Glory and the Lightning

Glory and the Lightning by Taylor Caldwell Read Free Book Online

Book: Glory and the Lightning by Taylor Caldwell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Taylor Caldwell
suffer, then, the pain which all suffers under the same circumstances, it will be my guilt, the guilt of my deformed mind?”
    “We will go to the infirmia,” said Echion, exasperated almost beyond control. The girl’s arguments, he told himself, were jejune and not worthy of the response of a man of science, and she sought glorification and attention for herself, as all inferior womanhood did—recognizing its own inferiority. She made but noises, like a heifer, and considered them philosophy. She needed a flogging and not indulgence. The girls tittered discreetly about him and he felt a swollen pressure in the sides of his throat. He hated Aspasia now, and his hatred made him feel voluptuous and he longed to get her into his bed where he would teach her true objectivity! To his horror he had a sudden physical manifestation which, the girls discerning, provoked them to more titters, and they pretended to be embarrassed, they covering their fresh faces with widespread fingers through which they peeked. He tightened his girdle in mortification.
    He must talk with Thargelia with the utmost severity. He had heard from the master of science that Aspasia also contended with him on the same subject of objectivity and subjectivity. It was well to train a hetaira so she could converse with the eminent man whose mistress she would become, but it was another matter to deliver a maiden who preferred argument to all else to such a man.
    They walked through a narrow white hall of marble. On the left were simple Doric pillars between which the gardens flashed with changeful light and color. The fountains glittered and sparkled in the sun and as a portion of the water fell on blossom and shrub a seductive fragrance seeped on the warm breeze. Aspasia thought. If there was any reality at all it was beauty, and if there was any truth it existed in harmony. As men were not in the least harmonious there was no truth in them, and as their thoughts were dark and intricate and insidious they were blind to beauty for all their ecstasies about it. We are a perfidious race, thought the damsel, ugly and incongruent in this world, and why the gods endure us is a great mystery—if the gods exist.
    They entered the infirmia, a clean bright long room with open windows. Here there were only single narrow beds and not the usual crowded beds of sanitoria. This was the infirmia of the slaves, both men and women, and children. The room beyond, prettily decorated, was for the young hetairai, private cubicles, and filled with flowers, and with skilled attendants. Only two or three of the hetairai were interested in the infirmia, and among them was Aspasia. Immediately on entering the rooms Echion forgot the maidens, for here was his authority and his skill and his subjects. He walked from bed to bed, examining, frowning, questioning the patients and their attendants in a sharp concise voice, and Aspasia followed and listened with admiration and deep attention. Now her respect for the physician returned. He might not be kind or thoughtful, and he might be rough in examinations, immune to the cries of the sick, but his judgment was faultless and he betrayed here his cynical understanding of the vagaries of the human mind and was quick to discover the whimperers who preferred illness to work and duty, and to denounce them. Aspasia pondered. In numerous ways both Echion and herself were right; they both had part of the truth. There were illnesses which indeed were self-induced voluntarily or involuntarily, but there were illnesses which came of themselves. But it was almost impossible to decide the category.
    Echion’s rosy bald head gleamed in the shifting sunlight. His eyes were attentive if without pity. He was more interested in the disease than he was in the sufferer. In this he was the scientist and not the physician. He carried with him a tablet and a stylus for his own information. He paused by the bed of a fat male slave of about thirty and looked upon

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