surely grant my petition. Hide the little
treasure carefully under your robe, that no one may see it."
"It struggles and squeals when I carry it," replied the girl.
"Yes, it does squeal," said the old woman. "Wait, I'll look for a
The house-keeper went out, and, when she returned, cried:
"Mopsus is standing outside with our donkey, to carry bag and
baggage to his mother's house, but he's still in Lysander's service
to-day. Let him put the creature in a basket on the donkey's back,
and then he can quickly carry it to the temple—at once and without
delay, for, if I don't find it on the goddess's altar in an hour, you
shall answer for it! Tell him this, and then get some rosemary and
myrtle to garland our hearth."
Mopsus did not hasten to perform the errand. He had first to help
Dorippe cut the green branches, and, while thus engaged, sought
pleasant gifts not only on the ground, but from his sweetheart's red
lips, then moved up the mountain with his donkey, very slowly, without
urging the animal. The latter carried one basket on the right and one
on the left of its saddle, wore bright cock's feathers on its head,
and had a fiery- red bridle. It looked gay enough in its finery, yet
hung its head, though far less sorrowfully than its young driver, whom
Semestre had exiled from his master's house and the girl he loved.
He spent half an hour in reaching the sanctuary.
Old Jason, at the same time, was standing before the little grove
beside the steps leading to the cella.
The worthy man cradled in his arms, as Dorippe had just done in
Lysander's house, a little squealing creature, and this, too, was a
pig; but it wore no ribbon around its little tail and ears, was not
particularly fat, and had numerous black spots under its scanty
bristles and on its sharp snout.
The old man was gazing at the innocent creature by no means
tenderly, but with the utmost indignation. He had good reason to be
angry, for the priest had not thought it fit for a sacrifice to the
goddess, it was so poor in fat and full of bad marks.
Alas, and Jason had no second pig, and was so eager to win the
goddess to Phaon's cause.
As soon as he saw Semestre's offering, he had hurried home to
anticipate her with his own, and first win the goddess's heart for his
Now he stood considering whether he should strangle the unlucky
creature, or carry it back to its mother.
Like a frugal steward, he decided upon the latter course, and, just
as he was comparing the image of the lean, spotted animal with its
future well- rounded condition, he heard the hoofs of the donkey
driven by Mopsus, the heavy thud of a stick on the elastic flesh, and
after every blow, the shout, "Semestre!"
Directly after Mopsus and his donkey reached the old man, and as
the youth, without looking to the right or left, dealt the animal
another thwack, again uttering the house-keeper's name, and in
connection with it a succession of harsh, abusive words, Jason looked
at the young man with approval, nay, almost tenderly.
The latter usually shouted a loud "Joy be with you!" whenever he
met the old man, but to-day answered his greeting only with a
sorrowful nod and low murmur.
The steward had stepped in front of him, laid his hard hand on the
donkey's head, and asked:
"Do you call your ass Semestre?" Mopsus blushed, and answered:
"In future I shall call all she-asses that, but the old
Megaera named this one Jason."
"Why, see," cried the steward, "how kindly the worthy woman
remembers me! But she, too, was not forgotten, for, whenever you
lifted your stick, you thought, I should suppose, of her."
"Indeed I did!" cried Mopsus; then, while stroking the stripes
on the donkey's flanks, added kindly:
"Poor Jason, you too have nothing for which to thank the old woman.
If you only knew how abominable this woman is—"
"I do know," the steward interrupted, "but she is an old woman, and
it does not beseem you to abuse her; she represents the house under
its invalid ruler."
"I'd willingly lay both these hands under his feet," cried the
youth, "but Semestre has driven me out of his service for nothing,
away from here and Dorippe, and where can I find a place in the
The almost whining tone of the complaint contrasted oddly with the
appearance of the tall, broad-shouldered Mopsus, yet tears filled his
eyes, as he now told the steward about the juggler, the dance,
Semestre's anger, his banishment from Lysander's house, and the
house-keeper's commission to carry a sucking-pig to Aphrodite's temple
Jason listened with only partial attention, for the low grunting of
a pig, that reached his ears from one of the baskets on the donkey,
seemed to him far more interesting than the poor fellow's story. He
knew the ways of every domestic animal, and such sounds were only
uttered by a little pig that felt comfortably fat, and lived under
A great thought awoke in his mind, and must have pleased him
hugely, for his eyes began to sparkle, his mouth puckered in a smile,
and he looked exactly like a satyr thrusting his thick lips toward the
largest and ripest bunches of grapes in the vineyard.
