THE TWINS GO TO ATHENS
IN the gray dawn of the following morning Lydia stood in the doorway of
her house and watched the three figures disappear down the road toward
the little seaport town of Ambelaca. Melas walked ahead, carrying the
lamb wrapped in his cloak, and the Twins followed, bearing between them a
basket in which Lydia had carefully packed two dressed fowls, some fresh
eggs, and a cheese, to be taken to the home of Pericles, besides bread
and cheese for Melas and the children. The Twins were so excited they
would have danced along the road instead of walking if it hadn't been
for the basket, but every time Daphne got too lively, Dion said,
"Remember the eggs," and every time Dion forgot and skipped, Daphne said
the same thing to him.
They had gone nearly a mile in this way, when the road took them to the
crest of a hill, from the top of which it seemed as if they could see the
whole world. Just below them lay the little seaport town of Ambelaca, and
beyond it the blue waters of the bay sparkled and danced in the morning
breeze. On the farther side of the bay they could see the white buildings
of the Piraeus, and beyond that in the distance was a chain of blue
mountains over which the sun was just peeping. That sight was so
beautiful that the children set down their basket, and Melas too stood
still to gaze.
"Those blue mountains beyond the Piraeus are the hills of Athens," said
Melas. "The one with the flat top is the sacred hill of the Acropolis.
And right down there," he added, pointing to a white house on a near-by
hill-top, overlooking the sea, "is the house of Euripides, the Poet. He
has come from the noise and confusion of the city to find a quiet refuge
"Does he write real poetry?" asked Daphne.
"They say he does," answered Melas, "though I never read any of it
"I wish I could write," sighed Daphne, "even if it wasn't poetry! Even if
it were only curses to hang around a scarecrow's neck. I'd like to
"Girls don't need to know how to write," said Melas. "It doesn't make
them any better housekeepers. I don't even see how Dion is going to
learn. There are no schools in Salamis."
"Oh dear!" thought Daphne, "there it is again." But she said nothing and
followed Melas down the hill and into the village street.
Soon they found themselves at the dock where the boat was tied. There
were already passengers on board when the Twins and their Father arrived.
There were two farmers with baskets of eggs and vegetables, and there was
an old woman with a large bundle of bread. Next to her sat a fisherman
with a basket of eels. They were all going to the market in the Piraeus
to sell their produce. Melas with the lamb in his arms climbed in beside
one of the farmers and sat facing the fisherman. Dion sat next to him
with the basket on his knee, and Daphne had to sit beside the fisherman
and the eels. The eels squirmed frightfully, and Daphne squirmed too
every time she looked at them. She was afraid one might get out and wrap
itself around her legs. They did look so horribly like snakes, and Daphne
felt about snakes just as most girls do. However, she knew it was useless
to say anything. There was no other seat for her, and so she remembered
that she was a Spartan and tried not to look at them.
When they were all seated, the rowers took their places on the
rowing-benches, the captain gave the signal, and off they went over the
blue waters toward the distant shore. For a time everything went
smoothly. There was no sound but the rattling of the oarlocks, the chant
of the rowers as they dipped their oars, and the rippling of the water
against the sides of the boat. Up to this time the black lamb had lain
quietly in Melas' arms, but now something seemed to disturb him. He
lifted his head, gave a sudden bleat, and somehow flung himself out of
Melas' arms directly into the basket of eels! Such a squirming as there
was then! The eels squirmed, and the lamb squirmed, and if his legs had
not been securely tied together he undoubtedly would have flopped right
into the water, and then this story would never have been written.
The fisherman gave an angry roar. "Keep your miserable lamb out of my eel
basket," he shouted.
Melas had not waited to be told. He had already seized the lamb, but it
struggled hard to get away, and between the lamb and the eels there was a
disturbance that threatened to upset the boat.
"Sit still," roared the captain. "Have you no sense? Do you all want to
go to the bottom?"
"May Poseidon defend us!" cried the old woman with the bread. "I've no
wish to be made into eel-bait."
"Nor I," said one of the farmers angrily. "You'd better kill your lambs
before you take them to market," he said to Melas; "it will be safer for
the rest of us."
"The lamb is not for market," Melas answered. "I would not dare kill it.
It bears a portent on its brow!"
"A portent?" gasped the old woman.
"May all the Gods defend us! What portent?" Melas pointed to the horn.
"It has but one horn," he said.
They all became still at once. They all looked at the lamb. They all felt
of his horn. Their eyes grew big.
"There was never such a thing known," said the farmer.
"Whose is the lamb?" asked another. "Is it yours?"
"No," said Melas, "it belongs to Pericles the Archon. It was born on his
farm. I am taking it to him so that he may decide what to do with it."
