Glaucon’s longing for the old
life ebbed and flowed. Sometimes the return of
memory maddened him. Who had done it? had
forged that damning letter and then hid it with Seuthes?
Themistocles? Impossible. Democrates? “the
friend with the understanding heart no less than a
brother dear,” as Homer said? More impossible.
An unknown enemy, then, had stolen the fleet order
from Themistocles? But what man had hated Glaucon?
One answer remained, unwittingly the athlete
had offended some god, forgotten some vow, or by sheer
good fortune had awakened divine jealousy. Poseidon
had been implacable toward Odysseus, Athena toward
Hector, Artemis toward Niobe, Glaucon could
only pray that his present welcome amongst the Persians
might not draw down another outburst of Heaven’s
More than all else was the keen longing
for Hermione. He saw her in the night. Vainly,
amidst the storms of the gathering war, he had sought
a messenger to Athens. In this he dared ask no
help from Mardonius. Then almost from the blue
a bolt fell that made him wish to tear Hermione from
A Carian slave, a trusted steward
at the Athenian silver mines of Laurium, had loved
his liberty and escaped to Sardis. The Persians
questioned him eagerly, for he knew all the gossip
of Athens. Glaucon met the runaway, who did not
know then who he was, so many Greek refugees were always
fluttering around the king’s court. The
Carian told of a new honour for Democrates.
“He is elected strategus for
next year because of his proud patriotism. There
is talk, too, of a more private bit of good fortune.”
“What is it?”
“That he has made successful
suit to Hermippus of Eleusis for his daughter, the
widow of Glaucon, the dead outlaw. They say the
marriage follows at the end of the year of mourning Sir,
you are not well!”
“I was never better.”
But the other had turned ashen. He quitted the
Carian abruptly and shut himself in his chamber.
It was good that he wore no sword. He might have
Yet, he communed in his heart, was
it not best? Was he not dead to Athens?
Must Hermione mourn him down to old age? And whom
better could she take than Democrates, the man who
had sacrificed even friendship for love of country?
Artabanus, the vizier, gave a great
feast that night. They drank the pledge, “Victory
to the king, destruction to his enemies.”
The lords all looked on Glaucon to see if he would
touch the cup. He drank deeply. They applauded
him. He remained long at the wine, the slaves
bore him home drunken. In the morning Mardonius
said Xerxes ordered him to serve in the cavalry guards,
a post full of honour and chance for promotion.
Glaucon did not resist. Mardonius sent him a
silvered cuirass and a black horse from the steppes
of Bactria, fleet as the north wind.
In his new armour he went to the chambers of Artazostra
and Roxana. They had never seen him in panoply
before. The brilliant mail became him rarely.
The ladies were delighted.
“You grow Persian apace, my
Lord Prexaspes,” Roxana always called
him by his new name now, “soon we
shall hail you as ‘your Magnificence’ the
satrap of Parthia or Asia or some other kingly province
in the East.”
“I do well to become Persian,”
he answered bitterly, unmoved by the admiration, “for
yesterday I heard that which makes it more than ever
manifest that Glaucon the Athenian is dead. And
whether he shall ever rise to live again, Zeus knoweth;
but from me it is hid.”
Artazostra did not approach, but Roxana
came near, as if to draw the buckle of the golden
girdle the gift of Xerxes. He saw the
turquoise shining on the tiara that bound her jet-black
hair, the fine dark profile of her face, her delicate
nostrils, the sweep of drapery that half revealed
the form so full of grace. Was there more than
passing friendship in the tone with which she spoke
“You have heard from Athens?”
“And the tidings were evil.”
“Why call them evil, princess?
My friends all believe me dead. Can they mourn
for me forever? They can forget me, alas! more
easily than I in my lonesomeness can forget them.”
“You are very lonely?” the
hand that drew the buckle worked slowly. How
soft it was, how delicately the Nile sun had tinted
“Do you say you have no friends?
None? Not in Sardis? Not among the Persians?”
“I said not that, dear lady, but
when can a man have more than one native country? and
mine is Attica, and Attica is far away.”