When Mopsus paused, he angrily noticed what an enlivening influence
his sorrowful story had had upon the old man, but soon laughed too;
for, ere he could give expression to his dissatisfaction, Jason had
opened the basket on the left of the donkey, taken out Semestre's
gayly-decked pig, put his own lanky animal in its place, and said,
giggling with pleasure:
"After what Semestre has done to a poor fellow like you, she
doesn't deserve the favor of our goddess. Let me offer Aphrodite this
most charming of pigs, and you offer my little beast in the
house-keeper's name; then her petition will certainly find no
At these words Mopsus's broad face brightened, and, after laughing
loudly, he struck his fist in the palm of his left hand, turned on the
heel of his right foot, and exclaimed:
"Yes, that will be just right."
True, directly after, he looked as doubtful as if an invisible
myrtle- staff had been swung over his back, and asked:
"But if she notices it?"
"I know how we'll manage it," replied the old man, and, putting
Semestre's pig in Mopsus's arms, took the ribbons from its ears and
Meantime, the little animal grunted as piteously as if it noticed
that its finery was being stolen and its beauty impaired.
And when Jason, with Mopsus's assistance, put the same ribbons on
his own lank pig, it looked neither better nor prouder than before,
for it was no lucky animal and did not appreciate beautiful gifts.
CHAPTER V. THE WALK TO THE SEA.
While the priest of Aphrodite received Jason's gift, praised the
pig's beauty, and promised to slay it immediately, but said he would
only accept the lean animal Mopsus offered in Semestre's name for the
sake of its ornaments and the giver, Xanthe came out of her father's
house. She wore her handsomest garments, and had carefully arranged
her beautiful fair hair reflecting as she did so on many different
things, for maidens are fond of thinking when seated at the loom or
spinning-wheel, or quietly occupied in adorning their tresses.
Semestre followed close behind, and gave her a small knife, saying:
"It is seemly to decorate the door of a welcome guest with flowers.
The bushes are full of roses now, so go and cut as many as will be
needed for a handsome garland, but gather only red or yellow flowers,
no white ones, for they bring no good fortune. You will find the
largest below near the bench by the sea."
"Wait and hear me out."
"The weather is delightful, there was a light breeze from the north
during the night, so it may happen that the ship from Messina will
arrive before noon."
"Then let me go down."
"Go and watch for the sails. If you see ours, hurry back and tell
Chloris to call me, for I must go to the temple of Cypris."
"You?" asked Xanthe, laughing.
"I, and you are the last person who should sneer at the errand;
nay, you can accompany me."
"No! I will cut the roses."
These words were uttered in a tone the house-keeper knew well.
Whenever Xanthe used it, she insisted upon having her own way, and
did what she pleased, while Semestre, who usually never admitted that
her hearing was no longer so keen as in former clays, in such cases
willingly pleaded her deafness, in order to avoid a retreat.
To-day she particularly shrank from irritating the easily-excited
girl, and therefore replied:
"What did you say? Wouldn't it be better for you to go and cut the
roses immediately, my dove? Make haste, for the vessel for which you
are to watch bears your happiness. How beautiful the ornaments Leonax
is bringing will look! We have never yet seen the like, I imagine.
The people in Messina haven't forgotten poor me either, for I heard
whispers about a robe such as matrons wear. It is—it might be—well,
we shall see."
Tittering, and almost embarrassed, she fixed her eyes upon the
ground, reminded Xanthe once more to have her called as soon as the
ship from Messina appeared, and then, leaning on her myrtle-staff,
tottered up the path leading to the temple of the goddess.
Xanthe did not go directly down to the sea, but approached her
uncle's house to seek Phaon with her eyes.
As she could not see him, either in the stables, or the walk lined
with fig-trees trained upon espaliers beside the house, she turned
quickly away, repressing out of pride her desire to call him.
On her way to the sea she met her uncle's high-shouldered slave.
Xanthe stopped and questioned him.
Semestre had told no lie. Phaon had not yet returned from a
nocturnal excursion, and for several days had not reached home until
just before sunrise.
No, he was not the man to offer support to her sick father. He was
looking for a wealthy heiress, and forgot his relatives for the sake
of dissolute young men and worthless wenches.
This thought hurt her sorely, so sorely that she wanted to weep as
she had done by the spring.
But she forced back her tears; not one wet her cheeks, yet it
seemed as if her poor heart had obtained eyes to shed them.
