From The Æthiopica: “Heliodorus - An Aethiopian Romance” translated by Thomas Underdowne (Anno 1587), revised and partly rewritten by F. A. Wright; George Routledge & Sons Ltd.: London; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.; [with additional corrections in the online edition by S. Rhoads;] pp. 47-86.
And thus was the island with fire and flame destroyed. Theagenes and Cnemon, as long as the sun shone upon the earth, knew not of this mischief; for the brightness of fire by reason of the Sun’s beams is in the day time much dimmed. But after the sun was set and the night drew on and the fire without impediment might be seen afar off, they taking courage in the darkness came out of the pool and perceived the whole island to be on fire. Then Theagenes beating his head and tearing his hair cried: ‘Farewell this day my life: here let all fear, dangers, cares, hopes and love have end and be dissolved: Chariclea is dead and Theagenes is destroyed. In vain was I, unhappy man, afraid and content to take to shameful flight, saving my life, sweetheart, for thee. Surely I will no longer since thou, my joy, art dead, not according to the common course of nature, which is a very grievous thing, and wert not in the arms thou didst desire, when thou left this life. With fire — alas, wretch that I am — wert thou consumed, and instead of lights at thy marriage these were the torches that God ordained for thee. The bravest beauty in the world is lost, so that no token of such singular fairness remaineth in the dead body. Oh marvellous cruelty and unspeakable wrath of the gods! I was not allowed to give her my last embracings, I was deprived of my last kisses!’48
While he spake thus and looked about for his sword, Cnemon struck up his hand: ‘What meaneth this, Theagenes?’ said he, ‘Why do you thus bewail her who is alive. Chariclea is safe, fear not!’ ‘Cnemon,’ said the other, ‘you may tell mad men and children that tale. You have undone me by hindering me from so pleasant a death.’ Thereupon Cnemon sware to him and told him of the commandment of Thyamis and of the nature of the den, how he had placed her there, and how it was not to be feared that the fire would reach the depths below, being broken and put back by six hundred windings. Theagenes began to come to himself again when he heard this, and hastened to the island, and in his mind began to look for the maid as though she were present, and made the den his marriage chamber; not knowing the sorrow whereunto soon he should fall. Thither then they set out in haste, themselves playing the watermen; for he who rowed them before had been stricken overboard into the lake by the noise of the first conflict as though by a pole. This way and that they were carried, as well for that they were both ignorant of rowing and did not place the oars equally, as also for that they had a contrary wind. But for all that the readiness of their wills got the victory of their ignorance.
When therefore with much ado they were arrived in the island, they ran to the tents as fast as they could; which also they found burnt and could not recognise them, but only by the manner of the place; for there could nothing be seen but the great stone which was the threshold and the cover also of the cave. For vehement wind blowing the fire upon the cottages, which were made only of the slender reeds that grew on the marsh banks, burned them up everywhere and made them almost equal with the 49 ground. But when the violent fire slaked and was turned to ashes, which also were driven away with a blast of wind and that which remained, being little, was quenched and granted them free passage, they came to the cave, the posts whereof and the reeds they found also half burnt, and opening the door, Cnemon leading the way, they ran down apace. But after they had gone a little way, Cnemon suddenly cried out: ’O Jupiter, what meaneth this? We are undone. Chariclea is slain.’ And therewith he cast his light to the ground and put it out, and holding his hands before his face fell on his knees and lamented. But Theagenes, as though by violence one had thrust him down, fell on the dead body, and held the same in his arms a great while without moving. Cnemon therefore perceiving he was utterly overcome with sorrow, and fearing lest he should do himself some harm, took his sword secretly out of his scabbard and ran out to light his link again.
In the meantime Theagenes tragically and with much sorrow lamented: ‘O grief intolerable,’ said he, ‘O manifold mischiefs sent from the gods! What insatiable Fury so much rageth still to have us destroyed? She hath banished us out of our country, cast us to dangers by seas and perils from pirates, hath often delivered us into the hands of robbers, and despoiled us of all our treasures! Only one comfort we had, which is now taken from us; Chariclea, my only joy, is dead and by enemies’ hands is slain. While she no doubt defended her chastity and reserved herself unto me, she, unhappy creature, is dead, and neither had she by her beauty any pleasure nor I any commodity. But, O my sweetheart, speak to me a last word, as thou were wont to do, and if there by any life in thee command me to do 50 somewhat. Alas, thou dost hold thy peace: that godly mouth of thine, out of the which proceeded so heavenly talk, is stopped: darkness hath possessed her who bore the sacred torch: and the last end of all hath now gotten the best minister that belonged to any temple of the gods. These eyes of thine, that dazzled all men with their fairness, are now without sight; which he who killed thee saw not I am sure. By what name shall I call thee? My spouse? Thou were never espoused. My wife? Thou never wast married. What shall I therefore call thee? Or how shall I lastly speak unto thee? Shall I call thee by the most delectable name of all names, Chariclea? O Chariclea, hear me; thou hast a faithful lover and shalt erelong recover me again, for I will out of hand with my own death perform a deadly sacrifice to thee, with mine own blood will I offer a friendly offering to thee, and this den shall be a hasty sepulchre for us both. It shall be lawful for us after death to enjoy each other, which while we lived the gods would not grant.’
As soon as he had spoken thus, he set his hand, as though he would have drawn out his sword. Which when he found not: ‘O Cnemon,’ said he, ‘how hast thou hurt me, and especially injured Chariclea depriving here again of the company she loves best.’ While he spake thus, through the hollow holes of the cave, there was a voice heard, that called — ‘Theagenes.’ He, nothing afraid made answer, and ‘O sweet soul,’ said he, ‘I come. By this it manifestly appeareth that thou art yet above the earth, partly for that by violence expulsed from such a body thou canst not depart without grief, partly for that, not yet buried, thou art chased away perchance by the infernal shades.’ When Cnemon came in with a light 51 in his hand, the same voice was heard again calling — ‘Theagenes.’ ‘O god,’ said Cnemon, ‘is this not Chariclea’s voice? Surely, Theagenes, I think she is yet saved. From the inner part of the cave, where I know well I left her, that voice strikes upon mine ears.’ ‘Wilt thou not cease,’ said Theagenes, ‘so oft to deceive and beguile me?’ ‘Indeed,’ said Cnemon, ‘I deceive you and am myself deceived, if we shall find that this be Chariclea who lieth here.’ And therewithal he turned her face upward. Which as soon as he saw: ‘Ye gods,’ he cried, ‘who be the authors of all wonders, what strange sight is this! I see here Thisbe’s face.’ And therewith he leapt back, and without moving any whit stood quaking in a great amazement.
Thereupon Theagenes came somewhat to himself, and began to conceive some better hope in his mind, and comforted Cnemon whose heart now failed him, and desired him in all haste to carry him to Chariclea. After a while Cnemon came somewhat to himself again and looked more advisedly on the woman lying there. It was Thisbe indeed; and he knew also the sword that lay by her by the hilt to be Thyamis’, which he for anger and haste had left in the wound. Last of all he saw a little scroll hanging at her breast, which he took away and would fain have read. But Theagenes would not let him, but pressed him very urgently, saying: ‘Let us first recover my sweetheart, lest even now some god beguile us: as for these things we may know them hereafter.’ Cnemon was content, and so taking the sword and the letter in his hand also went in to Chariclea, who, creeping on hands and feet to the light, ran to Theagenes and hung about his neck. ‘Now, Theagenes, thou art restored to me again,’ said she. ‘Thou livest, mine own Chariclea,’ 52 quoth he oftentimes. At length they fell suddenly to the ground, holding each other in their arms, without uttering any word, as though they were fastened together, and it lacked but a little that they were not both dead. For many times too much gladness is turned to sorrow, and immoderate pleasure engenders grief, whereof ourselves are the causes. So these two, preserved contrary to their hope, were now in peril, until Cnemon, finding a little spring, took water in his hands, and sprinkled it on their faces, and rubbing their nostrils caused them to come to themselves again.
