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Alfred J. Church

Back to Athens

Callias started about the middle of April, according to our reckoning. His journey to the Bosphorus was much retarded by contrary winds. For some days no progress could be made, and it was well into May before he reached Byzantium. There he was fortunate enough to get a passage in a Spartan despatch-boat, which took him as far as the port of Corinth, thus carrying him, of course, beyond his destination, but to a point from which it was easy for him to find his way to Athens. It was about the beginning of June when he landed at the Piræus. He did not doubt for a moment about the place where his first visit was due. The fact was that he had no near relations. The kinsman who was his legal guardian had always given up the business of looking after his ward's property to Hippocles; and now that Callias was his own master, there was little more than a friendly acquaintance between the two cousins. The alien's house was, he felt, his real home, nor had he given up the hope that in spite of Hermione's strongly expressed determination, he might some day become a member of his family.

Hippocles happened to have just returned from his business at the shipyard, when the young Athenian presented himself at the gate. Nothing could be warmer than the welcome he gave his visitor.

"Now Zeus and Athene be thanked for this," he cried as he wrung the young man's hand. "That you had come back safely from the country of the Great King I heard. Your friend Xenophon told me so much in a letter that I had from him about a year ago. Then I heard from him that you were dangerously ill. After that all was a blank, and I feared the worst. But why not a word all this time?"

"Pardon me, my dear friend, I think I may say that it was not my fault. For months I was simply too ill to write. When I came back to Trapezus, the winter had begun, and there were no more ships sailing westward. I should have written when communications were opened again, but I was always in hopes of being allowed by the physician to start, and I had a fancy for bringing my own news. And how are you?"

"I am well enough," replied Hippocles, "but we have been passing through times bad enough to shorten any man's life. I don't speak of trade. There have been troubles there, but when one has ventures all over the world, it does not matter very much as far as profits are concerned, if things do not go right at one place or another. It has been the state of home affairs that has been the heaviest burden to bear. I thought we had touched the bottom when the city had to surrender to Lysander. But it was not so, and I might have known better. The Spartans, of course, upset the democracy."

"Well," interrupted Callias, "I should have thought that that would not have been by any means an altogether unmixed evil."

"Yes," said Hippocles, "and there have been times when I have been ready to think the same. But wait till you see an oligarchy in power, really in power, I mean, not with a possible appeal to the people, and so a chance of having to answer for themselves before them, but with a strong foreign garrison behind them. We had that state of things in Athens for more than half a year. One might almost say that it was like a city taken by storm. No man's life was safe unless he was willing to do the bidding of the Tyrants—the 'Thirty Tyrants' was the nickname of the men, that were in power in those days. Who would have thought that Theramenes would ever have been regretted by honest men? Yet it was so. He thought his colleagues were going too far, and opposed them. He was carrying the Senate with him, for many besides him were beginning to feel uncomfortable; so they murdered him. The Thirty had, you must know, a sort of sham general assembly—three thousand citizens picked out of the whole number as holding strong oligarchical opinions. Amongst the laws that they had made one was that none of these Three Thousand were to be condemned without a vote of the Senate. The name of Theramenes was, of course, on the list, and, as he had a majority of the Senate with him, he seemed safe. Well what did Critias, who was the leader of the violent party, do? He filled the outer circle of the Senate house with armed men, the Senate, you must understand, sitting in the middle surrounded by them. Then he got up and said, 'A good president, when he sees the body over which he presides about to be duped, does not suffer them to follow their own counsel. Theramenes has duped you, and I and these men here will not suffer one who is the enemy of his country to do so any longer. I have therefore struck his name off the list of the Three Thousand. This leaves me and my colleagues free to deal with him without your assent.' The Senate murmured, but dared do nothing more. The officers came and dragged the man from the altar to which he was clinging. An hour afterwards he had drunk the hemlock. The gods below be propitious to him, for great as were his misdeeds he died in a good cause and as a brave man should die. Things have not been so bad since the Thirty were upset, but there is a sad story to tell you."

Callias paused awhile. At last he screwed up his courage to put a question which he had both longed and feared to put ever since he had set foot in the house.

"And your daughter, is she well?"

"Yes, she is well."

"And still with you?"

"Yes, she is at home," briefly answered the father.

Hermione had in fact, refused several offers which every one else had thought highly eligible. Hippocles, though by no means anxious to lose a daughter who was not only a companion but a counsellor, was growing anxious at what appeared her manifest determination to remain single. He would have dearly liked to have a son-in-law who would be able to take up in time the burden of his huge business, a burden which he began to feel already somewhat heavy for his strength. Callias would have been entirely to his heart, but he had accepted, though not without great reluctance, his daughter's views on this subject. That she should deny the young Athenian's suit, and yet for his sake dismiss all other suitors—and this he began to suspect to be the fact—seemed to his practical mind a quite unreasonable course of action. When a distant kinsman from Italy, a handsome youth of gracious manners and of unexceptionable character, with even a tincture of culture, was emphatically refused, Hippocles ventured a remonstrance. Its reception was such that he resolved never under any circumstances to repeat it. Hermione had been always the most obedient of daughters, but this roused her to open rebellion. "Father," she said, "in this matter I am and must be a freeborn Italian. A Greek father can arrange a marriage for his daughter, but you must not think of it. I shall give myself as my mother gave herself before me—if I could find one as worthy as she did," and she caught her father's hand and kissed it, breaking at the same time into a passion of tears. "Forgive me," she went on in a broken voice, "for setting up myself against you; but if you love me, never speak on this subject again." And her father resolved that he never would.

