[From Philemon, Traslated by Plautus ]
Philto and Lesbionicus.
Charmides, a citizen of Athens, being compelled to go abroad on business, intrusted the charge of his affairs to his old friend Callicles. Among the matters which he put in his friend's hands was an important secret, nothing less than the fact that he had buried under the floor of one of the rooms in his house a treasure of three thousand gold philips. This he had done to provide a dowry for his daughter, in case she should be sought in marriage during his absence. His son, Lesbionicus by name, he could not trust, so extravagant was the young man. And indeed what happened after his departure seemed to prove that he had been right. Lesbionicus went from bad to worse, squandered everything that he could lay his hands on, till at last nothing was left him but the house and a small farm outside the city. The house he promptly advertised for sale. Callicles, dismayed at the thought that it was going to pass into other hands, and that the new purchaser might discover, even if he were not legally entitled to, the buried treasure, determined to buy the property himself. But this proceeding did not satisfy everybody. Some of his friends and acquaintances suspected him of having taken advantage of the young man's folly, and made a good bargain for himself. Accordingly, no sooner had he taken possession of his new purchase than a friend, Megaronides by name, presented himself and told him what people were saying.
Megaronides. "You're in bad repute, my friend. People do not scruple to call you a vulture. 'Friend or foe,' they say, 'it is all one to him, as long as he makes his meal.' This vexes me, you may believe, very much."
Callicles. "Well, I can't prevent people talking; but whether they are right is another matter."
Meg. "Tell me, was Charmides a friend of yours?"
Cal. "He was and is. If he had been anything else, would he have handed his affairs over to me, when he sailed for Syria, charging me with the care of his grown-up daughter—his wife, as you know, is dead—and that spendthrift of a son?"
Meg. "Ah! it was about the son that I was going to speak. Have you endeavoured to reform him? Would you not have done better to try to make a respectable man of him than to abet him in his bad courses?"
Cal. "How have I abetted him? What have I done?"
Meg. "Behaved like a rascal, to speak plainly."
Cal. "That's not my way."
Meg. "Did you not buy this house from the young man? Why don't you answer? I mean this very house in which you are living."
Cal. "I did buy it. I paid the money to the young man, two hundred pounds down."
Meg. "You paid the money?"
Cal. "Certainly. I see nothing to be ashamed of in that."
Meg. "Well, then, I say that you betrayed your trust. You gave the young fellow a sword to kill himself with when you supplied him with the means of crowning the edifice of his folly."
Cal. "Oughtn't I to have paid him the money?"
Meg. "You ought not to have had any buying and selling with him. See how the thing stands. The young man is put in your charge, and you get possession of his house. On my word, you are a fine trustee!"
Cal. "My friend, when you talk to me in this fashion, I have no choice but to tell you a secret that I was charged to keep strictly to myself. Can I trust you?"
Cal. "Can anybody overhear us?"
Meg. "No one."
Cal. "Then listen. When Charmides was on the point of leaving Athens, he showed me a treasure which he had buried in a room in this house—you are sure there is no one listening?"
Meg. "There is no one near."
Cal. "As much as three thousand philips. He begged me not to let his son know anything about it. If he comes back safe, I shall give it up to him; if anything should happen to him, then I have the means of finding a dowry for his daughter."
Meg. "Good heavens! this is quite another story. But go on."
Cal. "Well, I happened to go away for a week, and, without saying a word, my young friend advertises the house for sale."
Meg. "Ah! the old story. The wolf watches till the dog is asleep, and then makes a meal of the whole flock."
Cal. "So he would have done, but the dog was beforehand with him. But tell me, what was I to do? Was I to inform him of the existence of the treasure, when his father had specially charged me to say nothing about it? Or was I to let a stranger become the owner of the house? Of course not. I had to buy it myself, not for my own profit, as you see, but for my friend. So I did; I paid the money out of my own pocket. Well, if that is behaving like it rascal, as you put it, I plead guilty."
Meg. "You are right; I have nothing to say."
Cal. "And now I want you to help me."
Meg. "I am at your service. But tell me, where does the young man now live?"
Cal. "When he sold the house, he kept back this little building in the rear, and he is living there now."
Meg. "And the daughter?"
