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. 231-257.
The King of Ethiopia had beguiled Oroöndates and obtained half of what they contended for by winning the city of Philae, which always is easy to be conquered and by this quick stroke had brought him to such straights that he was compelled to prepare his expedition in haste and without due heed. The City Philae is situated upon the banks of the Nile, a little above the lesser cataract, about twelve miles and a half from Syene and Elephantina. As exiles from Egypt had once taken and inhabited this place, it was always a cause of dispute between the Ethiopians and the Egyptians. The Ethiopians declare that their borders stretch to the cataract, while the Egyptians claim Philae, as a prize of war, because their exiles inhabit the same. The city was continually under the rule now of the one, now of the other, being always theirs who came and conquered it, and at that time it had a garrison of Egyptians and Persians. The King of Ethiopia sent at first an embassy to Oroöndates and demanded Philae and the emerald mines there. But when, after sending many times, he still failed in his request, as has been said before, he commanded his legates to go a few days journey in advance, and followed himself with an army which he had long ago prepared, as though for another war, telling no man which way he would take. After he 232 supposed that his ambassadors were past Philae and had filled the inhabitants with security and carelessness — for they bruited abroad that they went with commission to conclude peace — he came suddenly upon them and cast out the garrison, who could not withstand the number of the enemy and their battering rams for more than two or three days, and so took the city, doing no harm to any of the inhabitants thereof.
Because of all this Achaemenes found Oroöndates sore troubled, having been certified of all that had happened by one who fled from the city; but he troubled him a great deal more, because he came so suddenly and unsent for. Wherefore he asked him at once whether any mischance was befallen Arsace or the rest of his household. He answered that there was, and that he wished to speak to him in private. When every man else was departed he told him how Theagenes was taken prisoner by Mitranes, and sent to him to be conveyed to the great king, if he thought it good; for the young man was worthy to be placed in the court and wait at the king’s own table. Then how he was rescued by the people of Bessa, who slew Mitranes, and after that came to Memphis: and thereto he added an account of Thyamis and his fortunes. Last of all he told him of Arsace’s love toward Theagenes, and how he was brought to the palace, with the honour which she gave him in token of her good will, and all the service he did as her cup bearer, and how that yet there was no harm done, by reason that the young man withstood her and would not. Marry it was to be doubted by continuance of time or violence he might be forced, if some man did not soon fetch him from Memphis, and so cut away the ground from Arsace’s love. And for that cause he had come privily to tell him quickly thereof, since 233 his love for his master was such that he could not conceal what he knew to be contrary to his pleasure.
When he had angered Oroöndates with this tale, so that he was now thoroughly chafed and in mind to be revenged, he kindled in him a new desire by talking of Chariclea, commending her highly and praising her beauty, as she well deserved, saying that there never was seen such a one before nor would be after. ‘Account all your concubines,’ quoth he, ‘not only those that are at Memphis but those also who follow you here, not to be worth a rush in comparison with her.’ He told him also many other things, trusting that, although Oroöndates had to do with Chariclea, he might himself after a while ask for her as the price of his information, and take her for wife. By this time the governor was all on fire, being caught in the snares both of anger and desire, so that without delay he called for Bagoas, one of his most trusty eunuchs, and giving him fifty horsemen sent him to Memphis, with command to bring to him quickly Theagenes and Chariclea, wherever he might find them. He wrote a letter also to Arsace, in this manner:
To Euphrates his chief eunuch at Memphis he wrote thus: ‘Of the negligent ordering of my house you shall hereafter give account. At this time deliver to Bagoas the two Greek prisoners, whether Arsace be willing or not. Let them be delivered without fail; 234 else know that I have commanded to bring thee also in bonds to be flayed alive.’ Bagoas then set off to do his commands, having the letter sealed with the governor’s own signet, that those at Memphis should the better credit them and deliver to him the young folks. Oroöndates himself went to his war against the Ethiopians, ordering that Achaemenes should follow with him also, and be kept secretly under guard until his information was proved true.
