Spartan Twins - Lucy F. Perkins

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[Illustration] from Spartan Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

Under the guidance and protection of Anaxagoras and the slave, the children were soon ushered into the court of the richest house in Athens, and then Anaxagoras sent a message to Pericles, who was dining with a group of men in a large room opening off the court. When the slave opened the door of the banquet-room, the children caught a glimpse of men reclining on couches, with wreaths about their heads, and heard for an instant the sound of laughter and gay voices. The smell of food came also, and the Twins sniffed the delicious odor hungrily. Soon Pericles appeared, wearing a wreath upon his brow, and, as Daphne thought, looking more like a God than ever. Anaxagoras told him the story which the Twins had told to him.

"A very neat plot! Is it not?" said Pericles gravely, when Anaxagoras had finished.

"They said something about you too," said Daphne, lifting her eyes to Anaxagoras.

"Indeed!" said Anaxagoras. "So I am in it, too! What did they say?"

"They said you were an old fox," said Daphne. The two men laughed.

"I trust I may live up to their opinion of me," said Anaxagoras.

Then Pericles looked at the children and laid his hand gently upon their tousled heads.

"So you ran alone through Athens at night to warn me, did you?" he said. "And you have been in great danger for my sake? I shall know how to deal with those two pious old serpents of the Acropolis. Thanks to you, I shall not fall into their coils. And Pericles does not forget an obligation. Now, my little Spartans," he added, tipping up their chins and looking at their pale and pinched faces, "it's time you had something to eat!"

He clapped his hands and a slave appeared. "Say to Hipponicus that two friends of Pericles are in the court, and he begs that they may be served there with the best the house affords."

The slave disappeared and soon returned bringing such a feast as the Twins had never tasted in their whole lives before. Pericles waited, talking quietly with Anaxagoras, until their hunger was partly appeased, and then he spoke to them again.

"Now, my brave Spartans," he said, "since you have been so considerate of my safety, it is well that I should look after yours. Have you any idea where your Father may be found? He is probably searching the town for you."

"We were to spend the night at the house of my Uncle Phaon, the stone-cutter," said Dion, "but we don't know where he lives."

"Phaon," said Pericles, stroking his beard. "Is he not a workman in the shop of Phidias the sculptor? He has a stone-cutter of that name, and, now I think of it, he is called Phaon the Spartan."

"That must be my uncle," said Dion, "but I don't know where he lives. I have never been to Athens before, and Uncle Phaon does not come to the farm."

"We can find out from Phidias," said Anaxagoras, and, turning to his slave, he said, "Run quickly to the house of Phidias and say to him that Pericles the Archon wishes to know where to find the house of Phaon the stone-cutter."

The slave sped away and returned in a short time with the message that Phaon lived near the northwest gate. "And I know the way there," added the slave.

"Very well," said Anaxagoras. "We will take these children there. Then I will await you at your house, Pericles, for I wish to hear the end of the story, and to know how you deal with those two old traitors."

"Now that I know their purpose," said Pericles, "it is easy to defeat it! I shall return no word to their abuse. When I reach my house, I shall politely offer my assailant the escort of my slave, to light him home with his torch."

Anaxagoras laughed heartily.

"Good," he cried, "and humorous as well. A torch to light up their evil faces is the last thing in the world they would wish to have. You could not devise a more perfect plan to foil their wicked schemes."

"I wish all plots might be as easily frustrated," said Pericles gravely. Then, turning to the children, he added kindly: "You have nothing further to fear. My good friend Anaxagoras and his slave will see you safely to your uncle's house, and he will surely know where to find your Father."

"You won't let Lampon catch us and sell us for slaves, will you?" begged Daphne, shuddering. "They said they would sell us in Alexandria."

Pericles' brow darkened. "They threatened that, did they?" he exclaimed. "The wretches shall not lay a finger on you! Pericles the Archon has said it. And now you must hurry away. Your Father will be torn with anxiety until he sees you again. To-morrow morning I shall send a messenger to your uncle's house with a package for you, which you must not open until you are safe at home again. And when you grow up to be strong, brave men, I shall expect you to be generals in the army of Athens at the very least."

"I can't grow up to be a strong, brave man," said Daphne in a very small voice. "I wish I could. But I'm a girl."

"A girl!" cried Pericles in amazement, "and so brave! Surely then you will at least be the mother of heroes some time. But after this stay more quietly at home, my child. Women should have no history." And he disappeared through the door into the banquet-hall.