When they perceived their changed position, so familiarly embraced upon the ground, they started up suddenly and blushed — but especially Chariclea — because of Cnemon, who had seen these things, and desired him to pardon them. He, smiling a little, and willing to turn their minds to some mirth, said to them: ‘In my opinion, or any man’s else who hath before wrestled with love and hath pleasantly yielded in moderation to the necessary chance thereof, such falls as these are both inevitable and praiseworthy. But I could not commend you, Theagenes, nay I was quite ashamed, when I saw you mournfully embrace a strange woman, one to whom you were bound by no bond of friendship, though I plainly affirmed your dearest friend was alive and safe.’ ‘Cnemon,’ quoth Theagenes, ‘accuse me not to Chariclea, whom in another’s body I bewailed, thinking her to have been this wench who was slain. But as the good will of God hath now declared that I was in so doing beguiled, remember, I pray you, your own wondrous show of courage. You were deploring my case at first, and then suddenly recognising her who lay there, you the stout Athenian warrior with a sword by your side, shrank 53 back in fear from a woman, and she dead, no less than if gods had been set before you on the stage.’ Hereat they smiled a little, but not without tears, as it happeneth to men in such misery. Then Chariclea, after waiting a little, scratching her cheek under her ear, ‘I judge her happy,’ said she, ‘whoever she was, whom Theagenes lamented and kissed also, as Cnemon reporteth; but if you would not think I was jealous, I would gladly know, if you can tell me, what happy woman that was who was worthy of Theagenes’ tears, and by what error you kissed her instead of me.’ ‘Surely,’ said he, ‘you will wonder at it greatly; for Cnemon saith it was Thisbe, that cunning player of the harp, the devisor of the wiles against him and Demeneta.’ Hereat Chariclea afraid asked Cnemon: ‘How is it likely that she should come out of the midst of Greece as of set purpose into the farthest part of Egypt? Or how is it possible that when we came hither we saw her not?’ ‘As touching that,’ said Cnemon, ‘I have nothing to say. But thus much I heard of her. After that Demeneta, prevented by her craft, had cast herself into the well, and my father had opened the matter to the people, he at first obtained pardon, and was altogether busied that he might get leave of the people to restore me again, and made preparation to seek me. Thisbe meanwhile because of his business had little to do, and banqueting without care continually set, as it were, for sale both herself and her art. And while in grace she far surpassed Arsinoe’s slow flute playing, both in quick fingering and in sweet singing to the harp, she perceived not thereby that she incurred for herself that wench’s jealousy conjoined with a singular indignation; most of all when she became beloved of a certain merchant of Naucratis named Nausicles, who now 54 despised Arsinoe, with whom he accompanied before, because that while she played the flute her cheeks swelled and were unseemly, and her eyes stared, almost leaving their accustomed place.
Wherefore Arsinoe, swelling with anger and emulation, came to Demeneta’s kinsfolk and told them the whole manner of the wiles that Thisbe had used against her, whereof some she herself suspected, and Thisbe had told her other some, in the time of their friendship. So Demeneta’s kinsfolk arranged together to have my father condemned and procured the most eloquent orators with great sums of money to accuse him. Demeneta, they said, had been killed without judgment before she was convicted; the adultery was pretended to colour the murder; and therefore they required to have the adulterer either quick or dead, or at least to know his name, and last of all that Thisbe should be brought to examination. Which when my father had promised and could not perform — for she had so provided that before the day of judgment she went her way with the merchant, as they had agreed — the people, taking the matter in evil part, judged him not indeed her murderer, in as much as he had told the matter plainly as it was done, but that he had helped to the death of Demeneta and mine own unjust banishment. Wherefore they exiled him out of his country and confiscated all his goods; and this commodity got he by his second marriage. But the most wicked Thisbe, who lies here slain before me, for this reason sailed from Athens. This much only could I know, which Anticles told me in Aegina, with whom I sailed twice to Egypt, if I might find her in Naucratis to bring her back to Athens and deliver my father from the suspicions and accusations that were laid against him, and take 55 revenge on her for all the mischief that she has done unto us: and into these matters I now purpose with you to make further inquiry. As touching the cause of my coming hither, the manner thereof, and the dangers I have suffered meanwhile, you shall hereafter know. But how, and by whom Thisbe was slain in this den, we shall have need perhaps of some oracle to tell us. Nevertheless, if you will let us look at the letter which we found in her bosom, it may be that we shall learn somewhat beside.’ They were content; and he, opening it, began to read as followeth:
‘To Cnemon, my master, Thisbe, his enemy and avenger. First I tell you of the death of Demeneta, which for your sake I devised against her. As to the manner how I brought it to pass if you do ransom me, I will tell you betwixt us two. Understand that I was taken by one of the thieves who are of this crew, and have been here ten days already. He sayeth he is the captain’s harness-bearer, and will not give me leave so much as to look abroad, and thus he punisheth me as he saith, for the love he hath toward me; but as far as I can gather, it is from fear lest some man else should take me from him. Yet for all that, by the benefit of some god I saw you, my master, passing by yesterday, and knew you, and have therefore sent this letter to you by an old woman my bedfellow, charging her to deliver it to a beautiful young man being a Grecian and the captain’s friend. Redeem me, I pray you, out of the hands of the thief and entertain your handmaid. Preserve me, if you will it so; knowing this first, that whenever I offended against you I was constrained to do it, but in that I revenged you of your enemy I did it of my own free will. But if your anger be so grievous against 56 me that it will not be assuaged, use it toward me as you think good: provided I be in your hand, I care not if I die. For I account it much better, being an Athenian, to be slain at your hands and to be buried after the manner of the Greeks, than to lead a life more grievous than death and sustain such a barbarous love as is more intolerable than hatred.’
Thus spake Thisbe in her letter. But Cnemon said: ‘With good reason, Thisbe, were thou slain, and thyself art messenger to tell us of thy fate, making declaration thereof by thine own death. Thus hath the avenging Fury, as it now appears, driving thee over all the world not withdrawn her scourge before she made me, whom thou hast injured, although living in Egypt, to be the beholder of thy punishment. But what mischief was that which thou didst erstwhile devise against me and by this letter wert still plotting, which Fortune did not let thee bring to end? Verily even now I much mistrust thee and am in great doubt lest the death of Demeneta be but a tale, and that both they beguiled me who told me of the same, and that thou art come by sea out of Greece to make in Egypt another tragedy of me.’ ‘Will you not have done,’ said Theagenes, ‘with such valiant talk? Are you afraid of the shadows and spirits of dead folk? You cannot object and say that she hath either beguiled me, or deceived my sight, seeing that I have no part in this play. Be sure, Cnemon, that this body is dead and therefrom have you no cause for fear. But who did you this good turn in killing, her, or how she was brought hither, or when, I myself am in great marvel.’ ‘As for the rest,’ said Cnemon, ‘I cannot tell. But surely Thyamis slew her, as by the sword which lay by her being dead we can guess. For I know it to be his by the hilt of ivory, whereon 57 is an eagle graven.’ ‘Tell me then,’ said Theagenes, ‘how, when, and wherefore he killed her.’ ‘How can I tell you?’ answered Cnemon. ‘This cave hath not made me a soothsayer as doth Apollo’s shrine at Delphi, or those that enter into Trophonius’ den, which rapt with divine fury do prophecy.’ When Theagenes and Chariclea heard this, suddenly lamenting — ‘O Pytho, O Delphi,’ — they cried. Wherewith Cnemon was abashed, knowing not what they conceived by the name of Pytho.