“And you can never have another?
Can new friendships never take the place of those
that lie forever dead?”
“I do not know.”
“Ah, believe, new home, new
friends, new love, are more than possible, will you
but open your heart to suffer them.”
The voice both thrilled and trembled
now, then suddenly ceased. The colour sprang
into Roxana’s forehead. Glaucon bowed and
kissed her hand. It seemed to rise to his lips
“I thank you for your fair hopes.
Farewell.” That was all he said, but as
he went forth from Roxana’s presence, the pang
of the tidings brought by the Carian seemed less keen.
The hosts gathered daily. Xerxes
spent his time in dicing, hunting, drinking, or amusing
himself with his favourite by-play, wood-carving.
He held a few solemn state councils, at which he appeared
to determine all things and was actually guided by
Artabanus and Mardonius. Now, at last, all the
colossal machinery which was to crush down Hellas was
being set in motion. Glaucon learned how futile
was Themistocles’s hope of succour to Athens
from the Sicilian Greeks, for, thanks to
Mardonius’s indefatigable diplomacy, it
was arranged that the Phoenicians of Carthage should
launch a powerful armament against the Sicilians,
the same moment Xerxes descended on Sparta and Athens.
With calm satisfaction Mardonius watched the completion
of his efforts. All was ready, the
army of hundreds of thousands, the twelve hundred
war-ships, the bridges across the Hellespont, the
canal at Mt. Athos. Glaucon’s admiration
for the son of Gobryas grew apace. Xerxes was
the outward head of the attack on Hellas. Mardonius
was the soul. He was the idol of the army its
best archer and rider. Unlike his peers, he maintained
no huge harem of jealous concubines and conspiring
eunuchs. Artazostra he worshipped. Roxana
he loved. He had no time for other women.
No servant of Xerxes seemed outwardly more obedient
than he. Night and day he wrought for the glory
of Persia. Therefore, Glaucon looked on him with
dread. In him Themistocles and Leonidas would
find a worthy foeman.
Daily Glaucon felt the Persian influence
stealing upon him. He grew even accustomed to
think of himself under his new name. Greeks were
about him: Demaratus, the outlawed “half-king”
of Sparta, and the sons of Hippias, late tyrant of
Athens. He scorned the company of these renegades.
Yet sometimes he would ask himself wherein was he
better than they, had Democrates’s
accusation been true, could he have asked a greater
reward from the Barbarian? And what he would
do on the day of battle he did not dare to ask of
his own soul.
Xerxes left Sardis with the host amidst
the same splendour with which he had entered.
Glaucon rode in the Life Guard, and saw royalty frequently,
for the king loved to meet handsome men. Once
he held the stirrup as Xerxes dismounted an
honour which provoked much envious grumbling.
Artazostra and Roxana travelled in their closed litters
with the train of women and eunuchs which followed
every Persian army. Thus the myriads rolled onward
through Lydia and Mysia, drinking the rivers dry by
their numbers; and across the immortal plains of Troy
passed that army which was destined to do and suffer
greater things than were wrought beside the poet-sung
Simois and Scamander, till at last they came to the
Hellespont, the green river seven furlongs wide, that
sundered conquered Asia from the Europe yet to be
Here were the two bridges of ships,
more than three hundred in each, held by giant cables,
and which upbore a firm earthen road, protected by
a high bulwark, that the horses and camels might take
no fright at the water. Here, also, the fleet
met them, the armaments of the East, Phoenicians,
Cilicians, Egyptians, Cyprians, more trirèmes
and transports than had ever before ridden upon the
seas. And as he saw all this power, all directed
by one will, Glaucon grew even more despondent.
How could puny, faction-rent Hellas bear up against
this might? Only when he looked on the myriads
passing, and saw how the captains swung long whips
and cracked the lash across the backs of their spearmen,
as over driven cattle, did a little comfort come.
For he knew there was still a fire in Athens and Sparta,
a fire not in Susa nor in Babylon, which kindled free
souls and free hands to dare and do great things.
