Stories from the Greek Comedians - Alfred J. Church

The Acharnians

The long struggle between Athens and Sparta which goes by the name of the Peloponnesian War broke out early in 431 B.C. Athens kept for a considerable time the command of the sea, but was unable to resist in the field the overwhelming forces of Sparta and her allies. Early in the summer of the first year of the war, Archidamus, one of the kings of Sparta, entered the Athenian territory at the head of an army of eighty thousand men. Pericles, who was then the leading statesman of Athens, had persuaded his countrymen to dismantle their country-houses and farms, and to bring all their movable and portable property within the walls. Still the sight of the ravages of the invading host, which, of course, could be plainly seen from the walls, roused the people almost to madness. The Athenians, though excelling in maritime pursuits, were passionately fond of a country life, and it was almost more than they could bear to see their farms and orchards and olive-yards wasted with fire. Inferior as they were in numbers, they loudly demanded to be led out against the invaders, and it was as much as Pericles could do to keep them within the walls. The inhabitants of the deme or township of Acharnę were prominent among the malcontents. Acharnę was the richest and most populous of the townships of Attica, contributing no less than ten thousand men to the total force (about twenty-nine thousand) which Athens could put into the field. The chief occupation of the place was charcoal-burning, the woods of Mount Parnes being conveniently near. No place was more interested in the question of peace and war, as it was here that the Spartan king pitched his camp. The invasion was repeated year after year, though on some few occasions various things happened to prevent it. Not only did Athenians lose greatly by the desolation of their country, but they suffered much by being cooped up within the walls of the city; a most fatal pestilence was thus caused in the second year of the war. And it was but a small satisfaction to retaliate by ravaging the coasts of the Peloponnesians, and by annually invading the territory of Megara, a city which had concluded an alliance with Sparta. There had always been a peace party in the state, and when Pericles died, early in the third year of the war, this party became more powerful. At the same time the war party conducted affairs less prudently. The cautious policy of Pericles was discarded for remote expeditions and out-of-the-way schemes. Aristophanes, in this play, exhibited in February, 425 (it is the earliest comedy that has come down to us), sets forth the views of the advocates of peace. He expresses the feeling of distress caused by the desolation of the country, and also the dislike felt by prudent politicians for the extravagant ideas of the war party. The play, or, as I may call it for my present purpose, the story, opens in the Athenian place of Assembly (Pnyx). Dicęopolis (Just-City), whose name I have Englished by "Mr. Honesty," is sitting alone on one of the empty benches, and begins by expressing his disgust at the indifference of his fellow-citizens.

"Dear me!" said Mr. Honesty to himself, as he got up and walked about the empty place of Assembly at Athens, "how careless these people are about their country! Look at them there, lounging among the market stalls, and dodging the rope. Even the magistrates are not here. As for peace—nobody gives a thought to it. For myself, I think of nothing else. I am here the first thing in the morning, and it is always 'peace,' 'peace' with me. How I hate the city! How I long to see the fields again, my own village, and my poor little farm! No fellows there bawling out, 'Buy my charcoal!' 'Buy my oil!' 'Buy my everything!' There was no buying there. Everything came off the estate, and was to be had for nothing. Ah! here they come at last. Well, nobody shall say a word with my goodwill, except he speaks for peace."

After various preliminaries the magistrates took their places, the people crowded in, and a herald opened the proceedings by shouting out, "Does any one wish to speak?"

"Yes; I do," cried out a strange-looking creature, dressed as if he had stepped down from a pedestal in a temple.

"What is your name?" asked the herald.

"Demigod," said the stranger. "I am directly descended from the goddess Demeter, and I am sent by the gods to arrange for a peace between this city and Sparta; only, unfortunately, I want a little ready money for my journey, and I can't get the magistrates to advance it."

"This is a very sensible man," said Mr. Honesty. The next moment he was amazed to see that the presiding magistrate was sending the archers to turn the stranger out. "Hold!" he cried, "you insult the people. Don't you know that the man wants to give us peace?"

Just at this moment there was a diversion. The herald shouted out, "Silence there! Make way for the ambassadors from the Great King!"

"Gentlemen," said one of the ambassadors, coming forward, "you will remember that you sent us a few years ago on an embassy to the Great King with a poor allowance of a couple of guineas a day."

