Stories from the Greek Comedians - Alfred J. Church

The Girl of Andros

[From  MENANDER. Translated by  TERENCE]

[Illustration] from Stories from Greek Comedians by Alfred J. Church


Terence tells us himself that he had used two comedies of Menander in constructing this play, and that he had been blamed for so doing by some critics. The two seem to have borne the titles of Andria  (the girl of Andros) and Perinthia  (the girl of Perinthos). An early commentator informs us that it is the first part of the play that is borrowed from the Andria.  

Simo, an Athenian citizen, happening to be present at the funeral of a lady with whom he had had a slight acquaintance, witnessed a spectacle which caused him no little anxiety. Among the women who were attending as mourners was a young girl of singular beauty. This, and the manifest depth and sincerity of her grief, so excited the old man's interest that he inquired who she was, and was told in reply that she was a sister of the deceased. The corpse was placed on the funeral pile, and this was lighted in due course. When the flames were at their fiercest, the young girl rushed forward, as if intending to throw herself into them. So near did she come that she seriously imperilled her own life, which, indeed, would probably have been sacrificed, had her clothes caught fire. At this point, Simo saw a young man, in whom he recognized his own son Pamphilus, run out from among the crowd of spectators and catch the girl round the waist. The next moment he heard him remonstrating with her. "My dear Glycerium,"—these were his words,—"what are you doing? why do you try to kill yourself?" The girl turned at the sound of his voice, and fell into his arms in a passion of tears. It was evident, Simo thought to himself, that this was not the first time that they had met. And all the time Pamphilus was betrothed to Philumena, the daughter of an old friend, Chremes by name. It was a desirable match in every way, and Simo was greatly troubled at the thought that it might be broken off.

This indeed seemed not unlikely to happen. Others besides Simo had witnessed the scene at the funeral, and one of them had carried the report to Chremes, Philumena's father, with the result that he came in a great rage to his friend, and declared that he should not think of allowing his daughter to become the wife of a young man whose affections were evidently bestowed elsewhere, and who, indeed, was possibly married already.

Simo now resolved, by way of bringing matters to a crisis, to tell his son that the marriage with Philumena was to take place that very day. If the young man made no objection, all was well. The foolish engagement to the girl seen at the funeral would be broken off, and it would not be difficult to induce Chremes to withdraw his objections. Simo's freedman Sosia was charged with the duty of announcing to Pamphilus the arrangements for his marriage. This he proceeded to do, and his report to his patron was that the young man made no objection, but that he and his confidential slave Davus were evidently disturbed.

Before long Davus made his appearance. He was talking to himself, unaware, it was evident, of his master's presence.

Davus.   "I wondered what was going to happen. The master's good humour was suspicious. The match broken off and not an angry word to any one! It was too good."

Simo (aside).   "Well, you'll hear plenty of angry words soon, my man."

Da.   "We were to think it all blown over; and then he would spring this upon us. The cunning old fellow!"

Si. (not hearing).   "What does he say?"

Da.   "Good heavens! there is the master, and I never saw him!"

Si.   " Davus!"

Da.   "Yes, sir!"

Si.   "I am told that my son has made a foolish engagement."

Da.   "People will talk, sir."

Si.   "A young man so situated would not like marrying the wife his father had chosen for him."

Da.   "It is possible, sir."

Si.   "He might have had advisers who would encourage him in this feeling."

Da.   "I don't understand."

Si.   "Not understand?"

Da.   "No, sir; I am Davus, not Œdipus."

Si.   "Then you want me to speak plainly?"

Da.   "If you please, sir."

Si.   "Listen, then; if you try any tricks to hinder this match, you will be well flogged and sent to the treadmill till you die. Is that plain enough?"

Da.   "Certainly, sir."

Si.   "Well, don't say that you have not been warned."

But there was another complication. Though Pamphilus had no thought of Philumena, his friend Charinus was deeply in love with her, and the news of the intended wedding struck him with despair. He hurried, on hearing of it from his slave Byrrhia, to see whether anything could be done. "O Pamphilus," he cried, as soon as he saw his friend, "are you going to be married to-day?"