“Whom will the high Zeus prosper when the slaves
of Xerxes stand face to face with men?”
A proud thought, but it
ceased to comfort him, as all that afternoon he stood
near the marble throne of the “Lord of the World,”
whence Xerxes overlooked his myriads while they filed
by, watched the races of swift trirèmes, and
heard the proud assurances of his officers that “no
king since the beginning of time, not Thothmes of
Egypt, not Sennacherib of Assyria, not Cyrus nor Darius,
had arrayed such hosts as his that day.”
Then evening came. Glaucon was,
after his wont, in the private pavilion of Mardonius, itself
a palace walled with crimson tapestry in lieu of marble.
He sat silent and moody for long, the bright fence
of the ladies or of the bow-bearer seldom moving him
to answer. And at last Artazostra could endure
it no more.
“What has tied your tongue,
Prexaspes? Surely my brother in one of his pleasantries
has not ordered that it be cut out? Your skin
is too fair to let you be enrolled amongst his Libyan
The Hellene answered with a pitiful attempt at laughter.
“Silent, am I? Then silent
because I am admiring your noble ladyship’s
play of wit.”
Artazostra shook her head.
“Impossible. Your eyes
were glazed like the blue of Egyptian beads. You
were not listening to me. You were seeing sights
and hearkening to voices far away.”
“You press me hard, lady,”
he confessed; “how can I answer? No man
is master of his roving thoughts, at least,
“You were seeing Athens.
Are you so enamoured of your stony country that you
believe no other land can be so fair?”
“Stony it is, lady, you
have seen it, but there is no sun like the
sun that gilds the Acropolis; no birds sing like the
nightingales from the grove by the Cephissus; no trees
speak with the murmur of the olives at Colonus,
or on the hill slope at Eleusis-by-the-Sea. I
can answer you in the words of Homer, the singer of
Hellas, the words he sets on the tongue of a wanderer
and outcast, even as I. ’A rugged land,
yet nurse of noble men, and for myself I can see naught
sweeter than a man’s own country.’ "
The praise of his native land had
brought the colour into the cheeks of the Athenian,
his voice rose to enthusiasm. He knew that Roxana
was watching him intently.
“Beautiful it must be, dear
Hellene,” she spoke, as she sat upon the footstool
below the couch of her brother, “yet you have
not seen all the world. You have not seen the
mystic Nile, Memphis, Thebes, and Sais, our wondrous
cities; have not seen how the sun rises over the desert,
how it turns the sand hills to red gold, how at sunset
the cliffs glow like walls of beryl and sard and golden
“Tell then of Egypt,”
said Glaucon, clearly taking pleasure in the music
of her voice.
“Not to-night. I have praised
it before. Rather I will praise also the rose
valleys of Persia and Bactria, whither Mardonius took
me after my dear father died.”
“Are they very beautiful also?”
“Beautiful as the Egyptian’s
House of the Blessed, for those who have passed the
dread bar of Osiris; beautiful as Airyana-Vaeya, the
home land of the Aryans, whence Ahura-Mazda sent them
forth. The winters are short, the summers bright
and long. Neither too much rain nor burning heat.
The Paradise by Sardis is nothing beside them.
One breathes in the roses, and hearkens to the bulbuls our
Aryan nightingales all day and all night
long. The streams bubble with cool water.
At Susa the palace is fairer than word may tell.
Hither the court comes each summer from the tedious
glories of Babylon. The columns of the palace
reach up to heaven, but no walls engirdle them, only
curtains green, white, and blue, whilst
the warm sweet breeze blows always thither from green
“You draw a picture fair as
the plains of Elysium, dear lady,” spoke Glaucon,
his own gaze following the light that burned in hers,
“and yet I would not seek refuge even in the
king’s court with all its beauty. There
are times when I long to pray the god, ’Give
to me wings, eagle wings from Zeus’s own bird,
and let me go to the ends of the earth, and there in
some charmed valley I may find at last the spring
of Lethe water, the water of forgetfulness that gives
Roxana looked on him; pity was in
her eyes, and he knew he was taking pleasure in her
“The magic water you ask is
not to be drunk from goblets,” she answered
him, “but the charmed valley lies in the vales
of Bactria, the ’Roof of the World,’ high
amid mountains crowned with immortal snows. Every
good tree and flower are here, and here winds the
mystic Oxus, the great river sweeping northward.