Cal. "She is in my house. I treat her just as I do my own child. Good by, my friend, and don't be so ready to believe all that these busybodies say. They know everything: what the king whispers in the queen's ear, what Zeus has to say to Heré, in short, everything that is, and a great deal that is not."
Meanwhile, a conversation was going on elsewhere in the city which promised to produce a new complication. A young Athenian named Lysiteles has fallen in love with the daughter of Charmides. The difficulty was that the girl was probably without a dowry. Her father was abroad, no one knew where; her brother, who was the most notorious young spendthrift in Athens, could not be expected to do anything for her. The young man was in great doubt whether Philto, his father, could be induced to consent to his marriage with a portionless girl. Anyhow, he would see what could be done. Accordingly he proceeded to pay the old gentleman a visit. He found him in a moralizing mood. "My son," said the old man, "as you love me, don't have anything to do with the worthless fellows who are to be found everywhere nowadays. This is an awful time that we are living in. I know it well; there is robbing and lying everywhere; nothing is sacred to these fellows. I can't sleep for thinking of it. I positively weep to think that I have lived to see such days. My dear son, do mind what I say to you. Do as I do; that is the good, old-fashioned way of living; keep to that, and you'll never get into trouble."
Lysiteles. "My dear father, I have always felt that, freeman as I was, I could not do better than be your slave."
Philto. "The great question with a young man is this: are his inclinations to master him, or is he to master his inclinations? If you get the better in this conflict, it will be all right with you; if you are worsted, it will be all wrong."
Lys. "I have always done my best to keep myself from harm. I have shunned bad companions; I have kept good hours; I have avoided anything that could vex you; I have followed your precepts to the utmost of my power."
Phil. "Don't reckon up your goodness in that fashion. My days are pretty well over; it is you whom these things concern, and I take it that a really honest man is never very well satisfied with himself."
Lysiteles now saw that his protestations of filial piety and rectitude were not likely to do him much good, and thought it better to go straight to the point. "I have a great favour to ask you, my dear father," he said.
Phil. "What is it? I shall be glad to do anything I can."
Lys. "There is a young friend of mine, of an excellent family I should say, who has not managed his affairs very prudently. I should like to help him."
Phil. "With your own means?"
Lys. "Certainly; I suppose I may say that what is yours is mine. I am sure that all that is mine is yours."
Phil. "Is your friend poor?"
Lys. "He is poor."
Phil. "Had he any property?"
Lys. "He had."
Phil. "How did he lose it? By farming, or the taxes, or by trade ventures?"
Lys. "No, no; by nothing of that kind."
Phil. "How was it, then?"
Lys. "By his lazy ways, and a certain habit he had of pleasing himself."
Phil. "Well, you are certainly a candid friend. You don't mince matters,—a poor fellow that never did anything that he ought, and yet is in want. Somehow I don't care that you have friends of this kind."
Lys. "There is no harm in him, and I should like to give him a little help."
Phil. "You don't really help a beggar by giving him something to spend in eating and drinking. You lose what you give him, and only prolong his misery. However, I don't mean this to apply to your friend. I don't like, in fact, to refuse anything in reason. Tell me what it is you want. Speak freely to your father."
Lys. "Lesbionicus, who lives there—"
Phil. "Oh! that is the man, is it? The fellow who has eaten up all that he had and all that he hadn't. However, what do you want to give him?"
Lys. "Nothing at all, father; only you must not hinder him from giving me something, if he wants to."
Phil. "How you're to help him by taking something from him I cannot see."
Lys. "Perhaps I can show you. You know what family he belongs to?"
Phil. "Yes; it's as good as any in Athens."
Lys. "He has a grown-up sister. I want to marry her without a dowry."
Phil. "Without a dowry!"
Lys. "Yes, father; it won't make us worse thought of."
Phil. "Well, let it be so, if you will have it."
Lys. "One thing more; would you mind asking for her?"
Phil. "This is a pretty business I have let myself in for. However, it has to be done. What is the use of trying to cross one's son? It only breeds trouble for oneself, and does no sort of good. But here comes the young man himself in the nick of time."
And, indeed, Lesbionicus had just come out of his house in consultation with his slave Stasimus. "Stasimus," he said, "it is just a fortnight since Callicles paid me two hundred pounds for my house. Is it not so?"
Stasimus. "I do remember something about it."
