Copyright
Alfred John Church.

Callias. A tale of the fall of Athens online

. (page 3 of 22)
Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 3 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


been impossible. Finally, to complete my account of the household,
Hermione had for her maid a girl about a year older than herself. She
too had come into the family along with Milanion and Manto. Demochares
had bought her at the sale of the prisoners taken by the Athenians when
a little Sicilian town was captured. She was then a singularly pretty
child about seven years old, and Demochares had meant her to be a
playfellow or plaything, as the case might be, of a daughter of his own
of about the same age. She was of mixed race; her mother was a Sicanian,
that is, one of the so-called aboriginal inhabitants of Sicily, her
father a Carthaginian trader. She was now grown up into a handsome
maiden, who with her raven-black hair, dark piercing eyes, and deep
brunette complexion, made a remarkable contrast to the fair beauty of
her mistress.

When Callias reached the house the hour was late, later than etiquette
allowed for a visit, except from an intimate friend, or on a matter of
urgent business. His business, however, was urgent, and he did not
hesitate to knock, that is to strike the door sharply with a brass ring
which was attached to it by a staple. The day-porter had gone home for
the night, and the door was opened by the young slave mentioned above.
He explained that his master was just about to sit down to his evening
meal. "Take him my name," said Callias, "and say that I come from the
magistrates on an important matter of business." The lad invited him to
enter, and to take a seat in a small chamber which looked upon the
central court of the andronitis, a grass plot, bordered on all sides by
myrtle and orange. In a few minutes he returned, and invited the visitor
to follow him. Callias crossed the court and passed through the door
which led into the women's apartment. Hippocles, it should be said, was
accustomed to see visitors on business in the front or men's portion of
the dwelling, but spent his leisure time in the rooms assigned to his
daughter. The two had just taken their places at the table, Hippocles
reclining on a couch, Hermione sitting on a chair by his right hand, so
that his face was turned towards her.[13] The steward had placed the
first dish on the table, and was standing in front, with Hippocles'
personal attendant behind him. The latter at a sign from his master,
prepared a place for the new-comer.

Hippocles saluted his guest in a most friendly fashion, and Hermione
gave him her hand with a charming smile, though the moment afterwards
tears gathered in her eyes, when she remembered the last occasion on
which they had met.

[Illustration: Plan of a large Grecian House, probably more pretentious
than the House of Hippocles.

1. Main Door.
2. Entrance Passage.
3. Central Court of the Men's part of the house (_Andronitis_).
4. 4. 4. Various Rooms of the _Andronitis_.
5. Passage connecting the _Andronitis_ with the _Gynæconitis_
(Women's Apartments).
6. Court of the _Gynæconitis_.
7. 7. 7. Various rooms of the _Gynæconitis_.
8. The Prostas - a hall opening from 6.
9. 9. Apartments probably used as a family bedroom and sitting room.
10. 10. Rooms for looms and woolen manufacture.]

"If the business will wait for half-an-hour," said the host, "postpone
it for so long. I have had a long day's work, and shall be scarcely
myself till I have eaten. And you - doubtless you have dined before this;
but you will take a cup with us."

As a matter of fact Callias had not dined, though in the excitement of
the day's business he had almost forgotten food. A hasty meal snatched
on board the trireme which had brought him to Athens had been his only
refreshment since the morning.

"Nay, sir, but I have not dined; unless you call some five or six dried
anchovies and a hunk of barley bread, washed down with some very sharp
Hymettus, a dinner; and that was rather before noon than after it."

The meal was simple. It consisted of some fresh anchovies, a piece of
roast pork, a hare brought from Euboea, for Attica swept as it had
been again and again by hostile armies, had almost ceased to supply this
favorite food, and a pudding of wheat flour, seasoned with spices. This
last had been made by Hermione herself. The rest of the dinner had been
cooked by a man who came in daily for the purpose. When the viands had
been cleared away, Hippocles proposed the usual toast, "To our Good
Fortune," the toast not being drank, but honored by pouring some drops
from the goblet. A second libation followed, this time to "Athene the
Keeper of the City." The host then pledged his guest in a cup of Chian
wine. His daughter followed the rule of the best Grecian families, and
drank no wine.

