Nightingales sang and chirped; butterflies blundered in their hobbledehoy patterns from flower to flower, and a small waterfall gurgled its way through the central courtyard. Golden trays lay scattered about, overflowing with grapes, cheeses, chocolates, and other tidbits. It was cool and dark—darker than outside: tall palm trees cast shadows on wicker chaise longues, and one had to look carefully to see satyrs and nymphs entwined together, murmuring softly—and some were doing more than murmuring. A small band of fauns stood off in the corner, playing flute, triangle, and muted drum. It was the heat of the day: best not to move too much, or too quickly. There was wine, as well; wine, easily gotten from a tall cask planted significantly in the center of the courtyard, with row upon row of dully-shining pewter goblets, and fat little cupids flying trays of more food to and fro. It was a warm day, almost too warm….
No one moved. One or two of the satyrs sighed: Was the Boss in one of his moods? There would be Hades to pay, then. The nymphs they squired felt the change, and frowned: was the dalliance over?
“SILENUS! Damn you, drunken sot, old toper, show yourself!” Into the midst of the midsummer’s-day resting and drinking time strode Pan, a tall, muscular satyr of indeterminate age—he was immortal; they all were—with a frown curling up the fine goatish features of his face, and his normal smile curved into an angry scowl. He stood in the middle of the gathering, listened for the creaks of wicker—Silenus, he knew, was no lover; he was a drinker—and tapped his long claws on the wine-cask. “Well, Silenus? Show—“
“Here, Your Grace,” came the voice, as its owner struggled out of a pansy-bush, brushing off the leaves and petals, and managing a sly smile. “Here, presented for duty, an it please you.”
“Took you long enough, you tub of grapes—have you seen this?” asked the King of the Forest, shaking a scrap of scented paper under Silenus’s nose.
“Pardon, Your Rectitude, but my eyes are not what they were, three hundred years past, when you and I would go to raid the sleeping-quarters of the Laestrydaemonian virgins. D’you remember, Lord Pan?”
“Yes, yes—look, look! In Clymene’s writing, my own daughter—see?” urged Pan, holding the paper carefully before Silenus’s eyes.
“H’m,” said the elder, “Who is this ‘kobbyboy’ to whom she is sending this billet, then?”
“A Jewbold,” whispered Pan, while all the satyrs and nymphs pricked up their ears.
“A what?” asked Silenus, “Pardon, Your Goatsworth—my hearing is not good.”
“A HE-brew-w-w,” hissed the goat-god, as quietly as he could manage, which wasn’t much. The surrounding woods began to echo, “A Jew! A Jew!” before dying down.
“May Hermes’s caduceus bless you!” cried Silenus, patting Pan on the back.
“I did not sneeze, Sir Deaf Ears!” said Pan, grinding his teeth, “I said, ‘a Jew.’ Clymene is keeping company with—one of Them. A Jew!”
“Ah! I see. Oh, wait. That is—that is—not good, Lord Pan,” said Silenus soberly, as best he could.
“Do I not know that?” asked Pan, “can she not find a proper satyr, centaur, or minor god—even a Greek mortal would be preferable to those scrabbly leatherwing airpushers! There is a reason that we dwell in the woods, they in the air. You must watch her, Silenus—watch her at all times. Keep my innocent girl away from Them. And safe. I appoint you.”
“I, my liege?” Silenus said, alarmed. “I am hardly young enough. Take one of those young centaurs, those over-muscled fourleg beasts with nothing but time on their hands. I am busy, Lord, busy—“
“Doing what? Drinking?” snorted Pan, “And chasing nymphs? This will be better for you, Silenus, better indeed! And healthier. No, no, that is my wish, and my command—but I hear your voice, and your protests. You may choose one, perhaps two, of those younger boys—(pointing over to the satirical group)—to help you—but you yourself will be, ultimately, responsible for my Clymene—perhaps you will introduce her to a more favorable match—that would be good; yes! To give me grand-satyrs, or centaurian babes….Yes: not for nothing am I god of the woods; I can always see my way out of them….”
Praising his own wisdom, the forest god walked off, thoughtfully, stopping to take a bunch of grapes and fondle a closeby nymph, who smiled, giggled, and followed him off, after waiting a respectable distance.
Silenus stood, the fumes of wine which pervaded his brain slowly clearing. He looked around at the satyrs and nymphs who, seeing his face slowly darken with anger, began to turn back to one another—but they could not escape his growling tones, so unlike the happy, carefree god adorning amphorae, goblets, and winebowls:
“You may well turn away, hoi polloi goats’-feet and mountains of female flesh—for I, Silenus, oldest god of the harvest and the grape, have been demoted and relegated to nursemaid for an adolescent nymphling—but all, or some, of you will help me; help me, indeed you shall! Nessus! Choreoi! Amphion!”
Two satyrs and a centaur slowly disengaged themselves from their nymph companions and, sighing, came toward the fat-bellied god.
“How can we serve you, O’ Silenus?”
“Follow young Clymene wherever she goes,” said Silenus through clenched teeth, “and, if she meets that jewbold anywhere, you are to snap-his-neck. That is all. We will have no more socializing, no intercourse, social or otherwise, with any jewbolds.”
The three nodded grimly, turned, and disappeared into the forest.
Silenus smiled, for the first time in that hour of the day. He reached for a bunch of grapes, but then, shook his head.
“My work is done. I have delegated and relegated the job to those three tyros. Now, I too can rest and have a quiet cup. You there—young woman—what did you say your name was?”