IN ancient days there dwelt in the fair valley of the Eurotas a noble king named Tyndareus. In his youth he had known sorrow and hardship, for he had been driven from lovely Lacedaemon, where he was born, and had wandered an exile as far as Aetolia, where Tydeus received him kindly and entertained him as long as he chose to stay. But the troubles of his youth were softened by time, until they had become pleasant memories, and it added much to the honour in which he was held by the men of the newer generation that he was able to tell tales of war and prowess, of the fierce Tydeus, and of Meleager of the clustering curls, who both died by the will of the gods in the flower of their youth.
King Tyndareus had for his wife a lovely lady, Leda, daughter of Thyestius, and there were growing up in his house four children of such rare beauty and such princely qualities, that the poets fain would have it
that they were children of Zeus; for in those simple days men never doubted but that the Olympians concerned themselves about every chieftain and his house-hold in the fair Achaean land. The two noble boys, Kastor and Pollux, who ate at the board of Tyndareus, are famous even in this later age for their strength and skill, for their helpful kindness to men, but, above all, for that brotherly love and good-fellowship which made them true friends and companions, so that men called by their names the bright twin stars, which are most welcome as a guiding beacon to mariners voyaging on the uncertain sea. When the brothers were now coming and going, as young heroes should, piercing the blue Clashers 9 into the stormy Black Sea with Jason, or vindicating their rights against the unjust sons of Aphareus, the two daughters of Tyndareus and Leda still abode in the palace of their father. Klytaemnestra was tall and stately like Here, her crisp, wavy hair, black as ebony, formed a fine setting to her straight, strong features; flashing eyes of the darkest brown glanced beneath her black eyebrows, her beautiful head was finely set on a neck slender and graceful as that of a swan, and she carried herself like one accustomed to rule and to be obeyed. Klytaemnestra, indeed, even from her tender youth, was strong in love and hate, and Leda, the queen, was wont to dread the firm clenching of the teeth and hands when anything crossed the fancy of the little princess, and to take refuge in the perpetual smiles
and winning tenderness of Helené, twin sister to Klytaemnestra, whose loveliness and grace were the theme of minstrels from Pylos to Ithaké. And because there was no Kalydonian boar to be slain, no golden fleece to be sought, it came to be the fashion for the princes of Achaea to resort to the palace of Tyndareus, to claim the rights of guest-friendship and hunt over the breezy hills and hollows of Lakonia, until the game threatened to become scarce, and Tyndareus, gracious and hospitable as he was, found it in his heart to wish that the gods had given him a daughter less fair, or that the Muses bad given the gift of minstrelsy to fewer bards, so that her beauty had been less renowned.
It was, indeed, no small trouble to Tyndareus to know which of the many wooers to choose; for it would fare ill, he thought, with himself, with the bride-groom, and with his peerless daughter, whomsoever he should choose, seeing that all the other princes would be angry at all three. The soothsayers, too, vexed him not a little with their dark sayings, foreboding woes to come of Helene's beauty, sorrow to her native land, and bitterness of spirit to those who loved her best. It was some comfort to him, indeed, that Agamemnon, king of Argos, who, with his brother Menelaus, was come to see the wonder, ere long declared himself more charmed by the queenly graces of Klytaemnestra than by all the witcheries of her sister; but he was only at length fully relieved from his anxiety when
[paragraph continues] Odysseus, son of Laertes, came to him with this proposition.
Odysseus, indeed, was only king of rocky Ithaca and its neighbour isles, territory of small mark beside those of Argos, Mycenae, of Arcadia, of Aetolia, of Thessaly, lands fit for the breeding of cattle, of horses, and abundant in corn-fields. But Odysseus was a man among men, a prince so wise and thoughtful that, young as he was, his words were listened to with attention by the oldest and wisest, and when now he spake to Tyndareus, the king felt half the burden of his care lifted from his shoulders.