The little knife in her hand reminded her of her task of cutting
roses, and watching for the ship which was to bring her uncle's son
If Leonax was what Semestre described him, she would not repel him
like the other suitors, whom she had rejected with laughing lips.
Yes, she would become his wife, not only for her father's sake, but
to punish Phaon.
Sorrow and pain never felt before filled her heart after making
this resolution. Wholly engrossed by these conflicting emotions,
instead of going down to the sea, she walked straight on till she
reached the great gate that led to her own home. There she remembered
the object of her errand, and was just turning back, when the
conjurer, who was resting outside the gate with his cart in the shadow
of the fence, called:
"You are obeying my advice, beautiful Xanthe, and move as
thoughtfully as a sophist."
"Then you must not disturb me," cried the girl, raising her head
defiantly. "Pardon me if I do so," replied the other, "but I wanted
to tell you that I might perhaps know of aid for your father. In my
"Where is your home?"
"Messina!" exclaimed Xanthe, eagerly.
"A very experienced physician lives there," interrupted the
"No one has helped my father."
"Then come in and speak to him."
"I'm afraid of the cross old woman."
"She has gone out, and you will find father alone."
"Then I'll go to him."
"Did you say you were from Messina?"
"That is my home."
"Do you know my uncle Alciphron, the merchant?"
"Certainly. He owns the most ships in the place."
"And his son Leonax, too?"
"I often saw him, for my hut stands opposite to the landing-place
of your uncle's vessels, and the youth always superintends the loading
and unloading. He, if any one, belongs to those spoiled children of
fortune who disgust poor dwarfs like me with life, and make us laugh
when people say there are just gods above."
"You are blaspheming."
"I only say what others think."
"Yet you too were young once."
"But I was a dwarf, and he resembles Achilles in stature; I was
poor and he does not know what to do with his wealth; maidens fled
from me as they seek him; I was found in the streets; and a father
still guides, a loving mother kisses him. I don't envy him, for
whoever enters life an orphan is spared the pain of becoming one
"You speak bitter words."
"He who is beaten does not laugh."
"So you envy Leonax his prosperity?"
"No, for, though I might have such excellent cause to complain, I
envy no king, for there is but one person whose inmost heart I know
thoroughly, and that one stands before you.
"You revile Fate, and yet believe it possible that we may all have
more sorrow to bear than you."
"You have understood me rightly."
"Then admit that you may be happier than many."
"If only most of the contented people were not stupid. However,
this morning I am pleased, because your father gave me this new
garment, and I rarely need despair; I earn enough bread, cheese, and
wine with the aid of my hens, and am not obliged to ask any man's
favor. I go with my cart wherever I choose."
"Then you ought to thank the gods, instead of accusing them."
"No, for absence of suffering is not happiness."
"And do you believe Leonax happy?"
"Hitherto he seems to be, and the fickle goddess will perhaps
remain faithful to him longer than to many others, for he is busy from
early till late, and is his father's right-hand. At least he won't
fall into one of the pits Fate digs for mortals."
"And that is—?"
"Weariness. Thousands are worse, and few better, than your cousin;
yes, the maiden he chooses for his wife may rejoice." Xanthe blushed,
and the dwarf, as he entered the gate, asked:
"Is Leonax wooing his little cousin?"
"But the little cousin has some one else in her mind."
"Who told you so?"
"Then remember me to them!" cried Xanthe, who left the juggler and
ran straight toward the path leading to the sea.
Just at the point where the latter branched off from the broader
road used by carts as well as foot-passengers, stood a singular
monument, before which the young girl checked her steps.
The praise the conjurer had lavished on Leonax afforded her little
pleasure; nay, she would rather have heard censure of the Messina
suitor, for, if he corresponded with the dwarf's portrait, he would be
the right man to supply a son's place to her father, and rule as
master over the estate, where many things did not go on as they ought.
Then she must forget the faithless night-reveller, Phaon—if she
Every possession seems most charming at the time we are obliged to
resign it, and never in all her life had Xanthe thought so tenderly
and longingly of Phaon as now and on this spot.
The monument, overgrown with blossoming vines, before which she
paused, was a singular structure, that had been built of brick between
her own and her uncle's garden.
It was in the form of a strong wall, bounded by two tall pillars.
In the wall were three rows of deep niches with arched ceilings,
while on the pillars, exquisitely painted upon a brownish-red ground,
were the Genius of Death lowering his torch before an offering-altar,
and Orpheus, who had released his wife from the realm of shadows and
was now bearing her to the upper world.