"We can dispense, I think, with these," he said, when the steward was
about to put some apples, nuts and olives on the table.

"Just so," replied his guest, "and this excellent cup of Chian will be
all the wine that I shall want."

"Now then for business," said Hippocles. "Let us hope that the city will
pardon us for postponing it so long. But we must eat. Shall my daughter
leave us? For my part, I find her a very Athene for counsel."

"As you will, sir," replied Callias, "I have nothing to say but what all
may know, and indeed will know before a day is past."

The young man then proceeded to tell the story with which my readers are
already acquainted. The question was briefly this: How was Conon to be
told that relief was coming?

"I see," said Hippocles, "that he must be told. He is a brave fellow,
and a good general, too, though perhaps a little rash. But he must make
terms for himself and his men, unless he has a project of relief. He
would not be doing his duty to the state if he did not. But if he
capitulates before the relief comes - how many ships has he?"

"Forty," said Callias.

"And we can have a hundred, or possibly, a hundred and ten here, by
straining every nerve. The Spartans have a hundred and forty, I think."

"A few may have been disabled in the battle; but it would not be safe to
reckon on less, for very likely others have been dropping in since
then."

"Then Conon's party will turn the scale, and they will be better manned,
I take it, than any that we shall be able to send out from here. They
must not be lost to us. If they are, we shall do better not to send out
the fleet at all, but to stand on our defence."

"Is the _Skylark_ in harbor now?" asked Callias.

My readers must know that the _Skylark_ was Hippocles' fast sailing
yacht.

"Yes," was the reply, "she is in harbor and very much at the service of
the state."

"Trust me with her," said Callias, "and I will run the blockade."

"I don't think it is possible," answered Hippocles. "I gathered from
what you said that the Spartans are inside the harbor. Now you may give
the slip to a blockading squadron when it is watching a harbor from the
outside. They always keep close to the mouth you see; and a really good
craft, smartly handled, that can sail in the eye of the wind, and does
not draw much water, has always a good chance. I'll warrant the
_Skylark_ to do it, if it is to be done. But with the blockade _inside_
the harbor, the case is different, and I must own that I don't see my
way."

"May I speak, father?" said Hermione.

"Since when have you begun to ask leave to use your tongue, my darling?"
replied her father with a smile. "You should hear her lecturing me when
we are alone," he went on, turning to his guest. "But our counsellor is
not used to speaking in an assembly."

"Would it be of any use," said the girl, "to disguise the _Skylark_, by
painting her another color and altering the cut of her rigging?"

"A good thought, my darling," replied her father, "and one that I shall
certainly make use of. Now let me think; just for the present, things do
not seem to piece themselves together."

He rose from the couch on which he had been reclining, and paced up and
down the room in profound thought. Fully half an hour had passed when he
suddenly stopped short in his walk, and turned to his daughter.

"My darling," he said, "I see that you are getting sleepy."

"Sleepy, father?" cried the girl, who indeed was as wide awake as
possible, "sleepy? what can you mean? how could I possibly feel sleepy,
when we are talking about such things?"

"Nevertheless your father says it," replied Hippocles, "and fathers are
never mistaken." And he laid his hand upon her shoulder.

Without another word Hermione rose from her chair, kissed her father,
held out her hand again to Callias, and left the room.

Hippocles waited for a few minutes, and then sat down on the couch by
Callias' side.

"You will have guessed," he said, "that I wanted the girl away. I wish
that I had never let her stay; now she will suspect something; but it
cannot be helped. Now, listen. What the girl said about disguising the
_Skylark_ set me thinking. That will be useful another time; indeed I
shall do it now. But it won't do all that we want. Disguised or not
disguised, I don't see how she is to get past the Spartan ships in
Mitylene harbor. Now we must try a bolder play. I shall disguise myself,
and go."

"You, sir," cried Callias in astonishment. "But think of the danger."