About this same the following matters happened at Memphis. Just after Achaemenes had gone Thyamis, being now high priest and therefore chief of the city, when he had performed whatever pertained to the burial of Calasiris within the appointed days, remembered to make inquiry after Theagenes and Chariclea, since it was now lawful for the priests by their own ordinance to deal with strangers. Making diligent search for them everywhere, he heard at length that they were lodged in the prince’s court. Wherefore he went to Arsace in haste and asked for them, saying that for many reasons they appertained to him, but especially for that his father Calasiris with the last words he spake commanded him to provide for their welfare and defend them from wrong. He thanked her for entertaining the young Greek strangers so courteously during the days when it was not lawful for any but priests to lodge in the temple; but marry now he desired to have them who had been entrusted to himself again. To this Arsace made answer: ‘I marvel at you, that while with your own mouth you commend us for our humanity and gentleness, you condemn us straightway again of incivility, making it appear that either we cannot or we will not provide for strangers and do for them as reason requires.’ ‘I mean not so,’ said Thyamis, 235 ‘for I know that they would fare better here with you than at my house, if they wished to stay. But seeing that they are of good parentage, and have been diversely tormented by fortune, and for the moment are far from their native country, they care for nothing so much as to recover their friends and get home again. Wherein that I should help them my father left me his heir, and I have besides other causes of amity with them.’ ‘You do well,’ quoth Arsace, ‘to leave brawling and to plead equity: which appears so much the more on our side, as in matters of ownership possession as master is a stronger thing than vain intentions.’ Thyamis wondered at this and said: ‘Have you mastership over them? How I pray you?’ ‘By martial law,’ quoth she, ‘which maketh of prisoners bond slaves.’
Then Thyamis perceived that she spake of the business with Mitranes, and said: ‘There is no war, but Arsace, but peace at this time; and although the one bringeth into bondage, yet the other maketh free. The one is a tyrant’s will, the other a monarch’s decree. In a word, war and peace ought not to be regarded by their names, but by the meaning and intent of those that use them. Wherefore you will make a better definition of equity if you consent to this. As for what is honest and profitable there can be no question. For how is it seemly for you, or profitable, to appear so madly set on keeping these young strangers?’ At that Arsace could contain herself no longer; and that happened to her which is common to all lovers. So long as they think they are not spied, they blush; but when once they are perceived, they are past all shame. The secret lover hesitates; he that is detected becomes the more bold. 236 Since then her guilty mind accused her and she thought that Thyamis suspected somewhat, she set not a rush by the priest nor by the honour of his office, but elbowing aside all womanly shame she said: ‘You shall not go unpunished, you people, for what you did to Mitranes. In due season Oroöndates will take vengeance on those that slew him and his company. As for these strangers, I will not let them go. For the moment they are my slaves, and within a short space they will be sent according to Persian custom to my brother the great king. Wherefore play the orator as long as you list, and lose your labour with defining of justice, and honour, and utility. He who hath dominion over another, needeth none of these, but measureth each according to his own wish. Begone from our court straightway, and that willingly, lest, if you care not, you be forced to depart in your despite.’
So Thyamis went away, calling the gods to witness and saying only that this would not come to a good end, but meaning already to tell his story to the city and ask the people’s aid. But Arsace said: ‘I care not for your priesthood: love’s one holy office is happiness.’ And therewith she went to her chamber, and sending for Cybele devised what they had to do. For by this time she began to suspect that Achaemenes was gone to Oroöndates, because he came not into sight. If at any time she asked for him, Cybele made diverse and sundry excuses, to persuade her anything rather than that he was gone to Oroöndate: but for all that she was not believed, and as time went on lost her credit quite. On this occasion then Arsace said: ‘What shall we do now, Cybele? What way can we devise to rid me out of all these perils that I am in? My love abateth no whit, but rather waxeth 237 fiercer and fiercer, finding fresh fuel in the young man. But he is cruel, and will not be ruled, and was more gentle even before than he is now; for then he comforted me with deceitful promises, but now he openly refuses to do my request. I am the more grieved for fear lest, as I suspect, he too has heard of Achaemenes, and therefore is more afraid than ever of the act. And in addition to all this there is the vexation of Achaemenes, who is gone with information to Oroöndates, and is likely either to persuade him or at least to find him not altogether incredulous. But let me only see Oroöndates; I know he will not be able to withstand my flattery and one tear from Arsace’s eyes. For a wife’s caresses and familiar looks have a wonderful charm to persuade her husband. But what grieveth me most is if haply I be accused, yea and punished even, if Oroöndates believes the charge before I see him, ere I have had my way with Theagenes. Wherefore, Cybele, turn every stone, devise every manner of means now, seeing that we are brought to our final extremity. And remember that if I despair myself I shall not spare others, and you shall be the first to taste the fruits of your son’s attempts; whereof that thou are ignorant I cannot surmise.’ ‘As touching my son,’ said Cybele, ‘and my fidelity to you, mistress, you will know in the end that you are deceived. That you so slackly handle your own love is no just reason why you should blame others who are blameless. You do not command the stripling like a mistress but flatter him like a servant. That perhaps was well enough at the first, when we deemed him to be of a weak and tender spirit; but now when he withstands his lover so stiffly, let him by experience learn that you are his mistress, and be glad after whips and torments to yield to your pleasure. For young 238 men pay no heed to prayers, but when they are forced then they begin to stoop. Wherefore this one also, when he is chastised, will do that which he would not while he was flattered.’ ‘You seem to speak well’ said Arsace, ‘but how could I abide to see with mine own eyes his body scourged or otherwise tormented?’ ‘You are too pitiful,’ said Cybele; ‘it rests with him: a little pain will make him better advised, and you after a little grief will have all you desire. You need not vex your own yes with what shall be done to him. Deliver him to Euphrates, and command him to punish him as it were for some other offence, so that you shall not see that which would pain you — for hearing is nothing so grievous as sight — and then, if we perceive that he has changed his mind, we may on his sufficient repentance release him from his pain.’