"King Tyndareus"--it was thus that Odysseus spoke--"thy heart is sore troubled on account of thy daughter Helene, with the flowing robes, and on account of the many princes who gather to thy court anxious to call her wife, and I do not blame thee, for surely it is a grave thing to anger princes; for though they smother their wrath at the time, still they are wont to nourish a grudge against thee, and welcome any occasion of doing thee hurt."
"It is indeed even as thou sayest, wise son of Laertes; would that the gods had made Helene less fair, or that more princes were wise as Agamemnon and would fix their thoughts on other maidens, less fair perhaps, but equal to Helene in accomplishments, and in all things but the dangerous gift of matchless beauty. I am in good Booth sore perplexed. How can I choose between such men as Idomeneus, Tleptolemus,
the fierce Diomedes, and masterful Ajax, besides the many more equal in honour, and each keenly alive to any wrong offered to him."
And Tyndareus sighed heavily, leaning upon his ivory staff and pondering wearily.
"It is true, O king, that any gift in excess is like to waken the envy of the gods; too much valour in a man, too much beauty in a woman--what are they but pledges of trial, of toil, perhaps even of death? yet it seems to me, O king, that I can tell thee a plan which may ease thee in great measure of thy present trouble."
"Thou wilt indeed deserve well of me, my young friend, if thou canst do this, but what reward shall I give to thee for such noteworthy help?"
"Rich reward do I seek of thee, O king, richer to my mind than the service I render thee warrants me to ask of thee. But hearken to my counsel, which is so simple that haply thou mayest smile when thou hearest it, and yet methinks there is little doubt but that it will succeed. Summon to a council all the chieftains who now throng thy palace, and fearlessly lay thy trouble before them, and when they now feel for thee, bind them by a solemn oath to abide by the choice the princess shall make, and to aid in word and deed both her and him whom she shall choose as her husband, and avenge them on any that shall offer them wrong."
"Thy plan is a wise one," said Tyndareus slowly,
[paragraph continues] "and thou thinkest that the chieftains will readily take such an oath?"
"Ay, truly, will they; for surely each man will think that the choice of Helené will light upon himself."
"Men may well call thee crafty, son of Laertes," said the old king, smiling. "Verily we will try thy plan, but I think thou art mistaken if thou fanciest that the choice of Helené will light on thee."
"I neither anticipate such a choice, nor do I desire it," said Odysseus, smiling in his turn; "the lovely Helene would be but ill placed in my rugged home, and to say the truth, fair and clever as she is, there is one at thy court whom I would rather call wife, even Penelope, thy brother's daughter, a modest maiden, and one who will be fit for the wife of a man who has many duties and many cares. Win for me this damsel, and I shall hold myself richly paid."
"But thou wilt not shrink from taking the oath thyself?"
"No, verily, though it concerns not me. I will take the oath, yea, I will even propose it to the princes myself, if thou wilt."
Then the heart of Tyndareus was lightened, and he gladly promised to Odysseus the wise princess Penelope, with much treasure of copper and of needle-work: and the plan which Odysseus had made prospered bravely, for as he had foretold, the chieftains lightly took the oath, each thinking himself secure of the favour of the gracious Helené; and Helené herself
was well pleased to be allowed to choose her own husband; and she passed over the most warlike and notable chieftains, and took for her lord, the younger Atreid, whose bright curls and gentle bearing had won her fancy.
Then all Lacedaemon rejoiced in the triple wedding; some of the chieftains, it is true, found it needful to betake themselves to their homes, but the greater number remained to do honour to the brides, and to the solemn oath which they had taken. When the feasting and the games were ended, Odysseus went on board his well-planked black ship and bore his bride to his beloved Ithaca, where dwelt the aged Laertes and Antikleia, his dear father and mother; Helené and Menelaus abode with Tyndareus in Sparta, but Agamemnon carried his wife Klytaemnestra in his chariot through the level lands of Tegea, beneath the Arcadian hills, to his own home in Argos.
There they dwelt together for many prosperous years, and three daughters, Iphigeneia, Chrysothemis, and Elektra, were born to them, and last of all, like a bright gleam of summer in autumn time, the little Orestes, their one, beloved son.
