MENELAUS Am I to let them bind my hands, and say nothing?
HELEN Thou art in a dilemma; some scheme must be devised.
MENELAUS I had liefer die in action than sitting still.
HELEN There is one hope, and only one, of our safety.
MENELAUS Will gold, or daring deeds, or winning words procure it?
HELEN We are safe if the prince learn not of thy coming.
MENELAUS ary one tell him it is I? He certainly will not know who
HELEN He hath within his palace an ally equal to the gods.
MENELAUS Some voice divine within the secret chambers of his house?
HELEN No; his sister; Theonoe men call her.
MENELAUS Her name hath a prophetic sound; tell me what she doth.
HELEN She knoweth everything, and she will tell her brother thou
MENELAUS Then must we die; for I cannot escape her ken.
HELEN Perchance we might by suppliant prayers win her over.
MENELAUS To what end? To what vain hope art thou leading me?
HELEN That she should not tell her brother thou art here.
MENELAUS Suppose we persuade her, can we get away?
HELEN Easily, if she connive thereat; without her knowledge, no,
MENELAUS Be that thy task; women deal best with women.
HELEN I will not fail, be sure, to clasp her knees.
MENELAUS Come, then; only, suppose she reject our proposals?
HELEN Thou wilt be slain, and I, alas! wedded by force.
MENELAUS Thou wilt betray me; that "force" of thine is but an excuse.
HELEN Nay, by thy life I swear a sacred oath.
MENELAUS What meanest thou? dost swear to die and never to another
HELEN Yes, by the self-same sword; I will fall by thy side.
MENELAUS On these conditions touch my right hand.
HELEN I do so, swearing I will quit the light of day if thou art
MENELAUS I, too, will end my life if I lose thee.
HELEN How shall we die so as to gain fame?
MENELAUS I will slay thee and then myself upon the summit of the
tomb. But first will I in doughty fight contest another's claim to
thee; and let who will draw nigh! for I will not sully the lustre
of my Trojan fame, nor will I, on my return to Hellas, incur a storm
of taunts, as one who robbed Thetis of Achilles; saw Ajax, son of
Telamon, fall a weltering corpse; and the sort of Neleus of his child
bereft; shall I then flinch myself from death for my own wife? No,
no! For if the gods are wise, o'er a brave man by his foes laid low
they lightly sprinkle the earth that is his tomb, while cowards 'they
cast forth on barren rocky soil.
LEADER Grant, heaven, that the race of Tantalus may at last be blest,
and pass from sorrow unto joy!
HELEN Ah, woe is me! Yea, all my lot is woe; O Menelaus, we are utterly
undone! Behold! from forth the house comes Theonoe, the prophetess,
The palace echoes as the bolts are unfastened; fly! yet what use to
fly? For whether absent or present she knows of thy arrival here.
Ah me! how lost am I! Saved from Troy and from a barbarian land, thou
hast come only to fall a prey to barbarian swords. (THEONOE enters,
attended by hand-maidens carrying torches.)
THEONOE Lead on, bearing before me blazing brands, and, as sacred
rites ordain, purge with incense every cranny of the air, that I may
breathe heaven's breath free from taint; meanwhile do thou, in case
the tread of unclean feet have soiled the path, wave the cleansing
flame above it, and brandish the torch in front, that I may pass upon
my way. And when to heaven ye have paid the customs I exact, bear
back into the house the brand from off the hearth. What of my prophecy,
Helen? how stands it now? Thou hast seen thy husband Menelaus arrive
without disguise, reft of his ships, and of thy counterfeit. Ah, hapless
man! what troubles hast thou escaped, and art come hither, and yet