Arsace allowed herself to be persuaded — for love when in despair has no mercy on the beloved and is ever wont to take vengeance for a repulse — and sending for the chief eunuch commanded him to do as they had devised. He, being afflicted with jealousy as are all eunuchs, and offended with Theagenes besides because of other things that he saw and surmised, laid him at once in irons, and locking him in a dark room tormented him with hunger and stripes. When Theagenes, who knew the reason well enough but pretended to be ignorant, asked why he was thus handled, he gave him no answer; but every day augmented his pains and tormented him more than either Arsace wished or had commanded, never suffering any man to go in to him save Cybele: for so was he ordered. She came to him very often, pretending she brought him food privily, as being very sorry for his mishap because of their past acquaintance, 239 but in truth trying him, to see if he relented a whit because of these pains, and how he was presently minded. But he played the man then all the more and withstood every trial, suffering his body to be afflicted, but keeping a lofty stomach by reason of his chastity. As for his ill fortune, he rejoiced therein, because though his greatest part was tormented, yet his best and most noble part was well pleased, since he had occasion now to show his love and faithfulness to Chariclea. He thought indeed that it went very well with him if only she might know thereof, and ever called upon her as his light and his life. Cybele seeing this, when, contrary to Arsace’s mind — which was that he should be punished a little, until he relented, and not tormented to death — she had brought Euphrates word to augment his punishment, began now to realise that her attempt had been useless and of no effect, and to understand in what danger she herself was. Sometimes she was afraid of the instant vengeance of Oroöndates, if Achaemenes should have told him hereof; sometimes she feared lest Arsace even before that should have her killed, as having been beguiled of the attainment of her love. She determined therefore to brave all risks, and by some surpassing stroke of mischief execute Arsace’s pleasure and so avoid her present peril, or else to do away with every proof by killing of them all. In that mind she went to Arsace and said: ’Mistress, we lose our labour. That obstinate fellow relenteth no whit, but is more wilful, and hath Chariclea always in his mouth, and comforteth himself with her name, as if it were the dearest thing in the world to him. Wherefore if it please you, let us cast our last anchor, as the proverb says, and make away with her who stands so in our way. For if he shall know that she 240 is dead, it is likely that he will change his mind and do our pleasure, being out of all hope of her love.’
Arsace snatched at her words — for her old jealousy was now by anger increased — and said: ‘You give me good counsel: I will see to it and give command that the mischievous wench be removed.’ Who will do your commandment in this point?’ said Cybele. ‘For although you have all things in your hands, yet the laws will not let you kill any one without the judgment of the Persian magistrates. You will have need, at your own great trouble and annoyance, to invent a charge against the maid; and then it is doubtful whether we shall be able to prove it. But if you think good — for I am ready to do anything for your sake — I will dispatch this matter with poison, and by means of a subtle cup rid our adversary of her life.’ Arsace approved the plan and bade her put it into practise; and she went about it forthwith. She found Chariclea moaning and weeping and thinking of naught but how to devise some way of death — for by this time she suspected in what case Theagenes was, although at first Cybele had by diverse tricks deluded her and made sundry excuses for that she saw him not in the parlour as she was wont to do — and said to her: ‘Good soul, wilt thou not cease thus to vex thyself and pine away to no purpose? Behold, Theagenes will be set at liberty this night and come to thee. Our mistress, who was somewhat angered with him because of a certain offence that he committed in serving her and commanded him to be kept in ward, hath promised this day — partly at my request — to set him at liberty and to celebrate a sumptuous feast according to the custom of this country. Wherefore arise and be merry 241 and now at length eat somewhat with us.’ ‘How can I believe you?’ said Chariclea. ‘Your continual lying hath so often beguiled me that I cannot give credit to anything that you say.’ Then said Cybele, ‘I swear unto you by all the gods that your business shall be dispatched this day and you will never need to trouble hereafter; provided only you do not kill yourself before by refraining these many days from food. Wherefore eat some bit of that which is provided at this time.’ Chariclea with much ado consented, although she doubted not that she would deceive her as she had done many times before; but partly because of her oath she agreed and partly she was glad to embrace the pleasure that she promised: for the mind doth quickly give credit to that which it earnestly desireth. So they sat down together and did eat. As the waiting maid served them to drink Cybele beckoned to her to bring Chariclea the first cup, and then she herself drank of another. But scarcely had she drank it off when she began to grow dizzy and spilling what was left on the ground and looking fiercely at the maid was torn with violent retchings and convulsions.
