Georg Ebers

Arachne, Complete, by Georg Ebers

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Title: Arachne, Complete
Author: Georg Ebers
Release Date: October 17, 2006 [EBook #5516]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by David Widger

By Georg Ebers
Volume 1.
Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford
Deep silence brooded over the water and the green islands which rose like oases from its glittering surface. The palms, silver poplars, and sycamores on the largest one were already casting longer shadows as the slanting rays of the sun touched their dark crowns, while its glowing ball still poured a flood of golden radiance upon the bushes along the shore, and the light, feathery tufts at the tops of the papyrus reeds in the brackish water.
More than one flock of large and small waterfowl flew past beneath the silvery cloudlets flecking the lofty azure vault of heaven; here and there a pelican or a pair of wild ducks plunged, with short calls which ceased abruptly, into the lush green thicket, but their cackling and quacking belonged to the voices of Nature, and, when heard, soon died away in the heights of the tipper air, or in the darkness of the underbrush that received the birds. Very few reached the little city of Tennis, which now, during the period of inundation in the year 274 B.C., was completely encircled by water.
From the small island, separated from it by a channel scarcely three arrow-shots wide, it seemed as though sleep or paralysis had fallen upon the citizens of the busy little industrial town, for few people appeared in the streets, and the scanty number of porters and sailors who were working among the ships and boats in the little fleet performed their tasks noiselessly, exhausted by the heat and labour of the day.
Columns of light smoke rose from many of the buildings, but the sunbeams prevented its ascent into the clear, still air, and forced it to spread over the roofs as if it, too, needed rest.
Silence also reigned in the little island diagonally opposite to the harbour. The Tennites called it the Owl's Nest, and, though for no especial reason, neither they nor the magistrates of King Ptolemy II ever stepped upon its shores. Indeed, a short time before, the latter had even been forbidden to concern themselves about the pursuits of its inhabitants; since, though for centuries it had belonged to a family of seafaring folk who were suspected of piracy, it had received, two generations ago, from Alexander the Great himself, the right of asylum, because its owner, in those days, had commanded a little fleet which proved extremely useful to the conqueror of the world in the siege of Gaza and during the expedition to Egypt. True, under the reign of Ptolemy I, the owners of the Owl's Nest were on the point of being deprived of this favour, because they were repeatedly accused of piracy in distant seas; but it had not been done. Yet for the past two years an investigation had threatened Satabus, the distinguished head of the family, and during this period he, with his ships and his sons, had avoided Tennis and the Egyptian coast.
The house occupied by the islanders stood on the shore facing the little city. It had once been a stately building, but now every part of it seemed to be going to ruin except the central portion, which presented a less dilapidated appearance than the sorely damaged, utterly neglected side wings.
The roof of the whole long structure had originally consisted of palm branches, upon which mud and turf had been piled; but this, too, was now in repair only on the central building. On the right and left wings the rain which often falls in the northeastern part of the Nile Delta, near the sea, had washed off the protecting earth, and the wind had borne it away as dust.
Once the house had been spacious enough to shelter a numerous family and to store a great quantity of goods and provisions, but it was now long since the ruinous chambers had been occupied. Smoke rose only from the opening in the roof of the main building, but its slender column showed from what a very scanty fire it ascended.
The purpose which this was to serve was readily discovered, for in front of the open door of the dwelling, that seemed far too large and on account of the pillars at the entrance, which supported a triangular pediment--also too stately for its sole occupant, sat
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