Thus were they occupied. But Thermuthis, the harness-bearer of Thyamis, after being wounded had escaped the battle and swam to land; and when night came he got a loose boat and hastened to the island and to Thisbe whom he had taken a few days before from the merchant Nausicles, setting an ambush for him in a narrow way by the side of the hill. After the broil began and the enemies approached, when Thyamis sent him to fetch the sacrifice to the gods, desiring to place her out of danger of weapons and to keep her for himself in safety, he put her privily into the cave, and for haste left her but in the entry thereof. In which place, as she sat at the first was left, she stayed, partly for fear of the present perils, partly since she knew not the ways that went into the bottom of the cave; and there Thyamis finding her instead of Chariclea slew her. To her then Thermuthis made haste, after he had escaped from the battle, and as soon as he was landed in the island he ran to the tents, where beside ashes he found nothing. But finding at length the mouth of the cave by the stone, the reeds, if any were left, being still on fire, he ran down in great haste and called Thisbe by name, so far at least using the Greek tongue. 58 Whom after he found dead, he stood a good while without moving in a great study; and at length hearing out of the inner parts of the cave a certain noise — for Theagenes and Cnemon were yet in talk — he straightway deemed that they had slain her, and was thereat much troubled in his mind, and could not well tell what to do. For the barbarous anger and the fierceness which is natural in thieves, kindled the more since he was now beguiled of his love, moved him to set upon those he deemed the authors of that murder. But since he had neither armour nor weapon, he was constrained, whether he would or no, to be quiet. He determined therefore not to come upon them as an enemy at the first, but if he could get any armour, then to set on them after. When he had thus decided he came to Theagenes and looked about him with eyes frowning and terribly bent, so that with his countenance he plainly betrayed the inward cogitation of his mind. They seeing a man come in upon them suddenly, sore wounded, naked, and with a bloody face, behaved not themselves all alike, but Chariclea ran into a corner of the cave, fearing perhaps to look upon a man so unsightly and naked. Cnemon seeing Thermuthis, contrary to his expectation, and knowing him well, mistrusting that he would enterprise somewhat, held his peace and stepped back. But that sight did not so much frighten Theagenes as move him to wrath, who drew his sword and made as he would strike him if he stirred, and bade him stand — ‘Or else,’ quoth he — ‘thou shalt know the price of thy coming; which for the moment thou hast escaped, inasmuch as I recognise thee somewhat, although I know not the reason why thou comest.’ Thermuthis came near and spoke him fair, having respect rather to the present time than to his own 59 habit, and desired Cnemon to be his friend, and said that he deserved his help because he had never done him wrong, and had been his companion the day before, and that he came to them as to friends.
Cnemon was moved by his words, and coming to him helped him up — for he held Theagenes by the knees — and inquired of him where Thyamis was. He told him everything: how he fought with his enemies, how he went into the thickest press of them, neither caring for his own life nor theirs, how he slew every man that came within his reach, and himself was guarded and compassed about, and straight charge given that every man should forbear Thyamis. ‘But what became of him at length,’ quoth he, ‘I cannot tell: I was grievously wounded and swam to land, and at this time am come unto the cave to seek Thisbe.’ Thereupon they asked him what he had to do with Thisbe, or how he came by her. Thermuthis then told them how he took her from certain merchants, and how he loved her wonderfully, and kept her privily in his own tent, and before the coming of the enemies put her into this cave, and that he now found her slain by some he knew not, but he would be glad to understand why and for what occasion it was done. Cnemon herewith, desirous to deliver himself quickly from all suspicion, said: ‘Thyamis killed her.’ And therewith for proof he showed him the sword which they had found by her when she was slain. Which as soon as Thermuthis saw, bloody and almost warm with the late slaughter, and knew that it was Thyamis’ sword indeed, fetching a great sigh from the bottom of his heart and at a loss to know how matters stood, he went out of the den overwhelmed with darkness and silent, and coming to the 60 dead body — ‘O Thisbe,’ — he said oft, but nothing else, repeating each syllable of the name. And so at last his senses failed him and he fell asleep.
Meanwhile Theagenes, Chariclea and Cnemon began to think of their own business, and seemed as though they would consult together thereof. But their manifold miseries past, and the greatness of their present calamity, and the uncertainty of that which was to come did hinder and darken the reasonable part of their mind, so that they gazed one upon the other and every one waited for what his fellow would say as touching their present state. After this, their hope failing them, they would cast their eyes to the ground and with sorrowful sighs lift them up again, relieving their grief with lamentation. At length Cnemon laid himself on the ground, Theagenes sat down on a stone, and Chariclea leaned on him. For a while they strove to overcome sleep, desiring to consider somewhat of their present affairs, but being by sorrow and labour much distressed they were constrained, although against their will, to obey the law of nature, and out of their great heaviness they fell into a pleasant sleep. Thus did the reasonable part of their mind endure to agree with the affection of the body. But after they had slumbered but a short while, so that their eyes were scarcely close shut, Chariclea, who lay there with them, had this marvellous dream. A man with long rough hair, blood-shot eyes, and red dripping hands thrust his sword into the socket and tore away her right eye. Therewith she suddenly cried out, saying that she had lost one of her eyes, and called for Theagenes; who straight was at hand, and did bewail her harms, as if in his sleep he had felt the same. But she put her hand to her face, and felt everywhere for the eye which was lost, and as soon as she knew it 61 was a dream: ‘It is a dream,’ said she, ‘Theagenes: I have mine eye: come hither and fear not.’ Theagenes herewith was well pleased and — ‘As is meet,’ quoth he, ‘you have your eyes as bright as sunbeams. But what ailed you and why were you so afraid?’ ‘An ill-favoured froward fellow,’ quoth she, ‘nothing fearing your invincible strength, came to me as I leaned on your knees, with a sword in his hand, in such sort that verily I thought he had plucked out my right eye. And I would to God that it had been so indeed, rather than appeared to me in my sleep.’ ‘God forbid,’ said he, ‘but why do you speak thus?’ ‘I wish it,’ said she, ‘because it were better for me to lose both eyes than to be sorrowful for the loss of you. Surely I am sore afraid lest you be meant by this dream, whom I esteem as mine eye, my life, and all my riches.’ ‘Not so,’ said Cnemon — for he had heard all, being awakened by the first cry of Chariclea — ‘it seems to me that your dream should mean another thing. Tell me, are your parents alive?’ ‘Yes,’ said she, ‘if ever they were.’ ‘Then you must judge,’ said he, ‘that your father is dead; and that I gather from this, forasmuch as we know that our parents be the cause and authors of our life and that by them we see the light of day. Therefore with good reason do dreams liken our father and mother to a pair of eyes, since they give us the sensation of sight and help us to behold all things seen.’ ‘That is a hard saying,’ replied Chariclea, ‘but God grant that it be true rather than mine, and that your interpretation prevail and I be called the false prophet.’ ‘These things shall thus no doubt come to pass,’ said Cnemon, ‘and that you may believe. But we in truth seem to be dreaming now, trifling thus long about dreams and fantasies without any consideration of our own 62 business: and the rather seeing that this Egyptian’ — he meant Thermuthis — ‘is separated from us, devising and bewailing of his dead love.’