The young Athenian felt a glow of renewed hope pass through him at the father's reply, studiously brief and cold as it was. Anyhow Hermione was not married. What could ever occur to change her purpose he did not care to speculate. Nevertheless, as long as she did not belong to another, he need not despair.

"You will dine with me of course," said Hippocles to his visitor, "by good luck I have invited Xenophon. Doubtless that is he," he went on, as a knock was heard at the door.

A few moments afterwards a slave introduced Xenophon; and before the two friends had finished their greetings it was announced that dinner had been served.

Hermione was not present at the meal, nor did her father make any excuse for her absence. The presence of any guest not belonging to the regular family circle, was sufficient to account for it; and Callias, though he hoped against hope to see her, could not but acknowledge to himself that a meeting would have been highly embarrassing.

Conversation did not flag during the meal. When it was finished, the host excused himself on the score of having some business matters on hand which did not brook delay; and Xenophon and Callias were left to talk over each other's adventures.

When Callias had told the story with which my readers are already acquainted, Xenophon proceeded to give him a brief outline of his fortunes since they had parted.

"Well, my dear Callias," he said, "you did not lose much by not being with us. While we were in danger, we stuck fairly together, though there were always cowardly and selfish fellows who thought, not of the general welfare, but only of their own skins or their own pockets. But when we were safe at the coast and among friends, then there arose endless division. And, indeed, I must allow that the situation of the army was very trying. Here were thousands of men who lived by their pay, and there was no paymaster. I had a scheme of my own which would really have kept us together. If it could have been carried out, the gathering of the Ten Thousand, even though it had failed of its first object, would not have been altogether in vain. I wanted to found a new Greek colony. We might have taken Pharis or some other city of the barbarians; and if only half of my comrades had been willing to stay, we might have made a rich and powerful place of it before long. But it was not to be. Perhaps I was not worthy of being the founder of such a colony; anyhow the scheme came to nothing. I will tell you how it was. You remember Silanus, the soothsayer. I never trusted the man. He was quite capable of garbling signs to suit his own advantage. However I could not help going to him on this occasion, as he was the chief of his craft. So I said, 'Offer sacrifices and determine the omens concerning this scheme of a new colony.' Now Silanus was about the only man who had any money in his pocket. Cyrus had given him three thousand darics, for a prophecy that had come true, and he wanted to get home with the spoil. So he was altogether against the idea of a colony. When he had sacrificed he could not say that the omens were altogether against the scheme; for I knew nearly as much about the matter as he did. What he did, say was that there were indications of a conspiracy against me. And he took good care to make them true, for he spread about reports of what I was going to do that turned the army against me. So the scheme came to nothing.

"This did one good thing, however, for it helped us on our way home. Trapezus and the other colonies in the east of the Euxine did not relish the idea of a new Greek city which might turn out to be a formidable rival. So they offered to transport the army to the Hellespont and to furnish pay from the first new moon after the departure. This seemed a good offer, and I recommended the soldiers to close with it, and said that I gave up my scheme. 'Only,' I said, 'let us all keep together and let anyone who leaves us be counted a malefactor.' For I did not choose that my friend the soothsayer should get the better of it.

"Well, we set sail; our first halt was at Sinope, which is roughly speaking, about halfway between Trapezus and Byzantium. Then the army wanted to make me commander-in-chief. Happily the omen was against it, and I was able to decline. We started again, and got to Heraclea. The people were very hospitable; but some scoundrels in the army wanted to lay a contribution upon the city. Chirisophus, the Spartan—I should have told you that on my refusal the army gave him the chief command—refused to have anything to do with such an abominable business, and I backed him up. Of course the city shut its gates against us, and we got nothing at all. After this the army broke up into three. One of the divisions, made up of Arcadians and Achæans, the most unscrupulous and greedy of the whole number, got into serious trouble when they were trying to plunder the country, and I had to rescue them, for two thousand men had stuck to me when the army was thus broken up. Then the other division under Chirisophus were nearly as badly off, and I had to get them out of a scrape. After this they came together again, and it was made a matter of death for anyone to propose a separation.

"It was well we did, for everyone seemed bent on treating us as villanously as possible. Would you believe that the Spartan governor of Byzantium actually sold as slaves four hundred soldiers who had found their way into the city? It is true that they were stragglers and had no business there; but it was an abominable act. At last, one Seuthes, who had been chief of the Odrysians, and deposed by a usurper, offered to take the whole army into his pay, if we would help him to recover his dominions. Every man was to receive a stater per month, the captains twice, and the generals four times as much. Also he offered land, oxen to plough it with, and a city with walls. In fact the colony scheme seemed likely to be carried out after all. To me he was very munificent in his promises. I was to have one of his daughters to wife and a city of my own."