"Well," replied Hippocles, "we cannot expect to get anything really
valuable without danger. And I am something of a fatalist. What will be
will be. Now listen: I shall disguise myself as a trader of Cos. I am a
Dorian by birth, you know, and I can use the broad vowels and the lisps
to perfection I flatter myself. I say Cos,[14] because I happen to be
particularly well acquainted with its dialect. I shall go to
Callicratidas[15] and tell him my story - what the story shall be I have
not yet made up my mind, but it is not hard to impose upon a Spartan.
However leave all that to me. Go and tell the magistrates that I
undertake to tell Conon that he will be relieved. And, mind - not a word
to my daughter. I shall tell her that I am called away on important
business. Very likely she will guess something of the truth; but it
would only trouble her to tell her more."

"And the magistrates, sir?" asked Callias, "how much are they to know?"

"Nothing more, I think, than what I said, that Hippocles the Alien
undertakes to communicate with Conon. I don't doubt the good faith and
discretion of our friends; but the fewer there are in the secret of such
a plan, the better. Keep a thing in your own mind, I say. If you whisper
a secret even unto the earth, when the reed grows up it will repeat
it.[16] You will say simply that it is a matter which it is well for
the state to conceal. If I succeed, I justify myself; if not - well, I
take it, no man's anger here will concern me much. And now farewell!
Don't vex yourself about me. All will turn out well; and if not - how can
a man die better than in saving Athens. All my affairs are arranged, if
I should not return. My patron Melesippus will, of course, be my
executor, and I have ventured to join your name with his in the trust?
Have I your permission?"

Callias pressed his hand in silence.

"That is well, and now my mind is easy. And now," he went on in a
cheerful tone, "farewell again; but before you go, we must have a
libation to Hermione who for the next ten days must be my special
patron. If I come back safe, I will regild this temple from roof to
basement."

The libation was duly poured, and the vow repeated as the drops fell
upon the ground.

FOOTNOTES:

[12] The Andronitis and Gynaekonitis, as they were called.

[13] A Greek at table, after it became the fashion to recline instead of
sit (as had been the practice in the heroic ages) lay on his left side,
supporting his head by his left arm, the other arm being left free to
help himself from the dishes when they were placed before him. Women and
children always sat at table.

[14] Cos was one of the cities belonging to the Dorian Pentapolis.

[15] Callicratidas was the admiral In command of the Spartan fleet.

[16] Hippocles is alluding to a well known story. Midas deciding in
favor of Pan as a better musician than Apollo was punished by being
given the long ears of an ass. He hid them under his Thurgian cap from
all men except the barber who cut his hair. This man, oppressed with the
secret, dug a hole in the earth, whispered into it, "King Midas has
asses' ears," and filling it up again, so found relief from his burden.
But a reed grew from the spot, and as it was moved by the wind whispered
the secret to the world.




CHAPTER V.

RUNNING THE BLOCKADE.


Hippocles, who was a ship builder as well as a merchant, put all
available hands to work on the alterations which he proposed to make in
the _Skylark_. To disguise her effectually was a more difficult thing
than Hermione had imagined when she had suggested this idea. To disguise
her beyond all risk of discovery was probably impossible, a landsman
might be deceived by different colored paint, and a nautical observer,
if he did not give more than a casual glance, by an altered rigging. But
the lines of the ship would remain. These Hippocles endeavored to
conceal by a false and much broader bow which was ingeniously fitted on
to the true hull, and which made her look anything but the fast sailer
that she really was. Heavy bulwarks were substituted for the light ones
that had been a familiar feature of the _Skylark_. Altogether she was
metamorphosed in a fairly satisfactory way from a smart yacht into a
clumsy merchantman. As the venturous owner intended to time his arrival
for the night, and to do his errand before day-break, he hoped that the
disguise would save her as long as it should be wanted.

