Paris And Helen by James Baldwin

Story type: Literature


“I was glad when King Priam made this request,” continued Menelaus, “for, in truth, I was loath to part with Paris; and I arranged at once that he should bear me company in my own ship while his vessel with its crew followed not far behind.

“And so, being blessed with favoring winds, we made a quick voyage back to my own country. What followed is too sad for lengthy mention, and is in part already known to you. Need I tell you how I opened my halls to Paris, and left no act of courtesy undone that I might make him happy? Need I tell you how he was welcomed by fair Helen, and how the summer days fled by on golden wings; and how in the delights of Lacedaemon he forgot his errand to Salamis, and cared only to remain with me, my honored guest and trusted friend?

“One day a message came to me from my old friend Idomeneus. He had planned a hunt among the mountains and woods of Crete, and he invited me to join him in the sport. I had not seen Idomeneus since the time that we together, in friendly contention, sought the hand of Helen. I could not do otherwise than accept his invitation, for he had sent his own ship to carry me over to Crete.

“So I bade farewell to Helen, saying, ‘Let not our noble guest lack entertainment while I am gone; and may the golden hours glide happily until I come again.’ And to Paris I said, ‘Tarry another moon in Lacedasmon; and when I return from Crete, I will go with you to Salamis, and aid you in your search for Hesione.’

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“Then I went on board the waiting ship, and prospering breezes carried us without delays to Crete.

“Idomeneus received me joyfully, and entertained me most royally in his palace; and for nine days we feasted and made all things ready for the hunt. But, lo! on the evening of the last day, a vision came to me. Gold-winged Iris, the fleet-footed messenger of the gods, stood before me. ‘Hasten back to Lacedaemon,’ she cried, for thou art robbed of thy dearest treasure!’ And even while she spoke, one of my own ships, came sailing into the harbor, bringing trusted heralds whom the elders of Lacedaemon had sent to me.

“They told me the fatal news. ‘No sooner were you well on your way,’ they said, ‘than Paris began to put his ship in readiness to depart. Helen prayed him to tarry until your return, but he would not hearken, “I will stay no longer,” he said. “My seamen rest upon their oars; the sails of my ship are spread; the breeze will soon spring up that will carry me across the sea. But you, beauteous Helen, shall go with me; for the deathless gods have spoken it. Aphrodite, long ago, promised that the most beautiful woman in the world should be my wife. And who is that most beautiful woman if it be not yourself? Come! fly over the sea, and be my queen. It is the will of the gods.”‘

“It was thus that the perfidious Trojan wrought the ruin of all that was dear to me.

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“At first, Helen refused. But Paris is a handsome prince, and day after day he renewed his suit. Then on the sixth day she yielded. In the darkness of the night they went on board his waiting vessel, carrying with them the gold and jewels of my treasure house; and in the morning, when the sun arose on Lacedaemon, they were far out at sea.

“You know the rest: how in wrath and great sorrow I hurried home; how I first counselled with my own elders, and then with my brother Agamemnon. And now, O noble Nestor, we have come to Pylos, seeking thy advice. On these two things my mind is set: Helen must be mine again, and Paris must suffer the punishment due to traitors.”

When Menelaus had ended, sage Nestor answered with many words of counsel. “Keep the thought of vengeance ever before you,” he said. “Yet act not rashly. The power of Troy is very great; and, in case of war, all the tribes of Asia will make common cause with her. But an insult to Lacedaemon is an insult to all Greece, and every loyal Greek will hasten to avenge it. More than this, the chiefs of almost every state have already sworn to aid you. We have but to call upon them, and remind them of their oaths, and the mightiest warriors of our land will take up arms against the power of Troy.”

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