And now Klytaemnestra was grown a stately queen, and though she loved her children and was pleased to have for her husband the greatest king in all the Achaean land, there came ever and again occasions for chafing and impatience, for his great power had fostered the haughtiness of Agamemnon and made
him proud and impatient of contradiction, but still they were on the whole happy, and might have been happier with their three daughters, now almost grown up, and the little Orestes, as the crown of their wedlock; but alas! their lives were not to end so peace-fully, for the fates had sorrow and sin in store for them, wrong and vengeance at which the ears of men should tingle, wherever the Achaean name was spoken through the ages.
When men had now well nigh forgotten their plighted hands, and the oaths sworn by them at the wooing of Helené, that they would avenge wrong done to her, or to her husband, the hour appointed from the beginning came, and from hollow Lacedaemon to remotest Phthia rang the tidings that Helené had been treacherously carried off by a false guest-friend, Alexander, or as he was sometimes called Paris, one of the many sons of Priam, king of Troy; and Menelaus and Agamemnon his brother called upon all the chieftains to remember their oaths, and to pursue the faithless Trojan, and recover the lost queen. Then was there wailing of women, and much sorrow through the land, for they knew this Troy of old, how it was a wealthy city, and how haughty and faithless its princes were, for had not the mighty Herakles himself sacked it because of the treachery of Laomedon, its king, who refused him the meed of the horses of Neptune, which he had promised him for the preservation of Hesione his daughter? and was it likely that the Trojans would
hearken to justice now? nay, was it not known that Priam, the king, had threatened that he would have vengeance for Hesione, his sister, whom Herakles had carried away as a slave, and given to his friend Telamon of Salamis, and would he be likely to give up such a rich prize as Helené, daughter of Tyndareus and wife of Menelaus?
Then a great council of chiefs was held at Argos, and it was resolved on no account to let the wrong pass, but to go, if need were, even to Troy itself to win back Helené, and to level the proud city with the dust. First, however, it was decreed to send ambassadors who should solemnly set forth the wrongs, and demand back the lady, and for this purpose Menelaus himself declared that he would go, and from all the chieftains he chose Odysseus of Ithaké to bear him company. The two went in a swift ship and were courteously received in the city of Priam and entertained by Antenor his chief counsellor, but alas! they found Priam and all his people, Hektor alone excepted, bent on keeping the fair prize, who with her winning sweetness had beguiled the hearts of all men there, as in the land of her birth: had not Medeia been carried off by Jason of Pherae, and their own Hesione dragged away to spend a weary life on the rock of Salamis, and why should they alone of all men be called upon to acknowledge themselves in the wrong, to make compensation and to give back the lady? They would not heed that Helené was a wedded wife and a queen, and
that Alexander had broken the rights of hospitality by carrying her away.
So Menelaus and Odysseus returned empty-handed and wrathful, and another great council was held at Argos and instant action resolved upon, and so widely was the tale of Menelaus' wrong spread, that the name of Troy and of the treacherous Alexander grew familiar in every hall, and from Pylos to Akrokeraunia there was nothing but building of ships, forging of arms, fitting of chariots, and mustering of men; and Agamemnon, both because of his wealth and power and because he was own brother to Menelaus, was chosen commander in chief of the expedition.
Klytaemnestra aided her husband with counsel and with her hands during all the busy time; and no chieftain went to the war more richly furnished with tunics or with cloaks, with sandals or with armour and all things that become a prince, and perhaps she was not altogether displeased at the thought of being sole ruler of his wide domain while he should be away: but when the day of his departure was come, and he stood ready to step on board his ship, shining in armour, and took his little boy in his arms, who patted his breastplate and begged to be taken to the war, a shadow of great sorrow came over the soul of Klytaemnestra as she stood looking on with her fair young daughters, and but for her pride she would have shrieked aloud and begged him on her knees to tarry with her.