Theagenes answered him and said: ‘Cnemon, since some god hath joined you to us and made you partaker of our calamities, let us hear your advice first. You are skilled in these countries, and understand their tongue well; and besides we are not so fit to comprehend what is necessary, for we are drowned in a deeper sea of troubles.’ Cnemon therefore after musing a little spake thus: ‘Which of us is in greater misery I cannot tell, for I am sure that God hath laid calamities enough upon my back also. But since you bid me, as the elder, to give my advice as toughing the present case, this is my mind. This island, as you see, is deserted, and hath no man in it but us. Moreover of silver and gold and precious apparel here is great store. Of such things Thyamis and his companions have taken much, as well from you as also from others, and have laid it here. But as for corn, and other things whereby our life may be maintained, there is not one whit. We are in danger then, if we tarry here long, either to perish for lack of food, or because of the return of our enemies, or even of those who have been of this fellowship, if they come to fetch this money whereof they all know. In that case we could not escape without death; or even if they dealt more friendly with us we should be subject to their reproachful dealing and scornful behaviours. For while these herdsmen are always faithless, now they are so especially, since they lack a captain and ruler that might constrain them to be moderate. This island is to us but a snare and a prison, which we must now leave and forsake, first dispatching Thermuthis away under pretence to inquire and seek to know some 63 certainty of Thyamis. For without him we shall consult more safely together and think of those things that are needful. And it is a point of wisdom to put out of our company a man by nature inconstant, enduded with rude and uncourteous manners, who distrusteth us also somewhat because of Thisbe’s death, and will not rest till he have, if occasion serve, by fraud beguiled us.’
They allowed his saying well and thought it good to do even so. Wherefore they went to the entry of the cave — for they perceived it was day by this time — and waked Thermuthis very drowsy with sleep. And when they had declared to him so much of their counsel as seemed good and had easily persuaded him, being a fickle fellow, and had cast Thisbe into a little pit, and as much dust upon her as was left from the tents, and done to her as religiously as the time would suffer, and with tears and with weepings, instead of all other ceremonies buried her, they sent Thermuthis about the pretended business, as they had arranged. But he, after he had gone a little way, returned again and said that he would not go alone, neither rashly object himself to so present a danger as to be a spy, unless Cnemon would go with him. When Theagenes perceived that Cnemon did shrink back — for when he told them what the Egyptian said he seemed to be much troubled in his mind and sore afraid — he said to him: ‘Thou art able to give good counsel but thy heart faileth thee: which thing I have both at other times well perceived, but especially now. Pluck up your spirits and take a good heart to you; for at this time it seemeth necessary to consent and go with him, that he may conceive no suspicion of our intended flight — there is no danger for him that is armed and hath a sword to go with one utterly unarmed — and 64 then, if occasion serve, slip from him and come to us into some village hereby which we will agree upon.’ Cnemon was content, and appointed a certain town called Chemmis, very rich, and well peopled, situated upon a hill on the banks of the Nile that it mighty thereby be the better defended from the attacks of the herdsmen. The distance to it, after they had crossed the lake, was about a hundred furlongs; and they must go straight southwards.
‘It will be a hard road,’ said Theagenes, ‘especially for Chariclea, who hath not been accustomed to go long journeys. But for all that, we will go, and counterfeit ourselves to be beggars and such as go about with juggling tricks to get a living.’ ‘That will be well,’ said Cnemon, ‘for you be very ill-favoured people, most of all Chariclea, whose eye was lately pulled out: wherefore methinketh you will not ask for pieces of bread bur for cauldrons and choppers.’ Hereat they smiled a little, so that their laughter moved but their lips only. When therefore they had confirmed by oath that which was determined and had taken the gods to witness that they would never of their own will forsake one another, they went each of them about their decreed business.
Cnemon therefore and Thermuthis having in the morning early passed over the lake took their journey through a thick wood, wherein it was hard to find any way. Thermuthis went in front, for so Cnemon would have it, alleging the skill he had in that difficult passage and assigning to him the task of finding a way; but in truth rather providing for his own safety and preparing a good opportunity to give him the slip. When they had gone a good way, they espied a flock of sheep, and after those who kept them had fled and crept into the thick wood hard by, they killed 65 one of the fairest rams that went before the flock, and roasting him at a fire which the shepherds had made, did eat of the flesh without tarrying, before it was thoroughly roasted, because their bellies were marvellously pinched with hunger. Like wolves therefore or jackals they devoured the parts they cut off, though they were but just blackened in the fire, so that while they did eat the blood ran about their teeth. When they had filled their bellies and quenched their thirst with milk they went forward upon their road and about evening climbed a little hill, under which, Thermuthis said, was the village, and in it Thyamis, being taken in the battle, was either kept prisoner or slain, as he conjectured. Thereupon Cnemon made an excuse that his belly was troubled with too much meat and that by reason of the milk he craved to void his food, and therefore he desired Thermuthis to go afore and he would by and by overtake him. This he did once or twice or three times, so that he seemed to be dealing truly, and affirmed that he had much ado to overtake him.
After he had thus made the Egyptian accustomed to his absence, at last without his knowledge he tarried behind and ran as fast as he could into a very thick wood at the bottom of the hill. As for Thermuthis, when he reached the top he sat him down on a stone to rest, tarrying until the evening came, when they had appointed to go into the village and find in what state Thyamis was, and therewithal he looked about for Cnemon, to whom, if he came after him, he devised to do some harm. For he had not yet left his conceived opinion that he had slain Thisbe; and therefore now he bethought himself how he might kill him in return; and afterward he was with a certain madness moved 66 to set upon Theagenes. But when Cnemon appeared not, and it was now far in the night, he fell asleep, and with the biting of an asp, having gotten a death like to all his past life, by the ladies of destiny’s pleasure perhaps, he slept his deadly and last sleep. But Cnemon, after he had forsaken Thermuthis, left not running till dark night restrained his violent course, so that in the place where night overtook him he hid himself and laid as many leaves as he could upon him. Under which he lying was much troubled and slept but little, supposing every noise, and blast of wind, and wagging of each leaf to be Thermuthis. If at any time sleep came over him, he thought that he still fled, and looked back for him that pursued him not. And when he had lust for sleep he would refrain, for the dreams that came to him were worse than the reality. Last of all, he seemed to be angry with the night and thought it was longer than any other was. And when, to his delight, he say the day dawn, first he cut off so much of his hair as he had let grow that he might be like the thieves, in order that those who met him now might not trouble nor suspect him. For the thieves, besides other things that they do, whereby they may seem more fearful, let their hair grow long over their eyes and shake it hanging on their shoulders; knowing well that long hair maketh lovers more acceptable but thieves more terrible.