"A portent on the farm of Pericles?" cried the old woman. "I'll warrant
it will be read as favoring him, since he already has a world at his
feet. May the Gods forgive me, but it seems to me they are often more
partial than just."
"Hush, woman," said one of the farmers. "Speak no ill of the Gods, not
until we are safe on the land at any rate."
The woman snapped her mouth shut. The farmers and the fisherman settled
themselves as far away as possible from the Twins and Melas, and nothing
more was said until the boat touched the other shore, and all the
passengers scrambled out upon the dock. The farmers and the fisherman and
the old woman all hastened away to the marketplace, and when they reached
it, they must have kept their tongues busy, for as Melas and the Twins
passed through it on their way to Athens a few moments later, they were
followed by a crowd of curious people who wanted to see the lamb and who
had a great deal to say about what such a miracle might mean.
Melas paid little attention to them, but hastened on his way, and soon
they reached the eastern edge of the town and started along the paved
road which ran from the Piraeus to Athens proper. This road was nearly
five miles long and ran between two high walls of stone some distance
apart. The curious crowd left them at this point and the three walked on
alone through olive orchards and past little vineyards, toward Athens.
"Nobody could get lost on this road," said Dion to his Father, "not even
if he tried! He couldn't get over the walls."
"What are the walls for?" asked Daphne. "It seems silly to build high
walls like this right out in the country."
"Not so silly when you think about it," answered Melas. "These walls were
built by Pericles, so that if any enemy should make an invasion, Athens
would always have a safe access to the sea. Without that she could be
starved within her own walls in a very short time."
"Pericles must be almost as powerful and wise as the Gods themselves, I
should think," said Daphne.
"He does all these things by the help of the Gods, without doubt," said
When they were halfway on their journey to the city, Dion suddenly let
down his side of the basket with a thump.
"Remember the eggs!" cried Daphne sharply, but Dion did not seem to hear.
"Look! Look!" he cried and pointed toward the east. There against the
sky, on the top of the sacred mountain, stood a gigantic figure shining
in the sun.
"What is it?" cried both children at once.
"That is the bronze statue of Athena, the Goddess who gives protection to
Athens," said Melas.
"Did Pericles make that too?" asked Daphne.
Melas laughed. "No," he said; "you must not think Pericles made
everything you may see in Athens. Great as he is, he is not a sculptor."
"Oh, oh," cried Dion, "I want to see the Gorgon's head with snaky locks.
Don't you remember the Stranger said it was on the breastplate of the
"Ugh," said Daphne, shuddering. "I don't believe I'd like it. It must
look just like eels."
"Come, come," said Melas. "At this rate you won't have a chance. The day
will be gone before we know it."
The Twins picked up the basket, and the three marched on toward the city,
and it was not long before they had entered the gate and were passing
along closely built-up streets to the home of the greatest man in Athens.
"This is the place," said Melas at last, stopping at one of the houses.
"This isn't Pericles' house, is it?" cried Daphne. "Why, I thought it
would be the biggest house in Athens, and it looks just like the others."
"Pericles does not put on much style," said Melas, as he lifted the
knocker on the door. "He is too great to need display. He cares more
about fine public buildings for the city than about making his neighbors
envious by living better than they do. Just get the idea out of your head
that greatness means wealth and luxury, or you are no true Spartans, nor
even good Athenians."
As he said this, Melas let the knocker fall. The door was immediately
opened by a porter, who looked surprised when he saw Melas and the Twins.
"What brings you in from the farm?" he said.
"I wish to see your mistress, the wife of Pericles," said Melas, with
dignity. "I have business of importance."
"Come in, come in," said the porter, grinning good-naturedly; "and you,
too, little boys," he added graciously to the Twins, and led the way into
the house. Dion was just opening his mouth to explain that Daphne wasn't
a boy, but Daphne poked him in the ribs and shook her head at him. "Let
him think so," she said, jerking her chiton up shorter through her
They were ushered through a passageway into the court of the house, and
there the porter left them while he went to call his mistress. The house,
though little different from the other houses of well-to-do Athenians,
was still much finer than anything the Twins had ever seen. The floor was
of marble, and the altar of Zeus which stood in the center of the court
was beautifully carved. The doorways which opened into the various rooms
of the house were hung with blue curtains. A room opening into the court
at the back had a hearth-fire in the middle of it, much like that in the
children's own home. Soon a door in the back of the house opened, and
Telesippe, the wife of Pericles, appeared. She was a large coarse-looking
woman, and with her were three boys, her own two and Alcibiades, a
handsome lad, who was a ward of Pericles and a member of his family.
Melas approached her and opened his cloak.
"Why, Melas, what have you there?" cried Telesippe in amazement, as she
saw the little black rain.