Many of the niches were still empty, but in some stood vases of
semi- transparent alabaster.
The newest, which had found a place in the lowest row, contained
the ashes of the young girl's grandfather, Dionysius, and his wife,
and another pair of urns the two mothers, her own and Phaon's.
Both had fallen victims on the same day to the plague, the only
pestilence that had visited this bright coast within the memory of
man. This had happened eight years ago.
At that time Xanthe was still a child, but Phaon a tall lad.
The girl passed this place ten times a day, often thought of the
beloved dead, and, when she chanced to remember them still more
vividly, waved a greeting to the dear ashes, because some impulse
urged her to give her faithful memory some outward expression.
Very rarely did she recall the day when the funeral-pile had
cooled, and the ashes of the two mothers, both so early summoned to
the realm of shadows, were collected, placed in the vases, and added
to the other urns. But now she could not help remembering it, and how
she had sat before one of the pillars of the monument weeping
bitterly, and asking herself again and again, if it were possible that
her mother would never, never come to kiss her, speak caressing words,
arrange her hair and pet her; nay, for the first time, she longed to
hear even a sharp reproof from the lips now closed forever.
Phaon was standing by the other pillar, his eyes covered with his
Never before or since had she seen him look so sad, and it cut her
to the heart when she noticed that he trembled as if a chill had
seized him, and, drawing a long breath, pushed back the hair, which
like a coalblack curtain, covered half his forehead. She had wept
bitterly, but he shed no tears. Only a few poor words were exchanged
between them in that hour, but each one still echoed in her ears
to-day, as if hours instead of years intervened between that time and
"Mine was so good," Xanthe had sobbed; but he only nodded, and,
after fifteen minutes had passed, said nothing but, "And mine too."
In spite of the long pause that separated the girl's words from the
boy's, they were tenderly united, bound together by the thought,
dwelling uninterruptedly in both childish hearts, "My mother was so
It was again Xanthe who, after some time, had broken the silence by
asking "Whom have I now?"
Again it was long ere Phaon, for his only answer, could repeat
They were trivial words, but they expressed the deep wretchedness
which only a child's heart can feel.
Scarcely had they found their way over the boy's lips when he
pressed his left hand also over his eyes, his breast heaved
convulsively, and a torrent of burning tears coursed down his cheeks.
Both children still had their fathers, but they forgot them in this
Who, if the warm sun were extinguished, would instantly remember
that the moon and stars remain?
As Phaon wept so violently, Xanthe's tears began to flow more
slowly, and she gazed at him a long time with ardent sympathy,
unperceived by the lad, for he still covered his eyes with his hands.
The child had met a greater grief than her own, and, as soon as she
felt that she was less sorrow-stricken than her playfellow, a desire
to soothe his sorrow arose.
As the whole plant, with its flowers and fruit, is contained in the
sprouting seed, so, too, in the youngest girl lives the future mother,
who dries all tears, cheers and consoles.
As Phaon remained in the same attitude, Xanthe rose, approached
him, timidly pulled his cloak, and said:
"Come down to our house; I will show you something pretty: four
young doves have come out of the shell; they have big, wide bills, and
are very ugly."
Her playmate removed his hands from his eyes and answered kindly:
"No, let me alone, please."
Xanthe now took his hand and drew him away, saying:
"Yes, you must come; the pole of my cart is broken."
Phaon had been so accustomed to be always called upon whenever
there were any of the little girl's playthings to mend that he obeyed,
and the next day allowed her to persuade him to do many things for
which he felt no inclination.
He yielded in order not to grieve her, and, as he became more
cheerful and even joined in her merry laugh, Xanthe rejoiced as if she
had released him from his sorrow. From that time she claimed his
services as eagerly as before, but in her own heart felt as if she
were his little mother, and watched all his actions as though
specially commissioned to do so.
When she had grown up she did not hesitate to encourage or blame
him, nay, was often vexed or grieved about him, especially if in the
games or dances he paid more attention than she deemed reasonable to
other girls, against whom there was much or little objection, nay,
often none at all. Not on her own account, she said to herself, it
could make no difference to her, but she knew these girls, and it was
her duty to warn him.
She willingly forgave many things, but on this point was extremely
rigid, and even allowed anger to carry her to the verge of rudeness.