"Poor guineas!" muttered Mr. Honesty, "we shall never see them again."

The ambassadors went on: "You ought to know, gentlemen, that it was a very laborious service on which you sent us. All day we had to ride in carriages, lying on soft cushions, with an awning over our heads."

"Very laborious!" growled Honesty. "I was on guard all night, with nothing over me, and only a mat under me."

Ambassador.   "Then the barbarians entertained us, and we were obliged to drink strong wine, without a drop of water in it, if you will believe us, out of cups of crystal or gold, for this, you must know, is the test with them; the best man is he who can eat and drink most. At the end of four years we reached the royal palace, and found that His Majesty had gone to the hills for his health. There he stayed eight months, till the cure was complete. When he came home he gave us audience, and entertained us at a royal banquet, at which were served up oxen baked whole in crust."

Honesty.   "Oxen baked whole in crust! Did you ever hear such a lie?"

Amb.   "Also there was served up to us a big bird, as big as a man, that they call the Chousibus."

Hon.   "Chousibus indeed! You have choused us out of our guineas."

Amb.   "However, we did not go for nothing; we have brought back with us a great Persian nobleman. Sham-Artabas is his name; he is nothing less than the King's Eye. Come forward, Sham-Artabas, and explain to the people of Athens what the Great King means to do for them."

On this, a curious creature, wearing a mask which was all one big eye, came forward, followed by a train of attendants in Persian attire. He muttered something which sounded like —

"Artaman exarksam anapissonai satra." "There!" cried the ambassador, "didn't you hear him? Don't you understand him?"

"Understand him!" said Mr. Honesty, "no; not a syllable."

Amb.   "Why, he said that the Great King means to send us some gold. Tell them" (turning to Sham-Artabas), "tell them about the gold; speak louder and more plainly."

The Eye spoke again: "Gapey Greeks, gold a fooly jest."

Hon.   "Ah, that is plain enough!"

Amb.   "Well, what do you make of it?"

Hon.   "Why, that it is a foolish jest for us Greeks to think that we shall get any gold."

Amb.   "You're quite wrong; he didn't say 'jest,' but 'chest.' He told us that we should get chests full of gold."

Hon.   "Chests indeed! You're nothing but a swindler. Stand off, now, and I will get the truth out of the fellow. Now listen to me, Mr. Sham-Artabas, and answer me plainly. You see this fist; if you don't want a bloody nose of right royal purple, speak the truth. Is the king going to send us any gold?"

The Eye shook his head.

"Are the ambassadors cheating us?"

The Eye nodded.

"Well, anyhow, the creature knows how to nod in Greek."

While saying this he closely scrutinized the strangers, and cried out, "I believe he comes from this very city; and, now I come to look, I see two scoundrels in his train whom I know as well as I know my own brother. Ho there, you rascal! what do you mean—?"

"Silence!" shouted the herald; "the Senate invites the King's Eye to dine in the Town Hall."

Hon.   "Is not that enough to make a man hang himself? These rascals are to dine in the Town Hall, and I am left outside here! But here comes Demigod. Now, my good fellow, take these two half-crowns, and make the best of your way to Sparta, and conclude a separate peace for me, my wife, my children, and my maid-servant. But whom have we here?"

"Silence!" cried the herald again, "for His Excellency, the ambassador, returned from Thrace!"

"Gentlemen," said the ambassador, "I should not have stayed so long—"

Hon. (aside).   "If you had not been paid by the day."

Amb.   "If it had not been for the snow, which covered all the country and froze up all the rivers. We passed the time drinking with King Sitalces, who is a very good friend of yours, gentlemen; he chalks up your name on the walls, for all the world like a lover.

"Sweet Athens, fair

Beyond compare.

As for his son, a citizen as you know, he is passionately fond of Athenian sausages, and would not be satisfied till his father promised to send an army to help us. The king swore that he would, aye, and so big a one that we should say when we saw it, 'Good heavens! what a tremendous flight of locusts!'"

Hon.   "Well, you're right there. Locusts indeed!"

"These are the men," the ambassador went on, pushing forward as he spoke a troop of deplorable looking ragamuffins; "they are the fiercest fellows in Thrace. Give them a trifle of a couple of shillings a day, and they will worry the Bœotians out of their lives."