Pamphilus.   "So they say."

Charinus.   "Then you have seen the last of me."

Pam.   "Why so?"

Char.   "I am ashamed to say." (Turning to his slave)  "Tell him, Byrrhia."

Byrrhia.   "The truth is, my master is in love with your betrothed."

Pam.   "That is more than I am."

Char.   "I beseech you not to marry her."

Pam.   "I will do my best."

Char.   "If you can't help yourself, or if, after all, you really wish to marry her, at least give me a few days to get out of the way, so that I may not see it."

Pam.   "My good fellow, I don't want to make any merit of it, but it is the simple truth that I hate the idea of the marriage quite as much as you do. Do all you can to get the girl, and I will help you. But here comes my clever Davus; he is the man to advise us."

Char.   "Is he? This fellow Byrrhia is no use at all."

Davus had good news to tell. The marriage was all an invention. "I suspected something of the kind," he said, "and went to Chremes's house. There wasn't a sign of anything festive. No one was going in or out. There were no signs of preparation. Then I met his man as he was going away. He had a few vegetables and half a dozen anchovies for the old man's supper. That did not look like a wedding."

Char.   "Excellent! excellent!"

Da.   "But, my good sir, it does not follow that you will get the young lady because she is not to be married to Pamphilus here to-day. Bestir yourself, or you will lose her as sure as fate."

Charinus promptly departed to take counsel with his friends. This was what Davus wanted. "And now, sir," he said to his master, as soon as the young man had disappeared, "I should recommend you to go to your father, and say that you have no longer any objection. If you don't, he will find some way of doing a mischief to Glycerium,—will get her banished from Athens, it may be, for he has interest with the government. Don't be afraid of anything happening. Whatever your father may wish, Chremes is quite resolved that you sha'n't marry his daughter." Pamphilus was persuaded, and, meeting his father soon afterwards, let him know that he was ready to fulfil the engagement. As luck would have it, he was overheard by Byrrhia, who had been strictly charged by his master, Charinus, to watch the movements of the bridegroom. Byrrhia went off to tell the news, Davus meanwhile making Simo uncomfortable by representing that he wasn't treating his son very well in the matter. "You keep your purse too close, sir," he said, "for a father who is going to marry his son. That's what he feels. Why, he can't even ask his friends to the wedding."

Simo now conceived the happy idea of turning the feint into a reality. The marriage which he invented to test his son's feeling might actually take place. Only he must persuade Chremes to withdraw his veto. This he set about doing. The alliance had been a cherished scheme with both of them for many years. The young man and the girl had been intended for man and wife ever since they lay in their cradles. Simo implored his old friend to give way. For a time Chremes stoutly refused. The young man had set his affections elsewhere, and the marriage would turn out badly. This argument Simo answered by an assurance that the old engagement was at an end. Pamphilus and Glycerium had quarrelled; so Davus, his son's confidential slave, assured him. Overborne by his old friend's entreaties, Chremes gave way, and consented that the marriage should take place. Davus, who happened to be passing, was summoned to hear the good news. "Davus," said Simo, "I have had hard work to persuade my friend Chremes, but he consents. Pamphilus is to marry Philumena."

Da.   "We are all undone."

Si.   "What did you say?"

Da.   "I said that it was well done of you."

Si.   "Now, Davus, I feel that this marriage is really your work. Pray do your best to keep my son straight; and if he is a little discontented just at first, do represent things in the best light."

"Here is a pretty state of things!" said the unlucky slave to himself. "I have cheated my old master, entrapped my young one into a marriage that he hates, and all because I would be so clever! I am simply ruined. I only wish there was a precipice here for me to throw myself down."

Things were indeed come to a terrible pass. The fact was that Pamphilus had been really married to Glycerium for nearly a year, and what was more, that very day his wife had borne him a son. And here he was in a fearful strait. His wife crying out to see him, for somehow she had heard of the new marriage; his friend Charinus furious at being, as he thought, deceived; and the preparations for a second wedding going actively on!