Now, as she stood beside the sepulchre, she thought of the hour
when she had comforted him, of her care for him and how it had all
been vain, for he spent his nights in rioting with flute-playing
women. Yes, Semestre had said so. He seemed to Xanthe lost, utterly
When she wept in the morning beside the spring, it was not, she now
thought, because of the heiress from Messina; no, the tears that had
sprung to her eyes were like those a mother sheds for her erring son.
She seemed to herself extremely venerable, and would have thought
it only natural if gray hair instead of golden had adorned the head
over which scarcely seventeen years had passed.
She even assumed the gait of a dignified matron, but it was hardly
like a mother, when, on her way to the rose-bushes by the sea, she
studiously strove to misunderstand and pervert everything good in
Phaon, and call his quiet nature indolence, his zeal to be useful to
her weakness, his taciturn manner mere narrow-mindedness, and even his
beautiful, dreamy eyes sleepy.
With all this, the young girl found little time to think of the new
suitor; she must first shatter the old divine image, but every blow of
the hammer hurt her as if it fell upon herself.
The rose-bush to which Xanthe went grew on the dike that belonged
in common to her father and uncle, beside a bench of
beautifully-polished white marble.
Many a winter had loosened the different blocks, and bordered them
with yellow edges.
Even at a distance the girl saw that the seat was not vacant. The
brook that flowed from the spring to the sea ran beneath it, and the
maid- servants were in the habit of washing the household linen in its
Were they now using the bench to spread out the garments they had
No! A man lay on the hard marble, a man who had drawn his light
cloak over his face to protect himself from the rays of the sun, now
rising higher and higher.
His sandaled feet and ankles, bandaged as if for journeying,
appeared beneath the covering.
By these feet Xanthe quickly recognized the sleeping youth.
It was Phaon. She would have known him, even if she had seen only
two of his fingers.
The sun would soon reach its meridian height, and there he lay
At first it had startled her to find him here, but she soon felt
nothing but indignation, and again the image of the flute-playing
women, with whom he must have revelled until thus exhausted, rose
before her mind.
"Let him sleep," she murmured proudly and contemptuously; she
passed him, cut a handful of roses from the bushes covered with
crimson and yellow blossoms, sat down on the vacant space beside his
head, watched for the ship from Messina, and, as it did not come,
began to weave the garland.
She could do the work here as well as anywhere else, and told
herself that it was all the same to her whether Phaon or her father's
linen lay there. But her heart belied these reflections, for it
throbbed so violently that it ached.
And why would not her fingers move; why could her eyes scarcely
distinguish the red roses from the yellow ones?
The garden was perfectly still, the sea seemed to slumber, and, if
a wave lapped the shore, it was with a low, almost inaudible murmur.
A butterfly hovered like a dream over her roses, and a lizard
glided noiselessly, like a sudden thought, into a chink between the
stones at her feet. Not a breath of air stirred, not a leaf or a twig
fell from the trees.
Yonder, as if slumbering under a blue veil, lay the Calabrian
coast, while nearer and more distant, but always noiselessly, ships
and boats, with gently swelling sails, glided over the water. Even
the cicadas seemed to sleep, and everything around was as still, as
horribly still, as if the breath of the world, blooming and sparkling
about her, was ready to fail.
Xanthe sat spellbound beside the sleeper, while her heart beat so
rapidly and strongly that she fancied it was the only sound audible in
this terrible silence.
The sunbeams poured fiercely on her head, her cheeks glowed, a
painful anxiety overpowered her, and certainly not to rouse Phaon, but
merely to hear some noise, she coughed twice, not without effort.
When she did so the third time, the sleeper stirred, removed from his
face the end of the cloak that had covered his head, slowly raised
himself a little, and, without changing his recumbent posture, said
simply and quietly, in an extremely musical voice:
"Is that you; Xanthe?"
The words were low, but sounded very joyous.
The girl merely cast a swift glance at the speaker, and then seemed
as busily occupied with her roses as if she were sitting entirely
"Well?" he asked again, fixing his large dark eyes upon her with
an expression of surprise, and waiting for some greeting.
As she remained persistently silent, he exclaimed, still in the
"I wish you a joyful morning, Xanthe." The young girl, without
answering this greeting, gazed upward to the sky and sun as long as
she could endure the light, but her lips quivered, and she flung the
rose she held in her hand among its fellows in her lap.
Phaon had followed the direction of her look, and again broke the
silence, saying with a smile, no less quietly than before:
"Yes, indeed, the sun tells me I've been sleeping here a long time;
it is almost noon."
