Hiero's Uncle Is Ill
"My uncle is very ill," said Hiero, as he joined Duris a few mornings after the Panathenæa. "My father is going with him to the temple of the god of healing."
"We had a physician in the Island who came to see my mother when she was ill," said Duris. "Have you no physician in Athens?"
"Oh, yes," answered Hiero quickly, "but such wonderful cures are reported at the temple that my uncle wishes to be taken there."
"The physician who came to cure my mother," said Duris, "brought an orator with him."
"An orator!" exclaimed Hiero. "Why was that?"
"Because the physician was afraid my mother would not want to take his medicine. The orator told her how good the physician's medicine was for her trouble, and how many persons it had cured. He talked a very long time about her illness, and how it should be treated. When he had finished, my mother felt certain that the medicine would cure her. She took it, and was well again in a few days."
"That was good," said Hiero. "I hope the priests in the temple will do as much for my uncle."
"Will they give him medicine?" asked Duris.
"They will bathe him, and have him sleep in the open air on the porch of the temple. He will have warm sunlight, and breezes from the ocean. Then perhaps the god will tell him in a dream what he must do to be cured.
"I have been in the temple," Hiero continued. "It is filled with offerings brought by people who have been cured. There are models of feet and hands and arms, made from stone or wax; and there are cocks and other animals made from clay, which poor people have brought. But there are beautiful gifts, too: cups of silver, and of gold, and ornaments, and precious jewels."
Just then the boys heard steps close beside them, and turning, they saw Donax and Agathon, two old slaves of Hermippos.
"You were speaking of your uncle's sickness," said Agathon. "If I had anything to say about the matter I should send to the house of Crito for a drug which he alone knows how to prepare. It is made from a plant which grows near the top of a mountain. It is a certain cure for the sickness and pain which troubles your uncle."
"But cannot the priests of the temple tell my uncle of this drug?" asked Hiero.
"Bah!" exclaimed the slave. "The priests know nothing of it. It was revealed to the family of Crito many, many years ago, and it is known only to them. It is a secret cure," added Agathon, "but it is certain."
"The drug of Crito may be good," said Donax, the second slave, "but I have little faith in drugs. I would think it safer to send for our own slave, Menodora. She can drive away the disease by chanting and by the use of charms."
"How can charms and chants cure sickness?" asked Hiero.
"Ah," said the old slave, "they please the evil spirit who brings the sickness, so that he leaves the one who has been troubled. It is easy to believe," he added: "cannot the one who brings sickness take it away again?"
"Bah," exclaimed Agathon, a second time. "I have no faith in chants or charm strings, and I warn you that our master, Hermippos, would not thank you to teach such foolishness to these boys."
At this, both Hiero and Duris laughed. "Don't be alarmed, Agathon," said Duris. "I can match Donax' story with one of my own. A poor boy who lived not far from us on the Island was taken with terrible pains in his hip. One of the slaves ran to quite a distance to get a young puppy. He brought it home in his arms and laid it against the boy's bare hip. He said that the puppy would absorb the pain and his young master would be well. In an hour's time the boy was entirely cured, we were told. But," added Duris, "I forgot to ask whether the puppy showed signs of pain afterward!"
"Doubtless it did! Doubtless it did!" exclaimed Donax, shaking his head solemnly. "I have heard often of this treatment. It is very good indeed."
Hiero and Duris exchanged a smile at the old slave's faith, but Agathon gave vent once more to his favorite expression, "Bah!"
"But," said Hiero, earnestly, "there can be no doubt of the cures wrought in the temple. I, myself, have read the tablets. One tells of a dumb boy who went there with his father. They offered a sacrifice. Then the slave of the god asked the boy's father if he would promise that his boy would make a thanksgiving offering if he were cured within a year. And the boy answered, 'I will.' And after that he could speak as others do."
"And do you remember, Hiero," said Duris, "one tablet told of a lame man? A boy snatched his crutch and ran away with it, and the lame man sprang to his feet and chased the boy."
"Yes, I remember," said Hiero. "I should like to have seen that cure."