"Will your father care if we visit the studio?" Duris asked one day, as he and Hiero came in from school.
"No," answered Hiero, "he always likes to have us there."
"My father told me that he had a new group of statues almost finished, and he wanted me to see it."
The two boys entered the studio where Hermippos was at work. The new slave was mixing clay for a model.
"Well," said Hermippos, "have you come to take another lesson in vase making?"
"Not to-day," answered Duris, "but Father wanted me to see your new group of statues."
"It is nearly finished," said Hermippos. "If you boys will wait a few minutes we will have a talk about it."
The boys seated themselves near the slave and watched him as he handled the clay, moistening and kneading it, so that it would be firm and elastic when Hermippos should be ready for it.
In a few minutes Hermippos stepped down from the platform upon which he had been working. "Now, then," he called to the boys, "come and tell me what you think it represents."
There were three figures in the group, and the boys looked at it earnestly.
"One man," began Hiero slowly, "seems to be a captive. Another is about to kill him. The third man runs toward them,—but I cannot think what story it represents."
"Is it from history?" asked Duris.
"Yes," replied Hermippos, "this group represents an event in the history of Greece, and, of course, there is a story connected with it. It is the story of Damon and Pythias.
"At the time of the story, Dionysius was ruler of a certain city, but he was cruel and unjust. Pythias was one of the citizens and he formed a conspiracy to overthrow Dionysius. However, Dionysius learned of the conspiracy and he captured Pythias and put him in prison. 'You have but a few days to live,' said Dionysius, 'so put your affairs in order. In a short time you shall pay with your life for the conspiracy against me.'
"Now Pythias had some important business to attend to, and he was very much troubled about it. But he had a friend, Damon, who, he knew, would stand by him no matter what trouble he might be in.
"It was not long before Damon came to the prison to see him. Then Pythias told him of all these matters. 'I must see to them,' he said, 'before Dionysius puts an end to my life!'
" 'I will willingly stay in the prison in your stead,' volunteered Damon.
"So Dionysius was told that Damon would remain in the prison while Pythias settled his business affairs.
"Dionysius was amazed.
" 'I never heard of such friendship as this!' he exclaimed. 'Suppose your friend Pythias does not return?'
" 'I will take his place,' said Damon simply, 'but I have no fear that he will not return.'
"Dionysius laughed. 'Do as you will,' he said, 'but I am sure no friendship will stand such a test as that.'
"So Pythias was released from prison.
"Days passed, and the time had almost come when Pythias was to be put to death. Dionysius appeared and laughed again at Damon. 'You will pay with your life for such a friendship,' he declared.
" 'He will yet come,' said Damon simply, and just then there was a shout.
"Pythias had been detained, but now he was in sight, running with breathless speed.
"Then the soldier rushed in and told Dionysius that Pythias was at the door of the prison.
" 'I order the execution stopped,' shouted Dionysius. 'Such friendship as this between men is too seldom seen. I, myself, would like to be admitted to such a friendship.'
"So Pythias was released, and he and Damon went away from the prison free men."
As Hermippos finished his story he noticed how the eyes of the boys shone, and unconsciously they had clasped each other's hand.