Alfred John Church.

Callias. A tale of the fall of Athens online

. (page 12 of 22)
Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 12 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

is my villa, and at Marathon there is a little house of which I can get
the use, and which will serve us if we do not mind roughing it a little.
We can return the next day. Only we must take provisions, for except
such fish as we may catch in the Marathon stream, and possibly, some
goats' milk, if all the goats have not been eaten up, we shall have
nothing but what we bring. That must be your care, Hermione."

"Trust me, father," cried the girl joyously. "If you have gone through
four months' famine, depend upon it you shall not be starved now."

The weather on the following day was all that could be desired. A warm
and gentle west wind was blowing. This served them very well as they
sailed southward to Sunium. In such good time did they reach the
promontory, that by unanimous vote they agreed to finish their journey
that same day. Sailing northward was as easy as sailing southward, and
the sun was still an hour from setting when they reached the northern
end of the plain, having travelled a distance of upwards of sixty miles.
This was about four times as far as they would have had to go, had they
made the journey by land. No one, however, regretted having followed
Hippocles' suggestion. The voyage was indeed as delightful an excursion
as could have been devised. The deep blue sky overhead, the sea,
borrowing from the heavens a color as intense, and only touched here and
there with a speck of white where a little wave swelled and broke, sea
birds now flying high in the air, now darting for their prey into the
waters, the white cliffs tipped with the fresh green of spring that
framed the coast line, made a picture that the party intensely enjoyed,
although they did not put their enjoyment into words with the fluency
and ease which would have come readily to a modern. The ancients loved
nature, but, as a rule, they felt this love much more than they
expressed it.

The little house at Marathon was one that had escaped destruction by
having been occupied by a Spartan officer. It was bare indeed of
furniture, but it was habitable; and the party had brought with them
the few things that were absolutely necessary, far fewer, we must
remember, than what we now consider to be indispensable. Supper was felt
by all to be a most enjoyable meal. The room in which they sat was bare,
for, of course, the luxurious couches on which it was the fashion to
recline were absent. There was not even a table, and there was but one
broken chair, which was naturally resigned to Hermione. But it was
lightened with a cheerful fire, which was not unwelcome after seven or
eight hours' exposure to a high wind. Happily the late occupant had left
a store of logs, which had been cut on the slopes of Pentelicus in the
previous autumn, and which now blazed up most cheerfully. The meal was
declared by both Hippocles and Callias to be good enough for a
State-banquet in the Prytaneum. One of the sailors had caught a
basketful of fish in the stream, and these Hermione had cooked with her
own hands. An Athenian who had plenty of fish, seldom wanted anything in
the way of flesh, and the provisions which Hermione, not liking to trust
to the skill or the luck of the anglers had brought with her, were not
touched. A cold maize pudding, some of the famous Attic figs, which had
been preserved through the winter, bread with honey from Hymettus, and
dried grapes completed the repast. Some of the goats, it turned out, had
survived, and a jug of their milk was forthcoming for Hermione. The two
men had a flask of wine which they largely diluted with water. When,
after the libation, Hippocles proposed the toast of the evening, as, in
consideration of the locality it might fairly be called, "To the memory
of the Heroes of Marathon," Hermione honored it by putting her lips to
the cup. It was the first time that wine had ever passed them, but she
could not refuse this tribute to the chief glory of the city of her

Hermione, fatigued, it may be said, with all the delights of the day,
retired early to rest. Soon after she had gone Callias took the
opportunity of opening his heart to his companion on a subject which had
long occupied his thoughts.

"We have peace at last," he said, "not such a peace as I had ever hoped
for, but still better than the utter ruin which lately I had begun to
fear. A good citizen may now begin to think of himself and of his own
happiness. You, sir, can hardly have failed to observe why I have begun
to look for that happiness. If your daughter will only consent to share
my life, I feel that I shall have to ask the gods for nothing more. She
is free as far as I know. And me you have known from my childhood. You
were my father's friend and since he died you have stood in his place.
Can you give her to me?"

Hippocles caught his young companion's hand, and gave it a hearty grasp.