The youth's composure aroused a storm of indignation in Xanthe's
breast. Her excitable blood fairly seethed, and she was obliged to put
the utmost constraint upon herself not to throw her roses in his face.
But she succeeded in curbing her wrath, and displaying intense
eagerness, as she shaded her eyes with her hand and gazed toward some
ships that appeared in view.
"I don't know what is the matter with you," said Phaon, smoothing
with his right hand the black hair that covered half his forehead.
"Do you expect the ship from Messina and my father already?"
"And my cousin Leonax" replied the girl, quickly, putting a strong
emphasis upon the last name.
Then she again gazed into the distance. Phaon shook his head, and
both remained silent for several minutes. At last he raised himself
higher, turned his full face toward the young girl, gazed at her as
tenderly and earnestly as if he wished to stamp her image upon his
soul for life, gently pulled the long, floating sleeve of her peplum,
"I didn't think it would be necessary—but I must ask you
While he spoke, Xanthe rested her right elbow on her knee, drummed
on her scarlet lips with her fingers, and clasped the back of the
marble bench with her out-stretched left arm.
Her eyes told him that she was ready to listen, though she still
uttered no word of reply.
"I have a question to ask you, Xanthe!" continued Phaon.
"You?" interrupted the girl, with visible astonishment.
"I, who else? Jason told me yesterday evening that our uncle
Alciphron had wooed you for his son Leonax, and was sure of finding a
favorable reception from old Semestre and your poor father. I went at
once to ask you if it were true, but turned back again, for there were
other things to be done, and I thought we belonged to each other, and
you could not love any one so well as you loved me. I don't like
useless words, and cannot tell you what is in my heart, but you knew
it long ago. Now you are watching for your cousin Leonax. We have
never seen him, and I should think—"
"But I know," interrupted the girl, rising so hastily that her
roses fell unheeded on the ground—"but I know he is a sensible man,
his father's right-hand, a man who would disdain to riot all night
with flute-playing women, and to woo girls only because they are
"I don't do that either," replied Phaon. "Your flowers have
dropped on the ground—"
With these words the youth rose, bent over the roses, gathered them
together, and offered them to Xanthe with his left hand, while trying
to clasp her fingers in his right; but she drew back, saying:
"Put them on the bench, and go up to wash the sleep from your
"Do I look weary?"
"Of course, though you've lain here till noon."
"But I have scarcely slept for several days."
"And dare you boast of it?" asked Xanthe, with glowing cheeks. "I
am not your mother, and you must do as you choose, but if you think I
belonged to you because we played with each other as children, and I
was not unwilling to give you my hand in the dance, you are mistaken.
I care for, no man who turns day into night and night into day."
At the last words Xanthe's eyes filled with tears, and Phaon
noticed it with astonishment.
He gazed at her sadly and beseechingly, and then fixed his eyes on
the ground. At last he began to suspect the cause of her anger, and
"You probably mean that I riot all night?"
"Yes!" cried Xanthe; she withdrew her hand for the second time,
and half turned away.
"Oh!" he replied, in a tone of mingled surprise and sorrow, "you
ought not to have believed that."
"Xanthe turned, raised her eyes in astonishment, and asked
"Then where have you been these last nights?"
"Up in your olive-grove with the three Hermes."
"How amazed you look!"
"I was only thinking of the wicked fellows who have robbed many
trees of their fruit. That savage Korax, with his thievish sons, lives
just beside the wall."
For your sake, Xanthe, and because your poor father is ill and
unable to look after his property, while Mopsus and your fishermen and
slaves were obliged to go in the ship to Messina, to handle the oars
and manage the sails, I always went up as soon as it grew dark."
"And have you kept watch there?"
"So many nights?"
"One can sleep after sunrise."
"How tired you must be!"
"I'll make up my sleep when my father returns."
"They say he is seeking the rich Mentor's only daughter for your
"Not with my will, certainly."
"I am glad you will give me your hand again."
"You dear, good, kind fellow, how shall I thank you?"
"Anything but that! If you hadn't thought such foolish things
about me, I should never have spoken of my watch up yonder. Who could
have done it except myself, before Mopsus came back?"
"No one, no one but you! But now—now ask your question at once."
"May I? O Xanthe, dear, dear Xanthe, will you have me or our
cousin Leonax for your husband?"
"You, you, only you, and nobody else on earth!" cried the girl,
throwing both arms around him. Phaon clasped her closely, and
joyously kissed her brow and lips.
The sky, the sea, the sun, everything near or distant that was
bright and beautiful, was mirrored in their hearts, and it seemed to
both as if they heard all creatures that sing, laugh, and rejoice.
