Her companion, wearing a chaplet of bays, laughed and answered, “Go to, thou pretty barbarian! The question implies an earthly fear; and did we not agree to leave all such behind in Antioch with the rusty earth? The winds which blow here are respirations of the gods. Let us give ourselves to waftage of the winds.”
“But if we should get lost?”
“O thou timid! No one was ever lost in Daphne, except those on whom her gates close forever.”
“And who are they?” she asked, still fearful.
“Such as have yielded to the charms of the place and chosen it for life and death. Hark! Stand we here, and I will show you of whom I speak.”
Upon the marble pavement there was a scurry of sandalled feet; the crowd opened, and a party of girls rushed about the speaker and his fair friend, and began singing and dancing to the tabrets they themselves touched. The woman, scared, clung to the man, who put an arm about her, and, with kindled face, kept time to the music with the other hand overhead. The hair of the dancers floated free, and their limbs blushed through the robes of gauze which scarcely draped them. Words may not be used to tell of the voluptuousness of the dance. One brief round, and they darted off through the yielding crowd lightly as they had come.
“Now, what think you?” cried the man to the woman.
“Who are they?” she asked.
“Devadasi- priestesses devoted to the Temple of Apollo. There is an army of them. They make the chorus in celebrations. This is their home. Sometimes they wander off to other cities, but all they make is brought here to enrich the house of the divine musician. Shall we go now?”
Next minute the two were gone.
Ben-Hur took comfort in the assurance that no one was ever lost in Daphne, and he, too, set out- where, he knew not.
A sculpture reared upon a beautiful pedestal in the garden attracted him first. It proved to be the statue of a centaur. An inscription informed the unlearned visitor that it exactly represented Chiron, the beloved of Apollo and Diana, instructed by them in the mysteries of hunting, medicine, music, and prophecy. The inscription also bade the stranger look out at a certain part of the heavens, at a certain hour of the clear night, and he would behold the dead alive among the stars, whither Jupiter had transferred the good genius.
The wisest of the centaurs continued, nevertheless, in the service of mankind. In his hand he held a scroll, on which, graven in Greek, were paragraphs of a notice:-
“Art thou a stranger? “I. Hearken to the singing of the brooks, and fear not the rain of the fountains; so will the Naiades learn to love thee.
“II. The invited breezes of Daphne are Zephyrus and Auster: gentle ministers of life, they will gather sweets for thee; when Eurus blows, Diana is elsewhere hunting; when Boreas blusters, go hide, for Apollo is angry.