"I will not pretend," he said, "not to have observed something of what
you say; nor will I deny that I have observed it with pleasure. What
father would not be glad if Callias, the son of Hipponicus, loved his
daughter? Of Hermione's feelings I say nothing, indeed I know nothing,
save that she has regarded you since childhood with a strong affection,
and that as you say she is free. But there are facts which neither you
nor I can forget; and the chief of them is this, that while you are
Callias, son of Hipponicus, an Eupatrid of the Eupatrids,[57] I am
Hippocles, the Alien. I am well-born in my own country, but that is
nothing here. I am wealthy - so wealthy that I care not a single drachma
whether my future son-in-law has a thousand talents for his patrimony or
one. I am, I hope and believe, not without honor in the city of my
adoption. But I am an alien, my child is an alien. Whether you have
thought of all that this means I know not - love is apt to hide these
difficulties from a man's eyes - but the fact must be faced; you and my
daughter must face it. You speak of my giving her to you. But, if
Hermione is a Greek, she is also an Italian. The Italian women choose
for themselves. I could not if I would constrain her will. She must
decide, and she must answer."

"There is nothing that I should desire better. But you do not tell me,
sir, what you yourself wish. Have I your consent and your good wishes?"

"Yes," said Hippocles, "you have. I have thought over the difficulties,
for I foresaw that you would some day speak to me on this subject. As
far as I am concerned I am ready to waive them. But then, they do not
concern me in the first place."

The two men sat in silence for some time after this conversation had
passed between them, buried each of them in his own thoughts. At last
Hippocles rose from his seat.

"It is time to sleep," he said; "I will speak to my daughter to-morrow;
you shall not want my good word, but I can do nothing more. You must
speak to her yourself. That is, I think, what few fathers in Greece
would tell a suitor to do. But then Hermione is not as other maidens."

Callias passed a restless night, and was glad, to make his way into the
open air when the first streaks of dawn appeared on the Euboean hills,
which were in full view from the house. He shrank from meeting Hermione
till he could meet her alone, and ask the momentous question which was
occupying his whole mind. Partly to employ the time, partly to banish
thought, if it might be done by severe bodily exercise, he started to
climb the height of Pentelicus, which rose on the southern side of the
Marathonian plain. The excursion occupied him the whole morning. On his
way back he traversed the hills which skirted the western side of the
plain, and, following what was evidently a well-beaten track, came at
last in view of the mound under which reposed the Athenian dead who had
fallen in that great battle. His quick eye soon perceived a familiar
figure, conspicuous in its white garments among the monuments which
stood on the top of the mound. Hippocles had fulfilled his promise, and
had said all that he could to Hermione in favor of her suitor. He had
dwelt upon his noble birth, the reputation as a soldier which he had
already won, his culture and taste for philosophy, and his blameless
life. "As for wealth," he ended by saying, "that is of little account
where my daughter is concerned. Yet a man should be independent of his
wife, and I may tell you as one who knows - and I have had charge of his
property for some years past - that Callias is one of the richest men in
Athens. That will not weigh with you I know, but I would have you know
all the circumstances."

Hermione said nothing; she took her father's hand and kissed it. A tear
dropped on it as she raised it to her lips. As she turned away,
Hippocles noticed that she was shaken by a sob.

An instinct in the girl's heart told her that it was on the mound that
her lover would speak to her, and it was here that she wished to give
her answer to him. It was not the first time that she had visited it.
Indeed there was not a woman, and not many men in Athens who knew so
much about its records.

On the top of this tumulus, which still rises thirty feet above the
surrounding plain, and which was then, it is probable, considerably
higher, there stood in those days eleven stone columns inscribed with
the names of those who had fallen in the great battle. Each of the ten
Athenian tribes had its own peculiar column, while the eleventh
commemorated the gallant men of Plataea, Plataea, which alone among the
cities of Greece, had sent her sons on that day to stand shoulder to
shoulder with the soldiers of Athens.