The parting also was grievous to Agamemnon, for he lingered after he had given his boy back into the arms of the nurse, and looked at the tearful faces of his daughters, and Iphigeneia leapt into his arms and clung about his neck, sobbing and begging him to take her with him. But the wind was whistling in the sails, and the sailors were bending on their oars, and Agamemnon gently unclasped her arms, bade her comfort her mother and take care of the little Orestes, and then he went slowly down the beach and climbed into his black ship, and Klytaemnestra and her children stood and watched till the last faint speck had passed from their sight, then they wended their way slowly back to the desolate palace.
Then came days of weary watching for news, glad tidings of the mighty muster at Aulis, of the martial spirit of the princes. Then a month passed and no tidings came, and Klytaemnestra and her maidens talked day by day, as they plied the loom, of where the Achaean host might be, and wondered if Helene were yet recovered, and the city of Troy taken; then came another messenger with tidings of delay and trouble. The ships were still lying becalmed at Aulis, no breath of wind would rise to fill a sail, and the rowers could not row all the way from Aulis to the Troad without a favourable wind to lighten their toil. In vain Agamemnon chafed with impatience, in vain sacrifices smoked on the altars of the gods, a sullen calm rested on the deep, and Kalchas, the soothsayer, who knew the present,
the past, and the future, held a gloomy silence and would give no word of counsel or guidance.
The harvest was gathered in, women and girls aiding the old men and boys in the corn-fields, and the wine was foaming in the vats, when yet another messenger came heavy and weary, greeting the queen from Agamemnon, and bidding her make supplication to every god in Argos, but chiefly to Artemis, whom Agamemnon had displeased by slaying her white heifer in her sacred grove long years before.
Then Klytaemnestra made solemn processions to the shrines, to Here, to Pallas Athene, but chiefly to Artemis, if perchance she would be gracious and forgive, for the queen remembered only too well how Agamemnon, chasing the hind too eagerly, had killed it in the very grove of the goddess, who in wrath would have slain him, but that he vowed to offer on her altar the fairest creature that should be born that year. Alas! the queen remembered also that that year Iphigeneia had been born, and what creature of earth or air could compare with her for beauty or for endowments? Heifers and ewe-lambs, the choicest of their kind, had smoked continuously on her altars, had not Klytaemnestra seen to it? and the maiden had been always fair to look on and sweet as she was fair. Could it be that the goddess would comprehend her in her father's rash vow? could the life of a beautiful human being, like Iphigeneia, be really demanded for the life of a hind, however beautiful, however beloved by the goddess?
Then day by day the queen besieged the gods with prayers, jealously watching to shield Iphigeneia from harm, and the days dragged on wearily; then, when another month was nearly out, there came news from the king, no common runner this time, crossing the narrow neck of land at Corinth, but a well-planked black ship, with a hundred and twenty stalwart rowers pulling her over the becalmed waters. As soon as the prow had touched the sand, there leapt ashore two princes, and the heart of Klytaemnestra smote her as she recognized Diomedes, son of Tydeus, and Odysseus of Ithaké. On what message were these brave men come? for what grave purpose had such leaders left the army?
Nevertheless she went down with her maidens to welcome them, and brought them up to the palace, and gave them water for their feet and food, before she asked them a question, and the princes on their side seemed in little haste to disburden themselves of their message; but when they had eaten as much as they would, and the brimming wine-cups stood before them, Klytaemnestra asked tidings of the king and of the host, and how it was that they still were on Achaean land.
Then the son of Tydeus looked at Odysseus, and Odysseus slowly spoke. He told of the pitiless calm which still kept them weatherbound, of the impatience of the chiefs, and how at last Kalchas had declared that it was in the power of Agamemnon alone to
loosen the winds, if he would give his daughter, the sweet-voiced Iphigeneia, to be wedded by Achilles, the son of Peleus.
"To be wedded by the son of the silver-footed Thetis, the bravest and most beautiful of all the brave and gallant chiefs in the Achaean armament!" exclaimed Klytaemnestra, "what fitter bridegroom could we find for our daughter--why should Agamemnon hesitate?"
"Thou knowest, lady, that the son of Peleus is bound on a distant expedition.; for the wide-wayed Troy cannot be taken--so the Moirae will it--unless Achilles, the sacker of cities, be with the army."
