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Callias—The Fall of Athens by  Alfred J. Church


 

 

THE END OF ALCIBIADES

[168] 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 [169] 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 Lacedĉmonians 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?"

[170] "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 good thing."

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

"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."

[171] "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.

[172] "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 Callus. "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 tenfold. But surely," he went on, "I have seen you [173] before. Ah! now I remember. You are Callias, the son of Hipponicus, and you were my master's guest in Thrace."

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 Rhodes.

"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 used to call his wife; but his real wife was an Athenian lady, Hipparete, I have heard say."

"Yes," interrupted Callias, "I knew her; a cousin of my own; a most unhappy marriage. But go on."

"Well, Pharnabazus received him most hospitably. [174] There was no good house in the village, so we had three cottages. Alcibiades had one; the secretary and I another, and the slaves, a third. Every day the Satrap sent a handsome supply of provisions for us; dishes and wine from his own table for my master, and for us all that we could want for ourselves. I never fared better in my life. And my master had long talks with him and seemed in excellent spirits. Everything was going on as well as possible. Then there came a change. I never could find out whether my master had heard anything to make him suspicious. If he had, he certainly told the secretary nothing about it. But he was very much depressed. First he sent Timandra away. She was very unwilling to go, poor lady, for she did love my master very much, though, as I say, she was not really his wife. But my master insisted on it, so she went away to stay with some friends. After that his spirits grew worse and worse. He used to tell his secretary the dreams he had. Once he dreamt he was dressed in Timandra's clothes, and that she was putting rouge and powder on his face. At another time he seemed to see himself laid on a funeral pyre and the people standing round ready to set it on fire. The very night after he had that dream we were awakened by a tremendous uproar; the secretary and I got up and looked out. The master's cottage, which was about a stadium away from ours was on fire, and there were a number of Persians, about fifty or sixty, standing round it, shouting out and cursing him. The next moment we saw the door of the cottage open, and the master ran out with a cloak round his head, to keep himself from being choked by the smoke, and with a sword in his hand. As soon as he was clear of the burning cottage he threw down the cloak and rushed [175] straight at the nearest Persian. The man turned and ran. There was not one of them that dared stand for a moment. But they shot at him with arrows. They had fastened the gates of the enclosure in which the cottages stood, you must understand, so that he could not escape. In fact he was climbing over one of them when he was killed."

"And you; what did you do?"

"Ah! sir," cried the man, "we were helpless, we had not a sword between us. We hid ourselves, and the next morning took our master's body and carried it to Timandra. She made a great funeral, spending upon it, poor thing, nearly every drachma she had. When we had seen the last of my dear master, the secretary said that he had friends at Tarsus, and set out to go there. I thought that I had best make my way to Smyrna. Thanks to your goodness, I shall now be able to get there, but I was very nearly dying of starvation. But what, if I may ask, are you thinking of doing?"

"That I can't tell," replied the Athenian; "as I told you, I was on my way to Alcibiades."

"Well, sir, I can tell you this," rejoined the stranger, "no friends of my master's will be safe here. Pharnabazus, I feel sure, had no great love for him, notwithstanding all his politeness; as for the Spartans, they hated him; and I did hear that the people who are now in power at Athens had sent to say that peace could not last unless he were put out of the way. Yes, sir, if anyone recognizes that you are my master's friend, you are a dead man."

"Why," said Callias, I have made no secret of it. In Smyrna I spoke about him to the people with whom I was staying. No one said a word against him."

"Very likely not," replied the man, "for they thought that he was alive, and no one liked to have my master for [176] an enemy. He had a wonderful way of making friends to have the upper hand and contriving that his adversaries should have the worst of it. But now that he is dead you will find things very different."

"What is to be done?" asked the young Athenian. "Can you trust your guide?"

"I know nothing of the man. I simply hired him because I was told that he was a fairly honest fellow, knew the country very well, and would not run away if a robber made his appearance."

"Well, then get rid of him."

"But how?"

"Tell him that you have a headache, and that you will come on after him when you have rested a little and the sun is not so hot, and that he had better go on, get quarters at the next stage and have everything ready for you when you shall arrive. As soon as he is gone, get back as fast as you can to Smyrna. The news will hardly have reached that place yet, indeed we may be sure that it has not, or you would have heard of it before you started. Go down to the docks, and take your passage in any ship that you can find ready to start. Even if it is going to Athens never mind; you will be able to leave it on the way. Anyhow, get out of Asia at any risk."

"And you?"

"Oh, no one will care about me. I am a very insignificant person. But, as a matter of fact, I shall try to get to Syracuse. I was born there."

"Syracuse will do as well for me as any other place. Why not come with me if it can be managed? I was able to do you a little service, and you have done me a great one. Let us go together."

The plan was carried out with the greatest success. [177] Callias made the best of his way to Smyrna, and left his horse at an inn, not, of course, the one from which he had started. As he had plenty of money for immediate wants, besides letters of credit from Hippocles, he thought it safer not to attempt to sell the animal. He then provided himself with different clothes, purchasing at the same time a suit for his new acquaintance. These he ordered to be sent to a small house of entertainment near the docks which they had arranged should be the place of meeting. Shortly before sunset the man appeared. Meanwhile Callias had arranged for a passage for himself and his servant in a ship bound for Corinth. They would not venture into Corinth itself, but would transfer themselves at the port of Cenchreĉ into some ship bound for Sicily.

Before the morning of the next day the two were on their way westward. Everything went well. At Cenchreĉ they found a Syracusan merchantman just about to start, shipped on board her, and after a prosperous voyage found themselves in the chief city of Sicily.


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