So much energy did the workmen, stimulated by their master's presence
and by his liberal promises of renumeration, throw into their work, that
by the evening of the seventh day the _Skylark_ was ready for sea in
her new dress, disguised beyond recognition, except by very skilful eyes
indeed. The dockyard had been strictly closed against all visitors while
the work was in progress, and the men had been lodged within its walls,
so that no hint of what was going on might leak out. Hippocles had paid
a daily visit to his home, and did not conceal from his daughter that he
was busy in carrying out her suggestions. So frank, indeed, was he, and
so cheerful in manner, that the girl was fairly thrown off her guard.
Not a suspicion crossed her mind, that her father was meditating a
desperate enterprise in which the chances were certainly rather against
his life than otherwise, nor did she realize the extraordinary haste
with which the work was being pressed on, though she was generally aware
that a good deal of expedition was being used. Hence she was taken by
surprise, when on the eighth day instead of her father's usual visit,
timed so that he might share her noon-day meal, a written message was
delivered to her, to the effect that her father was suddenly called away
from Athens on business of importance, and that he could not be certain
of the day of his return. The surprise almost overwhelmed her, chiefly
because she felt that this unusual hurry on the part of her father was
significant of the perilous nature of the enterprise. It was only her
unusual fortitude, backed by the feeling that she herself must not
deviate from doing her duty, that enabled her to bear up at all.

Meanwhile Hippocles was on his way to the scene of action. The _Skylark_
crossed the Ægean without meeting with any misadventure. She was
overhauled, indeed, when about half her journey was accomplished by an
Athenian cruiser, and her owner had the satisfaction of finding that so
far his disguise was successful. The Athenian captain was an
acquaintance of his own (indeed there were few prominent people in the
city to whom he was not known) and had actually been on board the
_Skylark_ more than once; but he did not recognize either Hippocles or
his vessel. In fact he was about to carry her off as a prize when
Hippocles, still without discovering himself, produced the pass with
which he had been provided under the seal of the Athenian authorities.
His arrival at Mitylene was happily timed in more ways than one. By a
stroke of that good fortune which is proverbially said to help the bold
it so happened that there was a violent north-east wind blowing. This
was a wind from which the harbor of Mitylene afforded little or no
shelter. In fact, when it was blowing, most sailors preferred to be out
on the open sea. Hippocles accordingly found everything in commotion.
The blockading ships, which moored as they were across the mouth of the
harbor, felt the full force of the wind, were anxious about their
moorings, and had little attention to give to any strange ship. The
_Skylark_ was in fact hardly noticed in the darkness and confusion, and
actually got beyond the line of the blockading galleys, and as far as
the admiral's ship, without being challenged. For a few moments he
thought of boldly pushing on to the inner part of the harbor, where, as
has been said, the remainder of the Athenian fleet was lying hauled up
under the walls; but when he was hailed by a voice from a Spartan ship,
one of two that lay almost directly in his way, he abandoned the idea.
"Anaxilaus, merchant of Cos, to see the admiral, on business of
importance," was his reply to the challenge. At the last moment he
dropped his anchor. A few minutes afterward, he came on board the
admiral's galley and reported himself to that officer.

It would be unjust to Callicratidas - for this was the admiral's name - to
describe him as a model Spartan. He was rather a model Greek. The
Spartans had great virtues which however, it is curious to observe,
seldom survived transplantation from their native soil.[17] They were
frugal, temperate, and just; but they were narrow in their habits of
thought and their conceptions of duty. A good soldier whose efficiency
was not diminished by any vice was their ideal man. They could not enter
into any large and liberal views of life. And their views of
statesmanship whether as regarded their own city or the whole race in
general were as narrow as were their notions of private virtue. They
sometimes showed a great amount of diplomatic skill, a strange contrast
with the bluntness which was their traditional characteristic, but of
wide and general views they seem to have been incapable. Yet
Callicratidas seems to have been an exception. We know comparatively
little about him. He emerges from absolute obscurity at the beginning of
the year with which my story opens, and it is only for a few months that
he plays a conspicuous part in history, but from now up to the hour
when we see him for the last time, all his words and acts are marked
with a rare nobility.

It was not difficult for Hippocles to invent a story which should
account for his presence at Mitylene. The domestic politics of almost
every Greek state were mixed up with the great struggle that was going
on between Athens and Sparta. Everywhere the democratic party looked to
Athens as its champion, the aristocratic to Sparta. This was especially
true of the states which were called the allies but were really the
subjects or tributaries of Athens. A turn of the political wheels that
brought the aristocrats to the top was commonly followed by a revolt
from the sovereign state; when, as was usually the case, they remained
underneath, they busied themselves in plotting for a change, and their
first step was to open communications with the Spartan general or
admiral in command.