"What did you say to that?" said Callias.

"Well, the only one of these things that Seuthes really had in his possession was the daughter. I saw the young lady, handsome I will allow, and tall; but, oh, such a savage! As for the money, and the land, and the oxen, and the towns, walled and unwalled, we had to get them for him and then have our portion back. However, it seemed to me the best thing for the army to do, and I advised the men to that effect, and they agreed, only it was provided that we were never to march more than seven days' journey from the seacoast. We had all had enough of marches up the country. Then Seuthes gave us a feast by way of striking the bargain.

"It was a wonderful scene, and some day I must tell you all about it. But I must own that for a time I felt as uncomfortable as ever I did in my life. After dinner when the bowl had passed round two or three times, in came a Thracian leading a white horse. He took the bowl from the cup-bearer, and said, 'Here is a health to thee, King Seuthes. Let me give you this horse. Mounted on him thou shalt take whom thou wilt, and when thou retirest from the battle thou shalt dread no pursuer.' Then another gave a slave, and another some robes for the Queen, and a fourth a silver saucer and a finely embroidered carpet. All the while I was sitting in an agony, for I was in the place of honor, and had nothing to offer. However 'our Lady of Athens,' who is the inspirer of clever devices, and, it may be Father Bacchus also, for I had drained two or three cups, helped me out of my difficulty. When the cup-bearer handed me the goblet, I rose and said, 'King Seuthes, I present you with myself and these my trusty comrades. With their help you will recover the lands that were your forefathers' and gain many new lands with them. Nor shall you win lands only, but horses many, and men many, and fair women also.' Up got the King, at this, and we drained the cup together.

"Seuthes was not going to let the grass grow under his feet. When we left the banqueting tent—this was at sunset because we wanted to set the guards about our camp—the King, who, for all his potations, was as sober as a water-drinker, sent for the generals and said, 'My neighbors have not yet heard of this alliance of ours. Let us go and take them by surprise.' And so we did. We went that night and brought back booty enough to pay for our day's pay, I warrant you.

"Well, we went on fighting for Seuthes for two months till we had conquered the whole countryside for him. Then the conquered tribes flocked to him—give a Thracian plenty to eat and drink and good pay and he will fight in any quarrel—till he did not want any more. That perhaps was not to be wondered at, but, like the mean hound that he was, he tried to get out of paying us.

"Just at this moment when I thought that we should have to settle with the sword for judge, Sparta declared war against the Persians and wanted all the men she could get. So Thimbron, their commander-in-chief, came over and engaged the men at the same rate of pay that Seuthes was giving or rather promising. We never got anything but a wretched fragment from the King.

"By this time I had had about enough of campaigning of this fashion. Not a drachma had I made. In fact I was poorer than when I set out. I had even to sell my favorite horse, but Thimbron bought it back for me.

"Just at the last I had a stroke of luck. That is another story I must tell you some day. But fortunately we took prisoners a Persian noble with his wife and children, his horses and cattle and all that he had. The next day I left the army, but before I went they gave me the pick of the beasts of all kinds. It was a handsome present, I can tell you.

"So, on the whole," said Callias, "you came pretty well out of the business. You returned at least not poorer than you went, you have won for yourself a name which those who come after us will not, I take it, forget, and you helped, at least, to save the lives of many Greeks from perishing shamefully by the hands of the barbarians. Are you not content?"

"Yes," replied Xenophon, "all the more content on account of one thing you have not mentioned. For this indeed pleases me in the matter that we Greeks have now found a way by which we may both go to the capital of the Persians and return therefrom. Verily, I sometimes wish we had not been so eager to retreat, but had stopped and made ourselves masters of the country of our enemies. Perhaps we were not strong enough; but, if I can see so far into the future, some one will do this hereafter, and Greece will be avenged of all that she has suffered at the hands of the barbarians."

"The Master will be glad," Callias went on after a pause. The "Master" of course was Socrates. Xenophon looked at the young man with some surprise.

"You seem very confident on this point. He indeed was always somewhat doubtful, and certainly there are great difficulties when you come to look into it a little more closely."

"I really do not know what you mean," answered Callias; "you have seen him I suppose, for you have been in Athens several days and know what he thinks."

For a few moments Xenophon stared at the speaker in utter perplexity. Then a light broke in upon him. "what," he cried, "you do not know? You have not heard?

"Know what? Have heard what? You speak in riddles."

"That he is dead."

The young man covered his face with his hands. After a few minutes he recovered calmness enough to speak. "No, indeed, I did not know it. I never thought of such a thing. He seemed so full of life and vigor. Yet he must have been an old man, not far from seventy I suppose, for he was more than forty at Delium. Tell me of what did he die?"

"They killed him."

"Killed him! Who killed him?"

"The people of Athens."