Hermione was apparently engrossed in the task of deciphering the names,
now grown somewhat obliterated by time, which were engraved on one of
the columns. So intent was she on this occupation that she did not
notice the young man's approach. Turning suddenly round, she faced him.
At that moment, though she had expected him to come, his actual coming
was a surprise, and the hot blood crimsoned her face and neck.

"Hermione," he said, "I have spoken to your father, and he bids me speak
to you. You can hardly have failed to read my heart, and if I have not
spoken to you before, it has been because I have not presumed. You know
all that needs be known about me, and though I do not think myself
worthy of you, I need not be ashamed of my fathers or of myself."

The brilliant color had faded from the girl's cheek, her hand trembled,
her bosom heaved. Twice she opened her lips; twice the voice seemed to
fail her. At last she spoke.

"You speak of your fathers. You are, I think, of the tribe of Pandion?"

"I am," said Callias.

"And this is the column of their tribe, and this" - she pointed as she
spoke - "the name of an ancestor of yours?"

"Yes," replied the young man, "this Hipponicus whose name you see
engraved here was my great grandfather."

"He had been Archon at Athens the year before the great battle. You
see," she added with a faint smile, "I know something of your family

"It was so."

"And his son, a Callias like yourself, was Archon general many
times - held, in fact, every honor that Athens could bestow?"

"Yes, there was no more distinguished man in the city than he."

"And your father; he died, I think I have heard, in early manhood; but
he was already far advanced in the career of honor?"

"Doubtless had he lived he would not have been inferior in distinction
to my grandfather."

"And you have started well in the same course? I need not ask you that.
We all know it better, perhaps, than you know it yourself, and we are
proud of it. My dear brother," the girl's voice which hitherto had been
clear and even commanding in its tones, faltered at the mention of the
dead, "my dear brother used to say that there was nothing that you might
not hope for, nothing to which you might not rise."

"You speak too well of me; but I hope that I am not altogether unworthy
of my ancestors."

The girl paused for a while. She seemed unable to utter what she had
next to say. The flush mounted again to her cheek, and she stood silent
and with downcast eyes.

Meanwhile the young man stood in utter perplexity. He had heard nothing
from the girl's lips but what might have made any man proud to hear. She
knew, as she had said, the history of his race, and she believed him to
be not unworthy of it. Yet this was not the way in which he had hoped to
hear her speak. He was conscious that there was something behind that
did not promise well for his hopes.

At last she went on. Her voice was low but distinct, her eyes were still
bent on the ground.

"And what your fathers have been in Athens, what you hope to be
yourself, you would have your son to be after you?"

"Surely," he answered without thinking of what he was admitting.

"Could it be so if I - " she altered the phrase - "if a woman not of
Athenian blood were his mother?"

He was struck dumb. So this was the end she had before her when she
enumerated the honors and distinctions of his race.

"Mind," she said, "I do not say that my race is unworthy of yours. I am
not ashamed of my ancestors. They were chiefs; they were good men. I am
proud to be their daughter. But here in Athens their goodness and their
nobility goes for nothing. I am Hermione, the daughter of Hippocles, the
Alien. Marrying me you shut out, not perhaps yourself, but your children
from the career which is their inheritance. I am too proud," - and here
the girl dropped her voice to a whisper, - "and I love you too well for

"What is my career to your love?" cried the young man passionately; "I
am ready to give up country and all for that."

"That," said Hermione, "is the only unworthy thing that I ever heard you
say. Your better thoughts will make you withdraw it. Athens has fallen;
the gods know that it has wrung my heart to see it. But she needs all
the more such sons as you are. She has little now to offer. It is a
thankless office, perhaps, to command her fleets and armies. All the
more honor to those who cling to her still and cherish her still. You
must not leave her or betray her. I should think foul shame of myself if
I tempted you for a moment to waver in your loyalty to her. I may not
love you - that the gods have forbidden me - but you will let me be proud
of you."

The young man turned away. The final word, he knew, had been spoken.
This resolution was not to be shaken by indignant reproaches or by
tender pleadings. All that remained was to forget, if that was possible.
He would not see Hippocles or his daughter again till the wound of this
bitter disappointment had had time to heal. Returning to the house,
which he found empty but for a single attendant, he snatched a hasty
meal, and then set out to return over-land to Athens.