Lesbionicus. "Well, what has become of the money?"
Stas. "Eaten away, drunk away, bathed away; the fishmongers, bakers, cooks, butchers, greengrocers, poulterers have got it. They are like so many ants with a poppy-head."
Les. "I don't think they had more than five and twenty pounds."
Stas. "Then there are the presents you made."
Les. "Put them down at as much more."
Stas. "Then there is what I cheated you of."
Les. "Ah! that is more than either."
Stas. "Then you had to pay fifty pounds to the bank for Olympias, the money you were surety for."
Les. "Ah! poor fellow, I could not refuse to help. I was so sorry for him."
Stas. "I wish you would be sorry for yourself."
At this point Philto came up. He courteously introduced the business which he had in hand. Lesbionicus could not believe him to be serious. It was not like him, he said, to make fun of an unfortunate man. Philto protested that he had no thought of the kind in his head; but only to be met with the reply that the two families were not in the same position. The daughter of an impoverished house could not marry into one so wealthy. "I had hoped," said the old man, "for a kinder answer. It is not wise to refuse a friendly offer."
Stas. "The old man is right."
Les. (to the slave). "Hold your tongue, or I'll knock your eye out."
Stas. "I don't care. If I had only one eye I should say the same."
Phil. "You say our position is not the same. Well, consider this. You are next to a rich man at a public dinner. Something is served to him which you like; would you eat it with him, or go away dinnerless?"
Les. "I should eat it with him, if he did not object."
Stas. "So should I, whether he objected or not. We must have no false shame about eating. It is a matter of life and death. I will make way for a man in the street or the footpath; but when it comes to eating—no; in these hard times a dinner is not to be despised."
Phil. "My dear Lesbionicus, what are the odds between one man and another? The gods are great and rich, but we mortals—what are we? Just a breath of air; that gone, the rich man and the beggar are just the same. And now to show you that we have no feeling of superiority, I ask you to give your sister to my son without a dowry. Heaven prosper the match! May I consider it settled? Pray say, 'I promise.' "
Stas. "The other day he was ready enough to say, 'I promise'; now when he ought to, he won't."
Les. "Philto, I am greatly honoured by your high opinion of my family. However, though things have not gone very well with me, I have still a little farm, near the city. That I will give as my sister's dowry."
Phil. "I assure you that I do not want a dowry."
Les. "I am resolved to give it."
Stas. (aside to his master). "What are you doing ? Giving away our only subsistence? How are we to live now?"
Les. (to the slave). "Hold your tongue! Am I going to give account to you?"
Stas. "We are undone, unless I can contrive to stop it somehow."
He drew Philto aside, and whispered to him, "Let me have a word with you."
Phil. "Speak on."
Stas. "For heaven's sake, never allow that farm to become yours or your son's. When we plough it, the oxen cannot get through five furrows without dying. The wine gets rotten before it is ripe. Sow corn, and you'll get just a third of it back."
Phil. "Ah! that should be just the place to sow bad habits."
Stas. "Every one to whom that field has belonged has come to a bad end. Some have been banished; others are dead and gone; some have hanged them-selves. The man to whom it now belongs is utterly ruined."
Phil. "I'll have nothing to do with it."
Stas. "Ah! you would say that if you knew all. Every other row of trees is struck with lightning. The sows die of suffocation. The sheep get scabby; they are as smooth as my hand. And as for men, the Syrians, who, as you know, are the hardiest labourers there are, can live there only six months. Now don't say that I told you, but the fact is that my master wants to get rid of the place."
Phil. "Well, I promise you it shall never be mine."
Stas. (aside). "Ah! I've frightened the old gentleman off. How in the world we should have lived without that farm is more than I can say."
Phil. "How about our matter, Lesbionicus?"
Les. "What was that fellow talking to you about?"
Phil. "Oh! it seems he wants to be free, and hasn't got the money."
Les. "Just as I want to be rich, and I haven't got the money. Now, Stasimus, go to Callicles's house, and tell my sister what has been settled."
Stas. "I will go."
Les. "And give her my congratulations."
Stas. "Of course."
Les. "And tell Callicles that I should be glad to see him."
Stas. "Hadn't you better go, sir?"
Les. "To settle about the dowry."
Stas. "Pray go!"
