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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 2 - Chapter 5
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Pausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 2 - Chapter 5 Post by :cashgalore Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3200

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Pausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 2 - Chapter 5

BOOK II CHAPTER V

For some days, an appearance at least of harmony was restored to the contending factions in the Byzantine camp.

Pausanias did not dismiss Gongylus from the government of the city; but he sent one by one for the more important of the Ionian complainants, listened to their grievances, and promised redress. He adopted a more popular and gracious demeanour, and seemed, with a noble grace, to submit to the policy of conciliating the allies.

But discontent arose from causes beyond his power, had he genuinely exerted it, to remove. For it was a discontent that lay in the hostility of race to race. Though the Spartan Equals had preached courtesy to the Ionians, the ordinary manner of the Spartan warriors was invariably offensive to the vain and susceptible confederates of a more polished race. A Spartan, wherever he might be placed, unconsciously assumed superiority. The levity of an Ionian was ever displeasing to him. Out of the actual battle-field, they could have no topics in common, none which did not provoke irritation and dispute. On the other hand, most of the Ionians could ill conceal their disaffection, mingled with something of just contempt at the notorious and confessed incapacity of the Spartans for maritime affairs, while a Spartan was yet the commander of the fleet. And many of them, wearied with inaction, and anxious to return home, were willing to seize any reasonable pretext for desertion. In this last motive lay the real strength and safety of Pausanias. And to this end his previous policy of arrogance was not so idle as it had seemed to the Greeks, and appears still in the page of history. For a Spartan really anxious to preserve the preeminence of his country, and to prevent the sceptre of the seas passing to Athens, could have devised no plan of action more sagacious and profound than one which would disperse the Ionians, and the Athenians themselves, and reduce the operations of the Grecian force to that land warfare in which the Spartan pre-eminence was equally indisputable and undisputed. And still Pausanias, even in his change of manner, plotted and intrigued and hoped for this end. Could he once sever from the encampment the Athenians and the Ionian allies, and yet remain with his own force at Byzantium until the Persian army could collect on the Phrygian frontier, the way seemed clear to his ambition. Under ordinary circumstances, in this object he might easily have succeeded. But it chanced that all his schemes were met with invincible mistrust by those in whose interest they were conceived, and on whose co-operation they depended for success. The means adopted by Pausanias in pursuit of his policy were too distasteful to the national prejudices of the Spartan government, to enable him to elicit from the national ambition of that government sufficient sympathy with the object of it. The more he felt himself uncomprehended and mistrusted by his countrymen, the more personal became the character, and the more unscrupulous the course, of his ambition. Unhappily for Pausanias moreover, the circumstances which chafed his pride, also thwarted the satisfaction of his affections and his criminal ambition was stimulated by that less guilty passion which shared with it the mastery of a singularly turbulent and impetuous soul. Not his the love of sleek, gallant, and wanton youth; it was the love of man in his mature years, but of man to whom love till then had been unknown. In that large and dark and stormy nature all passions once admitted took the growth of Titans. He loved as those long lonely at heart alone can love; he loved as love the unhappy when the unfamiliar bliss of the sweet human emotion descends like dew upon the desert. To him Cleonice was a creature wholly out of the range of experience. Differing in every shade of her versatile humour from the only women he had known, the simple, sturdy, uneducated maids and matrons of Sparta, her softness enthralled him, her anger awed. In his dreams of future power, of an absolute throne and unlimited dominion, Pausanias beheld the fair Byzantine crowned by his side. Fiercely as he loved, and little as the _sentiment of love mingled with his _passion_, he yet thought not to dishonour a victim, but to elevate a bride. What though the laws of Sparta were against such nuptials, was not the hour approaching when these laws should be trampled under his armed heel? Since the contract with the Persians, which Gongylus assured him Xerxes would joyously and promptly fulfil, Pausanias already felt, in a soul whose arrogance arose from the consciousness of powers that had not yet found their field, as if he were not the subject of Sparta, but her lord and king. In his interviews with Cleonice, his language took a tone of promise and of hope that at times lulled her fears, and communicated its sanguine colourings of the future to her own dreams. With the elasticity of youth, her spirits rose from the solemn despondency with which she had replied to the reproaches of Antagoras. For though Pausanias spoke not openly of his schemes, though his words were mysterious, and his replies to her questions ambiguous and equivocal, still it seemed to her, seeing in him the hero of all Hellas, so natural that he could make the laws of Sparta yield to the weight of his authority, or relax in homage to his renown, that she indulged the belief that his influence would set aside the iron customs of his country. Was it too extravagant a reward to the conqueror of the Mede to suffer him to select at least the partner of his hearth? No, Hope was not dead in that young breast. Still might she be the bride of him whose glory had dazzled her noble and sensitive nature, till the faults that darkened it were lost in the blaze. Thus insensibly to herself her tones became softer to her stern lover, and her heart betrayed itself more in her gentle looks. Yet again were there times when doubt and alarm returned with more than their earlier force--times when, wrapt in his lurid and absorbing ambition, Pausanias escaped from his usual suppressed reserve--times when she recalled that night in which she had witnessed his interview with the strangers of the East, and had trembled lest the altar should be kindled upon the ruins of his fame. For Cleonice was wholly, ardently, sublimely Greek, filled in each crevice of her soul with its lovely poetry, its beautiful superstition, its heroic freedom. As Greek, she had loved Pausanias, seeing in him the lofty incarnation of Greece itself. The descendant of the demigod, the champion of Plataea, the saviour of Hellas--theme for song till song should be no more--these attributes were what she beheld and loved; and not to have reigned by his side over a world would she have welcomed one object of that evil ambition which renounced the loyalty of a Greek for the supremacy of a king.