When the Twins, accompanied by Anaxagoras and the slave, finally reached the house of their uncle, they found the door open and people hurrying excitedly to and fro, carrying torches in their hands. In the court of the house stood Melas, talking with Phaon and his wife.

[Illustration] from Spartan Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

"I have searched every nook and cranny of the Acropolis," Melas was saying. "I do not see how they could have escaped me."

"It's a punishment of the Gods," said the wife of Phaon. "You should not have let Daphne run the streets like a boy. It's against nature. No decent Athenian girl would be allowed to. I never put my nose out of my Mother's house exeept on the days of women's festivals until I was married."

"But, my dear," said Phaon mildly, "you forget the Spartans are different."

"I should say they were!" snapped the wife of Phaon, "and now they may see what comes of it. It's my opinion these wild children have fallen off the cliffs on the north side of the Acropolis."

Melas shuddered, sank down upon a stool, and hid his face. Just at that moment there was a sudden rush of feet behind him and he felt four arms flung about his neck. Spartan though he was, Melas trembled, and his eyes were wet as he clasped his children in his arms, Anaxagoras stood in the doorway a moment smiling at the happy group, and then gently slipped away without waiting for any thanks.

Early the next morning a basket addressed to the "brave children of Melas the Spartan, from Pericles the Archon," was delivered by a slave at the door of Phaon. The Twins had been eagerly expecting it, and when it arrived they were no less eager to start for home, since Pericles had told them not to open it until they were under their own roof once more. Their aunt, the wife of Phaon, was filled with curiosity to know the contents. Moreover, since she had learned the whole story of the night before and knew that the children had won the favor and were now under the avowed protection of Pericles, her respect for them and for Spartans in general had greatly increased.

"Let us see what gifts the great Pericles has sent you!" she cried, when the package came.

"No, no," said Daphne hastily. "He said we should not open it until we got home."

"Very well, then," said the wife of Phaon, sulkily, "only then I shall never see what's in it."

"Well," said Daphne piously, "you remember about Pandora, don't you? I wouldn't dare open it until the time comes!"

[Illustration] from Spartan Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

To this the aunt could make no reply, Melas, too, had no wish to linger in Athens after the experience of the day before. The children were in terror of meeting Lampon, and Melas himself felt it would be a great load off his mind to get them safely back to their quiet house on Salamis once more and into their Mother's care. So they bade Phaon and his wife good-bye and started before noon for the Piraeus.

At the dock they found the boat ready for its return journey across the bay. Nearby was the large black hull of an African ship, bound for Alexandria. Dion pointed to it.

"Suppose we were on that this minute," he said to Daphne, and Daphne covered her eyes and shook with horror at the mere thought of it.

It was nearly night when the three weary wanderers climbed the last hill and turned from the roadway into the path which led to the old farm-house. Lydia was standing in the doorway with Chloe behind her, smiling, and Argos came bounding out to meet them, wagging his tail and barking for joy.

It was a happy party that gathered around the hearth fire that night. Lydia had prepared a wonderful feast to greet the travelers. There were roast chicken, and sausages too, and goat's milk, and figs. They opened the basket by fire-light, and if all the Christmases of your whole life had been rolled into one, it couldn't have been more wonderful to you than the gifts of Pericles were to Dion and Daphne. There was a soft robe of scarlet for each of them, with golden clasps to fasten it. There were a purse of gold coins and two beautiful parchment books—all written by hand, for of course there were no printed books in those days. There were gifts for their Father and Mother, too, and, best of all, a letter written with Pericles' own hand and addressed to "Euripides the Poet, of Salamis." With it came a note to Melas, saying he might read the letter, as he wished him to know its contents. This was the letter:—

"Pericles the Archon to Euripides the Poet, Greetings.

"The bearers of this letter are friends of mine who have rendered me a great service. By their timely warning I was enabled to foil a plot to make me appear to the public as an enemy of the Gods. As sufficient recompense I commend them to your friendship. No greater service can be rendered Athens than to raise up noble and patriotic defenders. To this end I commit these children to your guidance, the girl no less than the boy. Give them, I beg, the benefit of your wisdom, since they have proven themselves worthy of such honor, and Athens shall one day thank you for this service."

And so it was that Dion and Daphne, the Spartans, not only mastered the learning of their time, but also became the friends of Pericles the Athenian and of Euripides the Poet, and perhaps now wander with them in the Elysian Fields.