Chariclea was terror stricken with dismay and tried to help her; and so were all the rest that were there. For the poison, it appeared, was swifter than an arrow in its force and strong enough to kill at once even a young and lusty man, while in her old dry body it made its way to the vital parts sooner than any one could tell the tale. Thus was the old woman consumed, and when the spasms were ended her limbs fell motionless, and all her body turned very black. But methinks her crafty mind was more mischievous even than the poison; for even as she was yielding up her ghost she forgot not her subtle devices, but partly 242 by signs and partly by broken words and dying speech she signified that it was Chariclea who had poisoned her. So the old woman died, and Chariclea was bound and brought straightway to Arsace, who asked her whether she had provided the poison, and threatened to torment her on the rack if she would not confess the truth. Then was Chariclea a strange sight to those who looked upon her. She was not sad nor bare any countenance that might argue a faint heart, but came forward smiling and made no account of what she had in hand: either because she heeded not the slander as being guiltless, or else that if Theagenes were not alive, she wished also to die and thought it a gain to take upon her a deed which others had done. ‘Jolly dame,’ said she, ‘if Theagenes be alive, say that I am not guilty of this murder. But if he has miscarried through thy mischievous attempts thou shalt need no torments to make me confess. I am she who killed thy nurse that brought thee up so well and taught thee so much good. Take me and kill me out of hand: for I could do Theagenes no greater pleasure, who by good right hath resisted thy wicked devices.’
These words made Arsace mad, and when she had commanded her to be beaten she said: ‘Carry this quean away, bound as she is, and show her to her goodly lover, who is in like plight, and when you have bound her hand and foot commit her to Euphrates also to be kept until to-morrow, that she may be condemned to death by the Persian magistrates.’ As she was led away, the maid who was Cybele’s cup-bearer — she was one of the two Ionians, who at first were given by Arsace to wait upon the young folks — either for good will to Chariclea by reason of their acquaintance and familiarity, or else 243 moved by the will go God, wept and lamented pitifully and said: ‘O unhappy woman that is without all fault.’ They who were by wondered at her and compelled her to tell plainly what she meant. Then she confessed that she herself gave Cybele that poison, having received it before from her to give it to Chariclea. Troubled by the strangeness of the matter, or else called hastily by Cybele, who bade her bring the first draught to Chariclea, she had changed the cups and given the old woman that wherein the poison was. So she was carried forthwith to Arsace, all men deeming it a happy issue that Chariclea should be found free of guilt; for even barbarous folk have pity upon a gentle and noble countenance. But though the maid said the same to her, yet she prevailed nothing, but Arsace commanded her also, as helping and consenting to the deed, to be put in prison, and kept for judgment.
The Persian magistrates, in whose hands it was to determine controversies and punish offences against the common weal, were sent for in haste to sit in judgment the next day. When they were come Arsace accused Chariclea of poisoning her nurse, declaring all that had happened, and oft would moist her words with tears, because she was despoiled of her whom she counted most dear and above all others loved her best. She took moreover the judges to witness how she had entertained Chariclea, being a stranger, and showed her all manner of courtesy, and was now thus wronged instead of thanks which she had well deserved. To be short, Arsace laid sore charges against her; but Chariclea made no answer, but confessed the fact again, and said that she gave her the poison, and moreover she added that she would have poisoned Arsace also, if she had not been prevented, and many 244 other things else, railing openly against her and inviting the judges to deliver sentence of punishment. For she had been the night past with Theagenes in prison, and conferring with him of their affairs in turn she had concluded, that, if need were, she would willingly die any manner of death whereto she should be condemned, and depart out of a life full of troubles and endless wanderings and cruel fortune. Then she had given him his last farewell belike in loving fashion, and taken the jewels that were exposed with her, which she was ever wont of purpose to bear privily upon her, and tied them about her body, underneath, to the intent that they should furnish her burial, and now confessed every accusation that was laid against her and refused no manner of death and rehearsed herself many things of which she was not even accused. Wherefore the judges made no delay but had almost adjudged her to a more cruel and Persian-like death; yet, because they were moved somewhat by her countenance and young surpassing beauty, they condemned her presently to be burned with fire.