"What!" shouted Honesty, "a couple of shillings a day for these beggars! How about our brave seamen, the men who really keep us safe? What do they get? Two shillings! What an iniquity! Yes, and one of the scoundrels has stolen my garlic. Ho there, you magistrate, are you going to see a citizen robbed before your eyes ? Well, if you won't listen, I will put a stop to this. I protest against going on with business. I felt a drop of rain."

Hereupon the herald proclaimed, "The Thracians must attend again on the first of next month. The Assembly is adjourned."

"That is all right," said Honesty, "but I have lost my luncheon all the same. However, here comes my friend Demigod back. Welcome, Demigod!"

"It's a very poor welcome that I've had," said the man, who was panting for breath. "As I was coming along, some wild fellows—charcoal-burners they seemed to be—smelt out the treaties of peace. 'What!' they cried, 'you bring treaties of peace, when our vines are cut down to the ground! Stone him! Down with him!' And they filled their pockets with stones and ran howling after me."

Hon.   "Let them howl. Have you brought the treaties?"

"Yes, indeed," said Demigod, producing three wine-skins, "I have three samples of them. Here is a five years' specimen; what do you think of it?"

Hon.   "I don't like it at all. It smells of rosin—no, not exactly rosin, but pitch and ship-tar."

Dem.   "Try this ten years' one, then; that may suit you."

Hon.   "That's not much better. There is a kind of acidity about it; some sort of taste, it seems to me, of ambassadors going about to quicken allies, and allies hanging back."

Dem.   "Well, here's the thirty years' sort. What do you think of that?"

Hon.   "Admirable! That's the kind for me. This is pure nectar and ambrosia. No smack of 'every man will provide himself with rations for three days' here, but a 'go where you please' kind of taste in one's mouth. I'll take this; no more wars for me, but a jolly time on my own farm when the vintage feast comes round again."

Dem.   "Very good; but I must be off, or those charcoal-burners will be down upon me."

Saying this, Demigod disappeared.

"And now," said Honesty, "for a little festival of my own."

At this point the charcoal-burners rushed in, in hot pursuit of Demigod, a set of stout old fellows, all grimy and black with their work. While they were looking about for the fugitive, cursing his impudence for thinking of peace when their vines and fig-trees were burnt to the ground, and lamenting the burden of years which had made them lag behind in the race, they spied Honesty coming out with his household, prepared to celebrate the festival in the old fashion. His daughter walked in front, bearing on her head a basket with a long roll of bread in it; Honesty himself carried a bowl of porridge, and two slaves brought up the rear. The worthy man was very anxious that everything should be done in order. He cried "Silence!" to the spectators, told his wife to go up to the roof and look on, and was very particular in his directions to his daughter. "Carry it prettily, my dear," he said, "and look your primmest, and mind no one filches your ornaments in the press. You are a nice girl," he went on, as he saw how well she behaved; "your husband will be a lucky man. And now let me sing the song.

"Leader of the revel rout,

Of the drunken war and shout;

Half a dozen years are past,

Here we meet in peace at last;

All my wars and fights are o'er,

Drinking contests please me more;

If a drunken head should ache,

Bones and crowns we never break;

If we quarrel overnight

At a full carousing soak,

In the morning all is right,

And the shield hung out of sight

In the chimney smoke."

Scarcely had he finished, when the charcoal-burners, who had been in hiding, burst in upon him, crying, "This is the scoundrel with the treaties! Stone him! Stone him!"

Hon.   "What is all this about? You'll break the bowl."

Charcoal-burners.   "Stone him! Stone him!"

Hon.   "But why, my venerable friends?"

C.-b.   "You ask us why! You're a traitor. You have made peace on your own account."

Hon.   "But you haven't heard why I made it."

C.-b.   "No, and won't hear either. Stone him! Stone him!"

Hon.   "How! hold!"

C.-b.   "Why should we hold? You've made peace with the Spartans."

Hon.   "You won't listen, then?"

C.-b.   "Not to a word."

Hon.   "Well, if you won't, I'll have my revenge. I've got a young townsman of yours here, and as sure as you throw a single stone, I'll run him through."

C.-b.   "Good heavens! What does the fellow mean? Has he got one of our children there?"