Each thought that, in the other, he or she possessed the whole world
with all its joy and happiness. They were united, wholly united,
there was nothing except themselves, and thus they became to each
other an especially blissful world, beside which every other created
thing sank into nothingness.
Minute after minute passed, nearly an hour had elapsed, and,
instead of making garlands, Xanthe clasped her arms around Phaon's
neck; instead of gazing into the distant horizon, she looked into his
eyes; instead of watching for approaching steps, both listened to the
same sweet words which lovers always repeat, and yet never grow weary
of speaking and hearing.
The roses lay on the ground, the ship from Messina ran into the bay
beside the estate, and Semestre hobbled down to the sea to look for
Xanthe, and in the place of the master of the house receive her
favorite's son, who came as a suitor, like a god.
She repeatedly called the girl's name before reaching the marble
bench, but always in vain.
When she had at last reached the myrtle grove, which had concealed
the lovers from her eyes, she could not help beholding the unwelcome
Xanthe was resting her head on Phaon's breast, while he bent down
and kissed her eyes, her mouth, and at last—who ever did such things
in her young days?—even her delicate little nose.
For several minutes Semestre's tongue seemed paralyzed, but at last
she raised both arms, and a cry of mingled indignation and anguish
escaped her lips.
Xanthe started up in terror, but Phaon remained sitting on the
marble bench, held the young girl's hand in his own, and looked no
more surprised than if some fruit had dropped from the tree beside
The youth's composure increased the old woman's fury, and her lips
were just parting to utter a torrent of angry words, when Jason
stepped as lightly as a boy between her and the betrothed lovers, cast
a delighted glance at his favorites, and bowing with comic dignity to
Semestre cried, laughing:
"The two will be husband and wife, my old friend, and ought to ask
your blessing, unless you wickedly intend to violate a solemn vow."
"I will—I will! When did I—" shrieked the house-keeper.
"Didn't you," interrupted Jason, raising his voice—"didn't you vow
this morning that you would prepare Phaon's wedding-feast with your
own hands as soon as you yourself offered a sacrifice to the Cyprian
goddess to induce her to unite their hearts?"
"And I'll stick to it, so surely as the gracious goddess—"
"I hold you to your promise!" exclaimed Jason. "Your sucking-pig
has just been offered to Aphrodite. The priest gladly accepted it and
slaughtered it before my eyes, imploring the goddess with me, to fill
Xanthe's heart with love for Phaon."
The house-keeper clenched her hands, approached Jason, and so
plainly showed her intention of attacking him that the steward, who
had assailed many a wild-boar, retreated—by no means fearlessly.
She forced him back to the marble bench, screaming:
"So that's why the priest found no word of praise for my beautiful
pig! You're a thief, a cheat! You took my dear little pig, which all
the other gods might envy the mother of Eros, put in its place a
wretched animal just like yourself, and falsely said it came from me.
Oh, I see through the whole game! That fine Mopsus was your
accomplice; but so true as I—"
"Mopsus has entered our service," replied Jason, laughing; "and, if
our Phaon's bride will permit, he wants to wed the dark-haired
Dorippe. Henceforth our property is yours."
"And ours yours," replied Xanthe—"Be good-natured, Semestre; I
will marry no man but Phaon, and shall soon win my father over to our
side, rely upon that."
The house-keeper was probably forced to believe these very resolute
words, for, like a vanquished but skilful general, she began to think
of covering her retreat, saying:
"I was outwitted; but, what I vowed in a moment of weakness. I
have now sworn again. I am only sorry for your poor father, who
needed a trustworthy son, and the good Leonax—"
At this moment, as if he had heard his name and obediently appeared
at her call, the son of Alciphron, of Messina, appeared with Phaon's
father, Protarch, from the shadow of the myrtle-grove.
He was a gay, handsome youth, richly and carefully dressed. After
many a pressure of the hand and cordial words of welcome, Phaon took
the young girl's hand and led her to the new-comers, saying:
"Give me Xanthe for a wife, my father. We have grown up together
like the ivy and wild vine on the wall, and cannot part."
"No certainly not," added Xanthe, blushing and nestling closely to
her lover's side, as she gazed beseechingly first at her uncle, and
then at the young visitor from Messina.
