BOOK THE FOURTH
12. Chapter XII
A WASP VENTURES INTO THE SPIDER'S WEB.
THE second night of the trial had set in; and it was nearly the time in
which Sosia was to brave the dread Unknown, when there entered, at that very
garden-gate which the slave had left ajar--not, indeed, one of the
mysterious spirits of earth or air, but the heavy and most human form of
Calenus, the priest of Isis. He scarcely noted the humble offerings of
indifferent fruit, and still more indifferent wine, which the pious Sosia
had deemed good enough for the invisible stranger they were intended to
allure. 'Some tribute,' thought he, 'to the garden god. By my father's
head! if his deityship were never better served, he would do well to give up
the godly profession. Ah! were it not for us priests, the gods would have a
sad time of it. And now for Arbaces--I am treading a quicksand, but it
ought to cover a mine. I have the Egyptian's life in my power--what will he
value it at?'
As he thus soliloquised, he crossed through the open court into the
peristyle, where a few lamps here and there broke upon the empire of the
starlit night; and issuing from one of the chambers that bordered the
colonnade, suddenly encountered Arbaces.
'Ho! Calenus--seekest thou me?' said the Egyptian; and there was a little
embarrassment in his voice.
'Yes, wise Arbaces--I trust my visit is not unseasonable?'
'Nay--it was but this instant that my freedman Callias sneezed thrice at my
right hand; I knew, therefore, some good fortune was in store for me--and,
lo! the gods have sent me Calenus.'
'Shall we within to your chamber, Arbaces?'
'As you will; but the night is clear and balmy--I have some remains of
languor yet lingering on me from my recent illness--the air refreshes
me--let us walk in the garden--we are equally alone there.'
'With all my heart,' answered the priest; and the two friends passed slowly
to one of the many terraces which, bordered by marble vases and sleeping
flowers, intersected the garden.