A din of voices answered, “Here he is, here he is!”

And from the floor where he had fallen a youth was brought forward, so effeminately beautiful he might have passed for the drinking-god himself- only the crown would have dropped from his head, and the thyrsus from his hand.

“Lift him upon the table,” the master said.

It was found he could not sit.

“Help him, Drusus, as the fair Nyone may yet help thee.”

Drusus took the inebriate in his arms.

Then addressing the limp figure, Messala said, amidst profound silence, “O Bacchus I greatest of the gods, be thou propitious to-night. And for myself, and these thy votaries, I vow this chaplet”- and from his head he raised it reverently- “I vow this chaplet to thy altar in the Grove of Daphne.”

He bowed, replaced the crown upon his locks, then stooped and uncovered the dice, saying, with a laugh, “See, my Drusus, by the ass of Silenus, the denarius is mine!”

There was a shout that set the floor to quaking, and the grim Atlantes to dancing, and the orgies began.


CHAPTER XIII.

A DRIVER FOR ILDERIM’S ARABS.

SHEIK ILDERIM was a man of too much importance to go about with a small establishment. He had a reputation to keep with his tribe, such as became a prince and patriarch of the greatest following in all the desert east of Syria; with the people of the cities he had another reputation, which was that of one of the richest personages not a king in all the East; and, being rich in fact- in money as well as in servants, camels, horses, and flocks of all kinds- he took pleasure in a certain state, which, besides magnifying his dignity with strangers, contributed to his personal pride and comfort. Wherefore the reader must not be misled by the frequent reference to his tent in the Orchard of Palms. He had there really a respectable dowar; that is to say, he had there three large tents- one for himself, one for visitors, one for his favourite wife and her women; and six or eight lesser ones, occupied by his servants and such tribal retainers as he had chosen to bring with him as a body-guard- strong men of approved courage, and skilful with bow, spear, and horses.

To be sure, his property of whatever kind was in no danger at the Orchard; yet as the habits of a man go with him to town not less than the country, and as it is never wise to slip the bands of discipline, the interior of the dowar was devoted to his cows, camels, goats, and such property in general as might tempt a lion or a thief.

To do him full justice, Ilderim kept well all the customs of his people, abating none, not even the smallest; in consequence his life at the Orchard was a continuation of his life in the desert; nor that alone, it was a fair reproduction of the old patriarchal modes- the genuine pastoral life of primitive Israel.