Then was she led away by the executioners and carried a little without the walls, the herald proclaiming that she was to be burned as a prisoner, and a great company following forth from the city. Some saw her as she was being led away, others heard thereof by report, which quickly flew over all the town, and so hastened. Arsace came also and looked on from the wall; for she thought it a pain, if she satisfied not herself by seeing her die. When the executioners had laid a great deal of wood together and put fire thereto, so that now it began to flame, Chariclea prayed those who led her to give her a little leave, promising that she would go into the fire alone. Which granted, 245 she lifted up her hands to haven where the sun sent forth his rays, and cried with a loud voice: ‘O sun and earth, and all ye blessed spirits upon the earth and under the earth, who see and take vengeance on all workers of wickedness, be witness that I am not guilty of that whereof I am accused. Vouchsafe to take me gently into your care, for I am willing to die because of the intolerable griefs that burden me. And hasten to take vengeance on this shameless Arsace, who hath defiled herself with so many filthy acts, and is a harlot, and doth all this to rob me of my husband.’ When she had said this, all cried out at her words: some would have the execution stayed till another time of judgment, some were ready to take her away now: but she, preventing them all went into the midst of the fire.
She stood there a good while without harm and the fire went every way about her, but approached not near to do any hurt, giving place rather when she came thereinto, so that by reason of the light around her beauty was made the fairer and more wonderful, seeming like to a bride married in a chamber of fire. She went sometimes into this side and sometimes into that, marvelling what it meant and hastening to die; but it prevailed not, for the fire always gave way and fled as it were from her. The tormentors for their part ceased not to lay on wood and reeds — Arsace with threatening nods charging them so to do — to make it burn more fiercely: but it did no good, save that it troubled the people more, who supposing that she had help from heaven cried: ‘The woman is clean, the woman is not guilty’ and coming to the fire put the tormentors aside. The first that so did was Thyamis — for by this time he was come, being admonished of what was done by the great noise in 246 the city — who encouraged the people to help her. They were fain to deliver her but durst not come near the fire, bidding her step out herself, for she that had been in the fire without harm need fear nothing if she list to come forth. Which when Chariclea saw and hard, thinking that God preserved her, she deemed it best not to be ungrateful nor make light of his benefit, and leapt out of the fire. Whereat the people for joy and wonder gave a great shout and thanked the gods. But Arsace, not well in her wits, skipped from the walls and came out at a postern with a great company of her guard and other noble men of Persia, and laid hands herself upon Chariclea, and looking frowardly upon the people said; ‘Are you not ashamed to go about to deliver a graceless woman, a witch and a murderer, taken in the deed doing and confessing the same. In so helping such a wicked quean, you strive against the Laws of Persia and against the king himself, his governors, nobles and judges. Perhaps you be deceived, because she burned not this day, and ascribe that help to the gods. Will you not be wiser and understand that this is a great proof of her witchcraft, who hath such store of sleights that she can withstand the might of fire? Come you to-morrow into the counsel house, if you will, for it shall be open and public to all; and there you shall hear her confess and be convicted also by those who were privy to her crime, that I now keep in prison.
Therewithal she carried her away, holding her by the neck, and commanded her guard to make room. Some of the people were angry and in mind to resist; others gave way because they were somewhat blinded by the tale of poisoning; but most had fear of Arsace and her authority. So Chariclea was delivered to 247 Euphrates again, to be kept for another judgment, and had more irons laid upon her. The greatest comfort that she had in this adversity was that she had time to tell Theagenes of her affairs. For this was Arsace’s invention too, to put them to more pain, thinking that the young people being prisoners together might behold each other’s torments and griefs: since she knew that a lover is more distressed by his friend’s pain than by his own. But this was to them a comfort, and they thought it gain to be afflicted alike, and if either had less torment than the other, each supposed himself vanquished and as it were more weak in love. Moreover they were together, and could encourage one another to bear in manly fashion whatsoever fortune came, and refuse no trial that might ensue of their unfeigned chastity and steadfast faith. After they had talked far into the night of such matters as it is likely they would — for they never hoped to talk together again — and had satisfied themselves as well as they might, they at last fell into communication of the miracle which happened about the fire. Theagenes referred the benefit thereof to God’s goodness who had saved her, being guiltless, from Arsace’s unjust slander. But Chariclea seemed to doubt. ‘For,’ quoth she, ‘this strange kind of delivery may be thought indeed to proceed from God. But to be afflicted with these our miseries and torments beyond measure is rather a sign of those who are plagued by God and suffer from his displeasure. Unless indeed this be a divine mystery, where God casts men into extreme peril, and when all hope is past finds a remedy.’
