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Aphrodite, by Pierre Louys, [1932], at

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Chapter Four


SHE came slowly with her head on one side, over the deserted jetty where the moonlight fell. A little flickering shadow frisked before her steps.

Demetrios watched her advance.

Diagonal folds furrowed the little that could be seen of her body through the light tissue; one of her elbows thrust out under the close tunic and the other arm, which she had left bare, carried the long train so it would not drag in the dust.

He recognized by her jewels that she was a courtesan; to spare himself a salute from her he crossed over quickly.

He did not wish to look at her. Wilfully he occupied his thought with the great sketch of Zagreus. And yet his eyes returned toward her who passed.

Then he saw that she did not stop at all, that she did not concern herself with him, that she did not even pretend to look at the sea nor to raise her veil before her face nor to be absorbed in her reflections; but that she was simply walking alone and sought nothing there but the coolness of the wind, solitude, freedom, the light quiver of the silence.

Without stirring, Demetrios did not turn his gaze from her and lost himself in a singular astonishment.

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She continued walking like a yellow shade in the distance, indifferent and preceded by the little black shadow.

He heard at each step the gentle sound of her foot-wear in the dust of the way.

She walked to the isle of the Pharos and mounted among the rocks.

Suddenly, and as though long ago he had loved this unknown, Demetrios ran after her, then stopped, retraced his steps, trembled, grew angry at himself, attempted to leave the jetty; but he had never employed his will except to serve his own pleasure and when it was time to make it act for the welfare of his character and the ordering of his life he felt himself filled with impotence and nailed to the spot where he stood.

As he could no longer avoid thinking of her he tried to find an excuse for the preoccupation which distracted him so violently. He imagined his admiration for her gracious passing was purely an esthetic sentiment. And he said to himself that she would be an ideal model for the Charity with the fan which he proposed to sketch on the morrow. Then suddenly all his thoughts were upset and a crowd of anxious questions flowed into his spirit around this woman in yellow.

What was she doing on the island at this hour of the night? Why, for whom, had she come our so late? Why had she not accosted him? She had seen him, certainly she had seen him as he crossed the jetty. Why, without a word of greeting, had she continued on her way? The rumor ran that certain women sometimes chose the cool hours before the dawn to bathe in the sea. But no one bathed at the Pharos. The sea was too deep there. Besides, how unlikely that a woman would thus have covered herself with

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jewels to go only to the bath. . . . Then, what drew her so far from Rhacotis? A rendezvous, perhaps? With some young man—to be courted, on the great wave-polished rocks?

Demetrios wished to assure himself. But already the young woman was returning, with the same soft and tranquil step, lighted full in the face by the slow lunar brightness and sweeping the dust of the parapet with the tip of her fan.

Next: Chapter Five. The Mirror, the Comb and the Necklace