Hon.   "Throw, throw if you want to. But he dies the death."

So saying, he produced what looked like a baby in long clothes, but turned out to be—a coal scuttle. "Spare him! Spare him!" cried the charcoal-burners, and shook out all the stones from their pockets, while Honesty dropped his sword. After this he was allowed to plead his cause.

But to plead it effectively he had to make sure of rousing the compassion of his judges, and this, it occurred to him, could not be better done than by donning some of the pitiable rags with which Euripides, the tragedian, was wont to clothe the heroes of his dramas. "I must make my way to Euripides," he cried, and hurried off to the poet's house. After a little difficulty in discovering whether the great man was at home or not,—he was at home himself, writing a play, the servant explained, but his mind was out collecting verses,—the petitioner was allowed an interview. Euripides, who was sitting in his garret, himself dressed in rags, that he might be more in sympathy with his subject, which was, as usual, a hero in reduced circumstances, demanded what his visitor wanted.

Hon.   "I implore you, my dear Euripides, to give me some rags from that old play of yours. I have to make my defence, and if I fail it means death."

Euripides.   "What play? What rags? Do you want those in which the luckless old Œneus wrestled with fate?"

Hon.   "No, no; it must be some one far more wretched than Œneus."

E.   "The blind Phœnix, then?"

Hon.   "No, not Phœnix; far worse off than he."

E.   "What does the man want? The rags of the beggar Philoctetes?"

Hon.   "No; ten times more of a beggar than Philoctetes."

E.   "Bellerophon, then, the blind Bellerophon?"

Hon.   "No, not Bellerophon, though it is true that he was a blind beggar and a terrible fellow to talk."

E.   "I know the man you mean—Telephus of Mysia."

Hon.   "Exactly; it is Telephus's rags I want."

E. (to his servant)  "Boy, give this gentleman the rags of Telephus. They are on the top of Thyestes's and below Ino's."

Hon.   "You have been very kind, Euripides, but if you would give me also the Mysian hat."

E.   "Here it is."

Hon.   "And the beggar's staff."

E.   "Take it, and vanish from my marble halls."

Hon.   "O my soul! see how hard he is on me, and I want a number of other things. Do give me a wicker lamp-shade with a hole burnt in it."

E.   "Know, fellow, that you bore me, and depart."

Hon.   "Once more I ask—a cup with broken lip."

E.   "Take it and perish, trouble of my house!"

Hon.   "And yet again a pitcher plugged with sponge."

E.   "Fellow, you rob me of my work; and yet I give it—go!"

Hon.   "Oh! yet once more I beg One thing which lacking I am all undone; O dearest, sweetest singer, may the gods Destroy me, if I ask but one thing more, One only, single, solitary boon, A plant of chevril from your mother's store."

E.   "The man insults us; close the palace doors."

Thus clad, and laying his head on the chopping-block, to be ready, if he failed to make out his case, for instant execution, Honesty proceeded to defend himself.

"You blame me for making peace,"—this was the substance of his argument,—"but what was the war about? Why, the most trumpery thing in the world! A girl is kidnapped from our neighbours of Megara. Our neighbours kidnap two girls from us, and the mighty Pericles, forsooth, must bring out his thunder and lightning, for all the world like Olympian Zeus, till all Greece was in a turmoil. Then came his decree, short and sharp: 'No one from Megara shall have any trade with Athens.' Our neighbours, being half starved, go to the Spartans and ask them to intercede. The Spartans beg us to repeal these decrees. Once, twice, thrice they ask, and we refuse. Then they go to war. But say, were these poor people so very wrong after all? Suppose the Spartans had manned a boat, and stolen a puppy-dog from one of the islands, would you have sat quietly clown under the insult? Not so; you would have launched three hundred ships, and all the city would have been in an uproar with troops marching and crews clamouring for pay and rations, and we should have had newly gilt statues of the goddess carried about the street, and wineskins, and strings of onions and garlic in nets, and singing girls, and bloody noses. No, no; they only did just what we should have done."

Honesty's eloquence converted half his enemies; the other half called the darling of the war party, General Dobattle, to their aid. He came at once, in full armour, wearing a helmet with an enormously large crest, and declaiming in pompous tones,

"Whence falls this sound of battle on mine ear?

