ELECTRA No, no; we are vanquished; where are our messengers?
LEADER They will come in time; to slay a king is no light task.
(A MESSENGER enters in haste.)
MESSENGER All hail! ye victors, maidens of Mycenae, to all Orestes'
friends his triumph I announce; Aegisthus, the murderer of Agamemnon,
lies weltering where he fell; return thanks to heaven.
ELECTRA Who art thou? What proof dost thou give of this?
MESSENGER Look at me, dost thou not recognize thy brother's servant?
ELECTRA O best of friends! 'twas fear that prevented me from recognizing
thee; now I know thee well. What sayst thou? Is my father's hateful
MESSENGER He is; I repeat it since it is thy wish.
LEADER Ye gods, and justice, whose eye is on all, at last art thou
ELECTRA I fain would learn the way and means my brother took to slay
MESSENGER After we had set out from this house, we struck into the
broad highroad, and came to the place where was the far-famed King
of Mycenae. Now he was walking in a garden well-watered, culling a
wreath of tender myrtle-sprays for his head, and when he saw us, he
called out, "All hail! strangers; who are ye? whence come ye? from
what country?" To him Orestes answered, "We are from Thessaly, on
our way to Alpheus' banks to sacrifice to Olympian Zeus." When Aegisthus
heard that, he said, "Ye must be my guests to-day, and share the feast,
for I am even now sacrificing to the Nymphs; and by rising with tomorrow's
light ye will be just as far upon your journey; now let us go within."
Therewith he caught us by the hand and led us by the way; refuse we
could not; and when we were come to the house, he gave command: "Bring
water for my guests to wash forthwith, that they may stand around
the altar near the laver." But Orestes answered, "'Twas but now we
purified ourselves and washed us clean in water from the river. So
if we strangers are to join your citizens in sacrifice, we are ready,
King Aegisthus, and will not refuse." So ended they their private
conference. Meantime the servants, that composed their master's bodyguard,
laid aside their weapons, and one and all were busied at their tasks.
Some brought the bowl to catch the blood, others took up baskets,
while others kindled fire and set cauldrons round about the altars,
and the whole house rang. Then did thy mother's husband take the barley
for sprinkling, and began casting it upon the hearth with these words,
"Ye Nymphs, who dwell among the rocks, grant that I may often sacrifice
with my wife, the daughter of Tyndareus, within my halls, as happily
as now, and ruin seize my foes!" (whereby he meant Orestes and thyself)
. But my master, lowering his voice, offered a different prayer,
that he might regain his father's house. Next Aegisthus took from
basket a long straight knife, and cutting off some of the calf's hair,
laid it with his right hand on the sacred fire, and then cut its throat
when the servants had lifted it upon their shoulders, and thus addressed
thy brother; "Men declare that amongst the Thessalians this is counted
honourable, to cut up a bull neatly and to manage steeds. So take
the knife, sir stranger, and show us if rumour speaks true about the
Thessalians." Thereon Orestes seized the Dorian knife of tempered
steel and cast from his shoulders his graceful buckled robe; then
choosing Pylades to help him in his task, he made the servants withdraw,
and catching the calf by the hoof, proceeded to lay bare its white
flesh, with arm outstretched, and he flayed the hide quicker than
a runner ever finishes the two laps of the horses' race-course; next
he laid the belly open, and Aegisthus took the entrails in his hands
and carefully examined them. Now the liver had no lobe, while the
portal vein leading to the gall-bladder portended dangerous attack
on him who was observing it. Dark grows Aegisthus' brow, but my master
asks, "Why so despondent, good sir?" Said he, "I fear treachery from
a stranger. Agamemnon's son of all men most I hate, and he hates my
house." But Orestes cried, "What! fear treachery from an exile! thou
the ruler of the city? Ho! take this Dorian knife away and bring me