When therefore Cnemon had cut off so much of his hair as would make him seem the more trim, and not be thought one of the thieves, he made haste to go to Chemmis, where he had appointed to meet with Theagenes. And being now come to the Nile and ready to pass over, he spied an old man walking on the bank up and down, who seemed to communicate 67 some of his cogitations with the flood: he had long hair after a holy fashion and very white, a rough beard somewhat long, his cloak and other apparel like a Grecian. Cnemon therefore waited a little, but when the old man passed up and down divers times and seemed not to see any man by him — he was in such a muse and sure cogitation — he came before him and said, ‘All hail, sir.’ ‘I cannot,’ quoth he, ‘for fortune will now allow.’ Whereat Cnemon marvelled and said, ‘Are you a Greek, or a stranger, or from what land?’ ‘Neither a Greek,’ answered he, ‘nor a stranger, but of this country, an Egyptian.’ ‘How then happeneth it,’ said Cnemon, ‘that in your apparel you imitate the Greeks?’ ‘My miseries,’ said he, ‘have brought me this change of handsome apparel.’ Cnemon marvelled that any man should trim and deck himself because of his miseries, and was fain to know the cause and manner thereof. ‘From Troy you bear me,’ said the old man, quoting from the poet, ’and stir up against yourself a very swarm of troubles and an endless tale. But whither be you going, young sir, or from whence come you, or how happeneth it that you speak Greek in Egypt?’ ’That were a merry jest indeed,’ said Cnemon; ’you were asked first and have told me no part of your estate and yet now you would know mine of me.’ ’Well,’ said the old man, ’you seem to be a Greek, although some fortune hath changed your outward dress, and it appears that you desire earnestly to hear in what state I am. My sorrows in truth crave of themselves utterance, and if I had not happened on you I think I should have done as the man in the story and told them to these reeds. Let us therefore leave these banks of the Nile itself too, for the border of this bank is not fit to tell a long tale in, since it is subject to the vehement heat of the south 68 sun. Let us go to the village that we see over against us, if you have no greater business, and there you shall be my guest, not in mine own house, but in a very good man’s, who hath entertained me in adversity. In his house you shall hear of all my fortune, if you will, and in like manner you shall tell me yours.’ ‘Content,’ said Cnemon; ‘for if I had not met with you, I still must have gone to this village, to tarry there by appointment for some of my companions.’
They took a boat then — whereof there was great store, ready to transport any man for hire — and came into the village, and so into the house wherein the old man was hosted. The good man of the house was not at home, but his daughter, now marriageable, and the other maids, as many as were within, entertained them very courteously and entreated the old man as though he had been their father. For so, I think, their master had commanded. One washed their feet and swept the dust from about their legs, another made their bed and provided a soft lodging for them, another brought in the pot and made a fire, another covered the table and set wheaten bread thereon and divers other kinds of fruits. Whereat Cnemon marvelled and said: ‘Perchance, father, we are come into hospitable Jupiter’s house; so much are we regarded and that with so good mind.’ ‘Not into Jupiter’s,’ saith he, ‘but into such a man’s as doth worship well the Jupiter of strangers and those that be in adversity. For he also sometimes passes his life travelling as a merchant and knoweth the manners and fashions of divers nations. For which cause, it is likely, he now entertaineth me in his house, wandering a few days ago and travelling about, as also he hath done to many more others.’ ‘What travel,’ said Cnemon, ‘is this of which you speak, father?’ ‘I am 69 in this place,’ said he, ‘bereft of my children by robbers, knowing the misdoers well, but cannot be revenged. Wherefore I with wailing beweep my sorrow, like a bird whose nest a dragon pulleth down and devoureth her young before her face, and she is afraid to come nigh, neither can she flee away: at such controversy is love and sorrow in her. But making great noise she flieth about the miserable siege, and poureth in vain her motherlike and humble tears into those cruel ears which have of nature been taught no mercy.’ ‘Will you then,’ said Cnemon, ‘tell me how and when you had this cruel hap?’ ‘Hereafter I will,’ said he; ‘but now it is time to look to our bellies; which Homer regarding not without good consideration called ‘pernicious,’ since in comparison therewith all things else are counted of little worth. But first, according to the wisdom of the Egyptians, let us do sacrifice to the immortal gods. For nothing shall ever cause me to break this custom; neither shall any grief be so great which shall cause me to put the remembrance and service of God out of my mind.’
When he said thus, he poured a little clean water out of a vial — for this was his wonted drink — and said: ‘I do sacrifice to the gods of this country and to the gods of Greece, to Apollo of Delphi, and to Theagenes and Chariclea besides, good and honest creatures whom I count also as gods.’ And therewithal he wept, as though he would do another sacrifice to them with sorrowful tears. When Cnemon heard this he was astonished, and looked the old man earnestly up and down. ‘What say you,’ quoth he, ‘are Theagenes and Chariclea in truth your children?’ ‘They are my children,’ said he, ‘born without a mother. The gods made them my children by chance, the travail 70 of my heart brought them to birth, my love for them has taken the place of nature, and because thereof they esteemed me their father and called me so. But, I pray you, tell me how you knew them.’ ‘I do not only know them,’ said Cnemon, ‘but I tell you that they be safe and in good health.’ ‘O Apollo and the rest of the gods,’ said he; ‘tell me in what country they be; and I will call you then my saviour and make equal account of you as with the gods.’ ‘What reward,’ said he, ‘will you give me?’ ‘For the moment,’ said he, ‘thanks; which a wise man counteth a goodly reward. And if you come into my country, which the gods tell me shall be shortly, you shall have great riches.’ ‘You promise me,’ said he, ‘that which is to come and is very uncertain, but you could sufficiently recompense me now.’ ‘If you see anything here,’ said he, ‘tell me: I am ready to give you even a part of my body.’ ‘You need not be maimed of any of your members,’ replied Cnemon: ‘I shall think I have my full reward if you will tell me of them, whence they are, who be their parents, and what fortune they have had.’ ‘Thou shalt have a great reward,’ answered he, ‘and such a one as to it nothing may be comparable, even if you had asked for all the treasure in the world. But let us now eat some food. For both of us shall have need of longer time, as well you to hear as I to tell.’
When therefore they had eaten of nuts, figs, fresh gathered dates, and such other fruit as the old man was accustomed to feed on — for he never killed any living creature for food — they drank, he water and Cnemon wine. And after a little while Cnemon said: ’Father, you know well how Bacchus takes pleasure in tales and banqueting songs: wherefore now, seeing he hath made me of his company, he moveth me with 71 desire to hear somewhat, and constraineth me to crave my promised reward. Now it is time for you, as the saying goes, to bring your play on to the stage.’