[57] The class name of the Athenian nobility.



Three days after the events recorded in the last chapter - it took so
much time for the young man to screw up his courage to the
point - Callias made his way to the ship-yard of Hippocles at an hour
when he knew that he would be pretty certain to find the master there.
He was not disappointed, nor could he help being touched by the warm
sympathy with which he was received.

"Ah! my dear friend," cried the merchant, "this has been a great
disappointment to me. I must own that I had my fears. I know something,
you see, of my daughter's temper. I knew that she had always chafed
under our disabilities. Things that have ceased to trouble me - and I
must own that they never troubled me much - are grievous to her. You see
that I have a power of my own which is quite enough to satisfy any
reasonable man. I can't speak or vote in your assembly, but I have a
voice, if I choose to use it, in your policy. She knows very little
about this, and would not appreciate it if she did. Besides it would not
avail her. No; she feels herself an inferior here, and it galls her; yet
that is scarcely the way to put it, for she was thinking much more of
you than of herself. I believe that she loves you - she has not confided
in me, you must understand, but I guess as much - and she would sooner
cut off her right hand than injure you or yours. And then her pride
comes in also. 'Am I, daughter of kings as I am,' she says to herself,
'am I to be one to bring humiliation into an ancient house?' Her
mother's forefathers would be called barbarians here, but they were
kings and heroes for all that. And that is the bitterness of it to her:
to feel herself your equal in birth, and yet to know that to marry you
would be to drag you down."

"I understand," said Callias, "it is noble; but just now my heart rebels
very loudly against it. Let us say no more. I have come to ask you what
you would advise. For the present I cannot stay at Athens."

"That," said Hippocles, "is exactly what I wanted to talk to you about;
if you had not come to-day I should have sought for you. You wish to
leave Athens, you say. It is well, for it would not be safe for you to
stay. We shall have a bad time in Athens for the next few months,
perhaps for longer. The exiles have come back full of rage and thirsting
for revenge. And then there is Theramenes; he is the man you have to
fear. He has the murder of the generals on his soul. That, perhaps,
would not trouble him much but he fears all who might be disposed to
call him to account for it. He knows that you were the kinsman and dear
friend of Diomedon, and he will take the first opportunity that may
occur of doing you a mischief. And opportunities will not be wanting. I
suspect that for some time to come, with the Oligarchs in power and the
Lacedaemonians to back them up, laws and constitutional forms will not
go for much in Athens."

"And you advise me to go?" said Callias.

"Certainly there is nothing to keep you. For the present there is no
career for you here. I don't despair of Athens; but for some time to
come she will have a very humble part to play."

"Have you anything to suggest?"

"I have been thinking over it for two or three days. Many things have
occurred to me, but nothing so good as was suggested by a letter which I
received this morning. It came from a merchant in Rhodes with whom I
have had dealings for some years past. My correspondent asks for a large
advance in money for a commercial speculation which he says promises
large profits. I have always found the man honest; in fact the outcomes
of my dealings with him in the past have been quite satisfactory. But
this new venture that he proposes is a very large one indeed. I like
what he tells me of it. It opens up quite a new field of enterprise; and
new fields, I need hardly tell you, have a great charm for a man in my
position. The ordinary routine of commerce does not interest me very
much; but something new is very attractive. Now I want you to go to
Rhodes for me. Make all the enquiries you can about the character and
standing of my correspondent, whom, curiously enough, I have never seen.
I will give you introductions to those who will put you in the way of
hearing all that is to be heard. If the man's credit is shaky at all,
then I shall know that this proposition of his is a desperate venture.
If all is sound, I shall feel pretty sure that he has got hold of a
really good thing."

"I know very little of such matters," said the young Callias after a

"I do not ask you to go that you may judge of this particular
enterprise; I simply want you to find out what people are saying about
Diagoras - that is my correspondent's name; you will be simply an
Athenian gentleman on his travels. Keep your ears open and you will be
sure to hear something."

"Well," said Callias, "I will do my best; but don't expect too much."

"Can you start to-morrow?"

