And Philoinus, the Sybarite, raising his deep voice, but not allowing himself for a moment to be disturbed in his repose, remarked: “Mirth is a good thing, and if you bring that with you, be welcome to me also, Athenian.”
“To me,” said Rhodopis, turning to her new guests, “you are heartily welcome, but not more in your joy than if borne down by sadness. I know no greater pleasure than to remove the lines of care from a friend’s brow. Spartan, I venture to address you as a friend too, for the friends of my friends are my own.” Aristomachus bowed in silence, but Phanes, addressing himself both to Rhodopis and to the Sybarite, answered: “Well then, my friends, I can content you both. To you, Rhodopis, I must come for comfort, for soon, too soon I must leave you and your pleasant house; Philoinus however can still enjoy my mirth, as I cannot but rejoice in the prospect of seeing my beloved Hellas once more, and of quitting, even though involuntarily, this golden mouse-trap of a country.”
“You are going away! you have been dismissed? Whither are you going?” echoed on all sides.
“Patience, patience, my friends,” cried Phanes. “I have a long story to tell, but I will rather reserve it for the evening meal. And indeed, dear friend, my hunger is nearly as great as my distress at being obliged to leave you.”
“Hunger is a good thing,” philosophized the Sybarite once more, “when a man has a good meal in prospect.”
“On that point you may be at ease, Philoinus,” answered Rhodopis. “I told the cook to do his utmost, for the most celebrated epicure from the most luxurious city in the world, no less a person than Philoinus of Sybaris, would pass a stern judgment on his delicate dishes. Go, Knakias, tell them to serve the supper. Are you content now, my impatient guests? As for me, since I heard Phanes’ mournful news, the pleasure of the meal is gone.” The Athenian bowed, and the Sybarite returned to his philosophy. “Contentment is a good thing when every wish can be satisfied. I owe you thanks, Rhodopis, for your appreciation of my incomparable native city. What says Anakreon?
is ours—what do we fear?
To-day is ours—we have it here.
Let’s treat it kindly, that it may
Wish at least with us to stay.
Let’s banish business, banish sorrow;
To the gods belongs to-morrow.”
“Eh! Ibykus, have I quoted your friend the poet correctly, who feasts with you at Polykrates’ banquets? Well, I think I may venture to say of my own poor self that if Anakreon can make better verses, I understand the art of living quite as well as he, though he writes so many poems upon it. Why, in all his songs there is not one word about the pleasures of the table! Surely they are as important as love and play! I confess that the two last are clear to me also; still, I could exist without them, though in a miserable fashion, but without food, where should we be?”