Who needs my help? The great Dobattle's here!

Whose summons bids me to the field repair?

Who wakes my slumbering Gorgon from her lair?"

"Dear me!" cried Honesty, pretending to be frightened; "what an awful plume! What kind of bird does it come from? A white-feathered boastard [bustard] by chance?"

Dobattle.   "Fellow, thou diest!"

Hon.   "You're not the man to do it."

Dobat.   "Do you know you're speaking to a general, you beggar?"

Hon.   "Beggar! Beggar in your teeth! You a general! Only one of the draw-his-pay sort!"

Dobat.   "I was duly elected."

Hon.   "Elected! yes, by half a dozen cuckoos. I am sick of the whole business; white-haired men serving in the ranks, and you and your young sprigs of nobility off on an embassy to Thrace or Sicily or heaven knows where!—but always drawing pay."

Dobat.   "We were duly elected."

Hon.   "But why is it always you, and never honest fellows such as he? Here, Coaldust, did you ever go on an embassy? He shakes his head. And yet he would have done admirably for it. Or you, Heart-of-Oak? Or you, Bend-in-the-Shoulders? No, you see, not one of them."

Dobat.   "O sovereign people, shall I bear such wrong?"

Hon.   "All things are borne, so Dobattle is paid."

On this Dobattle marched off, finding that he could make nothing of his antagonist. "Hereby I proclaim," he said, as he departed, "that I will harass the men of the Peloponnesus night and day."

"And I," said Honesty, "hereby proclaim that I open a market for the men of the Peloponnesus and their allies, and that they may come and buy and sell with me, but not with General Dobattle."

The other half of the charcoal-burners now proclaimed their conversion, and Honesty, encouraged by their support, set about marking out the boundaries of his market, appointed constables to see that the regulations were observed, and set up in the midst a pillar with the terms of the treaty engraved upon it.

The first dealer that presented himself was one of the neighbours from Megara. The poor fellow had got nothing to sell but his two little girls; still he was delighted to see an Athenian market again.

"Market of Athens, hail! For as a child

Longs for its mother, have I longed for thee!"

Then he turned to the children: "But you, the luckless children of a luckless sire, what is to be done with you? Would you sooner be sold or starve at home?"

"Sell us, sell us, dear papa!" cried the two in chorus.

"Yes; but who will buy you? It would be a sheer loss. Hold! I have an idea. Put these pettitoes on and these little snouts, and mind you grunt and whine and kick about like pigs. If you don't, I shall have to carry you back home, and you will be worse starved than ever.—Mr. Honesty, do you want to buy some pigs?"

Hon.   "What? Who is this? A man from Megara?"

Megarian.   "Yes; I have come to market."

Hon.   "And how are you getting on?"

Megar.   "As hungry as thunder."

Hon.   "And your government? What is that doing?"

Megar.   "Doing its best to ruin us."

Hon.   "Well, what have you got in your sack there? Salt?"

Megar.   "Salt? How could it be salt, when you have got all our salt-pans?"

Hon.   "Garlic, then?"

Megar.   "Garlic indeed! How could it be garlic when you came and dug up the very roots, like so many field-mice?"

Hon.   "What is it, then?"

Megar.   "Pigs, pigs for sacrifice."

Hon.   "Oh! indeed."

Megar.   "Yes, pigs. Don't you hear them squeak?" (Aside) "Squeak, you little wretches, or it will be the worse for you."

"Wee, wee," squeaked the two daughters.

Hon.   "Can they feed without their mother?"

Megar.   "I should think they could, and without their father either."

Hon.   "What do you want for them?" after some more chaffering.

Megar.   "This I will sell for a rope of onions, and the other for a bushel of salt."

Hon.   "Very good; I'll take them. Stand there a moment."

"That's good business," said the man to himself. "I only wish I could sell my wife and mother at the same rate."

At this point one of the informers, who made a living out of denouncing contraband goods, made his appearance. "Who are you?" he said to the man from Megara.

"A man of Megara, come to sell pigs," was the answer.

"I denounce you and your goods as contraband of war. Here, hand them over."

"Mr. Honesty, Mr. Honesty," screamed the man, "I am being denounced!"