"A portent, Madam," said Melas with solemnity. "This ram, born on your
husband's farm, is a prodigy, it has but one horn. I have brought it to
you, that the omen might be interpreted. I trust it may prove a favorable
Telesippe looked at the lamb and turned pale. She struck her hands
together. The porter and another slave at once appeared.
"Go to the temple and bring Lampon, the priest," she said to the slave;
and to the porter she added, "and you, the moment the priest arrives,
call your master."
The slave instantly disappeared, and the porter went back to his post by
the entrance. Although Telesippe was evidently disturbed and anxious
about the portent, she now turned her attention to the basket, which Dion
and Daphne had placed before her, and when their luncheon had been taken
out, she called a slave woman and gave the fowl and the eggs and cheese
into her care.
The three boys, meanwhile, crowded around Melas and the lamb and asked
questions of all sorts about it and about the farm. It seemed but a short
time when the porter opened the door once more and ushered in the priest.
The Twins had never seen a priest, since there were none on the island,
and they looked with awe upon this man who could read omens and interpret
dreams. He was a tall, spare man with piercing dark eyes. He was dressed
in a long white robe, and wore a wreath of laurel upon his brow, and his
black hair fell over his neck in long, straggling locks.
No sooner had he entered the court and taken his place beside the
altar than the blue curtains of a door at the right parted and a tall
noble-looking man entered the room. Dion and Daphne knew at once that it
must be Pericles. No other man, they thought, could look so majestic.
Their knees shook under them, and they felt just as you would feel if you
were suddenly to meet the President of the United States. Pericles was
not alone. A man also tall, and wearing a long white cloak, followed
him through the curtains and joined the group about the altar.
"The Stranger!" gasped Daphne to Dion in a whisper. "Don't you remember?
He said he knew Pericles!"
The Stranger spoke to Melas and laid his hand playfully upon the heads of
"These are old friends of mine," he said to Pericles. "I stayed at their
house one night last spring."
Pericles had already greeted the priest. Now he smiled pleasantly at the
children, and spoke to Melas.
"I hear a miracle has occurred on my farm," he said.
For answer Melas showed the lamb, which now began to jump and wriggle in
"There can be no doubt that the portent concerns the Great Archon," said
the priest solemnly. "See how the ram leaps the moment he appears!"
Pericles beckoned to the Stranger. "What do you think of this,
Anaxagoras?" he said, smiling.
"I am no soothsayer," answered the Stranger, smiling too. "The priest is
the one to expound the riddle."
Lampon now came forward, and, with an air of importance, pulled a few
hairs from the lamb's fleece, and laid them upon the live coals of the
altar. He watched the hair curl up as it burned and bent his ear to
listen. "It burns with a crackling sound," he said; "the omen is
therefore favorable to your house, O Pericles. Instead of two horns, the
animal has but one! Instead of two factions in Athens, one favorable to
Pericles, one opposed, there will henceforth be but one! All the city
will unite under the leadership of Pericles the Olympian."
"The Gods be praised!" exclaimed Telesippe, with fervor.
The priest clapped his hands and bowed his head, and Dion saw him peer
cautiously through the tangled locks which fell over his face to see how
Pericles had taken this prophecy. The Great Archon was standing quietly
beside Anaxagoras, and neither one gave any sign of being impressed by
the oracle. The priest scowled under his wreath.
"What shall be done with the ram?" asked Telesippe, when Lampon again
lifted his head.
"Let it be sent to the temple as an offering. Since it is black it must
be sacrificed to the Gods of the lower world," answered the priest.
Telesippe at once called a slave. Melas gave the ram into his hands; the
priest received a present of money from Pericles, and, followed by the
slave with the ram, disappeared through the doorway.
"You did well to bring the ram to me at once," said Pericles to Melas
when the door closed behind the priest. "Take this present for your
pains," and he placed a gold-piece in Melas' hand. "And these little
boys," he added, smiling pleasantly at the Twins, "they too have done
their share in bringing the portent. They must have a reward as well." He
gave them each a coin, and, when he had received their thanks, at once
left the house, followed by Anaxagoras. The Twins and Melas then said
good-bye to Telesippe and the boys and took their leave.
When they turned the corner into the next street, Melas said with a sigh,
"There, that's off my mind. And I hope there will be no more miracles for
"If it would take us to the house of Pericles every time, I'd like them
at least once a week!" cried Dion, looking longingly at the coin Pericles
had given him.
"So would I," Daphne added fervently. "Even if Pericles didn't give us
anything at all, I'd come to Athens just to look at him! He looks just
like the Gods. I know he does."
Melas laughed. "You're just like the Athenians," he said, "They call him
the Olympian because they feel the same way about him. Give me your
coins," he added. "I will put them in my purse for safe-keeping."
"Anyway," said Daphne, as she and Dion gave their Father the money, "I'm
glad the portent was favorable to Pericles. The old woman on the boat was
right. She said it would be."