When she had said this, and Theagenes bade her be content and to cling to godly thoughts even more 248 than to chastity, suddenly she cried: ‘The gods be favourable to us! Now I remember what a dream or waking vision I had this last night, although, I know not how, I had forgotten it before. It was a line of verse and noble Calasiris expounded it to me, either appearing to me in my sleep or else manifestly seen. The meaning whereof was this.
Theagenes, when he heard this, himself also was moved like those who have some divine spirit, and gave as great a leap as his chains would let him, and said: ‘Be kind to us, ye gods. I also am made a poet now, and remember an oracle which some like spirit gave me, whether it was Calasiris or some god appearing in Calasiris’ shape, who seemed to say thus to me.
‘As for me, I can guess whereto this oracle tendeth. The ‘Land of Ethiopia’ seemeth to be that which is under the ground. ‘With the Maid,’ that is, to dwell with Proserpine: and the escape from Arsace’s band signifies the departure of the soul from the body. But what should your verse mean, wherein are so many contraries? for ‘Pantarbe’ means ‘all fearful;’ and yet it bids you not be afraid of the fire.’ Then said Chariclea: ‘My dear heart Theagenes, our long acquaintance with calamity maketh thee to take all things for the worse. For men commonly suit their 249 thoughts to those things that befall them. I think that thy oracle doth foreshadow better luck than you suppose. Perhaps I am the maid, with whom it promises that, after you be delivered from Arsace’s chains, you shall journey to my country of Ethiopia. How this shall be done we know not; but it is neither incredible nor impossible for the gods to do; those who have given us these oracles will see thereto. As touching that which was foretold of me, it is fulfilled, as you yourself know; and I for whom there seemed no hope am still alive. I carried my safety upon me, although then I knew it not; but now, methinks, I understand. For whereas at all times before I carried with me the tokens that my mother laid forth with me, at that time above all others, looking for my last judgment I tied them about my body in a secret place, that if I were saved they might find me such things as were necessary for me to live by, but if I miscarried that they might be my last ornaments and furniture for my burial. Among these, Theagenes, which are jewels of great value and very precious stones of India and Ethiopia, there is a ring which my father gave my mother when he was ensured to her, wherein is set a stone called Pantarbe, and about it are certain holy letters written. To be short, that ring hath some heavenly virtue in it which withstandeth fire, giving them that have it grace never to be hurt thereby: which perhaps by the will of the gods hath also preserved me. This may I think and know, because good Calasiris told me the same was written on that band which was then exposed with me and is now wrapped around my body.’ ‘That is probablye and like to be true,’ said Theagenes, ‘because of your escape. But what second Pantarbe shall we have to help us out of to-morrow’s danger? It doth not 250 promise immortality because of its avoidance of the fire — I would to God it might — and the most wicked Arsace methinks is now devising some new fashion of vengeance against us. I would that she might condemn us both at once to one kind of death; for verily I should not call that death but a rest from all our troubles.’ ‘Be of good comfort,’ quoth Chariclea; ‘we have another Pantarbe, even the promise that was made us this night. Let us trust to God, and then we shall either have the more pleasure if we be saved, or die with better minds if need require.’ Thus were they occupied, sometimes lamenting and weeping, more for the other’s than their own fortune, sometimes taking their last leave and swearing by the gods and their present trouble that they would hold their faith in love inviolable to the death.
