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Authors: Annabel Lyon

The Sweet Girl

BOOK: The Sweet Girl
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Copyright © 2012 by Annabel Lyon

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Originally published in Canada by Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, in 2012.

Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Harvard University Press for permission to reprint an excerpt from
Doigenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers
, Volume I, Books 1-5, Loeb Classical Library Volume 184, translated by R. D. Hicks, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Copyright © 1925 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Loeb Classical
is a registered trademark of the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of the Loeb Classical
Library at Harvard University Press.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lyon, Annabel, [date]
The sweet girl / by Annabel Lyon. —First United States edition.
pages cm
“Originally published in Canada by Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, in 2012.”
eISBN: 978-0-307-96256-0
1. Daughters—Fiction. 2. Aristotle—Fiction. 3. Fathers and daughters—Fiction. 4. Young women—Greece—Fiction. 5. Greece—History—To 146 B.C.—Fiction. I. Title.
PR9199.3.L98S94 2013
813′.6—dc23           2012049210

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Jacket image:
On the Terrace
by Sir Edward John Poynter (detail). Walker Art Gallery,
National Museums Liverpool / The Bridgeman Art Library / Getty Images
Jacket design by Kelly Blair


for Bryant,
guardian of my solitude



Title Page




Cast of Characters

Part 1

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Part 2

Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Part 3

Chapter 6
Chapter 7


A Note About the Author

Reading Group Guide

Other Books by This Author

AND WHEN THE GIRL SHALL BE GROWN UP she shall be given in marriage to Nicanor; but if anything happen to the girl (which heaven forbid and no such thing will happen) before her marriage, or when she is married but before there are children, Nicanor shall have full powers, both with regard to the child and with regard to everything else, to administer in a manner worthy both of himself and of us.

Aristotle’s will



Pythias, known as Pytho:
Aristotle’s daughter by his dead wife, also named Pythias

a philosopher

Aristotle’s concubine, formerly a servant

Nicomachus, known as Nico:
Aristotle’s son by Herpyllis

a slave of Aristotle

Jason, known as Myrmex:
a poor relation and adopted son of Aristotle

a slave of Aristotle

a free servant of Aristotle

a free servant of Aristotle

a slave of Aristotle

a slave of Aristotle

Olympios’s daughter, a slave of Aristotle

a slave of Aristotle


a rival to Aristotle and guest at Aristotle’s symposia

a city administrator and guest at Aristotle’s symposia

a friend of Pythias

Aristotle’s successor as head of the Lyceum


leader of the Macedonian garrison

a magistrate

a widow

a cavalry officer

a slave of Euphranor

A priestess of Artemis

Meda, Obole, Aphrodisia:
“daughters” of Glycera

a midwife

a dog-breeder, Clea’s companion

a god

Pythias’s cousin

The first time I ask to carry a knife to the temple, Daddy tells me I’m not allowed to because we’re Macedonian. Here in Athens, you have to be born an Athenian girl to carry the basket with the knife, to lead the procession to the sacrifice. The Athenians can be awfully snotty, even all these years after our army defeated their army.

“I want to see, though,” I say. I have seven summers. “If you carry the basket, you get to watch from right up front.”

“I know, pet.”

The next morning he takes me to the market. Crowds part for him respectfully; Macedonian or not, he’s famous, my daddy. “Which one?” he asks.

I take my time choosing. It’s late spring, baby season, and there are calves and piglets and trays of pullets, too. Around us, men speak of the army and when it will return; surely soon, now that the Persians are defeated and their king is on the run. I finally choose a white lamb crying for its mother and we walk it home. I hold the tether. In our courtyard, we lay out the basins and cloths and Daddy’s kit.

“You’ll feel sad, later,” Daddy says, hesitating. “It’s all right to feel sad.”

“Why will I?”

He sits back on his heels, my daddy, to consider the question. He scratches his freckled forehead with a finger and smiles at me with his sad grey eyes. “Because it’s cute,” he says finally.

He has the lamb’s neck pinned with a casual hand. Its eyeball is straining and rolling, and it’s wheezing. Its tongue is a leathery grey. I pet its head to calm it. Daddy shifts his grip to the jaw. I put my little hand over his big hand and we slit its throat quick and deep. When it’s bled out into the basin, Daddy asks me where I’d like to start.

“The legs are in the way,” I say, so we start there.