Meanwhile, though Antagoras had, with no mean degree of generosity, relinquished his suit to Cleonice, he detected with a jealous vigilance the continued visits of Pausanias, and burned with increasing hatred against his favoured and powerful rival. Though, in common with all the Greeks out of the Peloponnesus, he was very imperfectly acquainted with the Spartan constitution, he could not be blinded, like Cleonice, into the belief that a law so fundamental in Sparta, and so general in all the primitive States of Greece, as that which forbade intermarriage with a foreigner, could be cancelled for the Regent of Sparta, and in favour of an obscure maiden of Byzantium. Every visit Pausanias paid to Cleonice but served, in his eyes, as a prelude to her ultimate dishonour. He lent himself, therefore, with all the zeal of his vivacious and ardent character, to the design of removing Pausanias himself from Byzantium. He plotted with the implacable Uliades and the other Ionian captains to send to Sparta a formal mission stating their grievances against the Regent, and urging his recall. But the altered manner of Pausanias deprived them of their just pretext; and the Ionians, more and more under the influence of the Athenian chief, were disinclined to so extreme a measure without the consent of Aristides and Cimon. These two chiefs were not passive spectators of affairs so critical to their ambition for Athens--they penetrated into the motives of Pausanias in the novel courtesy of demeanour that he adopted, and they foresaw that if he could succeed in wearing away the patience of the allies and dispersing the fleet, yet without giving occasion for his own recall, the golden opportunity of securing to Athens the maritime ascendancy would be lost. They resolved, therefore, to make the occasion which the wiles of the Regent had delayed; and towards this object Antagoras, moved by his own jealous hate against Pausanias, worked incessantly. Fearless and vigilant, he was ever on the watch for some new charge against the Spartan chief ever relentless in stimulating suspicion, aggravating discontent, inflaming the fierce, and arguing with the timid. His less exalted station allowed him to mix more familiarly with the various Ionian officers than would have become the high-born Cimon, and the dignified repute of Aristides. Seeking to distract his mind from the haunting thought of Cleonice, he flung himself with the ardour of his Greek temperament into the social pleasures, which took a zest from the design that he carried into them all. In the banquets, in the sports, he was ever seeking to increase the enemies of his rival, and where he charmed a gay companion, there he often enlisted a bold conspirator.

Pausanias, the unconscious or the careless object of the Ionian's jealous hate, could not resist the fatal charm of Cleonice's presence; and if it sometimes exasperated the more evil elements of his nature, at other times it so lulled them to rest, that had the Fates given him the rightful claim to that single treasure, not one guilty thought might have disturbed the majesty of a soul which, though undisciplined and uncultured, owed half its turbulence and half its rebellious pride to its baffled yearnings for human affection and natural joy. And Cleonice, unable to shun the visits which her weak and covetous father, despite his promised favour to the suit of Antagoras, still encouraged; and feeling her honour, at least, if not her peace, was secured by that ascendancy which, with each successive interview between them, her character more and more asserted over the Spartan's higher nature, relinquished the tormenting levity of tone whereby she had once sought to elude his earnestness, or conceal her own sentiments. An interest in a fate so solemn, an interest far deeper than mere human love, stole into her heart and elevated its instincts. She recognized the immense compassion which was due to the man so desolate at the head of armaments, so dark in the midst of glory. Centuries roll, customs change, but, ever since the time of the earliest mother, woman yearns to be the soother.

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BOOK II CHAPTER VIIt was the hour of the day when between the two principal meals of the Greeks men surrendered themselves to idleness or pleasure; when groups formed in the market-place, or crowded the barbers' shops to gossip and talk of news; when the tale-teller or ballad-singer collected round him on the quays his credulous audience; when on playgrounds that stretched behind the taverns or without the walls the more active youths assembled, and the quoit was hurled, or mimic battles waged with weapons of wood, or the Dorians weaved their simple, the Ionians their more intricate or less decorous,
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BOOK II CHAPTER IAt noon the next day, not only the vessels in the harbour presented the same appearance of inactivity and desertion which had characterised the preceding evening, but the camp itself seemed forsaken. Pausanias had quitted his ship for the citadel, in which he took up his lodgment when on shore: and most of the officers and sailors of the squadron were dispersed among the taverns and wine-shops, for which, even at that day, Byzantium was celebrated. It was in one of the lowest and most popular of these latter resorts, and in a large and rude chamber, or
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