Les. "I have quite made up my mind that she must have a dowry."
Stas. "Now do go!"
Les. "Of course I can't let her be injured—"
Stas. "Pray go!"
Les. "By my carelessness."
Stas. "Pray go!"
Les. "It is only fair that if I have done wrong—"
Stas. "Now do go!"
Les. "I should suffer."
Stas. "Go, go!"
Les. "Father, father, shall I ever see you again?"
Stas. "Go, go, go!"
Les. "Well, I am going. See that you do what I told you."
Stas. "At last I have got rid of him. If I have saved the farm, there is something done, for we have got a good husband for the young mistress. But I don't feel quite easy; and if the farm goes, then it is all over with my neck. I shall have to carry shield, helmet, and knapsack; for the young master will be off as soon as the wedding is over. He will go soldiering to some accursed place, and I shall have to go with him. But now for my errand, though I hate the sight of the house, since we have been turned out of it."
Callicles was not a little surprised at the news which Stasimus communicated—Lesbionicus's sister was to be married to Philto's son, and without a dowry. He was more than surprised; he was scandalized. The idea was monstrous; such a thing could not be permitted. Finally, he made up his mind to ask the advice of Megaronides, his censor, as he called him, and went off for that purpose. "Ah! my friend," said Stasimus, as soon as his back was turned, "I see what you are after. You mean to turn the poor fellow out of his farm as you did out of his house. O my poor master Charmides, what havoc they are making with your property! How I should like to see you come back and punish these false friends, and reward your poor, faithful Stasimus!"
The slave's prospects continued to have a gloomy look. A conversation which he overheard between his young master and the son-in-law that was to be did not reassure him. The young spendthrift was determined not to let his sister go portionless into another family. He roundly accused his friend of unwittingly desiring to do him a great injury. The friend retorted that all the injury that he had suffered had been done by himself. His father and his grandfather's exertions had laid an honourable career open to him, and by his idleness and folly he had lost the opportunity.
"I want," said Lysiteles, "to leave you this farm as something to begin with. As an utterly penniless man you would have no chance of retrieving your position."
Lesbionicus had no hesitation in acknowledging that he had been grievously to blame. "Only," he said, "what you want to do would send me down from bad to worse. I should be poor, if I do as I propose, but I should not be dishonourable. To let my sister marry without a dowry would be to disgrace her and myself; for you to take her would, indeed, redound to your credit, but in exactly the same degree it would be discreditable to me."
"Redound to my credit!" cried Lysiteles, "it would do nothing of the kind. I know what you are going to do. The marriage once celebrated, you mean to fly from your kinsfolk, friends, and country. And what will people say of me? Why, that my greed had driven you away."
Stasimus could not contain himself at this, so admirable did the argument appear. "Good! good! Lysiteles," he cried, "your play gets the prize."
Les. "What brings you here?"
Stas. "My feet, to be sure, and they are going to take me away. Ah!" he went on, as the two young men walked away, unable to come to an agreement; "what will become of me? There is nothing left for me but to strap up my knapsack and throw my shield over my shoulders. However keen the fighters I may fall in with, I warrant I shall be quite as keen—in running away. Fit me out with a bow and arrows in my hand, and a helmet on my head, and I'll be as good as any man, as far as sleeping in my tent is concerned. However, there is that talent that is owing me. I will go and get it; that will give me something for my journey."
Meanwhile Callicles had asked his friend's advice in the matter of the marriage portion. That the girl should go without a dowry when there was money at hand was impossible, as well as for other reasons. Callicles could not pay it out of his own pocket. People would be sure to say that he was giving a part only of what the absent father had provided. The marriage could not be put off, for the young man might change his mind; and the secret of the treasure could not be revealed, in view of the father's strict injunctions to the contrary. Under these circumstances the friend's advice was to this effect: Make every one believe that the girl's father has sent home a messenger with a thousand gold philips for his daughter's dowry. The money you can supply yourself, repaying it out of the treasure when the proper time comes. The supposed messenger you can find in one of those fellows who are always glad to do any kind of job for a consideration. Dress him up in some outlandish fashion, and tell him to say that he comes from Charmides in Seleucia; that the old man is well, and means to return very shortly; meanwhile, he sends his love and this money. He must have with him two letters, one to his son, one to you. These we shall have to make up. The letters must desire the gold to be given to you; as a matter of fact, you will pay it over to the husband when the wedding is over. The son will think it comes from his father; and you can repay yourself out of the treasure when all is quiet. There may be a difficulty about the seal on the letters. The young man probably knows his father's device, and will wonder that the new documents did not bear it. That, however, may easily be accounted for. Charmides might have lost his seal, or the letters might have been opened in the custom-house.
