The Two Friends
Many years ago there lived in Greece two young men whose names were Damon and Pythias. They were good friends, and loved each other like brothers.
At that time Greece was ruled by a cruel tyrant. He cast Pythias into prison because Pythias had convicted him of wrong-doing.
He punished him still more. He commanded that Pythias should be put to death, and set the day on which he should die.
The father and mother of Pythias were still living. He wanted to see them once more to say good-by. But they lived far away. So he asked the king to let him go on a journey to his parents.
The king laughed in scorn, and said: "How can I be sure that you will come back?"
Then Damon, his friend, spoke to the king, saying: "If you will let Pythias go, I will stay in prison for him until he returns."
"But what if he does not come back?" asked the king.
"Then," said Damon, "I will die in his place."
The king was greatly surprised at this reply. He could hardly believe that one man would be willing to die for another in this manner. But he let Pythias go, and put Damon in prison in his place.
Days and weeks passed by, but Pythias did not return. At last the day came on which he was to die. What if he should not come back?
But Damon had great faith in him. He said that his friend would return if he were still alive. At the appointed hour Damon was led forth to die. Pythias was still absent. Had he failed his friend?
Just then soldiers came running and shouting: "Here comes Pythias!"
It was true. He was coming in great haste. His ship had been wrecked, and he had been cast on shore by the waves, and thus delayed. He had had to travel many miles on foot to get back in time to save Damon from being put to death in his place.
When the king saw this, his hard heart was softened. He turned to the young men and said: "Pythias shall not die. You are both free. I would give my entire kingdom for such a friend." And he asked the young men to let him become their friend.