"And are not all the Achaean women widows through this dismal war? Iphigeneia will be no worse off than I and Penelope, and many a princess beside. Achilles is the handsomest and the bravest of all the men now upon earth, seeing that the Dioskuri dwell no longer among men, and there is no one born of mortal woman who can compare with him. Let him take Iphigeneia, since the gods so will it. I myself will conduct her to Aulis to bless their marriage, then she and I will return back hither, and we two widows will besiege the gods with prayers to give us back our lords, and to blot out the reproach of Helen's flight."
At these words of the queen the brow of Diomedes darkened, and Odysseus said, sadly,
"Nay, lady, but it is the strait command of the gods that the damsel return to thee no more, and it
were well that thou shouldst abide here at home, where the affairs of the kingdom so much need thy presence only send the damsel with us, the damsel and her nurse."
Then the brow of Klytaemnestra flushed, and she answered, angrily, "Think not, son of Laertes, that thou canst rule me as thou rulest thine own wife; I set up no claim to prudence and wifely submission. If Iphigeneia go to Aulis, I, her mother, go with her."
Then Diomedes made as if he would have spoken, but Odysseus signed to him to hold his peace, for he knew of old the fierce temper of Klytaemnestra, and that they would gain nothing by opposing her.
"Be it as thou wilt, lady," he said; "only be speedy, for the gods, as thou knowest, brook no delay when they have once declared their will."
Then Klytaemnestra bade prepare her chariot, for she would not go with the warriors in the ship, and she took Iphigeneia and the little Orestes, that the sight of him might gladden his father's heart, and store of costly robes such as a queen should give her daughter, and ornaments of silver and of gold, and they drove through the pleasant land until they came to Aulis.
There who can tell of the dreadful deed that was done? Of the bride, no bride at all, but a sad victim offered at the altar of the offended deity; of the father forgetting his fatherhood, and giving up the first-born and best-beloved of his children to untimely fate, that he might still be commander of that proud armament,
and that the wrong of his brother might be avenged?
Achilles, though he had not been privy to the guile by which Odysseus had brought the poor princess to the camp, and knew nothing of those pretended nuptials, was stung to the heart with grief for the maiden and with indignation at the falsehood, and though he had no mind to wed the daughter of Agamemnon, yet drew his silver-hilted sword and would have shielded her with his own body, but the high-souled maiden put him aside, she would have no stranger come between her and her fate, and he could only stand with the other chiefs, an awe-struck witness of the penalty exacted for the father's rash vow.
From that hour all that was sweet and gentle in the nature of Klytaemnestra was changed to bitterness and wrath. When she learnt to what sort of wedding she had brought her dear child, she left the tents of Agamemnon, which she had entered with such high hopes, in wrath, refusing to hearken to aught that he could urge, or to any sound of comfort, though Kalchas the prophet would fain have persuaded her that the damsel had not been slain by the sacrificial knife, but that Artemis had herself carried her to some secret place of peace and safety, putting in her stead a milk-white hind, whose limbs had indeed quivered on the altar, and whose innocent flesh had been consumed as a burnt-offering. But that she might wreak her vengeance more securely, she feigned to take some comfort from what they told her of the heroic devotion of her child, who, when she understood that her life would save the honour of her country, had been impatient to render it, and pressed forward to the sacrifice, as to her crown of glory.
Thus the wrath of Artemis was at length appeased, and soft southerly winds filled the sails, the heroes bent on their oars, and all the mighty armament of the Achaeans was borne over the dancing waves of the Aegean, past the lovely isles, to the plain of the Skamander, where in the ancient city of Priam the long -robed Helene still dallied with her paramour.
For ten weary years the Achaeans tented about Troy, sacking the allied cities, but unable to get possession of the town or to scale the walls built by Poseidon and Apollo. Often a wearisome longing for home and peace came over them, and they would have been glad to leave Helene a boast to the Trojans and to go away home to their own wives and children, who needed them so much; but Kalchas, the wise seer, heartened them up with assurance of coming success, and they thought shame to have tarried so long and to go away empty-handed. But at last the fated ten years were spent, and the streets of Troy rung with the shouts of the victors, and her stately palaces flared in conflagration. Helene was recovered, and the Achaeans were free to return once more each to his own home.