"Constable," said Honesty, "put the fellow out; no informers are allowed in this market. And here, my good friend, is the garlic and the salt. And now farewell."

"Farewell indeed," said the poor man; "but it is not our way in Megara to fare well."

A dealer from Bœotia was the next to come. The man had a heavy basket on his back, and was followed by slaves similarly burdened. "That's a pretty load," he said, as he put the basket on the ground. "And now, my friend, what will you buy?"

"What have you got?"

"Got? Why, everything, as a body may say; all the good things of Thebes,— marjoram, penny-royal, rush-mats, lamp-wicks, ducks, jackdaws, partridges, coots, sandpipers, divers."

"Why, you are like a north wind in winter, with all the birds you bring."

"Yes, and I've got geese, and hares, and foxes, and moles, and hedgehogs, and weasels, and mountain cats, and—what do you think?—eels from Copais!"

"What! Eels? Let me see the eels."

The Bœotian held out a fine eel in his hand, and addressed it with profound respect:—

"First-born of fifty daughters of the lake,

Come forth and greet the stranger."

The Athenian answered in a similar strain:—

"O my child,

O long regretted and recovered late,

Welcome, thrice welcome! Hark ye there, my man,

Prepare the stove, the bellows, and behold,

At last behold her here, the best of eels,

Loveliest and best, after six weary years

Returned to bless us. Bear her gently in.

O eel, so fair thou art, that e'en in death

Still would I fain possess thee—stewed with beet!"

Bœotian.   "Yes, very good; but what are you going to give me for her?"

Hon.   "Oh! I take this as a sort of perquisite; but if you have anything else for sale I shall be glad to buy."

Bœot.   "Everything is for sale."

Hon.   "Well, what do you say for the lot? I suppose you won't mind taking a return cargo?"

Bœot.   "Certainly not; but what is there that you have in Athens and we haven't got in Bœotia?"

Hon.   "Anchovies? Crockery?"

Bœot.   "Anchovies and crockery we have in plenty. But surely there is something that you have, and we have not!"

Hon.   "Ah! I have it. Ho there! Bring out the informer; pack him as so much crockery."

Bœot.   "Excellent! excellent! I should make ever so much money by exhibiting him as a mischievous ape."

Hon.   "See there; there is another of the same kind coming."

Bœot.   "He is very small."

Hon.   "Yes, but very bad."

Informer the second came in. "What goods are these," he said.

"Mine," replied the Bœotian. "We be come from Thebes."

Informer.   "Then I denounce them. They come from the enemy's country."

Bœot.   "What! denounce the birds and beasts? What harm have they done? "

Inf.   "Yes, and I denounce you, too."

Bœot.   "Me! What have you to say against me?"

Inf.   "Just to satisfy the bystanders I will explain. You have brought in lamp-wicks. That means a plot to burn the arsenal."

Honesty interrupted at this point. "What in the world do you mean? Burn the arsenal with the wick of a lamp!"

Inf.   "Certainly."

Hon.   "But how?"

Inf.   "Listen! This Bœotian rascal would catch a water-spider, fasten the wick on its back, wait for a strong north wind, light the wick, and send the spider with it into the harbour. Let the fire once catch a single vessel, and the whole place would be in a blaze."

"Stop his mouth!" cried Honesty. "Tie a hay-band round him, and send him off."

The charcoal-burners, by this time thoroughly converted to peace views, were so delighted that they burst out into song.

"To preserve him safe and sound,

You must have him fairly bound

With a cordage nicely wound,

Up and down and round and round;

Securely packed."

Honesty took up the strain:—

"I shall have a special care;

He's a piece of paltry ware;

As you strike him here or there, [strikes him]

Don't you hear his cries declare

That he's partly cracked?"

C.-b.       "How, then, is he fit for use?"

Hon.       "As a stove-jar for abuse,

Plots and lies he cooks and brews,

Slander and seditious news."

C.-b.       "Have you stowed him safe enough?"

Hon.       "Never fear; he's hearty stuff;

Fit for usage hard and rough,

Fit to beat, and fit to cuff,

To toss and fling.

You can hang him up or down,

By the heels or by the crown."

The Bœotian bade one of his servants take the package on his back and march off with it.

