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A Question   By: (1837-1898)

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This eBook was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]

A QUESTION

By Georg Ebers

Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford

PRELUDE.

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.

A QUESTION

CHAPTER I.

THE HOUSE KEEPER AND THE STEWARD.

"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... Continue reading book >>




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