Meanwhile Bagoas and the fifty horsemen who were sent with him came to Memphis late in the night, when all were asleep, and waking the guard at the gate, and telling them who they were, and being recognised went quietly in haste to the governor’s palace. There Bagoas left his horsemen, inclosing the house with them round about, that they might be ready to help if any man withstood him. He himself went by a certain postern, of which the most knew no, and having with small ado broken down a slender door and told him that abode there who he was, and commanded him to make no noise, he hastened to Euphrates, knowing the way easily by continual use before, while the moon also shone a little. He found him in bed, and wakened him, and as he made a nose and asked who was there, he bade him peace, saying: ‘It is I: bid one bring a lamp hither.’ Then he called a boy who waited upon him, and bade him bring a lamp and awake no one else. When the boy had 251 set the lamp in the stand and gone again, Euphrates said: ‘What news does this sudden and unexpected coming signify?’ ‘I need not use many words,’ answered Bagoas. ‘Read these letters, and mark this seal, and be sure that it is Oroöndates who gives this charge; and do his commandment, taking night and quickness as your allies to escape all notice. Whether it is profitable to declare his orders to Arsace you must for yourself consider.’ As soon as Euphrates had read both the letters, he said: ‘Arsace will in any case be ill content; but for the moment she is in great peril, since she lies now in a fever which I think the gods sent upon her yesterday. She is in a burning heat, so that we have small hope of her life. I would not deliver this letter to her, even if she were hale and well, for she would rather die herself, and kill us all too, than deliver up these young folks. Know that you have come in due time, and take them with you, and help them all you may. Have pity upon them, for they deserve pity in their troubles, and have been afflicted a thousand ways, sore against my will; but Arsace gave command. Marry they are of good stock, and as I have found by experience very modest in all points.’
So he led him to the prison. Bagoas when he saw the young prisoners, though they were pined away with torments, wondered at their tall stature and excellent beauty. They were somewhat dismayed, thinking that this was what they expected, and that Bagoas had come at dead of night to give them their last and deadly judgment. But they soon took heart, and looked cheerfully as though they cared for nothing, and gave those who were there manifest tokens that they were glad. When Euphrates came near and set his hands to take away the stocks whereunto 252 their chains were tied, Theagenes cried out: ‘O goodly Arsace, she thinketh to hide her mischievous deeds of wickedness in the darkness of night. But the eye of justice is quick to reprove and brings to light all wicked acts, be they never so closely and privily done. Do you as you are commanded, and whether it be fire, water or sword that be appointed for us, let us both together and at one time have the same manner of death.’ Chariclea made the like petition also. Whereat the eunuchs wept — for they partly understood what they said — and brought them forth chains and all.
When they were out of the governor’s house Euphrates tarried behind and Bagoas, with the horsemen that came with him, took off most of the irons, leaving no more but so many as might keep them safely and not annoy them. Then, setting them on horses and putting them in their midst, they went as fast as they could to Thebes. They rode all the night and until the third hour of the next day without alighting, and then not able to abide the heat of the sun — for it was the summer season in Egypt — and exhausted by lack of sleep, but most of all because they saw Chariclea to be weary of riding, they determined to halt a while to ease themselves, and bait their horses, and let the maid rest. There was a little hill upon the bank of the Nile, about the which the water went, not keeping his straight course but turning in a manner half round, so that it made the place like a little island. That which was thus compassed by the water was full of rich grass, by reason that it was so near the river, very good for cattle and horses to feed in; it was shadowed moreover by trees of Persia and great fig trees and such others as do commonly grow about the Nile. There Bagoas with his company 253 alighted, using the trees instead of a tent, and did eat meat himself and offered Theagenes and Chariclea some too. At first they would not, saying that it was useless for them to eat who should soon be slain, but he compelled them in a manner, and persuaded them that no such thing was meant, but that they were being taken to Oroöndates, and not to be killed.
When the heat of the day was past and the sun shone on their side out of the west and Bagoas was making ready to ride again, there came one on horseback, who for the haste that he had made panted himself and his horse had sweat so much that he could scarcely sit upon him. He said somewhat to Bagoas privily, and then stood still. Bagoas for a little while held down his head, seeming to muse at that which was told him, and afterwards said: ‘Strangers, be of good cheer: you are revenged of your enemy: Arsace is dead. When she heard that you were gone, she hanged herself, by her own will preventing the death that must necessarily have ensued for her. For she could not have escaped from Oroöndates and the king without punishment, but either she would have been put to death or else continually shamed for all the rest of her life. Such word doth Euphrates send by this messenger. Wherefore be merry; for I know well that you have hurt no body, and she that hurt you is dead.’ Thus said Bagoas to them, not speaking Greek very well and letting many false phrases escape him; but still he told them, partly because he was glad himself, in that he was scarce content with Arsace’s frowardness, who while she lived played the tyrant, partly because he wished to cheer and comfort the young folks. For he hoped — and indeed it was so — that he would be held by Oroöndates in high esteem, if he brought safely to him the young 254 man, whose comeliness would overshadow all the other courtiers, and the maid of such singular beauty to be his wife after Arsace’s death. Theagenes too and Chariclea rejoiced at the news and thanked the great gods and justice therefore. For they thought they would fear nothing, though they had never so ill luck seeing that their mortal enemy was dead. So great a pleasure is it even to die, so long as your enemies also are destroyed.