From point to point, from headland to headland,
the glad tidings were told by beacons kept ready all those weary years, and the sentinel, pacing the highest tower of Argos, beheld with incredulous joy the flashing light making the darkness glad, and hastened with the tidings to the queen.
Troy was taken, the army disbanded, and Agamemnon coming home. How will Klytaemnestra meet him? Has she forgotten her daughter, torn from her embrace under the false pretence of marriage? Alas! no; nor has she been deaf to the rumours that have come from Asia of the causes which delayed the Achaean host so long before Troy; she has heard of the fair captive maid, Chryseis, whom Agamemnon rashly declared that he preferred to herself, needlessly dragging forward her name in the open council of the chiefs; she has heard of that maiden, scarcely less fair, for whose dear sake the son of Thetis withdrew from the war and lay for months idle at his ships; and now how will he come home?
Elektra and Chrysothemis, who were but children when their father went away, are grown into graceful young women, fair indeed, but not so fair as she who perished at Aulis; and the baby Orestes, with his laughing eyes and sunny curls, will he be on the threshold to welcome home his sire, a youth worthy of his great ancestry--like Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, who, though with little more than the down upon his lip, is rich in honour and in spoil as the eldest of the chieftains?
Alas! godlike Agamemnon, like to Jove in brow, to Poseidon in girth of chest, beware how thou return to the wife thou hast insulted, the mother thou hast outraged! Greater dangers than ever compassed thee at Troy await thee in thine own halls! Thine enemy, the hereditary enemy of thy house, sits in thy seat, welcomed to her counsels, yea, to her embraces, by thy wife; common hatred to thee the tie that binds them, insatiable longing to avenge slaughtered kinsfolk the sacrament of their accursed love. Elektra and Chrysothemis are oppressed and sorrow-stricken, and the boy Orestes, with difficulty rescued from his mother's wrath by the courage of Elektra, dwells an exile in a foreign land.
But no tidings of the evil doings in his home had reached the king, who came flushed with victory, and madly bringing with him in his own chariot the lovely prophetess Kassandra, the precious honour-gift chosen for him out of all the captives at the division of the spoil. In vain the unhappy lady warned and entreated, in vain she declared that death and slaughter awaited him. Confident and exulting, Agamemnon beheld once more his people and his palace, beheld once more the wife of his youth, who received him at the threshold with costly garments spread in his path and words of extravagant delight, as though he had been a god returning to his shrine, not a poor, sinful man entering the gates of Hades.
Into the palace he went, where the refreshing bath
was prepared, and she, Klytaemnestra herself, waited on him, holding the soft, newly-woven tunic, the work of her loom. Meanwhile without, the Trojan princess would not quit the chariot, for in rapt vision she beheld the ghastly welcome prepared for the king, and scented the coming slaughter.
Beside the queen, to aid if need were, stood the swarthy Aegisthus, son of Thyestes, the house-foe of Agamemnon and all the race of Atreus; but it was not the hand of Aegisthus that smote the king. The embittered soul of Klytaemnestra nerved her hand to deal the blow, while Agamemnon struggled to find his way into the garment which she had treacherously sewn up, yea, and to smite him a second and even a third time, until the king of men lay at her feet crushed and silent, like a slaughtered ox. Then she dared to show to all the people the body of her slain husband, to proclaim her deed, and to justify it as an act of vengeance for her beloved child Iphigeneia, whose precious life he had sacrificed to his ambition.
Aegisthus also in his turn exulted over his dead foe, regarding his slaughter as an offering due to the spirit of Thyestes, cruelly persecuted by Atreus; and the people listened in silence, afraid to defy openly the adulterous pair, who had known how to strengthen their hands with bribes at home and abroad, and Elektra and Chrysothemis mourned in silence, and nursed their anger against the murderers of their father, waiting till Orestes should hear of it and come for vengeance.