And here, if anywhere, on Mazda’s wide, green
earth, can the trouble-tossed have peace.”
“Then it is so beautiful?” said the Athenian.
Mardonius and Artazostra together. And Roxana,
with an approving nod from her brother, arose and
crossed the tent where hung a simple harp.
“Will my Lord Prexaspes listen,”
she asked, “if I sing him one of the homely
songs of the Aryans in praise of the vales by the Oxus?
My skill is small.”
“It should suffice to turn the
heart of Persephone, even as did Orpheus,” answered
the Athenian, never taking his gaze from her.
The soft light of the swinging lamps,
the heavy fragrance of the frankincense which smouldered
on the brazier, the dark lustre of the singer’s
eyes all held Glaucon as by a spell.
Roxana struck the harp. Her voice was sweet,
and more than desire to please throbbed through the
strings and song.
“O far away is gliding
The pleasant Oxus’s
I see the green glades darkling,
I see the clear pools gleam.
I hear the bulbuls calling
From blooming tree to tree.
Wave, bird, and tree are singing,
‘Away! ah, come with
“By Oxus’s stream is rising
Great Cyrus’s marble
Like rain of purest silver,
His tinkling fountain falls;
To his cool verdant arbours
What joy with thee to flee.
I’ll join with bird and river,
‘Away! rest there with
“Forget, forget old sorrows,
Forget the dear things lost!
There comes new peace, new brightness,
When darksome waves are crossed;
By Oxus’s streams abiding,
From pang and strife set free,
Ill teach thee love and gladness,
Rest there, for aye, with
The light, the fragrance, the song
so pregnant with meaning, all wrought upon Glaucon
of Athens. He felt the warm glow in his cheeks;
he felt subtle hands outstretching as if drawing forth
his spirit. Roxana’s eyes were upon him
as she ended. Their gaze met. She was very
fair, high-born, sensitive. She was inviting
him to put away Glaucon the outcast from Hellas, to
become body and soul Prexaspes the Persian, “Benefactor
of the King,” and sharer in all the glories
of the conquering race. All the past seemed slipping
away from him as unreal. Roxana stood before him
in her dark Oriental beauty; Hermione was in Athens and
they were giving her in marriage to Democrates.
What wonder he felt no mastery of himself, though
all that day he had kept from wine?
“A simple song,” spoke
Mardonius, who seemed marvellously pleased at all
his sister did, “yet not lacking its sweetness.
We Aryans are without the elaborate music the Greeks
and Babylonians affect.”
“Simplicity is the highest beauty,”
answered the Greek, as if still in his trance, “and
when I hear Euphrosyne, fairest of the Graces, sing
with the voice of Erato, the Song-Queen, I grow afraid.
For a mortal may not hear things too divine and live.”
Roxana replaced the harp and made
one of her inimitable Oriental courtesies, a
token at once of gratitude and farewell for the evening.
Glaucon never took his gaze from her, until with a
rustle and sweep of her blue gauze she had glided
out of the tent. He did not see the meaning glances
exchanged by Mardonius and Artazostra before the latter
When the two men were alone, the bow-bearer
asked a question.
“Dear Prexaspes, do you not
think I should bless the twelve archangels I possess
so beautiful a sister?”
“She is so fair, I wonder that
Zeus does not haste from Olympus to enthrone her in
place of Hera.”
The bow-bearer laughed.
“No, I crave for her only a
mortal husband. Though there are few in Persia,
in Media, in the wide East, to whom I dare entrust
her. Perhaps,” his laugh grew
lighter, “I would do well to turn
my eyes westward.”
Glaucon did not see Roxana again the
next day nor for several following, but in those days
he thought much less on Hermione and on Athens.