This plan did not altogether commend itself to Callicles, who did not like the idea of so elaborate a plot. However, he agreed to do his part and proceeded to hire a messenger.
Meanwhile Charmides himself had landed, and was making his way to his home. It so happened, indeed, that he and his own pretended messenger came at the same time into the street in which his house stood. His attention was attracted by the man's curious dress, the most conspicuous feature of which was a huge hat resembling a mushroom. A closer inspection did not make him like the man's look any more. "That's some swindler or cutpurse," he said to himself. "He's probably examining the house, and means to pay them a visit some night." When the next moment he saw the stranger knock at his own door, it seemed to him high time to interfere. "Ho! young man," he cried, "what do you want? What are you knocking at that door for?"
Messenger. "I want a young man of the name of Lesbionicus, and an old gentleman, Callicles by name, who has a white head like you."
Charmides (aside). "Why, he is asking after my son, and the friend to whom I entrusted my family and my property."
Mes. "Can you tell me where these gentlemen live?"
Char. "You tell me first who you are, what is your family, and where you come from."
Mes. "That is a great number of questions to put all at once. I don't know which to answer first. Put them quietly one by one, and I'll tell you my name, what I have done, and where I have travelled."
Char. "Very good; begin by telling me your name."
Mes. "You're beginning with something very difficult."
Char. "Why so?"
Mes. "I have so many names that, if you began at dawn, you would not reach the end before midnight."
Char. "Your first name, then?"
Mes. "'Pax.' That is my every-day name."
Char. "Well, what business have you with these people whom you are asking after?"
Mes. "The father of this young friend of mine, Lesbionicus, gave me two letters."
Char. (aside). "Well, I have got him here. He says that I gave him two letters. I'll have a fine game with the fellow."
Mes. "The old gentlemen said that I was to hand one of the letters to his son Lesbionicus, and the other to his friend Callicles."
Char. "Where was he?"
Mes. "He was quite well."
Char. "But where?"
Mes. "In Seleucia."
Char. "Did he give you the letters himself?"
Mes. "Yes, with his own hands."
Char. "What sort of look had he?"
Mes. "Oh, a foot and a half taller than you."
Char. "There's a hitch here—it seems that I am taller there than here. Do you know him?"
Mes. "What a question! Do I know the man that I used to dine with?"
Char. "What was his name?"
Mes. "Name? An honest man's name."
Char. "That makes me want more to hear it."
Mes. "His name was—was—" (Aside) "Here's a piece of bad luck!"
Char. "What is the matter?"
Mes. "I had it on the tip of my tongue."
Char. "You don't seem to know him very well."
Mes. "Not know him! I know him as well as I know myself. But it is always the way—the thing you know best you are apt to forget. However, I can make it out letter by letter. I know it begins with a 'C.' "
Mes. "It is of no use; and indeed it does not matter in the least."
Char. "Well, there are many men of the name Lesbionicus here, and unless you know the father's name you may not be able to find the young man. See whether you can guess it."
Mes. "Well, it was something beginning with 'Char.' "
Char. "Chares? or Charides? or was it by any chance Charmides?"
Mes. "Ah! that was it. Confound the fellow!"
Char. "Why confound him?"
Mes. "Because the villain kept giving me the slip."
Char. "How did you come across him?"
Mes. "Oh! in the course of my travels."
Char. "Where did you travel, then?"
Mes. "First I sailed to Arabia in Pontus."
Char. "Oh! Pontus is in Arabia, is it?"
Mes. "I don't mean the place where the frankincense grows, but the wormwood country."
Char. (aside). "This is a pretty kind of liar! But what a fool I am to ask him these questions; still, I want to see how he'll get out of it." (To the messenger) "Well, where did you go after Arabia?"
Mes. "Oh! to the river that rises in heaven under the throne of Zeus."
Char. "Under the throne of Zeus?"
Mes. "Just so."