‘You shall hear it,’ said he; ‘I only wish that thrifty Nausicles were here too, whom I have often by divers delays deluded, being very desirous to hear this tale.’ When Cnemon heard Nausicles named, he asked where he was then. ‘He is gone a hunting,’ quoth the old man. ‘What manner of hunting?’ said he. ‘Of wild beasts,’ replied the other, ‘very cruel, which he called indeed men and herdsmen, who live by theft and can hardly be trapped, for that they use the marsh as their den and cave.’ ‘Whereof doth he accuse them?’ said he. ‘Of the taking away of a leman of his,’ he answered, ‘whom he brought from Athens, one called Thisbe.’ ‘Lord God,’ said Cnemon; and therewithal suddenly held his peace, as though he would say no more. When the old man asked him what he ailed, Cnemon, willing to bring him to other matters, said: ‘I marvel how or by what army emboldened he durst set upon them.’ ‘Oroöndates,’ he answered, ‘has just now been made deputy of Egypt by the Great King, and by his commandment Mitranes, captain of the watch, is appointed governor of this town. Nausicles hired him with a great sum of money, and with great company of horsemen and footmen conducted him against them. He taketh in very ill part the loss of that maid of Athens, not only because she was his mistress and played well on instruments, but also because he was in mind to carry her to the King of Ethiopia, as he said, that she might be his wife’s drinking gossip and familiar after the manner of the Greeks. So, as though he were deprived of the great sum of money, which he hoped to have for her, he maketh all provision possible to recover her again. 72 I myself also advised and exhorted him so to do, thinking that he might by some chance find my children and help me to them again.’ ‘We have talked enough,’ said Cnemon interrupting him, ‘of herdsmen, captains, and kings. You almost have diverted my mind to think of other matters, but this is but a by-the-way story and appertains nothing to Bacchus, as the proverb hath it. Wherefore return your talk now to what you promised. For I have found you like Proteus of Pharos, not indeed turning yourself into false changing shapes, as he did, but attempting to turn me from my purpose.’ ‘You shall know all,’ said the old man; ‘but first I will tell you briefly of myself, not beguiling you in my tale, as you think, but propounding such talk as shall be true and well agreeing to that which followeth.’
‘The city wherein I was born is called Memphis; my father’s name, and mine also, is Calasiris. As touching my trade of life, I am now a vagabond, who was not long ago a priest. I had a wife by the ordinance of the city, but lost her by the law of nature. After she had passed out of this body into another rest, I lived a while free from trouble, delighting myself with the two sons that I had by her. But after a few years the course of heaven prescribed by destiny altered all my estate and Saturn cast his eye upon my house, changing everything for the worse, a change which my own wisdom warned me of but showed me no means to escape. For a man can foresee the unchanging decrees of fate although he cannot avoid the same. Yet even in such matters foresight is gain, in so much as it blunts the keen edge of calamity. For those miseries, my son, that come on thee suddenly are intolerable, but such as are foreseen are borne with a tranquil mind; since the mind being occupied with 73 fear is distressed by those and taketh them heavily, while familiarity with reason maketh these more endurable. Such a thing as this then it was that happened to me. A woman of Thrace, of ripe years, and, except Chariclea, the fairest woman in the world, whose name was Rhodopis, I know not whence or how to her lovers’ ill fortune leaving her own country, travelled over all Egypt and came in very wanton wise to Memphis. She had a great sort of maids and servants waiting on her and was perfectly instructed in all the enticements of Venus and wanton behaviour, so that it was possible for none that looked on her not to be entangled with her love: of such an unavoidable force was the whorish allurement that proceeded from her eyes. She entered into the temple of Isis often, whose priest I was, and worshipped the goddess daily and offered divers sacrifices and gifts which cost many talents. At last — I am ashamed to tell it, yet I will — with often beholding of her she overcame me and that temperance also which in all my life with great study I had conserved. A great while I withstood the eyes of my body with the inward eyes of my mind, but overcome at length with this affection of love, as those who are heavy laden, I was constrained to yield. When therefore I understood that this woman was the beginning of all the ill luck which the gods had appointed for me, of which I was not ignorant before, and perceived that she was but a cloak for destiny, and that the god, whose turn it was then to rule, had taken upon himself her shape, I determined not to dishonest the priesthood, in which from my youth I had been brought up, nor yet to defile the temples and secret places of the gods. Therefore, not for doing the deed — which God forbid — but to punish my desire with convenient punishment 74 I called my reason in to judgment, and passing upon myself sentence of banishment, unhappy man, I left my country, as well to yield to the necessity of the ladies of destiny and give them leave to determine of me what they would as also to escape from the accursed Rhodopis. For I was afraid that if the evil star then in the ascendant pressed too hard upon me I should be forced to do some viler thing. But the chief cause above all others that banished me were my sons; for the secret wisdom, that I had of the gods, foreshowed to me that they would fight a bloody battle between themselves. That I might therefore remove such a cruel spectacle from my eyes — which I think the sun himself would not behold — and to acquit these fatherly eyes of the sight of my sons’ death, I went my way to prevent these things, pretending as though I would go to great Thebes, to see my elder son, who was then with his grandfather, his name being Thyamis.’ Cnemon started when he heard the name of Thyamis; but he kept his counsel, as well as he could, the better to hear the rest: and the old man went on as followeth. ‘I omit that which happened to me on the way, young sir, for it nothing appertaineth to that you ask for. But when I heard there was a certain city of Greece sacred to Apollo, which was a temple of the gods and a college of wise men and far from the troublous resort of the common people, I went thither, thinking that a city which was dedicated to holiness and ceremonies was a meet place for a man being a prophet to resort unto. So when I had sailed through the Crisaean gulf and was arrived at Cirrha I went in haste out of my ship to the town: whither after I was come I heard a divine voice in very truth address me; and for other reasons also it seemed a meet place for me to abide in, not the 75 least whereof was the natural situation of the same. For Parnassus reacheth over it, like a natural defence or tower, inclosing the city as it were with a wall with his two tops.’ ‘You say very well,’ quoth Cnemon, ‘and like one who indeed has tasted of Pytho’s spirit; for I remember that my father told me that such was the situation of the place, when the Athenians sent him to the council of the Amphictyons.’ ‘Are you then an Athenian my son?’ ‘Yea, sir,’ said Cnemon. ‘What is your name?’ ‘Cnemon,’ answered he; ‘but you shall hear all my story later; now go on with your tale.’ ‘I will,’ answered the other. ‘I went then into the city and praised it much in my mind, for the places of exercise there, and the springs, and the fountain of Castalia; wherein I dipped my fingers and, this done, went to the temple. For the report of the people that said the prophetess would give answer presently moved me so to do. As soon as I had gone into the shrine and said my prayers and made a certain secret request of the god the Pythia answered me thus:
As soon as the oracle had given me this answer, I fell grovelling on the altar, and desired him in all things to be my good god. A great company of those that stood by me praised the god much for giving me such an answer at my first coming; they talked of my good fortune and paid me all manner of regard, saying that I was the welcomest man to the god that 76 ever came there, save only one Lycurgus of Sparta. Wherefore, when I desired to dwell in the temple precinct, they gave me leave, and decreed that I should be nourished at their common charges. To be short, I wanted no good thing. Either I enquired into the causes and manner of the sacrifices, which were very many, offered both by the men who inhabit there and by strangers also; or else I conferred with philosophers, of whom no small number come hither, so that the city is in a manner a study dedicated to prophecy, under the god who is captain of the Muses. And at first there were divers questions touching many matters moved among us. For some would ask after what fashion we Egyptians honoured our gods, and another, why divers countries worshipped divers kinds of beasts, and what was the reason in each case. Others enquired of the structures of the pyramids and of those winding vaults in which our kings are buried. In a word they left nothing that appertaineth to Egypt unsearched. For Grecian ears are wonderfully delighted with tales of Egypt. At last certain of the civilest sort fell in talk concerning the Nile, and asked me whence his sources came, and what special property he had above other rivers, and why he alone of all others in summer did rise. I told them what I knew, and was written in the holy books, and was lawful only for priests to read and know: how that this source was in the highest parts of Ethiopia and furthest bounds of all Libya, at the end of the east clime and beginning of the south. It floweth in the summer not, as some think, by reason of contrary blasts of the north-west winds, but because these same winds, blowing out of the north, gather together and drive all the clouds of the air about mid-summer into the south, till they come to the burning line. There 77 their violence is abated, by reason of the incredible heat thereabouts, so that all the moisture, which was before gathered together and congealed, melteth and is resolved into abundance of water: wherewith the Nile waxeth proud and will be a river no longer, but runneth over his banks and covereth Egypt with his waters, as with a sea, and maketh the ground very fruitful. Wherefore too it giveth sweet waters to drink, since they come from heaven, and is pleasant to be touched, not now so hot as at the first but yet luke-warm, as one that riseth in such a place. For which cause from that flood, and none other, arise no vapours; for if there did, then were it likely that it received its increase from melted snow; of which opinion some learned men of the Greeks have been.
