( Originally Published 1902 )
DIANA, who caused a mountain hind to receive the knife that was meant for Iphigenia, seized her miraculously from the altar, and, carrying her to the land of the Taurians, appointed her priestess of the temple. A Grecian young man, who had committed a crime, was pursued by the Furies. He went from place to place in his vain attempt to escape their rage, when Apollo promised him relief upon the condition that he would go to the territory of the Taurians, get the image of Artemis, and return with it to Argos. A friend of his, intimate from earliest childhood, accompanied him in the merciful but perilous undertaking. Reaching the shore, they approached the temple, but finding the walls so high, and the gates so secure, they became discouraged and came near taking their ships for home. They determined, however, to hide in a cave some distance from the sea, and at night attempt to break into the temple, and secure the image. Native herdsmen discovered them, and being so tall and so fair some of the people thought they were gods and worshiped them. Others laughed at the idea of their divinity, and said that they had hidden in the cave knowing that the law of the land visited death upon strangers found within its bounds. The two brave men, with swords, at first resisted successfully the natives, but afterward they were overcome and carried before the king, Thoas, who gave them over to the priestess of Diana for slaughter. Seeing that they were Greeks, she told them she was of their nation and had long desired to send a message back to her people, which a captive had cut out for her on a tablet of wood. She told these young men that one could go and take the tablet, and escape, and that the other should remain and die, The priestess selected the one who had been pursued by the Furies to take the tablet, and his companion for slaughter. But the young man who was to go said, " I am the cause of all the trouble; this dear friend has accompanied me out of the kindness of his heart, and it would be base of me, indeed, to suffer him to perish in my stead. He must go, and I will die." His companion positively refused to go, and insisted upon remaining for sacrifice, while his friend should return and live. While the men were engaged in a dialogue, in which each showed his willingness to remain and die and his unwillingness to go and live, Iphigenia, who had withdrawn herself for the search, returned with the tablet in her hand, which contained the following message :
" To My Brother Orestes, Son of Agamemnon:
" I that was sacrificed in Alibis, even Iphigenia who am alive, yet dead to my people, bid thee fetch me before I die, to Argos, from a strange land, taking me from the altar that is red with the blood of strangers, whereat I serve."
She gave it to the young man who had been selected to go, and whose name was Pylades, and bound him with an oath. Taking it from her, he said: " My oath is easy to keep." Then turning to his companion, who was ready for slaughter, said : " Orestes, take thou this tablet from thy sister." Orestes, with surprise and delight received the message, and embraced his long-lost sister, the priestess Iphigenia. At first she hesitated to believe so strange a story, until Orestes had thoroughly identified himself ; then securing the image, for which the men had come, she now ran with them to their ship, and sailed away with them for their native land. The Taurians were so impressed with the devotion of these Grecian young men to each other, that they built temples in their honor and worshiped Orestes and Pylades as the Gods of Friendship.
The Old and the New Testaments, which contain descriptions of the bad as well as the good side of human nature, present many instances of this devotion of friend to friend. The friendship of Orestes and Pylades reminds us of the love Christ had for his apostles, and the love all but one of them had for him. He gave his life for them, and most of them laid down their lives for him. Many of the disciples of Christ, from his time till the present, have copied this beautiful example of brotherly love. Every hour of the day, in every rank, however conspicuous or obscure, there are instances of this undying friendship of one for another, which add immeasurably to the beauty, charm and hope of mankind.