Davus, who had had a great deal to do with bringing about this state of things, now came to the rescue. He got hold of the new-born baby, and persuaded Mysis, Glycerium's nurse, to lay it down in front of his master's door. "Why don't you do it yourself?" said the woman. "Because," he replied, "I may have to swear that I didn't do it." Just as this had been done, Chremes arrived. He had been making preparations for the marriage, and was now come to invite the bridegroom's friends. "But what is this?" he cried, seeing a bundle on the threshold. "On my life, it is a child! Woman," he went on, turning to the nurse, "did you put it here?"

The woman was too much flustered to answer, but looked round for Davus, who had disappeared as soon as he caught sight of Chremes. But when Davus returned he promptly denied all knowledge of the matter, and pretended to know as little where the child came from as did Chremes himself. "Whose child is it?" he said to the nurse in a threatening voice.

The Nurse.   "You mean to say you don't know?"

Da.   "Never mind whether I know or not; answer my question."

Nurse.   "Why, it is the child of your own—"

Da.   "My own what?"

Nurse.   "Your own master Pamphilus."

Da.   "Oh! I dare say. I know where it came from. Take the brat away, or it will be the worse for you."

Nurse.   "Is the man sober?"

Da.   "The next thing will be that we shall be told that the mother is Athenian born."

Chremes.   "A pretty mess I have nearly been getting into!"

Da. (pretending to become aware of his presence).   "O Chremes! you here? What ought to be done to this wicked woman?"

Chr.   "I know the whole story. Is Simo at home?"

Saying this, he entered the house. As soon as he was out of sight Davus explained his action to the nurse. "Don't you understand," he said, "that this is Philumena's father? This was the only way of frightening him off the new marriage."

Chremes meanwhile had finally broken off the match. "I was willing," he said, "to do the best I could for your son. I risked my daughter's happiness on the chance; but knowing what I know, I can't go on. The young man has another attachment, and I hear, too, that the woman is a native Athenian. Consider the other affair is at an end."

Davus now made his appearance. The news he had to communicate brought Simo, already furious with disappointment, to something like madness. "A stranger," said the slave, "has just come, a most respectable looking man, who declares that Glycerium is a free-born Athenian woman."

Simo deigned to make no answer. "Dromo," he said to another of his slaves, "carry this scoundrel off to prison. He shall learn not to play tricks on his master; aye, and I have something to say to Master Pamphilus himself." In vain did Chremes remonstrate. The old man was quite beside himself with passion, and the unlucky Davus was hurried off to punishment.

Pamphilus was the next to come in for a share of the old man's wrath. To a certain extent he contrived to turn it away by a soft answer. At least Simo was persuaded to hear what the stranger had to say about the parentage of Glycerium. At first, the interview seemed to promise little good. Simo roundly accused the stranger, whose name, by the way, was Crito, of having invented the whole story, in the interests of Pamphilus. Thus challenged, Crito spoke out, and told the whole story; not, however, without being interrupted by exclamations of incredulity from the angry old man. "Some years ago," he said, "an Athenian citizen was shipwrecked near Andros, but managed to escape to land. He had with him a little girl, the same person, I have discovered, as the Glycerium of whom I have been told since my arrival at Athens. Both were received in the house of a relative of my own, from whom indeed I heard the story. There the man died; the girl was always regarded as a daughter of my kinsman."

"What was the name of this Athenian?" asked Chremes.

Crito.   "Phania."

Chr.   "Good heavens!"

Cri.   "At least I think it was, Chremes. I know he was a native of Rhamnus."

Chr.   "Did he say that the girl was his daughter?"

Cri.   "No; he said she was his niece, his brother's daughter."

Chr.   "Phania was my brother. I left him in charge of my child. War broke out, and he followed me to Asia, and I now learn was shipwrecked on the way."

All was now happily settled. Pamphilus brought his wife and child home with the full consent of his relatives, receiving at the same time a substantial portion from his newly-found father-in-law. At the same time, the faithful Charinus was rewarded with the hand of Philumena.