‘As I talked of these matters in this sort, Charicles, the priest of Apollo, my familiar friend said unto me: ‘It is very well said of you, and I myself am of your opinion also, for I have heard the priests that dwell by the Nile cataracts say the same.’ ‘Have you been there then, Charicles?’ said I. ‘I have,’ quoth he, ‘wise Calasiris.’ ‘What business sent you thither?’ I asked him then. ‘The ill-luck that I had at home,’ said he, ‘which for all that turned to my great felicity.’ I wondered at that, how it could be. ‘You will not marvel,’ quoth he, ‘if you hear the whole process of the matter, which you shall do when you please.’ ‘Then,’ quoth I, ‘tell me now, for I am well pleased you should do so.’ Charicles then, when he had let the people depart, said: ‘Know that for a certain cause I have desired a great while that you might be made privy to my estate. A long time after I was married I had no children. Yet at length, when I was old and had made earnest prayers to God, I had a daughter; the which God foreshadowed me should be born in an 78 ill time. She became marriageable, and I provided her a husband of one of her suitors — for she had many — who, in my judgment, was the honestest man. The first night that she, unhappy wench, lay with her husband, she died, either from a thunderbolt, or else, for that by negligent handling her bed was set on fire. And thus the marriage song not yet ended was turned to mourning; and she was carried out of her bride bed into her grave; and the torches that gave her light at her wedding did now serve to kindle her funeral fire. Beside this unhappy fortune God gave me another tragical mishap, in that he took her mother from me also, being too sorrowful for her daughter’s death. I therefore, unable to bear this great punishment at the god’s hands, did not indeed banish myself from life — obeying herein those divines who say that this is unlawful — but rather banished myself from my native land and fled far from the solitude of my own home. For thus to blot out the memory of the past by a change of scene brings with it forgetfulness.
‘I have told you now, my friend, the reason of my wanderings. But I desire that you should know too the principal cause why I tell this tale. After I had travelled over many countries, I came at length into your Egypt and into the city of Catadupi to see the cataracts of the Nile. As I walked about in the city, as my leisure served, and did buy such things as are scarce in Greece — for now by continuance of time having well digested my sorrows I hastened to return into my own country — there came a sober man to me and such a one as by countenance appeared to be wise. He had lately passed his youthful years and was in colour very black and he saluted me and said — not speaking Greek very well — that he would talk with me 79 about a certain matter. And when he saw that I was ready to go with him, he brought me into a certain temple, and by and by said: ‘I saw you buy certain herbs and roots that grow in India and Ethiopia, and if you are willing to purchase from me simply and without guile, I will show you what I have to sell.’ ‘Show me then, I pray you,’ quoth I. ‘I will,’ said he, ‘but do not be too stingy with your offers.’ ‘Nay,’ I returned, ‘do not you be too grasping in your price.’ With that he took a little bag from under his arm and showed me certain precious stones of wonderful price. There were pearls among them as big as a little nut, perfect round; emeralds as green as grass in spring and shining smooth as oil; sapphires in colour like the sea bank that lieth under a hard rock which makes all that is beneath it to be of like purple colour; in few words, their mingled and diverse shining colour delighted and pleased the eyes wonderfully. Which as soon as I saw, ‘You must seek other chapmen,’ quoth I, ‘good sir; for I and all my riches are scarce able to buy one of the stones I see.’ ‘Why,’ said he, ‘if you are not able to buy them, you will be able to take them if they are given to you.’ ‘I am able indeed,’ said I, ‘to receive them, but I know not what you mean so to mock me.’ ‘I mock you not,’ quoth he, ‘but mean good faith, and I swear by the god of this shrine that I will give you all those things if you will take them, and another gift beside which far excelleth them all.’ I laughed when I heard this, and he asked me why I laughed. ‘Because,’ quoth I, ‘it is a thing to be laughed at, seeing that you promise me things of so great price, and yet assure me to give me more.’ ‘Trust me,’ said he; ‘but swear that you will use this gift well and as I shall teach you.’ I marvelled what he meant and stayed a while; yet, in hope of those 80 greater rewards I took an oath. After I had sworn as he willed me, he brought me to his lodging and showed me a maid of excellent beauty who, he said, was only seven years old. Methought she was almost marriageable, such grace did excellent beauty give to the tallness of her stature. I stood in amazement, both because I knew not what he meant, and also for the insatiable desire I had to look upon her. Then spake he thus to me —
‘Sir, the mother of this maid whom you see, for a certain reason which you shall know hereafter, laid her forth, wrapped in such apparel as is commonly used for such purposes, committing her to the doubtfulness of fortune. I by chance finding her took her up, for it is not lawful to despise and neglect a soul in danger, after it hath once entered into a human body. For this is one of the precepts of those wise teachers that are with us, to be whose scholar myself was once judged worthy. Besides, even in the infant’s eyes there appeared something wonderful and divine; with such a steady and amiable countenance did she behold me as I looked upon her. With her was also found this bag of precious stones which I showed you of late, and a silken cloth wrought with letters in her mother’s tongue, wherein was her whole history contained, her mother as I guess procuring the same. Which after I had read, I knew whence and what she was, and so I carried her into the country far from the city, and delivered her to certain shepherds to be brought up, charging them to tell no man. As for the things I found with her I kept them myself, lest because of them the maid should be brought into danger. Thus at the first the matter was concealed. But when in process of time the maid grew on and became more fair than other women were — for beauty 81 in my opinion cannot be concealed even under the ground, but would thence also appear — fearing lest her estate should be known, and so she be killed, and I brought into trouble therefrom, I sued and obtained that I might be sent on embassy to the governor of Egypt, and have come now bringing her with me, desirous to set her business in good order. And now must I utter to him the cause of my embassy, for he hath appoint this day for the hearing of me. As touching the maid, I commend her to you and to the gods who have hitherto conserved her, upon such conditions as you are bound by oath to perform. That is, that you will use her as a free woman, and marry her to a free man, as you receive her at my hand, or rather of her mother who so hath left her. I trust that you will perform all things whereon we agreed, both by credit of your oath and the faith I have in your manners, which these many days I have experienced to be very Greekish indeed. Thus much I had to say to you, before I execute the commission of my embassy: as for the other secrecies belonging to the maid, I will tell you them to-morrow in more ample wise, if you will meet me about the temple of Isis.’