“What am I going to do with you?” Daddy says in the middle of the dissection, looking at my hands all bloody, at the blood streaking my face. We’ve disjointed a leg and I’m making it flex by pulling the tendon. He’s holding an eyeball between two fingers, gingerly.

We grin at each other.

“Little miss clever fingers,” Herpyllis says from the archway nearest the kitchen. She shifts sleeping Nico to her hip—Nico, her blood-son, my little half-brother—so she can pull a couch into the sun and watch. I remember when he was born, though Herpyllis says I was too young. I remember his wrinkly face and his grip on my finger. I remember kissing and kissing him, and crying when he cried. I would lean against Herpyllis’s knee and open the front of my dress to nurse my doll, Pretty-Head, off my speck of a nipple, while Herpyllis
nursed Nico, one hand playing in my hair. I’ve been her daughter since I was four.

“I’ll remind you of this the next time you tell me you’re too clumsy to weave,” Herpyllis says.

I slop some meat into the bowl she’s given us, spattering droplets of blood onto my dress.

“Filthy child,” she says. “Who’s going to want to marry you?”

“One of my students,” Daddy says promptly. “When the time comes. There won’t be a problem.”

From all over the world, students come to Daddy’s school here in Athens, the Lyceum. Kings send their sons; our own Alexander belonged to Daddy, once. Some of them are wealthy enough to please even Herpyllis. They will see my worth, Daddy says.

“What is her worth, exactly?” Herpyllis is irritable now. Carelessly, I’ve spattered blood on the lamb’s wool, which she wants for a tunic. She calls for water to soak it. Nico sighs dramatically in his sleep, flinging out a pudgy arm.

Daddy sits back on his heels, considering the question. I make a face at Herpyllis, who makes one back. She tucks Nico’s arm in and he sighs again, more quietly.

“It’s interesting.” Daddy looks at Nico. “The face of a child reflects the face of both parents. Perhaps the mind works similarly? If both parents are clever, the offspring—”

Herpyllis harrumphs.

“Then, too, a philosopher might encourage her interests—”

Herpyllis yawns.

“Or not suppress them, at any rate.”

“I’m not getting married,” I say. Usually I’m content to listen to their conversations, but this one is irresistible.

“Of course not, chickpea,” Herpyllis says immediately. “You’re still my baby.”

“Not for a long, long time,” Daddy adds. They think I’m scared, and want to comfort me. “Years and years. Girls marry much too young, these days. We should emulate the Spartans. Seventeen, eighteen summers. The body must finish developing.”

“I’m not getting married,” I say again, happily. “May I keep the skull?”

“We’ll boil it clean,” Daddy says. “What will you do instead, then?”

“Be a teacher, like you.”

Gravely, Daddy and Herpyllis agree this is an excellent ambition.

Tycho, our big slave, brings the bowl of water Herpyllis called for. I smile at him and he nods. He’s my favourite. Last summer he taught me to suck mussels right from their shells, but Herpyllis reproved him. He understood: little girls reach an age when familiarity with slaves must end. She hadn’t been unkind; she’d been a servant herself until Daddy chose her, after my mother died. She was harshest with me, about my manners and appearance and behaviour, and that was because she loved me so much.

I remember the feel of the mussels, plump and wet, and the salt tang. I sneak a lick of lamb’s blood. It’s still warm.

“Daddy took the whole day away from his school for you,” Herpyllis tells me later that afternoon, hacking with less precision at the parts we brought to her kitchen. She isn’t displeased, though. We’ll have a feast tonight, and soup for days. “You’ll be keeping the bones, I suppose?”

Bones are an excellent puzzle, Daddy says. I can apply myself to them and not get bored for weeks. Daddy knows I get bored. Herpyllis knows, too, but her solutions are less interesting—embroidery, crafts.

At bedtime, Daddy comes to tuck me in. “All right, pet?” he asks.

I ask him if we can do a bird next.

“Of course.” He sits down next to me. “A pigeon.”

“And a bream.”

“A cuttlefish.”

“A snake.”

“Oh, a snake,” Daddy says. “I’d love to do a snake. Did you know, in Persia, they have snakes as thick as a man’s leg?”

“On land, or in the water?”

We chat until Herpyllis puts her head around the door frame and tells Daddy I need my beauty sleep.

BOOK: The Sweet Girl
7.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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