Hero Tales

Page: 27

"After ten years of labor and hope," said he to Agamemnon, "wouldst thou give up this enterprise, and lose all?"

Then Odysseus came also into the tent, and added his persuasions to those of Menelaus. The king hearkened to him, for no man was more crafty in counsel; and the three recalled the herald, and formed a plan whereby they might please Artemis by doing as she desired. Agamemnon, in his weakness, wrote a letter to Clytemnestra his queen, telling her to bring the maiden, Iphigenia, to Aulis, there to be wedded to the bravest of all the Greeks.

"Fail not in this," added he, "for the godlike hero will not sail with us unless my daughter be given to him in marriage."

And when he had written the letter, he sealed it, and sent it by a swift messenger to Clytemnestra at Mycenas.

Nevertheless the king's heart was full of sorrow, and when he was alone he planned how he might yet save his daughter. Night came, but he could not sleep; he walked the floor of his tent; he wept and lamented like one bereft of reason. At length he sat down, and wrote another letter:

"Daughter of Leda, send not thy child to Aulis, for I will give her in marriage at another time."

Then he called another messenger, an old and trusted servant of the household, and put this letter into his hands.

"Take this with all haste to my queen, who, perchance, is even now on her way to Aulis. Stop not by any cool spring in the groves, and let not thine eyes close for sleep. And see that the chariot bearing the queen and Iphigenia pass thee not unnoticed."

The messenger took the letter and hastened away. But hardly had he passed the line of the tents when Menelaus saw him, and took the letter away from him. And when he had read it, he went before his brother, and reproached him| with bitter words.

"Before you were chosen captain of the host," said he, "you were kind and gentle, and the friend of every man. There was nothing that you would not do to aid your fellows. Now you are puffed up with pride and vain conceit, and care nothing even for those who are your equals in power. Yet, for all, you are not rid of your well-known cowardice; and when you saw that your leadership was likely to be taken away from you unless you obeyed the commands of Artemis, you agreed to do this thing. Now you are trying to break your word, sending secretly to your wife, and bidding her not to bring her daughter to Aulis."

Then Agamemnon answered, "Why should I destroy my daughter in order to win back thy wife? Let those who wish go with thee to Troy. In no way am I bound to serve thee."

"Do as you will," said Menelaus, going away in wrath.

Soon after this, there came a herald to the king, saying, "Behold, your daughter Iphigenia has come as you directed, and with her mother and her little brother Orestes she rests by the spring close to the outer line of tents. The warriors have gathered around them, and are praising her loveliness, and asking many questions; and some say, 'The king is sick to see his daughter, whom he loves so deeply, and he has made up some excuse to bring her to the camp.' But I know why you have brought her here; for I have been told about the wedding, and the noble groom who is to lead her in marriage; and we will rejoice and be glad, because this is a happy day for the maiden."