"Well," said Honesty, looking after the party, "you've got a queer piece of goods with you; if you do make anything of him, you will be the first person that ever got anything good out of an informer."

A slave now appeared with a message: "General Dobattle sends five shillings, and wishes to buy a dish of quails and a good-sized eel from Copais."

Hon.   "General Dobattle! And who, pray, is General Dobattle?"

Messenger.   "The fierce and hardy warrior; he that wields The Gorgon shield and waves the triple plume."

Hon.   "Let him wave his triple plume over a mess of salt fish; quite good enough for him."

By this time it was noised about that Honesty had got some of that precious commodity, peace, and he was overwhelmed with applications for it. A countryman came in groaning and lamenting.

"What's all this about?" asked Honesty.

"Oh, my dear friend," said the man, "just a little drop of peace."

Hon.   "What's the matter?"

Countryman.   "I'm ruined, I'm ruined! The Bœotians came down this morning and carried off my pair of plough oxen. They were all my living."

The lucky possessor would not part with a drop. The only petitioner that succeeded was a bridesmaid whom the bride had sent with a little bottle. "She wanted," she said, "just a little drop to keep her husband at home." Mr. Honesty was willing to oblige a lady, and sent her away with the bottle full, explaining that the bride must use it the next time there was a ballot for recruits.

Meanwhile, General Dobattle had come in person to try whether he could not succeed better than his messenger. But before he could open his mouth, a despatch from the War Office arrived. "You are hereby directed to muster your men, and march to the mountain passes. There you must ambush in the snow, information having been received that a marauding party is coming from the Bœotian frontier."

Hardly had he read the despatch when a message came for Honesty. It was to this effect: "You are hereby requested to come with all your belongings to the temple of Bacchus. The company are waiting for you, and everything is ready,—plum cake and plain, confectionery, fruits preserved and fresh, savouries and sweets, flowers and perfumes." And now began a bustle of preparation on either side.

The General.   "Quick with my knapsack!"

Hon.   "Quick with my dinner and wine!"

Gen.   "Give me a bunch of leeks."

Hon.   "Veal cutlets for me."

Gen.   "Let me see the salt fish. It does not smell good."

Hon.   "How fresh this mullet is! Cook it on the spot."

Gen.   "Bring me the lofty feather of my crest."

Hon.   "Bring doves and quails; I scarce know which is best."

Gen.   "Behold this snowy plume of dazzling white!"

Hon.   "Behold this roasted dove, a savoury sight!"

This was past all bearing, and the General attempted to draw his sword, but found it rusted to the scabbard. On the other hand, Honesty was going to defend himself with the spit, but had first to disengage it from the roast meat. However, they didn't come to blows. The General contented himself with a threat: "Pour oil upon the shield. What do I see in it? An old man frightened to death because he is going to be tried for cowardice."

"Ah!" said Honesty, "pour honey on the pancake. What do I see in it? A jolly old fellow, who tells the Dobattles and the Gorgons to go and hang themselves."

The General marched off to the frontier, while Honesty went to the feast, the charcoal-burners bidding the two rivals farewell in the following stave:—

"Go your ways in sundry wise,

Each upon his enterprise.

One determined to carouse,

With a garland on his brows;

T'other bound to pass the night

In a military plight

Undelighted and alone;

Starving, wheezing,

Sneezing, breezing,

With his head upon a stone."

After a while a message arrived from the seat of war. He said:—

"Slaves of Dobattle, make the water hot;

Make embrocations and emollients ready,

And bandages and plasters for your Lord;

His foot is maimed and crippled with a stake,

Which pierced it as he leapt across a ditch;

His ankle-bone is out, his head is broken,

The Gorgon on his shield is smashed and spoilt;

The cock's plume on his helmet soiled with dirt."

Immediately afterwards the General himself appeared in the sorriest plight, and at the same time Honesty, who had won the prize at the feast by finishing a gallon of wine, came in supported by his companions.

Dobat.    "Strip off the encumbrance of this warlike gear

And take me to my bed."

Hon.                                           "And for me,

My bed, I take it, is the fittest place."

Dobat.    "O bear me to the public hospital!"

Hon.       "Where is the ruler of the feast? The prize

Is mine, this empty gallon testifies."

C.-b.       "Then take the wineskin as your due:

We triumph and rejoice with you."