Months passed on, and the gods seemed to have forgotten, and the grave outside the city gate where the last of her kings was laid was little frequented, little thought of; save for the two wan women who crept at break of day or in the night time to make their moan there, and offer wine and honey to the injured spirit, for Menelaus was not yet home from his wanderings, and Orestes still abode with Strophios in Phocis, into whose charge Elektra had delivered him when the queen made her terrible league with Aegisthus, knowing that if he could lay hands on the boy, the son of Thyestes would gladly slay him as the first fruits of his vengeance.
For eight years Aegisthus and Klytaemnestra ruled as king and queen in Argos, and the people endured their rule, fearing that worse might come; but the prosperity of the wicked is like a fair flower that opens wide its petals in the morning, but in the evening lies trampled and dishonoured on the highway. All at once, with no sign of trouble or disaffection among the people to account for it, all at once great agony of soul came upon Klytaemnestra, her sleep went from her, or if she closed her eyes in sleep, terrible visions frighted her awake again; her murdered husband stood before her, and all she had said and thought of the justice of her act failed her; her sin had found her out, and she trembled.
Sacrifices of milk and honey must be carried to the tomb of Agamemnon, his unquiet spirit must be
soothed with words of tenderness and submission; but Klytaemnestra dares not go: she sends Elektra and the train of Trojan women who had come with Agamemnon from Asia, to sacrifice and to sing hymns to him.
Elektra willingly obeyed, but when she reached the grave and prepared to lay her offerings on it, she was amazed to see that some one had been before her, for carefully disposed upon the top of the tomb was a curl of hair, the appropriate offering of the next of kin to the spirit of the hero. At this sight a great flush of joy and surprise came over Elektra, for she was well assured that it could be no other than her dear brother Orestes who had placed the curl there, but she trembled with apprehension lest Aegisthus should learn that the exile was returned, and seize him and put him to death. And while she stood bewildered between joy and fear, to! Orestes and Pylades, his cousin and trusty friend, feeling sure that she must be Elektra, came forward, and having made themselves known to her, Orestes told her how he was come at the behest of the dread Phoebus to avenge the death of his father and the brother and sister planned together that Orestes should come as a traveller from Phocis, charged with a message from Strophios, the king, concerning the disposal of the body of Orestes, who was dead, whether the king and queen desired that his obsequies should be performed there, where he had died, or whether they wished that his remains should
be conveyed to Argos, there to receive their due rites.
That Orestes was dead was joyful news to Aegisthus and to Klytaemnestra, for the thought of him had been grievous to them ever since the death of his father, and Aegisthus was so keen to hear all details that he hurried to the supposed messenger alone and unattended, and fell an easy prey to the strong young hands of the son of Agamemnon but to slay Klytaemnestra was a harder task, for when she knew that it was Orestes, and that he had come to wreak his vengeance on her guilty head, she who had been no mother to him, yea, who but now was rejoicing at the tidings of his death, clung about his knees, calling him by the tenderest names and grovelling at his feet.
It was a cruel fate that darkened the life of the young Orestes; to do just honour to his father, and to give him his due place among the spirits of the departed, he was commanded by the irresistible behest of Phoebus, to destroy that body from which he was himself sprung, and no sooner was the terrible deed accomplished than agonies of guilt and remorse drove him from city to city, taking the form of the serpent-haired Eumenides, daughters of Jove the avenger, and of the ghastly spirit of Klytaemnestra urging them on.
Sleepless and haggard he wandered, until at length they came to Athens, the city of Cekrops, and to the temple of the just and holy Athena, and there, before
the august council that met on Ares' hill, the two pleaded their cause; Phoebus on behalf of Orestes on the one side, the Eumenides on behalf of Klytaemnestra on the other. Then the blue-eyed daughter of Jove gave judgment in favour of Orestes, holding him free of guilt in the necessary act, which by the order of the god he had done, and the spirit of Klytaemnestra slid shrieking into the house of Hades, and troubled the world no more.