When it drew toward evening and the heat began to abate, so that it was better to travel in, they set forward and rode all that evening and the night and the next morning, making haste to find Oroöndates at Thebes if they might. But they lost their labour. One of the army met them and told them that the governor was no longer at Thebes, and that he himself was sent to get together all soldiers in arms, even those that had been left in garrison, and bring them with speed to Syene. All was in trouble and in hurly-burly, and it was to be feared that the city had already been taken, for the governor was late in moving, and the Ethiopian army used such celerity that it was there before any news came that it was coming.
At this Bagoas left his intended journey to Thebes and went to Syene. But when he was almost there he fell in with then Ethiopian scouts, a valiant crew of lusty soldiers, who were sent before to spy out the country that the main army might have safe passage. At that time because of the darkness and their ignorance of the country they had strayed too far away, and having hidden in the reeds by the river to protect themselves and to lay ambush for their enemies they stayed there all night and slept not. Early in the morning when they heard Bagoas and his horsemen ride by and saw that they were but a few, they 255 suffered them to ride on, and when they knew certainly that none followed them, they broke out with a great noise and pursued them. Bagoas and the horsemen who were with him were startled by the sudden cry, as well for that by their colour they knew them to be Ethiopians, and being themselves not able to withstand their numbers — for there were a thousand of them sent to spy the country in light harness — they tarried not so much as to look them in their faces, but fled: yet not so fast at the first as they might, because they wished not their enemies to think they fled in fear. The others chased them, sending out about two hundred of the people called Troglodytes; who are a tribe of the Ethiopians who live by husbandry on the borders of Arabia. These Troglodytes are very swift of foot by nature and practise the same from their youth. They never wear heavy armour but use slings in battle and attack their enemies suddenly and so endamage them. If they perceive they be too weak, they flee; and their enemies never pursue them, for they know they are too swift and will hide themselves in every corner. These people then overtook the horsemen, though they themselves were on foot, and casting with their slings wounded some of them. But when they turned upon them, they would not abide, but fled back little by little to their fellows. Which when the Persians perceived, despising their numbers they chased them as fast as they might, and after driving them back themselves rode forward with as much speed as they could, spurring their horses and giving them the reins at will. By which means some escaped and fled to a turn of the Nile where they hid under the bank as a refuge that heir enemies might not see them. But Bagoas was taken prisoner, because his horse stumbled and he fell and hurt his leg 256 so that he could not stir it. Theagenes also and Charicles were taken, who thought it shame to forsake Bagoas, whose good will they had tried already and hoped to find more at his hands afterward. They therefore tarried with him, partly because they could not flee, but being also themselves willing to surrender. Then Theagenes said to Chariclea: ‘Thus is our dream come to pass. These be the Ethiopians into whose land it is our destiny to come as prisoners. It is best to yield and commit ourselves to doubtful fortune with them rather than to certain danger with Oroöndates.’
Chariclea understood that she was led by the hand of destiny and had better hope, supposing those who took them to be friends rather than enemies. Yet she told Theagenes nothing of what she thought, but said only that she was well content. When the Ethiopians came, they knew Bagoas to be an eunuch by his face, but they made inquiry who these should be whom they saw unarmed and in chains, although of excellent beauty and nobleness, calling up an Egyptian of their own company and another who could speak the Persian tongue, thinking that they would understand either both or one of the two. For scouts and foreriders are taught by necessity to have such with them as can speak the language of the inhabitants and their enemies, that they may the better understand that wherefore they are sent. Theagenes, who by continuance of time had learned the Egyptian tongue a little and could answer a short question, told them that Bagoas was the chief servant of the Persian governor and that they themselves were Greeks, taken prisoners first by the Persians, but now through better fortune by the Ethiopians. Thereat they decided to spare their lives, and take them 257 prisoners, and as their first booty to make a present to their king of the chiefest jewel his Persian enemy had. For in the courts of Persia eunuchs are eyes and ears, and as they have no children nor kinsfolk to whom their minds might be bent, they depend only upon him who trusts them. As for the young folks, they thought they would be a goodly present, to wait upon their king and grace his court. So they set them upon horses and carried them away, because Bagoas being wounded and the others hindered by their chains could not else go fast enough. Surely this was like the prologue to a play. The strangers and prisoners, who just before were afraid of instant death, were now not so much carried off as escorted, with those for guards who soon were to be their subjects. In such case were they.