"Children, children!" cried Protarch, "you spoil my best plans. I
had destined Agariste, the rich Mentor's only child, for you, foolish
boy, and already had come to terms with the old miser. But who can
say I will, or this and that shall happen to-morrow? You are very
sweet and charming my girl, and I don't say that I shouldn't be glad,
but—mighty Zeus! what will my brother Alciphron say—and you,
"I?" asked the young man, smiling. "I came here like a dutiful
son, but I confess I rejoice over what has happened, for now my
parents will hardly say 'No' a second time, when I beg them to give me
Codrus's daughter, Ismene, for my wife."
"And there stands a maiden who seems to like to hear such uncivil
words better than Helen loved Paris's flattering speeches!" exclaimed
Phaon's father, first kissing his future daughter's cheek and then his
"But now let us go to father," pleaded Xanthe.
"Only one moment," replied Protarch, "to look after the boxes the
people are bringing.—Take care of the large chest with the Phoenician
dishes and matron's robes, my lads."
During the first moments of the welcome, Semestre had approached
her darling's son, told him who she was, received his father's
messages of remembrance, kissed his hand, and stroked his arm.
His declaration that he wished another maiden than Xanthe for his
wife soothed her not a little, and when she now heard of matrons'
dresses, and not merely one robe, her eyes sparkled joyously, and,
fixing them on the ground, she asked:
"Is there a blue one among them? I'm particularly fond of blue."
"I've selected a blue one, too," replied Protarch. "I'll explain
for what purpose up yonder. Now we'll go and greet my brother."
Xanthe, hand in hand with her lover, hurried on in advance of the
procession, lovingly prepared her father for what had happened, told
him how much injustice he, old Semestre, and she herself had done poor
Phaon, led the youth to him, and, deeply agitated, sank on her knees
before him as he laid her hand in her playfellow's, exclaiming in a
"I have always loved you, curly-head, and Xanthe wants you for her
husband. Then I, too, should have a son!—Hear, lofty Olympians, a
good, strong, noble son! Help me up, my boy. How well I feel!
Haven't I gained in you two stout legs and arms? Only let the old
woman come to me to-day! The conjurer taught me how to meet her."
Leaning on Phaon's strong shoulder he joyously went out of the
house, greeted his handsome young nephew as well as his brother, and
"Let Phaon live with Xanthe in my house, which will soon be his
own, for I am feeble and need help."
"With all my heart," cried Protarch, "and it will be well on
every account, for, for—well, it must come out, for I, foolish
"Well?" asked Lysander, and Semestre curved her hand into a shell
and held it to her ear to hear better.
"I—just look at me—I, Protarch, Dionysius's son, can no longer
bear to stay in the house all alone with that silent youth and old
Jason, and so I have—perhaps it is a folly, but certainly no
crime—so I have chosen a new wife in Messina."
"Protarch!" cried Lysander, raising his hands in astonishment; but
Phaon nodded to his father approvingly, exchanging a joyous glance
"He has chosen my mother's younger sister," said Leonax.
"The younger, yes, but not the youngest," interrupted Protarch.
"You must have your wedding in three days, children. Phaon will live
here in your house, Lysander, with his Xanthe, end I in the old one
yonder with my Praxilla. Directly after your marriage I shall go back
to Messina with Leonax and bring home my wife."
"We have long needed a mistress in the house, and I bless your bold
resolution!" exclaimed Jason.
"Yes, you were always brave," said the invalid.
"But not so very courageous this time as it might seem," answered
Protarch, smiling. "Praxilla is an estimable widow, and it was for
her I purchased in Messina the matron's robes for which you asked,
"For her?" murmured the old woman. "There is a blue one among
them too, which will be becoming, for she has light brown hair very
slightly mixed with gray. But she is cheerful, active, and clever,
and will aid Phaon and Xanthe in their young house-keeping with many a
piece of good advice."
"I shall go to my daughter in Agrigentum," said Semestre,
"Go," replied Lysander, kindly, "and enjoy yourself in your old age
on the money you have saved."
"Which my father," added Leonax, "will increase by the sum of a
"My Alciphron has a heart!" cried the house-keeper.
"You shall receive from me, on the day of your departure, the same
sum and a matron's blue robe," said Lysander.
Shortly after the marriage of Xanthe and Phaon, Semestre went to
live with her daughter.
The dike by the sea was splendidly repaired without any dispute,
for the estate once more belonged to the two brothers in common, and
Xanthe found in Praxilla a new, kind mother.
The marble seat, on which the young people's fate was decided, was
called by the grandchildren of the wedded pair, who lived to old age
in love and harmony, "the bench of the question."