In Cos the popular or pro-Athenian party was in the ascendant, and their
opponents were weak. The fact was that the Spartans were not in good
repute there. Six years before their admiral Astyochus had plundered the
island laying hands impartially on the property of friends and of foes.
Still there was a party which remained faithful to Sparta, and Hippocles
preferred to speak as their representative. His wide-spread connections
as a merchant - and Cos had a large trade with its famous vintages and
equally famous woven stuffs - gave him a knowledge of details and persons
that would have deceived a far more acute and suspicious person than
Callicratidas.

The merchant began the conversation by offering the admiral a present of
wine, and one of those almost transparent robes of silk that were a
specialty of the island.

"I will not be so churlish as to refuse what you have the good will to
offer me," said Callicratidas, "but you must understand that I do not
accept these things for myself. I accept no personal gifts; it is a
dangerous practice, and has given rise to much scandal. I shall send
them to Sparta, and the magistrates will dispose of them as they think
fit. What is this?" he went on, taking up the robe and holding it
between his eyes and the lamp. "What do you use it for? for straining
the wine?"

Hippocles explained that it was a material for garments.

"Garments!" exclaimed the Spartan, "why, we might as well wear a
spider's web. It is not clothing at all. It neither warms nor covers. Is
it possible that there are people so foolish as to spend their money on
it? It is costly, I suppose?"

"As you ask me," replied Hippocles, "I may say that it costs about two
minas a yard."

"Two minas a yard!" cried Callicratidas, whose Spartan frugality was
scandalized at such a price. "Why," he added after a short calculation,
"it is very nearly a seaman's pay for a year,[18] are there many who buy
such costly stuff?"

"A dress of this material is the top of the fashion for ladies in Athens
and Corinth."

"What?" said the Spartan, "do women wear such things? It is incredible.
I have always thought that things had changed for the worse at home, but
we have not got as far as that. And now for your business."

Hippocles explained that there was a dissatisfied party in Cos which was
very anxious to get rid of Athenian rule. "We are not strong enough," he
went on, "to do it of ourselves, but send on a force and we will open
the gates to you. Cos is a strong place now, since the Athenians
fortified it, and, I should think, quite worth having."

"And if we put you in power," said the admiral, "you would begin, I
suppose, by putting all your opponents to death."

Callicratidas was quite a different person from what Hippocles, with his
former experience of Spartans in command, had expected to find. His
disinterestedness, simplicity and directness were embarrassing, and made
him not a little ashamed of the part that he was playing. He would have
dearly liked to speak out of his own heart to a man who was
transparently honest and well-meaning, but in his position it was
impossible.

"We have, as you may suppose, sir," he said in answer to this last
suggestion, "a great many injuries to avenge, but we should not wish to
do anything that does not meet with your approval."

"The whole thing does not meet with my approval," said the Spartan, "I
hate these perpetual plots; I hate to see every city divided against
itself, and see the big persons in Greece hounding them on to bloody
deeds, and making our own gain out of them. I wish to all the gods that
I could do something to bring this wretched war to an end. Why should
not Athens and Sparta be friends as they were in the old days? Surely
that would be better than our going on flying at each others' throats as
we have been doing for now nearly twenty years past, while the Persian
stands by, and laughs to see us play his game. Where should we be - you
seem an honest man, by your face, though I cannot say that I
particularly like the errand on which you have come - where should we be,
I ask, if we had shown this accursed folly twenty-odd years ago, when
Xerxes brought up all Asia against us? As it was we stood shoulder to
shoulder, and Greece was saved. And now we have to go cap in hand, and
beg of the very Persians who are only biding their time to make slaves
of us. I tell you, sir, I feel hot with shame at the thought of what I
have had myself to put up with in this way. When I came here I found the
pay-chest empty; I don't want to complain of anybody, so I won't say how
this came about; but that was the fact, it was empty; the men had had no
wages for some time, and they would very soon have had no food. I asked
my officers for advice. 'You must go to Cyrus,' they said, 'Cyrus is
paymaster.'[19] It was a bitter draught to swallow, but I managed to get
it down. I went to his palace at Sardis. 'Tell your master,' I said to
the slave who came to the door, a gorgeous creature whose dress I am
sure I could not afford to buy, 'tell your master that Callicratidas,


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 3 of 22)