Char. "Rises in heaven, did you say?"
Mes. "Yes, in heaven, in the middle of it."
Char. "So you've been up to heaven?"
Mes. "Just so; we sailed upstream in a skiff."
Char. "And did you see Zeus?"
Mes. "No; the other gods said that he had gone to his country-house to serve out his slaves' rations. But would you point out to me the persons who ought to have the letters?"
Char. "If you were to happen to see this Charmides, do you think you would know him again?"
Mes. "Know him again? Do you take me for a fool not to know the man that I have lived with? And do you think that he would have trusted me with a quantity of gold—a thousand philips, nothing less—unless we had known each other perfectly well?"
Char. "Now, if I could but swindle the swindler! A thousand philips indeed! and I would not trust him with one brass farthing—no, not if it were a matter of life and death! Come, Pax, a word with you."
Mes. "Three hundred, if you like."
Char. "Have you got that money you talked of?"
Mes. "Yes, of course; a thousand gold pieces."
Char. "And you received it from Charmides himself?"
Mes. "From whom should I receive it? Not from his father or his grandfather, who are dead, I take it."
Char. "Then hand over the gold to me, my young friend."
Mes. "Hand it over to you! Why?"
Char. "Because you said that I gave it you. I am Charmides."
Mes. "You Charmides? Not you!"
Char. "I tell you I am Charmides."
Mes. "It is no good, my friend; you are too clever. When I mentioned the gold, you made yourself Charmides; now you may unmake yourself."
Char. "But who am I, if I am not Charmides?"
Mes. "What is that to me? You may be anybody but he."
And the man went off to tell his employer the curious adventure he had met with.
Stasimus, who had been trying to drown his cares in drink, now returned, talking to himself about the degeneracy of the times. For a while Charmides listened to his soliloquy without knowing who he was, but when the slave happened to turn his face, he recognized him. "Ho! Stasimus," he cried.—"Order your own servant," was the answer.—"Well," said Charmides, "you are my servant, for I certainly bought you." The slave, who was scarcely sober, continued to make impertinent answers, till his master said, "Look at me; I am Charmides."
Stas. "Who spoke of that good man Charmides?"
Char. "The good man himself."
Stas. "Heaven and earth! Is it the man himself, or is it not? It is he; it certainly is! O my dear, dear master!"
Char. "Are my children well?"
Stas. "Very well indeed."
Char. "Both of them?"
Stas. "Yes; both of them."
Char. "Well, I have a hundred things to talk about. Come in here" (pointing to his old house).
Stas. "Where are you going?"
Char. "Where should I go?"
Stas. "That's not your house now; your son sold it for two hundred pounds in ready money."
Char. "Good heavens! and who bought it?"
Stas. "Callicles, your fine friend whom you trusted."
Char. "And where does my son live?"
Stas. "In the little place at the back."
Char. "To think of this, after all I have done for him! It kills me. Hold me up, Stasimus."
It was not difficult, however, to console the old man. Callicles, who was actually digging up the treasure at the time, came running out in the street, just as he was, on hearing his friend's voice, and explained what had happened. While he was talking Lysiteles appeared, and after listening a while to the conversation of the two friends, introduced himself, was warmly greeted, and had his betrothal confirmed by the father of the lady himself. Only he was given to understand he must be content to take the dowry as well as the girl. To this he could make no objection; and, the engagement ratified, he proceeded to ask a favour on his own account. Would Charmides forgive his spendthrift son? The old man hesitated a moment. "I hardly think it right," he said, "and yet I should not like to refuse your first request. Let it be as you wish." Lesbionicus, accordingly, was summoned, and greeted his father with no little confusion of face. "Father," he began, "if you have suffered—" he stammered out.— "Oh! it has been nothing," said the old man, "if you would only turn over a new leaf." Lesbionicus was profuse in his promises of amendment. "Then," said his father, "suppose you marry the daughter of our friend Callicles here."
Les. "Certainly, my dear father, her and any one else you please to mention."
Char. "No, no. I was angry with you, and not without good reason; but, after all, one plague is enough, even for you."
Les. "I am going to reform."
Char. "So you say; let us hope you will do it."
Lys. "Is there any reason why I should not be married to-morrow?"
Char. "None whatever; and you, my son, be ready to be married the day after."