THE FLIGHT OF AENEAS FROM TROY

BY F. STORR

Ćneas, standing on the battlements of the palace, had beheld the heartrending scene of Troy's destruction, horror-stricken and unable to help. All his comrades were dead or had fled, and he alone was left. As he looked on Priam's bleeding corse the face of his own father Anchises, as old and as defenseless, flashed across his fancy, and he saw in vision his desolate home, his wife Creusa, and Iulus clinging to his mother's knees.

He stole out of the palace by the same covered way that had let him in, and was hurrying home when he passed the shrine of Vesta, and cowering behind the altar, by the glare of the conflagration that still raged, he espied Helen, the prime cause of all their woes. His soul burned with righteous indignation. "What," he cried to himself, "shall this cursed woman, the bane both of Greece and of Troy, shall she alone escape scot-free; shall she return to Greece a crowned queen with our captive sons and daughters in her train? No," he cried, as he drew his sword; "to slay a woman is no knightly deed, but men will approve me as the minister of God's vengeance."

But of a sudden, effulgent in the heavens like her own star, he beheld his goddess-mother, and she laid a hand on his outstretched arm in act to strike, and whispered in his ear: "My son, why this empty rage? Dost thou forget thy mother and all her care for thee and thine? Think of thine aged sire, thy loving wife, thy little son. But for me they had all perished by the sword and flames. 'Tis not Paris, 'tis not that Spartan woman who hath wrought this ruin, but the gods who were leagued against Troy. Lo, I will take the scales from thine eyes, and for a moment thou shalt behold as one of themselves the immortals at work. Look yonder, where walls and watch-towers are crashing down, as though upheaved by an earthquake, Neptune is up-prizing with his dread trident the walls that he helped to build. There at the Scćan gates stands Juno in full mail crying Havoc! and hounding on the laggard Greeks. Look backward at the citadel; above it towers Minerva, wrapt in a storm-cloud, and flashing her Gorgon shield. Nay more, on far Olympus (but this thou canst not see) the Almighty Father is heartening those gods who are banded for the ruin of Troy. Save thyself, my son, while yet there is time. Let adverse gods rage; I, thy mother, will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

The goddess vanished, and as by a flash of lightning he beheld for an instant the grim visages of the Powers of Darkness.

Under the tutelage of Venus, Ćneas reached his home without adventure and found all safe, as she had promised. He was preparing for his flight to the neighboring hills when an unforeseen impediment arose. No persuasions would induce Anchises to accompany him. "Ye are young and lusty," cried his sire, "fly for your lives and leave me, a poor old man tottering on the brink of the grave. All I ask is that ye repeat over me the ritual for the dead. The Greeks, when they find me, will grant me sepulture."

No prayers or arguments could move the old man from his obstinate resolution, and Ćneas, in desperation, was again girding on his armor, choosing to perish with wife and child in single-handed fight rather than desert his aged parent, when a sign from heaven was given that first amazed and then filled all hearts with joy. On the head of the child Iulus there appeared a tongue of fire that spread among his curly locks, and played round his smooth brow, crowning him like the aureole of a saint. In horror his mother sought to extinguish the flames, but the water she poured made them only burn the brighter. But Anchises knew the heavenly sign, and with uplifted palms he prayed that Jupiter would confirm his good will by some more certain augury. And straightway on the left (the lucky side) a clap of thunder was heard, and from the zenith there fell a meteor that left a long trail of light as it fell to earth on the pine-clad slopes of Mount Ida.

Then at last Anchises yielded, and Ćneas, stooping down, lifted the old man on his shoulder. By his side, holding his right hand, was Iulus, bravely trying to keep pace with his father's long strides, and last came Creusa, with a train of household slaves. As trysting-place, in case they should get separated in the crowd and confusion, Ćneas assigned to them a deserted shrine of Vesta, near to a solitary cypress tree which would serve them as a landmark. They were well on their way, and had escaped the worst perils, when Anchises cried out, "Hist! I hear the tramp of armed men, and see the glint of armor." And Ćneas, who never before had quailed in the storm of battle, now trembled like an aspen leaf, and snatching up the boy he ran for his life, and never drew breath till he had reached the deserted shrine. Then he looked back, and to his horror Creusa was nowhere to be seen. Had she missed the road, or had she fainted on the way? He questioned his household who had by now arrived, but none had seen their mistress since they left the city. Again he donned his arms and rushed back by the way he had come. Not a trace of his wife could he find. He re-entered the city by the same gate, and rethreaded the same dark alleys. He sought his home, but it was now a mass of smoldering ruins. As a last desperate hope he sought the Royal Treasure House, if haply she might there have found a hiding-place, but at the entrance stood Phœnix and Ulysses, the captains told off to guard the loot. There lay, piled in a confused heap, all the wealth of Troy that the flames had not consumed—purple robes, coverlets and tapestries, armlets and anklets of wrought gold, jeweled drinking-bowls, and the sacred vessels from the temples.

Reckless of the risks he ran he shouted from street to street, "Creusa! Creusa!" when at last a familiar voice replied, and before him he saw, not, alas! Creusa, but her ghost, larger than human, gazing down on him with eyes of infinite pity. "Why," it whispered, "this wild grief? Nothing, dear lord, is here for tears. 'Twas not the will of heaven that I should share thy wanderings and toils. Be of good heart. In the far west, so fate ordains, where Tiber rolls his yellow tide, thou shalt found a new empire and espouse a princess of the land. Nor need'st thou pity my less fortunate lot. I have known all the joys of married bliss, and my body shall rest in the soil that gave me birth. No proud Greek will boast that he bears home in his captive train her who was the wife of Ćneas, the daughter-in-law of Venus. And now, fare thee well. Forget not our sweet child, and her who bore him."

"Thrice he essayed with arms outstretched to clasp
Her shade, and thrice it slipped from his fond grasp,
Like frolic airs that o'er a still lake play,
Or dreams that vanish at the break of day."