Deep silence brooded over the water and the green islands which rose like oases from its glittering surface. The palms, silver poplars, and sycamores on the largest one were already casting longer shadows as the slanting rays of the sun touched their dark crowns, while its glowing ball still poured a flood of golden radiance upon the bushes along the shore, and the light, feathery tufts at the tops of the papyrus reeds in the brackish water. More than one flock of large and small waterfowl flew past beneath the silvery cloudlets flecking the lofty azure vault of heaven; here and there a pelican or a pair of wild ducks plunged, with short calls which ceased abruptly, into the lush green thicket, but their cackling and quacking belonged to the voices of Nature, and, when heard, soon died away in the heights of the tipper air, or in the darkness of the underbrush that received the birds. Very few reached the little city of Tennis, which now, during the period of inundation in the year 274 B.C., was completely encircled by water. From the small island, separated from it by a channel scarcely three arrow-shots wide, it seemed as though sleep or paralysis had fallen upon the citizens of the busy little industrial town, for few people appeared in the streets, and the scanty number of porters and sailors who were working among the ships and boats in the little fleet performed their tasks noiselessly, exhausted by the heat and labour of the day. Columns of light smoke rose from many of the buildings, but the sunbeams prevented its ascent into the clear, still air, and forced it to spread over the roofs as if it, too, needed rest. Silence also reigned in the little island diagonally opposite to the harbour. The Tennites called it the Owl's Nest, and, though for no especial reason, neither they nor the magistrates of King Ptolemy II ever stepped upon its shores. Indeed, a short time before, the latter had even been forbidden to concern themselves about the pursuits of its inhabitants; since, though for centuries it had belonged to a family of seafaring folk who were suspected of piracy, it had received, two generations ago, from Alexander the Great himself, the right of asylum, because its owner, in those days, had commanded a little fleet which proved extremely useful to the conqueror of the world in the siege of Gaza and during the expedition to Egypt. True, under the reign of Ptolemy I, the owners of the Owl's Nest were on the point of being deprived of this favour, because they were repeatedly accused of piracy in distant seas; but it had not been done. Yet for the past two years an investigation had threatened Satabus, the distinguished head of the family, and during this period he, with his ships and his sons, had avoided Tennis and the Egyptian coast.