"Yes, if you think it necessary."

"Well, my affair is not urgent for some days, at least. But for
yourself, I fancy you cannot get out of the way too soon. I don't think
that Theramenes and his friends will stick much at forms and ceremonies.
I own that I shall feel much happier when there are two or three hundred
miles of sea between you and them. Be here an hour after sunset
to-morrow. By that time I shall have arranged for your passage and got
ready your letters of introduction and the rest of it."

"Well," said the young man to himself as he went to make his
preparations for departure, "this, it must be confessed, is a little
hard on me. Hermione says, 'Stop in Athens and stick to your career';
her father says, 'If you stop in Athens you are as good as a dead man,
and your career will be cut short by the hemlock cup.' I have to give up
my love for my career and then give up my career for my life."

It is needless to relate the incidents of my hero's voyage to Rhodes or
of his stay on that island. His special mission he was able to
accomplish easily enough. Diagoras' speculation was, as he soon found
out, the last resource of an embarrassed man; and the loan for which he
asked would be a risk too great for any prudent person to undertake. The
letter in which he communicated what he had heard to Hippocles was
crossed by one from Athens. From this he learned that the political
anticipations of the merchant had been more than fulfilled. The
oligarchical revolution had been carried on with the most outrageous
violence. On the very day on which he had left Athens, an officer of the
government had come with an order for his arrest.

All this was interesting; still more so was a brief communication from
Alcibiades which the merchant enclosed. It ran thus:

"Alcibiades to Callias son of Hipponicus, greeting. Great things are
possible now to the bold of whom I know you to be one. More I do not
say, but come to me as soon as you can. Farewell."

The merchant had added a postscript. "I leave this for your
consideration. Alcibiades has a certain knack of success. But the risk
will be great."

"What is risk to me?" said Callias, "I can't spend my life idling here."

The next day he left the island, taking his passage in a merchant ship
which, by great good luck was just starting for Smyrna. Smyrna was
reached without any mishap. Four days afterwards, he started with a
guide for the little village in Phrygia from which Alcibiades had dated
his note. Halting at noon on the first day's journey to rest their
horses, they were accosted by a miserable looking wayfarer, who begged
for some scraps of food, declaring that he had not broken his fast for
four and twenty hours. Something in the man's voice and face struck
Callias as familiar, and he puzzled in vain for a solution of the
mystery, while the stranger sat eagerly devouring the meal with which he
had been furnished.

"Here," said Callias, when the man had finished his repast and was
thanking him, "here is something to help you along till you can find
friends or employment." And he gave him four or five silver pieces.

It was the first time he had spoken in the fugitive's hearing, and the
man, who, now that his ravenous hunger was appeased, had leisure to
notice other things, started at the sound of his voice. He, on his part,
seemed to recognize something.

"Many thanks, sir," he said; "the gods pay you back ten-fold. But
surely," he went on, "I have seen you before. Ah! now I remember. You
are Callias the son of Hipponicus, and you were my master's guest in

A light flashed on the young Athenian's mind. The man had been one of
Alcibiades' attendants in his Thracian castle.

"Ah! I remember," he cried, "and your master was Alcibiades. But what do
you here? How does he fare?"

The man burst into tears. "Ah, sir, he is dead, cruelly killed by those
villains of Spartans. He was the very best of masters. I never had a
rough word from him. We all loved him."

"Tell me," said Callias, "how it happened. I was on my way to him," and
he read to the man the brief note that had been forwarded to him at

"Yes, I understand. I know when that was written. He had great hopes of
being able to do something. I did not rightly understand what it was,
but the common talk among us who were of his household was that he was
going to the Great King to persuade him that the best thing that he
could do would be to set Athens on her feet again to help him against
Sparta. Oh! he was a wonderful man to persuade, was my master. Nobody
could help being taken by him."

"But tell me the story," said the young man.

"Well, it happened in this way. My master had gone up to see
Pharnabazus, the Satrap, who had promised to aid him on his way up to
Susa to see the Great King. There were six of us with him; his
secretary, myself and four slaves. There was Timandra, also, whom he

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 12 of 22)