‘I did as he requested, and carried the maid muffled to my own house, and used her very honourably that day, comforting her with many fair means, and gave God great thanks for her, from that time forth accounting and calling her my daughter. The next day I went to the temple of Isis, as I had appointed with the stranger, and after I had walked there a great while alone and saw him not, I went to the governor’s house and asked whether any man had seen the legate of Ethiopia. There one told me that he was gone, or rather driven, home the day before at sunset; for the 82 governor had threatened to kill him if he did not immediately depart. I asked him the cause. ‘For that,’ quoth he, ‘by his embassy he willed our governor not to meddle with the mines out of which the emeralds are dug, as belonging to Ethiopia.’ I came home again much grieved, like one that hath some great mishap, since now I could not know anything as touching the maid, nether whence she was, nor who were her parents.’ ’Marvel not thereat,’ said Cnemon interrupting him, ’for I myself take it heavily that I cannot know it now: yet perhaps I shall know it hereafter.’ ‘You shall indeed,’ said Calasiris. ‘But now I will tell you what more Charicles said.’
‘After I came back to my house,’ quoth he, ‘the maid came forth to meet me, but said nothing, because she could not yet speak Greek; yet she took my by the hand and made me good cheer with her countenance. I marvelled that even as good greyhounds do fawn upon everyone, though they have but little acquaintance with them, so she quickly perceived my good will toward her and did embrace me as if I had been her father. I determined therefore not to tarry longer at Catadupi, lest some spite of the gods should deprive me of this other daughter too, and so coming by boat down the Nile to the sea I got a ship and sailed home. And now is she my daughter with me here, my daughter I say, named by my name, and on her all my hopes depend. And beside other things, wherein she is better than I could wish, she has quickly learned the Greek tongue and has come to perfect age with such speed as if she had been a peerless branch, and so far doth she surpass every other in excellent beauty that all men’s eyes, as well 83 strangers as Greeks, are set on her. To be short, wherever she is, either at the temples, or at public exercises, or in the places of common resort, she turneth all men’s minds and countenances unto her, as if she were the image of some god newly made. But although she be such a one, yet she grieveth me sore. She hath bidden marriage farewell, and determined to live a maiden life; and so, becoming Diana’s servant, she for the most part applieth herself to hunting and doth practice shooting. For my part, I set little by my life. I hoped to marry her to my nephew, my sister’s son, a courteous young man, well mannered and fair spoken; but I can neither by prayer nor promise nor force of argument persuade her thereto. But that which grieveth me most is that — as the proverb says — she useth my own feathers to wing her shafts. The wise arguments that I did once employ in guiding to the choice of a virtuous life she brings up against me, and commends virginity as a thing divine, placing it in heaven with the gods and calling it immaculate, unspotted, and incorruptible. As for love, the sport of Venus, and all the ceremonies that pertain to marriage, she doth utterly reject them. In this matter I require your help, and therefore now having good occasion, which hath in a manner offered itself to me, I use a longer tale than need requireth. Do this much for me, good Calasiris: use your wisdom or some Egyptian enchantment to persuade her, either by word or deed, to know her own nature and to consider that she is born a woman. This you can do, if you will. For she disdaineth not to talk with men, since she has been commonly brought up among them; and she dwelleth in the same house as you, here I mean within the circuit and compass of this temple. Despise not mine 84 humble prayers, and suffer me not to live in mine old age without children and comfort and hope of any to succeed me. This I beseech you to do for Apollo’s sake and all the gods of your own country.’ I wept when I heard this, Cnemon, because he himself not without tears thus humbly besought me, and promised to do what I could for him in this point.
While we yet talked of these matters, one came to us in haste and told us that the captain of the Aenians’ embassy was at the gate and had for some while been urgent, desiring the priest to come and begin the sacrifice. I asked Charicles what those Aenians were, and what holy embassy theirs was, and what sacrifice they made. ‘The Aenians,’ said he, ‘are the noblest part of Thessaly and right Greekish. They fetch their pedigree from the Greek Deucalion, and stretch as far as the borders of Malia, their chief city being Hypata, so called, as they say, because it is mistress and ruler of the rest, but as others think because it is situate under Mount Oeta. This sacrifice the Aenians send to Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, every fourth year, at such times as the Pythian games are kept to Apollo — which is now, as you know — for here was Pyrrhus killed at the very altar of Apollo by guile of Orestes, Agamemnon’s son. And this present embassy is being done more honourably than any of the rest, because their captain says he is one of Achilles’ line. By chance I met him two days ago and there seemeth verily to appear in him somewhat worthy of those that come of Achilles’ blood. Such is the comeliness of his person and tallness of stature that it may easily prove he was born of some goddess.’ I marvelled how they, being Aenians, did say they came of Achilles’ blood — because the Egyptian poet Homer saith that Achilles was born at Phthia — but 85 Charicles replied: ‘The young man and the rest of the Aenians say plainly that he is their progenitor, and that Thetis was married to Peleus out of Malia, and that in old time Phthia was the district round that gulf but that others now because of the glory of their hero do falsely claim that name for themselves. For his own part, he proveth himself to be of Achilles’ blood by another reason: Menesthius his ancestor was the son of Spercheus and Polydora, daughter of Peleus, and went with Achilles among the noble captains to Troy, and because he was his kinsman was one of the chiefest captains of the Myrmidons. But although he himself be very near on every side to Achilles so as to join him close to the Aenians, yet he accounts these funeral offerings to Pyrrhus as the most assured proof of all; which, as he says, all the Thessalians have yielded to them, bearing them witness that they be the next of his blood.’ ‘I envy them not, Charicles,’ quoth I, ‘whether they claim this for themselves untruly or it be so indeed. But I pray you send for the captain in, for I desire much to see him.’ Charicles consented, and therewith entered a young man of Achilles’ courage indeed, who in countenance and stomach appeared no less than he. With a straight neck, high foreheaded with his hair in comely sort rebending down, his nose and nostrils wide enough to take breath, which is a token of courage and strength: his eyes not very grey, but grey and black, which made him look somewhat fiercely, and yet very amiably, not much unlike the sea when it is new calmed after a boisterous tempest. After he had saluted us, as the manner is, and we him again: ‘It is time,’ said he, ‘to do sacrifice to the god, that we may finish the hero’s rites betimes and the pomp belonging thereto.’ ‘Let it be so,’ said 86 Charicles; and as he rose, he said to me softly: ‘You will see Chariclea to-day, if you have not seen her before; for she must by custom be present at the pomp and funerals of Neoptolemus.’ I in truth had seen the maid before, Cnemon, and she used to enquire of me concerning our holy customs and ordinances; but I said nothing to him, waiting to see what would come hereof, and we went to the temple together. All things belonging to the sacrifice had already been prepared by the Thessalians, and when we came to the altar and the young man, having leave from the priest began to do sacrifice, the Pythia spoke thus:
After the god had said thus, those that stood by cast many doubts, but knew not what the oracle should mean. Every man had his several exposition, and as he desired so he conjectured. But none could attain to the true meaning thereof; for oracles and dreams for the most part are only understood when they be come to pass. Yet though the men of Delphi were in amaze as to what was said, they hastened to go to this gorgeous solemnity, not caring to make any diligent enquiry regarding the oracle that had been given them.
Further corrections in the online edition by S. Rhoads © 2006